From: Tom M Roberts [tmr65@juno.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 2:45 PM
To: ckellywilson@sbcglobal.net
Cc: watchmanmag@sbcglobal.net; jgallman@aol.com; bholmes180@sbcglobal.net
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.)

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Brother Wilson:
 
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 Bible.
 
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?
 
Please 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 rebuked them. 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. Of 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 each other.
 
Question # 3: Do you believe that the couple whose marriage was sundered in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 was in sin? If  not, 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 my error.
 
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:
 
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).
 
Brotherly,
 
Tom Roberts
15801 Spring Crest Circle
Tampa, FL 33627
Email: tmr1935@msn.com
Email: tmr65@juno.com