I’m Living in an Ongoing State of Legalized Adultery with Somebody Else’s Spouse. Can I Get Away With It?
We have been responding to the 3-part blog series by David Servant called, “I’m Divorced and Remarried. Am I Living in Adultery?” This appears to be the final installment.
The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. – Proverbs 18:17
We responded to Points 1 through 6 of remarriage apologist David Servant’s very comprehensive scripture-denial-and-obfuscation campaign in Part 3A, our earlier blog post, and with his Parts 1 and 2, in our corresponding Part 1 and Part 2. We noted that Points 1 through 5 in his Part 3 were items of repackaged redundancy that did not raise any substantive new arguments that we had not previously discredited in our two earlier responses. However, Points 6, 7 and 8 do raise some new arguments that we will focus on in this post.
#6 of 8 – David Servant’s Rebuke of The Prophet Ezra for “Breaking Up Families”
In the Old Testament book of Ezra, there is a story in chapters 9 and 10 about 113 Jewish men who had married foreign wives, a transgression of the Mosaic Law. Under either conviction or ecclesiastical pressure, those men divorced their foreign wives. This shows that the proper response to a marriage that is displeasing to God is to divorce. Thus, all those who are divorced and remarried should also divorce, as their adulterous marriages are displeasing to God.
SIFC: Ah yes, the wizard of manipulative semantics is back at it again….“either under conviction or ‘ecclesiastical pressure’ “……”the proper response to a ‘marriage’ that is ‘displeasing’ to God is to ‘divorce’ “. (At least he got the last part right.) We have been pointing out throughout our response to David Servant’s misguid(ing) blog series why God does not participate in all (civilly-legal) “marriages”, nor does He consider them morally-interchangeable, nor does He operate on the ridiculous idea that current possession is nine-tenths of the law. If the 7th and 8th commandments aren’t evidence enough of this, then there probably is no persuading David Servant, sad to say. God defines the marriages He participates in through the mouth of Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6, and vividly describes His supernatural role at each wedding for a biblically-lawful marriage:
And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 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’? So they are no longer [by the verb tense, “never again” ] two, but one flesh. What therefore GOD has JOINED TOGETHER, let NO [HUMAN] separate.”
By this passage, we explicitly know that two types of civilly-legal “marriages” in our western culture are non-marriages (and not merely that they are “displeasing”) in God’s eyes:
(1) Where a living spouse has been left, instead of one’s father and mother
(2) Where the genders are the same
By this passage, we explicitly know why these are non-marriages, either ongoing (1) adultery, or (2) sodomy:
(1) God has declined to do the joining, AND
(2) The parties remain two throughout their sodomous or adulterous papered-over union, sometimes “one-body”, but never one-flesh, AND
(3) The prior one-flesh entity remains intact regardless, AND
(4) Man has no power or authority to sever the prior, biblically-lawful union, because Jesus tells us God never delegated this to men, reserving that power only to Himself.
In part 3A, we explained at length that the God-yoking Jesus described was called sunexuezen in the Greek. This is a supernatural instantaneous event that creates an inseverable one-flesh entity for as long as both spouses remain alive. That is, man can neither create nor sever it, even if physical separation takes place under man’s law, or lawless abandonment occurs. Jesus goes on to say in verse 8 that God never delegated that power or authority to any man (including Moses), and it is consequentially illegitimate for any civil government to usurp such authority from God. Where there is no sunexuezen, there is no holy matrimony, and the relationship is consequentially an illicit cohabiting conjugal relationship. It is, as Jesus repeatedly stated, ongoing immorality, be it homosexual or heterosexual. In the case of the 113 immoral households purged under Ezra’s prophetic leadership, the adultery of taking a foreign wife was first against God who forbid it and did not create sunexuezen between the “spouses”. In some cases there was an additional layer of adultery — against the God-joined Jewish wife of the husband’s youth who was still living. To call these immoral households “families” is a slap in God’s face.
Bringing this concept back to the contemporary unlawful marriages, it is far more material in the eyes of God that the sinful relations immediately cease, physical separation takes place, that reconciliation occurs with the rightful covenant family members, and somewhat less material that one’s legal life be cleaned up from a civil system (so-called “family courts”) to which God never delegated any authority in the first place to create or dissolve holy matrimony. Hence, “divorce” isn’t really the central issue in authentic repentance which restores one’s forfeited inheritance in the kingdom of God, despite Servant’s sarcastic characterization. The central issue is as follows:
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
– 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
This separation naturally entails providing morally and financially for any non-covenant children of the union, regardless of the legal status, and we can also see this element playing out in the Ezra account, chapter 10:
Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” Then all the assembly replied with a loud voice, “That’s right! As you have said, so it is our duty to do. But there are many people; it is the rainy season and we are not able to stand in the open. Nor can the task be done in one or two days, for we have transgressed greatly in this matter. Let our leaders represent the whole assembly and let all those in our cities who have married foreign wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each city, until the fierce anger of our God on account of this matter is turned away from us.”
The marriages with foreign wives were non-marriages for the same core metaphysical reason that legalized adultery and sodomy-as-“marriage” are non-marriages. God did not participate to create an inseverable one-flesh entity (sarx mia), so there was no holy matrimony, only immoral cohabitation that had been legalized in the eyes of men only. It should be noted from history (without opening a new, spurious “silence of scripture” claim, since history and rabbinical accounts both attest to this) that many of these foreign wives were concubines under an entrenched system of concurrent polygamy in Hebrew society under Mosaic law. In those cases, the sarx mia /sunexuezen union was only with the original lawful Jewish wife, and the carnal-only hen soma union was with all others, as is the case today with the biblically-lawful covenant wife, and however many rivals her one-flesh husband may attempt to legalize. We also know from the book of Malachi that sequential polygamy was also present in Israel at the time, where God-joined wives were being “put away” to “marry” a foreign wife.
Was this purge done under conviction, or was it done under “ecclesiastical pressure” as Servant fancies ? Verses 1 – 4 of the text make it pretty clear that the conviction was certainly there. We don’t even see the prophet of God making a speech, but we see the conviction falling more or less spontaneously on the people as a result of Ezra’s concerted time of prayer and vicarious confession. We see that they came of their own volition from a distance to where Ezra was (verse 10:1) when the conviction fell. (We see David Servant writing a 3-part blog series to show them the error of following an obvious cult leader. ) We see no dissent until much later in the process of carrying the command of the Lord out, but only on the part of two men, which all by itself is utterly amazing, considering the nature of the command of the Lord. This can hardly be described as “ecclesiastical pressure”, nor can it be reasonably described as anything but a supernaturally-orchestrated event. As with some of our western countries today, it was also an event on which the future rule of the nation depended, before God’s harsher judgment was to land there. We have to look to historical accounts for what happened next, since the Holy Spirit provided no Ezra, chapter 11 to explicitly tell us.
“While there is no doubt that 113 Jewish men transgressed the Mosaic Law by marrying foreign wives, there is no place in the book of Ezra where it is recorded that God instructed or expected them to divorce their foreign wives….Again, nothing in the book of Ezra indicates that God initiated or approved of the proposal.”
SIFC: Servant is perhaps emboldened to make this next ridiculous “argument from silence” because we aren’t told in the book of Ezra what happened afterward, but we are told in historical accounts that this purging was necessary before the Lord would clear the way for pure, clean hands to rebuild the temple. We’re told earlier in scripture that God had reached a tipping point with the complicity of church leadership in institutionalizing their immorality with which they had not only become complicit, but the priesthood had themselves become partakers. Some of that scriptural documentation comes in other books, such as Malachi and Nehemiah near the conclusion of the 70 years exile, and in the major prophets ahead of Nebuchadnezzar’s raid. These two post-exile prophets were both contemporaries of Ezra the prophet, and twenty years later, Malachi’s message remarkably echoed Ezra’s, as these Jews slid from their purged concurrent polygamy practices into the sequential polygamy that Jesus eventually confronted 400 years after the Lord sent Israel no more prophets until John the Baptist.
We should also pay attention to the fact that Ezra had the Lord’s anointing to lead the second group of released exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the temple.
For Servant to suggest (without evidence) that Ezra cooked up some sort of “cult action” apart from the Lord’s instruction, then argue for that unsupported speculation out of alleged scripture silence, as if just anyone can be canonized in scripture as an authorized prophet of the Lord, seems just a bit over the top. If anything, Malachi’s parallel message gives divine confirmation to Ezra’s authority and Spirit-led intercession, nay, his vicarious confession on behalf of the people he was leading spiritually. As for “nothing” within Ezra indicating that God initiated or approved of the repentance from forbidden and immoral-but-legalized relationships, how’s “…let all those in our cities who have married foreign wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each city, until the fierce anger of our God on account of this matter is turned away from us” ?
At the point of participation in institutionalized immorality, His shepherds had traded away all of their moral authority required to carry out their ecclesiastical responsibilities prior to the exile. At the earlier point where they had become merely complicit, they lost the supernatural involvement of God in carrying out their ecclesiastical responsibilities. Precisely the same thing happens to denominations and individual churches whose doctrine is changed to accommodate institutionalized serial (or concurrent) polygamy: the Holy Spirit departs the sanctuary, and is quenched and grieved in the individuals occupying the defiled sanctuary. The temple rebuilders of our day will be the literal husband of one wife, and not “one at a time”.
Additionally, there is good reason to think that, even though the 113 Jewish men had transgressed the Mosaic Law by marrying foreign wives, God did not expect those men to then divorce them.
Why? Because God expected the people of Israel to keep their covenant vows, even when those vows went against His revealed will. A case in point is Israel’s covenant with the people of Gibeon, wicked Amorites whom God wanted Israel to annihilate during the conquest of Canaan led by Joshua….And so we have to wonder why God would not want 113 men in Israel who made vows to foreign women to keep their vows, even though it was not his will for them to make those vows in the first place.
SIFC: This vow business is an inference, but in this particular instance, not actually a valid one. This is due to the intrinsic violation of the prior inseverable one-flesh entity created between the true spouses (in at least some of the concurrently polygamous cases involved in the Ezra purge) and due, in all cases, to the inviolable prior covenant of all believers to have no other gods before the Lord.
Rather strangely, in Servant’s estimation, the vows made before God with the spouse of our youth (by which He says in Malachi 2:13-14, He stands as a witness–to the point of withdrawing fellowship with the violator when they are repudiated)…are only a “sexual contract” which Servant then claims is annullable with a piece of man’s paper. Yet the conflicting subsequent vow to forever repudiate the divinely-favored vow at the very cost of hell, must be “kept to his own (eternal) hurt“. It’s akin to the silly claim that only covenant eggs can be “unscrambled”, but not adulterous “eggs”. The Divine joke is on Servant (and his fellow serial polygamy apologists) that the hand of the Lord who is the lover of our souls, Whose love is big enough to unscramble those rancid, adulterated non-covenant eggs does it all the time, and puts true one-flesh partners back together, after sometimes decades of man’s “divorce”, — often on both sides of the illicit union. That’s because, not only was it not His will for them to make those second vows, it was the destruction of their souls to make them. “Do not be deceived, no adulterer has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.” The Gibeonite analogy is false here, because there were no God-joined one-flesh relationships repudiated in that vow with the pagans.
The servant of God, guided by his integrity, “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps 15:4). And did not God hold those 113 men accountable for the suffering they caused the women whom they divorced, as well as their common children “to whom the kingdom belongs” (something which Jesus incidentally proclaimed within seconds of one His Four D&R Statements; see Matt. 19:14).
SIFC: If the servant of God is indeed guided by his integrity, that integrity will lead him back to his one-flesh mate and their covenant generations. Otherwise, he is not a servant of God at all, but only a dime-a-dozen hypocrite, a tare among the wheat. If he “swore to his own hurt”, then why do not his original vows preclude and take precedence over any subsequent vows?
Did God hold those 113 men accountable for the suffering they caused the women whom they wrongfully “married” and the resulting children? Perhaps, so, at least until they offered the required atonement sacrifice at the temple altar that afternoon. Even so, God would have held those men far more accountable had they dug in their heels and refused to repent of those immoral relationships, continuing on in them. He would have held them far more accountable for the whoredom and idolatry they were clinging to, which competed with their holiness and with their worship of the living God with their bodies.
Noncovenant children are not the only children involved in a good many of these pseudo-marriages. Also watching the adulterous charade, and being forced sometimes to witness the blasphemous “wedding” ceremonies by a “pastor” they thought they could trust, are the covenant children and grandchildren of the true holy matrimony union(s). It is only the latter about whom God directed these rebuking words through the mouth of the prophet Malachi:
Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife OF YOUR YOUTH, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she IS [not, “was”] your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a GODLY OFFSPRING? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife OF YOUR YOUTH.
– Malachi 2:14-15
When mass-immorality is normalized both in civil law and in the church, and that immorality is a clear heaven-or-hell matter, it gives rise to an emulation risk in the next generations until society either repents en masse, or entirely collapses within three or four generations. God is concerned with the evil ongoing practices of the larger society, not just the individual cases. We need to beware, lest the rise of militant Islamism become our “Persia” and rabid homofascism become our “Assyria” in chastening for our sequential polygamy practices.
Servant referenced the milder of two passages carrying the same warning:
“But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
– Matthew 19:14
Another passage in Matthew which Servant is by inference alluding to goes like this:
“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” – Matthew 18:4-7
Servant’s hands are far from clean with regard to the duty he owes as a former pastor and as a current teacher, to both the covenant and the noncovenant children, yet he is pointing his accusing finger at the repenting prodigal parents seeking to obey the Lord. Remember, it takes pure, clean hands to rebuild the temple. He may stop his braying against “divorce” of adulterous unions the moment he ceases to perform or attend adulterous “weddings”, which directly drive the evangelical demand for more “divorce”. If pastors obeyed the Lord and refused to solemnize these abominations in the holy fear of God, as they consistently did only 60 years ago, Servant would have very little to publicly squirm about, and his personal taxes would be a lot lower, as a bonus. Financing the Sexual Revolution is very, very costly.
A child from an adulterous civil-only union is by far better off having a repenting parent sit down with them and show them in the word of God that what they (the parent) have done will cost souls in that family, and warn those children not to emulate what they’ve (unfortunately) witnessed, drawing the line that the sin needs to stop in the parents’ generation. In many cases, the covenant spouse is rises to the occasion upon reconciliation to absorb the non-covenant child into the covenant household, and in other cases, the children watch the sole repented parent walk out the word of God celibately for the rest of their lives while praying for the soul of lost parent if the latter is in an adulterous subsequent union. This is far better than pretending that societally-normalized sin isn’t sending millions to hell, contrary to the clear word of God that it is doing so.
Beyond those things, the fundamental reason why God forbade the Israelite men from marrying foreign wives, namely, the great risk posed by those pagan women of turning the hearts of their Israelite husbands from devotion to the Lord, has absolutely no application to modern Christians married to Christians, even when one of them at one time was previously married and divorced.
SIFC: Everyone should realize by now that Servant’s last assertion is outrageously untrue in the ending thought. All willful, unrepented sin turns and hardens a man’s heart from serving God. Not all idolatry is directed toward a stick of wood. Indeed, the apostle James calls the friends of the world system “adulterers and adulteresses” (figuratively and literally – verse 4:4 – Antioch manuscripts), and says that this creates enmity with God. Under the New Covenant, obedience is to flow from the heart, and not from external regulations. The bulk of evangelicals today take this to mean that obedience need not flow at all. What they don’t realize is that if obedience is not flowing, or there’s a cordoned-off area, it means the heart is hardened because the inward “god” is one’s self. This applies to Christians married to Christians, and it equally applies to Christians married to pagans, Jews, Muslims, etc. But we must defined “married” the Matthew 19:4-6 way, with no politically-correct terms substituted to include non-marriages. If someone remains in a non-marriage after having the false teaching they grew up with authoritatively corrected by the word of God, they have a hardened heart and are involved in idolatry no less than were the guilty under Ezra’s leadership. There’s even more bad news about hardened hearts, according to the book of Hebrews: they cause born-again people to fall away eventually.
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, as when they provoked Me.”
– Hebrews 3:12-14
Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter BECAUSE OF DISOBEDIENCE, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not HARDEN YOUR HEARTS”
Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that NO ONE WILL FALL THROUGH FOLLOWING THE SAME EXAMPLE OF DISOBEDIENCE. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
– Hebrews 4: 6, 7, 11-13
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled..
– Hebrews 12:14-15
Non-forgivers and those who insist on an imaginary “exception clause” to disobey the Lord and take their own ongoing revenge against the exclusive “bone-of-their-bones and flesh-of-their-flesh” (Genesis 2:23) are at the very highest risk of hell, because their illicit action is irrefutable evidence of a hard heart from the beginning,
a heart which has no intention of forgiving unless God changes that heart. Jesus bluntly stated that all such people are headed for hell unless they repent. Their own considerable sins will not be forgiven.
Mr. Servant may claim that the purge of idolatrous, unlawful “marriages” described in the book of Ezra, “has absolutely no application to modern Christians ‘married’ to Christians, even when one of them at one time was previously married and divorced….” when he can demonstrate that Jesus had multiple churches as His bride, and that God removed a slab of ribs from Adam’s side in case he’d need one or more reserve brides. Both events, had they occurred, would have proven these husbands as idolatrous self-worshippers who had the Lord’s “approval” for that heart condition.
Paul’s prohibition for Christians to divorce unbelieving spouses, we have to question how anyone could advocate that some Christians should divorce their Christian (or non-Christian) spouses because of a story of 113 Israelite men divorcing pagan spouses.
SIFC: This is false logic. It does not follow that a commandment not to do “x” invalidates a separate commandment not to live on in a state of “y” . We also have to watch the definition here of “spouse”, since according to Jesus, the spouse is the one immorally-but-legally abandoned, and their counterfeit replacement is an ongoing adultery partner for as long as the spouse lives. There is quite a difference, obviously, between civilly-legal and biblically lawful.
#7 of 8 – Servant’s Attempt to Recharacterize The Herod Incident
“John the Baptist reprimanded Herod Antipas for his marriage to his half-brother’s wife, Herodias, calling him to divorce her. This serves as an example for all the Christians who are in adulterous marriages, who also should divorce.
Answer: This claim is built on several assumptions, one of which is the assumption, again, that Christian couples in which one or both were previously married are considered by God to be in “adulterous marriages” or “still married to their original spouses in God’s eyes,” which I have already shown is not the case if we consider all of Scripture.
SIFC: Servant has “shown” nothing of the kind. Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said in Matthew 19:6 and 8, and in Matthew 5:32b, as well as Matthew 19:9b-KJV and finally, Luke 16:18b. It’s that simple.
But let’s consider the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias. First, it’s worth noting that Herodias was named after her grandfather, Herod the Great, who also happened to be Herod Antipas’ father. That not only explains why their names are so similar, but also tells us they were related. Herodias was Herod Antipas’ niece. Theirs was an incestuous marriage.
Both had previously been married, Herod Antipas to a woman named Phasaelis, daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea, and Herodias to Herod Antipas’ half-brother, Philip. But when Herod Antipas was once visiting Rome and staying with Philip, he and Herodias fell in love, or perhaps it might be better said that they fell in lust. They agreed to marry once Herod Antipas had divorced Phasaelis. When Phasaelis learned of their plans, she journeyed back home to her father, King Aretas IV, who subsequently declared war against Herod. Herod lost that war. But the main point is, in order to marry each other, Herodias divorced Philip and Herod Antipas divorced Phasaelis. It was a classic case of obvious adultery under the guise of marriage.
SIFC: Indeed it was a classic case of adultery under the guise of “marriage”, blood ties notwithstanding. Servant is owed great credit here for finally venturing into the history books to pull out what scripture is silent about, for example, the facts about Herod’s one-flesh covenant wife whom he “divorced” (or so he thought). Contrast this attention to factual detail with Dr. John Piper’s lazy coyness in a blog he wrote last year with the same purpose in mind. Piper was just full of speculations, including questioning whether Herod had actually “married” Herodias, or maybe JTB was merely rebuking him for messing around with her. Servant does a good job here — until he gets lazy, too…
And did John actually call on Herod and Herodias to divorce as a remedy for their sin? If he did, Scripture doesn’t say, and so we should not make that assumption. We could just as rightly claim that John was calling for Herod and Herodias to be stoned, as that is what the Law of Moses prescribed for adulterers, and clearly, that is what they were guilty of.
SIFC: Pray tell, how was a jailed prophet ever going to hope to get a king stoned for adultery? History tells us the Romans had banned stoning since about 6 B.C. That’s why “divorce” was such a big, hairy deal to the Pharisees in the first place. John was willing to put his life on the line precisely because he knew that neither Herod nor Herodias were ready to meet their Maker in their current unregenerated state. Why in the world would he be hoping for their stoning? He had no reason to speak just to condemn them, despite what guilty parties always seem to think. He was seeking their repentance. And, of course, when one has no authoritative support for one’s point, there’s always the trusty “argument from silence”, which we see whipped back out by Servant. Indeed, according to Servant’s normal argument (apparently now abandoned), he suddenly holds that Herod and Herodias, now “married”, were still guilty of adultery. (Apparently, it’s only after Jesus went to the cross that adultery by legalized adulterers was “over with” on the wedding night and thereafter).
But let us imagine that John was actually calling them to divorce. If he was holding them to the standards of the Mosaic Law regarding divorce and remarriage, neither would be permitted to return to their former spouse (according to Deut. 24:1-4). But both would be free to remarry anyone else, with the exception that Herodias would not be permitted to marry a priest (fairly unlikely). So what, exactly, would be the point of Herod Antipas and Herodias divorcing? Why would John call them to divorce if they could not return to their former spouses but could marry just about anyone else? What would be the point? And are we to imagine that John was calling Herod and Herodias to divorce and remain celibate until their original spouses died, the alleged new law of Christ?….no warrant to claim that John’s condemnation of Herod and Herodias’ marriage has any application to us other than the fact that it has always been wrong for anyone to divorce their spouse in order to marry someone else.
SIFC: Another invalid assumption of Servant’s is that Deut. 24:1-4 “prevented” the respective reconciliations, Herodias with Phillip, and Herod with Phasaelis. We’ve shown where Deut. 24:1-4 most likely did not address actual or alleged capital infidelities until Moses’ bones had returned to the dust. Instead, this narrow regulation dealt with defiling conditions that prevented marriage which were of a non-capital nature and were discovered during the betrothal period. These things made a betrothed wife unsuitable for the consummation of the marriage both before the ketubah was agreed, and after termination of the ketubah. Furthermore, the Mosaic age had ceased, and the Messianic age had commenced with the start of John’s ministry in the wilderness,
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!’”
– Matthew 3:1-3
At that point, Herod and Herodias were no more under that old Mosaic regulation than any contemporary person is today hindered from putting their covenant family back together and keeping their violated, but unsevered holy matrimony vows. Furthermore, both covenant marriages remained fully intact, or John would have had no basis for his rebuke. He did not say to Herod, “it is unlawful for you to have your brother’s ‘ex’ wife”. He said, “it is unlawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
#8 of 8 – Servant’s Overboard Attempt to Make the Relevance of Hebrew Betrothal Custom Just Go Away
The “exception clauses” in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 should not be interpreted as allowing for divorce if a man discovers that his wife has committed adultery. Rather, Jesus was speaking of the discovery, during the betrothal phase, of illicit sex during or before the betrothal phase. And for that offense it was lawful to break off one’s engagement. And this is the same thing Paul was writing about in 1 Cor. 7:27-28, another scripture that is mistakenly applied to married persons when it actually only applies to betrothed persons. So your claim that God allows divorce under certain circumstances, which thus makes allowance for remarriage in some cases, is wrong. Only death can dissolve a marriage. Thus there is no divorced person who is legitimately divorced, and there is no remarried person who is legitimately remarried. So all remarried people should divorce their current spouse to either return to their original spouse or live celibate lives until their original spouse is dead.
Answer: If one holds to the supposition that marriage is dissoluble only by death and not by legitimate divorce, then the “exception clauses” in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 (“except for immorality”), as well as Paul’s allowance for divorced people to remarry in 1 Cor. 7:27-28, are problematic. So we should not be surprised that Divine Divorce proponents and their conservative counterparts have come up with explanations that attempt to harmonize those problematic passages with their views. I addressed the “Betrothal View” in two footnotes in my first article, as it seems so obviously far-fetched that it isn’t worthy of actual discussion. However, the Betrothal View seems to be a cardinal doctrine of Divine Divorce proponents, so I will address it.
SIFC: Servant’s treatment of this aspect of humanist ideology versus the unchanging truth of God is nothing short of moronic, not to even mention anti-Christ. But we’ve already been there — at length. However, since he’s willing to “indulge” the disciples….
To put it bluntly, the Betrothal View makes Jesus look stupid.
Note that, in Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees recorded in Matthew 19:3-12, the Pharisee’s initial and follow-up questions, Jesus’ initial and second reply, as well as the scriptures referenced in their conversation (Gen. 2:24, Deut. 24:1-4), all refer only to married people and the lawfulness of divorce between them. The topic remains consistent throughout the conversation. But then, according to the Betrothal View, Jesus allegedly ends the conversation with a statement about lawful divorce that has absolutely no application to married people, but only to engaged people! And that makes Jesus look stupid. It also makes those who make Jesus look stupid look desperate to defend their doctrine. They are forcing a meaning that reflects their bias into a passage of Scripture.
SIFC: We literally seem to see Servant’s mind doing backflips here (that “alternate reality” again, evidently) and hoping the rest of us will join him in his mental gymnastics. Some of us just can’t keep up (a mercy) and prefer the straightforward, spinless word of God as it appears in the literal language and original texts. There is no “legitimate divorce” except for the civil exit from a hellbound union with someone else’s God-joined spouse.
There is no objective and conclusive evidence that Deuteronomy 24 applies exclusively (or even at all) to consummated marriages, except possibly for the phrase that is rendered “sends her out of his house” (which could have occurred right after the wedding night). The passage appears almost like an afterthought of Moses, given the comprehensive coverage of Mosaic marriage regulation in Deuteronomy 22. We just don’t know. What we do conclusively know, however, is that the standard of Deuteronomy 24 does not meet the standards of morality necessary to enter the kingdom of God, any more than Deuteronomy 22 does. We know that when the Pharisees confronted Jesus about divorce, He bypassed any discussion of those regulations quite deliberately and took us back to the Garden to make this point: He has ushered in a New Kingdom where the one-flesh, God-joined entity (sarx mia) will no longer be allowed to be dishonored by the contrivances of men, just as the baton has passed from Moses to Joshua (whose name is a precursor of Jesus) to Jesus, where it forever rests. We also know that the unequivocal statement that Jesus made about man’s divorce is that God was having none of it. “Moses allowed (and that’s not a compliment, by the way)...BUT I SAY UNTO YOU…”
It is well-established in scripture and history that once a ketubah contract was agreed and accepted, the betrothed bride had all the legal rights of a consummated bride, and hence she was called a “wife” for typically a year before she became his one-flesh. It took a legal act to dissolve (set aside) the ketubah for due cause. This was called “cutting off” כִּרי ֻתת (kerithuth) in the Hebrew, and because their culture doesn’t directly translate into ours, the bible translators called this “divorce”. It is true that when stoning was banned, post-Moses, by the Babylonian and then the Roman conquerors of Israel, rabbinic practice expanded the interpretation of the law to cover the loss of marriage termination by death permitted by Moses in Deuteronomy 22, and it was this situation that Jesus, in a practical sense, was speaking into when He was challenged by the Pharisees. Jesus could have taken them on a long and rambling history lesson with all these legalistic twists and turns, but He was a concise communicator who focused like a laser on the heart-condition. There was no point in affirming Mosaic regulation that He had come for the express purpose of abrogating in order to establish the higher rule of the kingdom of God. Deuteronomy 22 and 24 were both as moot at the time of that conversation with King Jesus as was prohibiting consumption of pork and shellfish, or stoning our disobedient children.
Genesis 2:21-24 (key verses 21 though 23 not being particularly tasteful to Pharisee Servant, it seems) and Exodus 20: 3 through 17 were all that remained of Mosaic law, boiled down into just two commandments: “you shall love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” All that said, today’s Pharisees, the legalized adultery proponents, would do well to take the Hebrew betrothal model very seriously, even though its New Testament application to holy matrimony has become moot: kiddushin is God’s model for the truthful middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is the model for our justification, sanctification, and ultimate future consummation as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
In the other instance where we find the “exception clause,” in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Betrothal View makes Jesus look equally, if not more, stupid.
In that instance, Jesus first references the Pharisees’ twisted teaching, which they derived from Deut. 24:1-4, saying: “It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give a certificate of divorce’” (Matt. 5:31). So the topic is “married men divorcing their wives.” But in the next sentence that completes everything Jesus has to say on the subject, Betrothal View proponents have Him strangely correcting the Pharisaic viewpoint with a declaration that has no application at all to married men, but only to betrothed men. They have Jesus saying, “It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give a certificate of divorce.’ But I say, whoever breaks off his betrothal, except for immorality, makes his former fiancée commit adultery, and whoever marries her commits adultery.” Jesus appears to be an idiot.
SIFC: Servant makes an astute observation that the Pharisees’ teaching was “twisted”, but we have no lack of contemporary Pharisees in the evangelical church who share the same carnal mindset. These Pharisees flatly refuse to see the obvious: Jesus was agreeing with neither Hillel nor Shammai, because God’s holy ordinance has always, since the Garden, been inseverable and indissoluble, endued with God’s participation and bound by the holy attributes of His character. As God’s symbol for the relationship of Christ with His church, also for the handing down of the Ten Commandments to His people, and for the Godhead itself, how could God’s chosen symbol be severable or dissoluble? Blasphemy!
Since Servant is struggling so to understand Matthew 5:27-32, we will break it down for him:
Jesus was speaking of an innocent betrothed or consummated wife (in this context, the distinction is moot since the wife is hypothetically innocent in either case) who is innocent of (Hebrew: zanah, Greek: porneia). Both words, along with “fornication” connote commercial prostitution, which by culture was a premarital offense to the Hebrews, literally “playing the whore”. (We defy Mr. Servant to produce a pre-1900 concordance that renders these terms as the generic “sexual immorality” which we see today in the liberalized concordance editions and liberal translations.) Jesus kept this sin distinct from His reference to adultery at the end of the verse because it is clearly not the same sin.
Jesus was here saying to his Jewish male audience that if a man sends away (literally, “from-looses”) his contracted or his consummated bride who was not guilty of selling her wares, then if she commits the adultery of marrying someone else while he lives (because sarx mia is inseverable and the unconditional holy matrimony covenant is indissoluble), her damnation for it is on his head as well as hers. If she is guilty of selling her wares, then her damnation for marrying another while he lives is only on her head because she engaged in the sin of adulterating their indissoluble covenant on her own volition. We know the covenant is indissoluble because any man who marries her also commits ongoing adultery, according to Jesus. Sometimes Pharisees need a picture drawn for them, and the one below seems to do nicely for that purpose, starting at 5 minutes in. Bottom line: Jesus was not discussing any “exception clause” at all in Matthew 5:32, much less one that allows a spouse to take their own revenge for adultery (or for any other offense).
We also need to note here that nobody asked Jesus a question in this first instance of discussion of the no-excuses indissolubility of God-joined holy matrimony. He broached this topic Himself and introduced His divine view as He was introducing the kingdom of God, and as part of a longer declaration of the points in the Mosaic law He was hereby abrogating: raising the moral standard on, to include the heart motivation. As we soon see, this triggers all of the subsequent challenges from the Pharisees–which still continue to this day by those who stubbornly refuse to accept the moral absolute or its eternal consequences for disobeying.
But it gets worse. Betrothal View proponents always point out that the “exception clauses” found in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 include two Greek words, porneia and moicheo, respectively translated “fornication” and “adultery” in the King James Version. Matthew 19:9 reads, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia, and marries another woman commits moicheo.” Betrothal View proponents claim that, because Jesus used two different words, He was making a distinction between the sexual sin committed by the immoral woman and the sexual sin committed by the man who divorces and marries another. The immoral woman did not commit moicheo, but rather porneia, so her sin was not adultery, but fornication, a sin that can only be committed by an unmarried person. Thus Jesus must have been speaking of pre-marital illicit sex discovered during the betrothal phase.
SIFC: We demonstrated above that Servant is inferring an “exception” in Matthew 5:32 that simply doesn’t exist. We know this, both straightforwardly, and because Jesus conclusively eliminated ALL possible “exceptions” when He said rather concisely,
Where does one draw the line on “exceptions”? Any reading of Luther’s writings or of the Westminster Confession of Faith makes it pretty clear that carnal humans have a very hard time of drawing this line anywhere on exceptions when it comes to sexual autonomy. Jesus was far too wise not to slam the door shut on all exceptions. In Matthew 19:6 and 8, He made indissolubility about divine metaphysics to which there can be no exception. Far from Servant’s blasphemous claim that Jesus was “endorsing” man’s contrived “dissolution” of holy matrimony, what actually came out of Jesus’ mouth repeatedly is precisely the opposite of an endorsement. But there’s more bad news for Mr. Servant: Jesus repeated at least twice more that everyone who married a divorced person is entering into an ongoing state of adultery, including at the end of Matthew 19:9 (suppressed by liberal bible translators in most contemporary English translations). Servant’s only response to this is to dishonestly pervert the verb tense Jesus is well-documented as using, in a silly and unsupportable attempt to claim this is a “one-time act” on the adulterous wedding night.
It’s not just us wild-eyed “cultists” who hold to the view that porneia and moicheia used in the same passage mean that the broader context must be used to define porneia, it is the view of many respected scholars who agree. As did 100% of the writers and editors of concordances published prior to 1850.
We need to concede here that not all “DDD-er’s” (Servant’s label for what he sees as our “cult”) agree on every aspect of the betrothal view. Some fail to understand that although contemporary engagement can indeed be broken without a subsequent marriage being adultery in God’s eyes, the similarity with the now-defunct Hebrew tradition of kiddushin ends right there. Some have a false foot in the Hebrew Roots camp, and would mistakenly carry Deuteronomy 24 into our Messianic times. Some are (rightly) appalled at the idea that a bride today could be “divorced” the day after her wedding night, because she did not disclose her non-virgin status to her contemporary husband before the wedding, so they (or rather, satan) use this to discredit the highly supportable betrothal understanding altogether. Some wrongly buy the establishment “churchianity” view that Deuteronomy 24 is dealing with sexual sin, rather than a non-capital cause for breaking a ketubah contract with a perfectly chaste bride. a nonsexual defilement such as consanguinity or ceremonial uncleanness that could not be remedied, in that day, after marriage. All of these distorted views, in SIFC’s educated opinion, spring from the common failure of Christ-followers to check Torah Observance at the door of Matthew 5:1, and the accompanying failure to discard the claim ticket thereto. It is appropriate to be knowledgeable about the Hebrew heritage in New Testament hermeneutics, but it is inappropriate to overlay a disciple’s life with it in Messianic times, as Paul exhaustively pointed out in his epistles.
Servant accuses the truth-tellers of “making Jesus look stupid”. More accurately, this “biblical exception” theory of the remarriage apologists makes Jesus look schizophrenic, while Servant’s sloppy hermeneutics, circular reasoning, and denial of the plan meaning of God’s word throughout his three redundant screeds make himself look intellectually and spiritually dishonest.
Finally, the Betrothal View makes Jesus contradict the Law of Moses….
SIFC: Yes indeed, He does. Not only that, but even the most casual reading of all of Matthew 5 makes it clear that this is exactly what He announced that He was doing, and He was making NO apologies for it. No apologies are owed by the Son of God, even for changing the rules, whether they be the original Mosaic core or the extensive rabbinic expansions and extensions that He spent much of His ministry denouncing. Servant would make Moses his idol instead of Jesus his Lord.
….which allowed for a man to divorce his wife for sexual immorality regardless of when the immorality was committed or discovered. As I have already pointed out, the “indecency” of Deut. 24:1-4 is discovered by a man regarding a woman to whom he was married, which results in him divorcing her. The Mosaic Law also speaks of a man who, upon taking a wife and consummating his marriage, discovers that she is not a virgin as she had represented herself (Deut. 22:13-21). The penalty for her “playing the harlot in her father’s house” was death by stoning. There can be no denial that the “betrothal view” makes Jesus contradict the Mosaic Law, as the “betrothal view” makes no allowance for divorce after marriage, but only for breaking off an engagement. Again, Jesus would never contradict Himself, and thus He would never contradict the Law of Moses.
Betrothal View proponents similarly grasp at straws regarding Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 7:27-28:
Are you bound to a wife? [That is, are you married?] Do not seek to be released. [That is, don’t pursue a divorce, just as I have previously told you above in 7:10-13.] Are you released from a wife? [That is, are you divorced (or possibly widowed)?]. Do not seek a wife [That is, don’t seek to be remarried.] But if you marry, you have not sinned; [That is, if you remarry, you are not sinning, regardless of whether you are divorced or widowed] and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. [That is, the same is true for virgin women, and this special instruction addressed to virgin women confirms that the previous statement, “But if you marry, you have not sinned” does indeed apply to men who have been previously married and divorced.] Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you (1 Cor. 7:27-28).
Betrothal View proponents claim this passage is applicable only to currently- or previously-betrothed virgins, rather than currently- or previously-married people, claiming that context supports such a view because Paul addresses virgins beginning in 7:25. Here is how they interpret 1 Cor. 7:27-28…
SIFC: “Betrothal view proponents” are far from the only folks to rightly divide which audience Paul is addressing in each of the sections of 1 Cor. 7. Even Calvinist pastors are capable of this, as well as many authoritative scholars. A third grader could do it, so we’re puzzled that Servant continues to struggle with who Paul is speaking to. It appears that the only one “grasping at straws” is Mr. Servant, and only because he insists on redefining terms like “wife”, and “married” and “loosed” to suit his personal bias, and to disparage Christ’s viewpoint.
This re-write by itself should be enough for any honest person to reject it.
It raises so many questions that expose its dubiousness, including:
(1) How many engaged men could there possibly have been in the Corinthian church who needed to be advised to not “seek to be released” from their engagement because that is something they were actually considering?
SIFC: There surely were young Hebrew men in the Corinthian church, and in the larger society outside the church, including the the local synagogue. Some were surely under a ketubah contract when converted, or the church leaders would not have asked Paul about this, and he would have had no need to address the “virgins” in these terms. The number of them is irrelevant except as a rhetorical swipe.
(2) And where is mention of the fact that if they were to break their engagement for any reason besides the discovery of their fiancée’s immorality and ultimately marry another, they would be guilty of adultery, as is claimed by the Betrothal View interpretation of Matt. 5:32 and 19:9?
We have shown that ketubah betrothal contracts were terminated for any number of reasons, not just unchastity, and that the promised bride was routinely called a “wife” up to the time of termination (not unlike an adulteress who “marries” the spouse of another living woman), by color of man’s law. Someone following Christ, and therefore obeying the spirit of what Paul had to say in the whole of 1 Corinthians 7, should have no confusion about the instructions for estranged true spouses. Servant’s confusion lies in his faulty premise that man’s divorce was deemed “legitimate” or effectual. This is circular reasoning.
(3) How many previously-engaged men who had been “released” from an engagement could there possibly have been in the Corinthian church, and how many of those would have needed to be advised to not seek to be re-engaged again because that was something they were considering?
(4) And again, where is the warning that, if they broke off their previous engagement for any reason besides the discovery of their fiancée’s immorality, they would be committing adultery should they ever remarry any other woman, as is claimed by the Betrothal View interpretation of Matt. 5:32 and 19:9?
SIFC: Faulty premise, self-created confusion. All terminated ketubah contracts, for whatever reason, left all parties free to marry someone else because there was not yet an inseverable one-flesh entity created by the hand of God.
(5) Why did Paul tell these previously-engaged men they would not be sinning if they were to marry when in fact Jesus said they could well have been sinning, committing adultery, if the previous engagement breakup was illegitimate, as is claimed by the Betrothal View interpretation of Matt. 5:32 and 19:9?
SIFC: Faulty premise, self-created confusion. There was never any “illegitimate” reason to terminate a ketubah contract. All terminated ketubah contracts, for whatever reason, left all parties free to marry someone else because there was not yet an inseverable one-flesh entity created by the hand of God.
Wrapping this up, we don’t expect to convert any of Servant’s hellbound followers over to Christ’s view. The Holy Spirit must do that in all cases. People who are in illicit sexual relationships have no judgment or discernment until the Lord makes them sufficiently miserable. Hopefully, Servant’s writings look so ridiculous on the surface, from accusing a prophet of God of “breaking up families” to to his outright denial that Jesus said what everyone can see He plainly did say, that no standers or repented prodigals who live for Christ will be attracted to Servant’s siren song for legalized adultery. May the merciful Lord keep all unrepented prodigals who are still in the Far Country, who are one-flesh with celibate standing spouses, far, far away from this wolf who would chain them in the pigpen of legalized adultery or would take a role in landing them there. Ideally, David Servant will some day surrender to the authority and lordship of Jesus Christ, and publicly repent of his rebellion and many blasphemies, escaping the millstone already around his neck and recovering his own inheritance in the kingdom of God. Servant claims on the banner of his web page to be “Discipling the Body of Christ”, but it’s clear that he’s doing the opposite with the adulterously remarried and their “spouses”.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. – James 3:1
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