Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 23, 1968
NUMBER 4, PAGE 10b-12

"And They Shall Be One Flesh" Gen. 2:24

Luther W. Martin

Throughout the generations of mankind, all manner of efforts have been made in an attempt to put asunder, that which God has joined together. In this article, the writer will endeavor to stress that from the beginning, it has been God's will that man, if he marries, should have but one wife; and, that such a practice as divorcing and re-marrying was not and is not, in accord with the will of God.

Genesis 2:24

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." This is the first instance wherein the term "wife" is used in the English Bible. God provided man with his wife, for at least two good reasons: (1) God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, therefore He created for man "a help" answering to him. (Gen. 2:18) (2) In order to populate the earth, man required a mate. (Gen. 3:16) In harmony with this purpose, Adam was permitted to live 930 years, "and he begat sons and daughters." (Gen. 5:3-5)

Notice, please, that long before the giving of the Decalogue to the Jews, God laid down the rule describing man's relationship to his wife as that of becoming ONE FLESH.

Exodus 20:17

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife..." That such a practice had developed among the peoples of the earth goes without saying.

Exodus 20:14

"Thou shalt not commit adultery." One of the ten commandments.

Leviticus 20:10

"And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." This solved the problem of any divorce and subsequent re-marriage, when this law was given.

Deuteronomy 5:18 & 21

In the re-stating of the law, God through Moses taught: "Neither shalt thou commit adultery," and "Neither shalt thou covet the neighbor's wife."

Leviticus 21:7 & 13-14

It was not long after the giving of the decalogue, that the children of Israel ignored the laws of God and began to grant writings of divorcement to the wives who were no longer pleasing in the eyes of their husbands. Notice the instructions given to the sons of Aaron, the priests: "They shall not take a woman that is an harlot, or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband..." Therefore, at this early date, women were being "put away" by their husbands. Then, verses 13 and 14 - "And he (high priest - LWM) shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow or one divorced, or a profane (polluted - LWM) woman, a harlot, these shall he not take: but a virgin of his own people shall he take to wife." This is the first usage of the term "divorced" in the English Bible.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4

"When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife; her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before Jehovah:..."

The foregoing teaching concerning divorce and re-marriage is that to which Christ makes reference in the New Testament as having been "suffered by Moses" because of the hardness of their hearts, but from the beginning it was not so.

Now, let us turn our attention to the passages in the New Testament which deal with this subject. The first is contained in Christ's sermon on the mount, in which He contrasted a series of differences between the old law and the new law.

Matthew 5:31-32

"It was said also, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery."

This passage does not afford the "one scriptural reason for divorce" among Christians as so many brethren claim. If it did, it would be flatly contradicting all other passages dealing with the subject beginning with Mark and on through the New Testament. Instead, this passage is simply charging that men who put away their wives have made an adulteress out of her, IF she was not an adulteress already.

Matthew 19:3-10

"And there came unto Him Pharisees, trying Him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said, Have ye not read, that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall become one flesh? (Gen. 2:24 LWM) So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto Him, why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery. The disciples say unto Him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.

These two passages in Matthew's record of the teachings of Christ are the ONLY New Testament passages that can in any way be construed to provide a supposed "scriptural cause" allowing divorce and re-marriage. However, the strict reasoning and meaning involved in this passage is demonstrated by the disciples when they conclude that Christ's teaching on the subject is so rigid and strict that "It is not expedient to marry." But let us look at Mark's record of the same teaching.

Mark 10:2-12

"And there came unto Him Pharisees, and asked Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? trying Him, And He answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. But Jesus said unto them, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made He them. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh: (Gen. 2:24 - LWM) so that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house the disciples asked Him again of this matter. And He said unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and many another, committeth adultery against her: and if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery."

In Mark's record there is NO supposed "exception" given whatsoever. Notice, too, that he who puts away his wife and then marries another, commits adultery against his "first wife" even though she has been supposedly "put away."

Luke 16:18

"Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth one that is put away from a husband committeth adultery." No exception given by Luke. Matthew wrote to convince the Jews of the divinity of Christ and His teachings, while Luke wrote basically to convince the Greeks of Christ's divinity and the accuracy of His gospel.

Romans 7:2-3

"For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man."

Although the apostle Paul is discussing the relationship of the Christians at Rome to the old law versus the new law of Christ, nevertheless the illustration used shows the permanency of the marriage relationship.

I Corinthians 7:10-11 & 39

"But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord, that the wife depart not from her husband (but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife." Verse 39 - "A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."

Here again, the apostle Paul instructs Christians as to the permanency of the marriage relationship. No exceptions are given.

Ephesians 5:31

"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh."

Once again, inspiration stresses that the man and wife have become ONE flesh.

Colossians 3:18-19

"Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them."

Are Not Husbands And Wives To Be Forgiving?

Too frequently, a man who is a Christian, can be forgiving to everyone except his spouse. He fails to remember that the willingness to forgive until "seventy times seven" must also be applied to his wife who may have sinned against him. Or, the wife who is a Christian, may be all "peaches and cream" to others who seek her forgiveness, but just let friend husband stray from the straight and narrow, and she refuses to exercise forgiveness, even though the penitent husband may in all honesty and sincerity seek her forgiveness. Pride and haughtiness seem to enter in so frequently between a husband and his wife when they have "domestic difficulties"...and that pride and ego keeps them from utilizing repentance and forgiveness.

One Last Consideration

Once upon a time, every married couple stood before a judge of a court of law, the captain of a vessel, or before a minister of the gospel. And, in the presence of these officiating persons, in the presence of earthly witnesses, and even in the spiritual presence of God Himself, every marrying pair has repeated somewhat similar VOWS..." in sickness and in prosperity and in adversity...for better or for worse...for richer or for poorer...I will keep myself only unto THEE, UNTIL DEATH DO US PART." To those who would seek to put asunder that which GOD hath joined together, I ask the question: "Didn't you mean what you promised when you vowed before God and man to cleave unto this man or this woman until DEATH?" Or have we so soon forgotten? Or are we not persons who keep their word? I fear that far too many Christians have forgotten the seriousness, and importance, the finality and the permanence of the marriage vows which established the marriage relationship. Your vow, and my vow, contained one of the following expressions... "So long as ye both shall live," or "Until death do us part."

Let's do far more teaching of our young people, our children, as to the permanence of marriage, and that "To marry only in the Lord," means to establish marriage bonds and relationships that are in accord with Christ's principles and teachings.

Finally, if you think that none of my arguments "hold water," I know that you can agree with me, that what I have taught in this article is the safer course. -Box 639, Rolla, Missouri