Exposing Bill Reeves’ Error
By Jeff Belknap
This imaginary exchange (below) is designed to promote post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication (i.e. Mental Divorce; AKA “The Waiting Game” or “The Second Putting Away”). Moreover, the writing within it misleads by building a straw man (i.e. the “box”) of the author’s imagination, and then attributing its erection to those who oppose his doctrine.
Subsequently, brother Reeves condemns as inconsistent their teaching of what he also knows to be truth, when it doesn’t fit his attributed position. As was outlined in the last paragraph of his article, both sides of this controversy agree that a put away person may remarry their original mate after an unapproved divorce (I Corinthians 7:10-11) and even remarry another after the death of their divinely obligated man/woman (Romans 7:2-3). Hence, it is ironic that the very thing which brother Reeves supposes to prove an “inconsistency” is actually proof positive that his charge (about the opposition placing the put away person in a “box”) is fallacious!
Please consider the following quote from brother Reeves’ article: “You see, your first question as framed was misleading, making me think that you were talking about the put-away woman the [sic] Jesus referenced in the Matthew and Luke passages. But then you tell me clearly that you are not talking about the put-away woman about which Jesus was talking. You are talking about a put-away woman that Jesus was not talking about, but rather about one against whom fornication has been committed and that man has so categorized and boxed away.”
The main argument in brother Reeves’ article used to defend post-divorce “putting away” is clear: He admits, that although Jesus condemned the adulterous remarriage (to another) for “innocent” put away people, he says the Lord was not dealing with the situation in which the person who wrongfully put away has committed post-divorce fornication. (Yet he is unable to cite an inspired distinction that explains the difference). Contrariwise, you will notice that Jesus spoke of the sinful (adulterous) remarriage of the one who wrongfully put away their innocent mate (Matthew 19:9a), before he mentioned the adulterous remarriage, by the “innocent” one who was put away (Matthew 19:9b).
Note within the chain of events that Jesus clearly incorporated post-divorce fornication being committed by the one who sinfully puts away:
“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 19:9
Brethren, where does the Bible ever differentiate between those “innocent” put away people whose bound partners have committed post-divorce fornication, from those whose unmarried bound partners have remained celibate? When a marriage is sundered for fornication, the Lord made a distinction in consequences between the one who puts away and the one who is put away.
In a divorce for a cause other than fornication, the Lord made no distinction in consequences between those who put away and the one who is put away. Likewise, the Lord NEVER made any distinctions in consequences between “innocent” put away people whose bound partners have fornicated and those whose bound mates have not fornicated. [In fact, in our very context, it is undeniable that Jesus did address the circumstance in which the one who wrongfully put away (departed from) their innocent mate then remarries another (Matthew 19:9; cf. Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18].
Contrariwise, brother Reeves’ above quote denies that Jesus specifically addressed the circumstance in which the one who wrongfully puts away commits fornication after the fact of divorce. Then based upon this erroneous claim, he concludes that His pronouncement about her remarriage to another being adulterous does not apply to her! Instead, he concludes that Jesus’ exception clause for the one who puts away (sunders the marriage) for fornication applies to her [never mind that Jesus nor Paul ever spoke of “putting away” after an unapproved divorce, which scripture reveals makes one “put away” (departed from), and “unmarried.”]
By simply adding an unscriptural qualifier, brother Reeves rationalizes the put away person’s adulterous remarriage to another, by generating a put away person “altogether different from what Jesus talked about.” Therefore, he goes on to construct his theory, that if the put away party remains “innocent,” and if their obligated mate eventually commits post-divorce fornication, that a post-divorce “putting away” is not only possible, it is authorized! Moreover, he then alleges that Jesus sanctions the remarriage to another for this “innocent” put away person, while their original mate lives. Amazing!
If such is sound reasoning, all we have to do to turn something that is specifically condemned into something approved, is to assert that the specific scenario we want to justify is not dealt with in scripture. Consider the following: The Bible teaches that stealing (like adultery) is sin, however, it does not deal with the situation in which one is starving. May we manufacture a man-made distinction between those who steal (i.e. the full vs. the hungry) to determine whether or not one is really in sin? Likewise, the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin, but does not specifically deal with the situation in which one believes that they have a “gene” which makes them biologically attracted to the same sex. So which homosexual is sinning? Would it make sense to write an article and ask the question “Just Which Homosexual Are You Talking About?” Can you see where consistent application of this reasoning and practice will lead?
Since it is impossible for a put away (unmarried) person to put asunder what is already separated, put away people enter into adulterous remarriages when they marry another while their bound mate lives (regardless of post-divorce sin). MARRIAGE is two becoming one flesh, DIVORCE is one flesh becoming two, and REMARRIAGE is two becoming one flesh (MDR). Hence, after a divorce (approved or not) there is NOT a marriage partner to “put away” (Matthew 19:4-6; I Corinthians 7:10-11, 15).
1) If JESUS condemned as adultery the remarriage of the “innocent” put away person to another while their bound mate lives, and never spoke of or authorized any exemption to that decree [even when their living man/woman commits adultery after the fact of divorcing them (see Matthew 19:9a; Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18a)],
2) And if THE APOSTLES never spoke of or authorized any exception to that pronouncement for the “innocent” put away person whose obligated mate commits post-divorce fornication,
3) Then it is inescapable that the “exception” that brother Reeves (and others) are advancing (adding) for innocent put away people whose bound mates subsequently commit fornication is from man and not from God.
To arrive at the post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication–and remarriage to another doctrine, one MUST:
1) Accept, with NO biblical affirmation, that Jesus acknowledges a distinction between “innocent” put away people whose bound mates later commit fornication from those whose bound mates remain celibate,
2) Accept, with NO biblical affirmation, that a post-divorce “putting away” procedure (which the Bible knows nothing of) is capable of separating MORE THAN the “one flesh” relationship (which had already been sundered), and
3) Accept, with NO biblical affirmation, that the one who employs a post-divorce (mental) “putting away” procedure (and then tells people about it) is authorized to remarry another while their obligated mate lives, contrary to the unqualified statements made in Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke 16:18b. Cf. Romans 7:2-3.
Obviously, those who advocate post-divorce “putting away” must build upon a distinction (that is not found in God’s word) between “innocent” put away people for their doctrine to work. Let us recognize it for exactly what it is – a manmade invention. Therefore, this doctrine is nothing but a false hope for the “innocent” put away person! The entire theory of a possible second “putting away” for post-divorce fornication is a house of cards built upon nothing but a foundation of sand (Matthew 7:26-27).
----- Original Message -----
JUST WHICH “PUT-AWAY WOMAN” ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
JIM: I don’t believe that a put-away woman may marry again; do you?
JOE: Well, just which put-away woman are you talking about? If you mean the put-away woman referenced by Jesus in Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18, I certainly do not believe that she may marry again. Why? Because there was no fornication in evidence that would serve as the cause for a spouse to put away and remarry. No, she may not marry again. Since her husband put her away for just any cause, excepting fornication, God did not release either one from their marriage vows. Neither may remarry. I agree with you. But we both must admit that the reason she may not remarry is not because she has been put in a box labeled “put-away woman,” but simply because the putting-away that the husband did was not for the cause of fornication, and so neither he nor she may remarry. Neither has the divine cause for putting away and remarrying.
JIM: But, I mean a put-away woman whose husband later goes out and commits fornication. I don’t believe that she may remarry, because she is a put-away woman. Do you believe that she may?
JOE: Well, now you have left off talking about the put-away woman that Jesus talked about, and have brought up a case altogether different from what Jesus talked about. Jesus was not asked about, and so he in his answer to the Pharisees did not talk about, the put-away woman that you are now dealing with. You are making the mistake of apply Jesus’ words to an entirely different setting, or scenario. Is that fair? Is that rightly dividing the Scriptures? Are you aware that you are applying Jesus’ words to something to which Jesus made no such application?
The woman that you are now talking about, if she has been a faithful wife to her husband, and so has not participated at all in his ungodly divorcement, since he has now committed fornication, she has the divine cause for repudiating him and remarrying. Jesus gives this right to the innocent, faithful spouse, and she may exercise this divine right. All of us agree that Jesus gives to the innocent spouse the right to put away a fornicator-mate and to remarry, but some want to accept this divine right or permission only if, or provided that, the innocent person has not been categorized by man as being a certain person, a “put-away” person. This Jesus did not do!
You see, your first question as framed was misleading, making me think that you were talking about the put-away woman the Jesus referenced in the Matthew and Luke passages. But then you tell me clearly that you are not talking about the put-away woman about which Jesus was talking. You are talking about a put-away woman that Jesus was not talking about, but rather about one against whom fornication has been committed and that man has so categorized and boxed away.
Now, let me ask you a question: Do you believe that a putting-away man may marry again? Remember: Jesus said in Lk. 16:18, “Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.”
JIM: I see now that your question is like my original question to you, in that the answer depends upon just which putting-away man one is talking about. If you mean the putting-away man that Jesus is talking about, then, no, he may not marry again without committing adultery. Jesus said so.
JOE: Do you see the reason why he may not lawfully remarry?
JIM: Yes, it is because there is no fornication in evidence to serve as the cause for repudiating her and remarrying.
JOE: So, we agree that the putting-away man that Jesus is talking about may not remarry. The reason? Not because he is a man categorized as a “putting-away man,” but for the simple reason that he doesn’t have the cause for which to lawfully put away his wife and to remarry. God does not approve of his divorcement and does not release him or her for remarriage. They are still bound by God to their marriage bond.
Now, do you believe that a putting-away man who has the cause of fornication against his wife may repudiate her and remarry? I do; don’t you? Of course you do. But, now we have a putting-away man marrying again, yet we said above that we agree that a putting-away man may not marry again!
What’s the difference? The difference is not in one’s being classified or categorized as a “putting-away man,” but simply because they represent two different cases. Jesus was talking about a man who puts away for any cause whatsoever, because that is what he was asked about, but now we are talking about a man who has the divine cause for putting away and remarrying.
JIM: Oh, it’s clear to me now. Jesus was talking about a man and a woman of a scenario in which no fornication is in evidence, and we are bringing up a different case: one in which the cause of fornication is in evidence. Being a “put away woman” or being a “putting-away man” has nothing to do with the matter.
JOE: Correct. The issue is whether or not one has the cause of fornication on which to act in putting away and remarrying. The issue is not what a person may lawfully do if categorized or classified as such-and-such a person. Those who have created the box called “put-away-woman” also must build a box labeled “putting-away-man.” Yet, if they can allow a certain “putting-away-man” to remarry, they will have to allow a certain “put-away-woman” to remarry! The only man or woman who may put away and remarry is the one who has the cause of fornication. This is what Jesus taught.
JIM: Thanks for helping me to see the matter more clearly. It is plain to me now that the brother who says (as one prominent brother stated publicly), “No put-away woman is authorized to remarry,” is purposely confusing two different scenarios. He is leading his hearers to think of the put-away woman that Jesus talked about, but he has in mind a different woman: one who has had fornication committed against her! I will be more careful in the future when I hear brethren talking about the famous “put-away woman,” and will always ask: Just which “put-away woman” are you talking about? I will also insist that they ask their same question, inserting “putting-away man!”
JOE: Remember, they can’t box one without boxing the other. And, once boxed, they can’t let one out without letting the other out. The truth of the matter is that, after boxing in the woman, and making the absolute statement that “no put-away woman is authorized to remarry,” they will let the woman out of the box on certain conditions! They have absolutes with exceptions! Imagine that! If the husband who puts her away dies, then out of the box she comes. If the husband is reconciled to the wife he puts away, out of the box she comes. They also have an exception for the putting-away husband of Lk. 16:18. Yet they have the audacity to challenge others to show where “a put-away woman” may remarry!