JESUS AND REMARRIAGE
From 1934 to 1974, Mr. Armstrong upheld in his preaching and writings, the sanctity of marriage. In one fleeting moment in May 1974 that changed. Did the Apostle Paul write to inform the Church members at Corinth that they were free to divorce and remarry? Does Paulís first letter to the Corinthians show Godís approval for divorce and remarriage? Did the Twelve agree? The politicking, chicanery, and intrigue that took place early in 1974 in Pasadena can now be told.
The 5th of May, 1974, is a day many ordained ministers of the LORD JESUS CHRIST will not forget easily.
That day, ministers from all over the world were assembling in Pasadena, California, in order to attend the dedication ceremony of the newly completed Ambassador Auditorium. All were in complete ignorance as to what they would hear the following morning. A full ninety-nine per cent were utterly unprepared for the doctrinal change that was to be thrust upon them less than twenty-four hours later. So dramatic was the doctrinal change they were about to hear, that if such a change was in error, it would truly alter the entire characteristics of the Church.
Shortly beforehand, Mr. Ted Armstrong asked his father for a meeting at his home at 210, South Orange Grove. In attendance were less than half of the evangelists. The purpose of the meeting was to present to Mr. H. W. Armstrong new light which, at least to them, proved that Christians could, after all, remarry after legal divorce in a court of law. When the meeting ended, no final decision had been made.
On the night before the dedication ceremony, Mr. Charles Hunting stayed in Mr. Armstrongís home. Later he told some of the ministers here in the United Kingdom that he begged Mr. HWA not to rush, but to take more time.
At 9 a.m. 6th May, Mr. Ted Armstrong hurriedly called a meeting of the most senior ministers he could contact, and asked them to assemble in the Loma D. Armstrong Centre. They were informed that -- that morning -- the doctrine of remarriage would be changed. Many sat there in utter disbelief. Two hours later, in a sensational statement, Mr. H. W. Armstrong demolished forty years of teaching on the subject. In so doing, he hit at the very heart of the one true Gospel that the Lord brought to this earth as His Fatherís messenger. This I will prove later. It was the beginning of the end of the preaching of the Gospel.
Obviously, Mr. HWA could not in the time available cover the many questions that would arise, but he faithfully promised to the 1,400 or so assembled ministers, their wives, heads of departments, and college staff listening over the P.A. system, that he would write a booklet giving a full explanation.
In the member letter of 14th May, he promised the same thing. He wrote: "A more technically detailed booklet will be issued as soon as possible, that is, a completely revised and FINAL booklet on marriage and divorce."
Up to the time of this writing, that booklet has not been written. There has to be a reason. When the announcement was made, that most, if not all, of those divorced prior to baptism were now free to remarry, there was a stunned silence. Virtually all present in the Auditorium were flabbergasted. One evangelist, now the head of a global church said audibly for all those around him to hear, "This is lunacy. Itís unbelievable! Iíll never in my life consent to such an ungodly doctrine of error."
But by noon, the morning session of the conference over, the grapevine had been activated. By the end of the week, even before the ministers from Europe left Los Angeles to return home, news was filtering through to the Hall of Administration that couples from all over the United States were rushing into registry offices to be married!
A twenty-four page study paper was quickly prepared by the doctrinal committee and sent out to the ministry. It was so very badly written that it was equally, rapidly withdrawn. The outcome was that the member letter to the Church worldwide sent out on 14th May 1974 was all that both the ministry and members had in writing. Nothing more was received during 1974.
Some months later, news filtered through the ministerial grapevine that the doctrine of remarriage had been changed once again. Now it was possible for even baptized Church members to instigate divorce proceedings, of which Mr. HWA made no mention at the dedication ceremony.
Although this was never put in writing at that time, it was confirmed to me and my wife, Yvonne, at the Feast of Tabernacles in 1975 when we went out to dinner with Lester Grabbe and his wife, Elizabeth. The floodgates were by now well and truly open. ALL -- whether baptized or unbaptized, were free to divorce and remarry and not just once!! So, what is the truth? Did GOD Himself approve of the announcement made at the opening of the Auditorium? Did GOD show the evangelists the full truth on His teaching on the subject of remarriage? Was the ministry teaching falsely up until May 1974 on this vital doctrine for Christian living?
Was the ministry causing hardship prior to the announcement -- as they were vociferously accused, afterwards? Had they not really bothered to PROVE the doctrine before they taught it?
Two Separate Doctrines
Before getting into the main body of this article, it is vitally important that the reader understands that although the twin subjects of divorce and remarriage are usually linked together, they are, in fact, two separate doctrines in the Bible. In order to understand the truth, they must be examined separately. This cannot be stressed enough. To put the two doctrines together will inevitably lead to confusion, which is what Satan wants. Keep the doctrines separate and all will become plain and easy to understand.
So, firstly -- what is divorce?
Here we come to the stumbling block over which most in the ministry have fallen. The reason is straightforward -- the word divorce has two meanings. And those meanings are utterly different! Indeed, it is surprising that during the forming of language, the early linguists accepted both meanings. The two different meanings are:
1. The legal and formal dissolution of a marriage.
2. Any complete separation or disunion.
Today, the word divorce is almost always connected with marriages and their termination in a court of law. Only rarely is the second meaning used any more. But at the time of the translation of the Bible in A.D. 1611, the meaning of divorce was not biased one way or the other. For example, when a horse jumped a fence and the rider fell off, he was divorced from the horse. That would have been the common usage of the word. Divorce was a word used to describe any sort of separation and was so used for a very long time. So it is with great wisdom that the translators of the King James Bible chose to put away rather than the ambiguous word divorce.
However, since the turn of this present Century and the explosion of new translations of the Bible into the English language, translators use the word divorce in virtually all places where the King James Bible used to put away. It is extremely misleading to the reader. For example, the ultraliberal RSV Bible uses divorce three times in four verses! In those same three places, the King James Bible uses put away twice and leave once. Now I am sure you can understand that the word leave nowhere implies that a married man or woman can apply to a court of law to terminate a marriage covenant! Hence the trap into which ministers galore have fallen.
The same is true with almost all married couples. Many are unaware that the word divorce has two meanings. They read in modern Bibles the word, and immediately think -- Oh, that means I can be free to remarry. Whereas to separate from a husband or wife is one thing, to have the right of remarriage is something else. They are not one and the same, yet this is not taught in the Churches. This teaching has been suppressed.
We can now start the main purpose of the article. The doctrine of marriage and the God-ordained purpose of marriage will be dealt with separately.
From the Beginning
In Matthew 19 and later in Mark 10, the Pharisees asked Jesus about the termination of the marriage covenant. They asked Him twice. On both occasions, Jesus COMMANDED them to go back to the beginning for the true and only right answer. And that is the GOD-GIVEN ANSWER to the maze that has become the doctrines of divorce and remarriage. The wise will do as the LORD commands -- go back to the beginning.
In Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, we find GOD is creator. He created us male and female. And because we are male and female, Jesus said: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife . . . ."
Because we are two sexes, we are to leave and create a new family unit. God is the creator of the marriage union. The purpose of that union is, or can be, fourfold. To be fruitful, to multiply, to replenish the earth, and to subdue it. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave (be joined) unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," Genesis 2:24.
Just as Adam and Eve were one flesh in marriage, so their sons and daughters would be one flesh in marriage as well. The flesh is what God Himself joined in bringing together Adam and Eve. Here at the beginning is the basis -- the foundation -- of marriage. Adam and Eve were one flesh -- a fleshly union of male and female.
As Jesus Himself is also the beginning (Revelation 22:13), He said: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery," Matthew 19:9.
Whosoever. . . applies to ALL people. And again: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery," Mark 10:11.
That IS the beginning. The member letter of May 1974, together with the study paper to the ministry HAD NO BEGINNING. Marriage is a flesh union. This foundational law, created by God at the beginning, is inviolate until parted by death. Although ministers have bamboozled Church members with their apparent knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew words, and seemingly scholarly answers, no amount of deceit can get around the God-given law of one flesh.
Will You Marry Me?
Just what is a marriage? This may surprise some, but its commencement is purely and simply a covenant. Nothing more. The terms will vary and are only rarely clearly defined. But it is always a covenant. As God made us male and female, the covenant is between man and woman that He might seek a Godly seed -- Godly children!
In virtually all cases in the western world, and after a time of courting, the man will ask the woman -- "Will you marry me?" When she says -- "Yes, I will," they have entered into an agreement. Later, when that covenant is consummated, God says they are one flesh. Up until the early part of this Century, for a man to withdraw from that agreement of marriage, was called a breach of promise. It was a violation of one's plighted word, and damages could be claimed in court.
In Matthew Chapter 1, when Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married, and before they came together, the angel of the LORD told him: "fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife," (verse 30).
By entering into a covenant of marriage, and before their flesh was joined, GOD SAID, Mary was his wife. Mary was his wife by covenant, the covenant she made with Joseph. Marriage starts as a covenant or agreement (same thing) between two people, male and female, which God created for this cause. And as I shall prove a little later -- GOD SAID -- HE was witness to that covenant. A witness is NEVER party to a covenant, and cannot be.
Jesus also went back to the beginning in his teaching in both Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9, "What therefore GOD hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
In going back to the beginning, we find WHAT God joined was the flesh. He did not join, as a Sort of third party, the marriage covenant made between two, and virtually always in private. When a man and woman consummate their covenant, they are then one flesh, which man is forbidden by God to break up. There is no such thing as an annulment in the Bible. God does not mention it. It is entirely a legal term, used in law courts. A husband and wife are a new family unit and that is Godís Way of seeking Godly seed. The Living Bible reads Godly children from your union. It is central to Godís adding to His family.
What is Adultery?
Before we can proceed, and as Jesus brought up at the beginning, we must next determine from Godís Word and His word alone just what is adultery. As God is Creator, and as He alone created the marriage union, HE ALONE -- and none other, can define adultery.
Now most people know that adultery is wrong. Church members will positively affirm that they understand and keep the Ten Commandments. They know that adultery is forbidden by God and if unrepented of, ends in death. But do they know just what is adultery? Do you? -- those of you baptized ten, fifteen years or more? Do the ministers and pastors know? Why not ask? Ask to be shown out of Godís Word. Go to your local minister and ask him to read to you out of Godís Word how God Himself -- and He alone, defines adultery. Believe me, you will be shocked!! The truth is, there is a 95% chance he just doesnít know.
Itís no use looking into a dictionary; all you will find is a legal definition. Even the Ten Commandment booklet, written by Roderick Meredith, makes no attempt to give Godís definition of adultery. He cunningly avoids the scriptural definition altogether. When God created the marriage union, at the beginning, He defined His law. It is God alone who defines adultery, not any human court of law. It is the foundational law of one flesh that will soon be the basis of His judgment. God said to Israel in Ezekiel 16:38, "And I will judge thee, [Israel] as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee [Israel] blood in fury and jealousy."
You may search the Bible from one end to another, but the ONLY place where God gives His definition of adultery is at the beginning. Do read again Genesis 2:24. Adultery is the transgression of the law of ONE FLESH, after having first consummated the marriage covenant. Simple isnít it? Once a marriage covenant is made between two, and the flesh joined, if either then join their flesh with another before being parted by death, they have transgressed the God-given law of one flesh, and committed adultery.
Once married, to enter into a second or subsequent marriage is to transgress that law. Truly it is living in sin. It is continuous sin. You may search the member letter of May 1974 from one end to the other, but no definition of adultery will be found. But any letter, booklet, or article written endeavoring to support remarriage would have to address this question.
The transgression of the seventh commandment is THE MAJOR SIN in the Church. The horrific and hasty decision of 6th May 1974 by Mr. HWA transgressed the First, Seventh, and Tenth Commandments. And be not deceived, the wages of sin is death. The soul that sins shall die. Strong words those, but you had better believe them.
What Is a Witness?
There are two things the evangelists in the Church will not do when addressing the doctrine of remarriage. Firstly, they refuse Jesus' command to start at the beginning. Secondly, they refuse to open the Bible and read the verse where God says a man or woman can remarry. The reason? There isnít one. You can search the scriptures for as long as you like, you will not find a verse which says this. A husband and wife are one flesh until parted by death. That is Godís law. In May 1974, Mr. HWA could not find such a verse either.
So is God a party to a marriage covenant? In Malachi 2, verse 11, the children of Judah had left God and turned to idolatry. In verse 13, there was much weeping, insomuch that God regarded not the offering any more. "Yet you say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been WITNESS between thee and the wife of thy youth, . . . yet she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant." Two other translations read: ". . . because the LORD was WITNESS to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth."
Is a witness party to a covenant? NO -- NEVER! If you are a witness to a signature of an agreement, you are never part of that agreement nor responsible for the contents. You witness that truly the persons who did sign were the very persons, and will affirm so in a court of law. Likewise, when GOD said He was a witness to their marriage covenants, He was not a party to the covenants, but a confirmatory.
This needs to be made very plain. God does not join two people together at the marriage ceremony. His ONLY part is as a witness to the covenant they make with each other in private. Continuing in verse 16: "For the LORD, the GOD of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away."
The Hebrew word for putting away -- shalach, does NOT mean to terminate a covenant, any sort of covenant. It just means to send or put away. The word has a great variety of meanings. It is used hundreds of times in scripture, starting in Genesis 3:23, when GOD sent forth Adam from Eden. Yet in virtually all modern translations of the Bible, the translators of Malachi 2:16 have translated the Hebrew word shalach as divorce. You -- the reader, are left to find out for yourself whether it means to terminate a marriage covenant or just to separate or leave your husband or wife. The New English Bible reads: "If a man divorces or puts away his spouse."
Now how about that? Obviously the one word canít mean BOTH! So the reader is left to ask -- Well -- which is it? The answer will become plain a little later in this article.
The Old Testament
Christ is the Beginning and the End, the First and Last of the plan of GOD. He is the center. His ministry was utterly unlike any other. He made plain the law of GOD. Then He magnified that law. His teaching left people astonished. Prior to His coming the first time, there can be no doubt that men could read the words of Godís law, but did not comprehend the true intent. For example, King David said: "O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day."
No doubt David could repeat the Ten Commandments word perfect, but did he understand them? He knew the Sixth Commandment -- but he killed men without hesitation. He knew the Seventh, but committed adultery. David will be speechless when he comes up in the resurrection and learns that the LORD said we are to love our enemies and to pray for them which persecute us. He will learn for the first time just what adultery is. Unknown to him is that coveting another manís wife is adultery. Christ alone revealed that. The only Bible David had, was the first five books of the law. Today, we have the Gospels of Christ.
The only reason the ministry today does not know what adultery is, and how GOD Himself defines it, is because they have not bothered to find out! King David had no such easy and clear reference. Today, we, in the ministry, are without excuse and will be so judged. There is nothing difficult or complicated in this article. The information is freely available in virtually every major public library and God's Word.
GOD said of Abraham that he obeyed His voice, kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His laws. Yet Abraham was as we now know -- an adulterer. Did Abraham know that he was? There is no way that we can tell. Does that mean we can follow him in his adulterous acts and make it into the Kingdom as well? OH -- NO! A thousand times NO!! For us, CHRIST IS THE EXAMPLE.
We have His teaching and commands in the Gospels. Jesus made plain the law. As for the Seventh Commandment Jesus COMMANDS we go back to the beginning -- Himself. Our example is not men, but Christ. That is the standard by which all men will be judged, and judgment is NOW on God's people. Jesus did not teach -- look to Moses, or Ezra, or Hosea. He commands we go back to the beginning and the foundational law of one flesh.
Understand! GOD was never one flesh with a nation. He did not break the Seventh Commandment. There is only a very limited analogy between God's marriage covenant with a nation of people and human marriage between male and female. The latter is a PHYSICAL UNION, ordained of GOD at creation. It is for this reason all Christians are to go back to the beginning -- Christís teaching of Genesis 2:24.
Paul told the citizens of Athens some 1,900 years ago: "And the times of this ignorance GOD winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man who He hath ordained; . . . ( Acts 17)."
That DAY is very near! Truly those called today with God's gracious and precious calling and given so freely of His Holy Spirit at baptism, will be judged by a higher standard than those in ignorance. Truly, we are without excuse. Possibly the most famous sermon ever given was that by Jesus on the Mount. It is completely unlike any sermon you will hear today. It has no particular order, it addresses umpteen laws, it doesnít use psychology or homiletics. The sermon is a straightforward plain statement of fact, magnifying the law of God.
To the hundreds, possibly thousands of Jews, gentiles, atheists, agnostics, Jesus said: "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement."
Jesus did not say who said these words, but obviously He did not. He continued by saying: "But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)."
When Jesus uses the words put away here, He is referring to the termination of the marriage covenant. The woman would be committing adultery by marrying again, likewise the man. That was Jesus' teaching to the general public. He included ALL those listening to Him. They were astonished. For the hundreds, or thousands, THAT WAS THEIR WITNESS! To them this was the gospel that Jesus brought as a messenger sent by His Father.
A few years ago, Ernest Martin attempted to prove that the exception clause, saving for the cause of fornication, included adultery; and therefore did permit BOTH divorce and remarriage. IF this is true, how could the apostle Paul have written I Corinthians 7:39 and Romans 7:2? Paul plainly stated that the woman is bound by the law as long as her husband lives. Paul would have had to include the clause "unless or until either commits adultery" IF this were true.
Clearly, the Aramaic word Jesus used for fornication can only mean acts committed before marriage -- never afterwards. We are commanded to live by what GOD has said, and He did NOT say -- the man or woman is free to remarry or anything remotely like it! Anyone who faithfully stays with the teachings of the LORD, will go back to the beginning -- Himself.
They will see that He has always upheld the law given by Himself at creation. Fornication means exactly what it says. The exception clause of Matthew 5 cannot mean adultery. If you carefully compare Jesus' teaching to the general public in Matthew 5 and His teaching to the Pharisees in Mark 10, the following becomes apparent:
(1) Physical adultery is an act of the flesh being joined by a man with a woman who is not his wife and is AGAINST HIS WIFE. For the woman, it is AGAINST HER HUSBAND.
(2) Fornication is by those who have not consummated a covenant of marriage. That is the clearly defined difference. There is no confusion over our Lord's usage of the two words, fornication and adultery, but in both cases it is sin or living in sin.
What God Hath Joined Together
We have heard many times, all of us, the following words read out at a wedding: "Those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Sounds good. Sounds impressive. One can well imagine a minister standing up to his full height in a wedding service and giving such a profound statement. But is it true? Twice the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him about putting away. They asked: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" (They made no mention of a woman being able to do the very same thing.) The Pharisees said: "Moses suffered (the man) to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. Jesus said: "For the hardness of your heart, he [Moses] wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation GOD made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave (be joined) to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh . . . What therefore GOD hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Mark 10.
Now WHY -- Oh, WHY -- donít we believe the LORD? Notice! Jesus did NOT say -- Those whom GOD hath joined together. . . He said, and He has faithfully promised not to lie: WHAT God hath joined together. And if you go back to the beginning, WHAT God joined was the flesh. Emphatically, He is NOT one party of a marriage covenant. And if a minister says at a marriage service -- Those whom God has joined -- he is in gross error. In December 1975, Mr. HWA told the 700 or so members present in the gym at Bricket Wood the following. (I faithfully promise to transcribe his exact words): "Now about this other D and R thing. Garner Ted came to me one day. He said -- 'Dad, if a couple of aborigines down in Australia -- maybe I should say AustiyeHa get some kind of a ceremony together and get married, is God in it?' 'Yes,' I said, 'of course. The Bible says what God has BOUND together, let not man put asunder.' But then the question is -- Did God BIND every marriage? Just because it says -- What God has BOUND, let no man put asunder. Everyone I knew assumed that God BOUND everybody. No one ever came to me and said, 'God didnít BIND these marriages'."
First of all, God nowhere in the Bible says, "what God has bound together." He states -- "What God has joined together let not man put asunder." The verb to join and the verb to bind are most decidedly not the same, as the evangelists well know. They are not the same in Hebrew, in Greek, or in English. They are two words, each with a completely different meaning.
Secondly, God did NOT bind, and does NOT bind marriages. What does it mean? Just HOW does God BIND together two in a marriage? No explanation has ever been given. Why should He bind when He affirmed in Malachi that His only role is one of a witness? The maze of confusion has come about entirely because the evangelists flatly refuse to believe and teach the Lord's plain instructions. In I Corinthians 7:39, Paul said that when married, we are bound by the law. Of course!
The wife is bound by the law as long as HER HUSBAND liveth; THEY ARE ONE FLESH! Paul confirmed this in I Corinthians 6:16, "What? know ye not that he which IS JOINED to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh."
Paul did exactly as the LORD said, he went back to the beginning (Genesis 2:24). Returning to the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees, although they only raised with Him the matter of trying to terminate a marriage covenant, Jesus used the occasion to give to them Godís law. See Mark 10:11, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."
And again Jesus taught, "Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery," Luke 16:18.
Later Jesus commanded the twelve, "All power in heaven and in earth has been given to Me. You, then, are to go and make disciples of all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you," Matthew 28:18-20.
And that, dear reader, is precisely what they did! The abundant historic record affirms this.
As I mentioned earlier in this section, when the Pharisees came tempting Christ (as recorded in Mark 10 and Matthew 19) and asking is it lawful for a man to put away his wife. Christ answered that Moses had suffered them to put away their wives because of the hardness of their hearts. This precept mentioned in Mark 10:5 was obviously referring to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. There are ministers and self-appointed teachers, who declare that this bill of divorcement is still in force today. They claim that as Christ did not come to destroy the law (Matthew 5:17), He did not cancel the certificate of divorce as taught by Moses.
Such teaching is simply contrary to Christís own words. Christ made it abundantly plain that a woman cannot divorce and remarry (Mark 10:12). Neither can anyone marry a woman who is put away from her husband (Matthew 19:9). The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:2-3 and I Corinthians 7:39 taught the same thing. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4 a woman could be given a bill of divorcement and become another manís wife. There is NO WAY you can equate Christís words with Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They contradict each other. As Christ said, Moses allowed them to put away their wives, this precept was added because of the hardness of their hearts and was NOT taught at the beginning.
Mr. HWA in his original black and white booklet entitled Divorce and Remarriage, published in 1953, referring to Matthew 19: 3-9, on page 5 wrote, "Notice, in speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus went back to the very beginning of creation for HIS AUTHORITY for the laws of God respecting marriage. The man-ordained laws in the nation Israel were contrary, and NOT BINDING TODAY. Read this carefully -- the man-ordained laws -- which must refer to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 WERE CONTRARY -- Yes -- contrary to Christís teaching and NOT BINDING TODAY."
Mr. HWA understood that in 1953. WHY -- oh, WHY are people still confused today?
I have often wondered why Paul in Romans 7:2-3 and I Corinthians 7:39 made a particular example of the woman being bound by the law to her husband -- the law of one flesh -- because, of course, according to Christís teaching the husband also cannot divorce and remarry. I believe the reason He stressed this was because of Moses' teaching in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Paul was stressing Christís command that a woman could not be put away and become another manís wife as long as her husband was alive. Clearly under the law of Deuteronomy 24 the woman had no rights whatsoever against her husband. She was regarded in much the same way as a piece of shop-soiled goods. Letís believe what Christ said. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not apply today anymore than the sacrificial law applies today. They were added because of Israelís problems and sins.
Paulís Pastorship in Corinth
Did the apostle Paul teach the Churches that he raised up throughout the Roman Empire, that his converts could divorce and remarry? Did he teach it to the general public? -- to the Jews as well as to the Greeks and Gentiles? We need to examine the evidence most carefully for much is at stake. At the onset, it can be safely stated there are seven major reasons why Paul did not, but the examination of just three of those seven will suffice.
Firstly, turn over to Acts 18. In verse 1, he leaves Athens and moves on to Corinth. In verse 4, he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath with both Jews and Greeks. After the Jews rejected him, he turned to the Gentiles in that city, and in verse 11, "And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them."
The following is plain. He would have preached on the weekly Sabbaths in Church. Add to these, the sermons given on the annual Sabbaths. In addition, he would have met with individuals all the time. About eighteen months later, the Church wrote to Paul for teaching on a number of unclear points of God's Way of life. Paul wrote back in I Corinthians 7:1, "Now concerning the things whereof you wrote unto me."
Now -- ask yourself -- Could any apostle in the First Century A.D., pastor a Church for eighteen months and the congregation not know the Lord's teaching on the two doctrines of marriage and the termination of marriages? Yet THAT is what we are supposed to believe. Such nonsense truly is lunacy. Of course the members were taught by Paul the Lord's commands as given in Matthew, Mark and Luke. So, too, the general public. That is point one.
The second is the historic record throughout the Roman Empire. The most competent living scholar on the subject of divorce in the early church is Henri Crouzel of Toulouse, France. He has access to the most astonishing and comprehensive documents of that era. His book -- The Early Church with Regard to Divorce: the First to the Fifth Century -- is without equal.
As he states, the subject should rest on true historical foundations, studied scientifically, and as completely as possible. He writes, "I have undertaken a long research into authors and canonical texts of the first five centuries."
The conclusions that can be drawn from his painstaking researches are devastating. Firstly, neither the Greek writers, nor those in Asia Minor, nor the Western Roman Empire, furnishes us with ANY PROOF whatsoever that the Apostles sanctioned remarriage or departed in any way from the Lord's teaching. The whole area is silent on this matter. Secondly, there are letters and articles BY THE SCORE upholding the indissolubility of the marriage covenant.
Thirdly, when the bishops did finally approve of the termination of marriage covenants and subsequent remarriage, they did so because they assumed that GOD had given to them the power of what they bound on earth would automatically be bound in heaven. And what they loosed, GOD loosed as well! We have evangelists today who claim the selfsame thing. But of Paul and the Twelve teaching against the sanctity of marriage -- THERE IS NOTHING.
For hundreds of years after the death of all the Apostles, not so much as a single letter, manuscript or document exists mentioning that Christians can remarry after divorce in a court of law, if they so desire. To quote but a few records:
Athenagorus wrote to the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius about 100 years after Paul died. He vehemently upheld the indissolubility of the marriage covenant. He wrote -- "Divorce contravenes the ordinance of creation." He lived in Athens, not 40 miles from Corinth. Ask yourself -- Would the Greek Churches and the Greek people have forgotten, IF Paul had taught them that remarriage did not transgress the law of one flesh? The Greeks knew nothing of any such teaching by Paul, neither any of the Churches he raised up in Asia Minor.
Origen was a voluminous writer. He lived in Egypt, then Palestine about 185 A.D. to 254 A.D. He employed some 20 copyists because there were no printing presses in those days. In all he wrote about 6,000 documents quoting virtually the entire New Testament. On the subject of remarriage, Origen wrote, "Already contrary to scripture, certain Church leaders have permitted remarriage of a woman while her husband was alive." Origen then quotes 1 Corinthians 7:39 word perfect, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."
Clement of Alexandria ca. A.D. 150-215, agrees with Origen. He wrote that separation does NOT confer the right of either party to remarry. Irenaeus lived in Smyrna, Asia Minor, about 130-200 A.D. This would be only some 40 years after John wrote to the seven churches in Revelation. On the subject of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, Irenaeus refers his readers to God's law in Genesis 2:24. To use his words, at the beginning. (Why do the evangelists today not do the same thing?)
So strong was this teaching in Asia Minor it became known throughout the Eastern Churches as the law of marriage, or as Crouzel puts it, The Antiochene law of marriage. Had Paul and the Twelve taught remarriage, how could these men have opposed the handpicked Apostles of the LORD and had any credibility? Crouzel gives more than twenty authors of major works who uphold the indissolubility of the marriage covenant. He lists such as Theodore of Mopsuestia, John Chrysostom, Theodoret of Cyprus and their commentaries on Matthew 5 and 19 and Malachi. Crouzel writes, "They hold that after the creation of woman, GOD promulgated in Genesis 2:24 the general law of indissolubility which makes Adam and Eve one flesh which NOTHING will be able to separate."
All twenty or more go back to the beginning, just as our LORD commanded -- and that is from men who are supposed NOT to have, and be led by, the spirit of GOD. Why go on? If any can deny the powerful historic record of the first five centuries A.D., LET HIM BRING FORTH THE EVIDENCE. That is the challenge. I await replies.
There is not a shred of evidence throughout the entire Roman Empire that Paul or any of the apostles taught that the marriage covenant could be terminated with a subsequent right of remarriage. When Paul wrote to the church of GOD in Rome, he used the subject of marriage as an example of how the law has dominion over us so long as we live.
All the twisting of the apostle Paulís writings by evangelists and pastors at this time of the end, will not get around the indisputable evidence of the teachings of the churches in the first 500 years.
The So-Called Pauline Privilege
Although most ministers in the WCG are totally unaware of this, NO Greek writer for hundreds of years after Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church used chapter 7 or any of his writings as proof that Christians are permitted by GOD to remarry, unless parted by death! The PROLIFIC Greek writers are completely silent on this for at least five centuries. Dozens wrote about divorce in Greek society, its effect on families, but not once used Paul's letters to uphold and add authority to such an issue. Had the apostle Paul taught remarriage after divorce in courts of law, then the whole Greek world would have known. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A SENSATION!
So far as can be established, the first writer who uses ou dedoulotai -- not under bondage, in verse 15, as proof that the Apostle endorsed Christians to terminate a marriage, was, in fact, Italian. Also, there is every likelihood he was known to the Roman Catholic Bishop Ambrose of Milan. He came to this conclusion over 350 years after Paul wrote. Certainly the Greeks did not believe Paulís letters consent to marriages being terminated in a court of law. There is no evidence, scripturally or historically.
Surprisingly, the Catholic Church rejected this interpretation of I Corinthians 7:15 until much, much later. It then became known as the Pauline Privilege. At the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther accepted the teaching and permitted divorce in courts of law for Lutheran church members. Ultimately, the Protestant Churches followed. Eventually the Catholic Church gave in. It became a Church decision, the ecclesiastical authority competent to deal with it. The following is taken from the New Catholic Encyclopedia.
PAULINE PRIVILEGE, the term used to express the right to dissolve the marriage bond, contracted between two unbaptized persons, after the baptism of one of the spouses and the refusal of the other spouse to cohabit peacefully. The term is based ON THE SUPPOSITION that St. Paul grants this privilege in 1 Cor. 7:12-15, but it is rather a privilege granted by the church through a broader interpretation of the Pauline text than this in itself allows. Paul teaches here that the Christian convert from paganism should not use baptism as a pretext for divorcing an unbelieving spouse; but if the unbeliever departs, let him depart. The latter Greek verbs refers merely to the desertion of the marital bed. When the Apostle adds in I Cor. 7: 15 that a brother or sister (i.e. a Christian man or woman) is not under bondage in such cases, he means that the convert need not oppose the desertion of the unbelieving spouse. But he nowhere expressly states that the marriage bond is dissolved by such desertion or that the convert is free to contract another marriage. However, since the 4th century, the majority of Catholic commentators have interpreted 1 Cor. 7:15 to mean that the marriage bond between two unbaptized persons is dissolved when the unbaptized spouse refuses peaceful cohabitation with the baptized spouse, and that it is actually dissolved when the baptized spouse contracts a sacramental marriage.
I know this quote is rather long and is likely to be skimmed, but you would do well to take a little time to examine this portion of Roman Catholic theology. The reason? Their theology on the subject of remarriage after divorce in a court of law, became the centre piece of the material presented to Mr. HWA by the evangelists on the evening of 5th May, 1974. It was at that secret meeting that the idea emerged that there are two sorts of marriage. Catholics call them Christian and non-Christian marriages. After the 5th May 1974 the WCG calls the two sorts, God-bound and those not God-bound. But the basis is identical in both Churches!
So what is the Catholic teaching? Firstly they admit it is based on a supposition. Next, they freely admit that the granting of the right to remarry after legal divorce is NOT in the text. It is through a broader interpretation of the text, i.e., "we made it up." And that is what happened on 5th May 1974! Lastly, it wasnít until the 400s A.D. that the above teaching became a possibility to get around the Lord's clear teaching in the gospels. I might add that it wasnít until much, much later that this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 became the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr. HWA wrote about his Divorce and Remarriage decision of 1974, "Again I think it fair to say the REAL ERROR was due to translating. This caused me to pass over a verse in 1 Corinthians 7 without recognizing its real meaning."
In a nutshell, both Mr. HWA and the Catholic Church stated that the verse -- I Corinthians 7:15 -- deceived them, which is not true. To continue the historic record of the early Church. Bill Heth wrote in his book on divorce, "On the subject of divorce and remarriage there was practically no dispute in the early church: for the first five centuries there was virtual unanimity on this issue from one end of the Roman Empire to the other."
The World Book Encyclopedia reads, "The early Christians taught that marriage was permanent until death, and they abolished divorce in the areas they governed."
Edward Gibbon wrote the following concerning marriage at the time of the early church:
It was their unanimous sentiment that a first marriage was adequate to all the purposes of nature and of society. The sensual connection was refined into a resemblance of the mystic union of Christ with His church, and was pronounced to be indissoluble . . . . The practice of second nuptials was branded with the name of a legal adultery; and the persons who were guilty of so scandalous an offense against Christian purity were soon excluded from the honours, and even from the arms of the church. (Everyman's Library, vol.1, chapter 15.)
The third reason the apostle Paul did not teach remarriage in Greece or any other Church or Churches is this. The Lord's commands in Matthew 5 and 19, Mark 10 and Luke 16 are simple and easy to understand. Jesus said in Mark 10, "On reaching the house, His disciples questioned Him again about this matter. Any man who divorces his wife and marries another woman, He told them, commits adultery against his wife. And if she herself divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery." (Phillips translation)
In saying that a short while later the apostle Paul added to the Lord's express command, is to say that Paul had been taught some secret new truth. That is equally preposterous. The Lord's command is that we live by what is written, not something said in secret. "He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath One that judgeth him: the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day," John 12:48.
And you had better believe that, despite what anyone else may say. We are commanded by the LORD to live by what is written, not wild assumptions or secret new truth as given to Paul in Arabia, as one Evangelist told me. (He actually quoted Galatians 1:17 as proof!) There is not a single scripture in any of the four gospels where Jesus taught remarriage. In fact, just the opposite. Jesus said in Mark 10 that if a man divorces and remarries, he commits adultery AGAINST HIS WIFE. The Moffatt translation reads the same as Phillips, "Whosoever divorces his wife and marries another woman is an adulterer to the former, and she is an adulteress if she divorces her husband and marries another man."
She commits adultery against her husband by remarrying. So the scriptures are very, very plain over the distinction between fornication and adultery. You commit adultery against your husband or wife as the case may be. Fornication involves neither a husband or wife, but those unmarried. When GOD said He hateth putting away in Malachi 2, He hateth two married people PARTING; or to put it another way, when two married people SEPARATE. The King James and Jewish Bibles agree. When Paul referred to Malachi 2:16 in I Corinthians 7, he said, "Let not the wife DEPART from her husband." Fentonís excellent translation reads the same, "should not be SEPARATED."
To summarize the three points why Paul did not teach remarriage -- Firstly, in eighteen months of preaching in Corinth, he made no mention of remarriage while a husband or wife is still alive. Secondly, the historic record throughout the Roman Empire is silent on this point. And thirdly, the apostles would not have contradicted Christís plain teaching in Mark 10 and parallel accounts in the gospels.
Now to the member letter to all the Churches. If you still have a copy, I advise it be reread again very, very, slowly.
The Member Letter of 14th May, 1974
By early 1934, Mr. HWA had accepted that if GOD was going to bless his ministry, he must obey and teach the Ten Commandments as given in Exodus 20. (See Acts 5:32). From that time onwards, articles and booklets galore were written showing the importance of the Ten. For example, Mr. HWA wrote in his article, Were the Ten Commandments in Force Before Moses? -- a subheading: The Basis of Life. Under that subheading, he raised the question that most believe the Ten Commandments were done away at the crucifixion.
This is no mere, irrelevant theological or religious question. This is the very ESSENCE OF YOUR LIFE -- your home life, your social life, your business life. Itís the very crux question behind world troubles today. (And if I may add entirely of my own -- Church troubles as well). Strange as it may seem, the Ten Commandments have been in FULL FORCE and effect since human life has existed on this earth.
They constitute a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal. A law that is LOVE and the fulfilling of which is love -- a law that was set in motion for our happiness to produce everything good which we have foolishly denied ourselves.
That was the foundation -- the basis, of his GOD-given ministry from 1934. That is until 6th May 1974. That foundation then changed.
In his letter to the Church worldwide, Mr. HWA wrote:
This is IMPORTANT! God ordained the marriage institution PRIOR to manís rejection of Godís laws and Godís institutions. And when man cut himself off from God, and from Godís LAWS, (including His marriage law, mentioned in Romans 7:1-3 and elsewhere), he no longer took God into such relationships as marriage.
Unbelievable? YES! Incredible? YES! THAT IS WHAT HE WROTE. After more than 40 years of preaching, Mr. HWA concluded before breakfast on the 6th May 1974, that mankind has cut himself off from Godís great spiritual law! Mr. Armstrong had to conclude that in order to teach his two categories of marriage -- those that God had supposedly bound and those supposedly He had not bound.
Now maybe you can explain to me HOW mankind can cut himself off from the Ten Commandments? Can a man cut himself off from the spiritual law of adultery? Is he free to dishonour his father and his mother? Free to covet another manís wife? Free to SIN -- yes, SIN -- with impunity? If you know the answer, write and let me know.
At some time after the 14th May 1974 letter, the decision was made (by whom I know not), that baptised Church members could also instigate proceedings in a court of law to make null and void their solemn marriage covenants. When this decision actually took place, I know not. It filtered through the ministerial grapevine; it was not written up. I found out sometime during the summer of 1975.
To recap. I have proven from scripture that marriage commences as a covenant between two. God's only part is as a witness to that covenant. He is a witness to all marriage covenants, of all peoples, and races, everywhere. He does NOT bind two together.
Marriages are bound by the GOD-given law of one flesh. Mankind is not able to cut himself off from Godís law. Married couples are bound by that law so long as both live. It is purely human assumption to say that upon conversion, Church members are free to marry again, providing they first go to court and testify or get a lawyer to do it for them.
The Feast of Tabernacles 1975 was for me a time of foreboding. A PROMISE to the Churches was not being fulfilled. The one doctrine right at the very heart of God's wonderful plan for mankind, and the very heart of family life had been torpedoed by just one member letter. I wrote to Lester Grabbe again in December 1975, but still no booklet.
By the end of 1975, all the evangelists knew that the decision of May 1974 was scripturally unsound, yet they did nothing. Their possible loss of salary, unlimited expenses, rank, and the power to rule over others, meant more to them than the effects of sin on Church members' lives. The blame rests squarely with them. Had there been an outcry at that time, virtually all of the present distress and anguish of heart would have been avoided. In the twenty years ending 1994, some ministers in the Church have married and gone to court to annul their marriage vows three or four times. They are all covenant breakers.
Now, if any member cannot get consent from a minister to go to court to annul their marriage vows, they just look around for another minister or organization that will, whether international, global or local. DIVORCE HAS BECOME A FREE-FOR-ALL.
When Mr. HWA wrote an article in October 1979 spelling out the official doctrine, he admitted his teaching was a gray area. So I ask -- How can any part of God's law be a gray area? What is gray about Mark 10:11-12? What is gray about I Corinthians 7:39? "A woman is bound to her husband while he is alive, but if he dies she is free to marry whom she likes -- but let her be guided by the LORD."
What is gray about the abundant historic record which Crouzel and Heth and others spent years researching and assembling? When Wayne Cole, at that time on the doctrinal committee, sent a memo to Bryce Clark, he admitted they were faced with a number of loose ends. You bet they were. They had no idea how to answer at least a dozen highly charged questions. And they never did.
How can Godís law -- holy, just and good, be left with unanswerable loose ends and gray areas? Some evangelists spend almost all of their ministries delving into historic works. They know the historic record, but remained silent. When Herman Hoeh wrote to me he said -- and I quote, "You seem to have overlooked the fact that the Church clarified its understanding of I Corinthians 7:15."
This is, of course, untrue. The Church had no part or say in the decision made before breakfast on 6th May 1974. The Church is God's name for the entire body of believers, not just a few in Pasadena. The full truth is, that the evangelists plagiarized Catholic theology, known by them for centuries, and confirmed at the Council of Trent A.D. 1562-3 A.D., and palmed it off as new truth, even though the Catholic cardinals and bishops admit the doctrine is based on a supposition, -- an assumption.
What is needed is plain, straightforward honesty. All along, it has been the evangelists who have made a determined effort to hold back the truth in the Churches. They refuse to uphold Isaiah 58:1. The contents of this article should shock Church members. Should you go to a minister and he says something like -- "God has given to His Church the power to make binding decisions over any divorce and later remarriage," -- ignore this un-Biblical advice.
Who do you believe, the LORD JESUS CHRIST who will shortly judge us all, or mortal man? Until the introduction of the Internet, it was not possible to break the stranglehold the evangelists had over peopleís lives. Now, after some twenty years, the full truth on the 7th commandment can come out.
My heart goes out to all who have -- in all sincerity -- put their faith in the leadership in Pasadena and now elsewhere. But the LORD commands us all at this time to repent and put away SIN, before this appalling time of Great Tribulation soon commences. I, too, have suffered at the hands of a devious and corrupt evangelist, so I well know what itís like. I write from experience not an ivory tower.
For those to whom GOD has given the eyes to see, the original teaching was correct. It is this. Once a man and woman covenant with each other OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL to marry and then consummate their covenant, then any second or subsequent marriage unless parted by death is adultery. The wages of that SIN is death unless both put away that sin. Sex in GOD-ordained marriage is WHAT GOD JOINED TOGETHER AT THE BEGINNING. It is a holy and sacred relationship. It is not to be violated. It is not God's perfect law which breaks up family life, but divorce courts -- man-devised and Church-approved divorce courts.
The ministry has no authority from GOD to sit in judgment as to whether GOD bound a marriage or not, nor try and determine whether fraud was involved. GOD does NOT bind marriages -- He nowhere says so. I well appreciate that in many Church areas possibly one half of all marriages officiated by WCG ministers are adulterous. The blame for this rests entirely with the evangelists. Put away the SIN before it is too late. I am more than aware that breaking up will involve, in so many cases, children, but for us all to receive God's gift of eternal life -- the SIN must be put away.
If you still have the May 1974 letter, it would be well worthwhile to read it again and AGAIN. I will help in any way I can. Ask questions -- and donít be put off. It is YOUR SALVATION that is at stake. We are all commanded to prove. Over the last twenty years, Godís Church has virtually died spiritually. The general consensus of ministers and members alike is that a lukewarm, Laodicean attitude prevails. The reason is plain. As goes the ministry -- so go the members. The ministry will no longer cry aloud and spare not to highlight the SIN among God's people, and then put it out of the Church. Instead, the Protestant excuse that we are all of us sinners and canít possibly keep God's holy and perfect law, so why try, permeates the Church. The gospel JESUS CHRIST brought IS the marriage covenant -- the New Covenant between Christ and spiritual Israel which will establish the Church as the Kingdom of God. That is not being preached today.
The Kingdom of God will be made up of those saints spiritually born of God the Father and married to God the Son! The gospel of the LORD JESUS CHRIST is the Good News of this family. Why is it that this is no longer preached today? The reason is as follows: Unless you teach and practice the sanctity of marriage, you cannot teach the truth about the Gospel Jesus brought as a Messenger. The physical mirrors the spiritual. There will be no divorce and remarriage in the Kingdom of God.
Written by Derek Seaman
Mr. Seaman may be contacted at:
Merriscourt, Churchill, Oxford, OX7 6QX, UNITED KINGDOM
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