“standerinfamilycourt” responds to a blog dated September 24, 2014 by Dr. Russell D. Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC)
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
‘If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26
In the fall of 2014, Dr. Moore and the Southern Baptists, and separately, the Roman Catholic Church held conferences on the future of the traditional family and “inclusiveness” issues in the Church. Following this, we started hearing a lot from the Catholics about how remarried divorced people should be made to feel “better- included” in their church life. It seems neither church was talking much about holiness, true repentance, or pleasing the Lord. The Catholics may need to watch who they seek to emulate, and retain their own saltiness, rather than seeking to stem the loss of divorced members, at all costs, to permissive Protestant churches. Dr. Moore’s blog is from this conference time frame.
We shall start with the title to Dr. Moore’s blog, because the obfuscation of the biblical truth actually begins right there. “Is Divorce Equivalent to Homosexuality? The answer is “yes” and “no”. In the first place, the manmade concept of legalized civil divorce has absolutely no meaning in God’s eyes. Divorce’s impact in the Kingdom of God depends on its motivation. If civilly divorcing the partner of one’s youth, it is willful rebellion against God’s law. If civilly divorcing someone in order to separate from an immoral subsequent union, it is a step in repentance, restitution and surrender to God’s law. Either way, God is standing firmly in covenant with the original one-flesh union, which He exclusively and permanently joined at the time of those holy vows.
We need to point out that Dr. Moore’s view is based on an explicit presumption that Jesus supported adultery as grounds for His disciples to both divorce and remarry, based on a phrase in Matthew 19:9. Moore presumes no debate on this point, and because this view is so broadly accepted by the vast majority of the evangelical Protestant Church, he offers no biblical defense of it in this piece. We will therefore not lengthen our response by addressing something Moore did not argue, except to point out the significant conflict with the preponderance of other marriage scripture and church history. All of the early church fathers of the Rome-based church up through the 4th century (Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Basil, Augustine) as well as Paul, instead centered the adultery discussion around the exceptionless pronouncement of Jesus in Luke 16:18 strictly forbidding both, consistent also with the tone of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount which raised the moral bar for a wide swath of Jewish life-conduct. Marriage revisionists, beginning with clerics in the Emperor Constantine’s court, later persisted in shifting the debate to instead focus on Matthew 19:9 in order to accommodate Constantine’s ongoing adultery / polygamy, and this trend carried forward beyond the Reformation. Dr. Moore assumes that some of the subsequent unions Jesus said were adultery, are not sinful and not adultery based on this revisionist view.
Nevertheless, God uses the Hebrew word שָׂנֵ֣א [sa-ne] in Malachi 2:16 for detesting and intense hatred of the “putting away”- the wrongful repudiation or abandonment – שַׁלַּ֗ח [shalach] , literally “sending away”, which He states is an act of violence against one’s family. Notice that there is no mention in Malachi of any civil piece of paper nor an allowance granted by Moses to divorce, many centuries after the journey through the wilderness. Contrary to the false direction of Luther, God never intended for adjudication of covenant marriage to be a permanent matter of civil government ( 1 Cor. 6:1).
All that said, civil divorce is an easily reversible one-time event that (in isolation) is not at all comparable to the two ongoing states of sin entailed in homosexuality or unrepented, continuing adultery via remarriage while an estranged covenant spouse is living. Marriage revisionists have grown quite accustomed to arguing (straight-faced) that the first abomination automatically confers God’s permission for the far worse abomination of trampling His holy matrimony covenant and misrepresenting His very character to the watching world. We all know that the pagans know a bit of scripture, too, and of late they’ve grown quite vocal in letting us all know they are watching.
So, let’s suggest a more forthright title to Dr. Moore’s blog: “Is Legalized, Unrepented Adultery Equivalent to Homosexuality?” Based on the two scriptures quoted above, we can respond to the honestly-restated question, which now reflects the main issue of consequence before the eyes of God, with a well-supported and unequivocal “Yes”. Continuing, unrepented practice of both adultery and homosexuality are God-substitutes of equal degree: idols. Consequently, as long as either of these relationships continue, they continue in idolatrous competition with any relationship or fellowship with God. Neither is worse than the other, both must be repented in exactly the same way. Neither can be cleansed in any way other than cessation and permanent severance.
1 Corinthians 6:11 goes on to say:
“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (An exchange was made, idolatry was laid down for genuine fellowship with the Most High.)
Dr. Moore opens his piece as follows:
This week my denomination, through its executive committee, voted to “disfellowship” a congregation in California that has acted to affirm same-sex sexual relationships. This sad but necessary move is hardly surprising, since this network of churches shares a Christian sexual ethic with all orthodox Christians of every denomination for 2,000 years. One of the arguments made by some, though, is that this is hypocritical since so many ministers in our tradition marry people who have been previously divorced.
In fact, “SIFC’s” own large, conservative evangelical denomination did likewise up until 1973 with any pastor who performed a wedding ceremony where either the bride or the groom had an estranged living spouse. The reason for that is, quite simply, a holy reverence for God’s unconditional participation in the indissoluble marriage covenant, which the bible teaches is a supernatural 3-party entity that scripture also tells us is broken only by the physical death of one of the spouses. (Ephesians 5:29-32, Romans 7:2, and 1 Cor. 7:39). Ministers in the evangelical tradition who perform vain marriage ceremonies over people who have been previously divorced civilly, (but still bound spiritually to their 3-party original covenant), are jeopardizing their salvation and aiming two souls, if not their own, towards hell. They are also destroying the power and witness of their church, for He is a jealous God. He is a God who is most especially jealous of His symbols and the image they cast, of which biblical marriage is paramount.
Dr. Moore arrives at an entirely different conclusion, one that demands physical repentance only of homosexuality (even if legalized), but gives full accommodation to the continuance of adultery if it has been legalized. “Grace” he says, is owed to the adulterer, but not to the homosexual, unless (only) their immoral and idolatrous relationship is terminated. Let’s address the misuse of the concept of grace momentarily, but first let’s gain a proper understanding of the marriage covenant, what breaks it, and God’s revealed character toward it. Once this is correctly understood according to the word of God, all of the rest of the fallacies laid out by Dr. Moore have proper context.
Covenant is a very deliberate choice, and by God’s very nature, a permanent choice. Throughout His three-year public ministry Jesus very deliberately walked around announcing to us that He is our Bridegroom, and that He will never leave or forsake us, that He was going to lay down His life for us, that He was going to be spiritually responsible for us, even allowing God to punish Him for our transgressions by allowing God to break fellowship with Him, His only Son, for those agonizing moments on the cross. His first miracle was by no accident performed at that wedding in Cana when He turned water into wine – not just a beverage, but symbolic of His blood and of covenant, of the indwelling Holy Spirit Who cannot abide in a sinful vessel . He told us that nobody can contain new wine in old Pharisaical (Deuteronomy 24) wineskins. At His last meal on earth before going to the cross, He very deliberately recited nearly all the traditional vows of the Jewish betrothal ceremony in order to comfort His disciples and to institute Holy Communion. When He spoke His Revelation to the Apostle John, He again spoke of His wedding supper, the consummation event.
Ephesians chapter 5 gives us a definite glimpse that the marriage of our youth goes far beyond the civil certificate, and would permanently exist even without it. True marriage represents the oneness of the Godhead, also the relationship between Christ and the Church, whom He will never permanently send away and never replace. To blasphemously suggest that God would break covenant, and betray a living covenant spouse to join into an adulterous union suggests that He would allow His Own holiness to be defiled, and His faithfulness to be miscast as unfaithfulness. In Malachi 2, when God is fiercely defending the covenant wife of the offender’s youth by withholding His fellowship from the adulterer, He could have referred to Himself as “YHWH” or “Jehovah”, but He did not. He called Himself Elohim Tsebaoth, the God of Angel Armies, the Lord of Hosts. God is also El Kannah, the Jealous God, and whenever He sets up a symbol, lacing it in and out of holy scripture from Genesis to Revelation, it is a very big deal!
Next, Dr. Moore continues…
We don’t necessarily affirm this [welcoming of divorced and remarried people into their congregations] as good, but we receive these people with mercy and grace……
Anyone who has attended an evangelical church for any length of time can define these terms, mercy and grace, by rote. Mercy is not receiving the bad consequences that we’ve earned or that we deserve from God. Grace is receiving unmerited favor from God due to Jesus going to the cross for forgiveness of our past sins committed by us before we surrendered control of our lives to Him, while accepting His completed work on the cross and renouncing our own efforts to keep the law. Another way to describe grace is the empowerment that regeneration gives us to keep moving toward holiness, due to the infilling of the holy spirit, in response to His mercy. It is the empowerment to make it to the finish line without sin hardening our hearts again and causing us to fall away, as warned of repeatedly in the book of Hebrews. Grace is a divine attribute that cannot be bestowed man to man, but only extended by men where God extends it. Forbearance, on the other hand, tends to become confused with “grace”. It is the patience and forgiveness Christ commanded us to have toward one another when we’ve been offended in some way. Grace is never cowardly and silent (nor affirming) acceptance of a sinful way of life in a person, which the word of God makes clear will cost that person their place in the kingdom of God. That kind of “grace” is actually man’s license, and it is decidedly unloving, because it leads to hell without warning. Naturally, these words are offensive to a denomination which has embraced “once saved, always saved”, but not surprisingly, this false doctrine seems to accompany heretical teachings about divorce and remarriage. In these last days, we can only call these brothers and sisters in the Lord back to the words of Jesus Himself, much of whose unpalatable truth Calvin, Luther and Knox summarily rejected. Jesus warned:
“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. “ Matthew 24:11-13
It is absolutely right for SBC congregations to welcome both adulterers and homosexuals into their congregations, but if they do, that local body is fully responsible for discipling them into the likeness of Christ, Who laid down His life and took up His cross. Calvinist bodies, including the Southern Baptists, embrace the “once saved, always saved” mantra which is erroneous, in light of Peter’s instruction to “walk out your faith with fear and trembling”, and in light of Paul’s repeated warnings not to fall away, not to wander from the faith, and to finish the race. The teaching that Christ died for present and future sins has no scriptural basis without active, ongoing mortification of those sins. We are quite literally urged by Paul not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies. By contrast, we are urged to confess and turn from our sins on an ongoing basis after salvation, and believers are repeatedly warned “do not be deceived” with regard to the controlling addiction of sexual sin, before being warned at least twice by Paul that this will cost them their inheritance in the kingdom of God.
The charge of hypocrisy is valid in some respects. I’ve argued for years and repeatedly that Southern Baptists and other evangelicals are slow-motion sexual revolutionaries, embracing elements of the sexual revolution twenty or thirty years behind the rest of the culture. This is to our shame, and the divorce culture is the number-one indicator of this capitulation.
We would admonish that his is a much more perilous and urgent admission than Dr. Moore seems to grasp, in light of the rapidly escalating lawlessness of our times and the fully-evident meltdown of our society that resulted from outright licentiousness of the evangelical church in its unwillingness to call sin sin, and deal with it as Christ and Paul commanded. The notion that it will take this cowering bride 20 or 30 years to embrace homosexuality in light of the persecution that is building at and within our borders is absurd. We would further remind historically that the immoral compromise with God’s definition of marriage (Matt. 19:4-6) did not originate doctrinally for the Southern Baptists in the 1960’s but with Erasmus, Luther, Calvin and Knox in the 16th century.
It seems furthermore ridiculous to think that a church or denomination who wouldn’t risk offending congregants even for the sake of their souls over enforced societal normalization of adultery would suddenly develop an appetite and the discipline to weather persecution over enforced normalization of homosexuality as long as they cling to a belief of “once saved, always saved.” After all, “grace” will cover it, and Jesus’ death paid for all present and future sins – so insisting on physical repentance from remarriage adultery is “legalism”.
The preaching on divorce has been muted and hesitating all too often in our midst.
As we’ve just demonstrated, it’s a very good thing that it has been “muted” in many churches, for it has also been heretically distorted and false, when it does occur. Better to have muted teaching than loud teaching that defies Luke 16:18 by claiming that an ongoing state of sin doesn’t persist in adulterous civil remarriages, or put forth blasphemous slander against the very character of God by denying His character revelation that He never breaks or abandons an original marriage covenant. Better for such a compromised pastor to remain silent in his deception than falsely claim from the pulpit that exiting immoral civil unions is “repeat sin” rather than the repentance and restitution it actually is. Or to blaspheme that a Holy God would enter into “covenant” with adultery. His position is very clear. In Malachi 2, He says “I stand as a witness between you and the wife of your youth…she IS (not was) your partner, the companion of your marriage covenant.” In Numbers 23:19, He says of Himself, “I am not a man that I should lie, nor a son of man that I should change My mind. Do I speak, and not act? Do I promise, and not fulfill?”
We love what Sam Crabtree, Executive Pastor of the Salem Baptist Church said in the blog DesiringGod, April 9, 2014:
“We are free to divorce when Jesus divorces the Church, which is never. (Even the divorce in Isaiah 50 is not a divorce from those he predestined, called, justified, and glorified, but rather a temporary action taken against ethnic Israel, who was never en masse the true bride in the first place.). We are free to remarry when Jesus remarries a bride other than the elect bride, which is not as long as the spouse lives.” AMEN!
Continuing with Dr. Moore….
Sometimes this is due to what the Bible calls “fear of man,” ministers and leaders afraid of angering divorced people (or their relatives) in power in congregations. Sometimes it’s due to the fact that divorce simply seems all too normal in this culture; it doesn’t shock us anymore. Exactly, Dr. Moore!
The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25
…there are arguably some circumstances where divorce and remarriage are biblically permitted. Most evangelical Christians acknowledge that sexual immorality can dissolve a marital union, and that innocent party is then free to remarry (Matt. 5:32). The same is true, for most, for abandonment (1 Cor. 7:11-15). If the church did what we ought, our divorce rate would be astoundingly lowered, since vast numbers of divorces do not fit into these categories. Still, we acknowledge that the category of a remarried person after divorce does not, on its face, indicate sin.
Dr. Moore is here arguing with Jesus Himself when he makes his last fallacious assertion. It matters not one whit what “most evangelical Christians” opine. All that matters is what Jesus actually commanded. One day, He’s going to ask, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord but do not do what I say?”
Luke 16:18: 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.
Matthew 5:31-32: 31 “It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.“
Jesus made this statement in the midst of His lengthy Sermon on the Mount, where He talked extensively about suffering for the kingdom of God, where He completely abrogated numerous points in the Pharisaical Mosaic law that embellished the Ten Commandments to the point of conflicting with them, and where He was unquestionably raising the moral bar, requiring forgiveness and reconciliation, and demanding that we keep our hearts clean and soft. Against this backdrop, the street-speak version of what He said in this passage Matthew 5:32 is:
“You married a ‘Ho’ you say? Too bad! You [are] one-flesh with her and I’m also a party to that, until one of you ain’t no more . So, if you kick her out and run, even if you get a piece of paper from the rabbi, you makin’ her a ‘Ho’ if she ain’t one already!”
Permission to divorce for adultery? Don’t think so, dawg! Permission to marry someone else? Not unless you want a wife and a concubine, and not if you want Me to bless it! I just got done telling you that if you say one unworthy word about her, you are in danger of hell, and if you so much as reach for another woman, you’re at strong risk of wishing for all eternity you had cut off that hand first!
The Greek tense used here for “commits adultery” is vitally important as well, but some scripture revisionists like to falsely assert, like Moore, that even if the marriage was sinful, it’s “still a marriage” or “the adultery is only a one-time act, covered by grace”. If that were so, let me suggest that the One Who never spoke an idle word would have saved His breath for something important rather than repeat it twice! Jesus used the present-indicative tense to refer to an ongoing state of adultery. This is not a marriage in anything but the 2-party civil sense, and it doesn’t become one just because the parties are “sorry” but do not terminate the relationship. The original marriage(s) still stand(s) undissolved! There is a difference between being sorry for the evil consequences of transgression, and being sorry because fellowship with God is broken, leading in the latter situation to removal of the competing idol. Adultery, and any form of idolatry always leads to a hard heart, which leads to enmity with God and, if not corrected, eternal separation from Him. This is the reason John the Baptist told King Herod, an unbeliever civilly married to another unbeliever who remained the covenant wife of his brother, “it is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matt. 14:4), and showing, as well, there is also no exception for spiritual condition.
Dealing now with the inexcusable misuse of 1 Cor. 7:15, this too comes courtesy of Paul in the midst of a passage that was teaching exactly the opposite of a “right” to divorce and remarry after abandonment. For that very reason, remarriage is not even mentioned in this chapter. In verses 10 and 11, Paul has stated that the Lord commands the husband not to divorce his wife (no exceptions mentioned), and the wife not to separate from her husband, but if she does separate, to remain unmarried or be reconciled with her husband. The chapter ends with verse 39 reiterating the reason: the marriage bond δέδεται (dedetai) “deo” cannot be broken by anything but physical death. It is no coincidence that Paul’s teaching taken in correct context correlates more so to Luke 16:18 than to any other gospel rendering. Several church fathers’ writings, such as Tertullian, give extensive account of the two of them travelling and ministering together, along with Paul’s mentorship of Luke as eyewitness to Christ’s teaching.
Aside from the obvious context issue, 1 Cor. 7:15 has for centuries suffered significant Greek language translation abuse, with several of the words in that isolated verse, including the words “departs” and “bound”, that are best resolved by looking up Romans 7:2-3, 1 Cor. 7:15 and 1 Cor. 7:39 in a Greek interlinear text tool. Upon doing this, it becomes clear that the word δεδούλωται (dedoulōtai) or “douloo” is not the word for marriage bond at all, but means “compelled to meet the absent spouse’s needs”, rather than follow Christ with single-minded focus. Consistent with the rest of scripture, abandonment indeed does not break the indissoluble covenant marriage bond, either.
If the church “did what we ought”, pastors would immediately cease performing weddings over anyone with an estranged living covenant spouse – no excuses. That’s what the Assemblies of God did up to 1973, until unilateral divorce became the domineering blight on the land. The immorality of the world system and culture should never drive doctrine or practice in the church!
With actual souls on the line, if the church “did what we ought”, pastors would start telling their flock that the only biblical grounds for divorce is to undo falsely-sanctified, legalized adultery so that they can go reconcile with the spouse of their youth, as Hosea did with Gomer. If the church “did what we ought”, false doctrine would be rewritten and seminary courses on marriage returned to a biblical basis based on full and faithful application of the laws of hermeneutics. Yes, those actions would indeed cause the divorce rate (and, most likely, lukewarm membership in the body of Christ) to precipitously drop , but more importantly, it would restore power and witness to the church which has been missing for centuries. In the two scriptures Dr. Moore cites to claim a “biblical justification” for remarriage, Matthew 5:32 and 1 Cor. 7:15, the mere application of just one of the “5-C’s” of hermeneutics (Context) would immediately debunk his perennially popular, ear-tickling assertion. See above.
From this point on, we’ve probably made our case where addressing the remaining presumptions in Dr. Moore’s blog becomes redundant, but now that we’ve laid the essential groundwork, we soldier on to a few more points. We’ll ignore a few, too, because they are too irrelevant to bother addressing.
The second issue, though, is what repentance looks like in these cases. Take the worst-case scenario of an unbiblically divorced and remarried couple. Suppose this couple repents of their sin and ask to be received, or welcomed back, into the church. What does repentance look like for them? They have, in this scenario, committed an adulterous act (Matt. 5:32-33). Do they repent of this adultery by doing the same sinful action again, abandoning and divorcing one another?
How embarrassing it must be to these churches, who have “married” people into soul-endangering adultery, when with increasing frequency, the Lord mercifully brings full reconciliation between the original covenant spouses! In my own church, a covenant couple who has been divorced for decades is in their 80’s and dating again, taking care of each other, and coming to church together for the first time over the past two years. We published an amazing story a few weeks ago that made national news when a man, divorced for 43 years took an engagement ring into Wal-Mart and wooed back the wife of his youth! It has been well-documented that there is a 60-80% failure rate for serial legalized adultery that builds in direct proportion to the number of adulterous civil-only marriages one undertakes, and indications seem to be that civil “marriage” entered into from adulterous cohabitation fails at a 97% rate. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop the harlot church from demonizing the covenant spouse (who actually has God’s intense favor), nor from treating him or her like an interloper in many churches because they continue to wear their wedding rings, to obey 1 Cor. 7:11 and to take a biblical stand for the restoration of their covenant relationship, most importantly, the errant spouse’s very soul following adulterous remarriage. God is jealous for His symbols, and for the soundness of the generations of their covenant family, and for their souls. In many cases, God glorifies Himself in restoring two marriages as a result of such repentance, and He snatches 3 or 4 people from the fire in such cases! Any bloodguilt from “breaking up [non-covenant] families” falls right back on the false shepherds who ignored God’s word and abused their ordination by immorally joining one person to another’s spouse in direct conflict with Luke 16:18.
Given the scriptural fact that nothing breaks the marriage covenant short of physical death, there is no need to carve out a “worst case scenario” for hypothetical purposes, as Dr. Moore suggests. God has laid down and clearly defined the seventh commandment. Violation thereof is violation thereof, regardless of the circumstances. Repentance looks exactly the same as for any other sin: cessation and restitution. Failure to repent leads to an ever-hardening heart, continued idolatry and continued broken fellowship with God. The act of repentance is hard, so hard that the apostate church’s utter lack of remorse for their part in fostering serial adultery is shocking, to say the least! But the understanding of how to repent is not hard at all. As long as these pastors keep performing weddings over biblical adultery, this entire line of argument is incredibly shallow and disingenuous! We would set up an entirely different “worst case scenario” and pose this hypothetical to Dr. Moore: a civilly-married homosexual couple has been born again, and they realize they are living in sin, so they come to you asking how to repent. They have “been together” for 15 years and have children, two through depriving the covenant parent custody after a civil, unilateral divorce that God does not recognize, and the other child through renting somebody’s womb. Are you going to tell them that breaking up that “family” is a “repeat sin”, (so do they repent of this sodomy by doing the same sinful action again, abandoning and divorcing one another? ) The obvious answer for both scenarios is “only if they, and we as their church body, care about their eternal destinies. ”
In most cases, the church recognizes that they should acknowledge their past sin and resolve to be faithful from now on to one another. Why is this the case? It’s because their marriages may have been sinfully entered into, but they are, in fact, marriages.
In most cases? In what case would the church not recognize their (and the organizational) past sin? Furthermore, adultery, covetousness and discontent are hard habits to break, because if the baggage they brought with them was actually shed, the irreplaceable, supernatural one-flesh condition naturally draws a repented heart back to their covenant spouse, because that is always God’s will and way. For all of the reasons already laid out above, we will agree that these are indeed 2-party civil marriages, for so says the piece of paper, but it is only in this sense they are “marriages” and adultery. The very same could be said of legalized homosexual unions, however. Neither will ever constitute holy matrimony in God’s eyes, but rather unrepented adultery, exactly as Jesus said. 1 Corinthians 6:9 applies equally to these civil unions where God is not a covenant party, as it does to the practice of homosexuality.
Jesus redemptively exposed the sin of the Samaritan woman at the well by noting that the man she was living with was not her husband. “You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband” (Jn. 4:18). It could be that her husbands all died successively, but not necessarily.
Just like today, this woman most likely had quite a complicated mix of covenant husband, deceased partners, cohabitation and / or legalized adultery partners. The fact remains that if the husband of her youth continued to live, all subsequent relationships were adulterous, and her present relationship was definitely adulterous. If the husband of her youth was deceased, it’s possible a subsequent husband still living is now her estranged covenant husband. We can’t speculate and there’s really no need to. Again, looking at John 4:18 in the Greek interlinear tool, we find that one of the two words used here for “husband” is quite familiar –ἄνδρας (andros), and ἀνήρ (aner) , either of which could also simply mean “man” or “companion”. There is are numerous other Greek words for “husband” used in other New Testament passages, but not used here. It is impossible to speculate from this passage which of her relationships beyond the first one constituted covenant marriage, and which were mere civil unions blessed by the rabbi under an outdated Mosaic “bill of divorcement” law that Jesus was about to abrogate. (See above). Therefore, there is no more basis here for using this passage to support divorce and remarriage than there is in using Jacob, Elkanah, Solomon or David’s experiences to support polygamy. Jesus declared new rules as a result of the Sermon on the Mount.
Even if these marriages were entered into sinfully in the first place, they are in fact marriages because they signify the Christ/church bond of the one-flesh union (Eph. 5:22-31), embedded in God’s creation design of male and female together (Mk. 10:6-9).
As discussed above, God remains exclusively in the first covenant, rendering none of the above true of any attempt at remarriage, except of remarriage solely following widowhood. If civil marriages are entered into adulterously while the original covenant is unbroken by death, they can’t be marriage and adultery in God’s eyes at the same time, for that violates His holiness and misrepresents His faithfulness. Jesus made it clear in Luke 16:18 that this is ongoing adultery not marriage. The more-relevant scriptures, on which the Eph. 5 and Mark 10 scriptures cited by Moore actually depend, are:
Matthew 19: 4 -6 and 8: And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” ….8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
Mark 10: 6-9: But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Ephesians 5:31 echoes this, right after saying that any man who hates his covenant wife (obviously out of a hard heart, and due to the irreversible one-flesh connection exclusively indwelt by God) hates himself, hates his own body. This is because a civil piece of paper cannot separate one-flesh or make it two again. Physically and spiritually impossible, this is. It is clear that what was established in God’s creation design per Genesis 2:24, to which Jesus was resetting the moral compass, is the husband and wife of youth being joined for life, and never again to be two separate people in God’s eyes. God doesn’t issue “ideals” or “intents” with a Plan B- we are talking about the 7th commandment here. This is the basis on which Jesus took the no-excuses hard line he did in Luke 16:18.
Same-sex relationships do not reflect that cosmic mystery, and thus by their very nature signify something other than the gospel. The question of what repentance looks like in this case is to flee immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), which means to cease such sexual activity in obedience to Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). A state, or church decree of these relationships as marital do not make them so.
All of what Moore has flatly stated about homosexual relationships applies in exactly the same fashion to the very relationships Jesus unambiguously described in Luke 16:18. In fact, those verses about fleeing immorality and honoring Him with our bodies were originally written to primarily address heterosexual sin including concubinage, false divorce, prostitution and polygamy. Moore’s last statement is particularly salient with regard to remarriage adultery, in light of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:6 and 8. Jesus made it crystal clear that man was never given authority to dissolve covenant marriage, nor to solemnize adulterous unions.
Instead, our response ought to be a vision of marriage defined by the gospel, embodied in local congregations. This means preaching with both truth and grace, with accountability for entering marriages and, by the discipline of the church, for keeping those vows. We don’t remedy our past sins by adding new ones.
So long as the definition of marriage is corrected to the Matthew 19:6 scriptural basis, we couldn’t agree more. However, once again, Moore’s last statement is particularly salient. The SBC may legitimately lay claim to that declaration the moment they stop creating new cases of sanctified adultery through performing immoral weddings and counseling civil divorce on fabricated “biblical grounds”.
We conclude by returning to the (adjusted) question: “Is Legalized, Unrepented Adultery Equivalent to Homosexuality?”
For purposes of restoring the church’s witness, restoring her power, overcoming her enemies, for being pure and ready to meet her Bridegroom in the clouds, for withstanding the persecution of the last days, and for coming through the evaluation Jesus applies in Revelation 2 and 3, we say, yes indeed, they absolutely are equivalent. Civil divorce, however, is only equivalent to the extent that the root is equivalent to the fruit.
The attitude of evangelical churches in refusing to admit that remarriage after divorce is always biblically immoral has created an enormous obstacle over the past 40 years to driving any sort of godly family law reform that could rebalance constitutional protections between offending petitioners and non-offending, religiously objecting respondents. The latter suffers oppressive religious discrimination in a myriad of circumstances as they are invariably punished, and made an example of, by the courts for taking a biblical moral stand. Pro-family, religious liberty legal ministries turn a deaf ear when embattled Christian spouses seek help in challenging the constitutionality of unilateral divorce, because these ministries don’t accept that it is morally unacceptable before God to remarry, hence they don’t readily recognize the extent to which unilateral divorce laws burden a faithful believer’s free religious exercise and right-of-conscience. Ideally, the government would not have any jurisdiction whatsoever over marriage, but the church would govern it righteously as Christ intended (1 Cor. 6 :1-2). The government is an exceedingly unworthy steward of holy matrimony, and the harlot church no longer accepts her Christ-assigned accountability!
Additional resource: Milton T. Wells, Does Divorce Dissolve Marriage? Eastern Bible Institute (1957), available through Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, MO (email@example.com)
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal No-Fault Divorce!