God's Laws on Sexual Sins--Part 4
Mar 13, 2009
There are two kinds of marriage recognized in Scripture. There is the marriage of a free woman, and the marriage of a bondwoman. These distinctions are discussed in Exodus 21:1-11, and the apostle Paul mentions them in Galatians 4 in regard to Sarah and Hagar.
This law is highly prophetic, as Paul points out, because Hagar and Sarah represent the Old and New Covenants--and thereby our "marriage" relationship with God. God recognizes both relationships, but one is clearly better than the other. Those who are in a "bondwoman" relationship with God can only bring forth the "son of the bondwoman," that is, a child of the flesh.
A child of the flesh is a child born naturally in the world. Such children contribute to population growth. A child of the Spirit is one who born of the Spirit. Jesus said in John 3:3 that "unless one is begotten from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Verse 6 says, "That which is begotten of flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit."
Both types of begetting have their place, and both are good. But one is better.
The Old Covenant, instituted with Israel under Moses, was a marriage contract, for the prophets later speak of Israel as being married to God (Hos. 2:2). But a bondwoman could never bring forth the inheritors of the promises of God, nor could such fleshly children fulfill the original requirements of the Birthright. This could only be fulfilled by means of a different type of marriage--a New Covenant marriage, where the children are begotten of the Spirit.
In other words, it must be a virgin birth, patterned after Jesus Himself. The Spirit of God must impregnate human flesh to bring forth the manifested sons of God, the inheritors who are qualified to receive the Birthright.
The purpose of the Old Covenant was to produce SERVANTS. The purpose of the New Covenant is to produce SONS THAT ARE IN AGREEMENT. Paul says in Gal. 4:31,
"So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman."
In other words, we do not consider the old Jerusalem to be our "mother," for Jerusalem is Hagar (Gal. 4:25). Our "mother" is the New Jerusalem, who is Sarah (4:26). Religions that fight over the physical city of Jerusalem are of the Old Covenant. In fact, because it is "Hagar," and is a physical, earthly, "fleshly" city, it really does belong to the physical descendants of Hagar--the Ishmaelites and those associated with them by religion. Only the children of the New Jerusalem, however, are the holders of the Birthright and are the "chosen" ones "elected" to the position of authority in the earth.
But that is another story, and I do not want to lose focus here.
When we understand the two kinds of marriage recognized by God, we can see that the first is imperfect because it involves fleshly people. This imperfection began with the sin of Adam and Eve, and the immediate result was that an authority structure was introduced into the marriage relationship itself. In Gen. 3:16 God said to the woman, "Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
If sin had not come into the world, Adam and Eve (and all future couples) would have needed no such authority structure, because they would have been in AGREEMENT in all things. Each would have known the will of God perfectly; they would have worked together as "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). With no conflict of opinion, neither one would need to tell the other what to do. There would be no need to "pull rank" and order the other person to do this or that.
In other words, under the Old Covenant, the wife is a SERVANT, or bondwoman. Under the New Covenant, however, the wife is a free woman. The result of these relationships are the "children" or "fruit" that God is looking for.
An Old Covenant relationship presumes imperfection, conflict, and disagreement--if not all the time, then at least part of the time. For this reason authority was instituted, in order to give someone the right to make the final decision. It was a practical accommodation. For the same reason, divorce was also permissible, because imperfection can make the marriage unsustainable. Husbands have been known to abuse their wives, and wives have been known to have problems of their own. They are equal-opportunity sinners.
The law regarding divorce and remarriage is found in Deut. 24:1-4. That same law prohibits a man from claiming his ex-wife after she has been remarried to another. In light of this, it is amazing how many Christians today insist that people divorce their second spouses and return to their previous ones. It is said that if they do NOT do this, they are "living in constant adultery."
In fact, if they follow the advice of such Christians, "that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance" (Deut. 24:4).
Here is another example where Christians often do not know what sin is, because they do not study the law, or they think Jesus put away the law. Paul himself said in Rom. 3:20, "by the law is the knowledge of sin," and in Rom. 7:7, "I would not have come to know sin except through the law, for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet'."
Well, how important is it to know what sin is and what it is not? The fact is, when people do not know how God defines sin, they will soon deviate from His definition of sin, because the carnal mind has idols in its heart, which cause us to see things differently from how God sees them.
If a person is perfectly led by the Spirit, he would not need the law at all. I have met many who claim perfection, but I have never met anyone who actually is. People can "name it and claim it" every day, but in the end, it is all self-deception and wishful thinking. The power of positive thinking may do much good, but it lacks the power to bring perfection.
The point of this, in our overall theme, is to show that divorce is not a sin, but the RESULT of sin and imperfection. Divorce is a practical necessity at times because of sin. But this does not mean that divorce is good, or that it should be done without serious effort to come into agreement.
On closer inspection, marriage is a conditional covenant. A conditional covenant means that two parties agree to do something. The success of the covenant is based upon the obedience of BOTH parties, not just one. Look at the Old Covenant as the primary example. The Israelites promised to be obedient as a good wife (Ex. 24:7). Yet they were NOT obedient, as the biblical record shows.
God did not immediately divorce them for disobedience. He worked with them for centuries through the prophets. But finally, God divorced them (Jer. 3:8). If divorce is a sin, then one must call God a sinner. But divorce is not a sin, but the result of sin. God was lawfully able to divorce Israel because it was a conditional covenant requiring both parties to fulfill their word.
God then began to speak of a New Covenant in Jer. 31:31-34. The only way that anyone can come into a marital relationship with God today is through the New Covenant. "Dual Covenant Theology" disagrees, saying that the Old Covenant will continue forever, alongside of the New Covenant. But when Paul quotes Jeremiah 31, he says in Heb. 8:13,
"When He said, 'A New Covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."
God's first marriage failed. He is divorced. Now He is remarrying. Without sin.
This is the fourth part of a series titled "God's Laws on Sexual Sins." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones