What saith the Scriptures ?
"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Matthew 19:6.
It is being taught by some that our Lord "allows a putting-away and remarriage by the innocent party." It is desired to examine this statement in the light of Holy Scripture. We trust it will be seen that such a statement will not bear the light of Divine authority. That the Lord's meaning when He spoke about divorce was quite clear to His immediate followers, is evident. Because amongst the "all things whatsoever I have commanded you," which they taught to succeeding generations of Christians, was the doctrine of the absolute indissolubility of marriage. Accordingly, for the first years of the Christian era, divorce was unheard of amongst Christians.
Is it to be imagined that the early Christian teachers had mistaken the Lord's meaning, and that men of today have rediscovered it? Was it not a sign of the worldliness and declension of the 4th century that divorce began to creep into Christendom at that time? Is it not a symptom of the worldliness and declension of this 20th century that it again rears its ugly head, even to its appearance amongst professing assemblies of God's people, let alone Christendom at large.
We are convinced that an assembly of God which teaches, permits and recognizes "divorce" and "remarriage" of divorced persons is on a downward spiritual course, is a stumblingblock to other Christians, and its testimony is marred before the world. All because it has departed from the fundamental Christian doctrine of the absolute inviolability of marriage, the figure of which God Himself uses to typify the unbreakable and eternal union of Christ the Heavenly Bridegroom, and His assembly, the church His Bride, Ephesians 5:23-33. How could God use such an illustration if the marriage tie could be broken in His sight?
A Note on "Fornication"
1.- Fornication never means adultery. The word for "fornication" is pornia. The word for "adultery" is moikia. Pornia is always translated fornication ; moikia is always translated adultery. They are different words with different meanings. Yet people today take away the Holy Spirit- chosen word, "fornication," in Matt. 5:32, 19:9 and put the word "adultery" in its place. Unless they do this, they can offer no "ground" for divorce. Yet they have no authority to do so.
2.- In fact, the Holy Spirit uses both words in the same verse in the following Scriptures, and distinguishes the one from the other : Matt. 5:32, 15:19, 19:9; I Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; and Heb. 13:4 (R.V.). The term "fornication" does NOT "cover all forms of sexual evil." Gal. 5:19 proves this, where four kinds of sexual evil are distinguished, viz., adultery, fornication, lasciviousness and uncleanness.
3.- As well as meaning pre-marital unchastity, fornication also is used with reference to illicit intercourse in a "marriage" which is not valid in the sight of God:
(i) Lev. 18:6-18 describes such unlawful "marriages."
(ii) Herod's case in Mk. 6:17-20 is an example of such. Herod had "married" Herodias. But the Holy Spirit still speaks of her as "his brother Philip's wife," verse 17 also verse 18', "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife."
(iii) Similar to this is the case in I Cor. 5:1. No Divine instructions are given concerning discipline of the woman. Therefore it is evident that she was not in the assembly. Only the man's side is dealt with. He is treated as a single man. Why? Because God did not recognize as marriage that he had "his father's wife." Such connection was unlawful. Accordingly, the proper word which describes his sin is "fornication," and this the Holy Spirit uses.
4.- Therefore, as fornication does NOT mean adultery, the idea current today that adultery is a ground for divorce is a fallacy. No one has the right to substitute "adultery" for the God-chosen word "fornication" in Matt. 5:32, 19:9.
The following four summaries present in concise form the teaching of Scripture on this subject. They are taken from the book The Divorce Problem by W. Fisher-Hunter of 2444 E. Avalon Drive, Phoenix, Arizona 85016, U.S.A., published by Macneish Publishers, 940 Greenock Road, McKeesport, Penna., U.S.A. They are presented here so that the truths they contain may reach as wide a circle as possible amongst God's people, and be a help to them. We pray that God may graciously use them to enable us to strengthen the things which remain, unto the preservation of true Christian testimony according to the New Testament pattern.
1. - The full, progressive revelation of the truth of divorce in Scripture
(i) Divorce was first legalized and limited by Moses, and permitted to only the male sex in Israel, Deut. 24:1-2.
(ii) Speaking to the multitudes and to the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus allowed divorce as originally prescribed for men in Israel to remain, Matt. 5:32, 19:9.
(iii) Speaking privately to His disciples, the Lord made no allowance for divorce, and branded as an adulterer the divorced person who remarries, Mk. 10:11-12.
(iv) Sixty years after the legal, ceremonial and judicial enactments of the law of Moses had been absolutely set aside for Christians (Rom. 7:3-4), Paul gives the Lord's commandment for Christians concerning divorce: "Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, I"'et 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," I Cor. 7:10-11. Such is the only law of God on this matter for His people in this dispensation.
2.-Nine reasons why Matt. 5:32, 19:9 do not apply to the Christian!
(i) Because divorce was allowed by Moses, and he never legislated for Christians. It was permitted to men only in Israel, Deut. 24:1-2.
(ii) Because the Mosaic statute of divorce was properly only suitable and tenable for marriage as practiced by the Jews. It was not divorce as we know it today in Christendom. It was the annulling of the first part of the marriage covenant in the espousal or betrothal period. It did NOT apply to the breaking up of an established marriage. The case of Joseph and Mary is an example of this, Matt. 1:18-19.
(iii) Because "hardness of heart" is associated with divorce, Matt. 19:8. Who would ever unite hardness of heart with a true Christian ? This circumstance alone ought to cause every believer to disassociate himself from the divorce evil.
(iv) Because permission to divorce was given to the male sex only in Israel, yet we see women today divorcing their husbands and using Matt. 5:32 and 19:9 as their authority.
(v) Because the term "fornication" does not mean adultery, but either premarital unchastity, or illicit intercourse in a "marriage" which is not valid. See introductory note on fornication.
(vi) Because when Mark recorded the second utterance of our Lord in ch. 10, 3-9, he omitted the words which permit divorce for the cause of fornication as recorded by Matthew in 19:9. Omissions in Scripture are of Divine design. The reason for this omission is that Mark wrote for gentile readers. Nor is it without reason that permission to divorce is found only in Matthew, with its special Jewish application. The reason is that divorce is connected only with the law of Moses and the nation of Israel.
(vii) Because when Paul wrote to the assembly in Corinth concerning divorce, he never used the words of Matt. 5:32, 19:9. Instead, he quoted the Lord's command which prohibits divorce, I Cor. 7:10-11. This command was the rule accepted by Christians in the beginning. It is based on Matt. 19:3-8, Luke 16:18.
(viii) Because when a Christian bases his authority to divorce on Matt. 5:32, 19:9, he causes contention, creates confusion and makes void other parts of Scripture which deal with divorce, and which are at complete variance with the Matthew passages. These other parts of Scripture are Mk. 10:11-12, Luke 16:18,1 Cor. 7:10-11.
(ix) Finally, when these passages in Matt. 5 and 19 are interpreted by the rule of 'last mention,' it is found that their teaching is set aside for the Christian, and superseded by the following: "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," I Cor. 7:10-11.
Surely, in the face of such fulness of evidence just presented, an honest and unbiased mind should have little difficulty in comprehending and accepting the fact that the two passages in Matthew concerning divorce were meant only for Jewish men under the law of Moses, and were never intended to apply to Christians.
3.-Ten reasons why a Christian should not divorce and remarry!
(i) Because God's original institution of marriage does not contemplate divorce, Gen. 2:24, Mk. 10:9.
(ii) Because of the three-fold unequivocal witness of the Lord Jesus, Malachi and Paul, each restating and confirming that marriage as originally ordained of God is still binding, and does not permit polygamy, divorce or remarriage of divorced persons, Mk. 10:3-9, Mal. 2:14-16, Eph. 5:31.
(iii) Because the permission to put away a wife was given by Moses to men only in Israel. Moses never legislated for Christians of this church age. The Lord Jesus permitted divorce for men in Israel to remain, but only for fornication, and only for those who had not become His disciples.
(iv) Because the Lord Jesus nowhere gives permission to His disciples to divorce. Likewise, His apostles never mention divorce concerning Christians.
(v) Because the Lord Jesus declares a definite prohibition: 'What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Matt. 19:6 ; and, "Let not the husband put away his wife," and "If she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband," I Cor. 7.11.
(vi) Because it is Divinely declared that "the wife bath not power (authority) of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife," I Cor. 7:4. But divorce requires that either one of the parties in marriage takes their body from under the authority of the other, and so God's command is flouted. The injunction prohibits such acting.
(vii) Because a Christian husband is told to love his wife in the manner and measure that Christ loves the church, Eph. 5:25. Is divorcing one's wife consistent with such requirement?
(viii) Because of the principle contained in, "He that loveth his wife loveth himself," Eph. 5:28. Is divorcing one's wife consistent with loving oneself? Can a person divide himself, or divorce one part of himself from another part.
(ix) Because the whole idea of divorce is not consistent with "the true grace of God" wherein a Christian stands, I Peter 5:12. Consider the matter of forgiveness. In this grace, God expects His children to be imitators of Himself, Eph. 4.32, 5:1; and of the Lord Jesus, John 8:10- 11. Although adultery is a grievous sin, and a reproach which is never wiped away in this life, yet it is not to be looked upon as an unpardonable sin. Those who divorce put a tremendous obstacle in the path of a guilty one's repentance. At the same time, they shut the door to reconciliation and thus deny the reality of the grace of God.
(x) Because Christians are prohibited from taking one another before the law courts of the world, I Cor. 6:1. The only way to obtain a "divorce" is to go to court. Note also the clear teaching of Romans 7:2-3, I Cor. 7:39 : For the woman which hath an 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. 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. These Scriptures show clearly that only death can break the marriage tie. If otherwise, the marriage illustration used by God in Romans 7 is at fault, which is impossible.
4.-A summary - Four Facts which will help produce oneness of mind according to Scripture!
The solution of the problem caused by the Christian's misuse of Matt. 5:32, 19:9 is found in rightly dividing, correctly interpreting, and properly using the words of the Lord Jesus We believe that the three summaries given above fulfil these requirements cause:
(i) They show that the term "fornication" used by the Lord Jesus does NOT mean adultery, the punishment for adultery being death, John 8:3-7, Lev. 20:10, Deut. 22:22.
(ii) They prove that Matt. 5:32, 19:9 are Scriptures which belong to the dispensation of the law, and apply only to MEN under it who wanted to put away their wives because of finding premarital unchastity in them. (iii) They reveal that the Christian's use of Matt. 5:32, 19:9 as his or her authority to divorce on the ground of adultery, is an unwarranted misuse of Scripture.
(iv) They declare, according to the accredited rules for interpreting the Scriptures, that God's mind for the Christian on the matter of ''divorce'' and ''remarriage'' is found in the final words of the New Testament concerning the matter : "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," I Cor. 7:10-11. His final word in the Old Testament is equally plain: "The Lord hath 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. And did not He make one? Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away," Malachi 2:14-16.
May God Himself make His own word as presented above "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," II Tim. 3:16. "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Jude 24-25.
J. Crawford, H.T. Kimber