By H.L. Bruce
The fact that God has taught on a theme should arrest our will and propensities to a complete deference to His teachings. His truth is exceedingly important! Our will is so insignificant! His truth’s majestic! Our propensities mundane! We. are wholly inadequate to direct, design and pursue the way of life of our own merit. Jeremiah expressed it this way, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Isaiah told Israel, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
In Israel, men were not authorities. They were not qualified to be. They were inadequate. Their need for Divine guidance was more than evident. Their tendency to stray was ever present. In evidence of this we read, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doeth not know, my people doeth not consider” (Isa. 1:3).
The limitations of men in the field of authoritative adequacy are pretty well unvaried. If men of our time had the ability to chart their own course through life and into the life beyond, then the death of Christ and the giving of his will was unnecessary.
It is necessary for all of us to prostrate our will before the Divine throne in acceptance of the judgments which God gave through His sinless Son before we can ever be acceptable in heaven’s sight. We must be brought low and realize our ineptness before God, and lay the accommodations of our own will along with the servitude to all human passion on the altar that we may perceive the avenues of Divine justice in God’s restrictions and expressed favors toward men.
The apostle Peter exhorted, “Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). The truth as revealed in the will of God, should be the course of our objectives at all times. It is by the truth that the soul is purified (1 Pet. 1:22), that men are made free (Jno. 8:32), in which we are to walk (3 Jno. 3); and by which we will ultimately be judged (Jno. 12:48). God’s word is truth Ono. 17:17). In view of this the teachings of the scripture on any subject, and upon all doctrines taught, should arrest our most careful and submissive thought.
Today we need to take time to become informed, and to inform others, or, else suffer the results of the consequence of Divine displeasure. In many areas of neglected warnings and study, God’s people have suffered irreversible consequences. Popularity, pride, prestige and acceptance among men, of every sort, is at times best served through the avoidance of controversial material. Such unholy objectives can but passively occupy the mind of the one who is a defender of the truth and a contender for the faith. We cannot allow our personal likes, dislikes or the disposition to please men to subdue our need to subject our will to the will of God’s designated Potentate. The apostle Paul expressed his attitude and need in these words, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
Therefore, all dispositions to please self, friend, foe, relative or brother must be removed from the will of him who profits from deep drinking of God’s eternal truth. Every man should be influenced to thus subdue self.
The moral code revealed by inspiration, in God’s volume constrains our will to the specifications there in contained. The one who follows the works of the flesh, . . . shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:1921). One of the accomplishments of God’s grace is that we, through it, are urged to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (see Titus 2:11-12).
It is obviously proper for concern to be expressed with regard to any subject upon which God has taught. The subject of divorce is within this scope. It should be our desire to exercise all actions and do all instructions only in accord with what God has expressed in his revealed will for us. We should never allow our emotions, sympathies or practices to take the lead in the formulation of views and expression of thought.
There are some dangers that we would all do well to by pass: (1) We could merely give detatched advice in vague generalities which could but faintly be interpreted as either corrective or instructive in nature. (2) Laws could also be made which bind beyond Divine restriction. (3) Looseness can be expressed and encouraged which give liberties beyond authorized proclamation.
We need to be explicit and neither make nor break laws. The weighty and momentous question is, “What is God’s Law?” God has revealed it to us through His Word. But we must study, search and investigate it that we may understand and apply the instruction contained therein. When souls of men are involved and eternal destiny is in the balances the gravity of the thought is inescapable.
In everything we do we must have both divine sanction and legal right. The requirements of both God’s law and civil law are in harmony. The Bible teaches that to reject civil law is to waiver at God’s ordinance (see Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). Marriage, according to Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:1-9; Mk. 10:2-12; Rom. 7:1-4; et al, involves the leaving of parents, cleaving to companion, becoming one flesh, with both civil and Divine sanction.
The Divine purpose of marriage is also revealed in God’s Word. Fornication is avoided, companionship established and the human race equitably populated through a union between man and woman that was designed by God to abide throughout life (1 Cor. 7:2; 6:17-18; Gen. 2:18; Matt. 19:5-6; Rom. 7:1-4).
God, in His Word, has been very precise as to conditions and circumstances under which a marriage may terminate. There is the expressed implication in the fact when two people take each other for life companions that death is the determining factor in marital cessation. This is the consideration in Matt. 19:6, where Jesus taught, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” To this the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul agreed in the illustration of Romans 7:1-4; where he said, “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: but if her husband be dead she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
To this Jesus made exception in Matt. 19:9; 5:32. There He taught that if the companion be guilty of fornication that the innocent party has a right to put the guilty party away and exercise personal license to remarry. Liberty is not expressed or implied to the guilty party to either disengage his marriage, because of his personal guilt, or to benefit thereby by the contract of another marriage. If so, where is the Bible text that so indicates?
According to the Bible the person who has a right to remarriage is the one whose companion has either died or been put away for the specific guilt of fornication. (Please read Rom. 7:3-4 and Matt. 19:9 in reverential and Godly fear in view of the time when we must all stand before Him who shall judge us according to His word.)
There is a line of erroneous reasoning, which bypasses the need’ for Divine authority. This doctrine teaches that if a married person is guilty of fornication that he has thus dissolved his marriage, and if he has dissolved his marriage that he is not married; being thus not married he is in no sense bound to his former companion; consequently may remarry.
That line of rationality, however accommodating and desirable it may be … however many problems, if true, it may solve, is hardly short of expressed subterfuge and is wholly lacking in either Divine expression or implication.
A person cannot, by the authority of Christ, teach the guilty party that God, Christ or the Holy Spirit has extended any such liberties. The reason that such cannot be done is quite simple: There is neither page, paragraph nor line in the entirety of God’s revelation that so indicates.
According to God’s Word people who have never had a companion have a right to take one (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5-6). If one’s companion has deceased, the remaining companion may, with God’s approval, remarry (1 Tim. 5:16; Rom. 7:3-4). Or, if one’s companion is guilty of fornication, the innocent party has a God-given right to put him (or her) away because of this, and elect to remarry'(Matt. 19:9).
But, the Bible no where teaches that the guilty is extended the license and accomodation, due to his own guilt, to be free and thus remarry. Such conclusion depends exclusively upon rationality and speculation.
Even the reasoning is fallacious. The fallacy is in the form of a “non-sequitur” line of thought. Webster defines “non-sequitur,”. . .It does not follow: an inference that does not follow from the premise; specifically a fallacy resulting from a simpler conversion of a universal affirmative proposition or from a transposition of a condition and its consequence” (7th edition, page 574).
There you have it: It simply doesn’t follow that because a person has been immoral, ungodly and messed up his life by committing fornication, that the Lord has authorized or extended license to him to remarry.
The erroneous “non-sequitur” reasoning is relied heavily upon by those who conclude that “living in adultery” is not the idea of Matt. 19:9. “Committeth adultery” is from a Greek verb in the present indicative active which indicates progressive action in the present time; continuous, or linear, action in the present time, is the idea (see Essentials of New Testament Greek, by Ray Summers, page 11).
Also William H. Davis had this to say, “Continued action, or a state of incompletion is denoted by present tense-this kind of action is called durative or linear. The action of the verb is shown in progress, as going on” (Davis’ Grammar, page 25). Sometimes it is argued that since punctiliar, or point action has been expressed through the present verb form that the adultry of Matt. 19:9 is a one time affair. Such reasoning is faulty and depends upon the same erroneous reasoning as just mentioned. To be more explicit, IT SIMPLY DOESN’T FOLLOW that because in some isolated instance the present indicative active form is so utilized that such is the precise case in Matt. 19:9.
Another indication that adultery on the part of one who has remarried, utilizing his own guilt, is something that is continuous, consequently lived in, can be seen in that the time element of one being bound and resultant guilt, as per Rom. 7:3-4 is so long as her husband is alive.
My friends, IT SIMPLY DOESN’T FOLLOW THAT A PERSON MAY REMARRY AS A RESULT OF A BROKEN MARRIAGE DUE TO HIS OWN GUILT. It simply doesn’t follow that because punctilious action MAY be expressed by a present verb form in some isolated case that it WAS so utilized in Matt. 19:9.
It does follow, though, that as long as an innocent companion lives the other party has no right, with Divine sanction to another mate.
This is a grave matter. Souls are involved and all views held by men cannot be right. Many are wrong: the consequences of which leave many in adultery while being taught erroneously that they, through their own guilt could remarry. It is absolutely necessary to lay aside all prejudice and pride and humbly submit to God’s will in order to go to heaven. The divorce question herein discussed is important and should be neither ignored nor taken lightly. Those guilty of adultery will not go to heaven impenitently. It is a distressing thought to even consider standing before God, in judgment and contemplate the disappointment of the adulterers who were led to believe that they are innocent, by those extending liberties which God never extended. “For our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28). Next week, 1 Corinthians 7:15-Issue and Perspective.
Truth Magazine, XX:3, p. 8-10
January 15, 1976