By Olen Holderby
Some time back, in a psychological setting, the above title was “invented” to use as a title in writing about two things: (1) The wife whose multi-personalities, and the frequent change from one to the other, finally sent her husband to the grave, (2) How that husband, Jim, before his death, tried to cope with the frustrating circumstances. Apart from the psychological use, the title would probably make little sense. But, I’ll tell you what – it makes about as much sense as some of what one hears and reads about marriage, divorce, and remarriage these days.
A conversation which this writer had with a bunch of school teachers a few years back, while working with the public schools is well remembered. While sitting in the teachers lounge early one morning, I listened to their conversation about religion. After a few minutes, my comment was, “You school teachers absolutely amaze me!” Of course they wanted to know the reason for my amazement. My explanation was very simple, “All of you are educated and trained to go into the classroom, and there influence boys and girls to think and reason intelligently; and you are apparently doing a good job in that area. However, in your remarks about religion and your personal convictions you have thrown that intelligence right out the window.” I got up and walked out, leaving them with open mouths and puzzled looks.
Yes, most brethren seem to be able to reason intelligently on such subjects as: how to become a Christian, origin of the church, worship, etc.; and its seems that God’s word is sufficiently plain on these subjects. We continue to hear stressed the plainness and simplicity of God’s Word as we argue our case before the religious world. This is as it should be; for indeed it is so! When it comes, however, to divorce and remarriage, it appears that many just throw that intelligence out. God’s word is no longer plain enough, and we just have to make all kinds of allowances. Of course the same could be said for a few other subjects, i.e.: fellowship, unity, deity of Christ, etc. To put it another way, while we condemn the Pentecostals for substituting feelings for God’s word, verily we do the same in reference to divorce and remarriage. Perhaps we need to well digest Romans 2:1, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things.”
The truth of the matter is that almost every subject concerning Christianity, at some point in the past, was considered to be difficult and “unsettled.” Some subjects were thought to be without sufficiently plain revelation. Men begged for allowances; and, every time these allowances were granted men got further away from the truth of God. This writer has seen no reason to think it shall be different today. Lessons of history seem to have little impact on the thinking of man. Having said these things, let us get back to the subject of:
Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage
I know of none who would be so foolish as to say that all subjects are equally easy to be understood. Peter declared of some of the writings of Paul, “. . . in which are some things hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3:16). Hardness is not impossibility; the fact that some subjects require more time than others, does not put them out of the reach of anyone with “normal” intelligence. It is to be recognized that difficulty is proportional – depending on the one experiencing it. Personally I believe it is true with our own brethren, as it is with most religionists: when preconceived ideas and prejudicial thinking are eliminated, most difficulty is gone.
The following is self-explanatory, easily understood and, I believe, sets forth God’s truth on the subjects.
Who has the right to marry?
1. A virgin – one who has never been married (1 Cor. 7:28).
2. A widow – one whose mate is dead (1 Cor. 7:39).
3. One whose mate has committed adultery (Matt. 19:9a).
Note: When you get married, will you marry one who has a right to get married?
Who has no right to marry?
1. One who is already married (Rom. 7:3a).
2. One whose unbelieving mate has departed (1 Cor. 7:11-15).
3. One who has been put away (Matt. 19:9b; 5:32b).
Note: When you get married, will it be to someone who has no right to be married?
The reason for divorce (not considering legal aspects):
1. The question put to Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (Matt. 19:3)
2. The Lord comments, and he leaves no room for any “every cause” idea (vv. 4-6).
3. Jesus is asked a second question, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? ” (v. 7)
4. Jesus replies to the second question: in doing so he skips completely over the Mosaic period and Mosaic law to “the beginning,” to God’s original design for marriage (v. 8).
5. Jesus gives his own verdict in the matter (see above points). Some are wont to say that one may be divorced for many reasons, but only one, fornication or adultery, grants the right of remarriage. Jesus here gives only one reason for divorce period! (v. 9)
There are three errors, presently, being pushed in varying degrees, though the proponents do not necessarily agree. The first one is that “the one guilty of adultery, and is put away, may remarry without sinning.” The above points clearly establish that such a person has no right to marry. It makes no difference how much we may argue about the question, Jesus still said, “Whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). It will continue to read that way regardless of what men may say.
The second error concerns 1 Corinthians 7:15; it is argued that this passage gives the believing mate the right to remarry, when the unbelieving mate departs. Again, the above points show that such an one has no right to marry. Such a person could not marry without having obtained a divorce; and, he could not get a divorce except for “fornication,” according to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:9.
The third error is, “The alien sinner is not subject to God’s marriage law.” This error would permit the alien to be married any number of items, and he is to continue with the mate whom he has at the time he obeys the gospel, all his pervious relationships are abolished at his baptism. In such a case, baptism is made the consummating act of that last marriage. The truth of the matter is that God designed marriage for all men in the very beginning, and Jesus refers to this fact in his remarks to the Pharisees in Matthew 19. By declaring that someone is not subject to God’s law may be a convenient way around that law, but it does not change the expressed law of the Lord in the least. Evidence would seem to show that this error was born out of convenience and the desire to avoid making some difficult decisions.
Some have been heard to say that they understand Romans better than Matthew 19:9. I see nothing extremely difficult about God’s law for marriage, divorce, and remarriage; though some particular circumstances (with certain unknowns) may produce some “head-scratching.” It still appears, at least to this writer, that when we can remove the preconceived ideas and prejudicial thinking, most of the difficulty is gone. May God help us all to root out both of these from our thinking!
No, God’s marriage law is not difficult to understand, but it is often extremely difficult to get men to respect that law. As long as we tolerate the multi-theories and teachings of men, more and more the subject will sound like “The Late Husband of Jim’s Six Wives.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 22, pp. 685-686
November 19, 1992