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? (Matthew 19:4-5)
Today in our study of Matthew, we begin a multi-part series on the biblical doctrine of marriage. I have used the term “biblical” to describe this teaching because there is so much confusion about what marriage is, who can be rightfully married, and the proper parameters for a marriage that is God honoring. I do not intend to focus as much on the perversions of marriage as I want to deal with issues that will make our marriages conform to biblical principles.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus addressed the lowered standards and expectations of the scribes and Pharisees as He dealt with God’s law in connection with the problem of divorce. Divorce would not have been an issue then nor would it be today if we only applied the real meaning and intent of the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are not merely a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” They are meant to be a regulation of our relationships. Jesus said the entire law rests upon two commandments—love God, and love your neighbor.
Loving God is expressed in commandments one through four and loving your neighbor is expressed in commandments five through ten. I believe in one sense we understand the first four and their relationship to loving God better than we understand the last six and their relationship to loving man. It is easy for us to say “I love God,” because even though He is near us and we can feel His presence, we don’t actually see Him. We see other people and we interact with them regularly, and it is much harder to love them when we see all their faults and blemishes. It is especially harder when those people disappoint us. And yet, fighting through those disappointments and loving others is the thrust of the second division of the law. The apostle John wrote: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
The second division of the law is dependent upon the first. If we love God as we should, we will love our neighbor. This is really the key to a successful marriage. Any marriage in which loving God is the focus is one that could never crumble into divorce. If there are issues in your marriage that are tearing it apart, ask this question first: “Am I fully surrendered in my love for Christ?” There is no need to run to the bookstore or to a secular psychologist for the latest advice. Just turn to Jesus’ exposition of the commandments. Love God supremely and you will resolve your conflicts.
Pastor V. Mark Smith