By Harry R. Osborne
When brother Willis asked me to prepare this special issue, I understood the highly controversial nature of the subject. It is no secret that brethren across this country do not speak as one voice on this issue. At the age of sixteen, that fact became clear to me. As a teenager, I saw the horrible consequences of brethren teaching and practicing different doctrines on this subject in the local church of which I was a member. I saw with a broken heart the fruits of adultery and broken homes that came from false teaching on this subject. Years have passed since those sad days, but the tragic results of differences between brethren over divorce and remarriage have only become more evident and distressing. In almost every local congregation across this country, the issues in this realm of study are being discussed. Congregations are beginning to divide at an increasing rate.
Brethren, it should be obvious that we need to study the various facets of this subject diligently. This special issue has been designed to aid in that task. The topics are arranged into four major divisions so as to challenge us to think and study upon the subject as we seek unity on the basis of the truth.
(1) Introductory articles
(2) Exegetical studies
(3) Historical perspectives
(4) Refutation of errors
I believe the truth has been taught and hope it will be carefully and prayerfully considered. My thanks go to each writer for his time and effort expended in this task.
As brother Cavender so eloquently stated in his introduction, the responsibility for determining the truth on this issue and the application thereof to our fellowship rests with each local church and each individual Christian. Each local church will face decisions about the lawful bounds of their fellowship and they must apply the teaching of God’s word. Each of us will face situations in which we must determine whom we will receive as a brother or sister in Christ. Those decisions are our responsibility. No man, group of men, paper or school has the right to create a line of fellowship not drawn by the Scripture. Nor does any man, group of men, paper or school have the right to erase a line of fellowship which is drawn by the Scripture. We must “speak as the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent” on this and every other matter of faith, if we are to walk worthily of our calling and keep the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:1-3). If we go beyond Christ’s doctrine in our fellowship, we will forsake our fellowship with him (2 Jn. 9-11).
In recent months, some brethren who claim they believe the truth have taken exception to those who have tried to teach that truth and oppose error on this subject. Some objections have arisen from the identifying of well-known and respected gospel preachers who have taught errors regarding divorce and remarriage. Other objections have been based on the manner in which the errors were opposed. We must remember the example of Bible writers who named both the error and the teacher of the error in their attempts to counteract the soul-damning effects of false teaching. Let us never become so attached to any man that we sit in silence while the error taught leads souls to remain in a sinful practice and be lost eternally. There is no doubt that all of us make mistakes in our judgment as we uphold truth and oppose error. If the reader sees a better way to oppose and expose the errors reviewed in this issue, please correct our mistakes and do it right. May we all hear the words of our faithful brother, Connie W. Adams, in a recent article (Searching The Scriptures [Nov. 19891, Vol. 30, No. 11, pp. 539-540) exhorting us in this matter:
Whether we used good judgment in such identification is now a moot point. The fact is, the pernicious doctrine is being taught, souls are being encouraged to remain in adultery, the peace of local churches is being disrupted. When you fellows get your noses back in joint, would you please take up the sword of the Spirit and help to expose this doctrine for what it is and warn of the devastating moral consequences? Do you really believe that adultery is a matter of indifference with God? That one may, or may not, practice it without divine approval or disapproval? I know how you will answer it. And when you do, you will have to remove it from the realm of things considered in Romans 14. If you know a better way to approach the problem, then by all means do it, but please approach the problem. “Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:11).
To that I have but one comment, “Amen!”
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 1, p. 28
January 4, 1990