"What Therefore God Hath Joined Together, let not Man Put Asunder"

Glendol McClure

The title of this article is taken from Matthew 19:6, where Jesus replied, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Here, in answer to the questions posed by the deceitful Pharisees when they confronted Him about divorce for every cause, Jesus stated an important truth, as well as a warning. Beginning at Matthew 19, verse 3, the text says, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, 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.”

It is clear that the Pharisees came to Jesus to tempt Him. This discussion took place during the dominion of Herod Antipas who had beheaded John the Baptist after John told him that his marriage to Herodias was unlawful (cf. Mk. 6:17-19). Evidently the Pharisees were trying to entrap Jesus in his speech, possibly hoping that He would lose His head because of His answers to their questions. Thus, the Pharisees were trying to “put asunder” the truth Jesus referred to in verses 4-6. In this article, we will observe several errors taught by man and contrast these errors with Bible truth, showing that, in essence, men through ignorance, deceit, or disrespect for God’s law “put asunder” what God has “joined together.” When one does this, it is to his own spiritual demise.

First, those who divorce for any and every cause other than fornication put asunder the lawful union of a man and woman through God–ordained marriage. In answer to the question posed by the Pharisees, Jesus directed them back to the beginning–Genesis 2:24. He said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”

From the beginning, God’s law concerning marriage was one man for one woman for life (not one man for one man or one woman for one woman)! The Law of Moses suffered (allowed), because of the hardness of the Israelite’s hearts, the writing of bills of divorcement (cf. Deut. 24:1-4). But this was not, as noted in verse 8, God’s plan from the beginning. In this setting, Jesus affirmed His law on this subject, allowing divorce for only one exception, that being FORNICATION, as stated in Matthew 19:9 and 5:32.

A scripturally married man and woman are bound as long as they are living. The apostle Paul, in Romans 7:2,3, wrote, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” God’s bond cannot be put asunder, even though the lawful marriage of a man and woman results in divorce. Only the death of a mate severs the bond and frees the surviving mate to remarry. God’s will toward marriage is clear. It is to be permanent, and it is between a man and a woman, the proponents of and participants in homosexual “marriage” notwithstanding!

By divorcing unscripturally, many become guilty of putting asunder God’s command regarding the permanency of marriage. This occurs when a person divorces his/her lawful mate for any cause other than the one and only exception–“for fornication” (Matt. 19:9).

Second, many in the religious world attempt to put asunder other things, such as faith and God-appointed works, that God has joined together. These people teach that works are not necessary for man’s salvation. For example, many Baptist preachers have affirmed the proposition: The scriptures teach that salvation is at the point of belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, before and without water baptism. But, the Bible clearly teaches that we will be judged by our works. Those who believe and teach the doctrine of SALVATION BY FAITH ONLY, and kindred doctrines, put asunder the connection between faith and works. Let them scripturally explain the following plain passages:

$          Philippians 2:12 – “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

$          Acts 2:40 – Peter testified and exhorted those on Pentecost saying, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”

$          John 6:28-29 – When Jesus was asked, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God,” He answered by saying, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (emp. mine).

The Bible–character listing in Hebrews 11 demonstrates that obedient works pleased God. An obedient, saving faith is a faith that obeys God’s commands without question. James taught that “Faith without works is dead, being alone” (Jas. 2:14-16). In Matthew 16:27, Jesus said: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

Often, denominational folks use Ephesians 2:8-9 to substantiate the claim that salvation is “not of works.” But, they need to tell us what works are under consideration in this context. The works under consideration in verses 8 and 9 are not the works involved with God’s all-inclusive commands to which one must adhere in order to obey Him. The statement “not of works,” refers to man’s boastful works, not God’s commandments, such as the command to be baptized for the remission of sins (cf. Mk. 16:15, 16; Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38).

Though many religious people involve themselves in “works” they THINK are good works according to man’s standards, their self-approved works will lead to their own spiritual condemnation. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Third, some try to put asunder God and Christ. These folks profess to believe in God, but they deny Christ. Some deny Christ openly, as did the Jews of His day (Jn.1:11). Many deny his doctrine.

Paul wrote, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Tit. 1:16). In 2 Timothy 2:12, Paul wrote, “lf we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.”

In John 8:24, Jesus warned, “...for If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” John’s writings declare the unity of the relationship between the Father and the Son–“That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (Jn. 5:23). Dear reader, it is impossible to accept God and deny Christ. To deny Christ is to deny God. If we deny one, we deny the other.

Fourth, some attempt to put asunder Christ and the Church. Most denominational preachers of our day preach the “Man and Not the Plan” religious system. In so doing, they put asunder Christ and the church. The Lord’s church is the divine institution that He established and “purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Thus, the Lord’s church is not a group of differing denominational churches that wear various names, teach contradictory doctrines, and have different earthly headquarters. Notice the personal pronoun “my” in this passage. In Colossians 1:18, Paul wrote, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” When we read Ephesians 1:23 and 5:23-25, it is not difficult to see that Christ is the “head of the church,” (this certainly leaves out the pope). Hence, the church of Christ is the church He “purchased with His own blood;” it is the institution that He loves and of which He is the Savior.

The logical conclusion of those who preach the “Man and Not the Plan” religious system is: accept the Builder, but reject the building; accept the Foundation, but reject the structure; accept the King, but reject His kingdom; accept the Purchaser, but reject that which He purchased; accept the greatest Lover, but reject what He loved; accept the Head, but reject the body; and accept the Savior, but reject what he saved!

Fifth, some attempt to put asunder Christ and the Apostles. Many do so by relying solely on red-letter editions of the Bible. These misinformed and misguided folks accept as authoritative only what they find written in red. This false notion flies in the face of plain scripture and puts asunder God and the inspired men who delivered the Faith to men of the First Century, and wrote it for our learning.

By doing this, they also deny the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the medium through which Christ’s apostles were guided into “all Truth” (Jn. 16:13). Please notice the following passages:

$          John 14:26 – “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

$          John 16:13 – Jesus said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”

The preceding passages refer to the Holy Spirit and the fact that he would come upon the apostles, beginning at Pentecost, as is recorded in Acts 2. If the apostles’ words are not authoritative for us today, then Paul the apostle lied because he certified that the gospel he received was divinely revealed to him. In Galatians 1:11-12, Paul wrote, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  In Ephesians 3:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 especially, Paul claimed verbal inspiration.

Sixth, there are those who put asunder the “gospel” and “doctrine” and attempt to make an artificial distinction between the two. They teach that the “gospel” refers solely to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, that acceptance of this assures salvation, and that fellowship should be granted to all who accept this fundamental truth.

Then, they claim that “doctrine” refers to all other New Testament teaching and should not affect fellowship. Their false idea says that “gospel,” but not “doctrine,” is binding for salvation. The teaching in 2 John 9 destroys this false notion. For, the gospel is the doctrine and vice versa. There is no gospel–doctrine distinction made anywhere in the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 1:10-11, Paul wrote, “For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

The “word of God’s grace” is His revealed will. His words are Divine vehicles of thought, revealed to man by the apostles whom the Holy Spirit empowered. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-13, Paul wrote, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

If there is a distinction between “gospel” and “doctrine,” the inspired apostle Paul did not know it. This is evidenced by reading about his encounter with Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:4-12. In these verses Paul used the phrases, “word of God” “the faith” “all righteousness” “right ways of the Lord” and “the doctrine of the Lord,” to refer to the same body of truth–the gospel of Christ. The “unity-in-gospel with diversity-in-doctrine” idea is an old denominational argument used by Billy Graham and other sectarians. It is rank falsehood!

Last, the denominational world puts asunder water baptism and salvation for the remission of sins. Denominations teach the doctrine of “salvation by faith only.” However, in every case of conversion in the book of Acts, those converted were baptized. Jesus commanded the apostles to “Go... and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19). In Mark 16:15 &16, Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” In Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter preached baptism “for the remission of sins.”

Peter commanded Cornelius and those in his house to be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 10:48). In Acts 9:6, the Lord told Saul of Tarsus, who was blinded on the road to Damascus, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” In Acts 22:16, we find recorded what Ananias told him he must do. Ananias said, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Had Paul not complied with Ananias’ instructions, would he have been saved anyway? No!

Of a certainty, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” When man puts asunder what God has joined together, he is guilty of tampering with God’s word and is thus accursed. In Galatians 1:8-9, the inspired apostle Paul wrote, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Dear reader, this passage applies to all today. Are you guilty in any way of putting asunder what God has joined together?