"Divorce: Man's Rejection Of God's Institution"

Gary W. Summers

Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and he brought her to the man. 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." Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:22-24).

Notice how simply told the account of this earth's first marriage is. The only thing missing is, "And they lived happily ever after." That phrase is absent for a reason-because a short time later this first couple allowed sin to enter into the world. That decision forever affected the earth and its inhabitants. Adam and Eve did, however, live happily ever after in comparison with their modern counterparts who are entering marriage today.

Earth's first newlyweds remained joined together for several centuries. They did not divorce or alter God's system in any other way. But it did not take mankind long to pervert the pattern God had established with Adam and Eve. Lamech, a descendant of Cain, introduced the concept of polygamy (Gen. 4:19). He either did not stop to consider or didn't care that God had made one man and one woman-not one man and two (or more) women. Neither had He created several men for Eve. Certainly He did not create a group home of, say, five men and five women who could be exchanged and swapped upon a mere whim in order to avoid the staleness of a 900-year marriage (we ought to be able to endure a mere 80 years).

The men of Sodom were not impressed with God's original pattern as they sought out other men (Gen. 19:4-5). Women also became perverted (Rom. 1:24-28). Men and women always seem to be creative when it comes to practicing evil. How long after the creation did it take mankind to think of fornication, rape (Gen. 34:2), prostitution (Gen 38:15), or adultery (Gen. 39:7-9)?

And then there is "putting away," which Moses allowed (Deut. 24:1-4). God, however, hates it (Mal. 2:16). Divorce was not part of the pattern. When Jesus came to establish the new covenant, He made clear what should have been obvious all along: God made them male and female in the beginning for a reason!

And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19:4-6).

Mankind should have observed that Adam and Eve remained husband and wife. Neither of them after a hundred years or so desired to separate or get a divorce. [So far as we know, neither did their children.] The first person to obtain a divorce did so without God's authority. Presumably, divorce entered through the seed of Satan and spread to the godly.

The Who and Why of Separation

God created the ideal marriage situation: one man and one woman for life. God joins the two together, and selfishness (on the part of one or both) tears it apart. When two people end their marriage, they should recognize that the fault lies not with God nor the institution of marriage which He ordained. The failure stems from one or both human beings. At least one of them brought the union to an end, and at least one of them did not take seriously the vows made or the charge not to destroy it.

There is no such thing as "it just didn't work out." Marriage doesn't fail; people fail. There is no such thing as "love just died" or "we just grew apart" except in tinsel town melodrama. Such would not occur if the commitment to love, honor, and cherish was upheld. Many times these comments translate to, "Somebody more attractive, sexy, pleasant, kind, virile, decisive, etc. came along." Marital bliss is not achieved effortlessly; husbands and wives must labor toward that goal, often suppressing feelings of pride and selfishness.

Despite Jesus' clear teaching concerning the permanence of marriage (based on the original pattern), the Jews alleged that Moses had commanded divorce.

He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matt. 19:8-9).

Again, Jesus points out that Moses' concession to divorce under the Law violated God's original pattern. God, however, never intended that couples should divorce. He goes on to give one and only one exception to the rule-sexual immorality, which includes adultery and homosexuality.

A mate that becomes unfaithful has not only forsaken the vows made in the presence of God and various witnesses; he or she has violated the oneness of their relationship. Jesus' point here is not that the marriage is over at the point of infidelity; many have been able to restore their marriages. Rather the point is that if anyone divorces a mate, the only acceptable reason is sexual immorality.

All who divorce and remarry for any other reason commit adultery. Adultery cannot be redefined solely as the action of divorcing and remarrying unscripturally (as some erroneously teach); rather, adultery refers to the state that this couple is now living in. John did not tell Herod it was wrong to marry Herodias; he said it was not lawful to have her (Mark 6:18).

Twentieth Century Tragedy

One hundred years ago, Christianity was a profound influence upon this nation. The divorce rate was about 1 out of 100. That statistic does not imply for a moment that the other 99 homes were completely blissful. But the institution of marriage was intact, and the value of the family was in evidence. Today about 50 in 100 marriages end in divorce. What happened?

It would take a dissertation to adequately answer such a question (and offer proof); let's simplify the matter. As fewer and fewer people in the world chose to abide by God's teachings on this subject, their attitude was absorbed by "Christendom." Many of the more liberal denominations followed the lead of the world and ignored the Biblical standard. Finally, brethren began following the lead of the "progressive" denominational churches; they began echoing, "Us, too."

But that posture posed a problem. Sure, many of us wanted to end up at the same place that others were (acceptance of unscripturally divorced and remarried individuals), but we knew we couldn't get there the same way-by ignoring the Bible. We found out, however, that some of us could become excellent rationalizers; we simply explained away all of the passages that dealt with the subject (sometimes, quite ingeniously, although erroneously).

Those who indiscriminately divorced and remarried before becoming Christians were absolved by baptism (which not only removes sins; it deletes former mates). Christians married to unbelievers were granted "the Pauline privilege" (which never mentions remarriage). And Christians who preferred new mates despite Matthew 19:3-9 were justified by simply redefining the terms marriage and divorce and expanding the role of forgiveness to cover impenitence.

Since so few are upholding the word of God, it is no great wonder that the current crisis exists. The June 21-23 USA Weekend gives the 1994 statistics for divorce by state per thousand residents (4). Ironically, the state with the second highest divorce rate (after Nevada) is Arkansas, from whence came all of the false teachings listed above (Searcy). It apparently never dawned on brethren in their rush to exercise mercy and compassion that they were actually encouraging the breakup of additional homes. [Tennessee is listed 4th, Alabama 6th, and Texas 15th.]

Those who follow the Scriptures should have been the very ones who refused to give up the Lord's doctrine on marriage. Now lawmakers are talking about making it tougher to get a divorce. GOOD! But why didn't the church lead the charge? When will we ever learn to be leaders in light instead of followers amongst the shadows?

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "DIVORCE: MAN'S REJECTION OF GOD'S INSTITUTION (7/28/96)."

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