I’m not totally convinced about all the logic in this writing, but it is something worth thinking about. This is not original with me.
<!–[if supportFields]> SEQ CHAPTER h r 1<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>Clear New Testament Scriptures Concerning
Marriage, Divorce, and Adultery
The following points help express the burden behind this writing:
1. Sound Scriptural basis. All our teaching must have a sound Scriptural basis, or it will soon become shaky and unsound, hindering our understanding of eternal truth. Many discussions and some writings on this subject have neglected or under-emphasized the most relevant Scriptures while majoring on not-so-clear passages and terms, hence drawing conclusions that are unsound when tested by the whole body of Biblical truth on this subject. Sometimes however, a main and clear Scripture is mentioned even though what it really says contradicts the point that the speaker or writer is trying to make. We find Scriptural bases when we interpret the not-so-clear passages and terms in harmony with the main and clear Scriptures, not the other way around. Our teaching is exactly as sound as it is Scriptural. Our spiritual discernment will not be more sound than what our concepts are Scriptural.
2. Sound Scriptural focus. The more we focus on the harmony of the main body of truth relating to this subject, the clearer will be our vision as we look at confusing real life issues and situations. But, the more we focus on the confusion of issues and situations, the foggier will be our vision when we look at the Scriptures. The enemy of our souls would have us to look at the Scriptures with confused vision instead of looking at life’s confusions with clear Scriptural vision.
How did it go the last time you discussed this subject with a brother? Did you overwhelm each other with the confusion that divorce and adultery brings, or did you challenge each other to a clearer focus by honestly and openly discussing the main, plain Scriptures on this subject?
3. Sound Scriptural expression. Paul exhorted Timothy to “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13). Some damage has been done in regards to this subject by the careless use and misuse of words and terms. This is a factor that has made it difficult for some to readily perceive certain aspects of what some very clear Scriptures teach. Consider a few examples: The New Testament teaches us about true remarriage (after death has loosed the former bond) but nothing about a formal adulterous relationship being a remarriage. We should honor that by not using that word in an unqualified sense to describe a legalized adulterous relationship. *
The uses in the New Testament of “marrieth”, “shall marry”, “be married”, and “had married” are verbs that refer basically to the ceremony, or other formality that is performed whether or not a true marriage union results. It is a careless approach to simply take any use of the above terms and say that the resulting relationship is marriage. The Scriptural principles concerning marriage go much deeper than that. The Scriptures show clearly whether God has joined any given union or not.
What about the term “adulterous marriage”? According to the Scriptures marriage never adulterates anything. But at the same time, it is the only union, (because it is pure) that can be adulterated. “Marriage is honourable…” (Hebrews 13:4) Adultery is all the opposite. (Proverbs 6:32; 7:22) So what’s an “adulterous marriage”? This point is serious. We flatter adultery whenever we use that term to qualify marriage. Let’s talk about an adulterous union, or maybe in writing call it adulterous “marriage” (within quotes), but let’s not call any kind of adultery marriage.
We should also be careful about using expressions such as “Don’t you feel…?” “So we assume…” or
Scriptures related to the subject will be properly understood in harmony with the main and plain ones.
“So we conclude…”. It is ever so possible for us to feel, assume, or conclude something that isn’t in harmony with the Scriptures. If we can’t say, “The Bible says…” maybe we should listen, reason, and study rather than feel, assume, or conclude.
This writing is meant to challenge and stimulate deeper personal Bible study of the subject. It is meant to show that in the midst of confusion there is something solid, because there are clear, unchanging principles established in God’s Word. This study does not need to be confusing, although it is somewhat complex. The more we study God’s Word, the less confused we will be “for God is not the author of confusion”. Confusion comes from what men say and do according to their own thinking.
Helps and Suggestions
☛The underlined references in this writing represent the Scriptures that are the main body of truth on this subject. For serious study it could be helpful to carefully copy out all of those full verses for easier comparison. Other
☛This writing did not happen overnight nor can it be completely digested in a day. Nor does it represent everything that could, or maybe should, be expounded on from these Scriptures. Therefore, if some point doesn’t sound quite right to you, don’t discard it too quickly. Rather take up the challenge of studying it out for yourself to see what the harmony of the Scriptures treated in this writing is teaching us. Any given point should be evaluated in comparison with other related points and above all by the harmony of the Scriptures.
☛Just a reminder on the use of the Greek dictionary in the Strong’s Concordance. The actual, concise meaning of the word appears only before the :– After that mark are all of the different renderings of the word in the Authorized King James Version.
☛Adultery defined. A Biblical concept of what adultery is and how it relates to marriage is important to our understanding of this whole subject. It also clarifies how God views divorce. Here are two possible definitions of adultery for you to consider as you study:
(1) The introduction of an impure element into a pure substance. Like if some sewer water gets into your drinking water.
(2) Any violation by an extramarital involvement (emotional or physical) of the exclusive rights, privileges, duties, and mutual possession of one man and one woman who are joined as one until death.
☛Divorce defined. Some study helps say that it is “the dissolving of the marriage bond” or “the breaking of the marriage tie”. Oh? A secular dictionary I have defines divorce as “the legal separation of two married persons”. In our study of what the New Testament teaches we will see which is Scriptural.
The Main, Plain Scriptures
We can include the Matthew portions in our list of clear Scriptures since we understand that the exception clauses do not refer to unfaithfulness in marriage, but rather to something that happened before the actual “no more twain but one flesh” union took place. (Consider Matthew 1:18,19.) There are no exceptions given for after the marrriage union takes place, or it would be called adultery, not fornication.
Here “adultery” is used in the broad sense which obviously includes fornication. In this writing, it will almost always be used in the specific sense as in the Scriptures we will be looking at.
Matthew 5:31,32; 19:3-9
“But I say unto you…”(v.32) Jesus makes an abrupt and important change here. Compare with other instances in Matthew 5 on various other subjects.
“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.” (v.6)
“And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain but one flesh.” (V.8)
Which two persons qualify to be part of “they twain”? Obviously and firstly, it must be two persons who have never been made “no more twain” before unless death has loosed that bond.
“God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man…cleave to his wife” (vv.6,7).
“They twain” must also consist of one man and one woman who are able to rightfully belong to each other. A single man can cleave (by man’s provision) to someone else’s wife, but that will never make her become his, because God, in honor of His own Word, does not join them. Since God had joined her as “no more twain, but one flesh” with her husband, that disqualifies her from becoming part of “they twain” for as long as they both live. God is the one who joins (v.9) every “no more twain” union. This is true whether the marriage ceremony is officiated by the state, or by clergy, as long as the two persons are within God’s universal laws concerning marriage. The English “put asunder” (v.9) here seems to be much stronger than the Greek word chorizo which has to do with separation, not the undoing of the union. This verse must be understood in harmony with others such as v.8 (above), Romans 7:2,3, and
1 Corinthians 7:39.
In verse 11, “committeth adultery against her” refers to what “whosoever” is doing with “another” against his wife. When a married man commits adultery, he always commits it against his wife AND with another woman. However, a single man can commit adultery by having a relationship (whether it be casual, or formal and legal) with another man’s wife and thereby becomes partaker with her in committing adultery against her husband and the union that binds her to him until death. An added dimension to this is the fact that a man who commits fornication sins against his own body since there is not a woman on the face of the earth to whom he belongs. (See 1 Corinthians 6:18, 7:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4) Where neither involved person is bound by a “no more twain, but one flesh” union, adultery CANNOT be committed. Hence the Bible says: fornication.
“Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”
Notice in Matthew 5:32; 19:9, and Luke 16:18 that “whosoever” (or “whoso”) is used two separate times to refer to two men. The first “whosoever” is restricted (as in Mark 10:11 also) in that it refers only to a man who still belongs to his wife. Therefore, he can commit adultery with “another” (unrestricted) that is, any other woman. Since the second “whosoever” is not restricted, it includes even a single man who can commit adultery only with a woman who still belongs to her husband (restricted). Compare this to Matthew 5:28 where both the man and the woman are unrestricted but “adultery” is used in the broad sense which includes fornication.
In Luke 16:18 we see that any man who has a wife that is his and puts her away to marry another (that is, any woman other than his wife), commits adultery. If this other woman is separated from a rightful husband who is living, this latter relationship is adultery committed against both the man’s wife and the woman’s husband. But, even if this latter woman is single or widowed, the relationship is adultery because the man is still bound by the “no more twain, but one flesh” union to his wife. Obviously, if this man had never had a wife that was his but had only put away someone else’s wife, he would not have a “no more twain, but one flesh” union to adulterate. He would only “qualify” to commit adultery with another man’s wife (like he did before putting her away), not with a single woman. He would be in the second “whosoever” in this verse instead of the first.
In this verse we see that Jesus makes three separate references to a woman: “his wife”, “another”, and “her that is put away”. As this study progresses, we will notice the importance of the possessive in the marriage union and that it is always exclusive and mutual. (If she is his wife, he is her husband.) The very first part of this verse states: “Whosoever putteth away his wife…” It is clearly impossible for him to put away his wife without her becoming a woman that is put away from her husband. I believe that in this verse Jesus makes three references concerning two women, the first and the last woman being the same one.
(Compare all of this carefully with Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 6:17,18; 10:6-8,11,12; Romans 7:2,3, and 1 Corinthians 7:39.)
Matthew 14:3,4; Luke 3:19; Mark 6:17,18
Notice the possessive in these verses. Herod had married her (by man’s provision), but she still belonged to Philip and Philip belonged to her (6:17). She did not belong partly to both Philip and Herod. That is because of the simple fact that God did not even partially bind her to Herod. Notice the present tense possession (v.18). The implication here is clear: “You have another man’s possession; send her back where she belongs.” As for the place of John’s teaching, notice Luke 3:2,3,18; 7:28; 16:16.
Romans 7:2,3; 1 Corinthians 7:39
It is especially noteworthy that these two Scriptures make no distinction as to whether divorce takes place or not before another relationship is established. Let me explain a little. Maybe you assume that since it says “she be married to another man” it means that divorce had to take place first. In v.3 the Spanish uses a term that may or may not mean marry, but the first time it says it would be to another man, the second time to another husband. Sometimes there are cases where personal ID is altered to show that a married person is single and then they go “marry” someone else without getting a divorce. This happens at times here in Guatemala as it is difficult to get a divorce. Divorce is a legal falsehood whereas an altered ID is an illegal falsehood. In either case, God’s law concerning the wife being bound to her living husband is still in full effect. We see that these Scriptures give no exception or qualification–simply that if the husband is still living the wife is still bound to him by God’s law concerning marriage. It ceases to be binding, not when she gets divorced, nor when she gets “remarried”, but when her husband dies (unless she dies first). God’s law by which she is bound to her husband is undivided. It will never partially bind her to another man thereby making her less bound to her husband. However, it does take full force in the remarriage of a widow to another man who meets God’s requirements for marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:2-4; Ephesians 5:22,23,28,29,31,33
In marriage, the husband and the wife have power over and ownership of each other’s bodies. This is a rightful belonging to each other which is pure, honourable, exclusive, and nontransferable. The joining that God does always produces this possession of each other whereas an adulterous relationship never produces that even though men may call it marriage. Remember that adultery (in the specific sense) is always, ALWAYS, committed against a one man-one woman union in which they are still bound and rightfully belong to each other for “they are no more twain, but one flesh”. God never joins a third person into that “one flesh” union. (“And they two shall be one flesh” 5:31) The New Testament does not teach that they “three” can be made one flesh. Neither can one person be part of two “no more twain, but one flesh” unions at the same time. (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8; 6:17,18; Romans 7:2,3)
I believe the meaning of this verse is two-fold. Marriage is indeed honourable (even in unbelievers) and the relationship in marriage is as a fact pure and right. The other consideration is that it should be held as honourable, pure and right by all that we do and say in regards to marriage. Adultery of course is never honourable.
Also we see here three classes of man-woman relationships: marriage, whoremongering* (fornication), and adultery. Does the New Testament give any other kinds? Can you think of any situation where a couple consisting of one man and one woman living together would not fit into one of these three categories? Would the Scriptures ever allow us to place any one couple into two of these three categories?
*Note: “Whoremongers” in the broadest sense could probably include those who commit abominable same-sex relationships.
Although it speaks of spiritual adultery, it shows once again that it is committed with one party and against another. In the Spanish v.4a says: “Oh adulterous souls! Don’t you know that the friendship of the world is enmity against God?”
What About the Old Testament,
and Not-So-Clear New Testament Passages and Terms?
A first principle of Bible interpretation is to always interpret the obscure in light of the plain. And a first principle in “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is to divide rightly between the Old Testament and the New.
How do we do with the doctrine of nonresistance, for example? Any Scripture (Old Testament or New) that harmonizes with the clear main body of New Testament truth concerning a given subject can be helpful, shedding further light on the already understood truth. But we do not take Old Testament passages, or not-so-clear New Testament passages or terms to establish a principle or to influence an application that comes out being less than 100% in harmony with the whole body of New Testament truth on that subject. The apostle Paul stated that he had been “set for the defense of the gospel.” Are we as careful as we should be to do the same?
In this case we can learn something if we study (in the light of all of the above Scriptures) Jeremiah 3, especially vv.1,2,8,9,10,12-14, 20,22; 4:1. They had committed adultery with stones and with stocks (v.9) and had transgressed against the Lord (v.13). “I am married unto you” (Spanish: “I am your husband”) (v.14) was stated after divorce (v.8) and after brazen adultery had been committed (vv.1-3,8,13). Being an analogy, not every item will fit perfectly, but God’s plea here certainly contrasts with Deuteronomy 24:1-4, whereas for the most part it harmonizes with New Testament doctrine. We should notice also Malachi 2:11,14-16. In v.11 it shows that Judah had left the Lord and had married the daughter of a strange god. In v.16 it says the Lord hates putting away. In vv.15b and 16b He commanded that no one should deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. Now, v.14 in connection with v.11 says: “Because the Lord has 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.” (Emphasis added) Although the wife had been dealt against treacherously and the covenant profaned, the Lord referred to her as “thy companion”.
A Few Reasons Why We Cannot Apply Deuteronomy 24:1-4 In Our Day
1. Jesus explained that Moses had allowed it for the hardness of their heart and then says: “but from the beginning it was not so”. Jesus made a drastic change by going back to the original plan and enlarging on it, while totally ignoring the “dissolving of the marriage union” by divorce.
2. Here is a big difference: In Moses’ provision the relationship following divorce wasn’t adultery. But now it is, because Jesus said so. Back in those days adulterers were to be stoned to death. God has never allowed for adultery as such. Also there are two points here that do not at all harmonize with New Testament teaching. (1) The part in vv.3 and 4 that prohibits the first husband from taking the wife back after the latter husband had died. (2) The possessive shown in vv.2 and 3 referring to her as being the second man’s wife. In the New Testament, when a woman that is put away from her husband marries (by man’s provision) another man, she DOES NOT become his wife. Rather, a divorced woman still belongs to her husband even if she is “remarried” to another. (Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Mark 10:8,12; Luke 16:18; Mark 6:17,18; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
3. Jesus’ teaching makes it so clear that the marriage union of a divorced couple is still intact and binding, which is, in fact, the only reason that the subsequent relationship is adultery. (Matthew 5:31,32; 19:5,6,8,9; Mark 10:4-12; Luke 16:18)
4. It isn’t in harmony with New Testament doctrine. The Mosaic law as such isn’t intended to be mixed with the New Covenant. Jesus’ words “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Any who receive not Christ’s words will be judged by His word. (John 12:46-50) We see no indication in the New Testament that we will miss it if we fail to inject one or two choice excerpts from Moses’ law into the “ministry of reconciliation”.
5. Moses’ provision was for a setting where polygamy was allowed and practiced. (21:15) What was commanded in 25:5-10 was almost certainly polygamy in some cases. In the passage referred to (24:1-4), the man couldn’t take the first wife back, but the unspoken understanding is that he likely still had a wife, and there is no indication that the twice-divorced woman would not be free to marry at a third opportunity. We see that divorce here allowed the woman to become another man’s wife. Also in v.4, “Her former husband” is an expression we do not find allowance for in the New Testament except in the case of a widow. These points contrast with the strong New Testament emphasis that every husband belongs to his own wife and every wife belongs to her own husband as long as they both shall live. According to New Testament Scriptures, neither divorce nor adultery change this fact. (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 6:17,18; Mark 10:6-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Corinthians 7:2,39) The New Testament focuses on the exclusive one man-one woman relationship where both the laws and the privileges apply equally to the husband and his wife concerning the life-long commitment and possession, putting away, and adultery. Interestingly enough, the same New Testament-type focus is seen to some extent in Jeremiah 3 and Malachi 2.
Marriage, according to God’s plan and by His grace doesn’t have to be in any way related to adultery. But adultery, according to God’s eternal Word, is always related to a marriage (that is a “no more twain but one flesh” union). In other words, in every case where adultery is committed (or is being committed), somewhere a marriage is (or two marriages are) being adulterated. Every time Jesus says that someone “committeth adultery” (adultery in the specific sense) He is saying just as much that (each) marriage union that is being violated is still so binding that any relationship outside of it, be it casual, or be it formal and legal, constitutes adultery. When a marriage is no longer binding, adultery can no longer be committed against it. A marriage ceases to be binding when the Scriptures say so, NOT before. (See Mark 10:8; Romans 7:2,3; 1Corinthians 7:39.) These facts become clear and we gain proper concepts of divorce and “remarriage” as we study the Scriptures, and focus on what the Scriptures focus on: the union that God joins until death, and the various ways it is possible for it to be adulterated.
In these Scriptures we should notice:
1.–That marriage, in the true sense, is a union with a bond that only God establishes by joining together two (one male and one female) so “THEY ARE NO MORE TWAIN, BUT ONE FLESH” until death. (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
2.–That whosoever has a relationship outside of the union he or the other person is bound to commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32b; 19:9; Mark 10:11,12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2,3)
3.–That God does the joining in every marriage but never joins an adulterous relationship (Matthew 19:5,6; Mark 10:7-9; Mark 6:17,18). If we believed He did the latter, we truly would have difficulty with the verse “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”. (When a person is converted who is living in adultery, man must separate that.)
4.–That an adulterous relationship is never marriage just as it is never honourable. There is no such thing as an unlawful (in God’s sight), illegitimate, or adulterous “no more twain, but one flesh” union. Check any or all of the Scriptures already mentioned. We don’t once read of one person committing marriage against another person. (Compare to point number 10.)
5.–The mutual and exclusive possessive in the marriage union. Who belongs to whom? (Matthew 5:31,32; 14:3; 19:5,9; Mark 6:17,18; 10:7,11,12; Luke 3:19; 16:18; Romans 7:2-4; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4,39; Ephesians 5:22,24,28,29,31,33) (Others: Proverbs 5:15-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:4; Colossians 3:18,19; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1,5)
6.–That the marriage union that God makes always produces a rightful, exclusive, and honourable belonging to and ownership of each other. (Matthew 19:5,6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 7:2,3;1 Corinthians 7:2-4,39; Hebrews 13:4) By contrast, those who commit adultery with each other NEVER belong to each other. (Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11; 6:17,18; Matthew 14:3,4; Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
7.–That “remarriage” does not transfer the ownership of any person who at any time in the past was joined together in the “no more twain, but one flesh” union with someone who is still living. (Matthew 5:32; 19:6,9; Mark 10:7-9,11,12; Luke 16:18; Mark 6:17; Romans 7:2,3;
1 Corinthians 7:39) These last two scriptures show us the utter contrast between “remarriage”
and remarriage. Under no circumstances can adultery be committed against a “remarriage” just as sewage cannot be adulterated by sewer water. An adulterous relationship cannot be adulterated. By contrast, it is possible for adultery to be committed against a true remarriage because it is a pure and right relationship where God has joined those two as one until death in mutual, exclusive, and honourable possession of each other.
8.–That Jesus, instead of making yet another exception, harks back to the beginning and in effect says that from now on we are going by the original plan of one man and one woman which God joins until death, without exception. (Matthew 19:4-6,8; Mark 10:5-9)
9.–That divorce is not recognized by God. It is rather pointless to say that God recognizes divorce as sin as we all are convinced of that and don’t contest it. Our God even knows the intentions of the heart. Man’s design in divorce is to get rid of the marriage union so that a subsequent relationship wouldn’t be adultery. But God does not act upon it. Jesus’ proclamation is that to marry another (after divorce) is adultery. This proves clearly that divorce does not do what man so desperately wants for it to do. (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 6:17,18; 10:4-8,11,12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
10.–That adultery (in the specific sense) is always committed against a true, valid, binding marriage and against the other partner in that marriage. (Mark 6:17,18; 10:7,8,11,12;
Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2,3a) Where there is no valid, binding marriage involved, adultery cannot be committed. (Romans 7:2b,3b; 1 Corinthians 7:39b) As a counterpart, where Jesus says “committeth adultery” or “doth commit adultery”, the immediate context reveals the marriage factor that continues to exist and continues to cause any other relationship to be adultery. (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11,12; Luke 16:18)
11.–That, in regards to adultery, these Scriptures along with others cause us to understand the importance of two distinct parties: the one adultery is committed with and the one it is committed against. (Matthew 5:28; Mark 10:11) Compare James 4:4; Jeremiah 3:9,13,14; Ezekiel 22:11; Malachi 2:11,14,15; and Leviticus 20:10. Many of the Scriptures we are looking at maintain this aspect without directly stating it. This aspect is virtually inseparable from the possessive factor which we have already touched on. In other words a man commits adultery with the woman who doesn’t belong to him against the woman who does belong to him. In this example however, the man takes part in both parties. He has the capacity to commit adultery with the other woman (even if she doesn’t belong to any man) because he still belongs to the woman he commits it against.
12.–That Jesus’ wording in His teaching strengthens the fact that divorces are no longer valid. His use of the verb ‘marrieth’ does just the opposite of proving that the adultery He refers to is also marriage. Rather the idea that man’s marry (“remarriage”) can produce God’s marriage union is shattered by Jesus’ forceful declaration “committeth adultery” (as we have seen in Matthew 5 and 19, Mark 10 and Luke 16). We see no room in New Testament Scriptures for the idea that an exclusive one man-one woman relationship can constitute both a marriage union (two made “no more twain, but one flesh”) and an adulterous relationship. While it is true that a person can be both a marriage partner and an adulterer at the same time, the marriage union and an adulterous relationship are always two separate totally contrasting relationships. (Review Matthew 19:5,9; Mark 10:8,11,12; Luke 16:18; Mark 6:17,18; Romans 7:2,3; and 1 Corinthians 7:39. When the “no more twain, but one flesh” union is no longer binding, it ceases to cause some other relationship to be adultery.) Jesus did not say “committeth unlawful but somewhat binding unholy matrimony”. What would Jesus say about a man now a days who “marries” another man? Would He simply say “Any man that marries another man commits sodomy” or would He say “commits abominable but partially binding same sex marriage”??
Finally, we must remember, especially in regards to marriage matters, that the civil laws of the land can never override God’s decrees in determining who is bound and who is loosed. While it is certainly true that God joins an original couple when the marriage is officiated by the state, there are also many couples around that according to the state have been “joined” but that God has not joined. Not that He forgot to do it. Not that He got confused with all the different laws in so many countries. He simply honored His universal laws concerning marriage and adultery. These laws are not changed by the laws and practices of society. They are in effect in the life of every person who fits into the category of “no more twain” or “whosoever” in Jesus’ teachings on this subject. The state has no business making laws to “dissolve” a marriage union so that the spouses are “free” to go engage in legalized adultery while thinking they are remarried. The state is to make and enforce laws primarily for the “punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well“ (1 Peter 2:14). If the state is going to make laws that God recognizes, they need to treat homosexuality as a crime of depravity (instead of an alternate lifestyle), abortion as murder (rather than a choice), filthy media of all kinds as a crime against the welfare of society, fornication, adultery, and unjustifiable abandonment of one’s spouse (no divorce provision) as crimes worthy of severe punishment.* If we had all lived all our lives under governments that consistently did punish evildoers according to God’s moral laws, and provided for and protected only the marital rights of those that do well, how much discussion would there be among us as to whether or not God recognizes divorce and “remarriage”? Do we think that He will be “obliged” in time to recognize (or partially recognize) same sex marriage laws in the future??
Jesus stated that “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” We understand this to be speaking of the authority of the church here on earth as she operates in submission to her Head. In the case of a situation that is hard to define (let’s say a question of whether a couple was really joined, as in the case of a heathen ceremony, or if they should be asked to live together again after one or the other led a life of sin) we had better let the church decide that after careful, prayerful application of all relevant Scriptures. The state really doesn’t have a safe reference point. Even though the Church has authority to bind and to loose things here in the earth, the Scriptures give her no right or capacity to untie a marriage union, much less tie together something Jesus calls adultery, and then say it is marriage. So why should there be any question about whether the state can do it (or partially do it) or not??
We have called attention to the Scriptures that represent the main body of truth on this subject. We must respect the harmony of them by not giving heed to any interpretation (or position or policy) that would contradict the clear teaching of these Scriptures. May this study be used for the good of God’s people and for the glory of His Name.
Prepared with the support and input of various brethren
by Delbert Mast
*In this writing we seek to honor the fact that the New Testament Scriptures never use the noun ‘marriage’ to refer to any adulterous act or state and never use the word ‘remarriage’ at all. They do use the various verb forms of ‘marry’ to refer to the official procedures carried out on the part of man. However, the Scriptures require us to believe that God joins only those couples: (1) that can be made “no more twain” until death, (2) that can rightfully belong to each other in the union that man is forbidden to separate, and (3) whose union is honorable and pure and thereby susceptible to adulteration.
**The writer is not suggesting that Christians tell the civil authorities what to do. This point is to illustrate the fact that God and His people see these things as the unpolished sin that they really are regardless of the socially acceptable titles that civil authorities may give them.