OceanSide church of Christ

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Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Victor M. Eskew


          Last Sunday, a nicely dressed lady came into the building and wanted to speak to the preacher.  She was wondering if I would perform the wedding for her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé.  It was to take place in two weeks.  Keep in mind that I had never met this lady or the couple who were to be married.

          When in this situation, I ask several questions.  The first question asked was:  “Have either of these two been married before?”  She told me that both of them had been married in the past.  Children were also involved in one of the previous marriages.  It was at that point that I kindly declined the invitation.  The woman wondered why I declined.  I told her that it is possible for two people to be joined in an adulterous marriage according to God’s Word.  I did not want to be a party to a sinful union.  Therefore, I would not perform the ceremony.  She said:  “But they will get married.”  I told her that I was sure that they would, but I would not be the one to marry them. 

          God’s law about marriage goes all the way back to the beginning of time.  God formed Eve from the rib of man.  He, then, brought her unto the man, and said:  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:  and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).  This verse teaches that a man and a woman are supposed to be joined together for life.  This teaching is found in the word “cleave.”  The man is to cleave unto his wife.  Strong defines the word as:  “cling or adhere.”  Brown, Driver, and Briggs gives this definition of cleave:  “to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to.”  Once a man and a woman are married, they are joined together just as two things are joined together with glue.  They are not to be separated.  Divorce was not part of God’s divine plan for marriage.

          Several New Testament passages shed light on Genesis 2:24.  One of them is Romans 7:1-2.  Paul writes:  “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 as long as he liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.”  Paul plainly declares that marriage is for life.  Only at death is a marriage partner loosed from the contract of holy matrimony.

          In Jesus’ day, the Jews practiced divorce on a regular basis.  In Matthew 19, we find the Pharisees coming to the Christ with a question about divorce.  Let’s listen to the conversation.  “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for any cause?  And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife:  and they 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. 19:3-6).  Jesus is very clear about this matter.  He goes back to the beginning.  He taught that once God joins a couple together, they are not to put that marriage asunder.  Marriage is a covenant between three people:  the husband, the wife, and God.  The man and woman vow before God that they will stay together “till death do us part.”  God intends for the couple to keep their marriage vows.

          Divorce, however, runs rampant in our society.  Many divorcees enter into second and third marriages.  What many do not realize is that these marriages are unlawful marriages,  that is, they do not conform to the law of God.  Those who enter into these second, third, and fourth marriages enter into an adulterous relationship.  Let’s go back to Romans 7.  Verse 3 makes this declaration:  “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulterous:  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.”  The marriage bond is a lasting bond as far as God is concerned.  Just because man’s laws allow a divorce and remarriage does not mean that God does.  In I Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul addresses married couples in the church at Corinth.  He writes:  “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:  but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband:  and let not the husband put away his wife.”  Paul does not tell married couples to depart and remarry.  He says:  “…let her depart and remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.”  If she marries another, it will be an adulterous marriage.  Let’s hear Jesus on this matter.  “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, commiteth adultery against her.  And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:11-12).

          This is a serious matter.  Adultery is one of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19.  Those who practice it will not enter into the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21).  It is so sad that many people have failed to understand this teaching.  Many who do know about it are turned off by the truth regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage.  Some completely disregard it.  They boldly enter into adulterous marriages that are not approved by God.

          Before we close, we do want to point out that Jesus gave one exception to the rule about the permanency of marriage.  If a husband or a wife has a mate who commits fornication with another, they are free to divorce their mate and remarry without entering into an adulterous union.  Jesus teaches this exception in Matthew 19:9.  “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 doeth commit adultery.”  Fornication is the one and only exception to the law of marriage that requires a husband and wife to be joined together until death. 

          Marriage, dear readers, is a God-ordained institution.  God created it and has legislated upon it in His holy Word.  We may not understand the why’s behind God’s commands.  We may not like the commands.  We might disagree with the commands.  But, we are not free to change them.  Too, any actions men may take to the contrary will not change God’s law.  God views marriage a holy union likened unto the union that exists between Christ and the church (See Eph. 5:22-33).