The Expository Files.

What The Bible Says About Marriage

What Therefore God Has Joined Together


We live in a society today that has little regard for the honor and sanctity of marriage as God designed it. Unmarried cohabitation, "living together," is a common social practice of today. With many in society this immoral practice has gained acceptance and approval.

The following statistics indicate the magnitude of this disregard toward God's pattern for marriage and the home. Divorce statistics, although stabilizing, are very alarming. An estimated 2.33 million couples married during 1993. In this same year, an estimated 1.2 million marriages ended in divorce. This statistical data, projected, indicates that one in every two marriages will end in divorce (Universal Almanac, 1995, pg. 301 & 302). Also in the last quarter of a century, the number of marriage annulments granted to U.S. Catholics has grown phenomenally. Each year, cannon lawyers estimate 50,000 American Catholic marriages are declared null and void (Newsweek, pg. 58, 13 March, 1995). These tragic statistics are evidence that God's first institution - the home - is in danger and must be patterned after His instructions or the tragedy will be even more catastrophic.

One of the familiar verses in the Bible is Matthew 19:6. That passage contains the words of Jesus in regard to marriage. "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

This divine principle needs to be applied to the crumbling standards of the marital realm. It is high time that the beautiful, expressive words of Ephesians 5:31-33 be a daily reminder in the hearts of every married couple:

"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I am speaking concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband."

Notice how Paul contrasted the nature and responsibilities of marriage back to the marriage of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:18-24) to substantiate what has always been true from the beginning. This scripture points out that marriage is a divine institution. It was designed by and originated with the sanction of God. Also this scripture along with 1 Cor. 7:2 establishes that marriage is monogamous. God created for Adam what was needed for his marriage: one woman. Paul stated that each man was to have his own wife and each woman was to have her own husband. This monogamous relationship is not having one husband or one wife at a time. The principle of monogamy is one man for one woman for life. Marriage is a permanent bond between a man and woman and is intended to last until death (Romans 7:1-3) with only one exception found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, which we shall consider further in this article.

Marriage is a divine institution with a purpose. If I were to choose one word above all others to convey the intent of marriage I would choose the word companionship. Marriage partners are to leave all others and cleave to each other. Genesis 2:18 says: "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for a man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him'."

Procreation, the perpetuation of the human race, is another purpose of marriage. Genesis 1:28 says, "And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it'." Children are to be born of parents who are married to each other. The home is the basic unit of society and is ordained of God.

Marriage is also required to avoid fornication. First Corinthians 7:2-3 says: "But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband."

God gave us our bodies and the sexual desire for each other. There is nothing evil, sinful, or shameful regarding the sexual relationship of husband and wife.  However, sexual activity outside of marriage, either pre-marital or extra-marital, is to defile that which God has made sacred and holy. Fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, lesbians, etc. are violators of the Holy intent of God and they turn what God purposed to be a beautiful and pure relationship into something reprehensible and filthy.

What constitutes marriage? A marriage is recognized by God when a man and woman resolve with mutual love and respect in their hearts to live together as husband and wife, and conform to whatever civil ceremonies are required (Rom. 13:1). There is no middle road between marriage and adultery. Two people who are living together are either married or they are committing adultery.

Concerning the subject of divorce, Malachi 2:16 states very clearly how God felt about it.

" 'For I hate divorce,' says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'and him who covers his garment with wrong,' says the Lord of Host. 'So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously'."

Here and in Matthew 19:3-6, where the Jews questioned Jesus about divorce being lawful for any cause, Jesus stated that from the beginning it was God's intention that marriage be life long and monogamous.

After Jesus stated God's position on divorce the Jews countered asking, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?" Jesus responded in Matthew 19:8 saying: "Because of the hardness of your heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way." Restating God's original plan in Matthew 19:8, Jesus in Matthew 19:9 declared that, the man who puts away his wife and marries another is committing adultery. The only exception is for immorality (fornication, adultery).

Christ's teaching clearly states that the general rule of marriage is that no one may divorce and remarry. The only exceptions to that are those who specifically are granted the right of divorce and remarriage. In Matthew 19:9, it is the "divorcing" party, i.e. the innocent party, who is given authority to divorce and remarry. The innocent party may divorce and remarry because it is specifically allowed or authorized by God. However, the guilty party is given no such freedom, no exception, therefore they have no authority to divorce and remarry. If the guilty party, who has been divorced by the innocent spouse, remarries another, they are living in adultery. If a husband and wife divorce for reasons other than immorality (fornication, adultery, etc.) and marry others, they are living in adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18).

Contrary to the practice of today's society God intended for marriage to be a beautiful lasting union until separated only by death. Is this possible to accomplish? Yes! Otherwise God would not have ordained and sanctioned the marriage union with this stipulation (1 John 2:4-6).

Marriage demands the giving of oneself to the other, and there can be no mutual benefit without mutual giving. A part of one's identity is surrendered for the larger identity. Marry to share the good and endure the bad with the one who love. Maybe it would be helpful to commit to memory a frequently used wedding vow:

"For better, for worse; for richer or for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish 'til death do us part."

These principles, I feel, are clearly seen in Ephesians 5:22-33.

Marry to please God. Marriage must involve three persons: God, the husband and the wife. Enter the marriage relationship fully realizing the life long commitment and that God forbids divorce (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Choose your marriage partner carefully. One should never enter a relationship, as intimate as marriage, with those who refuse to honor Jesus as Lord (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

For marriage to be the joyous relationship that God intended, the husband and wife must never take one another for granted. We must allow the light of love to endure within hearts that are open to a loving Father and His Son. Thoughtfulness, gratitude, and concern for one another must be ever present in a marriage. Perhaps the following practical rules for a happy married life will make marriage the life long union that God intended it to be (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7).

~ Never both be angry at once.
~ Never talk at one another.
~ Never yell at one another, unless the house is on fire.
~ Let each one strive to yield more often to do the wishes of the other.
~ Let self-denial be the daily aim and practice of each.
~ Never taunt with a past mistake.
~ Neglect the whole world rather than one another.
~ Never make a remark at the expense of one another.
~ Never part for a day without kind words to think of during absence.
~ Never meet without a loving welcome.
~ Never let the sun go down on your wrath.
~ Never forget that marriage is ordained of God, and that His blessings alone can make it what it ought to be.

(Twentieth Century Christian, March 1955)

"What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate," (Matt. 19:6).


 By Ray Wilson 
 From Expository Files 2.12; December 1995