Straight Talk About Hard Things:
By Louis Rushmore
Marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage
"Don't they know anything except Matthew 19:9?" That was
the intermission discussion between auditors of a day-long series of lectures
concerning "Marriage-Divorce and Re-marriage." Several preachers ably and
faithfully examined passages touching the theme. Critical book reviews
compared permissive schemes regarding divorce and re-marriage with pertinent
Vocal members of the congregation perceived that Matthew
19:9 was a thread common to each discourse. They were unhappy with conclusions
drawn from Matthew 19:9 and related verses by the contingent of lectures
Between the close of the series on Saturday evening and
Sunday morning, the elders had been moved by voices of dissent to retract
their commendation of the speakers. Further, to appease their aroused constituency
the elders labeled the preachers of the previous day as false teachers.
An elder spokesman tenured a summary, appealing explanation to the subject
of marriage, divorce ad re-marriage. "Whatever the law of the land allows,
God will recognize and accept."
At other times and in other places brethren pose emotionally
charged questions tainted with bias. "Would you really tell a husband and
a wife that they have to get a divorce?" One sister asked. "My husband
is a drunkard and my life with him is miserable; can I divorce him and
marry someone else?"
At best, a preacher is a mailman for God! If a
preacher accurately and compassionately presents a message from God, he
has discharged his duty in the matter (Acts 20:20, 27). Sometimes the auditors
of his message recognize and accept it as the Word of God (1 Thessalonians
2:13). Sometimes people reject God's Word (Romans 10:15-16) and may castigate
or harm the bearer of an unwelcome message (Acts 7:57-60). Many mailmen
of God have been thought to be enemies of even religious people because
of the divine mail they delivered (Galatians 4:16).
Simplified, what does the Bible teach about marriage,
divorce and re-marriage? First, God instituted the home or marriage shortly
after creation (Genesis 2:18-25). Clearly, God intended marriage to consist
of one man and one woman for life. However, mankind later introduced polygamy
and divorce (Genesis 4:19; Deuteronomy 24:1).
Second, not every marriage historically has been acceptable
to God (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). God through his prophets commanded divorce
in such cases, even when children were involved (Ezra 10:2-5, 9-12, 44).
Third, though God through Moses "suffered" divorce, Jesus
restored the divinely given institution of marriage (Matthew 5:32; 19:3-9).
Whereas in the beginning marriage was universal among men, Jesus restored
marriage to its original status among all mankind. The Gospel according
to Mark was written to Romans and included the restoration of marriage
to its original state (Mark 10:11-12). God's marriage laws apply to Christians
as well as non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
The New Testament only reveals two reasons for which any
person may enter into a subsequent marriage. First, re-marriage is permitted
by God if one's marriage partner has died and the widowed mate opts to
marry a biblically qualified candidate (Romans 7:1-3). Second, Jesus in
Matthew 19:9 permitted the innocent party of a divorce for adultery to
marry another biblically eligible candidate. Jesus through the apostle
Paul commanded that couples who divorce for other reasons to remain separate
or reconcile (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
John the Baptist told a king that he had no right to his
brother's wife (Matthew 14:3-4). The message was not popular, so much so
that consequently John was executed because of it (Matthew 14:5-12). Any
other message, condoning Herod's adultery, would have brought upon John
a worse consequence than death (Matthew 10:28).
"Don't they know anything except Matthew 19:9?" To whom
should we go for instruction in this matter if not to our Lord Jesus? All
the emotional investment in the subject of marriage, divorce and re-marriage
does not change the divine message at all.