The summer of 2015 brings not only the pivotal U.S. Supreme Court announcement unilaterally imposing same-sex “marriage” on all 50 states, it brings the annual mass gatherings, and new or revised position statements of various denominations of the body of Christ. The Southern Baptists conference in Columbus, Ohio convened just prior to the SCOTUS ruling, and an ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberty Council) statement followed shortly thereafter reaffirming its official position on marriage.
The Assemblies of God will be gathering in Orlando, Florida in August for their biennial General Council, the first since marriage started to be (re-)redefined, this time by the courts rather than by amoral state legislatures. This gathering will be reminiscent of an earlier sultry August gathering in Florida forty-two years ago. In turn, that 1973 gathering turned out to be reminiscent of a gathering in England more than 300 years earlier called the Westminster Assembly. In both cases, a clear, firm commandment of God concerning the absolute indissolubility of marriage by acts of men was put to a popular vote of carnal, self-interested clerics who found Christ’s instructions to be too unpalatable for their contemporary flocks to live by. The outcome of the vote itself was all too predictable, but the fallout to the witness and integrity of the Church, in each case, took decades or centuries to fully manifest. In both cases, the word of God was twisted and re-interpreted while suspending the normal laws of hermeneutics and simple logic, to accommodate and justify the doctrinal vote. Jesus Christ was never given a vote in either assembly, despite professions of His “lordship”, and as a consequence, the Holy Spirit was displaced as the anointed Interpreter of sacred scripture.
Permanence-of-marriage blogger Neil Novotnak has done an excellent job of pointing out the scriptural and logical flaws in the Westminster Confession. This blog will attempt to do the same with AOG’s 1973 position paper “DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE Application of General Scriptural Principles“ which resulted from a General Council vote in the wake of multistate legislative enactment of unilateral (“no-fault”) divorce, and was approved by the General Presbytery. This popular vote removed official denominational by-laws that proscribed AOG pastors from performing weddings for any couple where either the bride or the groom had an estranged living spouse, and “removed from fellowship” any pastor who knowingly did so. (In the early 2000’s, the AOG quietly made it compulsory for its pastors to perform such weddings as it previously forbade for more than 60 years since inception of the denomination.)
This position paper introduces its Statement of Biblical Principles by citing some statistics,
Barna Group, “New Marriage and Divorce Statistics Released,” [March 31, 2008 – link no longer available]
and by stating:
“It is imperative at such a time that the Christian church clarify, teach, and faithfully uphold what the Bible says about marriage. The Church must also speak biblically to the issue of divorce and remarriage, which occur all too often as one, or both, marital partners abandon their Christian ethical commitments and responsibilities.” (page 1)
SIFC wholeheartedly agrees with the scriptural faithfulness of the first three points in the Statement of Biblical Principles, but begins to have a problem with point #4 (middle of page 2):
4. Marriage is to be sexually consummated. At the Creator’s command, the first man and woman were to “become one flesh” for purposes of procreation, bonding, and mutual pleasure in a safe and loving relationship (Genesis 2:24). Jesus himself reiterated the divine intent (Matthew 19:4,5) and Paul instructed Christian spouses faithfully and regularly to fulfill their sexual responsibilities to each other (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
(1) This description of purpose completely misses the most important purpose for biblical marriage, and neglects to mention that marriage was the very first of God’s sacred symbols, one that is prominently portrayed in almost every book of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, symbols of which God Himself told us He is jealously protective. Marriage was, from its Gen. 2:24 beginning, purposed to represent all of God’s inviolable, irrevocable covenants which were to follow, and also purposed to represent (rather than misrepresent) the relationship of Christ with His bride, the Church, as discussed by Paul in Eph. 5:28-31.
(2) The point #4 AOG discussion of “become one flesh” misses (or deliberately downplays) the most important aspects of what Jesus had to say in Matthew 19 and Mark 10–probably the same chronological occasion–about that process. Indeed, AOG’s text seems to deliberately stop at Matt. 19:5 in order to avoid the conflicting truth in Matt. 19:6:
The exact words of Jesus:
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” ( – according to Matthew)
“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” ( – according to Mark)
These aspects are:
– God does the joining, and He enters the covenant as a participant, reflecting a supernatural and irreversible event, unique to the specific couple.
– “No longer two” occurs before the physical consummation (unless there was prior fornication between them) and is not primarily an ongoing process. Furthermore, this phrase clearly refers to how God henceforth views them in commanding no man to separate.
– The man leaves his father and mother, not a covenant spouse to whom he’s been supernaturally joined by God. The supernatural process is not replicated so long as both spouses live.
Every significant church father uniformly understood this for the first 400 years after Jesus went to the cross, and it was the basis, along with Luke 16:18, for the prior AOG by-laws banning adulterous weddings in the fellowship. St. Augustine perhaps best captured this scripturally-correct (and conveniently-overlooked)understanding:
“There is a ‘conjugal something’ (quiddam conjugale) which continues to exist between spouses so long as both are alive, even if they have separated, such that any second union can meaningfully be called adulterous.”
(3) AOG point #4 also pulls off a slimy, and sadly consistent, trick of the evangelical marriage revisionists of all stripes: they convert a commandment or fact of the Most High God into an “intent.” In so doing, they trivialize the stern warnings against adultery that came repeatedly from the lips of Jesus (such as Matt. 5:28-30), from Paul (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 6:7-8 and Hebrews 13:4), and from John (Rev. 21:8). They quite literally compromise souls out of the fear of man when they should be fearing God, who sovereignly has no “intents”, “designs”, “ideals”, “bests”, nor the like. They ignore the entire thrust of Christ’s sermon on the mount, of abrogating various Mosaic accommodations, His warning that His followers’ righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, and that participation in the kingdom of God is at stake.
(SIFC is aware of no major scriptural issues with AOG’s point #5 dealing with homosexuality, and fervently hopes they are able to stand firm on the word of God in the coming years, suffering as necessary to do so.)
6. God intended marriage to be a permanent union. The man was to depart from his parents’ home in order to “be united to his wife, and … become one flesh” with her (Genesis 2:24). Both Jesus (Matthew 19:5) and Paul (Ephesians 5:31) quoted this passage from Genesis as the foundational premise of marriage. Translating Jesus’ quotation, Matthew used a Greek word for “united (kollaō)” that means “to be glued to, be closely bound to” (Matthew 19:5). Jesus added, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (19:6).
(1) All of what was just said above about point #4 is of equal weight and force here, particularly error (3) above.
(2) Additionally, in the accurate discussion of the Greek root word “kollao” (actual word form used in the passage is κολληθήσεται – kollēthēsetai) above, there is omitted consideration of a contrasting word used in 1 Cor. 6:16-17 in speaking of sexual immorality that is devoid of the supernatural joining by God in Matt. 19:6. But before we go there, let’s mention that Matt. 19:6 is the ONLY usage of kollēthēsetai in canonized scripture (an important fact this is missed when limiting the discussion to the root word “kollao“). Let’s also mention that in Mark 10:7 the word used is “proskollēthēsetai“ προσκολληθήσεται (“cleave to”), which is used only twice in canonized scripture, the other usage being by Paul in articulating the supernatural, symbolic element of covenant joining in Eph. 5:31.
What is the contrasting word for carnal physical joining not accomplished by God but wrought by men in insult to God? It’s kollōmenos κολλώμενος. This is the word for joining that can be undone. In fact, it’s the word for joining that must be undone to be in right standing with God. (The significance of all of this will be reinforced when we get deeper into this errant position paper.)
7. God intended marriage to be monogamous. The Creator’s acts in establishing marriage are focused on one man and one woman. The order of marriage itself (Genesis 2:24) is directed at a monogamous pair, “man” and “wife” being singular. Polygamy did exist in the Old Testament era, of course. The first case was in Cain’s line (Genesis 4:19) with many Old Testaments examples, including some of the patriarchs, to follow. But polygamy is never held up to be the ideal. The Old Testament writers indirectly criticize polygamy by showing the resultant strife (for example, Genesis 21:9,10; 37:2-36; 2 Samuel 13-18). Passages that idealize marriage normally do so by speaking of one husband and one wife (see Psalm 128:3; Proverbs 5:18; 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9). Jesus also affirms that God’s ideal from the beginning was monogamy, speaking of “man” and “wife” in the singular, with the “two” becoming one flesh (Matthew 19:5,6). There is no reference to polygamy as a practice of the Early Church; and, in any event, it would be proscribed for leaders by Paul’s references to a “one woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6).
(1) There’s that slew of wishy-washy “i -words” again! Intent, ideal….idealized…(review again AOG point #4, error (3).
(2) “There is no reference to polygamy as a practice of the Early Church; and, in any event, it would be proscribed for leaders by Paul’s references to a “one woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6).”
In light of the facts established above, that God uniquely and irrevocably joins a non-adulterous pair (i.e. no prior living spouse) never again to be two, but considered one person in His sight, we must consider not only the contextually-recognized type of polygamy (concurrent), but also prevalent type which point #7 of this position paper is aimed to appease (serial or sequential polygamy) . If covenant marriage is indissoluble except by death, as Paul made very clear (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39), and Jesus forcefully stated in Matt. 19:6 / Mark 10:9, then to presume to marry another spouse while the first spouse is alive is serial monogamy or sequential polygamy, take your pick. The LGBT activist community and its supporters, have no problems at all discerning, and loudly voicing, the holes in the AOG’s official witness on this matter, so our denomination’s determined myopia is quite remarkable!
Is it beyond all realm of possibility that there was no mention of polygamy (of either variety), as a practice of the Early Church because what they did practice was holiness? And perhaps Paul meant precisely what he said to Timothy and to Titus, that remarried adulterers (by the standards of Luke 16:18) need not apply as deacon or overseer.
Pre-1973, those aforementioned AOG by-laws read as follows:
“(e) We disapprove of any married minister of the Assemblies of God holding credentials if either minister or spouse has a former companion living. “
We daresay that a sizeable proportion of those in attendance to General Council 2015 in Orlando will be remarried, sequential polygamists who benefitted from the rule change in 1973, whose credentials are no doubt impeccable as one-woman (at a time) men. Greek semantics aside, they will be influential, no doubt, among those casting the next votes on the commandments of Christ versus cultural relevance, if not this year, by 2017 when perhaps concurrent polygamy will be freshly legalized by court decree.
(SIFC is aware of no major scriptural issues with AOG’s points #8, 9 or 10, dealing with the covenant nature, the mutually self-sacrificing nature, or the child-nurturing nature of biblical marriage, other than the vacuous use of those aforementioned “i”-words, so we move on to the AOG’s application of their version of these principles.)
The Nature of Divorce
(Point 1- God Hates Divorce, pages 3-4)…”Divorce was not a part of God’s original intention for humanity. His purposes in marriage are hindered when the marital covenant is deliberately broken. The divine purpose can only be realized as the husband and wife subject themselves to Christ and each other, as described in Ephesians 5:21-31….God’s hatred for divorce, however, is not to be interpreted as condemnation of those who themselves are not at fault, but have been divorced and victimized by the ungodly actions of their spouses. The divorce laws and teachings of the Old Testament were designed to add a measure of protection for the innocent, not to heap guilt upon the victims of circumstances over which they had little or no control.”
The errors: The first sentence is a nefarious understatement, containing one of those “i”-words again. Divorce is an entirely manmade fabrication that purports to do what God expressly denied men any authority to do (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9), to deign to separate a supernaturally-joined one-flesh entity into two again, and remove God’s participation from an unconditional triune covenant. Only death does that (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:39).
The latter part of the statement seems even more nefarious. SIFC knows of no petition for dissolution of that which God says cannot be civilly dissolved that was initiated by any spouse’s actions. SIFC can confidently assure all readers from actual experience in the courtroom that actions, regardless how despicable, have no legal standing whatsoever in “family court” ! Petitions are filed by human persons, whether innocent or guilty of harm against the marriage. Those human persons, all other facts and circumstances aside, are therefore each guilty of rebelling against at least two of the Lord’s commandments, 1 Cor. 6: 1-6, and 1 Cor. 7:10-11 if they are followers of Christ.
Further, the argument that somehow the church’s policies of obedience to 1 Cor. 7:10-11, Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Cor. 7:39, heaps guilt on “victims of circumstances” is sinful on its face, and even worse, is based on nothing but emotions. This behavior has been emulated to great effect by the LGBT activists in the days since, because it works, though it is desperately without merit. Sons and daughters of the King are NEVER hapless victims. Presuming to assume a role as their defender (apparently against taking up the cross of Christ) of such deemed “victims” thrusts church leadership into a role that God intended only for Himself. As alluded to in the last sentence of this statement, Moses also made this error, and was rebuked by Jesus for it: “Moses allowed you to put away your wives because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning, IT WAS NOT SO!”
(We will leave aside for now the additional fact that the Mosaic divorce law applied very narrowly to the Jewish betrothal period, and never applied at all to consummated marriages – discussed fully with the next point below.)
(Point 2- The Law regulated divorce, page 4)…”The Old Testament divorce law was thus a necessary hedge against human sinfulness. The Law provided that, while the husband was the only one who could initiate divorce, he could do so only under carefully prescribed circumstances (Deuteronomy 24:1-4; cf. 22:13-19, 28,29; Genesis 21:8-21).
The regulative nature of the Law is seen in the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees who erred in saying Moses commanded that a man give a certificate of divorce to his wife, thus freeing him to send her away (Matthew 19:1-9). Jesus pointed out that Moses only permitted (epitrepō) them to divorce their wives—but even then not for “every cause” as was commonly practiced at the time (Matthew 19:3,7,8). Jesus accurately read the divorce provisions of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 where the Hebrew is a simple sequence that does not command divorce, but simply recognizes that it happens under certain circumstances.
The errors: We shall have to take a scholarly look at each of the scriptures cited above because most have been notoriously and unfaithfully interpreted over the past 500 years. Given the supremacy God’s design which rarely included any provision for ongoing estrangement between one-flesh spouses, however, we must take exception to the assertion that any manmade contrivance constituted a “necessary hedge” against human sinfulness. Such notions presume an impotent, rather than omnipotent God! The verses cited are typically quoted as “proof” that God generally provided for civil dissolution of marriage in certain circumstances. But looked at more carefully, they are specific courses of action beyond divorce in various specific circumstances, each a unique case and course of Mosaic action.
Further, however, Jesus plainly announced in His sermon on the mount that He was thereby abrogating the Mosaic divorce law in its entirety.
Situation #1 – the unconsummated fiancée, with “some indecency“:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance. Deut. 24:1-4
(the “indecency” was typically a matter of consanguinity and the rules were there due to the Hebrew dowry and bride price. This would not have applied to a consummated marriage because of adultery, for example, occurring after the marriage. The penalty for that offense was stoning to death, which made “divorce” a moot point. That said, because in 6 B.C. the occupying Romans outlawed this practice throughout the empire, including in Israel and Judah, the Pharisees thought–in similar fashion to today’s Pharisees–that this law would serve as a handy compensation. Further note: this scripture is totally irrelevant to Christ’s commandment to be reconciled to our one-flesh covenant spouse, and to release any adultery partners to holiness. )
Situation #2 – the one-time consummation, evidencing prior lack of virginity (or false allegation thereof):
“If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,’ then the girl’s father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. The girl’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, “I did not find your daughter a virgin.” But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. Deut. 22:13-19
This one should be self-explanatory because it is clear on its surface. However, note again that the penalty for betraying the marriage covenant through fornication prior to marriage consummation, since it was warranted in the ketubah, or betrothal contract making the Hebrew bride-to-be legally a wife was stoning, not divorce.
Situation #3 – the unbetrothed rape victim
“If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.” Deut. 22:28-29
We do not see the relevance of this passage to covenant marriage but see that it was included, apparently, because of its mention of “divorce”. But while we’re on the subject, the Hebrew root word here is “shalach” which means “send away”. This is very different from civil divorce of today because it could be accomplished without any civil authority, unless there were extenuating circumstances such as in this instance.
Situation #4 – the repudiated concubine, cast out by the covenant wife
Without pasting in this long passage, Genesis 21:8-21, we will simply link to it, which is the story of Sarah sending Hagar away with her illegitimate son. We again do not see any relevance to the point being made in the paper, but it does appear to be another usage of “shalach“. If anything, it strengthens the inviolable and indissoluble rights of the covenant family which God mandated from the beginning. It shows that in the case of a concubine who was a personal maid, the husband was not the only one who could “put away” or “send away”.
(Point 3 – Jesus forbade divorce as contrary to God’s will and word, page 4)… SIFC agrees with this point in all respects, as stated.
(Point 4 – Paul forbade Christian couples to divorce….page 4)… SIFC substantially agrees with this point except for the subtle inference that there would be valid reasons to divorce a covenant spouse. The only valid reason to seek to be severed from any spouse would be to reconcile with a covenant spouse after realizing from Christ’s and Paul’s teachings that a subsequent civil marriage was adulterous.
(Point 5 – Paul forbade Christians to take the initiative in divorce simply because their partner was an unbeliever….pages 4-5)… “While making every effort to preserve the marriage, when the unbelieving spouse was definitely unwilling to continue, the believer should not, at all costs, attempt to restrain him/her. In these cases, abandonment, by implication, may be interpreted as grounds for divorce and remarriage.”
The last statement is patently false, conflicting with many other scriptures including 1 Cor. 7:11 and 7:39 within the same passage, but expressly conflicting with the law of indissolubility of covenant marriage except by death. Jesus bluntly stated at least three times that such a remarriage would constitute ongoing adultery per Luke 16:18; Matt. 5:32; and Matt. 19:9 (faithful texts). Dropping the inference in this false assertion, and instead taking our direction from Jesus and Paul, it eliminates the relevance of the awkward question that would otherwise go begging in this day of adulterous cohabitation and unilateral divorce, “what happens if you are abandoned by a believing spouse”?
Point 6 – Jesus permitted a Christian to initiate a divorce when “marital unfaithfulness” was involved…..page 5) Jesus did nothing of the sort! Both this assertion and its alleged support is deeply problematic on many levels. In 1957, Rev. Milton T. Wells, president of AOG’s Eastern Bible College (now Valley Forge University) wrote a scholarly book whose foreword was by none other than AOG’s General Superintendent at the time. This book, obtained from the Flower Pentecostal Heritage archives operated by AOG, is now in the public domain and is carried in its entirety on this blog. For an intellectually honest, faithfully rigorous, and hermeneutically-sound treatment of the arguments presented in Point 6, we refer the reader to this book, where exactly the opposite conclusions are reached.
AOG- 1973: The Greek word translated “marital unfaithfulness” in these passages is porneia,which would certainly include adultery in the context of these sayings (a pornē was a prostitute). However, porneia is a broad term for sexual immorality of various kinds, often habitual, both before and after marriage (Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:18; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
This definition of “porneia”, whose Greek root, “porne” means to sell-off in the sense of commercial prostitution, is often cited by contemporary scholars as being a broadly inclusive heading of “sexual immorality”. However, there is significant evidence from 12 different lexicons and bible dictionaries / commentaries written prior to 1850 or so, that this definition has since been manipulated by translators with an agenda to falsely include immoral acts by married persons, where it originally applied only to various acts of immorality by unmarried persons. That’s why the older translations, including the Douay-Reims, the Geneva Bible, in addition to the King James version all translated “porneia” as “whoredom” or “fornication”, and treated it separately from adultery, as did both Jesus and Paul very consistently. Such treatment would be consistent with the discussions above of Deuteronomy 22 and 24 passages that deal only with an unconsummated or single-consummation bride situation. Rev. Wells was aware of this in 1957, and he discussed the same in his book. Other than relying on untrustworthy translation, this aspect of Point 6 is purely fabricated.
AOG- 1973: (Jesus did differentiate between porneia and moicheia elsewhere [Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21] and the verb moicheuō is used in Matthew 5:32;19:9 to describe the actions of the sinful party who forces the divorce without a valid cause.)
These statements are all true. However, Jesus made it plain that there is NEVER a valid cause for divorce of a one-flesh covenant marriage under any circumstances, unlike an adulterous union in which God is not a covenant participant. Since Jesus was clearly talking about the covenant wife it is immaterial whether she was innocent or guilty of premarital immorality. If she was guilty, He is merely saying it wasn’t the husband who caused her to be guilty, but the time frame to “put away” such a wife has lapsed. If she is innocent, He is saying that the husband is forcing her into probable adultery by rejecting and abandoning her, so that he’s guilty not only of his own sin, but hers as well. In any event, He is saying that an otherwise-innocent man who marries somebody else’s discarded wife commits adultery. In other words, the innocent spouse may not remarry without also committing ongoing adultery. Unrepentant adultery sends people to hell. Inexplicably, AOG appears here to be correctly stating all of the objective facts, but not reaching a conclusion that those facts objectively support.
AOG – 1973: In Matthew 5:31,32 and 19:8,9, Jesus spoke of the man’s initiative in divorcing an immoral partner. In Jewish society, normally, only the man had that legal right—though certain upper-class women, as Herodias, seem to have done so (Matthew 14:3; note that in Mark 10:11,12, Jesus warns both sexes against groundless divorces). Clearly, the spiritual principle applies for either men or women. Moreover, it should be noted that Jesus granted permission to divorce only under specific circumstances where sexual immorality was involved. He did not, however, issue a command to divorce, since such action would rule out any possibility of reconciliation…..
It is seldom, if ever, that any single passage gives all aspects of truth on any single theme. To come to an understanding of any truth, we must take the whole of what the Bible teaches, and that is the intent of this paper.”
Jesus did indeed speak of the man’s initiative in divorcing an allegedly immoral partner, but said absolutely nothing that would condone it. Jesus considered all covenant marriages indissoluble except by death, and not at all dissoluble by men. The statement that divorce rules out any possibility of reconciliation is patently false and without biblical justification. Many such couples reconcile and remarry their covenant spouse, as only this is repentance in God’s will.
It is also true that to rightly divide God’s word we must compare with the whole of what the Bible teaches, in context, with correct language translation, consideration of cultural factors, and comparison with all other scripture on the same topic. When this is done, the faulty rendering of Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9 to contrive an “exception clause” has even less support. Where is the comparison with Luke 16:18? Or with Malachi 2? Or Matt. 19:6? Or Mark 10:9?
The “Right” to Remarry
Pages 6 and 7 then launch into a 6-point attempt to recast what Jesus three times called adultery (Matt. 5:32; Matt. 19:9 and Luke 16:18 – “whoever marries one who has been put away commits [ongoing] adultery’) as biblically lawful establishment of a “new covenant” for the “innocent spouse”. This is very odd, because if the guilty spouse cannot remarry by this logic because the marriage covenant is undissolved, neither may the other spouse, innocent or guilty, with whom the marriage covenant is also undissolved remarry. As Rev. Wells succinctly put it: “We know of no one-sided marriages.” These are all the same false arguments we’ve already discredited above, until Points 5(b) and 6 which we will address here.
AOG 1973: Point 5b, page 7: “The objection sometimes is made that two passages, Romans 7:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:39, specifically say a woman is bound to her husband until death; therefore, believers may not divorce or remarry short of the death of their spouse.
Romans 7:1-3—A careful examination of the context shows that Paul’s point is to illustrate the believer’s freedom from the Law. In ancient Judaism, only the husband could initiate divorce. Therefore, his wife was bound to him as long as she lived, unless, of course, he chose to divorce her. Paul’s point is to show that the believer has died to the Law and is now alive to serve in the new way of the Spirit. The passage was not intended to address the problems of divorce and remarriage.
1 Corinthians 7:39—This verse appears to refer back to verses 8,9 which deal with those who have never married as well as with widows. So Paul is addressing widows whose husbands have passed away. The passage does not deal with the question of divorce and remarriage. Moreover, Paul has already addressed the problem of abandonment in verse 15 and shown that “A believing man or woman is not bound [that is, free to remarry] in such circumstances.”
Both arguments constitute presumptions and deceitful rationalizations. Both presume that divorce of a one-flesh covenant marriage can be accomplished, to begin with, in the courthouse of heaven, and such dissolution deemed valid there. Jesus spoke very forcefully that this was never the case. As we are seeing to an ever-increasing degree, civil law is one thing; God’s law is something else entirely.
There are five “C” ‘s involved in the principles of sound hermeneutics, and context is indeed one of them. But it does not follow in either the case of Romans 7:2-3 or 1 Cor. 7:39 that just because Paul is using Christ’s law of marriage in an analogy about something else, that the meaning is in that case taken out of context. It clearly is not out of context here. Its meaning, perfectly consistent with a preponderance of other OT and NT scripture, remains completely valid in this context by valid deductive reasoning (as contrasted with the widespread use of inductive reasoning attempted throughout this paper). To dismissively claim that these verses “do not address divorce and remarriage” is false on its surface:
Romans 7:3 “ So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.”
1 Cor. 7:39 “but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
Lastly, we need to deal with the assertion that “Paul has already addressed the problem of abandonment in verse 15 and shown that “A believing man or woman is not bound [that is, free to remarry] in such circumstances.” The presumption, blatantly contrary to both 1 Cor. 7:11 and 39, that an abandoned spouse is “free to remarry” is underpinned by a false translation of the word “bound” in verse 15, and by inferior inductive reasoning, when the facts are present to reach the opposite conclusion via deductive reasoning . In point 4 on page 6, this paper correctly renders this word as “douloo” meaning “not enslaved”, but fails to note that this is not the actual word for “marriage bond” that Paul used in verse 39 and in Romans 7:2. That Greek word is “deo“. Unless marriage is to be deemed to be “enslavement”, and in light of the conflict with the surrounding verses, it is not scholarly to infer a right to remarry from the usage of the word “douloo“. That would be inconsistent with the foundational principle that only death breaks the marriage covenant bond.
AOG 1973: Point 6, page 7: “Remarriage establishes a new marriage covenant. While Scripture makes it clear that errant spouses who sinfully break their marriage covenant do commit adultery, Scripture never places such guilt on the innocent partner. Those who argue that an innocent believer continuously commits sin by living in a new marriage have not a single shred of biblical evidence. Jesus clearly assumed that those who were divorced by sinful spouses, or those who divorced sinful spouses for “marital uncleanness” or abandonment, were free to remarry without any tinge of adultery. However, believers are to remarry one who“belong[s] to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) and the new marriage covenant is to be permanent.”
This is by far the most egregious statement in the position paper, having moved from unscholarly and misinformed to inexcusably slanderous of God’s character in covenant. God does not break any covenant in which He participates, nor does He enter into a duplicitous covenant at the expense of the first. There is no evidence offered in support of this slanderous statement, because there cannot exist such evidence. However, our previous blog addressed God’s character in covenant extensively with strong scholarly support.
The statement above that “Scripture never places such guilt on the innocent partner” is emotionally-charged and assumes an unhelpful perspective. While Jesus would not have sought to place “guilt” on anyone, He would bring conviction on everyone. He meant no malice when He stated, “whoever marries one who has been put away commits [ongoing – per the present-indicative verb tense] adultery.” He was merely stating that the marriage covenant is dissolved only by death, without exceptions. As for the allegation that there is not a “single shred of biblical evidence…that an innocent believer continuously commits sin by living in a new marriage”, we certainly have the Greek interlinear translations with Greek verb tense, for all three passages where Jesus made the clear statement, “whoever marries one who has been put away commits adultery“, Matthew 19:9, Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18. In each case, it’s the present-indicative form used for an ongoing state. Rev. Wells confirms this in his book by quoting two Greek linguistic experts. The words of Jesus repeated on three separate occasions is incontrovertible evidence to most. Jesus spoke of the state of being eunuch for the kingdom of God right after He dismayed His disciples that they could not put away their wives for any cause, including adultery, and expect to remarry without being guilty of living in an ongoing state of adultery due to the undissolved original marriage covenant that is neither dissolved by civil divorce nor adultery nor remarriage. There should therefore be far more concern for that innocent spouse’s soul than for their “rights” and feelings.
Anyone who has remarried adulterously, whether solemnized in church or otherwise, dare not stay in such a union or consider it permanent. Paul stated repeatedly that unrepentant adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God, and that God avenges the adulterous defilers of the marriage bed. Jesus Himself said that it is better to gouge out an eye or sever a hand than miss heaven due to carnality, and made it clear that failure to forgive anyone, much less the one person on earth with whom we are one-flesh, will forfeit one’s own forgiveness by God. James warned that teachers of the law will be held to a higher level of judgment than those they mislead. This would certainly include those who counsel and seal people into the ongoing state of adultery by performing such weddings.
The remainder of the 1973 Position Paper discusses eligibility for leadership and for church offices, generally following the unscriptural standards set out above, and disagreeing that the ongoing state of remarriage adultery jeopardizes the members’ salvation. To that extent, these positions are at odds with instructions by Paul that such office-holders maintain their own households in good order, and be the husband of one wife, since adulterously remarried partners are serial polygamists due to the indissolubility by men of their original marriage bond.
In closing, we have now had occasion to observe whether the persecution and shame brought by the desecration of civil marriage due to legalizing same-sex nuptuals by judicial fiat, devoid of God’s redeeming intervention, would be enough to bring the church under godly sorrow, self examination and contrite repentance. So far, this has not been the case. In these couple of weeks the evangelical airwaves have been full of sermons drawing quite valid parallels with the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, while citing the warnings in Deuteronomy 28, and the resulting exile, but nobody is yet willing to admit it was due to Asherah worship by heterosexuals within the church. Nobody yet is talking about the moral purge that was carried out under the prophet Ezra that began with the shepherds of God.
We shall have to see whether the expected ascendancy of concurrent polygamists’ “rights” to further redefine civil marriage help the church to recognize its own practices sequential polygamy, and to repent, before the destruction of our nation becomes final in the Lord’s hand. Two other societies in history, prior to contemporary times, enacted unilateral divorce laws equivalent to those in the U.S., the Eastern Roman / Byzantine Empire, and Bolshevik Russia. Both societies failed within two generations because the church failed to be the church in standing against it.
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal No-Fault Divorce!