(Sermon, “What is Biblical Putting Away?,” at a meeting in Lakeland, FL on May 29, 2001)
“Good to see everybody. Does everybody have an outline titled, ‘What constitutes Biblical putting away?’ (Acknowledges that some are on the back row).
Good to be able to be here. I'm thankful for the opportunity to study these matters with you. The discussion of, 'What constitutes Biblical putting away?' is, of course, needful for several reasons. There is some bit of discussion among brethren about the matter of wherein is there a difference of application wherein we hold the same principle. And I think this gets to that point. I'm not going to be talking about a great deal of positions of different people or anything like that today. I'm not going to examine that. I'm simply going to go through a discussion of what the Scripture says about this particular issue and try to look at what constitutes Biblical putting away. Is the civil or legal action in a modern divorce proceeding, is that synonymous with Biblical putting away? Some would hold that it is. We want to notice what the Scripture says about it. What does the law of Christ specify? Does it specify cause or procedure in putting away? Or does it specify both? We want to look at that and see what the text says about that.
And we also want to look and notice whether God's law is subordinated to human law, modern law as it is in American jurisprudence maybe with regard to the divorce proceedings. Is that what determines what putting away is today? And I want to start off by first off looking at what the study is not. First off, it's not a denial that we need to obey civil law. The fact is, Romans thirteen, and 1st Peter chapter two, both affirm that we need to obey civil law. Whatever is involved in getting to be those who are seen in the eyes of the law and of society as married needs to be done. A Christian needs to obey that. The same thing with regard to that of a dissolution of a marriage. A Christian needs to obey that.
But while we need to obey law, is it law is it law that makes it so? Or is it Christ's law that declares what is to be, what is so, the principles that are involved, and that we also meet human law, but that's not the same thing. Those two are not synonymous.
We want to notice as well that this is not a study about a justification or a defense of the waiting game approach. I have never believed such. I have opposed it publicly and privately in my teaching and writing and so forth. What was defended in print by the Patton-Phillips discussion, brother Patton's views there, are not ones I'm not trying to defend, I do not agree with them. And that's not the area of discussion.
When fornication takes place, if there is a cause of fornication in a putting away, obviously for a putting away to be for the cause of fornication that cause must exist before the putting away. If it does not exist you cannot say, "Well there is a subsequent act of fornication that we can now say, look back upon, and say that was the cause for this putting away. Putting away takes place because of fornication if there is to be any right of remarriage.
Neither is this a defense of a second putting away. Someone will say, "Well now we had one putting away and here is a second putting away and the second putting away was for the cause of fornication. But the idea is that it's a putting away of the same thing, of the same marriage." The fact is, that can only happen once. You can only see a sundering of a marriage that takes place one time. You don't have two or three or four different ones of those. It only happens once according to Scripture. And that is what we are going to notice.
Neither is this a denial that judgments must be made. In fact, we are going to notice, that in generic realms, realms where there is a principle, a judgment needs to be made. There needs to be an application of a principle that is generic in nature rather than specific. And we cannot bind those judgments. We need to make them. Each of us is going to have to go into a situation and say, "Now here is the case in point. Here's how it happened, here is how it unfolded of a putting away." In a realm that has to do with a judgment that is made we will each have to make judgments about the way that we will handle those. We have no right to make a judgment, an opinion, a varying thought with regard to a principle that is specified, however. And we are going to try to notice the difference between the two.
What we are going to do in our study today is, we are going to focus on the teaching of Christ with regard to the subject. First, by examining the passages and the terminology. And then by trying to notice what is specific and what's generic in the two. And then trying to notice how that relates together. We are not going to talk about a great deal of detail on the views of others. I'm going to refer to some things about common views that we know of. But I'm not going to go into examination. I want this to be simply a study of an exegesis of some passages and trying to notice the application of that. And especially with regard to the historical process that took place. During New Testament times, I think we can understand from various things that are written exactly what kind of process was taking place. And how it was that Jesus was not interested in the process or the procedure of putting away but rather for the cause of that.
And then we are going to notice some things about some consequences of a position. If one takes the position that Biblical putting away is the divorce proceeding there are certain consequences that go with that, and we want to notice those.
Let's turn, first off, over to Matthew 19, and get right into a study of this particular text. In Matthew 19, and starting out with verse three, there is a question that is asked of Jesus. It says, "There came unto Him, Pharisees, trying Him, and saying, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?' And He answered and said, 'Have ye not read, that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife: and the two shall be one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' They say unto Him, 'Why then did Moses then command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?' He saith unto them, 'Moses for of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away doth commit adultery.'"
I want to notice the terms that are used here that are equivalent. First off there is the term that is used to put away, or apoluo, out of the original language, which simply means to set free, to release, to pardon, to send away, to dismiss. Now that idea is one that the Pharisees asked about. If you notice in verse three it says, "The Pharisees were trying Him, saying, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?'" We learn much about what Scripture means by looking at parallel terms. We look at that over in 2nd Corinthians chapter six verse 14, for instance, and we notice the various terms that are used with regards to fellowship. What is it? It is a yoking together, it's a communion, it's a sharing, it's all of these things. And by putting those synonyms together, we learn more about that particular subject.
Now that is the way I am suggesting we need to approach this subject as well. The word, apoluo, or, put away, is a word that is often stressed in this particular matter, but it is not the only one that was used. As a matter of fact, while the Pharisees raised that, Jesus responds with another word. It's the word, chorizo. It's the word used in verse six of "put asunder." He says, "So they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Now that word has reference to a dividing or a separating of something. It's talking about that which is cut in two, in essence. It's the word that Jesus uses in response. And Jesus sees these terms as interchangeable. They ask, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Jesus says, 'No, you ought not to sunder that relationship.' Marriage is something where two people come together as one, and it's not to be cut in two. It's an indissolveable one. And they are to remain that way.
Neither of these words inherently denotes a legal action of divorce proceeding at all. I'm going to notice later on in the study and notice some words in each one of these, or the use of these words, in very clear points to where they don't have any reference to a divorce proceeding or any legal action whatsoever. What Jesus did, however, was specify a cause, not a procedure. Now at the very beginning of this in verse three the questioned is asked, "If is lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Aitia is the word that is used there from the Greek. It talks about the "reason" the real true reason for something to be so. The base foundation for that. Jesus responds to them and says, No it's not right for a marriage to be sundered in the first place. The Pharisees then come back. Well, first off, Jesus said that reason for that marriage not being sundered is because the two became one, and they should not be returning to two. God joined them together. That there is an establishment of a principle that God brought them. And what God joined, you don't let man put asunder.
But they ask, But what about Deuteronomy 24?, in essence. Their statement is, "Moses commanded," verse seven, "a bill of divorcement to put her away." Jesus, however, goes to that and He says, That's not the will of God. The sole cause, the sole reason, aitia, for you having this division of the two, the only rightful or just cause before God, verse nine, is again given as fornication. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, is clearly the idea. The word, "cause" is not found there in the original, but that's the answer that Jesus is giving. When you go over to Matthew 5 and verse 32, that same point, saving for the cause of fornication, is pointed out there. The idea is, Jesus is answering their question. Their question was not, How does a man put away, what's the procedure that is to be used? It was asked, is it lawful for him to do that for every reason? For just any cause that's out there? Jesus said, No. It's not right to put it asunder in the first place. But they said, But Moses said we could. Jesus said, I'm telling you the only cause for which it's just to put away a marriage is because of fornication. That's it.
Now in all of that, what we find is that there is no procedure mandated. If so, where is it? We are going to go through each of the statements of Jesus, each of these things in the New Testament with regard to putting away. And we are going to notice that there is not a procedure that is mandated. It's not found here. The fact is, some would come along and say, Well maybe it's Deuteronomy chapter 24, and if it is, what procedure did Deuteronomy 24 mandate? Well, the procedure was, you write out a bill of divorcement, you put it in the hands of the wife. And what that's for is to document for the wife's purpose a protection that's there so that she can go out and be joined to another man. That only the man could write this bill of divorcement, this paper for dismissal. That's the procedure that we find. I don't know of anybody who wants to bind that procedure. But that's what the procedure is of Deuteronomy 24. And if Deuteronomy 24 were to be bound, there would be no civil proceeding, because Deuteronomy 24 took place between that man and that woman who was being dismissed. The bill of divorcement being written by him, given to her. There is no court that is involved. To add such would be an addition to the word of God. Certainly we couldn't bind that.
The fact of the matter is that Jesus annulled the provisions of Deuteronomy 24 and that's been obvious here. If He annulled the provision of Deuteronomy 24, would He annul the thing itself and bind the procedure? That doesn't make sense. The very point of that kind of contingency-law that was given in Deuteronomy 24 made that woman able to go out and remarry. All of us would admit, that's not going to be a possibility, or at least I don't think there is anybody here who would deny that. It's obvious that that is not the thing that Jesus is stressing. Yet the whole reason for the bill of divorcement was for her protection in Deuteronomy 24. No, the procedure of Deuteronomy 24 cannot be bound because Jesus is annulling the whole thing at this particular time.
It is interesting to notice, however, that there were Rabbinic traditions that were there based on Deuteronomy 24 in the land of Palestine at the time. Now let's remember that the civic order of Jesus' time was governed by these Rabbinic traditions. That as they were going around talking about, How should we act here and how should we act there?, it's not just that the Law of Moses was out there for them in a spiritual sense. The Law of Moses also dictated how things went on in the kingdom. It dictated the way things went on in that nation and Palestine, at that particular time.
As you look at the New Testament, both in the gospels, and also in the book of Acts, it is obvious that as long as you are in Palestine and in that area, you are talking about people who are the scribes and the Pharisees, those who are the lawyers among them. And they're the ones they go to for judgments. Why? Because they were the civil heads of state at that particular time. I guess you would say they were the ones who were controlling the day to day procedures that were out there. As such, when you go to the Mishna, you notice those Rabbinic traditions, and the fact that they have a great deal to say about how putting away takes place. There were numerous traditions that were found there. For instance, it said within the Mishna, that you could not write a bill of divorcement on an unclean stone. If a stone had been near a grave or it had touched a body or it had touched the dead animal, it was seen as an unclean stone. It had to go through certain ways of purification. If you wrote a bill of divorcement on that, these Rabbis said, That's not valid, because it has to be on a clean stone. And there was a regulation that was given. Jesus didn't get involved in that particular case.
You had differences over what must be found on the document itself. Deuteronomy 24, you will notice, doesn't say that. It doesn't say what's to be written down on the document at all. And there is great deal of discussion; there is a book in the Mishna, one of the books called Gittin, and it is entirely about bills of divorcements and two whole sections of that particular book, or one section, pardon me, deals with the idea of, What must be said? What's the formula that you have to write down? They even got so far as saying, Well, if you are overseas you have to have one formula, if you are here close at hand you have to have another and if you are across town and within reach of this person it has to say something else. Some would say you have to put the names of the witnesses on the document, some would say you didn't. Some would say you had to have this kind of judgment, some would say you had to have that. All these kinds of different things; they had massive disagreements over the procedure. Jesus didn't get involved in that. It is interesting to notice these very kinds of things, the same discussions we sometimes have about how do you lawfully put one away, are things that were taking place in New Testament times. But Jesus didn't get involved in it. He specified cause, but not a procedure.
There is a provision within the book of Gittin, which I think is symbolic of the whole thing. There is a discussion between Rabbis, some who decent and some who say one thing and another, and I think they are split up in about four or five different directions. They say, "Is it valid if the person dies before it is delivered in her hand? Is this a valid bill of divorcement?" And it got down to an argument between two of them, and I got the thing right here with me if you want to look at it and I can prove exactly what it says. But it got down to an argument between the two of them. It was valid if he fell off the housetop by himself. But it was not valid if he fell of the housetop because he was blown off by a wind, then the thing is invalid. Well now, you see, solving all of these problems that they were having would have gotten Jesus into quite a bit of discussion. He didn’t do it. He didn't specify about procedure there. And incidentally, that made a great deal of difference to them with regards to inheritance and the right of being married to the next one as to whether or not that divorcement was seen as something valid or not, even in the case of the person who was doing the divorce, him being dead.
Or, if it's retracted, is that a valid divorcement. You remember Deuteronomy 24 says, After this person has been divorced and is taken as the wife of another, then you can't have her back. Now, there is a great deal of discussion, one whole section, that deals with, What does that mean exactly? What's that point in time? When he gave her the bill of divorcement, if he retracted it before she went into another person as his wife, could he do it then? Or was it even if she was betrothed? Incidentally, to be betrothed, you were married in the sense of you had to be put away by a person in order to be free to remarry. You remember Joseph was minded to put Mary away. They were betrothed. But it is the same process, a putting away, a bill of divorcement even though technically she wasn't his wife, he hadn't taken her to live with as his wife, there would have to be a putting away, a bill of divorcement given.
So the idea is, if this first husband had divorced his wife, given her a bill of divorcement, sent her away, she's gone to another, she's agreed to be married but she hadn't gotten married yet, could he take her then, before she goes in to be that person's? Well, you've got all kinds of disagreements. Did Jesus say anything about that? No. He didn't get involved in that procedure matter.
Some would say that it was not valid if it was registered among the gentiles because anything the gentiles touched was unclean. And therefore, if there were witnesses who were out there who were gentiles, they couldn't do that. Some would say that if it is written by day it has to be delivered by day. If it's written by night it has to be delivered by night. If it was written by day and delivered by night it was invalid and if it was written by night and delivered by day it was invalid.
What I am getting to is the point that in all of these things of the Mishna you have efforts to make an application of Deuteronomy 24. Did Jesus get involved in those applications? No, the principle was there. And they understood that. He abrogated that principle, but the principle was clear. If we say that what happens is there is a procedure that is mandated, the only procedure that could possibly be there is Deuteronomy 24. Yet, Deuteronomy 24, by its very nature, Jesus obviously didn't try to go through the procedure because there was a great deal of discussion about that particular matter. When you notice the fact that Jesus didn't get involved in all of these procedural questions, it seems to answer the question for us, What did Jesus bind? Did He bind a cause or did he bind a procedure that was there? The procedure is not specified, but Jesus does give principles of a generic nature.
It is clear there is a contrast in Matthew chapter 19 between the two being made one and the one being made two. The point is made in verse 5, "For this cause shall a man (incidentally, verse four says that this was what happened from the beginning. The allusion being made there to the Garden of Eden and what took place between Adam and Eve becoming husband and wife), it says "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh, so that they are no more two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder." You see that term, that to put together, to join, and then to sunder, to put asunder, to divide, those two stand in obvious contrast. They are antonyms of one another. What's involved in the two being made one? What's involved in that joining? Well, the only thing I know of is what the text says, that there is an intent. Here is somebody who has an intent to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife. That's a statement of purpose. And then there is an expression of that even as was done in the Garden: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called women." There was the expression of taking this one. The intent was declared. That was done in the Garden even without any witnesses around. There needs to be an expression of intent before intent is clear.
But then there is an action. There's some sort of cleaving that is done. Now, my question is, How could we bind the absolute nature of the procedure of any three of those? Could we say, Here is what you need to have an intent about, here's the procedure you go through to have an intent? I don't know, but I rather suspect all of us, as we got married had a different way of coming to an understanding of our intent with regard to marrying who we married. Probably between the husband and wife there was a difference in the way they came to that intent and maybe at different times. I know I was convinced a long time before Lesley was about that intent. Then the expression. How about that? Well, does it need to be written or does it need to be oral, what form does it need to take, what words need to be said? Is anybody ready to give a formula on all that and say, Here is the procedure that needs…well, no. In different places, it will be given in different sorts of ways. In different cultures that is done entirely different. In our nation, we usually have a kind of a wedding ceremony and we go through vows. In Eastern Europe, where I have gone and preached, they don't have any kind of a ceremony like that. What you do to be married is, you do whatever you want to do, but you go together and you sign some papers and your paper signing that this is your intent, this is what you are doing is the expression to everybody that this is what you intend. It's written in nature.
Well how about the cleaving? Well, it was done in Bible times early on by one taking his wife into the tent of his mother, or in some way, the book of Matthew tells us that Joseph took Mary as his wife, didn't involve the sexual cohabitation. That was going to be something later on. There was an expression of that. A marriage feast is one of those things that happens. Sometimes the statement of that in frontier America, that one took them on to their house and they recognized them as wife. Various ways in which that action took place. Could we bind anyone of those procedures? Well, no. But we all understand that here is the general principle that is involved. And then another point that's made that God joins the two together ultimately. God's action is that He puts upon those who are married the responsibilities that are there and gives to them the rights that are accorded unto those who are married. Now, when those things are pointed out from Matthew chapter 19, all I know about is that's what's involved in joining.
Now, what's involved in sundering? Well, very clearly, the idea is what is the reverse of that. Now what form does that need to take? What procedure has to be mandated there? I don't know. Someone could come along and say, When exactly does that take place? Here the specific point in our society at which this takes place. I have a hard time figuring that out with regard to marriage in all the time but I don't have a hard time figuring out who is married, do you? I could not make the legal procedure the point that binds a marriage. For instance, when I was in Alvin some years ago, we had a couple who got married. I did the ceremony. You were caused to go, in the state of Texas, and get a license, they signed, they waited three days. And then you have whatever involved in solemnizing the marriage ceremony, they said their vows. Always it has been my procedure to, at the reception, I sit down and sign this thing in front of them, along with the witnesses. At that time, in the state of Texas, the bride and groom also had to sign to say that they had gone through with this ceremony. And then I put it in my pocket with a stamped envelope and I put it into the mailbox that night so that I don't forget about it. Well, I did. But somehow it never got to the courthouse.
Three months later, the courthouse called them and said, Did you ever have this ceremony solemnized because it's now lapsed. They said, Yes. They called me, Did you mail this thing? I mailed it, I don't know what happened. It didn't get there. We had to go through and do the whole process again. You could not make it where that certificate was something that lapsed because it was beyond the bound of time. Now, I'm not going to say that legal procedure is what made them married. If it was, what legal procedure was it? If it was the first signing of it, the law didn't even recognize that because it had been lapsed. If it was everybody signing that at the night of the reception, that's a problem because the state wouldn't recognize that. But it they didn't get married until finally three months later, we went down to the courthouse and did all that, then what had they been living in for those three months? I think all of us recognize here are principles that are involved. You give me the situation that is there and I can tell you, Here are people who are married. They met the obligation of God. There may need to be something taken care of with regard to the law of the land. As far as the law of the land was concerned, the day we went to the courthouse was the day they got married, is what the law said. But I wouldn't have put it there at all.
They were married back when they made that intent, they were the ones who decided we will take each other as husband and wife and that was made clear before all. I may not be able to point out the exact time, but that doesn't say I know nothing about it. That says something, there's a framework of various things that are there and we need to be ones who would recognize that an exact procedure is not down, but principles are. And we can reason from those principles and need to to understand the situation that is involved.
There is, however, no specific that is given by God with regard to the idea of a procedure to be followed in putting away, what action is to take place in putting away, the nature of the action to be filed, the role of the court, the filing, the judge, the ruling, or whatever else is involved in the civil proceedings, the exact point at which that takes place, the nature of the document and what it must say, or what must be said in dismissing the spouse. Brethren have talked about these things for a great deal of time. Why is it they have not divided over these matters? Rightly, because we are in a realm of a generic. God has not specified with regard to those particular things.
Now if you take that and you contrast the fact of the cause, God has specified a cause. Why is it that someone can come along and say, Here a case where somebody was not a Christian, divorces without the cause of fornication, marries somebody else, now becomes a Christian, it's alright for them to stay in that marriage? Why do we say, No, we cannot allow that? That's not something with which we can have fellowship, either with the practice of it or with the teaching. Why not? Because God has specified cause. He specified cause. He's also specified who is involved in being under the law of God: "Whosoever shall put away his wife except for the cause of fornication and marries another commits adultery." "Whosoever" points it out that all are under obligation to that.
Why is it that someone would come along and say, Well here, now as long as this cause has taken place, fornication has happened, then both the innocent party and the guilty party are free to remarry? Why do we say, No sir? We cannot allow that the guilty party is able to remarry, either in the teaching of that or the practice of that. Why not? Because God has specified with regard to that. He said, "And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for the cause of fornication, or, except for fornication, and shall marry another committeth adultery. And he who marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery." There's no difficulty about that. You see that point that's made: God specified with regard to that; that that's not going to be tolerable. But someone comes along with one of these various other ideas that are out there that change the cause that is involved. Here's a spiritualizing of adultery, that it's civil action rather than the sexual action. What have they done? They've changed that which God has specified. We cannot do that. Where God is specific, we cannot be generic. But likewise, where God is generic, we cannot be more specific than God is.
In Mark the 10th chapter, then you have this Mark chapter 10, verses 2-12. I want to notice that with you and see the same principles born out. Says there, "And there came unto to Him Pharisees, and asked Him, 'Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife,' trying Him. And He answered and said unto them, 'What did Moses command you?' And they said, 'Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement and to put her away.' But Jesus said unto them, 'For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment, but from the beginning of creation, male and female made He them. For this cause shall a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh, so that they are no more two but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder.' And in the house the disciples asked him again of this matter. And He saith unto them (that's the disciples, in the house, in Palestine, He says unto them) whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another commits adultery against her. And if she herself shall put away her husband and marry another she committeth adultery.'" That later verse is one that is not recorded in the book of Matthew. We are going to make a note about that in just a moment.
With regards to the points here in Mark 10, the terminology that's used is the same as Matthew's account. It's the words apoluo and charizo that are used; the Pharisees asking Him with the word apoluo and Jesus responding with the word charizo, to sunder, to divide, to separate, and then again using the term put away as well. Jesus, however, adds the possibility of a wife putting away her husband. Why? Well somebody will say, Obviously because Mark's gospel is written to those who are gentiles. That's right. But if Mark's correct about this, the statement was made to the disciples of Jesus. This was not something that Jesus taught them later about something with application. This was something where this was taking place now. As Jesus looks at this, why is it, it wasn't possible under Jewish law for that to be done. And if putting away was governed under what was merely man's law, Jesus could not have stated it at this particular time. But what's His point? The principle is binding, He says, not because here was man's law, but under His gospel there was a divine law that superceded any kind of law of man.
After the death of Jesus upon the cross and the first Pentecost following His resurrection, what kind of law was somebody under there in the land of Palestine? They were under the same one they had been under with regards to physical law before. And that was the Rabbidic traditions of those of the Jews were the governing law of the land at that particular time. The same principles that we found in Matthew 19, that if one puts away for the cause of fornication and marries another, they have a right to do that. That's what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 19 with regard to the man. My question is, What about the innocent wife who is here in the first century Judea, following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the case of the Pentecost, could she do what Jesus said she could do? Why certainly she could. Would it have been that which was according to the law of the land which was recognized? No it wouldn't. But man's law had no right to go in and violate her God-given right. Here's someone who comes along who is a husband who's decided he wants this pretty little thing over here and he doesn't like her restrictive nature of becoming a Christian. He commits adultery, he's ready to get rid of her. She's already said, Look, I had the desire to be together with you as one man and one woman for life, you violated that. I won't respect you anymore as my husband. As a result of such I will no longer live with you as a wife. What's going to happen? What's going to happen is that man's going to give her a bill of divorcement, isn't he? Does that make her a put away party without a right of remarriage? No, every principle that was stated in Matthew 19 with regard to the joining of a marriage has now been involved in the sundering of that marriage. Her intent is changed, there's been an expression of that, and there is an action that is there. What happened in the legal realm was not what determines God's law. God's law had been determined by His will, not by that of man.
What I want to notice as well is found over in Matthew chapter five. We are going to return to that principle here in just a few minutes. But in Matthew chapter five, and in verses 31 and 32, the statement is made by Jesus, "It was said also, 'Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.' But I say unto you, that everyone that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulterous. And whoso shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery." Here, do we find any procedure with regard to what is putting away? The only procedure raised again is Deuteronomy 24. But the whole passage points out the fact that there is a contrast between what the old law said and what the teaching of Christ was. There's context pointing out the distinction between that was that the old law said this and the gospel of Christ said the other. Which was being bound by Christ? It's obvious that Deuteronomy 24 wasn't. It was His principles that were being bound. Those principles involve no procedure, they involve the cause that was there. That cause of fornication is specified, the procedure is not specified.
In Luke chapter 16 and verse 18: "Everyone that putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery. And he that marrieth one that is put away from a husband committeth adultery." Alright, what have we got? We've got no procedure specified here either. If so, where is it? There's not one thing said about that. In 1st Corinthians seven, verses 10 and 11, we find an interesting point that is made here. In 1st Corinthians seven and verse 10: "Unto the married I give charge, yea, not I, but the Lord, that the wife depart not from her husband. But should she depart, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And let the husband leave not his wife." Here we've got two equivalent terms used in this passage. Let me back up and notice something, if I might. And that is when he says, "Unto the married I give charge, yea, not I, but the Lord," what's he talking about? Well, the point that he's talking about is he's referring back to the provisions that have been stated in the gospels. I think all of us would accept that. That he's going back to say, Don't you remember what Jesus taught? Jesus said that there is not a wife that's to depart from her husband. His appeal is to Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19, Luke 16, Mark 10, those various passages. The parallel passages in the gospels is what Paul is summarizing. He's describing what Jesus taught in that particular place. Now, to do so, he uses a couple of terms. The first one is the term, charizo. The same word that used back in Matthew 19, to put asunder. The same word that used in Mark 10. That word is used, however, here in the sense of dividing or separating something. But Paul uses it in a passive voice to represent what was said in an active voice. Now let me take a second there. I'm sure we've got mostly people here who understand the sense of grammar, we don't have to go into it a great deal. But the passive voice is that something is done to me. Action done to me is in the passive voice. When I'm the one acting, doing something, that's in the active voice. The statement is sometimes made that over in the gospels, in Matthew 5, 19, Luke 16, Mark 10, Jesus talks about in the active voice. And therefore the person not only needs to be the one who’s the innocent party, he needs to be the one that initiates the civil proceedings. And this idea of an active voice being put with this, with the civil proceedings, the two of those positions go together.
Then when someone believes that the putting away is the civil procedure, then they’ll say you need to be active in putting out that civil procedure or in taking that civil procedure, initiating it, securing it, whatever is involved. Some would say countersuing, whatever, but you need to be active in doing that. And my question is this: if the active voice is what Jesus is stressing, how can Paul represent what Jesus is saying in the passive voice? Because the statement is made very clearly in verse 10, that the wife “depart not” from her husband. That’s what the Lord taught. And that the husband depart not from his wife. Passive voice again.
Now how is it, that Paul is accurately representing the demand of Jesus, if what Jesus is demanding is that one not only be innocent, but that they initiate, that they file the lawsuit that’s out there? That doesn’t make sense. But, if what Jesus is pointing out back in Matthew 19, Mark 10, Matthew 5, is that when this marriage is sundered, when that marriage, that dissolving of the two, is justly going to take place, it’s only for the cause of fornication. If what He’s saying is, the action against the marriage is what needs to be looked at, that the cause of one acting against that marriage in fornication is the only rightful cause where there can be a dissolution of the marriage and anyone have the right to remarry, if that’s the point, Paul correctly represents Jesus here. But if Jesus is saying, you not only need to be innocent of fornication, you need to go out and you need to beat the other folk to the courthouse, you need to file first. That isn’t what Paul said, and Paul has misrepresented what Jesus was teaching. That’s the point that I think we recognize when we look at the comparison of these terms.
The next term that’s used, if a procedure is there that doesn’t make sense, but the next term that’s used is in verse 11, the very last part of verse 11 of I Corinthians 7. “And that the husband leave not his wife,” “aphiemi” there, “let go, to send away, to cancel, to remit, to pardon” is what that word means. Now, neither one of these words either inherently denote legal action of a divorce proceeding. They don’t have reference to that. They’re used with regard to the dissolution of that marriage, but they don’t have primary significance, they don’t have an inherent kind of a connotation of a divorce proceeding taking place.
Now, what I want to notice is, when we look at all the facts, we understand what the truth is. Let’s take that with regard to a related matter on who may put away a guilty spouse and remarry. Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 say of men, that that’s there. Incidentally, Matthew 5:32 doesn’t give anybody a right to remarry. That’s, I’m putting that in there for a cause, putting away for a certain cause. Matthew 19:9 is the only one that implies a right of remarriage. But in both cases, it’s speaking of the man doing that. However, Mark 10 verse 12 speaks of a woman putting away. When we combine the facts there of Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10, then what do we have? We have a woman may also put away her spouse who’s guilty of fornication and have a right to remarry. Now, we did that by putting together all the facts.
Now, let’s do the same thing with what is involved in putting away. I know the full truth by combining the facts, gathering the facts. The fact is that the gospels use the active voice of “apoluo,” you put away. That’s true. But Paul, in representing that point that Jesus made, uses the passive voice in I Corinthians chapter 7, 10 and 11. That fact needs to be understood, as well. Because Paul said, “this is what Jesus was teaching.” Now, what’s the point of that? The words show an action that is against a marriage, not against another person, not what I go and file against that person. But why is this marriage dissolving? This marriage is dissolving because that person is guilty of fornication, if that’s right, if that’s the intent, if that’s the expression, if that’s the action, then God allows that to be so. There is a result of that, that must be so. Now, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting you’ll find when you look at all the facts. When you combine all the facts, the legal action cannot be the thing that’s bound. It just doesn’t fit with all of that. But when we look at all of those put together, “apoluo” is not used just of a divorce action. Matter of fact, it doesn’t have primary reference to that.
Over in Hebrews the 13th chapter and in verse 23, a form of this word “apoluo” is used. Notice what it says, it says, “know ye that our brother Timothy has been set at liberty,” there’s the term “set at liberty, with whom if he comes shortly, I will see you.” Now, does it mean that he has been recently divorced? Why, obviously not. He’s been set at liberty, he’s been let go, is the idea. In Acts chapter 28, in Acts chapter 28 and verse 25, you notice Paul in his hired house, it says, “when they agreed not among themselves, they departed.” The word “they departed” is from a form of this word, “apoluo.” Now, does that mean that Paul divorced them or that they took divorce action against Paul? Well, no. It’s talking about, they left, and that’s the primary sense of the word “apoluo.” In Matthew chapter 14 and in verse 15, Matthew 14 and in verse 15, says, “and when even was come, the disciples came to him saying, the place is desert and the time is already past. Send the multitudes away that they may go into the village and buy themselves food.” “Send the multitude away,” “send away” is a form of the word “apoluo” that’s there. Obviously, there’s no divorce proceeding that rendered there. What sometimes is happened is, brethren look at a term and they read into it our modern kind of terminology, the action that’s there. And what I’m suggesting to you is, that’s not inherent in that word. We need to look at that like they would have in the first century. And using that word did not imply procedure, it implied a particular type of a sending away, a departing, a going from. What do you send away from, go away from? It’s not a divorce proceeding, you do that from a marriage. That’s the idea that’s involved.
In the word, “chorizo,” you notice the same thing. It doesn’t inherently involve a divorce proceeding. In Acts chapter 1 and verse 4, this is very clear in this particular place, in Acts chapter 1 and verse 4 it says, “And being assembled together with them, He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem.” Jesus charged the disciples not to depart. In Romans chapter 8, you find the same thing, passage well – familiar, I’m sure, to each one here, verse 35 and verse 39 both, that “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?,” he asks in verse 35. Separate is a form of that word, “chorizo.” And then down in verse 39, “Neither height nor depth, nor any creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s the word, “chorizo.” Neither in what Jesus was saying to his disciples, or what we’re talking about in Romans 8 is there any implication whatsoever, of a divorce proceeding. When people of the first century would have heard the word “chorizo,” they didn’t think of a divorce proceeding. They thought of a separation of something. They thought of something where there was a departing, going away from. It well describes what you do in going away from each other, in a marriage. But it’s not something that would have been seen as having its inherent sense in what you do to another person to cause them to be filed on, so that you can later have a right that’s out here. That’s not the slightest idea of what’s in this word.
The word “aphiemi,” that’s used, is of the same sort of nature. In Matthew chapter 3 and in verse 15, Jesus tells John the baptizer, he says, “I have need that you baptize me, but you ask that I baptize you?” and He said, “suffer it now.” In other words, allow it to happen. We see that Old English used of the word suffer. Allow this to be so. In chapter 4 and in verse 11, it says, “The devil leaveth Him.” That’s the word, “aphiemi.” That’s the same word. Doesn’t talk about the devil divorcing Jesus, but it says, he left him. Chapter 5 and in verse 40, “and if any man would go to law with thee and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” The word “let” is the word, allow it to be. Allow that to happen. To take leave or allow to depart, allow to go, is the word that’s used here.
Now, how does that fit if there is some sort of divorce proceeding that is being bound? Obviously, it doesn’t. There cannot be an inherent sense of a legal action taken. In fact, the use of the terms is not consistent with binding some sort of a legal procedure. The use of the term precludes that very thing. Let me just real quickly wrap up with a couple of things regarding consequences. If we make the civil procedure of divorce equal to and synonymous with Biblical putting away, then that procedure is going to mean that that innocent party must initiate the action. Somebody says, well no, they might be able to counter sue, whatever else, no, if that’s what we’re going to bind, then we’re going to have to say the civil law determines that. Because if the active voice is there, stressed along with the civil purpose, then the court decides, because we’ve said civil law determines who puts who away. Well, if that’s so, it’s as simple as looking on and seeing who is the plaintiff. And if the plaintiff’s case is acted upon and rendered judgment to, then that’s the person who’s put away, the other person, regardless of what happened.
Folks, that makes it a race to the courthouse. No doubt about it. That’s the nature of what’s taking place. That’s a necessity to the position here. It takes the focus off of the cause that’s stressed by Jesus and places the focus upon the procedure that’s found. But not only that, if the procedure, the civil procedure of the divorce action is the putting away, then fornication has to be on the document as the cause. Why? Well, if putting away is the same thing as the civil action, if Jesus meant by the term “putting away” the civil action of the divorce proceeding, and that putting away must be for the cause of fornication, then the reason given for the civil action must be stated as fornication. With every civil action, there is a reason that’s stated.
If you go to court, and the reason that you’re going to court is because you’re suing this fellow for breaking down your tree, what do you put as the result, or as the cause of this action? He broke down my tree and because of that, he’s being sued. Now, you can’t say, “we had an irreconcilable difference” and then say “Oh, what I really meant was this other.” You can’t say, “Well, there was a case of incompatibility with us as neighbors, but this was the real thing.” You have to specify there on the document, and the point is, if it’s for fornication and somebody’s going to say that the civil proceeding is the same thing as Biblical putting away, then that needs to be specified. Can’t put “irreconcilable differences, incompatibility.” And if I did and said, “Yeah, but I really thought it was this other, mentally we really knew what it was,” is that a mental divorce? Some have come along and decry the idea of mental divorce are saying the very same thing, it seems to me, with regard to their idea of a cult.
You take a law of the land, you say the law of the land won’t allow you to put fornication on the document. That’s right. Where I came from in the state of Texas, I don’t know what it is here, but now, in the state of Texas, you cannot do it. You cannot do it by code, you cannot do it specifically, it’s a true no-fault divorce state. There is no way that you can put “divorce for the cause of fornication.” But somebody says, “Yeah, well we can put irreconcilable differences, and we both know what those irreconcilable differences was, mentally we can have…” Well now, what is that? The same ones that would say, “Maybe we could do that” would holler about a mental divorce. If I mentally decide something later, that’s not according to the facts that are rendered at the time, and I’d say, “That’s absolutely right.” You can’t do that. I don’t agree with that. But if this is the civil procedure, as equal to putting away, how can you mentally have a reservation about cause that isn’t stated, if the putting away of the civil procedure is the putting away? It won’t work. It has to be there on the document. That makes man’s law equal to disallow what God’s law gives.
That God’s law says, here’s a person who can put away that person for the right, or for the cause of fornication, even saying that when you put Matthew and Mark’s account together of a woman who, in the first century, could not do it legally, but still had the right to do so. Why? Because God’s law superceded man’s law. It may have been the man that went to the way of having that paper handed out. But that didn’t change the nature of what putting away was and what the real reason for it was in the principles that God had stated.
So the conclusion of the matter is, let scripture be specific where it’s specific. And let’s not specify where it’s not specified. When there is not a procedure specified, we cannot specify one. When principles are of generic nature and are taught, they need to be applied in any culture. Doesn’t matter whether it’s here, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s in Europe, whether it’s in Asia, whether it’s South America. The same principles can be applied anywhere regardless of what the law is. However, none of those applications may be bound upon another as equal to divine law. If we do so, we’re adding to the law of God. To add to the law of God is of the same nature as taking away of the law of God. Man’s law is not equal to God’s law. God’s law has a greater force.
And yet, some would suggest by the idea of making the civil proceeding that which is equated to Biblical putting away – here goes a person out here and takes the civil action – person doesn’t know that – I particularly know of a case of this happening in Houston. Man went away to Las Vegas. His wife thought he was leaving on a Monday to go on a business trip to New York; he actually went to Las Vegas with a girl he had been having relations with. He went out there on Monday, filed for divorce, and in Nevada you have a three day waiting period, you can mail the procedure to the spouse. When it was mailed, it didn’t get to her before they got back on Friday. When they get back on Friday, he says, ‘by the way hun, I didn’t go to New York, I went to Las Vegas. I’ve divorced you, I’ve married her.’ The first his wife knew about it was at that time. She told him, ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with you if you’re ungodly and going to stay in that relationship. I’m going to put you away. That farce that you had of an action out there in Las Vegas is not what was putting away.’ If civil procedure is the putting away, that woman was divorced, didn’t know about it, and there is no way she can be protected by the law of God. I suggest to you the principles of God would show the very opposite. The principles would show she does have a right to say “here’s why I’m going away from you. I’m expressing that as the reason why. I’m taking action. You get your stuff out of here.” That’s Biblical putting away - and it’s Biblical putting away for the cause, and it’s Biblical putting away after the very principles that Jesus made clear.
Alright, we’ll stop there, take a break, and then come back for questioning in a little bit. I appreciate your good attention."
Please compare Harry’s quote with what follows below. Harry said: “And yet, some would suggest by the idea of making the civil proceeding that which is equated to Biblical putting away – here goes a person out here and takes the civil action – person doesn’t know that – I particularly know of a case of this happening in Houston. Man went away to Las Vegas. His wife thought he was leaving on a Monday to go on a business trip to New York; he actually went to Las Vegas with a girl he had been having relations with. He went out there on Monday, filed for divorce, and in Nevada you have a three day waiting period, you can mail the procedure to the spouse. When it was mailed, it didn’t get to her before they got back on Friday. When they get back on Friday, he says, ‘by the way hun, I didn’t go to New York, I went to Las Vegas. I’ve divorced you, I’ve married her.’ The first his wife knew about it was at that time. She told him, ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with you if you’re ungodly and going to stay in that relationship. I’m going to put you away. That farce that you had of an action out there in Las Vegas is not what was putting away.’ If civil procedure is the putting away, that woman was divorced, didn’t know about it, and there is no way she can be protected by the law of God. I suggest to you the principles of God would show the very opposite. The principles would show she does have a right to say ‘here’s why I’m going away from you. I’m expressing that as the reason why. I’m taking action. You get your stuff out of here.’ That’s Biblical putting away - and it’s Biblical putting away for the cause, and it’s Biblical putting away after the very principles that Jesus made clear."
[Because of copyrights, I could not quote from the website, however, I will offer a summation of the information from it, which contradicts the above quote, and you may authenticate this information at: (www.divorcesource.com/NV/info/legalprocess.shtml).
In fact, to divorce in Nevada, one must first be a resident of that state for six weeks before they even become eligible to file for divorce. Moreover, the spouse must be notified of the divorce before it can proceed. If unable to find the spouse to notify them, the filing spouse must show proof that he has made a reasonable effort to find and notify his or her spouse, then a summons is published in the newspaper. Even if the spouse (who was filed against) is agreeable to the divorce, it takes a minimum of one to one and one half months to complete the process (after six weeks residency). If the spouse contests the divorce, it can take up to a year.
We must not forget that in a divorce, there are assets that need to be divided and often child custody decisions must be made. Even the civil (“ungodly”) courts realize that both parties require representation, and therefore settling a divorce takes time. – Jeff Belknap
Smith's Bible Dictionary
“‘a legal dissolution of the marriage relation.’ The law regulating this subject is found (24:1-4) and the cases in which the right of a husband to divorce his wife was lost are stated ibid ., (22: 19, 29) The ground of divorce is appoint on which the Jewish doctors of the period of the New Testament differed widely; the school of Shammai seeming to limit it to a moral delinquency in the woman, whilst that the Hillel extended it to trifling causes, e.g., if the wife burnt the food she was cooking for her husband. The Pharisees wished perhaps to embroil our Saviour with these rival schools by their question, (Matthew 19:3) by his answer to which, as well as by his previous maxim, (Matthew 5:31) he declares that he regarded all the lesser causes than "fornication" as standing on too weak ground, and declined the question of how to interpret the words of Moses” (emp. jhb).
Arndt & Gingrich
On Page 125 of the 1979 edition of Arndt and Gingrich, under the word Aphiemi, it states concerning I Corinthians 7:11 — “in a legal sense divorce.”
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 1, pgs. 509-512)
On pg. 509 under the Greek usage:
“To be emphasized is the legal use much attested in the pap.1 “to release someone from a legal relation,” whether office, marriage, obligation, or debt, though never in a religious sense.”
“Corresponding is the use of the rarer subst., which often has the legal sense of ‘release’ from office, marriage, obligation etc., as also from debt or punishment, though never religiously…”
Compare with the following:
“We examined the parallel use of the Greek words apoluo, choridzo, and aphiemi in all texts related to this topic, showing those words are used interchangeably and do not imply the civil procedure mandated by Terence.” Harry Osborne [The Sheridan - Osborne Debate (Harry’s Second Negative) posted on Watchman Magazine, 1-1-02]
“The Greek word aphiemi is rendered "put away" in KJV or "leave" in ASV in 1 Corinthians 7:11 and is synonymous with the Greek words choridzo and apoluo. Not one use in over 140 New Testament uses of aphiemi infers a civil procedure of divorce. Given the above facts, we must conclude that the word "put away" (apoluo) in Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 16 cannot be used as "synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one's respective society" since the synonyms given by inspiration do not refer to a civil procedure.” Harry Osborne [The Sheridan - Osborne Debate (Harry’s First Negative) posted on Watchman Magazine, 1-1-02]
“Brother Pickup made me aware a couple of years ago that it is being widely reported that Mike Willis and I differ in doctrine on this. As I left home to come, I sent my manuscript to two people for proofreading purposes by computer. After their proofreading it, not only they helped get the corrections done, but also I received this statement from MIKE WILLIS: ‘This is to affirm that I have read brother Halbrook's material. I agreed with him that our differences on how to treat one whose mate is guilty of FORNICATION FOLLOWING A DIVORCE which he tried to avoid is a difference of judgment in the realm of application of the one law of divorce and remarriage and not the teaching of another law.’ HARRY OSBORNE made in essence the same statement. Those are the two who proofread it for me” (emp. jhb). Ron Halbrook [Towards A Better Understanding (False Teachers, Ron Halbrook’s Rebuttal to Bob Owen (pgs. 34-35)].