By Glen W. Lovelady
Proposition: The Scriptures teach that the put-away fornicator can marry another without committing sin.
Let’s begin at the end of brother Caldwell’s article. He didn’t want to talk about what others had to say, but he did make a note about brother McGarvey and I am convinced that he would have brought up the others if he thought that they had changed their opinion. I heard a professor say the other day, “When someone uses the word, ,obviously,’ it probably isn’t.” I believe we will find this to be true again as we investigate this reference made in the book, The Four-Fold Gospel, by McGarvey and Pendleton in 1905. I understand that McGarvey and Pendleton did not agree on this point, and that it was Pendleton who made this comment not McGarvey. In the preface of McGarvey’s 1892 New Commentary on the Book of Acts he states quite clearly,
My advanced age, and the many calls of duty which seem to claim the remnant of my active life, remind me that this is most probably the last effort that I shall make to improve a work. . .
Does that sound like he was intending to change his work in 1905? 1 think not. Your comment, “This . . . obviously reflects McGarvey’s conclusion after much more study,” would more likely cause him to turn over in his grave. Either way, I want you to know that I stand with McGarvey of 1875 and Whiteside of 1939 for their statements were based upon:
(I) What Jesus said in Matthew 19:9, that a putting-away for fornication breaks the bond between the two of them; and
(II) What Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28, that one who is “loose from a wife” can marry without sin.
These two principles are all that we have to go by, and I shall fight for them until you brethren come up with “a direct confirmation from God, ” that states that the put-away fornicator is an exception to these principles and that he must live a life of celibacy. The statement of 1905 was based upon the opinion of Pendleton and it doesn’t hold water. You can start with the story of David and Bathsheba. According to the movie he got to keep her and later they had a son who became a great king of Israel. Maybe it’s only in the movies that people get away with murder or reap the benefits of their own wrong, but I think not.
Did any of you ever steal a piece of candy, a cookie, or even a watermelon? Did you reap the benefits of your wrong? What about the one who lied about his age so he could get married, or who got pregnant only to have a baby to love and care for? Did he reap the benefits of his wrong-doings?
We could ask about the rich people who get their wealth by “hook or by crook.” Answering these questions with a honest heart will allow you to see through this “law” of Pendleton, or whoever came up with it. I can still hear the people crying out, “Men and Brethren, what shall we do?” Pendleton cries out, “No one is allowed by law to reap the benefits of his own wrong” but Peter stood up and said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you (guilty ones) for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:23,36,38).
Now nobody will got away with any wrong doing in this life for we must all stand before God at the judgment day and give an account (Rom. 14:10) and receive his just recompense of reward (Heb. 2:2). Let God deal with the put-away fornicator as he wishes, but let’s not jeopardize our relationship, fellowship and salvation over him. I pray to God that we will stop making laws for others (Rom. 14:4), that we will speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11), and that we will be satisfied with these two principles found in Matthew 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 7:27-28.
Based upon these two principles he has the right to remarry, so the responsibility of authority is up to you to come up with a passage that demands that some who are “loose from a wife” can’t marry. Trying to offset these two principles, you brethren have come up with many man-made laws and rules that are not found in the New Testament, such as:
(1) Only the innocent can marry, I mean “really innocent.”
(2) The guilty can’t remarry, for he has forfeited his right of marriage and thus must live a life of celibacy.
(3) “No one is allowed by law to reap the benefits of his own wrong.”
(4) The guilty must be punished in this life.
I affirm that the innocent one can marry, but not because she is innocent, but rather because she is “loose” from a husband (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:27-28). These principles apply to all, guilty or innocent.
I am doing all that I can to warn you brethren about this matter in the kindest way I know how. I love you and I want your fellowship, but I will not violate these two principles, because I don’t want to jeopardize my fellowship with God. You all have gone beyond a “thus saith the Lord,” to inflict this punishment upon him and in the light of 1 Timothy 4:3, 1 will have no part in it.
Brother Caldwell has charged me with presuming that the put-away fornicator is not found in Romans 7:14, and that he is found in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. Let’s just see who is doing the presuming. In Romans 7:14 we have a woman who marries another man while still bound to her husband. Does that sound like she is a put-away fornicator? No!
Now to 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. Paul says that if you are “loose from a wife,” you can marry without committing sin. Is the put-away fornicator “loose from a wife”? Yes! So you can see that I am not presuming anything. There is no put-away fornicator in Romans 7:14, and there can be a put-away fornicator in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28, because he is “loose from a wife.”
In response to the reference in Malachi 2:11-17 and Proverbs 2:17, I find nothing there about a put-away fornicator and especially that he is bound to celibacy. If God wanted this as a call to justice, that would be fine with me, but we have no such passage to suggest it. And by the way brother Caldwell, I looked up in my dictionary the word “justice.” It defines it as “deserved punishment” (p. 435), so brother Caldwell is back trying to punish the put-away fornicator, even though he specifically stated that this was not the issue.
Brother Caldwell wants me to come up with a specific passage that gives the “right” for the put-away fornicator to marry another. I told him in the first article that the New Testament does not deal with him. It doesn’t say he can and it likewise doesn’t say he can’t. All that brother Caldwell had to say about that was, “it is interesting.” It is more than “interesting,” it is the truth!
The New Testament does speak about “the right” of one who is “loose from a wife” (1 Cor. 7:27-28); he can marry until you come up with “a direct confirmation from God” saying that he can’t. Would the death of his former wife allow him to remarry? If not, when could the put-away fornicator marry without sin? If yes, would her death release two men (her former husband and her new husband)? These are questions that you brethren must deal with when you tamper with God’s word.
The New Testament does speak of an unlawful puttingaway that does not break the marriage bond. And it also speaks of a lawful putting-away that does break the marriage bond between the two of them.
The put-away fornicator must fall under one of these choices. Since he was put-away for fornication, he comes under Roman numeral two above, whether you know it or not, or whether you like it or not. His marriage bond (glue) is broken, destroyed, and obliterated; thus he is “loose from a wife.” He and anyone else who is “loose” from a mate can marry without committing adultery, and it is not left up to you brethren to decide differently or to prescribe his punishment.
Since God had joined them together (Rom. 7:2) and since God has released (unglued) the “innocent” from the “guilty, ” then that must mean that the “guilty party” is no longer bound (glued) to the “innocent party.” This comes under the heading of common horse-sense, implication, and necessary inference. Join your left hand to your right hand and then release the left hand from the right. Both are free from one another. See how easy that was and how uncomplicated it is? God joined the husband to the wife and they are joined together until God releases them from each other. Why must you brethren complicate this matter with your mental gymnastics and opinions? You agree that his bond is broken and that he is “loose from a wife,” but he can’t marry. Why not? Please explain your reasoning! We reason that he can marry only because he is “loose from a wife” (1 Cor. 7:27-28).
The same goes for the man that killed his wife. I know that we are not debating his case, but they are the same and, if you can see the principles in this case, then you ought to be able to comprehend both.
The Put-Away Fornicator
The Man Who Killed His Wife
Both men have put asunder their marriage. Both deserve to be put to death. Both have lost their marriage, wife, family, friends, job, health.
– and “their sin will ever be before them” (Psa. 32:5; 38:1-12; 51:1-3). Both men will spend eternity in Hell unless they get right with God. Both men are “loose from a wife.”
Who are we to say they can’t marry if someone would have them? I can handle the consequences and penalties that result from sin. I just have trouble handling your man-made laws that force celibacy upon anyone who is “loose” from a mate. Where is your authority to force celibacy upon anyone who is “loose” from a mate in the light of 1 Corinthians 7:27-28, and in the light of 1 Timothy 4:3? You brethren better back off from the put-away fornicator and let him marry if someone would have him. You have set yourselves up as judge, jury, and executioners over these sinners and you have condemned them to celibacy, without a passage. God has left the door open for them to turn their lives around, have a marriage, and even to go to heaven. If he is fit for heaven he would be fit for marriage, if he is “Loose from a wife.”
You brethren need to consider the man who was taken back by his wife after an affair. What are the penalties and consequences for his affair? When you come up with the penalties and consequences for him, you will have the proper penalties and consequences for the put-away fornicator. I see no difference between the two of them, but there is a difference in the disposition of their wives. One wife forgave and took back her husband, while the other put him away for fornication and both had authority to do so.
If you have “a direct confirmation from God,” that forces celibacy upon the put-away fornicator, then this debate is over, for I shall not argue with God. Produce the passage and I will stop arguing this point. Thank you for hearing me out and I pray to God that you will consider these principles and make the proper application before it is too late!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 2, pp. 48-49
January 17, 1991