[Editor’s Note: Some years back, I received a letter from a brother in Christ in response to an article I wrote on the issue of divorce and remarriage. The following was my response to his letter. I hope you find it informative. — M.F.]
I thank you for your kind letter expressing concern over the proper response to remarriage situations. And I commend you for your faithful marriage of 40 years as well as your conservative position, “in matters of the Word.” These are indeed perilous times religiously and that alone calls for careful thinking on the part of us all.
I have written several articles over the years dealing with the matter of divorce and remarriage etc., but I assume you are making reference to my article entitled, “The Church That Fellowships the Fornicator.” May I ask from what publication you read the article? Be that as it may, my interest in penning the article was to offer a strictly Biblical response to the theological liberalism that has and continues to surround the question of what does the New Testament teach in regard to divorce and re-marriage? I’m sure you are aware that some brethren deny one can live in adultery. Others acknowledge the adultery, yet contend that no separation of the couple must take place. And still others admit that it is wrong to divorce and re-marry for any cause save fornication (Matthew 19:9) — they preach the truth on this but then turn around and fail to practice the withdrawal of fellowship against those living in adultery (1 Corinthians 5:1 -13) who refuse to repent. The Scriptures are clear in teaching that:
- Those who divorce and remarry, for reasons other than fornication, do commit adultery (Matthew 19:9).
- Adultery is sin (Hebrews 13:4).
- Sin must be repented of (Acts 17:30).
- Repentance requires turning from ones evil conduct (Matthew 12:41; Jonah 3:10).
- Thus, those involved in an un-scriptural divorce and remarriage, if they would please God, must abandon such relationships (I Corinthians 6:9-11). (This argument is borrowed from the writings of Wayne Jackson)
Without a doubt, this teaching is perceived as hard by most people. But if we truly love the souls of men and women then we will be more concerned about their eternal destiny than we are about their personal happiness while on the earth.
Let me assure you that I am concerned about the “practical” effects of preaching and practicing the truth on divorce and remarriage. But that concern, however real, will not lead me to compromise the words of Jesus on this issue (Matthew 19:3-9). Our Lord does not require of us things that cannot be accomplished. If a man and woman do not have a right to be “married” to one another (Mark 6:17-18), then to please God (Matthew 6:33), they will abandon that adulterous relationship. At the same time, we are not so naive as to think that no family responsibilities have arisen as a result of this sinful relationship. Love for another or others does not terminate because one has no Scriptural right to be in a particular relationship. Bills still have to be paid. Comfort and protection must still be provided. But first and foremost God must be obeyed. We do reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). Unfortunately, sometimes innocent ones (children, etc.) suffer because of the sins of others. Yet, I have full confidence that God will work all things together for good to those who comply with His will (Romans 8:28; John 15:7).
On several occasions in the past decade, I have been faced with telling a man and woman they must separate if they would conform to the Scriptures. It isn’t a pleasant task. But a more necessary one, there should be no argument (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20). You are correct in saying, “someone needs to have answers to these questions” when such circumstances arise. I truly believe some gospel preachers and elders have been doing just that, however unheeded that advice has been. On the other hand, I know personally of elders and preachers who have com-promised the truth of God’s Word on divorce and remarriage to avoid the unpleasant task of telling some couples they have no Biblical right to be together. Paul’s words still ring true, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth” (Galatians 4:16)?
I thank God also that I will never have to be told that I have to leave my wife if I want to be a faithful member of the Lord’s church. But I pray God that if I was in such a situation, my brethren would have the courage and love for me necessary to tell me what I must do. Again, I thank you for reading my article, for your kind letter, and for your interest in sound doctrine.