A Review of "Divorce and Remarriage"

Gordon J. Pennock
Racine, WIS.

J. M. Tucker's Article: Divorce and Remarriage

A brief article concerning divorce and remarriage written by brother J. M. Tucker was published in the March issue of TRUTH magazine. Several readers have inquired if brother Tucker's views on the subject are the views of the editors. It seems impossible for some to conceive of a paper existing simply as a medium through which others might express themselves. They seem incurably wedded to the idea that a publication must have a creed to which every writer is bound before being allowed to use its facilities Such may be the wisest policy for papers to pursue, but I can only say that such has never been the policy of TRUTH Magazine. From the beginning, it has been our purpose to print anything from anybody considered a brother in Christ, Providing he wrote on matters "Pertaining to life and godliness," in a spirit and manner worthy of a Christian. Naturally with such a policy, we sometimes print things which we cannot personally endorse, as well as some things with which we may strongly disagree. Whenever this happens we cherish the hope that discerning readers will respond with articles setting forth what they believe to be the truth. Our ultimate purpose is to get every reader to become a personal student of the Bible for himself.

Although there were some good statements in Brother Tucker's article, we are compelled to repudiate both his conclusion and the basis upon which he attempted to establish it. His conclusion is that "Divorce and remarriage is nowhere taught in the New Dispensation." To reach that conclusion he argued that when Jesus taught in Matthew 19:9 was contrary to what Paul taught in Romans 1 :7-3 and I Cor. 7:10, 11, 39. He rejected what Jesus said was a justifiable cause for divorce and remarriage - that of fornication - by saying that Jesus was simply "teaching the same thing that Moses taught," and therefore, since He was teaching under the Mosaic dispensation, His words do not apply to those living under the new covenant.

A well known maxim reads: "That which proves too much, proves nothing," and in our view, applies to brother Tucker's reasoning. If he is correct, then his ultimate conclusion must be that we can dispense with anything that Jesus taught during His personal ministry, unless reiterated by inspiration since the day of Pentecost. We believe such a conclusion to be preposterous! We wish to deal with this matter first in our review.

Jesus And The Two Covenants

May we suggest that the personal ministry of Jesus was unique in that while it was conducted under the "law of Moses." His relationship to that law and His teaching of it differed from that of any Jewish teacher before Him. While it is true that He observed it perfectly, and so urged the people of His day, He constantly and consistently applied the types, shadows and predictions of the law and the prophets to Himself. He began His course with this announcement: "Think not that I came to destrov the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17). He reminded His disciples of this after His resurrection, when He said: "These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me" (Lk. 24:44). He then expounded to them the scriptures which showed that "the Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:46, 47).

Jesus was much more than a "teacher of Israel." He was the only begotten Son of God and was sent by the Father into the world to become the saviour of men (John 3:16) by giving "his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). His blood was shed for the redemption of sinners (Eph. 1:7) and for the sealing of the new covenant (Matt. 26:28) which the Lord had promised and prophesied through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34), and of which He became the mediator (Heb. 8:6). With the Father's purpose in Him clearly in mind, He is pictured by the writer of the Hebrew letter as coming into the world with these words upon His lips: "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, But a body didst thou prepare for me; In whole burn offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure: Then said I, Lo, I am come . . . to do thy will, O God." (Heb. 10:5-7). The writer then summarized by saying: "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. ( Heb. 10:9).

So, it appears clear that Jesus was serving two ends during His personal ministry. He was fulfilling the old covenant and at the same time propagating the laws and principles of the new. This accounts for the many occasions upon which He stated the law of Moses and then followed it quickly with the pronouncement: "But I say unto you," thus assuming a place of authority which exceeded the authority of that law. Read Matthew 5:21-22, 27, 28, 31, 32; 33, 34; 28, 39; 43, 44; etc.

A Difficulty Clarified

We are aware that these suggestions may seem to conflict with the fact that the church or Kingdom of God did not begin until the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, but we also believe that the explanation is simple. By way of such, we use the building of the temple of Solomon as an example, which all will agree was a type of the church. (Ephesians 2:19-22). All of the materials used were so prepared in advance that when the work of construction was actually done "neither hammer nor ax nor my tool of iron" was heard in the house (I Kings 6:7). Just so was the material prepared for the church before its erection. John the baptizer began the preparation, Jesus completed it. John preached the "baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins" (Mk. 1:4), and all those who complied with these conditions received forgiveness. When John was imprisoned his ministry ceased and that of Jesus began ( Matt. 4:12-17). In this respect the ministry of Jesus was a continuance of that of John. But Jesus did many things which John did not do, and taught many things which he did not teach.

In accomplishing the work that the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4). "Jesus established His claims to be King - gave laws for the establishment and government of His church -qualified men to organize it- entered heaven with His blood, where He made atonement for the world-was crowned King, and sent the Holy Spirit with the news of His coronation-thus perfecting the preparations for the building of His temple. The builders, guided by the Holy Spirit, put the material in position and the spiritual temple stood forth. As the material which composed the temple of Solomon was prepared before it was placed together, so the material which first constituted the temple of God was made ready by John and Jesus before the day of Pentecost; but as an organic structure, it had no existence." - The Gospel Plan of Salvation, Brents, P. 165.

A second example may be drawn by comparing the incoming of the new covenant with the incoming of the old. In Hebrews 9:19, 29 we read: "When every commandment had been spoken by Moses unto all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats. . . . and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded to youward."

This procedure was drawn upon by the inspired writer to illustrate a truth set forth in verses 15 through 17: that both the first and second covenants were ratified with the blood of a sacrifice, but that neither was confirmed or binding until the sacrifice was killed. And it should further be noted that the laws of the first covenant were fully set forth before the "blood of the covenant" was shed or the people consecrated by it. In the same manner, Jesus declared and expounded the principles and laws of the new covenant during His personal ministry, but these did not become of force until the "blood of the covenant" was shed in His death upon the cross (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25; John 19:34). The first to be sanctified by His blood (Heb. 10:29) and thus introduced into covenant relationship with God through the new or second covenant were the three-thousand upon the day of Pentecost, as recorded in the second chapter of Acts.

Upon the basis of these facts, we are compelled to conclude that the peculiar precepts and principles which Jesus promulgated -as mediator of the new covenant - are now binding upon all who seek to serve God under that covenant. And we can now understand more clearly the order which Jesus gave to the Apostles in the Great Commission which obligated them to teach the baptized disciples whatsoever He had commanded them (Matt. 28:20). Also the promise in John 14:26 by which the Holy Spirit would both teach and bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them while He was with them. Our conclusion harmonizes completely with the words of the Hebrew letter which says that the great salvation was first "spoken through the Lord," and was later confirmed "by them that heard." Yes, those things which Jesus taught during His personal ministry, which have to do with His kingdom or the church, are certainly binding upon those who are now serving under His authority.

Jesus On Marriage and Divorce

Let us now look at some of the scriptures which brother Tucker used with reference to the subject of divorce and remarriage. In dealing with Matthew 19:9, he said that Jesus "was teaching the same thing that Moses taught." To this, we are forced to take exception. In doing so may we point out that the law of Moses did not allow for the possibility of one who was divorced for the cause of fornication or adultery to be married to another. The penalty for such conduct was death. It applied to both the young woman who practiced harlotry before her marriage, as well as to those married or betrothed (Dent. 22:13-14).

The question which Jesus was dealing with here was: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" (Matt. 19:3). When He pointed out that God's intention was for a husband and wife to remain together forever, the Pharisees raised another question: "Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?" (v. 7). Evidently their questions were based upon the law as written in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In reply, Jesus pointed out that such was not really the will of God, but rather a concession that was made because of "your hardness of heart." He then laid down a rule, upon His own authority, in which he made fornication the only ground for divorce. In this, he was not teaching what Moses taught but rather a superior law.

Paul In Harmony With Jesus

There is no disharmony between the teaching of Jesus and that of the Apostle Paul upon this subject. When Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome, - Romans 7:1-6 - he simply stated the law which God intended from the beginning, that husbands and wives were to remain together and for each other as long as they lived, with the death of one of the partners being the only condition permitting the other to remarry. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 19:4-6. Paul was simply using God's original law pertaining to marriage illustratively to show that those who had been bound to God through the law of Moses were now free to be "joined" or "married" to Christ, since the law had died or passed away. Therefore, he did not mention the exception to this rule given by The Master.

In I Corinthians 7:10, 11 Paul was advising married people not to separate, but in the event that they did, they were to remain "unmarried or else be reconciled" to their mates. Mere separation was not to be considered sufficient ground for marrying another. He then proceeds in the succeeding verses to say that this rule is also binding upon marriages where one partner is a believer and the other an unbeliever, since they are by virtue of their marriage sanctified or set apart for each other, and that this bond is not broken bv their difference in faith. He encourages the believer to faithfully discharge his obligations in such relationships in the hope that the unbelieving partner may be converted and thus saved. Verse 39 has no bearing upon this discussion since it was not dealing with the matter of divorce or separation, but rather with the propriety of remarriage upon the part of a widow - one whose husband had died.

We trust that these remarks will be considered and studied by all. They are not offered in personal reflection upon brother Tucker, but simply in the interest of what we believe to be the truth in these matters.

Truth Magazine IV: 18-20
May 1960