“MDR, Do We Or Do We Not Believe Jesus?”
By Don Martin
The real Jesus of the scriptures regarding his nature and manner is totally unknown by most denominationalists and, alas, some of my brethren. Jesus was the Master Teacher and Debater (Matthew 7: 28, 29; chapter 22). Jesus courageously exposed the errorists of his day and their false teaching. Many view Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a benign dissertation on, “How to get along with your fellow man and everybody be happy.” While the sermon does most certainly enunciate principles relative to human treatment and conciliation, the sermon is first of all an expose on the false doctrine of Phariseeism, thus exposing not only the error of many of His brethren, but also their hypocrisy (Matthew 7: 12; 5: 20, 17-6: 18, 7: 1-6, 15-29). Jesus never tip toed through the tulips, dodged issues, or practiced the unity-in-diversity so common today. Jesus dealt with every main issue of his day and decidedly provided teaching that clearly set forth the truth. One such hot issue was marriage, divorce, and remarriage or marriage to another (MDR). Just as today, the “brotherhood” then was divided on this touchy subject. Instead of the about nine positions of our day, there were primarily two positions, and these are seen in the dialogue of Matthew 19: 3-9. The two issues revolved around the cause of divorce, some, simply stated, believing in divorce for multiple causes; others maintaining adultery was the only reason. Jesus did not hesitate to join in the debate and freely stated the truth of the matter, thus, restoring marriage to its original position of one man, one woman for life, fornication being the only cause for divorce and allowance of marriage to another with a living mate. A number of my preaching brethren today are heard saying, “We believe and teach one man, one woman for life, fornication being the only reason for divorce and marriage to another, just as Martin does; we only differ in some areas of application, but this difference should not be a cause of problems among us.”
Is this true, do we only differ in some inconsequential areas of application that should not be allowed to disrupt our fellowship or do these differences constitute rejecting what Jesus said? I know this, some are allowing divorce and marriage to another, saying such marriages are allowed and have God’s blessings and are worthy of brethren’s fellowship, when others (myself included) are saying that these divorces are sinful and the consequent marriages are adulterous and cannot be fellowshipped. Is it simply and only a matter of “minor differences” or does it come down to whether or not we believe Jesus regarding divorce and marriage to another? Let us briefly revisit Jesus’ teaching on the subject, considering two simple verses:
“32: But I say unto you, That 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…(Matthew 5, dm)...9: 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).
A puts away B and causes her to commit adultery when she marries another. A had no right to divorce his wife (exception phrase not activated). B is placed under a terrible hardship, especially in the First Century. Perhaps she has children that must be fed. Nonetheless, she commits adultery when she marries another. Brethren have created a loophole, however. When A remarries, she may now mentally divorce A and be in a scriptural marriage. This sounds good to many. Now consider Matthew 19: 9:
A puts away B and marries C. A and C are in adultery, Jesus said. Now, B remarries and B and D are in adultery, Jesus said. “Oh, but B and D marry before A marries C,” some interject. That is not what Jesus said! The natural sequence is A puts away B and marries C. B (the innocent put away party) then marries D). Result: B and D are in adultery. In debating this issue through the years, brethren have explained to me, when they gave up on denying the irrefutable sequence of the verse, “B must not have mentally put away A when A married C and before she married D.” What a desperate attempt to find semblance of authority for the put away putting away!
I have seen a healthy discussion among brethren on the current MDR issues, starting especially about seven years ago. There have now been a number of public debates, written exchanges, and Internet discussions that have concisely set forth the truth and various positions for people to consider. More preachers have made known their stands, some being forced to do so. We have now entered the next stage, the time of personal attack, slander, lying, and all manner of political maneuvering and posturing. The “brotherhood magazines” have lined up, so to speak, at least one aligning with the truth, some advocating rank error, and, of course, some calling for unity-in-diversity. The main source of much of the undesirable and carnal is coming from preachers who have tried to play both sides of the issues and are getting caught. One such preacher has held meetings where I do local work and has preached the truth on MDR. He has repeatedly said to me and to others in my presence that he and I teach exactly the same and he is opposed to such men as Ron Halbrook, etc. I recently received a copy of an email that this preacher sent to another preacher and I want to share, without providing names or going into minute detail, a quote with you. Keep in mind, this preacher always said, “Don, you and I teach exactly the same on MDR!”
“...Yes, Don and I have a difference. He believes that the guilty party can put away the innocent party and now that innocent party is the ‘put-away’ and can never remarried—even though their mate committed adultery that was the CAUSE of the divorce. Such teaching fails to rightly apply the standards of God’s law over man’s.”
One inevitable source of confusion is when men, especially preachers, attempt to play both sides of an issue. They deny what they really believe and then attack those revealing their real position by falsely accusing them of slander, thus themselves committing slander.
I have consistently taught for about forty years (all my teaching can be documented) that the innocent mate has the right to put away the mate guilty of fornication and marry another, all things equal and understood (Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9). I have taught that if the divorce is not right, all that follows is sinful and that the putting away must be for the cause of the fornication of the guilty mate (I am not referring to the wording on a civil document). The innocent mate must do this, though, BEFORE the dissolution of the marriage or the divorce. In other words, if the innocent does not want a divorce or is simply negligent and it ends up that the guilty mate puts away, then the innocent mate is put away and cannot later marry another (Matthew 5: 32; 19: 9). This is what Jesus taught, thus precluding all circumstances and potential for waiting game situations and practices.
The above quoted preacher has had conduct and has made statements in some of his teaching that I have thought to be inconsistent with him believing Jesus on MDR. Yet, he has affirmed to me over and over, “You and I are in agreement on MDR.” Yet, in private he wrote to another preacher, “...Yes, Don and I have a difference. He believes that the guilty party can put away the innocent party and now that innocent party is the ‘put-away’ and can never remarried—even though their mate committed adultery that was the CAUSE of the divorce.”
Such action on the part of this preacher and many others, I might inject, is not only dishonest, hypocritical, and double-dealing, but it also largely contributes to the present pandemonium regarding the present MDR circumstance among brethren and churches. Presenting an allowed case in which a put away person, whether innocent of fornication or guilty, may marry another is not an inconsequential area of application. Besides, one cannot even begin to find the scriptures teaching that there is provision for a “second putting away.” The putting away, whether for fornication or some other disallowed cause, is still recognized as putting away and the person against whom the action is directed is called a put away person (Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9).
We must align not only with Jesus’ teaching, but also follow his example of being forthright and clear. Some are aggressively teaching error, such as multiple causes for divorce (Mike Willis). Others such as Ron Halbrook have been smoked out and their secret teaching finally caught up with them. The time is present in which many, such as the alluded to preacher and his provided above quotation, are now being stripped of their guise and they are being shown for what they are, two-faced politicians.
The bottom line? Jesus’ teaching and what some brethren are saying is now on a large level understood and made plain. What we shall now see more and more of is many including preachers and elders who simply do not believe what Jesus taught!