Paper written by Rev. Hayes K. Minnick
Marriage is a human institution, Divinely ordained. It is strictly an earthly relationship; it has no place in Heaven (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12: 18-27; Luke 20:27-38). On earth men are mortal, and marriage is necessary to perpetuate the race; no such necessity obtains in the resurrection life where men are immortal. In that estate they are like the angels, among whom there is no marriage. The physical relationship involved in wedlock is related to the sphere of time alone, not to eternity. Marriage, according to our Lord's own teaching, is but a temporary and transient arrangement to which death brings an end. That death dissolves the marriage relationship is clear from Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39. It is also clear from these passages of Scripture that the surviving partner is eligible for remarriage.
The same thing is true of fornication and adultery (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9). So sacred and holy is the marriage relationship in the sight of God that it takes only one act of infidelity to sever it (Leviticus 20: 1 0; Deuteronomy 22:22-24). Since capital punishment was the penalty pronounced upon the crime of fornication and adultery under the Old Testament economy, it is utterly obvious that the dissolution of the conjugal union was totally achieved, leaving the innocent party free to remarry. In other words, adultery is a in so serious sin the eyes of a holy God that it involves death to the marriage relationship. The one is as final as the other in severing the matrimonial bond.
It is for this very reason that the incarnate Son of God, very explicitly and on two occasions, emphatically declares fornication to be sufficient ground for divorce, Matthew 5:31-32; 19:9. As stated so clearly by Dr. Walter Maier in his book, For Better Not For Worse (p. 436), "No argumentation, no juggling of the text, no recourse to the manuscripts, can change this plain statement: marital unfaithfulness breaks the marriage relation and may be cited by the innocent party as a reason for a divorce which God and the Church recognize." In all passages pertaining thereto, it is perfectly clear in Scripture that marriage as instituted by God is intended to be monogamous and permanent. This is the Divine design. It is an indissoluble compact between one man and one woman according to the heavenly ideal so beautifully symbolized in the union of Christ with the Church, His blood-bought bride (Ephesians 5:2232). In the original plan and purpose of God there was no place for divorce (Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), because there was no necessity for it. In the event of adultery, however, the very act in itself is destructive of the monogamic union. Where marital infidelity is involved, the "divorce" has already occurred even though it be not formally declared. Not to allow a decree of divorce in such case is to force an innocent party in marriage to live in a state of polygamy.
Divorce on any ground other than scriptural ground is utter wickedness. God hates it (Malachi 2:1416)! Yet there is one thing that He hates even more, to a far greater extent, and that is the violation of one's marital vows. A vow under any circumstance is sacred in the sight of God (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7), and there is none more sacred than that which involves the marriage union, The desecration thereof is a vicious sin which justifies a formal decree of divorce and, indeed, renders it necessary. There are times when divorce becomes a duty. The God of the Old Testament, who Himself hates divorce with an utter hatred, nevertheless found it necessary to divorce His own wife - the nation of Israel (Isaiah 5O:l; Jeremiah 3:8,20; Hosea l:1-3;2:2-5). Had He not done so, He would have compromised His own holy character. To insist that the marriage union is indissoluble under the circumstance of adultery is to exalt fornication and glorify sexual promiscuity under the halo of sanctified sin. The God of all holiness never intended a relationship so sacred as that of marriage to be an endorsement or legalization of that which is unholy.
The following paragraph is from the pen of Dr. Charles Hodge, "As all the permanently obligatory laws of God are founded on the nature of his creatures, it follows that if He has ordained that marriage must be the union of one man and one woman, there must be a reason for this in the very constitution of man and in the nature of the marriage relations That relation must be such that it cannot subsist between one and many; between one man and more than one woman. This is plain, first, from the nature of the love which it involves; and secondly, from the nature of the union which it constitutes. First, conjugal love is peculiar and exclusive .... the love of a husband can have no other object than his wife, and the love of a wife no other object than her husband. It is a love not only of complacency and delight, but also of possession, of property, and of rightful ownership. This is the reason why jealousy in man or woman is the fiercest of all human passions. It involves a sense of injury; of the violation of the most sacred rights; more sacred even than me rights of property or life. Conjugal love, therefore, cannot by possibility exist except between one man and one woman. Monogamy has its foundation in the very constitution of our nature, Polygamy is unnatural, and necessarily destructive of the normal, or divinely constituted relation between husband and wife." (Systematic Theology, Vol. -III, pages 383-384).
It is nothing short of amazing that evangelically minded men who reject the exception clause twice mentioned in Matthew's gospel as a ground for the breaking of a consummated marriage should have so little sense of the holiness of God. With an air of profound, albeit presumptive, piety they would emasculate, and thus invalidate, the plain statements of our Lord Himself for the purpose of promoting their own perverted concept of a permissive promiscuity within the marriage relationship. Marriage was never intended to be a license to the fulfilment of extra-marital lust. In the case of a dear Christian woman whose husband was notorious in the community as a whoremongering adulterer, they would consign her through a false notion of permanency to a fate equivalent to the state of a veritable hell on earth. Would divorce be Justifiable in such a situation? Absolutely yes! For the integrity of her own character, for the purpose of preserving her own personal Purity, for the safeguarding of herself and her children from the ravages of venereal disease, she would have every right to the recourse of divorce in the eyes of a holy God. To forbid her this right would be to flaunt the authority of Christ and force her into an abnormal state of a filthy and sordid immorality.
It is the word of an unerring Master that has made fornication a ground for divorce. This pertinent point is pressed in the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Volume II. page 865 B: "It is very widely maintained in the Christian church that there should be no divorce for any cause whatsoever. This Position is in plain contradiction to Christ's teaching in Matthew 5 and 19."' And so it is! To this may be added the perceptive judgment of Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. III, page 392: "The indisposition of the mediaeval and Romish Church to admit of remarriages after divorce, is no doubt to be attributed in part to the low idea of the marriage state prevailing in the Latin Church. It had its ground, however, in the interpretation given to certain passages of Scripture. In Mark 10:11-12, and in Luke l6:18, our Lord says without any qualification: 'Whosoever Putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.' This was taken as the law on the subject, without regard to what is said in Matthew 5:31-32, and 19:3-9. As, however there is no doubt of the genuineness of the passages in Matthew, they cannot be overlooked, One expression of the will of Christ is as authoritative and as satisfactory as a thousand repetitions could make it. The exception stated in Matthew, therefore, must stand."
Why, then, will men who profess to be evangelical in their thinking do their utmost in an attempt to avoid it? Why, in the name of all that is holy, will they pattern themselves after the abominable rigidity of Rome? They will press permanency in the marriage state to the point of condoning immorality within the marriage bond, while hypocritically condemning a scriptural divorce and remarriage as immoral. They classify the latter as progressive polygamy, while at the very same time they consign the innocent victim of marital infidelity to a state of permanent polygamy. Just where is the consistency in this diabolic double talk? Is not this the damnable doctrine of Rome? Hear the words of Walter Maier on pages 437-438 of For Better Not For Worse: " _. the Roman Church has persistently refused to grant divorce for any reason. It does not recognize divorces acknowledged by other churches or by the law. This position, of course, ignores and rejects the definite exceptions made by our Savior in the two distinct places, Matt. 5:31 and Matt. 19:9, It is the custom of Roman Catholic scholars, as also of many Episcopal interpreters, to assert that the qualifying remark in these two passages which permits divorce on account of fornication is a later addition to the New Testament text and not an integral part of the original revelation. This stand is unwarranted, and opens the door to other wilful emendations of the text." In his Word Pictures In The New Testament, Volume 1, A. T. Robertson has this to say on page 155: "That in my opinion is gratuitous criticism which is unwilling to accept Matthew's report because it disagrees with one's views on the subject of divorce ... Those who deny Matthew's report are those who are opposed to remarriage at all. "
It is utterly inexcusable on the part of evangelicals who should know better that they should Dive one iota of credence or support to the perverse propaganda of a hellish hierarchy which enforces celibacy upon its priests as though marriage were sinful, while sanctimoniously insisting upon the sacramental permanency of marriage regardless of open immorality, as does Rome. In their Commentary On The Whole Bible Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, with reference to Matthew 5:32, make this assertion: "Whether the innocent party, after just divorce, may lawfully marry again, is not treated of here. The Church of Rome says, No; but the Greek and Protestant Churches allow it." It should be perfectly clear, then, that a stubborn refusal to recognize a scriptural ground for divorce and the right of remarriage is deeply rooted in the cynical asceticism of Rome the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth (Revelation 17:5). Celibacy, regardless of the manner in which it is enforced, involves its victims in a false idealism which encourages and engenders fornication in one form or another. In a professed concern for the sanctity of marriage, immorality is unwittingly and unnecessarily furthered and promoted. Those who advocate a doctrine of such austerity, seem to have forgotten that not all are so constituted as to remain in an unmarried state (Matthew 19:10-12).
As to why Mark and Luke made no mention of the exception clause, any number of reasons may be advanced. It may be said in the first place that the significance of the factual truth involved in the exception is so obvious that it would be understood as a matter of necessity from its very nature. For the purpose for which they wrote, there was no need to mention it, Neither Mark nor Luke were in the immediate company of Christ as was Matthew, who was a personal disciple. "lt will be a new position in regard to judgment on human evidence when we put the silence of absentees in rank above the twice expressed report of one in all probability present - one known to be a close personal attendant." (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Volume II, page 865). The exception is not on its face an after-thought of some transcriber but was elicited by the very terms of the question of the Pharisees as recorded by Matthew: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" (Matthew 19:3) This plainly called for a specification from Jesus of any exceptions which He would allow to the rule against divorce. It is providential that the Pharisees asked the question in the form they did, for that placed upon Jesus the necessity of enumerating such exceptions as He would ordain. He mentioned one, and only one in reply. It is to be observed that according to the record of Mark (10:2), the phrase, "for every cause," does not occur. Neither he nor Luke had occasion to make reference to the exception clause for the simple reason that they were not addressing themselves to the form of the question as asked by the Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew. They were simply setting forth the Divine ideal in response to a class of men who held that a man might put away his wife for any reason at all, whenever it pleased him.
Further insight into the contextual significance of Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18 is provided by Dr. James Oliver Buswell in his Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Volume I, Part 2, page 390. Commenting upon these passages in relation to Deuteronomy 24:2-4, he states himself thus: "It can hardly be thought that Christ would contradict the Mosaic law or that He would give contrasting instruction without some comment. Remembering the principle that we do not have the teaching of the Scripture on any subject until we have examined all relevant passages, we should note that the Mosaic context does go on to say that if the second husband divorces the woman in the case, her former husband is not at liberty to take her back again. The obvious purpose of this law is to prohibit promiscuous wife trading. Since Christ was referring directly to the Mosaic law it may well be supposed that His remarks on the marriage of a divorced woman are to be taken as a direct allusion to Deuteronomy 24:3-4, and not as a contradiction of Deuteronomy 24:2. This would have been perfectly clear in the setting in which Christ's conversations on the subject took place." Such a suggestion is worthy of note. Dr. Buswell then proceeds to show that the Scripture is not silent on me subject of remarriage, but permits it according to Deuteronomy 24:2.
One of the most subtle methods of divesting the exception clauses of their authority is to assume that since they occur only in the Gospel of Matthew, they are applicable only to the Jews and to the Jewish period of betrothal. We are told that fornication is thus a sufficient ground for the dissolution of the betrothal agreement, but not of a marriage already consummated. Says one writer: "With all of the clear teachings for the permanency of marriage and this one passage which has been questioned (sic!), it must be believed that this exception clause has some other meaning than the breaking of a consummated marriage. The only explanation which fits Biblical teaching and example (sic!) is the betrothal view; namely, that Jesus speaking to the Jews was saying,'whosoever puts away his wife, except it be in the betrothal period for fornication, and marrieth another, committeth adultery."' (Marriage and Divorce, page 11, by William J. Hopewell, Jr.; D.D.). How utterly ridiculous! To what lengths will men go to support such shallow, superficial reasoning? If fornication be a sin so serious as to require the breaking of a betrothal, why should it not then be recognized and regarded as more than adequate ground for the severing of the marriage bond itset? Is the betrothal more sacred than the actual marriage? Most assuredly not! If fornication - a term which includes any and all forms of sex perversion - be sufficient to put an end to the one, it is equally sufficient to put an end to the other, and particularly so when the form of fornication in question involves adultery.
To cite the example of Joseph's intent to divorce Mary as an illustration of the fallacious concept to be advanced, is without foundation in logic. The fact that he was minded to put her away privily during the betrothal period cannot, under any circumstance, be offered as proof that he would not have done the same thing had the marriage already been consummated. There is every reason to believe that he would have, Alfred Edersheim, in The Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah, makes it exceedingly clear that according to Jewish custom, the betrothal was as binding as the marriage itself. In Volume 1, page 150, relative to his description of the betrothal transaction, he writes: "From that moment Mary was the betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if they had already been wedded. Any breach of it would be treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except, as after marriage, by regular divorce." Emphasis upon the words, "as after marriage," is mine. Whether during the betrothal period, or whether within the consummated marriage, the sin was judged as being in the same category - adultery - and in either circumstance was deemed to be sufficient ground for the dissolution of the relationship. Joseph was a just man and could be counted upon to conduct himself in accordance with the law after the actual marriage as well as before it.
In the same treatise mentioned above, and on the very same page, Dr. Hopewell says: "It is of significance that the heads of the Bible departments of two outstanding graduate seminaries, Dr. Dwight Pentecost of Dallas Theological Serninary, Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Homer Kent, Jr., of Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, hold to the permanency of marriage and the betrothal view of the 'exception' clause." We heartily agree that there is some significance in this observation - both men are identified with institutions which have long since succumbed to the deadly impact and compromising influence of the New Evangelicalism. It is hardly to be supposed that men who have not sense enough to practise ecclesiastical separation in obedience to the authority of the Word of God, would be in a position to exercise judicious discernment in any other area of scriptural interpretation.
To say, as does Dr. Hopewell, that the only explanation which fits Biblical teaching and example is the betrothal view, is a totally arbitrary assumption, a baseless supposition, which is without foundation in fact. The last thing we need are arm-chair theologians, cloistered behind ivy walls, far removed from the pastoral scene, to expatiate upon practical matters of which they seem to know absolutely nothing.
Listen to this sample of pure puerility from another exponent of the betrothal theory: "The advocates of divorce and remarriage change the word here from fornication to adultery at their will. They are not the same thing. Thev are two different sins! 'For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,' Mark 7:21. Why do they make this change? Simply because a married person cannot commit fornication. That is a sin of the unmarried. Adultery is the sin of those who have entered into the marriage bond..." (Divorce and Remarriage: Adultry, by Raymond Blanton; pages 10-11). Such a statement indicates a total ignorance of the issue addressed. The inference, of course, is that since our Lord used the word "fornication" in both exception clauses, the exception cannot apply to the severing of the marriage bond because, as the writer of this booklet erroneously concludes, "a married person cannot commit fornication"! Herein is the acme of absurdity.
A writer who makes such a statement is either naive or stupid, and probably both. The fact of the matter is that there are many forms of fornication which may be committed within the marriage relationship in addition to adultery. While, on the other hand, adultery may be practised by one who has never entered into the marriage state. Witness the woman at the well of Samaria (John 4:16-18) who had had intercourse with five men, though married to none of them. It simply is not true that adultery is a sin confined only to those who are married, or that fornication is a vice of only the unmarried. Adultery is but one form of fornication, while the term fornication itself covers the entire spectrum of possible sex perversion.
Can you imagine the havoc wrought in a family relationship when the husband of many years, having a wife and two children, decides that he will undergo a sex-reassignment and have himself transformed into a woman? If you were the wife in such a situation, would you accept the advice of the total submissionists who argue for the unqualified permanency of marriage, or would you shudder at the prospect of living in a lesbian relationship with a husband who was now no longer a husband, but another woman? How could anyone who professes to be a Christian justify the utter wickedness of a homosexual alliance in the interest of promoting the sanctity of the marriage bond? To do evil that good may come is a damnable doctrine (Romans 3:8). The wife, in this instance, had every right to secure a divorce from her erstwhile husband. The man in question, according to his own personal testimony, had never been a homosexual, nor was he guilty of adultery against his wife, but he was most assuredly involved in a filthy form of fornication when he became a transvestite.
Imagine, again, the horrible nightmare through which a woman must pass who awakens to the terrible realization that the husband to whom she is married is a practising homosexual. What counsel will the total submissionists, who insist on the absolute permanency of the marital bond, give to such an one? Will they condemn her to a continued relationship of vicious immorality in order to promote their carnal conception of the sanctity of marriage? Will they subject her on a permanent basis to the risk of the ravages of the death-dealing diseases now being generated among homosexuals? May God have mercy on them if they do! The writer of this paper finds himself in complete agreement with the judgment expressed by Dr. Buswell in the same work cited above, page 393: " It is my opinion that divorce is justifiable for a Christian on the grounds of homosexuality. My argument is a very simple one: If Christ sanctioned divorce on the ground of adultery, and the apostle Paul regards homosexuality as worse than adultery, because it is even 'against nature' (Romans 1:26-27), a fortiori divorce is justifiable on the grounds of homosexuality." It should be abundantly evident to anyone with an ounce of spiritual discernment that homosexuality is one of the vilest forms of fornication conceivable, and may certainly be practised by one who lives in a state of marriage. The wife to whom reference is made in this paragraph, at the suggestion of a friend from Pennsylvania, came from Sanford, Florida, to Orlando, seeking advice as to what she should do. Most assuredly, under such a circumstance, she had solid Scriptural ground for the securing of a divorce.
And what shall we say for those dear women who come in tears, desiring to know what course they should take when forced by a tyrannical husband into oral intercourse? Should they submit, or should they resist? Let the total submissionists search their own souls and examine their own consciences before they answer this question in the affirmative! The total degradation and defilement of womanly virtue was never intended in the submission a wife is expected to give to a husband. Of this we can be absolutely certain. Let every pure-souled woman resist with the utmost vigor so vile a method of fornication, even to the point of severing the marriage relationship if necessary. The fact that so filthy an experiment may take place within the marriage state does not make it any the less filthy. And now let Mr. Blanton tell us, if he can still do so in good conscience, that "a married person cannot commit fornication." He needs to learn that love without principle is lust. When he has learned this lesson, he will be in a position to recognize that fornication is frequently practised within the matrimonial bond.
"...it is not correct to say that porneia (the Greek word which is translated "fornication") denotes solely the sin of unmarried people. All illicit connection is described by this term, and it cannot be limited to one particular kind of transgression." Such is the conclusion of The Pulpit Commentary, Volume 34, page 244, and with this statement we are in total agreement. Our Lord's use of the word "fornication" in both of the exception clauses becomes all the more significant when understood in its proper context. It provides an even broader base for jusfifiable divorce than had He used the word for adultery. Since the penalty for adultery was death under the Old Testament economy, it should be perfectly clear that adultery is not at all referred to in Deuteronomy 24:1, but that some form of fornication was intended in the expression, "some uncleanness." The literal rendering in the Hebrew is "a thing or matter of nakedness," indicating some shameful thing, something disgraceful. Commenting upon this passage, The Pulpit Commentary, Volume 34, page 245, states: "But it is quite certain that adultery is not intended, and ante-nuptial unchastity is not even hinted." In other words, the sin to which reference is made is fornication in one form or another, having taken place within the actual marriage union. It was this - not adultery - that was deemed to be sufficient ground for the severing of the marital bond.
If the standard of Divine holiness be so high in the Old Testament, shall we expect to find it lowered in the New? Most assuredly not! This is exactly the reason why our Lord used the word for fornication in the exception clauses. He would have us to understand that the criterion by which the holy character of marriage is to be preserved, is one and the same, whether it be under the dispensation of law or under the dispensation of grace. The rule for righteous conduct is firmly established. It is fixed; it never changes. Upon no less authority than the Son of God Himself, fornication is explicitly affirmed to be solid Scriptural ground for the dissolution of the marriage union.
It will be obvious, then, that the use of the word "fornication," instead of giving support to the betrothal view and the unconditional permanency of marriage, in actuality destroys such a concept. The very standard of holiness and principles of righteousness which sustain the sanctity of the marriage vinculum, when violated, put an end to that relationship entirely. A Scriptural divorce is death to all matrimonial obligation. This truth is made explicitly clear by Dr. Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology, Volume III, pages 391-392: "Divorce is not a mere separation, whether temporary or permanent, 'a mensa et thoro.' It is not such a separation as leaves the parties in the relation of husband and wife, and simply relieves them from the obligation of their relative duties. Divorce annuls the 'vinculum matrimonii,' so that the parties are no longer man and wife. They stand henceforth to each other in be same relation as they were before marriage. That this is the true idea of divorce is plain from the fact that under the old dispensation if a man put away his wife, she was at liberty to marry again. (Deut. 24:1-2.) This of course supposes that the marriage relation to her former husband was effectually dissolved. Our Lord teaches the same doctrine." Making reference to the synoptic passages on this subject, he continues: "If, therefore, a man arbitrarily puts away his wife and marries another, he commits adultery. If he repudiates her on just grounds and marries another, he commits no offence. Our Lord makes the guilt of marrying after separation to depend on the ground of separation. Saying, 'that if a man puts away his wife for any cause save fornication, and marries another, he commits adultery'; is saying that 'the offence is not committed if the specified ground of divorce exists.' And this is saying that divorce, when justifiable, dissolves the marriage tie."
Dr. John R. Rice expresses a similar judgment. Writing to a divorced preacher who had remarried, he said: "First Timothy 3:2 says that a bishop or pastor must be 'the husband of one wife.' But you are the husband of only one wife. Your former wife is not your wife any more. Some people, particularly Holiness people, have taken up a way of saying that the man who has been divorced and remarried has 'two living wives.' But that language is not Bible language and does not represent Bible truth." Commenting upon Deuteronomy 24:4, he continues: "The man she was married to before she was divorced is not her husband, but 'her former husband.' And the woman who was once your wife is not now your wife, but your 'former wife.' The law of the land does not count her your wife. She does not count herself your wife. Your friends do not count her your wife, and God does not count her your wife. Divorce in the Bible means that the marriage is dissolved." He explains further: "First Timothy 3:2 was needed in New Testament times, particularly, because even as it is now among heathen people, a man often had several wives ... in Bible times when a heathen man was converted, the Bible did not command him to turn these wives loose to starve and turn out the children to be without a father. The Lord simply said that among the converts that only those who had just one wife were to be pastors. It seems clear that God intended thus that Christians should be influenced to just have one husband and one wife, but God did not refuse membership to those who have been converted who already were tied up with more than one wife. Divorce is wrong, generally. God allowed it for one reason, fornication, as you see in Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew l9:9. As far as I can tell, you had that reason for your divorce. But even if you had not had a scriptural reason for divorce, the marriage is broken now after you have lived with another wornan and you are not married to that first wife. She is not your wife."
While I may not agree with every perspective presented by Dr. Rice, he nevertheless sees clearly that divorce involves the total dissolution of the marriage relationship. He concludes: "The word divorce in the English language and in the courts and in the Bible always means the same thing: that the marriage is broken. If God justifies a divorce, then the parties who are divorced are single in His sight and are eligible to marry." To say, as does Pastor Blanton, in the booklet previously referred to, page 16, that "any person who has married, divorced and remarried while his or her first mate is still alive is living in adultery, a continuing state of sin,"* is the purest possible presumption. What possible ground does he have for so absurd an assertion? Will he consign a young woman involved in premarital intercourse to celibacy for the remainder of her natural life, because the man who seduced and defiled her refuses to offer her an honorable marriage? Under such circumstance, according to Deuteronomy 22:28—29, the man is permanently obligated to the woman. But suppose, as is true in very many instances, that the culprit in the case will not fulfill his rightful responsibility - what then?
While the formality of a marriage ceremony has not been entered into, an actual union has in fact occurred which makes them both to be "‘one flesh," and particularly so when a pregnancy ensues. If to be joined to an harlot is to be one body with one who is a prostitute (I Corinthians 6:15-16), as Paul so emphatically states, it is a clear indication that the mere physical act of intercourse in itself, without the formality of a ceremony, constitutes a conjugal union in the sight of God. As Doctor Hodge asserts (Systematic Theology, Volume III, page 376) with his usual degree of lucidity, "As Adam and Eve were married not in virtue of any civil law, or by the intervention of a civil magistrate, so any man and woman cast together on a desert island, could lawfully take each other as husband and wife. " We believe with the utmost conviction of heart, mind, and soul — as does Dr. Hodge — that such a relationship should be solemnized ceremonially by a minister of Jesus Christ whenever possible. But the fact, nevertheless, remains that the mere joining together of a male and a female in connubial connection in itself establishes a bond of marriage, even though it be not formally recognized or acknowledged.
A young woman who permits herself to be defiled through sexual involvement outside of the marriage relationship must first be brought to a recognition of the fact that what she has done is utter wickedness in the sight of a holy God. Sex indulgence prior to marriage is sin — serious sin. The next thing she needs to learn is that the sin committed is not unforgivable. If the God of the Bible permitted divorce, polygamy, and concubinage because of the hardness of the human heart (Matthew 19:8) under the Old Testament economy, the sins of fornication and adultery — though totally heinous — are most certainly forgivable in the New. Upon an exercise of genuine repentance, the God of all grace will cleanse the guilty one completely (Isaiah 1:18) through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, making her whiter than the driven snow!
We come now to the question: Shall such an one who has sinned and found forgiveness, having been abandoned by the wretch who defiled her, be permitted to enter into an honorable marriage with a noble young Christian gentleman whom God in His sovereign providence may see fit to provide? Or should she be forever forbidden to marry because of her previous intimate involvement with another man? It is just here that those who oppose divorce and remarriage with the rigidity of Rome find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. If they were to answer the first of these questions in the affirmative, they would place themselves in a position contrary to their own doctrine. If they opt for the alternative, they minimize the grace of God.
Curiously enough, there are those who absolutely refuse remarriage to a divorced person, who would nevertheless permit marriage to one who had lived a profligate life of fornication and then been converted. If there be such a thing as a double standard — and there is — assuredly this is it! Dr. Buswell rightly observes: "I have known of groups of Christians who denied the right of a person previously divorced as guilty upon scriptural grounds, and subsequently converted, to marry again; while admitting the right of an individual who has been flagrantly guilty of fornication, though never married, after being converted, to marry. Such a view in my opinion has no warrant in the Scripture, and, in the eyes of the world, it puts a premium upon immorality on the part of unmarried people." (A Systematic Theology Of The Christian Religion, Volume I, Part II, page 394). Such is the inexcusable inconsistency of that abominable Romish asceticism which patterns itself after the commandments and doctrines of men — "which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." (Colossians 2:23). It carries with it the stench of a presumptuous piety, operating behind the false facade of a self-willed humility.
Marvelous are the manifestations of Divine mercy! According to Deuteronomy 24:1—4, a divorced wife was forbidden to remarry her former husband after having been married to another. But what the God of the Bible cannot do in accordance with His own holy law, He will yet do according to the principle of grace (Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 2:1—20). In a yet future day He will remarry His divorced wife, Israel, on the condition of repentance. She does not deserve such favor; the law of a holy God prohibits it. Nevertheless, although forbidden by law, on the ground of Divine grace, forgiveness, restoration, and remarriage are made possible. It is upon this very principle that the solution of the problem is to be found whenever failure has been experienced and the Divine ideal can never again be attained relative to the marriage relationship. That which is not possible according to the principle of law, is possible through Divine grace. Where there is genuine repentance, remarriage is possible.
Thus it is that the young woman who finds herself in an irreconcilable situation with the young man who robbed her of her virginity out of wedlock, need not be consigned to the life of a celibate for the rest of her days. Through an exercise of sincere repentance, it is indeed possible for the Lord to provide for her a consecrated Christian husband to enable her to redeem her life and testimony. It will, of course, be necessary that the man who marries her be informed of the circumstances pertaining to her previous sexual involvement with another in an unmarried state. He must know and understand that a virgin love relationship is now no longer possible according to the Divine ideal, since for her it will be in effect a second marriage. Notwithstanding, having a knowledge of all the facts, if he be willing to accept her on this basis, what cannot be achieved in accordance with a strict standard of Divine holiness, can be accomplished through redeeming love on the ground of grace.
This very same principle holds true in every other situation involving a divorce or separation for which there is no possibility of reconciliation. Dr. Walter Maier states emphatically: "The Church*s position on remarriage is definite. If a divorce has been granted because of fornication or on the basis of actual malicious desertion, the innocent party may enter into a new marriage. The Church will of course try to secure a reconciliation, and in many cases the Christian husband or wife suffering from unfaithfulness and disloyalty is ready to forgive and refuses to take recourse to divorce. When children are involved, their good name makes a reconciliation highly advisable. But if in these cases the outraged party insists on a divorce, this must be granted and with it the privilege of remarriage. I Cor. 7:15 states that the deserted spouse ‘is not under bondage.* The marriage tie is broken. The innocent husband or wife may remarry.
"On the guilty husband or wife (in divorces granted for adultery) certain restrictions are imposed for remarriage. Because the adulterous husband is still bound to his wife, if she will have him, he cannot, so the Scriptures imply, marry any one else as long as she is alive, not remarried, and willing to live with him again. If the innocent wife marries some one else, she has definitely shown her unwillingness, and the guilty spouse may remarry. If she dies, the erring husband is, of course, free. In other words, as long as the innocent party is unmarried and the possibility of reconciliation remains, a Christian pastor should not perform the remarriage of the guilty party." (For Better Not For Worse, page 442).
Divorce, though permissible, is never to be recommended where there is evidence of genuine repentance on the part of the guilty one. If the innocent party against whom the offence has been committed be willing to extend grace and forgiveness, the relationship between husband and wife should be resumed and continued intact. There are situations, however, which have passed beyond the point of possible reconciliation, and in such instances remarriage is possible within Scriptural limitations. Says Dr. Buswell: "In my opinion, there is no Scripture to forbid a Christian who has been deserted or divorced on non—scriptural grounds by a husband or wife who claims to be a Christian, from remarrying, providing that the separation is such as cannot be remedied; just as a Christian deserted or divorced by an unbeliever is at liberty to remarry according to I Corinthians 7:15." (A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Volume I, Part II, Page 393). On the previous page (392) he had said: "The words, ‘the brother or sister is not bound in such oases,* can have reference to only one bond, namely the marriage bond. The teaching is clear that desertion destroys the marriage bond. In Romans 7:2 the apostle Paul describes the married person as ‘free* from the bond of marriage when the husband or wife has died; and he explicitly says, ‘free to be married to another.* Such is the only meaning which fits I Corinthians 7:15."" He rightly observes that the prohibition against the remarriage of a woman separated from her husband in I Corinthians 7:11 involves a situation in which the ground of divorce or separation was not fornication or irremediable desertion, and says:"She (having deserted the marriage relationship wrongfully) may not remarry, unless, of course, her husband has broken the marriage by another union." This statement is on page 390.
Dr. Hodge is in essential agreement. He repudiates with the utmost vigor the position of those who admit that desertion justifies divorce, but not the remarriage of the party deserted. On page 396 of his Systematic Theology, Volume III, he states categorically: "To this it may be objected, that this is inconsistent with the nature of divorce. We have already seen that divorce among the Jews, as explained by Christ, and as understood in the apostolic Church, was such a separation of man and wife as dissolved the marriage bond. This idea was expressed in the use of the words apoluein, aphienai, horizein, and these are the words here used." Thus they were free to remarry. He concludes on page 397 by saying: "That desertion is a legitimate ground of divorce, was therefore, as before mentioned, the doctrine held by the Reformers, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingle, and almost without exception by all the Protestant churches."*
Did the apostle Paul prohibit marriage to those in the Corinthian congregation who had previously been involved in premarital promiscuity prior to their conversion? Not at all! Indeed, he encouraged them to enter into an honorable marriage as a safeguard against sexual sin (I Corinthians 7:2-9). The admonitions in this passage are addressed to a people who had been given over to all kinds of fornication in their pre—conversion past (I Corinthians 6:9-11). To avoid such sinful sensuality, every man was to have his own wife, and every woman was to have her own husband (7:2). This is a positive command to all who have not the gift of continency. The living of a single life is good in itself, but may not be generally expedient. The love of a pure woman joined with the love of a noble man is a strong preservative against temptation in the midst of an immoral social atmosphere. Marriage is a mutual relationship, in which both parties are to reciprocate as partners in a compact (7:3). This dictum defends marital intercourse against ascetic rigorists. Husband and wife have a mutual obligation to each other. The one complements the other (7:4). Neither is complete without the other, and neither without the other is capable of realizing the Divine ideal. Conjugal cohabitation is a duty for both husband and wife. For either husband or wife to withhold from the other their proper due is to commit fraud (7:5). Any interruption of the conjugal relationship should take place only by consent; should be temporary, and only for a special purpose; should not be for a prolonged period of time lest either be tempted by Satan for incontinency. Disregard of this practical principle opens the door to temptation through Satanic incitement which places a strain upon one*s self—control. Violent unnatural, self—tormenting repressions beyond what God requires, only tend, as all ascetics have confessed, to increase rather than to diminish the force and power of sensual temptations. The Devil takes advantage of such situations, and it is the ascetic—minded advocates of "holiness" who in the end are driven to the greatest excesses. Marriage is a safeguard against uncontrolled sexual passion. Rather than to subject oneself to severe temptation, rather than to entertain the secret flame of lust, it is much better to enter into an honorable marriage (7:9).
We do well to make reference to John Calvin at this point: "Since man was created in such a state as not to live a solitary life, but to be united to a help—meet; and moreover since the curse of sin has increased this necessity, — the Lord has afforded us ample assistance in this case by the institution of marriage - a connection which He has not only originated by His authority, but also sanctified by His blessing. Whence it appears, that every other union, but that of marriage, is cursed in His sight; and that the conjugal union itself is appointed as a remedy for our necessity, that we may not break out into unrestrained licentiousness. Let us not flatter ourselves, therefore, since we hear that there can be no cohabitation of male and female, except in marriage, without the curse of God. Now, since the original constitution of human nature, and the violence of the passions consequent upon the fall, have rendered a union of the sexes doubly necessary, except to those whom God has exempted from that necessity by peculiar grace, let every one carefully examine what is given to him. Virginity, I acknowledge, is a virtue not to be despised. But as this is denied to some, and to others is granted only for a season, let those who are troubled with incontinence, and cannot succeed in resisting it, avail themselves of the help of marriage, that they may preserve their chastity according to the degree of their calling. For persons who ‘cannot receive this saying,* if they do not assist their frailty by the remedy offered and granted to them, oppose God and resist His ordinance."* (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume I, Book II, page 438). Calvin saw very clearly the necessity of honorable marriage as a preventative against sexual promiscuity.
Divorce apart from Scriptural grounds is diametrically opposed to the Divine will. It is a sinful repudiation, a wicked evasion, of the authority of the Word of God. It is wholly within the Divine will and endorsed by Divine authority when occasioned by death, adultery, and consecration to Christ. We have already shown the validity of death and adultery as grounds for the dissolution of the marriage relationship. We wish now to emphasize the third Scriptural reason for the severing of the matrimonial bond - loyalty to the sovereign Lordship of the Saviour. This, of a truth, is the underlying factor in the departure of the unbelieving one in I Corinthians 7:15. It is wrong for a Christian to contemplate marriage with a non—Christian (II Corinthians 6:14—7:1), but when a situation exists in which one party is converted after the marriage has been established, very obviously a problem is posed. What now should be done? Should the relationship be broken by the believing party? No, says, Paul; let the unity of the home and the integrity of the marriage covenant be maintained by the believer as long as the unbelieving one is willing to remain in the home (I Corinthians 7:12—13). The Greek word for "pleased" in these verses places a strong emphasis upon mutual approval. It is sun—eu—dokeo, which means literally, ""to be well pleased together with." It indicates that the unsaved partner must be thoroughly satisfied with the new arrangement. If such an one is not sympathetic and resents the believer*s consecration to Christ, and because of that resentment abandons the marriage state, the believing one is not under bondage. The Christian, in his consecration to Christ, is not in a state of enslavement to an infidel spouse who decides to call it quits, but is free from that relationship in every sense of the word, even to the possibility of remarriage. Under no circumstance is the believer to renounce his consecration to Christ through the compromise of his convictions in order to maintain the marriage bond with an unbeliever. Loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the authority of His holy Word supersedes every other loyalty upon the face of the earth.
For the repudiated party to continue bound to the repudiator would surely be a form of slavery. Divorce is the only possible means of preserving moral peace where the union is between souls separated from each other by so vast a gulf as that which exists between a pagan and a Christian. Is not this the very principle so emphatically set forth in Deuteronomy 12:32; 13:6—11? The slightest secret suggestion on the part of any one member of the family to any other member of the family to turn away from the true and living God, any subtle enticement to idolatry, was to be mercilessly exposed and the culprit was to be dealt with in summary fashion. He or she was to be exterminated - put away forever by means of capital punishment. In a situation involving husband and wife, most assuredly such a procedure would be the equivalent of a divorce resulting in the permanent putting away of the guilty one. This is what loyalty to the Lord and His Word required under the Old Testament economy. This is what the holiness of God in its infinite immutability demands!
Terribly stern is the moral and spiritual obligation thus laid on the person enticed to idolatry. God allows no claim of natural affection to interfere with the fidelity and dutiful allegiance we owe to Him. He would have us regard those who deliberately attempt to seduce us away from Himself as our worst foes -even though they be the nearest and dearest to us upon earth, our own flesh and blood kin. No language is strong enough to portray the extreme wickedness and unmitigated iniquity inherent in the crime of seeking to seduce a soul from its consecration to the Word and will of God. Those whose love and friendship we cherish are only the more guilty if they attempt to take advantage of our affection to betray us into deadly sin. Under no circumstances are we to allow any private affection to allure and blind us to the enormity of such an offence. As the Levites of old were commanded to demonstrate their loyalty and devotion to the will of God by running their swords through all impenitent idolators in the camp of Israel (Exodus 32:26—29; Deuteronomy 33:8-11), including members of their own families, and thus destroying them, even so the demands of Christ upon the supreme and undivided allegiance of those who name His Name are not now a whit less rigorous than they were of old. The transition from one dispensation to another does not alter or modify in any way the immutable principle of Divine holiness which requires absolute separation from all that is contrary to the Word and will of God (Matthew 10:32—39; Luke 14:25—27). While we are not authorized to use literal swords today for the purpose of eliminating idolators as were the Levites under the theocracy, we are responsible for using the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12—13; Ephesians 6:17) to sever our relationship from those who oppose the truth and attempt to compromise our consecration to Christ. We utterly fail in the fulfillment of our solemn obligation to the Lord if we do not place on every attempt at spiritual seduction the immediate brand of our strongest condemnation.
Extremely severe are the utterances of our sovereign Saviour! He came not to send (literally, cast) peace upon the earth, but a sword. There is an issue to be forced, and He will force it. No earthly tie, neither family nor social, will be permitted to take precedence over His claim to sovereign Lordship in the hearts and lives of those whom He has redeemed. Ths sword that He wields will produce strife, conflict, discord, destroying homes and rending asunder family relationships. The Greek word which is translated, "to set at variance" (Matthew 10:35), means literally "to cut into two parts, cleave asunder, dissever.* It is a strong word. There is an eternal issue at stake inciting deadly opposition between hostile principles, penetrating into and tearing apart relationships that bind members of a family one to another. When Joseph S. Flacks was converted to Christ, his Jewish family held a funeral and buried him in effigy. They disowned him and would have nothing further to do with him. Such was the price that he paid for his consecration to the Son of God. When asked as to whether he would renounce the Saviour, he replied: "I could not if I would; and I would not if I could." Torn away from the wife, children, and relatives whose love he cherished, he became heir to the promise of Christ in Matthew 19:27-29. He hated those he loved (Luke 14:26), not in the sense that he loved them less, but because he loved the Saviour more!
If homes are broken and families ruptured over the issue of consecration to Christ, so let it be. Such family fragmentation is for the glory of God. Would that there were more of it in this shallow, sloppy, superficial age in which we live! Households that are held together through the compromise of conscience, Christian convictions, and righteous principles, are not worthy of the Name of Christ (Matthew 10:37—39). The submission that a wife is exhorted to give to her husband (I Peter 3:1—6) was never intended to involve her in an enslavement of conscience. The Greek word for "amazement" in verse 6 is literally "terror." Many dear Christian wives permit themselves to become paralyzed through the influence of intimidating husbands to the point where they will surrender their conscientious convictions - but not Sara! Although she is set forth as an example of an obedient wife, in Genesis 21:10 she gave orders to her husband and God commanded Abraham to obey his wife, verses 11-12. Thus the normal situation was reversed, indicating that in the Divine economy no woman is required to sell her soul in the betrayal of her God-given convictions for the sake of her husband. She must be true to her conscience no matter what the cost. It is never right to do wrong to do right.
Those who advocate total submission might have advised Sara to do otherwise. For the sake of preserving happiness and harmony in the home, she ought never to have forced an issue with her husband. To keep the family together she should have subjugated her own moral concerns to the whims and wishes of a carnal husband, even to the point of doing wrong if he were to advise her to do so. Such is the deadly dangerous damnable doctrine (Romans 3:8) of the total submissionists — let us do evil that good may come! The following statements are taken from a booklet written by a female "expert" on the subject: How to Win Your Unsaved Husband — "A husband actually stands in the place of God to his — wife. She is to obey him as if he were the Lord," pages 54. Making reference to several Bible texts, the authoress declares: "These Scriptures leave no doubt that a woman is always to obey her husband," page 6 (emphasis hers). On pages 8—9 she continues: "What if her husband asks her to do something wrong? Should she still obey him? For example, what if he asks her not to go to church? Should she defy him, and go anyway? No, she is to obey her husband." On pages 9—10; "Another friend of mine was converted after she married. Her husband felt angry and cheated when she stopped going to taverns with him on Saturday nights. She knew she didn*t belong in a tavern. Yet the Lord convicted (sic!) her about her disobedience to him. After a great deal of prayer and searching of the Scriptures she said, ‘Jim, you know I'm a Christian now, and there are some places I don*t belong. But I*m going to obey you, like the Lord (sic!) said. If you insist I go with you Saturday night, I will. I*ll trust you to do right by me.' ‘Do you mean that?* ‘Yes, I do.' ‘O.K., then, I want you to go with me Saturday night.* That Saturday night, buttressed (sic!) by earnest prayer, she followed Jim from tavern to tavern.. .She didn*t drink. She didn*t reproach him. With a meek and quiet spirit she tried to please him. She was kind to his friends, without entering into their drinking or off-color stories." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how she won him to Christ!
But to what kind of a Christ, and to what kind of Christianity, did she win him? A compromised Christ is a counterfeit Christ, and a compromised Christianity is a counterfeit form of Christianity. Such a Christ is not the Christ of the Bible, and such a Christianity is not the Christianity of the Bible. What woman in her right mind, under the discipline of the Holy Spirit and obedient to the authority of the Word of God, would even think of exalting her husband to the throne-room of her heart as a substitute for the Lord Jesus Christ, whose sovereign right alone it is to rule and reign in the hearts and lives of those whom He has redeemed? Where is the truly consecrated Christian wife who would entertain even the least inclination to do that which she knows to be wrong just for the sake of pleasing her husband? Such "spiritual strategy" - though thoroughly typical of New Evangelical thinking and psychiatric counselling is as totally wicked and reprehensible as the diabolic Romish doctrine of papal authority which regards the Pope as the vicar of Christ. What difference is there between the putting of one*s husband or the Pope in the place of ultimate authority? And was it not the Jesuits who perpetrated and practised the Devilish dogma that the end justifies the means? It is bad enough that Romanists would stoop so low as to utilize so vicious a philosophy; it is a million times worse when professing evangelicals do the same thing.
It is to Elizabeth Rice Handford that we are indebted for the drivelling nonsense set forth in the booklet from which we have taken these excerpts. She ought to have known better. Had she been present in the Persian palace centuries ago, she would in all probability have advised Vashti to sacrifice her virtue rather than to preserve it - just because her husband commanded her to do so. She says on pages 10-11: "Troubled women have asked me, ‘But what if my husband asks me to murder somebody, or commit adultery with another man?* I always answer, ‘Has he ever asked you to do that?* ‘Well, no, but what if he did?* I suppose it would be possible to imagine all sorts of fantastic situations. There are no ‘what ifs* with God. If a woman sincerely obeys God, and obeying Him, obeys her husband, God takes upon Himself the responsibility of protecting her." Is she thus implying that the Divine will never permits such things to happen? Is she trying to tell us that godly women are never at any time subjected to precarious temptation by ungodly husbands? Would she really have us believe that a wife totally abnegates her own individual responsibility to the Lord by doing what her husband asks her to do, even though it be morally wrong? She doesn*t have the courage to come right out and say so, but that is the evident inference of her remarks. May God have mercy upon those who submit themselves to such carnal counselling!
We live in a world of reality. The "fantastic situations" dismissed by this deceived woman as unrealistic are not so fantastic as she would have us believe them to be. Such things do occur, and with a great deal of frequency, in the experience of women who are subjected to pressure by husbands who would wickedly force them to do that which they know to be sinful and utterly wrong. There is but one thing for a woman to do in such a crisis. She must obey God rather than a man (Acts 5:29), even though that man be her own husband. She must do what Vashti did, who determined at all cost to retain her womanly virtue in spite of her husband*s demand that she unveil her feminine charm and expose her naked beauty to the gaze of a motley mob of drunken debauchees. She refused to sell her sex in an atmosphere of vanity and vice; she defied the authority of her emperor—husband (Esther 1:10-12) for the purpose of preserving her personal purity. The virtue of Vashti! Her womanly modesty sparkles as a splendored jewel, shining as a silver star in the midst of a moral night. She valued her virtue more than she valued the throne of the Persian empire.
And where is the consecrated Christian woman who would even think of doing otherwise? When a woman of the world demonstrates so high a standard of ethical decency, should we expect less from one who names the name of Christ? Certainly not! No wife is relieved of her personal and individual responsibility to the sovereign Lordship of the Son of God just because she is bound to a husband. If at any point she should find herself in a dilemma in which she must choose between submission to the authority of the written Word and the unethical dictates of a worldly husband, she must, under any circumstance and at all costs, surrender her will to the sovereignty of the Saviour. She must totally reject from her thinking even the slightest inclination toward the detestable "situation ethics"* of the total submissionists. She must obey God, even if it mean the breaking up of the home and the family. If her husband be offended with her consecration to Christ, and refuse to live with her unless she renounce it, let him leave. The dissolution of the marriage is, under such a circumstance, Scripturally justifiable (I Corinthians 7:15). The holding of the home together at any cost is not a doctrine of the Bible. Neither spouse is required to do that which is morally wrong in order to maintain it.
That Eve was the first to sin is clearly established in I Timothy 2:14. What should Adam have done when she approached him with the forbidden fruit and urged him to partake? Ought he to have joined her in the transgression for the sake of preserving family unity? Absolutely no! What he ultimately did do is something he should never have done. According to known Biblical principles (Deuteronomy 13:6) he ought to have spurned her enticement to sin, categorically refusing to identify himself with her in her violation of the Word and will of God. Now just suppose, for a moment, that that is what he had done. Suppose that, instead of yielding to temptation, he had remained in a state of obedience although his wife was in a state of disobedience. What then would have been the consequence? According to the law of Divine holiness, she would have been cast out of the garden of Eden (as ultimately both of them were, Genesis 3:23—24), while Adam would have been permitted to remain in it. Thus a separation, a divorce, a dissolution of the marriage relationship would have taken place, and necessarily so, on the ground of consecration to the will of God.
How then would the propagation of the race have taken place? In answer to this question, there are two possible alternatives. Had Eve remained unrepentant, God would have had to provide another wife for Adam — involving remarriage. That is a possibility. If, however, Eve were to have repented of her sin, God might then have permitted Adam (with a sinless nature) to leave the garden for the purpose of identifying himself with Eve, his fallen bride. The offspring of such a union would have been born with sinful natures through Eve, and the race would have been as much in need of a Saviour as it was when both of them sinned. In such an event, Adam would have been a perfect type of Christ who, as the sinless One, entered into a world of sin to identify Himself with a fallen bride — the Church. Both the propagation and redemption of the race could have been accomplished even as they were when Adam joined Eve in the transgression. This also would have been a possibility.
Inherent in the first of these possibilities is the principle of law; inherent in the second of these possibilities is the principle of grace. These are the two factors that need to be taken into consideration by any one who contemplates divorce. Although justifiable according to law, divorce is never to be recommended where grace may be granted on the ground of genuine repentance The purpose of this paper is not to minimize the soul—agonizing effects of divorce — the heartache, the heartbreak, the grief, the pain, the distress of mind - that accompany such an ordeal. It is written in defense of those who find it necessary on Scriptural grounds to secure a justifiable divorce, against the false idealism of those who say that divorce and remarriage are never right under any circumstance.
As there are no two snow—flakes exactly alike, even so there are no two situations involving the matter of divorce that are identical. Each individual case must be considered on the basis of its own merits in the light of God*s holy Word, and in utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit for leading and guidance in the making of the right decision. Others may counsel and advise, but only the person implicated is capable of making that decision. No one else can make it for him. If at all possible, the marriage state should be maintained upon the ground of grace. If, on the other hand, either the sanctity of the marital relationship or one*s consecration to Christ be compromised in the continuance, let a dissolution of the union take place without fear of intimidation from super—pious, mystic—minded marriage counsellors imbued with the unscriptural austerity and rigidity of Rome.
Think of the terrible trauma into which a woman is plunged when she awakes to the realization that her husband of twenty-five years has been a bigamist throughout that entire period of time! As a trucker, he had succeeded in establishing and maintaining two marriages in distant cities simultaneously. After a quarter of a century, his sin finally found him out (Numbers 32:23). This dear woman moved from one of our northern states to Florida for the purpose of establishing her independence and a new home. I well remember the day when she called me to her place of residence to advise me of the fact that her name would be appearing in the paper as one who was making application for divorce. She wanted me, as her pastor, to know the reason why. Was she entitled to a divorce? How will those who advocate the absolute permanency of marriage solve this situation? In the first place, since hers was the second marriage, she was not legally married to the man at all. How could they possibly consign her to continuance in a relationship which was null and void before the law? Yet for twenty-five years they had conducted themselves as husband and wife, having a joint interest in all those matters in which they were mutually involved. Only those enslaved to an unscriptural idealism would deny and deprive this dear woman the right to secure legal protection for her person and property from the wretch who ruined her life. Continuance in such a relationship would be unthinkable. She was absolutely right in securing a divorce. As a consecrated Christian woman, she could do no other. Would she be eligible for remarriage? Yes, if she so chose — but only in the Lord (I Corinthians 7:39).
I remember, too, a dear man who told me that he hadn*t seen or heard from his wife in over thirty years. He had no idea as to whether she was dead or alive. If ever there were a case of deliberate, wilful, malicious desertion, this was it. Was he entitled to a divorce from this woman? Yes, if he had so chosen, according to I Corinthians 7:15. Having come out of a Christian and Missionary Alliance background, however, he labored under the delusion that it was his Christian responsibility to remain within the marriage bond and wait for the return of his wife. So he has done. For more than three decades he had waited and hoped that his wife might yet come back to him. And this, of course, was his prerogative. Nevertheless, in the process he had taken to himself a housekeeper, a fine Christian lady. She kept the home for him; they lived under the same roof; they ate their meals together; they went to church together; they did their shopping together, and to all appearances they enjoyed each other*s companionship. Not for one moment would I impugn either the motivation or character of these dear people, nor call into question the integrity of their relationship. I would simply suggest that for appearance*s sake alone, it might have been the better part of wisdom for this dear man to have had his absconded wife declared legally dead so that he might enter into an honorable marriage with the woman who was his housekeeper. He would have been Scripturally free to do so had he not been blinded by a false idealism.
It is not possible to consider all of the ramifications relative to the issue of divorce. Suffice it to say that, while one could wish that the dissolution of the marriage relationship were never to be rendered necessary, in a world of sin and depravity there are times when divorce may become a duty in defense of the holiness of God.