...the churches of Christ salute you! Rom 16:16

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home The Light Articles from 2002 Does God Recognize the Marriage of Sinners?

Does God Recognize the Marriage of Sinners?

E-mail Print PDF

Does God Recognize the Marriage of Sinners?

by Raymond Stiner

I struggled with trying to find a title that would fit this article that would be more subtle, but I think it best to face this issue head on and let you know what we are studying in this writing. The reason for the question is that we are living in an age when men are trying to find every excuse to break God’s law regarding marriage. If they can break God’s law regarding marriage then they think they will have a right to divorce and remarry.

In our brotherhood it used to be that Matthew 19:9 was the big issue, and the passage used to allow divorce and remarriage. In this passage there is the mention by Jesus of an exception. Those who try to take this exception for themselves do not understand that Jesus was referring to the Law of Moses and was simply answering the question of the Pharisees and scribes regarding whether or not IT WAS LAWFUL to put away ones wife for any cause. Jesus answered them and told them that there was only one cause, and that cause was fornication. But let me emphasize again that Jesus was answering a people who had asked a question about their law, and Jesus answered them in their law. This exception was given by Moses, but Jesus tried to point them back to the beginning when there was no exception. He pointed them back to God’s original law of marriage and a law that only had been changed for a period of time of about 1500 years, and also a law that was only changed for the Jews during this period of time known as the Mosaic age.

But preachers have found that a lot of the divorces they are trying to justify don’t fit this scenario. And so consequently they search until they find some other reason that would allow a divorced person to remarry. One of the major issues that is proposed today is that God does not recognize the marriage of sinners. Taking this position allows people to endorse, for instance, a man and woman who, one or either, may have been married 6 times and divorced 6 times but when they become a Christian they keep the spouse they have, as if baptism is what marries them to each other. I can admit that this would be wonderful in the area of evangelization, because no matter how many times a person had been married, we would just baptize them and they get to keep the mate they now have, and we have no problems. But I am here to prove through the Word of God that this won’t work and that in fact God does recognize the marriages (lawful or unlawful) of sinners.

Since the beginning of time men have been subject to the law of God, whether they were known as God’s people or not. In Noah’s time, the people who were on the earth and died because of the flood were subject to God and disobeyed him, and consequently lost their lives. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished for their sins even though they were not directly tied in with the lineage of Abraham. Jonah went unto the Ninevites and preached unto them even though they were considered heathens in that day. God expected them to heed to His Word and threatened them with extinction through the Prophet if they did not. Did God recognize their sins? It would appear that He did if he was willing to send a prophet to them to get them to repent.

If God’s marriage law does not apply to sinners then none of them would be married would they? And so if no law can be applied to them they could not be sinners, and if they are not sinners then they would have no need of salvation or repentance. If God’s law is not applicable to those outside of Christ, then there is no way that they could commit adultery or fornication. Because where there is no law there is no transgression, there is no sin. 1 John 3:4 reads, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." Also we would note in Romans 4:15 "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression."

The Sins of the World

There are many places in the Word of God that tell us about the sins of the world and that indeed these people are accountable to God. For instance: Acts.17:31 "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." To the Ephesian brethren he wrote: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conver-sation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (2:1-3). The Gentiles had walked in times past in the lusts of the flesh. These were people were not God’s special people through the law of Moses, but God still recognized their past lusts. In Romans 1:24-32 the gentiles were condemned for such sins as wickedness, disbelief, impurity, homosexuality, covetousness, malice and a host of other sins, so that we read what will happen to those in the world who do such things in verses 28-32: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whis-perers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we are told of the gentiles, who prior to Christ were not obedient to the Law of Moses but now were made subject to the law of Christ by their obedience. But while they were under the law, yet not obedient to it, they still were accountable to God’s law for we read in verses 9-11: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." The sins enumerated here were sins these people were guilty of. God recognized these sins while they were yet sinners without the law and without Christ. He acknowledges that they were adulterers and fornicators, which meant that they were living in the world in an ungodly manner, and that God recognized this even though they were not His special children.

In 1 Cor. 5 the apostle Paul was dealing with a problem of immorality in the church at Corinth. He said that there was fornication among them and they had not dealt with it and he was telling them what to do about this man. And then in verses 9-10 he tells them that they are to separate themselves from this man, but in doing so he points out something very important to our study. He said "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world." He makes mention of the fornicators of this world. Does God recognize the fornicators of this world? Does God recognize the adulterers of this world. Evidently so for Paul alludes to them as being in the world.

The Importance of Repentance

But continuing with the argument, it is proposed that baptism removes the sin of fornication or adultery and so makes one capable of becoming a Christian without doing anything about his or her marital status. It is true that baptism of a truly penitent believer removes the guilt of past sins. The key words here are, a penitent believer. Baptism will not wash away sins that men are not sorry for or sins that are not repented of. If a man is a thief before he becomes a Christian and after he becomes a Christian remains a thief, the baptism does not make thievery right. If a man is living in adultery (having more than one wife) before he becomes a Christian, but after he is baptized goes back to that unlawful marriage, baptism did not make that unlawful marriage right. If it was unlawful before baptism while he was a sinner, it is still unlawful while he pretends to be a Christian. Homosexuality is a good example. It is a sin whether a person is in the church or out the church. By being baptized and continuing in homosexuality does not make it right in the sight of God. If a person is engaged in any unholy practice before baptism, whether it is drunkenness, thievery, taking dope, homosexuality, fornication, or adultery, or any other immoral action, he must give up such action in order to become a Christian, because even though baptism will cleanse the past , it will not make unholy practices holy.

I think what people are forgetting here is the step of repentance which Peter referred to in Acts 2:38: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Repentance according to Thayer is defined: "To change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins." Another definition given is "To undergo a change of mind and feeling; to make a change of principle and practice, to reform." Webster says "To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life." In each of these definitions there are three things that happens in repentance. First there is a change of mind. We no longer think the way we used to think. Secondly there is the abhorrence or disgust or sorrow for our past way of life. We recognize our sin and want to turn from it. Thirdly, there is the reform or the amendment of our life. That is, we turn from a sinful life to live a life acceptable to God. With reference to our particular study here, when one who has been living in adultery, which God recognizes, comes to learn the truth and then repents and is baptized, they will not go back into that life of sin but will, because of their repentance, turn from it and turn unto God and godly living.

Some would argue that God’s grace and mercy would cause him to forgive and overlook an adulterous marriage because both parties have become Christians. And so they can continue in their particular arrangement because of the grace of God. They quote 1 Tim.1:13 as evidence of this: "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." They think that because these people did it ignorantly and didn’t know God’s law that they are forgiven of this sinful life. They fail to realize that Paul repented and when he did he gave up the life of a blasphemer and persecutor, and walked no more in that way. And so must also someone who is living in adultery–in becoming a Christian they must give up that way of life and turn from it (repent).

It is also argued that some sins cannot be reversed or undone. Murder is given as an illustration of a sin that can be repented of, but cannot be reversed or turned around, because you can never un-murder someone. There are many other sins where, indeed, proper restitution cannot be made. But the implication that the adulterous marriage cannot be broken does not fit into this scenario. If two people are having an adulterous affair, with or without the blessing of human law, they can cease that affair. You cannot steal, and then repent and keep the money. You cannot take another man’s wife and then repent and keep the wife. Where it is possible to make restitution or restoration or to go back to a proper situation in life, we must do that in repentance.

1 Corinthians 7:17-24

Another argument that is used is that found in 1Cor. 7:17-24. We read in these verses these words: "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God."

To understand this passage we must understand that Paul was answering questions that had been asked him regarding marriage problems the church at Corinth was facing. Verse 12 was actually the beginning of the particular section under consideration. He had just stated what the law of God was over the marriages that were of a normal nature in verses 1-11. In verse 12 they had evidently asked him some special question regarding difficult marriage situations because he starts out by saying, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." What he meant was that the Lord did not cover these issues when he was here but "I’m going to deal with them now." He was still being guided by the Holy Ghost to say what he was about to say. In verse 12-16 he talks about what a believer is to do if

he is married to an unbeliever. And in essence he tells them that even if this situation exists, where a believer is married to an unbeliever they are still married in the sight of God. Because one is in the Lord and one is out of the Lord does not dissolve the marriage. This led him to admonish the brethren in verses 17-24 to stay in the situation wherein they were called instead of trying to dissolve that marriage. Becoming a member of the church did not change their marital status and responsibilities. There is nothing even implied in these words that he was talking about a couple who comes into the church living in adultery, that they should remain in that state.

In summing up what we have said here, the responsibility of the sinner out-side of Christ is that he is responsible to God’s law generally and also specifically. The sinner outside of Christ can be guilty of fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, in just the same way a Christian is guilty. And so in answer to our original question, Yes, God does recognize the marriages of sinners, whether scriptural or unscriptural. –Box 4, LeContes Mills, PA 16850



Our Friends

User Login