Christ's View On Marriage

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Part Fifthteen - Christ's View on Marriage

 

We live at a time when their has been a tremendous assault on traditional marriage. More couples today live together outside of marriage than in marriage. The divorce rate has never been higher and sadly that is even true among Christians. The gay movement is working very hard, pouring in millions of dollars to lobby congress to recognize same sex unions as the same as heterosexual unions. To add to this has been the rise of the practice of polygamy and on the horizon is the union of adults and children. If you think I jest, take a look at how homosexuals were viewed before 1970 and compare it to the way pedophilia is looked upon today. It is only a matter of time before this too will be accepted as the norm. I hate to think of what might follow after this!

I can understanding our society moving in this direction as it has moved further and further away from the Judeo-Christian ethic upon which this nation was founded. What is difficult for me to comprehend is the way many in “Christianity” are embracing these lifestyles. Not only are cohabiters and homosexuals permitted to join the church and serve and minister, but today they are even allowed to hold the highest positions of authority such as elder and pastor or bishop. A couple of weeks ago I heard one Christian Law associations speak of one church in America that had an elder that decided that polygamy was biblically permitted and so he took a second wife and defied the church to remove him as elder. The sad thing was that since the church had not spelled out what marriage is according to the Scriptures in their doctrinal statement, they were legally helpless to do anything about it.

Where should Christians stand on the matter of marriage and these other practices? A good place to start is Matthew 19. In this passage (v. 3-12), Jesus was confronted about a question regarding marriage and divorce. Our Lord’s answer addresses all the questions that our society is asking on this important subject.

The Pharisees approached Jesus with a question they thought He could not answer. The question they asked is what grounds does God give for divorce and remarriage? In Jesus day some believed only the most serious sins such as adultery warranted such an action and other believed just about anything was grounds including a wife’s bad cooking skills. The sad thing in all of this is they never considered a third alternative, that God gave no grounds for divorce that freed a person to remarry. Sadder still was fact they had never consulted God’s Word to for the final answer. Jesus will immediately direct them to the Scriptures and will show n God’s Word gives a definitive answer, not just to this issue, but to all matters regarding the institution of marriage.

The Lord begins by calling them back to the original design of marriage as God gave to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2). 

First of all, God created marriage as the union of a man and a woman (19:4). His point here is that God’s intention for marital union has always been heterosexual. The physical difference between men and women should be enough to confirm this. If God had homosexuality in mind or any other similar perversion then He would have created two men or two women or whatever else that man’s evil mind has devised. However, He created one man and one woman and they were to set the example for marriage. 

Secondly, God created marriage to be a union between two individuals only (19:5). It would be the order of God for a man reaching adulthood to leave his parents and take up to him a wife (singular not plural) and “the two (not three or four or whatever) shall become one flesh.” Here is the only time in the order of God’s creation that one plus one equals one. They become one entity and are to work and live as a harmonious unit. Paul speaks this idea when he writes:

1 Cor 7:3-6, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 

In light of this teaching it is clear God opposes polygamy. Some may ask then why did God permit polygamous relationships in the Old Testament? Polygamy, though tolerated in OT times was never condoned by God but was always a sin with serious consequences. Take for example all the troubles Abraham had after marrying Hagar or the troubles Jacob encountered after marry Leah and Rachel. By the time of Christ, polygamy had been abandoned and these idea carried over into the church as the leadership of the church was to be made up of “one woman men” (1 Tim. 3:2)

Thirdly, God created marriage as a union to last a life time (19:6). Jesus indicates that it is God who joins the man and woman together and it is God only has the authority to dissolve this union. Please note that Jesus indicates that the dissolution of marriage is to be solely the work of God and never the work of man. Paul tells us how God dissolves this union and that is through death of one of the partners.

Rom 7:2-4, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” 

That is the reason that the marriage vows we say today include the statement “till death do us part.” This is further brought by Jesus when he speaks of the couple being “joined together” by God. The term for “join” means to melt together two separate objects to a point that the two can not be separated. It is the same as when we accidentally super glue our fingers together. The glue merges the two skins into one skin and it is virtually impossible to get them a part. So it is to be with the marriage of two people. That union is to be resistant to anything man does and thus it would take only an intervention of God to break it. 

This understanding of our Lord on marriage is seen in the response of the theologians. If there are no human grounds for divorce with the freedom to remarry, then why did Moses command a bill of divorcement? (19:7) In other words, if God only can end the union through death, than why did God give a written bill of divorcement? They got the point and they found it distasteful as do so many in our society today. 

This understanding of our Lord is also recognized by the disciples and they are shocked at hearing it. Thus they respond, “if such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry!” Jesus does not disagree with them because for some in a bad marriage, being single would actually have been a better route. However, Jesus goes on to say that not many people can chose a life of celibacy and thus they must marry in spite of the risk. 

This understanding of our Lord is restated by the Apostle Paul when he wrote, 

1 Cor 7:10-12, “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

Paul by using the words “but the Lord” was indicating that this was the position that the Lord taught his disciples when he ministered on the earth 

Fourthly, God expects people to follow his direction not mans The theologians thought they finally had trapped Jesus with His call to no divorce with freedom to remarry. After all Moses had given a bill or divorcement in the OT law and it would appear that Jesus was going against the law (7). Jesus response to these men puts God’s perspective on the Mosaic law rather then these men’s distorted and twisted interpretations. Jesus said that He came not to destroy the Mosaic law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). To undo or over ride any portion of the Mosaic law would have been totally contrary to our Lord’s purpose. Therefore our Lord set straight the OT teaching. 

#1: Moses did not command that men divorce but rather God gave it because He knew the hardness of men’s heart would demand it (19:8). In other words, it was because of the sin of men’s hearts that God gave a bill of divorcement not because He desired it. 

#2: Moses law on divorcement did cover the realm of marriage but what took place before marriage. (19:9) 

a) Divorce after marriage was never needed because the Mosaic law required and demanded that anyone violating his marriage vows through sexual immorality was to be executed. In fact Leviticus 20:10-16 cover the whole gamete of what a married person could do to sin in this area

Adultery (10) 'The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.

Incest (11-12) The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them.

Homosexuality (13) If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

Polygamy with relatives (14) If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.

Bestiality (15-16) If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.”

Therefore, if a person caught his partner cheating, he or she needed to bill of divorcement because his or her partner would be executed and they would be free to remarry. This was the intent of the law and thus the bill of divorcement would not negate it. 

b) There is only type of sexual immorality given in the OT Mosaic law that did not demand the death penalty. This had to do with pre-marital sex. 

Deut 22:28-29, “If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.” 

c) Therefore our Lord’s exception clause is an interpretation of the Deut. 24:1-2 and covers an event that takes place prior to marriage. This is the reason that Jesus uses the Greek word “porneia” rather than “mokai” (adultery) as the exception clause for divorce and freedom to remarry. When these two words are used in the same sentence as in verse 9, the word “porneia” takes on a specialized meaning of pre-marital sex. Anything after marriage was always “mokai” or “adultery”. If the Lord had adultery in mind as the exception He would have used the word for adultery. 

Jesus was speaking of a rare situation where a woman gets pregnant before marriage and is then married to another man. The man finds out after marriage she is pregnant and knows the child is not his. Because of the hardness of his heart, he is not willing to forgive his wife and accept her child as his own and so in this case and this case only he is permitted to give her a bill of divorcement and marry another. We have a wonder example of this in the case of Mary and Joseph. After Joseph and Mary were married, Joseph discovers that Mary was already pregnant and it is not his child and so he being a righteous man, seeks to divorce her privately (Matt. 1:18-25) 

Therefore, Jesus indicates it was God’s intent that married people could not be divorced with the freedom to remarry. If one’s partner cheated on them, they need not a bill of divorcement but rather to turn them over to the elders of the city to be put to death and they would be free to remarry. Any bill of divorcement given after marriage where one or both partners remarried was the act of adultery. 

Thus God’s plan for marriage was very rigid. However, please note that God does take into account that at times the need to “divorce” a partner who is extremely abusive or threatens a partner’s life was always a possibility. It was not the divorce that caused the person to sin but rather it was the remarriage after the divorce that God hated. They were to remain single if divorced as long as their mate lived and thus live up to the marriage covenant that God had given (1 Cor. 7:10-11).

Let us therefore summarize Christ’s view on Marriage

1) It was to be heterosexual only: male and female is the only type of union that God will recognize.

2) It was to be monogamous: only one man and one woman only.

3) It was to be for a life time. God reserves for Himself only the right to dissolve a marriage and that through the act of death

I have found over the years that this teaching concerning marriage and the Bible shocks more and more believers. What is sad is that 50 years ago very few if any in the church question the truth of this. This position has been held by the church since foundation in Acts 2. Back 50 years ago we had very few divorces among the members, none in the pastorate or leadership, very few living together out of wedlock, and little or no mention of homosexuality. Today the average believer is very much like the disciples of Jesus generation. They have become use to divorce and remarriage for numerous causes and having couples living outside of wedlock as a part of their congregation. I hope God's view does not catch you as surprised as it did the 12.

Does this mean that those who are homosexual or have been involved in a divorce or guilty of adultery or premarital sex can not enter into heaven or be a productive members of the Body of Christ? Not at all! The Bible is clear that there is no sin that God can not forgive. If we find that we have been involved in one of these sins we need to go before God and confess our sin and “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). If we are practicing any of these sins we need to forsake our ways and follow God. God's way is always the best way!