From: Tom M Roberts [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 2:45 PM
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Subject: Bible Teaching on Divorce
(Please give a copy of this to brother P. A. Foster. If he has email, I do not
have his address.)
As I promised to do when we talked at Westside while I was there on vacation,
I am willing to discuss what the Bible teaches about divorce. My home computer
is down and I have had a busy schedule catching up since I got home, but I
don't want to delay this discussion any longer than necessary.
First of all, let me emphasize again how disappointed I am that you have
labeled brother Holmes a false teacher. It is my understanding that Dick Hatch
is also doing the same thing. (As a member at Westside, Dick is labeling as a
false teacher one of the men that Westside is helping to support. The irony of
this should be ignored. Terry Green did the same thing to Bobby Holmes years
ago while Terry was a member at Westside and the brethren finally had to
withdraw from Terry to correct the situation. Dick should not be allowed to
continue making that charge, either.) If Bobby taught error, I would be
among the first to label him, myself. But he has consistently sacrificed time
and efforts for truth as long as I have known him. His love of truth and
defense of Bible teaching has been constant every since he obeyed the gospel.
What you have done is to smear his name among faithful brethren and, by
implication, that of my own. As I told you, I understand the scriptures to
teach the same thing that Bobby teaches. If he is a false teacher, so am I. So
are many other brethren who hold the same view. While each of us must be
willing to face the consequences of our actions, so must you. If you are
falsely labeling a gospel preacher as a false teacher when he is not, you incur
the judgment of God. I hope and pray that our discussion will bring out clearly
what the Bible teaches on this subject. I am not interested in nor will I
defend any error knowingly, nor will Bobby. But you are dead wrong in this
attack on brother Holmes and have divided from the church at Mansfield in a
sinful manner. Since I have agreed to move to Mansfield, this puts me quarely
in the situation and implies that I am moving to a church that allows false
doctrine to be taught.
Secondly, I would like to emphasize that we must learn to make the distinction
between matters of personal judgment (lawful liberties, Romans 14) and matters
of "the faith" (Jude 3). Some of our severest critics who defend
unity-in-diversity have complained that we are splitting hairs and will wind up
splitting the church into scores of sects if we continue as we are. They have a
point. Some are not making a distinction between matters of faith (those things
either commanded or forbidden in the scriptures) and matters of authorized
liberty. I believe this is one of your mistakes. Let me illustrate:
Both of us will agree that baptism is a part of "the faith" and that it
includes immersion in water for the remission of sins. Thus, we can agree on
matters of the faith. However, I knew one man who accepted baptism as a
matter of faith, but imposed his judgment on all the brethren that baptism
could only be administered in running water! While I can agree that it is a
liberty that a sinner can be immersed in running water, I would also agree that
one could use a baptistry (without the water running at the time). The kind of
water is a matter of judgment and it must not be bound lest we split
and divide needlessly. The apostle Paul, likewise, recognized circumcision as a
matter of liberty and had Timothy circumcised to avoid offending the Jews (Acts
16:3) but refused to allow Titus to be circumcised when some tried to bind a liberty
(Gal 2:3-5). When brethren bind matters of judgment upon others who disagree
with them, they violate fellowship and the scriptures.
My point about this is simple. While we agree that the Bible teaching on
marriage, divorce and remarriage is "one man, one woman, for life, with one
exception," there are many variables in the matter about which we might differ
without severing fellowship or calling one another a false teacher. For
example: is divorce a race to the court house? must the word adultery be in the
divorce decree? must the innocent also get a divorce decree if the guilty
person initiates the action? and so on. There is a difference between what the
Bible binds as revealed truth and what my opinions are about revealed truth!
When brethren begin to confuse what God has stated with what I believe about
what is stated, chaos is the result. Too many brethren are binding where God
has not bound and it is splintering brethren to the point where fellowship is
impossible. I implore you to be able to see this distinction and to avoid
binding where God has not bound.
Now, to the issue of divorce. It must be clear that we are discussing
what the Bible teaches about divorce, not about marriage, divorce and remarriage.
These are separate discussions.
I agree that Mal 2:16 teaches that God hates divorce. I agree that divorce
should never be an option among Christians and this is what I teach. However,
the Bible does not teach that fornication is the only cause for divorce!
Anyone who makes that charge is unable to sustain it by the teaching of the
Jesus taught in Luke 18:29-30: "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one
who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of
the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time,
and in the age to come everlasting life."
Question # 1 (to which I would like your reply): How
is it possible to do what Jesus instructed us to do, leave your husband or wife
for the sake of the kingdom of God, without sinning?
Question # 2: Can a child of God today be put in a situation where he must
sunder his marriage to go to heaven and be guiltless of sin?
Kelly, if your answer is no, you defy the teaching of Christ. If the answer if
yes, you give up your position and are wrong in accusing any brother of
teaching error when they teach what Jesus taught. Is adultery the only cause
for sundering a marriage: yes or no?
note that this "leaving" would be the same if one
just left or if leaving involved a divorce decree. The marriage is sundered for
the sake of the kingdom. To be faithful to Christ, a Christian would have to
leave a marriage (sunder it) if staying with the mate meant that they would not
be able to go to heaven. Note that Jesus commended one who made the right
choice and promised him "many time more in this present time, and in the age to
come everlasting life." Jesus commends sundering a marriage if necessary to go
to heaven! I ask you to deal with the teaching of this passage.
Again, another passage that shows that you are wrong: 1
Cor. 7:10-11. Here Paul outlined a situation at Corinth that involved a
divorce. We are not told what the circumstances of that divorce involved, but
we can be assured that at least one of the divorced couple was not in sin
because of the divorce. Adultery was not the cause for the divorce or the
innocent person would have a third option: put away the guilty and marry
another person (Matt. 19). If the sundering of that marriage had been sinful or
if adultery had been involved, Paul would have commanded the church to deal
with them like he did the brother in chapter 5 - discipline them. But it is
noteworthy that Paul allowed them options: remain single or be reconciled
Please note the implication of this. If the couple was in sin, Paul would have
. If either of the two was in sin, Paul would have
rebuked that individual. Since he did not rebuke them, but allowed them to
remain single, the marriage was sundered but they were not in sin
course, marriage to any other person was not an option or it would have
constituted sin. They were allowed the option to remain single or to remarry
Question # 3: Do you believe that the couple whose
marriage was sundered in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 was in sin?
why not? If in sin, why did Paul not rebuke them, discipline them, or command
the church to do so? If they are not in sin, you have surrendered your position
that adultery is the only cause for divorce.
One mistake that brethren make is that they often try to fill in the blanks
about things we don't know. They often try to deduce situations or describe
scenarios whereby divorce is acceptable to God. I think this is a mistake and
refuse to do so. I don't know what happened to the couple at Corinth and it us
useless to speculate. However, one thing is sure: their marriage was sundered
and they were not in sin. It is also clear that Jesus gave a reason why a
marriage can be sundered without sin: in order to be faithful to Him and the
kingdom (this is also covered in 1 Cor. 7:15). To teach that adultery is the
only cause for divorce is simply not according to the teaching of scripture.
Further, to label as a false teacher one who is teaching what Jesus and Paul
taught is sinful. Brother Wilson, you have sinned by your treatment of Bobby
Holmes and should repent if you hope to be forgiven. The same applies to Dick
Hatch or anyone else that will label Bobby a false teacher.
Question # 4: Do you believe that I am a false teacher because of the
position I have outlined in this post? If so, please show me
Please understand that I am not advocating an easy sundering of any marriage.
I believe that Christians should do all within their power to save a marriage.
But I am simply recognizing that the teaching of Christ does not include the
proposition that the only reason for divorce is adultery. It only takes one
passage to prove what the will of Chist is, and I have given you two passages.
Now, while we are in this discussion, there are some other matters that must
be attached to it. It is my understanding that you are divorced. I
am not interested in all the details of the situation, but it leads to my next
Question # 4: Since you are divorced, are you living in sin?
You have laid down an unrelenting doctrine and have accused Bobby Holmes of
violating it. How can you ask brethren to receive you in fellowship while being
a divorced person yourself? Are you the guilty, put-away fornicator? If so,
what are you doing to remedy the situation? If you were not put away for
adultery, did you divorce for the kingdom of heaven's sake? If you were
divorced for "any cause," how can you ask for fellowship when you are living in
a sundered condition?
Question # 5: Will you defend the living arrangement that you have with
Sue? Please note that I am not accusing you of active sin
with Sue, but your living arrangement with her needs to be clarified. I
understand that you are divorced but you are living in the same house as a
woman who is not your wife. When I first got to know you, I surmised (wrongly)
that Sue was a relative and asked you if Sue were your mother (the age
difference is not discernible). You simply replied, "No, Sue is not my mother,"
but made no explanation beyond that. If I were in an eldership where you
intended to place membership, I would need to have a clear explanation of how
an unmarried man can live in the same house with an unmarried woman (her
marriage status is unclear: single or divorced) and claim that it is above
suspicion. We are to "take thought for things honorable in the sight of all
men" (2 Cor 8:21). If there is complete innocence between both of you (and I
admit that may be the case), how can you have a good reputation with those
outside of Christ whom you might try to convert when your living arrangement is
such as it is?
I have spoken candidly (but, I hope, brotherly) about situations that affect
fellowship between us and between other brethren. This is sent in the hope of
clarifying the teaching of scripture and sent prayfully that it might remedy
our differences. There is much work to do to build up the cause of Christ and
needless division is counter-productive. I am willing to do all that is
necessary to resolved this difference and avoid any complications among
brethren who should make every effort to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the
bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).
15801 Spring Crest Circle
Tampa, FL 33627