A Review of The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God by Homer Hailey

By Weldon E. Warnock

The task of reviewing brother Homer Hailey’s booklet, The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God gives me no satisfaction. He has been my good friend for about forty years, having first met him while I was a student and he was a professor at Florida College. I took every class, as I recall, that he taught.

Brother Hailey instilled in his pupils a deep trust in the providence of God, a devoted love for the Lord Jesus Christ and a humble reverence for the word of God. He made us sense the plight of Job, appreciate the fidelity of the prophets and feel the devotion of the psalms. Indeed, he is a gentleman and a scholar, respected by all who have known him.

However, the position brother Hailey espouses in the booklet under review necessitates a response because of its far-reaching consequences, viz., that alien sinners who have been divorced and remarried for any reason whatsoever may remain together as husband and wife after they are baptized. I believe they are living in adultery; brother Hailey says, “No”! If I am correct in my understanding of the Scriptures, then we have people going to the judgment guilty of adultery. Paul said they cannot inherit the kingdom of God (Gal.5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). This is why our difference is such a serious issue.

Our examination of brother Hailey’s treatise will be considered under the following headings: 1. Distinctive Differences; 2. The Universal Moral Law; 3. The New Covenant; 4. Repentance; 5. Medley of Matters.

Distinctive Differences

In this installment we will go through brother Hailey’s book and specify places wherein we disagree, or have serious concerns, at least in those regions of major significance. Some of these areas will be more fully developed as we proceed in this review. First:

Dangerous error. “Because of misconceptions of what I believe, and what I consider to be dangerous error of the generally accepted view of the subject, I hereby set forth the grounds of my position” (p. 9). On page 74, we read, “Some have closed this door (reclaiming fallen sinners, wew) by their traditional teaching, and not by the word of God.”

Obviously, if brother Hailey has the truth on divorce and remarriage, then those who differ with him would hold “dangerous error” and “traditional teaching.” But from my perspective it is not I who is the one guilty of a presumptuous doctrine. Who is advocating a “dangerous error” on divorce and remarriage will have to be decided by an honest evaluation of the positions espoused in light of the Scriptures.

What puzzles me is that, though we hold a view that is “dangerous error,” brother Hailey has been relatively quiet about it for 50 years (p. 9), and he has (4no intention to entering into or carrying on a discussion on the subject” (Preface). He has not done this on instrumental music, premillennialism, institutionalism, denominationalism, liberalism, etc. Why just on the divorce and remarriage issue? If the matter is “dangerous error” and “traditional teaching,” how can he remain silent? I realize one can become a hobbyist on any subject, but a thorough discussion of vital issues, such as divorce and remarriage, is imperative to help lead honest souls to truth.

Genesis 2:18-24. Brother Hailey wrote, “Genesis 2:18-24 reveals the divine origin, purpose, intimacy, and the divine intent for permanency of marriage. To this extent it expressed the moral law of God and is universal; it reveals the foundation of marriage for the human race” (p. 57). Yet, on p. 41 he says, “Where in the Old Testament is there an appeal to Genesis 2 establishing a rule concerning marriage-divorce-remarriage addressed to those out of covenant relationship with God?” Brother Hailey answers his own question on p. 57, as quoted above, in that he concedes Genesis 2 is the foundation of marriage for the human race.

Expressed in Genesis 2:18-24 is God’s marriage law for all mankind. Clearly and explicitly stated is that marriage is monogamic in form (one man-one woman) and indissoluble in nature. Man shall cleave (“to cleave, to adhere, specially firmly, as if with glue . . . to be attached to any one, to be lovingly devoted,” Gesenius, p. 185) unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.

On p. 12 brother Hailey says Genesis 2:24 “was probably added by Moses, for Adam could have had no concept of such at the time.” However, on page 41 he seems to contradict himself where he says, “Furthermore, the law of Genesis 2:18-24 was stated when God created Eve for Adam.” Genesis 2:23 has Adam speaking and v. 24 is apparently included in what Adam said. Lange suggests that v. 24 is “most closely connected with what precedes, and suits better here the mouth of Adam” (Vol. 1 , p.209). God spoke through Adam, seemingly, although Adam may not have understood all of its import. Verse 24 would, therefore, have been made known in Eden.

Polygamy and concubinage. “Polygamy and concubinage were within the scope of God’s marriage law thus far revealed” (p. 15). This was said in reference to Abraham having a plurality of wives and concubines and Jacob marrying Leah and Rachel as well as his taking two concubines. On p. 16 brother Hailey stated that “God has never regulated a practice that was wrong.”

The first record of polygamy is Lamech in Genesis 4:23. Kcil and Delitzsch commented, “Lamech took two wives, and thus was the first to prepare the way for polygamy by which the ethical aspect of marriage, as ordained by God, was turned into the lust of the eye and lust of the flesh” (The Pentateuch, Vol. 1, p. 118).

Polygamy was a departure from God’s law given in Eden, Jesus sets forth the basic reason why there were allowances and concessions on the part of Jehovah concerning what God had said about marriage originally – “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives” (Matt. 19:8). But notice in the same verse, Jesus said, “but from the beginning it was not so.” Vincent says, “The verb is in the perfect tense (denoting the continuance of past action or its results down to the present). He means: Notwithstanding Moses’ permission, the case has not been so from the beginning until now. The original ordinance has never been abrogated nor superceded, but continues in force” (Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 108). The concessions allowed under Moses were also permitted before Moses.

Paul says that God “in times past suffered (permitted) all nations to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:16) and that God passed over (showed clemency) those sins before Christ (Rom. 3:25). God did not ignore them but left them unpunished. On Mars Hill Paul said, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now (emphasis mine) declaring to men that all everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30, NASB).

Therefore, polygamy and concubinage were concessions by God, hence, permissible among those of the Old Testament times. But does God concede the same to us today? May we have several wives and concubines, scripturally? Certainly not! The law of Christ prohibits it (Matt. 19:3-9). But those who teach aliens are under universal moral law, apart from the new covenant, cannot logically oppose polygamy and concubinage. They will have to quit condemning Joe Smith and the Mormons for having several wives.

Furthermore, there is no example in the Bible where men were told to give up their plurality of wives, when baptized; therefore, following the reasoning of brother Hailey, we would conclude they kept them and cohabited with them. He wrote that there is no example of a husband and wife separating before baptism (p. 68). A position that permits polygamy as its logical consequence has to be a false position.

A recent article in Christianity Today, entitled “Can Mr. Mombasa Keep All His Wives?” contains some interesting observations about polygamy in Kenya. The story reads:

When Ron Severns went to Oloombokishi in Kenya, East Africa, he found the church (denominational church, wew) struggling with a problem. . . . Most of the church’s male leaders had been converted as adults, already having two or more wives. .

Missionaries to Africa in the nineteenth century, struggling to find appropriate response to such plural marriages, had usually concluded that only one of the marriages could be valid . . . . One wife – usually the first – could be kept, and the others had to be sent away . . . .

This position always had its problems, however. . . Were the children to be deprived of one of their parents?

And what of the wife who was sent away? . . . . Dissolving second or third marriages put the church in the situation of causing pain and injustice rather than healing it.

Some say that baptizing Polygamists amounts to cheap grace and will set a poor precedent for the future . . . . Couldn’t the church’s teaching on marriage become an ideal that nobody practices? – Feb. 11, 1991

It would be interesting to hear how the brethren who claim divorced and remarried aliens may keep their mates when baptized, regardless of the circumstances, deal with polygamy.

Crucial point. “The Jews will be judged by the law they lived under; from the beginning to the end of history, men will be judged by the universal moral law of God which they rejected, and which sinners today continue to transgress; and those under Christ, the spiritual kingdom, will be judged by the law of Christ. This is a crucial point in our discussion” (pp. 29-30).

On pages 46-47, brother Hailey wrote that the universal moral law is the “law under which all the unregenerate people live and transgress today. . . . This law, though never codified in written form, was never abrogated.”

Granted, the Jews who lived under Moses will be judged by that law. Too, the Gentiles of the Old Testament cra will be judged by what Paul calls “a law unto themselves” (Rom. 2:14). Those, however, who live during the gospel dispensation will be judged according to Jesus’ word. Jesus clearly said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12.48). All are amenable to the gospel, the universal law of Christ (Mk. 16:15-16). (This will be considered more extensively later.)

If Gentiles were saved before the cross by living righteous lives in harmony with the dictates of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15), why can’t they be saved in the same way today? If the blood of Jesus covered the sins of the faithful before the cross, why does not the blood of Christ cover the sins of those now (Jew & Gentile) who are faithfully following this so-called universal moral law that, allegedly, has never been abrogated? It seems to me this is a crucial point!

Brother Hailey makes “the law of sin and death” in Romans 8:2 the universal moral law, but this is an assumption. He declares, “when Paul speaks of it (universal moral law, wew), he refers to it simply as law or , as in Romans 8:2, ‘the law of sin and of death,’ that is, the moral law” (p. 35). In the first place, there is no universal moral law referred to in the New Testament, separate from the law of Christ, to which aliens are under today. If so, does it condemn polygamy? Wife swapping?

Iin the second place, “the law of sin and death” is apparently “the principle or rule of law and death.” It is the same as “the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:23). H.A.W. Meyer states that it is “the power of sin in us . . . so that sin and death are regarded as ruling over man” (Romans, p. 300). Bryan Vinson, Sr. interprets the law of sin in Romans 7:23 and 8:2 as “rule and control” (Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome, pp. 139,144). Sanday & Headlam define the law of sin and death in Romans 8:2 to mean, “the authority exercised by Sin ending in Death” (Romans, p. 191).

Moral law exists now. “How do we know that the moral law exists now and will continue operation until the end of time” (p. 37)? Brother Hailey quotes 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 wherein Paul said, “the power of sin is the law.” Since this chapter is discussing the end of time, brother Hailey reasons, “what law is the power of sin tc, those at the end of time? It is not the Mosaic law, for no one, Jew or Gentile, would be under it because it has been taken out of the way (Heb. 10:9-10). It is not the law of Christ, for that makes us free and alive (Rom. 8:1-3). This leaves only the universal moral of Romans 5:12,13,20).” He also says, “Christ’s law cannot make dead” (p. 37).

The fallacy in the preceding argument is that the law of Christ cannot bring about sin and death. But this is not true. Consider Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:19-24), erring brethren (Jas. 5:19-20), fornicator at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1-13), Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), Judaizers (Gal. 1:6-9), Gnostics (1 John) and those who practice the works of the flesh (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). Sounds like to me the law of Christ, when violated, has the power of sin and death in it. Of course, we know it has the power to make us free and alive.

Not under law. Brother Hailey quotes Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law . . . but under grace. . . . Can this be said of a baptized believer today? If so, what law is he now not under? It cannot be the law of Moses for he was never under it. Is it the law of Christ? If, as some claim, he was already under the law of Christ, then he is free from that also and so is under no law at all” (p. 38).

He makes “not under law” the so-called universal moral law that the Bible nowhere indicates as being in effect, exclusive of the gospel, today. R.L. Whiteside correctly concluded, “This verse does not mean that we are free from all law. Grace predominates . . . . If we were under no law, we would be guilty of no sin . . . . This verse is a figure of speech in which the less is denied so as to emphasize the greater. We are not merely under law, but more especially under grace” (Romans, p. 137). Cf . Jn. 1:17 grace is emphasized over law under Christ.

Matthew 19:3-9 is addressed to Jews. “In considering Matthew 19:3-9, it should be carefully noted that Jesus is talking to Jews, men in covenant relationship with God . . . . Gentiles, people out of covenant relationship with God, are not under consideration” (p. 55). Though Jesus spoke to Jews, he was setting forth the marriage law for the gospel age. Moses’ law is not being regulated, but rather Jesus is restoring the sanctity, intimacy and permanence of marriage as it was instituted in the garden of Eden. It is whosoever (v. 9), not just covenant people.

Because Jesus spoke to covenant people under Moses’ law does not mean what he said just applies to covenant people under Christ’s law. If this is the case, then everything Jesus said is only applicable for covenant people because he came only to the house of Israel.

On page 35 brother Hailey states that the universal moral law was “revealed in its fulness (Col. 2: 10) by the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant under Christ.” On page 46 he wrote “All the universal law . . . is included in the law of Christ.” Then Matthew 19:3-9 reflects the moral law on marriage, divorce and remarriage and aliens, as well as saints, are amenable to it. If aliens are not accountable to what Jesus said on divorce and remarriage, then they are not subject to the universal law, which is revealed in its fulness in the New Covenant.

To confine the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:3-9 to citizens of the kingdom makes marriage a church ordinance, similar to the marriage sacrament of the Catholic Church. Marriage is a universal institution, having begun with our first parents and is recognized as a legitimate union among people of all races, nationalities and religions.

God joins together in matrimony unbelievers as well as believers and he breaks the bond on the same principle for the unbeliever as the believer. Otherwise, God has different guidelines for the heathen than he does for the believer. If there are different marriage laws for believers and unbelievers, we would like to know what they are.

Some of the preceding things we have responded to will be amplified and enlarged upon later, and, also, such things as “abiding in our calling” (p. 66), Herod and Herodias (p. 67), David and Bathsheba (p. 73), living in adultery (p. 56), etc., will be considered.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 9, pp. 273-276
May 2, 1991