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 Vol. 7, No. 1 

January 2005

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

Image Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.

Is a Legal Divorce Required?

By Louis Rushmore

Image If a couple is living in an adulterous marriage are they supposed to stop living together or are they supposed to get a divorce too?

Some of the details regarding the sinful situations into which people get themselves are not specifically stated in the New Testament. Under those circumstances, it may be necessary to use one's best judgment as one earnestly tries to follow what Scripture does specify. Further, there is usually a course of action that can be pursued by which one can have full assurance that he or she has made necessary amendment to his or her life (i.e., a way that cannot be wrong).

In the case under consideration, that means a man and a woman who discover that they are in a biblically adulterous marriage (1) must stop cohabiting (i.e., sleeping together), and (2) they may want to obtain a legal divorce to make sure that they have done everything that God requires to absolve themselves of adultery.

Right or wrong, brethren in modern history have approached this increasingly common situation with various remedies while trying to conform to New Testament teaching about marriage, divorce and remarriage. Especially when young children are involved (though children do not mitigate responsibilities respecting marriage, divorce and remarriage, Ezra 10:3, 44), if it is not common knowledge that a man and a woman have no biblical right to be married to each other, some preachers have advised such couples to refrain from sleeping together though they may continue to live in the same house. In some instances, this has apparently proved to be a workable circumstance as far as refraining from sexual relations. In other instances, the arrival of yet another child into the family signals the abject failure of such a living arrangement. If it is common knowledge that a couple is in a biblically adulterous marriage, probably the only way to avoid the appearance of sin, thereby bringing reproach on the Lord's church, would be to separate from each other. Whether one obtains a legal divorce may depend on whether not obtaining a legal divorce will bring reproach on the local church; however, obtaining a legal divorce may not be a factor that is public knowledge.

John the Baptist instructed religious leaders in his day to "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Irrespective of what sin anyone may be guilty, part of repentance involves amendment of one's conduct. Respecting marriage, divorce and remarriage, a person may find himself or herself in circumstances where God does not permit him or her to enter into marriage. Jesus Christ referred to this in Matthew 19:12 following his announcement of the restoration of God's original plan for marriage and the disciples' complaint about God's strictures.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19:9-12)

We may have to make ourselves eunuchs (figuratively) for the kingdom's sake. The details of how exactly we do that may be a matter of personal judgment, subject to review by Jesus Christ in the Final Judgment.Image

Respect for Teachers and Employers

By Louis Rushmore

Image A correspondent writes, "Can you give me a biblical reference regarding teenagers showing respect to their teachers? I recall reading something in the new testament that refers to respect from students to teachers and for employees to employers." Proverbs 5:13 appears in a context where young persons are warned to refrain from fornication; it reads: "And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!"

The first and primary teacher of youth, though, is the parent. The apostle Paul wrote of parental responsibility and the responsibility of children to their parents. After that, the apostle also penned instructions to servants or slaves toward their masters; in principle, the instruction Paul gave to servants is applicable to employees toward their employers.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. (Ephesians 6:1-8; cf. Colossians 3:20-24).

Perhaps some of these verses are the ones you had in mind.Image


By Louis Rushmore

Image Image The question was posed, "Where in the Bible does it talk about voting?" The Bible does not specifically mention "voting." The New Testament, though, does teach that mankind is obligated to obey civil government.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (Romans 13:1-7).

God has not ordained any particular form of civil government (e.g., monarchy, democracy); however, God nevertheless sanctions civil government. The government dominating the first century civilization ringing the Mediterranean Sea was the harsh Roman Empire. Further, 1 Peter 2:17 says, in part, that mankind is obligated to "...honor the king."

In democratic forms of government, citizens participate in government by voting for candidates who will represent them or by voting for or against referendums. Both Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:17 portray inspired penman instructing Christians to appropriately respond toward the government under which they live. Hence, people living under democratic governments ordinarily participate by casting their votes.

In the past, especially in southern states in America following the Civil War, some Christians (e.g., David Lipscomb) refused to cast votes and chose to have as little to do with government as possible. Lipscomb wrote about civil government and attempted to portray any degree of participation in government by Christians as improper. His view did not widely prevail and to my knowledge no one today (i.e., in the churches of Christ) understands Scripture to so teach. One or more other religious groups, though, abstain from virtually every association with government, including voting.

Noting biblical references to the Christian's obligation to acknowledge government and comply with it (as long as it does not demand direct violation of God's Word, Acts 5:29), one will have to exercise his personal judgment as to whether he will cast his vote under a democratic form of government. Voting for candidates, for instance, who uphold biblically moral issues that also happen to be political issues is one way in which one can both respond to government and attempt to promote God's will in society.Image

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