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Love, Marriage, and Divorce:
Marriage and the Bible III

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Question #1:

How do we love God with all our hearts, soul and mind?

Response #1:

This command (variously expressed; cf. "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" at Mk.12:30) mean that our love for Him must proceed from the totality of our person. It means "with everything you have and everything you are", that is, to love Him completely. This side of heaven, this an impossibility for a sinful person (as we all are), but it does represent the standard to which we have been called. Love cannot be divorced from action, so if we do esteem Him more than anything in this life we will respond to Him in the way He wants us to respond:

"If you love me, you will obey what I command."
John 14:15 NIV

The commands of our Lord are not just the prohibitions of scripture. I would argue that even more important are the positive commands which tell us to advance in the Christian life toward ever greater spiritual maturity. If we love Jesus, we will want to know more about Him (as we would with anyone we love in this world), we will want to get closer to Him and spend more time with Him and do things that are pleasing to Him – not just refraining from doing things that are unpleasing to Him. If we love someone, we want to do things for her/him. What we "do" for Jesus is to respond to His lead, following Him in the discipleship of spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and spiritual production, learning and believing the truth of the Word, applying that Word to our lives in all we think, say and do more and more day by day and in passing the tests that come our way, and engaging in the ministries He has chosen for each and every one of us (according to our individual spiritual gifts). Blessedly, not only is this the way to please our Lord and show that we do love Him and how much, but it is also the way to gain eternal rewards that glorify Him forever.

Question #2:

Dear Bob,

I recently re-read 1 Corinthians 13, and was wondering what Paul meant precisely when describing love? I know we may have gone over this, before, but is he referring more towards actions and attitudes, or a feeling, or both? I have been trying hard to make things right with someone, and tensions go up and down seemingly at random, and a lot of it has to do with my own personal feeling towards the person. I'd obviously be willing to make great sacrifices, but when it comes to actually liking someone as a person or trying to be friends, I find it really difficult to do so. Would Paul be talking about the former, the latter, or both?

Also, another thing, and it concerns loving the Lord with all of one's heart, strength, mind, and soul. I know it's a statement which may seem kind of self-explanatory, but what exactly IS loving the Lord with all of my Heart, Strength, and Mind? How do I know if I'm doing it right? I hope to hear from you soon.

Response #2:

Good to hear from you. Here are a couple of links on the Greek words for love: "Legalism, past and present". See also "Christian Love", "The Golden Rule", and "Faith, Hope and Love" (in Peter #17).

The main thing about Christian love or biblical agape is that it comes from our character rather than from our feelings. When we "fall in love", it may very well be that our reason and even our character has very little to do with it compared to our feelings, and it is also usually the case that the object of our romantic love is "worthy" in some respect (even if that is only physical or emotional attraction). Christian love puts the emphasis on our character and who we are as mature Christians irrespective of the object and its "worthiness".

To put it in simple terms, we don't have to like a fellow Christian to love them. Failing to understand that makes a mishmash of everything. We must treat fellow Christians with kindness, with respect, and with deference, even though some may be individuals whom we would normally detest, left to our own devices. We love as Christ loved. He knew what we were, sinners, yet He died for us. Other Christians belong to Christ; He died for them. Therefore we must treat all believers with Christian love because they belong to the Master who bought us and saved us, the One whom we say we love more than life (1Jn.3:16).

This same attitude is one we should, as much as possible, adopt towards the whole human race. Unbelievers do not belong to Christ, but He did die for them, and He and the Father deeply desire their salvation (1Tim.2:4). If the shoe were on the other foot, we would certainly want the people of God to act towards us in a way that would lead to our being saved, so that is what we should do as well (that is the essence of the "golden rule" and its most important application). Christians should always manifest sterling character and walk in absolutely integrity in all they think, say and do towards others. Anyone who manages this will of necessity be walking and acting in love towards all. Conversely, love fulfills the law (Rom.13:10) and is the essence of it (Gal.5:14). In short, the entire aim of the Christian walk is to become more Christ-like, and that by definition means to become more loving in the way that God is loving, for God is love (1Jn.4:8).

Loving the Lord, on the other hand, is emotional, or should be. But as I always am quick to point out, in the proper Christian walk our emotions should follow us as we respond correctly to the truth (rather than leading us willy-nilly often away from the truth). Love of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and love manifested to unbelievers as those for whom Christ died, is often very impersonal in the sense that we cannot know everyone even though we are commanded to love them – and we may not like what we do know about many even though that does not change the mandate to offer them Christian love.

Love for Jesus Christ is entirely personal, however, because we do know Him – otherwise we would not be saved. And just as we cannot "personally" love someone else well without knowing something about them, in the same way our love for Jesus cannot help but grow the more we come to know about Him. As Jesus Christ is the plan of God embodied, the entire Word of God revolves around Him, so the more we grow, the more we know, the more we believe, the more capacity we have to love Jesus; and of course we are walking with Him every day (or should be) and experiencing His provision, guidance, and, yes, love, day by day.

The closer we get to Christ through taking in and believing His truth and through applying that truth in our daily walk with Him, the better we know Him and the better able we shall be to love Him. It does take commitment to love the Lord with all that is in us and it does take effort. But while it is true that we do need to make the effort at any given moment to focus our thoughts and our thanks on our Lord, recalling His wonderful Person and the wondrous things He has done for us, it is not really possible to love Him with all that is in us by merely ginning up our emotions during an overly noisy worship service one day a week. How do we love Jesus with our all? By devoting that "all" day by day to do what He wants us to do: learning and believing His truth, applying what we learn about Him and His truth in our step by step life with Him, and helping others do the same through responding to the ministry opportunities He has for us.

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
John 21:17 NIV

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus whom we do love more than anything in this temporary world,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dr. Luginbill,

I came across your website, in particular:

http://www.ichthys.com/mail-End-Times-Interpretation.htm

I have come across many such explanations for why "no man knoweth the hour and the day" of his coming but it always strikes me as odd that no one stresses the need to know the customs of Yeshua's day in order to understand his sayings. For instance, on the particular subject above, it was the custom of Yeshua's day among the Jews (which Yeshua was) that when a man wanted to take a bride, he had to "go away" to his father's house to build a home for his new bride. NO ONE COULD TELL THE DAY OR THE HOUR OF HIS RETURN because the time was not pre-determined as to how long it would take to build a home for his new bride. And it was up to the man's FATHER to inspect the home and see that it was fit for a new bride. You can see the allegory here to Christ's return for his own bride. But I can assure you that what I've said above is LITERAL as it was the very custom of the Jews at the time of marriage. The bride was to wait patiently for the return of her future husband. That is why his return was ALWAYS imminent. There were no signs that pointed to his return. The bride was to wait and to be prepared as though his return were imminent because one day he would return without warning and take his bride away to her new home. So the betrothed remained true to her future husband, not entertaining any other man. She waited patiently for him, knowing that he could not return until the man's father approved the home that was made ready for the bride. In the days of Yeshua, seniors had much more authority over the families than they do today. And it was the customer to have the father of the household approve almost everything. Therefore, when a young man wanted to marry, his father directed the course of affairs of the young man and only when the young man's father was completely satisfied with all the arrangements was the young man approved to go ahead and bring his bride to her new abode. Why do students and professors of Bible literature not state how important it is to know Jewish custom of that era in order to understand scripture? As you have seen above, it is VITAL to the understanding of Yeshua's comment on knowing the day and the hour of his coming. As a bride (literal bride) did not know the hour or the day when her betrothed would return for her, so the church does not know the day nor the hour. HOWEVER this means that his return is IMMINENT... imminent meaning we must ALWAYS be ready at every minute, lest we seek security in other means. Just as the literal bride was not to engage in the attentions of other men or engagements of the mind, but must be always faithful and true in every MINUTE of the day and night because she knew not when her betrothed would return, so the church must be ready at every minute of the day or night. Because His return is IMMINENT, we are to watch for him diligently and live in our hearts as though he is enroute to us at this very moment. If people know 2 things: the correct meaning of the word IMMINENT and the custom of the Jews in Yeshua's time about marriage then there would be no question at all about the Bible passage in question.

Thank you for helping to spread God's word, Dr. Luginbill. I look forward to the day when you and all your contemporaries see fit to study the customs of the Jewish peoples so that the word of God may be crystal clear to all who read His scriptures.

Response #3:

Dear Friend,

You are very welcome. As to your comments, there is quite a difference between an illustration applied by us to illuminate a passage and the actual interpretation of what a passage means.

What is your reference source for this being a universal custom in ca. 30 A.D. Judea (or Galilee – they spoke different languages for example)? I don't remember reading this in the Bible, and this historical sources for this period are somewhat constricted. Also, what is there about the context of this passage that would invite us to apply the Bride as the Church analogy here in any case? Our Lord Jesus never uses this analogy, and of course the mystery of the expanded Church to include the gentiles (thus making up the Bride) was kept a mystery during His first advent (cf. Matt.15:26; Jn.12:20-24). So what here in the actual scriptures would allow us to apply this (or any) custom, even if universal at the time, to these words? Generally speaking, there would have to be a reference to a wedding or a bride or a groom for us to do so. Even if our Lord's hearer's had somehow made this connection, what is there in these words to let them know it is a right connection to make?

I do agree that imminence is an important part of the picture (see the link: "Imminence"); that is clearly what this passage teaches, quite apart from any marriage reference. So assuming that there actually is some historical documentation for this custom you report, while it would make a nice sermon illustration (as long as it is made clear that it is just an illustration and not what the passage teaches), since I do not find any actual connection in Matthew 24:36 to allow us to see this as what the verse actually teaches or says, I would resist seeing it as anything more than an illustration (and, as I say, would want to have a convincing reference before I used it at all).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:

Is the idea of one woman for a man cultural or biblical? We know that most revered old testament saints had more than one wife. How can God himself tell David "I gave you saul's wives (plural) and I would have given you more if you had asked. Can God ever give a man something that is against his word? Besides, the old testament recommends that if a man died without children, his wife should be married to his brother. Clearly, there were many brothers in this circumstance who may have already been married. Besides, there are also old testament scriptures supporting taking women when a city is captured, using them as a concubine and letting them go when one is not happy with them anymore. My understanding of this matter is as follows: in todays world, a woman marries a man 100% assured that he will not have any other wife. Even though it is likely that in an absolute sense, it is not wrong to have more than one wife, if a man does this he is sinning against his wife as she came into the relationship in todays cultural sense. Very similar to the offense of eating meat offered to idols in front of a man with a weak conscience as described by Paul. Although an idol is nothing and meat offered to it is not of any consequence to a man of strong faith, he makes his brother sin. Also Paul says a bishop should be a man of one wife. Is it possible that it was common and allowed for a regular man to have more than one?

Response #4:

As our Lord says about the Pharisees and their accommodations in regard to marriage:

He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."
Matthew 19:8 NKJV

Ideally, marriage is a one man one woman bond that is lifelong. Life outside of the garden, however, is not ideal, and people do what they do. There is a lot about this on the site. Suffice it to say here in answer to the main thrust of your question that polygamy, while it is not outlawed in scripture, was never "happy" – and that speaks volumes (analogous to the Law regulating slavery, an institution which already existed and was certainly not "good" – but better for the regulation than without it). See the link: "Polygamy". You are correct in your analysis of the "one wife" stipulation in the pastorals is directed towards this practice. There was polygamy, both official and de facto, in the ancient world; today in this country we seldom have the former but often the latter (inappropriate for elders and teachers of the Word).

Question #5:

Who were Cain and his siblings' wives/husbands. Likely their siblings. The law against marrying siblings was not given until much later. So in a sense, there was no law of any kind. So why was cain held accountable for his brothers murder? Is the bible not clear that the law was instituted to prove us guilty?

Response #5:

You are correct about the sibling marriage directly out of Eden (see the link: "Cain's wife"). No, there was no law, but there was sin. There was no government so Cain was not subject to any governmental retribution (the mark was given to head that off as government would/did develop). But God takes account of all human action, and Cain most certainly knew what he did was outrageously wrong, from his conscience, from his conversation with the Lord ("sin is crouching at the door"), and as evidenced by his attempt to deceive the Lord when interrogated ("Am I my brother's keeper?"). A good application for believers today is that just because something isn't illegal (as far as we know) or listed specifically as a sin in the Bible, does not at all mean that it is "OK" for us to do it – let alone spiritually profitable (1Cor.6:12; 10:23). Acting in love in the power of the Spirit will cause us to forgo many such things – as well as to engage in many things that otherwise we would be loath to do.

Question #6:

Hi Doc.

I need your help. My wife and I are still growing as believers. We both come from backgrounds of very fake and unfortunately mostly apostate believers. [details omitted] Anything you have to say will be awesome, I'm certain about it. A prayer would be awesome.

Side note: thank you for posting Pastor C. Omo's series. I got to the end only wanting more. It's like listening to a college course. You should do something along these lines (regardless of speaking ability). Perhaps a podcast?

Thanks again for everything.

Response #6:

Marriage is not easy. The biblical position is that husbands have the tougher role, and patience born of love is the main attitude they have to present regardless of circumstances. Dealing with the opposite number in love (as husbands are called to do: Eph.5:25), means, among other things, being patient and open enough not to take away their freedom, especially in spiritual matters. The best thing to do, in my interpretation of these matters, is to lead by example. If you are doing the right thing, your wife may follow; if not now, if not tomorrow, maybe the day after. If not quickly, if not apace, perhaps slowly but surely. And if you are focused upon being the best possible husband and the best possible role model, you will do better too, reserving correction and discipline for yourself, with the result that you will be a better leader, and that can only improve the chances of getting a better follower.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
Colossians 3:19 NASB

Thanks for your good comments about my friend Curt Omo's YouTube ministry!

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I've been feeling emotionally drained lately. It's like my Christian "spark" went out. I have no zeal or enthusiasm. Also, I've been very lonely for a while now. [details omitted] Do you have any advice for me about marriage? I do believe that knowing what I know, I'd be unequally yoked if I married a Baptist minister. I think being unequally yoked means so much more than simply a Christian marrying a non-Christian.

ps: what do you think of Kay Arthur's New Inductive Study Bible? I like the premise of finding biblical truth for yourself instead of relying on commentators. I was thinking about buying it and the NIV study bible

Response #7:

I'm sorry to hear of your troubles. As I recall, Jonah was a prophet, but he had a pretty bad temper (cf. Jon.4:9), and Paul had one too (cf. Acts 15:39). None of us is perfect; all of us make mistakes. Also, we are required to love one another in the sense of agape, which is Christian love, not personal love. Long story short on that, we don't have to like everyone; we do have to treat everyone with tolerance and respect. When it comes to people who are behaving badly or attempting to harm others, we are not required, in my opinion, to ignore the issue.

As to the problem of "spark", in my view Christians make entirely too much of the issue of how they feel about things. No one who is advancing spiritually for the Lord, learning the Word of God and its truths, putting faith into practice, and ministering to His Church, will fail to receive opposition from the evil one (2Cor.10:4-5). When we do, you can bet that it will take an effort of application of the truth to "feel good" the least bit when we are being hammered by the devil's forces. On the other hand, Christians who are going nowhere spiritually quite frequently work themselves up into emotional states through one device or another whereby they "feel spiritual" – but in truth they are not doing anything for the Lord, not, that is, anything He really wants them to be doing. So the "how we feel" test is the worst test and potentially very deceptive. We have to learn as Christians to put more weight on what we know to be the truth than how we may feel moment by moment. Life is difficult, and the Christian life is not easy. But if, for example, when we are feeling down, we should take stock and remember: 1) we have eternal life; 2) we are going to be blissful for all eternity with Jesus; 3) we are here for Him and not for ourselves; 4) we should "feel good" that we are plugging away every day at growth, application and ministry; and 5) as a result we should rejoice that we are putting something "in the bank" every day which pleases Him and will bless us forever. If these things are true (and they should be), then we have every right to "feel good" about the big picture, even if what we can see here in the world at this particular moment is cold and gray and depressing. After all, "this world" is temporary and on the point of passing away forever (1Cor.7:31)

As to the other issues, you have a wisdom beyond your years when you recognize that relationships in general and marriages in particular are problematic. The time is short:

What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
1st Corinthians 7:29-31

And the time is really short now, for this generation is likely to be the last one before the trouble starts – after which the Lord will return. Having said this, yes, it is also true that few of us can live single and without a helper. The best advice for anyone who feels that they are in that category and in that situation is to be patient, trust the Lord, commit the problem to Him in prayer day by day, and, very importantly, make every effort not to get out in front of His plan and take steps to "correct the problem" through prayer and spiritual growth, that is. In the history of the world, the mistake of trying to "do it ourselves" has probably been one of the most common if not the most common one in which believers have unnecessarily complicated their lives for ill – as opposed to waiting on God for His good. He works it all out for good . . . for those who truly do love Him and wait for His solutions (Rom.8:28). When Abraham waited, he was blessed beyond measure . . . eventually. When he took his wife's advice to try and speed his happiness up, it was a disaster (and only resulted in him having to wait even longer for the son of promise).

So as with all things, Bible reading, prayer, diligent study of the Bible through an orthodox ministry you trust, believing the truth you receive, putting it into practice, and helping others do likewise through whatever ministry and/or ministry opportunities the Lord leads you into is the solution to all problems. It's not what most people want to hear, but it does have the virtue of being true.

You are now on the posted prayer request list – and I'm keeping you in my prayers as well day by day.

Hang in there with the Lord, my friend. He will never you let you down. Wait on Him.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

p.s., I'm not familiar with the interactive Bible; but I do like the Barker 1984NIV Study Bible.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Hope ALL is well!

Regarding the "LAW" of Rom. 7:2 and 1 Cor. 7:39 - which particular law is being referred to, because this cited law is never mentioned in the Mosaic Law?

For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
Romans 7:2 (KJV)

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.
1 Corinthians 7:39 (KJV)

Your attention to this concern will be most appreciated.

Response #8:

Good to hear from you.

Paul is considering Genesis as part of the Law (the first book of Moses). Here is what our Lord says in demolishing the Pharisees' and Sadducees' false suppositions based upon the other four books of Moses:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
Matthew 19:3-6 NIV

So I take the Genesis account to be that part of the Law or Torah which establishes this principle.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Dearest Bob:

I am sorry to say that I had a rough Monday evening. [details omitted] Yet, these are everyday challenges that are real and have to be managed and overcome, just that it adds to the pressures of daily living, yet I do not doubt for a second in our Lord's providence in providing us. I find solace in The Word and my quiet time with The Lord, but some prayers are hard to pray brother Bob. Please intercede for us. I am under a genuine demonic attack. I need your special prayers and spiritual help my brother and father in Christ. I am not panicking, but I am letting you know of how things are, just as a dutiful son needs to. I have to stop now. I will read the information from the link you have provided and will continue praying in the spirit and finish my shift.

Love you brother.

Response #9:

Sorry to hear of your domestic troubles. Marriage is not easy and it easily consumes the attentions and energies of those so committed, which is no doubt why Paul says:

I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
1st Corinthians 7:26-35 NKJV

I'm not sure about India, but in this country it is not uncommon for large churches to spend a disproportionate amount of the very paltry time they spend "teaching" (if I may even use that word for what they do) focusing upon marriage/divorce/relationships/family matters/children etc. – even though the topic is only occasionally discussed in scripture. The most expansive thing I find in the New Testament is this passage, which says, in my view, all that needs to be said:

So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
Ephesians 5:28-29 NKJV

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:33 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ the loving Husband of the Bride – and model for every husband – whose Church we are – and model for every wife.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob

I hope this email finds you well. A close acquaintance in the Lord is in a local church which is showing serious signs of tending towards significant excesses in the ‘signs and wonders’ department. She is however a very solid believer who really tries her best to keep close to the Lord and remain faithful to the essentials of the Gospel. Her husband has lately begun an earnest search for the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ with it’s necessary evidence of tongues. Their church is now teaching that without it the believers are not truly in the Body. Aiii! The damage this nonsense is causing amongst the believers and the individual families is quite disheartening. Already there has been a divorce based on the idea that the pair were ‘unequally yoked’. My question is perhaps only vaguely related to this.

Her husband (a very honest and earnestly searching believer) has decided that his role as husband head and hers as that of a submissive wife now gives him the right to decided what they should believe and if the signs such as tongues are a true doctrine or not. He says they are a true doctrine, since it has all been clearly revealed in scripture and she in her submissive role should not argue or resist in any way. He believes that if (in the remote chance) he is wrong, the Lord will reveal to HIM as family head and then he will correct her appropriately. All in a nice Christian way of course. She is naturally fairly distressed.

We have been discussing the nature of this submissive role that a wife should have and despite a lot of discussion cannot really pin it down. I suspect it may be that we do not understand the original intent or meaning of the words. No matter how we approach it seems to imply a ‘lesser’ and ‘obedient’ role regardless. Do you have a better ‘take’ on this subject based on the original scripture. What is your opinion of ‘blind submissiveness’?

Your thoughts?

Response #10:

I completely agree with your analysis of the problematic nature of the situation you describe – and with your dismay at this nonsense and the unnecessary pain it is causing. All human beings have free will. That is the critical thing about us and why we have been placed on this earth. The idea that in matters of faith and conscience a husband should be able to decide for his wife is certainly without any scriptural basis:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.
1st Peter 3:1 NIV

This verse say it all. If the husband was "automatically right", then the wife should submit to his viewpoint no matter what. But Peter is envisioning the situation as exactly the opposite: the husband is wrong and the wife is right. Peter commands the wife in such cases to be respectful of the husband's authority, but not to give up her allegiance to the truth. Indeed, the whole point behind her loving respect here is to win him over to the truth by her virtuous way of life. Please note that the wife is not told to abandon her point of view – nor to abandon her husband nor her wifely duties – but to be an advocate for the truth, using virtue as her weapon to convince the husband over time that she is correct (rather than arguing with him).

The position taken by the husband in the situation you report is so clearly idiotic that perhaps he will come to see the folly of it over time. If his wife refuses to go along, and yet continues as a good partner without supporting the folly, it will make it easier for him to disengage from this false doctrine – whereas if she were to aid and abet it would make it harder for him to extricate himself from this situation (it is human nature not to want to admit a mistake, especially a monumental one such as this). The false doctrine is also a very dangerous one, so that on another level the wife is now the "life preserver"; by holding fast to the truth in as non-confrontational way as possible, she offers him a life-line when the day comes that he is ready to take it.

Of course, this is a very difficult situation, and I do not mean to say that a woman should stay in such a situation if it gets to the point of severe mental abuse. For a husband even to suggest that his wife, in order to be a good wife, has to believe what he believes, is so offensive and so clearly contrary to the whole tenor of scripture that it borders on the sort of conduct which breaks a marriage wide open, and one can only wonder what sort of additional mental or physical abuse may follow. There are bounds beyond which such things cannot be tolerated. So when I quote Peter above, I am assuming that the relationship has not gotten to that point of abusive no return. No woman should stay in a relationship where she risks being physically or psychologically destroyed.

Here are some links which may be of help:

The Gift of Tongues I

The Gift of Tongues II

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Robert,

Do you think as Christian men, we should stay as far away of the Catholic church as possible? Do have a section covering that on your page? Please forgive me but my memory isn't the best anymore. I'm not thinking about going to mass but I am thinking about dating a girl who is a devout Catholic.

Thanks and Kind Regards,

Response #11:

There are certainly great people in this country who are R.C.; but then there are great people who are Mormons and unbelievers of every stripe. As I often say, I am agnostic about whether or not it is possible to be "devoutly R.C." and be saved (it is a salvation by works religion), but every ex-R.C. I have ever heard weigh in on the subject has been adamant about the fact that they were not saved while in that religion and that (invariably when this opinion is expressed) "it is impossible to be saved in the R.C. church". So while there are plenty of negative things to say about the doctrine of that religion (as indeed about the doctrines of any non-Christian or pseudo-Christian or barely Christian entity), the real issue is getting too close to any person who is not a believer or is a lukewarm or non-serious or legalistic or otherwise fatally spiritually compromised believer.

Naturally, I don't know this person, and there is no way for me to weigh in on that score. I can only go by your description. No doubt she is a wonderful and special person (otherwise you wouldn't be interested). The world has many reasons for "dating"; for a righteous Christian man, however, the decision to date has to contemplate the possibility of marriage and children down the road. Friction between a believer and an unbeliever in marriage often makes it unworkable. The friction that comes between a true believer who puts the Word of God first and a cult or specific religion adherent who will fight to have the children educated and indoctrinated in their cult or specific religion often involves unbearable suffering and boundless regret. People don't change when they get married. Rather, their true colors come out all the more clearly. People often say "all the right things" before marriage, then revert to their natural selves after marriage. That is particularly true in cases where a person wants to marry the opposite number and realizes that the issue of the truth is important to the potential spouse. This is not even undue deceit. Few people can resist telling the other party that "it doesn't matter" or "it won't matter" once they fall in love. Later, it almost always does matter. The fault lies with the true believer who allows him/herself to be persuaded by such assurances instead of following biblical guidance. It's a temptation almost impossible to resist – which is why I am being so blunt, because the time to resist is before the temptation becomes irresistible, that is, before a "good relationship" has developed.

Yours in Jesus Christ who only has our best interests at heart in all these things.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hey robert long time no speak. How have you been? I had a quick question, you know when we were emailing about divorce and remarriage? I saw one of your emails where you had said that "the ones that need to worry about what Jesus said in Matt 5 32 are the ones that divorce in order to marry another." Do you think those in that situation need to divorce? I think you said they are forgiven and don't need to I just wanted to make sure. Thanks your friend -

Response #12:

Good to hear from you.

I tried to find this precise quote at Ichthys but was unable to do so. In a much debated and highly sensitive area such as this I would not want to comment on a quote that is inexact (hope you understand about that).

What I will say is what I always say: if a Christian is married, he/she should not seek to get a divorce. There may be times and circumstances that bring about divorce, even against that Christian's will, but "if married, then don't get divorced" is the biblical position. That is true even if the marriage was consummated under less than ideal circumstances. As you know from our prior conversations, my position is entirely opposed to those who preach that if there were any sort of circumstance prior to marriage which these self-righteous types personally find offensive or inconvenient, that the couple should divorce. The biblical truth, in my opinion and reading of scripture, is that once married, a couple is married and should stay married. This does not mean that if wrong was done there will be no consequences for that wrong. We all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2). We all sin (Rom.3:23; 1Jn.1:5-10). And we are disciplined fairly and equitably by God in His great justice and mercy – as a Father disciplines His own dear children (Heb.12:5-11). We don't have to worry that we will ever "get away" with anything (because no one every "gets away" with anything), but divine discipline is the Lord's province, not ours, and our job as Christians is to move forward, not look backward. The past cannot be changed, but if we are determined to try to change it anyway, we are likely to wreck the future.

Some eggs cannot be unscrambled and reconstituted once the omelet is cooked. That would seem to be obvious, but for some self-righteous preachers the obvious seems to have eluded them (to the great harm and detriment of those who listen to them). The time to be a conscientious objector is before joining the army. The time to realize that crime doesn't pay is before robbing the liquor store. The time to understand that doing a funny dive off the high board is a bad idea is before hammering your neck with a bad entry. Everything we do in this life has consequences – and there is no one out there who has not done something that, in looking back, he/she regrets. But there is no point in that (beyond making a personal point of not repeating the same mistakes). And while some of the things we do or have done can occasionally be "taken back" and "made good", that is the exception to the rule. Generally speaking what we should do is confess our sins, leave the discipline to our loving Father, rely on His mercy, and move on with our lives – for Jesus Christ. Every Christian who has some guilt trip thrust upon them of the sort we are discussing should consider carefully the further consequences of taking unwise and potentially ungodly actions in attempting to unscramble eggs in a self-centered attempt to relieve that guilt. What usually happens is that the omelet is ruined, the eggs can't be put back together, and a huge mess is made in the process. That is definitely also what happens whenever anyone listens to bad advice of the sort we are discussing and tries to "make amends" by adding a new divorce to the previous trouble.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hello,

I came across your site online and have a question that I hope you can answer for me about remarrying in my situation. [details omitted]

Response #13:

I am sorry to hear of your troubles. These sorts of tests and pressures are among the most difficult to bear, and you deserve credit for bearing up in faith under very difficult circumstances.

I am always reluctant to do anything approaching "giving advice" when it comes down to individual cases, simply because so much turns on the actual facts (many of which are not known completely even to the actual participants – how much less so to third parties), and also because what is really going on in the hearts of the primaries is also key. I have written quite a bit about these issues and will give you all of the links below; many of the questions I have fielded in the past do touch on these points, but, again, in more general rather than prescriptive ways.

From the biblical perspective, as I often say, staying single in the first place is the best thing. However, most human beings are incapable of living in "single bliss", with the result that marriage is certainly "not a sin" (1Cor.7:28; cf. 1Cor.7:2). Once married, Christians are to stay married. However, there are circumstances which make that impossible. For example, in our culture, our spouses can certainly divorce us regardless of our wishes. And if the opposite number is unwilling to live with us and unwilling to be faithful to us or is intent upon abusing us, these behaviors end the marriage in practical terms whether or not a divorce has yet been legally granted. I would certainly never counsel a Christian to stay legally married for the sake of marriage when there is in all truth no more marriage left and no reasonable hope of reviving it.

Once a Christian finds him/herself divorced, from the biblical point of view things have gone back to "square one", and staying single thereafter is the best thing. However, the same calculus applies in terms of the pressures to marry and the problems with staying single. As a result, there is in fact much remarriage by Christians. Whether or not there was a "right to remarry" in individual cases is something that oftentimes only God and the parties in question really know (and oftentimes the latter may be unsure). But if remarried, then the guidance for marrieds reapplies: stay married from then on (regardless of any and all qualms after the fact – the time to weigh whether or not a remarriage is a "good idea" is before not after, because after remarriage, a marriage has occurred and a marriage is a marriage).

These are important matters because they have a tendency to consume all of our energies and emotions – for obvious reasons. As with most things, if we put the Lord Jesus and His Word of truth first and foremost in our hearts and in our minds, these issues, as with all other things, have a tendency to become clearer and to fall into place in the more balanced perspective of what we are really doing here on earth . . . or should be, namely, living our lives for Him.

Here are those links:

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

I do wish you the Lord's guidance in this matter, and also His peace (and will say a prayer for you for both).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #14:

[details omitted about pastor X who counsels remarried Christians to get divorced or go to hell]

Response #14:

I'm sorry to hear that you have been put through this emotional ringer. What I can say in comfort for starters is that these sorts of attacks are very common, and I dare say that there are very few remarried Christians who have not suffered under them at one time or another to one degree or another. Generally speaking, it is the good-hearted among us upon whom such cruel blows fall the hardest. Those not much interested in the Word of God are not much alarmed by these sorts of false teachings. I do not know or know of pastor X (I did have a brief look at his website), so I am not going to categorically impugn his ministry generally. I will say that I disagree with his teaching on this point most strenuously, and even more strongly with his method and manner of dealing with those who find themselves vulnerable to false information on this point. About the only good thing I have to say about what you report is that he did take the time to speak with you personally.

Since I have written about this topic in great detail elsewhere (see the links below), I will not attempt to revisit the entire issue anew here, but there are a number of points which I believe it will be helpful to make (in no particular order):

1) The number of genuinely born again Christians out there who have been remarried after a divorce is very large. I would not want to venture to put a percentage on it, but it is significant. What a wonderful way for the devil to trip up an entire segment of the Church. This false teaching, namely, that being married is living in adultery if either party was previously married, and that the only solution is another divorce, if believed, has the potential of doing great harm to individuals, couples, and entire families. Even if those who hear this false teaching do not take the clearly insane step of divorcing someone they love and to whom they have committed themselves, even giving it consideration can produce a large amount of guilt. Guilt is one of Satan's number one weapons. He uses it against all those who have good hearts, and at every opportunity. No matter how "good" we may be, as human beings, as sinners, we all have at least something to feel guilty about, and we can all be made to feel guilty by the right person at the right time armed with an effective technique. Guilt is the basis of all religion (as opposed to true Christianity). Thus, guilt is a cultist's best friend. Indeed, without guilt, there would be no one in any cult. Guilt, skillfully wielded, can, in the hands of an expert, be used to make a person do all manner of crazy things, generally involving giving up freedom and common sense and burning bridges to a previous life. At that point, the victim has nothing left but the cult and is easily controlled thereafter. I would imagine that if a person buys into Mr. X's teachings to the extent of going through with an ill-advised re-divorce, that at that point Mr. X will be in control and there will be nowhere to go but to him and his organization for spiritual comfort and solace, all other emotional support having been willfully destroyed. While it is true that sometimes "Christian" groups like this one do these sorts of things "unconsciously" (as opposed to the calculated behavior of a full-blown cult), outside parties should recognize this unconscionable behavior for what it is and steer clear just for this reason. I don't know of any scripture that even suggests married Christians should divorce (including the example of John the baptist and Herod whose marriage was a violation of the Law on the basis of incest). That certainly begs the question of why any group or person, regardless of their interpretation of these matters, would even deign to counsel a divorce (unless it were a question of serious abuse).

2) I notice that Mr. X's ministry solicits contributions, and that his book is offered only at a price; nor did he offer you a free copy. This doesn't make him evil, but, for me, it reflects.

3) The Lord gives everyone of us spiritual gifts, and He also gives everyone of us spiritual experiences. When something unique happens for us or to us, it may mean little to someone else who has not been given that particular experience – but it means a lot to us. These are events we should remember and "ponder in our hearts" often. For Mr. M. to "pooh-pooh" your heartfelt report is not surprising to me; but I would value what the Lord gave me regardless of its worth or lack thereof in someone else' eyes.

4) The same is true regarding your recent experience of peace in the Lord. The devil does not appreciate it when believers are walking closely with the Lord and are really entering into the joy and the peace that should be ours at all times. He is a counter-puncher par excellence, and we should always expect that our spiritual victories and successes will not go completely unchallenged. Once we begin to recognize this aspect of spiritual warfare, we can better cope with the hits we take in this life. As Christians, we should be praying, reading our Bibles, accessing good, solid, doctrinally sound Bible teaching, learning, believing and living by the truth in the Spirit day by day. If we are doing this, the only true road to spiritual growth, progress and production, then the only thing we need ask is "what does Jesus want me to do", then do it, letting the chips fall where they may. Getting the answer to this question, however, is not a magic process nor a necessarily easy one. One of the things that believers often have trouble with – after they do find a good source of spiritual sustenance – is being consistent in actually believing and staying true to the truth they have believed. In our day and age, on the cusp of the end times, almost every point of truth is being challenged by some false doctrine and some questionable ministry or group. Do we believe the principle of grace? There will be someone to tell us we need to be baptized or circumcised or follow the Law to be saved. Do we believe in truth of Jesus' deity and humanity? There will be some person or group to tell us that He is not God or that He was really an angel, etc. Do we believe in the Bible? There are plenty who will tell us it is not perfect so it cannot be God's Word, etc. One could, unfortunately, go on and on. The point is that there is scarcely a single principle of biblical truth which is not being challenged out there in ether today, with the result that now more than ever it is imperative for Christians to believe the truth they are taught when they have tested its truth, and to hold fast to that truth against all comers. No doubt this experience you are living through is actually an inoculation for good – helping to teach you this point. All hypodermic shots "sting", but they may have a very positive long term effect. Marriage is from God. If a person is married, that person is married. If a person is married, that person has made a serious commitment. The fact that a person may have failed in the past or, through no fault of his/her own, lost a previous marriage, does not make the present marriage "not a marriage" – there is no biblical support for such a teaching, and it runs against common sense, spiritual and otherwise, to such a great degree as to be nonsensical on the face of it. If it were in the Bible, we should accept it. It is not. After committing adultery with her, David killed Bathsheba's husband and married her. He was not commanded to divorce nor was she. Not that David did not suffer horrific divine discipline for his actions – he clearly did. But the marriage was still a marriage. So even if a person feels or even knows that he/she "shouldn't have remarried", once married is married. According to scripture, any sin is in the action not the consequent state. Once married, neither party has the right to deprive the other – this is all scriptural (see the links for the passages, though you probably know them well enough). An egg once scrambled cannot be unscrambled. It may have been a mistake to scramble it; one may have regrets at having scrambled it; or one may be happy with the scramble. But what is done is done once it is done.

5) God has called us to peace in Jesus Christ. He knows we are but flesh. He knows we make mistakes. He knows we (most of us, anyway) need a mate and would fall into sin if we didn't have one. To suggest that there is no hope for those who have divorced and remarried is an evil thing, because it is not in the Bible. Yes there are those "divorce" passages, but they cannot really be made to say what the proponents of such draconian solutions want them to say. A marriage is a marriage. There is no such thing as a distinction between a "covenant marriage" (citations please?) and some other somehow "invalid marriage". God hates divorce. If we have sinned, we have sinned . . . and should then repent of our sin, confess it to the Lord, and suffer patiently through whatever divine discipline He levels on us. But make it up to God? Is that not the worst sort of legalism? We can't erase our mistakes. And it is folly to make worse ones trying to unscramble our eggs. If a person divorces a loving spouse on such ground, how is he/she not destroying the partner's life? Whatever sin may or may not have been involved in the act of remarrying, in my estimate it cannot come close to the evil of destroying or damaging the lives of others (spouse, children, family) out self-righteousness and guilt. For that really is the definition of evil as opposed to sin: doing what is wrong and calling it "good". Standing fast in the truth is not easy, but a wise Christian will determine the truth and stand with it no matter what, spitting out anger, and jealousy, and fear, and worry, and, yes, guilt. "What does Jesus want me to do?" Get a divorce from someone whom I love and who loves me and ruin our both our lives? For what? Merely sinfully indulging our guilty consciences and self-righteous, legalistic tendencies (which we all have to one degree or another).

6) [no salvation without divorce] This was really the only thing I need to mention, after all. Anyone who assumes that a person's marital state has anything to do with their salvation is a legalist, pure and simple. Salvation comes by God's grace through faith in Christ alone. The Roman Catholics don't think so, but then no one who believes their teachings is saved. This person likewise, if he really is depending upon his perceptions of himself as "goody-goody" – rather than as a sinner cleansed by the blood of Christ – is far from salvation himself. It would be a good idea to give him and his teachings a wide berth for that reason alone.

I do promise not to post anything of your portion of this email and also to take out anything in mine that has any recognizable references if and when this gets posted (there is usually a year or two lag time in postings), but I do hope you will reconsider inasmuch as many others have similar concerns (I always post anonymously in any case and in this situation would take out this fellow's name and link).

I hope the above will help with your efforts to achieve peace of mind. We are where we are. None of us has lived a perfect life. Looking back is always a mistake. Jesus wants us to make the best of where we are in moving forward for Him, not wrack ourselves with guilt about things in the distant past that cannot now be changed. Someone who "wrongly divorced and remarried" cannot ever, after all, change the fact that they "wrongly divorced and remarried" – not even if they again wrongfully get divorced and un-remarried.

Here are those links:

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

Yours in Jesus Christ our gracious Lord and forgiving Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

[thank you; permission given to post]

Response #15:

And thank you for your generosity and good Christian spirit. I draw encouragement from your spiritual rallying – it is always a shot in the arm to hear when a fellow believer uses the truth to defeat an attack from the evil one. It reminds me – and should remind us all – of the power of the truth of Jesus Christ against all comers, seen or unseen.

I will certainly pray for you – and thanks in advance for your prayers as well (they are needed and always appreciated). I was thinking about this response this morning and kicking myself a little bit for not making more of a point of God's gracious forgiveness. But you have correctly "homed in" on precisely that most fundamental point. It's all about Christ's sacrifice for us and the forgiveness we have through faith in Him. If there were no forgiveness, there would have been no reason for Christ to die, for Christ to come, for the whole plan of God – and no hope for any of us. Everything in true Christianity is about forgiveness – and the price Christ paid to provide it. And God does forgive – everyone everything: All we need to do is ask for it and be willing to accept it. Unbelievers "forfeit the grace that could have been theirs" (Jonah 2:8) but refusing to say "yes" to God; and many believers also insist on looking backward. By refusing to forgive themselves they run the risk of not believing that God has forgiven them. But what does scripture say?

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NIV

If this is true of actual sins, how much more should we not stop worrying about situations we cannot now change that are the result of past conduct which may or may not even have been sinful? The only safe course for a true believer is the grace policy of "confess and move on". We have to trust the Lord in many things. Trusting that He does forgive us – as He says in His Word that He does – is a key part of faith. For no one ever lived a perfect life, not even, for example, the apostle Paul, which is why his advice on this subject is so important to keep in mind:

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

This is quite a statement coming from someone with a lot to forget and a lot to regret. Paul persecuted the Church in a very violent and evil way, and was complicit in the deaths of many innocent believers. But God forgave him – obviously. Peter denied the Lord three times in His greatest hour of trial. But God forgave him – obviously. David committed adultery with the wife of a trusted subordinate who was out risking his life for David and his kingdom, then had the man killed to cover up his evil. But God forgave him – obviously. All these men repented, and confessed, and, being much greater believers than we are, suffered through some very severe divine discipline as a result. But none of them let their past failures fatally compromise their future service to the Lord. They all refused to look back, and instead embraced God's grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. As David says:

For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found;
Psalm 32:4-6a NIV

Without forgiveness, no one could stand (not even Mr. X – and in my view he has a few things to answer for). Those who assume they have no need of such grace, no need of forgiveness, are in truth close to falling. Praise God that we have His forgiveness ever ready at hand, bought and paid for by the all-sufficient blood of Christ!

Here are a few links on forgiveness you may find helpful as well:

Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

God's Forgiveness of Sin (in BB 3B: Hamartiology: the biblical study of Sin)

What is the "unforgivable sin", really?

Cleansing from sin (in Pet. #15)

1st John 1:9 and confessing sin.

Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin

Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.

Be encouraged. The Lord loves you as you know very well in your heart of hearts. Listen to that genuine "small still voice" of the Holy Spirit, and pay no attention to the malignant whisperings of the evil one.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

[thank you]

Response #16:

Thanks for this.

I appreciate your kind and (very obviously) Christian heart.

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Luke 6:43-45 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dr. Luginbill

Thank you so much for your clarifications on those errors! I always felt uneasy whenever those things were preached and now know that my instinct was correct based on what I read in the Bible!

I do have another question for you as well that somewhat pertains to it but still somewhat confuses me. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Revelation 21:8 speak of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. Does this list pertain to everyone or is it just an example of unbelievers who will not be able to enter? Those verses have thrown me for a while now.

Oh and I do have another question. I have known that God hates divorce but up until recently, I didn't think it was a sin and also didn't know remarriage amounted to adultery! I know a few Christian couples who have remarried (probably unknowing about remarriage in the Bible) and I'm not sure if they've repented of that. So my question is, does God see their remarriage as continuous adultery or does he view the new marriage as a valid union? I've read that if people die before they repent of their remarriage ("adultery") that they can't go to heaven as "adulterers won't inherit Gods kingdom". I've also read that unless they divorce their remarried spouse and either remain celibate forever or remarry their first spouse (it sounds absurd to me to do that especially if they have moved on) that they will suffer consequences. I honestly never gave much thought to this issue before but now that its been brought to my attention, I'm just curious. I don't advocate divorce and find the divorce rate to be staggering so this issue just caught my interest.

Thank you for your time in reading my questions!

Response #17:

You are very welcome – always happy to help my brothers and sisters draw closer to the Lord through the truth of the Word.

As to your current questions, first, to these lists you mention (1Cor.6:9-11 and Rev.21:8), one could add Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 5:3-7 (as well as other passages). What all such lists have in common is their description of the unbeliever as sinner, and it is important to note that these should not be taken to mean that unbelievers who do not do such things are going to be in heaven for being "good", nor that believers who may on occasion stumble into some of these things are on that account going to hell. All believers are saved and go to heaven; all unbelievers are lost and go to hell (Jn.3:18). Horrific sin, sinning, sinful behavior, progressively worse sinning, etc. are clearly not good, clearly do result in God's discipline on believers, and, if persevered in to the ultimate extreme, will result in one of two terrible results: either 1) the sin unto death (wherein the believer will not let go either of sin or of faith, and is removed from life as a result in a very painful and sobering way; e.g., 1Cor.5:5); or 2) apostasy, wherein the believer in question damages his/her faith so much through acting in total contradiction to God's will and God's Word that faith weakens and eventually dies (e.g., Lk.8:13). Please see the link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death". Believers are secure – as long as they are believers. The problem with giving into a life of sin are many: divine discipline, wasting of one's opportunities to earn eternal rewards, and, if left unchecked in spiritual devolution, the potential of apostasy or the sin unto death. For that reason none of these "sin lists" or similar ones in scripture are meant to be comprehensive. That is why Paul, for example, in one of them adds an "elastic clause" to cover anything he may have missed (so that no one will assume they are Simon-pure):

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies – and whatever is similar to all these things. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Galatians 5:19-21

Scripture is thus very clear on both sides of this issue. As believers we revel and rejoice in the love of Jesus Christ and our complete security in Him. At the same time, we need to have no illusions about the fact that sin, and sinful behavior is a serious and a dangerous business and can have the most appalling effects. All correct teaching on this subject, therefore, should, on the one hand, emphasize the seriousness and perilous nature of sin without at the same time terrifying believers that because they are not perfect they cannot be saved. All correct teaching should emphasize the complete safety and security we have as believers in Jesus Christ without at the same time giving the impression that a Christian can sin with impunity (or that if he/she abandons his/her faith that he/she will be saved nonetheless). In many true doctrines there are, as in this case, "two sides of the coin", both of which are not only true, but which actually could not be true without the other side also being true. Most theological error in the church-visible arises from emphasizing or focusing on only one side to the exclusion of the other in such cases.

As to the issue of divorce and remarriage, I have written a good deal on this subject (since as you may imagine it is a matter of great concern to many believers in the society and day in which we live). Most of the "information" you have heard are scratching your head over is, indeed, false.

"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
Matthew 19:9

What our Lord says here should be understood literally as saying exactly what He meant to say – as opposed to saying what some fear He might have meant. What Jesus actually says is that wrongly and cruelly divorcing one's wife with the purpose of having another and then actually marrying the second woman is an act of "adultery". Needless to say, this does not apply to many (if any) Christian marriages today – especially considering as well that our Lord was speaking to unbelievers with the purpose of showing them that their reliance on the Law for salvation was folly, given that in truth they were violating its spirit.

Those who want remarried believers to divorce overlook the facts that 1) they are counseling Christians to get divorced (and that is not a good thing), and 2) they are doing so on the basis of assuming that the marriage itself is a "state of adultery". On the second point, nothing in scripture supports or suggests such a view, and that is not at all what our Lord says (in the passage quoted above or anywhere else in His Word). What He says is that getting married under these circumstances is a sinful act which amounts to adultery. I note that He does not say that the remarried couple should now divorce.

We all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2), and none of is without sin (Rom.3:23), so that no one can say "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin" (Prov.20:9). While I doubt there are many remarried believers whose back-story is that they were so self-righteous that they used this same false understanding of the Law which Jesus criticizes above to cruelly divorce an otherwise helpless spouse with the secret intent of marrying another then doing so, I will certainly allow as to how many Christians get remarried when they should not have done so. However, when a person is married, that person is married, and there is no scriptural basis for trying to "fix it" by adding sin upon sin in now getting divorced again. Divorce does all sorts of damage – to both parties (emotional, financial, spiritual, etc.), to the families, to the church, and, not least, to the children. Whatever led to the first divorce of whichever of the remarried partners, for some self-righteous person to now come and lay this burden of guilt upon them and induce them to fall into this trap a second time is, in my mind, beyond despicable. It is certainly not biblical. The Bible gives clear advice. Are you single? Don't get married. Are you married? Don't get divorced. Are you divorced? Don't get remarried. Are you married? Don't get divorced. Whatever wrong a person or a couple did in getting remarried, there is no question but that God is certainly capable disciplining the guilty and being merciful and healing in that process of discipline as well – like the perfect, loving, forgiving Father He is. He is also quite capable of bringing about a dissolution of a union when that is necessary or desirable without our help or judgmental interference. But as to the (perhaps most pernicious of all) question on relations within marriage between two remarrieds, this is what I read in scripture:

Now for the matters you wrote about: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1st Corinthians 7:1-5 NIV

Jesus tells us (Matt.19:9) that it is the act of remarriage that is a sin (when and if it is a sin because of willful divorce of an innocent party with the purpose of marrying another). But even so, those two people are then "married" (cf. Jn.4:18), so that counseling them to get a divorce or live celibate thereafter would be a recipe for making the end worse than the beginning – which is perhaps why your Lord says nothing about going back to the previous status quo along with the trouble that would cause.

Those who are troubling the Church with their legalistic crusades on this point are going to have lot to answer for, in my view. I don't excuse wrongful marriage, but eggs cannot be unbroken, and no sin can be undone. We all do things in this life which put us in positions of weakness vis-a-vis one issue or another. We cannot go back and "fix it", whatever "it" may be. Instead, we are supposed to confess (1Jn.1:9), and then move forward in the cause of Jesus Christ, just as Paul did (the apostle who persecuted the Church and hounded many believers to death before he was saved):

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Here are some links if you want to pursue the issue further:

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

The Bible teaches that marriage is a parallel relationship between a man and a woman as Christ is to the church so how does divorce and remarriage represent Christian behavior? Moses granted the written divorce because of the hardness of the heart in cases of fornication, but also said that remarriage from that predicament constituted adultery. Jesus said that there is no divorce from the beginning and that the covenant could only end in physical death of one of the covenant participants and then remarriage could take place if the person left behind could not contain the burning desire of intimacy in marriage again.

Response #18:

This is an issue which is more complicated than may meet the eye. Whenever a Christian and particularly someone opining on the issue wants to make blanket pronouncements, they always end up trampling on some key piece of the truth. Bottom line: if you think divorce is a problem, don't get a divorce; if you think remarriage is a problem, don't get remarried; but making these decisions for other people is very dangerous because you don't know all the details of their personal situations. This is an area of spiritual application, and in all such areas it is difficult if not impossible to write a set of "comprehensive rules" if the scripture does not cover all possible situations definitively. Obviously, it does not. Anyone who has dealt with personal questions on this subject seriously and for any length of time will realize the truth of that proposition. Just by way of observation, in the short assessment included here, one could ask "what about the exception our Lord includes 'except in cases of porneia' ?" I do respect your desire to support the absolute sanctity of marriage, but in all matters we as Christian are bound to follow scripture, even when it disagrees with our point of view. I think that you need to allow that Jesus is indeed making an exception for adultery in Matthew 19:9. Then I would be happy to continue this discussion on some of the other points you have raised. So rather than "take off" on this one to any length, I will give you a long list of links where I have covered a variety of questions on the topic:

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

Question #19:

Bob,

I want to make sure that I understand what you are saying here. You said, "I do respect your desire to support the absolute sanctity of marriage, but in all matters we as Christian are bound to follow scripture, even when it disagrees with our point of view. I think that you need to allow that Jesus is indeed making an exception for adultery in Matthew 19:9. Then I would be happy to continue this discussion on some of the other points you have raised."

If Jesus is making an exception for divorcement instead of quoting the Mosaic law and the Jewish violation of even that law, why did he say that from the beginning it was not so, but Moses allowed it because of the hardness of the heart in the case of fornication? How is an exception for divorce and remarriage reconciled with "from the beginning it was not so" and "what God therefore has joined together let no man put asunder"? Isn’t Jesus our point of rejoining us to God’s ways as it was in the beginning before the fall of Adam? Do Christians have permission to walk in the hardness of the heart as acceptable practices to God? Wouldn’t repentance and forgiveness be in order for every situation concerning reconciliation and restoration from sin to righteousness?

Sincerely,

Response #19:

I think if you are able to get around to reading all of the links you will get a better feel for the balanced perspective I have tried to provide.

However, Jesus does say, "except in cases of porneia" (twice: Matt.5:22; 19:9). So we cannot very well advocate adhering exclusively to the Law and ignore the words of our Lord. Even if we do, the Law also has this same exception, after all.

Your point about repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation as preferable is a fine one. But, clearly, it doesn't solve all problems. As teachers, we don't want to be in the position of the man in James who says to the hungry person without adequate clothing "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled!" without actually helping.

What if a person comes to you and says that their spouse deserted them and divorced them, apart from their own will or desire, and now has come back and wants to reconcile – after having married and divorced someone else? Is reconciliation mandatory then – because of our Lord's words about Genesis? Is it even godly (Deut.24:4)? Are there other considerations here one would need to weigh before rendering judgment? And what about the wronged party? Suppose the wronged party has remarried based upon the porneia exception (if such had taken place); was that legitimate? And would it matter which party initiated the porneia? What if it were only suspected (we don't have the "waters of bitterness" test available to us today, after all). Is said party required to divorce now in order to reconcile so as to recreate the Genesis marriage? Does that "depend", and if so, what are the important variables to consider?

The above is only one of dozens of situations which in fact do come up all the time. It's all very well to say that Christians should never find themselves in any such situation in the first place. But, as I am sure you are aware, even Christians make mistakes, and sometimes they make real "doozies". And when it comes to marriage, sometimes the mistakes are made by the other party (or mostly so); and sometimes third parties are involved. And often it is a case of multiple mistakes.

So it's all very well to stand on "simple principle", but as I have tried to show above (and as I believe the contents of the links will show), the biblical situation is actually more complicated than a single principle which covers all eventualities. The fact that our Lord includes an exception which is not explained (either by Him, or in the Law), and the fact that the apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter of 1st Corinthians to potential exceptions and questions about marriage tells me very clearly that it is not as simple as a single fits-all principle. Why not? Well, for one reason, marriage involves two people, and even if we love our spouse to death, we cannot control his/her behavior. Since two sets of free will are involved, absolute simplicity is out the window (hence the exception and the clarifications). Secondly, there is forgiveness. Hidden behind the desire to impose a Genesis-marriage principle that is more rigorous than even our Lord's words indicate and certainly one which ignores 1st Corinthians chapter seven is, generally speaking, an unwillingness to allow that some Christians may fail, fall, sin, err – and yet be entitled to forgiveness all the same. Most of the people I have encountered who want it "simple" are happily married for the first time with no intent or prospect of divorce. That is fine. Such people should, in my view, examine their lives and ask whether or not they are free from sin entirely and have never made any serious mistakes in their lives; just as they were forgiven, they really ought to consider being forgiving towards others whose weaknesses and failures may be different:

And forgive us what we owe you just as we also forgive those who owe us.
Matthew 6:12

And forgive us our sins just as we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
Luke 11:4

But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:15 NKJV

But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Mark 11:26 NKJV

One final and important point (which you will also find in the links) is that noting the context of our Lord's remarks is key: Jesus was lambasting hypocrites who were using the Law to divorce absolutely innocent women to marry younger ones who'd piqued their interest (and in a time and place where this would mean the absolute devastation of the older first wife). So it is really the unusual cruelty of these men and their actions which our Lord is attacking – rather than giving a "sermon" on marriage generally. That is why, in my view, our Lord does not cover every single possible angle of marriage situations. That is not His purpose. Doing so would in any case only cloud the issue: namely, that destroying another person you've pledged yourself to for the sake of your lust and using God's Word as a justification is the epitome of evil – and our Lord's appeal to Genesis proves the point by demonstrating the reason for marriage and its proper conduct. Turning this passage (in any of its iterations) into a club to beat up innocent or repentant parties is not only reversing its true meaning but also does not hold water when all the scriptural evidence is considered.

Many of the people I minister to on this issue are wracked with guilt about their past conduct or confused about what they may or may not do according to scripture. This is a very delicate area of application of the scriptures, one where "getting it wrong" is no minor thing (lives often hang in the balance). Being "absolute" when the scripture isn't can have very dangerous repercussions. I have actually heard many so-called pastors counsel people in second marriages to divorce (calling said marriage "adultery"). Since in my view that is not at all what scripture teaches, I would not want to be in said pastor's shoes when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. How to answer the Lord for mis-using His Word in a way that led others to severely damage their lives and the lives of others (children, for example, are not benefitted by additional and unnecessary divorces)?

In sum, there are things I feel we can say from scripture and things we can't say on this topic; saying what can't be said is wrong and dangerous, while refusing to say what can be said is unkind and unhelpful. So I do my best to explain everything that we can glean from scripture on this topic. My bottom line which you will also find in the links is as follows. According to scripture, the best advice I can give any Christian with questions about marriage, divorce and remarriage is:

1) Are you single? Stay single . . . but if you are unable to do so get married and then

2) once married, stay married . . . but if for whatever reason the marriage fails then

3) once divorced, stay single . . . but if you do remarry then

4) once married, stay married . . . etc.

No matter what good advice we give, chances are that many (or even most) will not follow it. But refusing to give scriptural guidance is a bit cowardly, while giving bad advice (by which I mean advice that is contrary to scripture) is a real problem – and one that is likely to become our problem when the Lord takes us to task for it.

I'm happy to discuss any of the specifics if you wish.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Good morning Bob,

Once again I want to express my gratitude to God for allowing me to connect and you for your continuing dialog. It has proven to be invaluable thus far and we'll worth the efforts. I believe that we share the same heart for ministry with regard to our obligations to God and the people that we serve. Sometimes preacher's egotistical views of themselves will not allow them to minister beyond themselves because of the fears of the venerability that is required to truly minister the things that be of God. They mistake different methods as doing something different, when there are various ways to minister the same message instead of various ways to minister various messages. We should never find ourselves saying different things about the same things. I have read through all of the links and I believe that we are saying the same things about the same things even if our methods may have variations with circumstances. For the various circumstances we cannot put a blanket response to the issues of marriage and divorce. I believe that Jesus always represents the link to God's will from the beginning and no matter what circumstance he funds us in, he is pointing us back the righteousness as it was in the beginning with God so that the Father may be glorified as it was in the beginning. Having said that, I believe that is precisely what Jesus was doing with the circumstances that he was faced with at the time and giving instructions to the beginning. God has not planned his word according to the desires or predicaments of his creation, but for all things created to conform to his desire by his word to please and glorify him. Marriage is covenant institution of God and the importance of this covenant between a man and a woman has been put on the level of Christ and the church. Thus the standards to strive for must also have the same as our desire for and work after salvation with fear (respect and honor) and trembling (humble submission) before God. This requires the advocate of God to convey this importance and expect that those who want to enter into the covenant will be obedient to the covenant seeing that he is the representative of God at that point. I believe that the counseling is key to our involvement in all circumstances. When we have the opportunity to be the first influence before the presence of sin, we have the perfect circumstance and we need to care for it as such. I would not counsel people about divorce, but warn them against the influence that allows people to use divorce as the "golden parachute" to get out of a marriage that they have not given the proper nurturing to succeed in the covenant. We cannot change what God has required for conformity in his perfection to accommodate human infirmity or disobedience. That would certainly be irresponsible counsel and part of the problem and not part of the solution. If we should find ourselves confronted as Jesus found himself with the willful deceivers that came to him, we should point to the laws that they believe for clarity of their compliance to those as well as pointing to the perfect will of God extended to the participation of imperfect people striving for perfection on him and not themselves. Some marriages succeed and some marriages fail. Some are failed from the beginning because they are formed out of the lust of man so often confused for love by the strong emotional ties that develop over time between the 2 people. Divorce introduces sin as the initial step to the way to dissolve marriage which is not of God. However divorce is not the final act to dissolve the first marriage, remarriage is. The divorce that is the result of some sin stands to be forgiven through repentance and if there is no remarriage to another person, the original marriage can be restored. If there has been a remarriage the first marriage has been dissolved and no way back to the original because marriage and remarriage constitutes adultery. Jesus dealt with these same evil people who were trying to trap him by their laws in the issue of adultery to see if he would break their law and Jesus called them to the higher purpose of the law that convicted them of the law that everyone was guilty of and stopped their act of condemnation of the woman and Jesus at the same time. This is why we must be very careful as to how we give instruction according to circumstances to be sure that the circumstances are brought under subjection to the word of God and not the word of God distorted to accommodate the circumstances. Ultimately God is to be glorified as it was in the beginning. We don't have to live our lives in reverse because God is the same in the beginning and the ending with Jesus in the middle to guide us by the Holy Spirit. I will do as Jesus did with both marriage, divorce and adultery which is what I believe is the bottom line of what you are saying. Take the opportunity in circumstance before you to heal and not to condemn and advise to go and sin no more. If the counsel is not heeded, do not participate in the activities, but remain an available resource of counsel, especially to those who have crossed some serious boundaries of obedience to the edge of no return. Even when our hearts condemn us he is greater than our hearts and we should always be ready for reconciliation to bring everything into the obedience to Christ no matter how far they have strayed by any circumstance. To willfully sin with counsel and knowledge of God is refuse to retain God in knowledge and venture down the road to apostasy being form in a willful practice of sin that delivers one to the reprobate mind apart from the ways of God. We must always address sin as sin and offer God's way out of sin no matter what the circumstances are.

Thanks again,

Response #20:

I agree with most of what you say here. I will allow as to how your approach has to be somewhat different from mine. You are a pastor of a local church community; I am a Bible teacher with no "members" apart from those Christians who voluntarily follow this ministry. As a result, I do not find myself in the position of counseling married couples; when I do hear from fellow Christians on this topic, it is almost always after the fact when they are seeking the truth about their situations and looking for comfort and guidance. In that context, there are many out there who preach (I shun to say "teach") that these individuals should divorce (if remarried); to me, that is a bigger abuse than any original divorce, almost regardless of the reasons for first separating. I'm happy to hear that you are not in that number, and I can certainly see how in counseling a married couple with problems, that encouraging them to "work it out" is certainly a godly thing to do. My responses on this issue have mostly come after the egg has been scrambled. There are people in that situation – plenty of them – and I give them the guidance I find in scripture.

There are a few things I would want to clarify, however. The first would be that John 8:1-11 is not part of the Bible. Second, that there are divorced people who have committed no sin, who have, in fact, been sinned against, and who, for that reason, are most definitely allowed to remarry without any spiritual qualms whatsoever (and certainly without sin), by Jesus' own words. Third, that being in a state of marriage is not adultery; the Lord's words make it clear that the "adultery" being practiced by the Pharisees consisted of wrongly divorcing and then remarrying for lust. So on the one hand the circumstances don't apply to the vast majority of divorced and remarried Christians, and on the other hand, even in those cases where they do, the act of wrongly marrying after wrongly divorcing is the sin, not the second marriage. And God does forgive sin. Some things cannot be undone. Divorce is one of those things. But God does forgive.

Between giving Christians no hope of peace if ever they make a mistake in this area of life on the one hand, and proclaiming that divorcing and remarrying as often as one would like and for whatever reasons one is no sin and no problem and will have no spiritual repercussions, there is the scriptural middle ground (i.e., the four points of general guidance I generally give). We all make decisions in this life, and God knows our hearts in making them. We cannot hide any sin from Him, and it is against Him and Him only that we sin. It is always better to do things His way, but for those of us who are not perfect and who make mistakes, knowing that He forgives us our sins and restores us when we repent and confess is a blessing greater than can be expressed.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Good day to you professor!

I want to begin this email by saying that I thank God for your ministry. It has greatly help me over the years, from studying and reading more to increased faith in the Word and the word of God by knowing what the bible has to say about various topics that all believers in Christ should be concerned with. Thank for remaining faithful to the call and keeping your eyes forward and your hands on the plow.

I have a question in regards to the woman caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees. In John 7:53–8:11. Specifically in Chapter 8:7 is it possible that Jesus wrote God's (His) name on the ground, in a way of letting them know who exactly he was and then make the challenge "All that are without sin cast the 1st stone." Even though the bible doesnt give total details (or details we, I specifically, would like to know), I ask this question because to me Jesus had to had wrote something down that would compel them to change their minds about stoning this woman.

If I am wrong on this, I would love to know so that I can focus more on more important details which are contained in this scripture.

Another question that I have pertains to the gifts of the Spirit and personal ministry for Christ. I was always taught that a person's ministry will be based on personal interests and talents a person may have (pre salvation). Question: Is there a correlation between a person's interest and their talent to their specific ministry for Christ. Or does Christ have a different idea on what we will do in service to him.

I know that you are busy and whenever you answer would be great. Thank you for your help on these matters and I wait in expectation to hear what you say (of course based on scripture).

Have a blessed day!

Response #21:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you so much for your encouraging words.

As to your questions:

1) The pericope of the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53–8:11, is not a part of the Bible. It was inserted by an unknown hand during the middle ages into the manuscript tradition that unfortunately came to be the basis for the King James version. As a result in no small measure to the popularity of that version, it has been codified in all English translations in spite of the fact that we are in a position now (indeed, have been since the late 19th century) to recognize this truth. But in spite of the cowardice exhibited by Bible publishers, the passage is most definitely not scripture and should be discarded from any consideration as the false interpolation it is (see the link: "Erroneous Interpolations into the Bible").

2) On this one, scripture tells us that there are different gifts, different ministries, and different effects, with the Spirit, the Son and the Father being responsible for each category respectively (1Cor.12:4-6). There are specific spiritual gifts mentioned in scripture (1Cor.12-14; Rom.12 and Eph.4 being the primary places where these are listed in the New Testament). On the one hand there is no indication in my view that these lists are meant to be exhaustive, and on the other there are clearly shadings, degrees and sub-types of each gift; what that means is that while all Christians are "gifted", it would be wrong to think of these "gifts" only in terms of very narrowly defined categories. Obviously, God also gave us aptitudes before salvation and the Spirit no doubt takes these into account in His assignment of gifts in particular cases. It also makes great sense that God whose Plan is perfect, that God who knows the end from the beginning, has also taken into account the end use of such gifts so that matching up gifts to ministries (and also to effects) is something I certainly believe is the case. There is also, of course, the issue of the willingness of the believer in question to grow, to progress, and to serve; that will also affect the calculus of who gets what and why in terms of gifts, ministries and effects.

Please see the link: in part 5 of the Basics series, "Pneumatology": "Spiritual Gifts".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

 

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