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Believing in the Permanency of Marriage (2)

When studying a doctrine, it is good to start with the clearest passages and then to move on to the more difficult ones, and to interpret those more difficult ones in the light of the ones that are more clear. Or, to put it another way, if you read a passage and have difficulty determining whether it means A or B, it is good to look for some very clear passages on the same subject to see whether they rule out either A or B. This is a method we follow desiring to understand and maintain what our Lord teaches us.
But what if someone wants to deny the truth and maintain the opposite? For example, what if someone does not like what scripture teaches on this subject and desires to maintain that a divorced person is allowed to remarry? Well, such a person will likely start with the more difficult passages. They will misinterpret those passages and then use that misinterpretation to reject what is taught in the more clear passages. This, of course, is a great evil and is a tactic of which we must always beware.
Having looked at some of the more clear passages on the lifelong bond of marriage, we turn now to consider some of the passages that are a bit more difficult. I say a bit more difficult. It is not that these passages are obscure so that we are left in doubt as to what they mean. It is just that instead of having a meaning that is more on the surface, we will have to do a bit of comparing scripture with scripture to understand what they teach.
Our Lord spoke of only one ground for divorce: ” But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery (Matt. 5:32a)”
According to this verse, the one lawful ground for putting away a spouse is fornication.
But if someone gets a divorce for this reason, can he or she marry someone else? The answer is no. We have already considered verses that clearly indicate that marriage is a lifelong bond (Rom. 7:2–3; 1 Cor. 7:39). There are also other verses that state explicitly that if you put away your spouse and marry another person you commit adultery, and no exceptions to that are given: And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:11–12).
A person in this very sad situation of having divorced a fornicating spouse has onlytwo options: “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” (1 Cor. 7:10–11).
In these verses the apostle teaches two things:
There is an occasion where it is lawful for a person to depart from his or her spouse. This is the occasion that was mentioned in Matthew 5:32, which we have already considered.
In that situation, the spouse who departs has only two options: to live as an unmarried person or to be reconciled to his or her spouse. Marrying someone else is not an option.
The reason why there can be no remarriage is that even if someone gets a divorce for adultery, the marriage bond still exists. In other words, a divorce does not dissolve a marriage, even if the government says it does. The state does not have the authority to end a marriage. Only the God who has established the union has the authority to do that. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).
But what about Matthew 19:9? That verse reads: “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 doth commit adulteryMatt. 19:9).
Some say this verse teaches that remarriage is allowed when someone gets a divorce for adultery. But is that what this verse is saying?
Certainly it cannot be teaching that. If it did, Matthew 19:9 would contradict the rest of scripture. In addition, as we look closer at this verse we can see that it teaches that remarriage is not allowed, but forbidden. If you marry a person who has been put away, even a person who has been lawfully put away, you commit adultery.
Why is that? It must be because even after the divorce the marriage bond still exists. Although a person may put away his or her spouse for fornication, as was mentioned in Matthew 5:32, remarriage is not allowed while one’s spouse lives.
A man or woman is not required to put away his or her spouse for fornication but may do so. The unfaithful spouse would have caused extreme grief and may be put away. Yet that act would not sever the bond. God is the one who has established the union, and he is the only one who can break it, which he does by death
This serves to bring out the great importance of heeding what God tells us about marrying only in the Lord. It is not the case that if we enter into a foolish marriage when we are younger, we can just get a divorce and try again with someone else. The marriage bond is dissolved only by death. Those who marry make a vow, “Til death do us part.” Before two even begin to date, they should be sure that they both believe the gospel of Christ, are resolved to lead a godly life, and hold to the teaching set forth in scripture concerning the lifelong bond of marriage.
To be continued…