THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE
James A. Garfield once said, “The sanctity of marriage and the family relation make the corner-stone of our American society and civilization.” The Hebrew writer declared, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Solomon, in all his wisdom, informs us that, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD” (Pro. 18:22).
From the beginning of time man had recognized the need of the institution of marriage and the benefits that it bestows. In the beginning God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” [or, a “helper comparable to him” – NKJV] (Gen. 2:18). From the very beginning man has been shown that marriage is of great benefit to him. Marriage provides for the domestic unit a sphere of stability in which one has the right to a family name, the security of property, and an intimate atmosphere of love and trust.
We are living in a very sad day. We are living in a day when most of the world no longer believes in the sanctity of marriage, or at least act as though they don’t. Did you know that there are over one million divorces each year. Ohio State University concluded in one of their studies that 82.5% of all marriages end in either the courts or the heart. Another study showed that in the near future that marriage survival rates could drop to approximately 50%. Many marriage counselors are saying that only one out of six marriages today work in the sense of two enjoying being together. Studies have also shown that 70% of teenage marriages (where both are 19 or under) end in divorce within five years. The eventual divorce rate of teenage marriages is 85%.
With the rising divorce rates these days, it is almost as though the marriage vows are being changed from “till death do us part” to “till something better comes along.” Too many people are treating marriage like flies on a screen door. Those on the outside want to get in, but some of those already on the inside want to get out. Why is all this occurring? People do not know of, or respect, the sanctity of marriage as set forth by God in His holy word.
One of the reasons our country, and even the church in many places, is in its present decaying state is because the family unit is deteriorating. We have all heard how it was not foreign powers that destroyed the great Roman Empire, but was internal decay – the deterioration of the family. We know to be true what was said by Solomon in long the ago, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro. 14:34). Strong marriages are a must if the church is to be strong. The Psalmist declares, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psa. 127:1).
MARRIAGE IS ORDERED BY GOD
From the scriptures we learn that marriage is a precious and valuable union. In the beginning God ordained marriage and, if you please, officiated at the first marriage ceremony. Hence, it is a divine institution and is not to be tampered with by God. In the very opening chapters of Genesis, the Bible teaches: (1) the everlasting power and divinity of God, (2) the importance of doing right, and (3) the value of marriage and the home. The Almighty says, “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). When God tells us that in marriage, a husband and wife become “one flesh,” we are told in sure and certain terms of the indissoluble unity of marriage.
Jesus said, “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 twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mat. 19:4-6). In marriage God’s rule is: “One man for one woman for life.” We must sound this message forth from our pulpits, in our class rooms, and in our homes. This must be entrenched in the minds of our youth. This eternal truth is not set forth to embarrass those who lives are in a mess. It is done to encourage people who have developed no conflict in their marriage relationship to avoid a tragic mistake, and also to help the unmarried to understand God’s rule and avoid a transgression that could darken their lives and hopes and bring eternal regret.
DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION
FOR A FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN COUPLE
Divorce is not an option, because a husband and wife are bound to one another as long as they live. Jesus said, “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 twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mat. 19:4-6). Paul proclaimed, “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” (Rom. 7:2). He also wrote, “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” (1 Cor. 7:39). Divorce is not an option because the covenant and commitment aspect of marriage is for life and the Christian dare not put asunder what God hath joined together (cf. Mal. 2:10-16).
Divorce is not an option when faithful Christians take their marriage vows seriously. Moses wrote, “If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth” (Num. 30:2). Solomon declared, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Eccl. 5:4-5). A vow broken is a lie, and the lake of fire is the destiny of all liars (Rev. 21:8). Jepthah, judge of Israel, made a rash vow before God not realizing that it would result in the death of his own daughter (Jud. 11:30-40). And he regarded his vow so seriously that he apparently took the life of his daughter rather than break his vow.
Divorce is not an option because marriage to another while one’s spouse is living can constitute adultery. Jesus said, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Mat. 5:31-32). If one commits adultery and does not repent of it he will lose his soul (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Heb. 13:4 and Rev. 21:8).
Divorce is not an option because the God given criteria for the kind of love a husband is to have for his wife prohibits the development of ungodly attitudes that lead to divorce. Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Eph. 5:28). “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:33).
Divorce is not an option because Christian wives are to love their husbands and be obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God not be blasphemed (Tit. 2:4-5). Paul also said, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14). Then, in Ephesians 5:22-24, he teaches, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
Divorce is not an option because to seek divorce is to violate the law of love. Paul writes, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth …” (1 Cor. 13:3-8). If a Christian is to love a Christian in order to be acceptable unto God, how much greater the responsibility for a Christian husband and wife to love one another?
Divorce is not an option because the Christian husband is commanded to not only love his wife, but not be bitter against her. “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:19). Divorce is usually the product of bitterness and hatred. Thus, to our mind should come 1 John 3:14-15, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him,” and also 1 John 4:20-21, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” Would this not also be true concerning a husband and a wife?
Divorce is not an option because a husband’s communication with God is contingent in part upon a right relationship with his wife. Paul said, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).
Divorce is not an option because divorce seeks escape from responsibility that in turn can put one out of fellowship with God. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8).
Divorce is not an option, because one married is forbidden to lust after, much less go after someone other than their spouse. Jesus warns, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mat. 5:27-28).
Divorce is not an option, because an unforgiving heart is not an option. Jesus said, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mat. 6:15). If one’s unwillingness to forgive can stand in his way of going to heaven, how much greater the application within the marriage relationship?
Divorce is not an option, because being a faithful Christian involves setting a Christian example, and a Christian example is antagonistic toward divorce. Children greatly need a godly example in their parents as their parents in turn bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
THERE IS ONE EXCEPTION FOR DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
The Lord has given only one exception, only one cause, wherein one may divorce their spouse and marry again and not be guilty of adultery. This one and only exception is found in Matthew 5:32, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication [sexual immorality – NKJV], causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” This verse is so plain that someone would need help to misunderstand it. One who divorces their spouse for any other reason than their mate’s fornication (sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse), and marries someone else, commits adultery, and continues to live in adultery as long as they live with their new partner.
It is amazing that many try to add other exceptions to the ONE the Lord gave. Some say you are free to remarry if your spouse deserts you. Some say you can remarry if your spouse is unable to meet your needs. While others say God’s law on divorce and remarriage does not apply to non-Christians.
Either “except” means “except” or it doesn’t. We don’t have any problem with the word “except” in John 3:5 do we? Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” We understand, and rightly so, there is one exception to entrance into the Lord’s kingdom. If one is not “born of the water and the Spirit” he CANNOT become a child of God and thus enter into heaven. So why then do so many try to turn the Lord’s exception in Matthew 5:32 into many exceptions? The only conceivable reason is that some believe what the Lord said in John 3:5 and they do not want to or refuse to believe what He said in Matthew 5:32.
The reason that so many try to make this so difficult is that they do not want to want to obey God. There is only one scriptural reason for divorcing and remarrying, and that is because of sexual immorality. Now that is simple, and that is plain, and we can understand it!
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE A GREAT MARRIAGE?
First and for most, if we want to have a marriage that is pleasant and pleasing in the sight of God, God and His word must be emphasized. The following poem entitled “Marriage takes Three” makes this point very clearly.
I once thought marriage took
Just two to make a go,
But now I am convinced
It takes the Lord also.
And not one marriage fails
Where Christ is asked to enter
As lovers come together
With Jesus at the center.
But marriages seldom thrives
And homes are incomplete
Till He is welcomed there
To help avoid defeat
In homes where Christ is first,
It is obvious to see
Those unions really work,
For marriage still takes three.
The reason that so many marriages are failing is because they are going to the wrong source to learn how to make their marriages great. Remember, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
Also remember that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Did not Jeremiah say, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23)?
To have great marriages, we need husbands who will love their wives like Jacob (Gen. 29:20), who will go to worship with their wives like Elkanah (1 Sam. 1), who will pray for and with their wives like Manoah (Jud. 13:8-14), who will live righteously with their wives like Zacharias (Lk. 1:5-6), who will not embarrass their wives like Joseph (Mt. 1:19), and who will work for Christ with their wives like Aquila (Acts 18:24-28).
To have great marriages, we need wives who will respect their husbands like Sarah (1 Pet. 3:1-7), who will be righteous with their husbands like Elizabeth (Lk. 1:5-6), who will maintain a sacred togetherness with their husbands like Manoah’s wife (Jud. 13-14), who will encourage their husbands like Rachel (Gen. 31:16), and who will be a soul winner with their husband like Priscilla (Acts 18:20; 24:24).
Communication is a must in a happy marriage! First, married couples must communicate in words. Did you know that poor communication is the main problem in 86% of all troubled marriages? Solomon said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Pro. 25:11). Paul informs us that we must “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). In good communication there must also be listening. Concerning God’s word, Jesus said, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mat. 13:9). Should not the same hold true in marriage? Solomon says, “A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart” (Pro. 18:2) [NKJV]. Thus, many times married couple hear only what they want to hear, but this does not make for a good marriage. Secondly, married couples must communicate in deeds. One may tell a mate, “I love you,” while not acting like it, which is much worse than being in love and not saying it. John said, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18), and Solomon said, “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury” or poverty (Pro. 14:23).
Consideration is a must in a happy marriage. A lack of consideration has contributed to many a broken home. The story is told about a man who was riding his mule down the rode, and his wife was walking a few feet behind the mule. Someone saw the situation, and thought he was a little inconsiderate for riding while his wife was walking, and asked him why his wife was not riding. The man replied, “She ain’t got a mule.” This illustrates how inconsiderate some can be to a mate. We need to be considerate to our mates in their physical needs, their emotional needs, their sexual needs, and their spiritual needs.
Contentment is a must in a happy marriage. This does not mean that a couple should not strive to improve their economic status or living standard. But, they should be happy and content with each other while bettering their lives together. If one is content and the other is not, this could cause disruption in the home. It seems that in the age of prosperity, some young couples think that they have to have as nice a home, car, and clothes in the early years of their marriage, as do couples who have been married 30 and 40 years. Such an attitude is destructive to a marriage. It has been said, “Blessed is the couple that realizes that if their outgo exceeds their income, the outcome of their upkeep will be their downfall.” Money troubles have done great harm to many a marriage. Thus, we need to be good stewards of our money in marriage (1 Cor. 4:2; 1 Pet. 4:10), and must not be covetous in our marriages (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Psa. 10:2).
And finally, common sense is a must in a happy marriage. If Christians of character will apply wisdom or good common sense to life, it will lesson family problems to an enormous degree. Most family problems would not have even existed if common sense would have been applied early enough in a possible difficult situation. I want to share with you some information from a wall plaque that I once read, information that the women will probably appreciate more than the men. It says: “If you get it out – put it up. If you sleep in it – make it up. If you wear it – hang it up. If you drop it – pick it up. If you dirty it – wash it. If you open it – close it. If you turn it on – turn it off. If it rings – answer it. If it howls – feed it. If it cries – love it.” It can be just the little common sense things that can really strengthen our marriages and make them great.
For the church to be a strengthening force in our morally decaying world, she must believe in the sanctity of marriage. The church must stand for the truth concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The church must not ever back down or weaken their stance in these areas, but must proclaim the truth boldly from the pulpit, in the class home, and in the home. We must teach from the Bible how to make our marriages pleasing in God’s sight, pleasant for us, and beneficial for the world around us. May the church be unified in this effort!