By Peter McPherson
There is a connection between the recently advanced theory, as taught by a few fellows, of the “One Covenant,” “the law” and loose views on marriage, divorce and re- marriage. It’s on page 45 of Olan Hicks’ 1978 booklet on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage as he discusses Romans 7:1-4.
In the course of his fuzzy arguments he says, “The law of Moses did not die and it did not commit fornication. Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law (Matt. 5:17). So it did not die.” Paul said, “the law is holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12). It did not commit fornication. Hicks further states, “They were released by the act of a third party, Jesus, who was not one of the original parties to the marriage.” Then he concludes, “It is impossible for a marriage covenant to be broken and another one contracted unless the mate either dies or commits fornication, then it appears that Jesus himself has set a bad example, being married to a bride who has been released from a previous marriage by neither of these two ways.”
There it is. To get around Romans 7:1-4 Olan has to have “the law of Moses” continue (well if it isn’t “dead” then it must still be alive). But Olan’s reasoning is nothing less than a perversion and wresting of Scripture with the result being gross error. Ruling out the plain teaching in Romans 7:1-4 and Matthew 19:9 now brother Hicks has the door open for divorces for every cause beside that of death or for fornication, even, by a third party, Jesus himself!
True enough it was Jesus who released the Jews from the Law when he nailed it to the cross when he died (Col.
2:14; Eph. 2:14-15; Heb. 8:13; 10:9-10; 7:12; Rom. 10:4; 8:13; 2 Cor. 3, etc.). Since “the law” was now dead, Christ could lawfully be joined/married to his body, the church (Rom.7:4-6). The church was certainly established after the cross and subsequently to the death of the old Law.
The Law of Moses called for an adulteress to be put to death (Deut. 22:22) not to be merely “called an adulteress.” This proves that the marriage illustration of Romans 7:2-3 is applied to the New Testament times, valid now. This is also seen by the fact that the definite article is absent in the Greek from before “law.” “Law” in v. 1 refers to the restraints of any law. Contextually “law” in v. 2 refers to the original marriage law of Genesis 2:23-24, as Jesus pointed out (Matt. 19:4-6). It is “the law of her husband” and from God himself (v. 2). Incidentally as an important aside, the passage is not saying that automatically or even upon repentance one who has been living in an adulterous relationship (who is living with “another man”) is now free just because her former spouse is now dead. The passage is not setting forth that scenario at all. It does not say that. It teaches what a woman freed from her legal husband by his death might do . . . scripturally marry again. But when she is still married to her legal husband, she cannot marry another one without being called an adulteress. Nothing can change the status of a woman or a man that has un- scripturally divorced and remarried. Such are not ever free to re-marry with God’s blessings. The tough truth is this: After-the-fact events (death of the former spouse; adultery of a put away mate) does not change some things (Matt. 5:32; John 6:60; Prov. 13:15; Rom. 3:8).
Now back to our refutation proper. Romans 7:12 is not teaching a thing about “the law of Moses” continuing past the cross of Christ, only that while it lasted it was “holy . . . and just and good.” And Matthew 5:17 does not teach that “the law” was not to be done away with at the Cross either. Whenever Jesus perfectly kept the Law by “fulfilling” it in every way he took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14; Heb. 4:15; Luke 24:44). In doing so he did not “destroy” its purpose and goal — to bring men to Christ (Rom.10:3; Gal. 3:19-25).
But if “the Law” continues today then not only would Deuteronomy 24:1-2 apply in giving divorces for “some uncleanness” (something short of adultery, pmc), but so would verses 2-4 which prohibits an unscripturally divorced woman who remarries another man from ever returning to her original spouse even if her second husband died (which Romans 7:2 allows; of course conditionally upon her true repentance; remember all the while she has still been “bound” to her original marriage “covenant of her God” — Prov. 2:17; Matt. 2:14; this makes the difference in this case).
Further the law for committing adultery would also mean certain punishment for violations, even death (Deut. 22:22). But as the Adventists came up with their distinctions without a difference (i.e., the moral law and the ceremonial law), our new “Old Law” teachers have apparently devised some such formula as well, to apply what they want to apply and reject what they want to reject.
The only way that one can attempt to get around the force of Romans 7:2-3 is to put a special spin on it. Then with this text not meaning what it obviously says, and Matthew 19:9 not meaning what it obviously says, one can really scripturally divorce and scripturally remarry for “just any reason” (Matt. 19:3, NKJ) the very thing the Jews came to “test” Jesus about and the very thing that Jesus corrected and gave only one exception to (Matt. 19:4-9)!
Olan says they were “released from the Law” by “the act of a third party, Jesus” yet says the Law “did not die.” Therefore, the idea must be that “the Law” continued, only some were “released from it.” “The Law” did continue to the unbelieving Jew but not with God’s blessing. There are some passages which project the idea that it was the death (spiritual) of the Jews and not the law itself that prompted God to give us a new law, the gospel of Christ (Jer. 31:32; Heb. 8:8), but in the larger picture of the scheme of redemption and considering God’s omniscience “the Law” was temporary and it was meant to die (Gal. 3:19; 4:21-31; 1 Pet. 1:20). And any who try to revive any concept of “the Law of Moses” continuing today or at least “not” dying whether they got the idea from Olan Hicks, the Adventists, or someone else, do so without God’s approval and err greatly (Rom. 2:16;1:16; John 12:48).