Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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The Rule: One Man, One Woman, for a lifetime

Let None Deal Treacherously
An examination of God’s Law (and the error of men) on the subject of Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage
(Article 1 of series)

Even a casual observer can see that the society in which we live has a cavalier attitude toward the marriage bond. Marriages are entered into, and dissolved, with alarming frequency. Recently, the National Center for Health released a report which found that 43% of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. (“First marriage dissolution, divorce, and remarriage: United States,” Advance Data From Vital and Health Statistics; No. 323. Hyattsville MD: National Center for Health Statistics: 2 1). The study was based upon a nationally representative sample of women between the ages of 15 and 44. The Census Bureau has a higher number, 50%, based upon numbers from the 2000 census.

At present, every state in the union has some form of “no-fault” divorce. In other words, there is no need for any party to prove fault in the breakdown of the marriage relationship. All that is needed is a willingness to cite irreconcilable differences, and the divorce is granted.

It is important to note that God does not share this casual attitude toward the breaking of the marriage bond. The prophet Malachi reveals a far different view of the practice of divorce, “…The LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. ‘Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously’” (Malachi 2:14-16).

Not only does the passage reveal that God considers divorce treacherous, in verse 17 he further indicates their practice as being a distortion of values. Malachi indicates that they wearied God by their actions, which, in effect, said to God, “‘Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the LORD, And He delights in them,’ Or, ‘Where is the God of justice?’” The practice of casual divorce constitutes an arrogant disregard for God and his values.

God established a simple rule when he created man in the beginning. The rule is intimated in the marriage relationship itself. “Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:22-24).

Jesus, in commenting on Moses’ record in Genesis 2, said, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:6).

The rule, simply stated, is this: One man, one woman, for a lifetime. When a man marries his wife, they become one. God joins the two, and no man has the right to separate them. They are bound for life. Too often in discussing the marriage bond, we have placed undue emphasis upon the one exception to the rule. False theories concerning Jesus’ teaching on Divorce and Remarriage distort the exception, and ignore the rule. In an attempt to restore the proper emphasis, note the following passages, which have the exception removed. (The ellipses note the place where the exception resides in the passage).

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, … and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).

“But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason … causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

“So He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery’” (Mark 10:11-12). (Note, the exception clause is not found in this straightforward statement regarding God’s law on marriage).

“For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. … So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress;…” (Romans 7:2-3). (Note: This passage does not contain the “exception”, rather it points out that the marriage bond is dissolved by death).

The passages clearly reveal God’s law regarding marriage. One man, one woman, for a lifetime. In contrast, men have devised many different false theories, most residing around the exception, all of them invalidating the rule. God intended for marriage to last a lifetime. If men dissolve the marriage and remarry, they are guilty of adultery. If men marry one who has been divorced, they are guilty of adultery. If men divorce their wives, they are guilty of causing her to commit adultery.

May we not be guilty (as were the Israelites) of saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them.” Rather than embracing the adulterer and his apologist, and excusing their sin, we should stand upon the righteousness of God’s law on marriage. One man, one woman, for a lifetime.