Marriage: Theme of the Bible
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bibleís dominant theme is faithfulness in marriage. From Noah, Moses, Jeremiah, Malachi, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the apostles Paul and John, the message of Godís true servants has been to stress the sanctity of marriage. Godís laws in both testaments are designed to protect marriage and the family. From the Garden of Eden to the New Heavens and New Earth, Godís purpose for mankind is summed up by holy marriage.
Yet from the Garden of Eden to the sons of Cain, to the days of Noah, to Abraham and Hagar, Sodom and Gomorrah, unfaithful Israel, King Herod, the Romans, King Henry VIII, and especially in todayís time, mankind has defiled, perverted, been a total failure in living up to faithfulness in marriage. Divorce, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and disobedient children are so prevalent today, that a faithful marriage and a wholesome, happy family, is a rarity.
Faithfulness in marriage is not proclaimed or practiced in most churches, even Sabbath-keeping churches. Some Sabbath-keeping Churches of God once adamantly condemned divorce, especially divorce and remarriage. Yet one after another, they have succumbed to societyís declining morals.
The aged leader of one large Sabbath-observing church "married" a divorced woman, his evangelist son led a promiscuous life and spearheaded a revision in church doctrine regarding marriage that opened a floodgate of divorces and "remarriages" in the church and ministry. A leading Church of God minister said that there is nothing wrong with inter-racial marriage. Another Church of God organizationís leading elder recently ordained a man who divorced his wife and "married" a divorced woman. Still another seventh-day organization proclaimed that whatever marriages or divorces a person was engaged in previous to conversion are of no consequence once he becomes a Christian. Thus, one could be living with the fifteenth mate at time of conversion, and it is said that this marriage suddenly becomes "right" in the Eternalís sight!
Is there anybody proclaiming the true Gospel message? Let us trace the dominant theme of faithfulness in marriage through the Bible, and see why the world needs an Elijah to prepare the nations, even His Church, for the return of the Messiah.
Marriage in the Beginning
Marriage is a creation of the Almighty. Its purpose is to make us become like Him, Genesis 1:26-28, 31; 2:18-25. God is a family of one Spirit. Faithfulness in marriage, becoming one flesh, teaches us how to become one Spirit with the Almighty, I Corinthians 6:15-20. God joins husband and wife, just as He did Adam and Eve, Matthew 19:1-6. Notice that He made twain. Monogamy (one man and one woman) is the divine rule.
Yet when sin entered the first marriage, disobedience spread to the children. Cain killed Abel and sired rebellious descendants who perverted marriage. Cainís great-great-great grandson Lamech became the first recorded polygamist, Genesis 4:17-19, a bloody sinful man, verse 23.
Divorce and Unfaithfulness: Yesterday and Today
Cainís descendants corrupted the whole earth, filling it with violence (Hebrew: chamas), marrying the wrong wives, corrupting Godís way of marital fidelity and chastity, Genesis 6:1-12. Only Noah was upright in his marriage and family. Lest we forget what the days of Noah were like, it would do well to heed Matthew 24:37-39, "But as in the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking [gluttonous and drunkenness], marrying and giving in marriage [interracial unions, divorce and remarriage], until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Noah was a preacher of righteousness, II Peter 2:5. What do you suppose Noahís message was about?
Lot was vexed with the filthy conduct of Sodom, II Peter 2:6-8, Jude 7. Jesus said that the days preceding His return will be like the days of Lot, Luke 17:28-30. Thus we see that sexual perversion (including divorce) is rampant today.
Violence (chamas) has never been limited to heathens, just as divorce today is not limited to unbelievers. Sarai gave Hagar to Abram and after Hagar conceived, Sarai knew that this was a wrong (chamas). Israel tried to hide divorce, cover violence (chamas), but God hates putting away, Malachi 2:11-17.
Israel was spiritually married to the Eternal at Sinai, Exodus 19:5-8, Ezekiel 16:1-15. Yet Israel played the harlot, Jeremiah 3:1-14. In spite of Israelís actions, the Eternal set the example of love and mercy, willing to take her back. Some today in the Church of God take the opposite stance by refusing to forgive a mate for leaving the church. Instead, they marry someone else.
Laws of Marriage ó Old and New Testament
Moses gave the Eternalís regulations to protect the sanctity of marriage: Exodus 20:14, 17, Deuteronomy 22:13-30, 24:1-4. Yet Israel totally perverted these good laws, so that by the time of Christ, one school of Jewish thought allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason.
Jesus cut the Pharisees to the quick when He rebuked them for their perversion of marriage. The strict laws of Moses regarding marriage and divorce were established because of Israelís hard-heartedness, but from the beginning Godís laws of marriage were even stronger! Jesusí statements regarding marriage and divorce totally amazed the disciples, Matthew 19:1-12. Truly the Messiah came to magnify the law ó to make the law (including marriage laws) more binding, more permanent, more spiritual. On the subject of grounds for divorce, Christ did not side with the "liberal" (any grounds) or "conservative" (only for adultery) Jewish factions of His day. They were both wrong!
Yet some today are making the teachings of Jesus Christ out to be as liberal as the Pharisees. They allow divorce and remarriage for: (1) any sexual sins after marriage, and (2) non-Christian mates who donít wish to dwell with the Christian. These modern misfits recognize as valid any state-sanctioned "marriage." But see Malachi 2:14-17, Luke 16:15, 18, which condem such practices.
The "except it be for fornication" clause in Matthew 5:32, and 19:9 refers to pre-marital sexual immorality, before God has joined the two together, Matthew 19:6. Righteous Joseph was planning to legally put away Mary before they came together, because he supposed she had committed fornication, Matthew 1:18-20. This was what Deuteronomy 24:1-4 actually meant. We should not be hard-hearted like carnal Israelites, Matthew 19:8-9. We should forgive and show mercy.
People today in Godís Church are no different than Israel. They want to twist Godís laws just as the Pharisees did, in extending the exception clause to sexual immorality after consummation of the marriage. God set the example in Jeremiah 3. Will we follow Him?
Paulís writings have also been twisted and perverted. A right, consummated marriage is for life, with no escape clause, Romans 7:1-4. Yet many who claim to "know the law" have resorted to I Corinthians 7 in an attempt to justify divorce and remarriage! Verses 12-16 are dealing with the case where a Christian is married to a non-Christian. If the non-believer chooses to stay with the Christian, that is fine. If the infidel leaves, then the Christian must not contest it. He or she is not under slavery, but should be peaceable, setting an example so as to win back the unbeliever at some future date. The Christian is "not under bondage," verse 15. Some say this means "not married." Nowhere in the Bible does the Greek word here, douloo (slavery) refer to the marriage relationship. "Not under bondage" does not mean "free to remarry," but means instead, freedom to act in a peaceable and loving way to win back the unbeliever, living alone, until reunion.
Verses 27-28 say, "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned." The context of I Corinthians 7 (verses 1-2, 8, 25-26) was whether or not to marry in troublesome times. Therefore, verses 27-28 mean: "Do you have a wife? Then donít try to get rid of her. Are you unmarried? Then donít look for a wife. But if you do marry you havenít committed a sin," (Todayís English Version).
Some, however, say that these verses mean that if you are divorced (for any reason), you may remarry. Read I Corinthians 7:39. Some use I Corinthians 7:14, 17-24 to say that any pre-conversion marriage is fine in Godís sight. Let God be true, and every man a liar, Romans 3:4.
Who regulates marriage? Godís laws, rulings by Church leaders, or the law of the state? The Eternalís laws are above manís law! Are unconverted people free from obedience to Godís laws? Absolutely not! Before multitudes, including the carnal Pharisees, Jesus said, " . . . 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 adultery," Matthew 19:2, 3, 9. Godís laws of marriage are for everyone, I Timothy 1:9-10.
Some Sabbath-keeping ministers have divorced wives who have left the church, and then "married" another. Some have encouraged church women who had problems with an adulterous mate to divorce the unfaithful mate so they could remarry someone else in the church. Let such counsel and examples be judged by the Almighty, Luke 17:1-4.
The Message of the Gospel
Noah, Lot, Moses, Jeremiah and Malachi preached against marital infidelity, divorce,
and sexual perversion. They preached the gospel message, Hebrews 4:2. Malachi prophesied that the forerunner of the Messiah, Elijah, would preach the same message: "He will bring fathers and children together again; otherwise I would have to come and destroy your country," Malachi 4:6, Todayís English Version.
John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:15-17, turning hearts of the fathers to their children. What does this mean? How are fathers separated from their children except through divorce or an unhappy marriage? Most of the time the children remain in the custody of the mother. A remarriage brings in another "father" in place of the real one. Preaching against divorce and remarriage, and in favor of marriage for life, faithfulness and love: this is the true Elijah message. This truth cannot be preached by an immoral minister who encourages others to divorce and remarry.
John the Baptist preached the Elijah message. As a result, he lost his head, Mark 6:14-29. Josephus reports that Herod divorced Aretas his first wife, and then married Herodias, his half-brother Philipís wife (Antiquities of the Jews, 18:5:1). When John said this was not lawful according to the Creatorís laws, Herodias became incensed and caused John to lose his head. If God doesnít hold unconverted people responsible for keeping His laws of marriage, then John certainly died in vain! Where is the modern day Elijah who has the courage to tell a political leader that he is living in adultery?
Jesus and Paul preached marital faithfulness. Those faithful in marriage during this life (a type of marriage to Christ, Ephesians 5:22-23) demonstrate the faithfulness required for the eternal marriage to Christ, Revelation 19:5-9.
Truly, the world needs a prophet like Elijah to preach this same message of faithful marriages to the whole world, preparing the way for the return of our King Messiah!
"Marriage is to be honored by all, and husbands and wives must be faithful to each other. God will judge those who are immoral and those who commit adultery," Hebrews 13:4, Todayís English Version.
Written by Richard C. Nickels
Giving & Sharing
PO Box 100
Neck City, MO 64849
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