Gospel Truths, Volume XIV, NUMBER 12 (December, 2003)
Posted with permission
“Committeth Adultery Against
By Willie Ramsey
In our wicked age there are many people who break their promises and violate their marriage obligations toward both God and their spouse with no regard to the grieving hearts, broken homes, and lost souls created by their sins. We should have sympathy toward those who have been so abused by such people.
But while we must be sympathetic and caring, none of us ever have the right to alter the pattern (Heb. 8:5) of God for Scriptural marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Matt. 19:9; Heb. 13:4). Still, many times brethren have come up with doctrines which contradict God’s pattern, and every time they do, we are reminded that all of us are obligated to be always watchful for (I Pet. 5:8; II Pet. 2:1-3), and to oppose (Eph. 5:11), such things.
Currently there are brethren who are saying God allows “put away” (divorced) people (being still under God’s marriage bond) to also put away their former mate and marry “another”, if that former mate ever commits fornication. The situation they present for this position is a tragic one, where a spouse is not put away for fornication or anything evil on their part (they resisted the divorce and actively tried to keep their marriage together), but simply because their mate doesn’t love them any more. The position is that if the spouse who put them away ever commits fornication, the mate they unjustly put away has the right to repudiate them and then marry “another”. While the terminology and reasoning of these brethren for this position may be new in places, they are nevertheless repeating an old heresy which has been around for about the last half century. Thus the verses they are appealing to for their authority do not teach what they are affirming here.
One passage important to their position is Mark 10:11. They have made several wrong claims about it which we shall give answer to here. Our reply will also explain and answer their overall teaching.
Claims Being Made On Mark 10:11
1. A crucial point to their position is their claim that when Christ said “and marry another (the second wife), committeth adultery against (epi) her”, He refers to the “adultery” here as being what the man does to his first wife he has already put away. The “adultery” is supposedly a sexual sin committed figuratively “against her”, not literally “with her” (his second wife). Because, it is asserted:
2. Yet at other times a different claim is made, so that when Christ said “and marry another (the second wife), committeth adultery against (epi) her”, He refers to the “adultery” here as being both “against” (epi) the first wife, and “with” (epi) the second wife. (Obviously claims 1 and 2 contradict one another and cannot both be true. This fact alone should alert careful Bible students to their teaching.)
3. At this point it is asserted but not proven by these brethren, that the man’s put away first wife must be considered the “innocent” party, else Jesus would not say the “adultery” was “against her”.
4. Because she is now considered by them to be the “innocent” party, they tell us the man’s “adultery” here with his second wife (the “another” he had ”married”) can be used at this point by his first wife he put away, to put him away too (a second divorce from the same mate by my count, W.R.).
Not one of these claims being made is true.
Their first claim cannot be true for various reasons:
One reason is that the nearest antecedent of “her” in the third phrase of Mark 10:11 is the man’s second wife (“another”, Gr. allhn, a noun) in the second phrase.
Another reason is that Christ said by the man being “married” (a sexual union) to “another” (the second wife) he “committeth adultery” (present tense – a continuing sin in progress). Thus Christ specifically informs His audience (and us) about this sexual sin, which can only be in union with the second wife, not with the first wife with whom sexual relations were no longer taking place.
Another reason is that though God’s marriage bond still applies to her, that does not mean or prove the put away wife has something she can yet put away. In fact, marriage is the only thing which people can enter into or put away of their own will and control, for it is God alone Who controls the implementing or the releasing of His marriage bond (Matt. 19:6: Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39). This is why in all cases of divorce, the Bible means it is the mate of one’s marriage which one “puts away”, not the marriage bond or the “bound mate” as is being asserted. Herod had entered into marriage with Herodias, but it was “unlawful” or “adulterous” because her marriage bond still applied to Philip (Mark 6:16-18; Rom. 7:2-3). In like manner, anytime anyone is put away (being still under God’s marriage bond), any subsequent marriage by either of them to “another” (Matt. 19:9) is “unlawful” or “adulterous”. Yet this is the point these brethren are denying.
Another reason, and an important point of context here, is that in Matt. 19:9 and Mark 10:11-12 Christ is not answering the question of the Pharisees, as is being claimed. The question of the Pharisees is recorded in Matt. 19:3 and Mark 10:2, and is asked of Christ and answered by Him there from the limited perspective of what Moses’ Law (the O.T.) said. But Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11-12 record Christ’s second answer in another discussion with “His disciples” later “in the house” (Mark 10:10). There Christ expressed His N. T. authority (“And I say unto you”), which is still the standard and authority of marriage, divorce, and remarriage upon us today. And there Christ did give answer concerning both the first wife the man put away, and the “another” (second wife) he “married” and was thus “committing adultery” with. Thus the context of Mark 10:11 refutes their position, not endorses it.
Yet even if we granted their false notion that Christ was answering the Pharisees’ question here, that fact would not mean He was somehow limited to answering only their question. For as we know, Christ also taught His questioners about other issues they needed to understand (Matt. 22:23-33).
Another reason is that the Greek lexicographers, who are far more knowledgeable of the pure word meanings of the Bible's original languages than most people, including many translators, tell us “epi” can be translated various ways in the accusative case besides “against” in this passage, such as upon, towards, concerning, or with. Since we have shown the context is “epi” in regard to the second wife, “with” accurately describes the action of “adultery” committed concerning her. It is “with her”.
Another reason is the claim that to be an adjectival noun (and thus the antecedent of “her”) “another” must be preceded by the definite article, is an imaginary, invented rule. It is not true!
Their second claim would have us believe that the “adultery” in Mark 10:11 is both literal and figurative, at the same time!
One time they speak of the man’s second “marriage” (a literal sexual union) to the “another (second) woman” as being the literal sexual sin called “adultery” (and I agree).
Another time they speak of the “adultery” Christ mentioned as being figurative, for there they claim it is “committed against” the first wife, with whom the man no longer has literal sexual relations.
The contradiction here should be obvious!
Questions About Their Claim Of Both Literal And Figurative Adultery in Mark 10:11:
How can “adultery” (unlawful sexual union) here be defined literally and figuratively (thus two different meanings) at the same time, or applied both literally and figuratively in the same place of Bible reference when Christ only mentions one “her” that it is committed “against”?
How can “adultery” (unlawful sexual union) here be applied to two entirely different women when Christ only mentions one “her” that it is committed “against”?
Observations About Their Claim Of Both Literal And Figurative Adultery in Mark 10:11:
If they admit the context is that by “marrying” (a literal sexual union) the second woman Christ is saying the man “commits (literal sexual) adultery”, then they cannot claim the same “adultery” is also used figuratively here.
And if they instead admit the context to be that by “marrying (a sexual union)” the second woman Christ only means the man figuratively “commits adultery against” the first wife, then they cannot claim the same “adultery” is also used literally here.
Therefore, if they admit the context is that Christ is applying the “adultery” (the literal sexual union in the man’s second “marriage”) as being “committed with” (Gr. “epi”) the second wife, then they cannot claim Christ is applying the same “adultery” as being “committed against” the man’s first wife.
Likewise, if they admit the context is that Christ is applying the “adultery” as figuratively being “committed against” (Gr. “epi”) the first wife, then they cannot claim Christ is applying the same “adultery” as being the actual sexual sin of the unlawful second “marriage” being “committed with” the “another (second) wife”.
If they admit that “against her” refers to the sin of “adultery”, and is applied by Christ to the continuing sexual sin the man is “committing” (present tense, continuing action) with his second wife, then they cannot apply the same “adultery” here to his first wife, for he no longer has sexual relations with her.
If they admit that “against her” refers to the sin of “adultery”, and is applied by Christ to the continuing sexual sin the man is “committing” (present tense, continuing action) with his second wife, then they cannot apply the same “adultery” in any sense here to his first wife, for Christ only applies “adultery” in Mark 10:11 to one “her”.
Likewise, if they admit that “against her” refers to some kind of figurative sense of “adultery”, and is applied by Christ to the man’s first wife, then they cannot apply the same “adultery” in any sense here to the man’s unlawful “marriage” to his second wife, for Christ only applies “adultery” in Mark 10:11 to one “her”.
The “scenario” just mentioned would mean they have also unscripturally “taken away” or removed (Rev. 22:19; Gal. 1:7-9) unlawful “marriage” (unlawful sexual union with a second wife) out of the verse.
It has been asserted that the man’s treachery or sin in Mark 10:11 is his unlawful “putting away” of his first wife (Mal. 2:14-16). It is true that unlawful divorce is a sinful act. But in the context of Mark 10:11, “put away” (divorce) translates the Greek word “apoluw” in its “aorist” tense. It therefore refers only to that single action of the divorcement of his first wife.
But notice that the sin Christ condemns in Mark 10:11 by the word “adultery” refers to the ongoing spiritual injury of literal sexual sin the man is committing by being unlawfully “married” to the second or “another woman”. He “committeth adultery” (present tense, referring to continuing action) “with” (or as viewed in hostile action, “against”) the second wife to whom he is currently married.
So while his sin against the first wife was a single act (aorist tense) in the past when he “put her away”, the context indicates it is the "another" or second wife who is presently being injured by the word “adultery”. For it is “upon, towards, concerning, against, or with” (translations of the Greek “epi”) her that the spiritual injury called "adultery" is ongoing. He is injuring her soul in committing adultery with her! Thus, it is impossible that the “adultery” of Mark 10:11 applies to the first wife.
Also, according to the nature of their belief, where is the spiritual injury to the first wife now by the man committing “adultery” in a second marriage? Would she have to say: “O! no! he has remarried and it is adulterous. What am I going to do?” Certainly not. According to their teaching she would now be able to rejoice because the “fornication” of his second marriage supposedly frees her to ”repudiate” him and then marry “another”.
Thus their teaching on Mark 10:11 violates the context, and contradicts itself going and coming.
Their third claim on Mark 10:11 is that the term “innocent” (a Bible concept, but a non-Biblical term, by which they mean one who has the right to divorce and remarry) applies to the put away first wife here, because she is still under God’s marriage bond. Thus they reason she can still be sinned “against” by any fornication now committed by her former husband. They are wrong in this application of “innocent” person.
One reason is because we have already proven that “epi” (translated “against” here) is applied by Christ to the second wife with whom the man “committeth adultery”, not to the man’s “put away” first wife as they claim here.
Another obvious reason is because Christ specifically said put away people “commit adultery” when they “marry another”, for the very reason that God’s marriage bond is still upon them and binds them to celibacy as long as their former spouse lives (Matt. 5:32: 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3; Matt. 19:10-12).
It is impossible therefore that the man’s put away first wife is “innocent” in the sense these brethren claim, and free to remarry.
Their fourth claim and conclusion of their position, that “put away” (divorced) people (being still under God’s marriage bond) have the right to put away their former mate and marry “another”, if that former mate ever commits fornication, is also disproved by these same points.
Fact is, no second divorce from one’s first mate is anywhere allowed or even considered in Scripture. (While these brethren acknowledge that two divorces take place in their reasoning and concept, they only believe the second one is real. See the chart below.)
God’s Pattern Versus Man’s Pattern
God’s pattern (Heb. 8:5; Heb. 13:4) for legitimate marriage, divorce, and remarriage is quite clear: (1) when a couple has an approved marriage (God’s bond has been placed upon them, Matt.. 19:6), (2) if “fornication” is committed, (3) the fornicator may be “put away” (divorce), and (4) the mate who puts them away for that reason may “marry another” without committing adultery (Matt. 19:9).
But the position of these brethren violates God’s pattern by switching His order and perverting His language:
It unscripturally switches God’s step #3 with God’s step #2. Only by altering Bible language and definition, perverting it to say that though one has been divorced (God’s step #3 before God’s step #2), they are not really divorced because they are still bound, can they reason that God’s order has not been actually switched or violated.
It falsely imagines that there can be two divorces from the same marriage (saying God only recognizes their second one, which is also mere mental repudiation). Again, only by distorting Bible language, perverting it to say that though one has been divorced (God’s step #3 before God’s step #2), they are not really divorced because they are still bound, can they reason that God’s order has not been actually switched or violated when they allow the already put away party to mentally divorce the one who has already put them away, and then remarry.
By their perversion of Bible language this way, the pattern of God becomes subject to the will of those put away. For, we are told, if one is put away not for fornication and does not object or contest, taking instead a passive role, then they cannot be considered “innocent” and will commit adultery if they marry another. But supposedly, if one is put away not for fornication and resists the divorce, taking an active role to keep the marriage, then they are supposedly an “innocent” spouse. Then if the one who put them away marries another or commits fornication in another way, this put away person is now supposed to be free to mentally put their former spouse away and remarry.
But in true Bible context and language, in all cases of approved marriage (those to which God’s marriage bond applies; Matt. 19:6,9; Rom. 7:2-3) which end in divorce (whether a divorce is gotten “for fornication” or not, and regardless of whether the one put away resisted the divorce and tried to keep the marriage), Christ said when one is “put away” and either one then “marries another”, He means divorce and remarriage have actually occurred. Christ also means God’s marriage bond still applies, for He said both “commit adultery” if they “marry another” while the other one lives (Rom. 7:2-3), if the putting away is not “for fornication” (Matthew 19:9). This fact proves that the pattern of God is not subject to the will of those put away, and that the position of these brethren cannot be true.
Some of the ones who are teaching this view we know personally, and believe to be sincere, hard-working brethren who have done enormous good in many areas of Bible study and application. But because they violate God’s expressed will (Matt. 19:9; Heb. 13:4) and pattern (Heb. 8:5) to us on this topic, their view must be regarded as a tragic mistake in study, and thus religious error.
Our sincere appeal is that they seriously rethink their present conclusions on this important issue, and turn from them.