“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them.”
“And He was saying, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear'.”
Non-Catholic Non-Protestant Non-Ecumenical
The commandments of God about divorce and remarriage
Marriage is the greatest institution of all humanity. It has this status because it is the first institution of mankind, it applies to and deeply affects all of mankind, and God's specific moral laws that govern it are for all of mankind – all believers and all unbelievers. It is the very first act of God among people. When God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, he put Adam into a deep sleep, removed a rib bone from him, and fashioned it into a woman. The very next thing that God did was to marry this first man to this first woman. This was the very first transaction between this first man and this first woman. Although it wasn't explicitly stated as such, this was, indeed, the first marriage. This is readily understood by the fact that the two people were, in their union, re-created as one person and commanded to have sexual relations in order to conceive and give birth to children and to repeat this process until the land was populated. Jesus would later declare that the very fact of the creation of the two into one new person constituted God-ordained and God-wrought marriage. The very high status of marriage is underpinned by the fact that it is the bedrock of the societies of mankind. Not only is this seen in secular societies within the standard structures of families, clans, tribes, nations, and empires, but it is also seen in the kingdom of God where marriage is fully defined, subsumed, and vindicated.
The Gospels of Jesus make known the message of the redemption and salvation of Jesus Christ. With four distinct voices speaking as one voice, they each declare the will of God concerning light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness, purity and impurity, and eternal life and eternal death. Three of the Gospels emphatically declare that a person's standing in the issues just spoken of is primarily revealed in both his position and attitude concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. John, in his gospel, does not make this particular distinction. John's Gospel is unique and takes a totally different approach to eternal life than those of Matthew, Luke, and Mark. In fact, marriage is only mentioned two times in the Gospel of John. It is mentioned as the setting for the first sign performed by Jesus that declared to the Jews that He was the Glory of God. It was also indicated in the setting of the episode with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well where Jesus revealed to the Samaritans that He was the anointed One of God. The famous incident regarding the woman taken in the very act of adultery is a scribal interpolation, as it is missing from the most reliable ancient texts of Scripture. It was, most probably, an extra-scriptural human tradition about Jesus that gained currency very early in the history of the assemblies and/or churches. It is in keeping with the spirit and teachings of Jesus about forgiveness. Because of its early tradition, it was easily incorporated into some manuscripts. Hence, its ground of authority. It is particularly in Mark, Luke, and Matthew that Jesus makes known that the righteousness of God is, without exception, grounded in a person's marital life. He does this by emphatically declaring that all marriages must be submitted to the original righteous purpose of God and that all who truly confess His name in following Him will, indeed, be submitted accordingly. We will begin with the Gospel of Mark, heeding its way of priority. This is not the conventional understanding of Mark that prioritizes him by placing him as the first written of the three synoptic gospels, but is rather his true priority in the Scriptures. Mark was a great emphasizing summarizer. This is the true priority of Mark, and it is emphasized on this web site. In another place, we will consider the merits of the conventional understanding of the priority of Mark. The three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke each highlight unique and powerfully distinct features of the will of God and what the proper responses to His will must be.
One of the things that the erring leadership of the churches continually fails to comprehend in the Gospels is their divinely appointed structure, which was devised by God's Spirit to make emphatic His will, that is, to powerfully emphasize the weighty matters of God's laws. After Mark, we will attend to Luke and Matthew respectively.
Along with Matthew, Mark has several of these strong highlights, mountain peaks as it were, where God's manifest and unassailable will is clearly revealed and must be obeyed. One of these has to do with the subject of marital adultery. It is very significant that the Spirit of Jesus left the details of this subject until their particular time and place in Mark. The reason for this was because up until this time, while many significant things had already happened for the advance of the kingdom of God, Jesus was still fundamentally preparing His apostles and intimate followers to be able to walk in the strong demands of life and carry forth the weighty message of the kingdom. Not long before the episode now to be considered, Jesus had withdrawn with His followers from the crowds of people in order to instruct His disciples more intimately regarding their needs of understanding and faith. After the point of their relative readiness, Jesus set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem in order to fulfill the prophecies of his death, burial, and resurrection. From this point forward, the Gospels no more make the statement that Jesus would not have His works of power known among men. There was no longer the concern of the failure of the masses and of His followers to misunderstand Him and seek to misdirect Him and His mission. His apostles and true disciples were now ready to bear up under the task of holiness. All power and rule and demands were now to be made manifest to all men. This is not implying that Jesus had not already instructed men about God’s will concerning the issues now to be highlighted. Indeed, He had done so. But from this time on, God’s power and demands were to be fully delivered to all men. The road of life was now to be absolutely vindicated and brought to light.
The episode in which this particular disclosure regarding marriage and righteousness occurred was one in which wicked stratagems of men were employed. Yet God, as He so often did with other events before and after this one, used this very oppositional event to reveal His commandment. Here His commandment was revealed concerning marital purity and marital adultery. This type of “God wrought interaction” in human affairs is called Providence in the discipline of theology. Providence is God's overruling will manifested in blessings or judgments. It is exactly in this sense that He manifested His will through this event. In His travels south to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through the region of Perea. Perea was the domain of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas was the very same person who beheaded John the Baptist, after throwing him in prison, for declaring that his marriage to Herodias was adulterous. The wicked Jewish leaders were in waiting for Jesus to enter the domain of Herod. They had a plan to trap Him. Their supposed alternatives seemed to work in their favor for His overthrow. The stratagem that they used was exactly like one that they used later on another occasion. On that occasion, they tried to trap Jesus concerning paying taxes to Caesar. Their trap consisted of a double hope. It was to either permanently discredit Him before the Jewish people through His declaring that the Jews must submit to Rome’s divine rule indicated in their paying the Roman tax to the “divine” Tiberius or to ultimately get Him arrested by making Him appear to be an anti-Roman revolutionary through His declaring that the Jews were exempt from paying these Roman taxes. On this occasion in Perea, the Jews had a similar double scheme working for His defeat. They could either bring Him into disfavor with the people, the majority of which held to the liberal view of divorce – by forcing Him to make a stand about the divorce debate (they correctly knew that His stance would not be broadminded or vacillating), or they could get Him arrested, as John had been before Him – by showing Him to be publicly opposed to the marriage of Herod and Herodias.
In the time of Jesus, the debate about divorce raged on. It was centered in what constituted the grounds for divorce. There were two positions, and these were each demonstrated in the two separate schools of thought that constituted how the Law of Moses was interpreted in general. These schools of thought were headed up in the so-called Pairs in ancient Israel. The Pairs were the two actual leaders who championed the leading opposing schools of thought and practice in the latter times of ancient Israel. The names of the last two Pairs were Hillel and Shammai. Both of these men were of the time of Jesus and shared qualities with Him. Of the two, Hillel was the more amiable. He was known to have summed up everything under love. He was famous for stating that the commandment of God was summed up in loving your fellow man and he stated this in almost the exact words that Jesus would later use to declare this commandment. However, when it came to the debate about divorce, Hillel was completely removed from the position of Jesus. He was very open minded and taught that divorce was acceptable with God as long as it was enacted upon the grounds of the husband's displeasure with his wife. This displeasure was defined as anything that caused a man to be unhappy with his wife. It could be something as simple as her ruining his meal. The great masses of the Jewish population held to the position of Hillel. It dominated the thoughts and actions of the greatest to the least in Israel. Shammai was altogether the opposite of Hillel. He was uncompromising, fiery, and had a small band of disciples. He was known as one who could not be refuted in debates that he was involved in. Like Hillel, he taught the propriety of divorce as long as it was enacted upon the husband's will according to his specific displeasure. Unlike Hillel, he restricted this displeasure to adultery only. His position of divorce was in the minority in Israel.
When the Pharisees came to Jesus in order to test Him, they simply asked if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. His first answer took the form of a question. He asked them what Moses commanded them. The Pharisees' answer to Him was that Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send his wife away. Jesus' direct reply was that because of their hardness of heart Moses wrote this commandment for them, but, from the beginning of the creation God made the husband and wife male and female. He said that it was for this purpose that a man shall leave his father and mother and join with his wife so that the two shall become one flesh. Then He emphatically said, without equivocation, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." The Pharisees failed to trap Him. He took marriage beyond the confines of the accommodating Mosaic Law and back to its place of origin at the beginning of creation where it was instituted for the union, fulfillment, and harmony of humanity. His disciples were very troubled by His public stance and teaching. Obviously, they had failed to grasp His teaching about these things until now. They had been reared in the teaching of Hillel about divorce. Of Matthew and Mark, only Mark states that when they were alone with Him, His disciples began to question Him about this issue again. Also, Mark does not present the disciples as making any follow-up statement about divorce like Matthew does. In Mark, only the words of Jesus are heard about this conclusive issue of supreme importance. And in answer to their questioning, Jesus gave them the direct word of God, without any ambiguity. The Spirit of Jesus speaks this way through Mark in order to make emphatic the indispensable will of God in the mouth of Jesus concerning divorce and remarriage. Jesus' words are powerful, straightforward, and leave no doubt. They at once sum up everything. Jesus declared to His disciples that whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery. This is the will of God about divorce and remarriage -- nothing more and nothing less! It is absolute. All who contradict and disobey this command of God through Jesus Christ by marrying other people after being divorced from their original spouses are guilty before God as being in a perpetual state of adultery. Jesus later said through Paul to the assembly at Corinth that all who are adulterers shall not enter the kingdom of God. Within this same command He said to be not deceived about this issue. The word that translates deceived here means to be moved away from or to roam away from. Jesus commanded that His people not roam away from this reality. The consequences are absolute. But roaming away is exactly what the churches have done. No, rather, the churches have traveled far away from the teaching of Jesus about divorce and remarriage. This journey has been very old, very developed, and very fixed. This is one of the leading iniquities within the Catholic and Protestant churches. This position alone constitutes these churches as pseudo-Christian. The Catholic and Protestant churches are thoroughly infested with marriage-adultery. Over and against Jesus they have set up their teachings concerning divorce and remarriage as preeminent. There are certain leading sins that those who constitute these churches must forsake in order to lay claim to Christianity. The iniquity of marital adultery, as defined by Jesus and His Gospel, is central among them. Shortly, we will consider how repentance and forgiveness relate to this teaching of Jesus. Before we do this, we must hear the teaching of Jesus about divorce through Luke and Matthew. In Matthew, the well known and often applied exceptive clause and innocent party doctrines will be examined.
Like all the Gospels, Luke is unique and central for the establishment of the will and commandments of God. However, unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark, Luke places Jesus' teaching about divorce and remarriage at a different critical point regarding the kingdom of God and eternal life. He makes it and another paramount teaching the absolute pivot points concerning these things. Because of this emphasis, the magnitude of these teachings cannot be lost sight of. While Luke's structure is unique to himself, with Matthew and Mark he gives the teachings of Jesus in and around the region of Perea great weight and importance. However, unlike them, he starts this focused representation of the will of God earlier than the events of Perea. He starts it in the region of Galilee and continues on until the week of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem just prior to His crucifixion. Luke concentrates heavily on the teachings of Jesus in this last extended timeframe. Of the teaching parables that appear in Luke, approximately 70% are in this section. Conversely, only 20% of the miracles that Jesus performed are recorded here. By these facts the Spirit of God indicates the utter gravity of the teachings contained herein. The extreme emphasis that must be given to these particular teachings by believers is one of the main purposes for the writing of the Gospel of Luke. Luke begins his Perean section with Jesus' teaching about the necessity of entering life through the narrow door. He continues with several very important teachings about God's purpose, love, and holy demands. Then He makes the well-known and much misunderstood declaration when He says that no slave can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. At this point Luke inserts the fact that the Mammon loving Pharisees who are listening to Jesus are scoffing at Him. Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men (meaning the desire for and/or acquisition of material possessions and goods and/or money, that is, Mammon) is actually detestable in the sight of God.” Then Luke makes the extremely pivotal declarations spoken about above. He builds on the grand truth that he stated earlier when he said that the kingdom of God is both new and superior to the ways and enactments of the Mosaic Law. Jesus taught that one cannot sew new cloth on an old garment or put new wine in old wineskins without ruinous results. Those picturesque sayings had to do with the new ways of the kingdom over against the former, ritual enactments and partial ways of Judaism. But here Luke penetrates much more deeply to the grand moral issues of the kingdom of God. He goes at once to what really matters and what remains. Through Luke, Jesus makes the great divide between loving God and loving Mammon a supreme issue of life. He makes this one of the two paramount and pivotal issues that defines whether or not a person shall, indeed, partake of the kingdom of God. We will come back to this elaborated teaching regarding Mammon later. But, here, right in the middle of making this absolute declaration about Mammon, Luke places the commandment of Jesus about marriage, divorce, remarriage, and adultery as the second pivotal issue of eternal life. Like Mark did before him, Luke gives no elaboration on these words of Christ. They are given as spoken by Jesus, with absolute authority and gravity. They are at once crystal clear and defining. They leave no room for doubt or vacillation. Church teachers have not known what to do with these words in this setting. They effectively treat them as though they are some sort of scribal gloss in this teaching, as though they don’t belong. They have missed the fact that Jesus Himself made these two issues the pivotal points of eternal life and eternal death. They have missed the fact that He made both of these issues supremely important, that one is just as important as the other one regarding entry into the kingdom of God. This fact that the word regarding divorce and remarriage was given by Jesus with all clarity, with all directness, with all simplicity, and without ambiguity and in this context, completely underscores the absolute awe and urgency with which everyone must hear these words of His. Hear the supreme word about the kingdom of God as stated by Jesus. -- "No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon." Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John (the forerunner of Jesus). Since then the kingdom of God is being preached and all (believers) are urgently pressing into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the law to fail. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and she who marries another after being divorced from her husband commits adultery." After this word about adultery, Jesus immediately took up again the subject of Mammon. It is crucial to see exactly when Jesus made the declaration about divorce and remarriage. Through Luke, Jesus does exactly what He did through Mark. He places marriage in its original setting of absolute sanctity before God. In Mark, He did it by putting the emphasis on the origin of marriage in God's will as revealed in Eden. Here in Luke He did it by putting the emphasis on the origin of marriage in God's will as revealed in His former written declaration, the Law of Moses. He said that it was easier for the great cataclysmic upheaval to occur than for God's holy, eternal purposes as revealed in His written word to fail.
Now we come to Matthew. Most ground that we cover will be accomplished considering this Gospel. For Matthew is both the starting point and ending point for much that is discussed, believed, and rested in concerning divorce and remarriage. It is Matthew's Gospel that is most appealed to and extracted from regarding this issue. At the same time, Matthew's Gospel is the most misunderstood one of the three synoptics concerning the doctrine of Jesus about divorce and remarriage. For the proper starting place, it must be understood that Matthew was written primarily for first century Palestinian Jews. Mark and Luke had predominantly first century Gentile audiences, and John's Jewish focus was on Hellenistic Jews. It was Matthew in particular who wrote his Gospel for Israel of the homeland. Keeping these facts in view is critical to properly understanding each Gospel! Here it is time to say that it is well to remember the following facts in order to facilitate the proper interpretation of the Word of God. Matthew was written to the Jews while including the Gentiles. Luke and Mark were written to the Gentiles by way of the Jews. John was written to Hellenistic Jews and Gentiles. Another way of saying this about the synoptics is that Matthew emphasized the message of Jesus to the Jews and also taught God's Word to the Gentiles. Luke and Mark were primarily to the Gentiles via the Jews. It can be summed up in a word from Paul who was God's Jewish apostle to the Gentiles. He said that the purposes of God were first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The significance of these facts has been lost sight of by the churches and their various leaders to the utter detriment of their members concerning divorce and remarriage. As stated, Matthew was written primarily to the Jews of his day. This is clearly seen in both the content and structure of his Gospel. Of the two Gospels that give the genealogy of Jesus, only Matthew makes the terminal point in Abraham, the father of the Jews. This was essential in order to establish that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. When the three Synoptic Gospels list the calling and appointment by Jesus of His 12 apostles, only Matthew ties it immediately and directly to the specific mission of the 12 to Palestinian Israel while excluding all others. Immediately after naming the 12, Matthew states that Jesus gave them specific instructions not to go to the Gentiles nor even to the Samaritans (who were half-Jews), but rather to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Other factors can also be given which show that the Gospel of Matthew was especially written to the Palestinian Jews of his day. I will list some of them here. I will list them slightly out of Matthew’s order so that the last one will take up the matter that concerns us.
In the great teaching that initially declares and sums up the nature of Christianity and the character of its confessors -- the so-called Sermon on the Mount – Matthew, unlike Luke, places very much of the antithesis with sin in the Jewish context. He deals directly with the teachings of Jesus as compared with and superior to the understanding and practice of the Mosaic Law regarding the duties of love to one's fellow man as enshrined in the 10 Commandments. Next, while moving outside of the 10 Commandments, yet still dealing with this love as declared in the Mosaic Law, Matthew presents Jesus as dealing straight up with a Jewish circumvention of the love of God that was current in His day. This circumvention and its correction by Jesus have nothing to do with judicial oath taking or swearing on oath in a court of law that was current in His day and is current in ours. The Jewish circumvention which Jesus dealt with had a great deal in common with another one of His day known as Korban. Simply stated, the Korban rule was a Jewish stratagem that effectively erased the monetary honoring of parents by their children through the children's dedicating to God the very material substance that should have been supplied to their parents and then holding the material substance "for God" as "managers of God's money". This was none other than a scheme to have it both ways, that is, to supposedly honor one's parents while in reality keeping for oneself the very substance of the honor that belonged to the parents. The circumvention of love that Jesus dealt with here was like that. When someone saw a fellow Israelite in need, he could use the vow or oath to fulfill his obligation of love. If he saw a person in need "today", he would simply vow or promise to meet that person's need in the near future. This sounded loving but was anything but loving, as it left the person squarely in his need. This was deferred love. This was a human contrivance. According to the Word of God in Jesus, such an action is totally void of the love of God. Jesus commanded to make no such oath at all. Do not defer love! He said to simply say "Yes, I have it in my power to give to you and will do so today" or "No, I don't have it in my power to meet your need today." Jesus said that anything beyond this way of responding to your needy fellow brother was evil. This is the meaning of the words that translate the phrase to let your statement be "Yes, yes" or "No, no". This situation and its remedy were uniquely Jewish. Even the Gentiles of the first century who lived outside of Palestine did not know about these things. Any Gentiles who at that time properly understood (or now understand) these teachings of Jesus regarding Korban and vows as proclaimed through Matthew did so because, and only because, they learned about ancient Palestinian Jewish law and custom. The next issue had to do with the function of reconciling love in Israel. In His prohibition against murder, Jesus said that if one was offering his gift at the altar and there remembered that his brother had something against him, he was to leave his gift at the altar and find his brother and reconcile with him. After that, he was to return and offer his gift to God. Jesus meant for these words to be literally received and obeyed. However, obedience to these commandments was possible only for Jews. Not only so, but strict and complete compliance with these commandments was possible only for the Jews who lived within one generation of their proclamation. Furthermore, not only could Gentiles not fulfill these commandments in their strict and literal sense, but Jewish women could not do so either. Jesus spoke these words directly to His fellow Jews in Palestine. The altar referred to was the brazen altar that stood in the outer court of Herod's temple. Only Jewish men were allowed within the outer court. No Jewish women were allowed within that precinct. Herod's temple contained a court for Jewish women that was outside of the outer court. Gentiles could not even enter the court for the women in Herod's temple. The gift that Jesus referred to was the thank-offering or peace-offering which was prescribed according to the Levitical Law. Exactly as prophesied by Jesus, within 40 years of these commandments of His, the Roman army under the command of Titus annihilated the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod. By doing so, they contributed in a major way, by God’s design, to the end of the Mosaic age. When the Temple was destroyed, its sacred vessels were carried away by the vanquishers. From that time forward, it has been impossible to strictly fulfill these commandments of Jesus even among Jewish men. -- I will interject here and say that these facts are not to say that there is no application of these words today in any secondary and meaningful sense. This is because they deal with purity in worship and the worship of God, per se, is timeless. Indeed, their application in this sense applies today just as it did for the first Jewish women or any Gentiles who heard them. According to this application, when anyone is performing an act of worship to God and remembers that his brother has something against him, he must first reconcile with his brother and then his worship will be acceptable before God. -- The facts now established are that these particular words of Matthew were only applicable to first century Palestinian Jewish men who lived within one generation of the teachings of Jesus.
The final one of these Jewish-oriented factors brings us to the heart of the matter concerned. It is nothing other than the declarations of Jesus concerning divorce and remarriage. It will be clearly seen after due and honest attending to these issues that the divorce and remarriage teachings in Matthew were specifically Jewish. It will also be clear that there can be no secondary application of them. Before paying attention to the uniquely Jewish environment of these commandments of Jesus, some very important issues need to be addressed. The subject of divorce and remarriage has been massively taken up by the Catholic and Protestant churches. Scores of books have been written on the subject. Multiple tens of thousands of writings have been produced. Also, an innumerable number of teachings and discussions have been and continue to be offered up to the hearing of the masses. The doctrines of divorce in the Catholic churches and divorce and remarriage in the Protestant churches have, in fatal error, taken the Gospel of Matthew as both their starting place and their ground of perpetual and final appeal. Every kind of interpretation has been given to these teachings in Matthew. It seems that if there are 100 teachers in a room one could find 50 different teachings about divorce and remarriage among them. Here I will consider two different teachings as setting forth the epitome of Catholicism and Protestantism on divorce, respectively. The classic Catholic position simply and consistently teaches that Matthew declares that if a spouse of a marriage becomes guilty of adultery, then the wronged spouse -- or innocent one -- can divorce the guilty spouse. However, Catholicism maintains that such divorce does not grant the right of remarriage. Catholicism then proceeds to circumvent their own interpretation by their teaching of annulments of marriage. By annulments of marriages they mean their authoritative pronouncements that these marriages never existed before God. This is a horrible and devastating teaching that effectively separates what God has joined together in marriage and then proceeds to allow the two formally married people to contract adulterous marriages with other people. These subsequent marriages are viewed as original and, therefore, not adulterous by Catholicism due to none other than their doctrine of annulments of marriage. This is a convenient circular reasoning position. A marriage annulment can be obtained for a variety of reasons. The most broad, cunning, and truly effective one is a grand man-made receptacle and has to do with the bad mental state of the one spouse as declared by the other spouse who seeks the annulment. This bad mental state is viewed by Catholicism as a legitimate ground for obtaining an annulment of the marriage, for declaring that the marriage never existed before God. A ludicrous feature of these annulments is the self contradicting and hocus-pocus pronouncement of Catholicism that declares that the children of such annulled marriages are legitimate. Before moving to the position of Protestantism, it should be stated that some Protestant churches also effectively teach the doctrine of annulments of marriages. They do this without the stratagem imposed by Catholicism. They simply and boldly state that some original marriages were never brought about by God, period! This is in all reality a larger receptacle than its counterpart in Catholicism. For it has no obstacle in its way. The other Protestant teachings about divorce and remarriage, unlike that of Catholicism, are varied. However, one interpretation has taken its place among Protestantism as, functionally, the leading teaching. It was given its clearest and strongest voice in the writings of a Presbyterian named John Murray. He first began to publish his teachings in the mid-1940s. Later, they were brought together in his book entitled Divorce. This book is considered by many in Protestantism to be the authoritative work on the subject. Indeed, it lucidly states the prevalent Protestant doctrine. Be that as it may, at the end of his book in the chapter entitled "Practical Cases", Murray essentially contradicts his most important points. Some things stated there are as ludicrous as the Catholic positions of marriage annulments and legitimacy of offspring of never-married partners. It is this position as espoused by Murray that will be specifically addressed here as the Protestant position. This interpretation views the right of divorce exactly like that of Catholicism as stated above. Again, this teaching holds that Matthew declares that if a spouse of a marriage becomes guilty of adultery, then the wronged spouse -- or innocent one -- can divorce the guilty spouse. However, unlike Catholicism, this teaching maintains that such divorce grants the right of remarriage because of a certain exception. Furthermore, unlike Catholicism again, Protestantism adds one more exception that provides grounds for the right of remarriage after divorce. This last one is known among these churches as the Pauline Privilege. This teaching states that if an unbelieving spouse desserts, that is, divorces a believing spouse because of that spouse's faith in Jesus Christ, then the marriage is dissolved with right of remarriage. These teachings of Catholicism and Protestantism are both false doctrines. Both churches have invested heavily upon their own interpretations. This has resulted in the eternal damnation of many. Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, they will all fall into the ditch.
Now it is time to hear Jesus in Matthew. The teaching about divorce and remarriage is taken up two times in the Gospel of Matthew. In its natural setting, it parallels precisely with Mark. The main differences are that in Matthew the apostles react to the declaration of Jesus, and Jesus adds the statement that a subsequent, post-divorce marriage on the part of the man is not adulterous. The first time that Matthew deals with divorce and remarriage is in the great ethical teaching that was discussed above, the so-called Sermon on the Mount. The subject is not dealt with this way in Mark simply because he does not record this great ethical teaching. This fact is exceptional. It is not dealt with this way in Luke, who does record this teaching, because he wrote his Gospel primarily for Gentiles and not primarily for Jews. Matthew deals with it here under the great antithetical comparisons of the superiority of the teachings and righteousness of Jesus over those of Moses. After revealing His all-inclusive will concerning the Mosaic commandment regarding murder, Jesus did the same concerning adultery. He declared that whereas the Jews received this commandment which was engraved in stone from Moses in its unqualified black and white sense, His commandments were much greater. The Jews received this commandment in its strict sense as prohibiting having actual sexual relations with a woman who was married to someone else. Jesus declared by His authority that His commandment was absolute and all-inclusive and went much deeper. He said that if a person lusted sexually after a married woman, then he was sexually unclean in the sight of God and was a sharer in the guilt and eternal punishment of the sin of adultery. But He then went much deeper still. He said that if a man divorced his wife and she married someone else, then he was guilty of causing her to become an adulteress before God because her subsequent marriage to another man was itself adulterous. He added that if someone married a divorced woman, he was directly guilty of adultery. These facts underscore the utter sacredness of -- and responsibilities attached to -- the divinely sanctioned institution of marriage. This validates the command that no one is to separate through divorce what God has united through marriage. As he did in the Perean incident, though concerning a different point, Matthew states that Jesus gave a qualification that exempted the man from the guilt of causing the adultery of his divorced wife. This is known in theology as the "exceptive clause" and it is the issue of concern. Jesus said, "And it was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except for the matter of fornication, makes her commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." In the Perean setting He said, "Whoever divorces his wife -- not based upon fornication -- and marries another, commits adultery." It must be said now that both of these exemptions were stated as the prerogatives of men only. In the ancient Jewish world only males could secure divorces. There were grounds upon which a Jewish woman could sue for divorce. But when she did so, it had to be done according to strict protocol. The reasons for her application had to be only those which were previously enacted by the Sanhedrin. Furthermore, her application was actually an appeal to the Sanhedrin to make her husband end their marriage through divorce. The result was that such a divorce was viewed as an action of men because the Sanhedrin was directly involved in it and secured its outcome. This male-only prerogative is not found in Mark because his Gospel was oriented toward the Gentile world. In fact, in the Greco-Roman Gentile world of the first century it was common for both men and women to apply for and secure divorces. In Mark this is made explicit. Luke states the commandments of Jesus about divorce and remarriage the way that he does simply and absolutely because his Gospel, like Mark's, was fundamentally to the Gentiles. The exemption phrases "except for the matter of fornication" and "not based upon fornication" do not have the meaning that the churches declare that they have. In fact, they have precisely the opposite meaning. Moreover, the result of following the churches in their remedial interpretation of these words ends in eternal catastrophe. For the Jewish exemption that Jesus acknowledged has nothing to do with the interpretations of the Protestant and Catholic churches concerning these words. Finding remedy in the churches’ interpretations of these commandments of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is completely erroneous and brings about the exact opposite from that which they promise. They promise forgiveness and eternal blessedness, but such a course guarantees a fixed state of adultery and eternal judgment.
One cannot understand these words of Jesus without understanding their historical background. Ancient Israel viewed the law of God as alive and able to be appropriately adapted to the situation of men. This was especially accomplished through their oral law. The authorities of the law, therefore, sought to improve the situation of men by adapting timely and merciful enactments to the law of God. Again, they believed that this was a divinely intended function of the Law. The stereotype that regards the ancient experts of the law, that is, all scribes and scholarly Pharisees, as being harsh, rigid, and cold cannot stand up under the scrutiny of history. While some of the Pharisees did possess these traits, not all did. Indeed, some were very kind and loving souls who conscientiously served God according to their tradition. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea can be given as Biblical examples. Hillel is a well-known extra Biblical example. It's almost hard to believe, but there is an example in the Talmud of a God-fearing and righteous tax collector! Not long before the birth of Jesus, the Sanhedrin enacted a law which was the result of generations of experts of the law seeking to modify the severity of the punishment that attached to adultery according to the Torah, the written Law of Moses. According to the Torah, the penalty for adultery was death for both parties if the woman was married. After this modification was generally propounded and accepted among the people, according to their procedure the Sanhedrin accepted and legalized as custom-law from God this teaching that had revealed itself through being thus accepted at large. The modification was merciful. Instead of the death penalty being imposed upon the married woman and her partner in adultery, the new adaptation of the law required that the wronged husband divorce his adulterous wife. She had to leave his home and protection. Furthermore, she and her partner in adultery could not marry one another. These things were not optional. They were mandatory. The new ruling was seen as the law of God. It took its place in the oral law. It was, indeed, much more merciful than the death penalty. It was the law of God and had to be obeyed. By the time that Jesus was born, it had, accordingly, fixed itself in the mindset of Palestinian Israel. The singular interpretation that Joseph was a righteous man because after he discovered the supposed adultery of Mary he chose to divorce her privately only gets it half right. The main feature of his righteousness has been completely missed by the churches. He was first righteous because he sought to obey the law of God that declared that an adulterous wife must be divorced.
-- At this point this interjection must be made: The Oral Law of God in ancient Israel was not entirely man-made. In fact, some of these laws were from God. These words of Jesus underscore the prime example. Because of time and space, this is not the place to consider the true standing and righteous requirements of other examples of the Oral Law of God. I will do so later when I compare these with the always false status of the Magisterium of Catholicism. Suffice it to say now that the Catholic tradition is a complete counterfeit of the tradition of ancient Israel. For it is wrong where they were wrong and wrong where they were right. End interjection --
The ruling of the Sanhedrin that required a man to divorce his adulterous wife interprets the words "except for the matter of fornication" and "not based upon fornication". The word "matter" translates the word logos. The meaning of logos is broad and includes the words of the thoughts, the discourse of a subject, the expression, the reasoning, or the topic at hand. While logos in Matthew includes all these meanings, it is especially the last one that applies to these words of Jesus concerning divorce. It is in the sense of a ruling that the word matter should be interpreted. Perhaps some confusion could have been avoided had this word been translated like this: "except for the ruling about fornication". This is in all reality the best translation. The translation "not based upon fornication" is excellent. It strictly translates the words as they were simply stated by Jesus in Perea. They mean "not based upon the matter or, better, ruling concerning fornication". The Catholic and Protestant churches teach that a person has a right to divorce a spouse guilty of adultery based upon these teachings in Matthew. Nothing could be further from the truth! In the mouth of Jesus these words meant that a Jewish man was compelled by the law of God to divorce his wife who was guilty of adultery. He had no choice in the matter. This law was only for the Jews. It was not for the Gentiles. The authority of the Sanhedrin to legislate law was valid only in Israel.
-- Interjection: Some historical points and comparisons must now be made. The policy of ancient Rome was realized through the Pax Romana. This policy strictly enforced Roman law within Rome and Italy while it allowed latitude within the Roman provinces and domains. Rome was especially concerned that her peace be maintained within the empire. She allowed many subjugated peoples the right to maintain much of their laws and customs intact as long as this peace was not violated. The Jews, especially among Rome's subjugated peoples, were granted this privilege. They maintained almost all of their ancestral laws and customs. About the time that the Sanhedrin enacted the law that compelled a Jew to divorce his adulterous wife, Caesar Augustus tried in vain to direct Rome and its citizens in the same way. From all that we know, this was highly coincidental. The one was not inspired by or related to the other. Augustus did this partially for moral reasons but predominantly for political reasons. Politically, the numbers of the upper-class had been diminishing due to, among other things, a decrease in the birth rate among this class. He tried to reverse this trend through several legislative acts. One of those acts concerned tightening the marital bond to help secure offspring. He saw adultery for what it was, a diminishing and destroying of that bond. Therefore, he set legislation in place that punished adultery in the same way that the Jewish legislation did. In fact, his rulings went beyond those of the Jews. His punishment included exiling the two guilty parties to different distant places. His own daughter was not spared the penalty of these new laws when her adultery was discovered. However, in distinction from Israel, these new laws of Augustus were never fully submitted to among the citizens of Rome. Compliance with them was sporadic so that by the end of his life they were gathering dust on the shelf. After Augustus died, these laws went unheeded. End interjection --
These facts at once bring us to the second part of this commandment of Jesus which itself was also only applicable to the Jews. He said that a man was not guilty of adultery if he married another woman after divorcing his adulterous wife. This flies right in the face of His commandments regarding divorce and remarriage as given by Mark and Luke. How could this be? Why were the Jews given this special exemption which was not given to the Gentiles? The answer to these questions was not an issue of remedy according to the need for deliverance or forgiveness due to sexual sin. After all, if any group needed a remedy for sexual sins, it was especially the Gentiles! Whereas the Jews were guilty, the Gentiles of the first century Greco-Roman world were much guiltier. In both kind and degree, they went significantly beyond the Jews in sexual perversity. Not only so, their divorce rate was higher than that of the Jews. The answer to these questions was also a point of Jewish law. Unlike the relatively new status of the law that compelled divorce, this law was one that had ancient standing. It was uniquely a Jewish law within that environment. Actually, instead of calling it a law, one should properly speak of customs or laws that regulated a privilege. This custom was, in fact, against the law of Rome. It was none other than the Jewish right of polygamy. Before examining Jewish polygamy in the days of Jesus, a comparison must be made with the Roman concubinage of His day. Because of the Judaic background of Christianity, concubinage connotes plurality within marriage. However, this was not the case in Roman concubinage. The people of Rome were, according to their own law, strictly monogamists. Concubinage under Roman law dealt with the status of the marriage partners only. The entire Roman Empire functioned under a caste system. From the Emperor to the lowest slave, the Romans operated under a strict protocol of social class and rank. Everything was affected under this system, including marriage. For instance, it was against the law for an upper-class woman to marry a slave, no matter how cultured or rich he was. It was even against the law for a Roman senator to marry a woman who had formally been a slave. In fact, if a man who was the husband of a freed woman, that is, a former female slave, later became a senator, his marriage to her was dissolved according to the law. Concubinage affected other relationships among the Romans. Usually it was entered into by those who were citizens of Rome with non-citizens of a lower social rank. It had everything to do with social quality and nothing to do with marriage partner quantity. Under Roman law it held legal marital status, but it was viewed as inferior to the marital status of high social equals because it did not grant full legal rights, especially regarding children and their rights. It was, therefore, altogether different from Jewish polygamy. Jewish polygamy was actually polygyny, the practice of one man having more than one wife and/or concubine at the same time. For simplicity, I will continue to use the general term polygamy. Jewish concubinage differed from Roman in that the Jewish concubines were always slaves. These Jewish concubines were secondary wives who were regarded as full family members. Also, their children had full legal status and received full inheritance rights. In fact, their main purpose was to ensure the legitimate offspring of their husbands. The wives of polygamist marriages were all viewed as functionally full wives and were co-equals. Unlike Israel, Rome allowed no polygamy. Jewish polygamy in the days of Jesus had an ancient standing. In fact, Jesus stood two thirds of the way within the historical timeline of polygamy in Israel. From the earliest days of human history, polygamy had been a law by custom. This custom law was followed all the way through the legal standing of the Jews under the Mosaic dispensation. In fact, polygamy began before the Mosaic dispensation in the history of the Jews with the father of the Jews himself, Abraham. The grandson of Abraham, Jacob, who became known as Israel and from whom the nation took its name, was a polygamist. The 12 tribes of Israel were direct descendents from two of Jacob's wives and two of his concubines. There were other noteworthy polygamists in the history of Israel. The father of the prophet Samuel was a polygamist. It is very highly probable that the great lawgiver himself, Moses, was a polygamist. In fact, it is almost certain. King David, the ancient father and prophetic type of the Lord Jesus Christ, was a polygamist. Both the Law of Moses and the Talmud positively legislate regarding polygamy. There is even an episode in the Old Covenant Scriptures wherein God rebuked King David, first for his lack of contentment regarding his many wives and concubines and then for much greater sins. In that event, David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. Bathsheba became pregnant. After David's failed attempts to have Uriah leave the battlefield during Israel’s war with the Ammonites and sleep with his wife so that all would think that the child was his, David resorted to the strategy of murdering Uriah by placing him at the front line of the battle. Then he took Uriah's widow as his own wife in order to cover his sins. God sent the prophet Nathan to David who rebuked him for these sins. Murdering Uriah after committing adultery with his wife were indeed great sins here, ones which permanently stained David's name. As part of Nathan's rebuke, he spoke to David directly from God and declared to him that He had given him his many wives and that He would have added more had David deemed it too little! Furthermore, the Law of Moses made equitable provisions for the treatment of concubines. In the Talmud, an Israelite was allowed up to four wives. The king of Israel was allowed up to 18. For all practical purposes, while polygamy was provided for in both the written and oral law, it was not widely practiced in Israel. It was mainly practiced by royalty and rich people. Among all of the Talmudic leaders, there was only one who was known to have had two wives. Financial costs and marital strife were the real obstacles to the widespread practice of polygamy in Israel. The only known Jewish polygamist in Jesus' lifetime was King Herod the Great. He had 10 wives, nine of which lived at the same time. But these facts which reveal that polygamy was actually seldom practiced in ancient Israel do not nullify its lawful existence. Indeed, as previously indicated, the lawful right of polygamy in Israel continued long after the end of the Mosaic age. It was not until 1000 years after the death of Jesus that polygamy was made unlawful in Israel. Approximately in the year 1000, a European Talmudic sage named Gershom ben Judah enacted monumental changes in the Talmudic law of Israel. He was so respected and revered that he was known as the Light of the Exile. Furthermore, all European rabbis who came after him were known as the students of his pupils. His revisions were permanent. Some of them were sweeping and forever changed the law of Israel and the status of the Jews. Two of them, in particular, were monumental. It was by his legislation that polygamy was forever banned in Israel and that unilateral divorce on the part of the husband was forever ended. From his days forward, only monogamy was lawful in Israel, and all divorces had to be agreed to by both the husband and his wife.
Now to return to the words of Jesus in Matthew. Only men could divorce in ancient Israel. This has already been plainly set forth. It is clearly seen that Jesus' commandments forbidding most divorces applied only to husbands. It is only because polygamy was allowed in ancient Israel that men could, in a certain case, marry an additional wife and not be guilty of adultery. Only polygyny was allowed in ancient Israel. Polyandry, the marriage of one wife to more than one husband at the same time, was not allowed. Polygamy, therefore, extended only to the man and not to the woman.
-- Interjection: There is a church doctrine with a long-standing currency which teaches that when Jesus rejected the "hardhearted" provision found in the book of Deuteronomy, He also did away with the provision for polygamy. This is because it is commonly held that polygamy itself arose due to hardheartedness. While this may sound right or seem to be true, there is not one iota of evidence to support this position. On the contrary, it cannot anywhere be shown that any polygamist entered into the state of polygamy because he was hardhearted. Actually, what can be demonstrated is that polygamy culturally arose in order to ensure a legitimate and numerous offspring. Because it arose with this objective as custom-law, it stood firmly grounded until this law was made obsolete or abrogated. In the legitimate religious history of the Mosaic legislation, polygamy was made obsolete when the Mosaic age ended in 70 A.D. In the cultural history of the Jews, polygamy was abrogated during the great Talmudic revisions of Gershom ben Judah around 1000 A.D. End interjection –
What Jesus proceeded to furthermore forbid was the marrying of an additional wife after the husband first secured a divorce from his current wife according to the teaching of Hillel. Again, this teaching of Hillel was widely held in Israel. It was the practiced conviction of the majority. Practically, the majority of the Jews of Jesus' days were not polygamists because of the reasons already given. But because it was provided for in the law, all Jewish men possessed the right of polygamy. What they did widely practice was an unlawful kind of substitutional consecutive polygamy through divorce. What Jesus forbad was the divorcing of one's wife for any reason other than the law -- the Sanhedrin ruling -- about fornication. He also forbad replacing the wife who was thus wrongly divorced with another woman as the wife. Jesus declared that the only divorce that He allowed in Israel was that in which the Sanhedrin compelled the husband to divorce his adulterous wife! He acknowledged and, therefore, verified the merciful enactment of the Great Sanhedrin in substituting compelled divorce for the compelled death penalty. For all clarity, gravity, and judgment, Jesus then declared that all subsequent marriages entered into by husbands who previously divorced their wives for any reasons other than the fornication ruling were adulterous. He also declared that anyone who married a woman who had been divorced -- for any reason -- was in the state of adultery. These words of Jesus have nothing at all to do with their interpretations as set forth in the doctrines of Catholicism and Protestantism concerning divorce and remarriage. Nor are they timeless as though they can apply to any time and/or situation other than that of Palestinian Israel not long before the end of the Mosaic Age. These words were only for the Jews of His days who were divinely placed under that current and fully operational Mosaic legislation. Just like the Mosaic provisions regarding the seasonal sacrificial offerings, Sabbaths keeping, dietary laws, and tithing -- to name a few -- this Jewish enactment concerning divorce and Jesus' decree governing it were not for the Gentiles who lived before, during, or after the days of Jesus. Likewise, these same words about divorce in Matthew are not for any believer, Gentile and Jew alike, who now live not under the Law of Moses but under the Law of Christ, who now live in the age of the Kingdom of God -- the age of the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ. Far from there being any tension or conflict among Matthew and Mark and Luke concerning the words of Jesus about divorce and remarriage, there is only complete harmony. The result of the teaching of the Gospels about divorce and remarriage is clear and powerful. There is now no ground for divorce! Anyone who has divorced and remarried is in a state of perpetual adultery. Anyone who has married a divorced person is in the same condition. Anyone who holds to a doctrine of divorce and remarriage that is contrary to that taught by the Spirit of Jesus through Matthew to the Jews and Mark and Luke to the Gentiles does so to the eternal peril of his own soul. That was and is Jesus' absolute position regarding divorce and remarriage. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
This is now the time and place to consider things that bear upon this profound and awesome subject. I consider them here primarily because I do not want to break the progression of the three prominent essential features that constitute a person a Christian. To place these considerations on the alphabetized page would break this progression. It is my intention that these three indispensable virtues of Christianity be read about in the same consecutive order that Jesus dealt with them in the Gospels. As stated earlier, these characteristics are essential to those professing Christianity. They at once distinguish between the wheat and the tares. Having covered this first essential characteristic of Jesus concerning divorce and remarriage, it is proper to consider some of its matters of concern. Among the doctrines of men, one position can effectively vie with another position. Because such teachings are man-made, any well-crafted one of them will hold the prominent position until another one which is better formulated and better stated takes its place. This is clearly seen in this very subject through the many different teachings of men. This contending-for-position attribute does not obtain regarding the authoritative doctrines of Jesus Christ. For when, by His Holy Spirit, He gives understanding to His disciples, all false doctrines of men crumble before the light of His truth. Because He is the great shepherd of the sheep and because He is the Father's compassion, He also gives answers to the questions and concerns of His children, especially when they are confused by the teachings of men or by their own wayward thoughts. Although He once for all settles all things through the revelation of His teachings, He also answers the points of concern of His children as an earthly father would do for his children.
The first concern that I will consider is the objection that one is exempt from these stringent demands of Jesus because of the forgiveness of sins, that one is thereby a new creature in God and that all former things have been made new, including all unlawful divorces or pre-conversion adulterous marriages. Instead of the forgiveness of sins exempting from Jesus’ demands it, in fact, heightens absolute conformity to them. The forgiveness of sins is granted -- only granted -- upon repentance from those sins. Scriptural repentance means nothing other than turning away from sins and doing the opposite of those sins according to God's will.
9-4-10: Interjection - For added clarification it is imperative to read my treatise on Repentance - The Scriptural Meaning. After reading about this monumental subject please return to this page to resume below.
John, who came before Jesus and announced His way, declared that all must prepare His way and make straight paths for Him by repenting from their sins. When Jesus began His appointed service, He declared that all must repent from their sins because the Kingdom of God was at hand. There is no forgiveness of sins without repentance from those sins! It is unquestionably fatal to believe that when God forgives sins and thereby makes one a new creature, that person's sins are themselves sanctified or made new. That is not what the Scripture declares anywhere. The Scripture declares that if anyone is in Christ through forgiveness, then he is in a new creation, that the former, old things -- the sinful ways -- have passed away and in their place present, new things -- the righteous ways -- have come to be. When someone repents and is forgiven, he is washed or made new and brought into a new relationship with God wherein he forever regards his former defiling sins according to God's commandments. He forever forsakes them and lives in righteousness instead. Listen to these words that the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul to the believers in Corinth, Greece. "And He (Jesus) died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know Him no longer that way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old things passed away, Look! The new things have come into being." When someone repents from his sins and is thereby brought into the new creation of God, it is he who is forever made new, not his sins! He is forever changed in his view of Jesus Christ and what Jesus declares about all sins! He is changed in his views of and relationships to the sins that he partook of in his pre-conversion life. He is washed by turning away from and forever forsaking his sins. His sins are not washed and forever changed -- he is! Paul spoke of this washing through forgiveness in an earlier letter to these same believers. In that place he rebuked them for engaging in a common and sinful practice of the Greco-Roman world. In that world there was no police force or profession of attorneys. Standard law and order was largely made effective through the subjects of the Empire themselves. This was often done by people bringing charges against other people to be settled in a court of law. Cases were adjudicated with the person who brought a charge against someone acting as the prosecutor. Sometimes, for his own advantage and financial gain, he would hire an accomplished rhetorician as the acting prosecutor. Penalties for crimes often involved monetary fines. If the prosecutor won his case, he was awarded a percentage of the fine. The courts were filled with all kinds of cases, often involving frivolous ones, because people constantly obtained financial income this way. The Corinthian believers had stooped to this low point, even bringing such frivolous lawsuits against one another. Paul declared that this practice was thoroughly sinful. It was totally unloving, undiscerning, and was squarely based upon greed and fraud. He said that it was an absolutely serious matter! He declared that this constituted one unrighteous before God with grave consequences! He said, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be led astray! Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor catamites, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And some of you were these things, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." This is a full-orbed statement by Paul. He said that no one who was unrighteous would inherit the kingdom of God. He declared that this unrighteousness was defined in those who were thieves, who were greedy, and who were swindlers -- who, because of these sinful traits, frivolously prosecuted their neighbors for financial gain. He said that these stood before God in the same corrupted and condemned character as did those who were fornicators, adulterers, sodomites, and drunkards, among others. But he said that some of the Corinthians used to be those things and share in their guilt but that now they were washed clean and vindicated from them -- in Jesus, they put them away and had nothing to do with them. They repented from them. In no sense whatsoever did any of those former sins become acceptable with God. Not one of those sins was changed, sanctified, or made new. The former unbelieving fornicator was not now a believing fornicator. The former unbelieving idolater was not through repentance of sins made a believing idolater. The former unbelieving reviler was not now through forgiveness of sins made a believing reviler. And to come to the point of concern, the former pre-conversion adulterer was not now made a believing adulterer. There never was nor ever shall be any such transmutation of sin into righteousness. In the new creation of conversion, sins and sinful states -- all of them -- are not made new; rather, they are forsaken!
The next issue of concern has been previously pointed out. It involves the position taken by John Murray at the end of his book. If it was not for the utter seriousness of the matter, the position could be branded as ludicrous. However, there is nothing frivolous or funny about it! There are many who agree both in theory and practice with this lethal position. Before examining this teaching, it needs to be made clear by way of reminder that Murray and many Protestants do not see all remarriages while the original spouses are both living as adultery. They think that the words of Jesus through Matthew to the Jews were not restricted to them but apply to all humanity and have a different meaning than shown earlier. Having said that, for many remarriages that they do see as adulterous their teaching is as follows: Even if someone is in an adulterous marriage - whether it is a pre-conversion or post-conversion marriage does not matter - that person should not leave that adulterous marriage. He or she should remain in it. The logic behind this is entirely fleshly. (Murray’s particular position is listed under #5 below.) The main reasons for remaining in this marriage are because (1) God has forgiven the person of his adultery. This reason is based upon an erroneous interpretation of repentance and forgiveness. The answer to it has just been covered above. (2) God is love. Therefore, requiring someone to leave such a marriage, which often is a happy and prosperous marriage, would be too hard. This view also is based upon a wrong view of God's love and of His holiness. It also fails to hear as of first importance the clear and explicit words of Jesus Christ that His way is constricted and hard and that all who follow Him upon this road of life can only do so after they first deny themselves and take up their own crosses. It fails to hear and understand the words of Jesus that only those who will enter into the eternal life above are they who first lost or gave up their worldly lives, that is, their worldly and sinful ways. (3) -- This next reason involves the one who is left behind, being a "believer", and the one approached for reconciliation, being an "unbeliever". -- One cannot know if returning or attempting to return to one's original spouse will guarantee the salvation of that person. Therefore, one is free to marry another person. This is a completely delusionary position which is wrongly based upon what Paul declared was the reason why a believer was not required to discharge physical marital obligations to a divorcing unbeliever. The statement is correct that one cannot know if pursuing an unbelieving and divorcing spouse and winning them over to preserve the marriage will guarantee their eternal salvation. But the position is wrong, dead wrong, which holds that because of this fact one can enter into or remain in a second marriage. Paul declared the exact opposite. He said that one was not obligated to maintain the physical duties and physical responsibilities of marriage when an unbelieving spouse divorced. This was because the unbeliever rejected and destroyed the blessings of the marital union by forsaking the ties of family, home, and divine order. He never said these facts freed anyone to disobey the clear words of Jesus and act like the marriage never happened or was void before God and marry someone else. The two are forever married before God. A divorcing spouse no more causes the marital union to become null and void than an adult son who destroys the purpose and harmony of his parents' house and then leaves it causes him not to be the child of his parents. Even though he departs from their house after first hating and rejecting his parents, he is still their son. Just like they are not responsible before God to pursue and maintain physical ties to him, the forsaken spouse is not required by God to do the same. The illustration is effective. But added to this is the fact that unlike the parent-child relationship, the husband-and-wife relationship constitutes these two as forever standing before God as one person. The Word of God declares that the only thing that ends this relationship is the death of one of the spouses. The powerful words of Jesus declare that nothing that men do can alter these facts. (4) -- This reason is, arguably, the most egregious of all. It is highly offensive, even diabolical. -- Even though it is acknowledged by someone that his own marriage is an adulterous marriage, he should stay in this marriage while he declares to all that his marriage is adulterous before God and that God does not approve of it. He is to do this because God's grace is greater than his adultery and covers it, and everyone is supposed to see through his experience that God's grace is greater than sin. Such people are supposedly living sinful testimonies that God's grace is greater than their sins. This grossly misunderstands faith and repentance on the part of men and righteousness and holiness on the part of God. This position is really a rehash of an age-old problem, one that was directly dealt with by Paul. In dealing with the same mindset, Paul made the following statement, "Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer in it? " Nothing more needs to be said. (5) – Murray’s position follows -- Even though someone's marriage is clearly illegitimate and adulterous, he should remain in that marriage because it is a marriage! Although it is not a legal marriage before God, since it is in fact a de facto marriage among men it should remain intact. This position does not outwardly state the facts in exactly the same terms as #4 does, but it shares the exact same egregious qualities with it. Just like before, this position is so blatantly wrong that nothing more needs to be said. It is self-indicting and self-condemning.
The arguments above are the main objections put forth by Protestants. There are variations of these, but they basically represent the oppositional positions.
To sum up, the Word of God through Jesus Christ declares to all believers today that anyone who has been divorced and is remarried to someone else while their original spouse is alive is an adulterer -- the subsequent marriage itself is adulterous. Anyone married to such a person is an adulterer. The Word of God declares that no adulterer will enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said through Mark -- in Mark these words about adultery are strict and literal and not figurative as in Matthew -- "If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." The substance of these words is just as applicable today as when given by Jesus 2000 years ago. The author of the letter to the Hebrew believers said, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."All who are Christians acknowledge and submit to these commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not in adulterous marriages, nor do they allow adulterous marriages, but warn against them. According to the will and word of God, these things are leading attributes of their lives! No one who is a Christian will be without this teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "All who are not with Me are against Me. He who does not gather with Me scatters." "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
It is now time to move on to the next indispensable fruit of Christianity as declared by Jesus. It deals with the humble love of God's children. - The necessity of receiving the Kingdom like a little child receives it.