To Christians gathered to the Name
of the Lord Jesus Christ, theirs and ours.
From those so gathered at Grace Gospel Chapel
of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Dear Brethren, we send you greetings in our Lord’s name.
While it is perhaps not apparent, this is a multiple-addressee letter, directed to assemblies in our immediate area, as well as those farther away. We pray that you will give this letter and its attachment wide circulation among the saints, as it concerns a problem through which we are living, and in which we need your support and prayers.
Written materials are being disseminated in this area which contain a teaching we consider both false and destructive. This has to do with the very dubious idea that any who have divorced and remarried are involved in “perpetual adultery” and are therefore not receivable to any assembly.
The greater problem, for us, is that some of the brethren believe this is a teaching we endorse. We wish it to be known that we utterly repudiate and disassociate ourselves from it.
Attached is a paper which lays out our position, and we believe it to be supported by scripture. There may be those among you who hold to the “perpetual adultery” idea. That is something with which you will have to deal, and it is quite beside the point. Our motive in sending out this letter and its attachment is to make it clear what we believe, and to avoid being charged with believing something we do not. The position we have always held is that divorce is a sin, as heinous in the Lord’s eyes as any other sin, but that in mercy and grace the Lord forgives this sin if confessed as sin and repented of.
Please read the attached paper. You may respond to us with questions, or not, as you wish.
With much love in our Lord,
Grace Gospel Chapel
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Divorce: A Perpetual Sin? Doug Miller
Stand by thyself, come not nigh unto me, for I am holier than thou.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.
What are we to do with a divorced person who gets saved and then remarries? Or, to compound the problem, two people who get divorced, marry one another, and are later saved? Or, to further compound the problem, a Christian who marries a divorced person?
Let us agree that divorce is not God’s will, either for Christians or for non-Christians. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:6) Let us further agree that marriage vows are taken lightly by many people in this country and others, and that we seem to have entered an epidemic phase of domestic degeneracy, with people swapping spouses and beds almost as if they were playing musical chairs. Unfortunately, the Church hasn’t been spared from this moral plague, and this creates a problem. A hundred years ago divorce was a rarity in society, and even more of a rarity in the churches. Thus, many of our grandparents had to look a long way to find a divorcee with whom they were acquainted. This is no longer the case, and this means that we, as assemblies of believers, are called upon to deal with a problem, common to us, but rarely encountered by earlier generations.
Thus, the initial question: What are we to do?
We cannot afford to get this wrong, for if we do we may be receiving people into our fellowship who shouldn’t be there, or (even worse) we may reject those whom we should be receiving. If the latter, and if we are wrong, we place ourselves under possible judgment now, and loss before the Lord later. “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6).
The Lord said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “He who puts away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery, and he who marries her who is put away commits adultery.” This statement is unambiguous and straight forward, leaving no room for argument. He said it. It has to be true. And yet misapplied, as we shall see, it leads directly to the strange and troubling doctrine of perpetual adultery, a position so out of harmony with the gospel of grace, that there must be something wrong with it.
First, the doctrine as it is presented.
When an individual gets divorced and remarried, he or she commits adultery. This is the clear sense of Matt. 5:32, Mark 10:11,12, Luke 16:18. To marry a woman who is put away is to commit adultery (Matt. Mark and Luke). Further, Mark makes it clear, just to make sure the woman doesn’t get off scot-free, that a woman who puts away her husband and is married to another commits adultery.
So how can the guilty parties resolve this matter? In only one-way, according to the purveyors of this teaching. They must go back and be reconciled to their husband or wife, as stated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 7. One of the kinder interpretations is that adultery is avoided by either of the parties who choose to remain celibate, although the very act of divorce is frequently supposed to have tainted the guilty party beyond redemption.
Problematically, reconciliation is not always possible. In some cases one of the parties has remarried. In some cases, both have. In some cases one of the parties is absolutely impossible to live with, and no one but a sadist would insist on a reconciliation. Think, for example, of those situations in which a woman has been subjected to physical abuse that may be actually life threatening. In some cases one party or the other has announced, years into a marriage, that he or she is homosexual. In others, one party is a serial and unrepentant adulterer (or adulteress), and threatens to infect his or her partner with venereal disease.
These divorced individuals have nothing in front of them but enforced celibacy—that is, if they wish to have the approval of our perpetual adultery champions (hereafter called PAs for the sake of brevity). Can we realistically expect this? The Apostle Paul knew better. Why does he counsel every man to have his own wife and every wife her own husband (1 Cor. 7:2)? To avoid fornication. Now, he doesn’t say to avoid the possibility of fornication, but to avoid fornication. There seems little doubt to him that celibacy, in most cases, doesn’t work. To force a normal, healthy individual into celibacy is to set up conditions that lead to gross immorality.
The assemblies have no choice but to deal with people divorced and remarried, or single because of a spouse’s death and remarried to a person previously divorced (perhaps through no fault of his or her own), and living in on-going adultery, according to the PAs. Perhaps the second marriage has resulted in children. The only solution to the problem is to divorce the second partner, leaving the children in a broken home and with the stigma of illegitimacy. Reconciliation with the first partner at this point would plunge one only deeper into sin, being expressly forbidden by the Lord as an abomination (Deut. 24:1-4). Again, the only solution is enforced celibacy, and it is doubtful that even this would clear the guilty party in the eyes of the PAs.
So how are assemblies to deal with these supposed adulterers? According to the PAs, they may not be received. What if they are saved? It doesn’t matter. As long as they are in the state of ongoing and perpetual adultery they cannot be received, or even baptized. Thus there exists (as the PAs see it) a class of people, saved, members of the universal church and fit for heaven, but unfit to be received to an assembly on earth.
Something about this argument seems intrinsically wrong. As philosophers say, it seems counter-intuitive, especially to anyone who has even a nodding acquaintance with the concepts of grace and mercy. Is this really what the Lord is asking of us? At this point, let us simply note that the position to which the PAs have been driven by their failure to rightly divide the word of truth, is utterly alienated from that of the Man who said, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.”
Then, there is another problem, that raised by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. He states flatly that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Warning us not to be deceived, he states that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor. . . .And he goes on to list other types of behavior that put one outside the realm of redemption (1 Cor. 6:9-11). “And such,” he continues, “were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Notice, Paul does not say you are. . .adulterers, but you were.
Well, which is it? Can these individuals be forgiven, washed, sanctified, fitted for heaven? Or, are they irredeemable? If the PAs have got it right, it is difficult to see how these divorced individuals can be saved at all. As a matter of fact, if the PAs are right they cannot, for Paul states flatly that no adulterer will inherit the Kingdom. Even if these were saved when they went through the divorce, they are now living in perpetual adultery and are beyond the pale of the Lord’s redeeming grace. The PAs have got to hold, if they are consistent, that in this case at least it is possible for one to lose one’s salvation, or else they must argue that these wayward souls were never actually saved in the first place. It is difficult, given the position the PAs have taken, and given what Paul wrote, to imagine any alternative, except for the strange one already mentioned: they are saved, fit for heaven, but unfit for human fellowship on this earth.
To press the point further. Can those who hold to the perpetual adultery theory legitimately give a gospel invitation to lost sinners ending with the appeal, “Whosoever will, let him come?” They must first inquire, must they not, whether or not this individual has been divorced and remarried, and is thus living in perpetual adultery. Then they must tell him, based upon what Paul wrote (1 Cor. 6:9-11), that he cannot be saved in his present condition. First, he must get this adultery problem straightened out, then they can discuss salvation with him. This crosses the line into salvation by works.
To repeat, there is something very wrong with this argument.
A brother used to say that a text without a context is a pretext. Another used to say that we must always interpret scripture within the totality of scripture. Keeping these principles in mind, let us look at the passage in Matthew 5 upon which (among others) the PAs rely to prop up their theory. Let us, however, put it within its context and not lift out one verse and isolate it from the others. Jesus said:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For verily I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
He then goes on to deal with selective portions of the Mosaic Law, including murder, adultery, divorce, the swearing of oaths, vengeance; but He began by talking, not just about these things, but about the whole law. The law has gone nowhere. It is still very much in effect. And it will remain in effect until heaven and earth pass away.
Accordingly, these questions must be put before the PAs. Are you keeping the law? Are you even making an attempt to keep it? Don’t answer in the affirmative until you have considered carefully. Have you been burning sacrifices on the altar at the temple? Of course there is no temple, no Levitical priesthood, no Aaronic priesthood. Very well, how about the dietary laws? Have you eaten any pork lately? Any shrimp? Lobsters? Crabs? Can any believe we are obliged to follow those laws? Peter and the other apostles made it very clear in Acts 15 that we are not. Paul made it very clear that we are not in Romans and Galatians. Perhaps you agree that the Mosaic Law is something from which we have been freed. That is hardly the point. Why have you lifted out a portion of what Jesus said to make your case about perpetual adultery, while obviously (and perhaps conveniently) overlooking what he said about the whole law?
Matthew is perhaps the most critical book in the Bible, and perhaps the most poorly taught and exegeted. Unless one approaches the book from a dispensational point of view he will become hopelessly entangled in legalism and in things intended for the nation of Israel and with only a limited application to the Church in this age of grace. Further, Matthew in particular, and the other synoptic gospels (Luke and Mark) in general, are aimed right at the nation of Israel, to which the Lord made very clear his earthly ministry was directed.
The Man who said, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” did not intend to put the Church under the yoke of the law. He gave the Matthew 5 sermon to show those listening to Him two things: (1) the charter of the Kingdom He will establish on earth when he sits on the throne of David and rules the earthly kingdom from Jerusalem; and (2) to show these self-righteous Jews that they were not keeping the law, not even coming close. Are you looking on a woman to lust after her (to use one example)? Then you are in on-going adultery. Are you angry with a brother without just cause? Then you are a murderer, and John tells us in his first letter (1 John 3:15) that no murderer has eternal life in him.
The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The harshness of law is written all over the arguments of the PAs, but no grace at all. They ought to bring to their remembrance the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he said, “Woe unto you also ye lawyers (read legalists if you will)! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46). How does this contrast with the sentiments of the Man who characterized His yoke as easy, His burden as light?
Now, let us ask how our Lord Jesus dealt with divorced people. Did He reject them? Accuse them of perpetual adultery? Put them outside the camp to ring a bell and cry, “Unclean!”? We have an excellent account of a divorced woman who met with the Lord, and we see how He treated her. It is the famous account contained in John 4, as our Lord was going through Samaria. Anyone reading this paper should be familiar with the story.
Jesus has to go through Samaria (John 4:4). He comes to Sychar, sits down at Jacob’s well, and a Samaritan woman comes out to draw water. “Give me a drink,” He says. She wants to know why He, a Jew, would speak to her, a Samaritan. Please give careful attention to what He says.
If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him and he would have given thee living water (John 4: 10).
Now, look down to verse 16, where Jesus says to her, Go and call thy husband, and she replies that she has none.
Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. (John 4:17,18).
Can any really suppose Jesus didn’t know this about her when He promised to give her living water back in verse 10? She is, according to the PAs, into major perpetual adultery—five husbands and living with a man not her husband. And let us face facts no matter how inconvenient they may be or how damaging they may be to our pet theories, this woman had no chance of going back and sorting this mess out, no hope of reconciliation with a past husband. Which one would she choose? She is irreparably ruined if the PAs are correct. Why does Jesus invite this sin-scarred woman to drink of the water, which shall be in her a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13,14)? Obviously because she was not irreparably ruined, that there is no one beyond the redeeming grace of the Lord Jesus, that He makes all things new, that He restores the years the locusts ate, that when He forgives, He does it completely, and He washes whiter than snow.
If after this life-altering encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, this woman came to our assembly, would we receive her? Absolutely. Would the PAs? Not likely. They appear to claim something for themselves that they are unwilling to extend to others, grace greater than our sins.
They may protest that the woman had the option of separating from her present live-in and becoming celibate for the rest of her life. The normal, healthy adult is thereby put in a position that leads directly to fornication, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 7, and to which reference has already been made.
In 2005, Gospel Tract Publications of Glasgow, Scotland released a book with a solid red cover entitled What God Hath Joined, hereafter called “The Red Book.” The book purports to be “an answer to contemporary issues in marriage.” In fact, it answers nothing, for there is nothing in it that hasn’t been used over the years to argue the perpetual adultery position: it is merely a rehashing of old material. The authors claim to be very concerned about dealing with people in grace and love, but there is little of grace and love in the book. Hard, cold legalism transpires between every line.
Curiously, the PAs position has a strange, familial resemblance to the dreadful Bethesda question, with the Lord’s honor demanding we expel individuals whom He has received because by the perception of some they are unclean, unfit for Christian association. “Go and learn what this means, I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13). Why did the Lord say this? Not only was He the supreme teacher, He wrote the book. Why didn’t He just tell them what it meant? Because telling someone what the statement means will not cause them to learn it. Only one thing will: they must be put in a position in which they are the ones in need of mercy, and they must have mercy denied when that is what they need most, and then, perhaps, they will know why the Lord values mercy and grace so highly.
There is much in “The Red Book” with which any Bible-believing person must agree. Divorce is indeed a sin. Marriage is indeed ordained of God from the beginning. God, indeed, never has countenanced divorce and remarriage. It is true that fornication and adultery are not the same things, and that adultery standing alone is not grounds for divorce. To divorce and remarry is to commit adultery. It is what the PAs don’t say, what they conveniently overlook, that makes them wrong in the conclusions they draw.
The Red Book authors have a great deal to say about the first marriage, that between Adam and Eve, of how this was indeed a marriage ordained of God, and that by the law of first-mention we can learn a great deal about marriage. But the authors of the Red Book learn things from it that are not there to be learned. For example, they state, without a shred of evidence, that Adam and Eve did not have sexual relations until the conception of Cain. The Bible doesn’t mention sexual relations between them until chapter 4 of Genesis, thus they had none. This is a false argument, what philosophers call an argument from silence. Moreover, to make this assumption is to fall into the trap laid by infidels, who love to ask where Cain got his wife. He got his wife from among the descendants of his parents, Adam and Eve. No other explanation is possible. We do not know how much time elapsed between the creation of Adam and the fall; nor do we know how much time elapsed between the creation of Eve and the conception of Cain. One may assume, if one wishes, that the time was very short, but this is a mere assumption, and it does not accord with the facts as they are presented, else the old question again: where did Cain get his wife? Adam and Eve lived to be very old by our standards. They had, no doubt, many children that the Bible doesn’t mention because their existence is irrelevant to the story God is telling, the story of the fall and the redemption of Man.
Why then, are the PAs so persistent in making this dubious argument? Because it serves to prove, if they are right, that mere physical relationship does not constitute marriage. They hold that Adam and Eve were married from the moment God brought Eve to Adam.
The argument seems so innocuous that one is tempted to say, “So what?”
The “so what?” of the matter comes out in another of the PA's strange and convoluted arguments, whether or not the physical union, in and of itself, has the effect of making the participants one bone and one flesh, thus married. The PAs go to 1 Cor. 6 to attempt to make their case. In this passage Paul warns men not to cohabit with prostitutes, telling them that in so doing they are making themselves one with the prostitute, thus taking the body inhabited by the Holy Spirit and making it one with a prostitute. The PAs see a great difference between “body” (Gr. soma) and “flesh” (Gr. sarx), assuming, it would seem, that to become one body is not the same as to become one flesh. Is this true? Look, if you please, at 1 Cor. 6:16. Paul tells us that the individual joined to an harlot is one body, then goes on in the same verse to say, “For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” Now that little word “for” cannot be dismissed as lightly as one of the Red Book authors tries to dismiss it, because it connects the quote to what Paul has said previously about the “body.” Within the argument that Paul lays out it is difficult to conclude that body and flesh may be so easily separated.
But as with the non-physical-union argument above, what difference does it make? They are attempting to prove that physical union does not make a marriage, that marriage takes place when God joins two people together, and that once joined by God no separation is possible. It would then follow that the sex act itself is mere fornication and not adultery. They may be correct, but they are using the wrong passage to prove it, and once proven it hardly strengthens their overall case.
The truth is that physical union makes a great deal of difference. Were people actually married in Israel after the initial betrothal ceremony? Well, sort of. But if either had relations with another person prior to the physical consummation, this was counted as fornication, not adultery, and the remedy was divorce. After the marriage had been physically consummated, if either party had relations with another the sin was adultery and the penalty was death. Does physical union make a difference? It makes a huge difference.
The PAs know they have a problem here, which is why they go to such lengths to separate body from flesh. If they can’t make their case, it follows that the churches are full of people, both men and women, who have had several unions, and who are thus involved in ongoing and perpetual adultery. However, if in the reader’s judgment they have successfully made their case then multiple fornicators may be forgiven but perpetual adulterers (so-called) may not.
If anyone is confused by all this, he needn’t worry. It would probably confuse any who attempt to wade through it; and the men making the argument are caught up in major confusion. This is where fuzzy thinking leads.
We also need to reflect that the PAs are confused beyond possible extrication on the subject of Romans 6 and 7. The subject is death, and how one is freed from the Law (and I might add, all of one’s past) by being identified with the Lord Jesus Christ in His death. If death frees one from the Law, then burial and resurrection places one on the far side of the cross with Christ, and the past is forever gone and buried. This is so obvious that the very author who deals with it (chapter 4 of the Red Book), says as much, then goes on to ignore himself and argue, ineffectively, that it is actually about divorce and remarriage, bouncing back and forth between the two positions.
Finally, the grossest and most obvious error of the Red Book is that no-where in its 131 pages is concrete mention made of repentance, recovery and restoration. The nearest any of the authors come is in chapters 5 and 7. But the supposed solution leaves one to conclude that restoration is scarcely possible, and even if it is, the solution is worse than the problem. In the book’s foreword we are told that the authors pray “this volume will provide peace and reassurance to anxious saints.” How, pray tell, can anyone accuse individuals of being in ongoing sin, say not a substantial word about what they may do to extricate themselves from the position they are in, and then say, “Now, go thy way, and be at peace and reassured?” To write a book of 131 pages outlining at length a major sin that besets both saved and unsaved, and to make only the vaguest of references in passing to how one is to be cleansed and forgiven, is to demonstrate that you simply don’t know what it is all about.
In Acts 13:38-39 Paul makes a statement at the end of his sermon in the synagogue at Pisidia that is worth considering. He says: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” From how many things are the believers justified? The answer is clear—all. From how many of these things can one be justified by the Law of Moses? The answer is equally clear—none. The Law of Moses was never able to justify anyone from anything. It could only condemn. All of the animal sacrifices placed upon the altar over the years did nothing to take away sin. The writer to the Hebrews tells us bluntly that this is impossible. But in the fullness of time the Lord Jesus came, and by His death carried our sins away and buried them in the depths of the sea. We are free to walk in newness of life. Matthew 5 places the Law before men and forces them to conclude that they are unsavable. The Gospel of grace places the resurrected, glorified Christ before an individual and tells him that, no matter what he has done or what he is, he may take of the water of life freely. There is an infinite difference in the two.
The conclusion of the matter is this. The PAs are wrong. There is no such thing as perpetual adultery. For those of you who have a broken marriage in your past, who have the sin of fornication in your past—perhaps multiple times—and who may be burdened down with feelings of guilt, be assured that if you are saved, and if you have confessed this sin, God does not hold you guilty. Christ said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28). Those who are lading you with guilt have a great deal in common with the scribes and Pharisees, but little in common with our Lord.
Finally and lamentably, the PAs must be labeled as heretics, as per the following argument, reductio ad absurdam, and in this case the reduction leads into heresy:
(1) Paul states that no adulterer will inherit the Kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-11), and;
(2) Those who are divorced and re-married are, according to the PAs, adulterers, therefore;
(3) No person who is divorced and remarried is or can be saved, thus;
(4) If such a person wishes to be saved he or she must first divorce the present spouse and go back to the first one, or at least remain celibate, and thus;
(5) There is something they must do before the Lord can save them, therefore;
(6) Salvation is, to this extent, dependant upon human works, and;
(7) To teach salvation by works, to any degree, is heresy, ergo;
(8) Those teaching or holding to the doctrine of perpetual adultery are heretics, and are teaching and propagating heresy.
Whether or not they can be received into an assembly without confessing and repenting of this heresy is up to the individual assemblies to judge. But the teaching itself cannot be allowed in any assembly of believers.
Allow me to say something about myself before I launch into a rebuttal of a rebuttal. I am, by education and profession, a philosopher. I wrote my dissertation in ethics, and I spent over 20 years teaching philosophy at a local university. I say this because it ought to give some insight into my method of approaching the problem under consideration. I do not get angry and call people names. I do not throw my materials on the floor and walk out of the room. I do not make points by writing in upper case letters or in bold script. I make points by using language and by using properly constructed arguments. If an argument is sound, I will accept it. If an argument fails, I will try to show where it has failed. It would be nice if all of my opponents behaved the same way. Most do. Some do not.
Now, to the point of this paper.
It is a troubling business to have to label a fellow believer with the title of heretic. Sadly, however, it must be done when scripture clearly warrants it, and in the case of those teaching divorce and remarriage as perpetual adultery the scripture clearly does.
My paper (Divorce: Perpetual Adultery?) which went out in refutation of the “Red Book,” What God Hath Joined, ends with an 8 point deductive argument, reductio ad absurdam, showing clearly that the position my opponents have taken, when pushed to its ultimate conclusion, results in the heresy of salvation by works. All of the paper leading up to that argument is nothing but groundwork to reach that final argument. Strictly speaking, I could have done nothing more than present the argument, and that would have finished the matter.
Everything my opponents wrote in “The Red Book”, all of the scripture they cited, every example they gave, is utterly useless if they wish to make their case because any position that results in heresy has got to be wrong. It cannot be correct. Thus, they have misapplied scripture, and they have failed to divide the word of God correctly; for scripture, correctly divided and applied, will never lead one into heresy.
Once again, the argument; and this time, rather than numbering the steps as if I were preparing this for a philosophical journal, I will simply write the argument out. It begins with Paul’s statement in I Cor. 6:9-11, that no adulterer will be in heaven. There is no clause of exception, no equivocation, no appeal to special cases. No adulterer will be in heaven. He also names others who won’t be there, homosexuals, drunkards, etc. Now we understand that he means those who continue in these types of behaviors as a way of life, because he says, “Such were some of you. . .” My opponents, however, have created, by their misapplication of scripture, a class of individuals to whom Paul could not say this, but would have to say, “Such are some of you. . .” Those who have been divorced and remarried are, according to them, living in ongoing, perpetual adultery. It is not that they were adulterers, but that they are adulterers; and to this Paul’s apostolic teaching stands unmovable and condemning: they shall not be in heaven. This means, of course, that they are not saved, and unless one believes in falling from grace they never have been saved.
My opponents have replied to my first paper in scathing language, insisting that I have deliberately misrepresented their position, that they have never said, nor even implied, that these divorced and remarried people are not saved. This response surprises me. Of course they haven’t said it. This is precisely their problem. They are contradicting scripture, and they won’t even realize it. If these divorced one are presently living in adultery, then Paul says they are not saved, and what my opponents say they believe is irrelevant. This is what happens when one fails to look at the ultimate results of positions one takes. They may say anything they wish, but they have created a class of humans who are beyond the reach of God’s grace by what they teach.
But I run ahead of myself. They are into heresy and don’t realize it because they have not been confronted with the question of what they will answer if one of these divorced persons asked the simple question: “What must I do to be saved?” Paul had the answer: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:13); Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. (Acts 16:31).” But wait! Since our divorced persons are into ongoing adultery, and since there is no way as they stand before us that they can be out of that life style, the answer must be that they cannot be saved as they now are. For if they were, then we would have an adulterer saved, and Paul states flatly that this cannot be. My opponents must, therefore, if they are consistent with the position they have taken, tell this individual that he or she is not savable as they now are, that there is something they must do before God can save them. Namely, they must get out of adultery. This is salvation by works, and it is heretical.
My opponents will not face the clear implications of this argument, although they are simple enough to be understood. But unless they can show that my argument is wrong, unless they can show how an adulterer’s being saved can be made to agree with what Paul wrote in I Cor. 6:9-11, they are in a world of trouble. Of course, they have published a book. They have a great deal invested in their position. I understand how difficult it would be to come forward at this point and say, “We were wrong.” But to clear themselves of the charge of heresy this is what they must do.
There is another problem with their position, which I didn’t touch on in my paper, but with which I will deal briefly now. There is implied blasphemy in what they argue because they impugn the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 4 Jesus offers salvation to an adulterous woman. By the position they have taken, pushed to its ultimate conclusion once again, this woman cannot be saved because she is living in ongoing adultery and was when Jesus offered her eternal life. What they are arguing (though I know they don’t realize it) makes either Jesus or Paul wrong.
There is another possibility, however, that clears both our Lord and Paul. It is the possibility that my opponents are wrong. They are, and I beg them to admit it.
Paul says that a man who is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject (Titus 3:10). Why did he say this? Because people don’t get into heresy (and in this case close to blasphemy) on purpose. They get into it without realizing what they are into, and they get into by misapplying God’s word. The two admonitions are necessary to show them where they are wrong, and if they will not turn from their error after that, then they are willfully heretical and must be rejected.
This may be considered my second admonition.