KEY TEXT: Genesis 2:24-25 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
KEY THOT: Genesis 2:24 is the most well-known verse in the OT, being read in Christian weddings all over the world. It is also quoted in the NT by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31. This verse is used by Jesus to affirm the indissolubility of the "one flesh" union between a man and his wife because it is created by God himself: "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Mt 19:6). Divorce is outside of God's design and purpose in marriage. It is allowed by Moses because of the hardness of man's heart: "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" (Mt 19:9).
The "one flesh" union is so indissoluble that even divorce cannot undo that union. So by logical conclusion, if a man divorces his wife (except for sexual immorality) and remarries, he commits adultery if he remarries because he is still joined to his previous wife physically, emotionally and spiritually. Paul states in Romans 7:2-3 that only death of a spouse could break this marital union: "Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress."
In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul uses Genesis 2:24 quite differently. In the Ephesians context, Paul is comparing the physical union of a husband and his wife with the spiritual union of Christ and the Church. Just as the "one flesh" union of the husband and his wife entails certain mutual obligations of love and submission, so the spiritual union of Christ and His Bride entails the same mutual obligations: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."
So it follows from Jesus' argument that when a believer has other spiritual lovers, he or she violates God's design and purpose for that spiritual union. He or she is guilty of committing spiritual adultery and the Law permits the Bridegroom to call off the Wedding. We recall Joseph's decision to divorce Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. Though they were in the bethrothal stage of the marriage, they would need a divorce to break the union. In this case, Joseph was allowed because he thought Mary had committed sexual immorality.
Even so, the Church is in the Bethrothal Stage of our marriage to Christ. Its full consummation awaits His return to receive His Bride. But in the meantime, the Church's relationship with Christ as Bridegroom is legally binding. But divorce is possible at this stage: which means that if we are found to be unfaithful (have other lovers), the wedding would not take place. And we will be excluded from the heavenly Wedding Banquet when Christ our Bridegroom returns.
Our other spiritual lovers could be Money, Power or Pleasures. We know we have these other lovers when we spend more time with them than we do with Christ our Bridegroom. And it will provoke the same jealousy as when our spouse is having an adulterous relationship: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (1 Corinthians 10:21-22).
We cannot be casual about our relationship with Christ our Bridegroom as we prepare for the Great Wedding Banquet when He returns--anymore than we can be permiscuous and have many relationships just before the wedding day. We have to keep ourselves pure. As believers, we have to submit ourselves to Christ as our Bridegroom so that He can prepare us for His return as His beautiful and unblemished Bride, the Church: "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The most God-like relationship that bears witness of Christ's love for His Church is the Christian marriage. When we fail here, we fail as witnesses of Jesus Christ. We don't have to have a perfect marriage, but we must have one where love, grace and forgiveness are present. Marriage is not a gift just for the couples alone--it is a witness to demonstrate to the world the reality of Christ's love for His Bride.
Abba-Father, You have given us marriage to reflect Your image more perfectly in our one-flesh union. When we falter, grant us grace to persevere for the sake of Christ's glory, not for our own sake. In Jesus' name, Amen.