Welcome to Part 2 of my personal position statement on the issues of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
I've been somewhat uncertain where to go from the introduction which was Part 1.
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).That verse very briefly but conclusively states God's law of marriage.
Key to our understanding of its applicability is the realization that God stated this law on the very first day of human history. Obviously what God had to say when He established marriage long predates Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, we have no option but to conclude that marriage is a universal law, applicable to all humans.
This would naturally lead us to ask at what point God joins together a man and a woman.
I believe marriage is a duly-recognized covenant relationship entered into by a single man and a single woman.
To help you understand what I mean by that, I'll elaborate briefly on three concepts:
|duly-recognized||Generally speaking, I think this is a societal function. In Western societies, this usually takes the form of a religious ceremony and/or a civil ceremony. In a so-called Stone Age society in some remote jungle somewhere yet untouched by the Gospel, it could even be a rite performed by a witch doctor. My point is, cultures often (always?) establish the "event threshold" which couples must cross in order to achieve a duly-recognized marriage. I do not think it enough for a couple to merely enter into a covenant relationship on their own, expecting that to establish a legitimate marriage before God.|
|covenant||This is about promises and commitments. Even if the couple decides to leave out the "till death do us part" clause, the fact that they enter into this duly-recognized marriage relationship makes it for life.|
|single||In other words, neither partner has ever been previously married or, having been previously married, has become a widow or widower. I do not believe that divorce changes a person's marital status in God's eyes from married to single.|
Notice that my definition of marriage does not include any reference to a sexual union. I believe this physical union could be said to consummate the marriage. But I do not believe that sexual relations constitute or establish marriage. I know of people (including a personal friend) who believe sex constitutes marriage, but for me such a definition raises too many questions.
If sex constitutes marriage...
And how does that help me with verse 16?
Well, if we take verse 16 to mean sex establishes marriage, verse 17 would have to say . . .
"While a man is actually and physically joined to an harlot, he is one body with her; however, when intercourse ceases, he is no longer joined to her in a one-body relationship. While a man is spiritually joined to the Lord, he is one spirit with Him; however, when a man leaves the Lord, he is no longer one with Him."
God's laws of marriage apply to whom? Humans, not just Jews or Christians.
What constitutes marriage? A duly-recognized covenant relationship entered into by a single man and a single woman.
That is where I stand on those two questions.
June 16, 1999