The Kissing Cousins of Divorce and Heresy (by Joel Rainey)

Joel Rainey is the Director of Missions at Mid-Maryland Baptist Association, an adjunct professor at Capital Bible Seminary and blogs at Themelios (Twitter – @joelrainey). 

Last month, the Christian music community was shocked to hear of the pending divorce between musicians Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken.  After 13 years of marriage, the couple announce the dissolution of their union due to Derek’s infidelity.

As a pastor of more than 20 years, my heart breaks every time I hear of a couple splitting up.  I’ve been in those counseling rooms, and the visceral emotions and long-term damage done to both spouses and their kids (if kids are involved) is enough to convince anyone that, regardless of the reasons or circumstances, divorce is ALWAYS a tragedy.  Sometimes, as in this case where adultery was committed, the Scriptures allow the betrayed spouse the option of leaving, but even in that situation, the process is indescribably painful.  Each time I encounter a situation like this as a pastor, I understand better and better why God bluntly says “I hate divorce!” (Malachi 2:16)

It would appear from the accounts surrounding the Webb/McCracken separation that each is under both the discipline and pastoral care of other  believers.  Webb specifically has submitted himself to the authority of brothers in Christ, and accounts like this make me as thankful for the church as I am sorrowful over divorce. So this post isn’t about Webb and McCracken.  Nothing redemptive can come from seeking to dissect this situation in public, and the best thing we can do is pray for this couple as they face unspeakably difficult days ahead.

But I draw attention to Webb and McCracken primarily because of a Huffington Post article that appeared last week, in which this divorce was compared with prior situations, and held up against modern Christian assumptions about divorce.  The stats cited by the Post are troubling to say the least, and two figures in particular should catch the attention of every Bible-preaching pastor.  First, the article states that Christian couples have a 30% divorce rate today, compared to 19% in 1988.  Second, and more troubling still, “10 percent of white evangelicals [in 1988] said divorce should be easier for couples to get, according to the General Social Survey data.  By 2012, that figure had doubled, to more than 21%.”

In short, the number of American Christians who think our society should make it easier to split up has more than doubled.  One of two things is happening here: either pastors aren’t faithfully preaching what God’s Word teaches in regard to the permanency of marriage, or people in the seats on Sunday just haven’t been listening.

From the opening chapters of Genesis, the Scriptures not only commend, but command that the marriage covenant be permanent.  The language invoked describes a “joining together” of husband and wife in a way that makes them “one.”  Though the Mosaic covenant would later prescribe specific case law to govern divorce, such rules weren’t given to encourage the practice so much as to protect the most vulnerable in the relationship if a divorce occurred.  In short, Old Testament law recognized divorce as a reality in a sinful world, but never, ever commends it as a preferred path out of marital discord.

Jesus affirms this as well when he confronts the religious leaders of His own day, saying “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been this way.”  Later in the New Testament, Paul expounds on the reason why permanent monogamy should remain not only the ideal, but the norm in any Christian environment when in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5, he draws a close parallel between the husband-wife relationship, and that which exists between Jesus and His church.

The bottom line is this:  Marriage is a picture of the Gospel, which means that to divorce for unBiblical reasons is to preach with your actions a false Gospel.  In this way, to divorce is to do with actions what a false teacher might do with his words.  I recognize that the ubiquity of divorce in our churches makes this seem like a very harsh statement, but faithfulness to the Biblical text means when we see stats that demonstrate Christians think we should “make divorce easier,” we speak back with Christ-centered conviction and compassion that will hopefully keep this heretical attitude from growing within the body of Christ.

With rare exception, we should not permit divorce in our churches, because functionally, it is no different than permitting the denial of Jesus’ own faithfulness to His people.  Each and every time a Christian couple have their marriage declared legally dead, they purposefully break the picture of Jesus and the church that God intends people see when they look at a married couple.  In cases of infidelity or clear abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, sometimes it is necessary to declare what already is. (Matthew 19:9)  But “Irreconcilable differences” is not a sufficient reason for a follower of Jesus to break God’s picture, and from the statistics above, it would appear we need to say this more in our churches.

Divorce can be forgiven, and I also happen to believe that God still uses divorced people, even as leaders in the church, but it would be best for the family, the church, and for all of society, if we could create an environment where said forgiveness isn’t needed, because we have prevented the perversion of the Gospel.  Maybe a good way to get started is to reaffirm in pulpits everywhere that when you refuse to divorce and make up your mind to obey God, even in bad circumstances, you aren’t just trying to keep your mate, and you aren’t just fighting for your marriage.  You are fighting for the Gospel itself!


  1. cb scott says


    Excellent post.

    More and more I am of the conviction that if we are going to take a stand against homosexuality, and we must, we are, if we are going to be taken seriously take a stand against any form of sexual sin among heterosexuals also. We are going to have to be faithful to the Word about any and all human relationships, else we are nothing but the “wilderness” and no longer a “voice” crying in the wilderness.

  2. Tarheel says

    Great article, Joel!

    “Maybe a good way to get started is to reaffirm in pulpits everywhere that when you refuse to divorce and make up your mind to obey God, even in bad circumstances, you aren’t just trying to keep your mate, and you aren’t just fighting for your marriage. You are fighting for the Gospel itself! ”

    Love it!

    I find that Preaching/teaching the sanctity of marriage (I prefer that to “preaching/teaching against divorce”) is not popular today…that is unless its railing out stupid quips about Adam and Eve rather than Adam and Steve.

    I am convinced pulpits and Sunday school classes/small groups in most SBC churches are largely silent on the sanctity of one man, one woman till death – except for teaching regarding homosexuality. That is a shame, and it is wrong. It’s ignoring, as you so beautifully stated, a visualization of the gospel itself. It’s also cherry picking the easy while ignoring the hard.

  3. says

    Your conclusion, “You are fighting for the Gospel itself!” is a truth that is likely rarely heard from pulpits today. May husband and wives live out the illustration of a strong Gospel. Good word, thanks for the post.

  4. says

    The real value of your post is the fact that it causes me (us) to begin or continue to think about this ever growing problem. It is obviously serious but it also very complicated. To that issue of complicated I would like to address the statements that either preachers are not talking about this or folks are not listening. I think there is a third possibility. That is, a couple just reaches a point they don’t care. They have been taught and they listened, but in the turmoil of the marriage they just don’t care.

    Another issue that I would raise is, by the time divorce is a consideration often times it is too late to have a desired ending.

    My point: Addressing the discussion of a divorce will seldom bring satisfactory results. We must work at preventing the option of divorce as possible solution.

    To do that, we must address the issue of sex and relationships in our society. We must boldly address the issue of adultery at any level. Little ground will be gined by dealing with the separate components of the issue. We must address the command “thou shalt not commit adultery”, in any form whatsoever.

    Now having said all of that. I pose a question. In our society as it is can we realistically believe that we can reverse the adulterous cancer WITHOUT a genuine revival and renewal brought on by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  5. Chris Johnson says

    Sad and tragic event Joel,

    Human fidelity is a dark contrast to the everlasting faithfulness of Jesus with His bride. Why does God hate divorce? Because the intent of an unfaithful heart never directs toward freedom.

    I like Joel’s title to this post utilizing “Divorce and Heresy”, since heresy is how divorce appears. Divorce certainly is a deviation or dissent from the intent of Jesus in our lives, and is flamed by the appeal and lure of heresy. The culture lives in realm of pollster heresy, yet God’s perspective never goes to the Polls; it is assigned to Jesus our Lord, Savior, Husband. He is faithful for all eternity. May we stay a faithful spouse.

    Divorce is nasty and consequential for all involved (immediate and extended church family), regardless of innocence.

  6. dr. james willingham says

    I find it distasteful to be the first one to throw cold water, but it is in faithful to the Bible text in all of its ramifications plus the experience of divorce and remarriage plus the effects on the children of divorce that move me to so reply. First, I call attention to the fact that God identifies Himself with the person in a divorce situation. Listen to the Lord in Jer.3:8, “And I saw, when for all the causes hereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce;….” While it is true that the Lord later treats the issue as backslidden children and that he was married to them (Jer.3:14), He was willing to take the drastic step of giving Israel a bill of divorce, putting her away due to her adultery. Which brings to mind a great tragedy, where the forgiveness of God is ignored and the idea that there can never be restoration is promoted. At one of our seminaries a student was offered a job as a faculty member in the music dept. until it was found that his wife had been divorced (due to abuse). Then the offer was taken away and attention was focused on the fact that he had chosen to marry a person that had been divorced. The interesting thing about the whole deal is that the founder of the seminary SWBTS, Dr. B.H. Carroll, was divorced and remarried. He came home from the Civil War and found his wife living with another man. He divorced her and later married another woman (a widow, I think). Then he was called to pastor the FBC of Waco, Texas. After that he founded SWBTS. Under the present rules, he could not even serve on the faculty or administration of the institution which he founded. Talk about irony.

    Consider a real case of adultery by a man of God and even murder to cover it up. Of course, I am thinking of David. You all might be interested to find that he gets promoted to the highest spiritual position in Israel, according to the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost. The Apostle calls the adulterer and murderer who was yet the man after sGod’s own heart, “the patriarch.”(Acts 2:29). I can still remember the shock, when that statement hit my attention.

    A former pastor called attention to the fact that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance on God’s part (Roms.11:29). Having lived through the divorce and remarriage problem from childhood (my parents separated when I was about three years of age and divorced shortly after and later married others), I hated divorce and remarriage, vowing that what had happened to me would never happen to my children. However, as I later found, it takes two to make that resolution. The matter almost cost me my life through suicide. Then God worked the problem out, giving me wife to whom I have been married now (it will be in Sept.) nearly 45 years. During this period I pastored two churches, one for 11 years and another for 12 years. My wife raised my daughter from the first marriage, and our son is now our pastor. He has been pastored of this church for 15 years. They recently voted to give him a three month sabbatical. During my pastorates, I found that my divorce and remarriage status brought people to me for counseling who said that they thought I would understand. The experience of such griefs does open one’s wherewithal to understand what is going on in the personal relationships. This enables one, hopefully, to avoid the mistake made by one pastor. He and his church encouraged a woman to go back to her abusive husband, and that fellow murdered his wife. The pastor said, “We will never do that again.”

    Let me also call attention to the reality that some marriages and relationships need to be ended for protection not only of spouses but children. Here I think of cases involving the sexual abuse of children. Our Lord allowed for divorce involving fornication, a catch all term which would certainly include such evil as incest or pedophilia. One of the reasons why I have a Master’s in counseling from Liberty University is due to the fact that I had five cases in one three month period and it led me to feel like I need training in order to deal with such problems. This is not to denigrate God’s word; it is to affirm it in its highest quality of perspicuity. We can look at the Book, and because it is so clear, we think we understand it, forgetting that Love is the most crucial issue involved. And I mean love for God and for one’s spouse and children. The intellectual and spiritual depths of the word of God are of such nature that we really need all the help we can get to even begin to plumb and fathom its wisdom. An old Puritan said our problem with the Bible is its perspicuity or, in other words, its clarity. Like the fellow who looked down at a clear flowing mountain stream and thought it must be 2-3 feet deep, because he could see the grains of sand rolling along the bottom. He was wrong, and it nearly cost him his life. The depth was about 18-20 feet, and he came close to drowning. God’s word is like that, a great depth, and it can bring life or death (II Cor.2:16).

    We also must not forget that, if God forgives one of a sin, that person is just as if he or she had never sinned. Such was the case with death. though he suffered chastisements for his sins, he still wound up as one of the great leaders of Israel and of the Christian Faith, even a patriarch like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There is more, much more to this than I have covered, but this is sufficient to suggest that we cannot discourage those children who have suffered enough for what happened to the divorce of their parents and who might have suffered from a divorce themselves. Are we going to put such folks in a special class called, “Second class Christianity?”

    • says

      James, there is little substance that you have written here with which I would disagree–to the extent that it makes me wonder if you read the first and last parts of my post. :) I have no desire to treat those who have been through divorce as “second class,” nor do I hold to a theology of divorce that would allow this treatment. My overall point is quite simple: we should discourage divorce culture from making its way into our churches by “looking the other way” during pre-marital counseling, or when a couple start having trouble. Yes, there should be plenty of grace for those who face this, but there should also be MUCH more formative discipline to keep this from happening as much as it is–and the best way is to prevent this sort of thing on the front end.

      • says

        It should also be remembered that while God will forgive a repentant sinner,
        He does not always take away the consequences of our sin.
        Divorce can have huge consequences.
        David R. Brumbelow

  7. volfan007 says

    Also, let me just say this….my Mom and Dad will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in June. They’re both Christians. They’re best friends. And, the example they give of a loving, lasting marriage is huge….and, it exalts Christ.

    I am deeply appreciative of the fact that they’ve been married for so many years.


  8. Chris Johnson says

    Wow…great testimony for the institution of marriage! Need more of those!

  9. says

    I would suggest as a starter that “church discipline” be initiated for any SBC member who is a lawyer or judge that takes a case of divorce and processes it through the legal system. Any takers? I didn’t think so. Just more puffery from the “there outta be a law” section.

    • Adam Blosser says

      “I would suggest as a starter that “church discipline” be initiated for any SBC member who is a lawyer or judge that takes a case of divorce and processes it through the legal system.”

      Good points. I agree.

      • volfan007 says


        Not all divorce is unScriptural. Divorce is not what God intended, nor does He prefer it. But, He does allow it, due to adultery and abandonment, which is what Joel said. The verses are plentiful to back this up….divorce is not what God wants for any married couple….but, He does allow it in cases of adultery and abandonment….if, the couple cannot forgive and work it out.

        So, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.


        • Jake Barker says

          What about having a divorce lawyer or judge as a member of your church, that routinely hands out divorces like they were peppermint candies do you not understand? I did not qualify my statement by saying “But, He does allow it, due to adultery and abandonment, which is what Joel said. The verses are plentiful to back this up….divorce is not what God wants for any married couple….but, He does allow it in cases of adultery and abandonment….if, the couple cannot forgive and work it out.” Does your church allow this type of lawyer to be a Sunday School teacher? Does your church allow this type of lawyer to be a deacon or trustee? Do you allow them to even be members? You want to stop divorces in your church? Stop the lawyers from taking these cases……most “civilians” can’t do a “pro se” divorce so they “hire” an attorney, the attorney takes their case regardless of the circumstances because they need the billable hours to make their BMW payment. What part of this do you not understand……I’ll try to further clarify my statement if you can show me what you do not understand.

          • says

            Hear hear DL!

            May I also point out that many times, divorce lawyers take their jobs not because they approve of divorce (though many as with most of society do) but because they want to see their client be treated fairly throughout all the proceedings, whether they are morally right or not. There use to be a time in this country when women seeking a divorce because their husbands were unfaithful had their children taken from them and were left penniless. Thank the Lord lawyers started representing them. And today, men are sometimes not allowed to see their kids because the women are always given the benefit of the doubt in many divorce cases. Thank God lawyers are willing to represent them.

          • says

            The reason you don’t point out the lawyers parts in the mega business of divorce is that they are usually heavy hitters in the congregation. They donate and tithe, they like their names up in the “kleg lights” of the other members of the congregation, they want people to accept them for what they are not. What they are not is a good Christian. They facilitate divorcings whether the divorce is a scripturally valid one or not, they care not one whit who or what gets hurt……as long as the one they represent gets what they want. Been blinded by the heavy hitters much David?

          • says

            I assume Jake, you are against bon-a-fide criminals (murders, rapists, child molesters) having legal representation too right. I mean, how could a Christian man/woman possibly represent someone so evil and vile!?! Right? Or could it be that in this great countries legal code, everyone has a right to a fair judicial system. Everyone has a right not to be railroaded by the system. To have a fair chance at their voice and their side be heard. Did you know there was a time in this country when “Christians” questioned any lawyer who would dare represent a person of “color”.

            Divorce is wrong, it IS tragic, and Christians should avoid it at any cost. But IF it does happen, both sides need to be represented justly and fairly. So for you to condemn lawyers simply for doing their job. Well, frankly, go jump off a tall bridge!

          • Tarheel says

            Wow. Jake Barker,

            That’s a pretty strong accusation you’ve inferred against Vofan’s character. That he’d be fir purchase and sell out his convictions as you describe.

            I dont know Volfan beyond the conversations we’ve had here on Voices, but he doesn’t strike me as lacking in character as you infer.

            And to think some here have called me belligerent. Wow.

          • Tarheel says

            SV, if I may take your words and add a few ?

            I assume Jake, you are against [those accussed of being] bon-a-fide criminals (murders, rapists, child molesters) having legal representation too right. I mean, how could a Christian man/woman possibly represent someone [even accused of being] so evil and vile!?

            The old saying everyone despises defense lawyers until they or a loved one needs one comes to mind.

            Accusation and even trial does is not always synonymous with guilt…the same us often true in divorces. Ive seen personally where a person sought divorce and the other refused to engage in legal wrangling on the grounds you’re suggesting…she sat back as her soon to be ex husband and his lawyer went after everything she had…she lost big time. She opposed and did not want the divorce but he took advantage of her. Had she gotten a lawyer she wouldn’t have lost thousands of dollars as she was the innocent party…he abandoned her…but since she was unrepresented and not present she got taken to the cleaners because he was a dead beat and she a physician. Literally he got thousands and will get more upon her retirement.

          • Adam Blosser says

            I don’t like everything about the way Jake has presented his argument, but you guys are not really arguing against what he has said. He is saying that there are lawyers sitting in pews all across America who are only interested in making a dime. They don’t care about the Law of God. They don’t care about justice. They care about their pocketbooks.

            This is obviously not true of every lawyer. I would not suggest that this is true of lawyers in your churches. It is really only anecdotal for me because I am not aware of any specific people for which the scenario Jake presents is true. Maybe he does.

            Jake, we don’t want you to give us names obviously, but do you know lawyers who participate in handing out divorces like candy who claim to be believers and are leaders in their churches? I don’t, but I expect you probably do since you seem to be so passionate about this subject.

            Btw, the “jump off a bridge” comment was way out of line.

          • Adam G. in NC says

            Maybe a better question would be “does anyone know of a lawyer that consistently refuses cases because of their church membership and concerns over the Law of God?”

            If you do, you win today’s prize.

          • Jake Barker says

            SVM, you and I have nothing to say to each other.
            Adam Blosser, you have hit the nail on the head…..yes I do know this type of lawyer. I could give names but would get sued, I’m sure. Maybe divorce is not the big business in other states like it is in Oklahoma. More than 90% of the divorces in Oklahoma are filed under the “irreconcilable differences” statute. In other words it is like the Pharisaical rules that one could divorce a woman for “burning ones toast” (paraphrase here). One needs no reason to divorce in Oklahoma other than one wants to go their way without the other party.
            Adam G., you have asked the right question! You get the prize for the day! Yes, I do know a lawyer that has but that lawyer practices primarily in a field called “municipal law” and does little outside that field. I do a good deal of real estate transactions in Oklahoma and use that lawyer extensively precisely because of the high ethics.
            To those I did not call out, I know of and have used other ethical attorneys over the years. I had a close friend that was a bi-vocational Presbyterian preacher/lawyer. He died unexpectedly 4 years or so ago at the age of early 50’s. His ethical standards were of the highest caliber, he made sure that any (and they were few) divorces had good reasons. His contracts for business dealings were square for all parties. His ethics were so high that I requested my adult daughter who was in law school at that time intern in his law firm. She did and is the type of lawyer that a parent can be proud of. I have been represented by a firm that was composed of ORU law school grads. They, to a person were of the highest ethical standards. The code of ethics they subscribed to when they enrolled at ORU (Oral Roberts University) was higher than any state bar I know of and after years of practicing law they still fulfilled those ethics.

          • Jeff Johnson says

            It’s an interesting point to consider, but I don’t see how churches could realistically invoke church discipline against member attorneys who perform divorces. Any reasons for the divorce shared by the client to his/her lawyer (and not published in open court proceedings or filings) would be privileged. Otherwise, would there be someone from the church to monitor the attorney’s docket to see if his divorces are Biblically legit? I’m not saying there could never be cause for the church to get involved, but it would be tricky. If an attorney’s legal practice is clearly and publicly outside of Biblical boundaries, you would hope the church members would take note and not put that person in leadership positions.

            Of course, this principle would apply to more than just attorneys. What about doctors who prescribe birth control to unmarried persons? What about grocery store clerks who sell alcohol to individuals known to get drunk? What about bank employees whose institutions handle accounts for strip club owners or employees? What about gas station attendants who sell lottery tickets? Are we going to start up church discipline for them?

          • says

            Jake if you have nothing to say to me why are you even here? I asked a genuine question and made a genuine point. I guess a civil debate is too much to ask from some people.

          • Adam Blosser says


            Civil debate? hahahaha…You told him to jump off a tall bridge. Give me a break.

          • Tarheel says

            “To those I did not call out, I know of and have used other ethical attorneys over the years. I had a close friend that was a bi-vocational Presbyterian preacher/lawyer.”

            Of course he was ethical he was probably a Calvinist. 😉

  10. Jess says

    I think, first and foremost we preachers are to blame. Secondly the church is to blame. In a true Christian marriage a divorce should be nonexistent.

    Look, there are couples that live together who are not married that attend church almost every Sunday, and are members of that particular church. There are folks who attend church that have been married up to five times that I know of, and never stopped attending church.

    This whole situation just makes me sick. You liberal weak backboned preachers need to take a stand for once in your miserable lives. There is no such thing as discipline anymore, the bleeding heart liberal preachers just will not allow it in the churches. We preachers need to wear boxers or briefs instead of panties. Our sermons are designed not to make anyone mad. What ever happened to the sons of thunder? Some will get on their computer and sound so smart but in reality are dumber than a coal bucket. We have to see the local church members get saved, and this nonsense will stop. Kids getting saved at 4, 5, and 6 years old is just a big lie, children don’t even know what sin is at that age, and all they will do is grow up lost. It’s no wonder the divorce rate is so high among what suppose to be Christians.

    Outstanding post, I’m sure none of this will apply to any on Voices.

      • Dale Pugh says

        Sounds like a Jess from the past. Hmmmm……..”coal bucket”? Sounds somewhat familiar……..

        Jess, I’ll just say that I’d rather have them sitting in the pew of my church hearing the truth of the Bible and what it says about marriage, family, AND divorce than to not be touched by God’s Word at all. I guarantee you that I do not mince words, and I wear big boy underwear.

    • Dave Miller says

      C’mon, Jess. That kind of personal insult is just not necessary. You can do better than that.

      • Jess says

        Dave, if this is a personal insult, so be it. Things have to change in our churches. Folks are not saved and on their way to hell. There are folks that ask me what did the preacher say, because they fell asleep. Folks have asked me what was the preacher talking about. I would say, not much of nothing. We have to get out of the valley of dry bones and let the Holy Spirit lead us.

        I stand firm on what I’ve said. It may not be eloquent or watered down but it’s the truth. I make no apologizes for what I’ve said.

        I mentioned this probably wouldn’t apply to any on Voices, evidentially it did. So be it.

        Dale Pugh, There is a difference in having them sitting in the pew of one’s church and contributing to that life style by not preaching the truth.

      • Jess says

        Dave, if this is a personal insult, so be it. Things have to change in our churches. Folks are not saved and on their way to hell. There are folks that ask me what did the preacher say, because they fell asleep. Folks have asked me what was the preacher talking about. I would say, not much of nothing. We have to get out of the valley of dry bones and let the Holy Spirit lead us.

        I stand firm on what I’ve said. It may not be eloquent or watered down but it’s the truth. I make no apologizes for what I’ve said.

        I mentioned this probably wouldn’t apply to any on Voices, evidentially it did. So be it.

        Dale Pugh, There is a difference in having them sitting in the pew of one’s church and contributing to that life style by not preaching the truth.

      • Dave Miller says

        Labelling us all as a bunch of “liberal weak backboned preachers” is just not acceptable.

        Whom on voices have you heard preach? Me? Any of us? How do you know any of us are liberal? Weak backboned?

        Until you have listened to us preach you might want to refrain from calling anyone liberal or weak backboned. You are making a range of insulting generalizations about Christian men and Christian churches. You are insulting the people of God in harsh and degrading ways. Maybe you ought to check your rhetoric a little.

        Yes, there are problems in all churches and in American Christianity. But this kind of nuclear condemnation is not of God and does not solve anything.

        • Jess says

          Dave, I will tone it down, I will be glad to because you asked in a manly way. By the way, they thought of John the Baptist in the same way you are depicting me, when he called the religious crowd a den of vipers. I know I’m no John the Baptist, but the same one who called him is the same one who called me. I will try to put a little vanilla on the rest of my comments. Dave, things are worse than you think they are.

          • says

            Jess, John the Baptist did indeed use harsh language when speaking to and about a certain group of people. But he did not make blanket statements, and he did not call people “vipers” who were not. You are indeed lumping the many with the few. That is where you are wrong and off base. That is what you are being confronted about.

    • says

      I do not believe what I see written here. I simply detest the statement “that does not deserve a response”. However, here I all make an exception, it is applicable.

  11. Darrel says

    Divorce. As bad as it is, it’s not the real problem for the church. The pulpit is the real problem. Half-baked “sermons” that leave the hearers scratching their heads rather than searching their hearts. Meaningless philosophical rants intended to show off rather than edify. Endless debates about the real meaning of Scripture instead of clear-cut expository messages that leave no doubt (try preaching Romans or Ephesians verse by verse and conclude the Arminians know what they are talking about). The concern for the divorce rate is a sham, a cover for the real and as yet to be realized problem that most people on the church roles are lost, and deep down could care less for the demands of the Lord Jesus on their life. This goes all the way to the top of the role as (SBC) preachers stand in the pulpit and spout outright heresy with no one in their audience with the sense or the gumption to challenge them (name, church and date on request). As shameful and hurtful as divorce is (church member or not) it isn’t close to the shame one will bear as he stands before the Lord naked and empty-handed, speechless and alone, waiting for the final sentence to be heard “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Saving face before the world with a zero divorce rate is meaningless if the percentage of the saved in your church is also zero.

        • volfan007 says

          BTW, Darrel, I’m preaching thru the book of Romans, right now….on Sunday mornings. We’ve been in Romans for quite a while now. I just started chapter 9, last Sunday. And, guess what? I’m not a Calvinist, nor am I considering becoming a Calvinist….even though I’m preaching verse by verse thru the book of Romans.


          • Chris Johnson says

            Brother Vol,
            You’ve got that far and haven’t gone all Calvin on us! I’ve got to reach out to the new apostle in Georgia and ask why, why!


          • volfan007 says

            I’m working on Romans 9:10-15 right at this moment. Took a break to see what was being said over here…


    • Adam G. in NC says

      Honestly, I can’t say I disagree. All of Israel is not Israel.
      You’re not dissin’ “The Bride” when the folks claiming to be the bride is really just a late bridesmaid.

  12. says

    Woah there buddy. That escalted quickly with you Jess!

    I think that we really do need to stand firm for marriage. The results of divorce speak clearly about the damage it causes to families and children.

    I think with the high divorce rate in churches it will become increasingly difficult for churches to find deacons/pastors who do not have that past. If a church is reaching the community and seeing new salvations, it’s likely that there will be many people who have been divorced, and it will have to be decided what a church will do. There are many baptist churches that let divorced men be deacons, I’m sure. I know of one in my town. It was quite the scandal in our small town.

    This is a great article and I thank you for the admonition to boldly proclaim God’s word in a world that doesn’t want to hear it.

  13. says

    Great article!

    My wife and I discussed divorce once: before we were married we quickly agreed that it wasn’t an option and that it would never come up. That was 18 years ago, and it hasn’t yet. We’re not perfect, but I try to lead by example, being the first one to sacrifice. Too often my wife beats me to the punch and does some sacrificial thing for me before I can do some sacrificial thing for her. Trust in marriage is built on mutual self-sacrifice.

    We live in a culture that doesn’t value sacrifice. Some accounts of sacrifice are portrayed as romantic events and everyone is temporarily moved. Then we all get out in the real world and fight each other so that we can get what we want. The waiter didn’t do something right and we get bent out of shape and give them or the manager an earful. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we ride their bumper or someone tries to pass us and we speed up so they can’t. We suspect someone’s motives at church or work is evil and instead of practicing church discipline appropriately, we malign their character out of hand, accuse them of things they are not guilty of, or intentionally make life miserable for them so they will learn not to mess with us.

    Then we do the same kinds of things to our spouses and wonder why they want a divorce. After all, they are the evil ones and not us. We act horribly around people and expect them to bow to our superior moral will. We fail to realize that we are just as bad if not worse.

    Practice living sacrificially for your spouse and you will have joy in your marriage beyond measure for that joy will come from your imitation of Christ. You will also learn how to sacrifice for others as well and your joy will multiply.

  14. Moz says


    “The bottom line is this: Marriage is a picture of the Gospel, which means that to divorce for unBiblical reasons is to preach with your actions a false Gospel. In this way, to divorce is to do with actions what a false teacher might do with his words.”

    I enjoyed this piece and share in your view that divorce is a tragedy. I also agree that marriage is a picture of the Gospel. But it’s the line beginning ‘in this way” that has caused me to think. You seem here (and in the title) to be drawing a line between divorce and heresy; liking those who commit unBiblical (sic) divorce with those who are false teachers. But I would suggest there is a meaningful difference between failing to live up to a picture of a thing and denying the thing in itself. As you’re aware, false teachers are roundly held to be children of Satan, marked out for condemnation, etc etc. I don’t think you’re saying that those who have been unBiblically divorced and who are unrepentant are to be regarded as being outside the faith as one would with a person who denies the incarnation or resurrection, for instance.

    So what exactly is the relationship between divorce and heresy? Is it (A) entailment, such that those who are unBiblically divorced ARE heretics, (B) possible correlation, that those who are unBiblically divorced MAY BE heretics, or (C) those who are unBiblically divorced must prove they are NOT heretics otherwise should be regarded as such, or (D) unless they deny outright some orthodox position of the faith, their unBiblical divorce should be viewed as an act of immaturity but otherwise we should receive them as members, at the Table, etc. Or, maybe something else?

    Again, great post.

    Peace and love,

  15. Jess says

    I would like to point out something about divorce. Let’s say we have two genuinely born again believers in Christ who marry one another, remember I said genuine born again believers in Christ. If they divorce for reasons other than what the scriptures declare, can they marry again? The answer is no in God’s eyes. Oh, but preacher what if they repent? They can repent all they want but if they marry again they will be living in adultery. That is Bible.

    • Jess says

      In finishing my comment, doesn’t the Bible say that no adulterer has eternal life abiding in him. That is why a genuine Christian will not marry again, but will be reunited with their spouse or remain unmarried. For a genuine Christian (so called) to marry again means they were not genuine to begin with and are lost. I’ve tried to be as delicate as I could here.

      • says

        You apparently do not have a concept of forgiveness. Or do you believe is the garbage theology that is “Christian perfectionism?” Tell me Jess, do you sin? If you say yes, you are no better than the adulterers. If you say no, you are a liar (1st John 1:5-10).

        • Jess says

          SVMuschany, I cannot believe you have no concept of what is truth. Sir, your doctrine is severely flawed, This is what I was talking about when I spoke of liberals. Yes I sin, but I do not practice sinning. That is different than someone who willfully practices sinning. You know better than that, please stick to the scripture.

      • says


        So you are saying that a person who is divorced and remarried is not saved. Nonsense! Yes, I said earlier that I would not respond to you but poor judgement got the better of me.

        My brother in law is the most God trusting man that I have know. He is divorced and remarried.

        Again your position cannot be defended regardless of how much scripture you quote out of context.

        • Jess says

          DL Payton, All I ask is that you look at what Jesus said about divorce and look at 1Cornithians at what Paul said about divorce. If I have to hunt the Scriptures for you, I will.

          DL, Sir, I’m not saying anything I am quoting scripture. I am saying if someone is divorced within the parameters of scripture they can remarry, if not, when they remarry they are living in adultery.

          Shucks, I’ll make time to drag out the particular verses, on my next comment. You guys are fighting a losing battle here. I’m 100% right about this.

          • says

            Jesus also said that if you even look at a woman with lust in your heart you are an adulterer. Tell me Jess, have you ever looked at a person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse and said to yourself, “boy, they are attractive.” If you say no, I will call you a liar. If you say yes, then by the mouth of Jesus you too are an adulterer. Guess you can’t be a Christian then right?

          • says


            I surrender! I’m done with this interaction. Your contextual tomfoolery and arrogance has gotten the better of me.

            Have a good night.

      • dr. james willingham says

        Well, Jess, I guess you are aiming at me. After all, I am divorced and remarried. Let me ask: How are you Jess? I began resisting the liberal preachers views clear back in the early 60s, more than 50 years ago. D.L., who has already commented, can attest to the reality of what I say. And, if a person who marries again is an adulterer and has no forgiveness, pray tell me how David who committed adultery and murder to cover it up got to be “the patriarch,” a major spiritual leader in Israel? And are you going to have some strong words to say about God like: “How dare you divorce Israel.” The problem is that God identifies with the sinner to the point of being made sin for us in His atoning, redeeming death. And are you saying you never committed adultery at all in your life? Not even in thought which in the mind and heart is where the sin begins? Do you think it is okay to get a woman murdered as did that pastor and his church to whom I made reference in my comment? How about the fellow who sexually abuses his children. You going to advocate that there is no justification for divorce in the face of such evil? Jesus, our Lord, made an exception for divorce in the case of fornication, a catch all term which would include incest and pedophilia. And have you seen the evil done to children by such actions? The horrendous sufferings of a life time that it causes? Are you aware that a woman missionary sued the Foreign Mission Board, when they refused to pay attention to her effort to get them to deal with her missionary husband who was sexually abusing their children? I think the result was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And why not considering the terrible and wicked evil done to those children who were not even considered in the effort to ignore and cover it up. Even Rome has found out that it has cost them over a billion (a billion and a half at the last accounting I had of it…which was sometime ago) to deal with the lawsuits over their pedophile priests. Jess, I don’t think you are in touch with biblical realism. The word of God written deals with such problems, but you have to know when and where it does and how it does. And shall I mention the Florida Baptist Convention and its likelihood of having to pay a lawsuit of over a million for a child sexual abuse case?

        As far as standing up to the liberals, you might want to know that doing a scholarly job in seeking to answer them almost got me kicked out of the doctoral program at SEBTS when it was noted for being the most liberal seminary in the SBC. How much have you suffered for being faithful to God’s truth, when it cost you a future, churches, jobs, livelihood, etc. The one consolation I had was what our son said to me in ’97 (he was then a student at SEBTS): “If you had not been faithful, I would not be where I am today.” The only people who go to Heaven are sinners, forgiven sinners, and these include murderers, adulterers, fornicators, pedophiles, homosexuals, thieves, idolaters, blasphemers, etc. As Paul said in I Cors. 6:11, “And such were some of you; but you are washed, but your are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God.” See vss.9,10 of that chapter for the list, but then Paul must have been wrong according to you.

        • says

          And that ladies and gentlemen is how, if you pardon a “young’n’s” expression how the boom gets lowered down. AMEN Dr.W!!! AMEN!

        • Jess says

          James, I have to add, no one practicing these things you mentioned will not make it to heaven. The Bible says only the righteous will inherit heaven.

          • says


            I’m thankful that my righteousness is found in Jesus Christ. It is nothing that I have done, or will do, He is a faithful God, full of forgiveness and grace.

            What you seem to advocate is a works-based righteousness. The basic root meaning of sin in Hebrew is “missing the mark.” Therefore, anything we do, we miss the mark. Divorce does miss the mark of God, but also, if you look at a woman with lust, then you have missed the mark of God. If you don’t love your wife, child, or neighbor like you should, then you have missed the mark.

            Praise God that our righteousness is found in Jesus!

            Thomas A. Magers, II

        • Jess says

          James, I have suffered for the name of Christ. I wasn’t allowed to pray in one place I worked because I prayed in Jesus name. The other people would just say a general prayer and say in your name. I almost had to fist fight in church because of drugs being sold in church. My life has been threatened. I’ve been called criminal, no good, no count, and a few other names that I will not mention. I thank God for every minute of it.

          • dr. james willingham says

            Yeah, Jess: Try preaching while someone stands outside shooting into the auditorium of the church with a 22 rifle. You brought it back to my mind. If the fellow had been position just right, he would have taken me out. I would, very likely, not be here chatting with you affably. Tell me, Jess, how you can have any hope of Heaven at all, when you have committed adultery in your mind and heart? David committed adultery and murder, and I dare say he is sin Heaven. Or would you say he is not? Ever hear of the Pharisees of whom our Lord spoke so graphically? Now you talk about someone who had little hope of Heaven, those birds definitely had little hope though our Lord did save some of them as Paul is an example. God also saves adulterers, fornicators, etc. Just consider the fellow who had his father’s wife in I Cors. In II Cors. Paul recommends, as most scholars think, that they take the fellow back. But how, if he is going to bust hell wide open? Come on, Jess, God gave you a mind. Use it.

  16. Tarheel says

    Is this Jess the same Jess that used to post here several months ago?

    They sure seem to have a lot in common, anyway.

  17. Jess says

    First I would like to point out one of the commandments. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

    In Mark 10:9-11, Whosoever shall put away his wife and marries another commits adultery, same goes for the woman. These are Jesus’s words not mine.

    Matt. 19:9, Whosoever shall put away his wife except for fornication, and shall marry another committeth adultery.

    1 Cor. 7:10-11, Let not the wife depart from her husband, if she departs let her remain unmarried.

    In this same chapter is the parameters I spoke about. Plus there are a few more that is sort of hidden.

    I’ve taken nothing out of context nor twisted the scripture in any way.

    I’ll go on a little and make this plain. There are reasons that one can get remarried. Death of spouse, unbelieving spouse departs, adultery, fornication ( different than adultery), physical abuse, if there is physical abuse, there is no love, Mental abuse, which is as bad as physical abuse.
    Also there are a few more.

    You guy’s know this.

    • says

      “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman with lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” – Matthew 5:27-28

      So Jess, I will ask you again. Have you ever looked at someone who is not your spouse, and thought they were attractive? Did the thought/image of them last for any amount of time in your head? Do you have the guts to answer honestly?

      • Jess says

        SVM, I will answer your question before I leave until the fall of this year. There are a lot of attractive women, but you are confused about what Jesus is talking about. If we look at a woman and lust after her, another words, I would if I could, then we have committed adultery in our hearts. No, I have never looked at a woman in that way. I have been faithful to my wife for over 40 years. I have had the chances to be unfaithful but I don’t want to be. I love God and my wife. She has been the only one I have ever wanted. I would rather die than betray her. Is that guts enough for you.

        • Andy says

          I think you are working off of an errant definition of “Lust”, equating lust only to “I would if I could”, ie, it is only lust if you really and truly would pursue fornication with that person if you knew you could get away with it.

          I don’t think this is all that lust entails.

  18. Jess says

    I think the problem here is a confusion of legal marriage (worldly) and God’s appointment of two people to marry.

  19. says

    When I decided to start commenting on “Voices” a few months ago i agreed to be civil in my comments. Not only did i agree, but that is my desire, my heart. I promised myself and my wife of 50 years that I would curb my tongue and abide by the rules of the blog.

    Some of these comments have stretched me to the limit and I suspect I have crossed the line. for that I do apologize to you the moderator. I will say no more on this thread. Thank you for your patience.

  20. Darrel says

    What a fine bunch of guys. Great theologians, masterful intellects, orators of extraordinary prowess. What a pleasure to be allowed on this site. I see you even have your own personal whipping boy, Jess is it? Some of you treat him short, not so sweet, and down right nasty; while others are the smooth talkers, with seemingly unassailable reasoning powers and logical (=short-sighted) to refute what your whipping boy has to say—never mind that his hypothetical was 100% true, Biblical, & well written. It’s more important to eviscerate a commenter than consider what he says even if your thinking does not go as far as his does (which is the obvious case given the vitriol Jess endures from the likes of, well, all of you). Oh, you’ve presented your case, Scripture included, but as is typical of the ego-centric responders here, the Scriptures cited have nothing to do with what Jess brought up. Why is that? Maybe this is just another good-ole-boys SBC hang-out and the likes of Jess are unwelcome. YES/NO?

    • volfan007 says

      Wow, I’ve never been called a “smooth talker” before. Darrel, I hope you were including me on that one!?!


      • Darrel says

        Actually David, I thought you to be a better fit in the “short, not so sweet, and down right nasty” category.

        • volfan007 says

          Not so sweet and down right nasty? Ouch! That hurts….

          Also, I’m not really short. I’ve over 6 feet tall….but….


          • volfan007 says


            I’m 6’1″….really. In my younger days, I was 6’2″….but, for some reason I’ve been shrinking, here lately.


    • says

      Wow…according to some in the blogosphere, SBCVoices is the vanguard of the group that is trying to take over the SBC with our “evil” Calvinist leanings. Now SBCVoices is the gold-ole-boys hangout of the SBC? So i guess that means the takeover is successful? I have a hard time keeping all these conspiracy theories straight.

      Of course, as Occam’s Razor would suggest, among competing hypothesis’, the hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions tends to be correct. So lets see. On a board that frequently has many “lively” discussions on various topics from various points of view, when most of those posters who normally don’t agree actually do all agree on something, that either means, the new and few posters who caused the group to agree are wrong, OR the regular posters are apart of some “good-ole-boy” network keeping the “honest” and “faithful” people down. Which one seems to be more likely?

    • dr. james willingham says

      Logical, Darrel? I think I would be very careful at this point. Why? Lest I find I have gotten crosswise of the Lord. Just consider Roms.12:2 and the phrase, “your reasonable service.” In the original, the Greek, it reads, tan logikan. Now the term logikan is actually a form of the word logical. Thus, the phrase could be rendered, “Which is your logical service.” Wow! God uses the term logical with us; He reasons with us as He says in Isa.1:18. Even the first word of appeal in the Gospel, repent, is an appeal to the mind, an appeal for a change of mind based upon reasoning through what God is saying and coming to the conclusion that He is right. Then one changes one’s mind and conduct. The definitions of repentance in the 1700s took such a view, using the term “reflection.” Take a look at Dr. John Gill’s discussion of the issue along with many of the Puritans.

  21. volfan007 says

    In all seriousness, Jess and Darrel, I agree with you that a person should not remarry, unless adultery was the reason for the divorce. The Bible allows divorce due to adultery and abandonment. Remarriage is allowed for those people, whose spouse committed adultery, and left them, and the offended person just can’t deal with it…..can’t get past it. Divorce is allowed by God in those circumstances. And, remarriage is allowed by God in that circumstance.


    • says

      David, I don’t think anyone here nessesaraly disagrees with what you just said. What at least I, STRONGLY disagree with is the position that Jess stated, that if you divorce for unbiblical reasons, that means you were never saved. That is a position that I find repulsive and will speak up against 110% of the time.

  22. Jess says

    Dave, my wife warned me not to come back to Voices because I would get so agitated. I don’t have anything against any one here. I’m sorry for being so blunt, I do have strong convictions when it comes to NT doctrine. I’ve only studied it for 37 years. I know I come across in a peculiar way. I can’t help that, it’s the mountain in me. I’m sorry if I offended anyone, I probably did, knowing me. I love everyone on here, we are all in the same fight, and a tuff one I might add. I will catch everyone in the fall season. I’ve spent too much time on Voices already.

    Thanks Dave, talk to you in the fall. God bless all of you.

    • volfan007 says


      I think we’d all love for you to stay with us, and converse. But Brother, when you come in breathing fire, and hammering people over the head, you shouldn’t be surprised when some of the people fire right back.

      I hope you stick around…..don’t hibernate up in the mountains…what mountains do you live in, BTW?


      • Jess says

        volfan007, brother, I expect for folks to come right back, that is what commenting is all about. I do get agitated from time to time that is good for the soul. Lol. I have a lot of work to do and I’m very busy, I know you understand that. You’re one of my favorite people to talk to on Voices, and Dave is a good moderator.

        I hope to talk with you this fall, God bless.

  23. Dean Stewart says

    Vol, if Jess is gone back into hibernation I will take a stab at answering your question. It seems from my memory Jess lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the great state of West Virginia. I THINK I remember a few discussions we had on hunger relief efforts he is involved in. I hope my memory hasn’t failed me.

    • volfan007 says

      West Virginia. Yep, he’s a mountain man, then. My local Association went to W. VA on mission trips every year for like 13 or 15 years. We went to the Harts and Ferrelsburg area….near Big Ugly and Logan.

      Jess, do you live near this area?


      • Dean Stewart says

        Vol, my family on my Father’s side are from the Martinsburg, Shepherdstown portion of WV. I can testify that being plain spoken is a trait that comes natural to West Virginians. I never wondered how they felt about a thing. What seems to be bluntness to others was just natural conversation to my kinfolk. No offense was ever meant.

      • dr. james willingham says

        Our son leads a group of his members up to West Virginia and Kentucky to help an orphanage. They have been doing so for a number of years. It is sad to see someone who thinks he understands a subject, because he can cite a few verses to make out a case for what he believes the Bible actually teaches. It is sort of like the eschatological issue. Some write or have written in that field in order to manipulate people. The same goes for the biblical teachings on marriage. This is not saying that Jess does. I think he does not, but he might well, without knowing it, be coming at us from a framework laid out long ago, like the blinders on horses bridles, to keep them focused and from shying. I have a pamphlet over 50 years old, presenting all that Jess argues, and I am aware of writings on the issue that go back, way back. I am also aware of writings that take a contrary position, finding statements in the word of God which are contrary to such approach. Our problem is that the word of God is a great deep; it makes the Mariannas Trench a superficial depth in comparison to God’s word. Just consider how Rahab the harlot is played up by the Bible, no less, as an ancestor of our Lord and Savior!!!! And then there is David whose adulterous partner, Bathsheba, is the means of providing an heir who will also be in the line of ancestors for our Lord. There is more, but I am tired, having had little sleep last night due to taking care of an invalid wife.

  24. Dale Pugh says

    I knew it was our old Jess the minute I read his comment! “Dumber than a coal bucket” gave him away.

  25. Dave Miller says

    This is not WWE.

    We can have a conversation without the nonsense. Darrel, you need to slow your roll a little, sir.

  26. Tarheel says

    So guys, I have a practical question. I would value input and discussion on it.

    I will start with two statements.

    1. The Unbiblical divorce is a sin.

    2. Remarriage after an unbibical divorce is both a compounding and a separate sin of adultery.

    So my question is; how exactly is repentance of the act of adultery (with the second marriage) to be demonstrated?

    • says

      I’m interested in other thoughts on this as well. If a couple comes to the church, having been divorced and remarried before becoming members, can they serve as teachers? Greeters? Camp sponsors? Would churches draw a line in the sand and say “here and no further”

      Are their churches that wouldn’t take them as members? Is the answer for them to divorce and go back to their first marriage?

      How is repentance to be demonstrated is a great way of putting the question. I think it’s one that we all will have to deal within our churches.

      Of course, repentance is in the heart. So it is an inward act, a literal changing of the mind in regard to their sin. But is there to be an outward demonstration of that?

      • volfan007 says

        Luke and Tarheel,

        You can’t unscramble the egg, once you’ve already scrambled it. And, 2 wrongs don’t make a right. That’s the way I’d look at 2 people, who got married, and their divorces were not Scriptural divorces. God can and will forgive them. And, now that they’re married, they should stay together.


        • Tarheel says

          I understand that…but to follow up…

          Aren’t they then living in a lifestyle of adultery?

          • volfan007 says

            Adultery has been done. Now, they’re married to each other. They can’t undue the fact that they committed the sin. But, God can forgive them. And, I don’t think that it would be good to divorce, again. So, my opinion is no….they’re not living in adultery. They are married.

            I’m just saying that’s the way I figure on something like this. It’s a hard thing to understand….that’s for sure.


          • Tarheel says

            Yea, it is.

            But if these beleivers are unbiblically divorced, and therefore unbiblically married again, should we endorse their staying in that lifestyle of adultry by staying in the unbiblical marriage and continuing to commit adultery?

          • Tarheel says

            I was asked this recently, well several years ago, when an athiest wondered why so many evangelical Christians supported John McCain who has been married multiple times and left a trail of adultery in his wake.

            She made the point, using scripture mind you, that he (and many within our churches) was living in a constant state of adultery according to the words of Jesus – and wondered aloud as to why Christians ignore that….then she made a bee line to saying that Christians had no moral authority to address homosexuality and “gay marriage” since we ignore these issues.

            Her words still haunt me, to be honest.

          • Tarheel says

            In fact doesn’t Jesus when addressing this issue (divorce) withhold the “commits adultery and she with him” until he invokes “and marries another.”?

          • Jeff Johnson says

            Let’s say a man divorces his wife and marries another man. He is then saved and feels convicted for having divorced his wife, who has not remarried. Wouldn’t we counsel him to forsake the homosexual marriage and attempt to be reconciled to his wife? Would our counsel change if the man left to marry another woman? This new marriage would be sinful, just as the gay marriage would be. I suppose one could argue that the gay marriage is different because it is not a “marriage” as defined by God and thus void from the very beginning. Unless you are willing to call the adulterous male-female marriage similarly void, wouldn’t it be just as wrong for the repentant man to divorce his current wife as it was for him to divorce the first? Tough questions.

  27. says

    I will be the first to stick my neck out. Dr. T.B. Maston of a generation ago said that the act of adultery was committed at only the first sexual encounter. Repentance and forgiveness are sought as in any other sin. I was taught that this was a major school of thinking a generation ago. As I understand that line of thinking it is the same as a linear action verb i. e. salvation forgives sins past, present, and future.

    I am not really sure I accept this completely but it might have some some merit. I think part of the issue is why separate this sin from other sins and set it aside as something special or different.

    • Dale Pugh says

      “….why separate this sin from other sins and set it aside as something special or different.”

      Seems that this is exactly what’s being advocated by the direction of some comments here.

      • says

        Exactly. I take issue with that. Sin is sin, should not the same “rules” apply to all sins not just divorce. We often use the scripture “God hates divorce”, and indeed He does. Does that mean however, that He does not hate wife beating, bank robbing, murder etc. God hates ALL sin.

        As far as living in adultery is concerned…..we all live in a state of continual willful sin. Be honest it is WILLFUL. We do not accidentally sin we do so willfully. So however one answers the question of each of us living in continual willful sin the same answer applies to remarriage, does it not?

        • Jeff Johnson says


          Good point. Do you think there is a difference between “sinful habits”, which we all have, and “habitual sin” which characterizes someone who is not a believer? I think the difference lies in whether there is an ongoing battle in that person’s life; i.e., is the Spirit at war with the flesh? Or is there no indwelling Spirit to do battle? As C.S. Lewis put it (I’m going from memory here), “Failures will be forgiven. It is acquiescence that is fatal. We will never in this life drive the invader completely out of our territory, but we must be in the resistance . . .” The difficult question is how to fight the battle when, for example, you are someone who has entered an unbiblical marriage.

    • Tarheel says

      Hmmm…I am not sure I buy the one and done (no pun intended) argument here.

      Adultery is only the first time? Is that true for fornication too?

      That just seems, well, rather shallow.

      • says

        I was taught that in seminary in 1966 and I am still mulling it over. In the argument it is not so much the one time and no more idea but it is the understanding of salvation bringing forgiveness of sins PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. In this line of thinking when I was saved I was forgiven of sins that i had not even committed yet, “for by grace are you saved..” is linear in action meaning that I was saved, am being saved., and will continue to be saved. Hence it follows sins forgiven past, present, future.

        Again that is the argument, It has merit. Admittedly I still have questions. However I have not in the years since heard anything better.

        • says

          I want to be very clear here. I am not advocating this position. I am simply delineating what I have been taught. I will say however again that i have heard nothing better.

          For me there is a bottom line. I am opposed to singling out divorce for special treatment in dealing with sin. I am oppose to viewing divorced people as second class church members. I am opposed to viewing divorce as a worse sin than other sins.

        • says

          You have been forgiven of all your sins by the covering of the blood of the Lord, the past, the present and the future sins. But this grace does not give us license to sin as i am sure you agree. The Law condemns all sin and every sin earns eternal condemnation for the Law is One in Unity and to break any part of it is to break all of it. But the Law no longer condemns true believers because Jesus died in our place and has already experienced the death we deserved and still earn. We read in Romans 4:

          Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
          “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
          And whose sins have been covered.
          “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

          We are blessed because God does not take our sin into account. God does not count our sins against us. So we should stop sinning. Thus those who stop sinning [by getting married or by discontinuing adultery] are not counted as sinners. Those who reject this morality [by keep sinning] show they are not of God.

          • says

            Yes I do agree, it is not a license to sin. Rom 6 “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound, God forbid…”

            I am not clear what you are saying in last paragraph. Is a person who is married after divorce part of your “keep sinning” statement. Not disagreeing just not clear what you are saying. ‘splain this to me.

            BTW you have an awfully good grasp of scripture.

      • says

        Let me address the word “shallow”. I do basically believe what I have stated here. However based on my affirmation of inerrancy, infallibility, and my belief that the Bible is to be taken literally (as I suspect that you and most all who comment here believe) I do wonder sometime, late at night when no one is listening, if I may be guilty of exegetical gymnastics in dealing with problem passages.

        That could be seen as “shallow” I admit.

        • Tarheel says

          DL, please know that I was in no way calling you shallow…I did not mean to imply that. I was saying that I wasn’t buying what your prof sold ya back in the day….and I am still not sure that I do. 😉

  28. says

    My wife’s former pastor committed adultery with his secretary while both were married to another. It was sin. They both got divorced by their spouses, as per the right of those offended spouses. Then the man married the woman and have stayed together 30 odd years. Their sin was in their sex outside of marriage. When they [hopefully] repented and married, they no longer are living in sin.
    My wife and i had sex before marriage -sin. But when we married, we were no longer in sin.
    David had sex with Bathsheba -sin. But when he married her, no longer sin.
    Now a Christian who sins has that sin NOT accounted to him or her in a judgmental way. They are not under the Law. Like a child who disobeys a parent is not disowned. So we, when we disobey God, are not condemned [though we again earn condemnation, we never receive it].

    So in a practical way, those that commit adultery and remarry have sinned twice [in committing adultery on ones spouse and marrying after causing divorce], but are not in sin simply because they are married to one they should not have married.

    The sin is not ongoing UNLESS the sinful situation [sex outside of marriage] is ongoing.

  29. Tarheel says

    I gotcha, and I am trying to sort though all this…so understand that from the offset…

    “So in a practical way, those that commit adultery and remarry have sinned twice [in committing adultery on ones spouse and marrying after causing divorce], but are not in sin simply because they are married to one they should not have married.

    The sin is not ongoing UNLESS the sinful situation [sex outside of marriage] is ongoing.”

    As in the example given above…how would your (and my counsel be different if one of the spouses joined themselves to member of same sex. Would we say that they sinned in joining but they are joined now?

    We argue that homosexual unions are invalid because they violate God’s law and instruction and therefore should be abandoned in a demonstration of repentance….so why do we not teach that unbiblical second (and third, and fourth) marriages are also invalid (because Jesus says that if one divorces one and marries another he commits adultery with her and she with him) and therefore should be likewise abandoned in demonstration of repentance?

    • says

      You spoke of third and fourth marriages. To be honest this is where it gets difficult for me. A person makes a mistake and it results in a divorce. He does not want to be alone. In fact God said that it was not good for man to be alone. He gets married again. This unfortunately happens. But again and again?? How does, or does this effect/affect what is being said. I am not talking about a legalistic number of any kind. But is there something about that person that one could conclude scripturally that he is not saved?

      I don’t know…any one want to wade in??

      BTW maybe a better word than “shallow” would be “cop out”. I wonder if maybe that is done sometime on difficult subjects.

      • says

        I am not a pastor, but a lay person. But if I was asked about such a man or woman, I would say that he or she needed to lengthen their engagement time, and submit to pre-marriage counseling. Like the OP says, marriage fidelity is gospelistic and infidelity or divorce is anti-Gospel. In fact, I would imagine that a pastor would insist on such counseling before marrying anyone and especially one recently divorced.

        • says

          Do you think it is a counseling marriage identity issue or is it a mindset/life style type of thing that shows no fruit of regeneration.

          I am thinking that one time is a mistake. But would multiply times be something more?

    • says

      There is no such thing as marriage to the same sex. Thus they would be in a continual state of sinning.

      As to multiple marriages….
      if they were done before conversion, let it go.
      If one is get divorced multiple times and remarrying, and is calling themselves a Christian, than his congregation is in error as well for allowing this habitual sin to go unrepentant. Of course there are always exceptions, like if his spouses keep dying on him. But in general, such a person is not getting the pastoral counseling needed and if he wont submit to counseling, don’t allow him to married in the church. I.E. church discipline

  30. Tarheel says


    “There is no such thing as marriage to the same sex. Thus they would be in a continual state of sinning”

    Oh we agree there obviously – but I’m wondering if a second marriage after an unbiblical divorce does not likewise place the couple in a “constant state of sinning.”

        • says

          The question is, in their present situation, what does God want them to do.
          They can’t change the past.
          We all wish we could change the past. can’t be done.
          So if they are repentant, forgive, counsel and restore and pray that God heals.

          • Tarheel says

            I don’t can continual sinful acts be repented for and restored without the ceasing the activity?

            Again, I’m just working at thinking this thru.

          • says

            The sinful act was getting married when one or the other or both were improperly divorced.
            Marriage as a continuous relationship isn’t a sinful act.
            They shouldn’t have married, but they did.
            When one sins, one needs to repent.
            But repentance doesn’t change the fact that one sinned.
            Neither does forgiveness.
            What did Jesus say, “Go and sin no more.”

  31. says

    To look at it another way, what if one of the two knows nothing of the other’s improper divorce.
    What then?
    Are they both living in sin?
    Should they divorce?
    No to both ?’s.
    The one needs to repent and forgiveness mercy and healing need to take place.

  32. Dave Miller says

    I’ve been busy and allowed this to go on way too long.

    C’mon folks, it doesn’t have to be like that.