Questions: Marriage, adultery and divorce

In order to know what marriage is and foreshadows and – consequently- why God hates divorce, it is necessary to look to the beginning of marriage. It has been instituted by God himself in relation tot our first parents, Adam and Eve:
18 And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him." 
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet for him. 
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. 
22 And the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto the man. 
23 And Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." 
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh. 

The woman Adam received got a husband who had a high position. Adam was head in the earthly creation. So his wife had a high position with him. 
But the way he got his wife is very remarkable. God could have made Eve the same day He created Adam, but He did not. The woman has been made in an exceptional way. God took a rib from Adam when he slept and made the woman out of it. So Adam could say indeed that Eve was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. And it is added in Genesis 2:24 
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.
In Ephesians 5 the apostle said about it: 
For we are members of His (Christ’s) body, of His flesh, and of His bones. 
31 "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." 
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 

So we understand that in marriage God meant and means to give an image of Christ and the church. The church is the bride that came into existence owing to the death of Christ. She will reign with Him when God has put all things under his feet, for it is 
God’ s purpose in the dispensation of the fullness of times to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance (Ephesians 1:10, 11) 
We see then that from eternity it has been in God’s mind to give the church to Christ as his bride, living through his death and in due course to reign with Him, Head over all things. When creating men this purpose has been the background God had in view. 
So in marriage we have the responsibility to foreshadow the unity of Christ and the church, and love, unfaltering love ought to govern the relation and be the characteristic of it. 

Now sin has entered and all things have been spoiled by it. In marriage sin causes much damage as well and the image God intended often is spoiled. 
God therefore expressed his will in the existing situation by his words in Scripture, the words spoken by our Lord and the writings of the apostles. There is however a difference between our time and past ages, for we do not live without the complete word of God, nor under law, nor without knowledge of Jesus Christ and his teaching. Those teachings particularly are decisive for the church, the body of Christ, and for every Christian. 

Words of the Lord concerning our subject.

In the gospels we have some passages that give us the words of the Lord. The first one is in Matthew 5:31 and 32: 
31 It hath been said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.’ 
32 But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. 

In verse 31 the Lord referred to Deuteronomy 24:1-4: 
1 "When a man hath taken a wife and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes because he hath found some uncleanness in her, then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 
2 And when she has departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 
3 And if the latter husband hate her and write her a bill of divorcement, and putteth it in her hand and sendeth her out of his house, or if the latter husband die who took her to be his wife, 
4 her former husband who sent her away may not take her again to be his wife after she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD, and thou shalt not cause the land to sin which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

In another passage in the same gospel He gave a more extensive answer to a question (Matthew 19:3-9): 
3 The Pharisees also came unto Him, testing Him and saying unto Him, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" 
4 And He answered and said unto them, "Have ye not read, that He that made them at the beginning made them male and female, 
5 and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh’? 
6 Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." 
7 They said unto Him, "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement and to put her away?" 
8 He said unto them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 
9 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 who is put away doth commit adultery." 

That answer makes clear, that to send away a wife for other reasons than fornication would be the sin of adultery. Moses gave Israel the command to write a letter of divorcement because of the hardness of their hearts, but it did not express Gods thoughts. 

Now the passage in Deuteronomy gives us some more light, for we see there, that when divorce has taken place (in that time with a letter) and the wife has become married to another man, it is not Gods will, that she return to her former husband. The Lord does not see the first man and his former wife as a married couple any more and does not want the relation to be renewed, has even forbidden that. 

In Marc 10:3-12 we have the same question: 
2 And the Pharisees came to Him and asked Him, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" —testing Him. 
3 And He answered and said unto them, "What did Moses command you?" 
4 And they said, "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away." 
5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, "Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 
6 But from the beginning of the creation, ‘God made them male and female. 
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, 
8 and the two shall be one flesh’. So then they are no more two, but one flesh. 
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." 
10 And in the house His disciples asked Him again about the same matter. 
11 And He said unto them, "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery." 

The question is the same and the answer is given in nearly the same words. It is clear that divorce is against Gods will. 
(It is against Gods will and not allowed. However, it is not impossible. Some have the opinion: “once married, married for life”. That is God's will indeed, but Deuteronomy 24:1-4 told us, that we can destroy and separate what God had united and intended as a union for life. It would be wrong in such cases to deny what the Lord made clear in the passage in Deuteronomy. The original man and wife do no longer form the unity God intended.) 

The short passage in Luke 16:18 is in accordance with what we found till now. 
18 "Whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

Instructions in the epistle to the Corinthians.

In the young church of Corinth it will not have been an exception that a man heard and believed the gospel, whereas his wife did not believe. The reverse will also have been the case. Those Christians obviously did not know what was the right way for them, go on with the unconverted partner or not. The apostle wrote for them in 1 Corinthians 7:12-17
12 But to the rest I speak (not the Lord): if any brother hath a wife who believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 
13 And the woman who hath a husband who believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Else your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 
15 But if the unbelieving spouse depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases, for God hath called us to peace. 
16 For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? 
17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all churches.

It is not contrary to he will of the Lord that someone who has become a Christian will go on to live with his (or her) unconverted partner. The Lord could use that Christian to draw the unconverted one to Him. A Christian need not fear that it is an unholy relation. We do not fear our children to be unclean for the Lord, knowing that they are sanctified by a Christian father or mother. In the same way an unconverted father is sanctified by the Christian mother. The meaning of it is, that the unconverted one is not the same as any one in the world. He has in God’s eyes a special place and enjoys special blessings. His partner will pray for him and will tell him about Jesus etc. The same is true of unconverted children. 
Another matter is, that a Christian has not the power or possibility to prevent that the unconverted one departs. He does not want or seek it, but is powerless. In such cases the brother or sister is no longer under bondage. 
There have always been various opinions with relation to this verse. Some say, that the sister in such cases is no longer obliged to cook for that man or to polish his shoes. That however is not a sound opinion, because that man does not want her help or care any more and where would he live? Possibly far away. Moreover he probably will marry another woman. 
When a sister is no longer in the position of a servant or slave, (the meaning of the word here) she is free and is no longer the property of the unbelieving man. It is my sincere conviction that another conclusion is impossible. At any rate, knowing there are different convictions and supposing that all are willing to do the will of the Lord, let us not condemn, but accept one another. 

A special time and special circumstances.

There obviously have been questions among the Corinthians concerning marriage. One of the answers we have in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40: 
25 Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the from the Lord to be faithful. 
26 I suppose therefore that in this present distress, I say, it is Lord, yet I give my judgment as one who hath obtained mercy good for a man so to be. 

In these verses the apostle is referring to the difficult circumstances for Christians in those days, which would make life much more difficult when the believer had the responsibility for a woman and children added. He is not contradicting Gods Words in Genesis 2:18 
"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him." 
27 Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife. 
28 But if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such people shall have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. 

In these verses again we see that the apostle took into account the difficulties of that time for someone with a family. 
But there is another consideration. The Corinthians were very much occupied with the things of this life. Paul wished them to realize that earthly things will pass and that our calling is not for the earth, but for heaven. That we find in the next verses
29 But this I say, brethren: the time is short. It remaineth that those who have wives should be as though they had none; 
30 and those who weep, as though they wept not; and those who rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and those who buy, as though they possessed not; 
31 and those who use this world, as not abusing it. For the fashion of this world passeth away. 

He carries that subject on in the following passage: 
32 But I would have you be without cares. He that is unmarried careth for the things which belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 
33 but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 
34 There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 
35 And this I speak for your own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and so that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 
36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age and need so require, let him do what he will—he sinneth not: let them marry. 37 Nevertheless, he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well, but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 

Paul himself could hardly have fulfilled his commission in the way he has done that, when he would have been married. But of course that depends largely on the situation in the territory one is living or working in for the Lord. 
39 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, but only in the Lord. 
40 But in my judgment she is happier if she so remain, and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. 

Of course the apostle gave the same instructions as the Lord. The difference only is, that the Lord gave the principles concerning marriage, whereas Paul added what could be said in view of the then prevailing situation. 
Bound by the law does not mean by the ten commandments, nor by the law of ones own country, but by the law of God that governs marriage, before the law of Sinai, under that law and in our days. That law is for all and for all times. The bond of marriage itself, by God intended for life, is that law. 

Let us not forget what the apostle wrote in Ephesians 5: 
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; 
23 for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the savior of the body. 
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, 
26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, 
27 that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. 
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. 

Ought not love to be the visible characteristic of married people? A short contemplation of passages re marriage would not be complete when we would not refer to the love of the Lord and remind one another of the example the Lord has given us. It will not be difficult for a sister to do what Scripture in verses 22-24 says, when the husband acts according to the words in verses 25-29. May the Lord help us all.

J. Ph. Buddingh