While He was discussing the subject of marriage and divorce with the Pharisees, Jesus stated - "What God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19:6). Now, while it is true that the context of this statement must be respected, I believe this concept can also be properly applied elsewhere.
Today we will study four pairs of things that God has joined together. Although God has joined these things together, that has not stopped man from tampering with them and doing his best to separate them.
Let us begin by considering...
1. GOD HAS JOINED HUSBAND AND WIFE TOGETHER.
After God created Adam, He declared - "It is not good that man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). He then fashioned a bride for Adam and brought her to him. Adam then said - "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man" (Gen. 2:23). We learn from the following verse that "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).
A man and a woman, who have never been married, have the right to agree to be married to each other. However, that contract is made with God as well as with each other, because it is God who joins them together in holy matrimony (Matt. 19:6). Because of that fact, the husband and wife do not have the right to dissolve that marriage for just any reason. Mutual consent alone cannot dissolve a marriage with God's approval.
Marriage is clearly shown in the Scriptures to be a lifelong covenant. Paul wrote, "For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband" (Rom. 7:2). When two people marry, it truly ought to be "for better or for worse...till death do us part", as the vows typically state. When the permanency of the marriage bond is emphasized and understood, couples will not quit when marital challenges arise but will work things out to weather the storms of the difficult times.
There are some who attempt to justify their divorces and remarriages that have no Scriptural basis (cf. Matt. 19:9) by affirming: "I have a right to be happy!" The truth is that happiness is not a right at all--it is a by-product of who we are and what we do. Also, it is generally the case that people who cannot be faithful and happy in one marriage will not be faithful and happy in the next one either. God knows what is best for us. And let us not forget - "What God has joined together, let not man separate." If you've been joined together by God in marriage, see to it that you don't work against Him by trying to undo what He has joined for life!
2. GOD HAS JOINED CHRIST AND THE CHURCH TOGETHER.
It is tragic that there are so many folks today who belittle the church and, at the same time, claim to love Jesus. Have you ever heard someone make a statement to this affect: "I'm not interested in the church, just Jesus!"? If a person is not bothered by a statement of that nature, it is likely because he is unaware of the great value that God has placed upon His church. Most do not realize that God has joined Christ and the church together in much the same way as He joins husbands and wives together!
Consider some quotes from the apostle Paul regarding this matter from Ephesians 5:23ff - "The husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church...As the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands...Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church...For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church...For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." God has joined the Christ and the church together! Jesus and His church are united; the church is the bride of Christ. According to Romans 7:4 and II Corinthians 11:2, Christians are married to Christ. That union exists because it is the will of God; God joined Christ and the church together. What gives any man the right to blaspheme Christ's church or belittle it? The Scriptures state that Jesus and His church are joined together, and for a person to work against that and attempt to separate the two is to be guilty of working against God!
The church is extremely precious in the sight of God. Not only did God join Christ and the church together, but He also showed how valuable the church is by having Jesus die to establish it! Christ purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28); He gave Himself for the church (Eph. 5:25)! Can anyone rationally believe that Christ would die for the church and then want men to speak against it and treat it as if it was something unimportant? Many try their best to separate Christ and the church, even though God has joined them together. "What God has joined together, let not man separate." Make sure you realize how important the church is in God's eyes and treasure it as He does.
3. GOD HAS JOINED FAITH AND OBEDIENCE TOGETHER.
From the very earliest of God's dealings with man, He has required obedience. Obedience has always been God's test of faith for mankind. This truth is well illustrated in the great "faith chapter" of the Bible, Hebrews 11. There we learn that true faith is based on evidence, not guesswork (11:1). Additionally, in order to please God, we must have faith and we must diligently seek Him (11:6). The chapter is full of examples of men and women who took God at His word and obeyed Him. God gave instructions, they believed what God said, and they acted upon it! They were saved because their faith led them to obey God.
There is a popular denominational teaching that is opposed to this biblical truth. Some affirm that a person can be saved by faith only. However, this idea was unknown to all of those who were mentioned in Hebrews 11. What would have happened to Noah if he only had faith that God was going to bring a flood, but that faith didn't cause him to obey God by building an ark? What would have happened? He would have perished like everyone else! Faith is required, but it cannot save you all by itself. Paul taught that "faith working through love" is what avails (Gal. 5:6). Just as "the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). That's pretty plain, isn't it? Faith without works of obedience is useless; it is dead! That sounds to me like faith and obedience are joined together.
The apostle Peter also declared that we purify our souls "in obeying the truth" (I Pet. 1:22). I believe that Jesus had a question for those who would emphasize faith while omitting obedience - "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). God has joined faith and obedience together from the beginning! You can't have one without the other, if you're going to please God. "What God has joined together let not man separate."
4. GOD HAS JOINED BAPTISM AND SALVATION TOGETHER.
When Jesus gave the great commission, He said - "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16). The apostles, in response to this command, preached as Jesus instructed them - "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Ananias once said to Saul - "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Peter wrote on the subject - "Baptism does also now save us" (I Pet. 3:21).
Did you notice that in each of those four passages, baptism is clearly linked together with salvation? These verses (and others) teach that baptism is a requirement for salvation. God has clearly joined baptism and salvation together, and man should not work to separate the two! It is a tragedy that so many people ignore the relationship between baptism and salvation. Many incorrectly affirm that one can be saved without being baptized for the remission of sins. "What God has joined together, let not man separate."
Dear friends, man does not have the right to separate that which God has joined together. He has joined together husband and wife, Christ and the church, faith and obedience, as well as baptism and salvation. Let us always labor to keep united the man and woman whom God has joined together as husband and wife. Let us also endeavor to keep united Christ and His church, which is His bride. Let us manifest faith and obedience together in our lives. And, let us preach baptism and salvation together, just as Christ and the apostles preached them. May we, in our daily lives, work to keep united the things that God has joined together with the intent of honoring and glorifying Him! Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.