"To testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
**PUBLISHED AS A MISSION PROJECT OF PILGRIMS HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH**
February 1, 1991, Issue Complete
In this Issue:
BIGAMISTS AMONG BAPTISTS???
DIVORCE: DOES IT DISSOLVE A MARRIAGE
Bouquets and Brickbats
BIGAMISTS AMONG BAPTISTS???
DOES ONE WHO IS DIVORCED AND REMARRIED HAVE TWO LIVING WIVES?
Note: The following article was first written in November, 1971. It is presented
here with some revision to take it out of the exact context in which it
GREAT DEAL OF SMOKE;
MUCH REAL FIRE?
am fully aware of the potential charges that will be brought against me for this
article and, perhaps, this issue of the paper. There is an article in this issue
by Bro. Billy Holladay along the same line as the one which follows that was
written by this editor in 1971.
let me assure our readers that neither of the writers, Bro. Holladay nor the
editor, have ever been divorced. We both remain with the brides of our youth.
Never have I loved my wife any more than I love her today, and I suspect the
same is true of Billy and his love for Lucy. Neither
of us anticipate divorce and remarriage. It is my opinion that there is a
great deal of smoke and not a great deal of fire that is stirred up on this
issue and there needs to be something said by someone who is not divorced and
remarried, and therefore cannot be accused of grinding his own ax.
these articles should not be construed to suggest that we condone divorce, or
encourage it. We deplore modern society's practice of "Divorce For Any
Cause" or "No‑Fault Divorce."
has been a great deal of division among Baptists over loose and extra-Biblical
interpretations of the teaching of God on divorce. With a cool head, and open
mind, and without self-righteousness, prejudice, or self-serving in mind, we can
approach this subject and learn what the Bible really teaches about it.
HATRED OF DIVORCE
was the practice of the Jews that a man could put away his wife for any cause.
Some of the greatest wife abuse ever committed was under this outrageous
practice. If a woman "burned her husbands biscuits" she could be out
of the house before lunch-time, a divorced and abandoned woman. It is most
evident that God does not approve and encourage divorce. The Bible declares,
"For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away
[divorce]" (Mal. 2:16).
would be very erroneous to teach that one could put away his wife for any,
cause, as was taught and practiced at the time of the prophet, Malachi. It is
wrong to suggest that God has changed his view of this casual view of the
sanctity of the marital estate. The one who puts away his wife and marries
another without Biblical grounds commits adultery. He has broken God's law. But,
is that person more guilty of sin than a murderer? "For whosoever shall
keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Ja.
is likewise wrong for one to add to the Scriptures. Some contend that a person
who has been divorced and has married again "has two living wives." It
is easier to assert this than it is to prove it by the Bible. When God divorced
Israel, she was no longer his wife. He said, ". . . she is not my wife,
neither am I her husband . . ." (Hos. 2:2). What did God say of divorced
Israel? He said, "SHE IS NOT MY WIFE." What did God say of his own
relationship to Israel? He said, "I am not her husband." Are not such
statements by God himself rather revealing? His position was that his divorce
from Israel meant that she ceased to be his wife. His divorce from Israel meant
that he ceased to be her husband. In the light of this, is it not contrary to
Scripture to speak of a man who has divorced a woman and married another as
having "two living wives." When God divorced Israel, she was no longer
his wife and he was no longer her husband.
HARLOT OF SAMARIA
with me to the city of Sychar in Samaria. There is a well in the midst of the
city that supplies water to the inhabitants. One day our Saviour sits by that
well and asks water of a wicked, scarlet woman who is makes her living by
selling her body to men. After he asks for water, he begins to talk to this
woman. At a point in the discussion with her he tells her, "Go, call thy
husband, and come hither."
woman promptly answered, "I have no husband."
replies, "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
question: "Had all five of the husbands of this woman died
already?" I seriously doubt that they had. Given her manner of life, and
what we know about folk of such immorality, I doubt that anyone would argue that
all had died. Jesus certainly does not suggest such. He is revealing to her, her
sinful way of life. Later she would refer to him as a man "which told me
all things that ever I did." Judging from the context and the manner of
life of this woman, as well as her declaration, it seems perfectly obvious that
this woman had divorced some, if not all of the five husbands whom she had had.
Yet, our Lord declared, "Thou hast well said, I have no husband."
Again he said of her claim of having no husband, "In that saidst thou
am forced to one of two conclusions. I must conclude, in spite of all the
implications otherwise, that this woman had lost five husbands to the grim
reaper. Or, I must conclude that, if she divorced even two of those five, Jesus
did not consider her to have "two living husbands." It is perfectly
conceivable that all five of her former husbands were still living, considering
the life she led. Yet, Jesus declares that she has answered truly when she said,
"I have No husband."
some of the saints at Corinth guilty of "living in adultery"? Did some
of them have "two (or more) living wives." It is entirely possible
some of them had more than one wife for that was a polygamous area and there is
no command in the New Testament for a man who was married to two or three women
to put away all but one when he was converted. He could not be a pastor and a
polygamist, but he could be a Christian and a polygamist if that were his state
at the time of conversion.
of the Corinthians had been adulterers and fornicators before their salvation,
but they were no longer such. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not
inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters,
nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor
thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall
inherit the kingdom of God. AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU: but ye are washed, but ye
are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the
Spirit of our God" (I Cor. 6:9‑11).
a man who is married, divorced, and remarried is "living
in adultery", as some argue, he must still be lost, for God will not
save one in his sins. He could not be a church member if he is "living
in adultery" for such are not to be members of a church of the Lord Jesus
have long beheld an amazing inconsistency among Baptists, especially Baptist
preachers. Some will argue that one who is divorced and remarried is
"living in adultery" and has "two (or more) living wives (or
husbands)." It is argued that such cannot possibly be fit to preach or to
pastor because they are "living in adultery" and are "two
some of these same advocates of this extra-scriptural position will receive such
into their congregations as members. Some, and I know this to be fact, will even
encourage and perform marriages for divorced persons, while, all the time,
holding that such are "living in adultery" and have "two living
the divorced and remarried person is living in adultery, true repentance of that
sin would demand that he forsake that sin and do whatever is necessary to
correct it. Consistency would demand that the preacher who holds that such a
person is "living in adultery" tell him that the only way that he can
truly repent is to correct the matter, and, therefore, the only way to be saved
is to do what is necessary to get out of the adulterous circumstance.
divorced and remarried people are, or can be saved, can they be members of a New
Testament church? If one insists that such people are "living in
adultery" he could not receive them as members of his congregation,
scripturally. If a person who is a member of his church gets a divorce and
becomes remarried, consistency demands that he be disciplined and not received
back until the circumstance is corrected. One who is "living in
adultery" is disqualified for fellowship in a New Testament church.
THE CLEANSING POWER OF THE BLOOD
see another problem, also. It amounts to limiting the cleansing power of the
blood of the sinless Son of God. Here is a person who committed fornication. He
is saved. Is he still a fornicator? Or, he was saved when he committed the sin.
He repents and asks God's forgiveness. Is he still a fornicator?
is another person. He commits murder. He is saved. Or he may be saved and
commits murder. He repents. Can he receive forgiveness? Is he still a murderer?
is another person. He gets a divorce and remarries. He is saved. Is he still an
adulterer? Did God forgive him for everything but the adultery?
is yet another person. He is saved. He is divorced. He marries again. He repents
of the sin involved in that and asks God's forgiveness. Does he continue to
"live in adultery"? Does he have "two living wives?"
we confess our sins does the blood of Jesus Christ cleanse from all sin except
adultery? Is the stain of adultery so deep and the sin so grievous that it is
beyond the cleansing power of the precious blood of Christ? NO!!
A thousand times, NO!!! The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all
divorce and remarriage the unpardonable sin? Can one who is in that state be
saved, washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus? Of those
guilty of such immoralities at Corinth, Paul said, "And such WERE some of
you: BUT ye are washed, BUT ye are sanctified, BUT ye are justified."
we espouse the idea that one who has divorced one wife and married another has
"two living wives," we would need to see the scriptures which declare
the same. I ask for the very word of scripture that declares such. I ask,
"When God divorced Israel was she still his wife and was he still her
husband"? I ask, "If you will grant that the harlot of Samaria had
divorced at least one of the five husbands whom she had had, did she have 'one
living husband' even though Jesus said she told the truth when she claimed that
she had no Husband?"
I can espouse the idea that one who has been divorced and has married another is
"living in adultery," I must have the scripture which declares such.
THERE SCRIPTURAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE; DO SUCH NOT ALLOW FOR REMARRIAGE?
who teach that those who been divorced and remarried are "living in
adultery" and have "two living wives" must hold that there are no
scriptural grounds for divorce. For, if there be scriptural grounds for divorce;
one must also be free to remarry.
two occasions Jesus declared that there is an exception to the bans on
divorce—fornication. (Matt. 5:31; 19:9). Some even deny this exception. They
do so when they teach that one who remarries after such a divorce still has
"two living wives" and is "living in adultery." One takes
from and adds to the scripture when teaching such.
should likewise be pointed out that Paul made another exception. If a Christian
is married to an unbeliever, and the unbeliever
desires to depart, the Christian is no longer under the bonds of marriage
but is free. "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 to dwell with her, let her not leave him . . . but if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in
such cases" (I Cor. 7:12-15).
such a person is no longer under the bonds of marriage, he or she is free to
remarry. This person is not obligated to remain unmarried, but is free and could
remarry. Since the departure and desertion of the unbeliever is a breach of the
marriage contract, the brother or sister could not be said to have a husband or
wife. If they married another, they could not be charged (scripturally, at
least) with having "two living wives" or "two living
HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE
now, someone is saying, "But, Bro. Camp, what about the qualification of a
pastor. Does Paul not say that he must be the husband of one wife. Certainly!
But, this qualification has absolutely nothing to do with the question of
marriage and divorce. This is evident from the historical context of this
scripture. It will also be shown by a study of the language as interpreted by
recognized language scholars.
setting. The historical setting of the scripture is especially significant
to understanding what Paul is teaching on the matter. Timothy was in Ephesus, an
old and historical area and city of the world. For centuries the people
practiced polygamy. The practice was outlawed in 1964 A. D., less than thirty
years ago. It was not totally abandoned then. When I was there in 1971, a guide
assured me that many still secretly maintained the practice.
Paul established the church in Ephesus, many of these polygamists were saved. NOWHERE
in scripture are they
commanded to desert their wives and children. NOT ONE SCRIPTURE can be produced that required that they cast away
all their wives but one. Here is a man who has lived his life as a pagan. He has
married four wives. He and his wives hear Paul preach the gospel and are saved.
They are baptized and become members of the church at Ephesus. The man cannot be
a pastor but he can be a member of the church.
indicates that it would be better, if a man could contain himself without lust,
if a pastor were unmarried. God intended that no man have more than one wife,
but polygamy was practiced by some great men of faith—Abraham, Jacob, David,
etc. In order to restore the monogamous state of marriage among his people, God
declared, through the pen of Paul, that the pastor must not be a polygamist. He
must be married to one wife, not two or more at the same time. That is the
Language. The next evidence is that of the language itself. There is
absolutely nothing in the language that would indicate that Paul had the
question of a divorced and remarried person in mind when he wrote this
qualification. This is a meaning that has been forced on this by men, sincere
and honest men.
the expression, 'one wife,'' found in the pastor's qualifications, Dr. A. T.
Robertson, a Baptist and Greek scholar of world renown (One Campbellite declared
him to be the greatest Greek scholar to live in the last two hundred years),
says, "Of one wife (MIAS GUNAIKOS). One at a time, clearly" (Word Pictures In the New Testament,
Vol. IV, p. 572).
Barnes, author of the popular Barnes' Notes held the same position and
gives the following three reasons. "(1) It, is the most obvious meaning of
the language, and it would doubtless be thus understood by those to whom it was
addressed. At a time when polygamy was not uncommon, to say that a man should
one wife' would be naturally understood as prohibiting polygamy. (2) The
marriage of a second wife, after the death of the first, is nowhere spoken of in
the scriptures as wrong. The marriage of a widow to a second husband is
expressly declared to be proper (I Cor. vii., 39); and it is not unfair to infer
from that permission that it is equally lawful and proper for a man to marry the
second time. But if it is lawful for any man, it is right for a minister of the
gospel. No reason can be assigned against such marriages in his case, which
would not be equally valid in any other . . . (3) There was a special propriety
in the prohibition, if understood as prohibiting
polygamy. It is known that it was extensively practiced, and was not
regarded as unlawful. Yet one design of the gospel was to restore the marriage
relation to its primitive condition; and though it might not have seemed
absolutely necessary to require every man who came into the church to divorce
his wives, if he had more than one, yet, in order to fix a brand on this
irregular practice, it might have been deemed desirable to require of the
ministers of the gospel that they should have but one wife. Thus the practice of
would gradually come to be regarded as dishonorable and improper, and
the example and influence of the ministry would tend to introduce correct views
in regard to the nature of this relation (Vol. Thes-Phil., Pp. 142-143).
P. Simmons says of the pastor: "He is to be the husband of one wife. Of
course this means that he is to be husband of but
one at a time."
E. Burroughs, wrote concerning this qualification, "There is a natural
difficulty in our day with our laws and institutions in understanding this
injunction. In our day it could be safely taken for granted that no man would be
considered for the office of deacon (he was writing about deacons) who is a polygamist.
Our present situation and the honor in which the marriage relation is held are
direct fruits of the gospel. Plurality of wives was common in Paul's day. Converts from
heathenism, in fairness to all the interests involved, could not be expected
summarily to give up this heathen practice. Readjustments were made then, as
they have been made in many mission fields since, gradually and in ways to care
for justice and propriety. Men with a plurality of wives were often received in
the churches. The practice was, of course, abhorrent to the teaching of Jesus,
and was in all cases to be discouraged and discontinued. Paul stipulated that
the deacon, if he is a married man, shall be the husband of but one wife" (Honoring
the Deaconship, P. 30).
Manual for Baptist Churches, Cobb says, "He must have [Note
the present tense) one wife."
Clarke, the commentator says, "He should be a married man, and not a
is the testimony of several men concerning the language used by Paul and the
Holy Spirit when declaring that the pastor must be the husband of one wife.
Those who read the divorce issue into this declaration should reconsider their
position. One of the problems which we often have in interpretation of scripture
is the difference in custom and practice now and at the time that the scripture
were being penned. It is very obvious that Paul had polygamy
in mind, not divorce and remarriage, when he wrote this qualification
for a pastor.
DIVISION, A SHAME
is a shame that churches and ministers will divide over this issue. These
divisions are usually caused by those who hold extra-biblical views on these
matters, or by someone who has an ax to grind because he, himself, is married,
divorced, and remarried.
have been asked, "How could one, who was divorced and has married another,
be effective in counseling young people to live pure lives and be faithful to
their marriage vows when he has 'two living wives'?"
if he truly has "two
living wives" he is a bigamist and should be excluded from the
body, the church, along with every man and woman in the church who are in the
same circumstance. He should then be prosecuted in the courts of our land
because our laws forbid bigamy.
if having committed adultery disqualifies one from the ministry forever,
regardless of repentance, what about the man who committed adultery while
the unpardonable sin in getting a license? What
about the man who has looked upon a woman and lusted after her? He has committed
adultery, in his heart. Those without sin may cast the first stone. Is this man
disqualified? The same word (commit)
is used in Matt. 5:28 and in Matt. 19:9. The man who looks on a woman to
lust after here "hath committed
adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). "Whosoever
shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth
adultery" (Matt. 19:9).
if having committed adultery disqualifies a man to counsel young people
concerning purity and their marriage vows, would not other sins have a similar
effect? Would not the murderer and persecutor, Paul, be disqualified from
counseling people about murder and persecution? We will just have to mark off
Gal. 5:19-21 and I Tim. 1:9 because Paul was not qualified to discuss such
matters, having been guilty of them himself. One wonders why the Holy Spirit
would use Paul, a blasphemer and persecutor, as an apostle, missionary and
writer of scripture, when he had been guilty of so many sins before his
salvation, as well as after (See Rom. 7:15-25).
there is the apostle Peter. He lied, denied Christ, cursed, and forsook Christ.
He did all that AFTER he was saved. That
unstable man was used of God to write and admonish us to "gird up the loin
of your mind" (I Pet. 1:13). He instructed us to lay "aside all
malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings"
(I Pet. 2:1). Yet, this same apostle was involved in a controversy over who
should be greatest in the kingdom! And, who was Peter to instruct Christians,
"Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no
guile" (I Pet. 3:10). According to the philosophy of some, Peter was
disqualified to write on such subjects. James and John sinfully sought high
positions in the kingdom. Yet James wrote against showing partiality in the
church and John wrote against one who loved to have preeminence in the church.
about the person without scriptural grounds for divorce? Yet he secures one and
marries another person. Is he "living
in adultery" or did he commit adultery? The very word of God says he committed
adultery. Some men say he is "living
in adultery." Of his Son God said, "This is my beloved Son,
hear ye him." If we would hear Jesus we would teach that those who divorce
and remarry without biblical grounds commit adultery. We would not teach that they live
one who commits adultery continue to "live in adultery"? Not in the
circumstance under consideration. "And such WERE
some of you; but ye are washed,
ye are sanctified, ye are
justified." Does one who has had this experience in life have "two
living wives"? Not if he has divorced the first, and then married
the second. The man who has divorced a wife can truthfully say to her, "I
am not your husband and you are not my wife." The man who has
divorced a wife can truthfully say, "I
have no wife." If he marries another, he can truthful say, "I
have one wife." He no longer has the one he has divorced.
a preacher in this circumstance is a "two wife preacher" and
in adultery," should he, along with every other member of the
church in the same circumstance, not be excluded from the church? If Paul, who
by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared himself to be the chief of sinners,
could be saved, called to preach, and used to write a good portion of the New
Testament, why could not others be used of God, though they had greatly sinned?
HOLD AGAINST MEN THAT OF WHICH GOD HAS
believe that every reader will agree to this. A man who has been married,
divorced, and married to another, is not beyond the power of the blood of Christ
believe all will agree that such a person can be saved. Most, if not all, know a
dedicated Christian man or woman who has experienced that of which we speak.
But, how can that be, if they still have "two
living wives" or "two
living husbands"? How can that be if they are "living
in adultery"? Are any so holy that they should hold against another
that of which God has forgiven them? Except for the sin of blasphemy against the
Holy Spirit of which Jesus spoke, there is no sin for which man cannot be
forgiven and cleansed when he comes to Christ. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we
confess ours sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse
from all unrighteousness" (I Jn. 1:7, 9). "Thou has forgiven the
iniquity of thy people, thou has covered all their sin" (Psa. 85:2).
"Jesus said unto her [a woman taken in adultery], Neither do I condemn
thee" (Jn. 8:11). "And by him [Jesus Christ all that believe are
justified from all things (Acts 8:39). "I write unto you little children,
because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" (I Jn. 2:12).
"I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their
iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 8:12). "And you, being dead
in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together
with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:13).
God so cleanses and forgives, should not we? Jesus Christ saved and cleansed the
five times married harlot of Samaria. He used her to tell the men of the city
about Christ. How is it that some can be forgiven by God but not by other
Christians? Let us heed the admonitions of the word of God. "Be
ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for
Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). Let us examine our
own sins. Do not they mount up as mighty mountains of infinitely evil sins? Yet,
for Christ's sake, God has forgiven us. Let us forgive others. Jesus said, "If
ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses" (Matt. 6:15).
since there are no scriptures which declare that a divorced and remarried person
in adultery," and there are no scriptures which declare that a
divorced and remarried person "has
two living wives" or "two
living husbands," let us be warned by the solemn words of Solomon, "Add thou not
unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."
When God divorced Israel, he declared, "She is not my wife, neither am I her husband." Some would argue with him and say, "God, you still have her, and if you marry another, you will have "two living wives." But, says God, "I have divorced her and, therefore, she is not my wife." We should let God be true, and every man . . . .
DIVORCE: DOES IT DISSOLVE A MARRIAGE?
true of every other subject addressed in the Bible, men have gone to extremes on
this one. Some take a very liberal view, condoning divorce for the most trivial
excuse (or no excuse at all a' la "no-fault" divorce). Others would
refuse divorce for any reason and relegate to second-class status all who have
been divorced. Discussion of the subject often becomes more emotional than
objective. Jesus addressed the issue in a very straight-forward manner in the
Sermon on the Mount, "It
hath been said, 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).
Divorce cannot be discussed outside the context of marriage, and the context of
marriage begins with the first man and woman. After Adam was created, ". .
. the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone . . . (Gen
2:18). After every other creative act, God had looked upon it and pronounced it
"good" (Gen 1:10, 12, 21, etc.), but Adam (male) alone, he pronounced
"not good." Only after Eve, his wife, was brought into being was the
creation of man complete and pronounced "very good" (Gen 1:27, 31). Of
this brand-new relationship, Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones and
flesh of my flesh . . . ," to which the Divine
injunction is added, "Therefore shall
a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they
shall be one flesh" (Gen 2:23, 24).
is not just a civil contract. It is that, but it is also a very special
God-appointed union of one man and one woman, wherein the two
constitute a whole—"one flesh"! Since neither is complete
without the other, it is obviously a union intended for life.
is an abnormal condition, brought in by sin, that disrupts the original
appointment of God. We might just note in passing that what is
"normal" is defined by God, and not by national averages and
statistics. As divorce approaches fifty percent of the marriages in America, it
may be average, but it certainly is
not normal. Nothing in this
discussion should be taken as advocating or encouraging divorce. Marriage is
most serious and ought not be entered into without a firm, mutual commitment of
"till death do us part."
how God originally designed marriage, by the time of Moses man had thoroughly
corrupted it. Men married women and then put them out for the most frivolous
excuses and without the benefit of any formal proceedings what ever (that was
indeed the era of no-fault divorce, for women were frequently put out for no
fault of their own). Women were little more than slaves to men's lusts and their
situation after being divorced was pretty desperate.
Law of Moses on divorce specifically addressed that situation. It was given to
get divorce under control, formalize, it, and provide relief for the beleaguered
women of that age. Jesus said the reason it was permitted at all was because of
the hardness of men's hearts (Matt 19:8). That apparently means that if divorce
had been disallowed altogether, the women would have been in even greater peril.
The law limited divorce to certain specific causes. All of the other piddling
excuses which men had been using were prohibited. Now there must be specific
grounds and the case must
be proven before witnesses.
allowed, the man must, for the time, give the woman a formal, written, bill of
divorcement which was duly witnessed. The bill must include the reason for the
divorce. This, too, was for the woman's protection (a divorced woman without
this formal document and the witnesses might be subject to stoning on suspicion
of adultery). The law also impressed upon the man the seriousness
of both marriage and divorce by prohibiting him from marrying again a
woman whom he had divorced if she had married another, even if that husband died
(Deut 24:1-4; Josephus, Antiquities,
Book IV, ch 8.23).
far from encouraging divorce, the Law of Moses put a damper on it. It had the
effect of reestablishing marriage to its original, higher, plane. It forced
people to recognize that marriage is not a frivolous thing that one can say
"I do" to one day and "I don't" to the next. It should also
be noted that marital infidelity (adultery) was not grounds for divorce—that
was punishable by death (Lev 20:10). This is an important principle in
understanding scriptural divorce this side of the law.
Jesus' time, most of what the law had done to restore the sanctity of marriage
had been undone by the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. Divorce was not
only permitted for the most trifling excuse, but even encouraged. Where the law permitted
divorce, they taught it was commanded!
The main thing to them was the "bill of divorcement" so that
everything was legal. That document
must be very precise as to wording, size, even the number of lines! No reason
was necessary so long as form and formality were exact.
Jesus said "it has been said . . . ," he was not referring to Moses or
the Law of Moses, but to the distortions of the scribes and Pharisees. The
exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees recorded in Matt 19:3-9 sets their
opposing views in stark contrast, "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? And he answered and
said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made
them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and
mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined
together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command
to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses
because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but
from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away
his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth
adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
goes back to the sanctity of marriage as in the beginning. It is a very special,
God-appointed union. It is such an intimate joining together, there is something
indissoluble about it. "Bone of my bones," said Adam; one flesh. The
awful thing about fornication, as taught in I Cor. 6:16, is that a man becomes
one flesh with a harlot!
unfaithfulness—infidelity—is twice given by the Lord as justifiable grounds
for divorce. A. W. Pink wrote in An Exposition of the Sermon on
the Mount, "Marriage is
not a mere civil thing, but is partly spiritual and Divine, and therefore God
alone has the power to appoint the beginning, the continuance, and the end
thereof." When the words of Paul in I Cor.
6 are considered, the reason God allows divorce for adultery becomes
obvious. A man who is unfaithful has broken the bond of "one flesh"
with his wife and has become thus bonded to another. Divorce does not break the
bond, it was broken already. Divorce is the legitimate way, allowed by God, to
formalize the break. It should be noted again, however, that divorce is
permitted, not commanded by God. The main reason for permitting divorce is to
protect and provide relief to the innocent party. Our great, merciful, gracious
God will not penalize an innocent person for the remainder of earthly life
because of the infidelity of another. Is the innocent party free to marry again
following a divorce? According to Jesus own words free, and with Divine
sanction. It would seem from Matt 19:10-12 and I Cor.
7:7-9 that remarriage might even be encouraged in some cases.
point to Rom 7:2-3 in opposing remarriage for any divorced person, "For the
woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he
liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall
be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law;
so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man." An
examination of the context shows that the purpose of this passage is not to
teach about marriage, but it uses the basic principle of marriage to
illustrate the believer's relationship to the law. The first verse says
the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives, but back in chapter 6,
verse 14, Paul wrote to some folks, who were very much alive, "... ye are
not under the law, but under grace." To the same ones he wrote in the
seventh chapter, verse 4, "...ye are become dead to the law.."! The
obvious meaning is, believers are reckoned
or accounted as being dead as far as their former relationship to the law is
concerned—the law holds no jurisdiction over a dead person! (Wonderful way of
reckoning our God has!)
is a sense in which divorce is best understood in the light of Jehovah's
relationship with Israel, just as marriage is best understood in the light of
the Lord's relationship to his church Eph. 5:25). Recall that the penalty for
adultery under the Law of Moses was death. Recall, also that Israel of old was
referred to as the wife of Jehovah (this showed the special, unique, intimate
relationship of the nation to God. Isa 54:6 refers to her as "a wife of
youth."). When Israel took up with the false gods of the pagans, it is said
she "went a whoring after them" (Exodus 34:15, Ezk 6:9, Hos 9:1,
etc.). On account of this, she is called an adulterous wife (Ezk 16:32), i.e., guilty of spiritual adultery.
Israel persisted in this sin, despite repeated calls from the Lord to return to
him, the Lord announced he would divorce her
for adultery: "And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding
Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce
.."(Jer 3:8); "Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's
divorcement, whom I have put away?" (Isa 50:1); "And I will judge
thee, as women that break wedlock..." (Ezk 16:38). In Hosea 2:2, he
specifically says, "..she is not my wife, neither am I her husband. The
previous, intimate bond has been broken by adultery and the relationship
dissolved by divorce!
pertinent thing, in regard to the passage in Romans 7, is that death was the
penalty for a woman who broke wedlock and thus did God judge Israel (Ezk 16:38).
It is true that Israel continued as a national entity—they did not die
out—but, as far as that previous relationship to God was concerned, she was
dead. The Lord reckoned or accounted her dead as the result of his decree of
divorce. I believe the picture of Israel as dead bones in Ezk 37:11-14) speaks
of this (surely, if there had been no decree of divorce, there would have been
no dead bones). Speaking of her future restoration, in Rom 11:15, Paul says it
will be nothing short of "life from the dead"!
is the point in all of this? From this highest of examples we see the guilty one
who is divorced because of unfaithfulness (Israel) reckoned or accounted as dead
as far as that marriage relationship goes. Thus, the one divorced for adultery
no longer lives as far as that marriage is concerned, and the innocent is just
as free as if death had actually taken place. [Being divorced and free, we see
the Lord taking a Gentile bride—and we shall not see that original
relationship with Israel restored (Isa 54:1-8) until the Gentile bride is off
couple of other passages that have been made into a problem for some, especially
preachers, are I Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These passages catalog the
behavioral traits expected of pastors. Both say he must be "the husband of
one wife." Some see this as barring a divorced man who has remarried from
the ministry, even though the divorce was on scriptural grounds. Such men are
said to have "more than one living wife."
cannot see anything relating to
divorce and/or remarriage within the context of these verses. In the days and
society of Paul, and in various societies in all ages since, polygamy was (and
is) practiced and socially acceptable. Polygamy was common in parts of the Roman
Empire among both Jews and Gentiles. These verses address that situation
specifically. I'm afraid we sometimes tend to look upon the scriptures as
All-American in flavor, if not in origin, and interpret everything in terms of
American society. There's a lot of world out there that doesn't do things as we
do them. The Bible addresses the situations of all kinds of men in the world.
The following is quoted from an article on marriage in New Webster's Universal
Encyclopedia, "Polygamy, in which a man may be married to more than one
woman simultaneously, is widespread and sanctioned by Islam." Since
polygamy is not the unpardonable sin, a man of a polygamous society, who has two
or three wives, may hear the gospel and, in the providence of God, be saved.'
What is he to do? The principle of I Cor 7:10-24 applies He's to keep his wives
as long as they wish to remain with him. He may become a faithful member of an
assembly, but he may not hold office in the church, either that of pastor or any
other (I Tim 3:12). Office holders in the church come under close scrutiny
and must set an example of the Bible ideal, both
to those within and those without. In marriage, the ideal is monogamy
—"they two shall be one flesh''
too, divorce dissolves a marriage, whether it be for the scriptural reason or
not. A person who is divorced and not remarried has no spouse. The woman Jesus
met at Jacob's well had, no doubt, been divorced a number of times, perhaps as
many as five, and not because of her husbands' infidelity, but her own. When she
said "I have no husband," Jesus said, "Thou hast well said, I
have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is
not thy husband." (John 4:17-18). He did not say, 'you have five living
husbands...'; divorce had dissolved those marriages. Matt 5:32, 19:9, Rom 7:2
tell us a person who is divorced on other than scriptural grounds and remarries
is to be called an adulterer/adulteress. The man who was married to two wives
when saved was to be accepted into the congregation while married to both; the
adulterer/fornicator, on the other hand, was to be put out of the congregation
unless/until the sin was repented of (I Cor 5).
So, the verses in I Tim 3 and Titus 1 do call for exemplary conduct and impeccable morals, including sexual purity, in pastors and other office holders of the church. Our Lord's "..except it be for fornication..." puts these standards within the reach of a man who has divorced an unfaithful wife and married another.
Bouquets and Brickbats
MISSOURI: Please put us on your mailing list to receive the Grace Proclamator. We have been borrowing old copies from a couple in our church and appreciate the messages so much.
We so enjoyed your conference this past year also. Your people were so warm and hospitable. The preaching of God was so refreshing.
We thank God for you and your people.
WEST VIRGINIA: I am following with interest your dissertation on the "'Bride", with only one objection in that I feel that she necessity for the continuation from issue to issue (This brother was reading the message as reprinted in the Landmark Messenger, Bro. Pick Perdue, Editor) is a measure of disservice to the "impact" of your exegesis. To me, at least personally, there is more enlightening edification when I can enjoy the presentation without tile break in continuity. To this end I am asking permission to have a friend with a high tech word processor to take all the installments, when concluded, and assemble all under one cover and heading. Of course all credit will be given to you.
KENTUCKY: Brother Wayne, your's is one of our better papers. Although I have faulted you on your "infinite" commentaries, you stand on good and solid ground. I seldom read any Baptist papers anymore as I explain . . . I do read yours and find it credible. Please accept my gratitude for your labor and the breadth of your ministry.
ARKANSAS: Enclosed is the contribution I told you we would be sending to you for the work of the paper. We really appreciate the articles in the paper.
FLORIDA: Enclosed find a check to be used in the work of the ministry as you decide. May the God of all grace richly bless you is our prayer.
KENTUCKY: Your articles questioning the legislative authority of those churches who have turned customary ways of doing mission work into settled law have been very excellent. Have your received a lot of "hate" mail since writing them? Hang in there, Brother.
VIRGINIA: We enjoy receiving your paper. Thanks for the article on Landmarkism and "Did Jesus Descend to Hell? Good articles!
KENTUCKY: You very commendably challenged our Baptist world for our enshrined PROCEDURES on church organization, called meetings, votings, etc. I thought it an excellent piece. You challenged your readers to show Scripture for these PROCEDURES. Well done. I had intended to write you but delayed in the press of other work. We "Independent" Baptists are not so Independent as we think. Most of our PROCEDURES we borrowed wholesale from the Conventionists. We all preach the same Truth. Each church does the same, identical Work. Yet, a church in Uganda and church in Alaska shall come to use different PROCEDURES to carry through the same Work. PROCEDURES are only to be faulted if they violate a Precise mandate of Scripture, OR WHEN THEY ARE CODIFIED INTO MANDATED LAW. You know this far better than most of our house. I don't object to the PROCEDURE of having a Wednesday right prayer meeting until. some Baptist tells me (as one once did) that it is Unbaptistic NOT to have such a meeting. He made a LAW of a PROCEDURE . . . A Baptist church can send forth missionaries and never hear a word from them again if she wishes—early churches did. All of our weighty PROCEDURES add nothing whatever to our labor, and indeed they can come to detract from it . Probably 90% of our PROCEDURES were purloined from the SBC. I can tolerate them until men transmute them into LAWS. Emulation and imitation of convention PROCEDURES come to have a fatal effect. There is a pathology about them which we do not readily ken, and which you have well spoken . . . Brother Wayne, if you can find space in your paper, please hammer on this theme a bit. There is a curious eclecticism in our house. It is good to be "conservative," but you can be conservative to a deadening fault . . My brother, I have long appreciated and valued your paper because you speak what in many quarters is unspeakable (and not infrequently seen as heretical). Please chide our own house—I do. If you can find the space, please speak more of our juvenile PROCEDURES which have transformed into LAWS. You shall serve us well. We Baptists must be our own best critics Please accept the gratitude of one who remains a friend in Christ.
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