What Came First, The Chicken or The Egg?
By Jeff Belknap
The age old question is a topic of debate even today. However, since God clearly reveals its answer (Gen. 1:21-25; Psa. 33:9), the reason for the unending controversy has more to do with a basic disrespect for God’s Word than over a fowl and its offspring. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to accept the inspired record (II Pet. 3:5).
Similarly, many do not trust in the creation account (at least not in six 24 hour periods) because they have more faith in human wisdom than in God’s inspired Word. When men begin to reason that God’s Word, as stated, does not make sense or seem fair, they begin to view that portion of the Word in a different light. Their slant on truth often begins with manipulation of words whose meanings were clearly understood and unquestioned in the past (i.e. “day,” “marriage” and “divorce”). They then go about building a case by twisting other truths to fit the word’s new contextual meaning and by using emotionally-charged human rationale. Hence, when a lie becomes more attractive and reasonable-sounding to men than does the clear and simple truth, men will find a way to justify their own way of thinking (Prov. 16:25; II Thess. 2:10-12).
For the most part, the Word of God is clear and easy to comprehend (Mt. 11:30; Eph. 3:3-5; 5:17). However, while some things are indeed hard to understand, many times even God’s simple precepts can become clouded in confusion when men twist the scriptures (II Cor. 11:3; II Pet. 3:16). In fact, when it comes to most biblical subjects (especially divorce and remarriage), our ability to understand God’s will simply depends upon whether or not men are willing to “receive it” (Mt. 19:11-12; Acts 17:11; II Cor. 11:4; Jas. 1:21).
The Mental Divorce Controversy
As the divorce rate goes up, it seems that the resolve of our brethren goes down. It has become obvious to all that in the present time of divorce crisis, more and more are selling out the gospel (Prov. 23:23) to fulfill the “lusts” of men (II Tim. 4:2-4). And since those involved in (or closely related to) such situations will seldom “endure sound doctrine,” the temptation for preachers to tickle “itching ears” (I Tim. 4:3) is greater than ever.
In the second paragraph of the article Mental Marriages and Mental Divorces (a series of articles in booklet form by the same title), brother Gene Frost wrote:
“In man’s persistent effort to justify remarriages following unlawful divorce, new concepts are continually evolving. The latest effort reasons that divorce is simply a ‘mental act’ with no relationship to civil or social divorcement. And since divorce is the dissolution of marriage, marriage also is a ‘mental act’ with no actual relationship to marriage licenses, ceremonies, or any other social or civil requirement. This heresy is in violation of what the Bible teaches and is pernicious in its consequences. It is born not of sound exegesis but of a desire to circumvent the Lord’s teachings” (emp. jhb).
Moreover, brother Rader has also previously written in regards to this subject. In his article entitled The Plain Truth About Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage. Brother Rader stated:
“There is a trend towards softening the gospel message. As society and the religious world moves in a more liberal direction, we too are affected. In that effort to be more tolerant, some have made the gospel message more palatable by ‘smoothing it out’ in various ways” (emp. jhb).
Then, under the subtitle, “How Are Men Speaking Smooth Things About Divorce And Remarriage?,” brother Rader answers this question with the words:
“Allowing some put away people to remarry. Some argue that the one who has been put away (for a cause other than fornication) can remarry if their former mate remarries first. Others argue that if one is put away by a mate who has committed fornication, he can remarry. Neither of these are authorized by the Lord. In contrast, Jesus said, ‘and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery’ (Mt. 19:9b; 5:32b; Luke 16:18)” (emp. jhb). Reprint from Truth Magazine, XLII, No. 12 (June 18, 1998).
Posted at: http://truthmagazine.com/smooththings.html
In the remainder of this paper, I want to answer four of the most recent “concepts” which are currently being used to advocate a second “putting away” and remarriage. This article does not claim nullification of the God-given right/liberty to put away a guilty spouse for fornication, but denies that such a liberty is applicable after a couple becomes “unmarried” (cf. I Cor. 7:11). God has never entitled any such liberty to those who have been put away (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).
What Came First, The Exception Clause or The Divorce?
The errorists’ contention focuses on their assertion that Jesus emphasized “cause” in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 rather than a procedure. However, what they fail to acknowledge is that the exception clause given by the Lord, is only authorized before a divorce has been finalized, not after! Thus, the squabble over “cause” rather than “procedure” is a moot point. The exception clause is no longer a consideration after the fact of divorcement! [Moreover, the obvious emphasis in the context of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 was not on the “cause” for the exception, but rather on the rule. Because divorce for “every cause” was common practice in that day (Mt. 5:31; 19:3, 8), the point of Jesus’ teaching was that ALL PUTTING AWAY - except for fornication - IS SINFUL (cf. Mt. 19:6).]
In brother Gene Frost’s article Mental Marriages and Mental Divorces (mentioned above) he also wrote:
“Without cavil, in every recorded instance, Jesus said, “Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matt. 5:32; cf. Matt 19:9, Luke 16:18) Nothing is stated as to why she is divorced. Men may reason all day as to whether she desired the divorce, protested the divorce, or whatever. The text says, whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Modern theorists say, “No, Lord, not if she objected!” Moderns write in an exception clause for the divorced person. (Jesus gave an exception to the one who does the putting away.)” (emp. His).
As is clearly pointed out by brother Frost, there is no “exception clause for the divorced person.” Brother Rader makes the same observation, in his lesson What God Has Joined Together - Jesus on Marriage (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-12), posted at: http://truthmagazine.com/fclecture2001.html
Brother Rader wrote:
“Jesus makes a distinction in one who puts away his mate and the one who is put away. While some argue that it makes no difference who puts who away. Jesus made a distinction. Notice again the text:
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 (Mt. 19:9, emphasis mine - DVR).
The first clause deals with the one who puts away his mate. The second clause deals with the one who is put away.
The one who puts away his mate: Jesus said that a man who puts away his wife (for a cause other than fornication) and remarries commits adultery. Where do we learn that? From the first clause of Matthew 19:9. Jesus also said that a man who puts away his wife (for the cause of fornication) does not commit adultery when he remarries. Where do we learn that? From the first clause of Matthew 19:9.
The one who is put away: Matthew 19:9 contains two complete clauses joined by and. The second of those clauses addresses the one who is put away. Jesus said that the one who is put away commits adultery when he remarries. Where do we learn that? From the second clause of Matthew 19:9. In this clause there is no exception phrase. The exception phrase (of the first clause) will not fit into the second clause in any way: textually, grammatically or logically. The one who is put away (whether for fornication or some other cause) does not have a right to remarry.
Determining who has a right to remarry is not as difficult as some may think. A couple of simple questions give us the needed information. “Who put who away?” And, “What was the cause of the divorce?” If the person in question is the one who put away his mate, he fits into the first clause of Matthew 19:9. If it was for fornication, he can remarry. If it was not for fornication, he cannot remarry. If the person in question is the one who was put away, he fits into the second clause of Matthew 19:9. He cannot remarry. Now, that’s simple!” (all emp. His).
When discussing Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, brother Rader plainly illustrates in no uncertain terms, “The exception phrase (of the first clause) will not fit into the second clause in any way: textually, grammatically or logically.”
What Came First, The Divorce or The Repudiation?
In addition, another argument for a second divorce (repudiation) is to divert the discussion into defining the Greek word(s) translated “divorce.” In this effort, the desire is to also ignore the first divorce as if it never happened.
However, when one acknowledges the biblical truth that an innocent person may really be what Jesus calls “put away” (and thus bound by the only available options of reconciliation or remaining unmarried, I Cor. 7:11), the argument of a simple “sending away” repudiation versus the civil procedure becomes pointless. Those who civilly put away have already “sent away” or “repudiated” their spouse. Hence, even the minimal procedure advocated by the errorists has been perpetrated against the innocent mate prior to the civil procedure.
Jesus called both the unlawful action of putting away (in Mt. 5:32a; 19:9a and Lk. 16:18a) and the person who is put away (in Mt. 5:32b; 19:9b and Lk. 16:18b), “apoluo.” Jesus also said that it is the person who is the “apoluo” recipient (according to these contexts, the one who is unlawfully put away) that commits adultery upon remarriage to another, irrespective of the state of the bond.
Additionally, in brother Donnie Rader’s book, Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say? under the heading “More Arguments On The Mental Divorce Position” (pgs. 147-148), objection # 2 is outlined:
“Divorce means to repudiate or send away, thus it is a mental thing and not just a legal process.”
Brother Rader answers this objection and writes:
“While ‘repudiate’ and ‘sending away’ may be a part of divorce, that is not all that it means. 1 Cor. 7:10-11 (which we have already shown to be discussing divorce, chapter 7) shows that divorce ends the marriage. The marriage that begins legally, must also end legally. Even the concept of ‘sending away’ involves more than something ‘mental’. Divorce, like marriage, is something observable.”
If those who seek to deregulate civil divorce want to argue the definition of “divorce,” let them first acknowledge whether or not Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 involve the putting away of a mate who was chaste (or innocent) at the time of divorce. Let them state their agreement or dissent with the Lord’s statement that such a woman “is divorced.” Let them use scripture to disprove the clear truths in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 to prove their essential underlying contention that God does not recognize an unscriptural divorce against an innocent mate. Let them prove that when an innocent mate is put away for a cause other than fornication, she is not really “divorced” nor bound by the restrictions God has placed upon the “put away.”
What Came First, The God Given Liberty or The Putting Away?
In keeping with the same convoluted “logic” exposed above, yet another line of reasoning is expressed to reach the same conclusion. It is also argued that the “liberty” to put away for fornication is available to the innocent party even after an unscriptural putting away. However, such is not the case! As brothers Gene Frost, Donnie Rader and many others have abundantly proven through the years (I Thess. 5:21), once someone has been put away (scripturally or otherwise) any remarriage to another would be adulterous while their ex-spouse is alive (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:11, 39)!
It has become evident that some will not accept the time restraint (limit) given for the implementation of the exception clause (Mt. 5:32; 19:9)! Although they have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand; they have obviously closed their eyes, stopped their ears and hardened their hearts to the truth (Mt. 13:15; Acts 28:27).
The reason why those who are contending for a second putting away, simply reject the first divorce as if it never transpired in the first place is understandable. They must ignore or invalidate the first divorce because both sides of this controversy agree that no remarriage is authorized for one who is really put away. This is also why they object when we describe their teaching as advocacy of a second putting away.
How anyone can be so “bewitched” (Gal. 3:1; cf. Eph. 4:14) to see Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 any other (“another”) way (Gal. 1:6-9) is difficult for me to understand. After a divorce has been completed, there is absolutely no biblical option revealed for the put away to remarry another while the ex-spouse lives. Therefore, if fornication has been committed while the couple is married, the chaste party must be sober-minded in his / her decision of whether or not to put away.
In an article entitled “It Is Written” Brother James Hahn wrote the following:
“We are told that God’s law supersedes man’s law. To this I readily agree. Man’s law says one can put away their mate for any cause and marry again and such is acceptable. God says this is adultery. I do not believe we have to have pages written to help us understand when a putting away has taken place or to know when it is acceptable unto God. If a putting away has taken place for some cause other than fornication what happens AFTER that putting away cannot be made retroactive to the putting away and make it for the cause of fornication (emp. His)….
The passage (Mt. 19:9, jhb) doesn’t say that since the putting away was not for the cause of fornication then God doesn’t recognize it and no putting away has taken place. The passage doesn’t say anything about a ‘second’ putting away by the innocent party that is now acceptable to God. The passage doesn’t tell us that we must first learn what constitutes a ‘putting away.’ What it does say is: ‘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’ Again, I ask, ‘What is so difficult to understand.’”
What Came First, The “Generic” Authority or The Putting Away?
Moreover, there is an additional smoke screen which has been advanced to gain acceptance for a second putting away. This assertion is that the divorce procedure is “generic,” not “specific.” But this is also besides the point, when we are discussing an action after the fact. Once somebody has already been put away (divorced) there is absolutely no authority to implement another “procedure” (cf. Col. 3:17; I Pet. 4:11).
Regardless of how “generic” or “specific” divorce “procedures” may or may not be, once a woman “is divorced” (put away), apostle Paul tells us that there is no other recourse for her according to the word of God, but to “remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband” (I Cor. 7:11, 39). The same principle is true in regards to the husband (cf. Rom. 2:11; Jas. 2:1, 9; I Pet. 1:17). How some are able to come up with more options for the put away person after an unscriptural divorce than what is revealed, is beyond me.
In a recent Gospel Truths article (December 2001) entitled Marriage and Divorce in Various Cultures, brother Gene Frost wrote:
“It may be observed that the ratification may change from time to time and with culture to culture. The way—means, procedure, determinants, process, or whatever one may call it—is not specified. Whatever is determined by law or custom is the way in that particular place and time. This does not mean, however, that the word “ratify” is generic, allowing the individual to choose a specific way from other times and places. There is a difference in what is unspecified, and so allowing each society, culture, or nation to determine what is acceptable, and what is generic, so as to allow the individual to choose whatever specific way he wants to validate his covenant. Authority resides in the community, whether by an acceptable custom they determine or by law. It so happens in our time and in our nation, ratification is in the form of the documented confirmation.
‘But,’ it may be argued, ‘the state cannot establish the way to ratify marriage and limit where God has not limited.’ Au contraire. This is precisely the role of government, to establish the determinants that make for order. (Romans 13:1-2, 5) To leave every individual the right to select for himself a form of ratification from any time and any culture (and ignore our own), or even to institute his own ‘custom,’ would bring chaos.”
“In our society, we follow much the same: divorcement requires a legal procedure. There must be a public confirmation, a validation, a record as to when and where the marriage was annulled. It is matter of public record. To suggest that marriages or divorcements may be forthcoming with disregard to civil sanction, ignoring the conventions of society and the laws of the State is repugnant. If such were the case, the marital scene would be thrown into utter chaos” (emp. jhb).
Dear brethren, those on the other side of this issue have done their best to paint me as an extremist. However, those who honestly study my articles will find that what I have written is only what I have previously learned from God’s word via the pen of sound men who have been preaching and writing truth on this subject for years. If the opposition believes my teaching about the innocent put away person to be more “extreme” than anything brothers Frost and/or Rader have written about the innocent put away person, I challenge them to find and expose any differences.
I beg you dear reader, do not be deceived by influential men of renown who are presently erring on this issue and promoting the right hand of fellowship with the Ron Halbrook “application.” This application (from Ron’s Notes For Further Study) allows for a second divorce and remarriage of a put away person, as follows:
“If he has unlawful sexual relations with another (whether before or after he wrongfully puts away his true mate), his true mate has scriptural grounds to reject or put him away. That might involve countersuing in the courts if he has a suit for divorce pending. But if he has already been granted a divorce by the courts of man, the laws of man make no provision for her to act. So far as the courts of man are concerned, legal issues such as property rights have already been settled and there is nothing else to be said in the realm of human law. But if he commits adultery (before or after his action in the courts of man), there is something else to be said by divine law-by the moral and spiritual law of the court of God. She now may put away, reject, or divorce him as a moral and spiritual act” (emp. jhb)
Please be as the Bereans and “search the scriptures” (Acts 17:11) for answers instead of trusting in human wisdom to solve this emotional issue (II Pet. 2:18-19).
note: Please consider the following additional study materials:
Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?,
by Donnie Rader,
Is It Lawful?
A Comprehensive Study of Divorce
By Dennis G. Allan and Gary Fisher,
Mental Marriages and Mental Divorces
(by Gene Frost).