Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
– 2 Timothy 2:15
For the second time this year, our Facebook page has been messaged concerning a false teaching that has been circulating in a branch of the Mennonite community. In the first instance, a never-married woman had married a Christian man, but appeared to have grown disenchanted with him. Since this man had been very briefly married after eloping on a lark to Vegas prior to that, and the prior civil marriage was civilly-annulled after a matter of days, wife #2 wanted our affirmation of her thoughts to leave this man and remain alone in her contemplated repentance from what she saw as remarriage adultery. She cited Anabaptist materials she had been reading.
We told her it’s not that simple in her borderline situation, where there had been strong indications there was not really mutual consent between this prior pair to leave, cleave and form a home. Hence, there was legitimate question whether an all-knowing God had joined this prior pair into a one-flesh (Greek: sarx mia) entity with which He would then covenant unconditionally. Understandably, she received differing views from equally-committed. solid leaders in the marriage permanence community about whether or not her husband’s prior annulled nuptials in “Sin City – what happens here stays here” constituted holy matrimony. Most cases are pretty cut-and-dried, but this is one of the rare situations that remain questionable, given the circumstances. Ultimately, blessedly, this extrabiblical Anabaptist dogma, though briefly considered by the confused lady, didn’t influence a bad decision on her part. The Holy Spirit ultimately convicted her to stay with her (likely) one-flesh covenant husband whose prior civil “marriage” just didn’t quite come together in Christ, but her own mutually-consenting, leaving-and-cleaving subsequent union entailed valid vows, sobriety, and Christian witnesses. Praise be to God!
In the second instance, a lady told us she had repented and divorced out of a clearly adulterous first marriage with a man divorced from a covenant wife, after she became aware of the true biblical teaching. She went on to marry a never-married Christian man and she mentions they have six children together, but she correctly acknowledged that this circumstance shouldn’t be the deciding factor. She told us that a man in her Christian community is saying this covenant marriage is “unlawful” and she should leave it, which is why she PM’d our page, asking about an article by a different Mennonite or Brethren author raising similar arguments as the first article we rebutted earlier in the year.
Let’s take this second article’s more detailed claims point-by-point to test whether the major premise of this Anabaptist dogma is true, i.e., that someone repenting in fear of God from an adulterous remarriage is equally bound to both (or all) prior spouses, and may not return to any of them, but must remain single and celibate for the remainder of their days, rather than pursue reconciliation with their exclusive God-joined one-flesh partner (with whom God is still uniquely covenanting, per Mal. 2:14).
First however, let’s talk about what constitutes a heresy, because this one might fall a tad short of that, hence we are choosing to call it an error. A heresy has often been defined as an unbiblical or extrabiblical belief or tenet that is so profoundly severe and misleading that if embraced and observed, it will send an otherwise saved person to hell. That seems like a good working definition to “standerinfamilycourt”. The “exception clause”, “Pauline privilege” and “annulment” doctrines, as well as “once-saved-always-saved (“OSAS“) are all clear-cut heresies that can and do send millions to hell from out of our church pews. Observance of this Anabaptist tenet is similar to asceticism in the early church. If embraced and observed, it hinders our walk with the Lord and might lead to the embrace of more serious heresies, but it is unlikely to send adherents to hell, in an of itself. This one likely causes great tragedy in covenant families, because to an emotionally-ravaged victim of the Sexual Revolution who doubts the way forward, this one feels “safe” to adopt. However, satan is still stealing from this person!May the Holy Spirit intervene, convict and correct, so that he doesn’t get away with it! Others may disagree with this category, and that’s fine.
This author begins by asserting:
“Many Mennonites would not tell her [the hypothetical, contemporary “Samaritan woman” who shows up at church] to marry the last partner and go on living with him. They have a different solution. Their answer is that this woman should reunite with her first husband. “The one whom thou first hadst”, they would say, “He is thy husband.”
This logic is based on the following line of thought. The first idea is that only the first marriage was a marriage. When this woman and her first husband divorced, God did not recognize that divorce. These two were still married. When she found a second man, and went through the ritual of marriage, it was no marriage. God only recognized a second relationship as adultery. All subsequent marriages are only adultery. There is nothing to any of the divorces or remarriages. Therefore, if a person desires to be in God’s will, he will seek to return to the first marriage.
But what would Jesus say? “
SIFC: The author is here referring to the conservative Mennonites, but this author himself represents another sect within the Anabaptists, we note. We don’t have to speculate what Jesus would say, because we know what He clearly did say, as well as what Paul said, corroborating Jesus and elaborating on what He said on the matter. We also have the unanimous writings of the early church fathers whom the apostles discipled over the next 400 years after both Jesus and Paul were gone. All of it vindicates those “many Mennonites” this author is disparaging for their absolutely correct view that the God-joined, one-flesh covenant spouse of our youth is the only spouse God recognizes, as long as both shall live. Homosexuals “marry” these days, too. That does not make their unions holy matrimony. Only the exclusive one-flesh state joined by God under valid vows makes the union holy matrimony. Only rebellious man “joins” subsequent unions, and the result in all such cases is satan’s counterfeit, (Greek: hen soma).
So what did Jesus actually say?
And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate….He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “
SIFC: The man leaves his FATHER and MOTHER, not a prior living spouse (to whom he would still be inseverably joined, actually). God took only one rib out of Adam for a reason. The one-flesh (Greek: sarx mia) entity is exclusive and supernatural. It is created only by God’s hand upon valid vows, ahead of the physical consummation. It can only be severed by God’s hand (through physical death alone). To say otherwise is to slander God’s actions and character, to directly contradict His messengers such as Paul and such as Jesus Himself, and to deny what He has clearly revealed about Himself in the whole of scripture. It is to suggest that Jesus the Bridegroom would take and keep more than one church as His bride.
The author continues….
“Let us examine again the words of Jesus and the woman at the well in their conversation related to her marriage situation. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. (John 4:16-18)
“Jesus’ teaching is simple. In essence He said, “You have had five husbands, now you have none. “Jesus did not tell her that her first marriage partner was her husband. He did not investigate who her first partner was who had never been married. He did not inquire who she was married to last. He did not say “This is thy husband.” Rather, after addressing the situation of having had multiple marriages and now living outside marriage, he agreed, “Thou hast well said, I have no husband.” His answer clarifies that the way to holiness in a multiple marriage arrangement is to live without a spouse.”
SIFC: We have previously debunked the abuse of the Samaritan woman narrative because it is also a favorite rationalization of the remarriage apologists who find it hard to resist the fact that contemporary translations appear to render all five men as valid “husbands”, nor can they resist the urge to embellish where John is quite sparing with the details. (This is called speculation.) It should be pretty clear from the context that the indwelling Holy Spirit is not going to allow this woman to continue “shacking up”, but neither is she free to marry the man, since the chances are so high of a surviving covenant husband with whom she is still joined. The conventional argument goes that the account “doesn’t say” that Jesus ordered her to leave her live-in boyfriend. That’s neither here nor there. Immoral relationships always constitute the idolatry of self-worship, so we know that particular relationship she was currently in had to go, with or without civil paper.
Beyond that, we don’t know if her first husband was still alive, maybe so, maybe not. If he was not, that broke the one-flesh binding relationship, but even if he was deceased, we don’t know whether she entered into an adulterous remarriage under Mosaic regulations before or after he died. The argument that Jesus didn’t interrogate her for the circumstances is irrelevant. She was born again, and then sat at His feet, where she no doubt subsequently heard Him teach the one-flesh and unconditional covenant principles. Like all of us, the indwelling Holy Spirit led her to the truth, including the truth about the ministry of reconciliation which, since Jesus commanded, “what God has joined, let no man put asunder” should obviously begin with her one-flesh mate. She would have learned about the requirement to forgive, and the requirement to leave her offering on the altar and first go be reconciled with her brother. She had no husband under man’s law, but we just don’t know whether she still had one under God’s law. We’re just not told, and we have to live with that, without further speculation either way.
“But, and if she does leave, let her remain (Greek: agamos – without a new wedding) or else be reconciled to her husband.” – 1 Cor. 7:11
“How do people ever get to the point where they think a divorced and remarried person should go back to the first companion?”
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate….”
Jesus was here not only saying that man’s divorce is immoral, He was also saying it is impossible in the case of those whom God has supernaturally, instantaneously joined as one flesh. This is consistent with Paul asserting that only death severs that bond, not any other act of men.
“.. from the beginning it has not been this way. ”
There is no Creation account of God establishing a provision for man’s divorce. That was never any part of His metaphysical plan, despite the prevalence of wishful belief to the contrary. Jesus should know, since He was one of the witnesses at the wedding of Adam and Eve. He was there.
This author continues from here with a mostly semantic argument that is the heart of his false belief that all “marriages” are morally interchangeable:
“This conclusion is reached after a person has begun to believe a few half-truths and to build conclusions on them.
“The first half truth is that “God never recognizes divorce.” Once when an individual endeavored to support this he was simply asked, “In what passage do you find that taught?” After thinking a while he had to admit it isn’t taught any where in the Old or New Testaments.”
SIFC: See above. We have just explained precisely where it’s “directly taught”, specifically, Matthew 19:6 and 8. It is also indirectly taught every time Jesus called remarriage ongoing adultery — a sin that is obviously committed by people who are still married. However, because the concept of “divorce” (purported “dissolution” of holy matrimony and purported “severance”, by other than death, of the one-flesh state) is entirely man-contrived, it cannot be true that God NEVER recognizes it. If the “marriage” was never valid to begin with, due to the undissolved union with an estranged one-flesh spouse, or perhaps due to its sodomous basis given recent changes in man’s law, the civil divorce only has its effect for that reason and to that extent. Otherwise, with a God-joined union, man’s divorce has NO kingdom of God effect.
“It is true that God hates divorce, read Malachi 2:16 for this teaching. But every where a person was divorced, the Bible calls it divorce or putting away, and if a new relationship was established it is always called a marriage.
SIFC: A common error is to ignore the clear and obvious context of Malachi 2 so that it can then be claimed that God hates all divorce, and therefore God’s rebuke in this chapter applies to “all” legal marriages. That idea gets a bit problematic when man’s law of marriage no longer reflects any aspect of God’s definition of holy matrimony, and when church leadership long ago showed themselves unwilling to demand church-state alignment as a condition under which they would continue to act as an agent of the state in signing the civil marriage licenses. There is also a contextual leap from the ancient Hebrew concept of “putting away” (immoral abandonment), to the modern adversarial litigation we have today, which is designed to abuse the power of the state to repudiate obligations, confiscate assets and wither parental rights, and so forth, participation in which is a direct violation of 1 Cor. 6:1-8.
Before one can glibly say something like what the author has said about semantically calling both lawful and unlawful unions “marriage”, and biblically immoral (or biblically moral) severance of those unions “divorce”, it is necessary to examine the original texts, as well as the context behind the text, before accepting the English translation at face value. There are literally dozens of Greek and Hebrew words that get translated “divorce” in English. The same God who is claimed to “hate” all divorce still commanded in the book of Ezra that more than 140 unlawful unions with foreign “wives” (who could very well have been mostly polygamous concubines), along with all the children from those “marriages” be “put away”. In those unlawful cases, even though there were children, there was no union technically to “dissolve” and nothing but fornication or adultery to sever. In the case of a biblically lawful marriage, “dissolution” is biblically impossible, and severance of the one-flesh state is accomplished only by death.
Just because a new relationship is established, it does not follow that God supernaturally joins it as described by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6. The “wives” in Ezra are an example of this, mostly because the widespread practice of concurrent polygamy meant that most of these men were already God-joined to the wife of their youth, hence they could not be joined as sarx mia by the hand of God to a second wife, foreign or not. If there’s no sarx mia, there’s no unconditional covenant with God participating, and therefore no holy matrimony. If there’s no holy matrimony, but a living original wife, the subsequent relationship is adultery, and remaining in that relationship is sinful. Continuing to reject one’s holy matrimony union by ongoing abandonment is equally sinful. God called it treachery and violence, warning that a lack of repentance would corrupt a man’s generations. It was not the man-contrived paper, He was rebuking as treachery and violence, it was the actual abandonment.
Even the most casual reading of Malachi 2 shows on its face that God’s rebuke is to the priestly class who were putting away the wife of their youth, in order to enter into an unlawful union with a pagan woman under the guise of “remarriage”. The fact that God expressly says “I stand as a witness between you and the wife of your youth…” shows that He did not accept this subsequent arrangement as a lawful marriage. Nor did He consider the original marriage bond dissolved by either the illicit “get” or the formation of that other relationship. It goes without saying that since the priest remained one-flesh (sarx mia) with the wife of his youth, a bond absolutely unsevered by man’s paper, God did not join that second union, which was only (hen soma) which is no better than the case with the common prostitute Paul speaks of in 1 Cor. 6:16.
God goes on to expressly refer to the cast-off one-flesh wife (post-that legal divorce) as “the companion of your marriage covenant“, saying she IS (not “was“) so. The Hebrew text for Malachi 2:16 shows that the “putting away” that God hates is actually the spiritual, moral and financial abandonment of one’s literal “rib”, of which there is just one, bone-of-his-bones-and-flesh-of-his-flesh, along with the offspring from that union. Saying that God hates “putting way” (Hebrew: shalach) does not necessitate the view that God considers the union “severed” or “dissolved” by the “get”, otherwise He would not be “standing as a witness”, nor demanding repentance of this faithless husband before fellowship with Him can be restored.
What form does that repentance necessarily take if the moral offense is abandonment of the wife of his youth only?
“Some maintain that Jesus taught the second marriage is not a marriage but is only adultery. But they are the ones who put the “only” in the thought, Jesus never did. Jesus said when a divorced person marries again he committeth adultery. But he never said, He only commits adultery. Think about what Jesus was saying in the context. Jesus was speaking to persons who believed adultery was wrong because the seventh commandment says so. What they were confused with was “What is adultery?” They had come to believe there were various legitimate ways to put away one’s companion and remarry.”
SIFC: Jesus did indeed not teach that marrying another while having a living, estranged spouse is “only” adultery, because that would be drastically understating the severity of the sin. In addition to adultery, this sin also reflects idolatry (self-worship), bearing false witness, theft and covetousness, not to even mention the ongoing state of unforgiveness of one’s exclusive one-flesh companion. Instead of saying that non-widowed remarriage was “only” adultery, what He actually said was that this was ongoing adultery. In each account of His saying this, the Greek text records that He consistently used the present-indicative verb tense, reflecting a continuous, ongoing state of sin, and not just an act of sin. It seems apparent the only rogue insertion of the word “only” is by this author!
It doesn’t really matter to the context of the passage what His carnal, deluded audience had “come to believe”. Jesus was there to set them straight, and was declaring a new order with heaven-or-hell consequences. He was hereby raising the moral bar, the religious leaders didn’t like it but were nevertheless subject to it, and that is the full context of the passage.
“When Jesus dealt with the subject of remarriage after divorce, he pronounced a clear “This is adultery” to these people. Obviously He intended they realize divorcing and remarrying could never be acceptable in God’s eyes, all who did so were turned toward judgement. But Jesus never said it was only adultery and not a marriage. Every place the scripture records a person being joined to another after divorce he is said to be married. Read Mark 6, especially verse 17, and Romans 7:1-3, for some illustrations of this.”
SIFC: This is repetition of the same semantic argument, where we dealt just above with the author’s insertion of “only”, but pointed out that Jesus said something much stronger than that it was “only” adultery. The further claim that Jesus “never said it was not a marriage” is completely nonsensical. A continuously sinful state of adultery is mutually exclusive of the state of holy matrimony. If Jesus declared something to be red, one cannot very well argue that it could possibly be blue, just because Jesus didn’t explicitly say it wasn’t blue. The author is trying to have it both ways, claiming that a serially polygamous union can be adultery and “marriage” at the same time. He needs it to be both ways to say (truthfully) in the first instance that the unlawful union needs to be separated from (because it is adultery), and then prop up his false claim that the lawful true marriage must not be reconciled ( because he claims the adultery also a “marriage” which is then presumed morally equivalent to the holy matrimony union). He can’t have it both ways!
Furthermore, the Greek language used by Jesus and Paul for God-joining and carnal, illicit joining was entirely different in every respect.
If someone is already joined by God as part of a one-flesh entity, of which Jesus said they will never again be two (Matt. 19:6), that person is not available for God to join them to another until death severs the existing entity. This is precisely why Paul echoed the same in the Romans 7 passage this author cites, and repeats the assertion in 1 Cor. 7:39.
Mark 6:17 refers to the unlawful serial polygamy between Herod, whose real wife was the daughter of King Aretas of Petra (whom the historian Josephus states that he divorced), and Herodias whose living exclusive one-flesh was Phillip. The claim is that because the passage says that Herod “married” Herodias, the “marriage” was binding as such in God’s eyes. Had the Apostle Mark been recording some point about the legalized nuptials between a pair of homosexuals, what alternative word would he have used to the word “marry”? If Herod had instead “married” a sister or a natural daughter, under wicked civil laws that permitted such, would the semantic word for this have changed? It should be painfully obvious in this day and age that not all “marriage” is holy matrimony, nor is it morally equivalent to holy matrimony.
“So we see that God does recognize divorce, it just is never lawful. And God recognizes a remarriage, but it is an unlawful, or an adulterous marriage.
Therefore, since the second marriage is a marriage, and since the second marriage is not lawful, the only conclusion to this problem is “Thou hast well said I have no husband.” If we say this we agree perfectly with our Lord as he gently prodded the woman toward a life of fulfillment in Himself alone.”
SIFC: God does indeed recognize divorce–as a purely man-made contrivance that becomes a necessary step of repentance from another man-made contrivance called “remarriage”. What God does not recognize is “dissolution” of an unconditional covenant in which He is an unconditional participant for as long as both original spouses live. Jesus said in Matthew 19:6, 8 that divorce of holy matrimony is not only immoral, it’s impossible, because only death dissolves that covenant. But holy matrimony only exists where God has created the one-flesh entity and has become a party to the unconditional covenant. How can a holy God even be accused of covenanting with adultery? Malachi 2:13-14 makes it abundantly clear that He does not!
Once the claim is discredited that what Jesus called adultery is in fact, “marriage” for kingdom of God purposes, it becomes no longer necessary to make the additional false claim that an estranged, rejected wife “has no husband” if she is not actually widowed. Lying is never a solution to any inconvenient dilemma, especially one actually created by the cowardice of clergy. In fact, Rev. 21:8 says that it could land us in the lake of fire if we make speaking falsehood our practice. The life of fulfillment in Him alone applies to all of us regardless of our marital status, and regardless of the intactness of our true marriage.
Besides, Jesus was also speaking to a people who believed they could never return to their first companion. Read Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and Jeremiah 3:1 for this Old Testament teaching. Going back to the first partner wasn’t even in their thinking.
SIFC: The abuse of these two scriptures to support various marriage heresies has been addressed with hermeneutical rigor in our “Stop Abusing Scripture” series. This author has not made much of a consistent attempt to justify his viewpoint hermeneutically, which always leads to sloppy, unsupportable conclusions. Once again, why is it relevant what Christ’s audience erroneously believed if the fact was that Jesus had come to usher in a much higher moral order than what had evolved under layered-on abuses of Mosaic law? Does it matter what was in their thinking, when Christ’s mission was to change their thinking and give them the mind of Christ? Their thinking was “eye-for-an-eye, and tooth-for-a-tooth”, but Jesus was there to change their thinking to leaving vengeance to the Lord. Their thinking was that living in a state of irreconciliation was “just the way it is”, but Jesus said not to even try to worship or offer sacrifice, but to mend the relationship first.
Churches who do not accept Jesus’ teaching on the matter, or are confused on the issue face a perplexing situation. Let us try to follow their line of thinking and see what confusion it begets. We will approach each case as if we believe what they teach. This is very complex so we shall use names that fit in the alphabet with the letter they start with. Lets start down alphabet line with a name like Danny.
Danny is presently remarried to Evelyn. His first wife was named Carrie. Now if Carrie was married before, then according to this teaching, Danny should stay with Evelyn. But if Carrie was not married before, then Danny should break up with Evelyn and seek to be remarried to Carrie. Follow the logic? Simple, right? Only the first marriage is valid according to this thinking.
Let’s take it one step farther. Let’s say Carrie was married before to Ben. Ah, then Carrie and Danny’s marriage was not a marriage. But wait a minute, we didn’t check things out far enough. Ben was married before too. He had married Alice for one month, and divorced to marry Carrie. Now his marriage to Carrie is not legitimate, then Carrie’s marriage to Danny was legitimate so Danny’s marriage to Evelyn is not! And of course if Alice was married before to Zachary, then the whole cart is upset again!
SIFC: Oh what a tangled web we weave! Very well done, Bro. Ebersole! You have described precisely the right approach: identify the one-flesh joining between the first combination of never-married and widowed spouses, who therefore are not inseverably-joined to someone else still living. A famous avoidance tactic of anyone who wants to substitute their own theory for the authoritative and unpopular truth, is to argue to the extreme or exaggerated case. Godless liberals do this all the time to promote the perceived “necessity” of corrupt things like abortion and unilateral divorce. Christ-followers should never sink to this level. They should have far more fear of God, and faith in Him than to resort to this kind of emotional manipulation. Do we not check title on the houses, cars and recreation vehicles we buy? Why to do we do that? Because there’s an outside chance the person selling those items to us is not authorized to do so, and perhaps has even stolen them. We know the law in most places will then make us give them back, and if we didn’t, we’d be breaking the 9th and 10th commandments. Why is the choice of our life partner with whom we hope for an indissoluble covenant, until death do us part, less worthy of this care and prudence in obedience to Christ?
The ultimate source of our human arguments against the clear word of God is actually satan. Who of us truly wants to align with satan? Yes, getting out of adulterous remarriages that never should have desecrated the sanctuary of God in the first place (considering who had full control of that, after all?) is messy, disruptive and makes the church “look bad”. Indeed, it should! It’s not like these commandments were “sprung” on unsuspecting pastors who must now muddle through all this complexity, in order to “seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God” — least of all, Anabaptists. Whom was it who deliberately chose to fear men more than God?
This page has many people contact us with complex situations and seeking answers. This is a great honor and not a burden, but it’s also not a light responsibility to be faithful to God’s word in those answers. If those answers aren’t faithful to rightly-divided scripture, teachers are held to a stricter judgment, James warns. In practice, however, rarely is the complexity of such a situation more than a couple of layers deep. As mentioned above, one situation was borderline due to the length of a civilly-annulled union where it was clear there was no intent for a lifelong union with either partner, and cohabitation was taking place both before and a few days after the faux ceremony. It was not borderline due to any chain of previous faux nuptials.
In the extreme hypothetical example given, one can start at the bottom and work backwards (we’ll keep this skill in mind in case we do get a complex inquiry some day). Alice was made one-flesh with Zachary by the hand of God, regardless of overturned apple carts. They should have obeyed 1 Cor. 6:1-8 rather than go before a pagan judge for a piece of worthless paper. Carrie needs to pray to reconcile and return to her one-flesh, unless he’s dead. If he is dead, she is free to remarry a widow or a never-married person, but not someone else’s estranged spouse. (A person is never-married only if God has never made them one-flesh with an eligible person who is still living.) Ditto for Ben. If it’s truly necessary to draw a picture in order not to defile one’s vessel and misrepresent the Bridegroom before a watching world, then do it! Danny and Evelyn can then enjoy their supernatural one-flesh holy matrimony joining in peace and with a clear conscience, raising any non-covenant children with a biblically-explained righteous example. That does frequently happen because God would rather restore families than send people to hell, and as with all sacrificial obedience to Christ’s hard commandments, it tends to work out a lot better for the next generation than, “do as I say, not as I do.”
This Zachary-Alice-Ben-Carrie-Danny-Evelyn picture is painted from pastor’s perspective with his own “inconvenience” in mind, but what of the responsibility of those contemplating marriage with someone? Is it really that inconvenient to ask a couple of questions first? Questions like, is your “ex” still alive? Yes? Was she married to anyone else before? No? Then have you considered that God wants the two of you to reconcile?” That’s called soul-care! Do you love them enough to also love their eternal soul? After all, since this is a metaphysical matter to which there are no “exceptions”, it is then not necessary to ask a “divorced” prospective spouse things like, did your “ex” commit adultery, abuse you, marry you while you were unsaved, (etc. etc.) ?
“Do you see what we have? We have a situation where the validity of a marriage is determined by whether two persons in an entirely different situation happened to marry or whether they committed fornication over an extended period of time. We have a situation where that means more than the fact that Danny made marriage vows to keep himself only unto both Carrie and to Evelyn.”
SIFC: We dealt at length with invalid vows in the first posting on this erroneous teaching, as well as in our rebuttals of Dr. John Piper’s similar views (i,e., that all vows are equally binding). but would here like to share verbatim what we told the lady who approached us with this Anabaptist article and with the torment of having a Mennonite person tell her that her biblically-valid current marriage was adulterous and must be exited just because this was her second civil husband, without the necessary “inconvenient” inquiry into the facts:
Dear Mrs. P,
It’s quite common, but not actually biblically-supported, to assume that all civil marriages are morally interchangeable and recognized equally by God. That can’t be true at all because nobody who’s ever lived has been joined as part of a one-flesh entity to more than one living person at a time, and God’s character is such that He’s never once cancelled or withdrawn from an unconditional covenant to which He was a party.
However, if Jesus repeatedly called some of the “marriages” He mentioned ONGOING adultery, how can they possibly be holy matrimony at the same time? God only took one rib out of Adam, not two, nor three, nor four.
Would Jesus not say to the gays today “anyone who divorces his one-flesh opposite-sex covenant wife and marries his sodomy partner commits ongoing sodomy, and everyone who marries a divorced man for this purpose commits ongoing sodomy” ?? Jesus would have little choice semantically but to call legalized sodomy a (civil-only) “marriage”, but does that make that civil-only union holy matrimony, as both of these authors argue in the heterosexual case? Are those vows to break the first valid vow really also valid, whether adulterous or sodomous? In other words, would God hold us to vows that dishonors our previous, valid binding holy matrimony vows, and at the same time, to our vows to remain in something that God’s law also says will send us to hell if we die in that state?
Wasn’t part of your vows in both cases to actually live with that person? If you go on living with another woman’s husband, you are interfering with their binding covenant, and with their God-ordained reconciliation. If you don’t go on living with the only man who made a valid and binding vow to you, are you not sinning by making it impossible to fulfill his vow to you?
Consider the unlawful marriages that were purged (with their children) at the Lord’s demand in Ezra, chapter 10. Presumably second vows were made there, too, but that doesn’t mean that they were valid or binding in His sight. In most cases, those were polygamous vows that intrinsically dishonored their concurrent holy matrimony vows. You vowed to your first “husband” to do something that God’s word is clear will send you to hell. That is not a valid vow. Your first “husband’s vow to you was also not a valid vow because he was vowing to not keep his original covenant vow, as well as vowing to do something that the bible says will send him to hell if unrepented. A God of justice and integrity just doesn’t operate that way. Only your second vow was a holy matrimony vow, and it is the only one to which you are morally bound.
Please pray and ask the Holy Spirit if I’m right about that. It’s what the Holy Spirit has shown me. OK?
(Note that the last sentence does not reflect any uncertainty about the response we gave concerning the obligation of vows before God, but an understanding that each person we counsel needs to “own” their own major life-and-eternity-altering decisions, and they must be owned on the heart conviction level, not just the “head’ level. In this case, the lady still had significant doubt about the issue of vows that our explanation of the nature of one-flesh, of God-joining and of unconditional covenant where God is a participant could not dispel. In addition, there is always a soul-tie formed from an illicit sexual relationship that must usually be cast out at some point. We recognize that she needs the space to work though all of this before she will be at peace and not be prey to compelling heresies. We also would tell any unbeliever who comes to us for this kind of counsel to establish a firm saving relationship with Jesus first, and then we can talk about deeper, costlier matters of following Christ.)
Human reasoning substituted for God’s word is called “humanism”, no matter how much it tries to cross-dress as “discipleship”. Failure of His shepherds to be faithful to HIs commandments hardly makes the resulting layers of iniquity “His fault” (or fault attributable to His commandments), as this humanistic reasoning behind the hypothetical situation implies above. It certainly doesn’t merit an extrabiblical “solution” that contradicts the instruction of Christ and the Apostles, most notably, Hermes (A.D. 100).
If scripture didn’t clearly tell us twice that is a heaven-or-hell issue, this author might have a point in his hypothetical. But it is a heaven-or-hell issue, so obedience to it is not debatable, and blame for the manmade complexity of human immorality it is not shiftable from men back to God.
It appears from the false instructions he is advocating (to come out of all the unions, whether God-joined or not), shows that at least this author fears hell and also agrees with true followers of Christ that this is a heaven-or-hell matter. He also shows he further agrees that hell is a place where disobedient “Christians” can still end up. That’s certainly head-and-shoulders above the level of enlightenment among remarriage apologists in the harlot church as a whole, but it’s still erroneous for another reason. Ongoing unforgiveness and lack of moral responsibility for the generations of one’s covenant family can also be a heaven-or-hell issue. Hindrance of the same in the covenant family of one’s faux spouse (in this case, by setting a false example) is likewise sinful and harmful to the covenant generations of that other family. Anyone who has come out of the bondage of a faux marriage should be encouraging that former civil-only spouse to reconcile with their one-flesh partner so far as it depends on them.
Overall, this erroneous teaching is a clever example of satan resurrecting an old trick (namely, asceticism) and tweaking it a bit to see if the church will fall for it again. After all, the last time he trotted it out in the early middle ages, after failing to get it by Paul (see 1 Cor. 7, and don’t overlook the admonition that we are to keep our own spouse), the natural overreaction and backlash to asceticism enabled the pollution of the Reformation with two heresies that have proven very effective in destroying the biblical family and progressively corrupting civil laws ever since (creating the vicious circle the author describes in his last point) : the false belief that born-again people cannot harden their hearts and fall away from their inheritance in the kingdom of God, paired with the equally false belief that God-joined holy matrimony is “dissoluble” by acts of men based on “permissions” and “exceptions” rather than accepting the metaphysical reality that Jesus painted in Matthew 19:6 and 8. This metaphysical reality makes subsequent marriages not resulting from widowed circumstances not ever interchangeable with God-joined holy matrimony.
“In conclusion, how would you answer the woman in Bluffton? Are you willing to gently lead her to the only source for fulfillment in life, and tell her what Jesus said, “Thou hast no husband”? This answer is the only answer the Scriptures provide in order to give a person hope of eternal life.”
SIFC: The woman in Bluffton should absolutely be shown how she’s been substituting all these serial relationships for a true relationship with Jesus Christ, and that no relationship is ever going to succeed until this matter is put in order. Since her one-flesh is still alive, however, to tell her that “she has no husband” just because Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman at the well would be an inexcusable falsehood. It’s entirely possible that it was literally true in her case, or it might be that this woman was thinking that her 4th “get” (Hebrew bill of divorcement) “dissolved” something that had substance to be dissolved in the first place, or actually both circumstances simultaneously. Jesus was perfectly willing to do the work to deal with complex, inconvenient situations, and walk people through them toward righteousness. We, however, have no business telling anyone anything that conflicts the facts or with God’s true word. God’s word is crystal clear that only physical death dissolves holy matrimony and everything else connected with subsequent unions where a one-flesh, God-joined spouse remains alive is adultery. Adultery and holy matrimony are mutually-exclusive and cannot both exist in the same relationship. For the sake of our souls and our partners’ souls, we always flee adultery. We do not flee the responsibility of reconciliation of our covenant family. It is wrong to attempt to superimpose an element of Hebrew culture over this situation as this author has done in an effort to make his extrabiblical prescription “fit”.
This woman should be advised to exit her adulterous relationship, not commit the further idolatry of “marrying” this man, and not enter another adulterous relationship for as long as she lives. If her actual husband dies before reconciling with her, she is then free to marry a never-married man (as clarified above) or a widower. Until then, she should encourage her “exes” to do likewise, and she should pray for the repentance and reconciliation of her one-flesh back to God and then back to her. She may endure a long season of celibacy, and may die celibate and unreconciled. If so, she has still been a purposeful lighthouse as she raised this non-covenant child. If she is blessed with covenant reconciliation, she has been a purposeful lighthouse and redeemed the soul of her one-flesh. This is the only answer that gives her (and everyone around her in this web of relationships) hope of eternal life.
At the time the first lady contacted “standerinfamilycourt”, yet another lady appeared to be reading these materials and embracing them, in this instance while in the process of coming out of an adulterous remarriage, and suffering backlash from some of her children for it. This erroneous teaching appears comforting while under that kind of horrific emotional turmoil, and while knowing that not every one-flesh covenant relationship is restored on this earth. If someone becomes a covenant marriage stander who has themselves committed the sin of divorcing their one-flesh and “marrying” another, even though they’ve repented, somehow there is considerable doubt in their heart that God is capable of that big of a miracle of forgiveness and healing in the heart of their spouse. However, since forgiveness is a heaven-or-hell issue in and of itself (Matthew 18:23-35). that is akin to saying that God willed our spouse to not inherit the kingdom of God. We regularly share miraculous accounts of Almighty God moving mountains to mend a covenant family, sometimes after decades of man’s divorce. If this Anabaptist theory is correct, then those covenant reconciliations that only the hand of the Lord could have brought about are a “sin” against all subsequent adulterous “spouses”. Quite clearly, that cannot be the case.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal Unilateral Divorce!