How Many Parties in a Marriage?

Olan Hicks

The phrase "And God Makes Three," applied to marriage, is very misleading. It conveys a concept of what marriage is that comes not from the Bible but from the "sacrament theory" of human tradition. Jesus clearly stated that TWO enter a marriage, not THREE. The TWO he clearly stipulated as being A MAN and A WOMAN. The Biblical picture of marriage involves A MAN who leaves father and mother for the marriage, and the WOMAN to whom he cleaves. Jesus said these two become ONE, not THREE (Mt. 19:5).

What then is the role of God in marriage among humans? In the next verse (6) Jesus said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." It is important to understand this. Note that the verb for "joined together" is PAST TENSE, not PRESENT or FUTURE TENSE. The text says God HAS joined together, not God DOES join together, or God WILL join together, but God HAS joined together. The difference is great. It. is the difference between the human concept and the divine concept. In this text Jesus refers back to "the beginning" to denote the time of God's action in the matter. The context makes it abundantly clear that the action which God did was the action of INSTITUTING marriage. What the text attributes to God is that a "SAID" that a man is to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two are to become one flesh. When God said "Let there be light" he created light, which continues then to exist throughout time. When God said that A MAN and A WOMAN are to be joined together and become one flesh, he created marriage, which then continues to exist throughout time and has the sanction of God.

But notice that the words God said about man's action in the matter are FUTURE TENSE. A man SHALL leave father and mother and SHALL be joined to his wife, etc. The role of man in marriage is spoken in terms of FUTURE TENSE while the role of God is expressed in terms of PAST TENSE, "What God HATH joined together." It will not do to plead that sometimes the Bible speaks of a future action as though it had already occurred. In this case Jesus expressly stipulates the TIME of the past tense action as being "at the beginning,'' at the time when the first man and woman are created (Vs. 4). The simple fact of scripture is that the Bible pictures God as the AUTHOR of marriage, not a participant as one of three parties in a contract. He did set up guidelines for it and gave rules concerning it. He also described important purposes to be served by it in human families. But the notion that each marriage is a three way contract between a man, a woman, and God. is not a scriptural idea. That notion has, in fact, been largely responsible for some very devastating errors which have resulted in the enactment of laws and rulings which end up defeating some of the basic purposes God intended to be served by the institution of marriage.

God authorized marriage as the right way for males and females to relate together intimately on earth for some very important reasons; and these are stipulated in the Bible. When God created the very first man as a single person, he saw immediately that such a circumstance was "not good." The divine answer to that need was to make another human in FEMALE form and to match these up as ideally suited for each other. In this way a "not good" situation was transformed into an ideal situation. One of the chief ingredients, as Jesus stated it, was PERMANENCE. The order is "Do not put it asunder." From passages such as Mal. 2:14-16 we learn that God is a "witness" between a man and the woman he marries. NOT a third party, NOT an enforcer, but a "witness." We learn there also that God "hates putting away." The reason the prophet gave for God's hating that action is that a person who does it "has dealt treacherously against the wife of thy youth, yet she is thy companion and the wife of the covenant." To sunder a marriage is wrong because it involves the betrayal of vows and promises, and the breaking of one's word, commitments made in the presence of God.

But the sacrament theory goes far beyond this. It says that putting asunder a marriage not only is a sin to attempt but that it is IMPOSSIBLE for man to do! This is the key point which turns the doctrine against God's basic purposes. The person who commits the sin of marriage breaking is seen as still bound in the marriage, though he has no mate because, even though he can break the contract with his wife, there remains that part of the contract involving God which is not breakable. What this means is that the man is actually disqualified for marriage altogether because he is seen as already having a wife, though he does not have her, and is therefore ineligible to marry. Note that this theory does not disqualify him for the divorced state, which is the thing God said he hates, but for the MARRIED STATE, which is the thing God instituted for the entire human race. But one in such a situation is allowed, yea even commanded, to remain in the divorced condition. But MARRIAGE ITSELF becomes a practice of sin for him.

Since a basic purpose in marriage is "to avoid fornication,'' (1 Cor. 7:2) and since a basic purpose of Satan is to promote fornication, it is easy to see why the Holy Spirit would say that the "forbidding of marriage" is a doctrine that emanates from devils and not from God (1 Tim. 4 1.-3). But remember the penchant Satan has for misusing scripture in tempting people, even when he tempted Jesus himself! Notice the following important facts signified in the scriptures we have cited here:

1. TWO PEOPLE enter marriage, not THREE.
2. The two who enter it are A MALE and A FEMALE.
3. The TWO become ONE FLESH, not part of a triangle.
4. God is a "witness," not a third party in the contract.
5. Marriage is what God wants held as permanent, not divorce.
6. One who breaks marriage and forms another commits the sin of adultery, not "Forfeits all eligibility to have a mate."
7. It is the BREAKING of marriage God hates, not the PRACTICE of marriage.
8. Marriage sundering is a SIN, not an IMPOSSIBILITY.
9. The marriage relationship serves the purposes of God concerning purity. Forced celibacy serves the immoral purposes of Satan.
10. Scriptures on the subject always oppose DIVORCE, not MARRIAGE ITSELF.

Roman Catholic theologians were wrong when they said that Christ made marriage a "sacrament" and added, "When two people take one another in marriage they are uniting themselves not only to one another but to Christ" (CHRIST AMONG US -- Pg. 316). H. Leo Boles was wrong when he wrote, "There can be no marriage 'in the sight of God' that does not revolve all three sides, physical, moral, and spiritual" (Tract -- pg. 15). Roy Lanier Sr. was wrong when in his booklet he diagrammed marriage as a triangle with God at the apex (pg. 29); and then reasoned from that concept that only God can "unjoin" the two parties. Catholics were wrong in their conclusion that "in the sacrament of matrimony they remain truly husband and wife until the death of either of them. A separation, a divorce, or an attempted marriage with another person does not destroy the marriage bond" (Understanding the Catholic Faith --pg. 257). Brother Lanier was just as wrong, and for the same reason, when he wrote, "Divorce for any cause other than fornication does not destroy the union in God's sight...If the man marries again he is living with one woman while bound to another" (pg. 27). These conclusions fit the sacrament theory alright. But the sacrament theory does not fit the Scriptures. The simple truth is that TWO people enter marriage and they make their vows to each other. The vows are made BEFORE GOD, not TO GOD. Marriage breaking is WRONG, not IMPOSSIBLE. The act of destroying marriage is indeed a sin, but not an unpardonable one. Divorce recovery is provided for if one ignores human speculation and sticks entirely with the text of the Bible, starting with the fact that there are TWO PARTIES in a marriage, not THREE.