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Question #1:

Thank you for receiving my email. You have responded to me in the past that I should remain where I am in my remarriage. Today I read this on one of your responses to someone else and still find myself questioning if I should stay where I am in light of this information. The more I study, the more I feel I am doomed.

You wrote: “What is always prohibited is the willful tossing aside of one's partner for one's own lustful interests and then acting upon those interests in re-marriage. This has implications for the exception Jesus gives. For we should understand by now that the Matt.19:8-9 exception, adultery, is directed not towards divorce (which is not being prohibited at all), but towards re-marriage.

I cannot function day to day in the fear I currently am consumed with. Please help if you can, thank you.

In Christian Love.

Response #1:

I've checked my archives and I can't find any indication that we've been in contact before. Also, when you say I advised you to "remain where I am in my remarriage", while that is the general guidance I always give about marital status (because it is the Bible's guidance), I'm also usually very careful not to give specific, personal advice (because only the person involved can know all the facts, and it is that person, after all, who has to live with the consequences).

I'm assuming – reading between the lines – that you are distressed over having remarried when now, after the fact, you feel guilt for having done so.

Let me state as forcefully as I can that no believer in Jesus Christ has anything whatsoever to fear – except to revere the Lord. If we have done something wrong in the past, and if we have yet to confess it, then we need to confess it. If we are continuing to do something wrong in the present, then we need to stop it. Marriage is serious business, because once it's done, it's done. And the same thing goes for divorce. But one thing you must have seen from my postings on this subject (because I say it almost every time the issue comes up) is that regardless of the rightness or wrongness of our past decisions on these matters, the Lord expects us to honor the situation we are presently in – if that is at all possible (sometimes it is not, of course).

So for example in the quote of mine which you include here, coming out of context, when I say "remarriage" I mean "the ACT of getting remarried" and not "the STATE of being remarried". That is a crucial distinction because the time to take these matters under consideration is BEFORE one takes on a sacred, serious, legal obligation – NOT afterwards.

Even in the case of the Pharisees whom our Lord castigates, He does not tell them to divorce their new wives. The wrong they have done they have done; the correct course at that point would have been to confess their sin, repent of their hardness of heart, believe in Him, and get along thereafter as best they could.

Also, there are a great many despicable "ministries" out there nowadays which seem to be having a heyday by telling divorced and remarried Christians that they are "going to hell" if they do not divorce . . . again. That is utter nonsense, and there is no biblical basis either for the false conclusion or for the scurrilously bad advice (all scriptural guidance is for Christians to remain in the state they are in, regardless of how it was that they got there).

Again, not having the details, I would ask you to have at look at some of these links:

Marriage and the Bible IX

Marriage and the Bible VIII

Marriage and the Bible VII

Marriage and the Bible VI

Marriage and the Bible V

Marriage and the Bible IV

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible I

No Grounds for Divorce?

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.

A conversation about divorce and remarriage.

Feelings of Guilt about Remarriage.

More on divorce and remarriage.

Divorce and remarriage.

In closing, let me assure you that no believer in Jesus Christ is "doomed". As long as we believe in Him, as long as we have faith in Him, we are destined for the New Jerusalem. But all unbelievers are doomed to the lake of fire – because they refuse to believe in the only "name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

In Jesus our dear, merciful Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Thank you for getting back with me so quickly, it means so much to me to talk with someone who understands scripture. The email I sent a few years back are questions 1 & 2 in your section "What about Christians Who Remarry"? As I sank back into this complete and total abyss this week, I started researching when ironically, I stumbled upon your site and recognized my very own story I emailed years ago. I got scared when I read the other statement and decided to reach out, thank you for clarifying. I completely get you weren't giving life changing advice, I mis-spoke. But it did give me the only hope I had to cling to and since I had misplaced our old email, I was thankful to have stumbled upon it.

I was raised in the Church of Christ and can't imagine going anywhere else, for fear of hell as well, clearly you see a pattern emerging my entire life. I no longer feel ostracized where we attend now as we did in previous congregations.

During my first marriage, I had several Biblical reasons to leave but it wasn't until many years later after things actually improved, that I just couldn't do it anymore and decided I would just remain single the rest of my life. My preacher was adamant I would go to hell no matter what and that has stuck with me to this day. I continued to study and other counselors/preachers in the Church of Christ made me feel more comfortable about my eligibility for remarriage several years later.

I've been remarried now for almost 20 years. When the subject comes up or I read passages such as "she shall be called an adulteress" then I sink back into despair. I beg forgiveness over and over knowing how I sinned against God, I can't even look up or raise my hands to Him in praise as I feel so filthy. I continually push my husband away feeling like I don't deserve him and definitely won't be together physically. The passage "if anyone loves mother and father more than Me they aren't worthy of Me", makes me feel I should forsake everyone for the sake of the Kingdom; and I would if I knew that is what God wants. I keep asking myself is that God talking or the devil? Is this my burden for my bad decisions to always fear death and eternity? Do I simply resolve to sacrifice my soul so I don't put my family through another divorce? I just can't seem to be happy about anything under this sheer weight of eternity in hell.

I so want to understand and see the scripture that gives me light and hope. It's hard to shake years of indoctrination but I will continue to read the passages you sent and plan to see another counselor next week. Thank you again so much for your time and energy for our Lord and His people. I pray I will be counted among them.

In Christian Love

Response #2:

Thanks for clearing that up. As you probably know from reading the site, I get a lot of questions on this topic (and there are some things not posted).

I want to assure you that you are NOT "going to hell" for having remarried.

First of all, let's assume for the sake of argument that you had no legitimate reason to divorce in the first place – although from your email it sounds to me that this is not the case (yet the devil is very good at making us feel guilty when there is even a sliver of doubt in our hearts). If true, then the ACT of getting remarried would need to be confessed. I am sure after all these many years later you have done that – many times – even if it turns out not to have been necessary. After that, as with any sin, it is over. Jesus died for it. You confessed. God forgives it.

Mind you, we may be disciplined for our sin and that discipline may linger, but discipline is from a loving Father and demonstrates that love for us so that despairing of it is wrong (cf. Heb.12:3-11); also, actions have consequences, and misguided or wrong actions often have chronic ones, so that a marriage which was ill-advised for whatever reason will doubtless not be as happy as one which did not suffer from that disadvantage.

But we are where we are. So a person who has remarried is IN that marriage – and in my reading of the Bible the scriptures are very clear about that. Since you are married, you are married, and the Lord expects you to stick it out if possible (i.e., not being abused or cheated on). Fear and guilt are not going to do you any good at this point – and are completely unnecessary. All sin is bad. All sin needs to be confessed. But the past is the past and cannot be changed. We all have regrets about the past, but the Lord has called believers to carry our crosses forward – not backward – one day at a time.

So what is the solution? To do as Paul advises and "forget what lies behind" (Phil.3:13), confident that the Lord has forgiven you (if there was anything to forgive: Ps.32:5; 1Jn.1:9), and now do your best to be a good wife and make your marriage work, being grateful to the Lord that you have it – and still have it – in spite of everything.

Honestly, I having nothing for contempt for the people in the organization you mention; they have numerous "problems" many of which have disastrous consequences – such as teaching people that water-baptism is necessary for salvation when that is not the case, so that those who believe that are relying on a ritual to be saved and not on Jesus Christ which means that they are not saved.

It's very easy to tell other people to go and ruin their lives. Cults all love that approach because once the person has ruined his/her life, they are now slaves to the cult for life. Please don't make the mistake of throwing everything away because the devil is stabbing the guilt wound – that is his favorite tactic, and it can only be combated with the truth . . . by BELIEVING the truth.

You are saved – all believers are saved (Jn.3:18), and marital status has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is about faith in Jesus Christ – or lack thereof.

If you really want to honor the Lord, honor your marriage and honor His mandate to grow in grace through the truth – you are certainly welcome at Ichthys for the latter.

Yours in our dear, merciful Savior.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Thank you again for your time and thoughtfulness. I will read your links and scripture verses over and over again I am sure of it. I will also remain where I am to avoid hurting more people because of my sinful past decisions. No one else needs to suffer because of me even if it means losing my salvation, though I believe that's putting family before God which is sin in and of itself.

My husband is so faithful and good to us, Christ centered and focused on his family, always has been. The preacher who married us said it was a slap in the face of God if I didn't appreciate and enjoy my current marriage. I find myself pushing my husband away as if to sabotage the marriage so I could then feel secure in my salvation?! I also realize that is selfish, hard hearted and downright sinful. I just can't seem to accept anything good in my life and my thoughts go back to is this of God or the devil? It is hard to undo nearly six decades of a fear based belief system.

I was always told if you are living in sin your prayers aren't heard, so I ask other Christians to pray for me in case God has turned away from me. Even the devil believes and trembles so I don't think my fear necessarily means the Holy Spirit is still within me. Please keep my family in your prayers that God will get me where I need to be before I die and the strength to appreciate my husband so I don't do any psychological damage to the family who are absorbing my behavior. Thank you again for everything, you have been a blessing.

In Christian Love

Response #3:

You're most welcome.

A couple of points from reading this email.

1) Marriage is a legal obligation and one that God expects us to honor. So the people who say that married people should get divorced – because they in their self-righteousness are not pleased with that marriage for whatever reason – are the ones who are opposing God.

2) So doing every reasonable and godly thing one can to make a good marriage is exactly what God requires (e.g., Eph.5:22-33; 1Pet.3:1-7).

3) Therefore working hard at one's marriage is in fact putting God first; whereas unnecessarily leaving one's marriage – or causing it to be destroyed – is disrespecting God.

4) This is the opposite of what the CoC teaches because it is true – and that organization is noted for its falsities.

5) Just because you feel guilty does not mean you are in the wrong; emotions only calm down when they respond to the truth, and they often follow at a distance and only after they have been fed the truth for some time. First job: learn the truth; second job: obey the truth; third job: be at peace with the truth . . . peace will come and joy thereafter, but only for those who are learning the truth, believing the truth, and acting on the truth.

6) So the truth is that you are married and that therefore obedience to God NOW is to make the marriage work, as far as that is in your power. Just because liars have told you otherwise and this sets your emotions off does not mean that you have to pay attention to lies.

7) So I can tell you the truth all day long, but it is your job to accept it, believe it and act on it. That is the only thing that will bring peace and joy. Rejecting the truth – even if only by not getting around to accepting it – will not end well.

You do have free will and you have the right to believe what you want to believe, whether to keep tormenting yourself with lies or embracing the truth that leads to peace and life.

Does the Bible EVER tell anyone to divorce? Absolutely not.

So I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the pastor who married you. But it is up to you to accept what is true and let go of what is false. I do promise to keep you in prayer for that.

Remember: whatever you've done in the past, no matter how sinful, has already been payed for by the blood of Christ.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Galatians 5:1 NKJV

In Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Robert,

Hope you are doing well during this pandemic. We have been doing great. Except everyone once in a while what that man from the church of Christ in my town said about me going to hell if I stayed in my second marriage. In my heart of hearts I know it's not true but then there's this tiny voice in the back of my head that says what if what he is saying is right and I'm looking at going to hell. I won't break up my family or leave my husband going to hell or not. What really gets me is that man truly believed in it and he actually told people to get a divorce lawyer. Whether they actually did or not I'm not sure . But after all this time it is still haunting me . I get high anxiety over it where I don't want to get out of bed and I'm getting sick to my stomach over it. IS there any proof that he is wrong and if there is, why does he believe what he says is true? I don't want to feel this way anymore, that is why I am reaching out to you again . I want to go on with my life and never have what he told me in the back of my head. Can you please help me

Thank you deeply

Response #4:

In terms of substance, the answers I've given you before – and the one's at Ichthys – are the same ones I would give you now (Marriage and the Bible IX: see Q/A #17).

In terms of "proof", people ask for proof all the time, saying they won't believe until they have proof. But the Christian life is one of FAITH. We have to believe in Jesus Christ, and we have to believe His Word in order to get anywhere.

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:26-29 NKJV

As a believer in Jesus Christ, you are NOT going to hell. Hell is the destiny of those who reject Jesus Christ and the truth of the gospel. Jesus has died already for ALL sin. The only unforgivable sin is the one of rejecting Him, and that means turning away from the faith, turning away from faith in Him, denying Him, no longer believing in Him, no longer trusting Him. It's all about faith.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
2nd Timothy 2:11-13 NIV

Without question, the second part above is NOT what you are doing. However, this person who is harassing you, I'm not at all sure that this is not what HE is doing. After all, I also read this in scripture:

"If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea."
Mark 9:42 NIV

This seems to me to be EXACTLY what this person is doing. And why would he do so? Any reading of scripture with a modicum of humility and a modicum of grace would at least make clear that counseling Christians to get divorced is one of the most evil things I can think of. How would he do that, how could he do that, how could he be so sure of doing that . . . unless he had sold himself to the devil. That "little voice" you hear in the back of your head is NOT the Holy Spirit. That is another "spirit", a demonic one. The devil and his agents are very good at using guilt to manipulate us. That is one of Satan's ace trumps, along with the fear of death which is its flip-side. Any time we are being pressured to do something out of the kind of irrational and emotional and completely contrary to the truth sort of guilt you are experiencing, we are always making a bad mistake.

Did Jesus ever tell anyone to get divorced? I don't find that in the Bible.

Whether or not what we did in the past at points A or B or C was a sin is an academic question. The past cannot be changed. But there is NO sin that can't be forgiven – because our Lord died for them all. And we are forgiven the instant we confess (1Jn.1:9).

So, honestly, for practical purposes it does not matter whether or not you had a "right" to divorce or a "right" to remarry. It doesn't matter if getting married again was the wrong thing to do. Why? Because that has already been done. If it was wrong, you were forgiven when you confessed it, and any discipline coming your way for it has got to be water long under the bridge by now. Our Lord told the Pharisees that "he who marries" is the one at fault – the ACT of marriage being the sin in the case of those who do something awful which you never did: dumping a vulnerable partner to satisfy their new lusts. Even they are not told by our Lord to get a divorce – because that would damage the new wife (among other negative consequences). That tells me everything I need to know about this issue. Two wrongs do not make a right. The time to worry about whether or not marriage is right to engage in is BEFORE one gets married. Afterwards, a marriage is a marriage and God hates divorce – even for those who were married or remarried or divorced in the past (Mal.2:16).

What does this person imagine? Can anything WE do blot out sin? That is works salvation at its worst. That is Roman Catholicism. There is no salvation for anyone who is relying on works instead of on faith.

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Only faith saves. Works – such as "doing something" to alleviate guilt – results in lack of salvation and even loss of salvation (if a believer pushes it to the point of eliminating their previous faith in Christ).

What does this person think? That by getting a divorce, the "sin" – if it was a sin – of wrongful marriage is then atoned for? Only Christ could atone for sin – and He already has.

The only thing getting divorced would do is to put you farther away from the Lord. That might actually result in putting you into a far worse spiritual spiral that could result in the loss of faith. That is why that little demon voice and the demon behind it and the devil and his human agent want you to go down that dark path.

Don't do it.

I've told you before and I'll say it again, no one can fight a good fight here in the world without aggressive spiritual growth. Being easily tossed "to and fro", "swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit" (Eph.4:14) is a symptom of failure to grow spiritually – or at least of temporary slacking off. So I do encourage you to commit yourself to a course of spiritual growth (you are more than welcome to all the materials at Ichthys). That is the ONLY way in the long run to have the kind of peace you crave.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your kind response.

I don’t think that my subject matter has changed from my former correspondence regarding divorce and remarriage – please see my previous posts.

Meanwhile, respective of whether or not I have ever sinned, or for that matter, sin now - my answer is simply that I am a flawed human who has been saved by the merciful grace of Jesus Christ. To this end, there has only been and will ever be one sinless man of perfection and that man is as you very well know Jesus Christ – the living and only begotten Son of God.

Going forwards, I think what you are inferring is that “adultery” is a forgivable sin to which I completely agree. However, I submit that while the unlawful act of adultery is indeed forgivable, the marriage of those who have not been legally freed from a former legitimate marriage is Scripturally unacceptable. For instance, as I suggested before – hence, a man or woman who divorces their spouse, not for some act of willful fornication but simply because they can no longer get along with each other, and then subsequently remarry. There was no fornication justification for their divorce and remarriage respective to Jesus' commandment of Matt. 5:32 & Matt. 19:9.

Moreover, if a man or woman should marry someone who has been “put away” for fornication, is likewise a illegitimate and Scripturally unrecognizable union respective of Jesus’ Matt. 5:32 & Matt. 19:9 commandment.

Matthew 5:32 (KJV)
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:9 (KJV)
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

To suggest that these cited real life scenarios above can continue as normal acceptable Godly unions simply because the affected parties sought and subsequently received forgiveness is unrealistic. Forgiveness of a sin does not license a progressive CONTINUATION of the same identical sin for which one sought former forgiveness. Could one insist that an individual could actually continue in a marital relationship with the “put away” of Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9? Does forgiveness of a sin remove the future scars and consequences of that sin? If I am a drunkard and I seek and receive God’s merciful forgiveness am I then absolutely and forever absolved of any future drunkenness that I may continue unabated?

To this end, it is equally pointless, for one to attempt to apply any OT Scriptures or instances, i.e. king David, in defensive justification of an illegitimate martial union supposedly made clean by forgiveness, because Jesus codified the law as respective of the New Covenant, canceling the effect of the Old Covenant, in relation to divorce and remarriage. He only brought forwards the OT law of “…in the beginning made them male and female…” Matt. 19:4-5.

Matthew 19:4-5 (KJV)
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

When? At the time the Pharisees tried to tempt Jesus with the Mosaic Law regarding a writing of divorcement (Matt. 19:3-9) for “any cause”, it was then and there that Jesus codified the New Covenant commandment of “…but I say unto you, WHOSOEVER…” Matt. 5:32 & Matt. 19:9. This declaration put all other divorce and remarriage arguments to rest.

Apostle Paul echoed these same divorce restriction in 1 Cor. 7:39…“The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth…”

1 Corinthians 7:39 (KJV)
39 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.

In Christ,

Response #5:

Before getting into the details, as a "student of theology", you no doubt are asked and give advice on biblical matters. If someone comes to you and says that they re-married after divorce without the exceptions you find acceptable having applied, what would your advice to them be?

You have never answered these questions I have posed to you. You should know, however, that everything we do and say has consequences. If you present scriptures and "their interpretation" – as you see it – to someone in a way that makes them think they are damned for being remarried, you are having a very powerful effect, even if you don't say anything further. Either this person is going to go insane (for fear of damnation) or be driven to do something radical – like get a divorce.

You should know, therefore, that even if you do not suggest it or demand it, you are encouraging others to get a divorce.

That is the thing I don't understand. People who hold your view say they hate divorce – yet are always encouraging it, either directly or indirectly.

“So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matthew 19:6 NKJV

It seems to me that encouraging others to do so is doing the exact opposite of the above.

“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 19:8 NKJV

So then, the Lord says that GETTING married wrongly is adultery, but you say that CONTINUING to be married thereafter is adultery. Notice that the Lord does not say to those who were wrongly married to get a divorce, but YOU say to get a divorce. The Bible says that we are forgiven all of our sins and unrighteousness when we confess but YOU say that there is no forgiveness . . . for legally married Christians who have confessed their sins . . . unless they first get a divorce. The Lord says to love mercy, but YOU would destroy the peace and the lives of others, Christian men and women and their children too, for the sake of your private interpretation: not one verse of scripture ever counsels divorce, but that is what you are doing.  In fact, the passage above says NOT to get divorced – our Lord's own words – but YOU say they SHOULD get a divorce.  Doesn't that produce the least bit of uneasiness in you, to tell people to do something radical and life-changing which is exactly the opposite of what our Lord has said?  Seems to me the following applies to you:

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."
Mark 9:42 NKJV

Question #6:

Hi Dr Luginbill,

I wanted to ask you a marriage question. To what degree are wives supposed to obey their husbands? No sugar coating please. I used to think, pretty much in all things. Though I will say I only ever met one person (my grandmother) who tended to seem like the obedient type, but I didn't even know her that well (not my fault). So I think that that previous thinking is wrong. You have to least show me it is practical and doable, and if no one anywhere does it, I am not going to immediately assume. I don't think I can marry if it is like that. I don't trust anyone's morality or competence enough to hand that over. I feel like there is more I should say, but that is just the question. If you can give specific examples, that would help.

To be honest, no one really does the waiting for marriage for you-know-what anymore, so I am honestly likely not to marry for that reason anyway. Because no I am not willing to do that just to date.

I mean that there seem to have been some situations in the Bible where it wasn't the way He wanted, but He let us be because of human weaknesses. Maybe it is like that, as the argument in my head goes.

I also don't automatically accord any more respect to Christian leaders like I used to. Even if they are educated and lead a church, they are strangers to me (as a matter of reality). I am as polite to them as anyone. But nothing more. If one tried to impose on me or pressure me, I stop being so polite. That's not bad right? I guess I have seen a number of youth pastors treat it like a temporary job that they care about when clocked in, and so I think of them as worse and more dangerous than secular leaders, because the secular leaders don't have the same ability to hide behind religious language. And of course there is __ (just another member of my family who abandoned me). I never did find out what his deal was. But my point is, so I don't just automatically treat them differently. That's not bad right?

PS: The whole calling Lord and saying submission can mean a whole bunch of things. It can mean really only in certain situations (like in public official ceremonies, etc).

Response #6:

According to scripture, wives are to respect their husbands and husbands are to love their wives (Eph.5:22-33). This is generic language without a context and people have a tendency to read into either what they fear or what they desire without taking a balanced approach.

The context in the passage cited is Christ and His Church. Wives are to respect and obey their husbands as the Church does Christ. Pretty high standard. But husbands are to love their wives as Christ does the Church. Impossibly high standard. So none of us would ever be perfect in any such situation. One thing the analogy makes clear, however, is that if a husband is loving himself more than his wife, then he is not following the biblical rule. And if a wife is giving her husband less respect than the Lord requires, she is not following the biblical rule. So as with many things there is a happy medium where a godly husband and wife will come to terms with this principle. I would say in general that the wife should let the husband lead and be willing to follow, while the husband should lead by example and sacrificially so. Clearly, it takes two spiritually mature people who are both willing to bend in order for this to work. If only one party bends, then the whole thing will be easily broken.

And this is not the eighth century B.C. Nowadays, neither women nor men are required to get married (arranged marriages being very rare). Any sane person would get to know their potential opposite number well enough beforehand to be able to be fairly certain that, in the case of a woman, she really is willing to follow this guy, and in the case of a man, that he really is willing to sacrifice for this lady. That may take a long time, or, sometimes, people size each other up pretty quick. But it is a very important thing to figure out before saying "I do!", namely, is this going to work? Because marriage isn't easy.

But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
1st Corinthians 7:28 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

I am sorry but I am still stuck on this. I don't think it is what you are saying. Right now my perspective is that if you put it along with the verse to submit to each other Ephesians 5:21 for general believers, it reveals the meaning. That we should all submit to each other and not set up a dictatorship/benevolent dictatorship. Sort of like when the Lord says something to only one or two apostles, and then to a larger group, I don't think it means something special about the first person or two He said it to more-so than the others. And I am not one with a problem of being submissive.

Response #7:

I'm not crazy about the word "submissive" because the connotations in modern English send a message that is not what the Bible means, in my opinion. Put it this way: in any relationship of any kind, someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. The way in which decisions are made can be cooperative and cordial. But if both insist on their way all the time, there will be no peace.

As mentioned, that's why I always emphasize what Paul says about marriage and recommending caution: "I'm trying to spare you". It's not easy for either party, and it takes two mature believers who are both willing to compromise and sacrifice for things to work.

In Jesus,

Question #8:

I suppose they chose "submit" because it is closest to the meaning? Could you explain how it is different? I think it would help lots of ICHTHYS readers to know too (if you are understandably annoyed at me).

Response #8:

The Greek word is hypotassomai, and "submit" is not a terrible translation – except that the word has connotations in modern American English which can give the wrong impression here. It doesn't mean "throw yourself on the ground so as to be a doormat".

In most viable marriages I have observed, there is a great deal of give and take. In good Christian marriages, while the husband leads, he does so in a loving way which doesn't disregard his wife in any way – far from it. The way I read this word in the Greek, rather than, "surrender all hope of ever making another independent decision", it means something more like "be willing to allow your husband to lead" (cf. the use at 1Cor.16:16).

In the modern world, women do NOT have to get married, so a Christian woman has ample opportunity before the fact to determine whether or not the man she is contemplating marrying is 1) worthy of such respect and deference, and 2) rather than apt to be abusing that kind of voluntarily given authority will instead be a loving partner to her and of her.

A brief illustration:

Scenario #1:

Bad Husband: I've decided that we're moving to Florida, no ifs, ands or buts.

Doormat Wife: OK

Scenario #2:

Average Husband: I'd like us to move to Florida.

Unresponsive Wife: I want a divorce.

Scenario #3:

Good Husband: What do you think about us moving to Florida?

Responsive Wife: Let's talk about it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Please help me. I'm divorced and remarried to an unbeliever. My first husband left after 23 years. I then got involved in an adulterous relationship with the man I'm currently married to. I knew it was wrong to be with him and broke up twice, but went back. Now I'm 7 years into this marriage and filled with fear, guilt, shame, confusion, and regret. Will God forgive me? Am I going to hell? Do I leave this marriage to avoid continuing in adultery as some suggest? I'm an absolute wreck I can't sleep I'm anxious all the time, this worry and fear is seriously affecting my health. Please help me

Response #9:

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are most definitely NOT "going to hell". Only unbelievers are excluded from the glories to come – out of their own free will choice in not desiring a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

As to marriage, if you have read the postings at Ichthys (I'll give you a few links below), you will know that my synopsis of what the Bible says about such things runs roughly as follows:

1) Are you single? Best to stay single.

2) Are you married? Best to stay married.

3) Are you divorced? Best not to re-marry.

4) Have you remarried? Best not to divorce.

After all, the Bible NEVER counsels divorce. The passages you seem to be referring to is where our Lord tells the Pharisees that dumping a wife for no legitimate reason in order to marry another is an ACT of adultery (the ACT of wrongly remarrying). But what people often fail to appreciate is that the purpose our Lord has here is PRECISELY to PREVENT wrongful divorce – NOT to produce new divorces in the new marriages, however contracted. That is not what He says, nor does He tell them to divorce.

Once a person is married, regardless of what went before, they are married, and the Bible always counsels sticking with a marriage if at all possible. Of course it's not always possible – sometimes the other party leaves (as in your case); sometimes the other party essentially puts the marriage to death (there are plenty of ways that can happen: abuse, cheating, etc.). But if two people are married, and both willing to stay in the marriage, the Bible counsels staying together, EVEN if the other party is an unbeliever.

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 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.
1st Corinthians 7:12-14 NKJV

If we have anything to confess about past actions, the Bible makes allowance for that (Ps.32:5; 1Jn.1:9). Whatever we have done, if we confess to the Lord, we are forgiven, once and for all – because whatever we have done Christ has already died for that sin (and all sin). At that point, we need to move on and not look back. If we have any divine discipline coming for what we have done, we can rest assured that our heavenly Father administers that like the loving Father He is so that there is nothing to fear (Heb.12:3-13).

There may be natural consequences for our actions. E.g., an imperfect marriage because, well, marriage is imperfect because people are imperfect, will not be as blissfully happy as one contracted under near perfect circumstances no doubt. Also, I don't know of any believer who is not carrying around some scars from living in this world – but we can still have joy in the Lord. We don't quit just because things are not perfect. Things are NEVER perfect.

Guilt is the devil's ace trump and is almost never sending a godly signal. We know very well if we've done something wrong in the recent past – and if so we should confess and move on. But if something is LONG past and long ago confessed, this sort of guilt is just the devil vexing our sin nature and stirring it up against us. The solution to that – and to everything else in the Christian life – is spiritual growth.

So while I hope you read the links below and take some comfort from this email, understanding that your salvation as a born again believer in Jesus Christ is absolutely secure as long as you maintain your faith in Him, and that the LAST thing the Lord wants from you is to up-end your life and the lives of everyone else in your circle by doing something the Bible does not counsel (and actually counsels against), I also hope this will help you see that devoting yourself to drawing closer to the Lord through spiritual growth is the only way to have true peace and joy in the Lord in this life – and a good reward in the next. Ichthys is devoted to helping believers along that path and you are certainly welcome here any time. Here are those links:

Marriage and the Bible IX

Marriage and the Bible VIII

Marriage and the Bible VII

Marriage and the Bible VI

Marriage and the Bible V

Marriage and the Bible IV

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible I

No Grounds for Divorce?

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.

A conversation about divorce and remarriage.

Feelings of Guilt about Remarriage.

More on divorce and remarriage.

Divorce and remarriage.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Hope you're feeling okay after your four in a row today. I had a busy one at work too. Lots more patients are being booked in now. I'm back in tomorrow and Friday. I'm being gentle with myself though to avoid burn out!

If it's okay I wanted to ask you a quick question about the verse you gave to me - 1 Cor. 7:14.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for other wise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

I know that this doesn't mean that the unbelieving husband is saved on the basis of his wife's faith in Christ. That has to be a personal decision for each one of us. So does the word "sanctified" refer to the sanctity of the marriage relationship itself? That it is holy or set apart in God's eyes based upon the wife's faith in the Lord. And that the children of their marriage are legitimate in the sight of God.

Could you explain this verse to me in your words please. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

Your friend in Jesus

Response #10:

As to your question, this basically means that your marriage is "holy", special and set apart in God's eyes . . . because of YOU. So your umbrella of grace protection is extended by God over your entire family in spite of their unbelief because you ARE a believer.

It's a wonderful thing, and we see this principle in general at work everywhere, where believers are "salt" to whatever group or geographical entity they are a part of (link). But marriage is special and for that reason gets special mention. Here's a link to where this is discussed on the site.

Keeping you and yours in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

[omitted]

Response #11:

It's a difficult situation you have, no doubt.

These are the sorts of things which only the believer in question can sort out properly. However, I can say two things definitively: 1) not sinning is NOT unfair to other people, not even if they've become comfortable with you sinning with them in the past, and not even when (or especially when) the world sees it differently; 2) marrying an unbeliever – or marrying anyone for the wrong reasons – one of the biggest mistakes it's possible to make in this life.  Doing so out of guilt motivation is almost certainly going to guarantee that it was indeed a mistake.

So my overall advice would be not to pay any attention to what "people" say or think. It really only matters what the Lord thinks. You are responsible for your own actions – just as "people" are responsible for theirs.

Keeping you in my prayers always, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Sorry it's been so long since I have been able to get back to you. So I read your last email and I'm going to give you a little background. So my first marriage was awful. He beat on me, cheated on me and when I met my husband now I was still married. I know that was wrong but I honestly didn't know how to get out of the first marriage. We did get a divorce . Like I have said before me and my husband now have a beautiful life a 8 years old son he doesn't beat on me he doesn't cheat on me; it's great. With that being said does that mean I have a chance of hell if I dont divorce my current husband? I have ask for forgiveness at the time of my first marriage I didn't know about all this going to hell stuff.

Response #12:

I'm sorry to hear that you are still struggling with this. Here is what I know from the Bible:

I) Salvation:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

As any Christian should know, salvation is about believing in Jesus Christ. If you are a born again, born from above believer in Jesus Christ you are saved – regardless of marital status or any other consideration. Just because there are all manner of liars out there in the devil's world doesn't change the truth of the Bible (which is easily understood in just the verse above).

II) Marriage:

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.
1st Corinthians 7:26-27 NKJV

Scripture is also clear that we are to stay in whatever situation we are in – if possible. Someone who is being abused and being cheated on is clearly not required to keep enduring such abuse.

I do understand that you are uncomfortable about how your previous marriage ended and also about how your present marriage began. But even if it was sinful to end the first one and sinful to begin the second one, God forgives sin. We are all sinners, and we are all forgiven our sins when we repent and confess to the Lord (1Jn.1:9). Understand: you can't "fix" sin by doing works of supererogation. That is RC works. That is offensive in the extreme to the Father – because He sacrificed His dear Son for all of our sins. Jesus died for our sins. He paid for them. If we try to "pay" for them in any way, it is like saying we find His work insufficient. Nothing more blasphemous than that.

So for those who are married and have concern, "getting divorced to make it right" would be just such works-salvation. First, God hates divorce (in any marriage, first or second or whatever: Mal.2:16); second, no wrong or sin can ever "be made right". But since Jesus died for all sin, all sin is forgiven when we confess.

That doesn't mean that sin doesn't have consequences. There are always consequences and divine discipline too. But God is merciful and provides healing and comfort with the forgiveness that is the right of all believers – when we turn back to Him in faith (1Jn.1:9).

So what does the Bible say?

1) if you are single, better to stay single.

2) if you are married, better to stay married.

3) if you are divorced, better to stay unmarried.

4) if you are remarried, better to stay married.

I think I've written to you pretty much the same thing several times now. I can also tell you that no one can really have peace in this life absent a close relationship with Jesus Christ – and that is only possible through spiritual growth. So I encourage you to adopt a program of spiritual growth. Ichthys is at your service in this regard (I recommend starting with the Peter series at the link).

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

I keep wondering why the Bible doesn't allow for divorce in serious domestic abuse cases. I don't mean like a bit of pushing or grabbing a little roughly (not that that is good), but hitting to the point of bruises kind of thing (and I do mean for both genders).

It allows it for infidelity and abandonment.

Response #13:

As you probably know, I've written a good deal about the subject of divorce (link).

It's true that the Bible is hostile to divorce.

It's also true that exceptions to the scriptural guidance are few.

However, I do not consider that it is consistent with what the Bible does say about marriage (and other things) to counsel women that they have to stay in abusive relationships. Far from it.

As I have written often in the past, separation is NOT prohibited (e.g., 1Cor.7:15), and no woman should stay in a relationship, married or not, where she is suffering cruel abuse – and we all know what that is, whether emotional or physical or both. She should get out. And, in my humble opinion, once out, the cases where she should be reconciled with her abusive husband are few and far between. Because people who are in the habit of doing cruel and abusive things rarely change.

As to divorce after that point, the man who broke up the marriage has already ended it de facto in my view, so that worrying at that point about the legal niceties is merely legalistic. There are very good reasons to finalize such broken marriages legally once this step of separation is taken, especially if a little time has gone by – so that the Christian woman in question can get on with her life and not be enslaved to the contract which her abusive husband has thoroughly violated in spirit if not in letter.

More reasons to stay single.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

I got a new email. I know you remember me from our past emails about the pastor of a church here in my town saying I was going to hell or staying in my second marriage. Every time I see anything with his church name on it I get triggered all over again with the worst crippling anxiety I have ever experienced. I cant get over the fact that he has actually made people get a divorce. Why is he so sure that what he is saying or thinking is true ? He says he prays about it and his tells him what to do. He is from a local church of Christ. I don't even know where he gets is info that divorce your spouse is even right ? It makes me sad to think about how many life’s he has destroyed someone’s like. Honestly a little voice in the back of my head keeps saying what if he’s right. I’m at my wits end Bob pls help me understand.

Response #14:

If this "pastor" were right, then there would be no such thing as grace or forgiveness, which would mean that the cross never happened and there is no God and it's all a myth – but then where did that demon who's putting that voice in your head in aid of the devil's "pastor" come from?

Demons and the devil only exist because God did create all this and did provide us human beings with free will. And since God is good and merciful and kind, He had to provide a Sacrifice for the sins that free will people would inevitably commit. So He DID sent Jesus to die for us, and the cross is the truth. So there IS forgiveness and grace and mercy, available to all through simply accepting the Gift of Jesus Christ and then confessing sins thereafter.

1) You really need to block this person's email address.

2) I strongly advise you to begin a daily, consistent program of spiritual growth (Ichthys is there for that very purpose). Only by growing can a Christian develop the spiritual weapons necessary to fight the fight we are all engaged in so as to, for example, pick up the shield of faith and deflect these fiery darts of the evil one (Eph.6:10-20). Grace and mercy and forgiveness and the goodness of God are basic principles of our faith, but they have to be taught and studied and learned and believed to be able to be applied when under pressure.

3) *The most recent posting at Ichthys is all about that subject (link: BB 6A: Peripateology: the Biblical Study of the Christian Walk); but again, spiritual growth requires a broad-based approach seeking out ALL of God's truth and counsel – it can't be a one-issue-only approach and be successful.

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Robert

I Believe what you say but then all I see is me going to hell and burning for eternity. I can't erase what he said. It haunts me days and night and gives me anxiety when in around my husband. I have full blown anxiety attacks. I don't deserve to burn in hell forever Bob. I don't know what else to do. I don't talk to the man who said that but its killing me. Help me please

Response #15:

I can assure you that believers do NOT "go to hell". Only unbelievers are damned.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."
Acts 16:31

You believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, so you are saved.

NEVER does the Bible connect marriage with heaven and hell. NEVER.

"I can't erase what he said." You can . . . and you must. For the sake of your sanity, for the sake of your marriage, for the sake of your children, you MUST erase these lies from your heart and consign them to oblivion.

You have the Holy Spirit within you. He will help you. But you have to be willing to trust the Lord on this. Believe the Bible. Do NOT believe liars.

. . . and don't forget to block that email.

I'm keeping you in my prayers on this.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

I’m taking your advice and not looking back. I believe you! Thank you for everything!

Response #16:

Good for you!

Your family is worth it – and the Lord will help you do it!

Trust Him!

I'll be praying for you.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Bob, I got one more question. My ex spouse was the first one who cheated on our marriage with my best friend to be exact. I have told you in the past the the man I’m married to now I was still in my other marriage when we met. Me and my husband now got married 2 years later and had a child. I hate to believe my marriage is a sin because he is my best friend and my everything. I’m still able to go to heaven ?  And one more thing so let’s say your husband beats you is it still a sin to divorce him ?

Response #17:

Even if you were totally in the wrong, both to get divorced and then to get married, salvation is about faith in Christ.

Every believer is saved (Jn.3:18), and every believer who confesses his/her sins is forgiven (1Jn.1:9).

Even if an unbeliever never gets married, or if married never gets divorced, that marital status will not save them – because salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ by the grace of God alone (Eph.2:8-9).

Marriage is an institution that God provided for the whole human race in order to provide for the furtherance of the plan of God.  No legal marriage (contracted between a man and a woman) "is a sin":

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
1st Corinthians 7:27-28a NKJV

It may be a mistake to get married in certain cases. If so, then whatever sin was involved in getting married is forgiven when confessed. That doesn't mean there won't be trouble in an ill-conceived marriage. Marriages ARE "trouble":

Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
1st Corinthians 7:28b NKJV

But it does mean that God expects all marriages to be honored. That being the case, He certainly is NOT going to up end grace and contradict everything the Bible says about salvation only in the case of certain people who have certain marital and divorce histories.  Only the devil would suggest something like that (and he does for obviously evil purposes).

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

As our Lord says unequivocally here, believers are saved (regardless of marital history or status), while unbelievers are not saved (regardless of marital history or status).

I am by no means the "judge and jury", but from what you have shared with me, it does sound as if your first husband bears most if not all of the responsibility for the end of that marriage. Infidelity is grounds for divorce in the Bible (Matt.5:32; 19:9), and I have argued that abuse, while not specifically mentioned, is also legitimate grounds for separation and divorce. But I would urge you not to get hung up on the legalities. You ARE remarried now, and God expects you to honor that marriage, however it came about and whatever the legal niceties are. You are saved "by grace through faith" (Eph.2:8), not on the basis of legalistic works of any kind (Eph.2:8-9).

We are all sinners. We all need God's grace. We are all saved through our faith in Jesus Christ – and we all need to follow Him faithfully thereafter. If we fail and fall, we confess and repent and get back up and move forward. We don't dwell on the past, because that is always disastrous to spiritual growth, and we are left here on earth after salvation to grow in the truth, to walk forward with Jesus Christ, and to produce for Him -(Phil.3:12-16).

I urge you to let this drop once and for all and begin moving forward.

I can tell you that all peace and joy in this life for Christians is based upon growth. If that is ignored, at the best a Christian will be wasting his/her time and at worst will often fall into spiritual danger. So, again, I urge you also to begin moving forward. As mentioned, I recommend starting with the Peter series (link), but if reading is not your preference, there are audio files at Ichthys, and Bible Academy is also a very good option.

"For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."
Hosea 6:6 NKJV

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 NKJV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Bob,

Some family members I know are squabbling over whether the wife should have a job outside the home while she has small children. The husbands parents aren’t happy their daughter in law has a job and isn’t a full stay-at-home mom. I tried searching your site but couldn’t find anything regarding this. Maybe I was searching the wrong words. What does the Bible say about this? My wife and I might also be trying to conceive at some point so I am also curious for myself. Do you believe it to be a sin? A guideline? Or just nonsense altogether? Thanks for all you do.

Response #18:

This is the first email I've received from this address (I think we may have corresponded before from a gmail address?).

On your question, I don't have anything about this on the site, mainly because there is nothing about it in the Bible – directly. One has to infer from basic biblical principles. The recently posted Peter #35 (at the link) has a lot to say about marriage (if you haven't seen this one – it only went up last Saturday).

What I would say is that as long as husband and wife are fine with it, and as long as the children are being well cared for, then there is no "sin" involved. It is certainly true that having "mom" at home is a great blessing to children, all other things being equal. It can be hard on kids not to have their mother around at all times. But I wouldn't want to interfere into someone else' marriage. Now that IS likely to be sinful.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Thanks Bob. I have not read the Peter 35 yet. I am on 24 right now. We had your Peters epistles and Bible basics printed out and bound to make it easier to read. Yes I transitioned to this account from my old gmail account. I looked around the internet and it seems that the people who are against working mothers point to Titus 2:3-4 where the NIV says they should be “busy at home,” KJV says “keepers at home,” and NASB says “workers at home.” The opposite side points to the working woman in Proverbs 31. I had never actually met anyone who thought it was completely wrong for a woman to work outside the home so it piqued my interest. Thank you for the information.

Response #19:

The KJV, while an excellent translation, because of its early date was based upon inferior Greek mss. Much better witnesses to the text have surfaced since. KJV is actually reading a different (wrong) word than NIV/NASB at Titus 2:5. They are very close in Greek: oikouros vs. oikourgos respectively. Most likely the ms. KJV used accidentally dropped the extra gamma.

In any case, "keepers at home" does NOT mean "keep YOURSELF at home". It means "keepers OF the home"; the other word means "those who take care of the home". Neither word can be meant to imply that women cannot do this if they have a job. In fact, "keeping the home" or "working on the home" nowadays most often requires income as well as labor, and so it is of course not for no reason that couples often desire two incomes.

None of this, I hasten to add, has anything to do with children. That is a separate issue. As mentioned before, having a full time at home mother is a great boon and blessing to any child, but I can't say that the Bible prohibits mothers from working outside of the home even so. These are personal decisions we all have to make based on the spiritual common sense spiritual growth provides and based upon our own individual circumstances and priorities.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

My niece married a ___ about 17 years ago. She discovered two years ago that he had NEVER been faithful to her, but had 'carried on' with other women, from the very earliest days of their marriage. She discovered porn and evidences on his laptop. I am sure the Lord enabled her to find this out. It was a fluke that she could. She left, and she and her son lived with ___ until she could get her own place. BUT, while there the man claimed with tears that he was 'born again' and duped her into keeping their marriage together. We believe he is a master of manipulation and deception. Despite his 2nd chance, ONCE AGAIN, it was discovered (again, because the Lord brought truth to light by His grace) that he had not reformed at all. NEVERTHELESS she has determined to remain married--based on Scripture that God hates divorce. (and other vss)

I can only implore you to pray for my precious ___ who is under a spell (also going to a horrid "church" which counsels her to stay in the marriage "no matter what"). We keep praying that God will open the gates of Hell to release her.

I hope you are doing well. Blessings to you, dear friend in Christ.

Response #20:

Clearly, a person who does what this man has done has no claim on loyalty whatsoever – biblically speaking.

Also, any "church" that takes such a position is not paying attention to scripture.

I've said a prayer for her and will keep it up.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

I just finished reading the discussion of the first paragraph of 1 Peter 3 in Peter #35 -- on roles within marriage. I'd been meaning to do it for a while, and am glad I finally got around to it. Good stuff!

I wished to briefly discuss one particular paragraph of the study, on the "weakness" of women. This passage in scripture always vexed me because I'd heard so many people make arguments about it that just seemed off. For example, some would say that the weakness here was simply physical. But that makes little sense in context (how in the world does one behave more or less appropriately in marriage towards someone with lesser physical strength?). And then, of course, some people would take it too far, and have women ending up essentially categorically shamed and treated as inferior and subservient, which is what really makes my blood boil. So what does it really mean?

Everything you say re: deception being the critical issue makes perfect sense, but what I want to make sure I am clear on is whether this weakness is something peculiar to what I may term "dependent" women = wives, those adopting the follower/responder role in marriage, or the whole female gender. These strike me as two different things. Relevant quotes from the study:

(7) Likewise [you] husbands are to live together [with your wives] in accordance with [biblical] knowledge (i.e., according to what the Bible has to say by word and example about how to properly treat one's wife), [behaving] as [one ought] towards persons [who, as women, are] weaker. [You husbands] must bestow [all appropriate] honor [on your wives] as fellow heirs of the grace of [eternal] life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (i.e., sin in this regard compromising prayer).
1 Peter 3:7

"As all of these passages make very clear, the capability of being deceived is the critical factor. Women sin. Men sin. But women, even very smart, talented, resilient and capable women, are more vulnerable to deception than is the case with men. This has to do with the way God made them - as responders. And if a perfect woman with a perfect husband in perfect environment could be deceived by the evil one, how much more women with sin natures here in the devil's world. This is why husbands are placed in authority in marriage by the Lord - not because they are more worthy. Not at all. But because, all other things being equal (i.e., positing a husband and wife of precisely equal spiritual maturity), they are less likely to be deceived in making the myriad decisions which a marriage will entail. A wise husband will appreciate that his wife has insight, intelligence and perspective which he likely lacks. He will hear her out whenever any important decision is being contemplated. But all Christian husbands need never to forget that the responsibility for the consequences of all important decisions is theirs and theirs alone. And that is why the authority has been given to them."

I want to be up front in stating that my own view at present is that the weakness in context in 1 Peter 3 is specifically applicable to married women as wives, as people depending upon their husbands and therefore positionally weaker (i.e., weaker in their dependence). This is to say, women are not given the subservient role in marriage as a consequence of them being weaker/more vulnerable to deception inherently (as if it were some sort of biological thing), but they are weaker/more vulnerable to deception precisely because they are in the subservient role in marriage. Does that make sense?

Given that most women are married because most humans are married, we can generalize a bit when it comes to femalekind, but there are exceptions. Unmarried women and widows, for example. If the "weakness" here is mostly a function of marriage roles, then we would be remiss in calling unmarried women categorically weaker than unmarried men in this capacity, would we not? Or are you arguing that somehow the vulnerability to deception is present even for unmarried women -- so it is a function of the gender as a whole, rather than women's specific roles in marriage?

To put everything more clearly, does

"But women, even very smart, talented, resilient and capable women, are more vulnerable to deception than is the case with men. This has to do with the way God made them - as responders."

Mean more along the lines of

"But [married] women, even very smart, talented, resilient and capable [married] women, are more vulnerable to deception than is the case with [married] men. This has to do with the way God made them [in their roles and responsibilities in marriage specifically] - as responders."

Or does it apply to all women period, along the lines of

"But [all] women [whether or not they are married], even very smart, talented, resilient and capable women, are more vulnerable to deception than is the case with men. This has to do with the way God made them - as responders."

Hopefully I am clear here as to the nature of what I am inquiring about. If it is in fact the latter (all women period are weaker), then I would like a bit more elaboration on how this is so, because it doesn't seem quite right to me.

Yours in Christ,

Response #21:

On the one hand, you are certainly correct that Peter is talking about marriage. Further, these comments are directed toward husbands: they are to be considerate to their wives, and in this respect, are not allowed to forget that since they are in authority in marriage. Pleading influence of their wives is no excuse for making decisions recognized as bad ones on account of deception.

"But women, even very smart, talented, resilient and capable women, are more vulnerable to deception than is the case with men."

Yes, this is a relative thing, but it is also a general point. Women who are "on their own", and not under parental authority or under the authority of their husbands are not contemplated in this passage. You are right about that. They are not required to ask male advice or anything like that before they, say, choose what car to buy (or anything else for that matter). However, the statement quoted above sums up the biblical teaching on this point, so that it would be wise for any women to recognize the vulnerability. If we have a vulnerability – and we, men and women alike, all have them (specific weaknesses in the sin nature come to mind – and no man lacks these), then we are well-advised to recognize these and make accommodations. If we (male or female) have a weakness for alcohol, for example, then we would be prudent to stay away, e.g.

Men are certainly capable of being deceived. No doubt about it. But in my life experience we are more likely to "pull an Adam", that is, do something we KNOW we shouldn't do (out of pressure or desire or both) than to "pull an Eve", that is, be tricked into doing something we really didn't realize was a bad idea. I note that with Adam and Eve, both fell and were kicked out of Eden, so it's not as if one failing is better than the other. But as a result of the fall, men are placed in authority in marriage, and with that authority comes responsibility. Husbands have to recognize their wives' vulnerabilities as well as their own and make provision for both sets – if they are going to run their households decently and in order.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

1) Which way is it?

Pardon my denseness, but after re-reading your response a few times, it is still unclear to me whether you are saying the statement in question (namely, "But women, even very smart, talented, resilient and capable women, are more vulnerable to deception than is the case with men") is to be applied to all women (taken as a global truth), or just to married women (as being discussed in the context of 1 Peter 3).

On the one hand, you say

"Women who are "on their own", and not under parental authority or under the authority of their husbands are not contemplated in this passage [1 Peter 3]. You are right about that. They are not required to ask male advice or anything like that before they, say, choose what car to buy (or anything else for that matter)."

Which would seem to indicate that women who are "on their own" are not different from men in this vulnerability to deception. On the other hand, you follow by saying

"However, the statement quoted above sums up the biblical teaching on this point, so that it would be wise for any women to recognize the vulnerability."

And also

"Men are certainly capable of being deceived. No doubt about it. But in my life experience we are more likely to "pull an Adam", that is, do something we KNOW we shouldn't do (out of pressure or desire or both) than to "pull an Eve", that is, be tricked into doing something we really didn't realize was a bad idea."

Which could be taken to say that all women period face the vulnerability to deception to a relatively higher degree than men. (Or, to put it differently, men are less likely to be deceived and instead more likely to follow the pattern of Adam's high-handed sin).

So which way is it? Is it more complicated for some reason than just saying "all women" or "married women" as a two-word response? Can it not be so black and white?

2) What does this statement mean?

"Yes, this is a relative thing, but it is also a general point."

3) Cultural factors, and unmarried women as the corner case that ultimately matters. I'm attempting to not come into this with cultural baggage leaning heavily on the scale of interpretation. It is a sure and certain truth that many people culturally would immediately grab pitchforks upon a statement to the effect that "women are more easily deceived than men by nature" without any sort of limitation of scope. But if that is what the Bible teaches, then that is what we should teach.

If we instead say "Due to the roles God has set out for men and women in marriage, men have the primary authority in marriage, but because of that, also the primary responsibility. Because they are the leaders and the decision-makers, they face a certain set of problems and responsibilities, such as making sure they properly take their wives' station and input into account, as the Bible commands them to do in self-sacrificing love. Women, on the other hand, as the dependent parties under their husband's authority, have a different set of problems and responsibilities. Given that the Bible's role for them has them rely on their husband's authority as "responders" who follow the lead of another, they are more vulnerable than men in the area of misplaced trust. Since married men do not respond but lead, they are less vulnerable to deception than married women who do not lead but respond."

I believe many people would have an easier time with the point, as the vulnerability to deception then becomes something arising from marriage roles rather than something arising from the inherent nature of women.

The distinction is completely meaningless for most women, as most women are married. Where it comes into play is for women who are not married, as they wouldn't then be looked down upon improperly, if the things do not actually hold for them. (But what if they do? -- as below).

4) The Passage from 1 Timothy 2

We started this discussion in 1 Peter 3, but the passage from 1 Timothy 2 has nothing to do with marriage yet still speaks of the deception of women:

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
1 Timothy 2:11-15

The interpretive issue that comes up is thus why this passage speaks of womankind without qualification if it were in fact only married women who are susceptible to deception on account of marriage roles. This passage seems to suggest the susceptibility to vulnerability is something that applies to all women, not just married women.

However, if this is the case, then the question becomes one of mechanics. I clearly understand how women's subservient position in marriage makes them more susceptible to deception: it is something that can be clearly grasped and taught as a natural consequence of marriage roles. But what do I say as a teacher to the idea that all women (even unmarried women) are universally more vulnerable to deception?

We could treat it as a brute fact of life. After all, Biblically speaking, men and women are inherently different, as unpopular as that notion is culturally. The challenge in teaching things this way though is that without care in presentation, it makes women out to be inferior (having a weakness men do not have).

Perhaps we might ease the discomfort of such a point by saying that men are then globally disadvantaged in terms of being more likely to sin in a high-handed way, in the manner of Adam? Thus both women and men would have their own advantages and disadvantages, on balance?

5) Can it be both generally true of women, and more especially true of women in marriage?

We needn't see the options as mutually contradictory, I suppose. That is, both of the following propositions could be true:

1) Women in general are more susceptible to deception than men. (Brute fact of life by the way God has made us as men and women?)
2) Women who are married, given women's role as responders, are then doubly vulnerable in this area.

What do you think of this?

6) Could 1 Timothy 2 be talking about Eve specifically?

It seems more of a stretch interpretively, but could the subservient role women have in 1 Timothy 2 have nothing to do with a general vulnerability women have to deception (i.e., women and men today are no different in this regard), but just Eve specifically? That is, women for all time face the subservient role as their part of the Genesis curse, on account of the way in which Eve fell?

I think context makes this one difficult, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

I cover a lot of ground here, I know, so please take your time. As you can see, I'm trying to piece everything together, rather than arguing for much of anything in particular.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #22:

To take your questions one at a time . . .

1) It applies to all; but all are not the same – clearly; so it is a relative thing even though it is a general principle. As to: "Which would seem to indicate that women who are "on their own" are not different from men in this vulnerability to deception." That is not a conclusion I would draw from what I've written. It's certainly not what I meant.

2) Meaning that no two women (and no two men) have precisely the same degree of vulnerability to deception = relative; but generally speaking women are more vulnerable here than men.

When I wrote you that most men tend to "pull Adams" not "Eves", I believe that gets right to the nub of the issue. Clearly, believers who are spiritually mature are less likely to be deceived. It is also true that people generally have the capability of growing wiser, even if only in the ways of the world. So I have no problem with saying that a wise, spiritually mature Christian woman is probably no doubt a lot less vulnerable to deception than a spiritually immature and precipitous male one. "All other things being equal", however, the biblical principle stands.

3) It doesn't have anything to do with culture. On top of that, the whole reason Peter uses this "weaker vessel" point here is in regard to relations within marriage. Husbands have to appreciate the difference in order to treat their wives with proper respect and not become upset with them because of this tendency. They (we) have their own problems / vulnerabilities to deal with as well.

4) Again, this is a principle for women generally; it is brought up by Peter here in context as an aspect of marital relations. I think your last paragraph is on the mark. If women are more likely to do something stupid out of being deceived, how is that worse than doing something stupid in cognizance of the stupidity of it? That's Eve and Adam respectively, and they both acquired sin natures and they both were cast out of Eden. It is what it is.

5) I don't see marriage increasing or decreasing this vulnerability since it is a general one. The difference in marriage is that because of this principle men are placed in authority by God; and because of the need to manage the marriage well – and be respectfully considerate of their wives – they need to understand this principle so as not to a) go along when they know it's a bad idea (like Adam did), or b) become overly upset with their wives because of this tendency (they have to have the broad shoulders in this – recognizing that they also are far from perfect and have their own weaknesses).

6) 1st Timothy 2 is also speaking about authority, but here in regard to authority not in the family but in the Church. For the same reason, women are not to have authority in teaching men (just as in a marriage they are not the ones to be in authority).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for sticking with me.

1) On why I am pushing for explanation on this

One of the reasons I'm trying to drill into this more deeply is because I'm anticipating a great deal of resistance to this teaching. You say it has nothing to do with culture, and this is right: the truth is the truth. But different cultures in different times and places struggle to accept different things, and that was/is what I'm getting at.

In our modern politically correct culture, it is anathema to declare that men and women are fundamentally different inherently/biologically, and more specifically, to say that women are weaker/disadvantaged relative to men in any way. So if we teach that women are inherently more easily deceived relative to men, it will raise the ire of a good many people. So I want to be able to give a thorough, detailed explanation on this matter, because it will be under more fire than other points of the truth that don't go so much against cultural winds.

Hopefully that makes sense.

2) Making sure I am now reading you properly

I believe I understand what it is you are teaching now. Let me restate what it is I think you are teaching, and you can tell me if I am off on anything:

1) Women -- all women, regardless if they are married or not -- are more easily deceived than men, on average.

2) For this reason specifically, women are put in the subservient position in marriage and within the Church, rather than having authority.

3) On establishing the scriptural basis for the teaching

There are some specific things I'd like to be able to support with scripture if possible, or with clear inferences if not (if possible). Specifically:

3.1 On what basis do we declare women more vulnerable to deception than men?

Is there something other than just 1 Timothy 2:11-15?

3.2 How do we know that Eve was especially vulnerable to deception?

If Adam had been approached by the serpent rather than Eve, how do we know that he would not have been deceived in exactly the same way? That is, how do we know interpretively that Eve was deceived on account of some vulnerability to deception unique to women?

3.3 How do we know that all women suffer from this vulnerability to deception, rather than it being a particular weakness of Eve specifically?

Different individuals have different strengths and weaknesses. How do we make the interpretive jump to take Eve's deception as evidence that all women (rather than just Eve) are relatively more vulnerable to deception than men?

3.4 How do we know that God's directives for women to be subservient are on account of womankind's general vulnerability to deception, rather than on account of Eve's action specifically?

That is, if someone says

"I believe women on average are not more susceptible to deception than men. I also believe that God has directed for them to be subservient in marriage and in Church hierarchy (because the Bible clearly teaches this). Where I disagree with you is why God does this. I think God set things up this way not because all women are more susceptible to deception, but just because of what Eve individually did."

How do you argue against this?

3.5 How do we know that ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει in 1 Peter 3:7 is referring specifically to a greater vulnerability to deception for women rather than something else?

The study presents it in some terms of process of elimination, but is there any way we can be more sure of the identification?

3.6 How do we teach this point without inherently demeaning woman, or making them feel inferior?

We've already touched on covering the corresponding weakness that men have, taking after Adam. What else can we bring up?

Perhaps that there is nothing to be ashamed of in weakness? Or is that wrong, since men are not categorically stronger than women, but just in this specific area (with both men and women having strengths and weaknesses)? But what then of the wording in 1 Peter 3:7 -- are women actually weaker? Your position is that it is in just this one area, right?

I apologize for the onslaught of questions. I'd just like to be rigorous on this one, and don't feel like I presently see all the connections clearly enough to be convincing if I were to try and teach on it myself.

In Christ,

Response #23:

No worries.

1) Cultural considerations are not much of a concern to me. This is not an apologetic operation. We seek what to know what the Bible teaches – then we teach it.

2) That is what the passage says.

3.1) Re: "On what basis do we declare women more vulnerable to deception than men? Is there something other than just 1 Timothy 2:11-15?" There is also the Peter passage we've been discussing and Genesis chapter three itself. One might add Ecclesiastes 7:28 (but be careful of translations on this one). As mentioned, I think this is the way the Bible describes things generally as well as general life experience backing it up – regardless of late Babylonian political correctness to the contrary. When things match up like this, how many passages do you need? People who disagree – because they choose to disagree for personal (certainly not biblical) reasons would do so if you had a thousand passages. After all, there are plenty of people out there who just dismiss the epistles of Paul out of hand (for LGBTQ issues etc.).

3.2) Satan attacked Eve, not Adam. He watched intently for over forty years before he did so. It wasn't an accident.

3.3) Adam and Eve are our precursors in many ways. Any woman would have done what Eve did; any man would have done what Adam did. That is why all that follows is just.

3.4) See above; also, the injunction is not arbitrary; God's justice is not arbitrary. He has set things up the way He has set things up for our own good, not to disadvantage us: just the opposite. Anyone who wants to reject the biblical truth is only harming him/herself because only the truth leads us forward; embracing lies for whatever reason (fear, political correctness, a desire to be "nice" to people we are worried will be offended) is deathly to spiritual growth: no pastor-teacher should ever consider doing this. If a PT can't tell the truth in the face of flak / opposition, he's not worth his salt.

3.5) This is what I was led to in study, and it jibes with the biblical evidence. I'm happy to discuss other possibilities, but this sort of objection could be leveled against any teaching. "How do we know there is a Trinity? Just because all three are mentioned in various passages, there could be other explanations" (as many heresies have explained things differently).

3.6) Yes, it's just one area. Also, it is a tendency. As mentioned before, people grow, people become wise. I would sooner trust the judgment of a spiritually mature woman than that of a spiritually immature man, e.g.

We're not demeaning women by teaching what the Bible says. The reason for the teaching in this location is in fact of course to temper the treatment men are giving to their wives. In the history of interpretation most have said that this relative weakness was physical (or moral); that's not the way I see it for the reasons discussed.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi Bob,

1) Culture stuff clarification. When you say "It's not much of a concern to me", to what are you referring? That I don't need to explain myself in terms of why I was asking more questions on the subject? That cultural considerations vis-a-vis people's willingness to accept things doesn't/shouldn't matter in terms of our teaching? Something else?

2) Culture stuff clarification 2: From two emails of yours back, when you say "It doesn't have anything to do with culture", to what are you referring? That the teaching of women being generally easier to deceive is true regardless of cultural sentiment, and that culture never has anything to do with the truth anyway, as the truth is not relative? Something else?

3) On the idea of preparing for expected (cultural) resistance: Do you agree that it makes sense to be somewhat more prepared to handle questions on things we expect people to resist, culturally or otherwise? (Not that we ever go easy on the truth at all, but we just try to prepare ourselves for expected resistance that it is possible for us to anticipate beforehand)? Or do you think that we should be so thorough and convinced on all things we teach that there should not be any practical difference in how we prepare and handle our teaching regarding things that people are likely to find controversial for cultural reasons etc.?

4) On Ecclesiastes 7:28. On an email posting, you translate this verse as

Though my heart kept searching, yet I did not find one man – [not] one in a thousand did I find, nor any women among them all did I find [who was righteous].
Ecclesiastes 7:28

It seems that most versions translate in such a way that it makes it sound like while you can find a righteous man among a thousand, you cannot find any righteous women. If we translate in a way that makes men and women essentially equivalent in the rarity of righteousness (the translation of yours I have quoted), I do not understand why you suggest I look at this verse as a cross-ref for supporting the idea that women are generally more easily deceived than men. Could you clarify? It would make more sense as a cross-ref if we translate as the other versions (= women are less righteous), but it seems you do not agree with such translations, right? It also seems to me like such a concept (women being inherently weaker morally) would be problematic theologically.

5) On why creation priority matters: Could you briefly explain what Paul had in mind when using the fact that Adam was created first (1 Timothy 2:13) as support for his commands regarding the subservience of women in 1 Timothy 2:11ff.? Is Eve's creation as a "helper" for Adam (= subservient to him?) in mind here, as in Genesis 2:18-20?

6) Could both reasons given for the subservience of women in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 be in view in 1 Peter 3:7? We had an interesting conversation about all this when I had brought things up casually. We had talked through the idea of women's "emotional weakness" as potentially being the thing in view in 1 Peter 3:7, but decided that it makes very good interpretive sense for the underlying reason for women's subservience in marriage to match the reasons for their subservience in Church hierarchy as well -- that it makes good sense for the reason(s) why they aren't given authority in one place to match the reason(s) in the other. Paul gives two reasons in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. I'm still a little fuzzy on creation priority as a variable in all this (as above), but is it possible that the weakness mentioned in 1 Peter 3:7 has both of these same things in mind, rather than just the deception reason? Is drawing a line between the two things and making them separate really appropriate anyhow? If they are in fact tightly coupled, then how exactly is creation order (= purpose in being created second as a helper for man?) related to the getting deceived business?

Yours in Christ,

Response #24:

1) Right. We teach the truth, "even if it hair-lips the pope", as they say.

2) Meaning that this teaching is not ancient-world specific but universally applicable through time and cultural space.

3) Occasionally it's not a bad thing to approach issues where there is known resistance head-on. A pastor-teacher is not much use if he is unwilling to tell people "the bad news", that is, things they don't want to hear. My own method is not to jam such things down the throat unnecessarily and willy-nilly, but I also don't apologize for the truth and take care not to sugar-coat it to the point of obscuring the principle I'm trying to teach. On this one, if you personally believe that it's true, namely, that the Bible teaches that women are – all other things being equal and allowing for individual differences and varying levels of spiritual growth – more susceptible to being deceived as a gender than men are, then you should teach it. If you are not convinced from scripture, then you should not teach it. Most people, as we've agreed, see this passage purely in terms of physical differences – although that makes it hard to explain kata gnosin ("according to knowledge"), since if physical differences were meant, surely everyone "knows" already that the average woman is not as physically strong as the average man (although, and parallel to the spiritual issue, there are plenty of women out there who are stronger than men who are smaller and weaker than they), and it doesn't need biblical "knowledge" to explain this point.

In my opinion, many Christian women are more willing to respond to the truth than you seem to anticipate (or have experienced). Certainly not all are (nor men either: this is Laodicea, after all), but that usually is a function of deeper spiritual issues just as in the case of male believers. So if a believing woman is not willing to accept this principle – even though it's clearly (in my view) taught in scripture and also backed up by common human experience – then one wonders whether or not she is willing to accept anything of the truth or is merely "always learning but never able to come to acceptance of the truth" (2Tim.3:7), a tic men have as well, just over different issues. For those in the middle (i.e., resistant to something they don't like to hear but being willing to give it a hearing if it is from the Bible), being confronted with disagreeable truth is not the worst thing. That happens to us all, after all. If we accept the truth even when it stings, that increases our humility and becomes an important step forward in spiritual growth. Whereas arrogantly rejected truth and authority leads in the other direction.

4) As mentioned, Ecclesiastes 7:28, however translated, is not the best parallel; it does, however, express a corollary principle of relatively more self-deception in women than in men, since lacking righteousness is the result of heading the wrong way and the deception of the evil one is key in that (e.g., Lk.8:12).

5/6) I think that is correct. The priority of creation sets the pattern of authority and the principle of being deceived underscores the reason for it. On emotional weakness, I don't see that in the same way; if one wanted to posit that women's emotional differences from men's is a weakness (which I do not accept – women are emotionally different from men and men from women without there being any issue of strength or weakness in my view), I would see that as a physical (as opposed to a spiritual) characteristic as well – and also one what is so well understood by everyone (the difference, regardless of how one evaluates it) that there is no need for biblical gnosis in order to handle it correctly.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hi Bob,

4) On Ecclesiastes 7:28, I still don't understand.

4.1) Do you believe that this verse says and means that -- all other things being equal and allowing for individual differences and varying levels of spiritual growth -- women are less righteous than men?

4.2) If so, then what about the email response where you say (emphasis mine):

"So your point is certainly well-taken, and anyone who tries to use this verse to denigrate women vis-ŕ-vis men is missing the whole point of the passage. That said, I don't think this is what the verse actually says. The LXX translates "Although my soul sought yet I did not find one man from a thousand did I find, or a women among all these I did not find", and that is a fairly literal rendering of the Hebrew. Solomon's Hebrew in Ecclesiastes in particular is deliberately couched in "wisdom literature" verbal rhythms, so that the repetition of "did I find" is in my view merely a nod to that rhythm and cannot be made to reverse the meaning of the verse – just as the next verse in the chapter shows clearly shows. A better rendering:

Though my heart kept searching, yet I did not find one man – [not] one in a thousand did I find, nor any women among them all did I find [who was righteous].
Ecclesiastes 7:28

I believe this says and means the opposite of (4.1).

4.3) If in fact you believe and teach what you wrote in (4.2) (and therefore disagree with the sentiment of (4.1), as seems logically necessary to me), then we could phrase things as "this verse does not make any relative distinction in righteousness between men and women."

Then why bring it up in establishing women's relative vulnerability to deception? If Ecclesiates 7:28 makes no relative distinction between men and women, then I am not understanding how it is relevant to the vulnerability to deception consideration.

(5) and (6)

You combined your responses here, which makes sense, since I did kind of blend the questions. Nonetheless, I'm having a hard time disentangling things. Would you mind trying again by answering things subpoint by subpoint, as I lay out below? (Hopefully I'm asking things more clearly this time).

5.1) Could you briefly explain what Paul had in mind when using the fact that Adam was created first (1 Timothy 2:13) as support for his commands regarding the subservience of women in 1 Timothy 2:11ff.?

What I don't understand is the idea of "the person who was created first temporally necessarily has more authority." It would be logically permissible for someone with less authority to be created before someone with more authority, right? So what then does order of creation have to do with establishing authority?

5.2) I have seen assertions on the internet that Paul is making a point of emphasizing the fact that Adam was created before Eve rather than the other way around to combat contemporaneous gnostic teaching floating around at his time that made claims based on the notion that Eve was created first. Is this made-up hand-waving on the part of modern people trying to explain away the passage (by using "Paul was arguing against the gnostics!" to limit the scope of the statements), or is there any actual historical basis to this idea?

6.1) Do you agree that the weakness mentioned in 1 Peter 3:7 is essentially referring to both reasons given in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 rather than just vulnerability to deception?

In Christ,

Response #25:

I don't find any problem or contradiction with what I said about Eccl. 7:28 in either place, but a) as mentioned it's not the best parallel, and b) since you're not convinced by it we're only wasting our time in talking about it further, especially since it is a tangent. The point was that relative righteousness is parallel to relative propensity to being deceived with scripture giving the same relative proportion to the sexes. No woman (or man) should be offended by this. Why? Because we are not men and women primarily; primarily we are BELIEVERS:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 NKJV

Should I be upset at biblical verses which point out the failings of mankind because I belong to that category? Should I not rather rejoice in belonging to Jesus Christ and seize the opportunity to grow above the natural tendencies of our race? Similarly, no Christian woman is hindered from growing to the peak of spiritual maturity and confounding all tendencies in walking with Jesus, be they human or strictly feminine – except unless said person reacts wrongly and compromises spiritual growth through unwillingness to accept the truth.  One might even dare to point out that a Christian woman who was challenged by this principle and who as a consequence dedicated herself to aggressive spiritual growth so as to win the three crowns and a wonderful eternal reward would be better off as a result of said challenge . . . for all eternity (and better off than her, e.g., husband who had not gone anywhere spiritually speaking).  No Christian woman is hindered by these biblical facts from growing spiritually, should she chose to do so, or from glorifying Christ in an exceptional way . . . unless she reacts and shuts down instead of responding with determination to make her life count for Jesus Christ.  Let's remember WHY we are here, people.

In terms of other issues, to put them together: Eve was created FOR Adam; men are "initiators" and women are "responders" by virtue of creation; as a result, men are more inclined to be aware of what they are doing if they are doing something wrong (as Adam was), whereas women are more inclined to be unaware (and so more vulnerable to being deceived as Eve was) if they are doing something wrong. That is the general tendency based upon the fundamentals of male and female human nature respectively – in the biblical view. 

And remember, regardless of our genders, since we all have sin natures, we are all inclined to do plenty of wrong and only learn to address that through spiritual growth.

As mentioned, I would expect that a spiritually mature woman would be a good deal less likely to be deceived than a spiritually immature man. But the tendencies are what they are and so in leadership situations, of which marriage is one – designed for the entire human race, unbelievers included – the biblical position is that men should be in authority, not women.

So, yes, these two things cannot be disentangled, namely, the way we were made (the "how" more than the "when"), and the tendencies we possess as a result.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Bob,

4) On Ecclesiastes 7:28: I'm not necessarily saying there is anything wrong with what you said (as if I am trying to catch you in a "gotcha" or anything), it is just legitimately unclear to me what you actually take this verse to mean. So far from criticizing any position on this verse's interpretation, I am just trying to figure out what it is you teach on it, that's all. I can accept that it is now tangential to what we were talking about. But now that we've brought it up, I'd like closure on it (sorry for the scope creep!). With that in mind:

4.1) Do you believe that this verse says and means that -- all other things being equal and allowing for individual differences and varying levels of spiritual growth -- women are less righteous than men?

4.2) On your translation

Though my heart kept searching, yet I did not find one man – [not] one in a thousand did I find, nor any women among them all did I find [who was righteous].
Ecclesiastes 7:28

Unless I am missing something, I believe this says and means the opposite of (4.1). Does this mean you do not agree with (4.1)? At risk of repeating myself, I'm just trying to figure out which way you take the verse. I've peeked at the Hebrew of Ecclesiastes 7:27-29, and I am so woefully out of practice that I daren't pretend I got lots out of it. However, interpretation of this passage turns on whether you take the negation with women specifically or across both genders, right?

.אָדָם אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף מָצָאתִי וְאִשָּ ה בְכָל־אֵלֶּה לֹא With לֹא at the end of the clause, is that why so many interpreters take it with women only (rather than with the verb across both genders)? It is true that right before this we have a negated form of this verb with the negation before the verb directly: אֲשֶ ר עוֹד־בִּקְשָ ה נַפְשִ י וְלֹא מָצָאתִי. (This verb goes with the relative clause, right? "Which my soul has sought repeatedly but I have not found...")

Would it be strange for verse 29 to make this point if Solomon had just drawn a relative difference between men and women in verse 28, or would it not be a problem for that interpretation? I hope it is clear that I am just seeking to understand what this verse actually says.

On the "Paul combatting gnostics" bit, I asked a question last round that I'm still curious about. I've recopied it.

5.2) I have seen assertions on the internet that Paul is making a point of emphasizing the fact that Adam was created before Eve rather than the other way around to combat contemporaneous gnostic teaching floating around at his time that made claims based on the notion that Eve was created first. Is this made-up hand-waving on the part of modern people trying to explain away the passage (by using "Paul was arguing against the gnostics!" to limit the scope of the statements), or is there any actual historical basis to this idea?

Thanks for bearing with me. I think we're near the end on this chain now .

In Him,

Response #26:

Ecclesiastes 7:28 is a difficult verse. Clear from context: 1) Solomon indicts all human beings here; 2) Solomon has a special indictment for women here (cf. v. 26); 3) the distinction is relative only; that is to say, men are "bad" and women are too. That's the gist of my paragraph and also my translation (I'm not clear from what you've written that you see that).

On Gnostics, I've never heard that one before (citation?); we don't have a great deal of contemporary evidence of Gnostic teachings. In any case, no, I don't think that has anything to do with it. The priority of creation is meant to remind of the fact that woman was created for man, not the other way around. She was supposed to respond to him, not him to her. So when Eve began to respond instead to the serpent, she became vulnerable to deception. And when Adam decided to respond to Eve instead of to the Lord the fall was complete. That pattern is the reason for the authority differential.

New semester starts tomorrow!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Hi Bob,

Good luck with the semester! __ is a senior now, and finally (finally!) feels like college experience might be semi-normal again. Unless the delta variant scares certain administrators enough to... well, we'll see.

On Ecclesiastes 7:28, in this last email you have made your position clear with points 1-3, but you are correct in stating that I did not/do not see how what you wrote supports points (2) and (3).

You're going to have to explain this one to me "like I'm five" because I'm really not understanding how what you say from the quoted email response in regards to verse 28 translates to points (2) and (3) you make, namely, that verse 28 especially indicts women and makes a relative distinction between men and women. Maybe you are talking about the whole passage (7:25-29) and I'm focusing on just verse 28 specifically, and that's where the confusion is stemming from?

Verse 26 certainly condemns (a specific sort of) women, but translating verse 28 very literally as "I did not find one man among a thousand did I find, nor a women among all these did I find [who was righteous]" (i.e., taking the negation with both men and women as opposed to with just women -- the latter being how most conventional translations seem to take it), does not seem to make a relative difference between men and women. Unless I'm missing something.

If we say Solomon has an indictment of women on account of verse 26, then I follow how you get (2) and (3). But if you are saying verse 28 is itself supporting a relative distinction between men and women, then I still don't see how you get that from how you translate and your response to that email question.

Does my confusion still puzzle you, or am I being clearer in where I am getting hung up?

In Him,

Response #27:

"Not one man in a thousand" = very slight; "not one woman" [hardly at all] = even more slight.

No one is righteous, after all, so the point of the passage – and the reason I've suggested that on second thought it's not the best parallel – is that even though it does represent a distinction, the purpose is declare the depravity of people generally. That is also true of our issue too, after all. Men only need to be in authority over women in marriage because we are no longer in Eden (where there was no need of authority) because Adam did what he knew was wrong in responding to Eve instead of to the Lord.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi Bob,

I get it now. Every other commentator I've read on this passage thus far has taken בְכָל־אֵלֶּה -- "all these" as being equivalent to the 1000 mentioned for men. This was my assumption in what you had written as well, which is why I was like ???.

In other words, I was very confused as to how "not one in a thousand" for men, and "not one in all those (i.e., a thousand)" for women was evidence of any relative difference.

But if we instead take it as "not one in a thousand" for men and "not one in all those [I searched] (i.e., greater than 1000)" for women, then there is a relative difference, even if it is minor, and especially in the context of verse 29, as you note.

Last question then I hope, since I finally understand everything you wrote and how it fits together: why should we take "all those" as being a number greater than 1000 instead of being 1000 too, just as for men? Isn't it natural to take the demonstrative pronoun as pointing back to 1000 as a near antecedent? What is the argument to the contrary?

It's not that I have a strong opinion here already formed, it's just that I've already seen plenty of people argue for the 1000 identification, so would like to hear the other side of the story too.

Thanks for sticking with me on all this!

In Christ,

Response #28:

It is defensible the other way. However, the two expressions are not parallel and that has to be deliberate – otherwise why mention women at all? So I believe the evidence swings in favor of the short synopsis just provided before.

Since we are concluding this discussion, I feel the need to say that I am constrained to teach what the Bible teaches. But I would (and believe that I did in the last Peter installment; link) endeavor to make it clear that scripture provides NO brief whatsoever for the abuse of women by men, not in any way.

Because we teach that women are not to be in authority over men in marriage does NOT mean that we teach that men are morally superior to women or that they are allowed to oppress women – in fact of course husbands are mandated to treat their wives in love, the same love that Christ has for His Church, and there is no higher standard than that.

In terms of interpretation on this issue, somewhere between the contemporary abuse by, e.g., the Southern Baptists on the one hand and the contemporary discarding of scripture by, e.g., the Episcopalians on the other is the sweet spot of men acting in love and women acting in response to that love. Everything else is feckless theologizing.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

 

 

 

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