(Sermon transcribed by Tom Roberts)
Brother Reed called me Sunday and asked me to come over in time for dinner tonight with brother and sister Henze. I was unable to do that, having a funeral this afternoon at 2 o’clock. I knew I would not be able to get away in time to be here, so I was glad I could make it in time for the service.
This subject of marriage and divorce is one that, at least the marriage part of it, is one that we’re all interested in. Those who are married are interested in making their marriage happy and those not married are interested in getting married. So I know that all of us are interested in one phase of the subject, whether we’re interested in all phases of it or not. However, this subject of divorce today is one that is becoming alarming. Recently, four articles appeared in the Saturday Evening Post dealing with that subject. I was amazed to discover in reading those articles that one marriage out of every three ends in divorce. Back when I was in school in, about 1930, I made a study of the subject at that time, as I recall, the latest statistics that I could find were for ’26. In 1926, there was one divorce for every 5.6 marriages. So, almost doubled since that time. It is one out of three now. The alarming part of it is that some of these, so many of them, are taking place among the children of God, men and women who ought to have been taught better, but evidently were not. Also, it’s a reflection upon our teaching of our boys and girls as they’re growing up. We are failing to impress upon them the seriousness and the sacredness of marriage and the fact that when they marry, they’re entering into a covenant relationship with another that is binding for life. But our boys and girls are growing up in ignorance of some of these things for which you and I are responsible. I don’t know what brother Pickup said last night, I saw him today, he simply said he’d talked an hour and a quarter on it and there was nothing left for me to say. So I started just to call brother Reed and tell him, “No need for me to come.” But nevertheless, brother Reed said he wanted two sermons on it even if we did say the same thing.
Probably no better beginning place to be found than Matthew the nineteenth chapter, beginning with verse three, where the Pharisees came unto Jesus, trying him and saying, “Lord,” or, rather, “Teacher, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Now that dealt with the subject, primarily, of marriage. Then they raised another question. “Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement and to put her away? Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Moses indeed, for the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you that whosoever putteth away his wife, except for fornication, and marrieth another, committeth adultery. And he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.”
Personally, I consider that the final word on the subject of marriage and divorce so far as it pertains unto this dispensation under and in which we live. You notice that Jesus went back to the beginning. I want us to do that tonight. Let us go back to the beginning and trace whatever we can find dealing with this subject on down to the New Testament. Of course, the subject begins in Genesis 2, with verse 18, where Jehovah God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a help meet for him. And he caused a sleep to fall upon the man and from his side he took a rib. With the rib he made a woman, brought the woman unto the man and the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.’ And for this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife. And the two were both naked and they were not ashamed.” Here is the origin of marriage, the beginning of marriage. God had made the man in his own image. But of all of the creation, there was not a creature that was suitable for the man. So from the side of the man, Jehovah took a rib. With the rib, he made the woman. I know not whether God had this in mind or not, but someone has said that he didn’t take the part from the man with which to make the woman from the head, indicating that she should rule over him. Nor from his foot, indicating that she should be his slave, or servant. But rather a rib, that which was nearest to his heart, indicating that she should be the nearest and the dearest thing unto him. Whether God had that in mind, I don’t know. I know the thought is a beautiful thought. I know that it’s a Bible thought, a scriptural thought, because surely there is no relationship in all of life that is any closer than that of the husband and of the wife. But, at any rate, God made the woman for the man, one woman for the one man. And it was God who joined them together and said the two should become one flesh.
The first departure from this ideal of one husband and one wife was in the fourth chapter, a descendant of Cain, a man by the name of Lamech. He took two wives; the names of them are given, and also the four children, the names of the four children: three sons and one daughter. And it’s interesting to note that of these children, everything that came from them is fleshly. One of them was a herder (that’s all right, but it’s strictly of the flesh); another was, ah, dealt with cutting instruments; another with the instruments of music. And the girl’s name, Naamah, indicated “beautiful” or physical beauty. So everything that we find in this lineage of Lamech, the first polygamist, was a thing simply of the flesh; nothing spiritual whatever is found in that lineage.
But we move on. As we come on in the book of Genesis, we find that Jacob, one of the patriarchs, had two wives, Leah and Rachel; also two concubines unto whom children, or sons, were born. No criticism so far as I know from God of this matter of polygamy. Come on over to First Samuel, and we find that Elkanah was a polygamist. He had two wives. One of them became the mother of Samuel. But in every one of these polygamous homes, it’s interesting to note that there is unhappiness. They are not happy. There was strife between Leah and Rachel. There was strife between the two wives of the father of Samuel. Then as we come on down to David, David was a polygamist, with a multiplicity of wives. Unhappiness was in his home. Come on down to Solomon, the man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Had only one son and he was a fool, the man that had no regard or respect for God. So here then is a condition that developed in the Old Covenant. When God gave the Jews the Law, the Ten Commandments, in Exodus the 20th chapter, one of the things he said was, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” And then in the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy, he gave permission for a man to put away his wife and marry another. So evidently, under the Law, that was not considered adultery. But the adultery of the 10 commandments is bound to have been the unfaithfulness of a companion unto his wife, or the unfaithfulness of the wife unto her husband, because God permitted an individual to put away his wife and marry another and yet said “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” And certainly would not give one law and turn right around and give another that would violate it. So I do not understand then, that polygamy is adultery, nor do we understand from the Old Testament that the putting away of a companion and the marrying of another, at least under the law, was adultery.
I want to read that in the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy, if I may. “When a man taketh a wife and marrieth her, then it shall be if she finds no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall 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 give it in her hand, and send her out of his house, or if the latter husband die who took her to be his wife, her former husband who sent her away may not take her again to be his wife after that she is defiled, for that is abomination before Jehovah. And thou shalt not cause the land to sin which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” That’s verses one through 4 of Deuteronomy 24. So I think we can draw two conclusions from these matters. First of all is, that polygamy was not considered adultery under the Law. And neither was the putting away of a wife for some unseemly thing and marrying another. That was not considered adultery under the Law. So when we come to consider Jesus’ statement, we’ll have to interpret or understand it in the light of things said in the New.
As you move on through the Old Testament, and study things found in it, one of the things that you will notice is that in all of the criticism made of the nations round about (and I’ve been a teacher of the prophets and a student of the prophets for twenty years now), and that’s one of the things I’ve been looking for, is to find some indication in the writings of the prophets where God condemned or criticized the nations for putting away wives and marrying others. That is, what I’m trying to say is this: I’ve been trying to discover whether or not there was a law given in the beginning that included the nations, the heathen round about, as well as it did the Jews. Now, God did condemn or criticize the nations for cruelty. In the first 2 chapters of Amos, there are 6 nations there included: ah, Damascus, and Gaza, and Tyre, and Moab and Edom and Ammon, these six. Yet, when God condemns them for three sins, yea four, or three transgressions, yea, four, in all of them is such things as cruelty or stealing a people and selling them in slavery, things of that nature. But not a thing in the world about this matter of divorce and marriage. Same thing is true of Babylon. When God condemned Babylon in Jeremiah 51 and 52 (the two chapters), he condemned Babylon unto destruction because, he said, she hath sinned against Jehovah. Again, she hath been proud against Jehovah. And again, because of the iniquity or the sin against the Temple, that is, the destruction of the Temple, the desecrating of it. But, in all of these, there’s no mention of such a thing as this.
And so we come on through the Old Testament to the last book of it. And in Malachi, the second chapter, there we have a statement from God to his own people. Now in Nehemiah and Esther, I mean Nehemiah and Ezra, you will find in those two books that when the children of Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity, that some of them put away their wives and married foreigners. Now God rebuked them severely for that. Then we come to Malachi who is contemporary with Nehemiah and here is what God said to them in this last book of the Old Testament, second chapter, beginning with verse 13. “And this again you do. You cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping and with sighing, insomuch that he regard it not, the offering anymore, neither receiveth it with good will at your hand.” Now it is, these men, in putting away their wives were causing their wives to cover the altar with tears. And that’s the thing that…and so God said I’ll..can’t accept your sacrifices because of the sin that you’ve committed. “Yet you say, “Wherefore?’” That is, why don’t you accept it at our hand? “Because Jehovah hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth against whom thou has dealt treacherously though she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant.”
Now, I want to stop and make this observation, there, that this matter of becoming married is a covenant relationship. Two individuals come together and here a covenant, that is, individuals under God at least, their agreement is that of a covenant. Now then, God said, “Because you have been faithless against the wife of your covenant,” here. “You’ve dealt treacherously with her, though she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.”
Then moving on down to verse 16, God said, “For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts, therefore take heed to your spirit that you deal not treacherously.” Now that is Malachi two, verses 13 through 16, in which God condemns this matter of divorce and putting away among his people. Now the thing that I’m trying to say is this: that whatever law that you have in the Bible concerning the matter of marriage and divorce and remarriage, so far as I am able to learn, it is a law that God has made, or a part of a covenant, that God has made with his people.
Now Paul says, and so someone is gonna’ say, “Well, how could an individual be guilty of adultery before that time?” Well, in Heb…in Romans the 5th chapter and verse 13, Paul says that “before the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not in…or where there is no law….” (tape is interrupted….Homer Hailey is heard to say, “it has to be a first class mechanic with these gadgets that we have.” tape continues…) Looking at the passage of scripture now that I was quoting just a moment ago, when we ran out of tape, the apostle says in the second chapter of Romans and verse 13, that “before the law, sin was in the world,” but, he says, “sin, but sin is not imputed where there is no law.” Then in Romans the second chapter, ah, the third chapter rather, and about verse 19, the apostle says that “we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law, that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world brought under condemnation.” Now Paul says that when the law speaks, it speaks to them that are under the law. I understand, then, that whatever God said concerning this matter of marriage and divorce in the Old Covenant, it was to the Jews. He was speaking to those who were under the Law.
Now, here’s the point that I wanted to make. That surely, this matter of divorce and remarriage has always been contrary to the will of God from the very beginning. That who are the ones that sin in doing it, or rather, unto whom is sin imputed, ah, who did these things. Why, it was to those individuals under the Law, says the apostle Paul. So, so far as I know, any law that pertained to this matter of marriage or putting away of a companion and marrying another under the Old Covenant, it was given to the Jews who were in covenant relationship with God. I know not a single passage in the Old Testament that remotely suggests or indicates that this law pertained to the Gentiles of that time. Though, as I’ve already said, I recognize the fact that a thing can be wrong in the sight of God and yet it is not, an individual isn’t under the condemnation of that until there is given to him a law, until it is made known.
Now, that’s the Old Testament, and about all I know about it. Now let us turn to the New Testament and what it says on the subject.
Turning now to the passage we quoted a moment ago, from Matthew the nineteenth chapter, beginning with verse 3, “The Pharisees came to him trying him and saying, Teacher, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Now, at that particular time, there was two schools of thought on the subject: Hillel and Shammi or Shammai, two Jewish teachers. One of them taught that you could put away your wife for any cause, that is, if she couldn’t cook, or burn the food, or you saw another that you liked better, you could put her away. The other one contended that a man could put away his wife only for unfaithfulness, for adultery. Well, course one of them, I think, went a little stronger maybe, than the Old Law did. The other one did not go as strong as the Law did. But, at any rate, those were the two ideas. Now, what these Pharisees wanted to do was to put Jesus, now, at variance with one or the other of these. But Jesus answered and said unto them, “Have you not read?” He rejects either school of these, ah, teachers and turns to the Law, itself. “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning, made them male and female and said, for this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one flesh, so that they are no more two, but one flesh? What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Now friends, let’s learn that lesson. That when it comes to the matter of marriage, it is God who joins together. It’s not simply the ceremony. It’s the fact that two individuals under God come together and enter into a covenant with each other that they’re going to live together as husband and wife. And God joins them together. Now then Jesus said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Hence, then, man has not the right to put asunder that which God joins together.
Well, they come up then with a second question, “Why then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement and put her away?” That’s the passage in Deuteronomy 24, which we read a moment ago. And Jesus’ answer was that, “Moses, for the hardness of your heart, suffered you to put away your wives…” Why, it wasn’t a commandment. It was simply a concession that God made because of the hardness of the hearts of the Jews. And Jesus said, “for the hardness of your hearts,” Moses suffered you to put away your wives, but “from the beginning, it hath not been so.” That is, in God’s purpose, in God’s plan, it was never his intention that that thing should be. And as Paul said, before the law was given sin was in the world, but where sin is not imputed, where there is no law, hence, then, even though it was contrary to the will of God, so far as I know, there was no law that the Gentile was under in that particular matter of marriage and divorce and remarriage. If he was, I know not of any.
Now then comes Jesus’ statement. Now that’s what the law has said. But Jesus adds the final word to it when he says, “But I say unto you, whosoever putteth away his wife, except for fornication, and marrieth another committeth adultery. And he that marrieth her when she’s put away committeth adultery.”
I cannot understand that any way other than that Jesus, there, recognizes the fact that unfaithfulness on the part of one or the other the companions will release the innocent one, that that one is released from the covenant. But I want to say this: there’s something else to be considered there. The innocent party is not to use that as pretext for a divorce, but is to do everything that he can to try to save the marriage, all that he can do. Now, there’s a fine Old Testament illustration of that in the first three chapters of the book of Hosea. Hosea married a woman by the name of Gomer and she was of the people of the day who were idolatrous and their idolatry led to adultery and fornication. It was a very lascivious and licentious type of worship. But at any rate, this woman, after a while, went after her lovers. She became a prostitute, as it were, and left her husband and her children and went after her lovers. But even at that, God told him later to go and take a woman “beloved of a friend.” And he went and bought back unto himself this woman for the equivalent of thirty pieces of silver, that is, counting the barley that he had traded in, and the money that he paid. It was equivalent to thirty pieces of silver. But he told him that she would not be a wife unto him nor he a husband unto her, at least for a certain length of time. How long, I don’t know. But the idea that I want to get across is this: that here was a man who had every legitimate reason in the world to have married another woman if he had wanted to. But he did all he could do to save his home. And eventually bought her back unto himself. Now, don’t misunderstand me. The New Testament doesn’t impose that upon an individual, I’m conscious of that fact. But, I am saying this, that an individual is not to jump at the opportunity simply because a companion became unfaithful, and use that, now, as a pretext to get a divorce. That’s the thing I’m saying, ah, that the Bible would not endorse. Do everything you can to save it. Now, when that covenant is completely broken and there is no hope left again, then, according to the words of Jesus Christ, that individual would be free to marry again. And I see not how anybody could get anything out of that except for the right of the innocent party.
Now, there’s a second thing to be considered in that. When is an innocent party innocent? That needs some thought and consideration. Some time, the so-called innocent party is responsible for driving the other individual to do that which he or she has done, by this one’s own conduct and behavior. Now, that doesn’t mean that the guilty party is excused in what he’s done. No, I didn’t say that. The guilty part is not excused in what he has done, but the innocent party is not altogether innocent. That’s the point that I want to to drive home tonight. And some times a man or a woman has been driven to unfaithfulness by the nagging, or by the attitude, or the disposition of the companion. Whether it be nagging, or whether it be a lack of the marital relationship, or whatever it may be, the innocent party is not always innocent. And so that needs to be considered. So when we begin to consider this matter of an individual divorcing and marrying again, though Jesus Christ said, “whosoever putteth away his wife, saving for (or except for) the cause of fornication, and marrieth another committeth adultery,” we recognize that Jesus Christ recognized the right of an individual to put away a companion and marry again under a particular condition or circumstance. What I’m saying is, we are not to use that as a pretext but do all that one can to save the marriage, to save the home, and then after all has been done, be sure that that individual is an innocent party in the matter and not responsible for what the other has done and become. That needs to be considered.
(Static) Alright then, in Matthew the fifth chapter, where in verses, oh, about 30 or 31, Jesus said, “Ye have heard said of old time that thou shalt not commit adultery, and whosoever committeth adultery, there, that he should be in danger of the law, there.” Now he goes on to say, “Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her have committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Now, “it was said also, whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for, and marrieth, ah, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress. And whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.” Now when he said, “maketh her an adulteress,” he doesn’t mean there that simply the putting away of this woman makes the woman an adulteress, no. But it is if she marries again, or, the thing that she does when put away makes her an adulteress. So, then, friends, Jesus Christ has made the thing very clear, that so far individuals who come under the law of Christ is concerned, that that individual who puts away a companion except for fornication and marries another commits adultery. Or, if one puts away his companion, she marries another, he makes her an adulteress, and the one who marries her becomes an adulteress, an adulterer.
Now that’s what the Lord says about the subject. That, so far as I’m concerned, is the last and the final word on it, so far as God’s attitude towards this matter is concerned.
I think we ought to consider some of the causes today. Drinking is one of the most prevalent causes for individuals getting divorces. And surely if there’s a ground on earth, ah, it seems to me, that would give one the right, that would be it. Yet the Lord said nothing in the world about it. Sometimes, it’s lack of making a living, sometimes it’s incompatibility, whatever it may be, why, Jesus still just made one statement concerning it.
Now, I want to raise another question tonight, and this is the question that I find, ah, confuses so many people. Ah, now, and that is, does this law, then, that you’re talking about, does that pertain to the individual who is in the world? Now that is the question that gives us the most concern and consideration today, and what shall we do about situations like this? I’m going to discuss this, even at the risk of being misunderstood, or, or ah, misrepresented on it, or even at the risk of being mistaken on it. Because any time an individual discusses a thing on which the Bible has said nothing at all, he takes that particular risk of being mistaken in his conclusion based on what he has. But, when we go back to the beginning, and that’s where Jesus went was to the beginning, back here, in the beginning. Now when we get back there, ah, we….(a few unclear words) there are two groups of people. Here are those that are under the law. Well, the law, then, that was the Jew, of course, who was under the law. Here, then, were the nations who were left outside of that. Now, do we contend that the law, here, was given to the nations or the nations were under the law? No, for Paul said, “what soever things the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law.” Well, the Jew was the one to whom the law was given, Deuteronomy the fifth chapter, verses about three and four. “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God hath made a covenant with us this day. Jehovah made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” So the covenant then, was made with “us who are all alive that day.” Exodus the thirty-fourth chapter, verses twenty seven and twenty eight: “And Jehovah said unto Moses, write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with the house of Israel. And he continued with Jehovah in the mount forty days and forty nights, did neither eat bread nor drink water, and he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” Now, the ten commandments and the words of the covenant, and the covenant that God made was made with Israel, it was not made with others. Hence, then, I conclude, here, that this law speaks to the man under the law.
Now, I come over to the New Testament, here, and here is Jesus speaking in this passage, which we have just quoted. Now to whom is he speaking? He is speaking to individuals who are in covenant relationship with God. Those people before him were under the covenant of God. He is also laying down the law that is to govern the people who shall be under covenant to him, or in covenant relationship with God through him. Now, then, friends, that raises the question, what Jesus says here, does that apply, now, to the individual who is out here in the world, or does it appear, or is it, apply only to the individuals who are under covenant relationship with God? Now, that’s the question that has been in my mind and the basis on which I have sought to decide this matter. There are problems involved in this matter of marriage and divorce and remarriage which I know we can never satisfactorily solve, or solve to the satisfaction of everybody, and sometimes of nobody. That’ll have to be resolved at the Judgment. I believe that to be true, so I don’t try to solve all the questions that people bring to me on this matter.
But now, here, here is the, here is what Jesus says, then, in Matthew the nineteenth chapter. I believe that that pertains to those in covenant relationship with God.
Now, I turn to First Corinthians, the seventh chapter, and here the apostle is discussing a matter, ah, that sometimes is brought up and, ah, ah, we seek to settle this question on the basis of it. But as I turn to the seventh chapter, here, ah, the seventh chapter of First Corinthians, and if you have your Bible in order turn to it, and read it with me. What Paul is discussing here in this chapter is the relation of husband and wife. Not talking about divorce; he’s talking about the relation of husband and wife, and if one leave the other. But I want you to note what he says, here, ah, beginning with verse, about seven or, ah, no, about, well, let’s start at verse one. “Now concerning the things whereof you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” I think that’s what they wrote. I do not believe that’s what Paul is saying, but that’s one of the things that which they had written. ” But because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife her due and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband. And likewise also, the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other except it be by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves unto prayer and may be together again that Satan tempt you not, because of your incontinency.” Now, if individuals understood, ah, one another, if the man properly understood the difference between a woman’s nature and his own, and a woman understood the difference between the man’s nature and disposition and her own, ah, when they get married, and each tried to understand the other better, it would keep down a great deal of the friction and misunderstanding that sometimes ends in divorce. But, because they do not, then in those first few weeks of marriage, love is destroyed. Any future compatibility and real hope of getting along is likewise broken. That’s why that a mother ought to teach her daughter things that she needs to know before she gets married. A man ought to teach his son, in fact it wouldn’t hurt if the mother talked to her son about things from a woman’s point of view which her husband might not understand. It might not be amiss if the father talked to the daughter about things from the man’s point of view that her mother could not properly explain to her, that when a young man and a young woman enter into the marriage relationship, that they do not enter into it blindly and in ignorance, but understanding as much as they can from their parents, the right source concerning these matters.
But, Paul continues, “But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment, yet I would that all men were even such as I am, howbeit myself, howbeit each man hath his own gift from God after this manner or another. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them that they abide even as I.” Now that was because of the condition that existed as you learn from verse 26, why, as you read that far. “But if they have not continency, let them marry, for it’s marry than to burn.” To burn in their lusts. “But unto the married, I give charge..” Now, listen to it. “Yea, not I, but the Lord, that the wife depart not from her husband, but should she depart, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And that the husband leave not his wife.” Now, notice. “But to the married I give charge, yet not I, to the, but the Lord.” Now, what do you have that the Lord said? I think Jesus Christ summed up about all that he said here in Matthew the nineteenth chapter. What, now then, who would be included in that? Now listen to the next expression. This is a point that I’d like for you to get, if I can get it across to you. Listen to me carefully, now. “But unto the…” now he goes on to say, “But to the rest say I, not the Lord. If any brother hath a unbelieving wife and she be, is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her.” Now, here the Lord speaks unto somebody. Now, the apostle says to “the rest say I, not the Lord.” Alright, now, Paul, then speaks to the rest. Who would be the rest? It would be where one is a Christian and the other is not a Christian. Hence, then, if the Lord spoke to somebody, Paul spoke to the rest, who would be the ones that Jesus spoke to? It seems to me that they would be the ones that a husband and a wife are both in covenant relationship with God. For Paul is speaking now to some where one is is in covenant relationship with God and the other is not. “To the rest, say I, if any man have an unbelieving wife or any woman have an unbelieving husband.” Now, what did either Jesus or Paul say to those where neither was in covenant relationship with God? So far as I know, they said nothing. That is, so far as I know, I haven’t found the passage. I don’t know of anything that is said unto one under such a condition.
Now, Paul goes on to say, “and let the woman that hath the unbelieving husband and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband.” And then he goes on, then, to discuss further, the condition there.
Now, friends, that raises, then this question. And, that, I know it’s a question that concer…that bothers us a great deal. It’s bothered a number of people. And you’ve gone to people for answer and generally they turned to Matthew the nineteenth chapter which I personally do not believe deals with it. And that’s this question, now. Here are two individuals, ah, who were married back there before they became Christians. Now, they divorce. They married again. Later on, they learn the truth, they want to become Christian, they want to obey the gospel. Now what about that? Shall this man put away his wife or this woman put away her husband? That’s back here, now. Here, then, ah???? a woman and the man, they were married back here. Alright, now then, they separate and this woman marries another man, this man marries another woman, here. Alright, now, clearly, that’s not according to the will of God. We understand that. That’s, Paul says there was sin in the world, where the law was not given their were..sins were not imputed. Now, this woman and this man come later on and they want, now, to become Christians. Well, what about that? What can they do? What shall they do? That’s the question that’s raised. What, I’ll raise this question. What does the Bible say about it? Where did an apostle ever raise a question concerning it? Where does an apostle ever write to a church telling them how to handle a situation like that? There is not a passage either in the preaching of the apostles, or in the epistles of the apostles that deal with that matter. Now, as far as I’m concerned, I have learned to keep my mouth shut on a subject of which God says not one word in the world. Now, I’ve got lots of friends that differ from me on that. They want to argue the question, and with some young men that went up into the Northwest a few years ago, friends of mine, and actually they became so radical on the subject that when an individual came forward to be baptized, they didn’t ask them if he believed Jesus Christ was the son of God, they asked him if he had been divorced and married again. Where, oh where did any apostle ever ask a question like that?
Well, somebody says, “Preacher, if you was to go on and baptize them alright, then what? Then, next Sunday, we’ll meet together and withdraw fellowship from them.” I don’t believe that God’s way of doing it. I believe that they’re, that that is not the way to put that matter. If then, out of the all the Gentiles, both Jews and Gentiles, back here under the Old Covenant, who came to the apostles, here, who came to Christ Jesus, to be baptized and to be saved, if among all of those individuals, an apostle never raised a question concerning that, an apostle never wrote an epistle, rather that dealt with it, then, good friends, it’s my contention that God just simply didn’t have anything to say about it. And where God was silent on a subject, I believe it’s the, ah, it’s the point of wisdom for me to say nothing on it, or to legislate on it. You say “Well, Preacher, suppose they get to the Judgement and they found that they ought to’ve put away their companions,” that’ll still between, be between them and God, because God didn’t tell me what to do about it. If God had told me what to say, I want to tell you frankly tonight, good people, I’ll say it. I’d be saying it anywhere in the world. I try to say everything that I find in the Book.
So that brings you then to the proposition of Matthew the nineteenth chapter. Does Matthew the nineteenth chapter deal with those under covenant relationship with God or does it deal with individuals back here, that’s the question. That’s the question that you’ll have to decide. I do not quote Matthew 19, ah, three through six to the individual who comes to me to be baptized and tell him that here was the law, so you’ve got to separate from your companion before I can baptize you, for the simple fact not an apostle ever did it, not an apostle ever wrote a letter telling a church what to do about it. You say, “Well, if we baptize such individuals and the church becomes filled with those kind of folk, then what?” Then what? Well, we’ll just have to, that’s alright, if that’s God’s will to accept those people, there isn’t anything that I can do about it. Then, it was God’s intention that they should be saved. They should obey the gospel. Well, was it his intention that they should put away their companion? I don’t know, he didn’t say. So, if he didn’t say, I leave it where he left it. And I’ll conclude that it was not his will, because I’m not going to legislate where God didn’t legislate. You say, “Well, Preacher, you gonna’ legislate saying it’s alright?” I’m not going to legislate at all. If God didn’t legislate, I’m not going to. Now, friends, that’s my attitude on this matter and on any other matter on which God did not legislate. I refuse to, where he did.
Ah, I’m conscious of the fact that they’re, that these questions gonna’ continue to come up. Now, when it comes to individuals over here in the church under Matthew 19, a man puts away his wife or a woman puts away her husband, because she sees somebody else she wants to marry, and marries him, I’ll not even eat with that individual. I was in a meeting one time when a woman who was a kinsman to my wife invited me to come home and eat with them. I said, “Wait, I’ll have to talk to you first.” I knew the circumstance, she’d lately gone to Chicago on a visit, left her husband down in Texas, got up there, fell in love with another fellow, sued for divorce, married the fellow, and wanted me to go eat with them. Why, no, I wouldn’t eat with her. I said, “No, I won’t eat with you.” I didn’t eat with her. Why, I considered that woman living in violation of the law of God. You say, “Well, God, does God two laws?” No. He has a law here that governs the people under covenant relationship with himself. At least that’s my understanding of it. Now, I know that other men who’ll speak to you do not see it in that particular light. But I personally cannot see it in any other light when that’s all God said about it. And if he didn’t say anything, I’m not going to. I don’t speak where the Lord didn’t speak. And a lot of the, lot of the fussing that we’ve had on this matter, and a lot of the heartaches and the things that we’ve done in matters of this kind are things that just simply didn’t pertain unto us so far as dealing with it.
Friends, there are a lot of things in this world, ah, that I do that affects the whole church. There are a lot of, ah, that I could do, there are a lot of things that I do that affect only me. This morning, in teaching the book of Job, that’s what Job told his friends. He said, “If I have done these things,” he said, “what have I done against you?” It was a matter between himself and God. And some of the things that individuals do are matters between them and God. They do not affect the whole church. When a thing becomes a matter of doctrine, then it affects the church. When it becomes a matter of certain types of sin by the members of the church, that may affect the church. But what individuals did before, and, ind…, whatever the individual may do now, that’s a matter that pertains to him and the Lord.
Now, whether that is as you view it or not, I’m not gonna’ fall out with you. I hope you won’t fall out with me on the matter. I am a bitter opponent to divorce and remarriage. Divorce doesn’t settle your question, it doesn’t settle a problem. To marry again only adds to the problem. But those things which people did in the world before they come to Christ, that’s between them and God and does not concern the church over here as long as something that affects only themselves. Oh, there might be some exception to some things, I’m talking about this particular thing now.
So then, friends, as I bring you this lesson tonight, and I’m not going to speak as long as brother Pickup did, ah, there are maybe other things that deal with it, in fact, there are lots of things that I would like to have preached on, on the law that regulates the relation of husband and wife. Ah, that’s set forth in the New Testament, such passages as Eph…I’m not going to, I’m just going to mention it. Ephesians 5, beginning with verse twenty-two through thirty-three, Paul says, “Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church unto himself a glorious church, not having spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. Even so, ought husbands to love their own wives as their own bodies, for no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth it and cherisheth it even as Christ also the church, for we are members of his body. And the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great, but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. Nevertheless, let each one of you see that he rev…, that he love his own wife, and let the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Peter says in First Peter three, verses one through three or four, “In like manner ye wives, be in subjection to your husbands, that if any obey not the word they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives, beholding your chaste behavior, coupled with fear, whose adorning, let it not be the outward adorning of braiding the hair and of wearing apparel and of putting on jewel… I mean, the wearing of jewels and putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of the meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God a great price. For after this manner, the women of old adorned themselves, even as Sarah called Abraham Lord.” Then he says, “Husbands, love your wives…ah, in like manner, rather, you husbands, dwell with your own wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life.”
Now, friends, if we’ll teach our boys and girls the sacredness of marriage, and the fact that it is a divine law of God, God joins them together, teach them how to select a companion as best we can (they still won’t pay any attention to us, but let us do the best we can) in trying to help them. Then teach them as best we can how to live together when they are married and that for them, who know the will of the Lord and who are under covenant relationship with God, that it is a matter binding just as long as they shall live. And then, let us set the example before them, and I believe that that’ll do much toward curin…curing this matter of divorce and remarriage today. That’s, ah, ah, remember that our home is the foundation of the nation. And when the home goes, the nation goes. Now, homes are going today in the way that homes are going; our nation is doomed to fall. It’s sure to fall. You cannot destroy the sanctity and the sacredness of the home and expect the nation long to stand. It’ll go down. Let us see that we stand out against those things. Let us see that we practice the things that are right. Then when individuals who’ve never known the way of the Lord want to obey the gospel and serve God, let’s baptize them and try to help them to live the Christian life and to practice, to ah, profit by their mistakes, to teach their children differently, and so correct this great evil that threatens the very life of our nation.
Sometimes I preach three or four sermons on this but tonight, I’ve tried to deal with a particular question that I thought you were concerned with. If I’ve missed any of them, then I am sorry, I tried to include all of them as best I could in this lesson.
If you are here tonight, subject to the gospel, to obey it in baptism; wandered away from the faith and want to return to the Lord and to your first love, while the invitation is being sung, and heaven extends it, will you come while we sing?