When Matthew 19 is referenced it is almost always with regard to verse nine, and it is generally regarding the subject of divorce and remarriage. However, in all of our discussions on this very important context, we often overlook the most important aspect of the first nine verses of the chapter: what Jesus says about marriage itself. I honestly believe that if men understood and enacted Jesus’ teachings on marriage in Matthew 19, the questions about the acceptability in areas of divorce and remarriage would largely die away because marriages would be as God intended. Consider what this great passage imparts concerning marriage.
Marriage is between one man and one woman (Vs. 4-5). It is deeply troubling that this conversation even has to take place in our society today, for in generations past any other notion would have been proclaimed ludicrous, and rightfully so. But in today’s society where down is up, up is down, and truth non-existent, the question regarding for whom marriage is intended is at a fever pitch. However, the answer from Scripture is immediate and unwavering. Jesus stated, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mat. 19:4b-6).
God created man and woman and gave them to each other as a married unit. Interestingly enough mankind is arguing about marriage as though man formed it, he did not. God formed marriage; he created man and woman, and placed them in that bond. Man does not have any say in what marriage is because he did not create it, nor does he have the right to separate and destroy what God joined together.
Husband and wife are to be one flesh (Vs. 5). Oftentimes people read this phrase and automatically think of the sexual relationship. While certainly that is an element of the point being made here, it is not the whole. The statement, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, is an idiom reinforcing the fact that they are to work as one unit, as if they were one body. They are to leave their parents to establish their own bonds of unity outside of the previous family unit. They are to cleave to one another, literally meaning “to be glued together.” There is to be nothing that separates the husband and wife, they are to be as one body.
In today’s society, many individuals desire to be married separately. By that I mean that they want to be married, but they want to retain their previous freedoms, focuses, and lifestyles. The husband and wife is not one unit, working toward the same goals with the same desires and the same focus; but are instead two beings trying not to get in each other’s way as they go through their separate lives. Such is not marriage as God intended and is one example of why divorce rates in our generation are so high; we do not understand what Jesus meant when he said “one flesh.”
Divorce was never included in God’s plan. God intended marriage to be a lifelong commitment; a molding of two lives together for the development of family, society, and righteousness throughout life. God expected man to understand, appreciate, and dedicate himself to the plan that was put in place. Jesus makes this statement concerning divorce in verse 8: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” God did not want divorce, in fact, he hates it (Mal. 2:16). Divorce is a perverting of the marriage bond; it takes what is supposed to be the greatest attachment in this physical world and dilutes it with sin and selfishness. There has never been a divorce where at least one party has not committed sin. Even in the case of “no-fault divorces” both parties have sinned because they have reneged on the oaths and promises they made to God and each other.
Divorce was never in God’s plan, and it should never be considered a forefront option in the mind of any married individual. Divorce was intended as an option of last resort when an individual violated one’s sexual faithfulness to their mate and physically bound oneself to another through fornication. In our society, it has become the option of first resort, but even in cases of fornication it should not be so. Divorce is final and it is always devastating in its consequences.
There are many things we should learn about marriage from this great chapter. Jesus was trying to show the Pharisees that if man understood marriage the way he should, the question of divorce would never enter into the equation. Such is definitely true. If a man and woman are devoted to God and one another as they should be, to be united in purpose, desire, focus, and relationship; then divorce will never be a thought. It is only when one or both parties pull away from the marriage that divorce ever enters the picture.
Teach the principles of marriage. See that your children learn them, understand them, and serve the God who gave them. Doing so will return marriage to its properly sanctified state and reverse the course of ungodly divorces and sinfulness in our society.