First Response from C. Kelly Wilson to Tom Roberts (January 27, 2006)
Editor's Note: This first response to brother Tom Roberts includes an exegesis of both brother Bobby Holmes teaching and the points raised by brother Roberts. In this article, quotes from brethren are in maroon (italic and bold), scriptures are in red, and regular text is in blue. On quotes from brethren, the footnotes are hyperlinked to the document that contains the quote
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Brother Tom:

I have received your email and am writing you concerning the teaching on marriage and divorce now advocated by you and brother Bobby Holmes. Before I deal with his lesson and the points you raised, I encourage you to read this transcript I am forwarding to you or listen to Bobby's lesson, if you have not already. I will be quoting from his lesson extensively and will be addressing your arguments concurrently, as well.

Bobby has changed what he believes concerning the subject of divorce:

"...I made the statement in one of my meetings with some of you here that I believed that if someone divorced their wife except for fornication they sinned. I stand right here before you apologizing for making that statement. I don't believe that anymore and I will show you why right here. If I can't prove it by the book then I will give it up..." 1

Bobby wanted the lesson to be recorded and published to leave absolutely no doubt about what he teaches. Examination of his lesson and the scriptures demonstrate that error was taught. I invited Bobby to a public discourse on this subject in a format of his choosing that would further truth; he declined, but I will kindly and forthrightly deal with the doctrine that both he and you are advocating, in accordance with my obligations as a child of God (Rom. 16:17; Eph. 5:11).

This article will deal with the following questions:

  • Does the Lord's one exception of fornication in Matt. 19:9 concern only divorce and remarriage?
  • Does God's word contain general rules and absolute rules?
  • Does I Corinthians 7:11 prove an exception to God's plain command prohibiting divorce?
  • Do the two constraints of I Cor. 7:11 constitute an equally viable choice?
  • Can a child of God be prevented from serving God?
  • Does Luke 18:29 authorize divorce for the sake of the Kingdom?

What is (are) the lawful causes for divorce?

The following doctrines were proposed in Bobby's lesson:

  • He reasoned that God has certain commandments that may be regarded as general and not absolute in nature because certain situations may require a violation of that command. As proof texts, he offered 1 Cor. 14:34 concerning women keeping silent in the churches and Eph. 5:24 concerning women obeying their husbands in all things. Similarly, he then tries to establish that while I Cor. 7:10 is a command not to divorce, it is a general rule, and that I Cor. 7:11 is an exception to that command because God gives the circumstances one must abide in if they divorce their mate. You stated as well that you agreed with the reasoning of this position.
  • Using this logic of general rules, he postulates the following conclusions: God's Law of divorce and remarriage is absolute in that no one can remarry unless they divorced their mate for the cause of fornication However, God's Law of divorce only is relative. In other words, though God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), He has exceptions other than fornication by which an individual may obtain a divorce and not sin.
  • Using his conclusion that I Cor. 7:11 contains the exception to the command of God prohibiting divorce, he then speculates that a mate may be prevented from serving God under certain circumstances, such as abuse or extreme duress. Thus, using his theory of God's general rule of divorce only (without remarriage) an individual can divorce their mate lawfully for the cause of not being able to serve God, as long as remarriage is not under consideration. Although Bobby did not use this argumentation in his lesson, you and others are appealing to Luke 18:29 as a proof-text that God will authorize a lawful divorce "...for the sake of the kingdom of God."

1"Transcript of Bobby Holmes lesson Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage." Pillar of Truth Magazine. 2 December 2006. <http:pillaroftruthmagazine.org.> p.11

Does the Lord's one exception of fornication in Matt. 19:9 concern only divorce and remarriage?

Bobby has concluded that God's one exception, fornication stated in Matt. 19:9 applies only to divorce and remarriage, not just divorce, as the following quotes illustrate:

"...Now then, marriage God including divorce and remarriage is it is absolute without any exceptions. I want to drive that point home. God's marriage law including divorce and remarriage is absolute without any exceptions. Fornication is the only thing that the Lord gave. It is not a general rule. It is the rule..." 1

"...There is only one reason that God gives for divorce and remarriage and that is fornication..." 2

"...In our conclusion, the intent of this lesson is not to find another reason for divorce and remarriage. It is not, for there are none other than what the Lord has given..." 3

Does the context concur with this?

  • The Pharisees tested Jesus by asking whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any cause

    "...The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason..?" Matthew 19:3 (NKJV)

  • What was the Lord's answer?

    "...And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate..." Matthew 19:3-6 (NKJV)

  • Using the example of how God created them male and female in the beginning illustrating His design for the home, Jesus answers their question comprehensively: No, it is not lawful for you to divorce your wives for just any reason; no remarriage is involved in the context thus far. Given the fact that God had not allowed divorce from the beginning and what God had joined together, men were not to separate (divorce), the Pharisees then asked why Moses had given them a commandment to divorce their wives?

    "...They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so..." Matthew 19:7-8 (NKJV)

  • The context is inescapably obvious that the only question under consideration up to this point in the discussion was concerning divorce, not remarriage. Jesus then states His teaching which will change the Law of Moses and prohibit that which the Law had previously allowed due to their hard hearts, divorce. To further illustrate this new Law, the Lord Jesus shows the consequences of a remarriage after an unlawful divorce, both on the violator (the one who divorced his mate) and on the victim (the one divorced ):

    "...And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery..." Matthew 19:9 (NKJV)

  • It is imperative to point out that even when Jesus gives this instruction about a resulting adulterous remarriage, He makes it clear that an adulterous remarriage occurs because of (is a consequence of) an unlawful divorce. Considering the conclusions from the context:

    • Mosaic Law permitted divorce for some reasons because of hard hearts and abuses of God's permission followed (Mal. 2:13-16), even leading the Pharisees to ask the Lord if they could divorce their wives for just any reason

    • Jesus makes it clear that "...from the beginning, it [divorce] was not so...." (v.8) [my emphasis], which harmonizes perfectly with His answer to the Pharisees' question in v.3 about whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause (no remarriage under consideration). Jesus contextually answers the question No and concluded with the warning "...what God has joined together, let not man separate..." (v.6)

    • Since the Pharisees' question addressed divorce only, and the Lord returned an answer of No , summarized by: "...therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (v.6) , whoever divorces their mate for a cause other than fornication transgresses God's command given in v.6. God's word clearly teaches that when we transgress His law, we sin (I Jn. 3:4)

    • Henceforth, the Lord Jesus' teaching is that whoever divorces their mate for any cause other than fornication commits sin. A resulting remarriage following an unlawful divorce will result in adultery.

Bobby's predication, God's absolute rule that divorce and remarriage is prohibited for any cause other than fornication, is in error. God's rule is that divorce is prohibited for any cause other than fornication, whether remarriage is under consideration or not.

As well, not only are there other plain prohibitions against divorce with no remarriage under consideration (I Cor. 7:10-11), consider God's stated culpability on the one who divorces their mate unlawfully:

"...Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery..." Matthew 5:31-32 (NKJV)

Thus, one who divorces their mate unlawfully not only violates God's direct command, but also becomes culpable for putting their mate, whom they sinned against, in a vulnerable position to sin.


1"Transcript of Bobby Holmes lesson Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage." Pillar of Truth Magazine. 2 December 2006. <http:pillaroftruthmagazine.org.> p.8

2Ibid, p.2

2Ibid, p.11

Does God's word contain general rules and absolute rules?

Bobby proposed that God has some general commandments that may require violation under certain circumstances. He then tries to tie this principle to the teaching on marriage and divorce.

Consider the following quote about Eph. 5: 24 ("...Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything..."):

"...That's a command. Now is that a general rule or is that the absolute rule? Think about. This is a command can this command contain any exceptions? Look with me, what if the husband forbids her to attend services. Must she obey him in everything...?" 1

He ties in I Cor. 14:34 using this same principle ("...Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says..."):

"...Is that a command that is absolute or are there some exceptions...? Well she can sing therefore there is an exception. Can she confess Christ and become a Christian, if so then there is an exception. Can she confess her sins as an erring child of God as we have had a number of women come forward in this congregation to confess the error of their way? Can she do so? If she can then there is an exception to the command...We must understand this in the same light as we understand Eph. 4:24. Obey your husbands in everything..."2

He then concludes that in the same way that these passages establish exceptions to God's Law, there is also an exception to God's Law of divorce established in I Cor. 7:10 (".Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband."):

"...What is my point, brethren? It is that 1 Cor. 7:10 is not an absolute regarding the sending away or divorce though God says he hates it..."3

He positively states then that these examples will require the child of God to violate God's word in some circumstances:

"...Our bondage is to Jesus Christ, he is our master. And it doesn't make any difference what man may say to us. If a husband says you can't go to church, you can't take the children to church you are going to go with me to a denomination because I think the Baptist church is the right place to be and you are going to go with me. Does she have to obey her husband in that, verily nay. Is she violating what God says? Yes. Is she sinning? No, because there is an exception there. And we understand that exception..." [my emphasis] 4

The quote immediately above shows the problematic nature of this doctrine and reasoning, as God's Word teaches that when we transgress His Law, we sin (I Jn. 3:4). There is no passage of scripture that teaches we can violate God's Word, as Bobby contends that we must on certain occasions, without committing sin, and we are further instructed:

"...For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all..." James 2:10 (NKJV)

Before I address the bible principles involved, a quick note must be said about the context of I Cor. 14:34, which Bobby contended proves an exception to God's Law of women keeping silent in the church. The context of this passage is established by v.26:

"...How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification..."

The apostle then gives some specific instructions about how the miraculous gifts are to be practiced in the edification of the assembly. It is within this context that the instruction of v.34 is given:

"...Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says..."

The context is transparently clear: women are not to exercise authority in the edification of the assembly, as we have a similar instruction in I Tim. 2:12. Thus, there is absolutely no exception in God's Word when a woman confesses sin, sings, or makes the good confession of Christ as Lord, and no violation of God's command has occurred, as Bobby contends.

In a larger context, the principle Bobby proposed concerning exceptions in God's Law that would require the child of God to violate God's Law is refuted by scripture. Consider the following:

"...Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment..." Matthew 22:36-38 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

As well, the Lord Jesus tells us what our disposition must be in our obedience to Him:

"...Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 'If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple...'" Luke 14:25-27 (NKJV)

This simple, over-arching principle of scripture establishes that our service and obedience is always to God, first and foremost. All other principles are under that principle. Thus, using Eph. 5:24 as an example, if the husband (or wife) attempts to coerce their believing mate into sin, the wife or husband does not violate God's command in this verse by refusing to partake, neither is there an exception to God's Law that must be brought to bear in order to keep God's Word. The umbrella principle of scripture that establishes obedience to God first dictates what to do in these circumstances. A simple way to visualize this concept is the idea of a set and subset. Within the set (the umbrella principle) of Matt. 22:37 ("...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind..."), we have the subset of passages such as Eph. 5:24 and I Pet. 2:13-14 (submitting to the earthly authorities) and others, which fall under that principle (Acts 5:29). Thus, contrary to Bobby's contention that there are exceptions to God's word that require occasional violation of His Word, God's Word harmonizes perfectly with no exceptions. As well, Bobby's theory of general rules and absolute rules is also contradicted by the context of scripture, as we simply will not find any such concept taught, but rather we will find instructions from the Holy Sprit to observe all that God has taught:

"...And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you ..." Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) [my emphasis]


1"Transcript of Bobby Holmes lesson Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage." Pillar of Truth Magazine. 2 December 2006. <http:pillaroftruthmagazine.org.> p.11

2Ibid, p.12

3Ibid, p.12

4Ibid, p.12

Does I Corinthians 7:11 prove an exception to God's plain command prohibiting divorce?

Consider the following quotes from his lesson concerning these so-called exceptions:

"...The Holy Spirit did not put what the exception might be and neither will I. But clearly he understood that there could be circumstances where divorce that God hates might happen and when and if it does, he states clearly what is to be done she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband..."1

"...God has placed an exception under certain cases. Again, I say don't misunderstand me. I am not talking about a right to remarry at all. I am talking about the right to get out of a situation where you can not serve God. No divorce can be justified for frivolous things. And I think brethren have had good intentions, honest hearts, in looking at, well if you can just divorce for any reason then if you don't like the way your wife's perfume smells, you can just divorce her. No, for frivolous things are not under consideration. What can be the exception? I don't know. It has to be something has to be something that the word of God says prevents you from serving God. Whether it is a command from your husband or abuse or whatever it might be. It has to be something that prevents you from serving the master. Just like the command to obey your husband in everything, you don't have to do that if it keeps you from serving the master..." [my emphasis]2

"...Many good intended brethren have condemned people to hell because they filed for divorce based on a misunderstanding of what God says. I am not talking about re-marriage. I am talking about yes God hates divorce. We stated that over and over again. But sometimes man is placed in a position where he divorces anyway and Jesus gives him that right even though God hates it..." [my emphasis]3

The bolded text in the above quotes shows a disturbing propensity to offer speculation, completely lacking any scriptural support. For instance:

  • He contends that God gives one the "...right to get out of a situation where you can not serve God..." Where in scripture does God give that right? No bible support is offered.
  • He contends that the cause must be "...something that the word of God says prevents you from serving God..." but where, as he contends, does God say that you can be prevented from serving Him, and thus, can subsequently seek a divorce for this cause? No bible support is offered.
  • He contends that divorce is not authorized in all cases: "...No, for frivolous things are not under consideration..." Again, what are the bible definitions of these so-called frivolous items that Bobby speaks of? Conversely, what are the bible definitions of non-frivolous items? Where does God define such things? No bible support is offered.
  • Finally, he contends: "...but sometimes man is placed in a position where he divorces anyway and Jesus gives him that right even though God hates it..." Where does Jesus give this right to "...divorce anyway..." as Bobby contends? Again, no bible support is offered.

The only attempt to use scripture to validate his position of an exception to God's Law prohibiting divorce is given in the first quote above (designated as footnote 1). His position, based on this quote, is essentially as follows:

  • He contends that although God hates divorce (and prohibits it) as stated in I Cor. 7:10, God gives the constraints on the woman if she does divorce in v.11
  • Since God gives the constraints bound on the woman in v.11, this fact constitutes an exception and mitigates the divorce itself
  • As well, you argued in your email that since Paul did not rebuke or give an express command to withdraw from an unnamed brother or sister in I Cor. 7:11, therefore no sin was committed if either of the two unnamed people violate the direct command of God in either v.10 or the latter half of v.11

The context of I Corinthians 7 is dealing with some scriptural questions that the brethren there were contemplating (v.1). One of these items involved some circumstances related to the Lord's teaching involving the marriage relationship and what to do in the circumstance of an unlawful divorce. In I Cor. 7:10, Paul states:

"...Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband..." [my emphasis]


1"Transcript of Bobby Holmes lesson Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage." Pillar of Truth Magazine. 2 December 2006. <http:pillaroftruthmagazine.org.> p.12

2Ibid, p.13

3Ibid, p.13

Paul is simply restating and reminding the Corinthian brethren about the Lord's command prohibiting divorce . When Paul states "...not I, but the Lord..." he is simply stating that the Lord Jesus has already dealt with this teaching, and where has he dealt with it? He dealt with it in Matt. 19, Matt. 5, Mk. 10, and other passages. This verse further refutes the notion that the Lord's prohibition of Matt. 19 and other passages is simply against divorce and remarriage. In other words, I Cor. 7:10 affirms that Lord's previous teaching in Matt. 19 and other passages ("...not I, but the Lord...") prohibits divorce, regardless of whether remarriage is under consideration.

The latter half of I Cor. 7:11 simply give the same plain prohibition to the husband:

"...And a husband is not to divorce his wife..."

Bobby correctly concluded that v.10 is a command prohibiting divorce, but then suggests that v.11 constitutes an exception to God's command because God gives the constraints imposed upon the one who disregards God's plain prohibition of divorce:

"...But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife..."

As well, you argued this from your email:

"...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..." [my emphasis]1

You then posed a question based on the above stated logic:

"...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..?"2

In the above quotes, you argue as follows:

  • You characterized the situation in which a woman violated the direct command of God and departed from her husband in v.10 as "...the marriage was sundered..." posing this question: "...Do you believe that the couple whose marriage was sundered was in sin..?" Finally, you attribute equal culpability for the direct violation of God's command upon both the woman and the man by saying ".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...Since he did not rebuke them, but allowed them to remain single, the marriage was sundered but they were not in sin..."
  • You then conclude that since no express command to withdraw from either of these unnamed individuals or rebuke was forthcoming, thus the couple was not in sin, even though this passage is clearly a hypothetical and not an example of an actual occurrence of an unlawful divorce.


1Roberts, Tom. "Bible Teaching on Divorce". Email to C. Kelly Wilson. 18 January 2006.

2Roberts, Tom. "Bible Teaching on Divorce". Email to C. Kelly Wilson. 18 January 2006.

While we certainly recognize that a divorce indeed sunders the marriage, God's Word plainly points out that someone did the sundering. A marriage is not just ended, but rather someone in the marriage takes action to end it and that the other one is the recipient of that action:

"...But I say to you that whoever divorces [takes action against] his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her [as a result of the action taken against her] to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced [she is called divorced because of the action taken against her] commits adultery..." Matthew 5:32 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

In the Lord's example, the man is guilty of putting away his wife, who is the innocent victim of his unlawful action. This example does not demonstrate that they (the husband and wife) were culpable, but that only one of them was culpable (the man, in this case). We recognize that the woman, being the innocent recipient, is not held to account by the Lord, even though she is put in a position by which she cannot remarry. Here is the revealed teaching from the Spirit concerning who was culpable in I Cor. 7:10:

"...Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart let her remain unmarried or [her] be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife..." 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

Contrary to your conclusion that the Spirit "...allowed them to remain single..." God's direct instructions were to the woman in this hypothetical example who took action to violate God's direct command of v.10, thus the constraints of v.11 are directed toward the violator. Furthermore, while we recognize that the man could not remarry either because of the woman's wrong-doing, he is certainly not the perpetrator in this case, but rather the victim.

Your second argument, in the bulleted points above, then suggest that the direct violation of God's command of v.10 is mitigated by the fact that no direct command was given to withdraw from this hypothetical couple and "...since he did not rebuke them, but allowed them to remain single, the marriage was sundered but they were not in sin..."

Consider the following passages:

"...My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous..." John 2:1 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

"...Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds..." Colossians 3:9 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

"...not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching..." Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

In all the above passages, we have a clear understanding that God is prohibiting some action. In each of these (and almost every other passage) we have no direct command within the passage to withdraw from these individuals who may commit these things; neither do we have a direct rebuke within the passage to any person in these hypothetical situations. Are we going to conclude, contrary to the plain teaching and prohibitions in these passages, that these situations do not involve sin because a direct command to withdraw from these people or a stern rebuke is not contained in the immediate context? Are we then to similarly conclude that the woman in the hypothetical case of I Cor. 7:11 does not sin when she violates God's command in v.10?

When we transgress God's Law sin occurs (I Jn. 3:4). Repentance is necessary to obtain Almighty God's forgiveness, or eternal condemnation awaits the guilty (Lk. 13:3, I Cor. 6:9-10). Thus, to conclude that God gives a direct command prohibiting divorce in v.10 and then authorizes violating that command (the Lord's one exception excluded) in v.11 is false.

Do the two constraints of I Cor. 7:11 constitute an equally viable choice?

In your email and in Bobby's lesson, you both conclude that the constraints placed upon the woman in v.11 constitute an equally viable choice. In other words, the woman could simply choose which option to take, either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.

Repentance demands that the Christian not only confess their wrong and pray to God (I Jn. 1:9; Acts 8:22), but also make restitution whenever and wherever possible.

Consider the following passages that establish this principle of restitution:

"...People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. 31 Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house ..." Proverbs 6:30-31 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

This passage demonstrates the necessity of restitution. While we recognize that the Law of Moses gave specific instructions about restitution (e.g. Ex. 22:6), the above passage from the book of Proverbs teaches God's eternal principle on this subject. The Lord Jesus praised righteous Zacchaeus because of his godly attitude toward sin:

"...So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, 'He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.' 8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold .' 9 And Jesus said to him, ' Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham ...'" Luke 19:6-9 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

Thus, given the previous bible concepts, the verse in I Cor. 7:11, far from mitigating an exception to God's prohibition of divorce, teaches that when sin has occurred in violation of God's command (v.10), restitution must be attempted ("...be reconciled to her husband..." ). If one cannot restore what they have wronged, then they must remain unmarried. As well, consider what the Spirit records about the Corinthian brethren's righteous attitude toward sin and repentance:

"...Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 10For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter ..." 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 (NKJV)

Given the plainly revealed bible principles of repentance and restitution, consider the following sins committed when someone divorces their mate for a cause other than fornication:

  • They violate God's prohibition, His direct command (Mt. 19:6, 9, I Cor. 7:10)
  • They place their mate in a position of vulnerability to sin (Matt. 5:31-32) and defraud them of their due affection (I Cor. 7:5)
  • They separate what God has joined together (Matt. 19:6)

Can someone who defies God's Word concerning divorce and then arrogantly refuses to attempt to restore their wrong against God and their mate argue that they have godly sorrow , zeal, and a vehement desire to clear themselves?

Thus, we have the two constraints, not options, given to the violator of God's command (the woman in the hypothetical scenario) of I Cor. 7:11:

  • In accordance with God's teaching concerning restitution, she must try to be reconciled to her husband, in an attempt to right her wrong.
  • If that effort is untenable due to her husband's unwillingness to receive her back, then she must live acceptably before God as an unmarried person.

Can a child of God be prevented from serving God?

Bobby contended that divorce is permitted for items that "...the word of God says prevents you from serving God. Whether it is a command from your husband or abuse or whatever it might be. It has to be something that prevents you from serving the master..." 1 Closely related to this teaching was your conclusion that the word leave in Luke 18:29 constitutes authorization from the Lord to divorce your mate for the sake of the Kingdom of God. You put forth your supposition that the word leave means divorce in this passage, as the following quotes from your email demonstrate:

"...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..?"2

"...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..!" [my emphasis] 3

The combined teaching that you and Bobby uphold can then be summarized as follows:

  • God's Word, Bobby surmises, teaches us that there may be circumstances whereby someone is prevented from serving God although he offers no scriptural proof of this
  • Based on this unsubstantiated reasoning, God will approve of a divorce to remove someone from this supposed situation of being prevented from serving God
  • Using Luke 18:29 ( "...So He said to them, "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..." [my emphasis] ), you reason that God authorizes, even commends, divorce in the event that someone is not able to serve Him

Service to God demands and is dependent upon personal choice and personal choice only, not on anyone else's actions or decisions:

"...He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters..." Luke 11:23 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

"...For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad..." 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

The Holy Spirit affirms that if we follow the Lord, we will pay the price:

"...Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household...'" Matthew 10:34-36 (NKJV)

"...Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution..." 2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)

The scripture is replete with passages exhorting the Christian to patiently, even joyfully, endure trials and suffering:

"...My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience..." James 1:2-3 (NKJV)

In the midst of giving exhortations to his apostles, the Lord Jesus shows the fate and ultimate victory of those who obey to the end, even in the face of persecutions by those closest to them:

"'...Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved..." Matthew 10:21-22 (NKJV)


1"Transcript of Bobby Holmes lesson Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage." Pillar of Truth Magazine. 2 December 2006. <http:pillaroftruthmagazine.org.> p.13

2Roberts, Tom. "Bible Teaching on Divorce". Email to C. Kelly Wilson. 18 January 2006.

3Ibid

In the book of Revelation, the Lord gives instructions for patient endurance to the saints at Smyrna:

"...Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life..." Revelation 2:10 (NKJV)

Finally, does the Spirit say we can be separated from the love of God in Christ in His service?

"...What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord ..." Romans 8:31-39 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

The only way that anyone can fall from God's love and be prevented from serving Him is by disobeying His Word (I Jn. 2:3-5), which is contingent only upon our personal choice:

"...He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him..." John 14:21 (NKJV)

The above passages conclude irrefutably that there is no thing and no one that can separate us from the love of God in Christ and prevent us from serving Him. We each must individually choose to serve Him (Matt. 6:24), we each must patiently endure the certain trials and sufferings (Rev. 2:10). If we are faithful and obedient (Jn. 14:21, I Jn. 2:5), God will strengthen, protect, and bring us to victory (Heb 13:5-6, I Pet. 5:10). Our service to God is based completely and exclusively on our decisions, and our decisions alone. In no way does God teach that our ability to serve Him is contingent upon anyone else.

The apostle Paul ended his life in prison (II Tim. 4) preparing to be put to death (II Tim. 4:6) He was separated from beloved brethren (II Tim. 4:11), suffering the anguish of betrayal, even by those who were supposed to be children of God (II Tim. 10, 14). He was certainly not able to move around and preach freely and it is reasonable to assume that he was often prevented from assembling with the saints. Was he prevented from serving God? Here is what the Spirit recorded concerning Paul's confidence in the midst of all these hindrances:

"...For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing..." 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NKJV)

The proposition then that someone, even your mate, can prevent you from serving God is flatly and overwhelmingly refuted by scripture. Thus, absolutely no justification can be substantiated that one can divorce on the grounds of being prevented from serving God.

Does Luke 18:29 authorize divorce for the sake of the Kingdom?

With this scriptural context in mind, what does the context of Luke 18:18-29 teach? Does it teach that one can, even should , divorce their mate for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

When we examine any passage of scripture and reach a conclusion, we must first ensure:

  • The immediate context of the verse harmonizes with the conclusion. If any exception is given, the Lord Himself must give it
  • The wider context of the New Testament harmonizes with the conclusion. For instance, when religious people attempt to justify their practice of using instruments of music, they often appeal to the examples of music worship in the Old Testament. However, they fail to consider the wider context that God has done away with the Mosaic Law (Heb. 8:13) and that our only instruction in the New Testament concerning music worship involves singing only (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16)
  • The conclusion does not violate another commandment of the Lord in the New Testament or an eternal bible principle, since God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33), it is impossible for Him to lie (Heb. 6:18), and we are instructed to keep all the Lord has taught (Matt. 28:18-20)
  • The scripture affirms these techniques. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11), the devil quoted scriptures but then violated the larger context of those teachings via his application , and while we certainly recognize that Satan's motives were not honorable, the technique to defeat the false teaching he was advocating was the same: the context of God's Word, immediate and holistic, must be brought to bear in considering whether a conclusion is in accord with bible teaching, and any conclusion we may reach must be put to the same test of scripture.

Considering the context of Luke 18:

A certain ruler came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life (v.18). Jesus told him to keep the commandments of Moses (which he was living under), which the ruler affirmed that he had kept since his youth (v.19-21). Jesus, being God in the flesh and knowing all things (Jn. 16:30), knew this ruler's heart and that it was his love of his possessions that was going to hinder his service. Hence, the Lord instructs him to go and sell his possessions to test him, and the ruler went away sorrowful (v.22-24). The Lord then teaches that it will be easier "...for a camel to go through the eye of a needle..." than for those who are rich to enter the Kingdom of God (v.24) because, as the young ruler was unwilling to do, they will not place their service to God above their love of riches. Those who heard wondered then who could be saved, which the Lord affirmed is impossible with man but possible with God (v.26-27).

Then Peter makes the following statement in v.28, followed by the Lord's response:

"...Then Peter said, 'See, we have left all and followed You.' 29 So He said to them, '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, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life...'" Luke 18:28-30 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

The context makes it clear that whatever the word left means in v.29, Peter and the other apostles had done just this; they had left all. As a point of fact, some manuscripts render the word all as our own, thus the passage could also be rendered: "'...See, we have left our own and followed You...'"

When Peter made this statement, we know for certain that at least he and perhaps some of the other apostles were married (I Cor. 9:5). Matt. 8:15 affirms that the Lord came and healed Peter's mother-in-law. As well, we know that Peter remained married, as he later instructed elders, himself being a fellow elder (I Pet. 5:1), to which he would have had to meet the qualification of "...the husband of one wife..." (I Tim. 3:2). As well, Peter and some of the apostles took along their wives on some of their preaching responsibilities (I Cor. 9:5, Peter is referred to as Cephas [see Jn. 1:42]).

While the apostles who had left all for the Kingdom of God certainly made extraordinary sacrifices in leaving their secular livelihoods, putting themselves and their families at risk, and finally giving their lives in submitting all to God's service, the immediate context will not permit us to conclude that divorcing their mates was a part of the definition of the word left in Luke 18:29, as the apostles did not do this, though, by their own words affirmed by the Lord Jesus, they had left all.

As well, however, consider the context of other companion passages in which the Lord taught the same concept:

"...Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 'If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple...'" Luke 14:25-27, 33 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

This passage in Luke 14 helps shed light on the context of Luke 18: hating your wife, children, mother, father, brothers, sisters, and forsaking all you have was not optional or conditional, it was commanded . Someone who would not do this could not be the Lord's disciple. Is the Lord teaching actual hatred and despising of our families? Similarly the Lord commended those who had left all in Luke 18:29 as he ultimately promised them eternal life. Would those who refused to leave all have obtained eternal life?

The Holy Spirit often uses hyperbole , or an extreme exaggeration, to illustrate a principle. For instance, Jesus used this technique in Luke 18:25 and Mark 10:25 ("'...it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle...'") to illustrate how difficult it would be for those with worldly riches to love the Lord more than their possessions. The Lord uses this same technique in Luke 18:27-29, Mk. 10:27-29, and in the above passage in Luke 14, to illustrate the following principle: service to God must take precedence over all things.

Thus, the wider context will not permit us to conclude that in Luke 18:29 the word left means or implies divorce, any more than it would mean or imply forsaking our responsibilities to our children or parents, but rather our allegiance to any person, place, or thing must be subjugated to our service to the Lord.

Further considering the larger context of scripture what disposition ought we to have toward those mates who do not obey the word?

"...Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear..." 1 Peter 3:1-2 (NKJV) [my emphasis]

In this passage, the unbelieving husband would certainly not be assisting in the wives' service to the Lord ( "...do not obey the word..."), and yet no command or permission to divorce their mate was forthcoming for the sake of the Kingdom, but rather a command to submission and presenting a godly example with fear.

Finally, scripture tells us what our command is concerning divorce toward our unbelieving mate:

"...But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. 15But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace..." 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 (NKJV)

God forbids all divorce, save for the cause of fornication (Matt. 19:9; Matt. 5:31-32) and this command is repeated in I Cor. 7:10-11, 12-13. However, God recognizes that an unbeliever will likely not regard God's word, and in the event that the believing mates' service to God becomes distasteful to them, the unbeliever may depart. We recognize, however, that even the unbeliever will be judged by the Law of Christ (Jn. 12:48), and they do sin when they depart from their mate for a cause short of fornication as they violate the command of the Lord (I Cor. 7:10-11), but the believing, wronged mate is not responsible for this.

Thus, Luke 18:29 does not give authorization to divorce one's mate for the sake of the Kingdom, as it does not harmonize with the immediate context, does not harmonize with the wider context of scripture, and violates God's plain prohibitions concerning divorce.

In summary of this section concerning the lawful cause(s) of divorce:

  • Bobby asserted that the Lord Jesus one stated exception in Matt. 19:9, fornication, applies only to divorce and remarriage, not divorce only. Scripture contradicts this as the context of Matt. 19 shows that divorce, previously allowed in Moses' Law, would subsequently be prohibited in Christ's Law, and divorce is prohibited, saving for the cause of fornication. When we transgress God's Law as stated in Matt. 19:6 ( "...therefore what God has joined together let not man separate...") or anywhere else, we sin (I Jn. 3:4). The consequence of a remarriage following an unlawful divorce results in adultery.
  • Bobby contended that God has general and absolute rules, and that God has exceptions to His Law that will occasionally cause the Christian to violate God's Law. However, the scripture establishes that we are to observe all that God has taught (Matt. 28:18-20), and that the umbrella principle of God's word is to love and serve Him first (Matt. 22:37). Thus, every other principle such as wives obeying their husbands in all things (Eph. 5:24) or submitting to the earthly authorities (Rom. 13:1-2) are under this principle. Thus, the scripture does not teach that we must violate God's word on occasion to keep it, but that God's commandments harmonize perfectly.
  • You and Bobby assert that I Cor. 7:11 constitutes an exception to God's plain prohibition to divorce in v.10 using the reasoning that options are extended to the woman in this hypothetical circumstance. You further asserted that the absence of a direct rebuke or command to withdraw from this hypothetical couple constitutes God's approval of her action, since you concluded that they did not sin. You then suggest somehow that they (the couple) are culpable for the divorce. Scripture contradicts these assertions, as God's plain principle establishes that when we transgress His Law, we sin (I Jn. 3:4), and the one who violates God's command is the sinner, which in the case of a divorce, is the one who took action against their mate, short of fornication (Matt. 5:32); the victim is not culpable. As well, almost no prohibition in scripture is accompanied by a direct rebuke or command to withdraw from the individual, but this certainly does not render God's approval. The two constraints, not options of equal choosing, that are given to woman in v.11 harmonize perfectly with scripture: God not only expects repentance from sin (Lk. 13:3), but also restitution whenever and wherever possible (Matt. 5:23-26; Prov. 6:30-31). Thus, if and when she/he sins by violating God's prohibition of divorce in v.10, restitution must be attempted. In the event that the marriage cannot be restored, the violator must remain unmarried to be pleasing to God.
  • You and brother Bobby suppose that someone can be prevented from serving God, and that supposition will enable one to divorce their mate in order to serve God. Again, scripture refutes this as our service is a personal choice (Jos. 24:15) not contingent upon any other persons' actions or decisions, and despite personal trials and persecutions (II Tim. 3:12, Rev. 2:10), we can, and must be faithful to the Lord, if we expect to be saved (Matt. 10:22). No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:31-39), if we obey him (Jn. 14:21). The only one who can prevent someone from serving Christ is that person, thus no scriptural justification can be found for one to divorce their mate for this cause.
  • You surmised that Luke 18:29 gives authority for a man/woman to divorce their mate for the "...sake of the Kingdom of God..." by virtue of the word left used in that verse. However, your conclusion...
    • Violates the immediate context of the passage. Peter had affirmed that the apostles had left all and yet we know that he was not divorced from his wife (Matt. 8:15) and he remained married (I Pet. 5:1). The context shows that divorce is not under consideration in this passage, but rather subverting all to God's service, as other passages clearly show that forsaking all for the Lord was not an option, but a command (Luke 14:25-27). Thus, if divorce is required to forsake all , which we are commanded to do, then divorce would be required to serve God, which He plainly condemns in the New Testament (I Cor. 7:10; Matt. 5:31-32). Thus, the word left in Luke 18:29 does not include divorce as a consideration
    • Violates the larger context of scripture. We are taught that the believing mate is to be an example of righteousness (I Pet. 3:1-2) to their unbelieving mate. Furthermore, divorcing the unbeliever, who would presumably not assist us in serving God, is prohibited (I Cor. 7:12-13). If the unbeliever departs, then the believer can let them depart.
    • Violates other plain commands. Divorce is prohibited for all causes, save fornication (Matt. 19:9; Matt. 5:31-32; I Cor. 7:10), and any conclusion that we reach cannot violate another command or established bible principle. The Lord Himself must give the exception, and the only exception He gives in the teaching about whether someone can lawfully divorce their mate is fornication. We simply will not find any other exception in scripture.
    • Thus, your conclusions regarding Luke 18:29 are in contradiction to revealed scripture

Conclusions

First, I wanted to address the other questions you outlined in your email.

Concerning question 4: "...Since you are divorced, are you living in sin..?" I have already outlined the bible principles involved. My wife divorced me for an unlawful cause. Thus, God's Word says that she is the violator. In spite of this, I have made continuous efforts to get my wife to return home, but to no avail.

Concerning question 5: "...Will you defend the living arrangement that you have with Sue..?" The answer to your question is simple: a sister-in-Christ opened her home temporarily to a brother-in-Christ who had fallen on difficult economic times, and all brethren that we have come into contact with that have questioned us have been made aware of this temporary arrangement.

In conclusion, the positions that you and brother Holmes have taken in the points that I have outlined are bereft of bible support. I love you and Bobby very much and my sincere prayer to God for both of you is that you would turn from this teaching.

You applied the principle of Romans 14 in relation to the teaching on what constitutes a lawful divorce, but no such appeal can be made. The context of Romans 14 involves considerations of "...doubtful disputations..." Romans 14:1 (NKJV) and the plain, comprehensive teaching of the Lord on this subject cannot be categorized as doubtful . If such plain and straightforward teaching can be construed as doubtful, are we to conclude that all applications concerning what constitutes a lawful divorce can and should be accepted? Upon what basis would we accept some and reject others? Once we leave plain bible authority, then no appeal to scriptures will be necessary; any and all applications by which someone desired to divorce their mate would necessitate acceptance.

You charged me with dividing the church at Northside, but the one who brings doctrine "...contrary to the doctrine which you have received..." (Rom. 16:17) is the one who cause the divisions. My prayer is and God's requirement is:

"...Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment..." Corinthians 1:10 (NKJV)

I pray that you will consider what I have said, as I have considered what you have said.

Your brother,

Kelly

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