By Bobby L. Graham
Has there ever been a time when more diverse thinking existed on the subject of marriage? It would appear that the once nearly unanimous teaching of brethren on this subject has been disrupted by concepts and theories conceived in the womb of necessity and born under conditions of convenience. The lack of genuine conviction of the reality of those ideas expressed is often seen in the posture of some in raising doubts and promoting questions about biblical teaching relative to marriage. They seem content to raise questions and elicit doubts and then back off with the excuse that they are merely studying the matter and their convictions are not yet formulated. The testing of the winds of thought and opinion seems to be the purpose of such operations. Brethren, it is far past the time for men of courage to stand up for what is right on these matters by calling in question the weaknesses in the positions of error.
Because of the extensive review superbly done by brother Weldon Warnock in this very journal, this writer shall not attempt to deal with all details identified by him. Some errors remain so glaring, however, as to demand the spotlight of truth be once again focused thereon. Such is the limited design of this article.
Marriage in God’s Moral Scheme
In some instances God’s original intent for marriage, set forth in Genesis 2:24, has been described as the divine ideal; in others, as merely the first installment of teaching about marriage. Remember, however, that the principle stated in the passage was given to regulate those made by the Lord for each other in that relationship appointed by him. Recall also that every later reference to the same arrangement conformed to the same ideal (Mal. 2; Matt. 19; Rom. 7; 1 Cor. 7; and others). The statements in praise of the marital relationship as the source of one’s fulfillment of those desires implanted by God must also be kept in mind (Prov. 5). Paul’s insistence on marriage as God’s means to prevent fornication in 1 Corinthians 7 places it squarely in the moral government/law originating with God and rooted in his character. Fornication, whether committed by a married person or an unmarried one, is an undermining of the moral teaching of Scriptures regarding marriage and its purpose. Marriage is God’s moral solution to the problem of sexual desire. Marriage then becomes part of God’s moral law, to which all moral beings are amenable. That all – those accepting God’s will and those refusing his covenant – are subject there to is easily seen in those indictments of Scripture against both classes respecting the sins here identified – fornication and adultery (Rom. 1:29,31 – covenant breakers and fornicators; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). While it is difficult to know precisely all that God told mankind about his moral law from the beginning, it can be discerned that marriage was a part of it by his condemnations of marital perversions. If this be not the case, by what authority does any alien marry? How could God recognize marriage between the alien and the believer?
The Role of Deuteronomy 24 in Christ’s Will
Some have recently asserted that the details of Deuteronomy 24 must be given a place in the teaching of Jesus, just as the principle of Genesis 2:24, for both were used by him in explanation of his will. Closer examination of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19, however, reveals that Jesus did not cite Moses, but the Pharisees did. When Jesus explained Moses, he presented him as permitting putting away, not directing it, and regulating it as a practice already existing for the protection of the woman involved. He further demonstrated the correct procedure for us to follow in his reaffirmation of the ideal of Genesis 2, what had been true from the beginning (what Moses permitted was not then, nor had it ever been, the divine ideal) and giving it weight over the Mosiac permission/limitation. By following Jesus’ procedure, we too will conclude correctly: one woman and one man for life. Only when the correct procedure is used will one conclude the correct position.
When people have something to prove, they will find a way to do so. One wanting to show that people cannot “live in adultery” and that adultery need not prevent future marriages has to deny what relevant passages say or use different definitions for the words used. The meaning of the word for “adultery” has been woefully changed in recent years by people who ought to know better. There is not a standard reference work in existence, to this writer’s knowledge, that will undergird their change. Instead of letting it mean the sexual activity involving one who is the spouse of another, some have changed it to mean breaking the covenant of marriage, whether in mind, in bed, or at the courthouse. There is not a shred of evidence that such is the meaning of the word. Word etymology will not suffice to determine meanings of words at a particular time in linguistic history, as has been attempted by some of the proponents of the new definition of “adultery.”
Brethren, when a person has to carry his own glossary with him to prove his idea, it becomes evident that the idea is his, not the Bible’s.
Jesus presented the will of God in his teaching on marriage. He never referred to the operation of civil law as such in his teaching, but the operation of divine law, in regard to marriage, putting away, fornication, or adultery. Additional error is taught when the legal intricacies of civil law are imposed on the teaching of Jesus. While people should abide by civil law in this field if divine law permits, the procedures and operations of civil law do not determine what marriage is, what putting away is, what adultery is, or when any one of these has taken place. Only God’s will is decisive in any of these matters.
May God’s will always determine our every attitude and action in this area of life, as in all areas. It is to him that all shall give account, by him that the faithful shall be blessed, and by him that the wicked shall be punished.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 6, pp. 180-181
March 19, 1992