Recently I was asked about some remarks I had made characterizing false teaching on divorce as promoting adultery. The querist had known some of the men who had done the false teaching and reported that they had never heard someone actually promote adultery. I am sure that such is true. It is not wise, nor is it sound to come out blatantly and promote sin. Preachers usually cannot hold a job if they go about promoting adultery. Alas, however, it is being done all the time.
“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?'” (Matthew 19:3). The question, we all realize, is a simple one. It is the answer over which we have such a debate. “Is it lawful?” Even those Pharisees who asked the question with impure motives recognized that the law had to do with reason. What is the reason behind taking such radical action as the putting away or divorcing a mate? “‘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). God hates divorce. Enough said. Men are still asking the question, “Can we not do it anyway?” If we are going to do what God hates, we had better have a pretty good reason before we do it.
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Is It Adultery? Or Isn’t It?
The special theme section of our last issue of Watchman, (June, 2003), was entitled “Let None Deal Treacherously”: An Examination of God’s law (and the error of men) on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage. The issue consisted of nine articles on the subject, establishing what I believe to be the truth, and dealing with some (though not all) of the errors which men have advocated on the subject in recent years. All of the articles were written by me.
The series initially was printed in the local bulletin I edit for the West Side congregation here in Fort Worth. Because of the format of the bulletin, the articles were not long, and it was not my intention for them to be particularly “in-depth.” I was aiming for a general, concise discussion of the issue, and judging from the generous feedback I received concerning the material, some at least were satisfied with the effort.
Continue reading » Editorial: Revisiting “Let None Deal Treacherously”
In recent years, many discount the teaching of Matthew 19:9 on marriage, divorce and remarriage by saying, “Jesus’ words do not apply to alien sinners, but only to citizens of the heavenly kingdom.” Cultural accomodationists tell us that lost mankind is not accountable to the gospel, but rather answers to some vague and undefined “universal moral law.” How does one answer such heresy? First, it must be acknowledged that the Bible affirms the concept of a universal moral law (Rom. 2:12-16). However, the question is this: Where did such a code originate? Is it innate, inborn, instinctive and intuitive? Or, is this so-called universal moral law based upon man’s memory – however dim – of divine revelation? Continue reading » Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage: A Universal Moral Law?
On August 25-26th, 2000, two of our institutional brethren squared off in a discussion on marriage, divorce and remarriage. The two disputants were Holger Neubauer, assistant to the president at Tennessee Bible College in Cookeville, TN, and James Maxwell, vice-president of Southwest Christian College in Terrell, TX. The debate took place in Monroeville, AL and was sparked by differences among brethren in a church there.
The propositions and content of the debate are pertinent to issues facing conservative brethren. On Friday evening, the proposition was,
The Holy Scriptures teach that Non-Christians in an adulterous marriage can repent and be baptized and continue in the marriage, being sanctified and justified.
Brother Maxwell affirmed and brother Neubauer denied. On Saturday afternoon, brother Neubauer was in the affirmative on the following proposition:
The Holy Scriptures teach that repentance requires that Non-Christians in an adulterous marriage sever the marriage before being baptized.
Hopefully, this review will be a helpful contribution to the study of this issue. Brother Neubauer was well prepared and thorough in both the negative and affirmative. In his defense of error, brother Maxwell made some arguments worthy of attention if only for the purpose of preparing brethren to answer them. This review is intended as an overview of the debate, rather than a point by point report. Continue reading » A Review of the Neubauer-Maxell Debate on Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage
Ed Harrell’s book on bro. Hailey, which was over ten years in the making, is now available to readers. When my copy came, I zeroed in on the chapter dealing with the current controversies over unity-in-diversity with error.
Ed has done a good job of writing, condensing his pages of footnotes and their connecting thoughts into an entertaining and informative narrative. Here is a brief review of the above-mentioned chapter. Since the chapter is clearly weighted in favor of those who have believed and taught unity-in-diversity with regards to error on marriage, divorce and remarriage., it seems fair to give answer to some of what bro. Harrell has written, since it so clearly advances his own teaching in this area.
9 or 10 pages into the chapter entitled “Arizona Retirement, Reluctant Notoriety,” a section of the chapter begins with a brief background of some of bro. Hailey’s views, moving to his views on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Ed is charitable in quoting brother Hailey in a 1988 statement: “I only recall preaching it (marriage, divorce and remarriage, sw) twice, in California and Alabama by request.” (p. 339) Apparently, brother Hailey forgot other times where it is documented he preached on it. In light of the mountain of research Ed very evidently did for this book, it is a remarkable oversight on his part to have failed to document this. However, he is more accurate than some of bro. Hailey’s opponents when he later writes: “Jerry Bassett published Rethinking Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, defending many of the same views supported by Hailey…” (p. 351, my emph, sw) He notes that J.T. Smith was bro. Hailey’s most consistent critic early on (1976, 1982). Continue reading » The Churches of Christ in the 20th Century; Homer Hailey’s Personal Journey of Faith
(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)
(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)
(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 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)
In the late summer of 1958, I moved from Lutz, Florida to accept the work with the Husson Avenue church of Christ in Palatka, Florida. I was twenty-three years of age, married, and had a year old son. Our daughter was born while we lived in Palatka. I had been preaching regularly for four years prior to this move. This was a time when the institutional and sponsoring church division was on the front burner, and I was greatly involved in learning and preaching the truth on those issues. As I reflect back, I had also been taught the truth on marriage, divorce, and remarriage since I was a child, and had clearly taught my convictions on that subject in my preaching. I owe more, than could ever be paid, to my mother and grandfather, B.W. Shropshire, of Robert Lee, Texas. They are now deceased, but I greatly treasure the respect for God’s Word which they passed on to me, and which I am diligently trying to pass on to my children, grandchildren, and any others who will let me speak with them about the gospel of Christ. Continue reading » MDR: Introduction to the Palatka, FL Meeting (1958)
1. Introduction to Lesson 6 Charts:
Journey Toward Jesus, Or Journey Away from Jesus
The following quotes from “Journey Toward Jesus” record a journey away from Jesus into sectarianism. These quotes are used in this lesson to illustrate a doctrinal and moral movement away from New Testament Christianity. Nothing reflects this movement away from Jesus and his teaching any more than the rampant divorce and remarriage issue. The events recorded in the exchange between Edward Fudge and Bruce Edwards are indicative of the critical movement typified in the divorce issue. If any lessons may be learned from any journey it should be a resolve not to depart from the old paths, whether it be “Unity in Diversity”, or “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage.” Continue reading » Charts: Divorce, Remarriage and Fellowship
Outline of Lesson, December 6, 1998
Forest Hills church of Christ
Intro: A myth has been promoted in many areas about God’s teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage (mdr) that it is too difficult to understand, that there is a lack of clarity concerning it, and that there are so many divergent views none can be sure about the actual truth. This is fallacious and a charge against the integrity of the inspired message of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to reveal, not conceal; to edify, not confuse; to unify, not divide. God has revealed the whole truth (Jn. 14; 16); it is understandable (Eph. 3:4; John 8:32), and we are foolish if we don’t understand it (Eph. 5:17). Additionally, some claim that “honesty of heart” is a defense for the right of some to hold erroneous views. Being honestly wrong is not a license to teach or fellowship error (Acts 23:1).
The denominational world makes the same charge against other Biblical doctrines as does some of our brethren about mdr. Baptism, the church, instrumental music, imputed righteousness, the Lord’s supper, etc., are all controverted subjects with diversity of views. They, too, plead for the right to practice error for the same reasons. Have you never heard: “It doesn’t make any difference what you believe if you honestly believe it?” Our brethren are now singing the same denominational tune. Continue reading » Divorce, Remarriage and Fellowship
“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more'” (John 8:2-11).
This interesting but brief record in the life of the Lord presents to us some challenges that would be good for us to consider. In the church today, Christians are constantly having to deal with the question of what to do with a person living in adultery or, more specifically, living in an adulterous marriage. Not only must we deal with the people and their sin, we must also deal with those purveyors of evil who have successfully warped the minds of people into thinking that adultery is not a sexual sin. When Moses descended from the Mountain at Sinai with the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, he read to the people the seventh commandment which simply says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). I am brought to a state of wonderment considering how many of the people at the foot of the mountain considered what Moses said to them about adultery from a legal perspective. Oh, it was law that Moses read, but the seventh commandment is and always has been a moral regulation and not a legal procedural matter. Furthermore, everybody knows that!! Continue reading » Associate Editorial: A Lesson from the Master (John 8:2-11)
To be “bound” is to be restricted or tied up. Herod physically “bound” John and put him in prison (Matthew 14:3). Figuratively, Paul was “bound in the spirit”, in the sense that apprehension of the unknown had him tied up (Acts 20:22). By contrast, to be “loosed” is to be set free from that which restricts us. The disciples were to “loose” the ass which had been tied up (Mark 11:2,4). In raising Jesus from the dead, God “loosed the pains of death”, for He was not to be “holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
The Scriptures speak of husbands and wives being “bound” and “loosed”. By whom or what is a husband and wife bound? How long are they bound? If two people are not married any longer, are they no longer bound? Can one mate be “loosed” while the other mate “bound”? Continue reading » Marriage Divorce & Remarriage: “Bound” and “Loosed”
There are few families today that have not been touched by divorce. As society continuously degrades into worldliness and rebellion towards God, there is a reciprocal effect upon God’s people. Many of the current issues concerning this doctrine have risen due to complex situations in the lives of all people. There was not as much controversy in times past, because the problem was not so prevalent. If you will examine an almanac, you will notice that divorce rates started to skyrocket in the sixties and have only recently slowed down it’s pace. Much of the reason for the current slowing in the divorce rate is the current trend among couples to live together without benefit of marriage.
Most Christians have come across these doctrines and have studied the Bible to determine what the scriptures actually teach. How do we know what is right and wrong regarding these issues? Can we allow anyone to teach any doctrine they want, regardless of the effect it will have on others? Continue reading » Marriage Divorce & Remarriage: Divorce & Remarriage Doctrines
In recent years, more and more brethren (mostly well-known “gospel” preachers) have taken up the position that adultery is a non-sexual covenant breaking. This is a theory that many Christians have never entertained, and, at one time, they would have laughed at a person for even mentioning such. However, it is catching on as more and more people find themselves in a second or third marriage. Let us first notice what the Word of God says about adultery, then compare it to what men are saying about adultery.
What The Holy Ghost Says
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman TAKEN IN
Now, what does that convey to you? Do you get the idea that the woman was found in the “gate of the city” filing divorce papers on her husband, or filing for a second marriage license, or taking vows to contract a second marriage? Rather, doesn’t the term “taken in adultery” describe the fact that the woman was found having sexual relations with a man? Continue reading » Marriage Divorce & Remarriage: Adultery – What Is It? … And then Some
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness….Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and You shall be my sons and daughters’ saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
Please notice in particular that part of this scripture which raises the question, “What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?” and “What communion has light with darkness?”
Does this scripture teach that we must not have fellowship with all unrighteousness or may we have fellowship with some unrighteousness?
Does this scripture teach that we must not have communion with all darkness or that we may have communion with some darkness?
Is it right to pick and choose which unrighteousness and which darkness we may retain in our fellowship? Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Marriage Divorce & Remarriage – Fellowship and the Divorce Controversy
Harry Osborne tells the story of being asked by a young man in Lithuania, I believe, concerning what the Bible says on the subject of second marriages. Harry did what any sound gospel preacher would do in that situation — he turned to the passages that tell us what the Lord says on that subject, and simply read what they say. The young man politely listened to what Harry read and seemed satisfied with the simple truth. Harry, anticipating, as most of us would, some question about the matter, if not some controversy, asked if the man understood the answer to his question. The man responded affirmatively. Harry was persistent, believing surely that the man would raise some objection to the Lord’s simple teaching. Instead, the young man became a bit perturbed at Harry for the interaction. The fact is, the man understood what the Lord said, on his first hearing of it. Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Marriage Divorce & Remarriage – An Introduction
The objective of this article is to study the marriage covenant from the woman’s perspective. We will examine how a woman should approach this covenant, a woman’s responsibility to this covenant, and what a woman should look for in a mate for this covenant.
Women and Marriage
In order to study how a woman should approach the marriage covenant, we should first examine how God views it. From Malachi 2:10-16, we can see that God views marriage as a “holy institution which he loves” (NKJV). Also God calls marriage a covenant in verse 14; “Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”
In the beginning, we see that marriage was part of the first covenant God made since He created them male and female on the sixth day (Gen. 1:26-31): “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, `Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’.” Continue reading » The Distaff: Women and the Marriage Covenant