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Robert Jeffress - What God Has Joined Together


Robert Jeffress - What God Has Joined Together
TOPICS: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, Marriage, Divorce

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The foundational principle for marriage in the Bible is this, one man with one woman for life, that's very clear. But does God allow exceptions to this rule? And in the event of a divorce, is it okay for a Christian man or woman to find a new mate? Today, we're going to examine what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. My message is titled "What God Has Joined Together," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Someone has said that there are two processes that should never be entered into prematurely, embalming and divorce. Now, actually, both of those processes have something in common. They both involve death. I think we all know this evening, that divorce is not the preferred way to handle marital conflict. We also know from a superficial reading of the scripture, what God's attitude toward divorce is. The Bible says, God hates divorce. Now it doesn't say he hates divorced people, but he does hate the process of divorce because of what it does. Divorce not only is the death of a relationship, but it brings death, destruction to those involved in the relationship. And yet, even though most of us here tonight, realize God doesn't care for divorce, I think most of us here tonight, if we thought about it, could think of one or two circumstances in which we would think maybe God would permit a divorce. We can think of situations in which we would counsel other people, perhaps we would even allow ourselves to divorce. And yet there's probably not a consensus among Christians about what those circumstances are.

Today, there's a lot of confusion in the church about the subject of divorce and remarriage. And the result is Christians are divorcing at a record rate. In fact, the divorce rate for Christians is exactly the same, in some studies actually higher, than the divorce rate among non-Christians. Not only that, children r being irreparably scarred because of divorce. And most importantly, the cause of Christ is being severely damaged in the world. If Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians, what is the sense in being a believer? Actually, that's nothing new. The same confusion about the question of divorce and remarriage was occurring in the church at Corinth. And that's why Paul devoted an entire chapter to answering questions about this very controversial subject.

If you have your Bibles tonight, I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians chapter seven. Well, let me say tonight that if at the end of these next few weeks, you come to the conclusion that you divorced your mate and perhaps remarried somebody else for other than biblical reasons. Let me suggest to you that the right course of action is for you to confess that mistake to God, to ask for his forgiveness. Remember divorce is not the unpardonable sin. To ask for his forgiveness and then purpose in your heart that you and your mate will have the best Christian marriage you can possibly have. You'll be the finest Christian husband, you'll be the finest Christian wife you can be. God can cause all things to work together for good, to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

I don't understand how that works, but God is able to do that. But under no circumstance, am I suggesting that you need to dissolve your current marriage and go back to your former mate. In fact, as we'll see in a few weeks, God's word prohibits your doing that, to do that is to make a mockery out of marriage. So to those of you already divorced and remarried, God can grant forgiveness if it's for other than biblical reasons. But my purpose tonight, and over the next few weeks, is to counsel those of you who have not divorced. And to say to you that the Bible has some very clear instruction of what God's plan for marriage is. You may find yourself in a situation where you're counseling with a son or daughter, a grandchild, a friend about this important issue. And it's important for you to know what God's word says and doesn't say about divorce and remarriage.

Now I find in the church that Christians tend to go to one of two extremes when it comes to this issue of divorce and remarriage. There are many Christians who say divorce for any reason, divorce for any reason, if you're not fulfilled, if you're emotionally abused, if you're physically incompatible, if you don't like the person's in-laws, whatever reason, God doesn't want you to go through life, these people say, miserable. And so the most important thing in your life is your happiness. Therefore, if you want to get divorced, you can divorce for any reason whatsoever. Now, clearly that is not God's standard as we're going to see tonight. But there's another extreme that people go to in the church, and that is divorce for no reason, some say divorce for any reason, others say divorce for no reason. If you make that vow, the Bible does not allow you to divorce and remarry for any reason at all, that is an equally unbiblical position. The Bible does give some reason, some allowances for divorce and remarriage, that we're going to look at over the next several weeks.

Now, folks, if we are going to be a church that is built on the inherent infallible Word of God, then we have to allow the Bible to be the final authority in this subject of divorce and remarriage. It means we don't diminish, we don't lessen the standards, but it also means we don't be like the pharisees and exceed the standards of God's word. We have to preach what the Bible teaches about this subject. Now, when we get to verse 10, Paul is going to answer some questions about divorce and remarriage. If I am unhappy, am I permitted to leave my mate? What if I become a Christian and the person I married when I wasn't a Christian remains an unbeliever, does God want me to leave an unbelieving mate and marry a believing mate? What if my unbelieving mate deserts me or divorces me or commits adultery? Am I free to divorce and remarry? And what about the case of my mate's death? Does my mate's death allow me to remarry?

Well, Paul is going to answer all of those questions beginning in verse 10. And tonight we're going to look at the universal principle for marriage, and it's stated in verses 10 and 11, Paul says, he's been talking to singles. Now he says, "But to the married I give these instructions, not i, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband. But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband, and that the husband should not divorce his wife". Now Paul says, this is what the Lord himself said, that the wife should not leave her husband, and that the husband should not divorce his wife. That is God's universal principle for marriage. Not to say there are not some exceptions. We'll get to those. But the general principle is a husband and wife are to remain together.

Now, what does Paul mean that the Lord himself, addressed this subject, where did Jesus talk about this subject of divorce and remarriage? In several passages, but the foundational passage is found in Matthew chapter nine. Turn back to Matthew chapter 19, pardon me. Matthew chapter 19, where Jesus, in depth, talks about the subject of divorce. And it all began with a question from the pharisees. Look at Matthew chapter 19 verse three, "Some pharisees came to Jesus, testing him and asking. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all"? Now, when the pharisees asked Jesus this question, they didn't do so sincerely. They didn't have this question that was burning in their hearts, that they really wanted to know the answer to. In fact, the Bible says they were testing Jesus, why? Because they were trying to get Jesus, put him in a box, so that no matter how he answered this question, he was going to lose. They wanted to put him in a box because they knew if he answered it the wrong way, he could either discredit his ministry or he could even shorten his life.

But notice how Jesus skillfully responded to their questions. He begins in verse four, Jesus saw this one coming. "He replied, have you not read"? You're the pharisees, you're supposed to know the Old Testament. "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning, made them male and female and said, for this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate". Now at first glance, you might think Jesus is avoiding the subject by going back to the book of Genesis, not at all. What Jesus was saying is this whole complex issue of divorce and remarriage can really be answered and unraveled when you understand God's original design for marriage.

And I want you to notice in these three verses, three important principles that will answer 90% of your questions about divorce. You ready to write them down? Here they are, first of all, our mates are designed to compliment us, not to irritate us. Look at verse four, verse four says, "And he who created them, created them male and female". Now, if you've been in church for any length of time at all, you've probably heard some pastor rail on this verse about God created them male and female. Probably saying something like when God created the first couple, he didn't create Adam and Steve, it was Adam and Eve. Haven't you heard that before? And they used this verse, male and female, male and female.

Now that's true, that's absolutely true. But the more I've studied this verse, the more I realize his reason for saying this is not the emphasis on the gender. The real key is the emphasis on the number. He who created them, created them, not males and females, but male and female. When God created the first couple, he created two and only two. Remember in Genesis chapter two, verse 18, he said to Adam, Adam, I'm going to make you a helper who is suitable for you. That word means suitable, means opposite you. I'm going to fashion you a wife who is uniquely designed for you.

And in fact, when we get down to verse 22 of Genesis two, the Bible says, "And God fashioned the woman for the man". That word fashion, bâ, in Hebrew means built. He built eve for Adam. He custom made her for Adam. And ladies and gentlemen, the same is true with the mate that God has given you. Your mate has been custom designed by God to meet your physical, your spiritual, your emotional needs. And there is nobody out there any better suited to meet those needs than that husband or that wife God has given you. That's what he's saying here. God created them, male and female. Our mates were designed to compliment us, not to irritate us. They are God's custom made mate just for us.

Secondly, Jesus teaches in this passage that marriage creates an unbreakable bond between a husband and wife. Look at verse five. "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall," some translations say, cleave, others say, "Shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh". That word joined or cleave is a word that means to create an unbreakable bond, an unbreakable bond. Now, when I was growing up and going to grade school, of course, the big deal in August was to go with your parents to go buy your school supplies. Remember those treks to the drug store or wherever to buy the construction paper and the scissors and the crayons, but usually on every list was required, glue.

Now most normal families, people would buy the Elmer's glue. Remember the Elmer's glue in the little squirt bottles and so forth. My family was so cheap, we would never buy the Elmer's glue. Instead we would buy that paste. You remember that paste that came in the jar, that had the plastic applicator and it would come out and it was big clumps. And you know, the morons in the class would actually eat the stuff. Remember that? And that's just as well, because it would never hold anything together. It was cheap, but it never, never worked. Now you contrast that stuff with what came on years later, superglue, you ever use superglue? I mean one little dabble will do you, you know, you put it in there, whack, it creates a bond, an unbreakable bond.

Now, when Jesus says a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, he's talking about creating, not that pasty kind of bond, but that superglue kind of bond. When you come together with your husband or wife, God's intention is that there be that unbreakable bond, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. And that's God's plan for marriage. It's interesting how this word cleave is used elsewhere in scripture.

For example, remember the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi? Anybody who has ever been to a wedding or had a wedding performed by Dr. Chriswell, can recite the story of Ruth and Naomi verbatim. He would use it in every wedding ceremony. It's a great one to use in a wedding ceremony. Ruth and Naomi were bound together. Ruth was married to Naomi's son. But when Ruth lost her husband and Naomi lost her husband as well, Naomi assumed that Ruth would go back to her home country and remarry, but Ruth didn't want to do that. And we find this beautiful passage of scripture. In Ruth 1:14, it says, "And they lifted up their voices and wept again".

"Now Orpah," that's not Oprah that's Orpah, that was Naomi's other daughter-in-law who had also lost her husband. "Orpah kissed her mother-in-law". How did Ruth respond to her mother-in-law? She clung to her, there's that word. She had that unbreakable bond and Ruth said, "Please do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you, for where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people. And your God, my God, where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me and worse, if anything but death parts you and me".

Boy, what a contrast to so many couples today. You're thinking about moving to another city for another job, well, you're going to go without me. What a contrast to wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Or I can't take that mother-in-law anymore, it's either your mother or me, but not both of us. What a contrast to your people shall be my people. You see, God intends for marriage to be that superglue kind of bond. Jesus said it creates an unbreakable bond. But that word cleave is not only used to describe the relationship between people like Ruth and Naomi, God also uses that word to describe our relationship with him.

In Deuteronomy 10:20, the Bible says, "You shall fear the Lord your God, you shall serve him and cling to him". There's the word. "And you shall swear by his name," or Joshua 22:5, "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses, the servant of God commanded you. You're to love the Lord your God, and walk in all of his ways and keep his commandments". And here's the word, "Hold fast or cleave to him and serve him with all of your heart and with all of your soul".

Can you imagine God saying to us, now I want to be your God and I want you to worship me as your God, unless of course another God comes along that you're more attracted to, then you're free to worship him. Can you imagine God saying that? Or God saying to us, I want you to cling to me and love me with all of your heart. Unless of course, you fall out of love with me. Nothing lasts forever. Then you're released from your bond. Such a thought is ridiculous. Regardless of our changing affections or changing circumstances, we are to remain bound in our covenant relationship with God. Now he uses that very same word to describe the marriage relationship. It doesn't matter if your feelings change, it doesn't matter if your circumstances change, you are to keep that commitment you have made to your mate. Marriage creates that kind of unbreakable bond.

And then number three, in this passage, Jesus reminds us that every marriage is orchestrated by God. Look at verse six. "So then they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate". That's obvious that God arranges the union between Adam and Eve. The Bible says in Genesis 2:22, "After God fashioned the woman for the man, he brought his new creation, eve, he brought her physically to the man". He orchestrated that relationship, no doubt about it. But how do we know this applies to us? When God says, "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh". He's obviously not referring just to Adam and Eve. How do I know that? Well, because Adam didn't have a father to leave. He had no father and mother to leave and go to his wife.

So what Jesus and and Moses are doing is they're taking the story of Adam and Eve and they're expanding it to include God's plan for all of us. And what Jesus is saying is just as God brought eve to Adam, so God brought your mate to you. What God has joined together, let no man separate. I can look back and I can see God's hand orchestrating every detail that brought Amy into my life. Starting back in the seventh grade, every detail supernaturally worked together to bring us together. And I bet you can do the same with your mate. You can look back and see how God brought you and your mate together. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

Here's what Jesus is saying. When you consider that God has supernaturally created your mate just for you. When you understand that marriage creates an unbreakable bond between you and your mate. When you remember all of the circumstances that God put together to bring you and your mate together, how could you possibly think of destroying that relationship that God has created? But pastor, what if my mate abuses me? What if my mate abandons me? What if my mate commits adultery and will not repent? What if my mate dies and leaves me alone? Aren't there some exceptions to this one man with one woman for life principle? Of course there are. And we're going to talk about those next time. But here's the point, when you understand God's principle, God's foundational principle for marriage, it really uncomplicates a lot of those thorny issues. And God's foundational principle is this, one man with one woman for life. What God has joined together, let no person separate.
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