By H. L. Bruce
(Editor’s Note: This is the third of a three-part series on marriage. We suggest you read the articles in our previous issues before proceeding to this one.)
There is a growing tendency among many preachers, elders and other teachers to circumvent marital issues and let people pursue whatever course they desire without reprimand or censure. This is particularly true with regard to the status of the guilty parties in remarriage as discussed in our earlier article, and whether or not there is any such thing as an alien sinner living in adultery. To many these subjects are sort of the “hot potato” type and should be minimized because of their disturbing nature among brethren, and the tendency for lines to be drawn once positions are well defined and known.
Yet there are some who choose the alternate course. Among them someone will contend that God doesn’t take any particular note of the marital status of the alien sinner; that the alien is not under God’s law and is under only civil law. Regardless of what he does, that God does not reckon with other than the fact that he is an alien sinner.
Stating the Issue
Specifically, it is reasoned if he is a habitual drunkard, fornicator, or, if he marries and divorces repetitiously for various causes irrespective of whether or not fornication is involved as a reason for dismissing his companion, that such is not of particular note in God’s sight, and that he being an alien sinner, such specifics are not indictable, as such in God’s mind. According to that line of reasoning one could divorce a companion, without fornication being the reason, and could remarry and adultery would not be chargeable in any event owing to the idea that God does not take note of the specifics on the part of the alien sinner.
Extending the Problem
However, as the theory goes, if such a person obeys the Gospel, he may keep the present companion, be it his first, his fifth or whatever, there is absolutely no need for any companion to be put away. From thence forth he must be exceedingly cautious though, for God then begins to take note of his specifics and if he puts away a companion for other than fornication, and marries another he is guilty of adultery.
There are those who actually argue the above case. Many others believe it sort of “underground” without arguing it. The conclusions and practices of yet others are of such nature, that while disclaiming the view, they could not effectively offer refutable argument against it.
The Basic Fallacy
Now that the case has been stated, is it right? Or, is it wrong? If it is right, where are the scriptures which so teach? If, on the other hand, it is wrong, just where does the basic and fundamental fallacy reside?
My friends, the theory is wrong and the basic fallacy resides in an assumption which has never been proven and which is unprovable-namely: that God does not take note of the specific sins of alien sinners.
The truth of the matter is that God, through the Holy Spirit has assured us that He does take note of the specific sins of the alien sinner. This assurance is clearly revealed in the scripture and not only indicates that the alien specifically sins, but that his sins will be a factor in his eternal destiny.
First let us note what Paul indicated about specific guilt at Corinth among those who were then disciples, but with regard to their condition before they obeyed the Gospel: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived neither fornicators, nor idolators, 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” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
According to this some of the Corinthians were not only guilty before their having obeyed the Gospel, but certain specific sins were noted of which they had been charged. Among the specific sins of which they were guilty before their having been washed, sanctified and justified, one will observe the particular mention of adultery. This being true the possibility is sustained of one being specifically charged with such guilt before he obeys the gospel.
But please note again, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupesence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked sometime when you lived in them” (Col. 3:5-7). Indicated in this scripture . is the fact that the Colossians had previously been guilty of these specifics and that contemporary children of disobedience then were, and because of these very things God would execute his wrath upon them. My friends, in view of this, answer for yourself: does this sound as if God does not take note of specific sins of alien sinners?
At this point many become concerned about another angle of the subject at hand. If it is true that aliens are amenable to God’s law on marriage, and there is such a thing as an alien sinner living in adultery, what recourse would he have upon his obedience to the Gospel. Some reason that among the converts of the First Century there surely must have been just such individuals who were living with companions far removed from the first and that it was quite likely that the first companion was discharged for reasons other than fornication. Now that being assumed, “Just where is the example of any such, said, person being told that he, or, she must separate from his, or, her present companion?” we are asked! From this line of thought the conclusion is sometimes reached that since we have no example of such person being told to break-up an adulterous relationship that such admonition should not be given today.
While we are on the examples let us not let this fact escape us: while it is true that we have no examples of any inspired man specifically admonishing any one to break-up an adulterous relationship upon his obedience to the gospel, it is also true that there is no specific example of such problem being recorded. Consequently in the example-family there is more than one member absent!
Example vs. Consequences
As many have argued all along, there is far more involved in any taught topic than what is learned from “example.” Let us consider “consequences” for just a moment! If the fact be sustained that an adulterous relationship exists before obedience to the Gospel and that obedience does not sanctify an otherwise sinful marriage the question is still extant as to what recourse does the adulterer have remaining? It is not merely a question of whether or not we find an example of adulterers being told to separate, but what are the consequences of the their abiding in adultery and thus facing God in the Judgment? What are their alternatives? The Bible teaches that adulterers shall not inherit the kingdom of God (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21). This being true, their alternatives are quite clear: they either repent of and discontinue their sin according to the will of God; or they continue in their adultery and face God in the Judgment and not go to Heaven. Obviously this point turns upon something other than what was exemplified; namely, the consequence of abiding in a sinful state until the Judgment.
Significance of Taking a Stand
This subject is too important to be ignored. If people are given the wrong information and are led to believe that they are alright without correcting their sinful condition and thus face God in the Judgment their souls will be doomed to a Devil’s Hell. Also, if the subject is avoided in favor of a more popularity enhancing variety, many will no doubt, err through a lack of being properly grounded. The only other alternative is that the truth be studied, loved and taught, that dangers may be avoided, souls restored and heaven gained. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, nor whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).
Truth Magazine, XX:5, p. 7-8
January 29, 1976