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Marriage – The Law God Never Changed


Wm. Ford Copeland




The divorce rate across America in our century has arisen at an alarming rate, and shows no sign of declining.


Whatever the explanation for it, the church bears a great responsibility to God and to man to stem the tide, to avoid, and to call the people out of this terrible sin.  The mighty revolutions of our time, political, moral and religious, call upon each one living, for we are all involved, to take his own place in the struggle and to stand, alone if none to stand with, for that good and righteous and perfect will of God. This is the only secure anchor.


For fifty years the writer has watched the tide wash the majority along this slimy decline, and has studied the issues from all sides presented, read all the books available, especially by his brethren, in what he believes to be an honest effort to know God's truth and His will upon the subject of marriage.


This little book presents the sum of this study and training. These views have been reached several times in return efforts to learn the truth on the subject by the writer, after consider­ing other views with a desire to accept them, only to find them out of harmony with some vital point of God's law.


The church of Christ, and more especially its teaching ministry, must speak out God's truth and offer no apology for its disciplinary call to righteousness. Yet, as a brother­hood, we have failed the Master in the great field and coverage of the marriage relationship.


I hope this little booklet may serve to awaken many and instruct many toward a better knowledge of God in this subject.


May the truth prevail in all hearts!


Wm. Ford Copeland







Whatever laws God has made concerning every matter are fixed, irrevocable and unchangeable, unless and until God revokes or changes them, Himself. The Bible reveals to man all of God's present laws and past laws for earth's populations. The difference between present and former laws of God is determined by the proper division of the Bible according to its own inherent instructions for its division. All questions involving God's law governing a particular matter must be settled with due regard to the proper division of the Bible in order that any changes in God's law, if changed, from one era to another may be recognized.


God has made His law with regard to marriage. He has never changed this law since He ordained it at the Creation. He has changed certain penalties for the various breaches of His marriage law from time to time, but the marriage law has remained ever the same.




There has never been a man or woman who was not subject to God's marriage law if they anticipated co-habitation. It was the first man, of whom God said, "It is not good that man should be alone" and then took from his body the flesh and bone to make him a wife. Here God made the first husband and wife one flesh, and then declared the universal decree to all generations, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh."


It should not be overlooked that the expression "a man" expresses God's decree to all men with regard to marriage. There is no history of any race of humanity at any time, anywhere, who have not been conscious of a divine marriage law. There is also much evidence that God has required the nations to recognize His marriage decree, or face dire con­sequences, at many points of history.


Immediately preceding the Great Flood God determined to erase humanity from the earth for their state of corruption. Only one man was said to be "perfect in his generations" or in his genital behavior. The rest of humanity had been taking unto themselves wives as they chose - "Marrying and giving in marriage."      

God invited the one man whom he had found perfect in his generations with his wife, his three sons and their wives to prepare an ark for their salva­tion from the flood. The rest of humanity were destroyed. Their sin — deviation from God's marriage law, and perhaps violence in general.


The two great cities of the Plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, were destroyed by the Lord for their breach of His law re­garding co-habitation and marriage. This shows that God was holding the ancient populations of the earth responsible to His marriage law.


Abimelech, king of Gerar, was conscious of God's marriage law. Abraham asked his wife, Sarah, to pose as his sister in that heathen country as they passed through. This king sent and took Sarah to make her his wife. When he found that she was already Abraham's wife he was sorely afraid for what he had intended to do, and said to Abraham, "Why hast thou brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?" (Gen, 20:1-18)




By the sixth generation from Adam Lamech took two wives, and this began the practice of polygamy. It was taken up again after the flood, and the most prominent characters of Bible history had a plurality of wives and often con­cubines. Solomon, the most renowned king of God's people, had a harem of seven hundred wives and three hundred concu­bines. Polygamy is still practiced among certain peoples of the world today. Time was when God winked at it.


Though the law of Moses emphatically forbade adultery under penalty of death, divorce and remarriage became a frequent practice among the Jews, and has extended itself to modern times especially among the so-called Christian cultures of the world. Very few churches are not contaminated with it today.


God "in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways." (Acts 14:16) "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to re­pent." (Acts 17:30) The law is the same but God has taken a different attitude toward its violations!




At the time Jesus came to the world all mankind was steeped in sins of all types. God's definition of sin is, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the trans­gression of the law," (Jno. 3:4) There was no other reason given for Jesus to come and give His life, except to effect forgiveness for the personal transgressions of every one of every nation of earth.


Among their other transgressions of God's laws, many in every nation had disobeyed God's law governing marriage and co-habitation, In the first two chapters of his Roman Letter, apostle Paul recounted the Lord's rejection of the nations and His impending judgment upon them. Among the most outstanding grievances against mankind, as listed in Rom, 1:21-26 were unlawful co-habitation practices of men and women. The fierce, eternal condemnation of God is forecast in Rom, 2:9-16, and it should be noted that it is promised without respect of persons for Jew and Gentile alike.


The Jews as well as the Gentiles had sinned — "All have sinned" (Rom. 3:23) "For we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin." (Rom. 3:9) But it should be remembered that none could sin without disobeying God's law applying to them.


Now sin is not imputed where there in no law, so this proves that all nations were accountable under law to God, else they could not have transgressed a law which they did not have. Jesus found every one a law violator. This is the only reason every man was lost and the only reason every man needed a Savior. "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 Jno. 2:2)


The Ephesians were largely a Gentile population (Eph. 2:11-12). God's Word says they were, before Jesus came, and before their conversion, "Dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Their former behavior is described in Eph, 2:2-3 as "according to the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience...in the lusts of the flesh, "etc. Ch, 4:17-19 describes further the walk of the unconverted Gentiles. Ch. 5:3-6 lists fornication and whoremongering with other sins and says in verse 6, "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience," We should know, then, that the adultery and fornication of alien sin­ners is a subject of God's wrath and judgment.


Corinth was largely a Gentile center, The Spirit wrote of their former sins as aliens, listing among them "fornicators" and "adulterers," and said, "and such were some of you," (1 Cor. 6:9-11). So God had them charged as violators of His law.


So know of a certainty that God's law regulating marriage and co-habitation is bound and has always been bound upon all men. Anyone "sins" who violates this law. Christ sent His gospel to all peoples, not to make them sinners, but to effect forgive­ness for their breaches of God's law upon certain stipulated conditions contained in the gospel.


Some seem to think that the Ten Commandment law and its covenant was the only law of God the world ever had until Christ came and only the Jew could sin before God. Then they seem to think that the law of Christ applies only to such as have obeyed the gospel, and that no one is a sinner until he hears it. This is a devastating error! Were this true there would have been no sinners before Jesus came, except Israelites, and there could be no sinners since Jesus came except those who have heard the gospel, or perhaps those who have obeyed it!


"Where no law is, there is no transgression." (Rom. 4:15) and "sin is the transgression of the law" (l Jno. 3:4) hence no law, no sin! No sin, no sinners! No sinners, no salvation needed, and no Savior needed! Such is the folly of the theory that aliens are not accountable to God under His universal law covering Marriage, fornication, adultery and the like.




God's Word tells us that the law was added because of trans­gression. (Gal. 3:19) This, of course, speaks of the law of Moses from Sinai to the Israelites. Humanity already had a law from God of which all were capable of transgression. The Ten Commandments were "added" because of "transgression." It was only this added law that was nailed to the Cross (Col. 2:14) with the balance of the Sinaitic Covenant. This leaves it clear that God recognizes a basis of judgment for all peoples. This basis may be only, for some, that of "conscience" and what was known "by nature" of God's law (Rom. 2:11-16). He has so provided that things "may be known of God ... so that they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). This is no doubt the reason that all races have always been conscious of a divine marriage law, and are subject to God's judgment thereunder.




The most obvious feature of the gospel of Christ is that it speaks to man universally of their sins and forgiveness. It openly accuses all men of their sins — of their transgressions of the commandments of God — for that is all that sin is. Then it states God's concern and sacrifice through grace on behalf of each sinner. Then it announces God's plan of salvation from their sins through the obedience of faith by which He offers forgiveness.




The first move toward remission by the believer of the gospel is repentance. "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations." (Luke 24:46-47)


Many seem not to understand the principle of repentance at all. God has not promised to remit any sin - adultery, forni­cation, theft, nor any other sin without repentance beforehand. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38) The baptized believer must "Repent and pray God if perhaps the thought of the heart may be forgiven." (Acts 8:22)


Now if the alien has never been subject to God's law he has no sin, for he cannot violate a law which does not apply to him. If he has no sin how could he possibly repent? And if he has no sins, why should he do anything for the remission of sins? He needs not fear the Judgment, nor soul death, for it is "the soul that sinneth" that "shall die." The clear fact that the gospel accuses all men of sins, defines and names those sins as works of the flesh, and demands of all men every­where to repent in view of the Judgment (Acts 17:30-31), is unquestionable proof that anyone who commits adultery or fornication as an alien must turn from that sin, that he may bring forth fruits meet for repentance, in order to be forgiven in baptism, from which to rise to walk a new life in righteousness.


Saul of Tarsus was called by the Lord and sent to the Gentiles "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith," (Acts 26:17-18) Saul tells Agrippa that he obeyed this call and "showed ... the Gentiles that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." (Acts 26:19-20)


Then let us beware the error that baptism makes one amenable to God's law, or that baptism alone effects remission of sins without previous repentance of them! Christ did not suffer that men might be saved by continuing in their sins. Paul wrote, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1-23)




Paul wrote the Corinthians, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor effemi­nate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but ye are washed." (1 Cor, 6:9-11)


Some teach that an alien must repent of all the above sins in order to be washed, except adultery, which they either think he couldn't commit or else he can't quit! Yet God's Word warns that on the outside of the Eternal City will be the whoremongers, adulterers, murderers, liars, and so on. We should, therefore, be allowing the Holy Spirit to "reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment" (Jno. 16:8) by preaching that gospel which was preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, instead of the soft-soaping which leaves many in their sins for lack of re­pentance when taken into the churches.


Some have taught that aliens will not be required to give account for all their sins in the Judgment, for they are "con­demned already." But again, the Word of God does not so teach: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment," (Matt. 12:36) "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Eccl. 12:14) "God .., now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness." (Acts 17:30-31) Then let the sinner know what God requires of him or her. They have a right to hear, we have the responsibility to tell them! If their sin is adultery they need to be saved from that, the same as from other sins!






Man has tried to escape responsibility to God by unbelief and ignorance. Some want to think that man is no more than beast and, therefore, as free to mate at will as beast.


God made both man and beast male and female, and told both to multiply, But He made man a person endowed with His own likeness and spiritual kinship, and charged him with godly character responsibilities for disciplined conduct. Man, not beast, must attain and maintain righteous goals and may thereby advance into the glory of God by divine call. But again man, not beast, may degenerate into sin, and travel the road downward into hell, by ungodliness. The glory-road is the way of obedience to the laws of God and cooperation with Him in all of His designs. To co-habit righteously man and woman must submit to marriage according to God's design. Beasts are not accountable.




Men have variously theorized that marriage is a contract between a man and a woman; or that marriage is sexual co­habitation; or that marriage is a legal estate; and so on. The Bible tells us clearly what God thinks marriage is.


The inception of marriage is an act of God. Jesus is the one who most clearly revealed this fact in the Bible. Referring to what had formerly been written in scripture on the subject, he said, "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." (Matt. 19:4-6)


When a man or woman who are free to marry concur to be­come husband and wife, and comply with legal requirements for the purpose, God acts to make the two one flesh, no more twain, and what God has joined together. This is marri­age.


People find it difficult to comprehend how the two persons are no more two, or how they are now one flesh, no more to be two as to flesh. But in many things we must accept as fact what we do not understand. Paul wrote concerning the matter:


"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, and of 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." (Eph. 5:28-32) So what God says, that we cannot understand, let us not deny nor fail to comply with.


Marriage is the lawful estate in which co-habitation may be lawfully indulged. Pre-marital and extra-marital relations between the sexes are among the greatest sins of mankind. They are classed with murder in God's Word! But "Marri­age is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge". (Heb. 13:4)


This declaration shows clearly the contrast in God's mind between the three areas in which human sexes co-habit. First, the "honorable" estate - that of marriage as God has ordained it: second, whoremongering — sexual indulgence of the un­married; and third, adulterer — co-habitation when one or both is one flesh with another in marriage. God blesses and sanc­tifies the one estate which cooperates with His Holy Design, but He forbids and condemns the other two.


The way God made Adam and Eve one flesh: He put Adam to sleep and removed one of his ribs, and of the rib He made the woman. Then He presented her to Adam and it was said, "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." The Bible speaks of the two at this declaration as "the man and his wife'' (Gen. 2:21-25), It was then honorable for the male and female to co-habit, but it was not until the pair were driven from the Garden of Eden that the Record reports their co-habitation (Gen. 4:1). If we cannot know just how God now makes a pair one flesh in marriage we can accept it as a fact and conform to His holy will.




"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 a 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 sail 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)


The above-mentioned law could not rightly be termed as peculiarly of the law of Moses, though we shall learn that it was in existence during the Mosaic Era. It can likewise not be termed as peculiarly of the law of Christ, though the Spirit used the present tense to speak of its existence in the Christian Era. So it was not "added" at Sinai, and it was not removed at the cross of Christ.




When God had created the first husband and wife of earth of the first man and woman in existence, by making them one flesh, He issued His law in these words, according to Jesus "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." (Matt. 19:4-5)


Jesus quoted the words spoken at the time God presented the man's wife to him in the Creation (Gen. 2:21-25). Jesus was at the time of this statement dealing with the scribes and, 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. This is the reason we should consider what God said at the beginning as His law for marriage.


It was intended as a universal law, for He said "a man," (not specific men) is to follow this course with respect to mating. Every human male, born of father and mother, is therefore, subject to this decree.


God did not, at the time, set a penalty for breaches of the marriage law, insofar as the writer can find such in the divine Record, but He did punish man severely at times for their flagrant violations, as we see in the Flood, the destruc­tion of Sodom, and other cases. The Book tells us that sin was in the world from Adam to Moses, but that sin is not im­puted where there is no law (penalty prescribed?) Then, it says, "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound." and "the law was added because of transgression." Again, "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression." We see the principle, then, that where no penalty of law is set there is no sin (or transgres­sion) imputed, and this seems to be the stated reason God "added" the law of penalties to restrict Israel, from Sinai. Thus the law of Eden took on some teeth!




The Book tells us that Jesus was made "under the law" (Gal. 4:4). This is to say that the law of Moses was yet in effect when Jesus was born. He grew up as a Jew, and wor­shipped the Father with the Jews and taught them to keep the law. He told His disciples and the Jews, late in His earthly ministry, "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do." (Matt, 23:2-3) He had said early in His earthly ministry, "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. 5:18)


Note is made of the above facts to keep it before us that Jesus recognized the law of Moses in all of its fullness through­out His earthly ministry until His crucifixion. In no case during this time did He influence anyone to disregard the law of Moses. Jesus taught the principles of the law of Moses more clearly than any other teacher, during His pre-crucifixion ministry. So we shall include some of His teaching to properly study the subject of marriage under the Mosaic Era which ended at the Cross.


It is certain that the original law of Eden was binding during this period, for Jesus referred to and quoted it, word for word, and added a bit of explanation to it (Matt. 19:4-6) before His crucifixion, and applied it in the present tense to that day.


Reference was obviously made to this same decree of Creation by the Old Testament writer in Mal. 2:14-16; "Be­cause the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did he not 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."


Here the very same principle of the original decree is stated in different words. God made husband and wife one. Here He gave His reason, as nowhere else given in so many words-"that He might seek a godly seed." Again, He char­ged that there be no treacherous dealings between the one flesh partners, and that they not "put asunder."


The law of Sinai issued the first decree against breaches of the marriage law of Eden, when God "added" to it, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." And even "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." Other specific decrees were delivered by Moses forbidding co-habitation between the unmarried, and stipulating that certain should not marry.


Then penalty of death was decreed for adultery and for other forms of sexual sins. These penalties were binding upon all Israelites from Sinai until Jesus expired on the cross. But, as the Bible tells us, "the law made nothing perfect." By this law there was condemnation and the knowledge of sins. It depended, in a great measure, upon the faithful­ness of men for enforcement - and men were always unfaithful to God's law. They were hard-hearted and rebellious, and sometimes used the law for their own ulterior purposes. They replaced the penal commandments of God with their own tra­ditions, and worshipped Him in vain by many doctrines and commandments of men. Is this not true today?




For this reason Moses "suffered" an arrangement by which wives might be divorced by the Israelites. It was for Jesus to explain the principle behind this arrangement of Moses. When He had answered the question of the Pharisees, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" -by referring them to the universal decree of Eden, they rebutted with another question, "Why did Moses, then, command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (Matt. 19:7)


Thanks be to God, Jesus was never to be foiled by the law­yers In their cross-examinations! The lawyers, employing terms deceptively, projected the reasoning — Well, if man and wife are no more two, and not to be "put asunder," why then did Moses "command" to put her away? Jesus set the record straight again, Moses did not command anyone to put his wife away! God hated putting away: In the face of their deviation Jesus gave the first explanation of Deut, 24:1 re­corded in scripture.


"He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so." (Matt. 19:8, ARV) Here was a practice which, though suffered by Moses, was never so with God, even from the very beginning, as Jesus had just affirmed in verses 3-6 what had been from the beginning, and was even at that moment the current law of God, and which would, moreover, continue to be the law of God as long as men and women exist as such.


But God was stretching out His hand to a stiff-necked and gainsaying people! Moses "suffered" many things which were not as God would have them with these Israelites! How well Jesus knew it, and with what vehement words did He condemn their historic behavior! "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it hath not been so." God's decree has stood the same despite your hardness of heart! "AND" —




In Matt. 19:3 the Pharisee lawyers had started out to test the handling of law by this "teacher come from God" who was so antagonistic to their pride. They chose a question of law which they thought to be most difficult, and one over which the rabbis of Israel had long wrangled, and for which they seemed to find no consistent answer and apparently assumed that no one else could do better than get befuddled under sharp questioning. So they thought to get Jesus in some position of confused embarrassment by asking Him before His audience, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"




What is "lawful" is what conforms to existing law at a given time, including whatever provisions existing law may entail relative to a given matter. The law regarding a certain matter may both grant privileges and demand restrictions and pre­scribe penalties for breaches of all conditions stipulated by that law, The question was "Is it lawful?" — according to law — in keeping with law. It is recognized by the question­ers that there is law governing marriage, and penalizing violators of its rules,


'Is it then in keeping with law for a man to put away his wife for every cause?'' It may have been assumed that it was at the time lawful to put away a wife upon some condi­tion, but the lead-off was intended to involve mainly what cause or causes were according to law. Let us not forget the tense of their question, "Is'' -- present tense, "Is it lawful"


Apparently, as usual, Jesus surprised the tempters with His answer, referring them, not to something Moses said in his law, but to the words of God and His work at the beginning, and drawing His conclusion from that as His answer, "What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder," (Matt. 19:3-6) The only conclusion anyone could draw from Jesus' answer to their question, "Is it lawful" is that IT IS NOT LAWFUL!


This robbed them of their legal hassle, and left them with one rebuttal, in which they distorted the truth by stating in implication that Moses commanded men to put away their wives, and for little specific reason. They probably make reference to Deut. 24:1, as this is the only record of Moses mentioning any provision to divorce a wife in the Old Testament scriptures.


When Jesus then answered their rebuttal question, by assert­ing that what Moses had "suffered" was not so from the beginning, He rendered His astounding summation of the point of law they had raised, in which summation was recognized the stipulations of their existing penal law, by which remarriage could take place without adultery. These Pharisees well knew these death-dealing stipulations of their law, for they quoted them to Jesus on another occasion, which will be considered later. With these "lawful" penal provisions in mind Jesus states His Summation:—




"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," (Matt. 19:3-6) This summary anticipates all the provisions of the existing law, one jot nor tittle of which could be changed until all be fulfilled, What else was lawful at that time concerning the involvements of the marriage es­tates which Jesus mentioned in this summation? Did the law of Moses say something regarding "fornication" which affects the marriage estate? Yes! The law most certainly rendered a stipulation concerning whoever committed forni­cation! It was also LAWFUL at that time for a fornicator wife to be stoned to death in fact, the law demanded that penalty (Dent. 22:13-30). No use to deny it — the Pharisees did not, they had no more to say.


Therefore, if a man came before the magistrate to put away his wife for fornication or adultery, and if he had suffi­cient proof of this charge to put her away for it, their existing law would automatically demand the death penalty, and if they did what was LAWFUL in the matter, the man would be soon free to marry another wife, for his wife would then be dead. (Rom. 7:1-3)


This, then, is the point of law Jesus made to silence His tempters, the Pharisee lawyers.

Summary Drawing


Matt. 19:9 NOT A NEW LAW


No new marriage law has been decreed since the Creation. Jesus acknowledged and quoted the law of Eden in Matt. 19:4-6 as being of force at that time. The Apostle Paul acknowledged the same identical law and quotation to the church at Ephesus in Eph. 5:28-31. Neither the Lord nor any New Testament writer ever mentioned the statement Jesus made to the Pharisees in Matt. 19:9 after the crucifixion — to the world, to the church, nor to any individual, although the sub­ject of marriage, of fornication and adultery are frequently dealt with in detail in New Testament writings after the crucifixion.




If accepted in its context under the "added" law of penal­ties existing until the cross, and in consideration of the answer Jesus gave the Pharisees concerning what Moses suffered, Matt. 19:9 is a perfect summation of God's marriage law plus the penalties of the Mosaic law then in force. The pertinent facts could not have been stated in shorter form, nor with more complete harmony with every word God ever said about marriage — "No more two but one flesh" — "bound by the law to husband so long as he liveth" "If husband be dead... free to marry" and so on.


If, as many theorize, Matt. 19:9 does not anticipate the death penalty for fornication, the passage is a contradiction in itself, and opposed to every reference to God's marriage law both before and after Jesus said it. That theory forces inexplicable difficulties even within the verse, itself.


If the husband, John, divorced his wife, Mary, who is innocent of fornication, and marries Jane he commits adultery, but Mary cannot marry another without committing adultery with him. This is precisely what the passage teaches, but those who force the passage to find a present-day exception will not have it so. They insist that it means that fornication dissolves the marriage for the innocent one but not for the guilty one, and ignore what the "exception" is all about.—(What the case is if the wife is innocent whom the husband puts away). They usually assume that the innocent Mary IS free to marry another after John divorced her, while their passage emphatically declares she is not!

"Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matt. 19:9)

"Whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery" (Luke 16:18) No one could possibly marry the executed fornicator! But these "exceptionists" deny that she was executed — they just say that she cannot marry again without committing adultery.


God's oft-repeated decree is "they are no more twain but one flesh." Let us not wrest the scriptures by interpretation to say, "They are twain." Let us rather accept the truth concerning what was "lawful" at the moment Jesus rendered His answer to His tempters, but which was no longer lawful after He expired on the cross, namely; the death penalty for fornica­tors and adulterers.




The Pharisees tried again to entangle Jesus on the point of law regarding adultery. They were trying desperately to find occasion to condemn Him for mishandling the law. They brought a woman to Jesus taken in adultery, in the very act. "Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" Jesus, after stooping down and writing on the ground, and their continued asking, said to them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (Jno. 8:3-11)


In this "added" law (Dent, 17:6-7) we learn that it was the witnesses who caught a person in the act, who were required to cast the first stones. Now it was not Jesus who caught the adulteress in the act, therefore not His place to cast the first stone. He did not tell his tempters not to obey the law, but know­ing their guilty lives He drew out their guilty consciences to such an extent that they sink away without obeying the law they came to embarrass Him over, Jesus did not here circumvent the law — not one jot or tittle of it could fail until all would be ful­filled at the cross.






Most all Bible students agree that the law of Moses ended at the cross. This fact affects our present subject only in that, previous to the cross and until that moment every facet of the law of Moses was equally binding upon Jews and proselytes, even though Jesus had lived and taught among them for thirty years. All this time Jesus had been a Jew, loyal and obedient to the law of Moses in so far as it applied to His personal case. The fact that He was later to be the Lawgiver of God does not mean that He was circumventing God's law for that Era, nor that He gave rules contrary to that law during that time. There­fore, to properly understand the pre-crucifixion statements of Jesus is to realize that he projected the true status of things at that time, but not necessarily beyond the cross, for a great change of law was to take place at the cross which would remove the authority of the law of Moses as such. After the crucifixion the law of Christ would be initiated, with many new regulations comprising a New Covenant for all nations.




The four gospels, as they are called, tell of the life of Jesus from His birth to His resurrection, mentioning very briefly at the end His post-resurrection appearances and final charge to His apostles, then His ascension.


These writings serve a grand purpose, not to set forth the law of Christ, but to produce faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and to tell of His conduct and sacrifices for sinful mankind, to convince us of His mighty Power and authority.


We should not go back, as many do, to the record of these writings to establish points of law for this Era in which we live. Some go back there to establish theories such as that one can be saved without baptism; that we should observe the Sabbath; that the Lord's Supper may be served at other times than on the First Day of the week, and many other mat­ters. This is not "rightly dividing the word of truth." Yet some people who censure others for doing this go running back to Matt. 19:9 to establish fornication as a present excuse for divorce and remarriage! How dare anyone judge another, and himself do the same thing?!


At the end of these "gospels" are to be found the pronouncement of the New and risen Lawgiver to His Ambassadors concerning their New worldwide Mission, and that they were to remain in Jerusalem, waiting for the Holy Spirit, and the Go Sign to initiate the New Law of the New Lawgiver. It would be called the "Law of Christ," the "Law of Faith," the "Law of the Spirit of Life," the "Perfect Law of Liberty" and many other titles.


It would be perfect, in that it perfectly name sin, define sin, would perfectly prescribe the escape and the remedy to the entire human race for all our sins.


The New Covenant Law has incorporated many of the ancient principles of righteousness which God has required of men in all ages. One of these is His original and continual Marriage Law. What is not incorporated in the New Covenant is that old death penalty feature prescribed by the Lord under the Mosaic law for adultery, fornication, and many other trans­gressions. That ended at the cross! But we cannot depend upon finding the New Laws within the four gospels previous to the crucifixion, although Jesus made many references to the ancient and universal laws of righteousness, such as the First and Greatest Commandment, and the Second, the Marriage Law and so on.


Therefore, the marriage subject, as well as many others, cannot be understood in its fullness and harmony without rightly dividing the Word in its true relation to the cross. It is no wonder then, that the Spirit urged, "Study to show thyself approved unto God; a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15) “Those who are unlearned and unstable often wrest the scriptures to their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3;16).


"Beware, lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness."






"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, and of 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."






The reason for this requirement is specified by the Spirit "to avoid fornication" and "lest Satan tempt you for your incon­tinency" (1 Cor. 7:1-5).


 "Nevertheless, 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: 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 riot 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."


Another reason they are required to dwell together is that they may share together the grace of life, and that their prayers be not hindered. (1 Pet. 3:1,7)


“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands ... Likewise, ye husbands dwell with them according to know­ledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."




"Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the church." (Eph. 5:25) "Husbands love your wives and be not bitter against them." (Col. 3:19) "Teach the younger women to love their husbands." (Tit. 2:4)


Hollywood has confused infatuation with love. They teach us to think that when one becomes more infatuated with another than the present mate it is time to swap. God commands husband to love his wife, and wife to love her husband. It is a matter of obeying God, as well as of natural affection for one's own flesh.


One seldom inadvertently loves husband or wife beyond the stage of infatuation. It requires effort and attention to love one's companion.




"What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder," (Matt. 19:6)


"Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband ... and let not the husband put away his wife." (1 Cor. 7:10-11)


The Lord has specifically approved only one reason for separa­tion of husband and wife since Creation, and that reason is whoredom. Jesus discredited all other reasons when He said, in Matt. 5:32, "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."


The Spirit gave His commands in 1 Cor. 7:1-5 which would help to avoid whoredom. It is always anticipated that some will disobey divine law, and it is not uncommon that a husband will become guilty, or a wife will become guilty of this sin. In anticipation of this likelihood, it seems that the Spirit provided for that possibility as He said, in 1 Cor. 7:11, "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her hus­band." Otherwise, the Spirit would show an unexplained contra­diction in His rulings from verse 10 to verse 11.


Since the cross the law of execution for whoredom is out, hence, that disposal of such a companion which would permit the innocent party to marry again at will is not available, except to wait until death by natural causes. So, the Spirit gives the alternative —"Remain unmarried, or be reconciled" to the companion. Sometimes the unfaithful companion comes to repentance and desires to make things right. In this case the Christian is commanded to forgive (Eph. 4:3-32). This reconciliation under the New Covenant may be made, whereas under the Old it was allowable that one should be spared, according to the law of Moses.


If a marriage is to be blessed by the Lord it must be according to His law. "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:28) "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." (Jno. 15:10) "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." (Jas. 2:10-12) "Whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." (1 Jno. 3:22)






Most all agree that physical death dissolves marriage. The scriptures are very emphatic in declaring this to be the only thing which looses the relationship.


"For the woman which hath a 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)


Some would seem to say that this declaration is not true, since it is used here as one side of a comparison. Would the Holy Spirit set out to teach a fact by comparing it to something which is untrue? Unthinkable!


"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.” (1Cor. 7:39) This is no parable!


Does anyone want to be loosed from a wife? or husband? Death must be awaited. Debaters and others have been known to reason that "spiritual death" is sufficient cause for divorce and remarri­age. Clever, if true, but it is not true, for the same writer gave the following: (1 Cor. 7:12-13) "If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away, And the woman which hath a husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him," An "unbeliever" would certainly be "dead spiritually" in any sense of the term!


Then spiritual death is not the death that dissolves marriage.






John the Baptist, one of God's greatest prophets, stated this true principle to Herod, and it cost him his head. "For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife." (Mark 6:17-18)


Observe the fact that though Herod had married her, Herodias was still Philip's wife. This proves by John the Baptist that remarriage does not dissolve the marriage relationship.


A second declaration, this one by the Son of God, proves the same fact: "Whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery." (Luke 16:18) Even though the husband has married another, his wife is not free to marry another.




That this practice does not loose the marriage relationship is proven by the Lord's own action in His relation with Israel. God spoke of Israel as His wife, as the church is now spoken of as the bride of Christ.


Israel played the whore, according to God's charge, by frater­nizing with idol worship. Many Old Testament readings speak of this, but Jer, 3: has the words we refer to for this lesson. Be­cause of Israel's harlotry in religion, God said, (vs 8) "And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel com­mitted adultery, I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce."


In our day if a wife commits whoredom, some consider that she has dissolved her marriage relation with her husband, but not so. God, after this, sent His messenger to Israel with this message, (vs. 14) "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord: for I am married unto you," Again, in Ch. 4:1, "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me." A husband pleading with his whorish wife!




The case just above also proves that divorce does not dissolve the marriage relationship, for God declared of His wife after the divorce, "I am married to you."


The case of Herod and Herodias also proves the fact in their literal co-habitation, Obviously Herodias and Philip must be divorced, so that Herod and Herodias could marry, but God's prophet said, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife." Divorced, but still one flesh!




The Spirit clearly defines these actions as adultery. Such action is the adulteration of the marriage relationship — pollution of the God-ordained union, by the addition of illegitimacy and contamination. God makes husband and wife one flesh "that He might seek a godly seed," (Mal. 2:15) Adulteration deals in ungodly seed, and this is true of all co-habitation outside of the marriage union God makes.


Israel, by co-habitation with others than her true Husband had PRACTICED adultery. "Hast 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 saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel com­mitted adultery." (Jer, 3:6-8)


Some have theorized that only the first intercourse with another than one's married mate is adultery — after that, continued co-habitation with the person is not adultery. How erroneous this theory is stands out clearly in the pronouncements of God in the foregoing case (Jer. 3:6-8). Israel had practiced adultery fre­quently and incessantly over a period of time, provoking God by many instances— ("all the causes," vs 8).


"So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress." (Rom.7:3) An adulteress is defined as a woman who has relations with a man or men other than her husband.


"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 10:11-12) Adultery is defined as "Sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman not his wife, or between a married woman and a man not her husband," There is no biblical nor secular authority to say that only the first offense is adultery and succeeding offenses are not. This error grows out of some happy thought that the first unlawful intercourse dissolves the former relationship and begins a new one by God's arrangement! And where is the scripture for this?


A man in the church at Corinth was contaminating the whole church by his adulterous practice. What was that practice? He had his father's wife! "And such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife." (1 Cor, 5:1)


It was "not lawful" for Herod to "have" his brother's wife, though they had been married — why? They were practicing adultery by their continued co-habitation together. One must "have" a companion in adultery. (Mark 6:17-18)




"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators... nor adulter­ers ... shall inherit the kingdom of God," (1 Cor, 6:9-10)


Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication ... they which do such things shall not in­herit the kingdom of God," (Gal, 5:19-21)


"Fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb. 13:4)


"Whoremongers shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death," (Rev. 21:8)


Illustrations of God's hatred and wrath for these sins are found throughout the Bible. He took the lives of twenty-three thousand of His own people for this sort of sin, in one day. God expects mankind to be self-disciplined and upright with regard to the great reproductive powers in us!




As all sinners, adulterers must repent, The Savior has pro­mised no forgiveness without repentance. "God ... now commandeth all men everywhere to repent," (Acts 17:30) "That repentance and remission of sins should be preached... among all nations." (Luke 24:47)


Aliens must "repent and be baptized .., in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38) Some of the Corinthians as aliens had been adulterers (1 Cor. 6:9-11) but they had been washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. But their "washing" had involved repentance, for their response had been to the message of "repentance and remission of sins" in the name of the crucified Savior.


An erring child must repent and pray, (Acts 8:22)


God gives His own definition of repentance repeatedly in His Word.


"When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." "Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions." (Ezek. 18:27-32)


"For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation... yea, what clearing of yourselves! In all things ye have approved your­selves to be clear in this matter." (2 Cor, 7:10-11)


"Go, and sin no more," (Jno, 8:11)


Any married person who has practiced adultery, whether an alien or child of God, is faced with this universal condition of pardon for his or her adultery. Can they repent? That depends upon their faith and moral stamina.


Jesus advised, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." (Luke 13:24) There are other sins that are difficult to repent of. Some are able to "deny self, take up the cross, and follow Jesus," Others do not have the virtue to overcome. Jesus suggested even the dismemberment of the body rather than that the whole would be cast into hell (Matt, 5:27-32), Repentance is the key — who has it?




There have been both "foolish" questions and pertinent questions asked on this important subject. Some of them are considered here.




Yes. Adam and Eve were joined together by God — created one flesh, and were called "the man and his wife" (Gen. 2:21-25) before their co-habitation, (reported in Gen. 4:1).


The angel of God called Joseph and Mary husband and wife before they had "come together" (Matt. 1:18-25).


The writer presents the above because some have theorized that sexual intercourse is the inception of marriage — the means by which man and woman become husband and wife or one flesh. Of course, if this were true, every rape victim would be the wife of her attacker, and every act of whoredom would be marriage! But the Spirit said, "Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." (Heb, 13:4)


This shows that God sees a distinction between intercourse in the married state and that of the unmarried.




Here is the passage: "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What! Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for two saith he, shall be one flesh."

The answer is, No.


Reference to marriage here is a figure of speech. Every Christian is married to Christ in this figure. "Your bodies are the members of Christ." "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." (Eph„ 5:30)


The sin of fornication takes what belongs to Christ and makes it one with harlotry, a thing of the Devil, in abominable intimacy. The figure is true with respect to the Christians relation to Christ, as "married to Him".


To apply the statement literally is to challenge everyone to celibacy, for no Christian man could have a wife, he is married to Christ — and no Christian woman could have a husband, she is married to Christ! If they married they would commit adultery against Christ! We are JOINED in Him!


Since the Lord does not want celibacy for all, it is therefore, certain that this joining to Christ is contrasted to fornication —and no Christian, man or woman, single or married, can be true to Christ the spiritual husband and join in the sin of fornication. But the passage has nothing to do with literal marriage. Rape or whoredom is not marriage.




This question arises over what Jesus said in Matt. 19:6 "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What there­fore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."


It is not possible for man to make two fleshes again of the twain that God has made one flesh, but it is obviously possible for the two to refuse to co-habit as God has commanded. We often know of husband or wife "quitting" the mate.


The expression "put asunder" of Matt. 19:6 and Mark 10:9 is taken from the Greek word, Chorizo, and is rendered twice as "separate"; once, "separate"; seven times, "depart"; and twice, "put asunder" (Thayer, P. 674).


Thayer says the word means "to leave a husband or wife: of divorce," As an instance, 1 Cor. 7:11, "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband." Then, of course, it is possible for a wife to "depart" — ("put asunder") from her husband. But this does not mean that he is no longer, therefore, her husband. God forbids husband or wife to "depart" ("put asunder") from each other, with one possible exception stipulated, and that being in the case one commits whoredom (Matt. 5:32) in which the other may depart to "remain unmarried or be reconciled" to the mate. Husband and wife are, nonetheless and in all cases bound, one flesh until the death of one of the. (Rom. 7:2)




Definite rules have been BOUND upon husbands and wives in previous portions of this chapter: (1) must "have" the mate; (2) must render due benevolence to mate; (3) must not defraud one the other; (4) must not depart; Therefore to be acceptably obedient to the Lord each husband and wife are in bondage of the rules to observe them; but if the mate is an unbeliever and refuses to dwell with the one who wants to obey those rules, the believer is not in such case responsible for their being broken, and is not in this sense bound to keep them.


It is doubtful that this expression can rightfully be construed to mean that this husband and wife are no more one flesh in the sight of God. Such a theory violates many plain passages of scripture.




This verse reads, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."


 This is not telling the Corinthians that children of married non-Christians are all illegitimate —nor that becoming a Christian unmarries the convert from the unconverted spouse so that henceforth their children will be illegitimate until the uncon­verted spouse may become a Christian — quite the contrary.


The context argues that becoming a Christian does NOT unmarry one from the yet unconverted spouse — NEITHER does it call for a separation from the unbeliever —NEITHER does it release the converted from the CONJUGAL DUTIES BOUND in the first eleven verses of this chapter, UNLESS OR UNTIL the unbe­liever abandons the converted spouse.


This verse does not mean to teach that the unconverted spouse is saved by the conversion of the spouse. "Sanctified" here means that their conjugal relationship is pure for the believing spouse, otherwise it could be argued that their offspring would henceforth be illegitimate, but such is not the case, the Apostle insists.




Not if it was sinful. Jesus said to the adulterous woman, "Go and sin no more." A man might be converted who has several wives. The "yes" answer would allow him to keep all his wives. Just so, a person at conversion might have another's wife or husband as did Herod, but John said, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother Philip's wife." Conversion does not sanctify sin, it stops it! Paul asks, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid." Conversion involves "repentance unto life."


Question 7. DID GOD'S PEOPLE EVER HAVE TO PUT AWAY THEIR WIVES? Yes. Read about the case in Ezra 10:1-19.




Jesus is Head over all things to His church. His word in the New Covenant is the law of the church. We shall all be judged in the Final Day by His Word.  Therefore, let the gospel ministry be exemplary in, and faithful to expound, the law of God regulating the matters of marriage and co-habitation.


Let the churches be kept free from the "leaven" of the wicked­ness of adultery and fornication within their membership.


Let the leadership of churches be exemplary in their marriage relationships — "married only once." This should also include the congregational servants (deacons) who are not even required to be apt to teach.


Let the voice of the church be the voice of virtue and disci­pline — the constant expression of obedience to the holy will of God on all moral as well as spiritual doctrine.


Let the parents train and discipline their young from infancy to respect the moral standards of God's Word and to discipline their passions with the most awesome continency. Their bodies and loves belong to God!


Let the young never choose divorcees as associates which might lead to infatuation and love with a view to marriage. Why should life be allowed to become obsessed by guilt and doubt and fears in a marriage which is an open breach of God's law? Life is too short and precious, and eternity too long, and Judgment too certain, and the cost too great for one to make such foolish use of the precious time we have to prepare for eternal glory or for eternal shame!


"Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

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