Review: "Is There Life After Divorce?"
Wide Open Divorce and Remarriage
In the February, 1990, issue of The International News of the Church of God, International, Ronald L. Dart addressed the topic "Is There Life After Divorce?" Mr. Dart is highly regarded for his teaching abilities. However, we respectfully disagree with his article on divorce. Here is a point-by-point refutation of Mr. Dartís wide-open divorce and remarriage doctrine.
1. Dart says that divorce is not "the unpardonable sin."
This is a subtle attempt to accuse those of us who teach the Bible truth on marriage, that we prevent the healing of lives broken by divorce. The truth is that continued adultery can never "heal" broken lives. The only unpardonable sin is the sin not repented of, and stubbornly continued in. God will judge adulterers who refuse to repent, Hebrews 13:4.
2. Dart assumes that Deuteronomy 24:1-4 allows divorce and remarriage for adultery, or any other reason.
This cannot be. The penalty for adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality was death, Leviticus 20:10-16. Mr. Dartís interpretation of Deuteronomy 24 invalidates Leviticus 20. Even if Israel never carried out the death penalty, this does not do away with or water down the Law. Jesus condemns those who break and twist Godís Law, Matthew 5:17-18.
The basis for the husband issuing his wife a bill of divorcement is discovering "some uncleanness" in her, or "matter of nakedness," referring to sexual sins (Leviticus 18 and 20). Jesus, in referring to Deuteronomy 24, used an equivalent word, "fornication," as being the only ground for divorce with the right to remarry, Matthew 19:8-9. Fornication is not the same as adultery. They are two different sins, Galatians 5:19. So Jesusí statement in Matthew 19:9 is the same as Mosesí in Deuteronomy 24. Porneia in Matthew 19 is equivalent to "matter of uncleanness" in Deuteronomy 24.
3. Dart says a second marriage can never rightly be broken up on the pretext that a woman is somehow bound to a former husband.
The first husband, who issued a bill of divorcement to his wife for a "matter of nakedness," cannot take her back if she marries a second man and who also gives her a divorce. Why not? She was never in fact "married" to the first husband, because the divorce in effect annulled the marriage. His rights were ended by his writing a divorce, not by her second marriage. The reason the first husband was not allowed to take her back was to discourage him from making a hasty decision he might later regret. Deuteronomy 24 does not mention breaking up a second adulterous marriage. It does not cover the case of two people living in adultery. Jesus restated the Law in Matthew 19:9 and covered this situation. He did not condone continuing to live in an adulterous, divorce and remarriage, condition.
4. Dart says porneia in Matthew 19:9 includes premarital sex, homosexuality, and adultery.
Porneia does mean pre-marital sex in I Corinthians 7:2. And, I Corinthians 6:9-10 shows that fornication means something different than adultery and homosexuality. What did porneia mean to the King James Version translators of 1611? A dictionary, published the same year as the KJV translation, shows that porneia, or "fornication," to the English translators, meant pre-marital sexual relations. As we shall see, that is also the primary Bible definition of porneia as well.
Since we have in the Bible only one recorded case of a just man attempting to apply the fornication exception clause of Deuteronomy 24/Matthew 19, the case of Joseph and Mary, based on the Bible only, and not human reason, one would have to conclude that the fornication exception clause is limited only to pre-marital sexual relations.
5. According to Mr. Dart, the disciples misunderstood what Jesus said in Matthew 19. When a marriage is broken by sexual sins committed by one of the partners, Dart says the offended party does not have to live a life of celibacy but is free to remarry.
Matthew 19:10-12 is not "obscure" or "curious" as Mr. Dart says. It is plain and simple. The disciples were amazed how far Jesus went beyond the dispute between "liberal" and "conservative" Jewish Pharisaic schools of thought. One group of Jews said that divorce was permissible for any cause, even burnt toast. The other said divorce was permissible only for adultery. Jesus said they were both wrong.
The Masterís disciples now understood that marriage is for life, and that the fornication exception clause has a much narrower usage than they had been taught, so a man better think twice before marrying. Jesus replied and said that not everyone can stay a virgin. He praised "spiritual eunuchs," those who are bound to a separated mate, and must live alone until reconciliation or death. With Mr. Dartís teaching of wide open divorce and remarriage, there would be no reason to remain chaste and suffer when a mate has left or been put away for reasons other than fornication. Dart teaches that one may divorce for almost any reason, and remarry anyone they desire.
6. Dart says that the Apostle Paul added another "exception clause" for divorce in I Corinthians 7:12-15. He says that a woman deserted by her unbelieving mate is free to remarry.
The disputed phrase is in verse 15, "not under bondage." Dart, and other scripture perverters, interpret this to mean that if an unbelieving marital partner departs, the Christian brother or sister is not bound to the pagan mate, but is free to remarry. I have answered this false idea several times. See our paper in this series, entitled, "Marriage and Divorce: A Voice From the Past."
False teachers often quote verse 15, but not verse 16, which exhorts the believer to convert, or save, the unbeliever. How can this happen if the believer goes and remarries someone else? "Not under bondage" literally means "not a slave." Marriage is NOT spoken of in the Bible as slavery or involuntary servitude. The believer is not a slave to an untenable situation. Let the unbeliever depart, verse 15, but set an example of love and willingness to take him or her back upon true repentance, verse 16. Unbelievers often engage in adultery and lewd sexual practices. The believer is not a slave to such a situation, and does not have to subject his or her body to possible contraction of venereal disease or AIDS from the unbeliever. God calls the believer to be peaceable and have "tough love," not putting up with such a bondage situation.
The Jewish New Testament translation says "But if the unbelieving spouse separates himself, let him be separated. In circumstances like these, the brother or sister is not enslaved ó God has called you to a life of peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? . . . You were bought at a price, so do not become slaves of other human beings" (verses 15-16, 23).
7. Using I Corinthians 7:24-28, Dart concludes that all marriages at conversion become alright, no matter if one or both of a married couple had divorced a previous mate without legitimate grounds. He says that at baptism, nobody is required to go back and make up for all past sins (or as many as possible). The blood of Jesus covers all.
It is debatable whether "loosed" in verse 27 means "divorced for unscriptural or scriptural grounds" as Mr. Dart claims. He says this section is referring to a new convert at the time of his calling. However, verse 25 says this section refers to virgins (male and female), those who have never married. Again, like so many twisters, Dart stops his quote in the middle of verse 28. Here is how Dart quotes the verses: "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned." There is no period after "sinned." The rest of the verse says, "and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you."
So, to paraphrase verses 25-28, it says that in distressful times it is good for a man to remain a virgin, never married. But if you are already bound to a wife, donít try to get out of the marriage. If you are unmarried, donít seek a wife. But if a male virgin does marry, he has not sinned, and if a female virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless, marriage during troublesome times may result in more hardship. Remember the subject of verses 25-28 is virgins, not divorce and remarriage.
Verse 24, "Brothers, let each one remain with God in the condition in which he was called" (Jewish New Testament). Dart says if you are called and are divorced and remarried, to stay that way. Using his logic, if one is called in a homosexual or polygamous "marriage," then this would be fine with the Almighty. Blasphemy! At baptism, we must make amends for past sins, and quit sinning. We are to come out of adultery, and all sins of the past! If you claim to be converted and upon repentance did not seek (being led of the Holy Spirit) to quit sinning and make up for sins of the past, as Zacchaeus did, Luke 19:1-10, then you may have experienced a false conversion!
8. Finally, Dart says that a woman who finds herself married to an alcoholic, child abuser, or a man who threatens her life, can divorce and remarry.
The truth is, she is not a slave to the situation. She may flee to protect herself and the children. But, she is not free to remarry. A bound marriage is for life.
The bottom line, according to Ronald Dart, is that the Apostle Paul lied in Romans 7:1-2 and I Corinthians 7:39. The crux of Dartís teaching is that no marriage between any two people is bound for life. Thus, Dart supports wide open divorce and remarriage for almost any reason.
Putting This Into Practice
Shirley and I were married in 1972. We were both baptized believers, knowing full well Godís laws on marriage. She was 22, I was 24. We were both virgins at the time. According to false teachersí theology, there are any number of ways that our marriage could lawfully end with the "offended party" having the "right" to remarry. One of us could commit adultery one time, "leave the church," or become alcoholic, or become a child abuser or dangerous criminal threatening the life of the other. Then, the "righteous" party could divorce the other and remarry, "in the church," of course. But then, of course, this second marriage could be ended in similar fashion, and so on forever. Such teaching is depraved wickedness!
One minister was more "conservative" than others. He told the offended party to give the mate who had left the church two weeks to come back. Otherwise, she was told she was free to remarry. This is sick theology.
Do you see why I am deeply angered at such insidious, pernicious teachings which attack the sanctity and permanence of marriage? God may not have given me authority over governments, cities or other peopleís lives. But He did give me authority to be the loving head of my family. God give me the strength, I will defend my family from outside attack such as these wicked wide open divorce and remarriage teachings. Those who teach such evil things need to repent deeply before God and make amends for all the damage they have done in other peopleís lives in causing many to commit adultery. I hate their sin, but I love them.
Divorce After (Eternal) Life?
There are significant parallels between marriage and baptism.
If we cannot be faithful to God for the few years from baptism to death, why would He give us eternal life? If we go a whoring after other gods, and donít repent and get back to our first love (the Eternal), He will not raise us up in the resurrection to eternal life. Once called, everyone has one chance for eternal life. There is no "second time around" with God. Once called, baptized and given Godís Holy Spirit, an individual is bound for life to the Eternal. For the called child of God, from that point on, it is either eternal life or eternal death.
And it is likewise with marriage, a physical type of the divine marriage of the Church to the Messiah. If we canít be faithful to our mates for a few years, how could we be faithful to God for all eternity? If we commit adultery and divorce and remarry, we demonstrate lack of faith and commitment. Marriage is bound for life. There is no "second chance."
Perhaps no other doctrine is so critical as marital faithfulness. Thatís why I have called marriage the "theme of the Bible." Those who fail to understand the importance of marriage in the plan of God ask the question, "Is There Life After Divorce?", and proceed to justify dozens of ways to freely divorce and remarry at will. Instead, we should ask the question, "Is There Divorce After (Eternal) Life?" The answer is NO! Once married to Christ, spirit-born sons of God will live for all eternity, and never depart like Lucifer did. Marriage should teach us the permanence of living forever in the Family of God.
Bible Usage of Porneia
The New Testament word for fornication is porneia, Strongís #4202, a noun. The verb is #4203, pornuo. Women who engage in fornication are called harlots or whores, #4204, pornee. Those who sell such wickedness are whoremongers, #4205, pornos. This is where our word "pornography" (literally, "fornication in writing") comes from. Here are the scriptures which use the word, porneia:
Mat. 5:32, 19:9 Exception clause for divorce with right to remarry. If one divorces and remarries when no porneia exists, then he is guilty of adultery. Porneia cannot be the same as adultery in these verses.
Mat. 15:19 Porneia is a defiling characteristic which proceeds from the heart. Another different evil is adultery.
Mark 7:20-23 Parallel passage to Mat. 15:19. Adultery and deceit (fraud) are different than porneia.
John 8:41 Pharisees accuse Jesus of being "born of fornication," out of wedlock, the result of pre-marital sexual relations.
Acts 15:20,29; 21:25 Gentiles told to abstain from idols and temple fornication (temple prostitutes).
Romans 1:29 Fornication is distinguished from deceit (fraud).
I Cor. 5:1 Fornication of having oneís fatherís wife (incest, man "married" his stepmother).
I Cor. 6:9-10; Neither fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, etc. shall inherit the Kingdom of God. (See also Eph. 5:5.)
I Cor. 6:13, 18 Fornication is a sin against oneís own body.
I Cor. 7:2 To avoid fornication (pre-marital sex), it is good for eligible singles to marry.
II Cor. 12:21 Those who have committed fornication and lasciviousness need to repent.
Gal. 5:19 Adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lasciviousness are works of the flesh.
Eph. 5:3 Fornication and uncleanness do not become the saints of God.
Col. 3:5 Fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection (e.g. homosexuality), and evil concupiscence need to be "mortified," gotten rid of!
I Thes. 4:3 Abstain from fornication.
Rev. 2:20, 21 Jezebel, the false church, seduces some of Godís Church to commit fornication which is idolatry. She refused to repent of her fornication.
Rev. 9:21 The wicked donít repent of their fornication, in spite of sixth trumpet woe.
Revelation 14:8 Babylon is fallen because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. Those who do so will receive the seven last plagues! (See also 14:9; 19:2 17:2,4; 18:3,4)
NOTE: Godís elect are the espoused spiritual bride of Christ. When His people become ensnared in Babylonianism, God calls it fornication, and He will pour out His wrath on those who do so. Porneia is NOT adultery! The wedding supper has not yet taken place! Revelation 2:20 warns the true believers not to be seduced and to commit fornication with the false church. Verses 22-23 denounce others who commit adultery with Jezebel, those who are part and parcel of modern Babylon, and of her protesting children "daughters," her sister false churches.
I Cor. 10:8 Idolatry, departing from God, is spoken of as fornication. Sexual license naturally accompanies such abandonment of moral principles.
Rev. 2:14 The "doctrine of Balaam" is teaching Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and commit fornication. Num. 25:1 indicates this anciently was intermarriage with daughters of Moab, those of pagan religions. See Num. 31:16.
Mat. 21:31, 32 Some harlots will repent and be in the Kingdom of God (see also Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25).
Luke 15:30 The (unmarried) prodigal son wasted his inheritance with harlots, by committing fornication.
I Cor. 6:15, 16 Followers of Christ cannot be joined to harlots.
Rev. 17:1, 5 The "mother of harlots" will be severely judged by the Almighty. (See also 15, 16; 19:2
NOTE: The enforced celibacy of the Mother Church causes many who cannot contain themselves to commit fornication. In more ways than one the universal church is the mother of harlots.
I Cor. 5:9-13 We are not to keep company with fornicators. This does not mean fornicators of the world, but those in the church. Those who flagrantly violate Godís laws of marriage and divorce and remarry contrary to scripture must be put out of the church!
I Tim. 1:9-10 The law is made for whoremongers and such persons contrary to sound doctrine.
Hebrews 12:16 Esau was a fornicator because he married a woman of a different race or religion.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable for those lawfully married; but God will judge whoremongers and adulterers. Fornication (whoremongering) is NOT the same as adultery.
Jude 7 The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was fornication AND going after strange flesh (e.g. homosexuality), two different sins.
Rev. 21:8 The Almighty wonít tolerate whoremongers. Then why are they so welcome in many of todayís churches? (see also 22:15)
There are some who claim that the fornication exception clause in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is not limited to premarital sexual relations. Some say fornication includes adultery and homosexuality. As the above scriptures amply prove, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The primary definition of fornication in Websterís New World Dictionary is "voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried woman and a man, especially an unmarried man." Letting the Bible interpret the Bible, that is also the primary Bible definition of porneia.
Changing Attitudes Toward Marriage and Divorce
During the last 50-75 years, a dramatic change in attitudes toward marriage and divorce has swept the world. The Christian Book of Why, by John C. McCollister documents this moral decline (pages 180-201). He says that for Puritan America, divorce was the "unforgivable sin," and the woman especially was blamed for being unable to keep a husband content. This is clearly a wrong teaching. Today, however, the pendulum has swung to an even worse licentious extreme. Protestant clergymen have few reservations about conducting marriage ceremonies for divorced people who want to remarry.
McCollister shows that churches en masse have liberalized their teachings about marriage. Even the Catholic Church, in 1977, lifted its ban of excommunication on remarried divorced persons. The "Pauline Privilege," i.e., the supposed freedom to divorce an unconverted mate and remarry, is a relatively new dominant theological concept. Today, divorce and remarriage (as well as living together without marital commitments) is commonly accepted. Some churches even conduct a "ceremony of divorce" to "untie" the marriage bonds, in open defiance against the Saviorís warning in Matthew 19:6.
Psychologist Dr. Diane Medved, author of The Case Against Divorce, (New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1989) says that
divorce trends mirror a general decline in the credibility of religion. Originally . . . belief in God and adherence to His will kept the family together. When piousness lost its power . . . thereís really nothing to prevent the centrifugal forces of whirlwind lives from flinging couples apart . . . . When thereís no one judging you, when your values no longer come from an unchallengeable and ultimate source, only you define right and wrong. According to most religions, God said marriage was to be permanent. When you arenít sure about God or donít believe in Him, then you do what you want. People then become the source of values, and whoís to say that one personís sincere belief is any better than anotherís? (pages 20-21).
Decline and Fall of the Church of God
Sir Edward Gibbonís five reasons for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire were: (1) The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, (2) Higher and higher taxes, the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace, (3) The mad craze for pleasure, sports becoming every year more exciting, more brutal, more immoral, (4) The building of great armaments when the real enemy is within ó the decay of individual responsibility, (5) The decay of religion, faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, losing power to guide the people. Actually, the last four reasons are symptoms, or results, of the decline of marriage and the family.
Undermining of the sanctity and permanence of marriage is leading to the decline and fall of civilization. And tragically, almost all Sabbath-keeping churches are following societyís downward trend in moral decline.
Few who read Ronald L. Dartís article, "Is There Life After Divorce?" will consider that he is directly attacking their family and our society which still enjoys the Eternalís blessings, in spite of our sins. As ancient Rome fell from moral collapse, so our day of reckoning is inevitable. The decline and fall of the Church of God today was initiated by wide open divorce and remarriage teachings. May the Almighty help those promoting or participating in such depraved practices, to repent deeply before their Maker!
Written by Richard C. Nickels
Giving & Sharing
PO Box 100
Neck City, MO 64849
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