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God’s View of Marriage and Divorce — Gary Hampton

Man’s Need for Companionship

Marriage was designed by God to fulfill a basic need of man, companionship. The first five days of creation repeatedly have God observing his work and noting “it was good” (Gen. 1:9, 12, 18, 21, 25). The Almighty made man on the sixth day and noted, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18).

The Creator brought every animal he had made to Adam to be named (Gen. 2:19-20). “The relation of man to the animals of the field would not fill this loneliness of man. Adam knew this from his naming of the animals” (William E.Woodson Writings and Notes).

God’s revealing to man of the special creation who was to serve as his companion for life brought forth a wonderful statement from the man. “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Moses’ inspired addition seems fully appropriate. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23-24).

God’s Law for Marriage

Jesus’ most thorough teaching about marriage arose because of the Pharisees’ question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” (Matt. 19:3). The Lord thought the answer was implicit in Moses’ account of the creation of man and woman. “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matt. 19:1-6).

God saw marriage as a permanent relationship, only to be severed by death. Paul explained, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband” (Rom. 7:2).

God’s basic law for marriage is easy to see when one removes the exception from Jesus’ words to the Pharisees. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife…and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9 with “except for sexual immorality” replaced by an ellipsis). God intended for marriage to last for life because it fulfills an important need of man, companionship. God’s law applies to “whoever,” not being limited to Christians. “There is not any indication of what is termed ‘covenant legislation’ which only applies to Christians; all others being free to divorce and remarry as much as they wish prior to conversion and remain with the last marriage partner before one becomes a child of God” (Woodson 4).

Divorce Is A Sensitive Issue

Divorce is nowhere to be found in God’s original plan. It is a difficult subject to discuss because it involves the pinnacle of human relationships. The failure of that relationship is painful to the most innermost core of a man’s heart. William Woodson observed, “It deals with matters which, with very few exceptions, are and can be known for sure only by a very small number of people” (1).

Divorce is very personal. “Nothing could be more delicate than the intimacies of marriage; nothing could be more difficult to discuss than those aspects of these intimacies which have been perverted and destroyed” (Ibid). It can become quite volatile as the extended families of both partners sense the pain their beloved is experiencing.

Divorce Was Not in the Original Plan

The Pharisees apparently understood Jesus to be saying that God intended for one man to be married to one woman for life. They were driven to ask, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Jesus responded, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:7-8). There is a significant difference between their question and the Lord’s answer. They asked why Moses commanded, but Jesus said Moses permitted.

There were two primary schools of thought among the Jews. “Shammai interpreted Deut. 24:1 as follow: ‘The man is not to release his wife unless he have found something indecent in her.’’ In contrast, “Hillel allowed as a charge the fact that in cooking the wife had burnt her husband’s food” (Lenski 727). It is easier to follow the more lax view of Hillel, which is precisely what is represented in the Pharisees’ question. Jesus returns to the creation, making it clear that divorce was never part of God’s original plan.

Fornication, The Exception

Jesus set forth the only exception to God’s law for marriage when he included “except for sexual immorality.”  The word porneia is used “of illicit sexual intercourse in general” (Thayer 532). Some elaborate on all the possible sexual sins to violate God’s law regarding relations that are to be reserved only for one’s mate. It is sufficient to say that God only intended such intimacy for the two companions within a marriage.

Jesus was speaking to “Jews who knew nothing of a woman divorcing her husband, he naturally specifies only the case of a husband divorcing his wife. The fact that among us where also wives divorce their husbands his words apply to them equally, needs hardly be added; see Mark 10:12, who writes for Gentiles” (Lenski 230).

Paul’s Instructions

Part of Paul’s first epistle to the church of God in Corinth was written in response to questions the brethren had asked. One questions seems to be, “Should a Christian, who is joined to Christ, separate from the union of marriage?” (1 Cor. 7:10-11). The Lord had answered this, likely in the very verses we have already examined. The general rule was that they should not even separate. “If she and her husband cannot live harmoniously together let her remain unmarried. She is not permitted to marry again. That would be adulterous” (Lipscomb 98). The Christian woman who has separated from her husband, but found that she cannot live the single life and remain pure has only one path open to her. She is to be reconciled to the husband whom she has injured” (Ibid).

Paul went on to speak regarding “the rest,” which seems to involve the marriage of a “believer and an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:12-13). Paul, as an inspired apostle, gave his divine instruction in reference to a situation not addressed by the Lord in his personal ministry. If the brother married to an unbelieving wife is pleased to dwell with her, he is free to do so; he is not to put…her away” (Woodson 3).

Verse 15 contains Paul’s instructions for a believing companion when the spouse chooses to depart. “The only terms on which he will continue the marriage is for the Christian to leave the Lord and become a pagan. The Christian has-not-been-and-is-not-bound-to-leave-the-Lord ‘in such cases’ [en toi toioutoi] to preserve a marriage the price of which is for her to” leave the Lord. The Christian “is not bound [dedoulotai]. The Christian is called…in peace, to be in peace with God whatever the difficulty imposed by impossible demands by another, husband or not” (Ibid). We might say the Christian is not enslaved to the unbeliever to whom he/she is married.


God gave man a companion for life when he made Eve and established the first marriage. He intended marriage to be for life. Divorce is a very sensitive matter involving many emotions. It was in no way a part of God’s original plan.

The Lord gave one reason for divorce, sexual relations that violate God’s law. Paul’s instructions regarding Christians married to Christians are intended to have them stay together. Separation would not allow one, or both, to marry another. Christians married to unbelievers can remain with them, yet they are not enslaved to them. The Christian should allow the unbeliever to depart in lieu of surrendering their relationship to the Lord. Doing such in the most peaceful way possible may ultimately lead to the salvation of the spouse (1 Cor. 7:16). 

Gary served as the director of the Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies in Knoxville, TN, for nearly six years and is now preaching for the Siwell Road Church of Christ in Jackson, MS.

Works Cited

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Columbus, OH: Wartburg, 1960. Print.

Lipscomb, David, and J. W. Shepherd. First Corinthians. Vol. II. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1974. Print. A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles.

Thayer, Joseph Henry. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977. Print.

Woodson, William E. “The Problem of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage,” Writings and Notes of William E. Woodson. Henderson, TN: Tom L. Childers, 2013. PDF.


The Challenge To Teach The Truth – Dave Wood

The Proverbs writer once challenged young men to, “Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).

One might wonder why Solomon needed to challenge any young Israelite to appreciate the truth.  Is it possible that Israel suffered from the very issues that plague Christians today?  Namely, there will be times when the truth is not popular and you will be pressured to “sell” it.  Paul would instruct his “child in the faith” to “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Marshall Keeble explained that preaching the word, as used in this verse was “…preaching when they want to hear it and preaching when they don’t.”

Solomon’s challenge is still pertinent to preachers today: “Buy the truth and sell it not…”

There is considerable pressure for a preacher to just use pleasing words and not disrupt the status quo.  A preacher, however, is a proclaimer of God’s Word.  With that thought in mind a preacher ought always to let God have His say in every lesson and sermon given.  Let us consider this challenge issued by God’s inspiration.

“Buying the truth.”  What should this mean for the preacher, especially the preacher who is involved in a new work?  Naturally with a new work there can be great pressure on the preacher and his family.  This man has many new faces and names to learn and alongside those faces there are personalities for this preacher to understand.  There exists a desire in every man to be accepted and appreciated.  To meet these pressures, a man might think to soften his Sunday morning sermon or to skip certain verses in a Bible class.

But we are to buy the truth, which gives the idea of making an investment.  When it comes to truth (i.e., God’s word, the Bible, the gospel) no expense is too high.  “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Men, in order to “take heed…unto the doctrine” you must know the doctrine.  You must know the truth!  Because you cannot proclaim what you do not know, the challenge is to invest time in studying God’s Word.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Timothy was challenged to study, to give diligence to the truth of God’s Word.  There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s admonition.  Do not put off knowing God’s will, do not put off doing God’s will, and do not put off teaching God’s will!

“Buying the truth” also means that you might, at times, be at odds with people.  In Romans 1:18 Paul described some people as holding down the truth by their unrighteous behavior.  When mankind shrugs off the truth of God’s word they certainly do not appreciate a reminder of God’s counsel.  It becomes offensive to such a darkened heart.  Those at Galatia had listened to false teaching and Paul reminded them again of the truth.  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

If there is a choice to make between pleasing God or men, make sure to please God.  It is difficult to know which way the winds of men are blowing.  What is popular one day has perished tomorrow, but truth is always right.  The preacher’s challenge is to buy the truth.

Solomon’s warning is two-fold.  It is not enough to make an investment in the truth, but never, ever sell it.  In other words, the challenge given is to not be a sell-out.  Balak, the king of the Moabites, had a problem.  The Israelites were coming.  Balak had heard about a man who lived a long way from the Moabites, in Mesopotamia.  Balaam was a man whose talents were for hire.  do you remember this man?  Balaam had a reputation for blessing people or cursing people.  His reputation was such that representatives in Moab would make the journey to Mesopotamia to secure the services of Balaam.  Balaam had a great opportunity to stand firmly with the Lord and he wasted it.  Both 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11 mention Balaam and how he sold the truth for financial gain.  This man had a price.  Do you?  Do not sell the truth, no matter what!

A preacher sells the truth when he fails to teach all of God’s commands.  Paul confidently declared to the Ephesian elders, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

When Paul declared the whole counsel of God, was there anything that he left out?  What would happen if Paul felt fear of being rejected and shunned?  Preachers have put a price tag on godly counsel by refusing to preach on Matthew 19:9 where Jesus stated there is only one reason which a person can seek a divorce and be remarried without living in adultery.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they add to God’s word by teaching that the inclusion of mechanical musical instruments in worship is acceptable to God.  This is not God’s counsel because there is no authority for it anywhere in the New Testament.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they bind their own scruples on others.  There are those who feel it is wrong to eat “in the church,” so they wrest and twist the scriptures to their satisfaction.  Either way, whether a preacher is taking away from the counsel of God or adding to the counsel of God, he has auctioned off the truth.

There are members of the church who will attempt to persuade preachers to teach and preach their own way.  There is only one thing that will save souls and that is the pure, unadulterated gospel of God.  Consider Paul’s thesis statement for the book of Romans:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

To hear some preachers teach, it is obvious that they think their abilities are the power to salvation, because in their lessons they make more references to their personal stories than to scripture.

There is one path that is always right, there is one message that is always true, and it is found in the Bible, not in the minds of men.  “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The challenge stands to everyone in the Lord’s body, whether preacher, teacher, elder, or deacon: buy the truth, and sell it not.  Now what will you do?

Broad Street Church of Christ, Statesville, NC