By Aude McKee
Today in our examination of Olan Hicks’ tract on divorce and remarriage, we reproduce a portion of it that begins on page 10:
Some have contended that Paul, in Romans 7:2-3, indicated that God binds the two mates together in a marriage for as long as they live, without recourse, and declares a second marriage to be a state of adultery. This again represents a careless misreading of the text. This passage does not mention what a MAN may or may not do, only the WOMAN. It does not mention what is required of either under the GOSPEL of Christ. It simply says that the woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. It does not say BOTH are bound by the gospel or not bound. “Both” isn’t mentioned and “the gospel” isn’t mentioned, only the woman and the law. This is obviously a reference to the fact that under the law of Moses, the woman did not have the right of divorce, only the husband did. At the time the book of Romans was written Jewish converts to Christianity were still governed in civil matters by the law of Moses. Thus the woman who divorced her husband would be exercising an option not given her by the law and would therefore be legally declared “an adulteress” in a second marriage. Paul merely used their knowledge of this law to illustrate a point about how they were made free from the law of Moses to “be married to another, even him who is raised from the dead” (vs. 4). This is not a text on new testament regulations concerning divorce and remarriage.
In responding to what Olan has said about Romans 7:1-4, 1 have to say that in all my born days I never heard anything like that before! We want our readers to notice several things in the passage. First, the letter to the church in Rome was written probably in the latter part of the 50’s. The law of Moses had been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), and Jesus died, you remember, in the 33rd year of His life. So more than 20 years after the inauguration of the New Testament and the establishment of the church, the Holy Spirit had this letter penned. In verse two the Spirit used the present tense. “is bound” if the husband is alive and “is loosed” if the husband be dead. Olan’s argument reminds me of the way Jehovah Witnesses deal with the passage in Luke 16:19-31. By the time the Witnesses get through with that passage, you can’t believe a word in it, and that’s about what Olan has done with Romans 7:1-4. The fact is, in 58 A.D. a woman was bound to her husband as long as he lived, and at that time she was free from the law of her husband if he was dead. And friends, the law of the Lord has not been changed from 58 A.D. till 1980 A.D.!
A second thing we should observe is that Jesus, while he was on earth, took people back to the original law of God concerning marriage. In Matthew 19:4, He said, “Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain (two) shall be one flesh?” This, of course, destroyed the idea of divorcing and remarrying, so those present on that occasion ask, “Why did Moses then command to give’ a writing of divorcement and to put her away?” Jesus then replied, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I 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. ” Now Olan would have us believe that the Holy Spirit, in Romans 7:1-3, is taking us back to the hardness of heart allowances that Moses provided. Ah no! Romans 7:1-3 is God’s law concerning marriage and the Spirit uses this law to illustrate how the Law of Moses died when Jesus died (Col. 2:14). Just as a woman becomes dead to the law that bound her to her husband when he dies, so the Jews became dead to the law of Moses when it died at the cross. And to continue the illustration further, since the man was dead, the wife was free to remarry and would not be guilty of adultery if she did so. Therefore, since the Jews were dead to the law of Moses (as a result of its death), they were now free to be “married” to someone else – Jesus Christ, and in that relationship bring forth fruit unto God.
Now is the time to say something about God’s law of marriage to which reference was made in the paragraph above. To save space we will give the scripture references and hope that our readers will give close attention to each one. First, note the origination of marriage in Genesis 2:18-25. His arrangement called for one woman for one man and the permanency of that relationship can be seen in verse 24. This is God’s marriage law.
Then notice Mark 10:2-12. The person who reads carefully will observe that the arrangement is a permanent one, and if either the husband or the wife puts the other away and marries again, adultery is the result. This is God’; marriage law. ‘
Now turn to Luke 16:18. “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. ” This is God’s marriage law.
Then that brings us to Romans 7:1-3. Turn there and read it again. Doesn’t it harmonize perfectly with the verses listed above? Why, of course. This is God’s marriage law.
Turn now to 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. The wife or the husband is not to depart (put away) the other, but if they do they are to remain unmarried or be ! reconciled. The harmony is beautiful! This is God’s marriage law.
Last of all open your Bible in the same chapter (1 Cor. 7) to verse 39. Here we are told, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth: but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. ” What law is this by which the wife in this passage is bound? Why, by the same one by which the woman in Romans 7:2 was bound! Good reader, This is God’s marriage law. When Olan was commenting on the Romans 7:2 passage he said, “This is obviously a reference to the fact that under the law of Moses, the woman did not have the right of divorce, only the husband did.” The parallel between the statement in Romans 7:2 and 1 Corinthians 7:39 is certainly evidence of what we have been repeating – this is God’s marriage law.
But someone is certain to say, “The law of God concerning marriage says nothing about a divorce and a remarriage. It simply states that a man and woman are bound to each other as long as they both shall live.” That’s exactly right! But it must be remembered that the one who makes the law has the right to make an exception to the law. For example, God said, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Are there any exceptions to this law that all men must die! Yes, God that made the law has also made an exception. In 1 Corinthian 15:51, we are told, “Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . . . ” The exception to the dying law is that those who are alive at the second coming of Christ will escape – not the judgment but simply the dying.
Is there an exception to the married till you die law? Yes, and the exception is found in Matthew 19:9. Putting away for fornication is the exception to God’s marriage law.
Almost all of four pages of the tract written by Olan Hicks on divorce and remarriage are taken up with the “Summary.” In this he treats us to his thinking on “grace” and “legalism.” But after all his talking about the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus and human judicial concepts, we still remind him that his entire arrangement falls flat on its face because he has not given the word “adultery” its proper definition. Adultery is not a divorce paper or a marriage license! Adultery is “unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another.” So, the adultery does not take place when the divorce decree is granted, or when the couple say, “I do,” but when they go to bed together! This means that if the divorce and remarriage was not in harmony with the teaching of Matthew 19:9, the new relationship produces the sin of adultery every time they have a sexual relationship.
Now, how can the couple caught up in a situation like this get forgiveness? If either of them is not a Christian, God’s plan is simple. The unbeliever must believe, (Heb. 11:6; John 8:24) first of all. Second, he must repent of his past sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30), and repentance means to have a change of mind about sin. Naturally, the change of mind (repentance) will cause the person to make a sincere effort to change his life. This would include ending the relationship that was producing the adultery. Third, the person must be willing to confess his faith in Christ and that before men (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32). Finally, to be a child of God, the person must be baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
But suppose a person who is a member of the Lord’s church gets involved in an unscriptural marriage, what steps must he take to be back in fellowship with God? Step one is to repent. Peter told Simon (who had sinned as a Christian), “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22). Now the man in our illustration was guilty of going to bed with a woman to whom he had no right. He was guilty of the sin of adultery every time they had a sexual relationship. Therefore, for him to comply with the teaching of the Spirit in Acts 8:22, he would have to have a change of mind (repent) of that sin. The change of mind, of course, would result in a change of conduct on his part. In other words, he would stop committing the sin!
It will also be observed that a second step is included in the inspired instructions Peter gave to Simon. That was to pray to God for forgiveness. And then yet another thing we must do as erring children of God is to confess our sins. John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). To summarize, the person who has never been a Christian must believe in the Lord, repent of his sins, confess his faith in Christ, and be baptized for the remission of sins. On the other hand, the person who is an erring child of God must repent of his sins, confess those sins, and then pray to God for forgiveness.
The only people who are able to lay hold of the grace of God are those who are humble enough to obey God’s instructions! The author of the Hebrew letter said, “. . . He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). As I read brother Hicks’ tract (especially the summary) I get the distinct impression that he is saying that God, in His mercy and love, would never have made a law that would cause some people to live the remainder of their lives without a mate simply because they did not make their first marriage work. This sort of approach to a subject reminds me of the man who argues that he can’t conceive of the God of mercy and love making a law about being baptized for the remission of sins that would keep his good and godly deceased mother out of heaven.
While we are talking about impressions, I seem to get the idea that Olan feels that living without a wife is too great a sacrifice to ask of a fellow in order to go to heaven. But it was Jesus Himself who said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it began to mock him, saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish. . . So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33).
In Matt. 5:29-30, Jesus said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
Now, after you have read those two passages carefully, we urge you to observe what follows immediately after the “cast out your right eye and cut off your right hand” statement by Jesus. “It hath been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matt. 5:31-32). Again we say immediately after speaking of the sacrifices a person might be asked to make in order to be a faithful Christian, Jesus brought in this matter of divorce and remarriage. Would Olan have us believe that simply repenting of the act of getting a divorce is comparable to plucking out your right eye or cutting off your right hand? But when you see a person removing himself from an unscriptural marriage and living without a wife the rest of his life because he did not put away his first wife for “the cause of fornication,” then you see a man casting out his right eye and cutting off his right hand! One thing Olan, and all the rest of us, need to learn is -heaven is worth any sacrifice we might be called on to make.
This series has gone on much longer than anticipated when we began reviewing brother Hicks’ tract. We do believe every argument he made has been given consideration, and, we think, answered from the ward of God. We hope that nothing said in this series will be taken by anyone as an attempt to impugn the motives of brother Hicks. We do not doubt that he sincerely believes the doctrine set forth in his tract, but we just as sincerely believe he is in error. Also, before we wind up this review we want it understood that we have sympathy for all who have been caught up in an unscriptural divorce and remarriage. But sympathy cannot alter God’s way of getting the situation remedied. If a person has been guilty of horse stealing, lying, cursing, or whatever, the only way to get right is to repent and that will motivate a change of conduct. The horse stealing, lying, or whatever, will have to stop. And so it is with adultery. The repentance will mean that the person will stop committing the sin, and the sin of adultery is committed every time the person has a sexual relationship with someone to whom he (she) has no right.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, pp. 169-171
March 17, 1983