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What God Has Separated, Let No Man Join Together

In Matthew 19:3-12, the Bible records an occasion when the Pharisees questioned the Lord Jesus about divorce.  They tested Jesus by asking Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”  Rather than referring to the Law of Moses, Jesus invoked the Genesis account of creation and God’s original design for marriage.  He said, "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 flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  When the Pharisees challenged His answer by their interpretation of the Law of Moses, Jesus again pointed to the beginning of the world and said, "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

This passage from Matthew gives us the specific law of God pertaining to marriage and divorce, and this law is founded in a general principle that applies to all things.  That principle was stated by Christ in verse 6 – "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  In marriage, this principle prohibits a man or woman from divorcing and dissolving the marriage that God has created and bound for the duration of his or her life.  In other things, this principle prohibits men from counteracting any work or law of God.

Those who violate this principle concerning God’s immutable word rebel against God’s authority and offend their Creator.  Such persons exalt themselves as equal with God or even greater than He.  They despise the work and word of God and choose instead their own works.  Such rebellion will not go unpunished, for God is sovereign and will uphold His authority in all things.  For example, when God destroyed Jericho, He decreed that the man who rebuilt Jericho would suffer the death of his firstborn and youngest sons (Josh. 6:26).  Many years later, Hiel the Bethelite counteracted the destructive work of God and rebuilt Jericho with the deaths of Abiram his firstborn and Segub his youngest son (1Ki. 16:34).  Likewise, any man who invalidates God’s word by his own words or deeds can expect to provoke God’s wrath (Matt. 15:1-9).

Those who divorce their spouses separate that which God has joined together, but what about those who join together that which God has separated?  They likewise are guilty of rebelling against God and counteracting His works.  Just like Hiel the Bethelite, they reconstruct something that God wants destroyed, separated, or divided.  Just like Hiel, they will suffer a severe penalty for their defiance of God.

For this reason, we must respect the separation that God has created between believers in Christ and unbelievers in the world.  We Christians who are thus separated have no right to join ourselves or the Lord’s church collectively back unto unbelievers.  Read the message of 2Corinthians 6:14-18:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

This message is unequivocal, and yet believers in Christ often violate God’s law by joining themselves with unbelievers or sinners.  This happens when Christians have relationships with unbelievers or sinners which the Lord forbids or when they leave the body of Christ altogether (1Cor. 6:16-17).  It also happens when Christians show contempt for what God has separated by joining themselves to so-called brothers or sisters who are living in sin (1Cor. 5:9-13).  When God says, "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1Cor. 5:13), that is a God-ordained separation that Christians must obey or else they are in violation of God’s word.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remember what it means to be the Lord’s church.  The church is Christ’s called-out body (ekklēsia), which means He has called out and separated His church from the world of sin.  We might even think of ourselves as divorced from the world and joined unto the Lord, for the church is His bride (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 21:2, 9).  We are to be sanctified, which means that we are separated from profane things and dedicated to God (1Cor. 6:11; Heb. 10:10).  It is not our prerogative to join members of His body individually or the congregation of His body collectively to unbelievers or sinners.  God has made a separation that we must respect without compromise.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate, and what God has separated, let no man join together.

Stacey E. Durham



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