FORNICATION - AN "EXCEPTION"??
The "vow" taken in marriage usually states, "till death do us part". Most agree that marriage should be for life and, certainly, that no minister should ever consider marrying a couple for only a few months or a few years: Yet, we do see homes wrecked by divorce. Innocent children are thereby forced to pay a terrible price for their parents' folly. Churches are wrecked by the evil stigma divorce brings, and the unbelieving world is caused to wonder if there is anything good about religion that allows such evil. Yes, one of the greatest evils in our society is that so many marriages end in divorce.
God Hates It
We must recognize that we should hate everything God hates - and God does hate "putting away", as we read in Mal. 2:13-16:
"And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously."
Marriage & The Law Of God
Marriage is a matter of the Law of God. It is, therefore, a matter of religious, moral and social concern. Marriage is involved in our religious life, because it is regulated by laws of God. Then it is important that we know the laws of God in order the keep them.
In studying the scriptures it is always important to "search" them and to "rightly divide" them. We must consider the proper division of the Bible. The Bible Covenants dealt with marriage violations in different ways, according to God's Law for the time. We must, therefore, consider whom the inspired writer is addressing, and under what covenant his words apply. Otherwise we could be misguided.
When God created the first man on earth He said, "It is not good that the man should be alone..." (Gen. 2:18). He created the woman and brought her unto the man (Gen.2:22) and the first marriage followed.
According to Jesus, (Matt. 19:5-6) God then issued His Law in these words: "...for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Jesus quoted the words spoken at the time God presented a man's wife to Him in the Creation (Gen.2:21-25). Jesus was, at the time of this statement (Matt. 19:5-6), dealing with the Pharisees over a point of law concerning the divorcement of wives. To answer their question over this point of law, Jesus referred them to the above decree of God at the beginning. For this reason, especially, we should consider what God said at the beginning to be His Law for marriage.
The Universal Law
This law of marriage was intended as a universal law, for He said "a man" (not specific men) in Matt. 19:5, as quoted by Christ. Every human is subject to this law in marriage.
Before the Law of Moses, it seems that God did not set specific penalties for breaches of His Marriage Law, but He did punish man severely at times for the flagrant violations. We have examples of this in the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, et cetera.
Jesus And The Law Of Moses
Jesus was "made under the law" (Gal. 4:4):
"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." He lived the law of Moses to the fullest - not failing to keep one point of it; "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you.. Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matt. 5:17-18) He kept the law until His death, when the Law of Moses was "nailed to the cross" (fulfilled): "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross." (Col. 2:14)
Christ's Personal Ministry
In His personal ministry (prior to the cross) Christ:
1. Taught concerning Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit;
2. Taught concerning the Law of Moses - explaining it more fully to the people of the time in which He lived who were also under this Law. The Jews had drifted into a number of traditions which were not befitting the law that had been given them. He admonished them on several occasions, and proceeded to tell them how they should apply the law they were under;
3. Explained concerning the kingdom to come (His spiritual kingdom) in prospect. It is important to remember He could not, and did not, change the Law of Moses in any way before His death (Matt. 5:17-18, above). Neither could He advise others to do anything different than what God had ordained through the Law to Moses. It would be like putting "new cloth" onto old garments, or "new wine" into old bottles. We read in Matt.9:14-17:
"Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved."
Christ certainly did teach many things concerning the kingdom to come in prospect - but His death on the cross was necessary before the new covenant was in effect. Read Heb. 9, especially vs. 15-17:
"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, that they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise, it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth."
Thus we see clearly that Christ, the Testator of the new covenant must have died on the cross before the new covenant became in effect. And - since He came "not to destroy, but to fulfil" and, not "one jot or one tittle" was to "pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17-18) we see He did not change the law during His earthly ministry;
4. Taught some eternal truths that apply to man under any dispensation.
Examples of Christ's Teachings
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew give us some examples of Christ's teachings concerning the law of Moses, as well as some prospective teaching relating to His kingdom, the church. We will note a few in Ch.5:
Vs. 13-16 are often taken to apply to Christians only - but careful reading will show these are eternal truths, applying to God's people in any dispensation:
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it he salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot he hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Vs. 17-18 relate to the Law of Moses, as we have already noted above.
Vs. 21-24. Some think that any time Jesus said, "Ye have heard it said...but (or "and")..I say unto you", that it means the last instructions are automatically for the new dispensation - but not so: This is a good example: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
Note that He is actually explaining their own law to them more fully. The word, "judgment", in verse 22, refers to a tribunal "court" that sat in each city or town. History tells us it usually consisted of seven members, and was the lowest court among the Jews. From it a person might appeal a judgment to a high court, the Sanhedrin "council", mentioned in the same verse. Major violations were handled by this council.
Now this question: Would Christ tell a Christian he was in danger of the Jewish "council"? NO. So we see this was related to Jewish (Mosaic) law, as in the mention of the "altar" in Vs. 24. Christians do not have "altars". Jesus was here explaining the Jews' own law to them - not giving new law as some tend to believe.
Vs. 33 to the close of Ch. 5 can be considered more prospective, as the teachings of Christ concerning His rules of conduct that would be "written on their hearts":
"Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not foreswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great king. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black-. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away."
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But 1 say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
"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."
It is important to note that in vs. 31, there are two distinct acts mentioned. One would be "put away", the other, "give her a writing of divorcement". It follows that one could "put away" (separate from, in this case) his wife without divorcing her. The word translated "put away" here does not mean "divorce" - but means to depart, dismiss, cause to leave, et cetera. The rule had been made, "If you are going to put away your wife, give her a divorce." (vs. 31).
The words by Christ in vs.32 are eternal truth. When a man separates from his wife, he causes her to be subject to temptation of incontinency. 1 Cor. 7:5 reads:
"Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer: and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for Your incontinency." We can see he must also share the blame if she falls. Of course, as Jesus mentions, if she is already guilty of fornication her husband would not, in such case, cause her to fall by leaving or putting her away. Now look at the last part of vs.32. "...And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
Where is "authorized" divorce and remarriage in the verse? Actually, what Jesus said here is confirmed by the Spirit in Apostle Paul's words:
"Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting arid prayer; and come together again, that. Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." (1 Cor.7:2-5).
Again Paul wrote:
"And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, 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 Cor.7:10-11).
Then, in principle, Jesus teaches (Matt. 5:32) that whoever marries a divorced person commits adultery; and whoever separates from their mate contributes to the mate's delinquency by abandoning the mate to Satan's temptation to incontinency, thus helping "cause" adultery. If the mate is already guilty of "fornication" (vs.32) and the other separates on that account, he will not "cause" the mate to do what is already going on (Fornication) and is, in such case, to remain unmarried or else be reconciled to the estranged mate. (1 Cor.7:- 10-11 above)
Harmony Between Matt.5:32 & 1 Cor.7:2-5, 10-11, 39
"...to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence (her conjugal rights, RSV); and likewise also the wife unto the husband...defraud ye not one the other...that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency And unto the wife I command, yet not I, but the Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband; arid let not the husband put away his wife." (1 Cor.7:2-5, 10-10. And in vs. 39), "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." Only death dissolves a marriage!
ILLUSTRATING MATT.5:32 (last part of verse)
"And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
(any man) shall marry her (any woman) that is divorced committeth
adultery." Why? – Because
the divorcee has a living spouse - (1 Cor.7:39) "The
wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth."
The Divine Example
Please note this example regarding God, Himself: In Jer. 3:, we find God "divorced" Israel for her spiritual adultery (whoredom) with idols. "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him. and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord. (vs. 1) "The lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Past thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw. when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery 1 had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also." (Jer.3:6-8) Now - notice carefully: "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, arid two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." (vs. 14)
Israel was "married" to God, in the spiritual sense, and remained so until "death", as shown in Rom.7:4: "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God."
God was married to Israel until the fulfilling of the Law of Moses when Christ died on the cross. The Law - and the "marriage" - then became "dead", as shown above, allowing Christ to become the Bridegroom of God's people, the church.
But note: Even though God "divorced" Israel, He still considered "her" as married to Him (Jer. 3:14) until "death" (Rom. 7:4). Only death dissolves a marriage!
These verses are important to our study. Many believe fornication to be the "one exception" to the rule, and use vs.9 to support their erroneous conclusion. We read:
"The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, whosoever' shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
To know the truth we must consider all that is said in a connected context; when (under what covenant) it applies; and to whom the instructions are addressed.
This is the way all religious matters must be treated. Taking this context together, we have:
1. The whole passage was a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The Pharisees considered themselves well versed in all that was lawful at that time - including the matter under consideration. Their question was centered upon their words, "is it lawful?" Obviously, they meant, "Is it lawful according to the Law of Moses?", for this was the only law of God they were prone to acknowledge in religion, as they interpreted it. We read, "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust." (John 5:45)
The Law of Moses On Adultery
The scriptures show that under the Law of Moses adultery was to be punished by stoning to death.
"If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, and give occasion of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:" (Deut.22:13-14)
"But if this thing be true, and the token of virginity be not found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you." (vs. 20-21) Further:
"If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel." (vs.22)
We see clearly fornication required death by stoning by the Law of Moses.
The Pharisees are known to have recognized that the Law of Moses required that adultery be punished by stoning to death, for they told Jesus so in John 8:3-5:
"And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?"
Jesus must have been aware of this when they asked Him, "is it lawful for one to put away his wife...?" (Matt.19:3) The present-tense question, "IS it lawful", must be considered along with Jesus' declaration in Matt. 5:17-18, that no part of the Law would be removed until all would be fulfilled.
2. Jesus answered the first question ("Is it lawful") by referring them to God's Law for "a man", given in Eden. (Matt. 19:4-6):
"And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh: Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
This Law, as we have noted, did not provide for divorce and remarriage - but rather that "they are no more twain but one flesh." 3. After Jesus' answer (vs.4-6), these Pharisees gave a rebuttal question: "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (vs 7).
Then Jesus dismissed this provision by Moses by rendering it only a thing which Moses "suffered" (allowed) because of hard-heartedness; and then announced that Moses' deviation in the matter had not been so from the beginning, thusly voiding it. (In other words, it was not God's Law as given to Moses - only an allowance by Moses, himself.) "..Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." (vs. 8)
4. Jesus then summarized His conversation with these Pharisees about their "Is it lawful" argument, with His then-lawful observation in vs.9:
"And I say unto you". What He said to them in this verse was true only in view of their original question, "is it lawful?", namely this fact:
We must consider the death-penalty which their law prescribed for the adulterous partner (death by stoning, John 8:5; Deut. 22:13-30) - which law we know was removed at the cross. Therefore, if a man came before the magistrate to put his wife away for fornication or adultery, and if he had sufficient proof of this charge, their existing law would automatically demand the death penalty, and if they did what "was lawful" in the matter, the man would soon be free to marry another wife, for his wife would then be dead!
Apostle Paul's Testimony
"Know ye not, brethren, (for 1 speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 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." (Rom. 7:1-3) We see clearly death, and only death, can loose the marriage bond.
What Moses "Suffered"
In Deut. 24:1-4 we read:
"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eves, 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. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance."
What is overlooked by many is that Jesus, in Matt.19:- 7-8, renounced what Moses had "suffered" (allowed, in Deut. 24:1-4, above) as being no part of the law of God, hence, was never lawful in God's sight - "not so" -"from the beginning". This declaration completely eliminated all discussion and conjecture as to what the "unclean thing" was that Moses referred to; thereby throwing out the whole divorce-and-remarriage deviation of Moses - leaving the only then-lawful-provision for a fornicator as being death by stoning.
Now These Points:
If we do not allow the disposition of the "fornicator" by death, we run into many problems, and find ourselves in contradiction with every other scripture regarding the permanent "one-flesh" arrangement God has designed:
1. The first part of Matt.19:9 reads: "And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery...” If we try to apply this scripture to allow remarriage, without death of the fornicator to the New Covenant, we force contradictions:
a. between His words to the Pharisees and those He made later to His disciples in the house (Mk. 10:10-12):
"And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, 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."
Remember that Jesus promised His disciples the Holy Spirit to remind them of all He had said to them – not what He had said to the Pharisees - as we read in John 14:26, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." – and –
b. We force a contradiction between what Jesus said in Matt. 19:9 and what He revealed through Apostle Paul in New Testament scriptures, as follows:
"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." (Rom.7:2-3)
"And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, 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 Cor. 7:10-11)
"The wife is bound by the law so 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 Cor. 7:39)
2. When we try to apply Matt. 19:9 without anticipating the death penalty of the Law, we make Christ set aside the Law of Moses which then required death of the fornicator wife. "If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman...” (Deut.22:22) "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned..." (John 8:5)
3. When we try to interpret Jesus' words in Matt.19:9 to ignore the death penalty (then lawful) we force an injustice in His judgment - differing between an innocent husband on the one hand, and an innocent wife on the other. Matt. 19:9 reads:
"And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
Thus, we would say that Jesus would allow a husband who has a fornicator wife to remarry; but He would not allow an innocent divorced wife to remarry (last part of Matt. 19: 9); and He said clearly in Mk. 10:12, "And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." (No "exception" for her - also read Rom.7:2-3)
(If the death penalty was not involved in Matt. 19:9)
a. John marries Mary. She is later found guilty of co-habiting with another man, whereupon John divorces her - but she is not put to death. Shall we construe Matt.19:9 (above) to say that John may marry another without committing adultery? Many do! - in spite of what Jesus said to His disciples in Mk. 10:11-12 and what the Spirit said in 1 Cor.7:1-11,39. These scriptures show the departed mate must "remain unmarried" (not seek another mate); that if either spouse puts away the mate and "marries another", adultery is committed; and that only death can dissolve marriage.
b. Bill marries Jane. Bill later is found guilty of co-habiting with another woman. Many say - contrary to what Jesus said in the latter part of Matt. 19:9 ("...and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."), that Jane may divorce Bill and marry another without adultery being committed. They reason that Jane is "innocent" - that the unfaithfulness of her husband, Bill, allows her to remarry. Not so: Read the scriptures again. Jesus said again, in Lk. 16:18, "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."
Jesus does not now grant divorce and remarriage - Fornication is not now an "EXCEPTION".
God's original decree for marriage is also given in Eph.5:28-31:
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. For we are members of his body, his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father, and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."
It is interesting to note that Paul says he is speaking concerning Christ and the church" - calling it a "great mystery". It seems evident his listeners were familiar with the oneness ("one-flesh" relation) of a man and his wife. He emphasizes this unity of man and wife, and uses this to show them the "great mystery" that Christ and the church have a similar "one-flesh" relationship. He, through the Spirit, expands this teaching in Rom.7:1-4:
"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? for the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law (taw of marriage, GSB) 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." (vs.1-3).
Paul explains he is aware that his listeners "know the law" (that any law governs an individual until the individual dies.) He then shows the woman is bound by the law of marriage until death. Now, using this as a basis, he explains more concerning Christ and the church. He shows God's people could not be "married" to Christ as long as the Law of Moses was in effect. But this law became "dead" (i.e. fulfilled), hence, allowing them (the church) to be married to Christ, as explained in vs. 4,
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law (law of Moses) by the Body of Christ: that ye should be married to another, even to him (Christ) who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Now consider this: Eph. 5:28-31 with Rom. 7:1-4 show the oneness - the lawful one-flesh unity of man and wife as also of Christ and His Church. This marriage law shows clearly that for re-marriage to take place (whether physical or spiritual) death in the first marriage must occur first. The closeness of the union (until death) of man and his wife is used to show the closeness of the union of Christ with His church under the binding force of God's marriage Law for life - not only for man and wife, but also .for God and His people.
This question: Do we believe the church could divorce Christ - marry another (as it were) and be acceptable to God? Or vice versa? No: Marriage is for life!
Consider, please, the following thoughts:
In Lev. 21:7, speaking of the Levitical priests, "And shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God." We see here no priest was permitted to marry a divorced woman. If a divorced woman would defile a holy man (priest) of an earthly priesthood (sanctified by the blood of animals), where does the "royal priesthood" (sanctified by the blood of Christ) get the authority to marry or give in marriage, divorced persons?
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9) This shows that each Christian is a holy priest:
The priesthood of Levi was a type of the Christians -holy persons. We find that no one who was holy or set apart for a holy purpose, as was the Levitical priesthood under the old covenant, or Christians under the new, ever did have the privilege of marrying a divorced person by divine authority, under any age of the world's history.
"But", says one, "how about Lev. 21:14 which forbids them to marry a widow?" It reads: "A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife." Here he is speaking of the high priest. Vs. 10, "And he that is the high priest among his brethren...” The high priest under the old law was a type of Christ under the new dispensation. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." (Heb.3:1)
Let us note Ezek. 44:22, "Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before." We see that the priesthood (underpriests) were permitted to marry the widow of a priest, or maidens (virgins), and this exactly corresponds with the law of the new covenant, that the Christian whose spouse has died should marry only in the Lord! "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 Cor.7:39)
Remember The Vow
Let us remember the vow taken in marriage ("till death do us part"). A vow is a promise that the Lord expects us to fulfill. A man and woman contemplating marriage should consider this carefully before the promise is made. After marriage much diligence must be exercised to be sure the marriage relationship is what God would have it to be. He gives us all the instructions and guidelines needed, in His Word. Study the Word, apply the Word - carefully and prayerfully, so that the marriage will be a blessing, not an abomination to God:
Extra copies available from Glenn S. Burk
Sinton, TX. 78387