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

By Weldon E. Warnock

In chapter four of his book, brother Hailey discusses the New Covenant. He concludes that only those who enter a contract or agreement with God on his terms are in covenant relationship with him. He wrote, “The alien is not under the covenant law of Christ until he brings himself under it by obedience to its terms” (p. 52). On page 60 he summarizes, “The alien is not under the covenant of Christ, having never submitted to its conditions or demands.” By “conditions or demands” he means the terms of pardon. Hence, brother Hailey, by his own admission, has the alien under at least part of the New Covenant.

Covenant Accountability

Admittedly, a person would have to comply with the conditions or demands of the New Covenant to enter covenant relationship with God. But this is not the issue. The issue is – accountability. Is an alien accountable to the New Covenant, whether he submits to it or not? I maintain he is!

Those before Moses’ time did not have to acknowledge God’s rule over them to be obligated to worship and serve him. The Jews did not have to personally agree to the covenant given at Mt. Sinai for them to be bound to keep that covenant. Certainly, the Israelites entered covenant relationship by agreeing to covenant terms (Exod. 19:3-8; 24:3,7,8), but those who knew not the law and grew up in idolatry were no less obliged to keep the covenant than those who knew and obeyed it. Jeremiah said unto idolatrous Judah, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyed not the words of this covenant” (Jer. 11:3; cf. 7:24-28). Likewise, those who live under the Messianic rule of Christ do not have to surrender to his covenant in order to be amenable or accountable to it.

God’s covenant does not necessitate a mutual agreement with man, but rather it is a sovereign, unilateral dispensation of grace of his part; a command, law, or obligation he imposes on his creatures. The following quotations reflect this.

(1) Unger’s Bible Dictionary: As man is not in the position of an independent covenanting party, such a covenant is not strictly a mutual compact, but a promise on the part of God to arrange his providences for the welfare of those who should render him obedience (Third edition, 1966, p. 224).

(2) Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament: The original meaning of the Heb. berith (covenant, wew) . . . is not “agreement or settlement between two parties,” as is commonly argued. Berith implies first and foremost the notion of “imposition,” “liability,” or “obligation,” as might be learned from the “bond” etymology discussed above. Thus we find that the berith is commanded. . . . (“he has commanded his covenant,” Psa. 111:9; Jgs. 2:20), which certainly cannot be said about a mutual agreement. As will be shown below, berith is synonymous with law and commandment (cf. e.g., Deut. 4:13; 33:9; Isa. 24:5; Psa. 50:16; 103:18) and the covenant at Sinai in Exod. 24 is in its essence an imposition of laws and obligations upon the people (vv. 3-8) (Vol. 2, p. 255).

(3) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Diatheke (covenant, wew) is from first to last the “disposition” of God, the mighty declaration of the sovereign will of God in history, by which He orders the relation between Himself and men according to His own saving purpose, and which carries with it the authoritative divine ordering, the one order of things which is in accordance with it (Vol. 2, p. 134).

(4) The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: In the OT the word (covenant, wew) has an ordinary use, when both parties are men, and a distinctly religious use, between God and men. . . . There are also two shades of meaning . . . one in which it is properly a covenant, i.e. a solemn mutual agreement, the other in which it is more a command, i.e. instead of an obligation voluntarily assumed, it is an obligation imposed by a superior upon an inferior. . . * In general, the covenant of God with men is a Divine ordinance, with signs and pledges on God’s part, and with promises for human obedience and penalties for disobedience, which ordinance is accepted by men (Vol. 2, 727-728).

John Murray, in The New Bible Dictionary (p. 266), said, “It is a mistake to read Exod. 19:5-6; 24:7,8 as if making of the covenant had to wait for the promise of obedience on the part of the people.” I believe brother Hailey makes this mistake about the covenant of Christ when he says the 4 1 alien is not under the covenant law of Christ until he brings himself under it by obedience to its terms.” His concept of covenant differs from all of the above reputable works.

The covenant of God is identified in the Bible as ordinances, laws, commandments and words. In Exodus 24:7 Moses “took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people.” This book of the covenant contained the “judgments” (ordinances, ASV) that Moses was to set before them in Exodus 21:1. In Exodus 24:12 Jehovah describes this covenant as law and commandments. God does not have to wait till I agree before he gives a law to which I am accountable.

Through Jeremiah God said he would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. . . . I will put my law in their inward parts” (Jer. 31:31-34; cf. Heb. 8:8-12; 10:15-17). Observe that God’s law would be in their “inward parts” (mind, Heb. 8:10). This is necessary for those who come into covenant relationship with Jehovah. Such relationship is effected by coming under the blood for the remission of sins. Though this new covenant was to be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, it also included the Gentiles. The phrase, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb. 8:10), not only fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy, butt also Hosea’s concerning the Gentiles (Hos. 2:23; cf. Rom. 9:24-26).

In his commentary on Hebrews, F.F. Bruce includes a footnote on chapter 8, vv. 8-13 by J. Skinner and E.K. Simpson, which says, “The fact is, Jeremiah’s prophecy and the New Testament fulfillment give a new depth of meaning to the old term ‘covenant.’ In any case, the biblical covenant is much more than ‘a compact between God and man’; it is not a suntheke, an agreement between parties who are more or less equal in status, but a diatheke, a settlement by a superior on inferiors, ‘tendered on the one hand for acceptance on the other… (The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 176).

Therefore, the New Covenant is not a matter of whether we agree to its terms, but it is a case of God placing demands, conditions and obligations upon the whole human race. If we want to receive the blessings of the New Covenant, then we must submit our will to its terms in order to make them a reality. All men are accountable to the New Covenant, but not all men have placed themselves under contract to its precepts. This is the major flaw in brother Hailey’s reasoning. He makes only those in covenant relationship accountable.

Sometimes an objection is made to the position that alien sinners are amenable to the law of Christ by such questions as: “Are unbelievers sinning when they do not partake of the Lord’s Supper?” The answer is “yes” in the ultimate sense because God would have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), even the truth of worshiping and serving the Lord. Paul said at Athens, “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Men sin for not following Jesus!

1 Corinthians 9:20-21

In his endeavor to refute the position that the unregenerate are under the New Covenant, brother Hailey states that such position contradicts what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 (p. 49). In that passage Paul wrote, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ) that I might gain them that are without law.”

Brother Hailey concludes, “Those who had not obeyed the gospel were not under law to Christ as was Paul, though they were under God’s universal moral law – had been from the beginning and would be until the end of time. But they were not under the New Covenant of Christ” (pp. 49-50).

Nothing is said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 about the Jews and Gentiles being under a universal moral law. Paul said the Jews were “under the law,” the law of Moses, and the Gentiles were “without law,” meaning, “without the law of Moses.” The Mosaical law had been abrogated for over twenty years by the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, yet, he says the Jews were under the law, i.e., the Mosaical law. Paul was using accommodative language. The Jews regarded themselves under the law, but in actuality the law had been annulled (Col. 2:16; Heb. 8:6-13; 10:9). Let us notice the following comments about 1 Corinthians 9:20-21:

Lutheran Commentary. Commenting on “under the law,” it states, “Those who regard themselves still under the obligations to comply with the demands of the Ceremonial Law.”

Adam Clarke. He says that “under the law” means: “To those who considered themselves still under obligation to observe its rites and ceremonies. . .”

A New Commentary on Holy Scripture. “He (Paul) conciliated the Jews and those who regarded the law as binding by observing their scruples.”

Expositor’s Greek Testament. “Anomos (without law, wew) was the Jewish designation for all beyond the pale of Mosaism (see Rom. 2:9-16, etc.): Paul became this to Gentiles (Gal. 4:12), abandoning his natural position, in that he did not practice the law of Moses amongst them nor make it the basis or aim of his preaching to them; see Acts 14:15ff; 17:22ff. He was anomos therefore, in the narrow Jewish sense;” not so in the true religious sense.

James MacKnight. He translates v. 21, “To persons not subject to the law of Moses, I became as not subject to that law, by not enforcing it on them . . . … MacKnight believes that “not under law” referred to not being subject to the law of Moses. This is in agreement with what the Expositor’s Greek Testament said about anomos.

Hence, Paul is not teaching that the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles are not amenable to the law of Christ, but rather he is saying that he became all things to the Jews who considered themselves under the law of Moses and all things to the Gentiles who are spoken of as beyond the pale of Judaism. While becoming all things to all men, Paul let us know that he was not lawless, but rather under law (ennomos) to Christ.

E.M. Zerr said it right when he wrote, “When Paul was mingling with those who were not Jews, he did not try to press the Jewish customs upon them, but he did advocate the law of Christ which was and is binding upon all mankind.”

Issue Is Not Covenant Relationship

On page 52, brother Hailey states, “So, if one is under God’s covanent in Christ, he is under the blood of Christ, and if under the blood of Christ, he has remission of sins.” Farther down on the page, he declares, “The part of the new covenant law which is addressed to the alien is that by which he obtains the remission of sins and is translated into His kingdom (Col. 1: 12-13). ” The argument in the first quotation is that if an alien is amenable to the law of Christ, he is sanctified by the blood, and being washed in the blood, he has remission of sins before he obeys the gospel. But, according to brother Hailey’s second quotation, the alien is under God’s covenant in Christ, at least in part, therefore, he is under the blood (if not totally, then in part?), and has remission of sins (at least in part?).

As we suggested earlier, an alien would have to agree to the terms of the New Covenant, and come under the blood of Christ before he could enter a covenant relationship with God. But, may I reiterate – the issue is not relationship,it is accountability. Is an alien accountable to the teachings of the New Covenant? The answer is an emphatic, “Yes”!

The perfect moral principles were exemplified in Christ Jesus, and are completely revealed in the New Testament (Jn. 16:12-14; Col. 2:10; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Jesus is the light of the world (Jn. 8:12). However, we are told that an alien sinner lives under a different code – the universal moral law. He is not subject to the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25), but he is amenable only to the law written on the heart (Rom. 2:15). This so-called universal moral law is a phantom law, elusive and visionary; a will-o’-the-wisp. Where is this law? What are its specifications and limitations? Even brother Hailey says, “The specific words in which the precepts of that law were expressed were not recorded and preserved” (p. 58), and “lost to history” (A Commentary on Isaiah, p. 538).

If the unregenerate are not under the New Covenant, it makes no sense whatsoever for us to condemn the denominations for their religious error. If they are not subject to the law of Christ, they are not transgressing any law by their false practices. But Jesus said that those who obey not his will, even though they say they have prophesied in his name, cast out devils in his name and have done many wonderful works in his name, Jesus will profess to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (lawlessness, NASB – Matt. 7:21-23). Whose law did they disregard? Jesus never knew them, hence, they were not in covenant relationship. It seems clear to me that they violated the law of Christ.

Matthew 19:3-9

In the chapter on “the New Covenant,” brother Hailey makes Matthew 19:3-10 refer solely to citizens of the kingdom. He asserts, “From beginning to end according to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was talking about his kingdom the kingdom of heaven – and was laying down principles that govern it. Therefore, in the light of the entire context of the Gospel, it is clear that when Jesus answered their question concerning divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:3-9, He was going beyond the law of Moses to the law of His covenant – It appears that nothing could be clearer than that Matthew 19:3-10 referred not to the world, but to the citizens of ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ the kingdom He came to establish” (p. 55).

Unquestionably, Matthew 19:3-10 is applicable to citizens of the kingdom. But is it applicable only to those in the kingdom? If it is then marriage is a church ordinance and only those in the church or kingdom have the right to marry. All couples, therefore, who come to obey the gospel must by necessity be required to also undergo a marriage ceremony. If marriage laws are not applicable to alien sinners, how can marriage itself be?

Marriage was instituted in the garden of Eden thousands of years before the church was established. The home and the church are two separate institutions. Brother Hailey’s position makes the marriage relationship an integral part of the kingdom. This just is not so! The principles regulating marriage were established with Adam and Eve and have never changed. God made concessions under Moses, “but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matt. 19:8, NASB). The same principles of Genesis 1:27; 2:18-24 to which Jesus referred in Matthew 19:3-9 are just as universal now as they were in the Old Testament world.

Jesus states in Matthew 19:9, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” The word “whosoever” is an indefinite relative pronoun which pictures anyone in general. In Matthew 5:32 Jesus said, “That whosoever (anyone, pas) 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.” What if the put away was an unbeliever? Jesus said her being put away causeth her to commit adultery. What about the “whosoever” that marries her? He commits adultery, even if he is an alien.

Although Matthew’s Gospel is characteristically the gospel of the King and his kingdom (as brother Hailey indicated), and it was addressed to Jewish Christians, there are teachings contained therein that are not exclusively for citizens of the kingdom. The marriage law of Matthew 19:3-9 is one of those. Let us notice how the word “whosoever” is used in several places in Matthew’s Gospel.

(1) Matthew 7:24. “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.”

(2) Matthew 11:6. “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

(3) Matthew 12:32. “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

(4) Matthew 12:50. “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

(5) Matthew 21:44. “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”

We can readily see that these passages have universal application. We conclude that Matthew 19:9 (and Matthew 5:31-32) is just as universal as these Scriptures.

The Gospel of Mark was written to Gentile Christians showing Jesus the Servant of God and man. In this context Mark states (10:2-12), basically, what Jesus said concerning divorce and remarriage as recorded by Matthew. In vv. 10-11 Mark wrote, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Marks omits the exception stated in Matthew’s account, but adds a woman putting away her husband.

Luke, who depicts the humanity of Jesus, wrote, “Whomsoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery” (Lk. 16:18). A.T. Robertson said about Luke’s Gospel, “He comes to the interpretation of Jesus from a world-standpoint. . . . He thus stands outside of the pale of Judaism and can see more clearly the world-relationship and world-destiny of the new movement. With Luke, Jesus is distinctly the world’s Savior. The accent on sin is human sin, not specifically Jewish sin” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 1940). The sin of divorce and remarriage is broader in application, therefore, than just those in covenant relationship; it includes humanity in general.

Brother Hailey asks on p. 57, “. . . what then is the relation of people of the world to what Jesus said in Matt. 19:3-9? The question was asked by Jews who were subject to God under the law of Moses. It pertained to their law, and Jesus answered it from that point of view.” But on p. 55 he wrote, “. . . Matthew 19:3-10 referred . . . to the citizens of ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ the kingdom He came to establish.” If Matthew 19:3-9 pertained to the law of Moses on p. 57, how could it apply to only citizens of Christ’s kingdom on p. 55? If brother Hailey can transfer Jesus’ teaching to the Jews in Matthew 19:3-9 to Christians, then I can transfer the teaching of Matthew 19:3-9 that would also include the alien sinner by the same process.

Indeed, alien sinners are accountable to the New Covenant!

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 11, pp. 336-339
June 6, 1991