By Aude McKee
Olan Hicks, in his tract on divorce and remarriage, gives considerable attention to 1 Corinthians chapter 7. We reproduce the second paragraph on page 8:
But someone will ask, what about verses 10 and I1? Is it not an order to remain unmarried if one separates from a mate? No. She has the option of being reconciled to her husband. But the key, which many overlook, is the fact that verse 10 says this is intended to be applied “to the married.” The conflict comes when this instruction is taken out of that category 4nd forced into application to the divorced and other categories than the married. The inspired apostle here said that Jesus spoke this for married people. He, by the Holy Spirit, gave a different instruction “to the unmarried and widows” in verses 8-9, as well as to the “loosed” in verse 28, and other categories. We ought to accept this position of interpreting what Paul said.
Instead of this being a passage favorable to Olan’s position, it destroys it. Who are in the “unmarried” category? Scripturally, those who have never married, those who have been married but their mates have died, and those who have put away a mate for the cause of fornication and have not formed another relationship. How does Olan define the “unmarried” group? Those who have never married, those who have been married but their mates have died, and those who are divorced! This passage in 1 Corinthians 7 teaches that a husband is not to leave his wife and a wife is not to leave her husband. But if either of them does, they are to remain unmarried or be reconciled. Now, if this passage is harmonized with Matthew 19:9 (as it must be), then if either the husband or the wife puts away the other for the cause of fornication, then that person (the one who did the putting away) would not be bound to remain unmarried.
In verses 8 and 9 of this chapter the Holy Spirit said that if the unmarried and widows could not contain, they were to marry, “for it is better to marry than to burn.” But again, this must be understood in the light of who is “widowed and unmarried.” Why the wife or husband who puts away (with the exception of Matt. 19:9) is to remain unmarried or be reconciled. If every passage is given the consideration it deserves, then the Holy Spirit’s teaching becomes simple.
Verses 27 and 28 must be handled in the same way that is, by harmonizing other passages that have a bearing on the subject. How can a man be loosed from a wife? The Bible says there are two ways this is accomplished. First, by death, and Romans 7:2-3 teaches this clearly. The second way is by the wife being guilty of immorality (Matt. 19:9).
Olan also pays his respects to verse 15 of 1 Corinthians 7. He says: “His (Paul’s, a.m.) ruling of verse 15 that the believer who is deserted by an unbelieving mate is `not under bondage in such cases,’ would have to be negated to say that this person is under bondage to remain celibate for the rest of earthly life.” In other words Olan is saying that 1 Corinthians 7:15 teaches that a Christian who is deserted by an unbeliever has the right to remarry. The difficulty is, this view flies up in the -face of the other plain teaching of the chapter. Verses 10 and 11 deal with situations where there is no immorality involved and in such cases “remain unmarried or be reconciled” is the command. Then observe the verse immediately following verse 15: “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” If we take Olan’s position and say that the deserted partner is free to remarry, then we have the Lord teaching that remarriage would contribute to the unbeliever’s conversion!
It is almost always the case that once men misunderstand a scripture passage, it then becomes necessary to take the uninspired pen also to some other Bible verses, because a disharmony with several statements of Paul, particularly in the seventh chapter of First Corinthians. His command at verse 2 that every man be allowed to have his own wife and every woman be allowed to have her own husband, must be modified to read, “except those guilty of marriage violations.” What he says at verses 8-9 concerning the unmarried and widows, that if they cannot contain they must be allowed to marry, would have to be changed to, “only if they are not guilty of previous marital infractions.” His ruling of verse 15 that the believer who is deserted by an unbelieving mate is “not under bondage in such cases.” would have to be negated to say that this person IS under bondage to remain celibate for the rest of earthly life. At verse 28 Paul said that one who is “loosed from a wife,” does not sin in marrying, but we must add, “provided he did the divorcing and provided it was on the ground of fornication.” Here are four express statements, absolutely clear in what they say, and all given without any hint whatever that they might not apply to some, but according to the traditional concept we must not accept a single one of them exactly as it is written, let alone all four of them. And why? Because they seem to conflict with what men think Jesus meant in Matthew 19:9.
Let’s suppose that an unbelieving husband has deserted his wife, who is a Christian. Now the lesson of 1 Corinthians 7:15 is simply this: if the unbeliever is not content to dwell with the believer because of her faith and determination to serve the Lord, then the believer is not under obligation to fulfill what otherwise would be her responsibilities to her husband. Some of these responsiblities are set forth by the Spirit in verses 3-5 of the chapter. She is “free” from her marital obligations, but certainly nothing is said about her being at liberty to marry again. This has been added by those who want to escape the limitations placed on remarriage by the Lord in Matthew 19:9.
Another point we feel needs to be made is in regard to the “burden” imposed by the Lord’s instructions. We seem to get the impression that Olan is saying the limitations are too great for a man to bear if he can’t marry again after an unscriptural divorce. But what about a man whose wife (say in her early 30’s) develops a mental disease and she is confined to an institution the rest of her life. Are we supposed to try to twist some scriptures so the husband can divorce his wife and form another relationship? Are we to feel so much pity that we will torture God’s Word so the man can find relief? We say to Olan, and all the rest of us, that the answer to the marriage problem in America and around the world, lies in a renewed investigation of God’s regulations regarding that relationship, and a sharp increase in respect for the Lord’s authority.
In his tract on divorce and remarriage, Olan Hicks accuses those who teach that the word “adultery” in Matthew 19:9, means “unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another” are guilty of “forbidding to marry.” We reproduce paragraphs 2 and 3 from page 10:
A Mark of Apostasy: Perhaps the most objectionable feature of this tradition is the fact that it simply means a great many people must be forbidden to have a mate at all. They are judged to have become ineligible to ever participate in marriage relationships again. And this is held to be unchangeable, regardless of their repentance or any other consideration. Once placed in this category, they must remain forever so, as long as they live on the earth. Thus, instead of respecting the divine will which from the beginning noted that “it is not good that the man should be alone,” we wind up with two categories of people, those who may have mates and those who may not have mates.
It would be hard to imagine a more serious indictment that could be brought against a doctrine than to identify it as a feature of the great apostasy of the last times. But this doctrine is so identified in the scriptures. Paul, in predicting the great falling away, that some would give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils and speak lies, specified two features that would characterize that departure as “forbidding to marry” and “commanding to abstain from meats” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). It is biblical to regulate marriage. Urging people not to sin against marriage is, in fact, the content of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9. But forbidding them to have a mate at all as a consequence of having committed that sin, is a different thing altogether. This is a human judgment, not a Bible teaching, and is identified in 1 Timothy 4 with having departed from the way of God entirely.
We hope our readers will open their Bibles and examine the passage in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Our brother has made a “serious indictment” (as he says), but the thing that makes it so serious – it just isn’t so! Now it is true that there are certain religious groups that forbid marriage to certain individuals. The Catholic Church, for example, forbids their officials to marry from the Pope down to the parish priests. We certainly agree that the passage in 1 Timothy would have application to them. But to apply it to those who teach that adultery means what the Greek scholars say it means, is indeed a radical position. Those who read the tract must look deeper than emotional appeals such as this.
But to get right down to the real issue, the statement in 1 Timothy 4:3, “forbidding to marry” would have application only if the person under consideration was forbidding that which the Lord allows. The Lord does not allow a second marriage when the first one was terminated for some reason other than fornication (Matt. 19:9), and those who say that He does are adding to God’s word.
I do not know who came up with this position now being taught by brother Hicks, but whoever did certainly covered a lot of ground. By defining “adultery” as “the act of divorcing and remarrying,” then just a number of false positions taken by preachers over the past years are encompassed. One brother argued a number of years ago that alien sinners are not amenable to God’s law of marriage. And so whatever relationships a person may have formed before obeying the gospel didn’t count. He could keep whatever wife he happened to have when he was converted. Olan’s position takes care of all who may have believed this.
Then there have been those who believed that when a couple were unscripturally married, the first time they went to bed a sin was committed, but from then on it was not adultery. So all they had to do was repent of that one act and they could remain together. Olan’s position takes care of all who have believed this.
And there have been those who took the position that baptism “washes away sin” and so baptism would take care of any divorce and remarriage (not realizing that Acts 22:16 has to do with sin and not husbands and wives). Those who believed that idea would have Acts 22:16 read: “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy first husband (wife).” But Olan’s definition of “adultery” makes it great for all those who hold that position.
Also there have been those who. propagated the idea that since the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:9 were not repeated after the cross, they are not binding. The teaching that Olan does on Matthew 19:9 certainly makes it comfortable for these folk.
There are those who teach that the guilty party of Matthew 19:9 has the same right of marriage as the one who does the putting away. Of course, Olan’s definition of “adultery” opens the way for those who believe this.
Surely whoever came up with this idea that Olan is teaching must have had an IQ bordering on the genius area. The only thing wrong with the position – it just isn’t so! Matthew 19:9 still reads: “And 1 say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. “
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 5, pp. 138-139
March 3, 1983