Baptism: For the Remission of Sins or of Marriages?

By Johnny Stringer

Baptism is absolutely necessary for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), for salvation (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), and for union with Christ (Gal. 3:27). Let none deny the importance of baptism. However, let us not make the mistake of attributing feats to baptism which it cannot accomplish. Some seem to have the curious notion that baptism nullifies and erases marriages!

Paul said, “For the woman which hath an husband is hound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she he married to another man; she shall he called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Rom. 7:2-3). Clearly, then, a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives; marriage is a lifetime arrangement; and if she is married to another during the lifetime of her first husband, she is an adulteress because of the fact that she is still bound to her first husband. This is the general rule. Jesus made an exception to it, saying that one who puts his mate away for the cause of fornication is free to remarry (Matt. 19:1-12).

It is argued by many of our brethren that one can divorce and remarry unscripturally and then when that person is baptized, he can continue to live with the second mate without being guilty of adultery. They believe that whatever mate one has at the time of baptism is his scriptural mate and that all previous marriages no longer count. But the scriptures teach that unless he puts away his first mate for the cause of fornication, a person is bound to the first mate for as long as that mate lives. The act of baptism cannot change that. Baptism cannot nullify the first marriage! When one is baptized, he is still bound to his first mate and, therefore, has no right to live with the second mate. Since he is still hound to the first mate, he commits adultery by his relations with his second mate.

Baptism, brethren, is to blot out sins; it is not to blot out marriages! The one who is living in an adulterous union-that is, living with a second mate while still bound to the first mate (Rom. 7:2-3)-can be baptized and have all his past sins blotted out. He can be forgiven for having lived with a person he had no right to live with. But he is still bound to that first mate; therefore, he cannot continue to live with the second mate without continuing to commit adultery.

Not many are willing to give up their adulterous unions. They will not repent of them. To do so is difficult. Whether or not one is willing to do so is a real test of his dedication and devotion to Christ; it shows whether or not he really loves Christ above everyone and everything else (Lk. 14:26, 33). The one who is truly converted will stand the test and cease his adultery. Those who do not want to cease their adultery will often use the children as an excuse not to sever the relationship. It is more than a little interesting that folks do not seem too concerned about the effect on the children when they want to end a marriage for an unscriptural reason, but when it comes to the matter of ending an adulterous relationship which they do not want to end, then they become terribly concerned about the effect on the children. They need to consider the effect that it will have on the children to grow up and learn that their parents are living in adultery! Which will produce the better effect on the children: learning that their parents had such little regard for the word of God that they openly defied it and lived without shame in an adulterous relationship, or seeing that their parents are so devoted to the God of heaven that they were willing to make an extreme and agonizing sacrifice in order to please Him and reach heaven?

Brethren, if you did not put away your first mate for the cause of fornication and if that mate is still living, you are still bound to that mate; your baptism did not nullify that first marriage. You, therefore, have no right to live with another. If you have already begun to live with one other than the one to whom you are bound, cease that adulterous relationship. The brief period of pleasure that such a relationship will bring on earth will not be worth an eternity of agony in hell.

Truth Magazine XXI: 21, pp. 327-328
May 26, 1977