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The Law and Gospel views on Christian marriage and divorce (7)

By John Moyibi Amoda
THE Law has thus been fulfilled, for its sentence of death has been carried out by the cross.
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.  But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:4-6).

The deliverance from the law was through our death as members of the crucified body of Jesus.  God made us members of Jesus, God did not crucify us as alongside of Jesus as the Roman authorities crucified the two thieves with Jesus in their midst.  God put us in Christ Jesus to make mankind members of his body (1Cor 1:30).

“We are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that we should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.  Through death we became bethrothed to Jesus and through his resurrection we became married to him, and became bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (Ephesians 5:25).

Thus the Church of God came into being.  The Church is the Risen Body of Christ Jesus, not the Congregations of Believing Sinners professing faith in His Blood.  The Church is mankind united in death by God to Jesus; it is mankind made members of the crucified Jesus and raised as the Body of Jesus. That is the Church.

“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father, and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:29-32).

This is the truth revealed in type in Eden when God formed the wife, by taking a bone out of the bones of Adam and forming the Woman therewith.  The truth revealed in type was that the Woman, as wife is the Body of the Man and the Man as husband is the Head of the Woman.  Both Body and Head, Wife and Husband form the Man, a type of Christ Risen, the Church. Thus the Church is not organisation but an organism.


The Gospel view of divorce

What is the application of this Gospel to the fact of divorce within the congregation of professing believers?  This is the import of Paul’s teaching in 1Corinthian 7 and in Ephesians 5. In 1Corinthian 7 Paul addresses two individuals who have come together as wife and husband.  In 1Corinthian 7 Paul is addressing professing Christians in the Church at Corinth.

To this Church, the basis of the doctrine on marriage is still Christ’s teachings on marriage, it is still the law.  For as individuals, they were still under the law and the demands of the law on those still in the flesh remains the same.  To the Corinthian congregations Paul writes:

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote to me; it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ ((1Cor 7; 1). The lust of the flesh is the problem of this church.  How is the flesh to be tamed, how is sin to be frustrated?  Sin is propelling the carnal to commit fornication, to offend God thereby.  Paul says if a man cannot rule his flesh, (and what man can rule his flesh?), to avoid the sin of fornication:

“ Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. But I speak thee by permission and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even do I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after thus manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.

But of they cannot contain let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn. (1Cor. 7, 2, 6-9)
God’s will for man in the resurrection is continence. Therefore it is good that all men be as Paul, a vessel sanctified to God. But not all men can be as Paul- so to the unmarried and widow if you can contain your lust, do not marry. But if you cannot, then marry to avoid the sin of fornication.

Marriage in this teaching is a means for avoiding indulgence of sin- it is better therefore to marry than to burn. Marriage between two individuals sexually attracted to each other is recommended as a means, not as an end- a means to avoid the sin of fornication. This is a second best- celibacy is the best. But Paul’s eclogue is that among carnal disciples, not all have the gift to keep themselves celibate.

Thus marriage is recommended as a second best. The best is celibacy. But Paul is practical enough to know that his continence is a gift, not a character trait. Those who should marry are not inferior to Paul, they just have other gifts- for “every man hath his proper gift of God, one after the manner, and another after that”(1 Cor. 7:7).

“All unto that married I commend, yet not I, but his Lord, let not the wife depart from her husband, and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband, and let not the husband put away his wife” (1Cor. 7: 10-11).
Paul teaches the law in the above with the same end as the Lord Jesus had in view.

The purpose of the teaching is not to glorify the law but to show that it cannot be kept by the lustful, by the carnal to whom the law is given. The carnal marries to avoid fornication, but God sees marriage as the joining of the husband to his wife so that the two becomes one body. Thus the individual remains the individual cohabiting with another individual. Such marriage is not recognised as a marriage under the law. Sin, with its power, is what is Paul’s focus in these verses.


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