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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Separating What God Has Joined

(Note: The following article is written by one of the members at West Side, Justin Carrell. I commend it to you. SC)

Matthew 19:3-9

“And the Pharisees came near to him, tempting him, and saying to him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?’ And he answering said to them, ‘Did ye not read, that He who made them, from the beginning a male and a female made them, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall be–the two–for one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh; what therefore God did join together, let no man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a roll of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them–‘Moses for your stiffness of heart did suffer you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it hath not been so. ‘And I say to you, that, whoever may put away his wife, if not for fornication, and may marry another, doth commit adultery; and he who did marry her that hath been put away, doth commit adultery.’” (Young’s Literal Translation)

I’ve heard this scripture debated more than any other. We debate baptism with those outside the body, but this we debate without and within. Below are two arguments recently put forward to me, and my response.

Assertions:

“The argument of that day was, “Can I divorce my wife for any reason, as simple as burning the toast or is it just adultery.” One rabbi was for the toast divorce, the other for only adultery. So Jesus, even in His addressing of the issue in the Sermon on the Mount is not suddenly saying, “Oh, by the way, among other things I believe in order to belong to the kingdom of heaven, here is my stand on the divorce remarriage issue.”

He is saying, “You have heard it was said you can divorce because of burned toast……….but I say to you the other guy is right.” In other words he is only addressing the questions that were being asked in that day. He is not answering questions from women such as, “If my husband is threatening my life or the life of my kids or is a drug addict………….can I divorce and remarry?”

When we apply scriptures to others’ lives we need to know the context and the questions being asked. As I mentioned before, Jesus taught Life over Law principle.”

and

“The context of Jesus’ statement was whether divorce for any reason was lawful…allowed under the law of Moses. Jesus interpreted the Law of Moses to those Jews who queried Him. Under the Law of Moses, according to Jesus, divorce was only allowed due to adultery. We are not under the Law of Moses.”

Response:

At issue is: Jesus’ first response was outside Mosaic law. It was phrased even more strictly. He said — from the beginning — the rule has been, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

That was true for Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, etc.

Fornication is different. There’s a reason it’s the exception. When you fornicate with someone you are joining your flesh to theirs (1 Corinthians 6:16). You are separating yourself from your spouse. This is the same concept as spiritual adultery. When we sin we cause a separation between us and God (Ephesians 2:5). Only God can restore our relationship. There is nothing we can do to restore it. Only his grace. Likewise, if I cheat on my wife, I am separating that which God has joined together. That is a sin. And only my wife can restore the relationship. I can not. If I fornicate and my wife wants to leave us separate by divorcing me; I have no scriptural grounds to demand she stay.

However, burning the toast doesn’t separate the one flesh. Gambling away all our money does not separate the one flesh. Drunkenness does not separate the one flesh. Only fornication.

The rule (be it under only the Mosaic law or not) wasn’t different than the rule from the beginning. Don’t separate it! I break that rule if I divorce my wife because she burns the toast. I break that rule if I have sex with someone else. I break that rule if I divorce my wife (who takes kung fu, and I do not) because she beats me up.

The rule for murder hasn’t changed since Cain and Abel. The rule for separating marriage hasn’t changed since Adam and Eve.