In the beginning of time, God created man. He saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so He created a woman to be his help meet (Genesis 2:18). Thus began the institution of marriage. It was created and or-dained of God. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).
The marriage union is the closest of all human relationships and is second only to the relationship with God Himself. Marriage was instituted by the Creator; His plan was for marriage to be a lifelong, committed union between a man and a woman. Physical intimacy is a gift that belongs exclusively within the covenant of marriage. The devil has fought the sanctity of marriage and has worked to destroy the family unit. The world has polluted, compromised, and redefined marriage. This in no way changes the reality of God’s truth on the subject.
Marriage—One Man, One Woman
Godly marriage is between a man and a woman. Homosexual marriage is a perversion of marriage and is an abomination to God. The Word of God forbids homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-32) and states that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Under the Law of Moses, if a newly married wife was discovered by her husband not to be a virgin, she was to be stoned. If she was falsely accused by her husband, he had to accept her as his wife and he could “not put her away all his days” (Deuteronomy 22:19). If two unmarried people committed consensual fornication, the man was obligated to marry the woman and likewise could never put her away (Deuteronomy 22:29).
The Mosaic Law expressly stated: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). If a married man or woman was caught committing a sexual sin with another, the penalty was death by stoning (or strangulation), for God did not want evil within Israel (Deuteronomy 22:22-29). The innocent companion was then free to remarry because the spouse was dead.
Divorce Permitted Under Moses
“At a later time, and when, owing to Gentile example, the marriage tie became a looser bond of union, public feeling in regard to adultery changed, and the penalty of death was seldom or never inflicted” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Adultery). Hence, divorce and remarriage became prevalent. Moses gave allowance for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-2 which reads: “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.”
Controversy over Jewish Law
God’s law clearly stated that people found in adultery were to be put to death, but later Moses made provision for a bill of divorcement when there was uncleanness. There was much controversy among the Jewish scholars during the time of Christ with regard to the grounds and legality of divorcement under this precept. The debate centered on the interpretation of the word “uncleanness” which would allow for a divorce. Suffice it to say, many of the Jews were very loose in their interpretation of this law of divorcement. Some of the rabbis would grant a divorce when the husband or wife had committed adultery. Others were less strict and gave a husband a divorce if his wife “found no favor” in his eyes. A man could get a divorce if his wife burned the food or kept an untidy house.
The Law of Christ
The Pharisees came to Christ attempting to draw him into the debate. “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?” (Mark 10:2). They were asking about the Mosaic Law, but what Christ began to teach restored the institution of marriage to its intended place in creation. The teaching of Christ raised the standard of marriage and it is the doctrine by which to live today.
Jesus asked them what Moses commanded and they responded: “Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away” (10:3-4). Jesus told them that it was because of the “hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept” (10:5). “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female….and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (10:6-10). From the beginning of time, it was forbidden to divorce; but it was through the hardness and sinfulness of men’s hearts that Moses allowed it. Jesus taught here that the marriage union was not to be broken by man. No civil or religious law was to any longer supersede the union of marriage before God. He denied them the right that they sought for under the law.
Christ’s disciples must have been struggling with this as do many today. They questioned Jesus again about the same matter, so Jesus spoke with even greater clarity. “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:10-12). This scripture could not be clearer. Jesus unambiguously stated that if a man put away his wife and married another woman, that he was committing adultery. This is because the new woman would not truly be his wife and the “marriage” would be an adulterous union.
Jesus further taught in Luke 16:18: “Whosover putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” Not only is the man committing adultery by remarrying, but his wife, although innocent of any wrong doing, commits adultery if she remarries. Jesus clarified the fact that whoever married a divorced person was also committing adultery. The Lord does not want remarriage on the part of either spouse so that there is opportunity for reconciliation and reunion. Marriage is for life and in the eyes of God it remains thus, regardless of the affairs and unions of man. Jesus restored the lifelong covenant of marriage—a covenant He sanctioned from the beginning.
Save For the Cause of Fornication
“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32). According to Jewish history, the writ of divorcement stated that the divorcee was free to remarry. This was the reason Jesus said that a man “causeth her to commit adultery.” If she was innocent of any wrong doing, the husband would be complicit in her transgression if she remarried. If a husband put his wife away because of a sexual sin (for the cause of fornication) he would not be held liable before God because she was already an adulteress. While Jesus did not condemn a “putting away” because of sexual sin, He left no room for remarriage.
Only Death Severs the Marriage Union
The apostle Paul expounds upon the issue of remarriage. It is only the death of a spouse which frees someone to remarry. “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Romans 7:2-3). This further emphasizes the fact that if someone remarries while they have a living companion, they are in adultery.
If Divorced, Remain Unmarried
There are very sad and unfortunate situations in which husbands and wives may find themselves single because their married companion has forsaken them to live a life of sin and adultery. “Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). If situations are severe enough in which spouses find themselves separated, they are to remain unmarried while there is a living companion. God has special grace and will divinely help one to live in a state of singleness and holiness through the power of Jesus Christ.
Paul continues to give instruction about dwelling with an unsaved companion. He advises that if a believing wife is living with an unbelieving companion—if he be pleased to dwell in the marriage—not to forsake the marriage. Clearly, if a man is in adultery, that would be an indication that he is not “pleased to dwell” with his wife. If the unbelieving depart, “A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:12-15). The believer is still under obligation to the union before God but is not “under bondage” or at fault for the behavior or results of the unbeliever’s actions. (See Matthew 5:31-32). This passage in no way frees the innocent party to remarry. Paul concludes the chapter by restating again: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).
Do Not Marry an Unbeliever
It is important to note that whether it is a first or second (lawful) marriage, saved people are to marry other saved people. “Marry in the Lord.” Many have lost their salvation through marrying someone outside of the faith. Child of God, beware, and do not let your affections go out to someone who is not saved.
Hope for the Adulterer
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Adultery is a work of the flesh and “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
Jesus died for those in adultery, and there is mercy and forgiveness (John 8:3-11). The Lord loves the adulterer but requires one to forsake adulterous unions. Although there are consequences because of sin, the Holy Spirit can bring the repentant soul into a place of clearness before God.
The New Testament scripture clearly teaches that marriage is an unbreakable bond. Divorce and remarriage is not an option in God’s plan for marriage. Marriage is a lifetime decision; for this reason, it is so vital for young and old alike to consider marriage prayerfully and carefully—for there is only one opportunity. Marriage is honorable and is a blessing when the plan of God is followed. —mws