A Book of Errors Revised (Marriage, Divorce)

By Hugo McCord
January 2000

My long time friend, John Edwards, in whose home in St. Louis I have been a guest, has a sympathetic heart toward people with marriage problems. But it is sinful to allow a sympathetic heart to alter Jesus’ teaching, which he has done in his book An In Depth Study Of Marriage And Divorce. He sent me a copy, and I wrote to him to reconsider and to return to “the old paths” where he formerly walked.

Instead, in a second edition he has only revised the wording of his errors, saying that his book is intended to help those … involved in divorce to realize that God still loves them, and they do not need to live lonely, guilt-ridden lives (p. 13).

It is true that God still loves them, and will forever, but “fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). It is also true that fornicators and adulterers do not need to “live lonely, guilt-ridden lives,” for “the Son of man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). When in penitence they hate adultery and turn from it, they will be perfectly forgiven (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and will “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4).

Everyone can go to heaven if he wants to do so, but Jesus said that some would have to “make themselves eunuchs” (Matt. 19:12). Apparently Jesus and John Edwards differ about that matter, for in a lengthy book of 203 pages John not once cited what Jesus said about eunuchs.

On page 15 John makes an admirable statement: “We need to search God’s word for His answers.” But immediately John turns, away from His answers to an emotional appeal to the readers’ heart to make them sympathize with the much married who have two or more sets of children, and wants the readers to despise any preacher who would refuse to baptize them. John the immerser refused to baptize those who did not quit their sinning (Matt. 3:8), but John Edwards will baptize those married and divorced for any reason. He makes preachers who respect Jesus’ words about marriage and divorce worse than murderers, saying they are sending souls to hell!” He quotes a preacher as saying a woman who had had three husbands as having too many “to even think of going to heaven.” The preacher was wrong. Any one can go to heaven who wants to do so, as I have already proved. I am sorry that John leaves the impression that the woman at Jacob’s well who had had five husbands was on the way to heaven.

John calls undoing “past marital mistakes” an “Evil Tree, whose fruit is corrupt.” But if, according to Jesus, a marital mistake causes one to “commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9), yes, to be living in adultery (Col. 3:5-7), what will make the tree and its fruit good? Paul tells how adulterers and homosexuals at Corinth made the tree and its fruit good: they “were washed were sanctified … were justified” (1 Cor. 6:11).

Though God allowed David to keep Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:27), and though God tolerated (cf. Acts 17:30) divorce for any cause and remarriage in the Old Testament (Deut. 24:1-4), and though he tolerated polygamy (2 Sam. 5:13; 1 Kings 11:3) in the Old Testament, that Old Testament has now been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). Then, the one of whom God said, “Hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5), made it clear that he repudiated polygamy (Matt. 19:4-5) and divorce (except for fornication) and remarriage (Matt. 19:9). What he said was directed to non-disciples (Matt. 19:3), but his disciples understood his “whosoever” as including everybody, and they were shocked, thinking that if marriage and divorce have such a rule, “it is not expedient to marry” (Matt. 19:10). John would have said that the number of times one divorces and remarries does not matter (on p. 16 he cites an example of a woman who had six husbands).

However, Jesus thought that even one divorce and remarriage makes a difference, and that under some circumstances one must refrain from marriage, or quit a legal marriage, and make himself a eunuch by will power (Matt. 19:12).

On p. 18 John writes that the Bible says nothing about “adulterous marriages” or “living in adultery,” but Matthew 19:9 is still in the Bible, saying that a certain divorcee on remarrying commits adultery, and Colossians 3:5-7 is still in the Bible, saying that some Colossians had formerly lived in adultery (cf. also Rom. 6:2; Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3; 1 Pet. 4:2 on living in adultery).

On p. 18 John writes that “adultery in the gospel passages” is not “the physical sex act in marriage,” but only “a violation of a covenant” (p. 50, and often). However, a covenant is broken in the first part of Matthew 19:9, “whosoever shall put away his wife.” At the divorce he has broken his vow and his covenant, but according to Jesus (not John Edwards) he has not yet committed adultery, and does not until he remarries. Adultery in Jesus’ eyes is not covenant breaking but is something that occurs after marriage.

On p. 21 John begins a discussion of Greek words, which is an admission that he needs something besides English translations to find his manufactured meaning of adultery. If we need to know Greek to understand marriage, billions of people are helpless.

In chapter 6 (p. 49-57) John, after citing figurative (Jer. 3:6-10) and mental adultery (Matt. 5:27-28), calls attention to the passive voice of moicheuthenai in Matthew 5:31-32. It is true the wife now discarded has not committed adultery, but in Jesus’ eyes she has been “adulterated.” The husband’s breaking his covenant with her, Jesus does not call adultery, but the husband has used her sexually and abandoned her, leaving her “adulterated.”

On p. 51 it is strange that John holds that moichatai in Matthew 19:9 is in the passive voice, for the verse would say, “Whosover divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, is adulterized.” Also he asserts that the same word in Mark 10:11 is in the passive voice, which would make the verse read, “Whosover divorces his wife and marries another is adulterized against her.” Those senseless renditions do not appear if one says that moichatai is in the middle voice, calling for an active meaning, “he commits adultery,” and “he commits adultery against her.” The parallel in Luke 16:18 uses the active voice, moicheuei, “he commits adultery.” If one wants the whole truth, and is not simply trying to prove what he believes, he will by all means check the parallel readings in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There is a way, by looking to ambiguous Greek grammar, and by checking only Matthew and Mark, to assert Matthew and Mark meant for moichatai to be taken as passive (though the resultant English translation is senseless) but the Greek grammar is not ambiguous in the word Luke wrote, moicheuei, and even John would say it could not be passive.

Further, to say that moichatai in Matthew 19:9 is point action (do you know of a commentator who says so?) would make adultery two legal steps (divorce and remarriage), and would declare that sex acts with the new spouse are not adultery. It is strange that Jesus used a word that commonly refers to a violation of the marriage bed and makes it refer only to two legal ceremonies. If the disciples listening to Jesus had understood that adultery is legal ceremonies, would they have said, “It is not expedient to marry”? According to John, it would be expedient to marry, with no risks involved: marriage would be easy to get into and out of. Some have seen a difficulty in giving moichatai a linear or durative meaning, because the physical act in adultery is not continuous. However, the present tense in Greek not only can refer to point action (punctiliar) as in Matthew 13:14; 27:38, and to linear action (durative) as in Matthew 25:8; John 5:7, but also to iterative action (repetitive) as in Matthew 9:11, 14; 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:31. Obviously if one is living in adultery the word iterative or repetitive is the correct description.

In John’s search to find some proof of his thesis that adultery is covenant breaking, not sexual activity, he refers to Luke 16:18, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” However, if only the divorcing and remarrying ceremonies are the adultery, then if an innocent spouse divorces a spouse for fornication and remarries, that innocent person has committed adultery, for he or she has gone through the legal ceremonies that constitute adultery.

On p. 67f John quotes Greek scholars as saying that sometimes the present tense is point or punctiliar action, but it is noticeable that he quotes no Greek scholar who says that such is true of moichatai and moicheuei in Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18. Incidentally, John uses denominational terminology in saying that “Church of Christ teachers and leaders” take his position. One whom he quotes, Raymond Kelcy, says, “There’s not a great deal to be had on the tense of that verb, Matthew 19:9,” but John bases his whole thesis on the possibility that that verb might be punctiliar. Further, surprisingly, John quotes Kelcy, “A person who enters an illegal marriage, an unscriptural marriage, does continue to commit adultery,” but according to John only the divorcing and remarrying constitute adultery, and that no one ever continues to commit adultery after marriage. Kelcy and John do not agree.

John quotes Carroll Osburn, but Osburn fails to say that Matthew 19:9 must be considered as punctiliar, yet John’s thesis depends wholly on what Osburn does not say. Osburn holds that Matthew 19:9 is a “gnomic present,” in which Osburn says “continuity may or may not be involved.” A “gnomic present,” according to Ernest De Witt Burton, Moods And Tenses, p. 8, expresses “customary actions and general truths.” So, Matthew 19:9 expresses the customary action and general truth that a remarrying divorcee (except for fornication) commits adultery. Osburn fails to help John.

John also quotes from Jack McKinney, and got some help, for McKinney said that Matthew 19:9 expresses “point action” (p. 70). However, McKinney contradicted himself, for he also said (as had Osburn) that Matthew 19:9 is a “gnomic present.” He cannot be right both ways. If Matthew 19:9 speaks of “point action” it does not use the “gnomic present.” McKinney also misused the word aoristic, apparently thinking it means point action. But the word aorist says that an act is unspecified as to the kind of action (whether punctiliar, repetitive, or durative). A gnomic present can be aoristic (no specification of the kind of action), but it cannot be punctiliar.

John pleads his case that Matthew 19:9 must be punctiliar, for he says that “the best Greek scholars” are with him, but none that he quoted says that Matthew 19:9 must be punctiliar. Then John (p. 73) quotes a Greek grammar that “simultaneous action relative to the main verb is ordinarily expressed by the present,” but in the case of Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18 the action of the main verb is not ordinary: the action of the main verb is not simultaneous with the divorcing and the remarrying, for those actions are only legal ceremonies, and no lexicon or dictionary defines adultery as a legal ceremony. Adultery, a violation of the marriage bed, is not committed by divorcing and remarrying, but later. To interpret the gospel verses as point action is to eliminate adultery, for it is not committed in two legal ceremonies.

How refreshing in John’s book to come to chapter nine, “Homosexual Marriages” (p. 75-79). He is clear how sinful they are. But he is inconsistent. Homosexuals and lesbian marriage partners can appeal to John in exactly the same way he pleads with his readers to approve those divorced and remarried unscripturally. I can hear homosexuals and lesbians turning John’s words against himself: “Are we condemning people whom God wants to forgive? … let love and compassion rule over legalistic rules and judgments”. (p. 18). They would say the same thing that John says, “Far worse than taking someone’s life is sending their souls to hell! Christians, are you prepared to answer for the fruits of your teaching (against homosexuality) that drives people to hell?” (p. 16-17).

John is certain (p. 83) that God wants monogamy, and that Jesus pointed back to monogamy, but John on the mission field today would not teach polygamists to go back to monogamy.

John (p. 89) asks does divorce break the marriage? Legally of course it does, but it does not nullify the vow one made at his marriage to his spouse “until death doth us part.” John’s words on p. 93 have relevance here: “Our oral words mean just as much to God as our written documents.” Jesus, not John, taught that a divorced person is not as free as a single person, for if a divorced (not for fornication) person marries, he commits fornication. Single people and divorced people are equal legally, but not in Jesus’ eyes. John and Jesus disagree.

John (p. 95) says that “God recognizes the marriage dissolved when the spouse deserts the marriage,” but Paul did not say that. In Paul’s inspired words a deserted spouse does not any longer have a sexual obligation (a voluntary bondage, cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, 15) to the former mate, but to interpret a deserted spouse (no fornication involved) as free to marry again is to contradict the Lord Jesus. Jesus did not give two reasons for divorce and remarriage, namely, fornication and/or desertion. Paul gave a release from marital obligation but he did not give a remarrying privilege.

It is refreshing to come to John’s chapter fifteen, as he exposes the sins of pornography. But in the rest of his book (p. 123-203) he is even more determined to prove a non-dictionary, arbitrary, self-made meaning of adultery, a meaning that will give comfort and peace to people that Jesus said are living in adultery. I would not want to be in John’s shoes in the Day of Judgment. To destroy a weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is no light matter (1 Cor. 8:11). The first part of Romans 16:18 is not true of John and Olan Hicks, but the second part is true: “By their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.”

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REVIVE US AGAIN

Leslie G. Thomas
January 3, 1950

One of the greatest needs of our day is a religious revival: not in the sense of a barn-storming, emotion-arousing type of evangelism, but a revival that will affect the whole man, and will result in nothing short of a religious revolution.

Any one who stops to think is aware of the fact that religious people everywhere are rapidly approaching a state of complacency; and unless something is done to stimulate their thinking, there is little reason to hope for much more progress toward perfection. (Cf Heb. 6:1-3).

When people become satisfied with themselves their intellects become dull, and they are content to have some one else do their thinking for them. Such people do not hesitate to accept practically anything that is placed before them, if they have confidence in the one who suggests it to them.

However, if we are to have an effectual revival – one that will lead us closer to God and to a greater and more perfect knowledge of his will – it must be characterized by certain basic principles, some of which we shall consider in this lesson.

The first one is:

A New Sense of Dependence Upon God

No one can read the New Testament without being impressed with the idea that God is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, and that every good and perfect gift comes from him. · “I charge thee in the sight of God, who giveth life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession; that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in its own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potenate, the King of kings, and Lord or lords; who only hath immortality; dwelling in light unapproachable whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:13-16). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (James 1:17).

Time and time again we are taught that our wills must be lost in his; and that if we would be free from those distracting influences which undermine the soul, we must make every effort to seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness. “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth” (Matt. 6:10b). “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

But, in the face of these plain statements of truth, how often do we find ourselves depending upon our own ideas and efforts, as if God did not exist, or had not said anything about these matters. “They profess that they know God; but by their works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Tit. 1:16). (Read also Rom. 12:17-21; Psa. 37:1ff; Phil. 4:6,7).

A Re-examination of Our Religious Convictions

If one is not careful his religious thinking is liable to crystallize into a form which, for all practical purposes, will become his creed. And when this happens be will likely find himself using this creed, written or unwritten, rather than the word of God itself, as a standard for measuring any new ideas which may be brought to his attention. “For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with certain of·them that commend themselves: but they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12).

Of course no one should hold any religious ideas which he does not believe to be scriptural; but at the same time he should always be willing to subject that which he believes to be the teaching of the Bible to a rigid examination. In short, like Martin Luther, he should nail the things which he believes to the “church door,” and offer to debate them with all comers. Compare 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:1-5.

Any one who is acquainted with the history of Christianity knows that the greatest progress toward the knowledge of the truth was made during those times when religious debate was the order of the day. Alexander Campbell said, “A week’s debating is worth a year’s preaching”; and M. C. Kurfees averred that “truth has always flourished in the soil of controversy.”

A Growing Interest in the Welfare Of Others

All Christians are members of the family of God, and, as such, they should be interested in the welfare of each other. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32). “Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1,2). (Read also 1 Cor. 12-27).

People who are in religious confusion, or in a lost condition, deserve the help of those who are enjoying salvation and the light of eternal truth. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16: 15). “And if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:3-6). “And on some have mercy, who are in doubt; and some save, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 1:22, 23).

Finally, the Lord’s people should manifest a benevolent attitude toward all men. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

If we will allow the principles which have been set forth in this study to become a motivating force in our lives, there will be no doubt about the nature and the results of the revival which will follow.

Bruceton, Tennessee.

It’s Up to Me and to You

By Hugo McCord

Vol. 116, No. 11

Many gifts from God, as our lives, as the air we breathe, are absolutely free. But whether or not we are (1) thankful to God and (2) live for him and for others is wholly in our hands. It’s up to me and to you.

Thankfulness

Some “believe that he [God] is” but are not “thankful” to him (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 1:21). To be thankful (says Webster) is to be “impressed with a sense of kindness received,” to be “ready to acknowledge it,” to be “grateful.”

To be thankless (says Webster) is “not feeling or expressing thanks, not acknowledging favors,” and Webster quotes Shakespeare, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

After Jesus had healed ten men of leprosy, only one of them, a Samaritan, “when he saw that he was healed turned back and praised God with a loud voice, and fell on his face at the feet of Jesus, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:16). Jesus was shocked that the nine Jews were thankless, and he asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was none found to return to give God the glory except this foreigner?” (Luke 17: 17-18).

A psalm written 3,000 years ago is timeless:

Shout joyfully to Yahweh, all the earth. Serve Yahweh with gladness. Come before him with singing. Know that Yahweh, he is God. He made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful to him, and bless his name, for Yahweh is good, his kindness is everlasting, and his faithfulness is from generation to generation (Psa. 100).

Paul was grateful “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15), “who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20), exclaiming about Jesus, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable [indescribable, inexpressible, unutterable] gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

All Christians are exhorted, “Always give thanks to God, even the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20); “Give thanks for everything, which is God’s will in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

Living for Others

Jesus not only died for others (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:14-15), but he is a prime example of living for others. “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

To believing, penitent hearts (Acts 16:31; 2:38), as their bodies are raised from the water of baptism (Acts 10:47; Col. 2:12), Christ is their everything (Col. 3:11).

Redeemed sinners (“all have sinned,” Rom. 3:23) realize that if “one died for all, then all had died” (2 Cor. 5:14), “and since he died for all, the living should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Living for the Lord includes daily Bible reading (Col. 1:10; 1 Pet. 2:2), daily praying (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17), a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), a weekly contribution (1 Cor. 16:1-2), and living for others as “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1), being “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1, 8, 14).

No matter how selfish and self-centered a sinner was before his baptism, no longer does a Christian live “to himself” (Rom. 14:7). Every morning, as Jesus “went about doing good,” on the mind of every Christian is, “what can I do today to help somebody?”

Those who live for Jesus not only live to serve other Christians, but they look for opportunities to serve non-Christians, as Paul taught: “Therefore, as we have an opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), “contributing to the needs of the saints, showing love to strangers” (Rom. 12:13).

The first ones at Corinth in A.D. 51, “hearing, believing,” and being “baptized,” were “the household of Stephanas” (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 16:15); apparently Stephanas himself and his wife had children old enough to believe.

Their conversion was more than “joining a church.” Theirs was a life-long commitment to live for Jesus and to live for others. Six years later (A.D. 57) Paul wrote of them: “They have set themselves to serve the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15). The KJV says that “they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” The word addict means to give oneself over to a thing, and generally, says Webster, in a bad sense. The word is used in reference to alcoholics or those given over to drugs. But the KJV used the word in a good sense, that the Stephanas family addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.

Sadly, some Christians allow selfishness to take over, and live only for themselves. Phygelus and Hermogenes “deserted” Paul (2 Tim. 1:15).

Demas, who had been one of Paul’s “fellow workers” (Phil. 24) “deserted me,” said Paul, “having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10).

On the other hand, most Christians crucify selfishness, living for their Lord and for others: “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).

During Paul’s three years at Ephesus (A.D. 54-57) a Christian by the name of Onesiphorus “served” Paul in such a way that he could say to Timothy that “you know better than I the ways he served me in Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:18).

Then later, during Paul’s last day in “chains” in the Mamertine Prison in Rome (A.D. 67-68), for some reason Onesiphorus was in Rome (2 Tim. 1:16-17), over 600 miles away from his home in Ephesus, and somehow he knew that Paul was there. The Mamertine Prison is a three-quarter cellar with a tiny window opening toward a cemetery.

In A.D. 67 Paul wrote, “When he [Onesiphorus] was in Rome, he searched diligently and found me. …He often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Tim. 1:16-17).

Paul appreciated his good friend, and, apparently after Onesiphorus died, Paul penned two prayers about him in a letter to Timothy: “May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus,” and “May the Lord grant that he may find mercy from the Lord in that day” (2 Tim. 4:16, 18), and Paul asked Timothy to greet “the family of Onesiphorus” (2 Tim. 4:19).

An unselfish Christian lady in Bartlesville, Okla., a member of the Sixth and Dewey congregation, showed no self-pity when paralysis made her bedfast. She had never missed a Bible class or a church service until she became bedfast. Then she asked that the names of the Sunday morning auditorium Bible class absentees be sent to her every Monday morning. With her telephone in bed she called each absentee. I preached for the Sixth and Dewey congregation six years (195 1-57), and I am sorry I have forgotten the name of the bedfast Christian of whom it could be said, “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8). She was a good example for every church member.

I am thankful that the Lord, though he does not need it, has “a book of remembrance … written before him, for them who reverenced Yahweh, and who thought about his name” (Mal. 3:16), “whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3).

In conclusion, “None of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Whether, therefore, we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom. 14:7-8).

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