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Marriage and the Bible XIII

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

I recently finished the Song in the KJV and, has become a habit, checked NIV and was still completely confused. I read your responses in the subject index which clarified some. Your mention of a chorus helped shed light and related it to other ancient theater forms with which I am familiar. My question is: Do you believe what NIV calls "audience" (chorus?) is accurate as well as it's division of voices? Keeping track of who is speaking in the KJV was very difficult.

In many places it was reading like a love lost teenager or soft porn. I have to be more careful about what I take literally. I never understood the "Song of Solomon" and reading of the love given that Solomon had about 700 wives and untold concubines (which for me calls into question his wisdom) made me wonder who his lover was. Your explanation that it is the church now makes sense. Still don't completely understand the book but light is glimmering through. Thank you.

I pray that you and yours are safe and well.

In our Lord,

Response #1:

The Song of Solomon would be a very difficult book to teach verse by verse and to parse all the very many complicated issues therein, some of which you broach in this email. I certainly wouldn't want to sign off on the NIV's understanding of each and every section. Having just finished reading the book in Hebrew, I can tell you that things are more complicated – in terms of translation, splitting up of "parts", and exact meaning – than meets the eye in an English translation. It's not a project I would undertake willingly because there are so many more profitable books to cover (in terms of what is beneficial to readers of Ichthys) that even if I lived another 50 years (NOT gonna happen) it wouldn't make my short list.

The bottom line of the book is the one previous interpreters have also seen, namely, that it is best taken as an allegory of Christ and His Bride, so that we can get a sense of how much He loves us – and how much we should love Him – from reading this book. We are most important to Him and He should be most important to us. How many of us really do love the Lord as much as we imagine we would love the perfect soul mate?

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:25-32 NKJV

The poetry of the Song of Songs is lovely in Hebrew, but like much ancient poetry it is difficult to render into English, and in this case the task is made even more difficult on account of many "hapax legomena", that is, words which only occur in this book (and so we have to guess at their meaning).

Hope you are doing well, my friend! Won't be long until it's planting time down there, I reckon.

Keeping you in my prayers daily.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Dr L,

Work has been fairly easy, so I have been trying to focus on my dailies. Thanks so much for your care and prayers!

As I get older, I feel the desire to marry less. Now part of this is probably because I have a pretty good idea what marriage is like (I think). I have spent a lot of time over the years reading about what it is like, and have read a few counseling and related books (to see where it goes wrong, the weaknesses). And I am NOT knocking anyone who does it. I just like the idea of the studies I do and learning more about God and growing closer to Him (and some prayers and some related things). And I think, so it would at the very least have to be someone who pursues God (not just believes) via prayer and Bible reading/study. But then I think, you don't really study together (or I have not seen an equal benefit compared to solo, but maybe it is because I am introverted). I find group tasks, if not work related with its structure, tend to waste a lot of time. And I know women tend to be the homemakers, which makes sense, don't get me wrong. But I don't want to give up those hours of learning to homemake. (I mean I do a little for myself, but much of the time my apartment is messy lol). Again I am not knocking anyone. I mean I don't even want a house because I don't want to give up that time and energy and have to take care of a house (again, I am happy for people who have nice things I don't have). Would you believe I have also lost almost all interest in fiction reading (outside of Greek) for a long time? The only times I can get myself to read it is when I remember Song of Solomon is sort of like fiction and is valuable.

The other thing is that when I read married people's day to day stuff, there is just so much, it is exhausting for me to read about (to be fair, you know I haven't had a real family growing up so it could be that I am not used to the work and energy of that. I don't know if you know, but for deaf and hard of hearing, when we put on a hearing aid we get exhausted quickly even when we aren't doing anything and it isn't noisy because there is still so much input to process that we are not used to).

So anyway that has been simmering in my thoughts.

By the way, any Greek works to throw at me? Hopefully common ones so I can use Perseus?

PS: I am putting this here to separate it out because it is important! As people lose their vision or hearing, they often don't even realize it because it is slow. But when you lose a lot and don't have all that stimulation, it is like stopping exercise and you start to lose function (this is for everyone all ages I am pretty sure). But when you are older it can mean dementia (I don't think young people get that). I am only saying this because I care about you very much, so please be careful about your hearing and exercising your mind. I mean I think your mind is on a much higher level than mine, so it is possible it wouldn't affect you at all since you know and read in so many languages. But please be careful? When I got glasses I was shocked by how much eyesight I had lost and not noticed. Please take care of yourself.

I was rereading old stuff you wrote for book buying and now I feel like what I wrote to you is a waste of time lol. Could you just respond on how Song of Solomon should be classified (or send a link)? That is the only real thing I think.

I do really hope you are well.

PPS: On the Song of Solomon, I just meant that my understanding is that it is not literal, it is a parable; *allegory not parable. Right? And if stories like that are useful, maybe fiction stories are too.

Response #2:

First, it's my pleasure to pray for you – thanks so much for your prayers for me also!

I belong to the camp that sees Song of Solomon as an allegory about the love between the Lord and His people, that is (in the way we would say it today), about Christ and His Bride, the Church. Then there is also the fact that once we we understand that relationship, there is a parallel for the proper love of husband and wife for each other (cf. Eph.5:22-33). Working out the details for this book would require much more time and effort than I personally am able to give it. So there's not much on the site about this (links): SS1; SS2; SS3.

On Greek, well, we're doing Aeschylus' Agamemnon in my upper level Greek class in the spring. Of course, we're spending the entire semester on it, so that might be slower than what you're interested in. Aeschylus is great, but very difficult (especially the choral passages).

In terms of marriage, what you say makes sense. Paul says pretty much the same thing:

But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
1st Corinthians 7:29-35 NKJV

Thanks for your concern about my health, my friend. The eyes and ears aren't what they used to be, but they're still in pretty good shape. No indications of any trouble on the brain front (no more than ever, that is ).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

On Polygamy generally, I was writing up something about it yesterday, as it sort of came up tangentially when I was covering God's essential plan for marriage (as in, like, Genesis 2:23-24 and Matthew 19:4-6). I hadn't done much research or thinking on the subject until now.

Here's something you've written in the past about it (from an email Q&A):

"So while certain things were tolerated in the Old Testament and even regulated (like slavery and polygamy), and while the same such things are not strictly prohibited in the New Testament (like slavery and polygamy), we as prudent, God-fearing believers in Jesus Christ should recognize that there is a difference between things which may be permitted but are very bad for us on the one hand, and God smiling upon such actions as we indulge ourselves in them on the other. Just as I would never advise another believer to be a party to slavery, so I would never advise a believer to be a party to polygamy. In fact, I would strenuously advise all believers to stay as far as possible away from both of these ancient “institutions”, because no good could ever come from either of them, and, on the other hand, much evil is sure to come to anyone involved in either of them."

If I understood properly, these statements would be true:
1) The Bible never calls polygamy (and/or having concubines) outright sinful
2) So polygamy falls into the category of "all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial"
3) But unlike some other areas which may go one way or the other depending upon circumstances, polygamy is always suboptimal. No exceptions.

And we would say (singular) marriage itself is different:
1) The Bible is clear that marrying is not a sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 7)
2) Marriage too falls into the category of "all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial"
3) But unlike polygamy, marriage is not a universally suboptimal choice to make, since God does not empower all to be able to remain single successfully (and whether or not one is empowered in such a way is not exactly within one's own control, but God's control). So people who can remain single should (and marriage would be strictly suboptimal for such people, just like in the case of polygamy---which is basically the point of 1 Corinthians 7), but not everybody belongs to that category, is all, but only those "to whom it has been given" (i.e., by God)---Matthew 19:11, and cf. 1 Corinthians 7:7.

This makes the two situations fundamentally different, correct? Just want to make sure I understand the differences between the cases correctly.

Re: Avoiding legalism when it comes to teaching on polygamy?

I bumped into a good many positions that seemed to view polygamy as outright sinful. I could link you to examples, but suffice it to say that that seems to be "popular opinion", if you will.

It made me uneasy because the Bible never calls it outright sin, and we do have great believers like Abraham (if you count concubines = Hagar), Jacob, and David who certainly were involved in the practice. (Solomon too, but his case is called out particularly harshly in scripture).

I don't feel comfortable sitting in judgement over these men, generally speaking. Yet as I was writing up my other section re: God's plan for marriage, I kept bumping into what one might term the "ideal". More or less, God's plan for marriage in Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6, and Ephesians 5:21-33 seems to be between just one man and one woman, and it seems impossible to get around that in any way.

These statements seem to me to be very often bandied about when it comes to this subject:

Monogamy is the path that is God’s ideal for marriage
God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman

I feel like I kept balking at these statements when reading them in other places because they kept showing up alongside scathing judgement and condemnation of the OT practice as outright sinful.

Yet, now that I've tried to separate them from that context, it seems to me like we can affirm both of those statements as true without at the same time considering polygamy sinful, just "permissible but not beneficial" = always suboptimal, basically.

Is that the correct appraisal of the matter?

Sinful vs. wrong vs. suboptimal?

Response #3:

On marriage and polygamy, polygamy is illegal in this country so we can probably leave that one right there viewed from any practical point of view. If we want to get theoretical, marriage is where the vast majority of the human race ends up and the Bible anticipates that (marriage was invented by God for the entire human race, not just believers (e.g., Gen.2:18: "It is not good that man should be alone"). So we might say that celibacy and polygamy are on the opposite ends of the scale with the former potentially beneficial to spirituality with the latter potentially harmful. But even there it's only potential. After all, David had multiple wives and was one of the greatest believers of all time; Abraham' and Moses' situations are a bit different but these examples are still not in consonance with either statement you provide: 1) "Monogamy is the path that is God’s ideal for marriage" or 2) "God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman"; so it would be wrong to say that polygamy is a guarantee of spiritual failure or of God's displeasure. But again, it's illegal in this country and it's surely not God's will for believers to violate the law.

Furthermore, all one has to do to debunk the idea that celibacy guarantees spiritual success or of God's good pleasure is to look at the history of the Roman Catholic church: how many of the horrible things so many priests have done over so many years might never have happened if they'd been married? Since marriage is likely and hard to avoid for anyone wishing to stay clear of gross sexual sin (1Cor.7:2), and since polygamy is illegal, I think we have better things to spend our time on than worrying about this. As to the construct . . .

Monogamy is the path that is God’s ideal for marriage
God’s original intention was for one man to be married to only one woman

. . . I object to the use of the word "ideal" in the first point since after Eden marriage is anything but and "ideally" we could do without it. Marriage is trouble, a necessary tribulation for the human race in general, but trouble none the less (1Cor.7:28). One thing is sure: anyone looking for marriage to make them happy is going to be very disappointed. Unhappy people are generally made more unhappy by marriage. Happy people might be able to preserve some of the happiness they bring with them into marriage, depending on their spouse (it takes two to be anything like happy but only one to bring on unhappiness).

On the second point, I object to "original intention" for two reasons: 1) it makes it sound as if God had to change His mind somehow, which is of course ridiculous (to put the best spin on it); 2) while yes indeed our Lord makes the point that "from the beginning" the two became "one flesh" so that it is not appropriate to split what God has joined – but splits there are (since this is not the garden of Eden). And what do the disciples say about all this and what does our Lord respond?

His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given".
Matthew 19:10-11 NKJV

The above makes it clear, since our Lord doesn't disagree with their assessment, that indeed 1) it is better not to marry, but also that 2) this is impossible for all but the very few. So again, both points, especially taken together, seem to put marriage on a pedestal when in fact in scripture it is "a necessary trouble" even if not a necessary evil. It is better to be realistic about the issue. Romanticism has caused a lot of disappointment and led to a lot of bad decisions. Expecting too much from marriage is idolizing it, and that is never a good thing to do.

So we rejoice with all of our brothers and sisters who have made happy lives with happy marriages . . . but for those who are not married it is best not to underestimate the hard work, suffering and sacrifice that was necessary to achieve that.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob

Thanks for your reply. I was being vague with the intention of not bothering you with it till after Christmas!

Truth is, I heard something unsettling that undermined me. I will lay out what I know, on which I have been standing: “divorce” means divorce, and “marries” means actually married, not some limbo. Deut 24, Paul’s teaching, and if we can sometimes infer things from silence, both he and Jesus did not say to undo these marriages, yet Paul spends a lot of precious paper on instructing the Corinthians on how to sort out their relationships, many of which must have been like mine in that culture, and we have no record or mention of such divorces happening.

And this is what I mean by tenses, which I feel is important: I look at Matt 19:9 where Jesus said that someone who divorces and marries another commits adultery, and I read somewhere that’s a present indicative. I understand the statement to indicate discontinuous adultery (if I may call it such) because of that tense, and also that the committing of adultery will take its sense from that of “divorces” and “marries another” which are obviously not linear. Therefore it must be the act of remarrying that is adulterous rather than the state of being remarried, and so I am safe in my repentance.

I admit to never quite having got my guilty head round that marvel. I feel like I’ve got my cake and eaten it, and can’t believe how fortunate I am! Such is forgiveness, and yet if I’d not married again, I would not be able to stay with him by marrying him now, I don’t suppose. It’s a very strange position to be in, an uncomfortable gratitude. A touch of imposter syndrome perhaps.

Here’s what unsettled me again: I was listening to Mike Winger who has a YouTube channel and website called Bible Thinker. I have listened to a fair few of his videos. And he agrees that remarried divorcees should repent but stay married. Currently he’s working through a sequence on Women in Ministry, and has reached the topic of 2 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man….” He wanted to be egalitarian and yet has found he has changed his mind to now be complementarian, while not strict patriarchal. Here’s the matter: He said that egalitarians put weight on “not permit” being a present indicative and therefore they want to say that Paul’s prohibition wasn’t for all time. However Mike thought that was not what was meant here, and Paul does sound very emphatic. It’s hard to ignore. So I just heard “present indicative” given a sense of continuation and broke out into a sweat, and a big hole where my stomach should be! If a present indicative can switch flavours, so to speak, what about Matt 19? I started to feel insecure again, you see? Thank you for reminding me that a little Greek is dangerous. Mike is not a scholar, but he does try his best. What do you think please?

I bless you for taking pity on me. Thank you so much. I am too old to cope with such stresses, and a hormone excess that predisposes me to anxiety! I hear what you say about Satan and our weaknesses.

And may I share this about John 1:12-13? Just for the interest? Why do you think it says we have been given the right to become children of God, and not just to find we are, once we believe? It sounded like we could fail to avail ourselves of that right somehow. Which of course worried me! Then yesterday I came afresh to another reference to children of God, the angels in Genesis 6 (seems to me they are angelic beings 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude vv6-7). These are sons of God who left their estate, took earthly women, and are fallen, (not sure what was cause and what was effect as regards their rebellion since they also followed one who wanted to be like God. And angels do not marry). They lost their rights, they’re in chains, and yet we, through Christ, are given rights to become sons of God, redeemed and translated out of our estate as sons of Adam. That made me feel like I’d been missing something special about being born again! A right is an important thing to be treasured, and a huge honour. My jaw dropped at that thought!

I must leave you in peace and wish you a very blessed Christmas.

Thank you again

In Christ

Response #4:

When you say "divorce means divorce" I have no problem with that, except that the word "divorce" doesn't actually occur in scripture; divorce is an English word which is sometimes used to translate various different words and phrases in the Old and New Testaments, so I don't think that is helpful for figuring out precisely what is meant. We have to look at the individual passages. When you say "marries means actually married" there I would definitely quibble. "Marries" means "marries"; "married" means "married". These are different words in English and the same is true in Greek and Hebrew. Again, we have to look at the passages. The Bible means what it means. People infer the wrong things from it all the time, especially when they are looking at it for "one issue" purposes. Better to read it all and learn it all so as to be able to discern aright whatever it says in the entire context of scripture.

Re: "relationships, many of which must have been like mine in that culture". If you mean people who have divorced and remarried, that is no doubt the case. But the culture of the ancient world was different in significant ways on this set of issues. We have no polygamy to speak of nowadays (it's rare and illegal, not true in antiquity). We have no arranged marriages to speak of nowadays (it's rare and non-binding, not the case in antiquity). Also, it's relatively easy to get a divorce today in this country, but there are consequences. The rules were different in antiquity, and that affects the comparison as well. One could go on. So, again, we have to look at what scripture actually says.

Re: "we have no record or mention of such divorces happening". I wouldn't put any weight on that since we have "no record" of most things when it comes to Christian churches of the time. The only Christian couple I can think of whom we know of by name are Priscilla and Aquilla. And we only have a handful of names of any early Christians at all. But most of the nameless early believers would have been married. How their lives and relationships played out, we can speculate but not know. It is true that Paul does spend "a lot of ink" on these issues in 1st Corinthians chapter seven, but even so, obviously, he doesn't address every possible aspect of them (as can be seen from all the ink I've had to spill!). So, again, we have to look at what each scripture actually says.

Re: "Therefore it must be the act of remarrying that is adulterous rather than the state of being remarried, and so I am safe in my repentance." Yes, that is what the passage says. "If anyone marries . . . he/she commits" and not "If anyone is married to . . . he/she is committing". If that were the case, 1) it would seem that our Lord would have given further direction about getting divorced (again) and getting remarried to spouse #1 (again), but He says nothing of the sort; 2) it would seem that there would be something about this in 1st Corinthians chapter seven as well; after all, there must have been some large number of individuals who prior to conversion had been divorced and remarried. But there's nothing about that either. I always like to remind people about the reason for our Lord's words in context: castigating hard-hearted men who were using the Law wrongly to advantage themselves with no concern for the damage they were doing to innocent partners – NOT to engender a new round of divorces and re-marriages.

On the Greek, it's not the tense that matters, it's the meaning of the verbs. If our Lord had said "I do not permit a couple to stay married if one is divorced" that would be different. I don't think there is anything in either passage which is specially illuminated by the moods and tenses in the Greek; one can grasp the clear meaning from any good English translation – one just needs to actually listen to what the verses actually say. Here are some links:

Undeserved Suffering in Marriage: Peter #35

Marriage and the Bible XII

Marriage and the Bible XI

Marriage and the Bible X

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.

On John 1:12-13, this is just another way to say the same thing. In other words, it wouldn't be correct to take John's phrasing to mean that we aren't children of God when we believe. If one wants to be technical about it, this is an epistolary tense problem, which is to say, John is writing to people of varied spiritual status who will read what he says later, and so he phrases it from that future historical point of view. If he were present, he would have probably said, "You have the right to become children of God!" or if speaking to believers only, "You are children of God! Becoming so was your right!" Compare what John says later on:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1st John 3:1a NIV

Being born again is indeed a great privilege and right! We are bought with the blood of Christ. Very nice observation on your part!

Here's a link on the issue of Genesis six: Satan's antediluvian attack on the purity of the human line (the Nephilim)

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas as well!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Dr L!

How was your break? Mine was pretty good. There was one thing that I wanted to ask. So I went to the Dinner with a friend at her place and brought a dish I worked on for over an hour. And there were kids there. Unfortunately one of them sneezed on it so I didn't get to try it. And also one of the kids was playing with a knife, and the mother was trying to pull it out of his hand, with the sharp edge IN HIS HAND. And also afterwards, they ran around making A LOT of noise (there was no debate in the group that they were loud). So I think, I would rather not do that next time and either go to a dinner with no kids or just make Dinner at my place and enjoy by myself.

But some would argue Christians should be forbearing of parents (bearing each other's burdens) because families are so important, but don't they need to meet us halfway instead of making all the adults almost servants to the kids? Especially because you don't know how sick someone can get from the sneezing germs and it isn't like the parents would pay for the time off work they missed because someone got sick. This set up is basically everyone is almost idolatrous (but maybe I am being overdramatic, but if you HAVE to sacrifice your health and sanity to the whims of parents who can't be bothered, I mean I only do that for God).

I know the Lord also loved kids and I don't know what He would think. It is self absorbed, the conclusion I made before? I mean I don't blame the kids directly of course.

Tell me if I am crazy.

Response #5:

It is a truism that other people's children can be annoying if not well-behaved . . . but that our own can do no wrong.

My brother and I were PKs and my mom brooked absolutely no misbehavior in public or when parishioners were over for dinner. She was not a strict disciplinarian by any means, but in public settings there was definitely the right way and the wrong way – and you found out PDQ if you were getting anywhere near the wrong way. You would have had no problem with any dinner with us.

It does seem that nowadays the whole idea of helping children learn what's right and wrong through measured correction has been lost in large measure, with some being overly strict to no apparent good result and many more being unwilling to "train up their child" . . . putting said child in a position to have to learn the hard way when their parents are no longer running things.

So you're not crazy. But children, even the best of them, do require an awful lot of patience, energy and love. Being a good parent is very hard work. But it can be quite rewarding as well. The Lord has different things for each of us, just the right things for those of us who humbly seek His will through the truth, trusting Him to bring it all to pass in the right way and at the right time.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Oh last thing because I forgot and you may find it interesting. So there is a subreddit called Two X (women focused) where women post things related to the woman experience (and there are millions of members, so you'll get hundreds to thousands of replies to a post). Anyway I posted what happened because I wasn't sure what to make of it or how women in older days would handle it. The vast, vast majority said they would not eat food sneezed on by a kid (many of them had kids too). And also that there used to be kid tables for kids (and I remember this now myself), so this wouldn't have been an issue. Because I do remember really young that us kids would not have been allowed to mess up the adult stuff. At all. I don't mean to blame the kids. Just that a lot of parents seem to force other people to deal with the kids >insert Greek word for tyrant here< over everyone (which is not the kid's fault, since they don't know anything)-or at least that is the effect of it (it seems like).

So I appreciate what you are saying. I just want to also add that "annoying" is one thing, but something that can seriously harm another's health or ability to put food on the table (especially now when many are on the margins of being able to afford basic things) is more than annoying. If it were an adult doing this to another adult (knowingly putting them at real risk of sickness just out of laziness), we would say it was evil, right? Please don't take this the wrong way. I am NOT blaming the kids, because they are just learning and don't have habits down yet, and I can tell you I did 'actually' bad things knowingly as a kid (which I regret). I hope I am not frustrating you. Anyway I will get back to dailies and let you get back to your stuff!

Response #6:

On the issue of children, I do see what you are saying. The fault with "out of control" kids lies first and foremost with the parents (that was what I was trying to convey). If the kids are going to sit at the big table, they need to behave like "big people". And if they don't, then the parents need to take them in hand. And if they don't, they're not doing anyone any favors in the long run (Prov.13:24; 23:13-14).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

I continue to pray for you and your ministry daily. I thank the Lord so much for you! If you could pray for me as well to better balance out my spiritual production time. A few unspoken prayer requests in there as well.

Forgive me for bringing this subject up again (I know myself and others have really exhausted this topic over many years) but I am just trying to understand these passages I mention below. My questions don't involve or have anything to do with me. I don't consider myself gifted in the area under discussion yet am very doubtful marriage will even occur at this point since we probably have less than three years left till the tribulation. Believe me, I'm ok with that. God knows what is best. I know we are to live in the present and not base our decisions on future events (we should also live as if the tribulation could or may begin tomorrow), but I am not forcing the issue of marriage and have chosen to remain in the state I am in. I'm not worried about it either. If God wants it to happen, then it will occur. If not, well, there you go.

Marriage is hard to imagine for myself at this point. First, there is no telling how long it would take for me just to meet someone from this point forward. Then, how long would we date until getting engaged? On top of that, even more time must elapse until the wedding. Quite frankly, I feel I wouldn't be able to enjoy the marriage relationship (mentally, physically, spiritually) much at all because who knows how long the tribulation would have already been upon us. I'm starting to think, "what's the point at this rate?" I mean, if the Lord still intends it, well, I can't argue with that. But I'm perfectly fine entering and enduring the tribulation single. To be honest with you professor, I'm not cut out to have and raise kids, believe me, I know myself well enough. That puts a huge damper on things because just about every woman you know wants children, something I don't feel would be good for me spiritually or mentally.

More to the point, I ask these questions simply because I just want to understand what these verses are saying and not saying. I mean, we all read our Bibles to understand the truth and apply it. So I chose to ask for help after exhausting myself over these passages (leading to burnout). I already know your advice: single, stay single- married, stay married, etc., but I'm not asking about that. Again, I'm just trying to understand these passages and harmonize any seeming contradictions (there are, of course, no contradictions at all).

First, can we really say Matthew 19:9-12 is referring to a gift of celibacy (as if that was the point)? I searched for other people's take on these verses and the below is something that stuck out to me. Do you think this person's explanation is reasonable/accurate?

Jesus told them something they found harshly difficult to abide by: divorce for reasons other than marital infidelity, followed by remarriage, violates God's commandment against adultery. The disciples knew that the physical and emotional strains within some marriages were so intense, it seemed like a mercy to exempt those folks from wrongdoing if they divorced and remarried. But Jesus said, not so. But he recognized that a lot of people will refuse to accept this and will divorce & remarry anyway: "Not all men can receive this saying... he that is able to receive it (the saying), let him receive it." In the part about 'making oneself a eunuch for the kingdom's sake,' Jesus told them that if one intentionally purposes to remain celibate ("to make oneself a eunuch", as opposed to one who is forced by circumstance to be one) so as to honor & serve God, it is a very good thing. But there is no mention of a "gift of celibacy" in this passage, and IMO it's been misconstrued by some.


Moving on from that, I was studying 1 Corinthians 7 and came up with the following questions:

(1. In verse 26, does the present crisis refer to the final 2,000 years of the church age (the last hour as John calls it in 1 John 2:18) or to some present or impending crisis the Corinthians were about to face? Or could it refer to both as a dual application?

(2. In verse 38, why does Paul state that the person who remains single does better than the man who chooses to marry if most people are supposed to get married because they lack the "gift of celibacy?" If marriage is better for most (better to marry than to burn with desire/passion), why does Paul come out and make it sound as if celibacy is best for all? I know there is no contradiction here (it is only seeming), but these verses throw me off. Was he applying it only to those with the gift (as in, only if the shoe fits you are better remaining single)? The problem is that it sounds as if Paul compares someone without the gift to someone with it and still makes it sound as if celibacy is always better. How do we harmonize these verses? It just seems that in order to make this work, we would have to say Paul was comparing two men who both had the gift because those who can remain celibate should and are better off doing so. I'm confused. I know that Paul is only giving his opinion as a concession since there are no commands in these verses. But that doesn't have much to do with my question because Paul's opinion is pretty much the same as a factual truth since what he says is still divinely inspired and trustworthy. I do also understand that Christians should never rush into marriage or force it but wait on the Lord's timing. But it just doesn't seem like that is what Paul means by saying the unmarried do better and are happier as they are. It just sounds like he means "single for life."

(3. Finally, does verse 40 indicate that a person can lack the gift of celibacy for certain times of their life but not others (or vice versa)? Does God grant people this gift if they ask for empowerment even if they don't actually have it? Or is it the case that (like real spiritual gifts), once you have it, you have it for the rest of your life? In other words, despite lacking the gift, can someone just say to God "I want to remain celibate for life and pray that you will grant me the ability to do so" and He would grant that request? We know that God can do anything, but the question is WOULD He do something like that? Can or does it even work like that?

Assuming the divorced widow doesn't have the gift of celibacy, why would Paul think she is happier single for the rest of her life if she may be better off getting married? If you don't have the gift because it is better to marry than burn, wouldn't a person be happier and better off getting married again? How do we reconcile verse 9 to verse 40?

In His grace and power,

Response #7:

Thanks for the kind words. I'm happy to discuss this with you.

I do think it is true that having children is a normal part of marriage and that marriage is a normal part of life. That is something God has set up for the entire human race, not just for believers.

When Paul says in 1st Corinthians 7:7 "one [is gifted] this way, one that way", he doesn't actually say that there is a "spiritual gift of celibacy", and I believe in such discussions I have made that clear in the past too. That is not to say that being supported by the Lord to be able to stay single and not fall into gross sin does not mean that said person who is supported is not being helped, given help from the Lord – which we could call a gift – but that is not the same thing as having the gift of, e.g., pastor-teacher. Some of us are gifted with robust health, others not so much. But the former is also not a spiritual gift per se.

Bottom line: if we need to or are going to be single, the Lord will provide us with what we need for that. If we need to be married, the Lord will provide us with a spouse in due time. These things are not independent of what is going on in our own hearts and manifesting in our behavior, however. Which is to say, if we are determined to be married, we are probably going to get married (whether or not that is from God or turns out to be a blessing is another matter). Also, if we are determined to stay single the better to serve the Lord, He will honor that . . . and He may give us a wife too, especially if we need one more than we've been willing to admit.

I do believe the time is short, but what you say here about doing what we purpose to do in following Christ is what we should do regardless of the clock is exactly correct. If the Lord wants you married, that could be a done deal in a week or less – or it could take years. We do not know what is going to happen or how the Lord will work things out. We do place our petitions before Him and trust Him to work things out for the good.

I don't see any contradictions in all this. Matthew 19:9-12 it seems to me is saying exactly what we find in 1st Corinthians chapter seven. Some people purpose to stay single for the sake of the kingdom of God. But many have done superbly well being married. I know such people. Peter and James were such people (to name a few). And David had many wives.

As to the person on the Anglican forum, I don't know many (any?) Catholics of whose salvation I am confident. So I always am loath to put any credence in what unbelievers say. I will say that I have a completely different understanding of the passage. The disciples thought that not being able to divorce a woman meant disaster (how would she then be obedient?). But our Lord in verses 11-12 is not speaking about the divorce issue at all (which is what correspondent seems to think); rather He is responding to the "better not to marry" comment and telling them that not everyone can handle not being married, exactly as Paul says.

As to 1st Corinthians 7:26, I take that in the first sense, not the second (except that the crisis has been in play then and now and in between).

As to "doing better" by not getting married, that is a godly thing to say and the Spirit supported it. I would also wish everyone's default to be "don't do it" rather than "go ahead and do it". It's better to look before leaping, obviously. If we could do better with our fight by not being married than by being married, how is that not obviously better? But if we can't, then better to marry, approaching the subject with all prudence – as you are doing.

Finally, again, I don't think there is a GIFT; rather, gracious divine support to help us through in a single situation – as we are supported with and in all of our needs.

So I believe all of this is a lot simpler than it is sometimes made out, that it all passes the obvious "common sense" test, and with no contradictions.

Keeping you in my daily prayers, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Thanks for the response.

I already understood the "gift" wasn't the same as the type of gift(s) each and every believer receives at salvation to serve the church through ministry. Maybe the way I phrased things gave you that impression? My initial understanding of it before I emailed you was that it is an "enablement" from God. Are you saying that, in order not to confuse people, we should avoid the phrase "gift of celibacy?"

Also, just to clarify, (in case you misread) I never said there were any contradictions. I meant there were "seeming" but no actual contradictions at all since Scripture never contradicts itself. Just want to be clear there. I would never say such a thing.

Re: "It's better to look before leaping, obviously. If we could do better with our fight by not being married than by being married, how is that not obviously better? But if we can't, then better to marry, approaching the subject with all prudence"

I take it this is the meaning of verse 38 (he who does not marry her does better) and verse 40 (she is happier if she remains as she is)? Tell me if this is right- Paul wasn't saying that it was better or best for all or even most believers to remain single the rest of their lives but that all should "wait it out" through time, patience, and spiritual growth. Better to wait on the Lord's timing then go rushing into something one is not ready for (or something that was never meant to be).

You've mentioned many times that most believers (people in general) aren't capable of living on their own their whole lives (they lack the divine support or enablement to remain single for life). Therefore, most of them should get married. However, they shouldn't force the issue or rush it because that could cause great spiritual harm and/or compromise. Therefore, they should stay single and wait on the Lord's timing through dedicated spiritual growth. Undoubtedly, there are also probably more people out there who have the enablement then we realize, so Paul didn't want those with the "gift" to marry if they were/are capable of staying single. He didn't want everyone plunging headlong into marriage (more people assuming marriage was God's will for them than was and is actually the case). The only way to discern the Lord's will is to wait and see through spiritual growth. But so many believers today and in times past "don't want to wait" and that is what Paul is pushing back against here. Did I get this right? Am I understanding all this correctly?

Your brother in Christ,

Response #8:

OK, no worries – sorry for any misunderstanding on this end. "Enablement" (rather than "gift") is a good way to put it.

Yes, this is my interpretation of verse 38. Paul is just stating the facts, "all other things being equal" . . . which of course they are not. He puts it this way, as mentioned, to dispose believers toward being careful rather than being rash.

So I think your last paragraph is right on the money. I would say though in respect to what Paul "wanted", that he wanted Jesus Christ to be glorified and for all of us to earn the best possible reward. Everything else is merely practical: what's the best way to do that, given who we are and given what we are capable of (and not)?

So, again, I think this is all a great deal simpler than it is sometimes made out to be. Better to serve the Lord full out in this life, but what "full out" means in terms of what we are able and willing to do as individuals varies greatly. Marriage "is what it is", and going into it without illusions is important, but plenty of believers have fought excellent fights for the Lord with their lives while being married (and plenty of single people have not).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Doc what's your Scriptural basis for saying abuse kills a marriage, even might be grounds for divorce depending on how bad it is? There are people who, with a straight face, unironically believe that if someone turns out to be abusive when you marry them, that if you don't see through their lies, it's basically your fault you're in that abusive relationship, and that you need to take the brunt of your foolishness and try to honor God with the relationship(!?). There's even all sorts of fire and brimstone spewed at people who divorce to escape from their abuse...it hardly sounds fair or just to put it lightly. So do you oppose these sentiments?

Response #9:

Well, if you're dead, there's no more marriage; and many abusive marriages end up in the death of one spouse. Further, the Bible anticipates separation (1Cor.7:11; 7:15-18). Can you find me anywhere in scripture where physical abuse of a spouse is justified? Here's the biblical standard:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:25-28 NKJV

I don't believe any pastor-teacher worth his salt would counsel a woman to remain in a situation where she is being abused. As to the scurrilous screeds one finds on the internet, there is lots about this on Ichthys. Try starting with the latest posting, Marriage and the Bible XII, and work your way back in the series from there.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Doc, I have a question, you don't have to put this one on your site if you don't feel like it...

Some people claim ancient Israelites would have people available for marry pretty much as soon as they were in puberty...was this just for people around that age or with adults too like some of them claim? Several records supposedly state that the Hebrews considered 20 to be the age of adulthood...how did this work exactly?

Now I have no interest in anyone under 18 regardless, I find that disgusting morally and otherwise, along with the part of these people who say that they don't agree with it just because that's how it was done back then (and I assume you'd be among that group as well), I just want to know the truth on this because these claims have been bothering me for some reason.

Response #10:

As to "Some people claim ancient Israelites would have people available for marry pretty much as soon as they were in puberty": All we know for certain is what is contained in the Bible. I don't know of any biblical evidence for any trend of ancient Israelites marrying any earlier than anyone else. It is certainly true that in rural economies in the past people have tended to marry earlier than is the case today – no high school, no college, people tended to get on with life earlier. So even if there were some truth to what "some people claim", it would be an apples and oranges comparison since things are different today.

As to " Several records supposedly state that the Hebrews considered 20 to be the age of adulthood...how did this work exactly?": The only things I know of in scripture are the census for males "able to wage war" (20 years old and older was the age for those to be counted: Ex.30:14; Num.1:3; 1:18ff.; 26:2-4; also redemption values based on this age: Ex.38:26; Lev.27:3-5). Levites were eligible to enter service at 25 (Num.8:24), and for tabernacle service at the age of 30 (Num.4:3-39). Our Lord was "about thirty" when He began His earthly ministry prior to the cross (Lk.3:23). These ages seem to me to be fairly comparable to the way we see things today, so I'm not seeing any basis for using scripture to shift our view of what is a reasonable and what an unreasonable age to consider marriage.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob, Greetings and I hope things are going well. I was just about to send you a letter today corresponding in a totally different positive manner, but I will save it for now to address an issue that reared its ugly head this morning. This divisive relationship has been going on for two decades. Today, I received another of a long line of “nasty grams" from __. __ sent one earlier this week. The gist, along with all of the appropriate scriptures, and “thoughtful preaching”, is that I (and my current wife) cannot go to heaven because we’re living in sin, with no thought of repentance nor restitution. The charge --- unlawful divorce, followed by unlawful remarriage. The reality is that I petitioned for the divorce due to suffering unrelented severe physical, verbal and emotional abuse, along with her abandonment to work things out. I never laid a hand on her or abused her in any way. Remarriage in their book (the bible) amounts to something like “perpetual adultery”, with the penalty of damnation to hell. Now if that was true that would be a sobering thought --- eternal hell for the “divorce and remarriage evil”. (as per a church tract I received a couple decades ago). Thanks for the “hot tip” you guys. Now I can do A & B and this will no longer be a “hangup”. Bob, I really know this is false, and they quite possibly are in far more danger of the “heat” then they would like to admit to. Such is the sin of self-righteous, judgmental legalism. They mean well, and are looking for an “attaboy” from Jesus, for bringing another rank sinner like myself back from hell to heaven. I was in that church back in 1995, along with my four daughters. Three of my daughters and myself escaped. Soon after leaving I received the “official” disfellowship letter from the church. They stated their righteous reason --- “unfaithful to the church covenant”. I just smiled, torched the letter, while murmuring “good riddance to bad rubbish!” The most unfortunate part here is that one daughter did not escape, but instead ended up marrying a young man who also was a pastor in this very same church. This event coupled with his narcissistic personality was certainly a recipe for disaster, but I was praying for the best despite what I knew to be a toxic church environment (did not yet know, the narcissism component). Well, my speculation, unfortunately, proved true --- they became locked hard into this legalistic program. All this self-righteous, judgmental stuff caused an estrangement between us that made it impossible to have any relationship whatsoever. I heard through the grapevine they quit the church, due to some internal division, but now they opted for what seems like to me is even more sinister ---a “holiness” church. (The name sounds good enough, but “there’s something rotten in Denmark!”). This is what I like to call “religion run amuck”, which unfortunately is par for the course in our Laodicean age, even though they would claim to be red hot for Jesus. No shortage of “angel of light” frauds out there! Thanks, Bob, for helping with my spiritual growth! I’m getting better at “sniffing out” the false teachers and false approaches (it’s a veritable pandemic!). The trouble with them has gotten worse, and I mean a lot worse. [details of abuse omitted] They both need prayer --- for the miracle of being rescued from this toxic brew, swimming in it for over 2 decades. However, I will still believe that “with God all things are possible”.

Your friend in Jesus,

Response #11:

I'm very sorry to hear that you're having to deal with this heartache in your family. But I am delighted to see how strongly grounded you are in the truth so as to slough off these false teachings without letting them bother you overly! I can tell you (and you will see if you read the links) that for some people this canard about "constant adultery" for anyone who is remarried has caused all manner of mental anguish for poor Christians who have been assailed by this satanic false teaching. Why do people get into this? First, lack of respect for the truth always leads to adopting some sort of lie – that is the explanation behind most of what is going on in Laodicea. Second, never under-estimate the power of the appeal of self-righteousness. After all, we see how strong it was with Paul – until the Lord set him straight – and has always been with legalistic types, whether Judaizers or Messianics or Roman Catholics or Mormons, etc. – but I've never known a true believer in Christ who had this problem. Believers, born again, born from above ones, know that they need God's mercy and grace. Those who feel they are perfect love to go persecute those they feel are not. It gives them some sort of sick pleasure to do so. And it can be profitable too: when they find good-hearted believers who are vulnerable emotionally on this score (and who lack a doctrinal backbone of truth), they can easily enslave them. And once you give up everything to join Jim Jones or David Koresh or the JWs or a holiness church, well, it's very hard to go back since you've burned all your bridges and invested all you have. So why not take out your rage and unhappiness on others. It's sick, but it's right in the devil's wheelhouse.

Moses was divorced and remarried. And I have a feeling we're going to see him seated at Christ's right hand.

Jesus told the Pharisees that under the Mosaic Law – for those living under the Law – that the act of divorcing one's wife for selfish reasons so as to be able to marry a "new wife" now preferred then doing so was adultery – the ACT of wrongly and selfishly remarrying under the Law. So many things to say about how looking at this passage in the gospels closely shows easily that it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything we're talking about today in the vast majority of cases. Secondly, Jesus also gives the Law's exception: and that means that there is legitimate divorce which does allow remarriage even under the Law. Thirdly, we are NOT, of course, under the Law. Fourth, since it is the ACT of wrongful remarriage which is adulterous, that is a sin – but all sin is forgiven when we confess it. We may be disciplined for it, but we are not told to go out and make amends for it. If a man commits, e.g., mental adultery with some woman he sees in the street, is he damned until he tracks her down and asks for forgiveness?

It is similarly plain lunacy for a happily married couple with children to destroy their lives and the lives of their children for the half-baked twisting of scripture put out by self-righteous individuals who give no evidence of even being saved themselves. And notice: Jesus did NOT tell the Pharisees who were guilty of this horrible deed of throwing an old wife out on the street for no reason other than to get a new one that they should now divorce wife #2 and go back to wife #1. Why not? Because a marriage is a marriage in God's eyes. That is clear from everything in the Bible. It is only people like this who assert that "this marriage is not a real marriage". But in scripture, a marriage is a marriage. And that is true even if there has been a divorce and a remarriage. So these people are doing exactly what they accuse others of, namely, fomenting divorce – and going back to the previous spouse is actually against the Law, "an abomination before the Lord" (Deut.24:4)! Not to mention that wife / husband #1 may now be remarried – so they should get divorced too? In short, no rational person would listen to such drivel. And no Christian who had a lick of spiritual common sense would either. Unfortunately, there are a great many out there today who in fact do not have that "lick". I praise God that you have it abundantly!

*I would also like to point out that the abusive and absolutely un-Christian behavior you report of this couple speaks much louder than their words: "by their fruit you shall know them" (Matt.7:16; 7:20).

Here are some links which will lead to many others:

Undeserved Suffering in Marriage: Peter #35

Marriage and the Bible XII

Marriage and the Bible XI

Marriage and the Bible X

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.

Keeping you guys in my prayers daily, my friend – hope your health continues to improve!

In Jesus our dear Lord.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Thanks, Bob. I'll be checking in tomorrow on the emails to ichthys. I always get an extra benefit to hear from others in the family. Had a good day in the dirt ( my PhD.----- post hole digger! ) helping an old friend build a shed off the garage. I'm a retired carpenter/builder, but I couldn't resist ( at 70yr. I have to pick my battles ). The best part was talking to him about the plan of God, and where we are on the clock. He's a very good Christian, and my hope is that I will be able have substantive bible study with him. Of course I mentioned ichthys and how well I have benefitted from your studies. We'll see where it goes from here. All the best, Your friend in Jesus,

Response #12:

Any time, my friend.

Good thing for you you don't live in Louisville (I would keep you very busy)!

Hope you had a chance to run a little truth by your friend.

Keeping you guys and your family in my prayers.

In Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #13:

I did hear that it was pretty rough in Louisville recently, but I'm glad you were not adversely affected by the unrest. With God's help we shall be able to navigate through any/all obstacles. I'm grateful all the time for His providence, through 'thick and thin'. He loves us so much and we love Him for who is and what He is doing for us in the perfect plan. We merely have to persevere in faith and follow Him faithfully. Even with all the ruckus I feel such a peace knowing our lives are in the Everlasting Arms! Thanks for your prayers. Keeping you and yours in my prayers as well. BTW, I really enjoyed yesterday's posting. Take care, Bob. Your friend in Jesus,

Response #13:

Good words!

Thanks for the encouragement too.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob, Hope you're well on all fronts. Just finished Pet. #35 ( 2nd. X), and will be getting into #36 soon. They're great! Many thanks for all you are doing for us sheep! These studies are imparting on me the "solid food" necessary to keep growing in Him in the correct way. The truth is all that counts, and that battle for it continues to rage on, for all of us. Most recently, I received another "onslaught" on the truth from __, which appears to be her "closing arguments" ( I hope!). She's trying to extricate me from falling into hell with a "life sentence", for my crime of divorce and remarriage, without "divorce to repent" to get me off. Judgment time!......hell.... for me...unless? This is the "heart of the matter," with no "meeting of the minds" here at all. But , I do know the truth ( thanks to you, Bob!), so I'm not "shaking in my boots", by what appears to be her "closing arguments", to get me to have my heart pricked with godly sorrow to repent, and walk free from my "life sentence".... a free man! "Go and sin no more" is in her "closing statements", given after my possible acquittal! But I know, all along, I'm not headed to "the Big House" super- max prison, because God has ALREADY acquitted me, when I put my faith in His Son! ( John 3:18; Rom.8:1; Eph. 2:8-9, etc.). She presents a HUGE compilation of scriptural evidence, to "hammer home" the impending verdict, if not acted on by her "way" to escape the "life sentence".( quite a prosecutor!). She certainly did a lot of exhaustive "homework" on this, to come up with such a "compelling argument"! All , except for ONE thing,...... it doesn't make "the case"....so no passing grade for her efforts! .....It's thrown out of court! Nice try though! I don't think she'll be going back to the "drawing board"......looks like the picture is finished for her ( she has it all figured out, so why bother?). Too bad it really isn't finished yet! Anyway, I did look at her two links, which only seemed to be quite a list of disjointed scriptural evidence, with"wild interpretation" added ( ie., ALL the evidence) to "make the case". I know you have all the "ins and outs" down better than me,( I've studied all your great links on it, thanks again), but I was wondering what you make of it? (eg. their really "weird" definition of fornication!?... per her tract "pasted" at the end of her writing; the twist on 1 Cor. 7:2; the ungodly union termination "fix"; John the Baptist losing his life for "preaching" on "this very sin" that H&H committed; the "bring forth fruits meet for repentance" D to R connection to J the B; the stolen $ --restitution theory, etc.) I got a kick out of " My husband told him, "I teach what the Bible teaches" ( with a "big rubber band" stretch, I'd say), and her "closing statement", "Let no man deceive you..... your eternal soul is worth too much!"( would that be you and yours truly?). If she only knew who the real deceivers are! Se La Vie!.... the constant battle for the truth.... the heart of the matter. The devil's in the details!

Really there's no need to bother yourself with any of this......I know you're also praying for their miracle with us. Thanks, Bob! Prayer with thanksgiving works all the time, to get us through whatever is ailing us, and also for the needs of all those in our circle. I thank you for yours. You are in mine as well. Hope you have a great week! All the best! Your friend in Jesus,

Response #14:

I'm sorry you have to deal with this, my friend. The evil one is always busy harassing believers who are intent on growing spiritually. Issues of family, relationships, sex and marriage are always profitable places to hit, because there is no one who does not have some "sore spot" or other in these areas.

I would like to ask these people for a Bible verse that counsels people to get divorced. I have asked this question of many, and have never gotten an answer – because there is no good answer. The Bible does not counsel divorce – just the opposite! Why is that? Because a marriage is a marriage, and no marriage should be dissolved if it can be saved in a godly way. For two Christians who are happily married, counseling them to divorce is the height of evil, for that would be a terrible sin because it destroys the lives of others, not just one's own life.

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6 NKJV

And, apropos of this conversation:

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
James 3:1 NKJV

Here is the verse whereby the foul tribe who have adopted this false teaching as their shillelagh just love to beat the innocent about the head and shoulders (because they don't understand it, clearly):

"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery."
Luke 16:18 NKJV

Notice that our Lord says "marries" – which means that there has been a new, legal marriage. That is why our Lord in this context throughout the gospels NEVER tells these men to divorce their new wives – or remarry their old ones. Why not? Because even in the case of these horrible men who cast aside the old merely to enjoy the new, "a marriage is a marriage". God created marriage for the whole human race, and it is the foundational institution of the family and the nation state (which is of course one reason why it is under attack by the henchmen of the devil so severely nowadays). Since "a marriage is a marriage", there can be no question of adultery within it once contracted because adultery is sexual activity between persons who are NOT married. According to our Lord, it is the ACT of wrongly remarrying that is "an act of adultery"; but there is no solution to that except to confess that act. Divorce would have been adding an evil upon an evil (which is why our Lord does not command that). And if this is the case in this situation where the men He was accusing were most definitely guilty of wrongful divorce and wrongful remarriage purely to satisfy their lust, then it is doubly so in all other cases, whatever the back-story. A marriage is a marriage.

For the crowd who are embracing the evil false doctrine to counsel "wrongful divorce", it would have to be the case that "God doesn't honor THAT marriage". But the Bible doesn't say anything about marriages not being marriages, and for good reason. If it were the case as these people claim that only some marriages were considered marriages, imagine the confusion this would create. Who would we go to get a final determination? And how would those theoretical people know absent an FBI background check?

That is why God has left it to nation states to determine the rules of marriage, because marriage is for all mankind, not just believers. And, did I mention? A marriage is a marriage. So that his statement of our Lord ALSO applies:

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

How in the world would this verse NOT apply to all believers who are married? Regardless of previous status, divorces, remarriages, etc.? The only way it possibly would not apply is if "not all marriages are marriages in God's eyes". But the Bible says that "a marriage is a marriage", and those rules are set out by the state.

If two people are married, they know they are married. How did they get to that point? For this purpose it's not important. If they are married, they should not separate or be separated, and any other opinion defies scripture absolutely.

"What about Herod and Herodias?" Here is what John said:

Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Matthew 14:4 NKJV

Why did he say that? Here's why:

If a man takes his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother's nakedness. They shall be childless.
Leviticus 20:21 NKJV

Under the Mosaic Law – the law of the nation state of Israel at the time John made his statement to Herod – marrying one's sister-in-law was essentially incest (the levirite law was an exception to this rule; but Herod's brother was still alive). So, absolutely, it was "not lawful", that is, it violated the Mosaic Law, for him to "have her". In other words, it was not a legitimate marriage in the eyes of the state under which all the interlocutors where living AT THAT TIME and for that reason not a marriage to be preserved regardless. If a man or woman in this country "marries" his/her sister/brother/mother/father/brother/sister, it is likewise going to be considered "not lawful" and be annulled. But this incest prohibition has nothing to do with divorce and remarriage in general, which two things have been common enough throughout human history and allowed in one form or another by all governments at all times (as far as I am aware).

In other words, people who want to beat up on others out of a "holier than thou" mentality, will usually pick some issue where they feel themselves "not vulnerable" but perceive a weak spot in others. It's an old story. And inevitably, even if said persons are saved (although that is unusual, since rank legalism is antithetical to the grace whereby alone we CAN be saved), they are usually far worse "sinners" in other areas, merely hiding behind a veil of hypocrisy – which veil castigating others makes more impenetrable (in their own eyes if not in reality).

Guilt is the devil's ace trump. Jim Jones didn't get all those people to follow him to Guyana by preaching love and forgiveness. All cults count on turning the tender consciences of the innocent against their owners. I note in the other email you shared the story about that man who took their horrible advice and wrongly divorced his wife (didn't Jesus just tell us NOT to do that?!), that "he became like family to us, even lived with us for a over a year" – that part I believe! Cults get victims to destroy their lives by abandoning all of their previous relationships . . . so that they have no place left to go and are forever after dependent on the cult as the only validator of their horrible stupidity and cruelty. I wonder what happened to that poor fellow? Nothing good. That much I would bet the farm on.

So keep fighting the good fight, my friend! It would be right for you to stay married even if it were an unhappy marriage – how much more so when it is a happy one! God honors those who stand fast with the truth, even when under assault. And I'm pretty sure for you that this is a case of lobbing "spit-balls at a battleship".

Keeping you guys and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Muchas gracias, Bob! I appreciate your continued support and the dissertations you have very carefully presented on this issue. It really helps to know "more" of the "ins and outs", shedding more light on the heart of the matter..... the most important aspects of it. It's great to know you have our backs, as we are going through several "battles" here presently!

"Spitballs"?.....Ha!.......OK, you have a fair assessment as to my feelings on their unimpressive "barrage". Looks like the loony "chickens have come home to roost"..... but they inadvertently let the fox in, ahead.... and behind them! ( fox starts with a "D"). The "bad things" they are doing will come back to "bite and haunt" them. ( Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Pet. 3:16; James 3:1; 2Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rom. 10:2; Rom. 14:13; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; and?). Thanks for your prayers on all our needs and concerns! You are in ours as well. In Jesus,

Response #15:

It's my pleasure!

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Just got another "nasty-gram" from my __. This in response to my addressing the heart and truth of the matter of "divorce and remarriage" false teaching. It appears it was a pointless and "pearls before swine" exercise, to contact her with the truth.(did not "move the needle" at all in the right direction.... probably a lot in the zero direction, it seems). Before "going into combat" messaging I prayed and asked the Lord's help for direction. I used a lot of your input to me, some verbatim, in my email trying to "rescue'' her from "bad places". (you say things better than me..... but didn't give her resource citations "that is what my pastor says and teaches"... so she doesn't know anything about you... not that it would matter to her anyway, for a "dyed in the wool" COG holiness member). Never got an answer in the "nasty-gram", to what I offered to refute their DtoR false teaching, Obviously, there is no correct answer to wriggle out of it.... just the same deflection of "scare tactics" from her. Now, from her new email: I don't "know" the true definition of sin; I've chosen to do evil to "fit" my lifestyle, by refusing to believe COG teaching any more; I'm now "attacking" the truth about the COG teaching on divorce and remarriage; she's staying with it ...convinced of the "truth", by the "power of God and the anointed Word of God". (what God is this?). Looks like her heart is just too hard, presently, to see the light of the truth. (but maybe in her heart of hearts? she might be at the "end of her rope"?). So, I'll keep praying for a breakthrough (thanks for yours too, Bob!). 25 yr. is a long time for her to be living in this "state" of self-righteous legalism".... while she is accusing us as living in the ''state" of "constant adultery" for nearly 21yr., and on our way to hell after our last breath (quite delusional and rebellious to the truth of the matter!). The "game clock" is about to expire, with only condemnation here, for __to stay subscribed to COG "spiritual brainwashing". How ironic! She would be shocked to know she is only setting herself up for the "lake of fire", by giving "evil" counsel!...... but we plan on enduring in faith, day by day until the end, to win the victory!.... and thanking God for the truth, as well as His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace, to see us get through every obstacle! He has truly kept us in His Everlasting Arms! (very happy to "know" this Power and Anointing!...... believing in the teaching of the real Truth!).
Hope all is well on all fronts for you, Bob! Enjoyed your posting on the Church this past weekend. More good insight to the current situation in Laodicea. Just getting into Pet,#36. Thanks for all the hard work you are doing for us sheep, to learn, believe, and apply the truth! (2 Pet. 3:18). In Jesus,

Response #16:

Some things (and some people), it's just better to stay away from. Those who have "drunk the Kool-Aid" are unlikely to be persuaded that anything they are doing or believing is wrong. Otherwise, their entire rigid belief-system will collapse since it is founded on lies. This applies to members of all cults and of all cult-like churches (Mormons, JWs, etc.).

There are a lot of "flavors" of the COG, but if I'm not mistaken, COG "holiness" groups believe in "entire sanctification", and it sounds from ___'s email that her group is into that in spades. That is a vicious and horrible doctrine that begets the worst sort of legalism. These people say they believe in the Word of God, yet this false doctrine is nowhere in scripture.

Believers are told not to sin, but they are also told how to deal with sin (unnecessary if they ever get to the point of not sinning) and also that Jesus Christ is our Advocate in terms of sinful behavior (1Jn.2:1).

One of the biggest problems with this "I don't sin any more" doctrine is that makes anyone who accepts it a self-righteous hypocrite immediately. No one can read the Bible carefully and imagine that any person described therein was "no longer sinning" – except of course for our ever sinless Lord Jesus Christ, and that is the whole point. We need mercy, grace and forgiveness our whole lives long. When we say we don't sin, we say we don't need God. And we cheapen the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by equating our new "goodness" with His death for the sins we committed before becoming hypocrites . . . and for the hypocrisy, self-righteousness and all manner of other sins we are continuing to commit but are now denying we are committing. It is very ironic, this behavior of __, accusing you of committing sin when in fact you are not doing so (not on this point; we all sin), even while she is sinning in many ways through these actions even as she attacks you.

(8) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
(9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
(10) If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10 NIV

The other even bigger problem with this false doctrine is that it moves people who buy into it to glory in themselves and in their own righteousness, convincing them that they no longer need God's grace and mercy. If that way of thinking does not destroy true faith in Jesus Christ, at the very least it undermines it mightily – and I rather suspect that many people who gravitate to this sort of false teaching were never believers in the first place:

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
Romans 10:3 NKJV

Keeping you guys and your family in my daily prayers, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

As always, Bob, I appreciate your insight! In this case you have framed the picture perfectly (all the ins and outs) as to what's going on here .......COG...... a recipe for spiritual disaster.... for all who unwittingly fall prey! Chances for recovery are slim to none..... too much of their "kool -aid " drunk to overcome and recover, from believing their too many lies ( "entire sanctification", false tongues, institutional security, self-righteous legalism rules to be saved, etc.). She's on "spiritual life-support" now......we'll just keep praying God will rescue and heal her from this deadly "poisoning", precipitating down from a false church with it's poisonous "kool-aid" teachings. ( very sad....it is stage 4..... but with God all things are possible!). Thanks for all the prayerful support you are offering up for our family. You are in ours daily as well. I'm looking on the bright side! The Sonshine is coming...... (He's already here)..... we are patiently waiting for "that day!" ( Is. 60:1). Have a good weekend , Bob! Your friend in Jesus,

Response #17:

It's my pleasure.

I forgot about the charismatic element in that church – makes things all that much worse in the divorced from reality department.

We'll keep on praying.

And thanks for your prayers too, my friend!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear Dr Luginbill

You have been such a blessing, with all the work you have published, so faithfully, and your replies to individual emails. Thank you.

I have long agonised about the (repented) sin of adultery from a sinful remarriage, and you kindly answered me ( some time ago), as you have to many. Thank you for your patience.

I have soldiered on, read and studied other biblical topics, as you advised, but sometimes I find myself back in the weeds, rereading your answers to this problem, since I know to find good biblical sense here. I have studied them because my heart forgets the reassurance and I return to the fear, agreeing with how this looks, in English at least. But the Greek says differently, doesn’t it? I find myself longing to know more about that. And I notice you don’t tend to spell that out! I think that’s because you value the uncertainty as a discouragement to sin in the first place, and that’s good.

The problem is that we generally (the agrammatical English speakers) think that someone committing adultery outside their marriage only stops when they’ve ceased and repented, turned back. And they extrapolate that into a second marriage. They don’t believe the second marriage is real. They don’t accept that divorce is effective.

Thinking us therefore adulterers, we are not going to heaven, but we are going to the lake of fire. And that’s aimed at believers. So if not us, who? Those who are unrepentant adulterers from within a marriage? Someone who remarried (who shouldn’t) and didn’t ask forgiveness?

I suspect they do not accept that a contracted marriage has a social pact implicit in the bond, nor that the rules of the land are active, but rather rely only on the marriage being made by God.

I believed that the answer could be found in the Greek, even though everyone just wanted to reassure me that Jesus loves me and it’s all ok. That did not satisfy; I wanted to find it in the Word.

I noticed a sentence you wrote: Jesus says “he who marries…. [a divorcee] ..commits adultery”, linking the act of marriage with adultery. Not the state of being married. And I noted to myself: the adultery is an historical fact once the marriage has been made. (Greek tenses must be in play here?) It is contracting the marriage that is the act of adultery.

This is alien to our way of thinking and is not believed (by many) to allow someone forgiven this type of adultery to continue in their new marriage with the relief forgiveness should bring. While you say scripture doesn’t say we should break a second marriage, they infer that it’s implied, or there’s no new marriage to break. If it’s no longer adultery, it’s fornication, so stop it!

Your statement chimes with what I’ve read elsewhere, more technically, that the phrase is in the present indicative, and context dictates that “commits adultery” takes the same sense as “divorces” and “marries”, that it is punctiliar, not continuous. And if Jesus had meant otherwise he would have phrased it differently, I presume.

Have I got the right gist? No Greek scholar here!

Still, it is hard to understand, and my English-only brain can still find a way to allow ‘marries’ to be punctiliar, while ‘commits adultery’ obviously should be continuous, because I remain in my new marriage (now 26 yrs on)! I jest at my own expense.

All of which makes me wonder whether we use the word ‘adultery’ correctly, or fully enough? In another sense, I could make an adulterated mixture of one thing with another. It might be that I could separate them again, or that it is now impossible (bringing an unlooked-for sense to “one flesh”). By that way of thinking, taking divorce to be effective and remarriage to be binding, this new mixture is permanent, yet it is adulterated. I’ve ruminated much but never thought of that before. Is that a fair way to interpret “adultery” as associated with the act of remarrying? I can’t think how else to make adultery punctiliar and not a state.

I’ve noticed there are some respected teachers still insisting this is wrong, eg David Pawson, whom I gather was a good teacher, but now I daren’t read him! Why are there so many opinions even amongst Greek scholars and devout men? I presume more manuscripts are found and clearer cases can be made, but it is a difficult fact that we don’t all understand Greek although our eternal souls depend on it, so again I thank you for your years of able study and teaching, and the willing spirit that keeps you working on our behalf.

God bless you, sir. And thank you for reading this. I hope you might reply again. And I hope and pray you and your family are keeping well in these strange times.

In Christ, I hope and trust, and wobble from time to time

Ps 139: 2b and 23-24. He knows what I worry about and that I invite him to put me straight, and get me safely home. I try to remember that.

Response #18:

It's good to hear from you, and thanks much for your kind words. I am sorry to hear that this issue continues to nag at you, however.

Let's start with what's the most important. As our Lord said,

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
John 3:17-18 NIV

We see from this passage that the Father is not looking to condemn people but to save them – so much so that He sent Jesus to die for all of our sins, the ones we are not concerned about at all and the ones that bother us greatly. All sin is sin and no one could be saved unless Jesus died for all of their sins – and that is just what He did, all of your sins and all of my sins. So is anyone condemned for their sins? What does the passage above say? Those who stand condemned do so "because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son"; that is to say, "because they do not have faith in / are not believers in" Jesus Christ. You believe in Jesus Christ. You are a believer. You have eternal life. This is not about sin. This is about faith.

Of course believers should not sin – although we all do (1Jn.1:8-10). Believers should pursue sanctification and get better at walking with the Lord day by day, eschewing what is wrong and cleaving to what is right. Throughout the Bible, everywhere it is mentioned (see BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin at the link), sin is a deliberate thing, an act, a word, a thought. Sin is NOT a state of being. In scripture, "liars" are people who habitually lie. So that the key characteristic of those excluded from New Jerusalem is "everyone who loves and practices falsehood" (Rev.22:15). This does not mean "everyone who has ever told a lie" because then the population of New Jerusalem would be zero. But people who characteristically love what is false and proclaim it as true show by their behavior that they are not believers – like the people who are tormenting you.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Matthew 19:3-12 NIV

There is nothing magic about this passage, nothing that can't be seen very plainly from an English translation. The problem is that people who are interested in their own agendas rather than in the truth of scripture take things out of context and misapply passages with abandon. What is the purpose of this passage? To rebuke the Pharisees who were using scripture to justify doing what they wanted to do – trade for younger wives – and still call it godly. Jesus rebukes their hypocrisy, letting them know in no uncertain terms that abandoning their spouses for others with a purely lustful motive is wrong, an act of adultery, in essence, when they marry that other wife. Notice what Jesus does NOT say. He does NOT say "you are committing adultery by being in a state of adultery as long as you continue in that marriage"; and He does NOT say, "so you need to divorce wife #2 and go back to wife #1". It would be bizarre if He had said that since the whole point of this passage is to condemn wrongful divorce.

*What right did the re-married Pharisees have to divorce new wife #2? None at all! No more than they did to divorce wife #1.  They were now legally married to #2, so that regardless of the rightness or wrongness of that second marriage it was now a marriage before God and man and should not be broken up any more than the first one should have. Similarly, no married Christian today has the right to end a marriage they have contracted absent abuse or adultery, and certainly not because someone is making them feel guilty about sins of the past.  You cannot "fix sin". Only Jesus could do that. You cannot "make up for sin". Only the cross could do that. You cannot cure a wrong with another wrong – you can only amplify wrong . . . as ought to be obvious to anyone with a lick of normal common sense, let alone spiritual common sense. There is absolutely nothing in this passage that even hits at any requirement to divorce; the whole passage is pointed the other way entirely: stay married (regardless of the hows or wherefores or number of prior marriages).

It is more than a little ironic that some preachers who are supposed to be preaching grace and forgiveness are preaching instead salvation by works (i.e., you have to "do something" horrible to be saved). If they really believe that constructing a sin-free life (as THEY define it) is what makes for salvation, then they are wrong, liars, loving falsehood, the very ones who are the "dogs" locked out of New Jerusalem . . . and confined to the lake of fire themselves (the very thing with which they are wrongly threatening others).

The Christian life is all about looking forward, not backward (Phil.3:13). We can't change the past and we are never advised or commanded to try and do so. If we have made a mistake, and error, committed a sin, our loving Father disciplines us as children He loves to correct our behavior so that we won't do it again (Heb.12:1ff.), NOT to exact retribution on us – that is for unbelievers who reject Jesus Christ, and it will come in the end (Rev.20:11-15).

If Jesus wanted remarried people to divorce He would have said so – or had one of the apostles say so. It's not in the Bible. If Jesus had wanted those twice divorced individuals to go back to their prior spouses, He would have said so . . . but this is what is actually in scripture:

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 NIV

So much for going back. However, what even this passage does not say is, "and if it does happen, then get divorced again" – because scripture is consistent on counseling staying married whatever the "back history" is.

It's good to know that these people who disturb you with their false teaching are perfect. Not only in marriage matters, but perfect in everything. Because by preaching salvation to others only through sinless perfection and works of supererogation (divorcing a loving spouse and going back to the [often bad], former one), they are saying in effect that they are sinless and need do nothing of the sort. Did they ever treat anyone badly in their lives? If they said an unkind word to, say, their third grade teacher, have they gone and found her and apologized and made amends through some equally onerous act of contrition? If not, aren't they living "in a state of non-penitence"? Until they rectify this sin, aren't they in danger of hell fire, just like the people they are terrifying? It may not seem to be a "big deal" to them, but what about the person they wronged? But maybe they've never ever committed any sin whatsoever. So then I suppose they don't need the cross or Jesus Christ. That would explain their desire to detach others from His love by enslaving them in fear – which is the devil's chief tactic.

(14b) [Jesus became a human being] in order that through His death He might put an end to the one possessing the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and might reconcile [to God] those who were subject to being slaves their whole lives long by their fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14b-15

But we know that these individuals are not sinless since no one is.

If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1st John 1:10 NIV

These people are liars who make God out to be a liar by misusing and abusing His Word with the purpose of enslaving others to themselves . . . and to the devil.

I'm sorry to have to be so harsh, but the damage these soon-to-be followers of anti-Christ are doing to good-hearted believers such as yourself is immense, and I have no patience with it. Anyone reading the Bible would be able to see in a minute that the message is one of peace, of life, of grace, of forgiveness – NOT of damnation and sorrow and regret. The latter is for unbelievers only, not for believers.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
Lamentations 3:21-24 KJV

You covered a lot of ground in your email, so apologies in advance if I failed to treat anything here. Do feel free to write back.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Dear Bob, (if I may?)

Your speedy answer deserved my immediate attention but please forgive me, I’m not well omitted) and it’s hard to apply myself sometimes. I had to let your email sit.

I smiled because I realised I had lit the blue touch paper and you’d sent a rocket up, because you feel so strongly about this, and that helped me, but no, we didn’t talk about some of the thoughts I raised, ie, am I understanding (a little) of what the present indicative, context and mood means for me?

And that I’ve wondered about thinking of adultery in its broader sense as a bad mixing, like a contamination effect, and in the case of a divorce and remarriage, irreversible, like too much salt in the adulterated soup, you can’t take it out. And it happens in the breakup and remarrying, which makes sense to me of the ‘point in time’ effect. That might also account for the woman’s defilement in Deut 24. Just me musing.

Our medical NHS system is very much we take what we’re given, but praise God, [omitted]

But thank you for your patience. I am sorely in need of that, I know!

God bless you.

Response #19:

"Bob" is fine (I've been called a lot worse!).

On the English word "adultery", this is a Latin derivative and none of the connotations which come to mind from alternative English usage exist in Greek (the Greek verb is moichao, so completely unrelated).

On tense/mood, the tense in, e.g., Matthew 5:32 et al., is present indicative: "is committing adultery". But the question is "when and how?" Our Lord answers that question directly but those who are troubling you completely ignore what He says: "whoever marries [i.e., when he does so] . . . commits adultery", that is, in so doing, i.e., by the act of marrying under those conditions. And once it's done, it's done – just like a conventional act of adultery: it can't be undone once done and neither can the act of marrying someone. So there is no going back and fixing a sin that's been committed . . . in cases where there was sin. Blessedly, our Lord does not deal with us in an accountant-like fashion: He died for all of ours sins and all of our sins were worthy of condemnation absent His dying for them on the cross, not just the ones that seem to bother us.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
Psalm 13o:3-4 NIV

We believers are forgiven when we believe in Christ and forgiven thereafter when we confess our sins (1Jn.1:9). We can't "fix" sins of the past. The good news is that we don't have to because Christ died for them all. But the bad news is that if we TRY to, we are rejecting the cross and substituting our own works instead – just like Cain did.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dear Bob

Now that’s directly clear, thank you!! "whoever marries [i.e., when he does so] . . . commits adultery", that is, in so doing, i.e., by the act of marrying under those conditions. (Also noted not to get creative with the meaning of adultery) Thank you so much. I will leave you in peace on this one. But I did want to share this with you if I may:

I have recently learned the difference between a reasonable need to understand something with important consequences, like ‘am I living in sin’, and an unhealthy perfectionist drive to keep on checking, with much rumination and bothering people for reassurance. I’m now pretty sure I have religious OCD, or scrupulosity, thankfully only involving those traits (there are some nasty variations I’ve escaped, thank God, but doubting one’s salvation is torment enough!)

I did need to know the truth about this so that I can dare to ignore the need to get it and take another look, because I’ve now looked at all sides, and I’m so grateful you’ve turned over all the stones for me, so to speak. I may again wobble, and will then reread what I know. That’s to be realistic, but I hope this time is different. Things may be coming together. I feel the strength of this knowledge is growing and the other speakers, who so anger you, are taking their proper place. Yes I’ve felt reassured before, and I suppose I may relapse again, but you’ve equipped me and we’ve been more specific this time so there really are no stones left unturned. I have recognised that I fit this narrow aspect of religious OCD and that was actually liberating, because I can attribute this fear to OCD and not unrepented sin, acknowledge what’s going on, and thus I can dare to put this thing in it’s place, which is an abnormal degree of fear and worry I can safely ignore without coming to a fiery end. It isn’t easy because there are some very well worn paths in my mind, but I will now feel it is right to fight against their pull, rather feel that I am hiding from the truth in so doing.


Yet not knowing any of that, you have been so patient with me, and I do so appreciate it. I’m a worn out old biddy and you’ve got me back on my feet. And I don’t feel a fraud anymore. I know I don’t deserve my life, or my husband, but it’s OK. I’m beginning to relax. You have shown real love, thank you, brother.

God bless you and your family. You are in my prayers.

In Christ, yes! For sure

Response #20:

Thanks for the background, my friend. You have been through the wringer! It's a testament to your underlying faith – and to the grace of God – that you are coming through / being brought through this trial.

If it helps, you are not the first person who has contacted this ministry with this "scrupulosity" problem, as you put it. It's more common than you know – and fostered by the legalism so rampant in the church-visible today which preys upon folks with this tendency. One doesn't have to have been remarried or divorced to have this issue; one only has to be human since all human beings have failed in one way or another and are thus liable to the "guilt-bombs" the devil and his human agents are so good at hurling.

I am also convinced that now that you are making progress, if you will continue with a broad-based pattern of growth through this ministry (besides Ichthys, Bible Academy is also a very good place, also Bible.docs; at the links), you will find that this problem gradually becomes less and less urgent.

Keeping you in my daily prayers, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #21:

I have been chewing on something in the back of my mind for a while now. Do you know how a while back I asked you about prenups? And I wanted the right answer, even if it is one that did not make me feel good. So I would try to put together what I knew and have learned a long time ago, and looked online and arguments for and against. And I think I finally have my thoughts on it. What I came up with was this -and it is written as if to a guy asking me to sign one (and I wrote out more details, but am shortening it here):

'I do bring some material things into a marriage. And certainly intangible things. Hopefully knowledge, skills, wisdom, some spiritual. And I am throwing in all the years and money I get in the future in a relationship with you. Maybe I would get rich, maybe you would lose your money apart from me, or inflation would eat it, or any number of things. Maybe you'd become disabled or something serious and I'd end up sacrificing what ends up being worth more than that amount of money. Or yes it could go the other way. I am throwing in for that possibility. Having never had a real family, I don't think you can put a price on having a companion with you. And a godly relationship can easily produce spiritual fruit and blessing and good works worth far more than any amount of money. And then I think, oh, you're putting yourself in a very advantageous position to leave me whenever you feel like it and I think you are not willing to do for me what I am for you.'

Anyway. That was the honest answer I came up with. Because I asked myself, if I were rich, how would I picture it. And I'd want to make very sure that the man I was marrying was a man of God. And then yes, a real chance at a godly relationship with spiritual blessings-I pick that over money. Especially since I believe almost all believers will have poverty periods in their life anyway (which is good for them to learn not to rely on money).

I would really appreciate it if you could just tell me a little if I am seeing it completely wrong. I ask to learn.

Response #21:

This is exactly the way I see things too. There's no biblical prohibition against such a thing, but if a believer is going to get married, it needs to be to a believer. And if a believer can't commit to "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer" to the other person, much better not to get married in my opinion.

In Jesus,

Bob L.


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