By Glen W. Lovelady
Proposition: The Scriptures teach that the put-away fornicator can marry another without committing sin.
Since this will be my last article in this exchange, I want to thank brother Willis for allowing this discussion to take place and also I want to thank brother Caldwell for his willingness to participate in this debate. We are both hoping that this effort will be of some value to you the reader, as you try to come to grips with this issue. I will not have a chance to respond to brother Caldwell’s final article, so I ask you to read carefully what I have had to say throughout this series and make the proper application.
Brother Caldwell has established two methods of being joined, “bound by a yoke” and also “bound by the law.” Not so, brother Caldwell, because those who are married are bound with a yoke because they are bound by the law. When you are no longer bound with a yoke, then you can no longer be bound by the law, and vice-versa. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell also said, “She might disregard the law, leave her husband and marry another while her husband lives. If she does so, then she is an adulteress not only because she is still bound to her husband (yoked), but also because she is still bound under the law of God.” That is correct brother Caldwell; while she was bound to her husband she was still “bound by the law to her husband” (Rom. 7:2). But when her husband puts her away for fornication, she would no longer be yoked or bound to him or to the law that bound her to him. She would be released from him and from the law that bound her to him. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell also stated that my analogy of the two hands held together did not provide for the hand of God. God’s hand was never in there. If brother Caldwell would just go by what it says in Romans 7:2 we would not have this problem. I believe what the Bible states, “the two shall become one” (Matt. 19:5). “The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he liveth” (Rom. 7:2) or until there is a putting away for fornication (Matt. 19:9). God binds the two of them together like a farmer binds his two oxen together in a yoke. Neither the farmer nor his hand is in the yoke. It is not a threesome yoke, as brother Caldwell asserts, but “the two shall become one.” When the husband is no longer bound to the wife, the wife is no longer bound to the husband; they are then loosed from one another. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell then stated, “While it is true that God releases one who puts away a fornicating mate, Jesus also said, and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Brother Caldwell doesn’t know who she is, but Jesus plainly states that she is the one who was put away not for fornication, and we certainly agree that she would commit adultery if she remarried, because she was still bound to her husband. She could not be a put away fornicator because adultery is only committed when one is a mate to someone else. The put away fornicator has no mate. It would be impossible for him to commit adultery against his former spouse (Mk. 10:11) because the definition of the word adultery, is very clear and specific in its application. My position harmonizes with the Scriptures and the definition of adultery, while brother Caldwell and those who stand with him, must add to the Scriptures and then violate the definition of adultery to sustain their position. If we would all abide by what is said in the New Testament and accept the definition of adultery established by all scholars, we would be on our way to reconciling some of our differences on this matter. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell says the issue is not, “whether the divorced fornicator is still a spouse, but whether Jesus authorizes him to marry another without becoming an adulterer.” Brother Caldwell, he couldn’t commit adultery against his former spouse because he is no longer her spouse. Please find out what the definition of adultery is and then apply it. You brethren define it properly, and then turn right around and violate it. Then you cut us off and call us false teachers on this issue. If the put away fornicator is still bound to a mate, I concede; but if not, then you need to concede. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell tells us that in the Old Testament God restricted certain ones from doing certain things, and that is right. Now, where in the New Testament does God restrict the put away fornicator from doing anything? I affirm he can plant corn, eat apple pie, go to church, have a marriage if someone would have him, and go to heaven when he dies, if and when he gets right with God. If you can find a passage that restricts the put away fornicator from doing any of this, I will concede. If you can’t find the passage, then you need to concede and let him get on with his life. We need to help him and all other sinners get right with God and enjoy the blessings of humanity, even marriage. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
The put away fornicator is no longer bound to a mate, and the New Testament states that those who are loosed from a mate can marry without committing sin (1 Cor. 7:27-28) and I agree; but brother Caldwell tells us that there is a third choice. He wants us to believe that the put away fornicator is loose from his mate, but not loose from the law that bound him to his mate. That is not what the New Testament says and besides that it doesn’t make any sense. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Then brother Caldwell asks the question “Is the guilty fornicator to rest his eternal salvation on an implication which assumes that because the one who puts away for fornication is free (loosed), the put away fornicator must also be freed.” If only brother Caldwell would understand that God bound these two together until she put him away for fornication, and then God freed her from him, and common sense dictates that he is loose from her. They were bound together and now they are loose from each other. That can’t be made any clearer. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell takes issues with my earlier statement, “. . . the New Testament does not deal with the put away fornicator.” “Response: Why then affirm that ‘The Scriptures teach. . .’?” We must have authority for everything that we say or do (Col. 3:17) and since we have no cominand that the put away fornicator must remain celibate, and since we have no example of any put away fornicator in the New Testament being restricted to a life of celibacy, then we have no choice but to rely upon the implication. The implication is found in Matthew 19:9, where Jesus said, “except it be for fornication,” in which “it” makes reference to the kind o~f putting away. Thus Jesus makes a difference between a putting away not for fornication, and a putting away for fornication. If your putting away was not for fornication, then you have no right to marry another because you are still bound to your mate (a putting away not for fornication does not break the bond). If your putting away was for fornication, then your bond has been broken between husband and wife (a putting awayfor fornication does break the bond). This is the implication in Matthew 19:9, and why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
The other implication that we have is found in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 where Paul said, “Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned.” The implication is, the put a vay fornicator is loose from his former mate. In the light of these implications I cannot go against them without a direct confirmation from God restricting the put away fornicator to a life of celibacy. Since a restriction can’t be found in the New Testament, you had better let him marry if someone would have him. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
You were right to quote my earlier statement, brother Caldwell, because as you so aptly pointed out, “and neither did he leave it to us to decide who is loosed.” That is correct! For we know from the example of 1 Corinthians 7:11 exactly who is bound in a marriage . . . because she was told to be reconciled to her husband or remain unmarried (to another), because she still had a husband and thus was still bound by the law to her husband. So you can see that she was not loosed from her husband. Is the put away fornicator bound to a mate, or loosed from a mate? I affirm that the put away fornicator is loosed from a mate because his putting away wasfor fornication (Matt. 19:9), and since he is loosed from a mate he can marry another without committing sin (1 Cor. 7:27-28). Using the proper definition of adultery, we know that he could not commit adultery against her because she is no longer his mate. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell makes a parallel between instrumental music and the put away fornicator. We all agree that Ephesians 5:19 tells us to sing and that excludes instrumental music. But nowhere does the New Testament speak about what the put away fornicator can or cannot do. Please go back to my first article and re-read what brother McGarvey and brother Whiteside had to say about this. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
You brethren keep reading “only the innocent” into Matthew 19:9 as though the “innocent” one is the only one allowed to remarry. Jesus never said it. The only reason why she can remarry is because she is no longer a spouse. Jesus did say that all who married, divorced and remarried would commit adultery, “except it be for fornication.” The put away fornicator would have to come under this exception and based upon this proper application and implication, we agree with brother J.W. McGarvey, of 1875, and brother R.L. Whiteside, of 1939, and a whole host of godly men who disagree with brother Caldwell and those with him. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me.
Brother Caldwell cries out, “Give us Scripture . . . that he is in fact loosed by God.” And we respond, “To whom is he bound? God has already explained that the husband was bound only to her (Matt. 19:5), and Romans 7:2, “Bound by the law to her husband.” If the innocent mate is freed from the guilty, then the guilty must of necessity be loosed from the innocent. Why you brethren can’t see this point is beyond me. I rest my case.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 2, pp. 52-53
January 17, 1991