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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Biblical Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the New Covenant Era ( for Prabhu Das )

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife
 and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 

When Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees on the topic of divorce, he told them, 'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so' ( Matthew 19:8 ). He went on to give them then, a bit of instruction which has become a quick-gauge for this matter; 'I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality,[d] and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery'. From here; we traditionally go to I Corinthians 7: 10-16, where Paul wrote such things as, 'A wife is not to depart from [ her ] husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to [ her ] husband. And a husband is not to divorce [ his ] wife', and 'the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband'. There are at least two things that we must consider when reading the first statement, and this could be applied to the second as well; first; we must remember the context in which Paul wrote these instructions, and the situation that he was likely dealing with when he penned these words. At the time of writing; Paul and the early Church were dealing with new converts to Christianity, men and women, who had spouses who, in many case probably, did not share their paradigm shift, and remained ensconced in their Jewish upbringing. We may note too, that Paul wrote that a woman was not to depart ( separate ) from her husband ( we may refer here, to the story of Hosea and Gomer, in Hosea 3 ), but that if she did, she must be reconciled to her husband, or at least remain celibate during the separation. The husband was by no means to divorce his wife, except for the reason Jesus had given. Secondly, and this flows right from the first, and might seem almost unnecessary; they were to remain together, not only because of vows which they had made before God, but that the believing spouse might have a saving effect on the unbelieving.

Marriage

Do a man and woman literally become 'one flesh' when they are joined together in holy matrimony? They remain two separate and distinguishable people, do they not? Yet, God calls them 'one'! Obviously, this oneness of 'flesh' with which they were blessed was not a reference to their physical status! This statement could only refer to their spiritual status, especially as we see Paul, again, making such a statement as this, in Ephesians 5:22-33; 'This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church'.

Marriage, as an institution, is simply a picture, a moving picture, you might say, of the bond between Christ ( God ) and His Bride ( His People ). As such, unity in the marriage was to continue as a testimony to our spiritual unity with our Husband, our Creator and Father. When a divorce occurs, and this is an undeniably ugly fact, there is an adultery involved, whether it be the actual physical act, or whether it be a spiritual one. There is an idolatry, a worship of or clinging to, other gods!

Divorce

Divorce, and this is a fact that I can personally attest to, is ugly! Especially so when children are involved, but even when it happens where there are no children involved; divorce tends to tear at the very heart of all those involved, even if both are unbelievers, particularly when they have been together a long time.

In the gospel according to Mark ( 10:9 ), in the parallel passage to that first quoted, Jesus said, 'Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.' We may refer to the last part of the section on marriage as to why a man and woman should remain in the holy estate of marriage in which they were placed: it is because their marriage bond reflects the unity between God and His people, and when divorce occurs, especially ( maybe only ) between believers, it reflects a spiritual adultery, a worship of something other than the one true God. This is why God came down so hard on the children of Israel under the first, or old covenant!

Marriage, as it is designed, and as was already pointed out, is meant to be a reflection of the unity of God and His people, but, physically speaking, it is so much more than that! Wise King Solomon had a few words to say on the subject, not of marriage, precisely, but of relationship: he wrote, 'Two [ are ] better than one,
because they have a good reward for their labor
', and '
if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
but how can one be warm [ alone ]?
'
  ( Ecclesiastes 4:9 & 11 ) These words really almost describe the epitome of the real, actual purpose of marriage. When divorce occurs, this bond is broken and no longer ( depending on the marriage ) do you have that same warmth ( especially here in Montana! ), nor do you have as great a reward for your labors!

Remarriage

Divorce, like it or not, is a fact of life, not only among the unbelievers, but also, and even more disturbingly, among believers, Christians! This should not be, especially among those who claim the Name, but the sad fact is, that just as most everyone else, even some Christians seem to forget, or ignore, their marriage vows, and separate for whatever reason, because they can't get along anymore, don't love one another any longer, etc: it happens! When this happens, and it is not always inevitable, sometimes reconciliation is possible, one party, or both, will often, somewhere down the road, think of getting married again.This is only natural, and among most Christians especially, it's the only way, lawfully, to follow Solomon's wise advice.

Some Christians have tended to take the words of Paul quoted earlier, and apply them today, in a very strictly literal, rigid way, and totally forbid ( or shun ) anyone from remarrying after a divorce, or from marrying one who has been divorced. As we saw earlier, though, this was not quite what Paul was saying, or dealing with when he wrote those instructions. He was dealing, not so much with divorce, although that was certainly in the picture, but because of separation ( division ) caused by this 'new' religion.

God's purpose, as shown in the institution of marriage, has always been to reflect the Oneness, not only of Christ and His Bride, God and His people, but the unity within the Godhead itself! Marriage, though not the only picture, is most likely, humanly speaking, the best representation of this unity! When this bond is broken; it must be  either restored or renewed. If it cannot be restored, and often, humanly speaking, it cannot be, it should be renewed, forged again, that God's purpose in this matter may be fulfilled!

The concept of remarriage may cause some people, in particular if they were scarred by their divorce or marriage ( or both ) to say, 'What am I thinking; didn't I learn my lesson the first time?!' These thoughts, while they are only natural to many people, even Christians, are way off the mark, and missing the whole point!

Aside from King Solomon's wise and astute observations above; the point, as we have noted, of marriage, is to reflect the unity of Christ and His Church and to glorify Him through that marriage by shining the light of that oneness into every dark shadow, and turning it into light!

Sure: it's possible to be of service to God and His Kingdom if one remains celibate, in fact, sometimes wisdom seems to tell us that we can be of better service this way, but with a good marriage, I believe that the service rendered to the Kingdom can be so much more and better!

Prayerfully and introspectively,
Charles Haddon Shank







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