“And Wash Away Thy Wives”

By Connie W. Adams

For many years some have advocated that the alien sinner is not under law to Christ and therefore what the Lord taught on marriage, divorce and remarriage does not apply to such an alien. According to this view, the teaching of the Lord on this subject only becomes applicable to him when he enters the kingdom. How many wives he may have had and for what reason he put them away none of that matters. The “blotting out of sin” forgives all of this and grants the right for the sinner to abide in his calling and keep whatever wife he has (whether number two, three, ten or fifteen). In other words, baptism washes away wives.

It is certainly true that when God forgives the sinner he does not hold him accountable any more for the wrong done. But does baptism sanctify an unholy relationship? The Colossians had “lived” in fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness prior to their conversion (Col. 3:5). That was their state of living. Question: When they repented of their sins and were buried with Christ, did he cut off their sins? Col. 2: 11- 13 says that he did. Did he sanctify a state of fornication and the other listed sins of Col. 3:5? Did not repentance require severance from all such practices? Did baptism sanctify covetousness?

But, it is argued, these alien sinners were not subject to the law of Christ on marriage, or any other subject. There are several things wrong with this position.

(1) If the alien sinner is not subject to the law of Christ, then why preach the gospel to him? Jesus required that the gospel be preached to every creature in all the world (Mk. 16:15-16). Why do that, if they are not amenable to it?

(2) If the alien sinner is not subject to the law of Christ, then how did he get to be a sinner in the first place? Does God have two different laws in operation at the same time? Sin is a transgression of the law. But what law?

(3) This position robs repentance of its fruit. Repentance requires a change of mind which results in a change of conduct. John preached, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). According to this idea, what was adultery before baptism is no longer adultery. One of the basic issues in this whole controversy is the nature of repentance.

(4) The notion under review assumes that marriage is a church ordinance; that is,’the Lord’s will on the subject does not affect one until he becomes a member of the church. But God ordained marriage in the garden of Eden, not in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

(5) This position soothes the consciences of those in adulterous marriages, and makes them think all is Well when they are still in adultery. It thus contributes to an already frightening disregard for the permanency of the marriage bond.

I made these specific objections to James D. Bales several years ago when he sent me a copy of his manuscript for the book Not Under Bondage and requested a critique of the material. He thanked me for my comments, made some changes in his manuscript in an attempt to strengthen his argument, and published the book anyhow.

For a number of years, my esteemed brother, Homer Hailey, has taken essentially the same position on this subject as brother Bales. For the most part, he has been content to hold his view as a private opinion and not press it in his public teaching. But he told me personally that he thought Bales “has the truth on this.” I told him I certainly did not think so. But now, our highly respected brother is openly preaching this. In a sermon of over two hours at Belen, New Mexico, he made the most definite statement of his position to date. He also stated that he had preached on it not long before that in California, all that while he had been disposed not to say much about it in the past, that he intended to be more outspoken on the matter in the future.

That is cause for alarm. No man of this generation has been held in any higher regard than he. It was my good fortune to study under him in the late 1940’s and early 19501s. Through the years since, our paths have crossed a number of times and we have spoken several times on the same meeting or lecture programs. He was a wise counselor to me at a very critical point in my life when the exciting call of show business put me in a temporary dilemma. It was he who excited my interest in the study of prophets. But he also taught me, and a host of others, not to think of men “above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). It is now time to apply that in the case of our beloved brother. What he is saying is welcomed with open arms by some who are in unscriptural marriages. They will be lulled into a false sense of security. Souls are at stake. This position is already contributing to a weakening of the moral fiber of congregations where it is advocated. There are already signs that his increased militance on the subject has emboldened some others to start circulating materials advancing this cause. The age, knowledge and experience, not to mention the fact that so many stand in awe of this good brother, only adds to the seriousness of the problem. I earnestly entreat my friend (I hope, as a father), to back off, take a good look at this position and its consequences and the potential for all-out war it portends.

It is a time to watch and pray, a time to keep our armor on and our swords sharpened and ready. (Quoted from Searching The Scriptures, September 1988).

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 22, p. 688
November 17, 1988