Domingo, 03 de Março de 2024
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The Two Effects of Marriage

The coexistence

In recent weeks two pastoral were published under the title Three factors that make up a marriage. They stated that the existence of the marriage bond depends on three elements: free will, the solemn act and intercourse. In this pastoral and the next, we will show the effects of the bond arisal.

So, let us say from the start that when the marital bond happens by filling the three requirements listed above, it produces two effects. The two basic effects of marriage are the coexistence and indissolubility. Both are provided in Genesis 2:24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife (coexistence): and they shall be one flesh (indissolubility). We consider the first a programmed effect; and one can call the latter the unplanned effect.

COEXISTENCE, THE EFFECT OF PROGRAMMED MARRIAGE: Coexistence is the effect of programmed marriage because whoever gets married obviously does that admittedly and consciously aiming at living with their spouse. In fact, by leaving father and mother, the individual who joins his or her spouse plans to live under one roof, building a home, a heritage and a history with the person he or she married to.

Marriage is the factor that legitimizes coexistence and the Bible shows that this programmed effect of conjugal union should follow guidelines that the Lord himself has set in order for it to be happy, fulfilling and uplifting.

The first lesson that emanates from Scriptures about the coexistence of the married couple is that it must have dynamic sex life (Prov 5.15-19; 1 Cor 7.3,4). In fact, the sacred text teaches that spouses should not deprive each other except by mutual consent and that only for a time, with the sole purpose of engaging in prayer. After this period, they must unite again, so that Satan does no tempt them, taking advantage of the difficulty of the spouses in containing their desire any longer (1 Cor 7.5). Apostle Paul is quite straightforward when addressing this issue, showing that the couple who does not have a constant and active sex life is far from the ideal of God and remains exposed to dangers.

The coexistence of the couple must also be marked by subjection (Eph 5:21). The husband should be subject to his wife moved by love, just as Christ was subjected in love to the church (Eph 5:25). Something, however, must be clear on this point: even as Christ is the head of the church, so the husband is the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Tim 3.4,12). Therefore, the husband’s subjection is not the type to obey, but the type who sacrifices himself (Eph 5.25b). If, by any chance, the husband happens to be subject to his wife by obeying her, he reverses the model established by God and the home will be unstructured.

Something also important to highlight is that by subjecting to the wife sacrificially, as stated in the Bible, the husband should have lofty targets of protecting and sustaining her, as well as perfecting her spiritually (Eph 5.26-29).

If the main feature of the husband’s subjection is sacrificial love, the main feature of the wife’s subjection is respect that yields. Her subjection is therefore of the same type that the church owes to Christ (Eph 5.22,24). This implies aid (Gen. 2:18), dedication (Proverbs 31.13-27), obedience and the recognition that the reins of the home are in the husband’s hands (1 Peter 3.5,6).

Spouses must also live free of bitterness, rancor, bickering and offensive provisions. Instead, the wife must be peaceful, meek and gentle (Prov 31.12, 1 Peter 3.1-5) and the husband must be wise in dealing with his wife, granting her honor and special care (1 Peter 3.7).


In last week’s newsletter, we said that coexistence is one of the two effects of marriage, also called programmed effect. Here is exposed the second effect of marriage.

INDISSOLUBILITY, THE UNPROGRAMMED EFFECT OF MARRIAGE: Indissolubility is the unprogrammed effect of marriage because it does not depend on the planning, the will or even the science of the bride and groom. When two people get married, fulfilling the three requirements listed in previous newsletters, the indissolubility arise, whether the spouses want it to or not, whether they know it or not, whether they agree with it or not.

That the marital bond is insoluble is evident from texts such as Matthew 19.6, Romans 7.2 and 1 Corinthians 7:39. In fact, the last two show that the only strong enough circumstance to break the marriage bond is death. Neither the decision of those involved, nor the feelings of the parties, nor the removal of the spouses, nor the errors of the couple, in short, nothing but death has the power to destroy the bond established between a man and a woman married to each other.

Such statements obviously raise the following question - what about divorce? Doesn’t Bible show cases in which this resource can be used, ending marriage?

Yes. Though God hates rejection (Mal 2.14-16) and Jesus teaches that the basic cause of a couple’s split is the hardness of heart (Mt 19.6-8), indeed Bible tolerates divorce in two specific cases: because of sexual immorality, such as adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19.9), and when non-believer spouse wants to depart from Christian spouse (1 Cor 7.12,13,15). In the second case, the biblical text makes it clear that the initiative should be of the non-believer.

Undoubtedly, there are situations that do not fit the assumptions above in which the separation of the spouses is inevitable. For instance, in the case of a husband who exposes to danger the life and physical integrity of wife and children by beating them violently. It is also the case of a father who encourages his children to corruption by teaching them how to steal or use drugs, what would make family interaction impossible.

Such terrible situations, even if not mentioned in the Bible, often justify divorce since values above the marital unit are at stake - values ​​such as life and physical and moral integrity. However, it is important to stress that before reaching the point of separation, the couple must employ all possible resources so that the family unit is preserved.

Once shown that the Bible allows divorce in a few cases, a caveat is in order: the divorce that Bible talks about his strength to destroy the programmed effect of marriage (coexistance), but not the unprogrammed effect. This means that even after divorce, the marriage bond between a man and a woman endures, with a link established by God that only dissolves with the death of one of the spouses.

That is why the Bible does not approve remarriage of divorced individuals. Indeed, in the light of the sacred text, the marriage of a divorced person whose ex-spouse remains alive implies adultery for both parties involved (Mk 10.11-12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7.3, 1 Corinthians 7.10,11).

It follows that divorce, as discussed in the Bible, has less strength than that given to it in the legal context. On the one hand, civil law considers divorce the dissolution of marriage thus alleging the possibility to contract a new marriage. On the other hand, the New Testament attributes a more restricted efficiency to divorce. Indeed, according to the Scriptures, divorce is only able to stop the coexistence of the couple, without, however, destroying the link that binds husband and wife united. This link, even with divorce, remains intact, making both "one flesh" - something that lingers mysteriously by God's power until the coming of death.

Now, with death being the only factor that breaks the marriage bond, it is clear that the marriage of widows is legit (1 Tim 5:14). The only exception made ​​by Apostle Paul in this matter is that the believer widower gets married to someone who is also a Christian (1 Cor 7:39). Indeed, marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is never approved in the Bible, which, by the way, condemns any intense relationship of light with darkness (2 Cor 6.14-16).

Who invented divorce?

In New Testament times, the Jews harbored in their minds some guidelines about marriage. For example, they knew that in the case of adultery, both man and woman involved should be executed (Leviticus 20:10 cp. John 8.3-11). They also knew the constraint that weighed on priests who, once exercising a holy function, could not marry a prostitute or a girl who was not a virgin or a woman divorced from her husband (Leviticus 21.7).

Among the sections of the law dealing about marriage, perhaps the passage in Deuteronomy 24.1-4 must have caused more controversy. According to this text, a woman who had been divorced and remarried could not return to her former consort, even if her second husband died (Deuteronomy 24.2-4).

It is likely, however, that the most discussed part of Deuteronomy 24 was verse 1, that said the husband could give a certificate of divorce to his wife if he found something in her that was not to his liking. As it is virtually impossible, in this passage, to define the exact limit of the right given to the husband who wanted to divorce, the rabbis of the time espoused divergent opinions, being more liberal in some cases, while others showed very strict views.

Regarding this subject, the best known rabbinical schools opposing each other was that of Hillel and Shammai. Stuart Weber summarizes very well the design of these two lines:

In Israel, during the first century, divorce and remarriage were themes as controversial as today. Rabbi Hillel’s school of thought harbored very liberal views on the subject, admitting divorce for any reason. Hillel accepted divorce even in the case of an undercooked meal or if the husband saw a woman more attractive than his wife. On the other hand, the school of Rabbi Shammai was very strict, allowing divorce only for serious reasons, especially adultery (Holman New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 328 p.).

Inspired by these discussions about divorce, Jesus' enemies, especially driven by the desire of putting him to test, asked him once whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason (19.3 Mt). The Master's reply then highlighted the supernatural origin of marriage (Gen. 1:27) and the indissolubility implied in the expression "one flesh" (Gn 2:24), pointing out that husband and wife should not separate after all (Matthew 19.4-6).

Given this response, the Pharisees appealed to Deuteronomy 24.1, precisely the text that says man can give a certificate of divorce to his wife, if not pleased by her. The course goal was to accuse Jesus of teaching lessons contrary to Scriptures.

At this point, however, Jesus enunciated an important truth: God did not create divorce and then inserted it in the Law, as many Jews thought at the time (and still today many people think). No! He had just given instructions to regulate a disorderly practice invented by men because of their hardness of heart (Mt 19.8).

Then Jesus said: “But I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19.9). As seen, the conception of Jesus about divorce is very strict, allowing someone to resort to this expedient only in case of "illicit sexual relations".

In the aspect concerning the possibility of divorce, Jesus' teaching is, in fact, quite clear. The problem arising from Matthew 19.9 is that the phrase "except for fornication" (the so-called exception clause) seems to accept not only the possibility of divorce, but of remarriage as well, at least for the partner who was the victim of infidelity. Is that really the case?

The exception clause

It has been said in the previous pastoral that Matthew 19.9 seems to make an exception for remarriage when the cause of the couple's separation is infidelity.

Such impression, however, should not mislead the student of the Bible. That's because, in the light of Greek grammar and the general teaching of the New Testament, the exception clause pronounced by Jesus can only be applied to repudiation, not remarriage. See, moreover, that the parallel texts of Mark 10.11-12 and Luke 16:18 do mention no exception clause.

In fact, a remarkable number of great scholars are unanimous in saying that the exception applies only to divorce in the text in question, so that remarriage remains sealed, even in cases of adultery.

The doctor of biblical languages Carlos Osvaldo Cardoso Pinto explains that:

Jesus' words in Matthew 19.9, as understood by all Christian commentators until the 16th century (with one exception, Ambrosiaster, in the 4th century), stated that remarriage after divorce implies adultery for all involved... This position, less popular and more complex in practice, understands that the phrase "except in the case of fornication" (so-called "exception clause") modifies only the phrase "if a man divorces his wife" (which in technical language is called protasis (conditional sentence) and not the next sentence, "and marries another commits adultery" (which scholars call the apodosis (the main clause) (The Divorce. Enfoque Magazine, p. 7).

Keeping his presentation on, the professor states that "the grammar and statistics of the Gospel of Matthew require that the exception clause refer only to the sentence that precedes it.". He concludes that "the meaning of Jesus' words in Matthew 19.9 would therefore be: ‘The husband cannot put away (divorce) his wife unless she is guilty of illicit sexual behavior’. And again: ‘Who marries after divorcing his wife commits adultery’. “Another possible translation is Matthew 19.9 is: ‘Whoever divorces his wife, which is only allowed if she is unfaithful, and marries another commits adultery’”. Note that this option correctly connects the famous exception clause only the first part of the hypothesis - the part related to divorce.

After all this discussion, one might ask: why is marriage strong to the point that only death can break it? The answer to this question lies in the fact that marriage is not a mere contract between two parties producing purely natural effects. the Marriage is of divine origin, producing connections that transcend human understanding.

Keep in mind again that, according to the Bible, when two people marry each other, they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), so that the simple separation of bodies or geographical distance is unable to break the strong bond between them. It is, therefore, a stronger link than the parenthood. Indeed, everyone knows that the natural bond between parent and child is very strong, so that no one stops being a child by the simple fact that no longer lives with their parents. Now, if this is so in the case of the natural bond of parenthood, much stronger should be considered the supernatural bond of marriage in which the parties are regarded as "one flesh", something never said about the parent / child relationship.

We see, therefore, that the Christian ethic of marriage is extremely high and should be defended at all costs in modern days. It is also significant that John the Baptist, the first martyr of the New Testament, was arrested and beheaded precisely because he defended the biblical ethic of marriage (Matthew 14.3-12), which should inspire modern Christians to defend those values more fiercely.

In conclusion, in light of everything that was said, the church of God cannot agree to the second marriage of someone whose spouse is still alive. Therefore, this church does not encourage or promote the marriage of people in this condition, indicating the error of those who follow that direction.

However, it is worth remarking that divorced people who come to church already having formed new family should not be rejected. Evidently, in these cases there is nothing to do but accept the situation as it is, as it would be very damaging to force the dissolution of the second marriage and often impossible to restore the first. Therefore, believers in these conditions should be received in the church, and they are only prohibited from occupying positions of leadership or spiritual guidance (1 Tim 3.2,12).


Pr. Marcos Granconato
Soli Deo gloria
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