By Weldon E Warnock

A Review of The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God by Homer Hailey

Concerning repentance of a remarried divorced couple brother Hailey states: “To demand that a remarried couple break their marriage covenant on the basis of repentance rests on the assumption that their marriage is ‘an adulterous marriage’ or ‘they are continuing to live in adultery.’ This has not been proved by scripture. The sin was in breaking the covenant by the wife (or husband) in order to marry another and not in a ‘continuous sexual adulterous condition.’ Therefore, repentance demands that they do not break such a covenant again” (pp. 71-72).

Implied in brother Hailey’s statement is that if a remarried divorced couple is living in adultery, then repentance would demand that they separate. He denies their marriage is adulterous, but that the sin for which they must repent is the breaking of the marriage covenant. If I can show by the Bible that they are living in adultery, then it is brother Hailey’s position that rests on an assumption and not mine. The following Scriptures prove that a divorced couple who has remarried without the cause of fornication is living in adultery.

1. Matthew 5:32. “But I (Jesus) 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.” In this passage Jesus says whosoever marries her that is put away committeth adultery. “Committeth adultery” is a translation of the Greek word moichtai, 3 pers. sing. pres. ind. Being in the present tense, it has continuous, linear action. Jesus is saying, therefore, that whosoever marries such a put away person keeps on committing adultery. This one passage should settle the issue as to whether a divorced remarried couple could be guilty of an adulterous marriage.

To argue that Matthew 5:32 is referring to just citizens of the kingdom would have covenant people living in adultery when they divorce and remarry without scriptural cause, while excluding people outside of the kingdom of ever being guilty of such an adulterous state. Such is unreasonable, irrational and unscriptural. God’s children can live in adulterous marriages, but children of the devil cannot. Strange “logic”!

2. Matthew 19:9. “And I (Jesus) say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” As is the case in Matthew 5:32, “committeth adultery” (moichatai) is continuous action, an illicit sexual relationship in which a divorced remarried couple persists.

3. Mark 10:11-12. “And he (Jesus) saith unto them, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” !in both vv. 11-12, “Committeth adultery” is a translation of moichatai, indicating they keep on committing adultery.

4. 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.” In this text “committeth adultery” in the Greek is moicheuei, also 3 pers. sing. pres. ind. The act is continuous, and, hence, an adulterous relationship.

5. Romans 7:2-3. “For the woman which hath an husband is bound 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 be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress. . .” Not only would she be a covenant-breaker, but Paul said “she shall be called an adulteress.” As long as she remains married to another man (to whom she is not bound), she shall continue to be called an adulteress.

In 1 Corinthians 7:39 Paul states, “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.” The binding is concurrent with the living. To marry another while the marriage partner is living constitutes adultery, except for fornication.

6. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. “. , . neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.” The phrase, “such were some of you” shows past action, their former life-style. The verb “were” (hete) is 2nd per. pl. imperf., which represents an action as going on (continuous) in past time. Hence, some of the Corinthians were living in adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, thievery, etc., but when they were converted, they quit these immoral practices.

We have already shown that those who divorce and remarry without the cause of fornication are in an adulterous state, therefore, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, they must terminate such an adulterous relationship when they come to Christ. They may no more lawfully continue living together as husband and wife than homosexuals may continue to cohabit, drunkards continue to drink and thieves continue to steal. Repentance demands separation from sin. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord; and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17).

7. Colossians 3:5-7. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupisence, and covetousness . . . on the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.” From this passage we learn that we can, among other things, live in fornication or sexual immorality. Paul said to “mortify” or “put to death” our members of the body which act as instruments of sin. Those unscripturally married fall into this category.

Brother Hailey wrote in reference to Matthew 19 that “Genesis 2 is appealed to by Jesus and incorporated in His covenant, but the alien is not under this covenant until he brings himself under it through the blood of Christ” (p. 72). Therefore, the alien can’t repent of violating Matthew 19:3-9 because he isn’t under it. Neither can he repent of violating Genesis 2 because he wouldn’t be under it, either according to brother Hailey. He wrote on p. 41, “Where in the Old Testament is there an appeal to Genesis 2 establishing a rule concerning marriage-divorceremarriage addressed to those out of covenant relationship with God?”

If the alien is not under Matthew 19 or Genesis 2, what marriage law is he under? How could an alien be a covenantbreaker without a law? Yet, brother Hailey declared that the sin is “breaking the covenant by the wife (or husband),” and that “repentance demands that they do not break such a covenant again.” Where does God say, or even hint, that this is all that repentance demands? Repentance entails a decision to quit sinning,, manifested by a reformation of life. If we are living in adultery by being unlawfully married, we terminate the sinful relationship. That is repentance!

The Meaning of Repentance

Repentance is a translation of the noun, metanoia. The verb form is mentanoeo. The Analytical Greek Lexicon defines these Greek words, “a change of mode of thought and feeling, repentance . . . practical reformation . * ‘ reversal of the past . . . to undergo a change in frame of mind and feeling, to repent . . . to make a change of principle and practice, to reform” (p. 266).

Thayer defines the verb, metanoeo, “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” (p. 405). W.E. Vine says “that this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God.” Jesus illustrates its meaning in the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32. A person living in adultery must turn from his sin, and change his practice in coming to the Lord. This is the biblical principle to follow of the divorced and remarried who would come to God.

Repentance is emphasized throughout the New Testament. John the Baptist came on the scene saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus echoed the same message (Matt. 4:17; cf. Mk. 1: 15). The disciples of Jesus went out on the limited commission and preached that men should repent (Mk. 6:12). Our Lord said, “. . . except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3,5). Incorporated in the great commission is repentance (Lk. 24:47). Peter preached repentance on Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and Paul told the Athenians that God “commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). God wants us all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

Examples of what repentance requires are found in the preaching of John the Baptist, recorded in Luke 3:10-14, 18-20. They reflect precisely the preceding definitions of repentance. After John told his audience to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance (Lk. 3:8), the people asked him, “What shall we do then?” He responded: (a) Those who had two coats were to give to those who had none (v. 11). (b) Those who had food were to do likewise (v. 11). (c) To the tax-collectors, John said, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you” (v. 13). (d) The soldiers were told, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages (v. 14). (e) To Herod, whose sin was reproved or exposed by John, he said, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” (v. 19; Mk. 6:18).

In all of these things, John urged them to do the very reverse of what they were doing, which, in each individual case, would be the fruit of genuine repentance. In regard to Herod Antipas, John told him he could not have Herodias because it not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife. McGarvey and Pendleton list three reasons why the marriage was unlawful: (1) The husband of Herodias was still living; (2) The lawful wife of Antipas (the daughter of Aretas, king or emir of Arabia) was still living; (3) Antipas and Herodias, being nephew and niece, were related to each other within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity (The Fourfold Gospel, p. 371). We must also add, “Her union with Antipas was adulterous and shocking because the Mosaic Law clearly prohibited marriage to a brother’s wife while the brother was yet alive (Lev. 18:16; 20:21)” (Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, William L. Lane, p. 219).

Though the Herodians were not of Jewish stock, but Idumeans, they would be classified as at least nominal Jews at that time since the Idumeans were subdued by John Hyrcanus in 125 BC, and embodied in the Asmonean kingdom through an enforced circumcision (ISBE, Vol. 3, p. 1378). Some contend that the only unlawful thing about Herod’s marriage to Herodias was a violation of Leviticus 18:16 in taking his brother’s wife. To those who take this position I ask: Would Herod have been justified in taking his neighbor’s wife under similar conditions that he took Herodias? Would it have been right for Herod to take his neighbor’s wife, but wrong to take his brother’s wife?

David and Bathsheba

David and Bathsheba are introduced by brother Hailey as a case where repentance did not demand David giving up another man’s wife. He wrote, “The contention that Genesis 2:18-24 was recognized as law which demanded that the person who takes the wife of another must give her up as demanded by repentance is disputed in the case of David . . . . Surely no one would deny that David repented, yet he was permitted to keep the woman as his wife. Repentance did not demand that she be put away or that the two live apart for the remainder of their lives” (pp. 72-73). 1 offer the following objections to brother Hailey’s contention:

(1) David took the wife of a dead man. True, David maneuvered to have Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, killed (2 Sam. 11:15) in order to take Bathsheba for his wife, but David married her following Uriah’s death ( 2 Sam. 11:27). David was guilty of covetousness, adultery and murder. Because of these sins he suffered severe consequences. But was he guilty of taking the wife of a man who was still living? Obviously not!

Brother Hailey’s position is that an alien sinner may take a mate of a living spouse for any reason and under any circumstance and keep him/her. The sin, he says, is breaking the marriage covenant and not the remarriage. David’s example doesn’t prove his assertion.

(2) David was in covenant relationship with God and, therefore, he was not an alien. If the example of David and Bathsheba introduced by brother Hailey proves anything, it proves that covenant people may also take another person’s mate in marriage for any cause. How does David’s example, who was a child of God, establish the right for remarried divorced alien sinners to remain together? Brother Hailey states, “Will not the same God of loving-kindness and tender mercies forgive and blot out sins under a system of grace as He did under a system of law?” (p. 73)

Well, since God forgave David, his child, under a system of law, will he not forgive his redeemed child under a system of grace who takes another man’s wife? We don’t know what God will do, except what he says. We know what his law teaches (Matt. 19:3-9). That is all that we can and dare offer!

(3) David lived during a time when God made concessions due to the hardness of their heart. Jesus said, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (allowed) you to put away your wives . . . . And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery” (Matt. 19:8-9). The issue is: What does Jesus allow, not what David did.

(4) David had several wives and concubines. His wives were: Michal (1 Sam. 18:27), Abigail (1 Sam. 25:42), Ahinoam (I Sam. 25:43), Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah and Bathsheba (1 Chron. 3:2,3,5), and several concubines (2 Sam. 5:13; 15:16). If brother Hailey’s argument has any merit that remarried divorced aliens may keep their mates because David married and kept Bathsheba, even after he repented, then polygamists (those with a plurality of wives) may also keep their wives because David had a plurality of wives. What is good enough for David is good enough for me doesn’t logically follow. If it does, then the Christian Church’s argument is permissible about instrumental music because they say since David played a harp in praise to God, we may also. They fail to distinguish between the two covenants.

At the bottom of page 73 brother Hailey asserts, “Nowhere did Christ or an apostle teach that repentance demands the breaking of a marriage relationship such as we have been discussing when one obeys the gospel.” This is true as far as finding a specific example. It is also true of polygamy. Where did Jesus or his apostles ever teach that repentance demands the breaking of a polygamous marriage? If no specific example can be found where the remarried divorced aliens broke a marriage relationship, and such proves that they may remain in the relationship, then silence also proves that polygamy is acceptable. The same could be said of homosexuality.

But God has spoken on the subject (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mk. 10:11-12; Lk. 16:18), and it becomes crystal clear that divorce and remarriage for every cause, polygamy and homosexuality are contrary to God’s word, and those who are guilty of these things are living in sin. Repentance demands the thief return his stolen goods, the drunkard give up his bottle, the idolater to give up his idol, the homosexual to give up his man, the polygamist to give up his plurality of wives and the adulterer to give up his unscriptural marriage partner. All sin is to be abandoned and this is included in every passage that tells men to repent.

To ask God to give us examples to satisfy our own demands puts us in the position of be ing law-givers instead of doers of the law. Let us realize that God does not have to say something the way we want it said for it to be true. Our responsibility is to learn what God said and do it.

There will be pain in repentance, but Jesus said it is better to give up the lesser things of this life than to lose one’s soul in hell. “Wherefore if thy hand or foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting hell. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Matt. 18:8-9).

Momentary sufferings, heartaches and disappointments will be forgotten in the comfort of God’s everlasting presence. Jesus declared, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Lk. 18:29-30).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 12, pp. 368-371
June 20, 1991