Lehman Strauss, Litt.D., F.R.G.S.
The institution of marriage as a useful social factor is being challenged in our times. It is possible that there never has been a time in history when so many people entertained the thought that marriage is obsolete. There are a number of contributing factors to this growing concept that marriage is losing its usefulness.
One factor is an ever-increasing trend toward "a new morality" which says that sexual relations are legitimate without marriage. I have been told that a report based upon a questionnaire submitted to ten thousand college and university students showed that 62% engaged in sexual intercourse. All were unmarried. The consensus of the members of the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) is that people do not have to marry for sex. The SIECUS board is made up of psychiatrists, sociologists, clergymen and business men. The administrative heads in some colleges and universities have made it easy for male and female students to "shack up" together for the purpose of engaging in sexual relations.
Another contributing factor to the breakdown of marriage is a growing degeneracy among married couples. A cult known as Group Sex boasts of more than one million participants, better known as "swingers." A husband and wife will join several other couples on a given night, or weekend, to engage in all sorts of sexual practices. This is known as the Orgy. Now this is not a commune of dirty, far-out hippies, but rather almost exclusively suburban married couples. Such immoral degeneracy has cast a shadow over the sacred institution of marriage.
The third contributing factor to the growing consensus that marriage is fast becoming obsolete is an increase in homosexual and other unnatural relationships. These sordid and perverted practices are affecting the institution of marriage. Homosexuality is the collaboration of two persons of the same sex for the purpose of promoting sexual excitement and gratification. One unauthorized source has estimated that there are in excess of five million homosexuals in the United States. All three of the above mentioned factors are strictly forbidden and strongly condemned in Holy Scripture.
The Bible is very clear on all points which relate to marriage. And I believe I am qualified to add my own experience. Mrs. Strauss and I have celebrated this year our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Our's has not been the perfect marriage, however we have proven that God's principles and practices work. The longer we are privileged to live together as husband and wife, the more wonderful and blessed the marriage relationship becomes. Let me share with you some salient and significant thoughts from the Bible. These have helped us in our marriage, and I trust they will prove helpful to you.
In the wisdom and plan of Almighty God the marriage relationship between man and woman was provided. After God had created the earth and prepared it in every way to be suitable to man, He said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18). It seems that this was the one lack in Adam's life, namely, a woman who could be his companion, receive his love, and share his dominion over the earth. So God created the woman and presented her to Adam. The first marriage was God's doing. Marriage was not a human idea but a Divine institution.
It might surprise some of you when I point up the fact that the perfect man in the perfect environment was incomplete without the woman. Adam's living conditions were ideal, yet something important and necessary to him was missing. And it is evident from the biblical account that another person exactly like Adam could not meet his need. God knew that a male companion for Adam could never fill the void in his life. Man needs a woman.
Now there is an exception to this principle that, "it is not good that the man should be alone." The exception is with the man who has the gift of celibacy, which is the state of remaining unmarried. Paul discusses celibacy in 1Corinthians 7:6-8. He states that where this exception exists it is a gift from God. Not that celibacy is a holier state than marriage. It is a false system of spirituality which contends that celibacy is somehow holier than marriage. Because of man's normal waves of libido, marriage can contribute to his spirituality, "for it is better to marry than to burn" (I Corinthians 7:9). The Roman Catholic Church is having serious problems in this area. It has been reported that more than 3,000 priests leave the priesthood every year, the majority of them giving as their reason the desire and need for marriage. Unless a man has the gift of celibacy, the Roman Church has no right to impose such a restriction on any priest. Moreover, young men considering the priesthood as their vocation for life should make certain that they possess the gift of celibacy. It was God who said, "It is not good that the man should be alone."
You have no doubt heard it said that "marriages are made in heaven." I heard a pastor make this statement, so I asked him to explain it. He told me he believed, "some marriages were made in heaven and some were not. A marriage that was not made in heaven is not a marriage at all." When I asked him to describe a marriage made in heaven and one not made in heaven, he replied, "A marriage of two Christians is made in heaven. A marriage of two persons who are not Christians, or when one mate is a Christian and the other is not, is not made in heaven." This is false reasoning, for which, of course, there is no biblical basis. Marriage was instituted by God on earth, in the time of man's innocency before sin entered. After the resurrection of the body and in the world to come men "neither marry, nor are given in marriage" (Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35). Marriage is not a Christian institution. It is to be honored by all peoples (Hebrews 13:4). It has nothing to do with heaven; it is confined to earth.
Since becoming a Christian I have thanked the Lord on many occasions for providing the marriage relationship. God gave to me a wonderful Christian wife, and with the passing of time I have a growing appreciation for God's provision for me. My wife is all to me that God intended she should be, "an help meet" (Genesis 2:18). The woman is to be a "help" to her husband. Every man needs that "help" that his wife only can provide. When God formed the first woman He did so by means of a surgical process. He removed a rib from Adam, and from that rib He built the first woman (Genesis 2:21-23). After God removed the rib from Adam, the man was no longer complete in himself. The woman whom God made from man's rib is needed to complete the man. Apart from my salvation in Jesus Christ, the most beautiful gift and the most satisfying provision God has made for me is my wife.
At this point in our deliberations, let me address myself to those unmarried persons who are looking ahead to marriage. After a person has decided to receive Jesus Christ, the greatest decision ever to be faced in life is the selection of a lifetime partner, a husband or a wife. I cannot stress too strongly that the choice of your mate in marriage is of the gravest concern. No Christian should ever attempt marriage without prayer and a thorough search of the Scriptures. Thirty-five years in the Christian ministry have opened many doors of opportunity for marriage counseling, and I am prepared to say that many married persons who came to me seeking help were no more prepared for marriage on their wedding day than they were as little children playing with their toys. The only claim some brides and grooms have to maturity at their marriage is physical maturity. What difficulties many married couples have suffered because they were unprepared for marriage! Here are some precautionary steps one should consider before marriage.
A Christian should never, under any circumstances, marry an unsaved person. The Bible forbids a believer in Christ to consider marriage with an unbeliever. Mixed marriages are never countenanced by God in either the Old Testament or the New. No two persons can live in harmony except they are in agreement on life's most important choice (See Amos 3:3). If the one person has received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and the other has rejected Him, there is no common ground on which to start a marriage. The Bible warns, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Corinthians 6:14). This is a solemn command with which there can be no compromise. People with serious marital problems have complained frequently to marriage counselors that they have little or nothing in common. This has caused the breakdown of many marriages. Well then, how can there possibly be a successful marriage if both the man and woman cannot share their common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
The Christian stands in a totally different relationship to God than does the non-Christian. In Old Testament times the principle of separation was in force, for we read ". . . The Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel" (Exodus 11:7). Woe be to the man or woman who fails to put a difference where God has put one! If the principle of separation applies in business and social life, how much more emphatically does it apply in the most intimate relationship of life, that of marriage! As a minister of the Gospel I am committed to the biblical principle of never knowingly performing a marriage ceremony for two people unless both are committed Christians through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The mere thought of two persons being united in life, but separated throughout eternity, is well-nigh unbearable.
Early in my ministerial career a young Christian woman asked me to officiate at her marriage. Her fiancé was an unbeliever. Moreover, he refused to discuss with anyone the question of salvation and his relation to Jesus Christ. When I told her that I could not become involved in such an unscriptural alliance, she angrily said, "But I love him. What do you expect me to do?" I told her that being in love may be a good reason for getting married, but that it is not always a valid one. Now it goes without saying that we should not marry a person whom we do not love. But it is possible to fall in love with someone most unsuitable according to God's standards. It is also possible to be madly in love with somebody one day, and not feel the same about that same person six months later. Being in love is essential to a happy marriage, but any one of us could fall in love with the wrong person. Love is not the sole basis for marriage. Christian, take care! A mismated alliance in friendship can lead to a mismated alliance in love, and this in turn could lead to a mismated alliance in marriage which could end in disaster.
A Christian should not marry merely for sexual gratification. The marriages that are based on sex alone are not happy marriages. Young people in their teens should heed this counsel. In a normal person the psychic energy usually associated with the sexual instinct moves in cycles. It strikes first when we are in our teens, and at such an early age no person is mature enough to assume the responsibilities of marriage. Those first sex drives create a difficult and dangerous time for young people. It is an easy matter for any teen-ager to be carried away by an infatuation for a person of the opposite sex. Too often such an unreasoning and uncontrolled passion has been mistaken for love, and this in turn has resulted in broken marriages.
Now let me speak frankly about this matter of sex. It is wrong to say that sex per se is sinful. Though the word sex does not appear in the Bible, the idea is found throughout the Scriptures. It means either of the two divisions of organisms distinguished as male and female, and this includes the attraction of one sex for the other. The attraction of male for female, and vice versa, is a natural one. Let me add that it is an unnatural condition when this attraction does not exist. A person does not become more spiritual by disassociating himself from the body. The sex urge is a normal function of the body. This is the way God made us. And God has given to us a frank and fearless discussion of sex in His Word. We need to examine the Scriptures prayerfully on the subject of sex, for in them we will find God speaking to us in a way that will prevent demoralization and degeneration. To know the facts and functions of sex is not enough. The knowledge we receive must be linked with our reverence and love for God.
The Bible says, "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). The sexual relation between husband and wife is a beautiful and meaningful experience. It should be a mutually delightful experience for both. Some of the most spiritual people I have known were happily married couples who had children of their own. The sexual relation between husband and wife is an essential one in marriage. Sex without love will end with misery, but sex with love will result in much happiness. Now I am not suggesting that a successful marriage is based purely on a biological and sexual performance, but I am saying that the sex urge is normal and the marriage bed is the one place God has provided to satisfy that urge. There is still some of the old nonsense being passed along to girls that sex is for men only, and that the wifely duty is to submit to the cross of sex. I somehow feel that mothers who are guilty of passing along such distortions to their daughters are women who were frustrated in their own sex lives, and so take advantage of every opportunity to vent their hatred on men.
If you want to prepare yourself for a lasting and happy marriage, take a wholesome view of sex. Keep yourself pure for your life-partner. Remember God will judge the immoral and adulterous person. The Seventh Commandment says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14), a law God has never rescinded. Adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9), but they will be judged by God (Hebrews 13:4). Paul admonished Timothy, "Keep yourself pure" (I Timothy 5:22).
Do not decide upon marriage as an escape from pressure. A young Christian wife who had been married four years came to me seeking counsel. She was brief in her remarks and to the point. "I believe I made the biggest mistake of my life," she said as she wept. There was hesitation. Then she continued, "I believe I married the wrong man." She and the young man she married both were Christians. I had officiated at their lovely wedding four years earlier. She was old enough to be married at 23, and she and Harold seemed to enjoy eleven months of courtship, and now four years to the month from her wedding day she tells me she made a mistake. "Why did you marry Harold?" I asked her. She gave me two reasons why she hastily accepted his proposal. At the office where she was employed dishonesty was a common practice among the firm's management; the office was always polluted with cigarette smoke; drinking alcoholic beverages was routine; and married men dated single girls. That situation brought on pressure from which she sought an escape.
Now she might have looked for another job, but an unhappy situation at home only added to the pressure. Her father was an alcoholic who abused her mother and her. So in order to escape a difficult home life and undesirable working conditions she jumped at the opportunity when Harold proposed marriage. She felt that she might not have another opportunity to get married. She failed to face the problems and pressures at home and the office as she should have done. She should have come for counsel before she became involved with Harold. Beware of marrying in haste. Marriage is for life!
In the God-planned life there is purpose behind the institution of marriage. If you are going to have a happy marriage you should know the purposes and their meaning.
The marriage of a man and woman marks a new and exciting union, a partnership for our stay on earth. Before marriage we share life with our family, mother, father, sister or brother; then we find companionship with playmates. But at the time of puberty (which is the state of physical development when it is possible to beget or bear children) we instinctively are drawn to the opposite sex. This is the normal and natural process; it is the way God intended it to be. During these adolescent years we begin to think about marriage. But too often no thought is given to God's purpose for this new relationship.
The Apostle Peter tells us that the husband and wife are "heirs together of the grace of life" (I Peter 3:7). The word "grace" suggests the idea of a gift. The term "heirs together" tells us that God has given to the husband and wife the privilege of sharing together their precious gift. Each is God's gift to the other as the new partnership is formed. God said, "They shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Whatever else it is for, marriage is a partnership in which the two become one. This is the biblical view of marriage. This mutual relationship results in mutual fellowship, whether in joy or in sorrow. Where there is a mutual interest in glorifying God, life's burdens become lighter.
In this God-planned partnership there must be mutual trust and respect between both partners. Be honest with each other. Level with one another. Talk together and pray together. Don't keep secrets. Share your feelings in love and confidence. You are lifetime partners. Don't be jealous or suspicious of your partner.
Since God provided for the marriage relationship it is His desire that both husband and wife find pleasure in it. "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband . . . " (Proverbs 12:4). "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22). "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth" (Proverbs 5:18).
Now I am not suggesting that the unmarried do not find pleasure in life. But there is that added pleasure in the marriage partnership which the single person does not enjoy. That missing something in Adam's life was provided by God through the wife He gave to Adam.
There is pleasure in both giving and receiving love. Every person wants somebody to love, and every person wants to be loved. But the greatest satisfaction in loving is knowing that the love we give is adding joy and blessing to the one whom we love. True love is unselfish. It does not love in order to be loved. God Himself is the perfect example of love. "Herein is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10). "The Son of God . . . loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Even though the husband is commanded to love his wife (Ephesians 5:25), and the wife her husband (Titus 2:4), each knows that obedience to this command adds pleasure to the marriage relationship. I always enjoy reading the testimony written of Jacob which says, "And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her" (Genesis 29:20).
Then there is that pleasure derived from the marriage act, the physical and sexual union of husband and wife. When either partner does not find that mutual harmony and delight in the marriage act, something is definitely wrong. Some young women have gone to the marriage altar with a fear of sex. I can recall a counseling session I had with one married couple. The wife had been reared in a Christian home where modesty was taught and practiced. This is good. However, the standard of modesty she was used to included the idea that the sex organs were the "bad" parts of the body. This is bad. God made all of the human body so that every part is good when used in the way He intended. The marriage act is good and it was designed by God for the pleasure of both husband and wife. After God created the first male and female He said, "Be fruitful, and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Happy is the married couple who find mutual pleasure and satisfaction in the marriage act.
When God viewed His completed creation, He stated to our first parents that they were to be fruitful and multiply. This He told them before ever sin had entered. Sex per se is not associated with sin. It was God's way of insuring the continuity of the race. Every Christian should take the biblical view of marriage, regarding children as the desired result of the marriage union. "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them . . . " (Psalm 127:3-5). God considers children begotten in marriage to be a blessing.
In Old Testament times any failure to bear children was looked upon as a sure sign of God's disfavor. In a family where no children were born the husband and wife would come together to God in prayer. This was the experience of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Manoah and others. When God said to our first parents, "Be fruitful, and multiply," He issued a command. Had Adam and Eve disobeyed God, their disobedience would have meant the death of the human race. In the heart of every normal wife is the desire of motherhood. That desire was put there by God. Marriage is for partnership and pleasure, but it is for parenthood also.
Recently I listened to a spokesman for the Woman's Liberation Movement. Among the crude and undignified statements she made, this one I remembered--"Man is wrong if he expects the woman to be a baby factory." This deluded woman was twice divorced and had lost a legal battle to gain custody of her children. Having failed in two attempts in marriage, she now vents her hatred on all men. This poor frustrated woman failed to fulfill successfully a major role for which God created her, namely, motherhood. Her warped idea about the woman being a "baby factory" displayed her ignorance of God's Word and a total lack in Christian experience. If all women were as mixed up as she, the noble men and women who have made the most valuable contributions to mankind never would have been born.
If your marriage begins on a Christian basis, you are indeed fortunate. But this does not mean that there will always be perfect agreement in all matters. One couple who came to me for counsel were in disagreement as to the size their family should be. They were united in wanting to make a happy Christian home. But after the arrival of their first baby, they encountered their first major disagreement.
When Thomas, Jr. was four months old, Marion and Tom were having dinner together in their favorite restaurant, a treat enjoyed on an average of once a month. During the meal Marion said, "I would like our next child to be a girl."
After some hesitation Tom replied, "As far as I'm concerned there won't be another child."
Marion's evening was ruined. She could not eat the food on her plate. She was in tears as they drove home together. Tom tried to explain that his love for her and his desire to enjoy the marriage act had not diminished.
"We just can't afford another child," he told her.
Their problem is not uncommon. How large a family should a married couple have? There is no arbitrary number that will suit every case. Any number of factors can contribute to a couple making the right decision. Health must be taken into consideration. I recall one case in Pennsylvania. After the first baby was born, the mother suffered a physical malady for which there was no known cure. The family doctor advised the wife and her husband that to have any more children would be unwise. The husband ignored the advice. They had a total of nine children in fourteen years. Five of the children were born with their mother's physical disability. The mother died three days after the birth of the ninth child. That husband failed to follow the simple rules of hygiene and common sense. Moreover, he sinned in failing to practice self-control.
The above case is no doubt an extreme one, but it should serve as a warning to every one of us. The husband who loves his wife dearly will be considerate of her. There will be times when he will have to control his sex desires in preference to the well-being of his wife. And let me add here that the same principle applies to the wife.
The late Dr. M. R. DeHaan, a successful physician and able teacher of the Bible said, "The number of children in a family can be controlled by observing the simple rules of hygiene and self-control as set forth in Leviticus 15:19-29 and 18:19. Observance of these instructions will result in God-planned families and the spacing of the birth of children from three to four years apart. According to the Bible, abstinence is commanded during and for seven days after the monthly cycle ends. This is God's method of birth control. The only method of birth control in Scripture is self-control. If you are willing to follow God's commandment to replenish the earth, and to follow the rules of cleansing which He Himself has laid down in the Scriptures, I believe that your family will be according to God's ordering, for His glory and for your joy."
In the marriage relationship there are some pitfalls to be avoided. One of these is in the matter of adjustment. There can be no harmony in a marriage when two people will not adjust to each other.
Some persons are not willing to adjust to someone else. This is especially so when one person has a selfish and stubborn personality.
During the courting period a man will work overtime at being a gallant gentleman. He sees to it that the lady in his life receives flowers, candy, and cards, always addressed "to the most beautiful girl in the world," or "to the most important person in my life." It is inherent in the male to give such flattery, and her inherent nature is to expect it.
The wedding day arrives. The honeymoon was everything each could expect. But now the husband and wife must settle down to the routine of making a living and living a life. The whole pattern of life changes.
He comes home from his work tired and under pressure. Problems in the office made his day a difficult one. He does not notice that she changed her hair style, or that she is wearing the new dress she finished making that day. She is quick to tell him where he failed. And now "the honeymoon is over." Why? There has been no experience in the matter of adjustment. The problem met with strong emotional response.
Adjustments in marriage take time. I learned this through my own marriage experience. It is dangerous for either mate to take any hasty action that might break up the marriage. Time is needed to discuss and work out the problem. Very often the whole personality of a person is not revealed during the period of courtship. Certain childhood attitudes and actions are sometimes subdued during the courting days. The whole personality is disclosed when trials and disappointments come.
The real answer to the problem of adjustment is spiritual in nature. Jesus Christ makes the difference. He can maintain harmony in the home if both husband and wife will surrender their will to Him. Where His presence and power are felt, the problem of adjustment is solved.
A second peril has to do with acceptance. For example, when a weakness in the wife shows itself, too often the husband is not willing to accept the flaw as a part of the girl he married. Or, put the shoe on the other foot, and you have the wife who refuses to accept the weak side of her husband's personality. And here is where the conflict begins.
To avoid this pitfall I will suggest one thing you ought not to do. Do not set yourself to the impossible task of trying to change your mate's personality. You will never succeed in this. I am what I am. I did not choose my personality. It came with the little bundle born into this world on November 29th, 1911. I am not responsible for my heredity nor my environment. So my wife had to accept me for what I am. And I accepted her for what she is. Now I didn't accept her fully during those first years of our married life. I felt then that I could change her, and at times I insisted that she change. I felt that in one or two things she could improve. I knew I was right. So I refused to give up until I succeeded. Why should I accept something I don't approve.
But the real problem was with myself. The little trait, or idiosyncrasy which irked me, was a part of my wife's personality. But I couldn't accept it. Actually it was not what she did that upset me as much as it was my immature reaction to what she did. It took some growing up on my part to learn how to accept her whole personality. Had she been as slow as I in catching on, we could have had some real problems.
And now I must add this word about the peril of affluence. During the past twenty-five years our society has become affluent. Money has flowed freely, and this has made it possible for Americans to have an abundance of things. It is common for a newly married couple to start out in a new house with every electrical appliance and luxury plus a new automobile, and be in debt for almost the total amount. This is not wise.
If you want a happy marriage, make up your minds that you are going to live within your means. Many marriages have been broken over financial matters. The wife must make up her mind that she will be satisfied with what her husband can provide. The Bible says, "Be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 13:5); "Beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:1). "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (I Timothy 6:6).
Money and things do not make for happiness. Mrs. Strauss and I have never been in debt. When we were married in 1931 we had $65.00 between us. But we were thankful for what we had. Together we trusted God. Not once in all these years has God failed to supply our needs. We never quarreled about money, but we were happy with each other. We owe it all to the fact that we put Christ first, and to Him we give all the glory.
Abortion is the removal of a human fetus from the uterus prematurely, thereby destroying the life of that fetus. It is not the natural miscarriage in pregnancy where the embryo dies followed by a spontaneous abortion, but the deliberate destruction of life by physical or chemical means.
As I understand the Bible, there is no mention of the therapeutic abortion, therefore there is no law which provides any sanction for such an act. The Scriptures view conception as a gift from God. When Eve conceived and bare Cain, she considered that conception to be of God (Genesis 4:1). All four sons that Leah bore were looked upon as gifts of God (Genesis 29:31-35). After Boaz married Ruth they entered into the marriage act, and the Scripture says, "The LORD gave her conception" (Ruth 4:13). David wrote by inspiration, "Thou has covered me in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). The Apostle Paul wrote, "It pleased God, Who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace" (Galatians 1:15).
All of these passages teach us of the sovereign power and purposes of God in conception and embryological development. When man intervenes by destroying the embryo that is conceived, he interferes with the only Creator of all life. Only God can produce life, and He only must determine how and when that life should terminate.
Christian couples must be guided by the standards in God's Word. Any failure to do so may lead to disastrous results. We Christians have no right to permit the killing of the unborn children God has given to us.
The Bible is clear in its teaching that the marriage relationship is a permanent one. I have never read one verse in the Bible where God approved divorce. The whole idea of divorce is diametrically opposed to the marriage plan as it was instituted by God. From the very beginning God intended one man for one woman and no more. Marriage is for life. Divorce is one of society's serious crimes. Every Christian who wants God's will for his or her life must settle this issue at once. I have made it clear in all of my premarital counseling that any person contemplating marriage should accept what God says about the permanency of marriage or else remain unmarried. The person who utters the solemn vow, "Till death do us part," and contemplates the possibility of the divorce court if the marriage does not succeed, is a liar and a hypocrite. Remember, God holds the marriage contract.
The Lord Jesus Christ could not be in disagreement with His Father's ruling on the permanency of marriage. He said, "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" (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9 cf. Genesis 2:24). Please note that it is "What God hath joined together," not "Whom God hath joined together." The emphasis is upon the institution of marriage, not upon a certain class of persons coming to be married. The rule of permanency is binding upon all married persons. Marriage is a civil institution, that is, the rules apply to all civilization. When Moses wrote "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife," God most assuredly knew that Adam's posterity would be fallen sinners. When the statement was given there were no fathers and mothers. God is the Author of civil and moral law as well as spiritual law. The marriage relation supersedes the relation of the child to the parents. The man must cleave to his wife for life.
If you want a happy marriage, abide by God's rules and shun the demon of divorce. Beware of all teaching and teachers, whether in or out of the organized church, which speak of "scriptural grounds for divorce." Such "grounds" are based on a single parenthetical phrase, "except it be for fornication" (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). In the entire context in which the parenthesis appears, our Lord is teaching the permanency, or indissolubility of the marriage relation.
Recently I read again Malachi 2:11-16. I am convinced that the prophet was strongly persuaded that God was not hearing the prayers of His people because of the multiple divorces in Israel at that time. What Malachi wrote indicates clearly that God hates divorce.
Now does the parenthesis, "except it be for fornication" change the teaching in the entire context? Of course not! I have examined several English standard dictionaries, and they all make the clear distinction between the words "fornication" and "adultery." These two words are not used interchangeably because they are not synonymous in their meanings. The word "fornication" (Gr. porneia) means "illicit sexual intercourse of unmarried persons." The word "adultery" (Gr. Moikeia) means "illicit sexual intercourse of two persons when either is married to a third person." In the exception clause our Lord used the word "fornication." The word He used had not lost its meaning, and we may be certain He expressed Himself clearly. The exception clause is not dealing with the sin of married persons.
Why then did Christ use the word "fornication" of that sin of which a "wife" can be guilty? A wife in the Orient was so called when the betrothal or engagement was announced. This is evidenced in Matthew 1:19 where we read, "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily." Actually he was not her husband by the standards of our western civilization because there had not been the consummation of the civil ceremony nor the marriage act. Mary's pregnancy was looked upon (by those who did not know the truth) as the result of fornication, not adultery. In verse 20 the angel added, "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." According to our Western usage of the word "wife" she was not yet Joseph's wife, but by the custom of the Jews, a betrothed girl was called a wife. (See Deuteronomy 22:23-24.) Joseph accepted the testimony of the angel, believing that Mary had not committed fornication. Our Lord's enemies would not believe the truth about his supernatural and miraculous conception, and so they taunted Him with the innuendo, "We be not born of fornication" (John 8:41). The parenthetical phrase, "except it be for fornication" does not fit the case of married persons. Our Lord is merely saying that sexual unfaithfulness on the part of either party involved in a betrothal agreement, allows for the breaking of that contract. God's rule that marriage is for life has never been annulled.
Listen again to Christ speaking. "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery" (Luke 16:18). This verse might appear to be disconnected from the rest of the passage, but actually it is an essential part of the context. The Pharisees had derided Christ for His teaching in the parable in verses 1-12. While they were legalistic in their demands upon others, insisting that Moses' laws be obeyed, they were guilty of breaking those same laws . . .
In answering their ridicule, Christ said, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached . . ." (vs. 16). He defends the law of Moses in verse 17, and immediately follows with His "Kingdom of God" teaching about marriage. The marriage rule in verse 18 preceded and superseded the Law of Moses. This is God's rule for His people.
Now examine our Lord's words in Mark 10:11,12. "And He saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." In both the Mark and Luke passages there is not the "exception" clause. The word "adultery" is used, The message is unmistakably clear. The demon of divorce is condemned.
In conclusion there is one more passage we should consider. It is one that has been used to justify divorce and remarriage. "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" (I Corinthians 7:15). It appears from verse 12 that Paul is speaking of a marriage involving a believer and an unbeliever. Not that there had been an unequal yoke at the time of marriage, but a case where one had been converted to Christ after marriage and the other had not. Such a case would not be uncommon. Nor would it be uncommon for the unsaved partner to oppose his or her spouse and separate. In such instances the believer is not to oppose the departure of the unbeliever. Then follows the statement, "A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases."
This statement that "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases" has been made the basis of the argument in favor of divorce and remarriage. But it is unsound exegesis that arrives at this false conclusion. Verses 10 and 11 in the context say, "Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried." Now is there contradiction in the context of this passage in I Corinthians 7? Of course not! The fault does not lie in the Scripture but with those of us who interpret the Scriptures.
Does the statement in verse 15, "a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases" teach divorce and remarriage? Some say, Yes! But does it? The Greek word translated "bondage" is doulouo means to serve as a slave. The verse is saying that if the unbelieving partner separates, the believer is not under obligation to the departing unbeliever. There is no responsibility in matters of servitude. A sound exegesis eliminates any reference to the basic marriage relationship.
Now to the proof! In verse 27 we read, "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed . . ." Here the word "bound" is the Greek word desmeuo, the term Paul used when referring to the marriage relationship. He used the same word when speaking about the permanency of marriage in Romans 7, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth . . ." (Romans 7:2). If Paul had reference to marriage in I Corinthians 7:15 he unquestionably would have used this word. Most certainly he is not allowing for marriage and divorce. Those who teach that he is are in error both contextually and exegetically.
The full truth on any subject cannot be gathered from an isolated passage, but rather from the cumulative revelation of all the Scriptures which deal with the same truth. If we had only Matthew 5:31, 32, and Matthew 19:11, the champions of divorce and remarriage might have some grounds upon which to stand. But when all of the New Testament passages on marriage and divorce are considered, the total cumulative revelation will show that remarriage of divorced persons for any reason the divorce might have been obtained, is not sanctioned by God but constitutes adultery in His sight.
The bond formed in the marriage union is a permanent one. Divorce and remarriage never were a part of God's plan for mankind. You can have a happy marriage if you follow the rules in God's Book.
Dr. Strauss taught Old Testament history for eight years at Philadelphia Bible Institute, and served as pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, Bristol, Pennsylvania, from 1939 to 1957. He was pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church (Highland Park, Michigan) until the end of 1963 when he resigned to devote full time to an itinerant Bible conference and evangelistic ministry both in the States and abroad. Dr. Strauss was residing in Florida and writing his 19th book at age 86 when the Lord called him home in June 1997. His written materials are used by permission. This short study was printed by Lifeline Publications in 1976.
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©1997 Lehman Strauss, Litt.D., F.R.G.S., http://www.bible.org. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's consent.