Remarriage in the Light of the Inspired Word

Some quotes and statements taken from the book “Remarriage in the Light of the Inspired Wordy” by E. Marianne Myhre, MA

Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship. For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between partners who share a common faith. Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love, sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship between Christ and His church. Regarding divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.

Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, marriage partners who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ may achieve loving unity through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church. God blesses the family and intends that its members shall assist each other toward complete maturity. Parents are to bring up their children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and their words they are to teach them that Christ is a loving disciplinarian, ever tender and caring, who wants them to become members of His body, the family of God. Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message. (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:3-9; John 2:1-11; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:21-33; Matt. 5:31, 32; Mark 10:11, 12; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10, 11; Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-4; Deut. 6:5-9; Prov. 22:6; Mal. 4:5, 6.) {1981, FB1981 7.14}

Introduction

Simplicity and Truth

The Place of the Inspired Word

The place of the Inspired Word is well described in the following Testimony, in which Sr. White quotes Olaf Petri, the Swedish Reformer, then Christ, and Paul:

Olaf Petri … declared that the teachings of the Fathers are to be received only when in accordance with the Scriptures; that the essential doctrines of the faith are presented in the Bible in a clear and simple manner, so that all men may understand them.  Christ said, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me” [John 7:16]; and Paul declared that should he preach any other gospel than that which he had received, he would be accursed [Galatians 1:8].  “How then,” said the reformer, “shall others presume to enact dogmas at their pleasure, and impose them as things necessary to salvation?” He showed that the decrees of the church are of no authority when in opposition to the commands of God, and maintained the great Protestant principle, that “the Bible, and the Bible only,” is the rule of faith and practice (GC 243).

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

Investigating Matthew 19:3-14

The Pharisees asked the Lord Jesus a simple question: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”  This question is phrased in such a way as to imply that they knew of at least one cause for which it was lawful to put away one’s wife.  Else why did they not simply ask, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?”

Jesus makes it very clear that God never intended that a married couple should divorce.  “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let  no man put asunder.”  Again, notice how Jesus worded this. He did not say, what God has joined together is impossible to put asunder. He asks us not to take apart what God has put together.

The Pharisees then proceed to question Jesus about the divorce law in Deuteronomy 24, which, in fact, did permit divorce for any cause. Jesus answered that question in the context of their first.  He said that divorce was not originally intended, but was permitted because of their hard hearts.  Then Jesus makes that controversial statement: “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

Years ago, in order to make this verse fit what we were taught, we believed that the exception clause was only meant for the first half of the sentence. But upon closer study, we realize that this is grammatically impossible. Allow us to illustrate this with the following four almost identical sentences.  Please consider the meaning of each sentence carefully:

  1. 1.   Unless there is a fire, you may not open the door and go outside.
  2. 2.   You may not, unless there is a fire, open the door and go outside.
  3. 3.   You may not open the door, unless there is a fire, and go outside.
  4. 4.   You may not open the door and go outside, unless there is a fire.

I think you will agree that these four sentences say exactly the same thing. If you are in doubt, take these sentences to an English professor, who has no idea of the controversy, and ask him. The position of the exception clause does not change the sentence because we have within each of these only one statement. This sentence has a compound predicate. The second predicate, “and go outside”, is dependent on the same subject as the first.  It cannotbe separated from the first half of the statement nor from the exception.

Now, compare them with the following two sentences:

You may not open the door unless there is a fire, and you may not go outside.

You may not open the door, and you may not go outside unless there is a fire.

These two sentences say two very different things.  This is because in each of these two sentences you have two separate and complete statements. Each statement has its own subject and predicate, making them entirely independent of one another. They are only loosely connected by the word “and”.

In the first sentence, the exception clause applies only to the first statement of that sentence. If there is a fire, the listener is permitted to only open the door. Technically, he may not go outside even if there is a fire.

In the second sentence, the listener may not open the door, but, if there is a fire, he may go outside. Technically, he would have to exit out of a window or some other way.

If the first statement in Matthew 19:9 would have been written as two separate statements, we could say that the exception clause was meant only for the first half. But this is neither the case in the King James Version, nor in the original Greek. The Greek reads like this:

And I say unto you, that whoever (subject) shall put away his wife (predicate) if not for fornication, and shall marry another (predicate), commits adultery; and he who her put away marries commits adultery.[1] You will notice that even in the Greek both clauses share the same subject.  If the Lord, then, had wanted us to apply the exception clause only to divorce, He could have divided the sentence into two statements by repeating the subject in the second half.  He could also have simply used the word “or” instead of “and” between the exception clause and the remarriage clause.  But He did neither.

The consequences of restricting the exception clause to the first predicate

Furthermore, if we could separate the dependent clause from the rest of the sentence in Matthew 19:9, it would read like this: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, committeth adultery.”  Does our church really teach this?  Is a woman committing adultery when she divorces a man who beats and/or abuses her or her children?  Is a woman committing adultery when she divorces a man who drinks or gambles away all the family food money, so she can get social help?  Do we really teach that all “putting away” is adultery unless fornication is involved? We have never heard or read any such thing in any of our church literature. Furthermore, this would conflict with 1 Corinthians 7:11. If we are going to seriously apply the exception clause only to the divorce clause, we would have to disfellowship every member of our church who initiated a divorce for any other reason than fornication as an adulterer!  Are we prepared to do that?

Then there is another consequence: The word “fornication” is translated from the Greek word “porneia”; our word “porno” comes from that word. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines this word as “harlotry” and “incest”. The SDA Bible Commentary defines this word as covering “all illicit relationships” when used in the New Testament. Considering this, does it make sense that our traditions encourage all separated couples to attempt to restore their marriages, or stay single the rest of their lives?  Can we expect, for example, a Christian health reformer to risk his life by restoring his relationship with a harlot? Can we expect a normal, sexually vulnerable woman to risk her life to restore her relationship with a man so perverted that he has relations with other men? Can we really expect a godly woman to restore her relationship with a man who has raped their 4-year-old daughter? Perverted sex is highly addicting. To restore one’s relationship with a sexually perverted spouse is deadly! Certainly this would be a much greater violation of the laws of health than eating meat! Yet we tell our members that they must restore their relationships with their former spouses or remain alone forever – no exceptions! This is not what Jesus said. He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

Who is “her”?

“… and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”  The pronoun, “her”, according to our modern rules of grammar, must refer to the last woman mentioned. Since Christ excluded the situation of fornication, “her” would refer to the innocent woman who was put away when her husband wanted to marry another. If we accept the literal translation of the verse, there would seem to be a contradiction within the very verse. This caused us quite a bit of confusion until we discovered numerous examples in the Bible, which proved that this rule was not followed in the New Testament. (We have not taken the time to investigate the Old.) We assume the rule didn’t exist in the original Greek and the translators did not want to guess whom the pronouns referred to, but left it up to the reader to figure out[2].

Since the modern grammatical rule governing the use of pronouns was not followed, we can conclude that the word “her” could refer to anyone of three classes of ex-wives:

1)   The innocent woman, who was put away so her husband could re-marry.

2)   The sinful woman who was put away because of fornication.

3)   The woman who was put away for any other cause, whose husband stays single.

As already said, if #1 were correct, the second half of the verse would contradict the first half, which says that an innocent man, whose wife has committed fornication, may divorce her and remarry.  Why should God permit a man, whose wife has committed fornication, to remarry and not let a woman, whose husband has remarried illegally, do the same? Particularly since women have limited means of support.

It would not appear that #2 would be correct since that woman is already an adulterer and the man she is fixing to marry is probably the one she committed adultery with – in which case he is already an adulterer too. One wonders if she might have the right to remarry if her husband chose to divorce her and marry someone else.  We think this would make sense.  But we would want to study this further.

However, it is certain that #3 is correct. The woman who is put away, whose believing husband remains celibate, would definitely be committing adultery if she re-married. Jesus informs us here that any man, even if he were single, marrying her would be committing adultery.

Although we are not willing at this time, without further study, to completely eliminate #2, it is clear to us now, that “her” cannot mean the innocent victim of adultery and must include the woman whose husband remains faithful. However, by looking at the other gospel examples of the divorce law, we get a clue as to the meaning and purpose of the second half of this verse.  These clues will be discussed when we come to those verses.

The disciples’ reaction to Christ’s prohibition

If Jesus did give an exception, what then did the disciples mean when they said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry”? Since fornication was considered a capital crime in Israel, we assume that there was less fornication going on there than in, say, the pagan city of Corinth.  And since the Jews were used to being able to turn out their wives for any reason, being limited to being able to turn out one’s wife only for the rare incidence of fornication was a considerable restriction.

Conclusion regarding Matthew 19:9

We conclude that while the second half of verse 9 was made complicated by the pronoun “her”, there is no occasion to question the meaning of the first half of the sentence. This verse clearly creates an exception to the marriage law, permitting a person to re-marry if the spouse is guilty of fornication. The only way that any church could rightfully forbid re-marriage in the case of adultery is (1) by proving that Matthew 19:9 was mistranslated, or (2) by showing that Jesus specifically annulled this exception by a later prophet. We have seen no evidence of either.

They say, “The burden of the proof lies with the dissenter.” Generally this refers to the one dissenting from the majority view.  But when it comes to doctrine, the majority has no power. The burden of proof lies with all who dissent from what is written in the Word of God.

Comparing the Rest of the Bible

Let’s look at other Scriptures to see which position they support – our traditional position or the common understanding of Matthew 19:9.  Let’s start at the beginning, with Eden.

The Old Testament:

Genesis 2:18  “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

God Himself gave Adam a companion. He provided “an help meet for him” – a helper corresponding to him – one who was fitted to be his companion, and who could be one with him in love and sympathy. Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him (PP 46).

What did God mean when He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone”?  We believe that He meant just what He says. Studies indicate that divorced women suffer from stress, poverty, overwork, and more, while divorced men are very likely to be overcome by loneliness (The Adult Experience, by Janet Belsky, p. 300). It has become almost common knowledge that lonely people (men and women) are vulnerable to premature death by depression of body functions, disease, accident, or suicide. And according to Sr. White, women need to be loved and protected.

Genesis 2:18 says it is not good that the man should be alone.  Our tradition condemns all divorced people whose spouses have re-married to be alone for the rest of their lives.  It is no wonder that so many, especially divorced men, have left the church!

Deuteronomy 22:13-21  This and other laws governing Israel required the death penalty for any form of fornication. With that stiff punishment the Lord attempted to spare Israel from fornication’s terrible consequences – consequences such as permanent psychological and emotional damage in the children, the many sexually transmitted diseases and the morally debasing effects on society as a whole. Fornication was not considered a small crime. And its current prevalence does not decrease its sinfulness. Even with modern medicine, some innocent people die of AIDS because their spouses have been unfaithful only once. No man or woman in Biblical history was ever required by God to stay single as a consequence of his or her spouse’s fornication.

Deuteronomy 22:13-21 gives a person, who was sexually betrayed by the spouse, the right to choose another partner. Again, our tradition requires the betrayed Reformer to choose between returning to the guilty partner, whether or not he has reformed his life-style, or remain single for the rest of his life.

Deuteronomy 24:1-2 When a man hath taken a wife and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.  And when she is departed out of his house she may go and be another man’s wife.Years ago, in order to make these verses fit the conception of our church, we assumed that “uncleanness” meant that a man discovered that his bride was not a virgin.  That is, we wanted to believe that in the Old Testament, like in the New, one could only divorce and remarry if there had been fornication. But upon closer inspection we noticed that, in the above-mentioned verses of chapter 22, this sin was referred to as finding her “not a maid”, and such a woman was not just put away; she was stoned.  Therefore we conclude that the above passage is referring to divorce for any other cause. No-fault divorce was, in fact, permitted in Israel! This law was the reason for the questions put to Jesus in Matthew 19:3 and 7.

While Jesus did repeal this law, it is clear from these verses, and those discussed from chapter 22, that God made a vast difference between what we would call “raw adultery” and remarriage. We define “raw adultery” as adultery committed by people who are married, but who are so perverted that they simply can’t contain their imaginations and their lust. Remarriage is different. It may or may not be motivated by covetousness, but is not usually motivated by fleshly lust. Raw adultery was punished with the death penalty, while remarriage for trivial reasons was not even lightly punished, it was tolerated.

Even remarriage can be divided into two kinds. 1) When a person dumps his spouse for another one.  2) When a person who was dumped gets lonely and finds another spouse.  One is the result of covetousness.  The other is the result of loneliness.

Deuteronomy, then, declares “raw adultery” to be a capital crime and remarriage to be a much lesser crime. Yet in our church both crimes have been considered “adultery” and is supposedly punished the same way. But in actuality, a “raw adulterer” may (or may not) get disfellowshipped for a short period of time but he gets to keep his wife! While a remarried person, until recently, had to choose between being labeled as “living in sin” and being disfellowshipped until either his spouse died or staying single for the rest of his life. This isnot the same punishment. It’s grossly unfair!

Verses 3-4And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house: or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; her former husband, which sent her away, MAY NOT TAKE HER AGAIN TO BE HIS WIFE, after that she is defiled; for that is ABOMINATION before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

We cannot consider this law ceremonial, since there is nothing symbolic about it. The word “abomination” reveals that this law is a detail of the seventh commandment, just like those laws identifying such sins as homosexuality (7th Com.) and witchcraft (1st Com.) as abominations.  This law forbids a man to ever remarry an ex-wife who has, after the termination of the marriage, become someone else’s wife.  The words “may not take her again to be his wife” tells us that she is no longer his wife.  This precludes the belief that a person can never truly be divorced in God’s eyes, that the first spouse always remains the true spouse. These two verses make it clear that re-marriage, while it may be adultery, always makes divorce final and permanent. (We presume that this was to prevent such serious abuses as wife-swapping, or conspiring with the former wife to murder the second husband.)

The above verses in Deuteronomy show that while reconciliation may take place even in the case of adultery, this is out of the question if that adultery included re-marriage. Traditionally, we have insisted that the first marriage is the only legitimate marriage and that if the remarried do not divorce their “illegitimate” spouse, they may not recover their membership until the death of either the first spouse or the present one.

The Lord’s messenger substantiates that some divorces are legitimate in God’s eyes:

A woman may be legally divorced from her husband by the laws of the land and not yet divorced in the sight of God and according to the higher law. There is only one sin, which is adultery, which can place the husband or wife in a position where they can be free from the marriage vow in the sight of God. Although the laws of the land may grant a divorce, yet they are husband and wife still in the Bible light, according to the laws of God (AH 344).

The New Testament:

While the three remaining references in the Gospels in the remarriage law appear basically the same as Matthew 19:9, upon closer inspection one notes that each of them says something a bit different and they appear in somewhat different contexts, reflecting the different concerns of the writers.  Two of the four verses relate roughly to the same occasions, but not exactly. Let’s examine the remaining three in their contexts.

Matthew 5:17-37  Chapter 5 is the first part of what is called The “Sermon on the Mount”.  In verses 17-20 Jesus claims that He did not come to change the Law, but (if we may put the Lord’s own words from Isaiah 42:21 into his mouth) to “magnify the law and make it honorable”. We cannot find a better example of Jesus doing just that than in Matthew 5.

In verse 27 Jesus sets out to magnify the adultery law. He makes it very clear that to covet a woman who is not one’s wife is adultery. He goes on to say that it would be better to maim yourself than to commit that sin. In that context He warns, “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Is it possible that Jesus understood that a married man who lusts after another woman might want to cause his wife to commit adultery?

Jesus made it clear that God is no fool. A man who covets another woman and proceeds to place his wife in the position where she must prostitute herself or remarry to survive (women did not get alimony, welfare or own property in those days), and who then, based on his wife’s adultery, feels free to marry the woman of his lusts, is not only guilty of adultery, but he is guilty of his former wife’s adultery as well. He may even, as part of his scheme, offer his wife to a bachelor who wants to marry her, thinking that she will have no choice but to accept him. But Jesus warns that the man who will cooperate with this, even if he was never married before, is also committing adultery.

Considering that Jesus emphasized that He had not come to change the Law, considering the context of lusting after a woman, could there be an implication here that the Jews always knew that the only real reason for a divorce and remarriage was fornication?

Can we use these verses to prove that the exception clause in Matthew 19:9 is not valid?  On the contrary, they imply the validity of the exception clause.

Mark 10:1-16  This incident is the same as the one in Matthew 19, however, the statement in question is repeated to the disciples “in the house”, after Jesus had finished discussing it with the Pharisees. Mark does not say whether or not Jesus repeated the exception clause here. But he summarizes Jesus’ conversation about the basic marriage law. “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Notice that Jesus makes a different follow-up statement. This time He simply turns His statement around and says that if a woman puts away her husband and marries another she has committed adultery. This is important because it indicates that the marriage laws apply equally to both sexes.

The question that is of greatest interest here is: Since the exception clause is missing, does this statement repeal or nullify the exception Jesus had just given the Pharisees? Not at all. Whenever there is an exception, there has to be a basic rule. Usually exceptions are too infrequent or too obvious to dwell on. Just because an exception isn’t mentioned every time a basic rule is, does not mean the exception has been done away with. Neither does Jesus’ mention of an exception in Matthew 19 in any way contradict or nullify the rule.

Luke 16:1-31  This chapter of Luke opens with a parable about covetousness. Then Jesus makes several more comments about covetousness after which He addresses the Pharisees directly and warns them that God knows their hearts. He then makes some statements about the Law and declares, “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” Then the chapter closes with another parable about covetousness.

It appears that Jesus was referring to the same type of situation as He was in Matthew 5.  When a man covets another woman and puts away his wife to marry the woman of his lust, he commits adultery.  Or, he might put his wife away in the hope that she will re-marry.  Any man who will collaborate with this scheme and marry her, is committing adultery. Perhaps Jesus knew – just like when He told the story of the Good Samaritan, and when He wrote the sins of the Pharisees on the ground (see The Desire of Ages for this inside information) – that one of the Pharisees in the crowd had done just that.

If we could rightfully conclude that the above passages in Matthew 5, Mark 10 and Luke 16 could annul Matthew 19:9, then we must indeed conclude that the Bible contradicts itself. But we see no way these verses can be used to annul or contradict Matthew 19:9.  We see only perfect harmony.Romans 7:2-3  These two verses are often quoted to support our stand forbidding re-marriage under any circumstances. What is not being taken into consideration is that Romans 7 is not about marriage at all.  It is a chapter that explains our relationship to the Ten Commandments and Christ. The basic marriage law is cited here only to illustrate this relationship.  When a speaker is presenting a topic, he is not going to spend most of his time elaborating on the example. He wants to get back to his point. We see no reason why we should expect to see any details or exceptions to the marriage law in a dissertation about our relationship to the Moral Law. We can find no justification for using these two verses to nullify Matthew 19:9? However, the seventh chapter of 1st Corinthians is all about marriage. Does this chapter annul Matthew 19:9?

1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 6-9, 32-35  It is commonly believed that Paul was married at one time, since he appeared to belong to the Sanhedrin and seemed to understand the problems of intimate married life. It is not known whether he lost his wife through death or divorce, but he made it clear that he was happy about the freedom singleness gave him to serve the Lord. To those who want to serve God and who feel they can be happy single (verse 7), he strongly recommended singleness.

But he was realistic about the environment. The city of Corinth was a very immoral, heathen city. He understood that the immorality of the city would affect the church. A classic example is the immorality the church had to deal with as described in chapter 5. Paul understood that while the Corinthian believers may look up to his life-style, their strong immoral inheritance and the worldly train of thoughts they grew up with could prove a snare to them, if they attempted to stay single.

How does the morality of the city of Corinth compare with the morality of the world we live in today? Are we not living in the last days? Has out society not become “as Sodom and Gomorrah”?  What sense is there in even making those people, who are forbidden by the Bible to restore their broken marriages, to stay single?

These verses confirm that celibacy is voluntary.  Yet our tradition requires permanent celibacy of all people whose spouses have remarried.

Verses 10-11  Here again we find a brief statement demonstrating the meaning of the basic marriage law. It does not evoke nor revoke the exception, but merely reiterates the basic principle that marriage is to be preserved.

Verses 12-16  These verses address believers who are married to unbelievers. Paul makes it clear that being married to an unbeliever does not give the automatic right to get divorced.  But since the marriage laws are for believers, the unbeliever may want to leave. Under such a circumstance the believer “is not under bondage”. Here again, in an attempt to make this fit our principles, we took upon ourselves the interpretation that the freedom granted here was only for divorce, not for re-marriage. But does that really make sense?

Why would Paul give a believer the freedom to let her unbelieving spouse divorce her, as ifshe could stop him?  Secondly, if the deserted party is not free to remarry, how can we say that he or she is not under bondage to the former spouse? Our church insists that bondage should continue.

Paul says that a believer who is deserted by an unbelieving husband is “not under bondage”.  Undoubtedly, this is because unbelievers do not live by the same principles believers do. The chances of an unbeliever in Corinth not committing some kind of fornication, much less of not getting remarried, would be slim. Paul understood that an ex-spouse who is not connected with God’s church could just disappear; and a Christian would be hard pressed to keep track of the unbelieving spouse’s whereabouts to find out if he or she is remaining sexually pure. For this reason it is reasonable to assume that believers are free when their unbelieving spouses choose to divorce them.

Paul teaches, then, that believers divorced by unbelievers are not under bondage. Our church teaches that the first marriage is, without exception, the only legitimate marriage and that the believer remains “bound by the law as long as her [unbelieving] husband lives.”

In the many years that we have discussed, debated, and played the devil’s advocate between ourselves in our attempt to solve the many questions our church’s stand on remarriage provokes, we discovered all kinds of reasons to support both sides of this issue. Because of this, we keenly recognize the folly of attempting to solve the question of remarriage in the framework of what “seemeth right” to our own finite minds.

However, for the benefit of those members who have long believed the arguments that have been used to support our traditional position, and also because we humans naturally feel better about accepting even God’s judgments if we understand the reasons behind them, we are including this section. Here we will dispute some of the human arguments supporting our traditional position and after that propose, what we believe to be, a viable reason for the Biblical position.

“Matthew 19:9 must be a mistranslation.”

As we have shown in the study of the Bible references above, there is no occasion to believe that Matthew 19:9 was mistranslated, since we find no real contradiction anywhere in the Bible. If indeed there is a mistranslation, it must be proven. No church, not even God’s church, has a right to assume a mistranslation because a verse “seemeth” wrong to us.

“We should return to the lifestyles of Eden.”

In Eden God did not say, “It is good that a betrayed man should stay single.” Nor was such a statement written anywhere in the Bible since Eden. God did say that it isn’t good that the man should be alone. That is, even in the perfect world in Eden, it was not good for a man to live alone, much less in this sinful world as Paul brings out. This, then, would support the belief that when fornication, the only legitimate reason for divorce, occurs, a man or woman is free to divorce his spouse and choose another spouse. Any man who has divorced his wife for any other reason has not obtained a legitimate divorce. Thus, he has a wife and he is not permitted to put her away (1 Cor. 7:11).  If she goes away, he is offered the Lord’s help to try and make amends (Matt. 7:7-12). In this way, we achieve the principles of Eden, that every man should have his own wife.

“We should encourage forgiveness towards adulterers.”

Another close friend commented that, in these last days, we should encourage people to offer love, mercy, and forgiveness to spouses who have adulterated themselves. He pointed to Hosea as an example of a husband that showed mercy to his unfaithful wife.

Hosea was a prophet who was instructed by God to take a certain whore with illegitimate children to wife. Then He used Hosea’s pitiful relationship with this still unfaithful wife to illustrate His own relationship with Israel. He pointed out that Israel was playing the whore with other gods. He called them to return and be faithful to Him. But Israel was not faithful. After they crucified Jesus Christ, God finally divorced Israel as a nation. In the book of Ephesians, chapter 5, we find Him depicted as the Husband of the Christian church. So even the example of our patient Jesus teaches us that there are limits, even to the forbearance of our merciful God. And Christ did remarry!

It is true that fornicators can, and some do, truly repent.  However…

It is a feature in the cases of most who have been overtaken in sin, as her husband has, that they have no real sense of their villainy…. To live with one who has broken the marriage vows, and is covered all over with the disgrace and shame of guilty love, and realizes it not, is an eating canker to the soul; and yet, divorce is a life-long sore.  God pity the innocent party  (RH 03-24-68).

What we can’t understand is this: Why are we so careful to secure mercy and married life for the guilty adulterer, even when this is at the expense of the innocent spouse? How can we do this while, at the same time, unmercifully requiring the innocent ex-spouse of a re-married adulterer to stay single for the rest of his life? If we must love, and have mercy on the sinner, then where is our love and mercy for his victim?

Here we have a classic example of the natural effect of false charity, which Sr. White talks about in both The Acts of the Apostles and The Great Controversy.  We will quote only the passage in The Acts of the Apostles since it most closely applies to our topic. “He who has blunted his spiritual perception by sinful leniency toward those whom God condemns, will erelong commit a greater sin by severity and harshness toward those whom God approves” (AA 504).

Isaiah 5:20 should help us realize that the devil is an expert at confusing us. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isn’t it important, then, to give up our human notions and stay very close to the Bible?

“The fornication referred to in Matthew 19:9 was incest. Only when two people are in an incestuous relationship should they get divorced and remarried.”

A third dear friend of ours proposed this argument. It was the most believable of them all. But even this one failed, since Sr. White in one of her most published books, Mount of Blessings, page 63, refers to Matthew 19:9 in the setting of adultery, “unfaithfulness of the marriage vow.”  Fornication was not limited to incest.

“It is impossible to know who the innocent party is.”

This one was an argument by a former minister. The idea is urged that since the sinner’s spouse may have provoked the fornication by moving to the adjacent bedroom, it is impossible to know who the innocent party is. This argument has even led people to dismiss the idea that there is such a thing as an innocent party. But Sr. White legitimizes the concept of “the innocent party” in the above quote from The Review and Herald.

Again we have, here, a prime example of how Satan can turn things around in our minds. He victimizes the criminal. There are at least a couple of things very wrong with this argument.

To begin with, it is based on the worldly idea that sex is a human “need”. Yet one of the things Jesus taught us during His celibate life here on earth is that, in fact, it is very possible to live a successful, healthy and happy life in celibacy. Furthermore, many other men and women have lived in true celibacy all their lives. When God decided to make Adam a helpmeet (comparable and fitted) for him, He was speaking primarily of filling a social need, not a sexual need. Unless a person has perverted himself sexually, there should be no problem with a Christian couple, who loves God and each other, sleeping in separate beds while they are ironing out their differences.

If a man cannot live without sex until he and his wife can straighten out their differences then, considering how vulnerable women are sexually, his lack of sexual control may well be the very reason she moved into the next bedroom.

Again we can point to the natural law of sinful leniency. While we are victimizing the adulterer for not getting his regular sex, we are requiring the innocent person to remain single (without sex and much worse, without a companion!) for the rest of his life!  Does this make sense?

“how do we know the “innocent” spouse did not also commit adultery?”

While we can question couples who are having trouble, we cannot discipline anybody for committing any sin unless we have solid evidence that they have actually committed it.  It is our duty to discipline open sinners, not secret sinners. Secret sinners are what the Bible refers to as tares.  Furthermore, we have no more right to suspect that a person who was cheated on, divorced, or who has experienced any kind of misfortune, must have deserved it, than the Pharisees had a right to assume that because people are sick, they must have sinned. Jesus knows the hearts of all people and all people will, in the end, get their just reward.

“Sr. White never supported Matthew 19:9 in her published works.”

This is a common argument which we have heard many times. As so well demonstrated in the treatise co-authored by Br. Henk Hietkamp, Jr., the fact that the “innocent party” was allowed to re-marry was well understood among early Seventh-day Adventists, as it is by Adventists today, so that there was no need for Sr. White to dwell on the subject.

However, we Reformers have, presumably because of our doctrine, severely limited ourselves as to what we consider published testimony.  As a family, we included in our research a study on what Ellen White meant when she said, “If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works” (5T 696b). We found that she considers every Testimony whether private or public, as long as it was in its context, to be inspired of God.

She declares in Volume 5 of the Testimonies, page 67:

In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision – the precious rays of light shining from the throne.”  And on page 671 she writes “God is either teaching His church, reproving their wrongs and strengthening their faith, or He is not. This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work… bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are the Spirit of God, or of the devil.

Before she died, Sr. White left all her letters and manuscripts in the hands of the trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate, and instructed them to publish these as needed. She contrasts these Testimonies with rumors and hearsay as to what she has said or written and warns us not to accept these as authentic. She also warns against just accepting statements taken out of context, without investigation. She states that statements, which are true in the context in which she wrote them, may be twisted by placing them in a framework of error (TM 42b, 52a).

A portion of a Testimony, entitled, “Testimony regarding the MontereyChurch”, was published in The Adventist Home, page 344. Those of our people who have defended our tradition have flatly denied that  this Testimony is authentic. But why? Generally we use these compiled books freely.  It is only because it contradicts our position on remarriage that this testimony is rejected. We requested a copy of the entire testimony from the EGW Estate and, after examining it, found nothing wrong with it. We have also received a photocopy of that controversial section in Sr. White’s own handwriting. We have found no reason to believe that it is not authentic.

This testimony was directed to an entire church. Thus it was written to be read publicly. She must therefore have considered it “published”, since published means “made public”. In this Testimony she states: “I saw that Sister Jones, as yet, has no right to marry another man; but if she, or any other woman, should obtain a divorce legally on the ground that her husband was guilty of adultery, then she is free to be married to whom she chooses.” Of all the statements she makes on the subject, this one is the best. We find no loopholes in it. We cannot say it was her own private opinion, for it is well known that when she says “I saw” she means God showed her. We cannot say this was a special circumstance applicable only to Sr. Jones because Sr. White adds, “or any other woman”.  We have no right to sweep this statement aside, much less since it is in complete harmony with the Word of God.

“We dare not open the floodgate.”

“We cannott establish a court system in the church so as to judge who is innocent and who is guilty.”

But the Bible says that we can and we must judge.  Paul put it this way:

Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye worthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge the angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren (1 Cor. 6:2-5)?

Jesus Christ said:

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican (Matt. 18:17).

We have talked so much about how difficult these divorce cases are that we have forgotten that if God has given us divorce cases to deal with, it is because, with His help, we can handle them.  Frankly, we believe the only reason the divorce cases have been so hard is because we had no real justification for our evasive way of dealing with divorce. We don’t need a lot of “floodgate rules”.  In every case we need to obey and to pray for the Holy Spirit, Who is offered to everyone who asks.

Viable Reasons for the Biblical Position on Matthew 19:9

The family was instituted by God to serve many important purposes.  One of them, for example, is the acculturation of the children. There is no more effective place to train a generation to be good, balanced Christian citizens in God’s kingdom, as well as in their home country, than within the security of a God-fearing family. Here also they learn the values that will make them successful in their business, as missionaries, and in setting up their own homes. Satan knows that one of the best ways to disrupt the acculturation of godly children is to disrupt their homes. For this and other reasons, he will use every way imaginable to destroy families.

In order to safeguard the family, God created man with a deep need for intimate social security – that is a need to love and be loved. The strength of a family is found in the strength of the relationship of the founders of the family, the parents. Social scientists have confirmed what we have believed, that the strength of the love we feel toward someone is correlated to how well we know or are FAMILIar with that person. Since strong bonds of familiarity and love are developed between other members of the family (the bond one has with one’s parents and with one’s children are the most obvious), God gave the gift of the marital relation to each couple. This would give them an intimacy, a familiarity, which would set their relationship apart from all others. Its emotional and slightly addicting property would help to motivate each couple to preserve their bond. Since this will have the desired effect only if the relationship is exclusive, God, under no uncertain terms, limited this marital relation to the married couple.

When differences arise between married people, there is the natural tendency to pull away from each other. As long as this alienation lasts, familiarity and family security slowly decline. In order to motivate Christian couples to adopt an honest, humble approach to solving their differences and thus prevent this condition from deteriorating to a permanent separation, God has forbidden us to seek to satisfy their longing for companionship, or the nagging yearning for sex, elsewhere.

Even when deeply rooted inherited traits are causing the problem and separation is inevitable, alienation is not. God can mend the relationship if both parties will in humility draw close to Him.  As both parties maintain a growing relationship with their Lord and remain faithful to each other, He can give them grace to continue, in a limited way, to meet one another’s and their children’s needs even during a prolonged separation. In seeking His help to overcome their peculiar traits of character, each will be gradually sanctified, and as they advance closer and closer to their Savior, they will inevitably draw closer to each other. Under such circumstances reconciliation is certain.

When a separated partner neglects to draw close to God, he is likely to begin to satisfy his longings for companionship by developing another close friendship. When that happens he begins to bond with another person and his motivation to mend his marriage becomes very weak at best.  This will almost inevitably result in “hopping the fence” into adultery. This intimate betrayal, which strikes at a person’s very foundation, will leave his deserted partner’s emotions shattered. He or she now has very little if any hope for reconciliation and the waiting for it can continue indefinitely.  Confidence, an all-important ingredient for successful relationships, has been destroyed. Without listing them, we will claim that it takes a good number of serious character deficiencies for a professed Christian to be able to commit adultery. To attempt reconciliation with a person who has shown such deficiency is to risk another heart-wrenching failure. Many people are not emotionally prepared to take such a risk. Besides, every parent needs to consider how risking prolonged social insecurity will affect the children’s acculturation.

Conclusion

In The Great Controversy, pages 289-290, we found an interesting statement. “The very beginning of the great apostasy was in seeking to supplement the authority of God by that of the church. Rome began by enjoining what God had not forbidden, and she ended by forbidding what he had explicitly enjoined.”

By demanding that those who are legitimately divorced in the sight of God to remain single in order to “close the floodgates”, we have taken step one on the road to apostasy. Will we retrace our step?  Or will we continue on?

How shall we search the Scriptures? Shall we drive our stakes of doctrine one after another, and then try to make all Scripture meet our established opinions, or shall we take our ideas and views to the Scriptures, and measure our theories on every side by the Scriptures of truth? Many who read and even teach the Bible do not comprehend the precious truth they are teaching or studying. Men entertain errors, when the truth is clearly marked out, and if they would but bring their doctrines to the word of God, and not read the word of God in the light of their doctrines, to prove their ideas right, they would not walk in darkness and blindness, or cherish error.  Many give the words of Scripture a meaning that suits their own opinions, and they mislead themselves and deceive others by their misinterpretations of God’s word. As we take up the study of God’s word, we should do so with humble hearts. All selfishness, all love of originality, should be laid aside. Long cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible. It was the unwillingness of the Jews to give up their long established traditions that proved their ruin. They were determined not to see any flaw in their own opinions or in their expositions of the Scriptures; but however long men may have entertained certain views, if they are not clearly sustained by the written word, they should be discarded (RH 7-26-1892).

Posted on April 4, 2014, in Divorce and Remmariage. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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