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Home The Light Articles from 2010 Divorce In the Church...What Shall We Do?

Divorce In the Church...What Shall We Do?

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(When you read the phrase, "unlaw­ful divorce and remarriage" in this material, I mean "what ever is con­sidered unlawful by your convictions and understanding." You will not profit from this study if you do not keep this in mind. I am not implying I believe there is such a thing as law­ful divorce. I do not. -jj)

 

God' s Word teaches quite clearly that we must have no fellowship with the fruits of unrighteous­ness or of darkness. Not only must we not extend fellowship, we are obligated-charged-to reprimand and expose the error of those who so practice. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of dark­ness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11)."...what fellowship hath righ­teousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with dark­ness?" (2 Cor.6:14). It is a condemn­ing sin to do otherwise since dark­ness is a million miles from the righ­teousness of God and the pure and holy attributes which must garnish Christian character. Furthermore, to get along with unholy beliefs and practices only hastens good people into corruption themselves (1 Cor. 5:6, 15:33, Prov. 13:20).

Divorce and Remarriage

With unlawful divorce as common as drinking water, a few more need to wake up and cry out against people fraternizing with this common sin, winking at those who practice it, or those who support or promote it. Can our Eternal Father, who so personally hates this loathsome sin, be pleased with our conduct if we show it favor or tolerance (Malachi 2:16, 2 Cor.6:14-17)? It defies reason that good people who are adamant against unlawful divorce, will "justify" working and worshiping with those who openly and unashamedly defend it. The Bible says "reprove them," and we are condemned if we don't-make all the excuses we wish.

Some reading this may consider it "airing the dirty laundry" of the "no exception brethren," but I assure you, most of the points submitted have as strong an application among our brethren who believe in the exception.  The number may be diminishing, but some of them still hold only to the exception of Matthew 19:9— they reject the so-called "Pauline privilege," the "remain in your di­vorced marriage state at baptism," and other erroneous add-ons.

Others in the one-cup fellowship oppose divorce, period-no exception-but through the years have cho­sen to identify with a brotherhood that generally defends divorce, and for more reasons than Matthew 19:9. It is difficult to understand how these good and knowledgeable people can extend fellowship to men among them who preach what these very people positively believe to be erro­neous, sinful doctrine...the accep­tance of unlawful divorce and remar­riage. They believe people will go to hell if they follow the teaching of the very men they call for their meetings or otherwise support. In the name of good sense, how can this be reason­ably regarded as anything but offen­sive to God?

The Worst of the Bad

Adultery heads the list of works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19). If unlawful divorce and remarriage constitute adultery (and they do, Romans 7:2-3), and if this and/or those supporting this unlawful divorce can be Scripturally extended fellowship, by what logic can brethren refuse fellowship to others who teach children the Bi­ble in a Sunday school class? (Re­member, these classes are dismissed before the main assembly convenes.)

Most brethren are ready to consis­tently apply verses dealing with fel­lowship to practices like worshiping with an organ, a plurality of commu­nion cups, women teachers in public assemblies, etc. But on the other hand, a number are perfectly willing to forsake truth and reason in extending fellowship to other sinful things. Unlawful divorce and remarriage for instance. Somehow, they apparently think it less sinful to live in an adul­terous marriage or preach that it is acceptable, than it is to worship God with an organ. That seems unreason­able to me. A brother who preaches in favor of the organ would never be supported, but some feel it perfectly in order to extend fellowship to one who preaches corrupt doctrines of unlawful divorce and remarriage.

"But the organ violates the wor­ship" someone says. So? Unlawful divorce and remarriage violates the morality of the worshiper, desecrates the worshiper's home, devastates the worshiper's children, disregards the holy law of God, and undermines the basic foundation of human society. Not even the organ does that! Neither do cups nor classes for that matter. The point is, shall we allow the home to be destroyed so long as we keep the worship intact? Does that make sense? The organ is Scripturally wrong, but not morally wrong. Adul­tery and fornication are both.

Would the worship hour be cor­rupted if the preacher gave a sermon endorsing fornication among the unmarried? Would it do anything to the worship hour if Billy Graham was the preacher?.. .If a woman was allowed to preach?...If a known, practicing homosexual was given the pulpit? Does God Almighty reject a service where an unscriptural prac­tice is allowed (the organ), but accept a service where a false doctrine is taught (as above, that fornication is good, or that unlawful divorce and remarriage is acceptable)?

What if the preacher only does his work privately, or "is forbidden to preach his views of divorce in our pulpit"? Does that materially change things? An English teacher is an English teacher even if his work is private tutoring. Nor does he have to teach me personally, or even in my area, to be an English teacher. A teacher of soul-condemning doctrine is no different, and our continued fellowship with him, and our contin­ued endorsement of him, will not change his identity before God.

The Table

Some feel we can worship about anywhere and overlook about any­thing so long as "the table is set right" (worship is intact). But if this reasoning is worth anything, some­one needs to explain why the congre­gations at Ephesus and Laodicea of Revelations 2-3 were condemned even though the table had not been violated. Remember, one was about to have its candlestick removed, and the other was about to be "spued out" of the mouth of the Lord. But neither was censured because the table was "not set right." They were guilty of other condemning sins.

Further, so far as I recollect, of all the epistles of our New Testament, only one out of twenty-two of these letters even mentions the table. Of course the table is important! Cer­tainly! It is vital! But there is far more to being a faithful congregation than setting the table right. It is re­vealing that this doctrine would al­low brethren to meet at 9:00 a.m. for a class with a woman preaching, then gather at 10:30 with "the table set right," and remain in full fellowship. That simple observation merits con­sideration. The "just so the table is set right" doctrine allows much error.

Some defend the doctrine, claim­ing that all other errors are a matter of local church discipline. Thus, we may worship anywhere the table is set right, and it is the local congrega­tion's responsibility to take care of these other matters. But, appealing again to Revelations 2-3, we are shown very clearly that a congrega­tion can have its "candlestick" re­moved because of sins other than a violation of the table. It seems unreasonable that a congregation could be considered "faithful" when it openly, studiously, and regularly allows false doctrine to be taught-whether in or out of the assembly-even if the table is set right. Further, if the "table" doctrine is sound, we may acceptably worship with a congregation where an open fornicator is leading the singing, a practicing homosexual serves at the table, and a woman preaches, "if the table is set right." The doctrine is erroneous.

Hopscotch

One brother in opposition to The Light wrote, "May we play 'hop­scotch' like children and include some sins in fellowship while ex­cluding others? If so, who has the definitive list of which sins may be included but which sins must be ex­cluded? Who has the rules which permit such arbitrary action toward righteousness and darkness?" These brethren like to attack our battles with women who cut their hair and/or dress immodestly, and other things the church struggles to overcome. This "proves," I suppose, we ought to make no waves over unlawful divorce and remarriage. That we have problems with sin here and there is apparently intended to prove we are a bunch of kids "playing hop­scotch." But these are problems with members that shall never end as long as people compose the church. Any congregation among us that will call a preacher who is practicing ANY sin or supports any form of it, including those things just named, is not wor­thy to wear the Lord's name. No, we may not "play hopscotch," and all of us should be doing what we can to keep the church pure, including op­posing the brother who may en dorse/defend women cutting their hair, dressing immodestly, and yes, brethren who defend unlawful di­vorce and remarriage.

But the brother wrote, "May we play 'hopscotch' like children and include some sins in fellowship while excluding others?" The brother's question deserves an answer. Some in his fellowship say they limit di­vorce to only the exceptive clause of Matthew 19:9. They oppose the so-called "Pauline privilege," the "re­main in your divorced marriage state at baptism," and other add-on doc­trines alluded to earlier. These good brethren are fully convinced such doctrines practiced constitute adul­tery and will cause people to be lost. How then can they, in clear con­science, extend fraternity to preach­ers who promote such errors? They would never endorse a brother who teaches the unmarried may commit fornication (adultery's sister sin), no, but can somehow routinely wink at the adultery scenario. Rebuke, disci­pline the brother who would defend fornication, yes, but aren't we also obligated before God to deal with the preacher or teacher who supports unlawful divorce and remarriage?

Ephesians 5:11

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. 5:11). A

novice in the church can understand that. To obey this holy injunction, we need only determine if an action is, by plain Bible statement or by Bible principle, categorized as a work of darkness, i.e., a sinful thing. Most in the religious world would have a problem referring to the use of the organ as a "work of darkness," but all agree that adultery is such a work. Romans 7:2-3 reads, "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her hus­band liveth, she be married to an­other man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man." Galatians 5:19 says: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness..."

So, what do you think? Is there any circumstance where adultery is NOT a work of darkness? What about unlawful divorce and remar­riage-are they such a work... are they sinful works of the flesh, works of darkness? With this answered affir­matively, then explain why so many are strong against the organ but pas­sive in the fellowship of adulterous relationships-unlawful divorce and remarriage.

Further, since it is wrong to extend fellowship to those who use the or­gan in worship, would it be lawful and right to extend fellowship to those who teach (publicly and/or privately) that the organ is lawful in worship? And would it matter that they teach their error in California but you live in Texas? The application is, if it is wrong to extend fel­lowship to those living in adultery, why is it right and lawful to extend fellowship to those who justify them in it (cf. 2 John 9-11)? We all need to answer that, including brethren who believe in the exception and those who don't. Is there a doctrine your brother teaches that you are posi­tively, Biblically convinced consti­tutes an adulterous relationship when practiced? Then you shall face Christ in judgment with your sin if you extend your fellowship to him.

No one likes division. Even neces­sary division is heart rending, even repugnant, to those who love peace. But adultery, in whatever form, is a condemned and loathsome work of the flesh, and any soul who practices it or accepts it or its supporters, sins before Almighty God (Gal. 5:19-21, 2 John 9-11). Those of us who do not believe in divorce for any cause are castigated and publicly reprimanded for refusing to extend fellowship to those who practice and/or teach in favor of a state that we believe con­stitutes adultery. This is absurd... what else can we do and be true to the Word of God? Are brethren ad­vising us to embrace what we assur­edly believe to be adultery? Are they saying we should endorse and sustain those who practice, support, or pro­mote unlawful divorce and remar­riage? Is this what they practice?

Conclusion

What sort of description should we use of those who preach unlawful divorce to be lawful? Are they faith­ful gospel preachers? false teachers? There is a fair and proper description that fits here. What is it? Again, we contend such questions are for all of us, those who do not believe in the exception and those who do, cer­tainly including those who believe in the exception yet oppose other liberal  divorce/remarriage views being pro­moted in the church.

Bro. T. Roberts nails it down pre­cisely: "Dangerous times face the people of God. Some are so intent on extending fellowship to those in sin that they will be sweet and merciful to those who believe and practice error but speak in the harshest of terms to those, and of those, who hold to God's truth. Let us determine to be patient and longsuffering to those who differ with us in these areas while we continue to communicate and study God's Word. But let us not lose sight of the fact that, to have fellowship with God, we must 'Come out from among them and be separate.'"

Criticize this paper if you will, but we are simply trying to remain at peace with God, even if it is at the expense of peace with the brethren. We cannot fellowship things sinful without offending God. Do you be­lieve that? Is that reasonable? Should it matter that we fly in the face of God? We love our people, we cherish our friendships. But we must love God more. We must be loyal to our brethren, but not at the expense of allegiance to God. This is not "holier than thou." It is something for all of us. Wrong is always wrong, and there is never a good reason to do wrong things. We cannot do evil expecting good to result from it (Rom. 3:8). That's what the Bible says. -Jerry

 

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