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Question #1:

To whom it may concern,

I am curious about divorce? I am in my third marriage, divorced by my former wives. What are your thoughts on divorce?

Response #1:

I have written a good deal about this subject which posted to Ichthys. Given the very general nature of your question, please allow me to point you to the appropriate links:

Marriage and the Bible III

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?

Do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Hello my friend, here I am, once again searching the truth. This time my question is about what Jesus said about divorce. In mathew 5:31-33 and mathew 19 He says that the only cause for divorce approved by God is adultery/fornication.

My Question is: what does it say in the original text?

And another question: where in God's word can I find guidance from God if there is violence in the marriage? Since adultery is the only reasonable and approved cause of divorce, should a wife endure and resist violence (physical or psychological) from her husband? Of course, how can there be violence in a Christian marriage? What if one of them turns away from the Lord and starts being violent?

I see lots of divorced couples in the church and my heart aches about this. I want to write a bible study about this topic and really look forward for your help and for the Holy Spirit guidance to all truth.

Yours, in Christ.

Response #2:

Good to hear from you. This is an involved and somewhat complicated question, although I will note that you have very wisely (with spiritual common sense no doubt) come upon one very important issue that makes oversimplification based upon the passages you cite clearly inappropriate: our Lord's entire purpose in castigating the legalists of His day on this matter was to protect defenseless women (who are being divorced merely so that their husbands could marry someone younger), and most definitely not to condemn women to life-long abuse. That is to say, these passages teach the responsibility that marriage entails. I have written much about this, so I am going to ask you to have a look at the following links and get back to me in case there is anything you have questions about (or don't find otherwise addressed) on this subject:

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?

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L. 

Question #3:

Thank you Bob, I'll read all your links and mail you afterwards if I have questions. I've heard some cases that were hard to believe! Two people got married just because "a prophet told them to do so"! A minister that left his wife because she was not helpful to the ministry and married another woman that "completed" his ministry, and for what I've been told, God uses them to bless lots of people. There's something inside of me telling me to search for the truth. The first thing that came to my mind is that maybe we are dealing with two different topics: 1) what does it take to be used by God and if He can use people living in sin (not sinning like we all do because of our flesh, but rather living in sin), He even used a donkey to teach balaam a lesson! 2) the way we live our lives and how it relates to our salvation (salvation comes by faith, but faith without works is dead).

All these came to mind when I heard about this minister. Above all, there's only one allowed to judge, our dear Lord Jesus Christ, what I want to know is what God thinks about this matter.

I'll read your links and be back in touch with you.

May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bless you, give you wisdom and may His presence be with you.

In Christ.

Response #3:

You are very welcome.

I don't know what minister you are referring to (and I prefer not to know), but if the facts as you report them are accurate, it is safe to say that this person had no right to divorce his wife and no right to remarry. Is God using him and his ministry even so? Perhaps. Nothing is impossible for God. He continued to use David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, Uriah. However, the adultery and the murder were still horrible things, and David suffered horrendous divine discipline as a result. So we should not, for example, take the fact that David was wonderfully used of the Lord even after these terrific failures as some sort of "evidence" that they were not terrific failures – they certainly were. Also, David did not try to justify his sins; rather he admitted their sinfulness and confessed them. If this person is seeking to justify his conduct by supposedly being "used by God" – something of which, given the low quality of most "ministries" out there today in terms of what the Lord really wants (the feeding of His sheep with the Word of God) I would be highly skeptical – then that is not just sinful, that is the definition of evil.

Yours in the dear Lord who bought us from our sins with His own blood, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello Bob, hope you are doing great!

I've read all your posts about marriage/remarriage/divorce. All of them have been helpful in my research. I keep thanking God for the gift He gave you and the way you use it to bless us all.

I would like to ask for your patience and language skills. In Deuteronomy 24:1 what's the original Hebrew word translated as "something indecent about her" (NIV) or "some uncleanness in her" (King James)? How would you translate it?

I find many people thinking that it's about having pre-marital sexual engagement, or committing adultery, but I think that's not what this verse is about, since it's talking about motives to repudiate (sorry, I don't know if that's the right word, don't forget that I'm from Argentina) and give women a letter of divorce, and in Deuteronomy 22 we find that if a man finds that his wife was not a virgin when they got married, or if a man finds his wife with another man, they should die.

Can you help me one more time?

Yours, in the one who is The Truth, The Way and The Life, the Verb, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Response #4:

You're most welcome.

The Hebrew phrase 'erbhat dhabhar means, literally, "the nakedness of a matter" or "a matter of nakedness", but this is a euphemism for (illicit) sexual activity. It can also compromise, potentially, disgraceful or intolerable behavior. No doubt the lack of precise wording was deliberate, the Spirit not wanting on the one hand to suggest that forgiveness and reconciliation in such cases was wrong or impossible, and on the other hand not wanting to rule out many other potential situations where a divorce was called for but technical adultery had not been committed. The "hardness of heart" in our Lord's generation comes in where these individuals used the scripture entirely the wrong way, being unwilling to reconcile and forgive on the one hand, and using the flexibility of language as an all-purpose tool to condemn any woman any husband wanted to get rid of. I say a few things about this at the links:

No Grounds for Divorce? (see Q/A #2)

Marriage "Matters" (see Q/A #2)

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Bob, thanks one again for you time and your answer.

There's something that I feel I'm not catching properly. Deuteronomy 24 and Deuteronomy 22: Deuteronomy 24 speaks about divorce under erbhat dhabhar (meaning wrongful sexual activity as you point out), to what circumstances then is the atonement referred to in Deuteronomy 22?? Are these two passages referring to different situations? Why God commands to put to death a woman found committing adultery, and two chapters later he allows divorce for the same cause? I know that the Word of God does not have contradictions, so, What am I missing here?

Sorry for taking your time!

In Christ

Response #5:

I'm not finding the passage you mean – unless it is about the betrothed woman in chapter 22 (that would be a different situation – there is as yet not even any marriage). As mentioned, the language in chapter 24 is deliberately flexible – to allow for many egregious situations; the hardness of heart evident in Jesus' day took the flexibility the other way in opening up the opportunities for divorce (rather than for reconciliation). In general, the Law demonstrates the impossibility of being righteous – that is its true purpose (Rom.7:7). No one can keep the Law. No one has ever kept the Law. And I would guess that no one has ever lived pure enough to be, technically speaking, not liable for execution because of violation of the Law – since every "high-handed" or deliberate sin is worthy of death (Num.15:29-31). Even if the standards of the Law had been applied modestly in historic Israel, there would have been a rapid drop off in the population. After all, wasn't David worthy of death (for murder and adultery)? And yet God forgave him. So before we get too upset about the niceties of the Law, it is well to remember its purpose (proving everyone sinful), its rare application (most of these statutes and regulations were never carried out or observed), and God's overruling grace and mercy – that is what the gospel of the cross is all about, after all. The only people who ever ostensibly tried to "live the Law" in a systematic way were those of Jesus' hardened "generation" (of many centuries) who had to redefine the Law in some very bizarre ways in order to make it palatable to themselves; they ended up redefining Jesus Christ and God's grace out of it entirely, using the Law instead to justify their own actions – precisely the opposite of its godly purpose.

Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear (i.e., observance of the Law)? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
Acts 15:10-11 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Dear Robert, once again thank you for your time and your answer. Maybe I was not clear when I wrote my e-mail. I'm not reading Deuteronomy to say that it should be used today! Trust me, I have experienced God's mercy and forgiveness in amazing ways, and I'm not looking at Deuteronomy in a "saved by works" approach. The passage I was talking about is Deuteronomy 22:22 (if a married woman is found with another man, both should be stoned to death). So my question was about the difference between the cause for the bill of divorce (as found in Deuteronomy 24) and the fact described in Deuteronomy 22:22.

Just to be clear: I am saved because Jesus is the Son of God, he lived in this world without sinning and died for me. He paid the price for my sins. I'm saved by faith in Jesus Christ and His absolutely amazing love and grace.

As I told you, I received Jewish education all my life; I know what the Mishna is about, the Gemara and the Talmud. All of them compiled after Jesus came, but still all of them showing the spirit of the Pharisees. When Jesus asked the Pharisees, in a certain way He just "played their game", showing them how futile and false were their "discussions", how they were always trying to add interpretations to the law just to be able to live by it, instead of recognizing their need of a savior. And there's only One who fulfilled the law: our dear Lord Jesus Christ.

I'm sorry if there was some misunderstanding.

Yours in Christ.

Response #6:

I do understand that you personally "get it"; no need whatsoever for apologies. My answer is that the earlier reference (Deut.22:22) refers to a case of someone "caught in act" so that there is no ambiguity or doubt whatsoever. The passage on divorce (Deut.24:1) is more general; the woman has "found no favor" for some reason which, as I indicated, usually has something to do with shameful conduct of a sexual nature (which is why our Lord say epi porneia at Matt.19:9); there is some unfaithfulness involved, but not necessarily actual adultery "caught in the act". As I indicated before, the Hebrew phrasing of Duet.24:1 allows some flexibility in order to include unspecified situations where genuine unfaithful conduct (which may not be grounds for stoning) is involved. The error of the generation of our Lord's day was that they expanded this phrase to include absolutely anything necessary to allow for divorce on demand.

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

I was saved during my previous marriage, my ex husband was not. He was in pornography, drugs, alcohol and abuse. I believe he was also having numerous affairs but I can't prove that. He said he didn't love me, married me cause he felt sorry for me but I was beneath him. I started drinking, smoking cigarettes and going to clubs. I then had an affair, I wanted to get back at him and hurt him at all cost. I left him and was out for blood and stopped going to church. I was mad at God for the things I went through in my marriage. I eventually got remarried and started back praying and reading my bible. I started going back to church. My question is am I doomed to go to hell cause I remarried? Do I have to divorce the man I'm married to now. I love the Lord and I think he talks to me. I don't want to go to hell.

Response #7:

Hello Friend,

Good to make your acquaintance.

One thing I always like to make crystal clear in such discussions is that this is not an issue of your salvation. You are clearly a believer and one who is deeply concerned about pleasing the Lord at that. We know for certain from scripture that unbelievers are the only ones who go to hell – of their own free will because they are unwilling to accept the Gift of Jesus Christ.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

So please put aside all unnecessary and irrational fear. Guilt, a seldom helpful emotion, has a way of stoking fear and motivating all manner of dangerous behavior. Try never to do anything out of guilt. If we have sinned, moreover (and everyone sins: 1Ki.8:46; Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2), we know that we are forgiven as soon as we confess our sins to the Lord (1Jn.1:9), and that we have an Advocate with the Father, our dear Lord Jesus Christ (1Jn.2:1-2). Now we may be disciplined for our sinning, but the punishment we receive is from a loving Father towards His dear sons and daughters, designed in every way for our good and certainly not to destroy us (Heb.12:1ff.). Whenever we do stray, we are always welcomed back when we repent with loving and open arms:

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
Luke 15:21-24a NIV

So please know that you are still beloved of the Lord, and that whatever you have actually done was paid for on the cross, and forgiven the moment you confessed it. We Christians are left here on earth to look forward in hope, not backward in guilt:

(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

The main thing now is to pursue spiritual growth, spiritual progress in an ever closer walk with the Lord, and spiritual production. These are the things that the Lord wants from us, and these are the basis for our heavenly crowns and eternal rewards (please see the link).

As to your present situation, the rules are pretty simple, in my view, but worth restating inasmuch as they are many self-righteous types out there in cyber-space these days who take some sort of sick joy in playing on the fears and guilt that someone in your situation may have. Best course of action: stay single. But if you marry, you have not sinned; now stay married. But if you divorce, best course of action: stay single; but if you marry, now stay married (even if there are questions about your right of divorce, right of remarriage, etc.).

If a person has committed a sin in marrying, it is the act of marrying that is the sin, not the state of marriage thereafter. An omelet once scrambled cannot be turned back into unbroken eggs. We do many things in life which can't be "fixed" after the fact. Marriage is certainly one of those things. Divorce does not reestablish the former state of affairs – it creates a new state of affairs. If the husband and wife in the new marriage are content to remain married, then whatever "issues" obtained in bringing about that marriage may cause difficulties (they certainly did for David and Bathsheba), but that is not an argument for a further divorce. It always amazes me that for these "anti-divorce" types their solution is . . . divorce! One would think that this would be seen by all as ridiculous on its face, but that is part and parcel of the lukewarm Laodicean age in which we live, where legalism often passes for closeness to God – but that is no more true today than it was for the Pharisees of our Lord's day.

So I can't tell you that you didn't make any mistakes (I don't know; that is a situational judgment call, and really not that important after the fact), nor can I tell you that there is no divine discipline for mistakes (but then we are all disciplined, and that only proves that we are true sons and daughters: Heb.12:8; after we confess, all discipline is for blessing). What I can tell you is that 1) you are saved and in no danger of apostasy; 2) with very few exceptions God's will for the married is to remain married if possible and make the best of that marriage, however it came to be and whatever the circumstances of it are; 3) anyone counseling you to divorce has no biblical basis for doing so (see links below).

After all, divorce causes all sorts of harm to all parties, not just the husband and wife but also families and children, and in all manner of ways. To wrongly put God's stamp of approval on divorce – when we all know from scripture that divorce is to be avoided if possible – is a horrifically dangerous thing for those giving that un-biblical advice (and potentially very damaging for anyone with the unfortunate predisposition to listen to it).

This is a very brief synopsis of something I have written about at some length elsewhere at Ichthys. Here are some links where specific passages are discussed, but the basic conclusion is the same: confess, move on, and make the best if possible of the situation you are now irrevocably in – and if you happen to be happy, don't feel guilty about it but give the glory to our loving and forgiving God:

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?

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

Your fellow believer in the One who died for all of our sins that we might have life eternal with Him, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:

Thank you so much for getting back to me. I've made myself so sick and depressed over this. I've had people tell me I was going to hell. I'm not perfect and have made plenty of mistakes and plenty of sins. I've prayed forgiveness over and over. I love JESUS. I think I hear him sometimes buy then I wonder if it's just me talking to myself. Maybe it's the devil trying to make me give up so I can't help someone else, I don't know. I just want to go to heaven and be with JESUS

Response #8:

You're most welcome.

Take my advice and give those people who are telling you such things as you report here a very wide berth.

Spiritual growth (see the link) is the answer to everything. The more you learn about the truth . . . and believe it with all your heart, the better you will be able to love the Lord day by day and do what is well-pleasing in His sight. And the more you grow the more peace you will have as to your position as a child of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, looking forward to our resurrection and not back to the past and failure (of which we all have a share).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Is the following article true about if you get married after repenting sexual sin you are still fornicating? I can hardly live knowing apparently I'm still a fornicator. Can you read this article? Is it true ? It is below please help me.

http://m.blogs.christianpost.com/marriage/

fornication-sinning-against-your-body-part-2-4139/

Response #9:

Good to hear from you. I read this article . . . at least as much of it as I was able to stomach. One thing I would observe immediately about this screed is that it shares a common characteristic with other such material which are also not true, namely, it is very difficult to figure out at many points exactly what "the rules" are or exactly what the author means to say at very many points. The net effect is to create a wellspring of guilt from such uncertainty in anyone reading this article, anyone, that is, who has ever heard the word "sex" before. I don't know the author, but I'll wager that he is not Simon-pure. After all, we know from our Lord's own words that any man who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart – and that would certainly include any male I've ever had occasion to meet (except perhaps for someone who prefers the same sex). We are all sinners, something the author doesn't seem to understand or accept. And all sin is sin before God, something else he doesn't apparently "get". Many of the author's conclusions of course are completely out of line with the Bible. Nowhere does it say that a person who has sinned is now locked out of heaven or locked out of having relations with their spouse (!?). Paul says, "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband" (1Cor.7:3). But the author counsels the opposite of what scripture conjoins on the basis of some legalistic and self-righteous extra-biblical speculation.

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

Notice that this verse says that God is "faithful and just" and "will forgive" those who confess as a result, and that He cleanses us when we confess of "all unrighteousness". But the author says we are not forgiven, not cleansed. I would prefer to believe scripture.

All sin has consequences, and some sins are more devastating than others and cause more complications. If in a fit of arrogance I walk out into traffic and get hit for my trouble, God will forgiven my arrogance when I confess, but I still may need to go to the hospital. That doesn't prove that for the rest of my life I'll always be a stain of the Body of Christ and never be right in my heart again.

"If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?"
Psalm 130:3 NIV

My advice is the same as ever. When we sin, we should repent (biblical repentance in doing a 180 away from the previous direction) and confess (a simple prayer to the Lord in faith), and move on (we are told to forget the past: Phil.3:13), and there are volumes about this at Ichthys (see for example: "Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground", "Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II" and "Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I"). What we should avoid like the plague are internet sites and bloggers who claim to be believers but who are intent upon drawing us into cults or cult-like behavior. "Test the spirits to see if they are of God" (1Jn.4:1), and stay away from those who are not. No one who is oblivious to the love, mercy, grace and forgiveness of God – and no one who clearly has no issues with twisting and distorting scripture to make his putative point – is worthy of our time and attention. Guilt is one of the devil's main weapons, and legalists like this person know, as Satan knows, how it to use it against those who are wavering in any point of faith because of some past misdeed that still causes them concern. We all have skeletons in the closet, but yesterday is gone and we cannot do anything to change it whatsoever. Let us move forward with Jesus Christ in light and love and truth, knowing that He has already died for all of our sins, has already cleansed them with His blood, and always welcomes back those who love Him more than life:

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
Luke 15:21-24a NIV

Your sin our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Dear Bob,

I decided to read through the entire Old Testament again, just to make sure I remember as much as I can, and many of the books in the OT were very interesting to read – especially the stories of David. In my New Testament half of my reading, I started on Matthew recently, and had a quick question about Chapter 5, verse 31 and 32, concerning wives:

"31 "It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

Everything I've learned thus far is telling me otherwise, but I just wanted to ask real quick: Does this verse at all have any meaning for marrying those we wish to in the first place? That is to say, if there has been any involvement before marriage on the part of the couple wanting to get married? I tend to over-think things.

Response #10:

Always good to hear from you, my friend. All of these passages are certainly capable of making anyone who has not been perfect in his/her life feel guilty enough to "over-think" the issue. Sin confessed is sin forgiven, and no one is perfect. Whatever discipline we have received from the Lord is sufficient; we don't need to heap on more ourselves. Matthew 5:31-32 is speaking about divorce for those who are married; and secondarily about remarriage in cases where the same sin as that of the Pharisees where replacement of an innocent party out of the motive of lust is concerned. It doesn't have any direct application which I can see to those who are unmarried by any standard – except to remind us all that marriage is serious business.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob

Hope this finds you well. Have you, in your work, written about what the Bible means by a man a women becoming ‘one flesh.’ Does God consider their spirits to be ‘one’ in some sense or does He mean in terms of practical and physical functionality. (Day to day togetherness, procreation, support, etc.). If they are considered one spirit how would it effect sin, forgiveness, salvation, etc. I am interested to know what the original sense or meaning was.

Response #11:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

"Flesh" means flesh, that is, a physical joining. Spiritually speaking, married partners retain their own free will as well as the responsibility for how they use it. Marriage was given to mankind in Eden, and "one flesh" unity presented no problem for Adam and Eve . . . until they sinned, acquired sin natures thereby, and were ejected from paradise. Today, "one flesh" is a commitment to act as one, with the wife giving her respect to the husband and the husband his love to the wife (Eph.5:33), with Christ's love for the Church providing the perfect analogy of how things should be (Eph.5:22-33).

Here are some links where various aspects of the "one flesh" issue are discussed:

What constitutes marriage, biblically speaking?

No Grounds for Divorce?

Sensitive Topics (esp. Q/A #3)

Is "helpmeet" a wrong translation in Genesis 2:20?

The Creation of Eve (in BB 3A)

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage a civil institution

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ who gave up His life for us, the Church He so deeply loves.

Bob L.

Question #12:

I was wondering about 1 Tim 3:2. The phrase "the husband of but one wife" NIV. This phrase seems uncommon and is hard to read and understand from my viewpoint. Is Paul warning against divorce or polyandry?

Response #12:

On "the husband of but one wife" in 1st Timothy 3:2, I do think that polygamy is what is being prohibited (whether "official" or de facto). Here are some things I have already written about this:

The only biblical standard I know of which has any possible application to this question is the one found at 1st Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 where it is said that an elder (lit., overseer or "bishop" = someone in the premier leadership circle of the local church) must be a "husband of one wife", a phrase which means, as my sainted old Church History professor Dr. Christian correctly interpreted, "one at a time". That is, the purpose of these verses is to make polygamy (whether official or being practiced surreptitiously) a disqualifying circumstance for the office of elder.

And:

To my knowledge, the only thing that the Bible says directly about this subject is in 1st Timothy 3:2 (and Titus 1:6; cf. 1Tim.3:12 for deacons) where it states that "The overseer (i.e., pastor) is to be above reproach, the husband of one wife . . .". This phrase is generally interpreted in one of three ways: either 1) that a pastor has to be married; or 2) that a pastor can only ever have had one wife (remarriage following a divorce or even after being widowed being seen as prohibited); or 3) that a pastor cannot have multiple wives. In my view, based upon exegesis of the Greek text, view #1 is unlikely because this is by far not the best or clearest way to make such a point if that were what Paul was trying to say (i.e., it would be much more natural in Greek just to say "he must be married"). Also, by this logic, the stipulation that he must have believing and obedient children (Tit.1:6) would then have to mean that a pastor must have children, and not only that, but children old enough to be subjected to this test, and young enough to still be at home so as to be tested in this way. I think rather that just as the offspring stipulation means "if he has children in the home", so the marriage stipulation means, "if he is presently married"; view #2 is unlikely because of necessity it entails forbidding remarriage after being widowed, something that scripture does not prohibit elsewhere (and also because it would have been very easy for Paul just to say the person must not be divorced if that is really what he means, something which he does not say directly); view #3, therefore, is the most likely based upon the clear sense of the words in Greek, and squares nicely with the problems we may expect Paul to be heading off in his pastoral epistles. Rome never countenanced polygamy, and by Paul's day it was unusual in the Greek-speaking part of the empire. But the very fact that it was not unusual for Roman and particularly Greek marriage contracts of the day to spell out expressly the prohibition of a second, simultaneous marriage shows ipso facto that such things did indeed occur. Beyond that, there is also the fact that "concubinage" was a very widespread institution in both Greece and Rome at this time (just as the "mistress" remains a Gallic institution to this day). The Greek text in both Timothy and Titus says, literally, "the man of one woman", since there is no specific word for either husband or wife in Greek. One can well see how Paul would want to make the point that it would not do for a potential pastor to have a second "woman" in tow, whether or not she was officially married to him, for that peculiar institution did not have the same stigma then as it does today.

Question #13:

Thanks again.

Did Moses remarry, or did he have 2 wives? I'm having a hard time finding the information. So far, I know about Jethro's daughter and the Cushite woman that Moses's siblings spoke out against.

Response #13:

Hello Friend,

As far as I know, scripture does not tell us whether or not Moses and Zipporah were officially divorced. However, it does seem to be clear that by leaving, she presented him with a de facto divorce. We don't know what happened when Jethro brought her and the children back (i.e., whether she stayed or left; whether the two were reconciled or not). What we do know is that Moses did marry the Ethiopian woman, and that when Aaron and Miriam found fault with Moses' action it was they who were reproved and (in Miriam's case) disciplined by the Lord, not Moses. The Law of that time did not prohibit polygamy (although the Bible makes it clear that polygamy is a sure road to unhappiness); but it's not clear that this is what we have in Moses' case. Here are a couple of links where this and related subjects are covered:

Moses and Zipporah

Moses, Zipporah and Gershom

Sensitive topics:  Polygamy

Biblical position on Polygamy

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your wonderful website. It is teaching me so much. I am a former Mormon still married to an active believing Mormon. Can you give me advice on how I can handle this challenging situation? Specifically, how do I pray for my husband to be saved? I ask for his eyes to be opened and for him to want to know the truth.

Can I pray away someone's free will? Will God soften his heart if I am sincere enough in my praying? After 30 years a Mormon I have just in the past year resigned membership and become a Christian. I am truly a babe in Christ. The deep indoctrination of the false Mormon teachings are still lingering in my thinking. I have been trying to deprogram myself this past year all alone. Not really alone, because I have the scriptures and the Holy Spirit guiding me, but I mean alone as far as humans are concerned. I do not know any born again Christians. I am seeking a church family that teaches truth and can help me come to know Jesus Christ. I would like to be baptized. If a church teaches eternal security and pre trib rapture should I continue seeking or attend anyway to be with Christians and be of service to others and be properly baptized? I have visited several Baptist churches and one community church in the area. Some are too new age with coffee offered as you enter and a band with drums set up playing music that is anything but holy. I have spent my entire life being deceived. I want truth. Where do I find it? Forgive me if your site has answered these questions already. I have just discovered you so I have not read all your works. Thank you again for any advice you may offer.

In gratitude,

Response #14:

Good to make your acquaintance – and thanks so much for your warm words about this ministry. I rejoice that you have come to Christ and are now my sister in Jesus! That is the most wonderful thing! I do sympathize with you in your difficult situation, however. As to the marriage itself, here is what I read in 1st Corinthians:

And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
1st Corinthians 7:13-16 NKJV

So it is permissible to stay married to the unbelieving spouse, but a believer is not to trouble him/herself if the fact of becoming a believer causes a rift that makes the marriage untenable. In the event that the spouse is willing to stay in the marriage, the marriage and any children are blessed because of the believer. The passage also addresses the possibility of leading the other party to the Lord. We can pray for another's salvation. But indeed we cannot "flip the switch" of their free will. What we have to do is to have confidence in the Lord that He knows all things, and was well aware of our dilemma and the burden on our heart for the salvation of those we love even before He made the world. So perhaps He is using the situation to bring salvation to many. Nevertheless, these things often take time and demand patience on our part; in the meantime:

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,
1st Peter 3:1 NKJV

The principle here is good for men as well. Not, of course, the submission part. But it is true that especially when we are dealing with those who know us the best, these very people are the least likely to listen to what we have to say in an objective way. As our Lord said, "no prophet is accepted in his own country" (Lk.4:24 NKJV). That doesn't mean that we can't tell those we love the truth; it does mean that it is not advisable to "hit them over the head" with the gospel on a regular basis – doing so is likely to bring resentment rather than response. But we should always be "ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1Pet.3:15 NKJV), when and if they genuinely want to talk with us about these blessed things, making the love of Christ clear to them in all we say and do.

As to churches, I regret to say that inasmuch as we are living in the last era of the Church, the era of Laodicea (see the link), finding a church where the Word of God is being taught as the primary reason for its existence and assembly is a very rare thing indeed – which explains why this ministry in on the internet and is not "brick and mortar". Thus there are very few individual churches I can recommend – and no denominations; including not the Baptists. For one thing, water-baptism is John's baptism and proclaims to Israel the coming of their Savior to die for them. For gentiles to participate in water-baptism is to proclaim that Christ has not yet died for our sins (although very few people understand that; see the link: "Baptism: Water and Spirit V").

Wanting fellowship with other believers now that you are born again is a very natural thing, and I do know of many who make use of this ministry and yet also attend conventional churches which are not "Bible teaching churches"; there is a trade-off there, but we all have to make our own choices in the Lord, and we all have our own individual needs, strengths and weaknesses (e.g., 1Cor.7:7). I suppose it is important to add that most churches which do not really teach the Bible in an orthodox and substantive way usually proclaim that they do, but if "Bible teaching" is a ten to thirty minute Sunday sermon which has little true doctrinal content (but lots of stories and illustrations), then one may be assured that the teaching is pablum and that true spiritual growth will be impossible if that is the only source of truth that a believer is receiving.

You are certainly welcome at Ichthys, regardless of where (or whether) you decide to start attending a church in your area. I can also recommend one other really excellent internet source (audio lessons with graphics in the Khan-academy style): Pastor Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy".

Here are a couple of other links at Ichthys which address this issue:

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

The Local Church and Personal Ministry

Selecting "a Cook"

Choosing a Bible Teacher

Churches:  Can you recommend a church to attend?

Best wishes with your continuing efforts for spiritual growth in the Lord! Please do feel free to write me back any time. I promise to say a prayer for you and your husband.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15:

Greetings,

I have been divorced for a number of years but still (God willing) have many years ahead of me. My husband at the time, committed adultery and divorced me for another woman. I have had no sexual relations with anyone since my divorce and remain celibate to this day. Per the the scriptures below if I remarry I would become an adulterer.

"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).

"So He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:10-11).

As the innocent party I don't think it's fair that I cannot remarry and have to spend the rest of my life without a mate. I love God and strive to obey his commandments, but this is something that I struggle to grasp.

Can you please help me understand?

Thank you and God bless.

Response #15:

Dear Friend,

These issues are often difficult and troubling ones. I want first to assure you that as a child of God the Lord loves you and wants only what is best for you – what is truly best, that is, your spiritual growth, progress and production resulting in great reward before the judgment seat of Christ (please see the link).

The second thing I would wish to say by way of prologue is that while I will give you my opinion here (as well as links to a number of places where this and many other related issues are discussed), every Christian should recognize the dangers involved in going to the scriptures for specific guidance on pressing personal problems. Indeed, God is the One to whom we should look and the Bible is the only source of divine truth here on earth apart from the creation itself which sings His praises. However, when it comes to application of the truth, we are "built" to learn that truth a little at a time day by day and grow up spiritually so as to be able to at all times and without such consultation to "be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ" (Phil.1:10). So while I most certainly do not want to give the impression that consulting the Bible or a Bible teacher is a bad thing (far from it!), I feel it my duty to remind you that all of us when under severe emotional pressure are very vulnerable to rationalizing away beliefs we hold deeply in our hearts and thus seeking out justification to change our point of view – which we would never have done, absent said pressure. I don't know of any Christians who have not experienced this phenomenon; it's part of living in the world. I say this only because we all have to live with our own consciences after the fact. My worry is that what I might have no trouble doing and my confidence in that regard might help convince you to do something which in the long run might cause you distress (when pressure releases, guilt often takes its place, whether or not the guilt is appropriate), even though it would not trouble me.

The third thing to note is that while "All things are lawful unto me" . . . "all things are not expedient" (1Cor.6:12 KJV). That is to say, even if we have the right to do certain things, it is not necessarily God's first best will for us to do them. What Jesus wants from us first and foremost is spiritual growth, progress and production; but marriage, for example, generally complicates this goal rather than contributing to it. For this reason, I always make it my practice to give first in general outline what the Bible says about "marriage matters" as it applies to all situations (the details and scriptures are found in the links below):

1) Are you single? Stay single.

2) Are you married? Stay married.

3) Are you divorced? Stay single

4) Have you remarried? Stay married.

The above represents the "best course" in each situation, but it is true that we are also told "it is better to marry than to burn" (1Cor.7:9 NKJV) and "even if you do marry, you have not sinned" (1Cor.7:28 NKJV).

If Christianity were only for "perfect people", then no one would be saved (and no one once saved would make it safe to heaven home).

To get to your question finally, in my opinion it is very clear that in both of the passages you cite here, Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:10-11, the exception legitimizing remarriage which is given by our Lord in the first passage applies to both parties. In our Lord's day, women did not have the same freedom to divorce that men did, and so He phrases it in this way; but in my view it is understood that women do have the same right under the Law (just as the right, though not spoken in the Mark passage, still obtains despite being omitted there). So, no, in my opinion remarriage on your part would not constitute adultery and is not prohibited by scripture in any way: the adultery of the other party, not to mention the divorce, has removed the obligation.

However, whether or not 1) it is a good idea for you to remarry based upon what the Lord has for you and why He has liberated you from such obligations may be another question; and 2) while I am happy with my opinion and believe sincerely that I have the Spirit of God in this interpretation, that is not the same thing as you being at peace with your own conscience on this question; and, as I say, since I have known many believers who have wracked themselves with guilt (often tragically misplaced) for doing things under emotional pressure that they later regretted (since they did not have true confidence in the rightness of their actions at the time and have not been able to gain peace afterwards once the doubts surfaced again), it is always my policy to advise prudence and circumspection before taking any such live-changing decisions, especially when the doubts about it were significant enough to feel the need to ask questions.

Here are those links I promised:

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?

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

I will definitely say a prayer for your guidance in this matter.

In our dear Lord Jesus who loves us more than we can possibly know – having died for all of our sins.

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:

Dear Mr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly and for the time you have taken to respond in a biblical way and offering your personal opinion as well. I just saw your email and will print it out to read it again.

Just a little personal information. When I got married, my husband at the time was a professed Christian and a good husband and father. He started associating with the wrong people at work and his relationship with God and myself spiraled downward. He started spending more and more time with them and neglected me and our children. He eventually stopped coming home some nights and weekends, the arguments escalated and eventually he told me he no longer loved me and filed for a divorce.

For the most part I am okay with being single. I have no thoughts of a relationship/marriage at this time, but it somehow bothered me to think that I could never remarry again. Thank you so much for explaining the scriptures to me and giving a clear understanding.

Thanks for our prayer, it is much needed.

May God's blessing be upon you always as you walk according to his will and purpose for your life.

Sincerely,

Response #16:

You are most welcome, and I do understand very well that there are plenty of instances in this life where good people are seriously wronged through absolutely no fault of their own – and more to the point our Lord understands it fully and completely.

I will be keeping you in my prayers.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

How are you?

I hope all is well. I am doing much better with the areas that were plaguing me. I am getting some flak over my marriage being an unrepentant state of adultery and that I need to divorce-to-repent from some people. I know we have discussed this before. When you get a few minutes could you have a look at the following site link? It pretty much summarizes the thinking that I am getting. I know you are able to discern in regards to these matters.

http://www.thywordistruth.com/Questions_Class/

tpq/Lesson_2_Notes.html#.VO58YJV0zIU

I appreciate your help over the years. Please let me know if I can pray for anything for you.

Response #17:

This is very long file, and it hits all of the previously covered major issues connected with divorce and remarriage, albeit in a not particularly logical or professional way. It would be next to impossible to do a complete post mortem on the issues and passages treated here and still be comprehensive from start to finish – I would have to rewrite our correspondence from the beginning (and then some – it might indeed be helpful for you to review that and/or the postings at Ichthys on this score; see the link for the latest such which will lead to other links: Marriage and the Bible III). I will make some observations first, and then go about addressing the approach this "lesson" represents in another way which I hope will prove helpful, but let me know after you read this if there are any particular concerns that need to be addressed (or readdressed) which I do not get to here. By the way, I do appreciate your prayers very much, and continue to keep you and your wife in mine day by day. I pray for your peace.

To begin, let me say that the logic here (if I dare to use that word for the content of this file) is very much parti pris: that is to say, correspondent begins with his premise, then marshals his passages to prove his already decided upon point. This is not a search for the truth. This is an attempt to force the truth of the Word into the Procrustean bed of correspondent's preconceived notions. Once that is realized about any piece of writing, any reader would be well-served to "consider the source" before allowing him/herself to be unduly influenced. Here is an example of what I mean: after doing little more than quote the gospel passages where our Lord castigates the Pharisees for abusing the Law in regard to marriage in order to satisfy their own lusts, correspondent derives . . .

Principles from these passages:

A. God ordained and established marriage in the beginning.

B. Man is not to change God’s rules.

C. Moses interim permission was set aside by Christ to return to as it was "from the beginning."

D. Christ’s statement of that law is:

1. Whoever puts away his or her spouse;

2. Except it be for fornication;

3. And marries another;

4. Commits adultery.

5. Whoever marries the one put away;

6. Commits adultery.

These may look, at first glance, like reasonable conclusions, but in reality they are verbal tools designed to shape the argument in correspondent's favor. While none of these statements is entirely wrong, each leaves out important information to arrive at "the conclusion". Before examining each one, it must be observed that contrary to the suppositions inherent in correspondent's analysis, 1) Jesus was not laying out the new rules for marriage, but rather was criticizing how the Pharisees were using the old rules; 2) Jesus was not annulling the Law for these Pharisees, but rather was pointing out to them that they were actually violating the Law; 3) Jesus was not condemning any existing marriage on the basis of its merits, but rather was condemning the act of divorce and remarriage for illicit purposes; 4) Jesus was not and did not and does not even suggest that once a marriage has taken place that divorce and/or restoration of the old marriage (which might entail two divorces) is even allowed, let alone recommended, let alone mandatory. These are important observations because one would guess just the opposite if correspondent's points were given more consideration than what the Bible actually says in these passages.

1) God ordained and established marriage in the beginning. True, and our Lord brings that up in the beginning of His criticism of current practices. But how did God "ordain and establish" marriage? First, He did so in paradise under perfect conditions. Secondly, He chose the bride for the groom. We are no longer in Eden, and the process of selecting a spouse (whatever it may be) is no longer perfect, nor is any spouse perfect, let alone both partners. As a result, marriages after Eden are not the perfect match God originally designed. The importance of marriage as a divinely ordained institution still applies as does the principle of the husband giving first allegiance to the wife instead of to his previous nuclear family, but because human beings are, after Eden, inherently sinful, problems involving marriage were inevitable. We see signs of this even before the flood, for example, in Genesis 4:19 we find that Lamech had two wives, even though in Genesis 2:24 it states that a man shall "be joined to his wife (sing.)" and that "they (i.e., the two only) shall become one flesh". Polygamy is thus just as much an assault on Genesis 2:24 as divorce is. Yet we find that unsavory institution throughout the Old Testament, regulated by the Law (e.g., Deut.21:15-17), also with indications that it was not unknown in the New (cf. 1Tim.3:2; Tit.1:6). So was our Lord really commanding us to go back to the Genesis standard? He doesn't actually say so, does He? That would be changing "the Law" for certain, but we know that He came to fulfill the Law (Matt.5:17; cf. Matt.5:19: "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven"). Rather, our Lord brings the perfect standard into the discussion to explain why divorce is present and therefore needs to be properly regulated: "because of your hardness of heart" (Matt.19:8). Are we better than the Pharisees? One would hope so, but we are not immune to sin and sinfulness even as advancing, mature believers – so how much less is the unbelieving world? For that reason, i.e., the fact that not only are we not in Eden but also because of the reason why we are not in Eden, namely, our utter sinfulness, divorce does happen, and, in a perfect code, will need to be regulated. Our Lord is not in the business here either of making additional exceptions (He mentions the one the Law mentions; see below), nor of redefining the rules of marriage: His purpose is to demonstrate to these men who thought they had salvation through the Law that they were not, in fact, even following the Law but were instead manipulating it to serve their own lusts. Is any of us guiltless? Not at all – and that is the real point here: our Lord was continually demonstrating that no one could be saved through the Law because no one is perfect and without sin:

"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:24-26 NASB

The answer to the dilemma in the verses above is to trust God's solution and accept God's Substitute for salvation (not give away all one's money and possessions – which would not result in salvation in any case). Analogously, the answer for those who have something to feel guilty about on the issue of marriage, divorce and remarriage is not more divorce and more remarriage but trusting God's solution and accepting His promise of restoration to fellowship through confession (1Jn.1:9).

2) Man is not to change God’s rules. Isn't that just what correspondent is doing? I believe it certainly is. First, he is claiming that the "rules" laid down in the Old Testament for divorce – God's rules laid down by God – should be changed to what he prefers (no divorce for any reason; no remarriage for any reason; more divorce(s) and reconciliation after "wrongful" remarriage): and for all three of these new rules, man's rules not God's, note that not a single one of them actually occurs in the scripture. I would not want to be in correspondent's shoes when the Lord asks him for "chapter and verse" on this before the judgment seat – especially if anyone ever actually listened to him and followed his advice and ruined their lives and the lives of still others thereby. Secondly, correspondent is handling New Testament scripture very badly to arrive at his new rules as well. Thirdly, correspondent's new rules require the breaking of many actual biblical rules in order to carry out those truly man-made rules of his. Most preposterous of all is that correspondent actually counsels breaking not just his own rule of "no divorce" with a second divorce, but the actual biblical standard of "no divorce without sufficient cause" when he counsels those he finds "wrongfully married" to divorce: there is no (true) biblical precedent for doing so, and certainly no verse in scripture which commands any such action. The only way this "principle" has any true validity in respect of marriage is by going back to Genesis, pretending we are in Eden, and ignoring everything which has happened since (including especially in the lives of those affected), in addition to what else the Bible has to say – and the Bible is "God's Word", "God's 'rules'", so to speak. May I also observe that if we were still sinless in Eden there would be no divorce to be concerned about in the first place since everyone would be perfect and would behave perfectly.

3) Moses interim permission was set aside by Christ to return to as it was "from the beginning." This statement is patently false. Our Lord does not say this, and if He had done so He would have been "changing the Law". Certainly our Lord has that right, but there is nothing in this passage which suggests that He was doing anything else other than what has been described above, namely, exposing the sinful motives and legal manipulation of the Pharisees. He is not talking to His disciples; He is talking to men who felt they were safe because they were following a "Law" interpreted for their benefit. The Genesis standard would make marriage in this world untenable, as even our Lord made clear:

The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
Matthew 19:10-12 NASB

4) Christ’s statement of that law is: 1. Whoever puts away his or her spouse; 2. Except it be for fornication; 3. And marries another; 4. Commits adultery. 5. Whoever marries the one put away; 6. Commits adultery. This synopsis is fine, but the conclusions drawn are incorrect. Note that a person commits adultery by the acts of 1) wrongfully divorcing their spouse and 2) contracting marriage with another (points five and six merely mean it works the same way for both parties). So there is sin in wrongfully divorcing and remarrying, sin that amounts to adultery – the very sin the Pharisees were trying to avoid so as to have their cake and eat it too (so to speak) in getting rid of wife #1 and replacing her with wife #2 – instead of merely having an affair with woman #2: that would clearly be adultery. But our Lord's main point is that what they were doing was worse than having an adulterous affair. Please note that our Lord's words are directed at men who were abusing the Law and wronging their wives in a very deliberate, self-righteous and harmful way, then indulging their lusts by marrying the second wife. Needless to say this description does not apply to many divorced and remarried Christians today (if to any at all). Please note also that our Lord even in this case of extreme hypocrisy and law-breaking does not tell these Pharisees either that they should 1) now divorce wife #2, or 2) reconcile with wife #1. Our Lord is merely "calling a spade a spade": these men had actually committed (by the act of wrongfully divorcing coupled with the act of wrongfully remarrying) the very adultery they self-righteously had thought to have avoided. It shows the mindset of these hardhearted legalists that they were willing to do terrible things in order to get what they wanted and yet abide by the letter of the Law (so they thought – but Jesus' burst their bubble). It is not just a little ironic that correspondent and his ilk are embracing this exact same form of legalism and wreaking similar havoc among the innocent with their non-biblical counsel. For just like the Pharisees, for the sake of their own benefit (in this case, self-righteous satisfaction), they prefer what they (also wrongly) perceive to be the "letter of the Law", even as they completely eschew all love and mercy, which is what is truly at the heart of the Law and the Word of God:

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Matthew 5:7 NASB

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others."
Matthew 23:23 NASB

5) For all of correspondent's insistence on the New Testament as opposed to the Law, his piece reads like a legal brief more complicated that the US Tax Code. It is good to have answers for everything – provided those answers are correct. Correspondent has a tremendous advantage in his attempt to place all who have remarried "in a state of adultery" (except perhaps in his case for a few – it's a bit hard to say and perhaps unimportant inasmuch as many of his ilk make no exceptions and inasmuch as that is the true effect of all this prose). That advantage is guilt. Guilt, an internalizing of unwarranted fear, is the devil's ace trump. The evil one is always trying to get Christians to "feel guilty" about all manner of things, whether they are or are not culpable, liable, compromised. No one is perfect, after all, and we all sin. That is why Jesus had to die for all sin – the sins of every single person who has lived, believer and unbeliever alike, otherwise no one could be saved. Praise God that He did die for us all!

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:8-10 NASB

We are justified, not by the works we do, but by THE work Christ did for us. We have been cleansed, not by our efforts, but by the blood of Christ. Who or what can possibly bring us under condemnation now that we have been saved through His work on the cross?

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Romans 8:33-34 NASB

Do we sin after we are saved? Indeed we do. We do need our "feet washed" (Jn.13:1-10). As the prior quote reminds us, Christ Himself is interceding for us when we err (cf. 1Jn.2:1-2), and God does provide for our readmission into fellowship when we do sin, not through works, but through simple admission of our error to Him in prayer:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NASB

What if we do not accept God's promises? Is it right to doubt Him? And if we have been forgiven, is it right for others to insinuate that we need more, that we need to take some additional action on our own as well, that we need some "works" (such as divorce again and re-remarriage to a former party after his/her divorce again)? Is that really what "forgive us our sins" means? Is it not rather the very definition of legalism?

Have we made a mistake? No doubt we do make mistakes, and sometimes these are horrendous sins and errors of judgment. But does God qualify 1st John 1:9? Are there some sins for which Jesus did not die? Heaven forbid!

So what about the issue of "making amends"? In all reality, Humpty Dumpty can never be put back together again. Omelets can never be unscrambled. If a Christian did follow correspondent's advice, it might give that person a feeling of relief for now being "justified", but justified in whose eyes? Perhaps in the view of correspondent, but certainly not in God's eyes. If I am in such a situation and divorce my legal wife, can anyone tell me that this will not harm her adversely? And will this hateful and truly reprehensible action benefit my previous partner in any way? The only person this sort of nonsense will please is correspondent (and his ilk). It will certainly not please God. And that is what this is all about. You know by now my oft-repeated advice: "Are you single? Best to stay single. Are you married? Don't divorce. Are you now divorced? Don't remarry. Have you remarried? Stay married." Christians follow their own desires on these matters all the time (few of us are capable of living celibate, after all: "because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband", 1Cor.7:2 NASB), and when and if there is sin involved, divine discipline does follow, but so does the mercy of God and the forgiveness that comes with true repentance and confession. The important thing to remember is that true repentance is a change of heart on the part of the confessor; it is not a legalistic, self-righteous, "works" based program ("five steps" or otherwise) designed to assuage equally sinful feelings of guilt to the detriment of other innocent parties.

Let us apply correspondent's legalistic appreciation of what those "wrongfully married" and thus "in adultery" should now do to his own situation (though I hasten to remind you that there is no such thing as a married couple being "in adultery" – they are married and a marriage is a marriage with corresponding rules of marriage; e.g., 1Cor.7:3-5). Correspondent has some kind of a church, and also receives, it seems, compensation from this church for his labors. Therefore correspondent has ought to do with the IRS. Now, arguably, for anyone with an even partially complicated tax situation, being 100% "righteous" in the way income and benefits are reported and exemptions listed is very difficult. It has been quipped that the US Tax Code is designed "to make liars of us all". Still, correspondent aspires to complete legal righteousness, so the very clear statement in scripture that we are to pay "taxes to whom taxes are due" (Rom.13:7) is at least as worthy of fulfillment by him as is his concocted set of "rules" he wishes to impose on others. Has correspondent ever claimed a charitable deduction for something he gave to, e.g., the Salvation Army? How did he estimate the value of said gift? Did he ever receive any money, for doing a funeral or wedding, say, and not report it? Has he ever accepted anything, a lunch, a gift, a casserole, without honestly estimating the full value and reporting that as income? One could go on (there are more hidden rocks and shoals in the tax code than most people realize), but let us talk here only about those instances of malfeasance of which correspondent is no doubt aware. In truth, he probably does owe the IRS some money if an all-knowing, all-seeing account were made of all his dealings in this regard over the years. Perhaps these are minimal in monetary terms. But as our Lord said, "if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?" (Lk.16:11 NASB). Just as there is no such thing as "a little adultery", so there is no such thing as "a little tax fraud". Indeed, Uncle Sam won't trouble you about the former, but he certainly will in regard to the latter. But I wish to relieve correspondent of the terrible guilt he is feeling (or certainly should be feeling, given his high moral standard, his strict interpretation of his private interpretation of the scriptures, and particularly his advice to others). So I would counsel him to go to the nearest IRS office, admit to the best of his ability every less than fully honest representation he has made in the past, and demand to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and with the maximum penalties it can assign. For how else should his guilt be assuaged? How else should his sin be forgiven? How else can he be saved? Blessedly, the Bible says . . .

In him (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.
Ephesians 1:7 NIV

No doubt one of correspondent's ilk might object that this example is about an impersonal government not about individual believers about whom we really ought to be concerned. Such can be condemned by their own mouths: if we are justified in reveling in God's mercy for forgiving us and shielding us from negative consequences in all manner of different areas of our lives and experiences, how is it that in this one critical area of marriage where listening to bad counsel will potentially destroy the lives of other Christians or at least damage them severely we are to be shut off from grace and God's promises of forgiveness?

Perhaps correspondent may retort that he has nothing to hide and not a smidgen of a guilty conscience when it comes to taxes. That may be true (anything is possible). But correspondent is a human being. Correspondent has a sin nature. Correspondent has sinned, and there are areas of his life where restitution or amends might be made if one is of the opinion as correspondent is that sin has consequences and that sin, like a "wrongful marriage", must be undone in every regard for repentance to be valid and forgiveness to be granted. No life is so squeaky clean that it can endure that sort of scrutiny – not if God is the One doing the scrutinizing, at any rate. Let me take just one more mild example. Does correspondent drive? Has correspondent never exceeded the speed limit, never failed to come to a complete stop, never failed to feed the parking meter, never lightly bumped another car without notifying the other person. Has correspondent never done anything in traffic that annoyed another driver? Shouldn't he seek out those drivers and ask for forgiveness? If they cannot be found, shouldn't he find some other works of supererogation to accomplish that he might be forgiven/saved? Even if it is only "ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers"? Is correspondent not Roman Catholic? Then why is he behaving as if others are responsible to him and his views in the same way that the unfortunate adherents of that denomination are beholden to their priest for forgiveness? The truth is, if God forgives us, we are indeed forgiven – regardless of what correspondent may think or teach.

Finally, when you refer to "flak . . . from some people" and "the thinking that I am getting", it seems that this is not coming from your own heart. That is a wonderful testimony to the advance you have made and to the peace you have claimed in Jesus Christ. However, I feel constrained to point out hanging around with people who would have the gall to denigrate your marriage based upon legalistic hogwash of the sort at the link shared is a dangerous business (it is most un-Christian). If we are talking about family, then perhaps they can't be completely ignored (although their opinions certainly should be in this case). If we are talking about optional relationships, however, my advice would be not to renew the option.

Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
1st Corinthians 15:53

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Thanks Robert. Your insight is always deep and appreciated. I will read it carefully.

Response #18:

You're very welcome.

I pray that the Lord will continue to build up your peace, the completeness of confidence in Him and His truth that is the birthright of all who have been cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #19:

Thanks Robert for your extensive reply. I know we have gone over all this before. You are right, my heart is troubled sometimes about this and I am quite surprised by the number of people who believe you must divorce-to-repent of an adulterous second marriage.

Two different arguments have been presented to me:

1.) The command in the old testament for the Israelites to put away their foreign wives and children which they disobediently and wrongly married so God did not recognize those marriages as valid.

2.) If I stole a bicycle or some money and repented I would be required to make restitution and give those things back. I would not be allowed to confess and keep them. Same with a wrongly acquired (stolen) wife. I am not simply allowed to confess and keep the marriage.

Lastly, when you get a second, have a look at the following link:

http://www.truewoman.com/?id=795

I realize the site is 'true woman' (probably wondering how I ended up there) and I don't want you to read all the comments but if you have a second, read them down roughly a quarter of the way after reading the article until you see the comment by the pastor which begins by talking about "beating a dead horse" and then read just a little further until you see the comment by the original articles author who had trouble getting on her internet over the weekend.

Note in between how many people argue that an adulterous second marriage must be dissolved and how many actually did do it.

Your friend

Response #19:

Some things we have to accept will always be a burden to carry. Therefore the right thing is to make up our minds to carry that burden in peace (and stop putting it down at repeated intervals as if that would give us peace when all it does is compromise our peace).

1) We have been over the passage in Ezra chapters 10-11 before. God did not tell these people to divorce. That was a national decision. It was no doubt a correct one, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage. Consider the fact that many of the marriages made were legal, first marriages. The problem with them had nothing to do with adultery or divorce. Instead, the problem was that the men had married unbelieving pagan women, and that, in such a small remnant of Jews returning to the land, this would have the effect of annihilating the Jewish race in a generation or two. Nothing in what had happened was in conflict with Genesis chapter two; according to that description, the two had become "one flesh". Nor were these marriages in conflict with what we find in 1st Corinthians chapter seven. In fact, it is completely the opposite: "If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her" (v.12 NKJV). Finally, these men divorced precisely so that they could remarry Jewish women – in order to preserve the Jewish race. So this example has nothing whatsoever to do with a gentile couple who are both believers and are not under any aspect of the Mosaic Law or the unique circumstances of the national state of Israel during its first return to the land. How anyone can see a parallel here is beyond me. The only thing I can glean from this passage is that divorce and remarriage is legitimate given certain circumstances – precisely the conclusion that those who are torturing you with this example want to deny.

2) Paul imprisoned many believers before he became one himself, sacked their houses and participated in all manner of persecutions against them. Needless to say he repented of this activity after believing. Did he make restitution to all whom he had wronged? I dare say that even if he had been rich beyond imagination he would not have had the resources – let alone the time and energy – to find all those he had wronged and their surviving family members and make restitution. Did David make restitution to Uriah's family? Did he give back Bathsheba? If any wife was ever "stolen", it was she. The fact that Uriah was murdered in the interim has no bearing on the question. He could have given her back to her family. Instead, he kept her as his wife, and Solomon, the next chain in the Messianic line, came through her. This is not to condone what David did. This is not to condone what Paul did. It is to demonstrate that when we sin, we sin against the Lord. It is true that people, often believers, are damaged when we sin against them. And it is true that if we have indeed sinned, then God will indeed make us drink from the cup of divine discipline – but as a loving Father correcting those whom He loves, not as a green-eye-shade wearing accountant intent on exacting every last penny of debt. We live by His mercy.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
Psalm 130:3 NIV

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23NKJV

Bicycles? A woman has nothing in common with a stolen bicycle. If a person does steal property, said person should stop all such activity and confess to the Lord.

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Ephesians 4:28 NKJV

Nothing here about "restitution". That is not a spiritual principle but a legal principle, and those to whom Paul was writing in Ephesus were not under the Mosaic civil Law of Israel but under Roman law. To admit crime in offering restitution would no doubt result in the Christian in question being sold into slavery and dying in some mining enterprise in the very near future, with his wife and children falling likewise into slavery without a breadwinner in the house. Alternatively there would be a large burden placed on the local church to provide for this now penniless family. Lives ruined. Spirits crushed. The church burdened. All to fulfill some self-righteous persons' sense of propriety. That is why Paul does not even suggest it. Wrongs done are wrongs done, and all do wrong. Sin is confessed to God and God forgives. God weighs out the discipline, in just the right measure. When we take these jobs on ourselves we risk forfeiting grace; when we seek to take away that grace from others, we are an affront to God and are sailing dangerously close to the wind of apostasy.

If such is the case with material things, how much more is not the case with two people who have married? Did you kidnap your present wife? Surely this was a mutual decision. Would God be pleased if you bound and gagged her and dropped her on her ex-husband's stoop? Is there any limit to the nonsense in which these people, Christians who are supposed to have some small degree at least of spiritual common sense, are willing to accept?

As to the link, there is all manner of stuff here. Happy to deal with any particular point but need some guidance as to what it is exactly you are wondering about.

Finally, I would strongly advise you to consider severing contact with anyone who suggests to your face (or to your wife) that there is something wrong with you or your marriage, or insinuates that you should now divorce. I can't imagine anyone doing that and not being in the evil one's grip. You don't want to be anywhere close when that blows up. Also, if I were you I would stop accessing these sites where you know they are going to be giving you this vitriolic misinformation. I do understand the tendency; I come across this neurosis all the time, Christians who have some wound they won't let heal, and who consequently continue to pick at it, using the internet as their scratching post. It does no good, but it can do a great deal of harm. The Lord has called you to peace. Any wrong you did is done, and no doubt long ago confessed. There is no going back to "square one". Any discipline you were going to receive has (by now) no doubt come and gone. All you can do now is destroy your life (and your wife's life) by not letting this go.

Let it go – and praise God who turned cursing into blessing (as He so often does).

In Jesus Christ who is our peace.

Bob L.

Question #20:

Thanks Robert, I know we talked about Ezra before. I have several folders and haven't found that email though I know I have it. You have a singular wit while explaining the scriptures - definitely a gift. I can chuckle even when discussing serious matters.

Thanks for being a friend to a persistently frustrating friend.

Response #20:

You're very welcome

Keep on persevering in the faith and confidence in Jesus Christ our Lord and His words of truth.

Bob L.

Question #21:

"Women be saved through child bearing"?

Response #21:

While many people take this passage to refer to the fact that the Messiah is born of a woman – and therefore has no sin nature (which is passed down through the male) – I read this verse a different way from the Greek: "Woman will be brought safely through the [dangerous event] of childbearing if . . . ".

Here are two links on that for the details: "1st Timothy 2:15". and "Deliverance through Childbirth".

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