This article was written by an institutional preacher.
Posted with permission.


 By Eddie Whitten

Jesus said, “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).1 Divorce, not involving fornication as its cause, is causing considerable consternation. The contention is that a man, say, divorces his wife, not for fornication, in civil court. Neither of them are eligible at this point to be remarried. Later, the man marries and cohabits with another woman. It is said, that this adultery frees the wife to be remarried. The argument is that God’s law cannot be overturned by civil law. The civil law has granted a divorce which God does not approve therefore it is not relevant to the situation if the husband later commits adultery. In essence (according to this teaching) the civil divorce has no bearing on the case at all.

Let us consider some of the ramifications of such a belief. Civil law is approved of God (Rom. 13). It is true that civil law cannot override God’s law in any case. God’s law prohibits murder (and all other crimes). However, men violate God’s law, and those who are guilty will pay for their crimes in the end unless they repent. God has stipulated that men cannot divorce except for one reason, fornication. Men divorce for other reasons. In doing so, they have violated God’s law, and if either of the parties remarry, they commit adultery and will pay for their crime unless they repent. God’s law has not been overridden by civil law in either case.2

The argument is made that, after a divorce, not for fornication, when husband or wife commits adultery the other is free to be remarried. That, brethren, is what is called “The Waiting Game.” How can it be otherwise? “Just wait until Joe marries Sue, thus committing adultery, then Mary is free to be remarried!” Please consider: Jesus said the man in this situation commits adultery: “AND whosoever marries her who is put away commits adultery.” If, as it is said, the man’s remarriage frees the wife (makes her eligible) to be remarried, it would be impossible for the one marrying her to be guilty of adultery, too! The argument is also made that motive is involved, i.e., if the wife pleaded with her husband not to divorce her (not for fornication) that when he remarries, thus committing adultery, she is free to be remarried.3 First, that cannot be found in Scripture. Second, what if (and that is what is also said, “what if”) the offended wife, cannot wait for her husband to commit adultery, and SHE commits adultery, that would also, by that definition, free the husband to be remarried who had no intention of continuing the marriage!

Fornication must be the cause of the civil divorce (that’s what the Lord was talking about) for the innocent party to be eligible for remarriage. Any marriage arising from subsequent adultery cannot be anything other than a waiting game! God condemns such an arrangement.

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1. Jesus said, “except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). A person cannot reverse this order and say I can be born of water (baptized) after I enter the kingdom. Nor can he or she reverse the “except for fornication” order and claim a scriptural divorce.

2. It should be noted that Jesus Himself made reference to human, that is civil law, when he said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife except for fornication.” In other words He included that potentiality within His statement against such and stated when it was practiced that it would mean any subsequent marriage of the two to others would be adulterous.

3. Even if the consequences for one who is divorced, “except for fornication,” against his or her will were different from a person who mutually agrees to a divorce, which they are not, he or she would still have to wait, thus it would be a waiting game. Note: Whether one agrees with the law of Christ or disagrees with it does not change the fact of its consequences. God forbids murder (Rom. 13:9) and most folks about to be murdered would disagree with that procedure, but they would be just as dead. An individual put away against his or her will is nonetheless a put away person and Jesus said, “whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another, commieth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband, commieth adultery” (Luke 16:18).

In a panel discussion (Nov. 8, 2003) at the Bethlehem Church of Christ, 2644 Lascassas Pike, Murfreesboro, TN 37130, Gary Grizzell, gave an excellent presentation on this subject. You may order a copy of the tape from the local preacher, Steve Yeatts, $2 for postage and cover.

For the cost of postage

Articles on “Mental Divorce”: This is a packet of materials which deals with another innovation on the question of marriage and divorce. Years ago brother H. Leo Boles observed that Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce (Mt. 5:32 and 19:6-9) is so simple that it takes a lot of help to misunderstand it. The doctrine of mental divorce seeks to do just that.

Order From: Waldron Mission Fund c/o Randall Standefer; P.O. Box 123, Dunlap, TN 37327

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM