By Bobby L. Graham
The relationship of marriage is approved by God and controlled by him. Humans do not have the right to put asunder (separate) what God has joined (Matt. 19:6). The relationship of marriage is no more open to human change than is the worship of the church or the terms of admission into the church. Men are not permitted to alter God’s system in any respect (1 Cor. 4:6).
Satan has been successful, nevertheless, in enlisting into his army many who would attack the clear teaching of Scripture regarding marriage. Even brethren have submitted to his rule and have cooperated with him in his diabolical efforts. The contriving of marriage theories that are clearly false has been one of their chief contributions.
Jesus plainly expressed his will concerning marriage, divorce, and re-marriage in passages like Matthew 19:9: “And I say unto you, 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.” Every one of these false theories considered below makes Jesus’ teaching void.
The Divorced Fornicator
According to some the divorced fornicator is free to marry in God’s sight. They claim that he is free because he is no longer bound to his mate in marriage. It is true that he is no more bound to his mate. If he were still bound, then the innocent partner would also be bound because the binding involves both of them, as is seen in Romans 7:1-3.
The absence of a bond to his former partner, however, is not the full picture. God has never given the fornicator the right to marry again. Where is the passage giving the right of re-marriage to the guilty party? It is not found in the New Testament. In the absence of such a passage authorizing his second marriage, he is not authorized to marry. Marriage is like all other aspects of the divine will in that God has fully set forth his will. Because the put away fornicator is never granted the right of re-marriage, he acts without divine authority when he marries again. He is just like the priest from another tribe, the priest offering strange fire, Cain offering another kind of sacrifice, the worshiper using his mechanical instrument under the new covenant, and the Mormon using water in the Lord’s supper. They all act without God’s authority (Heb. 7:14; 1 Cor. 4:6). When God says nothing to permit the divorced fornicator to marry, he acts apart from God’s law and classes himself as a lawless individual (Matt. 7:23).
If this theory were true, the fornicator could make his partner so miserable that divorce would take place. In this situation, he would have the right to remarry again. In other words, he could benefit from his own sin, or do evil that good might result, though the apostle Paul classified such a principle as dishonorable in Romans 3:8.
Adultery: An Isolated Act
Closely related to the previous theory is this one that views adultery as a one-time action committed in the consummation of a second marriage, with all succeeding acts sanctioned by God because they are part of the new marriage, which God accepts. Here again, if this theory be true, it encourages a low view of marriage for it makes it possible for one partner to commit adultery for an evil purpose and benefit therefrom. It would also mean that the innocent party is not married to the guilty one any longer. Would this not be the case if the act of adultery terminated the first marriage? If the guilty came back to his mate for later cohabitation, while the innocent did not know of the act of adultery, the innocent party would ignorantly commit adultery, fornication. The result of the theory is just as foolish as the theory itself is!
It is important to examine this idea of adultery as a onetime act. Will it bear the scrutiny of close examination and testing with the Word of God? If the theory be correct, then why does Romans 7:3 call the woman an adulteress after her marrying another man? If the first act of cohabitation were the only act of adultery, then the verse incorrectly labels her an adulteress. Why was the woman in 1 Corinthians 5 called the wife of the father, even after the first act of cohabitation, if that act broke the bond of marriage to her husband, freeing her to marry again? Why did John the baptizer call the woman in Mark 6:17,18 the wife of Philip after her marriage to her brother-in-law if that first act of cohabitation terminated her marriage? There is something wrong with the theory that makes these clear passages inexplicable!
While many contend that one cannot “live in adultery,” the-Bible says otherwise. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul said the Corinthians lived in adultery before becoming Christians by using the Greek imperfect tense, which signifies continued action in the past. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus said one could live in adultery as he employed the Greek present tense, which signifies continued action. In Colossians 3:5-7 Paul indicated it is possible for people to live in fornication, which includes adultery. It is true that adultery is only one species of fornication, but the usage of Paul did not distinguish between the various kinds of fornication. He clearly referred to fornication in general, including adultery. After all, what is so special about adultery that it would be only a one-time act while other forms of fornication are continuous conditions?
The Unbeliever’s Status
Much ado has been made over the special status of one not a Christian. Efforts have been made to show him unamenable to God’s law on marriage. Some have contended that he is subject only to civil law. The absurdity of these ideas is seen in Jesus’ teaching on marriage when he returned to God’s original marriage law (Matt. 19). Here he identified God’s will relative to marriage as being superior to all later law, both civil law and kingdom law, for it preceded both of them. He did not indicate that God’s law is otherwise for unbelievers.
If Jesus’ statement does not apply to unbelievers, then their practices of polygamy, concubinage, and homosexual marriage are not wrong. If baptism sanctifies their present relationships, then their conversion to Christ does not require them to terminate those relationships. If not, why not? On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 conclusively shows that unbelievers are subject to law besides civil law and are guilty of sin besides the sin of unbelief. Those Corinthians were guilty of homosexuality, covetousness, and reviling, none of which was condemned or controlled under Roman or Greek law.
What is so magical about baptism that it can transform a sinful act/relationship into a righteous one? The act that was sinful before baptism continues to be such after conversion. Repentance requires a cessation of sinful practices. Has sexual cohabitation which is continued after conversion been repented of? Does not its continuance prove a lack of repentance? If baptism has such power, what would remove its power to make polygamy and homosexuality right?
The law of Christ in the New Testament is directed to all people, brings blessings and punishment to all people, and will be the basis of judgment for all. Why then would all not be subject to it?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 5, pp. 131-132
March 1, 1990