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Chapter 4

and Marriage

Beauty and Defilement
Turbulent Turn-abouts and Divine Remedies

The fact is that God is pure (Matthew 5:8, Ezekiel 1, Revelation 21-22, Deuteronomy 32:4, Habakkuk 1, I Timothy 6:16).

Sexuality is pure in potential.

Marriage is pure in concept.

Children are NOT pure in birth (Psalm 51), but their hope is pure, if they are brought to and up in the love and respect of God, in Christ the only avenue of access, the door and the deity disclosed for man, as man.

Divorce is a ditching of a marriage. It may be the fault specifically of one, of both. With precisely ONE exception, it does not however matter at all WHAT happens, the partner goes mad, becomes maddening, or whatever you like: there is no divine provision for divorce. You see that quite clearly from the lips of Christ in Matthew 19:1-12. In verse 9 in particular, He says this:

  • "And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for illicit sexual intercourse, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Emphasis added.)

It is necessary here, for truth's sake, to be both severe in appearance, and lenient, in different regards. This is what the text says, not more, and not less.

Let us look first at the 'not more' side of it.


The text makes an exemption, a divorce from a solitary sort of rule. It is NOT, emphatically and clearly NOT, that you cannot under any circumstances divorce. Hence it is NOT, emphatically NOT that you are sinning, breaking divine law if you do in any circumstance at all, divorce. This is not written; and it contradicts what is written. It is no better to be a Pharisee than to be a Sadducee. Both inveterately opposed Christ. One adds, one subtracts; one puts in unclean and carnal concepts from the flesh pots of the mind and spirit (cf. Matthew 23), and the other removes things by the intrusion of the lava of philosophy, carrying them away (cf. Matthew 22:23).

What does Christ say of this sort of 'spiritual' industry ? "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for you neither go in yourselves  nor do you allow those who are entering to go in..." and this is but a foretaste of His words on this theme in that location! See also the closing verses of Luke 11!

To return to our particular topic, then, and avoiding the traditions of men, which, Christ indicated of some, they taught thereby making void the word of God (Mark 7:7), what are we TOLD by Christ, not conscience, not mankind, not lust, and not ascetic philosophy or for that matter licentious thoughts ? DO NOT DIVORCE ? Not at all. DO NOT DIVORCE EXCEPT FOR ILLICIT SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. THAT is the word as defined in Thayer's Greek dictionary. He is careful to avoid manipulation of it and expounds on it in some force.

How then can Royalty say, You MUST not marry a divorced man AT ALL! or any Church ? The Bible does not say this. It makes it clear that there is a case where divorce is NOT sin! What has man got to do with this ? Did he invent man ? Did he make up himself before he was there ? What else would you have us believe, you who settle on man as your source book! There is one God and one Lord and one Book of the one Lord (cf. SMR Ch.1), and it is vain to invent any gods or books or gospels of your own (Galatians 1, Revelation 22, Matthew 4-5, Proverbs 30:6). Who are you who dream dreams and splather them onto flesh, as if you were the original of it all ? Jeremiah 23:16-32 makes all this most clear, and it is well to regard it steadfastly rather than let the mistakes of that day be your own.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
They make you worthless;
They speak a vision of their own heart,
Not from the mouth of the Lord.
They continually say to those who despise Me,
‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace” ’;
And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say,
‘No evil shall come upon you.’

"For who has stood in the counsel of the Lord,
And has perceived and heard His word?
Who has marked His word and heard it?

"Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury -
A violent whirlwind!
It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
The anger of the Lord will not turn back
Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.

“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran.
I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in My counsel,
And had caused My people to hear My words,
Then they would have turned them from their evil way
And from the evil of their doings.

“Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord,
“And not a God afar off?
Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the Lord;
“Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.

“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying,

‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’

"How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbour, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.

“The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream;
And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.
What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the Lord.

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord,
“And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbour.

“Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’

“Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord.

(Colour added and emphasis added.)

Let lives then not be fiddled with, fractured or man-handled by lack of faith masquerading as faith, by faith in flesh, not in spirit, or in spirit and not in God, the Father of spirits (Hebrews 12:9), who IS Spirit (John 4). DIVORCE is PERMISSIBLE if there is illicit sexual intercourse. That is the Biblical background: this incidentally includes that with one's own kind (homosexuality), and with animals (Leviticus 19). Christ is careful to uphold the law of God (Matthew 5:19ff.), and the death penalty for such things is scarcely a recommendation for the behaviour as moral! (Leviticus 20:10,13,15).

Obviously then Christ was not saying that adultery did not matter. It mattered so much that if it occurred there was an exemption on the prohibition of divorce.

There was in parallel, an authority to divorce if you wished, in such a case, in terms of the very law of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), by which a man can direct his courses in matters so covered. Man, said Christ, shall live by EVERY WORD which proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Did the word "except" then, in Matthew 19:9,  proceed out of the mouth of God ? It assuredly did. Then live by this also, and avoid the doctrine of Pharisaism, that intrusive spiritual adventurism which is, has been and continues to be a blight to many, which invent rules and doctrines, like that cluster  of the 7th Day  Adventists, who do not understand that when a soul is acquitted through the blood of Christ, the matter is closed, the door is open and the case is assured for ever (John 10:9,27-28 and see "Christian Assurance"). The no divorce at all addicts are like those in this, that they remove an exemption, while the latter remove an assurance.

We must abide by and in the word of God, simply because it is His, has authority, is truth and things happen according to it. Far better to be electrocuted through ignoring the rules of physics than to be damned ignoring the law of God. It is not that your works save you, but if you are saved, then His seed remains in you, and you do not make a practice of sin (I John 3:9). If you DO sin
(I John 2:1-2), then you make haste to repent and seek that vastly competent barrister, Jesus Christ whose price is zero and whose cost He Himself paid, even His own life. The WORD of God in clothes of pardon procured by sacrifice is without equal, Lord over all creation, since He Himself with God and as God, wrought it (Phil. 2, John 8:58, Col. 1:15).


If we cannot add to the word of God, however, nor can we subtract. God is God and His word stays around (I Peter 1:24-25). A good understanding have those who follow it (Psalm 111:10). Thus you CANNOT in a way not making war on God, divorce for ANY REASON OTHER than illicit sexual intercourse. If there is a homosexual practice, you can divorce. If there is some other form false intercourse, such as normal adultery, you can divorce. If there is foul animal evil, you can divorce. BUT not otherwise. Divorce is disruption. If marriage (Ephesians 5) is to be compared with the unity of Christ with His church, then it is obvious that its disruption is an enormous step.

Christ's church is never removed from Him, but false churches may be, and if you read Revelation 1-3, you see just how horrid it is when a church, over time, moves from Christ to evil, and must be removed from His body as pretender. Those who founded it may die; false people may come in and take it over. It is dead. It is a matter of profound grief. One must leave if this is not remedied, and this is not a matter of forever, but of due and diligent testing and effort in the proper order; such that if this dallies in remedy, there is only unfaithfulness in remaining within it (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 7).

The marriage service often stresses just how constant, continual and comradely is marriage. Do you cut off your leg if it pains you ? Only gangrene or some such enormity, unhealed, can lead to that. Do you cut off your wife or husband ? Only illicit sexual intercourse can do that.


What then is your liberty ? It is this: to be faithful and honest and honourable, true and loving and caring, kind and thoughtful and constructive, forbearing and practical and prayerful, affectionate and tender-hearted and hopeful (cf. I Cor. 13). You are to practise love with your wife, your husband. Do you hate your leg if it hurts, or seek patiently and conscientiously and long to save it ?

So with your marriage. See Ephesians 5, where we learn that a man should regard his wife as his own body. Be tender in thought, kind in disposition, charitable in construction and wise in understanding, appreciating differences of ability and insight, but never wandering from the word of God. No man or woman has ANY power over another in this, any more than does any State with its laws. It is the law of God which gives to any power over another, and if this power is used to defy and defile the law of God, then no man is under obligation in such a case (Acts 5:29-32, 4:19-20).

If, said the disciples, in view of the word of God spoken by Christ to them, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry." This is true, and Christ indicated that some men are born to be 'eunuchs', that is, not to marry, and some are not. It is a matter of divinely created disposition. What is yours, is yours, and what is not, is not. There are advantages both ways, but it is in God that the matter rests. No fornication means no race unless there BE marriage, of course! Any sexual impurity is proscribed, not prescribed. When liberty is prescribed to replace sexual relationships with other things, so be it. Where however is this written ? An implantation of an embryo in a womb, one derived from the two married parties may be possible, since it is merely replacing an aspect of the intercourse, technically, a specific overcoming of a defect within the field of the marriage itself. More than this is clearly mere adventurism, exceeding the word of God.

THIS is the way marriage is, and it is not something else.


What then if a man commits adultery. The wife must leave him ? Not at all. You MAY NOT divorce except for adultery does not allow the proposition that you MUST do so,  if this evil occurs. Indeed, the whole book of Hosea is expressly dealing with the grace which may be shown to the adulterous, PROVIDING there is repentance, and with the cost it implies when this grace is shown, This itself is a parabolic application, in the amazing case of a divinely ordained personal work BY Hosea, the prophet, AS a parable (something not uncommon with Isaiah or Ezekiel).

Of what then was it a parable ? It stood for the divine mercy in accepting back those who repenting, turn from their SPIRITUAL promiscuity. It implied that God was gracious in the first place to accept Israel at all, and most merciful to seek for the lost AFTER unfaithfulness after that, paying a ransom. Hosea had to marry a harlot and then, when she relapsed, buy her back. Such is the mercy of God in its scope.

Some of course do not and cannot repent.

WHEN and if there is repentance, then there is acceptance. This brings out the fact that God is not depicted in the Bible as SEEKING evil on men, but promoting good; not as seeking their condemnation but their salvation (cf. John 3:17, Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2, SMR Appendix B and The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, with the love chapters in Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium).

Thus if a man or a woman commits adultery, the wife or the husband MAY elect not to divorce. Permission is not compulsion. God has shown the spirit of mercy in profound form, with marvellous eloquence and power, tenderness and grace in Hosea, to mention but one. Indeed, to apply the point made above: there this very act of forgiveness is made illustrative in an acted out parable on the part of the prophet, of the whole program of divine mercy by the covenant, the prophet having to RANSOM back his unfaithful wife at cost! (cf. Matthew 20:28, Galatians 3). SO is God willing to pay; while on the other hand, those not willing to be bought, are left to themselves, the grain of wheat, not living, ruined by rot (John 3:36, 12:24 cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms  3).

Suppose now that the husband commits adultery, and the wife DOES divorce, but chooses not to marry. Does the word of God TELL us that the husband can marry again now, if he is to follow the word of God ? On the contrary, it tells us that he CANNOT. HE cannot put away his wife for his own action, and if she chooses NOT to put him away, to divorce him, then he is still married. SIn does not bring to the guilty party,  the remedy available for the innocent. It is a putting away FOR adultery, not AS adulterer which is permitted!

What however if the man commits adultery and the wife does divorce, and remarry ? The case is clear. If there is divorce, then there is no marriage left. If he is not married, then he CANNOT commit adultery, since this is a misuse of sexual liberty when one is married. It is impossible to do so then, when the marriage is no more. Is the man then free to re-marry in such a case ?

We are now dealing very intimately with personal spiritual matters, and need to be careful to maintain what marriage is all about: purity and love, togetherness in faithfulness, along with the same displayed together in the presence and oversight of such children as come, teaching them by word and example the love of God, the meaning of unity and the grace of life.

IF the man committed adultery in order to precipitate divorce and so re-marry some object of his passion (sexual, monetary or whatever other illicit thing, thrown recklessly like grit into machinery, into his existing marriage), then of course, to have his wife divorce him, and then proceed to marry the one he wanted is the OPPOSITE of REPENTANCE. It stinks to high heaven of cunning, contrivance, of unrelenting manipulation. IF you repent, then YOU REMOVE as far as you may, the folly of which you repent. You do not go ahead and DO it!

No, in such a case the man would have to abandon his plans and not so act.

Could he however marry someone else, when, lonely and truly now seeking the Lord, repentant of his utter folly in what he did, he finds her ? It is not PROHIBITED outright, since he is not then married. It would be a matter of the utmost consideration of one's weaknesses and one's calling, of one's motives so that it would be only for the sake of the Lord, that one was assured that one could serve the Lord better this way than single, and only as wisdom was given to this effect (James 1 gives the mandate for that), and only as one was assured that one had exercised faith in the promises of God to escape the corruption through lust which swims in this world (lust of mind, body and spirit, all), that such a marriage could proceed.

However, it is assuredly not prohibited per se in such a case as this. Nowhere does the word of God say that.

But someone may say, What of Mark 10 ? There no word about an exception for adultery occurs concerning divorce! This is true, but what is equally true is that man is to live by EVERY word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, and since when does this entail or even allow snipping bits off, such as the exemption in Matthew ? As one Canadian presbyter is reputed to have said concerning a young ministry candidate who did not believe the virgin birth of Christ, HOW MANY TIMES does the Lord have to say it before this young man will listen! or such words.

If GOD EVER says it, that ALWAYS settles it.  (That is, this is so unless it is a thing fulfilled, such as animal sacrifice culminating in Christ’s sacrifice.) To cut off part of His word is almost like cutting out, if it were possible, part of His tongue. It is appalling presumption, and of course, a direct rebellion, conscious or other, against the word of Christ which commands and commends us  to live by EVERY word which proceeds out of the mouth of God.

There is more to be said on this, moreover. When Christ spoke, the law was POLITICALLY (to the extent the Sanhedrin could rule) in force that a man could be put to death, should be put to death, for adultery. The point being made by Christ was this, that FOR NOTHING LESS could marriage be annulled. He went on quite clearly to stress that IF you DID go on and remarry in the case when your marriage did not cease because of adultery, then that itself was adultery, and it was so for both parties should they remarry, after a first marriage not ending in and through adultery.

Where this did not end the marriage, then in effect, your marriage HAD NOT CEASED at all, say what you will, let your lawyers say what they will, let courts say what they would. If you ‘married’ then, it was simple adultery therefore. This was His teaching, and its theme was divorce without adultery, utterly forbidden, and the results worked out with care, and even with zeal. God loves faithfulness, and not the promiscuity of heartlessness.

Where then does this leave the position ?

No adultery, no stay on marriage. No stay on marriage, then any alleged re-marriage is merely an formality to enable adultery. . For all that, adultery it is, formalised adultery.  If therefore the one who put away his wife, divorced her for LESS than adultery, remarries, quite simply he is a bigamist, a double agent one could almost say, one who proceeds to commit adultery. If the one whom he divorced for LESS than adultery remarries, then she commits adultery, for the first marriage REMAINS INTACT before God, UNLESS there is adultery.

Thus if there IS adultery, this is not the prohibition. These words of Christ deal with the case where there is NOT adultery.

In the law, the guilty party is put to death. Naturally the innocent one is not then married! She may of course remarry. Christ is dealing with the residual case in Mark, messing about WITHIN the life situation, where adultery has NOT occurred, and what this implies. This is not removing the adultery clause, but ignoring it. If the wife committed adultery, legally she is dead. If she is covered up - the husband not wanting to 'tell', then she may live, but obviously in that case, he is to be presumed not to divorce for adultery, for that would be 'telling'. He might be tempted to divorce anyway, without telling; but such a divorce is PROSCRIBED by Christ. It is NOT an option. You cannot CITE something less than adultery. That is the way of it in the kingdom of heaven, while we live on earth. This is HIS way.

It follows that the omission in Mark of the exemption because of adultery is not relevant to its inclusion in Matthew. It is simply the case that in Matthew Christ covered EXPLICITLY what is present only implicitly in Mark. You do not get rid of law, or excise it, by ignoring what it says, even if you do not understand the reason for this or that statement of it. Whatever statement is clear, is compelled. In this case, the reason for variation is not hard to find, and even if it were, it would not delete the word of God. It is as written, with its exemption.

In fact, Christ is removing escape hatches which would DEBASE marriage. Whatever husband or wife may have done, there is NO WAY divorce is recognised except for adultery. As to the exception, if it had been admitted as a ground of divorce, then the death that resulted in that case as the law stood, would remove any thought of marriage. Corpses do not constitute husbands or wives. In Matthew the open situation apart from this is considered. The word of God thus is here amplified by Christ, as was His function (John 12:48-50, Matthew 5). IF there is no death (Matthew case), then this is what is the position. If the law were to be fully in operation, then that is what is the position (Mark case). Since He was speaking both to those under the law and to those who should later follow His word, both cases are covered.


In so acting Christ both emphasises the exceeding purity of the marriage relationship, and the wonderfully human intimacy which enables things to be considered fairly and fully. The divine perspective, wrought in life and in scripture, the Bible, is a thing of wonder.

Actually, He further indicates that Moses "for the hardness of your hearts" permitted you to divorce your wives. From the beginning it was not so: a man should stay united to his wife. Christ went past Moses, whose words in Deuteronomy 24 with Hosea for example, show both the divine love of purity and of pardon, and made the words of 24:1 clearer, not subjectible to enterprising interpretation. It was a 'thing of nakedness' which was a ground of divorce, as implied in Deut. 24:1.  Some scribes might use this to make a hole for getting rid of a wife no longer desired by some disaffected or passionately impure man. Christ removed any such loophole. However, in the very next breath or so,  He makes it equally clear that IF adultery should occur, THAT indubitably spelled liberty to divorce.

Past all the legal side, now, we come to the spiritual reality which the law, both of doing and redemption, was set to enforce.

In fact, as Paul shows in Romans 8, law cannot DO the works of the spirit. It indicates their direction; it cannot supply the motive or kinetic energy, the understanding or the purity. Christ died, being made in the fashion of a man, yet without sin, the apostle there declares, so putting an end to the hold of the law. It had always been in mind, and so David in Psalm 51 could be pardoned. But now it was done, the redemption payment was made, so that the day of grace shone: not as if God had not hitherto been most gracious, but now, readily and properly, could make things more direct.

The situation now became this: No more priests, and many laws fulfilled. However NO law if not fulfilled is abrogated. That is the very area where many, calling themselves evangelical, err. Evangelicals must stress all the gospel, both its insistence on the law which condemns, and the grace which pardons, together with the word of God which changes not at all, and continues as I Peter 1:24-25 tells us.

Purity continues. Love continues. Prohibitions and positive commands continue in the New Testament as in the Old, and many clarifications occur; but the law is only fulfilled or maintained. It does not splutter. God knows and has always known His own mind (Isaiah 46:8ff.). What then is the tenderness of heart which in marriage has this PERMISSION to PARDON an adulterer who defiles the hearth, pollutes the love and breeds unfaithfulness ? It is great. Such is the preliminary to marriage. There should in the first place be no marriage which did not INVOLVE such a tenderness, such a compassion, such a desire that the other party is calling forth the very love of God. Naturally, there is an individual attraction to the other person as a person, as an intimate companion, as a friend. This however in NO WAY lessens the spiritual preliminaries, but rather gives more scope still, for them to work.

WHEN such is the marriage, then the power to pardon and the lack of pretence, both, tend to prevent the need for its exercise. Tenderness tends to be evocative, and in love, it is provocative of beauty and peace. When understanding reigns in the heart, what a kingdom it is! When it does not, what a mess it is, like an uncleaned dairy yard, ready to produce infection.

Marriage in Christ, which is where it belongs as in the Creator-Redeemer, is a massive rock of realism, a prodigious expression of the love of God. It is even symbolic, as Paul indicates in Ephesians 5, of the very mercy and kindness, unity with God!

  • It is not at all that there is a replacement for the relationship to the divine
  •  (thus if the husband or wife INSISTS on some sin, then the case is void, the person is pathological in this, and no law provides for the authority back of it to be violated in order to keep it! that is mere hypocrisy or confusion).
  • It is however expressive in a highly special and specific way of that relationship, and an ornament for the expression of that love.
  • The presence of children makes the ornament to become one of a set, and what a magnificent thing that can be.

It is only when the children are given the expression of the love and law of God, the mercy and the truth, that the ornament collection is given its opportunity of massive beauty. It may involve much longsuffering, but it is good. Art is not always easy. This art, however, it is dear to the heart of God, and those who love Him, will neither ignore ANY word of His, any liberty, any restriction, nor leave it at that. They will ALSO seek in spirit and life to be adorned with more than law, being kept by the power of God to an inheritance incorruptible, reserved in heaven for them, one that does fade away (I Peter 1:3-5).

What then is the lust of earth compared with the love of God! This is the call to and in marriage. Without this, you are not ready for it. In this, you are blessed if you marry.

Hence one does not hasten to divorce if there is impurity. Nor does one leniently allow continued passion for adultery to proceed, as if this were the very matrix of the relationship. It is a matter for prayer and supplication, power from God and divine guidance. Mercy is sweet; purity is necessary. Error can be pardoned; filth however cannot for ever linger. It infects.


L’Entente Celeste

The celestial understanding! Such then, with cover even for contrition, charity for correction, calm for hope, is the marriage in Christ. It is not heady for the oppression of women with the follies of male macho, multiple wives thronging like cords from a may-pole, nor is it for the dissolution of men with feminism, or for the adulation on the one hand or on the other, the dismissal of children. It is an affair of love, which is needed not merely in the family but in the world. But then, it cares for itself!
This however is what endures, is worthy of endurance, is not a religion of rages and guesses, but of truth, verity, verification, moderation, wisdom and reality, of God whose word is over all, whose work in all who are His. In this Ephesians 5 reads like a charter, a chapter of charity*1, a Spring of joy.


*1 See A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 11. See also Marriage in Index.