Index by Subject

“Literally” – A Discussion of Definitions

I recently read an interesting short article on the use of the term “literally” that I want to share with you, then comment upon.

Two Misuses of “Literally”

“He literally knocked his head off.”  No.  If he had, the head would have rolled across the floor, separated from the body.  “Literally,” in that case, is mistakenly used to intensify a figure of speech, but “literally” does not intensify the figure.  It says “knocked his head off” is not a figure of speech but a true description of what he did.

Another misuse of “literally” has to do with word meaning.  Someone says, “proskuneo ‘literally’ means ‘kiss the ground toward.’”  No, proskuneo literally means “worship.”  “Kiss the ground toward” is its etymology, how the word was formed.  It is also an archaic meaning; as ancient Persians did literally fall on their faces and kiss the feet or hem of the robe of their deified kings.  Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does.  The New Testament frequently says, “They fell down and worshipped him”  (Matthew 2:11; e.g.).  “Fell down” is from a different original word, “worshipped” is proskuneo.

“Literally” does not intensify a figure.  A word’s etymological meaning is not its “literal” meaning.

Cecil May
Preacher Talk (Vol. 27, No. 2—April 2012)

The first misuse of the term “literally” is typical in casual conversation.  While irritating to those who are sensitive to the mangling of the English language, it is innocuous.  However, defining biblical terms by their etymology, (or even their assigned dictionary definitions), without considering context, is extremely troubling as we seek to interpret God’s word.

Continue reading » “Literally” – A Discussion of Definitions

An Addendum

The assertion of this series of articles has been that the Lord’s teaching regarding marriage and divorce is straightforward, and easily understood.  Simply stated, it is:  One man, One woman, for a lifetime.

Further, it is asserted that the one exception to this rule regarding the lifetime nature of the marriage commitment is found when a spouse is guilty of the treachery of fornication.  In this case, Jesus declared the innocent’s right to remarry.  Note again the passage from Matthew 19, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (vs. 9).

The right to remarry is extended only to the innocent party, and only in the one case of fornication.  Otherwise, Paul indicated that the marriage bond is a lifetime commitment. (cf. Romans 7:2).

Continue reading » An Addendum

Fellowship and Controversy

When error is taught religiously, history shows people to be divided into one of three groups.  First, there are those who advocate the error.  Second, there are those who combat the error.  And, finally, there are those who seek to minimize the differences, thus compromising with the error.  Issues in the past 150 years have shown this to be true with the battles over the instrument in worship, and with the institutional issues that troubled brethren in the middle of the last century.

The same circumstance can be seen in the division of brethren over what the Bible teaches concerning marriage and divorce.   There are the false teachers who advocate the error, the faithful brethren who combat the error, and a sizable number of brethren who seek to maintain fellowship with those who teach the error.  As is commonly the case, the compromisers have turned to the 14th chapter of Romans, abusing that text in an attempt to justify their compromise with the false teacher.

Continue reading » Fellowship and Controversy

A Race to the Courthouse

In the January 2001 issue of Watchman Magazine, Terence Sheridan and Harry Osborne debated the following proposition under the heading, “Biblical Putting Away.”

The scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.

Sheridan affirmed the proposition, while Osborne denied it.  In defense of his proposition, Sheridan used an example of a woman who was innocent of fornication, and divorced by her adulterous mate.  In order for said woman to have complied with God’s law as per Matthew 19:9, Sheridan stated:

“She needed to (1) renounce her bond with Bob; (2) comply with civil law; and (3) obtain civil recognition that the marriage is no longer functioning. She needed to do this before Bob did. She needed to do it for the cause of Bob’s fornication if she wanted to remarry.” (First affirmative).

While we do not deny that the woman is required by God’s law to renounce her bond to the man, and comply with civil law, the claim that she had to initiate the procedure and obtain the civil judgment is a position which cannot be sustained by the scriptures.  Osborne did a good job of answering Sheridan’s contentions, and those interested are encouraged to visit the Watchman site, and read the entire debate.  Note the following scriptural and logical fallacies to the position:

Continue reading » A Race to the Courthouse

Mental Divorce

To define the “mental divorce” position, we refer to both formal propositions, and a common scenario.  First, the proposition, which some who advocate the position have signed:

The scriptures teach that the innocent person (free of fornication) who has been put away without God’s or his/her approval and against whom adultery has been committed may remarry.

Next, the scenario, which establishes the contention in plain language:

When Jack puts away Jill for a reason other than fornication, though he obtains a civil divorce, they are not really divorced.  It is called divorce only “accomodatively”.  If Jack then remarries another woman, he is guilty of adultery.  So, he can now be mentally put away by Jill.  This is the real divorce.  Now, Jill is free to remarry.

Both the above proposition and the scenario is used by Donnie Rader in his book, Divorce and Remarriage:  What Does the Text Say, page 74.  Rader states, “Actually this is an effort by some to justify remarriage following an unlawful divorce.”

Continue reading » Mental Divorce

Defining and Redefining Adultery

Sophistry is defined by Webster as “deceptively subtle reasoning or argumentation”.  That which is sophistic is “plausible but fallacious”.  Another term used for fallacious reasoning or argumentation is specious.  Webster defines specious as, “having a false look of truth or genuineness”.

The arguments that false teachers forward in their attempts to skirt the teaching of God on the subject of Divorce and Remarriage can rightfully be described as sophistic or specious.  They have a deceptive allure and a surface plausibility, but are not legitimate treatments of God’s word.  One of the most obvious examples of such argumentation is the attempt to redefine the term “adultery” as it is used in Matthew 19:9.

Continue reading » Defining and Redefining Adultery

Are Non-Christian’s Amenable?

Are Non-Christians Amenable to Jesus’ Teaching
on Divorce and Remarriage?

There are myriad positions taken regarding who has the right to divorce and remarry. Most of these positions do violence to the rule established in this series, one man, one woman, for a lifetime. It may be an attempt to bring in more “exceptions” in addition to the one specified by Jesus in Matthew 19:9, fornication. It may be speculation regarding what happens after the bond is broken. It may be a blatant denial of plain teaching. One of these positions contends that while the rule is valid, it applies only to those who are Christians.

Precisely stated, the contention is that non-Christians are not amenable to the law of Christ. The word amenable simply means “responsible to.” That is, that Jesus teaching on divorce and remarriage simply does not apply to those who are not Christians.

Continue reading » Are Non-Christian’s Amenable?

Paul’s Instructions Regarding Marriage: (1 Corinthians 7)

In establishing the Lord’s law regarding marriage, (one man, one woman, for a lifetime), and noting the one exception to that law (fornication), the question is sometimes asked, “What about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:15?”

The verse reads, “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.” Some have taken this to be a privilege granted by Paul to the Christian to remarry if she (or he) is deserted by her/his unbelieving mate.  The “Pauline Privilege” has been added to the Lord’s “exception” of Matthew 19:9 as another just reason for divorce and remarriage.

Further, some have gone so far as to say that verses 27-28 of the passage, “But even if you do marry, you have not sinned”, allow for anyone who has had a divorce to remarry without guilt.  It should be recognized that such manipulations of the text are motivated by a desire to set aside the restrictive teaching of our Lord in his ministry on earth, and are the byproducts of ungodly influences in our day and culture.  The text does not justify these conclusions.  In fact, not only would these contradict Jesus’ teaching, but they make other statements by Paul in the same context nonsensical.

Continue reading » Paul’s Instructions Regarding Marriage: (1 Corinthians 7)

The Exception to the Rule: Fornication

The Bible clearly states that marriage is a lifetime commitment. When a man marries a woman, they “become one flesh”, and Jesus said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Further, Paul wrote, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband” (Romans 7:2). Obviously, God considers marriage to be a lifetime commitment, the contract of marriage ending only at the death of a spouse.

Just as clearly as God revealed his law concerning marriage (one man, one woman, for a lifetime), he also revealed an exception to that law. In other words, there is one scriptural reason for an individual to divorce his or her mate. The rule and exception are clearly stated by Jesus in Matthew 19:9, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (KJV). (exception in bold face). God clearly states that the sole grounds for divorce that will allow for a new marriage is fornication. There are many false doctrines that have been advocated in opposition to this truth. There are some difficult questions that arise due to individual circumstances that arise from time to time in marriages. However, the teaching of Jesus is so clear as to be self-evident. Individuals who divorce for any cause other than fornication have no right to remarry. To so do results in adultery.

Continue reading » The Exception to the Rule: Fornication

The Rule: One Man, One Woman, For A Lifetime

Article Series:  Let None Deal Treacherously

(An Examination of God’s Law, and the error of men, on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage)

Even a casual observer can see that the society in which we live has a cavalier attitude toward the marriage bond.  Marriages are entered into, and dissolved, with alarming frequency.  Recently, the National Center for Health released a report which found that 43% of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. (“First marriage  dissolution, divorce, and remarriage: United States,” Advance Data From Vital and Health Statistics; No. 323. Hyattsville MD: National Center for Health Statistics: 2 1).  The study was based upon a nationally representative sample of women between the ages of 15 and 44.  The Census Bureau has a higher number, 50%, based upon numbers from the 2000 census.

At present, every state in the union has some form of “no-fault” divorce.  In other words, there is no need for any party to prove fault in the breakdown of the marriage relationship.  All that is needed is a willingness to cite irreconcilable differences, and the divorce is granted.

Continue reading » The Rule: One Man, One Woman, For A Lifetime

Divorce: An Abomination to God

“‘For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,’ Says the LORD of hosts. ‘Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously'” (Malachi 2:16).

Popular culture, left unchecked, can have an insidious influence upon the local church. This has always been so. The Corinthians, jaded by a culture of immorality and ungodliness, allowed a sexually immoral person to remain undisciplined. They rightly were admonished by Paul. “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). Paul instructed Titus to sharply rebuke the Christians on the isle of Crete, lest they be influenced to sin by their culture. “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12-13).

Continue reading » Divorce: An Abomination to God

In the Steps of the Savior: Is The Alien Sinner Amenable to the Gospel?

For almost two centuries, Baptist preachers debating baptism with brethren have raised the case of a man on the way to be baptized who was killed by a falling tree limb. Their attempt was to blunt the clarity of Bible teaching on baptism by an appeal to emotion. They asked, "Do you Campbellites want to send this good man to hell just because he hasn’t been dipped in water yet?" Many people have fallen for the emotional appeal and have remained in error.

For 50 years, institutional brethren have focused on the support of "orphans’ homes" as the our sole difference. Why? The emotional issue of "caring for children" keeps focus off their unauthorized practice and rational consideration of scriptural principles involved. In debates, they placed a sack of fertilizer and a baby bottle on the stage, then asked, "Why will you antis take money out of the treasury to buy this fertilizer for the church lawn, but won’t take a dollar out of the treasury to feed a poor, starving baby?" Many brethren acted on emotion and left the truth. In the end, there was division in countless churches.

Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: Is The Alien Sinner Amenable to the Gospel?

Second Negative – Harry Osborne

Second Negative

Proposition: “The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.”

Brother Sheridan’s difficulties with the words “the Scriptures teach” continue. He has produced no Bible text proving that “biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society.” He asserts that Romans 13 sustains his proposition, but fails to make any argument from the text. There is no disagreement about the need to obey civil law. Our disagreement regards whether human law binds God’s judgments and defines divine precepts regarding marriage and the sundering of marriage. Terence would have us reinterpret and redefine the Scripture by ever-changing human law throughout history rather than interpreting and defining the Bible term “put away” by principles given in Scripture. Yes, we must obey civil law where it does not conflict with God’s law (1 Peter 2:13-17). But Scripture must take precedence in spiritual principles taught in God’s word (Acts 5:29).

Furthermore, Terence has not shown where “the Scriptures teach” that “the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.” In fact, his second affirmative resorted to ambiguous terminology replacing his explicit claim that an innocent Betty in a divorce for fornication needed to act “before” guilty Bob. Terence denies believing in the “race to the courthouse,” but affirms that “a putting away occurs only when the spouse’s intent is fully realized and civil government has officially recognized that intent.” When and where does Terence claim that official recognition of divorce occurs? He has plainly stated it is in the courthouse when the judge grants the divorce to the party filing the petition. No, this attempt at obfuscation does not help Terence. In a no-fault divorce state where the guilty husband filed first and that petition is granted by the judge, Terence would deny that an innocent wife could put away that guilty party despite any counter-suit filed, protest of the real cause before the court, renouncing of the guilty party for fornication before the elders or the church, a finding of fault in the child custody case following the divorce action, or any other action taken showing the true cause for the sundering of the marriage.

Continue reading » Second Negative – Harry Osborne

Second Affirmative – Terence Sheridan

Second Affirmative

Proposition:  "The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry."

In taking up my second affirmative, I wish to clarify something at the outset: I do not believe it is necessary for someone to file first in court in order to put away his spouse. Again, there must be compliance with the governing laws, etc. What kind of compliance? Full compliance. If the act of filing papers at a court house does not, per se, constitute full compliance, then it cannot be considered a necessary element in putting away a spouse. Someone can file papers and halfway through the process, decide not to divorce his spouse. A putting away occurs only when the spouse’s intent is fully realized and civil government has officially recognized that intent. Therefore, it is inaccurate to say that I believe in "race to the courthouse."

At any rate, I want our readers to note something that brother Osborne has said: "Neither is this discussion about the need to comply with civil law in divorce. A civil divorce must be obtained when a marriage is sundered and the two people depart from each other." What that in mind, let’s revisit the elements I said were necessary in order to put away a spouse:

Continue reading » Second Affirmative – Terence Sheridan

First Negative – Harry Osborne

First Negative

Proposition:  "The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry."

Before directly refuting brother Sheridan’s affirmative, let me clarify the subject of this debate. Simply put, Terence plainly states that an innocent party in a marriage sundered for the cause of fornication must beat the guilty spouse to initiating the civil divorce and obtaining the court’s ruling. His position requires that human law, procedure and judicial decree establish law binding God’s judgment in this matter. He urges brethren to make a test of fellowship out of who wins that civil race and what the judge rules. Those are my points of disagreement with Terence.

In contrast, it is important to understanding what is not being disputed. There is no disagreement over the fact that a marriage may be sundered against the will of one spouse. We agree it may. Neither disputant contends that one may lawfully remarry following a marriage sundered for a cause other than fornication regardless of who later commits fornication. Though Terence attributes the "mental divorce" view to me, I do not believe it. A marriage is not sundered by merely mental means, nor may one spouse mentally put away the other after the marriage has already been sundered. The order must be fornication, putting away, then remarriage if the innocent has a right to remarry. Neither is this discussion about the need to comply with civil law in divorce. A civil divorce must be obtained when a marriage is sundered and the two people depart from one another. Our difference regards whether that civil divorce procedure is synonymous with biblical putting away, whether the innocent must initiate that civil action, and whether the court must grant the civil action in favor of the innocent party.

Continue reading » First Negative – Harry Osborne

First Affirmative – Terence Sheridan

First Affirmative

Proposition: “The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.”

I want to thank Harry Osborne for offering to debate me and Stan Cox for agreeing to provide space for publication of this debate in Watchman Magazine. I believe the subject under consideration is one of grave importance for the Lord’s church. Therefore, I hope that good will come of this debate and that truth will be vindicated by it.

My affirmative is as follows:

    “The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.”

Now, it is customary for a disputant to define his terms as they are used in a given debate so as to avoid misunderstanding on the part of those evaluating his position. Here are some important terms to address and my respective definitions:

Continue reading » First Affirmative – Terence Sheridan

Sermon Transcript (Harry Pickup, Sr., 1958)


(Transcribed by Stan Cox)

…And at the same time to be able to fully realize and comprehend our own individual obligations in this matter. This is a subject, or course, which is somewhat controversial. And it should not be because the teachings on the question are very simple. And I assure you my friends, that I know nothing about any situation in the lives of any of you or any other people in this area, that would in any manner mitigate my thinking or my presentation of this material. Of course, as you know, the subject for our consideration this night is Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. And I want to try and present this material in such a way that everyone will know what I am talking about. Now frequently in discussing matters with individuals I find myself in a position of trying to be clear, and at the same time be as brief as possible. I’m sure that you understand that this subject is such that in answering all of the various parts of the subject that I have assigned to me this evening, that it will be necessary for me to be as comprehensive as I can in including all of the things that we feel will be helpful to our understanding of this matter. Continue reading » Sermon Transcript (Harry Pickup, Sr., 1958)

Sermon Transcript (Harry Payne, Sr., 1958)

MDR(Transcribed by Stan Cox)

…Don’t be alarmed by this formidable array of books, I just wanted to make reference to one or two of them in connection with one word, and not to every word that I speak. Brother Dennis Reed’s introduction might have indicated that I was going to speak to you in Greek, but that will not be the case. I don’t do that, we don’t teach it from that viewpoint. Certainly we want to… the young men who study that language, or study the Bible from any viewpoint at Florida Christian College, to be interested in going out and preaching that simply as it is written. To emphasize the language above the speaking of it in our own language, and the teaching of it as we can read it in our English bible, would certainly be amiss. But we do believe that it helps greatly to understand, at least particular words, or particular difficult constructions, which may or may not be, in a given version in the English language, translated correctly. Continue reading » Sermon Transcript (Harry Payne, Sr., 1958)

Sermon Transcript (H.E. Phillips, 1958)


(Transcribed by Tom Roberts)

(Beginning comments unclear – tr) ….Effort you have put forth in trying to grasp, to understand, and to use the things of the lesson that we have for our study tonight. When I arise before any number of people, on an occasion like this, I am impressed with my responsibility, not only to you, but to Almighty God, for the things that I say and the spirit with which I say it. That causes me to feel humble and to do my very best regardless of the circumstances that may be present. We are here tonight to study a subject that I have been asked to deal with in the light of God’s word and it is the matter of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. I could not possibly afford, in one session of study with you, to cover everything and every principle and every problem that could and should be discussed in matters of this kind. There is one thing for certain, that I am aware of as well as you, that a lot of the people who could and should be here to study this subject are not here. Now they are not here because they are doing God any harm by being away, but they are here for the very reason that the Bible says that some stood away from Christ and shunned the apostles and others, in the days when they taught upon error. Every one of us sustains the teaching or preaching truth one of three forces, that is, sustained that relationship to God when truth is being taught. Some of them sought the Lord as did Andrew and Peter and James and John and the others, everywhere they went. They sought the Lord and his teaching on the various subjects that had disturbed them. There were some others who were completely indifferent to the things which were being said. In the sixth chapter of John, there were a lot of people who followed the Lord about, just as long as he would perform miracles upon their sick and as long as he would give them bread to eat, miraculously, or any way. But Jesus finally said to them, in the latter part of the chapter, “You were not impressed with my miracles, you’re simply following me for the bread that you can get.” And when he informed them plainly of their purpose and his knowledge of it in going after him, the scriptures say that “many of them turned and walked no more with him.” And I’m sure that’s exactly the way a lot of people are tonight, not only here in Palatka, but everywhere. When the law of God touches their life and when it begins to deprive them of some things they want to do, or when it stops them from doing some things they are doing, they are not ready to walk any longer with the Lord, but to turn aside from him. Then there are some in the class of those when they heard Stephen preaching, they stopped their ears, gnashed upon him with their teeth and they put him to death, finally, by stoning him because what he said from the word of God did not approve….was not approved in their sight in any sense of the word. Continue reading » Sermon Transcript (H.E. Phillips, 1958)

Sermon Transcript (Homer Hailey, 1958)


(Sermon transcribed by Tom Roberts)

Brother Reed called me Sunday and asked me to come over in time for dinner tonight with brother and sister Henze. I was unable to do that, having a funeral this afternoon at 2 o’clock. I knew I would not be able to get away in time to be here, so I was glad I could make it in time for the service.

This subject of marriage and divorce is one that, at least the marriage part of it, is one that we’re all interested in. Those who are married are interested in making their marriage happy and those not married are interested in getting married. So I know that all of us are interested in one phase of the subject, whether we’re interested in all phases of it or not. However, this subject of divorce today is one that is becoming alarming. Recently, four articles appeared in the Saturday Evening Post dealing with that subject. I was amazed to discover in reading those articles that one marriage out of every three ends in divorce. Back when I was in school in, about 1930, I made a study of the subject at that time, as I recall, the latest statistics that I could find were for ’26. In 1926, there was one divorce for every 5.6 marriages. So, almost doubled since that time. It is one out of three now. The alarming part of it is that some of these, so many of them, are taking place among the children of God, men and women who ought to have been taught better, but evidently were not. Also, it’s a reflection upon our teaching of our boys and girls as they’re growing up. We are failing to impress upon them the seriousness and the sacredness of marriage and the fact that when they marry, they’re entering into a covenant relationship with another that is binding for life. But our boys and girls are growing up in ignorance of some of these things for which you and I are responsible. I don’t know what brother Pickup said last night, I saw him today, he simply said he’d talked an hour and a quarter on it and there was nothing left for me to say. So I started just to call brother Reed and tell him, “No need for me to come.” But nevertheless, brother Reed said he wanted two sermons on it even if we did say the same thing. Continue reading » Sermon Transcript (Homer Hailey, 1958)