MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
Marriage to Unbelievers. Deuteronomy 7:2-6
The book of Deuteronomy is a series of addresses given by Moses on the banks of the Jordan just before his death and just before Israel entered the promised land. He gives two reasons why Israelites should not intermarry with unbelieving nations. First such marriages would turn them away from following the true God, and second, they would soon cease to be a distinct and holy people. So great was this danger that Joshua gave the same warning in his farewell sermon just before his death. Joshua 23:1-13. Joshua declared that the results of such marriages would be fatal to their prosperity and spirituality and even their national existence.
The future history of Israel showed the need of these warnings although they were forgotten, especially during the Babylonian captivity. On the return to the promised land, Ezra carried on a reformation in which he demanded obedience to God’s instruction through Moses and Joshua. Ezra 9:1-6, 10-12, 15. This shows how terrible the sin of mixed marriages is in the sight of God. The people responded to the call for a reformation and the camp was cleansed of an evil that was bringing upon them “the fierce wrath of God.” Ezra 10:1-14. But only 12 years later the reformation had to be resumed by Nehemiah who used severe measures to convince the Israelites of the terrible nature of sin of intermarriage. Nehemiah 13:23-27. This was a part of the reformation which included proper Sabbath observance and faithfulness in tithe paying. Nehemiah 13:10-22.
The passing of time has not lessened the danger of God’s people intermarrying with unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. Our very message is to announce that “Babylon is fallen, is fallen. … Come out of her my people.” And yet in the face of all the warnings of Scripture and the sad lesson of the past, thousands of modern Israelites are going into modern Babylon to find their life companions. This is a very serious step and one of three things must eventually happen. Either the Christian will give up his or her faith and go with the unconverted companion into the world and be lost, or the worldly companion will become a Christian, or there must eventually be a sad separation. In only a small percent of such unions is the unconverted and worldly companion won to the church. Two persons cannot be happy unless they are agreed and can walk together. It is essential to a happy home that the husband and wife be mated physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually, and of the four, spiritual agreement is the most important.
Sign of the End. Genesis 6:2, 5; Matthew 24:37-39
“We are living in the last days when the mania upon the subject of marriage constitutes one of the signs of the near coming of Christ. God is not consulted in these matters. … There is not one marriage in one hundred that results happily, that bears the sanction of God, and places the parties in a position better to glorify Him. The evil consequences of poor marriages are numberless. They are contracted from impulse. A candid review of the matter is scarcely thought of and consultation with those of experience is considered old-fashioned. Impulse and unsanctified passion exist in the place of pure love. Many imperil their own souls, and bring the curse of God upon them, by entering into the marriage relation merely to please the fancy.” —Vol. 4:503, 504. Marriage is often considered a joke and not half the study and thought given it as to a business partnership or even a business contract.
“It is a dangerous thing to form a worldly alliance. Satan well knows that the hour that witnesses the marriage of many young men and women closes the history of their religious experience and usefulness. They are lost to Christ. They may for a time make an effort to live a Christian life; but all their strivings are made against a steady influence in the opposite direction. Once is was a privilege and a joy to speak of their faith and hope; but they become unwilling to mention the subject, knowing that the one with whom they have linked their destiny takes no interest in it. As the result, faith in the precious truth dies out of the heart, and Satan insidiously weaves about them a web of skepticism. … Those who profess the truth trample on the will of God in marrying unbelievers; they lose His favor, and make bitter work for repentance.”—Ibid., p. 504, 505. If those contemplating such a step could only hear some of the heart-breaking confessions that are being made to church leaders, it would warn them of the fearful consequences of going contrary to God’s instruction.
“Though the companion of your choice was in all other respects worthy, yet he has not accepted the truth for this time; he is an unbeliever, and you are forbidden of heaven to unite yourself with him. You cannot without peril to your soul, disregard the divine injunction. … You cannot see behind the scenes, and discern the snares that Satan is laying for your soul. … To connect with an unbeliever is to place yourself on Satan’s ground. You grieve the Spirit of God and forfeit His protection. Can you afford to have such terrible odds against you in fighting the battle for everlasting life? You may say, “but I have given my promise, and shall I now retract it?” I answer, if you have made a promise contrary to the Scriptures, by all means retract it without delay, and in humility before God repent of the infatuation that led you to make so rash a pledge. Far better to take back such a promise, in the fear of God, than keep it, and thereby dishonor your Maker.”—Vol. 5:364, 365.
High Moral Standard. Deuteronomy 23:14, 17; 22:20, 21
Under the Exodus movement unfaithfulness to the marriage vow was especially severely dealt with. Verse 22. Has God changed or lowered His standard in this matter? Eccl. 8:11. If the Lord pronounced the sentence of death upon those guilty of adultery, surely the church can do nothing less than disfellowship them. This is absolutely necessary to the preservation of the purity of the church. This is the standard under the Advent Movement and it should be maintained without fear or favor. “Cleanse the camp of this moral corruption, if it takes the highest men in the highest positions. God will not be trifled with. Fornication is in our ranks, I know it, for it has been shown me to be strengthening and extending its pollutions. … Cleanse the camp, for there is an accursed thing in it.”—T.M. 427, 428. “The time has come for earnest and powerful efforts to rid the church of the slime and filth which is tarnishing her purity.”—Ibid., p. 450. On page 434 we are told that any woman who permits undue attention and familiarities from any man other than her husband “is an adulteress and harlot.”
Divorce was not only divinely permitted in the Exodus Movement but is absolutely necessary to the protection of the marriage institution. Only one ground for divorce, however, was recognized. Deuteronomy 24:1-4. “If she goes and marries another man.” (Moffatt). There is no divine permission for her to remarry, because she is the guilty party, but if she does remarry and then gets a divorce, the first husband has no right to remarry her. “She shall not be allowed to return to the first who divorced her, to be married as his wife, after she has sinned, for that would be loathsome in the presence of the Ever-Living.” (Fenton). This is equivalent to saying that no person has the right to marry the guilty party who also has no right to remarry. It also indicates that it is a sin to continue living with a husband or wife who is guilty of adultery, unless, of course, there is a thorough repentance and reformation.
The New Testament maintains exactly the same standards, for the Scriptures constitute one Book with one standard. The entire Bible came from the same source and cannot contradict itself. Jesus did not lift the standard any higher. He only “magnified” the law and the Old Testament Scriptures so that we can grasp their true spiritual significance. This is illustrated in Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28, 31, 32. Jesus does not raise the standard of the writings of Moses; he only explains their real meaning and significance. It was Christ who gave the instruction through Moses and He is only explaining His own Word. It is not true that Moses permitted divorce on unscriptural grounds, and it is also not true that Christ did not permit divorce on any grounds. The standard is the same in both ancient and modern Israel in both the Old and New Testament. The statement of Christ is repeated in Matthew 19:9. Divorce and remarriage are divine rights on the part of the innocent party only.
Marriage Tie Broken
Adultery by either husband or wife breaks the marriage tie as completely as if the marriage had never been consummated. 1 Corinthians 6:15-18. “Or do you not know that a man who has do with a prostitute is one with her in body? For God says, “The two shall become one.” (Wey). This explains what Jesus meant when he said that when a man and woman are joined in marriage “the two shall become one flesh.” Therefore when either of them commit adultery; the marriage tie is broken and the guilty party becomes one flesh with another. This is one meaning of the statement, “what God has joined together let no man put asunder.” Husbands and wives are commanded not to permit another man or woman to come between them and put them asunder by breaking the marriage tie.
If the innocent party continues to live with a companion who is living in adultery and who has thus become one flesh with another, he or she also becomes guilty of immorality. Of course if the guilty party truly repents and confesses the wrong and shows evidence of bringing forth fruit meet for repentance, the innocent party may exercise forgiveness and take the transgressor back. However, this decision can be made only by the one who has remained loyal to the marriage tie, and if there is evidence that the repentance is not genuine and that the sin will be repeated, he or she has the right before God to make the separation permanent and to obtain a divorce. There is no other way to protect the sacredness of the marriage institution. The person who obtains a divorce on the only grounds recognized in the Scriptures, has just as much right to remarry as to marry in the first place and is undeserving of criticism when he or she chooses to exercise this right.
This is the standard of the Advent Movement. See “Church Manual” on “Marriage and Divorce.” With those who accept the truth and come out of the world, we believe that the Lord accepts them where he finds them and forgives the past in which are many things that cannot be undone. An attempt to fix up the past would in many instances do more harm than good by adding sin to sin. Whatever the past life has been, if there is evidence of genuine repentance and of a consistent Christian life we must conclude that God has forgiven and accepted those whom Christ is able and anxious to “save to the uttermost.” The genuine Christian in the church will never snub such or harass them with gossip but will treat them as they would be treated. Jesus declared that the publicans and harlots had a better chance of entering the kingdom than the hypocritical and self righteous Pharisees. There is nothing that more effectually disqualifies a person for the kingdom of heaven like the spirit of intolerance. The spirit of Christ and Christians is that of love, forbearance and forgiveness.
A Godly Example
“The relation between Christ and His church, and Christ and His individual followers, is represented in the Scriptures by the marriage relation. We are united to Christ by the cords of love which produce loyalty. Sin cuts the tie that binds us to Christ and if persistently and continuously indulged in will eventually lead to a divorce or separation. Any kind of disloyalty or unfaithfulness to Christ including “the friendship of the world” is declared to be spiritual adultery. James 4:4. Christ is not bound to continue in union with a harlot. The very thought is repulsive. Therefore, Christ Himself has set the example of divorce on the ground of adultery. See Ezekiel 23:1-5; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8. Nothing short of this high standard of purity and loyalty is in keeping with the character of Christ, who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” and to “look on iniquity.” The Lord intends that His people shall maintain the same high standards in purity and morality.
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