We do not propose to be able to answer all the questions that might be asked nor solve all of the problems that might arise as a result of marital entanglements in which some people find themselves involved. We do know that if all parties concerned would always respect the word of God on this question, no such problems would ever arise. Hence, whatever confusion, disunity, and inequities exist in marriages cannot be charged to the Lord.
In this article we are primarily concerned with a discussion of those issues about which we can be certain and regarding which errors have been propagated.
It is erroneously affirmed by some that one can marry, divorce for any cause, and re-marry as many times as it pleases him before he becomes a Christian, and God takes no notice of his marital capers until he is baptized, at which time, God then joins him to the one he got caught with when he was baptized. The reasoning employed by the exponents of this theory is as follows. "One is not a subject of God's law until he becomes a citizen of God's kingdom; that while he is in the devil's kingdom, he is not amenable to God." We shall now proceed to point out the fallacy of such reasoning and show that such a conclusion proves too much for the the0rizer, and that he will not accept the consequences of his own proof.
The first consequence of this theory that we mention is this: It makes marriage a church ordinance, ignoring the fact that marriage is 4000 years older than the church, and declares that all those outside the church are not married in God's sight. This in turn demands that children born of such alien parentage be considered illegitimate by the God of heaven and makes marriage depend upon the church for its acceptability with God.
That such a position is ridiculous when one contemplates the baptism of only one party to the marriage vows is clearly seen. According to this theory, we suppose the one being baptized would be considered married in God's sight, while the other would not, seeing that he was not subject to God's marriage law and God took no cognizance of his marital state. Would this constitute a half-marriage? If the one not baptized was not subject to God's law, then he would have the same liberty to put away his wife and take another, as the theory supposes any alien has, with the one being put away in this case being a Christian. The wife, who is a Christian, could not plead fornication as the cause of separation no matter what her husband had done, for if the alien is not subject to God's law, then he cannot be guilty of the sin of fornication. Therefore, a non-Christian could desert a Christian, engage in the practice of any and all immoral acts, and the Christian could do nothing about it. She would stand to lose her home, never able to contract another marriage (on the basis of fornication being the cause), and that, too, with no objections from God. How could God object to the actions of an alien if the alien was not responsible to God in any sense except from a civil point of view?
Let us further consider the consequences as it relates to one who lives in a land that permits the practice of polygamy. A man comes to be baptized who has several wives. Can he keep them all? Does God join him to all of them at the point of baptism? Can he keep any of them? If so, which one? Can he pick his preference? Sometime it is argued that because children are involved, certain exceptions should be made to God's demands concerning marriage. Well, let us suppose that this polygamist has children by each of his several wives; does that mean he can keep all the wives? If not, then why argue that one could keep one wife because there were children involved? We are not unmindful of the plight of children in such circumstances, nor unsympathetic toward them, but their presence does not change God's law in any degree.
But the consequences thus far mentioned by no means represent the greatest danger involved in the theory. If one is not accountable to God while in the devil's kingdom, he cannot be charged with transgressing God's law. One certainly cannot transgress a law of which he is not subject. Romans 4:15 says, " Where there is no law, neither is there transgression." Hence, if God has no law for the alien, the alien has not transgressed God's law. Again we read in Romans 5:13: "Sin is not imputed when there is no law." Therefore, the alien who supposedly is not under God's law is not charged with sin. If he is not charged with sin, he is not separated from God, because sin is that which separates a man from God. (Isa. 59:1, 2) It would then follow, if the theory is correct, that a man in the devil's kingdom is not charged with sin and is not therefore separated from God -- an alien sinner but not charged with sin--in the devil's kingdom, but not separated from God! What a theory! I suppose this would establish the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy, for if one were in the devil's kingdom yet not separated from God, there would be no place from which he could fall and to which he could fall. He would be with God and the devil both at the same time. If such a one came to be baptized, for what would the advocate of this theory tell him he should be baptized? Certainly not for remission of sins, for "where there is no law, sin is not imputed." If he were not responsible to God, he would have no sins for which to be baptized. A preacher who holds this theory was pressed with this argument and finally answered, "He would not need to be baptized at all." He had to say it in order to be consistent, thus the consequences of a false doctrine. This doctrine invalidates the gospel of Christ, renders His death a useless sacrifice, and declares His earthly mission to be a total waste of time. Jesus came to "seek and save the lost" only to find that after all had been done to accomplish this aim, that there were no lost, because those outside the kingdom of God were not subjects of His law therefore not sinners.
The consequences of such a theory would be enough itself to explode the theory if there was nothing more, but there is more. In 1 Cor. 5:9, 10, Paul said, "I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators, not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world." If those in the world are not subject to God's law, just how did they get to be fornicators, covetous, extortioners, and idolaters? What made them such? Again in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 it is said that "fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed . . ." Here were some who were adulterers and fornicators before they were washed and justified, hence one in the devil's kingdom can be guilty of committing adultery. Therefore, God does take cognizance of one's marital relations and holds him accountable, therefore, before he is baptized, while he is still in the devil's kingdom.
After it has been shown conclusively that one in the devil's kingdom is a subject of God's moral law; that God does take account of his doings; that he can be guilty of the sin of adultery and fornication, then the advocate of this theory jumps to another position. He admits that God does hold one accountable prior to his baptism, but that baptism cleanses one of his sins, therefore he can go right along living with a companion with whom he was in adultery before he was baptized. "Baptism," he says, "cleanses the adultery and purifies the marriage so that it is no longer adultery." To which we have just as often answered that baptism of itself cleanses no one of any sin. Baptism alone will not wash a single sin away. It must be preceded by faith and repentance. Now, whatever is involved in "repentance" is essential to the washing away of sin in baptism. "Repentance" means to "have another mind"--to change the mind, which in turn results in a change of conduct. One cannot habitually continue the practice of sinning and claim to have repented. That is the sense of 1 John 3:9. He cannot continue to sin if he is born of God, but he is not born of God unless he has repented. Things morally wrong before baptism are also wrong after one is baptized. If one insists on continuing in that which was wrong before he was baptized, therefore still wrong, it evidences his failure to repent.
Let us suppose that one is a drunkard before he is baptized, will baptism purify drunkenness and make it righteous? No one argues that he can keep on drinking after he becomes a Christian and do it with God's approval. "Another," let us say, "is a thief." Can he keep on committing acts of theft after he is baptized because baptism cleanses it and makes it righteous? All agree that he must quit stealing and if repentance has been genuine, he will quit. Through fleshy weakness, he may take it up again but each time he steals, he is guilty of sin. Another comes to be baptized who is married to a woman with whom he is in adultery. Must he cease this act with her or does baptism cleanse it and make it righteous? Strange as it seems, there are those who will tell the drunkard and the thief that they must cease their unrighteous acts or be lost, but will tell the adulterer that it is all right for him to continue. "O," it is said, "it is no longer adultery after baptism." Well, just what keeps it from being adultery? Was baptism responsible for the transformation? If baptism changes adultery to purity, why will it not also do the same for drunkenness and theft? Is the blood of Christ powerful when applied to adultery?
Though they reach it in different ways, the blood of Christ is the cleansing power to wash sin away for both the alien sinner and the erring child of God. Now, will the blood do something for the alien that it will not do for the erring child? Does the blood of Christ lose some of its power when applied to the sin of the erring child? If it cleanses the alien of adultery and allows him to continue in it, will it do the same for the child of God? If the blood of Christ reached in baptism by the alien sinner will purify for him an adulterous marriage, will it also do the same for an erring child when he reaches it through repentance and prayer? If an alien sinner can put away his wife and marry another, without fornication as the cause, and be so purified by the blood of Christ that he can continue in this second marriage, can a child of God also put away his wife for other reasons and marry another and have his second marriage purified by the blood of Christ so that he may continue in it? If this is so with reference to the second, how about the third, fourth, and fifth? If this is so, then God has no law to protect the home, and the whole marriage realm becomes one big round of promiscuity, and that, too, with God's approval! Believe it who can!
God holds both saint and sinner accountable for misdeeds. Sin separates from God for whoever is guilty. (Isa. 59:1, 2) The only way for one, who is separated from God to be reconciled, is to have his sins forgiven. Through the good providence of God, a plan has been revealed from God by which man can be made righteous. That plan is the gospel of Christ. In order to appropriate the grace of God offered in the Gospel, one must meet the conditions set forth, one of which is the cessation of the practice of habitually sinning. Whatever sacrifice one must make, whatever human relationships must be severed in order to meet these conditions, are essential to our salvation. Jesus said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery." (Matt. 19:9) From this there is no appeal. Hypothetical cases, borderline incidents, and man-made theories may be brought up; the innocent may suffer for the guilty, but the word of God still reads just as it did before. It is our business to respect it, not attempt to circumvent it.
Truth Magazine VI: 6, pp. 1,8-9