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On the Divine Institution, Marriage: God Ordained, God Defined

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Marriage ceremonies and traditions differ from society to society, culture to culture, and, age to age.  It is a constantly changing ceremonial tradition in the eyes of men.  To make proper Christian judgments and decisions in the areas of marriage, divorce and remarriage, one must fully understand and examine God’s definition of marriage and the purpose for which He established the institution.  The Word clearly defines the guidelines which govern marriage.

            Marriage is primarily designed so that a man and woman become one flesh.  God said in Genesis 2:24,25

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

Notice the absence of any “wedding ceremony”.  They become one flesh and that is it.  While the teachings of many Puritanical Protestants and even the Roman Catholic church claim that sex is inherently evil, the first mention of marriage defines it as the sexual act of union between the man and the woman.  It does not even mention children.  God further elaborates that they, Adam and Eve, were naked and unashamed by their nakedness.  This flies in the face of any teaching that sin in the Garden of Eden was the act of disobedience to God that caused the fall.

            On the contrary, sex was established as the definition of marriage and the purpose of marriage by God.  Its placement in the Genesis account of the creation of Eve pointedly explains the creation of the help mate for Adam that would be one with Adam.  The explanation in Genesis 2:21-23 says,

“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; and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto 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.”

This explains that the creation of woman from man demands their union.  They were created from the same flesh to be the same flesh.

            Many cults have sought to make this God given sexual attraction evil.  Some as Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:3, even forbid people to marry or engage in marital sex.  This most certainly seems to be done in order to enslave people and must be (as Paul warned) the doctrine of devils as it is a direct violation of God’s purpose.  However, in order to demonstrate His definition of marriage and expound on it, Jesus, the Christ, spoke on the subject of the divine institution, marriage.

            When the Pharisees asked our Lord a controversial question on divorce, He not only quoted what He had said in Genesis, but, added commentary on the law and the provision of divorce.  First consider His answer.  He starts by defining marriage from His Word in Genesis.  In Matthew 19:3-6, we read

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?’  And he answered and said unto them,

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.’ ”

            So, first Jesus answers with the Word given in Genesis 2:25.  He defines marriage from the Word.  As Jesus is God, and is named as “The Word” in John 1:1, His explanation and interpretation of the Word given in the Old Testament is the ABSOLUTE basis for our understanding and interpretation of the Old Testament and law anywhere He explains it or quotes it.  (Also, as John chapter 1 goes on to say that He created all things as He was in the beginning, one can fairly argue that the Word given in Genesis 2 was Jesus’ Word as He is the Word who created all things.)  Therefore, marriage is defined by God as sexual union of a man and a woman.  The statement of “They shall be one flesh” is established as the statement made by God and not a second statement by Adam.  Jesus, the Christ, quotes “and they shall be one flesh” as the very statement of God and not man.

            This is quite an interesting definition of marriage.  Since man started handling the divine institution, he has added many different ceremonies, traditions, and other extra-biblical items to it.  Nevertheless, these are all traditions.  In some more “primitive” cultures, it is interesting to find that the marriage ceremony is often reduced to the institution given by God in that the ceremony is basically the man and woman having sex.  This is more close to that institution of God than the typical Western ceremony conducted in a church building where what Christians call the “consummation” of the marriage would be considered unthinkable.  Unfortunately, in the minds of many Westerners, they consider the sexual act as secondary to the ceremony.  They have forgotten that the word consummation means the completion of something.  Therefore, by English definition, until the ceremony of marriage is completed, consummated, by the sexual act, the ceremony is not complete and the couple is not married.

            At this point many who have been socialized by tradition and worldly concepts of marriage will be reeling at this discussion and possibly railing against it.  Therefore, it is necessary to point out other scriptures that drive home the divine institution and reveal how God views the statement, "they shall be one flesh" as the part of marital tradition that God accepts as a marriage ceremony.  The fact that God views the sexual union between a man and a woman as marriage is further 'shown in the law concerning sexual intercourse between virgins in Deuteronomy' 22:28,29

“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.”

            Thus, as they have had sex, they are already married in God's eyes they need to make a formal declaration and fulfillment of the marriage contract.  In this way everyone knows, they are bound to each other.  This concept is confirmed by our Lord in the passage quoted above from Matthew’s gospel 19:5,6.  He says,

“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.”

He indicates that God, Himself, joins the two as husband and wife when they unite sexually.  This is NOT an interpretation of the Word.  It is a direct quote of the Word of God.  One must read what He said in Matthew again and again until it is written on their heart. 

            What a wonderful and upright society we would have in churches across the land if this truth about marriage were properly explained to young people.  Abstinence teaching fails to stop sexual activity because it is NOT a divine concept.  But, when we know that sex is marriage, it does give us a stronger answer to give when temptation to marry the wrong person arises.  Because God recognizes the sexual union as marriage and even instructs us that man should not separate the couple, we know that we must refrain from sexual union with anyone that we do not want to marry

            This concept of God actually nullifies the English concept of pre-marital sex.  According to the Word there is no such thing as sex before marriage.  There can be extra-marital sex (sex with someone other than one’s spouse), but, never any pre-marital sex.  Paul references the spiritual nature of sex when he says in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 ,

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid.  What? know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

Paul admonishes the people of intercourse with prostitutes. He demonstrates how God views "couples that' have had sexual intercourse using the same statement of God from Genesis 2.  He says that they, the Christian and the prostitute, are unified in the divine concept of marriage and are looked on as man and wife in the sight of God. This is the reason that Paul warns the people of illicit sexual relationships. These relationships undermine God’s system of marriage.  

            Paul also expounds on the spiritual-physical nature of the divine marriage of a couple after sexual intercourse in 1 Corinthians 7:14,

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.”

Paul explains that in an illicit relationship the Just are defiled by the unjust, but in a marital relationship the unjust are united with a member of the body of Christ and are set apart. Thus the spiritual-physical bond of sexual intercourse is fully revealed. 

            Before going on to a full discussion of our Lord’s commandments on divorce, we must look at the definition of fornication because many trying to evade the direct commandments and warnings of God try to hide behind the word.  As there is a difference in the Hebrew word for adultery and the Greek word for adultery and we are referring to scriptures in the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek, there are two words used for the same meaning in two different languages.  Therefore, we will enter into a brief discussion of its etymology.

            Fornication is the English equivalent of the Greek PORNEIA, πορνειαν, which comes from the Greek root, PORNE 1(prostitute), and would in its purest Greek form refer to sexual intercourse with a prostitute or prostitution.  However, it is used as a complete word covering a multitude of sexual acts and uncleanness.  Figuratively, it may be applied to spiritual adultery towards God.  We employ the Greek root PORNE in English in such words as 'pornography' as the nonspecific root for all forms of sexual promiscuity and eroticism. This usage transcends all levels of sexual illicitness. This concept of PORNEIA comes from the Greek use of the word as a general term for all forms of sexual illicitness and lewdness.  This is why the English translators dutifully translated it to the English word fornication which has the same open use as a “catch all” term.  Webster’s Dictionary defines fornication to include every extra-marital sex act including incest.  This shows its universal meaning as any sexual act outside of the sanctity of marriage with the obvious negative denotation as sexual impropriety.

            The reason for this discussion is that when Jesus, the Christ, condemned adultery and other extra-marital acts, He used the catch all term PORNEIA which properly translates to fornication when He is speaking generally and adultery when He is speaking specifically.  We know that adultery is the proper translation of PORNEIA when our Lord references sex between a married person and any person other than their spouse because adultery is the only classification of sex outside of a marriage.  By definition, if a married person commits any sexual act with any person other than their spouse, it is adultery.  This applies to such cases as that of the ex-president of the United States, Bill Clinton.  His sexual act was by definition adultery whether it included intercourse or not.  The specificity of adultery is its delineation of who the sexual act includes (non-spouse), NOT what sexual activity occurred. 

            This proper translation removes any loop hole that has been used by pastors teaching in err in the past.  Some have taught that women cannot divorce a man for his adulterous acts.  Some have taught that the first person one has sex with is NOT their spouse.  Both are contrary to the scriptures that we have reviewed thus far.  Now that we have established a couple myths and cleared up the meaning of fornication and adultery, let us address the issue of improper sex, extra-marital sex.

            As marriage is defined as a man and a woman uniting sexually, there is no such thing as pre-marital sex.  The worldly construct of pre-marital sex is a convenient way for sinful man to illegally divorce himself (pun definitely intended) from his first sexual union’s Biblical-spiritual obligations.  Therefore, the only true sexual sin is that of extra-marital sex, sex with anyone outside of your marriage.  We also call this adultery.  Unfortunately, as we as Christians have allowed the government to get involved in marriage (people need laws on divorce so they can circumvent the divine law and get simple divorces free of divine interference), the definition of marriage has gone from being a divinely instituted sexual-spiritual union to that of a legal contract between two people.  Therefore, much of the sexual impropriety in the world goes unacknowledged or improperly defined as pre-marital.

            The problem with this construct of pre-marital sex is that it eliminates God’s law of marriage by trying to separate sex from marriage.  This problem is a struggle between man’s rebellious sinful desires and God’s commandments on sex.  Man wants to have his free sex and then settle into his legal sex.  This is totally extra-Biblical.  The Bible does not provide man with sin or justify man’s sin!  The only provision for man’s sin in the Bible is the mercy of God through the death of His Son, Jesus.  The reason that so many people have so many problems related to sex is that man wants his sin and his life.  You CANNOT have both for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

            If the Christians would teach marriage as does the Bible, many problems could be avoided.  Unfortunately, weak Christians and fallen Christians have given in to the world’s sinful definitions in order to satisfy their own lusts.  Instead of impacting the world with the truth of the Bible, they have perverted the true Biblical doctrine of marriage within the church to serve their own ends.  The modern church must repent this sin and return to God’s Will and commandments on marriage.  If they do, God will heal their hearts, their homes and their lands.

            The Word of God does provide an answer for man’s sin in regard to marriage.  The Ten Commandments which provide God’s moral law and give us an understanding of His Heart and Will, specifically forbad adultery (Exodus 20:14).  Further answer was given when God ordained a bill of divorcement in Deuteronomy 24:1-4,

“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.  And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.  And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that 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.”

This passage provides several rules about marriage, divorce and remarriage.  It gives us amazing insight into God’s Will for marriage and His rulings on what should be done after a spouse commits adultery.

            Now the reader is asking, “Where do you see adultery in this passage?”  Granted on first examination it would appear that this passage is very open to interpretation and makes allowance for divorce on almost any grounds.  However, let God interpret it for us UNEQUIVICALLY.  Examine again the answer of our Lord to the Pharisees that tempted Him in Matthew 19:3-9,

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?’  And he answered and said unto them,

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.’

They say unto him, ‘Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?’  He saith 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.  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 which is put away doth commit adultery.’ ”


Not only does our Lord explain why the bill of divorce was given, but, He expounds on the purpose of divorce.  He also repeats the very context, continuity and fullness of Deuteronomy 24:2. 

            The Pharisees that came to the Christ to tempt Him were most likely of the school of Hillel who taught that the “uncleanness” in Deuteronomy included physical imperfections or bad temper found in the wife.  However, Jesus, the Word, specifically explains that divorce on any grounds other than adultery is not His commandment and He makes no allowance for such grounds other than adultery.  He goes on to expound on Deuteronomy by stating that a man who marries another woman after improperly divorcing his wife commits adultery.  There is NO equivocation here.  Jesus, the son of the Living God, the Word made flesh, God Almighty, left no neutral ground.  There is only one allowance for divorce given by God.  One must come to terms with the commandment given here.

            Not only is what the Son of God said given to the Christian, but, it was also the very Word of God given to the Jewish adherent to the law.  It was the explanation of the law given by God.  We can make a spiritual assumption based on the spiritual mystery of marriage here.  Marriage is the symbol of the relationship between the child of God and God.  Revelations described the church, the believers, as the “Bride of Christ”.  The Old Testament describes the children of God as espoused to Him.  It warns them of spiritual fornication, idolatry.  Yet, the children of God turned away over and over to idolatry and committed spiritual adultery against God.  Yet, time and time again, God forgave this adultery and remained in the relationship with them as long as they would repent.  He NEVER turned Israel out to another husband.  The assumption is that ultimately, God expects that the adulterous party repent and be forgiven.  However, as people are not divine and cannot have the limitless Grace of God, they are allowed to end a marriage and move on with their lives.

            This brings one to the question, “How is adultery so destructive that it is a reason for divorce?”  Well, that point is quite simple.  As spiritual idolatry is having a relationship with another, false god, sexual unfaithfulness is entering into a type relationship that is exclusive to the marriage relationship.  That is, as sex constitutes the divinely acknowledged marriage relationship, sex with another partner enters into an illicit marital relationship with an outside party.  This effectively ends the exclusive definition of “they shall be one flesh.”  There is no provision for “they three will be one flesh” or any such like.  This does condemn the historical practices of marriage traditions in the Old Testament.

            However, as God incarnate, Jesus, explained the way that He ordained marriage, that command supersedes tradition and history.  The mistakes or sins of the early Israelites do not create a traditional loophole for any type of marriage that does not conform to the exact definition given by God Incarnate, when He addresses the issue directly.  The mere fact that that explanation is provided three separate places and times by God alone (we are not counting Paul’s multiple references to this definition just God’s), points out its importance and solidity.  Jesus, the Christ, even pointed out that Moses allowances were things that God tolerated for Moses’ sake but were not His Will.  In Mark’s account of the same tempting of our Lord by the Pharisees, he gives even more details of His answer.

“And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?’ tempting him.  And he answered and said unto them, ‘What did Moses command you?  And they said, ‘Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.’  And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.  But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.’ ”  Mark 10:2-6

             The Lord explained that while an allowance was made, it was actually made by Moses, not Him.  He, then, goes on to reiterate that His original definition was immutable and unchanged.  He expected one man and one woman to be one flesh.  He could not be more clear in His speech.  One finds often that our Lord answered the scoffers in His day as well as the arguments made by “modern” scoffers who would now argue against His direct commandments.  He answers once and for all that the only ground is the only ground that He will accept and that if a man violates this ordinance and puts away his wife for any other reason taking a new wife, he is commiting adultery.

            This points to the nature of the spiritual-sexual nature of the marriage union, indicating that the sexual union of man and wife lasts to the grave.  If there is only one ground for divorce then logically marriage is for life.  The reinforcement of this doctrine is found in Paul’s letters.  Paul not only expounds on issues of marriage law, but, also reveals more about the mystery of the church’s marital relationship to Christ.  Paul delineates the length of the marriage contract in 1 Corinthians 7:39,

“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; only in the Lord.”

In this passage, Paul is teaching directly on whether one should or should not marry.  He is also explaining the right of a widow or widower to remarry.  It is indisputable, direct teaching of the doctrine of marriage.

            Paul also repeats this teaching in Roman 7:2-3, where he uses marriage as an example to dying to the law to live in the Spirit.  He says of marriage,

“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.  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”

There is no mistake on the teaching.  There is complete continuity with the teachings given by God in Genesis and the Lord, Jesus, in the New Testament.  He demonstrates the doctrine using the law showing there is no disparity of doctrine.

            From these teachings of Paul we have a reiteration showing that marriage is a lifelong commitment.  We see another reference to the fact that anyone marrying (having sex with one other than their spouse) is committing adultery.  And, we have the provision that as in the case of adultery, a widow may take a new spouse upon the end of their marriage.

            Paul gave eleven admonishes against fornication.  He even went so far as to explain why fornication is so abhorrent to God and why it should not be named among the saints.  In his explanation he reveals a powerful mystery as to the spiritual nature of sex.  In 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, he is dealing with Christians that were caught up in horrendous adultery which violated the Old Testament commandment that a man could not take his step mother as a wife.  He wrote,

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?  Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid.  What?  Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body?  For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

            Here Paul reveals that sexual intercourse is a spiritual act not just a physical one.  It is such an act that it unites one spiritually with the other person.  He elaborates on this subject in the same book, 7:14-16.

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.   But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.  For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?  Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Here Paul explains that an unsaved spouse (and their children) is sanctified to God by sexual union with the Christian spouse.  This is quite a powerful statement.  He further exhorts a Christian to strive in faithful patient for the salvation of the unbelieving partner.  Therein, Paul explains the only other provision in the Word for divorce.  He says that as the unbelieving partner is dead in their sins, if they depart and do not return, the Christian spouse is no longer bound to them in marriage.

            In this chapter prior to these verses, Paul commented again reinforcing God’s stand on marriage and divorce (notably verses 10 and 11).

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, ‘Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.’ ”

There is absolute continuity and unity of doctrine on marriage given us by God in His Word.  He provides ample direct commands and explanations of the same throughout the Bible.  All the major sources (God the Father, God the Son, Moses, and Paul) give the same consensus (with the exception of Moses whom the Lord corrected).  All point to marriage as

  1. An institution ordained by God, Himself.
  2. Defined as one woman having sexual intercourse with one man becoming one flesh.
  3. A spiritual mystery relationship between the couple.
  4. A relationship that lasts until death.
  5. A union that is defiled and broken by adultery.
  6. A union that can only be put aside in the case of physical or spiritual adultery.
  7. A joining of two individuals by God that should not be separated by man.

We also see those constructs and doctrines of men which cannot fit into the marriage doctrine given by God.  The institution of marriage given by God shows that

  1. Sex is neither evil nor brought about the fall.  It was given by God as the establishment of a marriage.
  2. All sex is either marriage or adultery.  Therefore, there is no such thing as “pre-marital” sex.
  3. People cannot be “doubly” married.  They are either remarried according to God’s provisions or they are caught up in adultery.
  4. Divorce is not granted on the grounds of incompatibility, falling out of love or any reason other than physical or spiritual adultery.  Therefore, Christians divorcing without Biblical cause are sinning against God.
  5. Christians who properly divorce a spouse can remarry another Christian without condemnation.
  6. No Christian or sinner can be condemned for remarrying after the death of their spouse as there is no marriage after death.
  7. Marriage cannot be between members of the same sex or between more than two people.

             As God ordained and defined marriage in the beginning of His Word, all those who disagree with this construct, disagree with God, Almighty.  In a day of New Age serving of the lust of the flesh, many endeavor to redefine marriage to suit their own lusts.  Such are absolute heresies.  Homosexual relationships seeking religious acceptance and validation attempt to pervert the entirety of the Bible.  Divorce for incompatibility is destroying the church and the nuclear family.  Unfortunately, we see a time where no one seems capable of keeping their word or accepting the clear revelation and commandments of God.  Of such our Savior spoke,

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” John 3:17-21