Does God Accept Practicing Adulterers?
Many, but not all, professing Christians would teach that God doesn’t permit one to divorce his wife (or permit a wife to divorce her husband) for any cause or purpose. This has traditionally been called the “No Divorce” position.
These people would point to places like Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; and Romans 7:2-3 to substantiate their view. We don’t wish to discuss this specific issue here. We can appreciate the efforts of these adherents to hold to Christ’s teachings about divorce and remarriage.
Another relatively conservative view would hold that God forbids any divorce (and remarriage) with the exception of one single cause. That permissible reason would be the unrepentant fornication or sexual unfaithfulness of one’s spouse. On this grounds and this grounds alone, an innocent spouse may divorce his or her unfaithful spouse and then remarry without committing adultery.
However, we want to point out that some of those who hold to the very restricted view of divorce and remarriage take a somewhat unusual view along with their conservative view. It is this: One must never divorce a spouse—even a guilty one—but if he does divorce such a spouse, and remarries, he must stay with that second spouse and not at all divorce!
If John and Sue are married and John is unfaithful to Sue by committing fornication/adultery with Clara, Sue may choose to divorce John and remarry another person (Bill). The question: Is Sue entitled to marry Bill? The answer (by people of this persuasion) is that Sue must not remarry as long as John is alive. But here is the twist: If Sue does divorce John for his adultery/fornication (or for any other reason), she must not marry Bill. If so, she becomes an adulteress. The strange twist is this: Even though Sue is guilty of adultery since she remarries, after she repents, she must not leave her adulterous husband (Bill)! She must remain with him! God somehow accepts the second “marriage” even though this position says that the second marriage is adulterous!
Many of our readers here probably have heard of this doctrine for it is quite popular. In fact, maybe you (the reader) also hold to this view. Right now we are thinking of a popular preacher and teacher by the name of S. M. Davis whom many home school people follow and enjoy (listening to his series of CDs and DVDs). Probably thousands of other preachers, teachers, and pastors hold to this same position. This is his brief explanation as to why he refuses to teach that two adulterers should separate:
Help for Those Divorced and Remarried
Because of the strong stand that I have taken over the years against divorce, some people are surprised to know that we had many divorced and remarried people who faithfully attended the church that I pastored for 36 ½ years. In fact, I would guess that probably half of the couples in our church were divorced and remarried. Many of those people also held key positions in our church (though none were pastors or deacons.)
Here are some of the reasons that was so:
1 – We always welcomed people to come to church just like they were, regardless of the problems of the past. God’s mercies are new every day for all of us, and almost everyone has something in their past that they wish was not there.
If someone with a strong marriage develops a judgmental attitude towards people with marriage failures then that prideful and Pharisaical attitude alone could destroy their own or their children’s marriages.
2 – I always encouraged people to stay in the marriage they were in. Never that I remember did I ever encourage someone to divorce. I did have couples in my church who divorced, but I always tried to encourage them to work out their problems.
There were times when someone’s life or the life of their children was in danger and I had to counsel them to separate to protect their lives, but I still did not encourage divorce.
Many years ago I received a letter from a lady who told me one of the most tragic stories I have ever heard. She said:
“Twenty-seven years ago I married a man as a political favor. I did it because I thought I could help him. I looked at what I was doing as just that, helping someone. We never had any (real) relationship of any kind, emotional or physical. I simply married him as a favor. (Finally, we divorced, and now I am remarried.)
I have been married fifteen years to my present husband, and, with the teaching that I’m under, they say I’m obligated to the first marriage because I made a vow and I must remain faithful to the vow. I, therefore, am an adulteress, and need to leave my present husband. Bro. Davis, can you help me? What should I do?”
I wrote her back,
“Dear Mrs. R____,
Thank you for your letter.
I hold the position of no divorce and no re marriage; however, in Matthew 19:9, Jesus said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife and shall marry another committeth adultery.’ Jesus did use the word ‘marry.’ That does means you are ‘married.’ The word commits in the Greek indicates, ‘contemporary action’ not ‘continuous action.’ The first intimacy was adultery, but the couple is not ‘living in adultery.’ You are indeed married. To try to leave your mate would add more confusion to a situation that’s already had enough confusion. Build a good marriage; let your testimony be that you were able to do it because of God’s grace and forgiveness.”
3 – I would encourage couples who had been divorced to not get upset and leave the church when I preached about the permanence of marriage. If anyone knows the heartache and pain of divorce, it is those who have been through it. You certainly don’t want your children to go through it. Though the truth may hurt, make sure you let your children hear the truth so that they can build marriages without divorce.
I’m thinking of a couple who were divorced and remarried and have been in our church for many years. All of their children are now married and, by God’s grace, they have all built strong, lasting marriages. (us11.campaign- archive2.com/ ?u=32b3e3d06003d43003 fb1dd22&id= 866899980e).
We can see that this position is a simple one that may be summarized: A couple married according to God’s will must never divorce for life. If one does divorce and marry another person, that person must remain with that second person, regardless of the adultery committed!
But let’s remember that Jesus plainly said: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). Doesn’t this say that if Sue divorces John (or if John divorces Sue), for reasons other than John’s adultery/fornication, and marries Bill—even though this second marriage is adulterous (according to Jesus), Sue must not leave Bill when she wants to repent of her adultery. She must stay with him for life and look on him as her husband! But doesn’t the Lord say, “. . . and marries another woman commits adultery”?
If one steals a car and wants to repent, does he not need to return the car? If one murders a man, doesn’t he need to give himself up to legal authorities and submit to the appropriate punishment? If one steals money from another, doesn’t God expect that person to return the money to the rightful owner? In the case of one who remarries and commits adultery by doing so, does he not need to relinquish his second wife and stop committing adultery with her?
Let’s not forget that our Lord declared: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18; cf. Mark 10:11-12). This is the unvarnished truth even when it is difficult to accept.