God's Plan for Marriage
The downfall of the family unit in society is one of the most tragic things facing mankind. The destruction of the family unit all begins with the destruction of what starts a family - the marriage of a man and a woman. It is hard to find people who have not been divorced and remarried at least once these days. Why? Because, the institution of marriage and family is generally not held in the esteem that God meant for it to be.
The family was God's first institution, but today man seems to think it is the worst institution. In the beginning, God created man and woman and joined them together for life. He said in Genesis 3:24, "Therefore man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." In these words God, instituted the marriage relationship and ordained the family unit. Later, after their transgression, Adam and Eve had children which completed the family unit in its simplest sense. The problem today is that many want marriage and even children, but when things get difficult (even barely difficult) - they want out. This is why divorce rates have skyrocketed over the last 30 years. Irreconcilable differences, money, children, infidelity, and "not what they expected" are all justifications men and women use to end marriages. Ultimately, they amount to a long list of excuses and center around one person, "me." Selfishness is the biggest destroyer of marriages. In turn, the family unit has for the most part come to mean nothing. Children in turmoil and confusion are the consequences of such thinking. They get wrapped up in a vicious cycle of broken homes that only they can choose to break. That is, the average child of a divorced couple will inevitably divorce unless they consciously and determinably choose not to fall prey to the same thing their parents did. This is shameful.
God never desired these things for the family. Malachi 2:13-16 says...
And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14 Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 16 "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence," says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."
It is easy to see why God despises divorce. He stands on high looking down on the destruction of His first institution! He sees children suffering greatly and shedding many tears at the hands of selfish adults who cannot fulfill vows and work out problems! He sees His children break His commands and His children's children learn to do the same! He sees treachery! It is both a wonder and wonderful, that God sent His Son to die for such a sinful and rebellious people.
Now look at what the Lord said of marriage in Matthew 5:31-32.
Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say unto you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (fornication, jlp) causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."
That's right! The Lord said that we are not to give our wives (spouses, for that matter - God holds no double standard between man and woman - see Mark 10:12) a certificate of divorce! If we do, we cause them to commit adultery. In other words, we cause them to sin and will be personally held accountable (Matthew 18:6-8). Furthermore, anyone who marries someone who is unscripturally divorced, commits adultery. I don't know about you, but I know many people in this situation today.
There is only one exception given to this rule, and that is when one is sexually unfaithful (commits fornication outside the marriage relationship) to their spouse. The innocent party who has put their spouse away can remarry, but the guilty party cannot. Notice Matthew 19:3-10.
3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" 4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." 7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." 10 His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry."
The Lord said it very plainly and simply. What is tolerated today was not so from the beginning and will not be tolerated in the judgment. If we divorce our spouse for any reason except sexual immortality (fornication), and then remarry - we commit adultery! If we marry one who has been divorced and remarried for any reason save sexual immorality - we commit adultery! We know from Galatians 5:19-21, that no adulterer will inherit the kingdom of God! It is that simple! Marriage, while not existing in eternity (Mark 12:25), has eternal consequences.
Notice the statement made by those who heard this teaching. They said, "...it was better not to marry." The Lord did not disagree, but knew that some could not keep this saying - so marriage, when properly esteemed is left honorable in the sight of God and man (Hebrews 13:4). Overall, what this says is that the marital commitment is a serious one and is never to be taken lightly. It is a life-long commitment (Romans 7:1-3)!
When two people are lawfully married, God recognizes that union and joins them together (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). In Matthew 19:6, the Lord said, "Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man put asunder." This is a command of the Lord given in regards to marriage. Nevertheless, God joins two together in the marital relationship and they stay bound until death do them part (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39) or until they lawfully end the marriage (because of sexual immorality - fornication - Matthew 19:9), in which case only the innocent party can remarry. Consider what John the Baptist said to Herod, who was, in the sight of God, unlawfully married to his brother's wife, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife" (Mark 6:17). Why did he say this? Because she was still bound to Philip, and could not lawfully be married to Herod. These words were as unpopular then as they are today. Then, it cost John the Baptist his head. Today, many a soul will despise another for teaching the truth. Nevertheless, this is clearly what scripture says we must do if we are in an unlawful relationship.
Consider also the example of the woman of Samaria whom Jesus spoke with at Jacob's well (read John 4:15-18). She had been married five times, yet according to the Lord, had no husband. Why is this? Because our ways are not God's ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Because what we sometimes recognize as a marriage, God recognizes as unlawful. Notice, the Samaritan women knew the error of her way without the Lord's prompting. Once again, what does the scripture say?
What about those today who are committing adultery by living in an unlawful relationship - that is, a marital relationship that God considers adulterous? What must they do to make it right with God? Put simply - repent (Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 17:30)!
How does one repent of an unlawful marriage? Two ways are revealed in scripture. The first, and ultimately best way, whenever it is possible, is to end the unlawful marriage in the sight of men, and be reconciled to the one whom God knows you are still joined to in His sight (your first lawful marriage - 1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Whenever the first way becomes impossible, because the first spouse does not want to be reconciled, we are left only one choice. We must become a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake (remain unmarried and do not commit fornication - Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:11).
What if children are involved? This is where things get very emotional and messy, but do not change the law of God. Read the following passages and consider who must come first - God or man: Luke 14:26, Mark 10:29-30 and Matthew 10:37-39. Obviously the children cannot and should not be abandoned, but the unlawful relationship must end if repentance is to prevail!
To despise vows made before God and to fulfill the desire of the flesh by living in an unlawful relationship bears serious consequences - the loss of our salvation. In the end, we'll reap the reward of our lives here. Unfortunately, for many, the choice is to reap their reward now in this life and deny the glory awaiting them in heaven. Hopefully, all who find themselves in an unlawful marriage relationship will repent before the everlasting too late!
By Jonathan L. Perz
From Expository Files 15.1; January 2008