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Perverting the Ways of the Lord

“Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”* (Acts 13:10)

Pervert: To cause to turn away from what is right, proper, or good; corrupt.

It is possible to take some of the wholesome, sound words of the Bible, and to bend and to pervert them to a teaching which is corrupt and does not harmonize with the gist and theme of the Bible’s instruction.

While this is true of any false doctrine which claims to be spiritually based, I am particularly thinking of church divorce, as distinguished from civil divorce. Both effectually destroy marriages, but the various groups of people that justify church divorce do not teach a formal dividing asunder of the marriage relationship. They sunder the marriage just as effectively as the civil courts do, but they claim that the marriage partner that adheres to their teaching is parting with the wife/husband for Christ’s sake. On this ground, they justify the severing asunder of two who vowed to be companions until death did them part.

Parts of the New Testament are exaggerated to support this position. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”* (Matthew 10:34-37) This scripture does not specify the husband-wife relationship, but it does plainly teach that loyalty to Christ divides people in intimate relationships from each other. However, in no way does it teach that the one who loves Christ must sever the relationship with the other in such way that it no longer exists. A man may be at variance against his father because of the gospel, but in no way does the gospel justify him not honoring his father as his father. The gospel does not justify me treating my parents as if they were no longer my parents, or my son or daughter as if they were no longer my children. My loyalty must be to Him who died for me above all other loyalties, but those relationships still exist and I am scripturally required to take care of them.

The division that is caused by the gospel does not negate the family commitments. And the Bible is quite specific about those duties and responsibilities. With respect to the husband-wife relationship, the Bible plainly teaches that the husband should love the wife as his own body and as Christ did the church; and it teaches that the wife’s love for her husband should be characterized by reverence for him as her husband and subjection to him as her husband. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself…. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”* (Ephesians 5:25,28,33) “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives…. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands.”* (1 Peter 3:1,5)

It should never be truthfully said of a child of God that they no longer love their husband/wife. No matter how reprehensibly the other acts, the regenerated child of God should and must be filled with the love of God for their companion. Only God can supply the needed love in many cases. But good must overcome evil. Love must be greater than the effects of sin in the heart and life of the unsaved one. You must remain a saved wife/husband that loves your companion; who is ready, waiting, and desirous of a reconciliation, no matter how great the hurt and offense. As a child of God, I must never stop loving, with all my heart, my estranged companion. This is very plainly taught in the Bible. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”* (1 Peter 3:1-2) The wife is to be in subjection to her husband as a wife. If he requires more subjection than that, she cannot submit to him beyond her subjection as a wife and continue to be in subjection to Jesus. One husband went so far as to say that sin was no longer sin to the wife if the husband required her to do it, but such a position is not Biblical. That is going far beyond subjection as a wife.

Note that this appropriate subjection as a wife is only possible while the two dwell together. Nor could the husband behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear” if the two are not living together. How can the saved one have a godly influence on the other if he/she has departed from the other, thus abandoning and breaking the vows that bound them together in the first place?

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.* (1 Corinthians 7:10) This is very plain. Departure is not condoned, whether the departing one is saved or not. God means for marriages to be preserved. The Lord says, “Let not the wife depart from her husband.” No matter how great the oppression, no matter how limiting the marriage yoke may become; departure is forbidden. The next verse appears to contradict the one just quoted. It states, “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”* (1 Corinthians 7:11) The tenth verse emphatically commands not to depart; the eleventh states, “if she depart.” The Bible recognizes that people will do as they shouldn’t do, i.e., depart; but so important is the need to preserve the marriage tie, that the Bible commands that if she should depart, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Nor does her departure, grievous and destructive as it is, give allowance for the husband to dissolve the marriage by putting her away.

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”* (1 Corinthians 7:15) It is noteworthy to observe that only the unbelieving would depart. Nowhere do we find the believing departing. Instead, the believing is left behind. This is all in accordance with the weighty responsibility of the believing to the unbelieving, namely, to provide an example of godly conduct that has a positive influence upon the unsaved companion for good. Departing, on the part of the believer, would destroy most, if not all, of that influence. The believer must stick with what is right, consecrated to be a saint, while the other one does as he/she will. “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”* (1 Corinthians 7:16) This is the hope of the believing companion on trial. (Some would have us believe that the phrase, “a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases,” refers to the marriage bond, and that this bond no longer applies. The phrase simply means that, if the unbelieving depart, the saved one is not under obligation (bondage) to follow the unbelieving one around, trying to make a marriage out of a “departed” situation. The believer must face reality, and recognize that the unbelieving has departed.)

The hope of salvation for the unbelieving/deceived companion may or may not be realized. The companion under the influence of sin may go so far as to break the marriage bonds by departing. This word departing is a word worthy of our focus. Marriage begins by the opposite of departing. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”* (Matthew 19:5-6) This word, “cleave,” is worthy of our focus, as well. Marriage begins by cleaving, and cleaving is one of the strongest words in our language for two being joined together. As used here, it means “to adhere, to cling, to stick fast, to be faithful.” It means the same as “to bind, to bond, to cement, to glue, to weld, and to fuse.” It is used in Acts 11:23 to describe the relationship of a person to God; we are commanded in Romans 12:9 to “cleave to that which is good.”

The cohesion of the married couple is fundamental to their spiritual health and the basic well-being of their children. One of the awful effects of departed spouses (broken homes) is the emotional damage of the offspring. It shakes them at a fundamental level and renders them much less capable of being able to cleave to a marriage partner. The young are even more vulnerable to the damage of departure than the parents. “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean [literally ‘unatoned,’ that is, at supreme disadvantage]; but now are they holy [‘atoned,’ that is, legally covered (justified), with hopes for the future].”* (1 Corinthians 7:14)

To teach a conception of spirituality that justifies this rending asunder under the guise of loving God more is a shameful perversion of the scriptures. To attempt to justify the departure of a professed believer under the guise that the marriage is not formally terminated (as in the civil courts) and the leaving partner will not remarry is an evasion of the Biblical truth on this subject. If you really love God more than your companion (and you should and must), then you had better show it by sticking with the marriage relationship through thick and thin, for better or worse, whether husband/wife does well or not. For God (whom you profess to love) instituted, values, and loves the relationship of marriage, and takes it personally when you sever asunder your marriage by departing from your lawfully-wedded companion. God knows very well how the happiness and prosperity of the human race is dependent on good marriages, and He abhors your dissolving of a lawful marriage by departing from your lawful companion in His name. God hates divorce, whether it arises from Moses allowing it because of the hardness of men’s hearts, or the civil courts dissolves the marriage by the laws of men, or because a church justifies the tearing asunder of a married couple because of religious differences. Each of these actions effectively destroys a marriage, and this destruction is an abomination in the sight of God. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”* (Matthew 19:6)