This is the final part of a four-part series on Christian Marriage. As I have said in each of the posts, please go back and read the other posts, because the posts only make sense if they are read together. This is especially true of this post, because if read on its own it would seem to simply be a condemnation of certain sexual acts that most Christians would already agree are wrong.
But the purpose for this post is to tie up the loose ends of the prior posts. The prior posts were dealing with other Christian Dogmas that influence the Christian understanding of Marriage, and so I tried not to digress outside of the realm of the Dogmas and the truth they provide. As such, I wasn’t able to address more directly certain sexual acts that are connected with Marriage, and so this final post deals with those acts in light of the truths spoken of in the other posts.
The first two sections of the post are about particular sexual sins. The last part of the post is an aside concerning a qualification about the condemnation of divorce that was mentioned in the first post. This section deals with the so-called “exception clause” of Matthew 19 and how this phrase of Jesus’ is to be understood in light of the prior dogmas mentioned in the other posts.
These issues then wrap up the Christian understanding of Marriage which is based not upon reason, or science, or emotions, but rather on Christian truth by which we understand God’s reality and all issues that are relevant to our pilgrimage here on earth as those who desire to live according to God’s design and wisdom. Thank you for reading this series and I hope that it helps in your future relationships with your spouse and other people.
The Condemnation of Certain Acts Associated with Marriage
As was mentioned above, sex is to be done solely within the union of marriage between one man and one woman. And thus, all other sexual acts outside of the marital union are to be condemned not only because of the hurt these acts cause to the soul of the individual committing the sins, but also because of the wrong committed against the sanctity of the marital union and the communion of the family.
Fornication is any sexual activity outside of the marital union. Fornication is to be strictly condemned by Christians. This includes not only the action of sex, but also the lust of the heart, which our Lord said in his teaching to the people. Fornication creates a false physical union of the flesh where there is no union created by God. As such the fornicator takes what God has not given to him for his own lustful uses and perverts his own body (and the body of another) which is only to ever be given to the one whom God has joined him to.
As such the fornicator also defiles the flesh (and spirit) of another that may one day belong rightly to someone else. Fornication is an affront to God’s will, a defiling of one’s self and of the person of another, an abuse of sex since it is being used improperly outside of its intention, and even a possible affront against a future marital union by joining to flesh that does in no way belong to the fornicator. Fornication replaces pure love with perverted lust and disconnects sex from its natural and God-given connection with procreation.
By the way, the same fundamental reasoning can be used against other sexual perversions. Incest, Bestility, and all other sexual perversions can be condemned by the same reasons given above for fornication, although they add their own unique elements to the specifics of the condemnation.
Adultery is sexual activity of a married person with a person rather than one’s spouse, or even an unmarried person partaking in sexual activity with a married person. Adultery is to be strictly condemned by all Christians for it violates the marital union. Adultery is such a grievous sin for in the action of adultery many other sins are accomplished. Trust is violated; loyalty is broken; the spouse is betrayed much like Judas betrayed our Lord with a kiss; faithfulness is mocked; self-sacrificial service becomes selfish indulgence; another person’s soul is also violated and brought into the grave sin; the marriage bed is defiled; sex is disconnected from its right connection with procreation through God’s union; lust is embraced rather than love; covetousness of the neighbor’s wife or husband; stealing what belongs to another; and God’s purpose and will for sex and marriage is mocked. And therefore adultery is to be condemned, in mercy, by all Christians in all circumstances.
As such it is manifest that sex is meant solely for marriage. And since marriage is a union that God has created it can never be broken. However, we must in this last section address the so-called “exception clause,” which refers to Jesus Christ’s words of Matthew 19:9 where Jesus says that:
“whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.”
It must be remembered that there are two passages in Holy Scripture that record this conversation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and even though the exception clause is only in Matthew 19, the passage in Mark 10 is also relevant to discerning the context by which our Lord makes this exception.
In Mark 10, Jesus is clear that he is giving his ruling and command on the nature of divorce and the breaking up of a marriage. He says that if either the man or woman divorce their spouse and marry another they commit adultery. The reason for this is that in God’s eyes the two are still married even if one of the spouses divorces and marries another. To God, this second marriage is not a real union but rather it is adultery and a sin against the real union of the first marriage. It can be discerned then, that Christ has declared that God has made the union of marriage, and that no man should separate it.
Thus, even when one partner leaves the marriage by joining another in marriage God still sees the first marriage union in effect. However, it would appear that God has mercy on the other partner who the spouse left when marrying another. This other person who is a victim to the sin of his marriage partner is no longer bound to his vows and responsibilities toward his wife. Though the union of marriage is still seen in God’s eyes for the sake of the adulterer, the spouse is free from his own vows in this marriage.
The apostle confirms as much in 1 Cor. 7:15 when he speaks of the unbelieving partner leaving the marriage. He says that if such a thing happens the Christian is “not enslaved.” Implied in the leaving of the unbeliever is not merely the unbeliever physically leaving, but rather implied is that they have left the marriage by joining themselves to another, for until this is done (in the ancient world) he or she still belonged to the spouse.
And thus, the exception clause appears to refer to the rights of the marriage partner if the spouse departs and weds him or herself to another. The person who is left behind may lawfully divorce his wife and he is not enslaved, he is merely accepting the divorce already committed by his spouse. It would appear that at this point God is then dissolving the marriage for the sake of the victimized marital partner, though he still holds the other married partner to be an adulterer. Since then God has dissolved the marriage, then the victimized married partner is free from his vows and is allowed to remarry, for God has dissolved the union.
Therefore it is never okay for a Christian to initiate a divorce nor to seek a divorce while the other married partner is not married to another for until a new marriage is created the old marriage is still enforce. Separation for various reasons of safety or health are allowable upon pastoral discernment, but divorce is never acceptable unless the other married partner has officially married another and thus “left the marriage.” Then, and only then is the other partner freed from his vows and allowed to marry another.