REVEREND MlLTON T.WELLS (1901-1975)
EASTERN BIBLE INSTITUTE
GREEN LANE, PENNSYLVANIA
1957 – (Public Domain) Note by Standerinfamilycourt: Rev. Wells was an Assemblies of God Pastor and served as President of the Eastern Bible Institute in Pennsylvania, now known as the University of Valley Forge. Our Lord Jesus Christ would have called his scholarly work, with its rigorous application of all the principles of hermeneutics to the scriptural texts on marriage “faithful”. The author uses the term “Five-Word-School” for those who reject Christ’s teaching, centered around Luke 16:18 and other scripture, that the marriage covenant is dissolved only by the physical death of one of the spouses; those who instead prefer to center their view around Matthew 19:9 according to the Erasmean / Lutheran / Calvinist rendering, in such a way as to contrive a “biblical exception” (except it be for fornication) to justify remarriage after civil divorce. It might seem tempting to skip the Appendix which follows this SUMMARY, however doing so will cause the reader to miss some very “meaty” materials not presented earlier by the author, Rev. Wells. Links to the earliers chapters are found at the end of this post, and where specifically referenced within.
XII – THE SUMMARY
A. The Cumulative Evidence in Review Establishes the Indissolubility of Marriage.
- Matt. 5:32 provides no evidence for the right of a chaste mate to marry another when putting away an unchaste mate, neither does it affirm that an innocent party has the right to divorce an adulterous mate.
- Christ abrogated the divorce permission of Moses by His statements of Matt. 5:32; 19:9 (A. V.), and Luke 16:18. Moses’ law permitted a man to put away his wife for ·causes other than adultery and released the innocent wife to marry another man, whether or not her first husband had married again .Christ’s statements said that he who married such an innocent woman committed adultery in doing so. Amazingly enough notwithstanding Christ’s clear abrogation of Moses’ divorce permission, the FIVE WORD School persists in saying that Christ has released all innocent parties from spouses who, after divorcing them, marry again, because in marrying again they commit adultery.
- The harmony of Christ’s great parallel divorce accounts shows unequivocally Mark 10:11, 12 to be His last clarifying commentary on His divorce discourse with the Pharisees (Matt. 19:3-9 and Mark 10:2-9). Mark 10: 11,12 specifically forbids either a chaste mate or an unchaste mate to marry another after divorcing a spouse for whatever cause.
- The twelve principle points of the harmony of Matt. 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12 prove conclusively that Christ taught the complete indissolubility of marriage for any cause, including adultery.
- The divorce texts of the Epistles (Rom.7;2, 3 and 1 Cor.7:10, 11, 39), which are as equally inspired as Christ’s divorce statements in the Gospels, are in agreement with the word of the Lord Jesus respecting divorce in the inspired Gospels. They confirm the statements both of the Genesis and Gospel divorce accounts, namely, that the dissolution of the marriage union has been disallowed for any man for any cause other than death from the beginning, as reaffirmed by Christ.
- Of all the divorce texts of the New Testament. only one (Matt. 19:9 A. V.), seems on its surface to authorize an innocent party to divorce an unchaste mate and marry another. Six of the divorce texts specifically forbid remarriage for divorce for any cause while a former mate is living. One shows that a spouse who puts away a chaste mate causes her to commit adultery. The followers of the FIVE WORD School persist in building their doctrine of divorce on this isolated text, despite the fact that the context of Matt.19:9 does not support the interpretation of that text and despite the fact that Matt. 19:9 was not quoted by the early Church in the first five centuries of the Christian era in support of the liberal school’s view of divorce.
- No court would support a case which was based on the testimony of witness when contradicted by the testimony of six or more witnesses; nor would the side which had only one witness be helped if that one witness’ testimony was questionable, as is true of Matt. 19:9 (A.V.) because of its variant reading which virtually nullifies its support of the FIVE WORD view. The fact that the early Church did not see in this verse the right to divorce a chaste mate with the inherent right to marry another further weakens the testimony of this text for the FIVE WORD School. It ls probable that Matt. 19:9 was, in its original text, virtually like Matt.5:32, which would account for Matt. 19:9’s not being quoted in the early centuries in support of divorce and remarriage for adultery or any other cause. In any case, there is no law of Greek grammar demanding that an exceptive clause modify both the clause before and after it. and no competent Greek grammarian can say that it is proper to determine the meaning of the grammar of an isolated text without reference to its context if there is room for uncertainty in the matter. Further, no outstanding textual scholar would presume to say that the Greek text supporting Matt. 19:9 (A. V.) has been or presently could be proven to be the original text of Matt. 19:9. and thus the only approved text.
- The strange and unorthodox principles of interpretation of the follower of the FIVE WORD School confirm the fact that their conclusions and their doctrine of divorce are unsound. The first example of this is revealed by their insistence that Matt.5:32 and Luke16:18, not to mention Mark 10:11,12; Rom.7:2, 3, and I Cor. 7: 10, 11 and 39, must be modified and qualified by their interpretation of one isolated text, Matt. 19:9 (A. V.). Both Matt. 5:31, 32 and Luke16:18 have within their text an innocent woman in the major thrust who may not marry another, even though her husband makes himself an adulterous husband by divorcing his innocent mate and marrying another. Surely it is presumption to set at nought two clear contexts and texts prohibiting innocent mates to remarry because another isolated text appears superficially to permit an innocent spouse to divorce an unchaste spouse to marry another. This method of the FIVE WORD School’s interpretation becomes more reprehensible when one observes the facts of the harmony of the two divorce accounts (Matt. 19:1-12 and Mark 10: 1-12), for they reveal that the context of Matt. 19:9 (A.V.) with the text itself provides twelve points which prove that the context of Matt. 19:9 does not support the FIVE WORD view of Matt.19:9.
- The FIVE WORD School’s erroneous view of the alleged right of the innocent wife of the major thrust of Matt.5:32 (19:9 or Luke16:18) to marry another after her husband had remarried explodes its doctrine! On the one hand, the adherents of this school say that a man who puts away a chaste wife and marries another is living in adultery because he has not dissolved his union with his first (chaste) wife by marrying another. On the other hand, these adherents say that the same innocent (chaste) wife has a right to marry another because her husband commits adultery in marrying again, and by that adultery brings (the FIVE WORD 19:9 view of) the exceptive clause of Matt. into action. How amazingly contradictory is this school’s reasoning! In one breath its followers say that the remarried husband of the major thrust of the above texts is living in adultery because he is still before God married to his first, chaste wife; and in the next breath, they say that the first wife may get a divorce from him (dissolve the marriage) and marry another because he has committed adultery. If he is still married to his first wife, she (the first wife) must still be married to him! The bible knows of no marriage that is a one-way union!! How can the husband in question be living in adultery if it is not because he is still before God married to his first wife? Indeed to accept the FIVE WORD doctrine of divorce is to return presumptuously to the divorce permission of Moses (Deut. 24:1-4) which Christ so clearly and forever abrogated! In Matt. 5:32b;19:9b and Luke16: 18b, He said that such wives who marry another are caused to commit adultery and that those who marry them commit adultery!Indeed Moses permitted such wives (Deut. 24: 1-4) to be married to another when put away by their husbands, BUT Christ DID NOT! The truth of this paragraph is virtually sufficient of itself to dissolve FIVE WORD theology: for if the innocent wife of the major thrust of the three divorce texts (above) cannot dissolve her marriage so that she may marry another, it is inconsistent to believe that the innocent husband of the secondary thrust can do so.
- The frightening, evil fruits of the FIVE WORD School’s divorce doctrine and its many strange and false assumptions given in the Appendix confirm the fact that the FIVE WORD School’s interpretation of Matt. 19:9 is false.
B. A Brief Summary of the Whole Argument of the Conservative School Follows:
- The following texts on their face agree completely in teaching the absolute indissolubility of marriage:
- Genesis 2:21-2 2.
- Malachi 2:16 5.
- Mark 10: 1 -12
- Matthew 5:32
- Matthew 19:3-8
- Luke 16:18
- Romans 7:1-4
- I Corinthians 7: 10, 11, 39.
2. The only problematical text is Matt. 19:9. Any difficulty arising from that text may be resolved as follows: a . A careful integration of Matthew’s account with Mark’s account of Christ’s answers to the question the Pharisees and His Disciples shows conclusively that Christ there taught the complete indissolubility of marriage. b. If the reading of the Authorized Version (i.e., “except it be for fornication”) be preferred, it is clear that Christ there sanctioned only the right of a spouse to a legal separation or limited divorce (a mensa et thoro) on the grounds of fornication. c. If the variant reading of Westcott and Hort is preferred, Matt.19:9 is simply a restatement of Christ’s teaching in Matt. 5:32, i.e., that the divorcing husband sins by thrusting his innocent spouse into an adulterous relationship. 3. The many false assumptions of the FIVE WORD School are based on an appeal to human reason rather than on Divine Revelation.
C. A Summarizing Admonition is Presented.
A criminal is not sent to prison on evidence that he is guilty unless such guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Certainly the FIVE WORD School’s doctrine has not been proven to that extent. To the contrary, their position has been proven incredible by a multitude of facts and evidences. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”’ (Rom. 14:23).
Certainly a devout Christian cannot accept a rule of divorce and remarriage which has been proven in many positive ways to contradict the clear teaching of Christ and His Apostles, who taught the complete indissolubility of marriage. Clearly a consecrated believer cannot be long in doubt about which of the two views of divorce would bring the greater peace of God to his heart. Reader, which of the two, if followed by a born again believer, would bring him the assurance of following implicitly in the law of Christ, that is, to love his spouse as Christ loved the Church (Eph.5:25), not only when she was worthy, but unworthy, and thus thereby go the second mile, turn the other cheek, and forgive the one who has deeply wronged him until seventy times seven? Which of the two views, if accepted by God ‘s people everywhere, would bring the greater good to little children born and yet unborn (think of the millions of innocent children of broken homes)? Which of the two, if followed universally, would bring the greater good to society and to the Church of God? Which of the two would bring the greater glory to God, both in time and for eternity?
Reader, would you determine the right or wrong of a given action in other moral matters affecting your eternal destiny, or that of others, on the controversial meaning of ONE isolated text having a strong variant reading, when the variant reading, the context of the isolated text, and all other texts bearing on the same subject contradicted the presumed meaning of that ONE text?’ The first portion of this book was written to give a thorough exegesis of the divorce texts of the Bible; the latter portion was written to expose the fallacious assumptions of the FIVE WORD School. The latter portion is in the Appendix.
One erroneous assumption is that a proper understanding of the word divorce automatically resolves the divorce problem of Matt. 19:9. Most of the false assumptions are an effort to persuade men that Matt. 19:9 MUST be interpreted to suit the distressing circumstances of innocent mates and of spouses of unscriptural unions who profess Christ as their Saviour. The followers of the FIVE WORD School have been largely won through an appeal for sympathy for innocent mates and converted divorcee spouses and their mates and the consequent amazing accommodation of Scripture to implement that sympathy. The principle of sympathy has been followed by some religious sects to justify ungodly men in their sinful practices and falsely to alleviate heaven-born fears of the judgment to come. Such reasoning is tantamount to saying that one should, for sympathy for sinning men, find an accommodation of Scripture to alter the strict teaching of Christ concerning the eternal punishment of lost souls. Is not the doctrine of the eternal state of unregenerate heathen settled by many nominal Christians by an appeal or sympathy for such men rather than by the fiat of the “thus saith the Lord” of Scripture? Surely innocent mates and spouses of unscriptural unions need the earnest sympathy of Christians and Christian churches, but that sympathy must first flow out of a proper understanding of Scripture as based on an objective exegesis of all texts relating to such individuals. A true Christian must never let his heart-felt sympathy nor his regard for alleged Christian experience of any man, cause him to wrest the Scriptures to suit what appears to be Christ’s treatment of erring mankind. The proper method of establishing a doctrine is not to bring one’s exegesis of Scripture in line with his sympathy and human reason but to bring his sympathy and human reason in line with divine revelation.
An example of the accommodation of Scripture to natural sympathy and human reason is seen in the erroneous doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked dead. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). Because it is so important to his argument, the author of this book preferred to include within the body of his work the material presented in the Appendix, but he realized that it would have encumbered the flow and movement of his exegesis of the divorce texts. One cannot get the full force of the author’s argu-ment, however, unless he studies the content of the Appendix. Since it specifically answers the major objections of the FIVE WORD School to the Conservative School’s position. It provides a rebuttal to the superficial foundations of human sympathy and human reason, upon which the doctrine of the FIVE WORD School so largely rests.
Mere emotional thinking in the matter of the doctrine of divorce can be avoided if one will follow the advice in the quotation below: The next time you get into an argument, stop the discussion a moment and, for an experiment, institute this rule: Each person can speak for himself only after he has first re-stated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately and to that speaker’s satisfaction. Sounds simple, but it is one of the most difficult things to do. Once you have been able to see the other’s point of view, your own comments will have to be drastically revised. You will find the emotion going out of the discussion, the differences being reduced, and those remaining being of rational and understandable sort.
(Rogers and Roethlisberger: Quote, Vol. 32, No. 8, Col. No.37, p. 11, (July 15, 1956), Indianapolis.
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A. Charge to Jury of Readers
- ACCEPT EVIDENCE ONLY ON THE SOUND RULES OF INTERPRETATION AND GRAMMAR. See pages 9 through 12, and 41 through 42
2. CONSIDER WELL THE SOURCE OF THE CONTROVERSY: MATT. 19:1-12 and MARK 10: 1-12.
You must know the harmony of these two accounts before you accept evidence on either side of this controversial subject. See pages 79 through 91 which present this feature for your study.
3. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT IS BASED UPON DIVINE REVELATION RATHERTHAN UPON·THE PRIOR BELIEFS AND TRADITIONS OF THE JEWS AND THEIR CONCEPT OF THE MEANING OF DIVORCE.
That the Pharisees understood the word apoluo to mean the dissolution of a marriage so that one might be married to another is beside the point. The Pharisees of Christ’s day knew nothing of the right to pluck kernels of corn (wheat) on the Sabbath day (Matt.12:1-8) or the right to minister healing on the Sabbath day (Matt.12:9-14) but Christ did. They could not grasp Christ’s statement, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile him” (Mark 7:15). Christ did not water down his concepts of ethics and doctrine to accommodate the views of the Pharisees. The FIVE WORD School not only presumes to settle the “right” of an innocent party to divorce and marry another on the “exceptive clause” of ONE isolated verse of Matt. 19:9 (A.V.), but erroneously assumes that the meaning of one word apoluo (divorce) in one text establishes the former beyond question. The word apoluo is understood by the Seventh Day Adventists to mean “annihilate” and they proceed to build a doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked dead in part on that definition. The word apoluo is translated “mar” in the Authorized Version when Christ speaks of the danger of putting new wine into old skins lest they be “marred” and the wine be lost (Mark2:22). Obviously the wineskins were not annihilated when they burst; they were no longer useful for their in tended purpose. The same Greek word apoluo is translated “lose” in Luke 15: 24, 32 and 19:10.The father of the prodigal upon the prodigal’s return said, “he was lost (apoluo) and is found.” Certainly he was not “annihilated.” A divorce mars a marriage; it does not today, so far as Christ is concerned, annihilate a marriage bond. The guilty wife and the innocent wife may not remarry (Matt. 5:32) because the original union is still intact.
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The FIVE WORD School insists that because the Jews knew of no divorce that did not carry with it the right to remarry, that Christ was not considering the matter of divorce as separate from remarriage when He discussed the matter with the Pharisees (Matt. 19:1- 12; Mark 10: 11- 12). If this be so. why then did He on every occasion but one when speaking on the subject of divorce say that he who “puts away” (divorced) his wife “and marries” another “committeth adultery”? See Matt. 19:9 (A. V.): Mark 10: 11, 12, and Luke 16: 18. Note the emphasis on “and marrieth” another. The Greek word for “and” in these passages is KAI which speaks of the connection of different things. Thayer’s Greek lexicon says, “KAI ” introduces something new under the same aspect yet as an external addition, whereas “TE ” marks it as having an inner connection with what precedes.
(Joseph Henry Thayer: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Edinburgh, T. and T. Clark, 1887. p.616)
Christ rejected divorce as a dissolution of marriage in toto in His reply to the Pharisees’ question, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” He replied, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away [divorce] your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” Thus He cut away all support for divorce (dissolution of marriage) of a general character, as taught by the school of Hillel, or for adultery, as taught by the school of Shammai; the latter obviously based their right to divorce for unchastity on Deut.24:1-4, the very portion to which the Pharisees alluded in their question above (Matt.19:7).
Indeed, if Christ spoke the very words of the Greek text which supports the Authorized Version of Matt. 19:9 (over which there is great uncertainty among the Church’s great scholars), He taught that there was a divorce which did not permit remarriage. The twelve points of the Harmony of Matt. 19: 1- 12 and Mark 10: 1-12 given on pages 92 through 107 verify that fact.
The Pharisees could have known of a divorce in the Old Testament which did not DISSOLVE the marriage bond had they studied its pages more than their traditions which were superimposed upon it. A specific giving of a bill of divorcement is mentioned twice in Deut. 24: 1-4, to which Christ said, “FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO” (Matt. 19:8)! Christ knew of a bill of divorcement in the Old Testament that did not in God’s sight constitute dissolution of marriage. The passage is Jer. 3: 8-14.
Of the LORD’S divorcing Israel, it is written in Jer. 3:8:
And I saw, when for the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorcement; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
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The phrase, bill of divorcement, above is the same wording in the Hebrew in Deut. 24: 1-14. His bill of divorcement must have therefore been valid in Jer. 3:8. Did it dissolve the marriage bond between Him and Israel? No! Here is the proof. In the very same chapter of Jeremiah where it is stated, “I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorcement” (Jer. 3: 8), the LORD, the Changeless One, says:
Return thou backsliding Israel, . . . and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger forever. . . . Turn, O backsliding children saith the LORD; for I am married unto you!!” (Jer.3:12,14).
The American Revised Version of 1901 says,
Return, O backsliding children, saith Jehovah; for I am a husband unto you ..(Jer. 3:14). The LORD did not close the door to Israel. He did not cast her off forever by dissolving His marriage union with her so that she might be free to go and be another ‘s wife. He said: They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD (Jer. 3,l).
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The following from a sermon by William I. Evans, late dean of Central Bible Institute, was presented in the Pentecostal Evangel of May 6, 1956:
If you will turn to Ephesians 5, you will see that God intended to teach through husband and wife a lesson on spiritual relationship. The apostle tells us that a husband and wife living together on earth typify a heavenly relationship that shall go on eternally. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.” The love of husbands and wives is a picture displayed to the world, of God’s love for man. God is love, but He is invisible. He has no way of disclosing or revealing Himself; therefore He created the marriage relationship as a portrayal of His unchanging and eternal love for human beings. But when divorce takes place the picture is distorted; it is reversed it testifies that God’s established order is not that beautiful steadfast love that is kind, considerate, and unselfish, but it is vacillating. selfish, unkind, and inconsiderate. When divorce takes place, the husband and wife separate in defiance of God’s established order. They are saying to the world that God isn’t the kind of God that he represents Himself to be.
(William I. Evans: “Christ’s Teaching on Family Life.”, The Pentecostal Evangel, (May 6, 1956), Springfield,· Missouri. )
Christ’s love for His Church did not end at Calvary. ”For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom.5:10). Has He, the changeless. LORD, rejected every Christian who has been guilty of spiritual adultery? Certainly James 4:4 has been true of many born-again Christians:
Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God (James 4:4 R.V.).
The FIVE WORD School is quick to say that Jer. 3: 8 and James 4:4 are an analogy. This is true, but is the sin of adultery less evil than the sin of idolatry, which is spiritual adultery? Idolatry is exchanging the truth of God for a lie and worshipping and serving “the creature more than the Creator who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 1 :25). With the exception of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, can one think of a sin more dreadful? Is it not strange that, whereas the followers of the FIVE WORD School reject the force of Jer. 3:14, “I am married unto you,” by asserting that the passage is purely an analogy, yet they turn to the context of Jer, 3, where the words for unchastity are used strictly in an analogous sense, and allegedly find support for their view that “fornication” and “adultery”..are always synonymous? They cite not only Jer.3:8,9 allegedly to prove this point, but they cite Hosea 2:4,6,7, which is also an analogy. to strengthen this concept.
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The fact of the LORD’S love, and the commandment that we love as He loved, ought to reveal that some basic error persists in the teaching of the FIVE WORD School. Since the Greek text of Matt. 19:9 (A. V.) cannot be proven beyond doubt to be Christ’s original statement, inasmuch as a strong variant reading is accepted by many Greek scholars as preferable, one should re-examine its strength and force in connection with the topic immediately under discussion. The study of the variant reading is given on pages 65 through 76.
The passage of Eph. 5:28 quoted above states that husbands “ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” Men of sanity do not rend asunder their own bodies. The Lord Jesus in Matt.19:8 is obviously referring to His reiteration of what the Scripture said in Genesis: “Wherefore they are no more twain, but ONE FLESH. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(Matt. 19:6). The LORD was joined as ONE FLESH to Israel. Such a union could not be dissolved, even though a bill of divorcement was given. True, Moses permitted, but did not command, the Israelites to secure and give bills of divorcement. However, the LORD did not, “from the beginning” approve of the dissolution of any marriage union, because spouses of such a union are ONE FLESH until death parts them. Neither adultery nor fornication COMPEL divorce, nor do they automatically render a marriage null and void. The better way is the way of forgiveness, with which God for Christ’s sake has forgiven believers; then the marriage relation is fully restored and perpetuated. Divorce is a Mosaic concession to hardness of heart. Indeed, special grace will be needed, but God has promised, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” The heart of the true Christian will find rest only as he retains the high and unsullied standards of the New Covenant, and lives by them. Even when the unfaithfulness of a spouse has provided grounds for separation (I Cor. 7: 10, 11) [a mensa et thoro], this kind of divorce (as it may be called under state law) does not provide for remarriage for either party. This is made plain by I Cor. 7, 10, 11; Matt. 5:32b: 19:9b, and Luke 16,18b.
The LORD, the changeless One, has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer.31:3). The LORD receives back the erring, unchaste spouse. The Christian’s love is to be like His love: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved that also love one another” (John13:34).
Indeed, the LORD of the Old Testament put away (divorced) Israel, but He did not thereby dissolve the marriage union as we have seen above. The Scriptures say, “I AM THE LORD, I change not” ( Mal. 3:6). Would we expect the LORD of the New Covenant, who was likewise the LORD of the Old Covenant, to command what was contrary to His own nature in the New Testament? Christ did certainly restrict the innocent wife of Matt. 5:32; 19:9, and Luke 16:18 from marrying another after her husband had married another. The remarriage of the husband was in each case the sin of adultery because each man was before God still married to his former wife. If innocent wife could not remarry because the earlier marriage was still binding, it is certain that the innocent husband of the minor thrust of Matt.19:9 could not remarry after divorce. How could Christ, the changeless LORD, advise His children of the New Testament to do what He would not do to His wife? The teachings of the New Testament sustain the spirit of Jer. 3: 14. Christ bids the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Husbands, love your wife, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it…. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself (Eph. 5:25, 28).
That the Pharisees understood the word apoluo to mean the dissolution of a marriage so that one might be married to another is beside the point. The Pharisees of Christ’s day knew nothing of the right to pluck kernels of corn (wheat) on the Sabbath day (Matt.12:1-8) or the right to minister healing on the Sabbath day (Matt.12:9-14) but Christ did. They could not grasp Christ’s statement, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile him” (Mark 7:15). Christ did not water down his concepts of ethics and doctrine to accommodate the views of the Pharisees. The FIVE WORD School not only presumes to settle the “right” of an innocent party to divorce and marry another on the “exceptive clause” of ONE isolated verse of Matt. 19:9 (A.V.), but erroneously assumes that the meaning of one word apoluo (divorce) in one text establishes the former beyond question. The word apoluo is understood by the Seventh Day Adventists to mean “annihilate” and they proceed to build a doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked dead in part on that definition. The word apoluo is translated “mar” in the Authorized Version when Christ speaks of the danger of putting new wine into old skins lest they be “marred” and the wine be lost (Mark2:22). Obviously the wineskins were not annihilated when they burst; they were no longer useful for their in tended purpose. The same Greek word apoluo is translated “lose” in Luke 15: 24, 32 and 19:10.The father of the prodigal upon the prodigal’s return said, “he was lost (apoluo) and is found.” Certainly he was not “annihilated.” A divorce mars a marriage; it does not today, so far as Christ is concerned, annihilate a marriage bond. The guilty wife and the innocent wife may not
4. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT RECOGNIZES THE FACT THAT THE SCRIPTURES DO NOT TEACH THAT MARRIAGE IS AUTOMATICALLY DISSOLVED BY THE SIN OF ADULTERY.
It is important to observe that Matt. 5:32b; 19:9b, and Luke 16:18b prohibit an innocent wife from marrying again, even though the husband has committed adultery by marrying another. This is certain, as the previous study of these several texts has demonstrated. See also pages 24 through 29 for a detailed study of this problem.
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5. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL AVOID THE FRIGHTENING, EVIL EFFECTS OF THE DIVORCE DOCTRINE OF THE FIVE WORD SCHOOL.
The evil effects of divorce should not settle the doctrinal issue in question, but they should cause one to pause to re-evaluate the teachings of Christ and the Apostles respecting same. It would seem most unlikely that Christ would have presented a view of divorce and remarriage that would have multiplied divorces and brought such tragic consequences to future generations. Some awful results of the FIVE WORD view of divorce follow:
The forced and ungrammatical modification of the two clauses of Matt.19:9b by the earlier exceptive clause, as taught by the FIVE WORD School, of necessity releases the unchaste mate of the secondary thrust of the verse as well as the chaste wife of the main thrust of the verse to marry another. This kind of exegesis breeds moral corruption for it provides encouragement for the collusion of some couples in arranging by mutual agreement that one or the other or both shall commit adultery, or give the appearance of committing same, so that a FIVE WORD divorce may be legitimate, thus allowing both of them to marry other lovers. This kind of theology fits well the divorce spirit of Hollywood.
The teaching of the FIVE WORD School encourages many Christian spouses to accede to a divorce requested by their mates even when FORNICATION has not been involved on either side. Such so-called innocent spouses may be the cause of their mates desiring to be divorced because of their exhibitions of indiscretion with those of the opposite sex, even though open adultery may have been avoided. The divorce desired may be acceded to by such innocent spouses so that they may marry the one of their preference when the other is married; for according to FIVE WORD theology.a spouse may marry another when the other spouse remarries, because by that remarriage the sin of adultery has been committed, and thus the “exceptive clause” of Matt.19:9(A.V.) allegedly brings release to that party whether or not the so-called innocent spouse is free of scheming and planning for the ultimate release described.
The FIVE WORD School believes that I Cor. 7: 15 provides for remarriage of a spouse whose mate deserts him. This is a natural conclusion for any who hold that Matt. 19:9 provides for the dissolution of a marriage for adultery. However, the evil of such a doctrine becomes apparent upon brief consideration of same. According to this teaching. an unhappy spouse: whether regenerate or unregenerate, needs only to desert his mate sufficiently long to provoke him to divorce him and, presto, the unhappy spouse is free to marry another when his mate has done the same. The text of I Cor. 7: 15 is discussed detailedly on pages 183 through 186. Most conservatives of the divorce question do not believe that this text provides for divorce and remarriage. For many years “desertion” has been one of the principal grounds for securing a divorce. This is surely significant.
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FIVE WORD divorce theology weakens and annuls any incentive to forgive marital infidelity, and thus negates in the mind and heart of a Christian the true spirit of Christ. This in itself should show that any encouragement that may be given to a so-called innocent party to divorce an unchaste mate and marry another is sin, for the Scriptures say:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Eph.5:25). Return, thou backsliding [adulterous] Israel, saith the LORD . . . . for I am married unto you (Jer. 3:12,14). Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye (Col.3:13). Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God (I Pet. 3:18).
Surely, almost without exception, the adulterous mate who is put away will remarry when the so-called innocent remarries, and thus will such an one add sin to sin, and in the bitterness of his soul will cry out against the alleged Christian spirit of his spouse who claims, perhaps, to be Christlike and zealous for the salvation of souls. The Scriptures bid the true Christian not to go to the courts of the world for redress against those in the Church.
Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? (I Cor.6:7).
God ‘s Word says that there is no forgiveness for one who himself does not forgive another (Mark 11:25, 26). Can a true Christian seriously regard these verses and proceed to divorce an unchaste mate and marry another, even though he has waited long for the erring spouse to repent and entreat his forgiveness? Has Christ not borne long with the innocent one or ones who for long seasons have been adulterous in loving the world more than they love their Redeemer? Can such a Christian presume to close the door to the return of the spouse for reconciliation at some future time when such an one awakens to his evil and turns from sin to God? Is not God longsuffering with a sinning world? Is the forgiveness of an unchaste mate by a chaste spouse to be without suffering? Is it a thing of the lip in church, or a thing of the heart in life’s bitter trials and tests? ls it a human forgiveness, or a forgiveness like their Lord’s by the power of the Holy Ghost? Is the Christian told in the Scriptures to refuse to forgive some sins? God is reconciled to a wicked world already (II Cor.5: 18-21) through Jesus Christ. The sinner’s repentance does not reconcile God to him; that was accomplished at Calvary. God waits and bids men to be reconciled to Himself. If there is a breach between them, it is on man’s side, not on God’s side. The Lord is…longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9)
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Can the Christian innocent one determine how long it will take for the guilty one to come to his senses, or will he hastily proceed with the divorce and remarry, thus slamming the door to reconciliation in the face of the one for whom Christ died? Christ had great compassion for the adulterous people of His day. Is Christ’s new commandment to be rejected by believers? Will they refuse to suffer wrongfully? Will such Christians accept the Cross of Christ as the way of atonement but refuse to accept it as the way of life (Matt. 16:24)?
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John13:34). For this is thank worthy if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. ..For even here unto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (I Pet.2: 19, 21). The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Rom.5:5).
Would a pastor of the FIVE WORD School who has acquiesced to the divorce and remarriage of an “innocent party,” a husband of his church, be able to have sincere compassion for the “guilty mate,” the wife, who, still unmarried, might come months later to his church to find Christ as her Saviour? Could he sincerely assure her that she could receive grace to be a matrimonial exile the rest of her life? Would he conscientiously believe that such a woman could come to him at such a time for counsel and help? Would he believe she could not receive grace to be an overcomer? The “innocent spouse” who contemplates divorce and remarriage ought soberly to realize that such a course of action may push the erring mate further into sin and immorality. Will not his or her burning be greater than that of the “chaste mate” who may have always been pure and temperate? Does the innocent husband who puts away his unchaste wife and marries another to some degree commit adultery against her (Mark 10: 11,12)? Does he by marrying another ”cause her” (the first wife) to commit ADULTERY again? If the argument to the effect that it is “better to marry than to burn” is valid for “innocent parties,” as the FIVE WORD School asserts, is it not more needful for “adulterous spouses” who may be tempted to add sin to sin?
The blight of divorce upon children is appalling. The facts which are given below should make every supposed innocent party pause before he divorces his spouse and marries another. The following are some of the facts which were presented in This Week Magazine of The Sunday Star of Washington, D. C., of July15, 1956, by Edward A. Strecker, M. D.:
We Americans are terribly concerned over the 30,000 children struck down by polio each year and the 30,000 who annually become semi-invalids with rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Yet each year the delicate emotional structures of over 150,000 American children are injured by divorce. There are now five million such children under the age of 18 in this country. • •
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I have known children to get along happily with one parent where they had formerly been miserable with two. I have seen second marriages in which the children were obviously living in a healthier mental environment than before. But in most cases I have long observed that in terms of their future emotional life the children whose parents stick it out and make the best of it have by far the greater edge. The result: figures from a number of sources show that children from broken homes (rich or poor, respectable or otherwise) commit a disproportionately large number of delinquent acts. And finally, the children of divorced parents are three times as likely to resort to divorce themselves! And case histories which I have compiled during the last 25 years indicate that men and women whose parents were divorced are more subject than average to creeping alcoholism, chronic functional disorders and a dangerous tendency to ally themselves with extremist organizations.90
(Edward A. Strecker: “Does Divorce Really Hurt the Children?” This Week Magazine, The Sunday Star, July 15, 1956, Washington, D. C. pg. 8)
Are you an innocent party contemplating divorce? Which is more important, your personal happiness or the happiness and welfare of your innocent children; but more momentous, which is more important, your personal happiness or the happiness and welfare of the countless innocent children of the present and future generations who will be directly or indirectly affected by your action and example? The Apostle Paul in the following words warned the Roman Christians to be very careful of their example:
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. . . . Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one..:may edify another. . . It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, for anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak (Rom.14:7,19,21).
The Lord Jesus said:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt.18:6).
The Literary Digest of May 2, 1931 presented the following under the heading, “The Chief Victims of Divorce“: (Reprinted from THIS WEEK Magazine. Copyright 1956 by the United Newspapers Magazine Corporation)
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Another sad result of divorce is that the children of divorced parents are apt to fail at school, and grow up without education.
Indeed, the fact is so well known, according to Dean Christian Gauss of Princeton University that many headmasters of preparatory schools exclude children who are “orphaned” through divorce.
“They refuse to accept such children,” he said in a recent address, “because they feel that the careers of the children are doomed to failure.”
Dean Gauss said further: “The child living in such a home tends to become a “lone wolf” at school. He has no loyalty to either parent, and is acutely unhappy.
“This unhappiness, of course, is a sign of maladjustment. When the school accepts the boy, it cannot in two or three years undo the evil effects of his entire life in such a household. . , .
“The situation of children made unhappy by divorce of their parents is becoming aggravated through the increasing popularity of divorce. . . .
(“The Chief Victims of Divorce,” The Literary Digest, (May2, 1931).
The FIVE WORD view of divorce for one cause, namely adultery, has led and will lead ultimately to divorce for other causes. If the divorce dike breaks at the point of adultery, it will certainly break at many other points with an increasing disregard of Christ’s marriage law, which prohibits anyone to marry another while having a living partner. The divorce dike may be closed only by the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage presented by Christ and the divinely inspired Apostle Paul.
The influence of the divorce laws of England spurred our divorce increase in America. Until 1857 there were no general divorce courts in England. At the time when divorce courts were set up in that land, divorce was granted only for adultery, and judicial separation (a mensa et thoro) was allowed for cruelty or two years’ desertion. In 1890 in the United States, the ratio of divorce to marriage had grown from one to ten, and in some states to a more alarming proportion. Within the twenty years prior to 1890, within one state the ratio rose from one to fifty-one to more than one to twenty-nine. Here are the figures for the sharp increase in divorces in England:
In 1871 there were 190,112 marriages and 171 divorces.
In 1910 there were 267,721 marriages and 596 divorces.
In 1920 there were 379,982 marriages and 3,000 divorces.
In 1933 there were 318,191 marriages and 4, 042 divorces.
In 1953 there were 344,488 marriages and 30,326 divorces.
(Geoffrey Francis Fisher, op. cit.. p. 13.)
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In 1937, England passed the so-called “Herbert Act,” which provided for additional causes for divorce, allowing such for three years’ desertion, five years’ insanity, and cruelty, as well as for adultery. As a result, many considered divorce action who, in the days when divorce was frowned upon, would not have thought of doing so. It is difficult to believe that there was only an average of one divorce per year in England in the three hundred years prior to 1857.
(Canon Hugh C. Warner: Divorce and Remarriage, London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1954. p. 11.)
Today there is one divorce for every four marriages in the United States. In Chicago and other large cities of the country it is one in three. It is no wonder when one knows that most of the larger denominational churches condone divorce and remarriage for adultery, desertion, and not infrequently for other causes. Christ ordained that the Church should be the “salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men” ( Matt. 5: 13).
William E. Gladstone, the eminent prime minister of England, strongly opposed the change of the English divorce laws in 1857. He said that he had read everything he could discover on the subject of divorce, and nothing had shaken him from the conclusion to which he had come, namely, the absolute perpetuity of the marriage tie. Would that England had listened to its God-fearing prime minister. History is full of lessons of warning and instruction. Most people believe these lessons of experience to be true but few regard them.
One may readily see the rapid and frightening increase of divorce in America through the first half of the twentieth century by observing the graph given below, which was taken from the Christian Life magazine of November, 1955:
||PER CENT OF MARRIAGES ENDING IN DIVORCE0000000000 7.9%
(“Divorce: Dilemma of the Church.” Christian Life, (November 1955), Chicago. p.19).
Divorce increased 800% in the United States from 1860 to 1955. When the divorce dike is broken for one cause, it is broken for many causes as has been shown above. A church which accepts the doctrine of the right of an innocent party to remarry after divorcing an adulterous mate starts a chain reaction which will multiply divorces both within her congregations and within the society within which she dwells. The reason for this chain reaction is described fully on pages 32 through 33. Such a church cannot honorably ask its youth who come to its marriage altars to take the vow, “until death do us part”..
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The evils which flow from divorce are given as follows by Canon Hugh C. Warner:
a. It distorts ideals. Easy divorce creates an atmosphere in which young people grow up with totally distorted ideas of marriage, and with a complete lack of realization of the idea of lifelong dutifulness.
b. It fosters lawlessness. Easy divorce fosters the innate lawlessness of human affections, by adding power to temptation to infidelity.
c. It encourages self-will: Easy divorce creates opportunities for selfish people who have quarreled with a partner or transferred their affections elsewhere to refuse the spiritual discipline of meeting and overcoming difficulties in their personal relations. . . Divorce may have enabled them to indulge their own weakness, instead of conquering it, and making a success of their first union. So divorce may breed divorce.
d. It weakens the sense of obligation: Easy divorce weakens any incentive to forgive infidelity, and prompts rather the grasping of any opportunity offered for release from obligations felt to be irksome.
e. It offers a cloak of respectability to sin: Easy divorce holds out the possibility of combining gratification of immoral desire with respectability. The moment any real strain arises in domestic relations, the partners feel themselves at liberty to look around for more amiable or attractive mates, secure in the conviction that, if they dissolve their union and seek a second (or even a third or fourth) marriage elsewhere, society will not hold them greatly to blame. A potent social preventive of divorce is thus removed.
f. It encourages extra-marital affairs: Easy divorce paves the way for the engaging qualities of a chance-met third party at once to arouse a desire to win his or her affections, with a view to entering into a new and more delightful union than the existing one.
g. It encourages evasion of parenthood: Easy divorce encourages an exchange of partners, and the more this becomes a practical possibility, the more an evasion of parenthood will be fostered, for children cannot but create a bond which renders the dissolution of the partnership more difficult. So absence of children leads to a weakening of an important line in the marriage relationship.
h. It contributes to family instability: Easy divorce creates a public opinion which offers no social condemnation upon the easy exchange of one partner for another. .. Where the marriage bond is recognized as permanent, self-discipline is more easily imposed, tolerance more easily granted, and harmony and companionship more patiently sought…
i. It offers children a precedent for divorce: Children who, when they get married, are able to look back to the example of their own parents who were divorced, find it hard to do other than follow the example of thosetowhom they have been emotionally so closely tied when difficulties in their married life occur, unless there is a strong public opinion to support them in their determination to overcome them.
(Canon Hugh C. Warner, op. cit. , pp. 69-71)
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6. GIVE A JUDGMENT BASED ON DIVINE REVELATION RATHER THAN UPON AN ACCOMMODATION OF SCRIPTURE TO THE APPARENT NECESSITIES OF INNOCENT MATES OF STRONG SEX NATURE.
God forbid that the divorce issue will be settled doctrinally by an accommodation of Scripture to the seeming necessities of modern innocent spouses. How amazing it is to observe that at the turn of the century, and for more than a decade thereafter, divorce was frowned upon in almost every community of America. During those days a divorcee was a social outcast in thousands of localities. Today, it is far otherwise as all know. C. M. Ward quotes Time Magazine as follows: “Kinsey’s work expresses and strengthens an attitude that can be dangerous: The idea that there is morality in numbers. “
In referring to the above, C. M. Ward said that such a statement is tantamount to saying, “That because a lot of people do a thing, that thing must be right.”
(C. M. Ward: Marriage Insurance, Springfield, Missouri, Assemblies of God, 1956, pp. 5,6).
Does that view or standard express the reason why the Church in the last two decades, and especially since World War II, seems determined to lean over backwards to accommodate the Scriptures, right or wrong, to the trying and unfortunate circumstances of divorcees? The Bible should be examined objectively and independently of the involved divorcee problems facing the Church today. Then, and only then, upon the basis of the true, objective teachings of Christ and the Scriptures should the issues of such difficult cases be decided. It is true that in recent years a Christian’s views, chameleon-like, may change because of his personal marital problems or those of his relatives or friends? May God help us all to be honest in this matter and desire the truth for truth’s sake and for His sake who is THE TRUTH! “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
The FIVE WORD School alleges that the flame of nature in innocent mates who have put away adulterous mates necessitates a doctrine providing for their remarriage lest they “burn.” This School presumes to apply I Cor. 7:9, “it is better to marry than to burn,” to innocent mates, whereas the context of this text shows it to apply to single people who as yet have not married. If one thinks that there is an area of life in which victory over sin is impossible, he will meet defeat in that very thing. Let a young man nineteen years of age be inducted into military service believe that because he is of a strong sex nature he cannot remain pure until God brings the girl of His choice into hislife, and he will commit unchastity before many months.
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Or let a man who is a divorced “innocent party, ” who may not scripturally remarr y, allow himself to be agitated and distressed because he cannot now enjoy the gratification of his person as he did while he was married, and he will breed his own pollution and moral breakdown. Many a single young man of strong physical constitution has “purposed in his heart” that he would not be defiled while dwelling for many months or a longer period away from home and has maintained his moral integrity, even though he was unregenerate.
God through His Spirit kept Joseph and Daniel from moral defilement in the courts of licentious kings. Surely He can keep any of His children by His indwelling Spirit. FIVE WORD theology puts more emphasis upon the strength of the flesh than upon the indwelling Spirit.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (I Cor. 10:13).
If continence is possible only to special individuals, then the Christian sex ethics of Scripture are wrong. Apart from divorce, there are some cases where it is necessary, while two spouses are living together as husband and wife in the same house or in the same room, for each to maintain continence over a considerable period. There are many instances where youths of strong physical constitution are prevented for very long periods from marrying; yet many of these individuals preserve their chastity without a personal knowledge of Christ. How much more should Christians keep their moral integrity!
The FIVE WORD School alleges that the phrase .. “causeth her to commit adultery” in Matt.5:32 indicates that Christ’s sympathy for the innocent party of the text was so great that He said in effect, ..HER HUSBAND FORCED HER TO COMMIT ADULTERY, ” because she was driven by her flame of nature to marry again. This, the FIVE WORD School insists, shows that Christ has the same sympathy for any innocent party today whose spouse commits adultery, and that He agrees thereby that such an innocent party of necessity has the right to marry another to satisfy the sex drive of his nature. This reasoning seems utterly sound and conclusive until a careful examination is made of the whole text in question. Upon examining Matt. 5:32, one will observe that although the heart of Christ was indeed full of compassion for the innocent wife of the major thrust of the verse, He did not free her to marry another when her husband divorced her; for although Moses said that such a woman upon receiving the bill of divorcement “MAY GO AND BE ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE”..(Deut.24:2), Christ declared:
It was said also whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, that everyone that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery (Matt.5:31,32 R.V.).
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In this statement, Christ abrogated the Mosaic right of this innocent wife to marry another. Further, Christ specifically said that the kind of innocent wife in question could not marry another when her husband committed adultery by marrying another. This is clearly stated in Luke 16: 18 (R. V.) below:
Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth one that is put away from a husband committeth adultery.
The text of Matt.5:32 has been treated in detail earlier in this book. See pages18 through 29. [hyperlink:http://www.standerinfamilycourt.com/?p=1898] To say that “innocent parties” who have divorced their adulterous mates cannot maintain their purity because of their flame of nature is a fearful indictment of ALL married people, whether they be regenerate or unregenerate, an indictment that a great company of them would reject. It is also a fearful indictment of the power of the Spirit of God who inhabits every child of God and who is eager to inhabit every unregenerate who will turn to Christ.
Many mates of the kind described under a, b, c, and d below must maintain their lonely lives in purity, despite the fact that their mates have not committed adultery. They may not remarry while their long absent spouses live. Are the so-called innocent mates of Matt.19:9(A.V.) to be given special preference by God? If those of the FIVE WORD School would follow their reasoning respecting this problem to its logical conclusion, they would have to search the Word of God and provide an unscriptural doctrine of divorce and remarriage for the following:
a. A wife whose husband has been in an insane institution for many years, and who. according to the best medical advice, will be there for many more years.
b. A wife whose husband has been imprisoned for life.
c. A robust young husband whose wife has been incapacitated for marital union by a terrible accident or sickness. Must the flame of nature burn away his vow, “until death us do part”? To such a young husband, the eunuch necessity of Matt.19:11,12 will be pertinent.
d. A young husband stationed in an army of occupation for two years, thousands of miles from home, or in a similar situation during open warfare.
e. The innocent wife of the character described in Matt.5:32. The Scriptures state that she may not remarry, asserting that whoso marrieth her committeth adultery. See also Luke 16: 18 for this type of innocent spouse.
f. Even the FIVE WORD School allows that there are some innocent spouses who have been divorced who may not marry while their former mates remain unmarried. Will not their flame of nature require the FIVE WORD School to accommodate the Scriptures to their need by providing a doctrine of desertion, like the alleged doctrine of desertion of I Cor. 7: 15, to meet the requirement of these innocents?
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The teachers of this divorce doctrine begin with divorce only “for fornication” and spread it out for “desertion” also. Once the dike is broken for the flame of nature, there can be no stopping point in practice, despite a church’s doctrine, permission to divorce a mate for desertion will extend to the permission to do so for cruelty, drunkenness, etc. The FIVE WORD School suggests that the Conservative School imposes upon an INNOCENT MATE a life of temptation, and should such an one fail, he is allegedly forced into the flames of hell. If this kind of theology were consistent, it would have to allow that there are many other innocents, so-called, who by their flame of nature will be coerced into the flames of hell, the LAKE OF FIRE! Indeed. if the teaching of this school is disseminated widely, it will encourage some of the “unfortunate mates” listed above to remarry and thus commit adultery and meet the doom of hell. Further, it will provide an excuse for many unmarried ones to commit unchastity, since it will focus their attention on their weak flesh rather than upon the grace of God, gumption, and grit.
But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the LAKE which burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death. (Rev. 21:8)
Fornicators and adulterers are also listed in the roll call of the damned in I Cor. 6:9.
The following is an excerpt from the article entitled “Divorce: Dilemma of the Church” which appeared in the November 1955 issue of Christian Life magazine: Not long ago Dr. Edman [President of Wheaton College] counselled a Christian who learned through the birth of an imbecilic son (who providentially died very quickly) that his wife was syphilitic. Her condition was hereditary. Was he entitled to divorce? “By Christian standards you are not entitled to divorce,” Dr. Edman answered.” Your wife’s illness is unfortunate, even tragic – but no more than that of a wife who becomes mentally deranged.”
(“Divorce: Dilemma of the Church, ” loc. cit.)
7. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT IS BASED ON THE STANDARDS OF GRACE RATHER THAN UPON THE LAW OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
The FIVE WORD School insists that necessarily grace should be more considerate of “innocent parties” than the law, because the law would have released an innocent spouse from an adulterous mate by stoning.
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To the contrary, men should view what Christ would have us do under grace. First, it is important to notice that grace is always more longsuffering with the wicked than the law. The emphasis of grace is on going the “second mile,” “turning the other cheek,” and “loving one’s enemies.” Observe particularly the context of Christ’s reference to His standards of marriage (Matt.5:31,32) in the Sermon on the Mount. This is dealt with on pages 18 through19.
The fornicator and adulteress were indeed stoned under Moses’ law of the Old Testament, but how different reads the grace of the New Testament:
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38,39). The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
In John 8, it is written that the Scribes and Pharisees brought unto Jesus “a woman taken in adultery.” When they had set her in the midst of the group to worn Jesus was ministering, they said:
Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou (John 8:5) ?
Those familiar with the Scriptures will remember that Christ challenged each of her accusers to be the first to cast a stone at her; yet not one presumed to act upon His word, but each went out convicted by his own conscience. Thank God, Christ’s word to the Woman was: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
The spirit which the Lord Jesus manifested to the adulterous woman of John 8 He manifested also to the woman who had had five husbands in John 4, and to the harlot of Luke 7, who washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. He said to the harlot, “Thy sins are forgiven.. . . Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke7:48,50). Christ’s grace provided that an adulterous one might live out: his or her normal life if perchance he or she might repent and be reconciled to Him. The FIVE WORD School appeals urgently for grace to be shown to the “innocent”. Christ of the New Covenant appeals urgently for men and women to show His grace to sinning men. His grace abounded to sinful men. His whole life bore testimony to ·that fact. His death at Calvary was the painful breaking of His alabaster – box of love upon sinful mankind who were unworthy of His love. Many want the Cross of Christ as a way of atonement; few want it as a way of life. We are so ready to accept freely the grace of Christ but unwilling to share it richly and daily when it means suffering.
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….Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God . . . Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin. neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again: when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously (I Pet 3:18; 2:21-23).
The Cross-way of life is contrary to the thinking of the natural man, be he an unregenerate or a carnal regenerate. The natural man cries out for the administration of strict justice against his enemies. Christ calls for the extension of mercy and grace by believers to those who are unfaithful and who despise and injure them. Christians would all be hopeless and eternally doomed for their unfaithfulness and enmity toward the Lord were it not for His abounding grace and patience toward them. A true “innocent mate” may at some time be forced, because of circumstances, to put away (a mensa et thoro) an “unchaste mate,” but may he by the grace of God ever keep the door ajar for the return of the unfaithful one. May he be gracious to the erring one as was the LORD ofthe Old Testament and the LORD Jesus of the New Testament. May the Cross marks of Calvary love be upon all of our hearts! God did not close the door to His adulterous wife ISRAEL!
8. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL BE BASED ON DIVINE REVELATION RATHER THAN UPON MAN’S RATIONALIZED CONCEPT OF MORAL LAW.
Some of the FIVE WORD School teach that moral law does not conflict with the law of man’s inherent nature. They hold I Cor.7:9 to be such a law.
The author has shown earlier that the biological drive of man must be curbed, whether before or after marriage. Certainly, the unfortunate mates mentioned above would have to curb this driving impulse of nature within.
Would not the reasoning of the FIVE WORD School, if followed to its logical conclusion, make God chargeable for the unchastity of young unmarried men who under government orders have to serve for two years or more overseas without the privilege of marriage? This situation was a real one during World War II. However, were there not multitudes of these young men of strong sex drive who came home unsullied, even though they did not know Christ as Saviour?
What of the millions of young men of every decade from fourteen years of age to their early or middle twenties, and some later, who because of their educational preparation delay marriage until they are ready to begin their professional career? Are not these young men required by God to keep themselves pure during those years? Or does God make some special dispensation for them, giving them license to commit unchastity until they are married, since conditions did not warrant their marrying earlier? Is the flame of nature to decide the divorce issue, or will a sound exegesis of what “SAITH THE LORD” provide the answer?
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Some of the FIVE WORD School believe that moral law is never unreasonable, that it is always reasonable to man. Consequently, they fervently believe that it would be an unreasonable law to restrict an “innocent mate” from the right to remarry. How can anyone trust man’s idea of reason when his very reason is vitiated by sin? Mankind must depend upon the revelation of God in order to know what “ideas of reason” are valid. Let us see where an evangelical would arrive if he followed man’s idea of reason:
a. Is vicarious suffering reasonable? Of course not!! Therefore Christ’s atonement is of no use and is diabolical.
b. Is imputation of guilt and righteousness reasonable? Of course not!! Therefore men have neither the sin of Adam nor the righteousness of Christ.
c. Is eternal punishment for temporal sin reasonable? Of course not! Then neither is eternal bliss for simple faith in Christ reasonable. Therefore an eternal heaven and hell are myths!
Human reasoning without God and the Holy Scriptures leads only to moral chaos and spiritual disaster. Witness the effect of the teachings of Nietzsche upon Germany and the world, and the teachings of Kant upon: the Christian Church. Both of these philosophies were built on pure HUMAN REASON of brilliant intellects without the light of divine TRUTH.
Mankind is obligated to the moral law, not on the basis of logic or human reason but on the basis of the source of moral law; it comes from God who shall judge us by it. Man does not by human reason find God. God discloses Himself to man through the Scriptures and Jesus Christ, or man could not find Him; neither could man know His divine requirements without a divine revelation from heaven.
Strangely enough, some of the FIVE WORD School conclude that moral law can never cause unhappiness. They believe that the teaching that marriage is indissoluble, as presented by Christ, would cause unhappiness to “innocent spouses” and therefore is contrary to moral law. They believe that every moral law of God will bring happiness to all who obey it. They do not believe that an “innocent mate” can find God-given happiness by obeying the indissoluble marriage law of Christ (Matt. 19:8). Often a faithful Christian is subjected to abuse in factory, office, or home because of his steadfast regard for all the commandments of God. In many countries, devotion and obedience to Christ mean loss of job and ostracism from society and home. Note the following Scriptures:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12).
[Page 140 of original text]
….Cain, who was of that wicked one . . . slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous (IJohn 3:12)
The slave of the Apostle Peter’s day could not cancel the slave-bondbecausea master was cruel tohim.
Servants [Greek-slaves], be subject to your masters with all fear; not onlytothe good and gentle, but also to the froward (I Pet.2:18).
The Christian’s attitude toward such suffering is described by the Apostle Peter:
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently, but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God (I Pet.2:19-20)
There are many innocent victims today who suffer because of the wicked deeds of evil men. Think of faithful wives who sorrow because of the deeds of drunken husbands, and faithful mothers who grieve because of the misdeeds of wayward children. Think of the tens of thousands of innocent children who endure hardship because of the sins of their parents or of their foster parents, or because of the bestial cruelty they exercise over them. The last situation is frequently caused by broken homes resulting from divorce. Neither can we forget the unfortunate mates described on pages 135 through 136. Most of the suffering inthe world today is brought on mankind by the sin of former generations or of other men about them. Think of the awful suffering of the many millions during World Wars I and II. In such, the godly suffered with the wicked.
Once we breach the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage our thinking becomes blurred, our moral sense loses clarity, and mere emotionalism and sentimentality run away with us. Nearly all believers are confronted at sometime with the type of argument that brings to them cases of real suffering, suchasgenuine incompatability, drunkenness, cruelty, insanity, desertion, non-support, etc. These sad circumstances should awaken in every child of God a deep sympathy and compassion. But cases of real suffering, even of “innocent mates” is not a sound argument for departing from a divine principle and altering a fundamental law of God.
The wisest of laws many times inflicts suffering upon innocent individuals.Insome areas, the compulsory clearance of slum sections adversely affects property owners; others suffer when compelled to move because of the location of anewhighway; still others experience the loss of a business without adequatecompensation. Whole families are brought to grief because of compulsory military service regulations. Because of these facts. some would clamor for the prevention of laws providing for the clearance of slum areas, for the building of new highways, and for the government’s right to draft their sons for military service.
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The great majority, however, would acquiesce, knowing that they exist for the general welfare of all. Certainly all thoughtful men regard the extreme suffering and sacrifice of their country’s soldiers in the time of national peril as of utmost importance for the preservation of life and liberty.
It is a dangerous position to argue that divorce should be provided on the basis of cases of individual suffering. God has ordained that marriage should be indissoluble for the sake of the greatest good for the greatest number, even though some individual innocent mates must suffer as a result. Actually, it is an awful fallacy to view marriage as concerned only with the happiness of the spouses who enter wedlock. Herein lies the shallow thinking of our time.
The Christian world sorely needs to return to Calvary and there in its light properly estimate the essential need of individual suffering to maintain the high standards of Christian righteousness for the sake of the general welfare of society and the glory of God.
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20). Ye are the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).
The Christian world is the saving salt of society. It is amazing how little salt, comparatively speaking, is needed to preserve meats. It would be astounding to know the tremendous, restraining influence against wickedness which is exerted by the godly few in any community. God grant that the evangelical church of today shall return to the high standards of Christian marriage bequeathed to it by the early Church and the Apostles and thus save society from the awful moral degeneration brought about by the dissolution of a large percentage of its marriages.
9. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT CONSIDERS FIRST THE GLORY OF GOD, THE WELFARE OF SOCIETY, AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, RATHER THAN THE INDIVIDUAL HAPPINESS OF INNOCENT MATES.
See Charge number 5 on [Appendix] pages 126 through 132 for a full coverage of this problem.
10. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT IS BASED UPON DIVINE REVELATION RATHERTHAN UPON THE RESPONSES OF PERSONAL EMOTIONS TO THE PLEAS FOR THE ALLEGED INNOCENT MATES.
See Charge number 8 on [Appendix] pages 140 through141 for discussion of this problem.
[page 142 of original text]
11. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL NOT OVERLOOK THE COMPASSION OF THE TRIUNE GOD FOR THE UNCHASTE MATE.
See pages 25 through 26 and [Appendix] pages 122 through 124 for discussion on this.
12. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT IS BASED ON PRINCIPLE AND CHARACTER RATHER THAN UPON THE SUCCESSES OF A PERSON OR GROUP OFA RELIGIOUS PERSUASION OR UPON ALLEGED CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.
The FIVE WORD School believes that because “an innocent spouse” who has married again is successful in establishing churches and winning souls to Christ this is strong evidence that Matt. 19:9 provides for the dissolution of marriage for innocent spouses whose mates have committed adultery.
The whole evangelical movement has always refused to build a doctrine on Christian experience or experiences or upon the successes of men who labor for the kingdom of God. Too often followers of the FIVE WORD School assume that because a divorcee who has a living former partner, or his mate, has been born again, or has been remarkably filled with the Spirit of God, or has won souls to Christ, or has had some unusual Christian experience, he should have equal status in the church with every other believer. The richest and most scriptural Christian experiences are not given to endorse present practices or states of the recipient, but rather to impart further light and provide for a greater receptivity for more light for greater obedience to God. Any reader can think of a number of evil habits or practices or states in which men and women are found when God meets them in a new and rich experience. It is obvious that evil practices cannot persist if the recipient of the rich experience is to continue in the will of God and in the full light and blessing of God. The cleansing of the soul is conditioned upon walking in all the light of divine Truth when it is revealed to the heart.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (I John 1:6,7).
The fallacy of establishing a doctrine of divorce upon Christian experience is readily illustrated by a typical example. Two divorced spouses enter a church and shortly thereafter find Christ as Saviour; one has been divorced as a chaste wife, the other as a chaste husband. Later the two fall in love and the man tells his pastor that he will not be able to live a pure and devoted life before God unless he marries again. The pastor entreats him not to do so, since all would agree that Christ has positively forbidden such people who have living mates to marry again (in this case neither former mate had remarried) and Christ has warned that such people will be living in adultery if they do so (Matt. 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke16:18b).
[page 143 of original text]
However, despite the entreaty, the couple marry. A few months later, both testify to having been wonderfully filled with the Spirit of God. Soon board members of the church discuss the matter and press the pastor to take these people into membership of the church and make them eligible for teaching in the Sunday school and holding other offices, despite their having brazenly sinned as believers against the clear light of God. The board and church approve, because they believe that the richer experience in God of each spouse testifies that the marriage is approved of God.
Is it not amazing that such boards and churches do not question the experience or the possible purpose of God in blessing such individuals but rather question the validity and truth of the clear teaching of Christ, which unequivocally declares that such spouses are partners in an illicit, pretended marriage before God, and therefore are continuing examples of spouses whose marriage is disapproved by God? Such a couple as described above would doubtless find other churches in the same denomination or other denominations which would accept them into good standing if the local church where they were converted refused to receive them. Many of these churches would of course welcome them into good standing because they regard more highly the testimony of Christian experience than the testimony of the immutable and eternal Word of God. When other distressing sins and practices are discovered in the lives of believers who have subsequently had remarkable Christian experiences, the evangelical church of which they are members demands thorough repentance. It requests and insists that such believers shall desist from their former wicked associations and practices. Is the fact that the adultery of divorce and remarriage, of the kind mentioned, is a “respectable sin” in our society the reason why many evangelical churches wink at this glaring and continuing immorality? A church’s accommodation of her divorce doctrine to the modern standards of our time may be “churchianity”; it is not Biblical Christianity.
Presumptive divorcees of the kind described above, when accepted into membership of the church, will conclude that believers of the congregation look upon the state’s license to remarry as virtually a document of the church, providing a sort of medieval indulgence to presumptive Christian divorcees to commit and continue in adultery with impunity from heaven. Other Christian divorcees within the church or denomination who are not yet remarried can then conclude that any hesitancy of conscience about remarrying may be personally dismissed and erased by remarriage. They are assured by the practice of their church and denomination that, although the contemplated remarriage of divorcees is sinful when held in the imagination as an intention before marriage, it is not sinful when the remarriage is consummated. Unconverted married youth who have been brought up within the same church will not hesitate to divorce and remarry in view of such beliefs and practices of the church. They will be persuaded that upon their confession of faith after remarriage they will also be given full status within the church.
[page 144 of original text]
A fait accompli (an accomplished fact) is the important thing!! Once the marriage is completed, the remarried divorcees described above will have no doubt about their acceptance in the local church and in many other churches which magnify Christian experience above the “THUS SAITH THE LORD” of Jesus Christ. How awful it would be for believers to have the same eagerness for a fait accompli respecting other comparable grievous sins! May the compromising church speedily realize that the accepted and “respectable sin” of adultery, continuing unchastity, in divorce and remarriage of presumptive divorcees is as heinous in the sight of God as continuing prostitution or repeated murder. If one is shocked by that statement, it is because the Church of Christ is rapidly conditioning her conscience for the toleration of many sins committed by her people which she would not have tolerated a decade ago. According to the New Testament, what is adultery before God in one generation is adultery before God in all generations to the end of time. “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89).
The fallacy of building a doctrine of divorce on Christian experience is the greatest single cause for so many evangelical churches of this generation altering or flouting Christ’s doctrine of marriage and divorce to fit the circumstances of converted divorcees. May God help churches which accept into good standing such couples as described above to realize that if their practice is persistently followed, it will as effectively destroy all barriers to divorce as the teaching and practice of Hollywood! Oh that the Church of Christ would heed the Scripture which follows:
What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentest with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. . . . These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes (Ps. 50: 16-18.21).
In many instances, those having seemingly great success as clergymen or other leaders in the Christian Church are lacking in moral integrity. The Lord Jesus said:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit (Matt. 7:15-17).
The Apostle Paul did not equate faithful preaching of the Gospel with good fruit. He said:
Some indeed preach Christ of envy and strife; and some also of goodwill: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yes, and will rejoice ( Phil. 1:15-18).
[page 145 of original text]
Men of questionable character have frequently been successful in God’s work. In fact, some of these men have been known to win souls to Christ while living dishonest, immoral, and dishonorable lives. Souls have even been won through the preaching of a drunkard. God indeed honors His Word, despite the character of the speaker. The Truth sets men free irrespective of the unworthy vessel who handles it. Such a person will be required to give an account before God’s judgment bar in the world to come.
Does God anywhere in the Scripture allow a man’s outward ministry and religious experience, however remarkable and splendid, to double for his character? Certainly Baalam’s outward ministry and remarkable prophecy (Num. 22 through 24) before Balak appeared to certify that he was a true and faithful prophet of the LORD. Yet II Pet. 2: 15 and Rev. 2:14 establish the fact that Baalam was inwardly a “lover of the wages of unrighteousness, ” and that he “taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” Are there not Christian teachers, today, who teach others to commit unchastity by condoning divorce and remarriage by Christians within the Church?
“The gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29). Saul of the Old Testament prophesied under the Spirit of the LORD while seeking to kill David (I Sam. 19:23. 24). His prophesying did not gloss over the fact that he was disapproved by God and rejected as king (I Sam. 15:26), nor did it gloss over the murderous spirit he was manifesting toward David (I Sam. 20:30-33). The grievous condition of Saul when he tried to kill David is revealed in the following texts:
The Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him(I Sam.16:14). And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped?. . . And it was told Saul saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David . . .And he [Saul] went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. . . And he. . prophesied before Samuel (I Sam.19:17,19, 2 0a, 23,24a) . . . .And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David (I Sam.20:32,33).
Observe carefully that Saul was on his way to kill David when the Spirit of God fell on him and prophesied through him. Note also that he proceeded immediately thereafter to express his desire to kill David. The prophesying of Saul did not in the slightest indicate that he was right with God at the time.
[page 146 of original text]
It certainly was not an evidence that his effort to kill David was approved of God. Murder was in the heart of Saul. although God providentially prevented him from the overt act. His bitter hatred toward David reveals that be was a murderer in the sight of God despite his failure to kill David. The statement of I John3:14,15 leaves no doubt that this is true:
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever HATETH his brother is a MURDERER: and ye know that no murderer bath eternal life abiding in him.
An individual’s supernatural utterance or prophecy does not of itself indicate that such a one is right before God. Caiaphas, the high priest prophesied that “. . . it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50). The Scripture continues, “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11: 51,52). Caiaphas gave this prophecy despite the fact that he despised the Lord Jesus Christ. When Christ stood before him in the judgment hall, Caiaphas said, “He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy” (Matt.26,65). On another occasion Christ said to the Jews, “. . . if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
Certainly the Apostle Paul taught that it was possible for a Corinthian church member to speak supernaturally in tongues, prophesy by the Spirit, understand profound mysteries of the kingdom of God, work miracles through unusual faith, be the most generous man in the Church and yet be rejected by God. When will branches of the evangelical church recognize that the Holy Scriptures do not equate Christian experience with Christian character? When will they see that Christian experience does not prove that a man is presently right before God? In I Corinthians 13 Paul shows that LOVE is requisite to approvedness before God.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [1ove], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity love, it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor.13:1-3).
The love of God described in I Cor. 13 in reality is character. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God ls love” (I John 4:8).
[page 147 of original text]
The quality of love required by God is described by the Apostle in Rom. 13:8-10.
. . . He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY [the continuing sin of unchastity in divorcees and their mates who marry while one or the other has a living mate], Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. LOVE WORKETH NO ILL TO HIS NEIGHBOUR: therefore LOVE IS THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW.
Love does not break the commandments of God. Love does not commit or continue in adultery! “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph.5:25).
He who despises the commandments of God and breaks them is not right before God. Our generation and many of its ministers call drunkenness, alcoholism; fornication, an unfortunate slip of average folk; and divorce and remarriage (adultery) an acceptable and necessary social practice, a respectable sin both within and without the church. Paul called this sin adultery (Rom. 7:2,3). John, the beloved disciple said:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. . . . Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that cormmitteth sin is of the devil. . . . In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. . . . he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him (I John 3:4, 7, 8a, 24).
The Apostle Paul revealed who the unrighteous are who will not enter the kingdom ofGod:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers . . . nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you . . . (I Cor.6:9-11).
Notice that fornicators and adulterers are classed with idolators, thieves and drunkards. Indeed some Christians used to be such kind of sinners, but Paul is emphatic in saying, “And such were some of you . . , ” They could not continue in these sins and expect to enter the kingdom of God! Note the Apostle’s warning in Eph. 5:5,6.
Christ insisted that a man might prophesy and perform miracles and yet not be right before Him. He said:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shalI enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me. Ye that work iniquity. (Matt.7:21-23).
[page 148 of original text]
The Lord Jesus equated the fruit of a man with his character. Note that He said,
“Depart from me, ye that work iniquity…”
Outward exhibitions of supernatural ministries and successes are never accepted by the Lord in the Scriptures as a substitute for character or obedience. Even the fact that Moses brought forth water miraculously from the rock the second time by smiting it, did not gloss over his serious disobedience in the manner in which he brought it forth (Num.20:9). If results and amazing Christian experiences alone are the divine criteria of success and approbation in Christian living and ministry, if these only count, regardless of character and conformity to the will of God, then God should not have forbidden Moses to lead Israel across Jordan into the promised land because of his transgression (Num. 20:12; Deut.3:23-27), neither should He have described the prophet Baalam, who gave a true prophecy of Israel, as a grievous sinner (Rev.2:14). The evil of Moses’ disobedience was that he did not sanctify the Lord before the eyes of Israel in the manner in which he obtained water out of the rock (Num. 20: 12). A divorcee with a former living partner, or one who is married to a divorcee, may be successful in the work of the Lord, but He does not thereby sanctify the Lord in the sight of men. On the one hand he presumes to exalt the Word of God, but in actuality he reflects against God by presuming to be an elder in the church when God forbids it (Tit. l :5,6). God Is more concerned with the honor of His Name than with the apparent successes of those who presume to take places of leadership in the church when He forbids it.
Indeed, there are ministers of the Gospel who have been married the second time while having a living former partner, whose ministry is successful by ordinary Christian standards. These men may be men of deep sincerity and otherwise good character. This does not, however, change the fact that they are disobeying God in presuming to be elders in the church when His Word decries it. Uzziah was sincere when he put forth his hand to stay the ark of the LORD (II Sam.6:3), but He was disobedient to God, and God smote him because of it.
Let no man judge the worth of another by the outward fruit of his ministerial labors or by his apparent Christian experiences to the exclusion of his true character in the everyday relationships of life. Above all, let him be true to the standards of the Scriptures even when they contradict what seems to be right in the sight of the church. Let him not fail to call the sin of divorce and remarriage adultery for the same reasons Christ did. Surely neither the Church nor any individual ever has the right to do evil that good may come.
[page 149 of original text]
13. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL GIVE THE TRUE STATUS OF A RE·MARRIED DIVORCEE (OR HIS MATE) WITHIN THE CHURCH, AS BASED ON SCRIPTURE AND NOT ON HUMAN LOGIC
One must remember that a presentation of doctrine may appear to the majority of a group to be logically powerful while actually it is scripturally wrong. Indeed, logic based on wrong foundations may be “an organized procedure forgoing wrong with confidence and certainty…”
(Charles Kettering, loc. cit.)
Men of God who have much light in many areas of truth may be blinded to the plain truth of Scripture in other areas because of their personal sympathies, prejudices, traditions, practices of many churches or principles of expediency. A denomination’s doctrines are ultimately more affected by its tolerated practices than by the doctrinal statement of its creed. Doctrine follows persistent practice more readily than practice follows doctrine. A denomination which tolerates loose, unscriptural divorce practices in its churches will ultimately alter its divorce doctrines to conform to its permitted practices. If a church’s doctrines bear the stamp of “thus saith the Lord” it will be imperative that it bring its ecclesiastical practices into conformity with its Scriptural doctrines; otherwise, the church will drift rapidly into error and apostasy. A church is spiritually doomed if its practices deny its Scriptural doctrines. The voice of an unscriptural practice of the many in the Church is never the, voice of God.
a. Churches and Christian Leaders View Differently the Status of Converted Divorcees Within the Church.
Among evangelicals who permit an innocent mate to divorce an adulterous spouse and remarry, there is a great difference of opinion respecting the status within the Church of a divorcee of an unscriptural union. The FIVE WORD School teaches that such a person has just as much right to be an elder (bishop) in the Church as a converted thief. This is a superficial conclusion based on human reasoning and supposed logic to the exclusion of the conclusions which are obtained by a thorough study of all the divorce texts of Scripture.
Even among conservatives who believe that Christ taught the complete indissolubility of marriage for any cause, including adultery, and that the Scriptures teach that spouses of unscriptural unions may not be elders in the Church (I Tim.3:2), there is a wide divergence of judgment respecting the general status of remarried divorcees within the Church.
The questions which follow will reflect the difference of view respecting the Scriptural right of a spouse of an unscriptural union to remain with his second (or later) mate while his true spouse is living. The first section of questions will reveal the view of those who look upon converted divorcees within the Church with great tolerance.
[page 150 of original text]
If God forgives the sins of others, which were committed in their ignorance when they were unconverted (I Tim. 1 :13), does He not forgive converted spouses of unscriptural unions for their adultery? Have they committed unpardonable sins? Does not God count the new birth of a sinner as a new beginning, regardless of the complications of his life which overtook him before he knew Christ as his Saviour? Does not sin tangle the lives of some to such an extent that though pardon can be obtained, some things can never be fully straightened out? David was responsible for the killing of Uriah (II Sam. 12:9), yet be could not bring back Uriah’s wife, although God forgave him for his sin (II Sam. 12: 13) when he confessed it. Does not God tell us to forget those things which are behind and press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ (Phil. 3: 13. 14)? Did Christ condemn the woman at the well who had her sixth alleged husband? Did he tell her to leave her present husband, who in reality was not her husband? Did not Christ say to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee: go. And sin no more” (John 8: 11)? If God has forgiven and accepted spouses of unscriptural unions of divorcees, as evidenced by their changed lives and by their mighty infillings of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:47), what right has any church to reject such people from full status within the Church; is any church wiser than God?
Should not a church, if consistent, be just as ready to accept into full status converted divorced and remarried spouses, guilty of adultery by virtue of their disallowed marriages, as it would accept adulterers who have never left their true spouses, or as it would accept converted fornicators who have never married? Does not the fact that the Apostle Paul restricted the office of an elder (bishop) to those who had but one wife, indicate that converted divorcees and their mates had full privileges within the Church apart from that high office?
Are there not tangles of diverse character in the past lives of many converts, which cannot now be resolved, no matter how eagerly they would desire such a resolution? Would not the leaving of an unconverted spouse (of an unscriptural divorcee union) by his converted mate make for more complication than it would resolve, and might it not jeopardize his (or her) salvation? Does not God see that? Would not the break-up of such unscriptural marriages by the converted spouse of such unions do more harm than good by hindering the unsaved spouse and by marring the lives of the children of the union? Would not the break-up of such a union by both converted parents do more harm than good by robbing the children of the tender love, care, and Christian nurture of both parents? Would not the spiritual, moral, and social advantages resulting from the continuation of the union far outweigh the possible good to the personal conscience of voluntary separation? Would there not be legal difficulties in such a separation that would make the separation virtually impossible before the laws of many states? Would not a legal divorce be difficult for a converted spouse of an unscriptural union to obtain who wanted to return to his first mate, if his unconverted spouse contested it? Would not a legal remarriage of a spouse to his first mate (if he or she had not remarried) be difficult in some instances, in some states? If a tender hearted wife should want to leave her unregenerate husband under these circumstances when he refused, what would happen to the children?
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Would they be likely to receive under court order any financial help should they go with the mother, if the court did not forbid the children to join their mother? Might not a slavish obedience to what is apparently the letter of the law of marriage plunge either or both mates into equal sin with their present state, and might it not press them into temptation too great to be borne? Would not a double divorce frequently break up two homes and cause heartache and distress beyond that already created by the twisted polluted second (or later) unscriptural marriage? Is not God more ready to forgive and forget the past than some ecclesiastical leaders?
Does not God’s pardoning graces far outweigh His strict justice? Did not God in His grace frequently tolerate conditions among His people Israel that He did not approve, and did He not bless them despite their sinful practices? Did He not permit Israel to have a king, although earlier He forbade it (I Sam. 8:5-20)? Did not God tolerate divorce and remarriage under Moses against His higher will because of the hardness of the hearts of Israel? Are not all unconverted divorcees in a hardness of heart state before they are converted? Is not God more realistic and compassionate respecting the difficult problems of divorcees than some over-conscientious believers? Do not verses 20 and 27 of I Cor.7 teach that such divorcees and their spouses are to remain in the disapproved marriages wherein God found them when He called them to salvation?
The questions frequently asked by another group of equally conscientious conservatives follow. This group looks upon the continued union of spouses of an unscriptural marriage of a divorcee or divorcees with considerably more gravity, and it poses the following questions:
Must not the above questions be answered by the “thus saith the LORD” of the Scriptures rather than by human judgment and human logic motivated by human sympathy and expediency? Did not Christ unequivocally abrogate the divorce permission of Moses’ law, which was given to Israel because of the hardness of their hearts? Did He not do this by saying that divorce for hardness of heart was “from the beginning not so” (Matt. 19:8), and by His earlier statement, “It hath been said, That whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matt. 5:31,32), and by His subsequent statement in Luke 16: 18? Do not these and other verses indicate clearly that Christ no longer tolerates divorce for hardness of heart? Further, do they not indicate that such marriages as described are invalid and merely pretended marriages before God?
Is any church’s statement of expediency respecting divorcees more authoritative and final than the statements of Christ in Matt. 5:31,32; 19:1-12;Mark 10:1-12, and Luke 16:18, which emphatically declare that marriage is indissoluble for any cause? Billy Graham and others have courageously said that the re-married divorcees (and their mates) of Hollywood are living in adultery.
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John the Baptist said to Herod, respecting his unscriptural wife, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matt.14:4). Josephus tells us that the wife in question, Herodias, had divorced her husband Philip, the brother of Herod, and that Herod had divorced his first wife that they (Herod and Herodias) might be joined together. May a church of today or its pastor change the standards of God Almighty? Would any church leader of today have the temerity to say to a Hollywood star in the same marital status as Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her,” and then turn, in the man’s presence, and say to a converted remarried divorcee in the identical marital status, “It is lawful and right for you to have your wife and to maintain your union with her?”
Does God have a double standard which permits Him to tolerate continuing adultery in His children which He could not and would not tolerate in unbelievers? Could the LORD have said to idolatrous Israel, “You have committed adultery by your initial worship of idols, but your subsequent and continued devotion to idols is not a continuing state of adultery and is not sinful in my sight because you have asked me to forgive your first act of spiritual adultery? “Does one, by his first act of adultery in consummating an unscriptural union, absolve himself of guilt in succeeding acts of adultery in the continuation of an invalid, pretended marriage before God? May a thief find forgiveness for his first robbery and then continue his career as a thief because the first forgiveness of theft absolves him before God of any further guilt for the repeated thefts which follow? Could Christ have said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee go, and sin no more” (John 8:11), and yet contradictorily have permitted her (if she was a remarried converted divorcee having a former living mate) to commit adultery repeatedly thereafter in a pretended marriage He disallowed, and seven times said was a state of continuing adultery? May a church say that a pretended marriage (the remarriage of a divorcee while having a former mate) is an approved marriage before heaven because the spouses are forgiven for their first adultery (the act of consummation of their unscriptural union) and because they were wonderfully filled with the Holy Spirit while in that marriage union?
May any Christian or Christian minister scripturally say that because a convert to Christ has entered the LlFE of a NEW BEGINNING that he has, therefore, no tie or relationship to his past? May any believer assume that because the Scripture says that “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new,” that he need not make restitution of his wicked past or break any evil ties that were and are obviously disapproved by God? May he maintain the status quo, of former associations that now are recognized as forbidden by God? If that which was forbidden before he was converted now made holy by his conversion? Were Zaccheus (Luke19:8) and Onesimus (Philemon 18,19), under Paul’s direction, wrong in making· restitution? If restitution is not necessary would not Onesimus have recognized that his NEW LIFE was a NEW BEGINNING, so that as a run-away slave he need not have felt compelled to return to his bonds under Philemon?
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Should not the experience of Israel in putting away strange wives to recover the blessing of God in the time of Ezra (Ezra 10:3, 4, 10, 11, 18, 19, 44) be pondered by spouses of scripturally disallowed marriages? How far does the cleansing blood of Christ dissolve the past? Did not the Lord Jesus say, “. . . And they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.. ” (Matt. 19:5,6) ? Can a decision of a church or pastor sever the one-flesh union made by God? Does the fact that the remarriage of a divorcee is a respectable marriage in modern society make such a marriage automatically valid within the church?
Does an unusual experience of a soul before God indicate that God is pleased with all the life patterns and practices of that believer at that time? Would a church say that the fact that one was soundly converted and filled with the Spirit while possessing stolen goods shows that God approves of theft? Does not further light compel a Christian to put away his now recognized evil, if God and he are to walk together (Amos 3:3), and if he is rightfully to claim I John 1:7? If a spouse, of the kind in question, enters into an adulterous state before conversion by contracting a marriage disallowed by Christ, does the fact of his later conversion validate that adulterous union? If the adultery of an unscriptural union is but the isolated past act of the consummation of that marriage, will not even Christians be emboldened to remarry while having living mates, and will not the world by their example, teaching, and practice be encouraged to divorce their mates and remarry despite Christ’s warning against this sinful practice?
Is not a church’s error in giving full status to converted spouses of unscriptural unions of divorcees caused by its failure to recognize the real reason why Christ said that a spouse who either marries a divorcee who has a living mate or who divorces his true spouse and marries another committeth adultery. Can one deny that Christ’s reason for so speaking was the fact that the spouse who remarried (Matt. 5: 32) was yet before God united to his first mate? If the first act of adultery in such an illicit union did not dissolve the marriage, would the second, third, or any subsequent act of adultery of such an illicit union dissolve his first marriage? Surely Christ made this matter very clear in the above texts, in Matt.19:1-12, and in Mark 10: 1-12; the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit did likewise in Rom.7:2, 3 and I Cor.7: 10, 11, 39. Why does a man who marries another after putting away a chaste wife commit adultery and continue in adultery by that remarriage? Does not the FIVE WORD School agree that it is because he is still married to his innocent wife because his divorce is not valid? If he is still married to his first wife, is not the first wife still married to him? Does the Bible anywhere state that marriage is a one-way union? Did not Christ say that such a husband was the cause of his innocent wife’s committing adultery, and that he who marries such a wife commits adultery in doing so? Could it be adultery (Luke16: 18) to marry this woman if she was not still joined to her first husband despite his adulterous second (or subsequent) marriage? Did not Christ strictly forbid such a wife to marry again (Matt.5:31,32; 19:9; Luke 16:18)?
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Should one not heed the weight of three texts (not to say five if Rom. 7:2,3 and I Cor.7:39 are included) rather than one obscure text whose context contradicts FIVE WORD theology? Since an innocent wife is forbidden by Christ to marry another when her husband commits adultery by remarrying, must not an innocent husband abide by the same rule when his wife commits adultery by marrying another or by another manner? Does God have one rule for innocent husbands and another for innocent wives? If the alleged marriage (declared invalid by Christ) has not or cannot dissolve the first union of one or both spouses (of a later unscriprural union) as long as one or the other has a former, living mate (Rom. 7:2, 3; I Cor. 7: 10, 11,39), then how can a church assume the prerogative to declare that disallowed unions of divorcees are valid unions before God, or that the continued marriages are not continuing adulterous unions?
Is it therefore right for a church to say that it is just to allow a converted adulterer of an unscriptural union to have a full status within a church as to allow a converted fornicator, or a converted adulterer who never left his true spouse, to have full status in the house of God? Obviously, the two sins are not identical. Since the first is the continuing sin of adultery by repeated acts of adultery in an unscriptural, illicit union, while either the second or last is a single act of past unchastity which has been forgiven; and further, the two individuals mentioned last did not repeat the same sin! Are not the Scriptures clear in asserting that the divorcee (or his mate) of an unscriptural union is an adulterer while he maintains his illicit union in repeated acts of adultery, while the first union of himself or his wife (or both) is still undissolved, as it will be until death separates them (Rom. 7:2,3)? Would not a spouse who had been remarried unlawfully, according to the law of a state, while having a former living mate, be considered before the courts of the land to be in a state of an illicit, invalid union? Would churches take spouses of such unions who were later converted into their membership while the state refused to recognize such spouses as husband and wife? Should a Christian leader or church refuse to approve unions disallowed by the state and then presume to take spouses of marriages disallowed by Christ (under the laws of the kingdom of God) into membership? Has a church the right to nullify by its legislation and decrees the marriage laws of Christ as the Pharisees nullified the commandments of God by their tradition of “corban” (Mark7:10-12)? Will any church presume to disapprove the marriage laws of Christ while approving the unscriptural laws of states?
American society accepts the sin of divorce and remarriage while one or the other spouse has a living mate as a “respectable sin” because it occurs so frequently and because so many churches and Christians approve of it. Is this, however, sufficient reason for the Church of Christ tacitly to approve these unscriptural unions of divorcees by accepting spouses of such into membership and official positions, even though such spouses are continuing examples of mates of adulterous unions? Can the Church of Christ excuse herself by saying that the sin of divorce and remarriage is now so universal it would be impractical to frown on such unions within the Church?
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Has the extent to which a moral code instituted by God has broken down in a given society anything to do with the approval of that degenerated standard by the Church? Are not many guilt ridden persons (including divorcees) relieved by the thought that “everybody is now doing it within and without the Church; therefore, it must be all right for me to do it or continue in it”? Are the laws of Christ variable and changing in a changing world, or eternal and immutable? Was the sin of adultery a grave transgression before God in the apostolic period, but is not so today? Must the Church in order to please God pipe to the tune of the moral standards of its particular generation?
Must any church consider a strict exegesis of texts of Scripture to be important and final in establishing its doctrines of salvation and unimportant in the matter of divorce and marriage? Will the laws of expediency, human sympathy, human judgment, and Christian experience supersede the laws of God and of His Christ? Will a church presume to build a doctrine on the Christian experiences of converted divorcees or the alleged Christian experience of any other person or group within the Christian Church? Do not evangelical churches insist that its members desist from former wicked associations and practices even though they may subsequently have amazing Christian experiences? Do these churches allow any Christian experience to cover and condone continuing sin in a believer? Would they allow remarkable Christian experiences to give license to a believer to continue a life of stealing, lying. fornication, bigamy or adultery in a first marriage? Every Christian shrinks at the thought of a church allowing a bigamist who finds Christ to continue living with the woman who is not his real wife? Is not the remarriage of a divorcee of Hollywood virtually the same sin before God as the sin of the continuing adultery of an unconverted bigamist? Each of them is living with a spouse who is not his true spouse, (husband or wife). Is a Christian’s bigamy less evil than the bigamy of the divorce and remarriage of a sinner who has a former living mate? True the divorce and remarriage of an unfaithful spouse is not legally identical with the sin of a bigamist but is it not the equivalent before God? Although no one denies that God saves fornicators and adulterers, does God, or may any church scripturally allow these to continue their unchaste relations in the face of the clear divorce teachings of Jesus Christ? Is the adultery of a scripturally disallowed marriage of the kind in question less heinous in God’s sight than the adultery of a man who although yet not remarried is still unfaithful to his first wife? Where is there the slightest scriptural support for an alleged difference between the two? Do states’ marriage laws wipe out God’s marriage laws? Where did Christ declare that adulterous spouses when converted could continue a union which, before they found divine forgiveness, was declared by Him to be an adulterous union? Had Christ done so, would He not have stultified Himself and thereby encouraged many to flout his doctrine of the complete in dissolubility of marriage for any cause? However, may there not be reason to believe that Christ might approve such spouses maintaining their home for the good of the children if they would live together as brother and sister since in such a relationship they would not be repeating the sin of adultery which consummated their sinful and adulterous union?
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May liberals in theology justify their rejection of Christ’s doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked because He was so exceedingly compassionate in His dealings with the wicked? May anyone of the FIVE WORD School conclude that Christ would approve of the marriage and continued union of a divorcee with a second spouse while his first spouse was still living BECAUSE He manifested a remarkable love to immoral men and women who came to Him? May Christians reject Christ’s severe and scorching ethic because of Christ’s amazing compassion? May they reject the holy Christ for a tolerant Christ of their imaginations? Is there not a grave danger that many believers will make a JESUSoftheirowncarnalmusingsiftheydonotkeeptheirBiblesopentolearn accurately what Christ really taught? Will anyone presume to deny the truth of the assertions which follow? A JESUS WHO WILL ALLOW YOU TO DO THINGS FORBIDDEN BY THE BOOK IS A JESUS OF YOUR IMAGINATION. A JESUS WHO PERMITS YOU TO LIVE BY A LOWER STANDARD THAN BY HIS ACTUAL TEACHINGS IS A FALSE CHRIST PRESENTED TO YOU BY SATAN.
When Christ by His seven-fold use of the present tense of moichaomai (committethadultery)declares that spouses of adulterous unions continue to practice adultery if they maintain their illicit union in repeated acts of adultery, how may any part of the Christian Church presume to say that such continued unions are not continuing states of adultery? Can any rite, or majority decision of a church body or ruling of its leaders, or any Christian experience destroy Christ’s Word respecting the complete indissolubility of marriage? If God tolerates the continuation of an adulterous marriage within the Church, why should He not logically tolerate divorce and remarriage for every cause without the Church? Does it not appear that toleration for the continuance of adulterous unions for some must consistently mean toleration of adulterous unions for all, especially in an age in which men’s hearts appear to be as wicked and hard as in the days of Moses? Does not any thoughtful person see that laxity in the Church respecting its standards for converted spouses, of a disallowed marriage of a divorcee or divorcees, of necessity leads to the utter break-down of the standards of marriage taught by the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul? How may any unconverted spouse of a remarriage forbidden by Christ be considered an adulterous mate if converted spouses of like unions within the Church are not considered to be unchaste if they maintain a marital union with the spouses of identical unscriptural marriages? ShallChristians continue in the marital sin of adultery that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1)?
b, The Probably More Generally Accepted View of Most Conservative Evangelicals Respecting the Status of a Converted Divorcee of anUnscripturalUnion within the Church is Here Presented.
One of the most outstanding leaders of the evangelical Church of Great Britain, Donald Gee, has written the following respecting divorce and remarriage tangles:
Many believers today are faced with the acute practical problem of what to do about divorce and marriage tangles which they have carried over with them from the old life into the new when they have become born again.
My fellow ministers will know only too well the type of problem with which we are often faced when believers have become anxious, through a spirit of revival in the Church, to put their outward life right before God and men. Where the Holy Spirit is working in grace and power He will quickly begin to stir men and women up concerning improper marriage relationships. But the actual problems are often intensely intricate. In some cases both parties sometimes have been guilty of fornication, adultery and divorce before, and even after, professing conversion. Perhaps children have resulted from almost every union. Legal marriage may be difficult, especially in the light of Scriptures. Legal divorce seems equally difficult. Former partners have either become married again themselves, or are completely lost sight of. Separation will only add to the problem.
It is a safe principle that every case must be determined according to its own particular circumstances. It would be very dangerous folly to attempt to embody in writing any code by which hasty and stereotyped decisions could be made. Much patience is required, and humble prayer for that wisdom which has been promised to us when we feel our lack.
Paul is a splendid guide as to the right spirit in which to approach all these intensely practical outworkings of deeply spiritual principles. He has a magnificently balanced and large-minded way of bringing the practical problems and issues of the Christian life into relationship with what are, after all, the comparatively few and simple principles that govern that life. An illuminating hint upon this practical approach to the present type of problem is contained in his reference to THE CHILDREN (I Cor.7:14). Anybody who has anything at all to do with divorce will appreciate the force of this. It is usually the children that suffer most of all through twisted and defiled marriage relationships. This is the kind of consideration which we may safely follow in trying to help folk through their personal problems of hopelessly tangled marriage relationships. Here are just a few general principles to help, but not to govern.
(1) We must loyally accept the words of the Lord Jesus concerning divorce and remarriage, and must be prepared to obey them even at the cost of personal suffering, and apparent loss of immediate personal happiness. The Holy Spirit will strengthen with grace to bear, and with a joy in doing the will of God that can be greater than afforded by the gratification of any human affection. There must be no compromise with truth in the heart. Any apparently necessary compromise must on account be regarded as raising a ‘permission’ to the level of a ‘commandment’.
(2) There are undoubted cases where a too slavish obedience to what is apparently the letter of the word may only plunge either or both of the parties into equal sin with their present condition. It will certainly subject them to a temptation that may be too great to be borne. It will also certainly react with great hardship upon the innocent children, and will do no good.
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Frequently a former partner has married again, and even if it were legally permissible, a resumption of the original union would involve a further double divorce, the breaking up of more than one home, and confusion and hardship for the resultant families.
Where a father and mother have been soundly converted from a life of sin, and are now likely to be able to bring up their family, or families in all the advantages of a Christian home; it would appear as though the spiritual, moral and social advantages of their continued united lives would far outweigh the possible benefits to the private conscience of a voluntary separation. It seems a safe Pauline principle to be willing to make a practical compromise in such cases.
(3) Underlying all we may safely assume the pardoning grace of God in Christ where there has been a genuine repentance, and where there is now a sincere desire to please God in everything. We have often felt sure that the Lord was more ready to forgive than some of His children appear to be.
We judge it rash to infer too hastily that the new birth exonerates the child of God from any responsibility where his former life is concerned; and we must be careful how we quote that “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” Scripture proves very conclusively that this does not apply where deeds of restitution are concerned, evidenced by Zaccheus (Luke 18:19), and Paul on behalf of Onesimus (Philemon 18,19); and neither does it apply to any other fruit of repentance in the putting right, as far as lies in our power, of the results of former misdoing.
But there are times when it is beyond our power and God knows it. In such cases, we believe, it is no presumption upon divine grace to make a new start at the place where we were saved, and where we first saw the light of truth of God’s word on His perfect will for our life and walk. God is merciful; and on that sure ground we may anchor our souls when the storms of grief and trouble through sin threaten to overwhelm us.
One final word seems to be needed. An especially high standard is required in both the Old and New Testaments for those who minister in holy things. In the essential qualifications for both ‘bishops’ and ‘deacons’ it is repeated that they must be ‘the husband of one wife’ (I Tim. 3:2-12); and it seems quite clear from the context-that this not only means literal freedom from polygamy, but a positively high standard of morality in all married and domestic relationships.
This is only logical in those who are to be regarded as examples for other believers, and leaders before the world. The present condition of things in the world where divorce is concerned justifies the Church in demanding in all her
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officers an irreproachable testimony in their personal lives where this matter is concerned, and all who aspire to any outstanding position in local assemblies cannot complain if this is insisted upon.
Loyalty to the very highest principle is the greatest love in the end; and genuine Christian discipleship in the way of the cross, though it may mean the surrender of much undoubted happiness on the natural line, will most certainly bring a deep eternal joy greater than that conveyed by any earthly love. Is it too much to say that Calvary throws light even on the murky problems of divorce?
(Donald Gee: “Divorce. ” The Pentecostal Testimony. (September 1937) Toronto.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Francis Fisher, writing in his booklet, Problems of Marriage and Divorce, indicates the attitude of the Church of England toward converted spouses of unscriptural unions:
If the Church were to marry divorced persons in church, it would be concealing and contradicting those truths about God and his will, and would obscure the true relation of Christ and his Church [Eph. 5:31, 32], which ought to be revealed in the relation of husband and wife.
Our Lord came to seek and to save the lost, and to bring them into a living relationship with himself. It was to that end that he talked so long with the Samaritan woman of whom he said: “Thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” (John 4:18). The Church must give the utmost pastoral care to those who marry again civilly after a divorce on one side or the other, or often enough on both. This pastoral obligation to them and to all men in their sins is a theological requirement, derived from the character of God, but how far does it take us?
Can it be right to admit such persons to the Holy Communion, when they are denying the real truth of marriage by living in a union which must be described as “adulterous”?
Let us be clear on this. Our Lord told us what marriage was, and the Church before the world, as an official act, celebrate a marriage where there is a divorce. Our Lord left to the Church the pastoral care of individuals and the duty of binding or loosing: it is not the Lord, but the Church which decides on matters of discipline as near to the mind of Christ as it can. Pastorally, the question is: where spiritually, does this person now stand? Theword adultery can be applied to several moral conditions . . .In pastoral ministry what matters most is to discover the moral condition of the sinner. There may be striking evidence that the Holy Spirit has brought and is bringing such people to a real discovery of Christ. There may indeed be evidence that the Holy Spirit is doing this through the marriage of two persons, one or both of whom may have been divorced. Are they to be told that they must disregard all their now accepted, and perhaps longstanding, obligations to one another and to children, break up their home, and commit themselves to a lifelong celibacy? That would generally be not to help them, but to “quench the spirit,” and might even appear to frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in and through their union.
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In such cases there must be a place for discretion, and our own Church provides one. I have never seen any harm come from use of this discretion; I have seen much good. Church people should feel enough trust in their parochial clergy and bishops to know that this discretion is always prayerfully and faithfully used.
. . . Only if the Church is bearing uncompromisingly its witness to the truth of marriage by refusing to marry divorced persons, can it without damage and without causing confusion use discretion in its pastoral work, whereby it seeks to build up those, who can never again bear a full witness to Christ’s conception of marriage, into a lowly, penitent, and really blessed life in the grace of God and the strength of the sacraments of the Church.101
- The Following is the More Conservative View of Many Conservative Churchmen Respecting the Status of a Converted Divorcee of an Unscriptural Union within the Pale of the Church:
Some clergymen of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church of America take a more serious view of the status of divorcees within the pale of the Church than do many evangelical ministers. Some of them will not give communion to divorcees who persist in maintaining in their unscriptural union the full privileges of a marriage approved by God.
Some of the above clergymen and many other ministers of the Gospel of Christ hold to the following:
- There is as much need for thorough-going repentance on the part of a divorcee and his alleged mate who have commited and are committing adultery by and in their pretended marriage, as for a whoremonger genuinely to repent by desisting from his impurity. The alleged marriage of those whom Christ forbids to marry is only a pretended marriage because it is completely disallowed by God and, if persisted in, is as much a continuing practice of adultery as that of the socially unacceptable kind. In either case, there needs to be a complete break with the sin. The Church would be inconsistent and illogical (not to say unscriptural) if she taught that remarriage after divorce is adultery (as taught by Jesus Christ) and the meanwhile allowed spouses who persisted in such an adulterous union to be in good standing within the Church. To do this would indicate that the Church implied that remarriage after divorce is not a continuing adultery, that adultery is not a vile sin, and that one is worthy to partake of communion without showing repentance by desisting from such an unholy and impure relationship, or earnestly purposing to do so.
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- To persist in a marriage of this character is not only to expect to sin occasionally through weakness, but to continue deliberately in an adulterous life. No true Christian minister would authorize a wife of a former union to commit adultery with her pretended new husband if she had not been legally divorced from her first husband, nor would he allow her to do this if the first husband refused to support her true children. To allow one to commit adultery to avoid some physical evil (alleged starvation of her children) is to believe that a good purpose can justify basely immoral means.
- Atrue minister of Christ and of His Church cannot condone or tolerate adultery of divorcees within the Church simply because the adultery of such people is more “respectable” in the eyes of most Protestants in his country than other kinds of adultery.
- When one finds it difficult to remain continent, Christ does not advocate (Matt. 19: 10-12) that he should entreat God for an ability to be continent if and when marriage is scripturally open to him. However, when a person finds himself in a situation where he must remain continent to be acceptable before God, and yet may not be remarried, he can and should seek God for His abundant grace to live purely before Him, for God is eager to give him this grace. Many fail at this point because they do not resolutely seek God in faith for such grace.
- Because of the foregoing points, many of the clergymen of the churches named above and many other ministers do not find it conceivable that Christ would permit spouses of pretended marriages of divorcees to continue in such a relationship for the sake of the physical or spiritual needs of the children in question, for in doing so they would acknowledge or declare that a supposed good end can justify immoral means and deny that unscriptural marriages of divorcees are adulterous marriages.
If the pretended husband of such an alleged marriage should be put in prison or an insane institution for some years, or even permanently, the pretended wife would find some way to care for her children both financially and spiritually. Would not God bless far more the spiritual training of a mother who kept herself pure in the sight of God than if she continued in the “respectable sin” of adulterous union; and would He not fulfill His promise to her, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”?
If a husband of an unscriptural union was converted after such a marriage and after the birth of a child by that union, would he not owe more to his first converted wife (who desired his return) and to the several children of that first union than to the one child of the unscriptural union? Obviously, he would still be financially responsible for the wife and child of the illicit union, as likely the court might have earlier held him responsible for the support of the first wife and family. The wages of sin are unspeakably dreadful even in this life!!
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- The More Conservative View of I Tim. 3:2 and Tit. 1 :5,6 Respecting the Alleged Acceptance of Converted Divorcees and their Mates into the Membership of the Apostolic Church Is Herewith Presented.
It does not follow that because the Apostle Paul specifically declared that one (a divorcee) who had more than one wife might not hold the office of a bishop (elder) (I Tim.3:2;Tit.1:5,6) that all other men in the church might as divorcees have more than one wife and yet be in good standing in that local congregation. To accept that position is to reason from silence. A careful examination of the two divorce texts given above will reveal that it is difficult to establish such a doctrinal position. The Apostle Paul in Tit.1I:5-7, not only taught that an elder (bishop) should be the “husband of one wife,” he also taught that such a man should rule well his own house, be “not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker [not a violent man, not given to filthy lucre.” Did the Apostle Paul suggest that it is of no consequence whether a professing Christian man in the Church rules well his own house, or is soon angry, or is given to wine, or is a violent, quarrelsome man, or is covetous of filthy lucre, providing that he is not an officer in the Church? The Apostle Paul plainly taught that a covetous man (a lover of filthy lucre) is an idolater (Eph.5:5) and has no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Christ taught that whoever is angry with his brother (Matt.5:22 R. V.) is in danger of the judgment. The Apostle John revealed that whoever hates his brother is a murderer and therefore does not have eternal life abiding in him (I John 3: 15). Indeed, neither did Paul condone the sin of continuing adultery in unscriptural unions (Rom. 7:2,3).
- The More Conservative View of I Cor. 7: 10,11,20,27 Is Carefully Examined.
Were it true that the words, “Let not the wife depart from her husband” and “let not the husband put away his wife” (I Cor. 7: 10, 11) were given by the Apostle Paul for direction to converted divorcees and their converted mates (of unscriptural unions) as much as to those who were not divorced and remarried, the Apostle, by the same token, would have allowed polygamous unions to stand within the Church. Had he allowed either simultaneous polygamy, of the kind practiced by the few rich of his day, or the successive polygamy, of more than one wife at the same time by virtue of divorce and remarriage, he would have contradicted the teaching of Christ within the same verses. All interpreters recognize that verses 10 and 11 specifically refer to Christ’s teaching in Matt.5:31,32, as well as to His other divorce statements. Each of His statements declares that a marriage after divorce is not a valid marriage if one spouse or the other has a living mate.
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In addition, it should be noted that the immediate context of verses 1 through 9 is directly related to verses 1 and 2. In verses I and 2 the Apostle suggests that it would be better not to “touch a woman” but adds that “to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” He does not say, “let every man have a (his) spouse whether or not the mate is of an unscriptural union.” Verses 10 and 11 correct any such idea by showing that the Lord taught that marriage was indissoluble. Observe these verses below with their underscoring for emphasis:
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband [referring to Matt.5:31,32] ; But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife (I Cor,7:10,11).
The Apostle in these verses, like his divine Lord, bids both the husband and wife of an acceptable union (it is such who are in view in the context of 7:1-11) to remain with their spouses. It is not sinful to “touch a woman” if one is a husband in a scriptural union. Christ said it was adultery otherwise (Matt. 5:31,32;19:9; Mark 10: 11,12; Luke 16: 18). The Apostle Paul said the same in Rom7:2,3. The Corinthian converts who were married were in some instances alarmed that it might be sinful for them to maintain their marriages when they turned to Christ, should their mates be unconverted. Had Paul taught that spouses of unscriptural unions were spouses of valid unions, he would have contradicted himself within the same chapter, because verse 39 states that a marriage approved by Christ is not dissoluble until one mate or the other dies.
Many conservatives do not believe that I Cor.7:20 relates to converted divorcees and their converted mates because its context, which begins at verse 17, does not relate to marriage at all. This immediate context begins at verse 18, “‘But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” Verse 18 declares that a new convert should not be disturbed if he was converted in the state of circumcision or uncircumcision, and verses 21 through 23 declare that a new convert should not be disturbed because he was saved in a state of slavery (servant is slave Greek, v. 21). Whether he was called by the Lord in one state or the other is of no moment to the Lord. One may not take verse 27, “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Artthou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife; and say that it is applicable to verse 20, “Let every man abide in the same calling where he was called.” He may not say that “the same calling” of verse 20 relates to the statement of verse 27 just quoted above. This is clarified and established by the fact that the section of the chapter in which verse 27 occurs is related specifically to verses 25 and 26. Observe that verse 25 begins an entirely new thought. The matter of virginity is in question. The matter of remaining with an unscriptural spouse or leaving an unscriptural spouse is clearly not in question.
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(25) Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, (26) I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress. I say, that it is good for a man so to be. (27) Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife. (28) But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.
All the verses of the chapter that follow these verses (7:25-28) are related to the question of the propriety or wisdom of a virgin (a single person) to marry, except verses 39 and 40 at the very end of the chapter. The Apostle in the previous verses, and particularly in the underscored verse (v. 28), is saying in effect, “I am speaking strongly that it is better that a Christian remain unmarried, but I add, lest you mistake my meaning, you need not and should not be loosed from your wife if married in order to conform to a state of virginity which l recommend; nor should you in this time of present distress (v.26) marry if you are yet unmarried, and yet I must add (as in v. 28), it is no sin for a virgin to marry.” The Apostle Paul has the thought of verse 25 constantly in mind when he utters the words of verse 27. This immediate portion (verses 25 through 27) is part of a new paragraph of chapter 7, as indicated in the American Edition of the Revised Version of 1901. The paragraph in question extends from verse 25 through verse 40. Verse 39 states, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but If her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” Could the Apostle Paul have contradicted himself within the same paragraph? Does he not say in verse 39 that a spouse is bound to her (or his) mate until death separates them? A husband or wife cannot belong to two spouses at the same time; this is at the heart of the teaching of Christ in Matt. 5:31,32 and Luke 16:18.
Now that the reader has seen a division of contexts within chapter 7, and has specifically noted the context of verses 25 through 40, it is fitting that we re-examine verse 20, which is unrelated to verses 25 through 40, as we have observed. Is the Apostle Paul stating by verse 20, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called”, when God saved him, no matter what that calling may have been? Could he have said, “If you were saved as a prostitute, remain in your calling as a prostitute? Could he have said, “If you were saved as a thief abide in the calling of a thief?” Could he have said, “If you were found by Christ in the calling and partnership of a wicked business, you should abide in that calling?” Certainly he could not! Neither could he have said, “If you were found in the calling of an illicit marriage before the law of the land, abide in that calling,” nor “if you were found by Christ in the calling of a marriage disallowed by the law of Christ, you may continue in your practice of adultery in that unscriptural, invalid, and pretended marriage.”
Many of the Conservatives who hold to the above exegesis of I Cor. 7: 10, 11,20, 27 and to the more serious view of the sin of an unscriptural union would say in effect that the following is, in brief, their view:
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We recognize the numerous complications which arise among unfortunate remarried divorcees and their mates who have found Christ since they were united in an unscriptural marriage. We realize that there are problems respecting the children and property of such unions. We know that it seems unfair before men that these people should sever their unscriptural unions, but we know that the Scripture says, “there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end there of are the ways of death” (Prov. 14: 12). We know that men will answer that overly strict teaching respecting divorce and remarriage breaks up homes; but should not all believers remember that loose teaching and practice respecting divorce within the Church breaks up many more homes by breeding more divorces and subsequent unscriptural marriages? We realize that the churches which permit divorcees and their mates to continue their adulterous unions seem to provide a truer justice for them, but we ask, “Shall we regard the verdict of human reason and the opinions of men more than we regard the teachings of Christ and His Apostle Paul?” Christ seven times in Matt.5:32;19:9; Luke 16:18 and Mark 10: 11 , 12 clearly and unequivocally declared that the marriage of a divorcee to another, while having a living mate, or the marriage of one to such a divorcee is the continuing sin of adultery as shown by His seven-fold use of moichaomai (comrnitteth adultery) which in each instance is in the present tense. The Apostle Paul specifically forbade anyone to marry another while having a living mate (I Cor.7:39), and said that such a person was an adulterer (Rom. 7:2,3).
We cannot, by an accommodation of Scripture to the standards of this decadent generation, make the clear divorce utterances of Christ and of His inspired Apostle of none effect. We dare not presume to be wiser than the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. We dare not base our conviction of truth upon human sympathy, human judgment, the false principle of expediency, Christian experience, or the majority vote of fallible mortals instead of upon the”THUS SAITH THE LORD” of the HOLY SCRIPTURES. We cannot exchange the clearly spoken Word of the Lord concerning divorce forthe halting and doubtful words of honest but fallible Christian leaders who say, “it would appear,” “it seems,” “it appears probable,” “we may assume” that because of his matchless and abounding grace, Christ would approve converted divorcees continuing their illicit unions. Shall we or others declare that “the Bible is the absolute rule of faith and practice” in all things and refuse to accept it when the status of divorcees is in question? Should anyone presume to teach that adulterous unions may be maintained when the entire New Testament is utterly silent about the matter because of its emphasis on the adulterous nature of such unions? Shall we rest our case upon the word of man whose breath is held in the hand of God rather than upon the WORD of the ALMIGHTY? Upon whose words shall we rest our case at the BAR of GOD? We believe that rewards in this life for full devotion to the whole will of God will be far richer than the apparent (or seeming) rewards of compromise which spring from the deceitfulness of our own carnal hearts and a greater regard for the judgments of finite men than for the plain Word of God. Furthermore, we believe the rewards of full devotion and uncompromising obedience will be far better in eternity than the loss incurred for treating lightly any of the commandments of Christ (Matt.5:19,32). We greatly fear the WORD of our LORD JESUS CHRIST:
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John12:48).
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We believe that in that day one will rejoice that he followed unreservedly the clear Word of the Lord rather than the varying, uncertain and fallible judgments of men. The great leader of the early Church, Tertullian, said, “The less quarter you give yourself the more will the Lord give you.”
The Apostle’s warning should be heeded:
For the time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will pander to their own desires. They will no longer listen to the Truth but will wander off after man-made fictions (II Tim.4:3,4-Phillips translation).
The writer has endeavored to set forth clearly the two conflicting views of conservatives respecting the status of converted spouses of unscriptural marriages of divorcees within the Church. He does not presume to decide the question for any believer. This is indeed a difficult problem. Great Christian charity must be shown between those who differ in these matters. The writer believes that the tangled problems of spouses of disallowed unions are too intricate and too serious for either a church or its pastor to adopt an unyielding policy of advising such spouses to break up their homes. The recommendation of the constitution of the Assemblies of God Is appropriate: “We recommend that these cases be left in the hands of the Lord, and that they walk in the light as God lets it shine on their souls”. How dangerous it will be for any minister to do otherwise! He may not trifle with another man’s conscience. Every individual will be responsible for walking in the light which God has allowed to illuminate his heart and mind. The author of this book believes that such persons, with the full light of Scripture before them, should be left to make their own eternal decisions under God’s immediate direction. The unfortunate mates in question will need the tender concern of every Christian minister and every believer. They should be encouraged to enjoy the ministry of the Word and the edification of the Church. In matters of conscience, the Apostle Paul by the Holy Ghost said:
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Rom.14:5). Hast thou faith [in matters of conduct]? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom.14:22,23).
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King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, by the Holy Ghost said: Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness ( Prov. 30:20). Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil (Prov.3:5-7).
A terrible responsibility rests upon the writer and upon every teacher and minister who handles the Word of Life. How each of us needs to heed the warnings of Christ and His Apostle James which follow:
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt.5:19)[observe that the divorce commandment of Christ is in the same chapter. verses 31, 32]. Why call ye me, Lord,. Lord, and do not the things which I say (Luke 4: 1b)? Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, (Matt.7:21).
Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment (James 3: 1 R.V.).
The writer has presented this section in the conscious sense of the fear of God, knowing that he will be held accountable for it at the judgment seat of Christ.
14. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL RECOGNIZE THAT CHRIST PRESENTED MARRIAGE AS A FIXED ORDINANCE OF GOD AND NOT AS AN IDEAL.
Some teachers of the FIVE WORD School and others have reasoned that Christ presented his doctrine of marriage as an IDEAL and not as a FIXED STANDARD or fixed law of God. It is the view of some of the liberal school that Christ did not expect men to live up to His teachings respecting marriage, and therefore presented it merely as an IDEAL for the few Christians who could attain this standard. A close examination of the Scriptures will prove that this assumption is utterly fallacious and therefore unscriptural.
a. Christ did not speak of marriage as a mere IDEAL, but rather as a divine law of God. Hear Him:
From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife : and they shall be ONE FLESH: so they are no more twain – but one flesh: what therefore [not whom, but what] God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Mark 10:6-9).
This is a declaration by Christ of what marriage IS as ordained by God from beginning, NOT what it is IDEALLY!
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b. Christ’s declarations concerning divorce and remarriage are not variable rules of idealism. Unconsciously, some Christians accept the modern view of ethics, which assumes that all rules of “right and wrong” are relative and changing in the light of altering needs, concepts, and customs of a given society of a given period. They believe that the Church of today should adopt rules of divorce and remarriage that, they hope, will be more realistic and more in keeping with the stresses and strains of modern life. All of the reasons pressed today in favor of divorce with the right to marry another for many causes, including adultery, were known to the Jews when Christ re-announced the eternal marriage standards of Almighty God. The moral conditions of that generation were virtually the same as those of today. Sex is a basic instinct in man which has not altered during his long history, despite the fact that social, economic, and educational standards have changed and are changing. When the omniscient and eternal God instituted the Edenic laws of marriage which were reaffirmed by Christ, HE knew the quality of the sex impulses with which He had endowed man and the grace which He would give that would keep a God-fearing Joseph in Potiphar’s house or a praying Daniel in the licentious palace of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. He, who knew the end from the beginning, knew what marriage laws would be best suited for all future generations of man. The SEVENTH commandment of the decalogue and the Edenic marriage laws of the eternal SON of GOD were given for the highest good of society and every individual to the end of time. They were given within man’s capacity, by the grace of God, to obey. His grace is available to ALL who will seek Him!
c. Observe that in Luke16:18, Christ said that he who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries her that is put away (even though she is an innocent spouse) commits adultery. Christ says virtually the same thing in Matt. 5:32; 19:9. and Mark 10:11,12. The last reference does not discuss the sin of the one who marries the divorced one. To abstain from adultery is not an IDEAL but a moral obligation placed upon all men by God. He who presumes to treat such a sin with indifference should remember that God says:
Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers [fornicators,R.V] and adulterers God will judge (Heb.13:4).
Obviously, he who presumes to enjoy the privileges and intimacies of marriage, while having another living spouse with whom he has first been joined by God, is now an example of one living in adultery. Further, note God’s warning of I Cor. 6:9:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers .. .nor thieves … shall inherit the kingdom of God.
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d. The sin of divorce and remarriage is a breach of the seventh commandment! Christ does not say that the avoiding of adultery is an IDEAL that may be attained only by a select and saintly few! God does not advise one to refrain from adultery. He does not say that He is more pleased if His children refrain from fornication. He says that those who commit fornication and adultery shall not enter the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 19-21), but that they shall be cast into the eternal LAKE OF FIRE. “But for the fearful . . . and murderers, and fornicators,. . . their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev.21:8 R. V.). Christ treats the sin of adultery as seriously as He treats the sin of murder. He cites the commandment of the deca logue (Ex. 20: 13) in Matt.5:21 which says, “Thou shalt not kill, ” and then proceeds to show what is its essence. He reveals that it is first the sin of bitterness and hate in the heart, and warns all men who approach His altar to leave their gift at the altar and first be reconciled to an enemy before offering the gift to God. To bring home the seriousness of hate toward a fellow He adds, “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” ( Matt. 5:22). Here He talks of no mere IDEAL which a man may refuse to incorporate into his life with impunity. Indeed, both murder and adultery are grievous sins. Those who com mit them despise the commandments of the LORD (II Sam.12:9) and deservingly are listed in the catalogue of the eternally damned (Rev. 2 I :8) !!
Christ revealed that adultery begins in the heart and is expressed in the look of lust (Matt. 5:28), and to the consternation of the Pharisees who lusted after other women than their own wives, He said (Matt.5:31,32):
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement (DeuT. 24: 1-4), But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Observe that Christ uttered these words, as it were, in the shadow of Mt. Sinai. In the same context, on the same occasion, HE said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY: But I say UNTO YOU.. . .” (Matt.5:27,28), and then relates the look of LUST and the sin of DIVORCE and REMARRIAGE to this commandment of the DECALOGUE. Christ unequivocally declared that to “put away a wife and marry another” or to marry a divorced wife is to commit ADULTERY within the enactment of the SEVENTH commandment!! Surely, no man would venture to say that the TEN COMMANDMENTS (the MORAL LAW of GOD) are mere IDEALS.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also THE LAW: for sin is the transgression of the LAW (I Jn.3:4).
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The purpose of redemption is revealed in Rom. 8:3,4:
For what THE LAW could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: THAT the RIGHTEOUSNESS of THE LAW might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Unmistakably, the sin of adultery in divorce and remarriage (a respectable sin in modern society) is revealed by Christ to be the breaking of the seventh commandment, “THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY” (Matt. 5:27; Ex.20:14). It is plain, therefore, that JESUS CHRIST is not talking of a mere IDEAL when He speaks of divorce and remarriage as the sin of ADULTERY.
In the fall of 1956, the world was shocked by the attack of Great Britain and France upon Egypt and by the enslavement of Hungary by Russia. Immediately representatives of the United Nations, leaders of the western powers, and many clergymen called for a return of the nations to a respect for moral law. Such declarations suggest that there is a fixed moral law to which all nations and peoples should conform. Where is there such a moral law outside of the Bible? All Christians recognize. As do most civilized peoples, that basically it consists of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 1-20), which are further clarified and amplified in the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5·7). The Christian Church should cease rebuking governments for exchanging the fixed principles of moral law for the loose principles of expediency until she, herself, stops doing the same thing. A nation’s moral standards can rise no higher than the moral principles and practices of her churches and temples. Many churches are slowly yielding to the popular sentiment and standards of the unregenerate society which surrounds them. If the Church of Christ subscribed whole heartedly to the immutable moral law of God, she would not compromise, nor tolerate, the divorce and remarriage standards of the ungodly which contradict Christ’s clear teaching of the indissolubility of marriage for any cause.
15. GIVE A JUDGMENT WHICH WILL RECOGNIZE THE LAWS OF DIVINE REVELATION AS SUPERSEDING ALL LAWS OF STATES FOR CHRISTIAN STANDARDS WHEN THEY ARE IN CONTRADICTION TO THEM.
Some of the teachers of the FIVE WORD School declare that God affixes His approval to all legislative acts or pronouncements of the governments of earth because of the statement of Rom.13:1-7, and so all marriages of divorcees approved by the state are valid before God.
What specious reasoning is this! Indeed the Apostles did not subscribe to such a conclusion.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Should men cease to preach Christ in the countries that forbid Christians to do so?
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“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” was not said of men who feared their governments more than they feared God, nor of men who believed the laws and decrees of government to be more infallible and binding than the laws and decrees of God ALMIGHTY. Should the deplorable divorce laws of Russia supersede the marriage law of Christ?
Do the laws of states licensing gambling and prostitution make these non-sinful in the sight of God? May a converted gambler revert to his former practices when he realizes that the laws of his state permit him to follow his particular type of gambling? May a converted prostitute revert to her former unchaste practices when she realizes that the laws of her country permit prostitution if she has a license for the same from the said state? Do the above laws make the sinful practices virtues so that all men may practice them and be immune from the judgment of God? A bigamist is one who marries another while having a legal, living spouse. All men revile such an individual. May Christians sincerely approve the marriage of one who marries another, whose marriage is licensed before the state but is not licensed before God because the individual has a living, former spouse who alone is his or her only wife or husband? Do the laws of states which flout and nullify God’s laws supersede them? Is the sin of a bigamist (one who marries another while having a legal, living spouse), less evil than the sin of one who, illegally before heaven (although legally before the state), marries another while having a living spouse who is recognized before heaven as being this person’s only legal spouse? Is the sin of bigamy (having two wives or husbands) before heaven less evil than the sin of bigamy before men? Clearly every one of these questions are scripturally answered in the negative. True, a Christian minister will not be at liberty to defy the state and declare that men who are married contrary to Christ’s teachings are not married in the eyes of the law. He can say, however, that such marriages are not approved in the sight of God. He can entreat men to honor the standards of marriage fixed by the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he can refuse to unite in marriage anyone who has a former living partner, or anyone who plans to marry such a person. Should a minister do otherwise, he would be guilty of approving of bigamy before heaven. Oh, that the Church of Christ would realize how potent would be her influence if she had the courage to practice fully the teachings of Christ respecting marriage, or any other laws of Almighty God! A little salt is a tremendously preserving force! “Ye are the salt of the earth”.
- GIVE A JUDGMENT WHICH WILL REGARD THE LAWS OF DIVINE REVELATION AS BINDING, EVEN THOUGH THEIR OBEDIENCE MAY AFFECT THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF AN INNOCENT MATE OR SOME ONE ELSE.
Some of the FIVE WORD School state that the economic distress of “innocent mates” necessitates their having the right to remarry after divorcing their “unchaste spouses.”
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If this reasoning were carried to its logical conclusion, it would, in fact it does, defy the clear teachings of Jesus Christ. The chaste wife who is put away,as described in Matt.5:32b; Luke16:18b, and Matt.19:9b, is strictly forbidden to remarry when divorced by her husband, even though her husband marries again and her economic status may be in jeopardy.
Is the wife of a criminal, who has served and is still serving a very long term in prison, at liberty scripturally to remarry because her husband does not provide for her and the children? Surely, the FIVE WORD School will acknowledge that there are many “unfortunate mates” whose husbands have not committed adultery and yet who are not supporting their families while they continue to live either in their own home or in an institution. May these wives scripturally divorce their husbands so that they may remarry and thus improve their financial status? May the wife whose husband became an invalid when they were first married, after a substantial number of years, divorce such a mate that she may marry again and so better herself financially?
God’s laws of marriage sometimes bring financial suffering to a few spouses, and yet this is necessary to uphold and preserve the indissolubility of marriage for the honor of God and the welfare of the homes of society. It is important to remember that God does not settle all His accounts with His children in this life, neither are they compensated in heaven merely for a period corresponding to the time they graciously or willingly suffered for the glory of God on earth. Their compensation is for eternity. A Christian can readily endure affliction if he keeps before himself the brevity of life’s afflictions for Christ in comparison to the eternal weight of glory awaiting him in heaven. “For I reckon the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8: 19). Note also II Cor. 4: 17, 18.
17. GIVE A JUDGMENT WHICH WILL NOT TREAT LIGHTLY STRONG VARIANT READINGS OF THE EARLY MANUSCRIPTS OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT.
Scholarly men of both the FIVE WORD School and the Conservative School are aware that there are many variant readings of early New Testament manuscripts which have been adopted by the American Standard Revision of 1901which were not in the Authorized Version. They also know that many if not all of these have been all but universally accepted by scholars of evangelical churches. A few of many examples which have been universally accepted are the following, which will be indicated by setting in contrast the Authorized Version with the text of the Revised Version.
- There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1 A.V.).
THERE IS THEREFORE NOW NO CONDEMNATION TO THEM THAT ARE IN CHRIST JESUS (Rom. 8: 1 R. V.).
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- And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (I John. 5:6b-8 A.V.).
AND IT IS THE SPIRIT THAT BEARETH WITNESS, BECAUSE THE SPIRIT IS THE TRUTH. FOR THERE. ARE THREE WHO BEAR WITNESS, THE SPIRIT, AND THE WATER, AND THE BLOOD: AND THE THREE AGREE IN ONE (1 John 5:7,8 R.V.).
The translators of the American Standard Version had more ancient manuscripts of the New Testament than did those of the Authorized Version. Because of this fact, many of their corrected translations of the Revised Version are much more accurate than those of the Authorized Version.
The underscored sections above indicate, for the most part the portions of the Greek text of some manuscripts which were not believed by the translators of the Revised Version to be as accurate as other Greek manuscripts, and so these portions were deleted.
Though some of the changes of the Revised Version have been by deletions only, or largely so, this is not always so. An example follows:
- To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen (Jude 25 A. V.)
TO THE ONLY GOD OUR SAVIOUR, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, BE GLORY, MAJESTY, DOMINION AND POWER, BEFORE ALL TIME, AND NOW, AND FOR EVERMORE. Amen (Jude 25 R.V.).
The weight of evidence for acceptance of the variant reading of Matt. 19:9 is considerable, as has been shown on pages 65 through 73. True scholars cannot afford to treat it lightly when it is observed that the context supports it one hundred per cent, and when one observes that some outstanding Greek scholars believe it to be the preferred reading.
However, the strength of the variant reading of Matt. 19:9 does not lie in the fact that it may be the preferred text, but in the fact that it shows the glaring presumption of the FIVE WORD School in building a doctrine of divorce in ONE text, Matt. 19:9 (A. V. ). the reading of which is so much in doubt. Happily, the Conservative doctrine of divorce will stand, whichever reading is ultimately found to be the actual statement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
[page 174 of original text]
Its strength does not lie in basing its doctrine on ONE text but on the general tenor of the divorce texts of the New Testament and on the strength of the context of Matt. 19:9 which is overwhelmingly in support of the Conservative views as has been shown on pages 92 through 95. [hyperlink http://www.standerinfamilycourt.com/?p=2209]
Occasionally, believers have felt a keen loss ln the difference between the Revised Version and the Authorized Version in specific texts which have been especially choice to them. If the favored text is clearly a doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, it will be preserved and restated elsewhere in the Bible, and very probably it will be restated· many times. No variant reading accepted in the Revised Version can rob the true believer of any essential element of truth of Holy Writ, for the treasure does not lie alone in one text; and happily, as a rule, the variant readings of the Revised Version enrich the meaning of the words: of the original writers of the New Testament, which words were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Greek authorities state that of the hundreds of variant readings of the New Testament, not one of them affects any doctrine essential to the Christian’s salvation and in all but a few cases deal with minutiae of words and elements that are of no great consequence, save to sharpen the present meaning of the Authorized Version text.
18. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL REVEAL THAT SO-CALLED SOFT HEARTED DIVORCE IS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE SCRIPTURES.
Some of the FIVE WORD School have assumed that there is a difference between hardness-of-heart divorce for every cause and so-called soft-hearted divorce for the cause of adultery. This school believes that an innocent mate is a soft-hearted mate, since he has been sinned against by an adulterous mate. It has arbitrarily and presumptuously differentiated between two kinds of divorce of its own making to avoid the strength of Christ’s answer (Matt. 19:8) to the question of the Pharisees in Matt. 19:7 which follows:
Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
The fallacy of the FIVE WORD School’s assumption that there are two kinds of divorce (putting away) is apparent in the light of the following:
- The hard-hearted Pharisees addressed by Christ in Matt. 19:7, above, included the schools of both Hillel and Shammai. The latter rested on Deut.24:1-4 (Moses’ divorce permission, which Christ abrogated in Matt.5:32) for their right to divorce an adulterous mate and to marry another. Therefore Christ speaks of those who believe as Shammai as men desiring or believing in a hard-hearted divorce.
[page 175 of original text]
The Pharisees, as we have seen, included both the schools named above. Observe that Matt. 19:3 states:
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, IS IT LAWFUL FOR A MAN TO PUT AWAY HIS WIFE FOR EVERY CAUSE?
A frank answer to this ensnaring question was indeed fraught with danger for Christ. The Pulpit Commentary gives the following on this passage:
This was a delicate question to raise in the domains of Herod Antipas (see 14:3-4), and one greatly debated in the rabinnical schools…Two opposite opinions were held by the followers of Hillel and Schammai, the heads of antagonistic schools. The school of Hillel contended that a man might divorce his wife for various causes quite unconnected with the infringement of the marriage vow, e.g. because he had ceased to love her, or had seen someone whom he liked better, or even because she cooked his dinner badly. The school of Schammai was more strict, and permitted divorce only in case of fornication, adultery or some offense against chastity. Between these contending parties the Pharisees desired to make our Lord give a decision, thinking that they had fixed him in a dilemma. If he took the popular lax view, they could deride his claims as a Teacher of superior morality; if he upheld the stricter side, he would rouse the enmity of the majority, and possibly, like John the Baptist, involve himself in trouble with the licentious tetrarch. There was a chance also that the high tone which he had already taken might prove to be at variance with the Mosaic enactments (Matt.19:7)
(D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell. Editors, op. cit. , Vol. XV, pp. 242, 243)
The second question of the Pharisees seemed clearly calculated to ensnare Him with the religious leaders of the day. He surprised them, however, when He answered the question, “WHY DID MOSES THEN COMMAND TO GIVE A WRITING OF DIVORCEMENT, AND TO PUT HER AWAY?” by running to Genesis 2:18-24 for His reply. It is quoted and discussed on pages 5 through 8. [hyperlink: http://www.standerinfamilycourt.com/?p=1804] By taking the Pharisees to Genesis. He gave them a marriage law that antedated that of Moses in Deut. 24: 1-4. The latter was that upon which both the schools of Hillel and Shammai rested for their view and doctrine of divorce. To Christ there was no soft-hearted divorce. All divorce which had for its end the dissolution of marriage was hard-hearted. This is proven by the sweeping statement which He made when He abrogated forever the divorce permission of Moses. He said:
Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so (Matt.19:8).
The twelve points of the context of Matt. 19:9, given on pages 92 through104 [hyperlink http://www.standerinfamilycourt.com/?p=2209], confirm the fact that Christ taught the complete indissolubility of marriage. However, Christ did provide for legal (judicial) separation (a mensa et thoro). See I Cor. 7: 10,11, which permits a spouse to leave the mate but does not permit such a spouse to marry another while the former mate is still living (I Cor.7:39).
[page 176 of original text]
- GOD DID NOT INSTITUTE DIVORCE UNDER MOSES. Divorce had been instituted by the heathen. Christ said truly that from the beginning divorce was not permitted. God did no more approve of divorce than the right of Israel to have a King (I Sam. 8:6, 7; 10: 17-19; Hosea 13:9-11), although He tolerated the latter as He tolerated divorce in the Old Testament period because of the hardness of the hearts of the people. The word suffered in the text quoted above, is epetrepsen in the Greek New Testament. It is translated four times in the Authorized Version by permit; once give liberty; once give license; once, to let; twice, to give leave and ten times, to suffer with the meaning it had in old English, namely to allow. It never had the meaning of to command. Indeed, MOSES PERMITTED (tolerated) divorce; He did not command it. This has been further clarified in a detailed discussion of Deut. 24:1 on pages 88 through 89.
- The FIVE WORD School should observe that alleged divorce for so-called soft-hearted innocents who have had adulterous mates does not provide for the dissolution of the marriages of many other soft-hearted innocents who, according to FIVE WORD concepts, as sorely need a severance of their marriage bond. See pages 135 through 136 for a list of such unfortunate innocents. Many of these and others are suffering distress under the flame of nature, cruelty of spouses, economic pressure, and other hardships, yet cannot be married to another since the mates in question have not committed adultery, nor have they been technically deserted by their spouses. Where is a soft-hearted divorce permission tobe found in the Scripture, apart from the abrogated divorce permission ofMoses,for these unfortunates? God give us grace to stand by the Scripture ratherthan accommodate the Scripture to fit the seeming necessities of men, and may Hedirect the vision of unfortunates to the Scriptures which show that His peoplearecalled· upon to suffer for His sake, as men of all nations are called upon to suffer for the good of theirsociety.
The hard-hearted Pharisee of the school of Shammai believed that God should at least permit a spouse to put away (dissolve his marriage with) his adulterous mate, since such a spouse was put to death under the law of Moses. This position becomes untenable upon careful investigation. The putting away of a spouse is the act of an individual; the stoning or putting to death of anyone by the state is a civil matter. God permitted Israel as a nation to put to death fornicators and adulterers (Deut.22:21-25). God did not approve those of Israel or anyone else putting away (divorcing) any spouse for any cause from the beginning, except they might put away a betrothed wife who had, previous to consummated marriage, committed fornication during her betrothal. A government ls an instrument of God for the welfare of society. It ls authorized by God to put to death (Rom.13:1-4). However, because God permitted Israel as a civil power, to put to death murderers (Num. 35: 16), Sabbath breakers (Num.15:32-36), moral perverts (Ex.22:19), kidnappers (Ex.21:16), and rebellious sons (Deut. 21: 18-21), it does not follow that God approves of spouses putting away (divorcing) such spouses because the state of today does not put them to death as did Israel of old.
[page 177 of original text]
Christ closed the door to the dissolution of marriage, except by death, in His statement:
Wherefore they are no more twain but ONE FLESH. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt.19:6).
Laws of states which flatly contradict the plain teaching of Christ are not to be accepted as proper standards for Christians.
e. Soft-hearted mates become hard-hearted mates when they refuse to keep the door open for the return of their unchaste mates, because by acting thus, they refuse to accept the teaching and example of our LORD. He left the door open for Israel’s return, although He had separated from her (Jer. 3: 1-14). The so-called soft-hearted innocent mate needs to beware of becoming hard-hearted in refusing to follow the law of Christ: “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Eph.5:25).
Christ completely closed the door to all divorce, if by that is meant the dissolution of marriage. He is, wittingly or unwittingly, hard-hearted who sets at nought Christ’s teaching respecting marriage and divorce; he is hard-hearted because he denies the commands of Christ and because he considers his own happiness or the happiness of the so- called soft-hearted innocent mates as more important than the happiness of the many more millions of innocent children, born and unborn, of present and future broken homes. He is hard-hearted because he does not have the compassion of Christ for adulterous mates (Hosea 2: 16; 3:1-5;14:1-8).
19. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT WILL DECLARE WHO IS TRULY THE MORE INNOCENT SPOUSE
All thoughtful men know that the chaste mate is not always the more innocent spouse. Every ecclesiastical body which accedes to divorce and remarriage for adultery must sometime face the question, WHO IS THE TRULY INNOCENT PARTY’? In recent years, two denominations have taken a firmer stand against divorce because of their seeing the difficulty of determining who were the more innocent mates.
Many spouses are virtually pushed into adultery by the prudish and contemptible behaviour of their mates. From a human standpoint, should one hear all the provocative words and behold all the ultra-puritanical attitudes of some spouses toward their mates, would he not many times have to conclude that the so-called innocent one was the guilty one? What church judge or pastor who had not heard or beheld all the intimacies of words and actions of the “unfortunate pair” could fairly and honestly declare who was the “innocent party” of a marriage union?
[page 178 of original text]
Is it not probable that the problem of who is the truly INNOCENT was one cause why Christ gave the strong, clarifying statement on divorce in Mark 10: 11, 12? Let us with Christ resist every fracture of the divine law of the complete indissolubility of the marriage bond!
If the churches which grant the right of divorce and remarriage for the cause of adultery or any other cause are consistent, they will no longer use the cherished and revered wedding ceremony which, in one form or another. usually includes the following:
I, [Name], take thee [Name], to be my wedded husband (wife): to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. to love, cherish, and obey till death us do part according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I give thee my troth.
Do we want our children to enter into holy wedlock as a mere matter of convenience rather than as a divine obligation before God to be true to the other, regardless of the circumstances? Do we want to follow the “innocent party” rule of the FIVE WORD School and bring upon our children and their children’s children a lessened regard for the sacredness of marriage? A youth who takes the marriage vows with possible exception for the dissolution of his divine union (joined by God) will likely not give his mate the devotion which he should and which God does require. May the Church keep the spirit of Hollywood out of her pews and homes!
20. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT IS BASED ON A “LOVE OF THE TRUTH,” COST WHAT IT MAY TO YOU OR YOUR CLOSEST FRIENDS OR ANYONE ELSE.
“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
Will you, reader, after making a careful study of the subject of divorce and remarriage, believe what you prefer to believe? Will you believe that which best suits the proclivities, prejudices, and sympathies of your nature, and that which most conforms to human reason; or will you stand by all the facts and evidence of the Scripture bearing on the subject? Will you settle the matter on a scriptural basis or on the basis of the above, and the Christian experiences and religious successes of divorcees)? Will you, while conceding that the FIVE WORD view of divorce is scripturally untenable, say that the “exceptive clause” is sufficient for you, and to it you will cling, even though all other Scriptures declare plainly that Christ taught the complete indissolubility of marriage, as does Matt.19:9 when properly understood?
Is it not true that the natural man (I Cor. 2: 14) almost always favors the side of a question that appeals to his mind rather than to his conscience, that appeals to his rationalized view of a principle of conduct which is in keeping with the times rather than to his more sober conviction of God ‘s commandment respecting his behavior?
[page 179 of original text]
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer.17:9)?
A lawyer once asked for books that would prove that Christianity is true. These books were supplied and read. When he returned them, he said, “I now see that the trouble was not in my mind but in my heart because I am now convinced that Christianity is true, but still I will not be a Christian.”
Often a strong defense lawyer will not only appeal to such facts as he may have to support his client’s position, but he will appeal most vehemently and strongly to the emotions and sympathies of a jury to win his case. Not a few famous cases have been won on the latter appeal rather than on an appeal to facts.
To what does the average politician appeal prior to the time of an election? It is to the emotions of his audiences, for he knows that the great mass of the public prefer to have their emotions stirred in favor of their native inclinations and desires rather than to have the minds directed to the facts which support the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The average voter, as a rule, seems to be more concerned about an immediate prosperity than for the continued welfare of his country. Too often Christians are much more concerned about finding seeming loopholes in Scriptures which they believe will condone their covetous and evil hearts, regardless of absolute right, rather than bringing their lives up to the highest standards of God’s truth.
They prefer that which will cost them little. There are many things which God’s people have to suffer and forego for the greater good of the kingdom of God and for the greater glory of God on earth. As little as we like to confess it, the nearly two thousand years of Christianity have not made men love truth more, is still blighted with what Bacon called “a natural though corrupt love of the lie itself.” The spirit of our time is to get something for nothing with as little suffering as possible, and preferably with none.
The mass of nominal and evangelical Christians shun the Cross in Christian experience. May the God of Truth help all of us to bring our Christian experience up to THE BOOK rather than to bring THE BOOK down to our experience and that of our fellow men; and may He help us to walk in all the light of His TRUTH regardless of the cost!
Dr. A.W.Tozer, editor of the Alliance Weekly, has stated the following in an editorial of Oct. 10, 1956:
To live our lives reverently in the fear of God and in view – of eternal consequences is right and good, but to live our moral lives in fear of temporal consequences is an evil, a great and injurious evil for which not one shred of justification can be found. Yet the shadow of the fear of consequences lies dark across the church today and its blight is seen almost everywhere.
[page 180 of original text]
Moral decisions should be made in view of moral consequences, never in fear of the effect such decisions may have upon our economic or social future. The wisest of the Greeks said, “A man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong. “It is more than a little embarrassing that an uninspired Stoic should see what so few of us Christians, with all our claims to superior religious experience, seem unable to understand.
It is doubtful whether we can be Christian in anything unless we are Christians in everything. To obey Christ in one or two or ten instances and then in fear of consequences to back away and refuse to obey in another is to cloud our life with the suspicion that we are only fair weather followers and not true believers at all. To obey when it costs us nothing and refuse when the results are costly is to convict ourselves of moral trifling and gross insincerity.
The temptation to gear our lives to social consequences is frightfully strong in a world like ours, but it must be overcome all the way down the line. The Christian businessman when faced with a moral choice must never ask, “How much will this cost me?” The moment he regards consequences he dethrones Christ as Lord of his life. His only concern should be with the will of God and the moral quality of the proposed act. To consult anything else is to sin against his own soul.
(A. W, Tozer: Editorial, The Alliance Weekly, October 10, 1956, New York
21. GIVE A JUDGMENT THAT IS BASED ON WHAT DIVINE REVELATION TEACHES RATHER THAN UPON THE PRINCIPLE OF EXPEDIENCY, WHICH SEEKS TO ACCOMMODATE THE SCRIPTURES TO SO-CALLED INNOCENT
In this day when the Church of Christ is making its decisions more and more upon the expediency of the moment rather than upon divine principle and the divine laws and eternal standards of God as revealed in His Holy Word, it is important that we examine this practice lest it intrude into the settlement of the divorce problem as well.
The term “expediency” will be used in this section in its secondary meaning, namely, in its strictly ethical sense: “It is the principle of practical utility or interest of self as distinguished from the right.”
Thirty years ago, there were very few remarried divorcees in evangelical churches. Today, however, remarried divorcees are attending the house of God in increasing numbers and are frequently given an equal status in the Christian Church, contrary to the reaching of the Apostle Paul. Why is this? The answer is obvious. There are more divorcees in America today because of sharply lowered ethical standards which the Church of Christ has condoned.
Because of the hardness of the hearts of men and women today, even the evangelical churches are more and more making their judgments of conduct and standards of right strictly on the basis of expediency, regardless of clear-cut doctrines and criteria set forth in the Word of God. The cry, “everybody is doing it“, or “practically every Christian of today believes it is all right,” is more readily accepted than, “THUS SAITH THE LORD. ”
[page 181 of original text]
Expediency is studiously avoided by our great judges who sit in the courts of our land. The writer, with a group of theological students, heard a defense lawyer plead with the judge for a lenient penalty for one who had been an active participant in the numbers’ racket. He said his client deserved a lenient judgment because he was a first offender, was an esteemed man in his community, and held a position as a steward in a factory. The judge replied that he could not deal leniently with this man lest he cause disrespect for the law on the part of other men in the numbers racket and consequently increase this evil in the land.
Will our pastors and evangelical church leaders continue to treat divorce lightly and handle each situation purely on the basis of expediency out of natural sympathy, or will they be men of God and, while compassionate, think and work for the tens of thousands of living and unborn innocent children of broken homes, for the good of the nation, and for the welfare of the KINGDOM OF GOD? Will they be preachers who cater to the spirit and debased standards of our time, or will they raise their voices, as SEERS of old, and call men back to the old paths of holiness and righteousness so clearly marked out in the WORD OF GOD? Will God find none who will stand in the gap and close up the hedges of righteousness? Will God-called men let the church sink with the compromising age into the awful abyss of God ‘s wrath? Thomas Mann said, “A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries. May God arouse the Church and her leaders to give heed to the admonition of the Apostle Paul in Rom. 12:2:
And do not follow the customs of the present age, but be ye transformed by the entire renewal of your minds, so that you may learn by experience what God’s will is-that will which is good and beautiful and perfect (Weymouth third edition.)*
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the Plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity (Phillips).
*From Weymouth’ s New Testament in Modern Speech, Harper & Brothers. Used by permission.
Take warning Christian Church! It was not TNT which destroyed the dam in the time of the Johnstown flood. Its disintegration began with tiny crevices and cracks. Experts warned the city over and over again of the impending danger.
[page 182 of original text]
The city fathers delayed until it was too late. The dike of any denomination of Protestantism does not crumble primarily because of a great crisis. It crumbles because of its small defections and compromises in holiness and righteousness to accommodate the spirit of the day, and because its moral and doctrinal decisions are made by the law of expediency rather than by the “THUS SAITH THE LORD” of DIVINE REVELATION.
A PRAYER FOR TRUTH
O Thou who art the Way, the Truth and the Life, save us from error, and guide us into all Truth. Grant that when we discern Thy Truth that we may love Thy Truth and walk daily in its light. Give us grace to speak Thy Truth in love that both we and those who hear it may be sanctified by it to Thy praise and glory. AMEN!
- A Study of I Cor. 7:15 Is Important
The text of ICor.7:15 does not provide for the dissolution of the marriage bond. A careful study of the text itself in the light of I Cor.7:10,11,39 will make that apparent.
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart let her remain unmarried; or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife (I Cor.7:10,11).
Observe that the Apostle Paul in verses 10 and 11 appeals to the fact that Christ commanded what he, the Apostle, stated in these verses. Obviously, he is here asserting what Christ taught in Matt. 5:31,32, Luke 16:18, Matt. 19:1-12, namely, that marriage is indissoluble without any exception. If the Conservative interpretation of Matt.5:31,32 and 19:9 is accepted, there is no question of contradiction between the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ as touching the question of divorce and remarriage.
The Apostle Paul adds in I Cor.7:12-14: But to the rest speak I. not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by his believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy.
Inasmuch as the Apostle Paul had taught that a believer should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, and inasmuch as a converted Corinthian spouse knew himself to be clean and holy through the blood of Christ, the Christian believer had some misgivings whether or not he could remain holy and whether his future offspring would be holy if he continued the marriage union with such a spouse.
[page 183 of original text]
Some of the FIVE WORD School and others presume to believe that the word bondage of I Cor. 7: 15 of itself indicates that one who is deserted by his or her spouse is free to marry another. “ETYMOLOGY WILL KILLYOU, BUT CONTEXT WILL·SAVE YOU.” Certainly the context described under the study of I Cor.7:10,11, which is virtually identical here, does not allow such an interpretation.
It is obvious that a Christian married person of Corinth would have been much concerned, about the propriety of leaving an unbelieving mate and releasing an unbelieving mate to depart from him or her after hearing the teaching of the Apostle Paul in I Cor.7 10-14. A spouse would naturally be driven to a bondage of fear in such a case. The wife, however, the Apostle says, is not to be upset and alarmed if the husband insists on leaving her; she is not to be under a bondage of fear. She may let him separate from her if she forget not I Cor. 7: 10,11, which reaffirms the teaching of Christ concerning the indissolubility of marriage for any cause. The statement of verse 15b clarifies the matter, for it says, literally translated, “In but peace has God called us.” In the third edition of Weymouth’s translation of the New Testament, his footnote on verse 15 reads as follows:
The sense seems to be, do not live in an atmosphere of strife, being free to escape from it; for God eternally dwells in an atmosphere of peace and He calls us to participate and rejoice in it.
(From Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech, Harper & Brothers. Used by permission. Richard Francis Weymouth, loc. cit.)
The verse which follows I Cor. 7: 15, verse 16, stresses not the freedom of the wife to· remarry but rather the continuity of the thought of verse 11-15, namely, that the wife should do all in her power to maintain a spirit of peace and reconciliation with her husband that he might be saved. The verse states:
For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
Would not the wife by remarrying make it more difficult for the husband to be saved later? It might encourage him to marry again and thus commit adultery. Should she marry another, it would close the door to their reconciliation. Certainly it would not make for peace or for the hastening of his salvation.
Now let us consider specifically I Cor. 7:15:
But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not bound.
[page 184 of original text]
The statement of 7: 12-14 could have left no doubt in the mind of a believing spouse concerning whether or not he should remain in union with an unbeliever. The statement of 7: 15 is introduced to relieve his mind of a bondage of fear that might overtake him if he found that the unbelieving spouse desired to depart from him. Had not Christ and the Apostle Paul taught (I Cor. 7: 10, 11) that a Christian should remain unmarried if separated from his spouse? Had a wife or husband, contrary to theLord’s expressed desire (I Cor.7:10,11), left his or her spouse in the Apostle Paul’s day, in all probability, the mate in the city of Corinth would, under such circumstances, have soon married another. Was the Apostle in I Cor.7: I5 then instructing such a forsaken spouse to recognize that she was free from the bondage of marriage? To the contrary, verse 11 states, “let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.” Neither partner in this case was free before God to marry another.
In the light of the above, by what exegesis can a spouse be free to marry anoth er when the believing mate of such an one has departed from him? Is there one rule under God authorizing an unbeliever to marry another when he has deserted his mate, and another for the Christian (1 Cor. 7:10, 11), forbidding him to leave and marry another?
Is there any intimation in the teaching of Christ in Matt.5:31,32; Luke16:18; Matt. 19:9, and Mark 10: 11,12 that a desertion of an unbelieving mate authorized the other spouse to marry again? Christ did not even imply that the departure and remarriage of such an one was valid! To the contrary, Christ forbade an innocent wife in Matt. 5:32; Luke 16:18, and Matt. 19:9 to marry another when divorced by her husband, for Christ said that he who married such an innocent wife who had been put away (the equivalent of being deserted by the spouse) would commit adultery. The reason is obvious: the first union was still intact, despite the husband’s divorcing her and marrying another. Were this not true, a man would have but to marry another to invalidate his first union and validate his second union. Indeed, a deserting husband of the Apostle’s day would, in most instances, divorce the woman whom he had deserted that he might marry another. Would he have more right to marry another than an innocent wife (Matt.5:32; Luke 16: 18) whose husband had committed adultery in marrying another? Indeed, not! The seeming magic wand of the exceptive clause of Matt. 19:9 cannot and does not arbitrarily undo the three emphatic statements respecting the innocent, divorced wife’s inability, scripturally, to remarry in said texts.
It is reasoned that the phrase, “is not under bondage in such cases,”specifically indicates the release of such a spouse from his mate, so that spouse may marry another. Those who reason thus base their conclusion upon the alleged fact that the word “bondage”(Greek doulo) is identical to the word “bound” in Rom.7:2 and I Cor.7:27 and 7:39. William Evans, a teacher for many years in the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, insists that this is not the case, for it is rather the Greek word deo which is used in Rom.7:2 and I Cor.7:27 and 7:39, whereas it is doulo which is used in I Cor. 7: 15.
(William Evans: The Right and Wrong in Divorce and Remarriage. Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1946, pp. 97, 98.)
[page 185 of original text]
The later word means “slavehood”. Certainly, a Christian married person of Corinth who knew I Cor.7:10,11, would have been much concerned about the propriety either of leaving an unbelieving mate or of releasing an unbelieving mate to go from her when he insisted that he could not endure her because of her becoming a Christian. A spouse would, under those circumstances, naturally be driven to a bondage (slavehood) of fear lest she or he depart from the teachings of the Apostle and of Christ. The Apostle says, however, that the wife is not to be conscience-stricken if the husband insists on leaving her. She is not to be in slavehood to her conscientious fears, since such an unbelieving one need not be required by the believing spouse to remain with her. If he persists in wanting to leave her, she should not continue to argue with him and add strife to strife in endeavoring to keep him from departing. If he leaves her, her course is clear (I Cor. 7:10,11), let her remain unmarried. ” The statement of verse 15b clarifies the matter, for it adds, literally translated, as we have noted, “In but peace God has called us.”
Both Adam Clarke and the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary take the view that the wife may not remarry, according to 1 Cor. 7:15. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia supports the same position. If further points out the astounding fact that there is no record of the early Church’s using 1 Cor. 7:15 for a cause of divorce and remarriage for 400 years after the death of the Apostle Paul, and that such a case is not reported in history again for another 400 years.
(James Orr, General Editor, op. cit. Vol. II, p. 866)
Surely the early Church did not understand the Apostle Paul to teach the FIVE WORD School’s view of 1 Cor. 7:15. Indeed, he did not modify the teaching of Christ in this passage or any other.
A.S. Worrell, the translator of the New Testament, comments on 1 Cor. 7:12, 13 as follows:
Unbelief on the part of either husband or wife is not, in itself, a ground for severing the conjugal relation; but, if the unbelieving one will not remain in that relation because the other is a Christian, there is no remedy but to let the mal-content go: but neither has a liberty, under the Gospel, to marry again until the other is dead.
(A.S. Worrell: Worrell’s Translation of the New Testament. Springfield, Missouri, Gospel Publishing House, 1894. p.240.)
The word divorce, which is common to Matt.5:31,32; Luke 16:18; Matt.19:1-12, and Mark 10:1-12, namely, apoluo, meaning “put away” in these contexts, and bibion apostasion, meaning “bill of divorcement”, are not mentioned in 1 Cor. 7:15. Those who build a doctrine of divorce on 1 Cor. 7:15 differ over the meaning of two words, namely, chorizo, translated in the Authorized Version in verses 10 and 15 by “depart”, and aphiemi, translated in the Authorized Version, in verses 11, 12 and 13 by “put away,” and in verse 13 by “leave.”
[page 186 of original text]
The English Revised Version (1881) renders it “leave” in each instance. The American Revised (1901) does likewise.
It is striking that scholars of the liberal view of Matt. 19:9 differ in their opinions regarding the 1 Cor. 7:10-15 passage. Some of them hold that the wife who leaves (departs from) her husband literally divorces him, but others disallow that fact. Some appear to hold that an unsaved spouse who leaves his mate automatically dissolves the marriage union because of his desertion, regardless of the reason why he leaves, except it be for fornication, while others hold that a Christian is free from his spouse only if the desertion is due to the unsaved spouse’s sense of religious incompatibility. The Scripture obviously says nothing about how many months of desertion by one mate are necessary to free the other mate to dissolve the marriage by divorce. Would a time element not be necessary if the alleged freedom to marry another for desertion (I Cor.7:15) were valid? Certainly, it would be necessary! Human legislation which rejects Christ’s doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage requires a fixed period of desertion before a divorce will be granted for that cause for reasons that are obvious. Cannot one see that once the divorce dike is broken here (I Cor.7:15) because of desertion for religious incompatibility, that ultimately ecclesiastical bodies of such persuasion must make provision for the dissolution of marriages for other kinds of incompatibility? Indeed where will one draw the line if remarriage is permitted for desertion of any kind? Have not husbands who are in prison or in an insane institution or who are drunken sots, to all practicable purposes, deserted their mates? Surely they are not supporting their families. They are cut off from their conjugal duties in most instances, and rarely do they have any fervent love and care for their children. “Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth” (James 3:5)! For many years the greatest single cause for divorce in the United States has been desertion. Insofar as the writer knows, this is still true. What a warning this should be to the Church of Christ!
Not only are verses 10 and 11 in contradiction to a liberal view of I Cor. 7:15, but the words of our Lord Jesus Christ on the subject are in contradiction also. In addition, the further word of the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor.7:39 is diametrically opposed. It follows:
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.
Materials Moved to Appendix by “standerinfamilycourt” from Chapter VII :
Comments by various figures were inserted by the author into Chapter VII, Comments on Matthew 19:9, that are contrary to the author’s premises, and which contradict the findings and evidence he had so diligently established. Revered Wells makes a very strong case throughout “Does Divorce Dissolve Marriage?” that failure to terminate an adulterous remarriage for any reason has serious eternal consequences, (which is a well-supported scriptural position). It is entirely possible that this was, nevertheless, an unacceptable position to the Assemblies of God leadership–then as now. The political tension in the excerpt which follows is unmistakeable between Rev. Wells and his boss Rev. Riggs, General Superintendent, who wrote the Foreword to this book. These apparently-inconsistent materials are included here, out of faithfulness to the full text of Reverend Wells’ work:
From pages 48 through 51 (Chapter VII) of the original text….
Many a spouse of an unscriptural union is in deep distress when he (or she) learns through the reading of the Scripture that he (or she) is party to an unscriptural union. A letter written to C. Morse Ward, speaker on Revivaltime, a gospel broadcast of the Assemblies of God, is typical. It follows, in part, as it appeared in The Gospel Gleaners:
Dear Brother Ward,
I have lived in sin and rebellion against God, but now I want to live wholly for Christ no matter what the cost. I have three living husbands, and a voice keeps telling me I should leave the husband to whom I am now married. He says that he does not know what he would do were I to leave him. Am I responsible for this man’s soul? I am restless and constantly haunted that I am living in adultery. I have four married children and I want to be a better testimony to them. My present husband has given me a beautiful home, and we have all the money we need, but how can I enjoy it?
A portion of C. Morse Ward’s answer follows: At the well of Samaria Jesus met a woman who had a similar problem. It is interesting to read that story in the Gospel of John, chapter 4. She had had five husbands and Jesus said of her present companion, ”He whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” There is no direct statement that Jesus sent her back to any one of the five.
Sin tangles our lives to such an extent that although forgiveness can be obtained, certain things can never be straightened out. Paul could never bring back to life the Christians he had slain as Saul, the persecutor. Much of the havoc he wrought in his rage against Christ (Acts 8:3) he could never undo. He simply lived by this rule: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13,14.
It seems to me that there are certain things that you are powerless to undo. It is true that you have your present husband to consider. Do you want to leave him a divorced man? Would he then be clear to marry again? You won’t solve one question by creating a dozen new ones. Entering a sort of Protestant cloister is not the answer to your problem. The answer to your problem is in the words of Jesus to another woman, ”Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” 27
(C. M. Ward: “Letter Column,” Gospel Gleaners, September 2, 1956, Springfield, Missouri, Gospel Publishing House.)
Some conservative teachers of the doctrine of divorce find in I Cor.7:10,11,17 and 20 permission by the Apostle Paul for converted spouses of adulterous unions, contracted before they were regenerated, to remain together. They base their conviction on the Scriptures and reasons which follow. The Apostle said. “And unto the married I command . . . Let not the wife depart from her husband” (I Cor. 7: 10). These teachers reason that this statement has reference to both valid and adulterous marriages, since it is assumed that there must have been many converts in the Corinthian Church who had been married the second time before they were both born of the Spirit, and whose first mates were still living when they entered the Church. Was not Corinth a city notorious for its licentiousness? It is believed by these teachers that the Apostle was referring to Christian spouses of adulterous unions in I Cor. 7: 17, and 20. “Only, let each member go on living in the same condition which the Lord originally allotted to him, and in which he was when he heard God’s call” (I Cor. 7: 17, A. S. Way’s translation). “In whatever condition of life each one heard God’s call, in that let him remain” (I Cor.7:20, A. S. Way). Ralph M. Riggs, the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1956) presents the status of those described thus: When the Passover blood was applied to the door posts and lintels of the Jewish home in Egypt. Jehovah said, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:2). A new life begins at Calvary. Jesus’ cleanses the past and accepts us as we are when we come to Him. “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife” (I Corinthians7, 20, 27), “This is good for the present distress,” Paul said concerning their problems then. The same can be said of our similar problem now. Art thou bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Let the status quo prevail. The past is under the Blood. Start life anew as a new creature in Christ Jesus. To this agree the experiences of many forgiven Blood-bought souls and the witness of the blessed Holy Spirit.
What about the ministry? And what about elected officers in the local church? The Bible makes a distinction. “‘A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife….moreover he must have a good report of them which are without. Likewise let the deacons be the husbands of one wife – blameless” (I Timothy 3:2,7,10,I2). In order to protect His church from reproach and just criticism, He has ordained that they who are mixed in their married relations shall not be conspicuous in church work and church relationships. Let these dear people rejoice in their good fortune of being redeemed and listed among the redeemed, and let them help protect the name and reputation of the church that has accepted them and now constitutes their church home. After all, salvation is the biggest thing in the world. Let us rejoice in God’s mercy and walk humbly with Him.
(Ralph M. Riggs: “Keep Thyself Pure.” The Pentecostal Evangel, (August 5,1956), Springfield,. Missouri. p.4.
In both I Tim. 3 :2 and Tit. 1 :5, 6, the qualification for an elder who is an overseer (bishop) of the church is that he must be “the husband of one wife….Such a statement is believed by some conservatives to provide strong indication that in the early Church there were those who previously had been married to a wife whom they later divorced, and who were now married to another while the first mate was still alive. Such teachers believe that the Apostle Paul had to give the specific exhortation mentioned above lest these converts of adulterous unions be given office in the church. He obviously believed that the marital relationship of these men and women should be recognized as a continuing example of a union not approved by Christ, and thus not to be followed by other believers.
Strange as it may seem, some evangelical church leaders will grant the privilege of holding office in the church to those who marry another, while having a living mate providing the second marriage was consummated before the new birth of the spouses. Others go further and permit spouses of unscriptural unions to have official position in the church even though the marriage was consummated after the regeneration of one or the other or both. They reason that because as in of impurity after conversion is not unforgivable (which is true), therefore the church should be free to accept such into every prerogative and office of the congregation. Had such ministers of the Church of Christ realized the force of the present tense of moichaomai (committeth adultery) in Christ’s divorce texts and had they understood clearly that Christ taught the complete indissolubility of marriage for any cause, they would not have adopted such standards in either would such men have carelessly said that converted remarried divorcees or their converted mates have as much right to elective and appointive public office in the church as a regenerated fornicator or a converted spouse who previous to conversion had committed an isolated act of adultery. Such leaders show they have complete disregard or ignorance of the fact that the unscriptural marriages described above are continuing examples within the church of marriages which are disapproved by Christ. They reveal that they yet do not appreciate the words of Christ:
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder . . . Moses because of the hardness of your hearts “suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so (Matt.19:6,8).
They do not consider carefully the welfare of the unmarried youth of their church and community who will certainly follow the practice of their church more quickly than its precepts. Such young people will thus be encouraged to look upon marriage as a mete matter of convenience for their personal happiness and will be ready, therefore, to dissolve their marriage without fear of God or man whenever they believe that it will be to their advantage to do so. Indeed, they may believe that their church teaches the doctrine of indissolubility, but if the practice of the church contradicts it, they will take the matter lightly, believing that their church implies that the forgiveness of Christ is cheap and that God’s laws may be broken with impunity. Thus, such professing Christians, wittingly or unwittingly, turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4).
God indeed genuinely saves the souls of men and women of unions disapproved by Christ who sin in ignorance during their unregenerate state, but when Christian professors continue deliberately to walk in darkness, they cannot claim I John 1:7. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. ” The passages discussed above (I Cor.7:10, 17, 20, and I Tim.3:2) may give evidence that God tolerates the continuation of an unscriptural marital relationship entered into before conversion, but they do not indicate that, by them, God validates such a union as acceptable and approved by Himself any more than He approved of Israel’s having a king, although He tolerated it. See a fuller treatment of I Cor.7:10,17,20 in the Appendix on pages 108 through 112 and I Tim 3:2 on page162. The texts will there be viewed in the light of their context.
Back to Introduction
Chapters I and II – What is Marriage? / Basic Rules of [Scriptural] Interpretation
Chapters III and IV – Position of the FIVE WORD School / Survey of the Seven Principal Divorce Texts of the New Testament
Chapter V – Comments on Matthew 5:31-32
Chapter VI – Comments on Luke 16:18
Chapter VII – Comments on Matthew 19:9
Chapters VIII and IX – A Study of the Variant Reading of Matt. 19:9 / Comments on Mark 10:11-12
Chapters X and XI – Analysis of Context of Matthew 19:9 / Teaching of the Pauline Divorce Texts
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal No-Fault Divorce!