|Vol. 16 No. 5 May 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
If previous marriages doom you to hell then why doesn’t obesity? Folks are added to the church overweight, they remain in the church overweight, and they die in the church overweight. Are these folks on their way to hell for lack of self-control just like the one who can’t and won’t be forgiven for a previous marriage? What’s the difference between marital repentance and repentance of a lack of self-control?
With all due kindness, nevertheless, this is a prejudicial series of questions melded together into a larger question with a decidedly stacked deck in defense of unscriptural marriage practices. We will, though, address the “question,” piece by piece, under the assumption that someone desires an honest, biblical answer.
First, the word “obesity” means, “a condition characterized by excessive bodily fat,” and the word “overweight” means, “1 : weight over and above what is required or allowed. 2 : excessive or burdensome weight” (Merriam Webster’s). Therefore, “obesity” and “overweight” are subjective terms relative to conflicting standards touted by uninspired men, rather than being biblical words tied to specific biblical instruction. Even definitions in the medical community for obesity and being overweight have changed from time to time and continue to change from time to time. Granted, some people may fit the questioner’s profile above and be unquestionably unhealthy. Yet, it is an overgeneralization that all fat or heavy people, by someone’s subjective standard, are sinners condemned to hell. For one thing, there may be a number of genetic, medical or environmental reasons that even an obese person may be so, aside from “lack of self-control.”
What the questioner presumes and for which no biblical citation was provided is that being “overweight” by some human standard is sinful. Now, if the questioner desired to put forth a study on “gluttony,” that would be a different matter, though still a long way from proving the premise that all fat people are going to hell. In addition, if it were the case that everyone perceived as obese or overweight by the questioner were going to hell, that would not justify also rebelling against God regarding other areas of biblical instruction (i.e., biblically unauthorized marriages).
Secondly, the questioner does not comprehend the nature of biblical repentance. Repentance is a stoplight! Biblical repentance requires the one who repents to stop doing the activity for which he is repenting. This repenting or stopping begins on the inside of a person in his mind or Bible heart, and it works itself outwardly until one’s behavior in that matter conforms to divine instruction. Hence, John the Baptist advised some who attended the baptisms that he was administering, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8 NKJV). Let me illustrate. Does a thief have to stop stealing and provide restitution of the things he has stolen if possible, or does “repentance” permit him to keep the stolen Cadillac? Does a penitent murderer have to stop murdering, though of course, he cannot restore the lives he has taken? Does an adulterer who repents need to stop practicing adultery? Simply appealing to civil law, which directly conflicts with New Testament instruction, does not change what God calls adultery into a marriage that God is obligated to recognize as okay. Whenever there exists a conflict between the law of man and the law of God, we must obey the higher law of God. “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).
Thirdly, the phrase “can’t and won’t be forgiven for a previous marriage” is a grossly unfair and equally untrue accusation against God. This is comparable to accusing God of being unjust, saying that a thief, a murderer or an adulterer “can’t and won’t be forgiven” while one is still thieving, murdering or committing adultery. Yes, it is true that forgiveness is not available to those who will not repent or stop doing the activity for which he or she claims a desire for forgiveness. Saying, “I’m sorry,” while continuing the sinful activity is not equal to repentance. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). If someone is sufficiently sorry for disobeying God, he or she will repent, but without true repentance, there is no redemption from the guilt of sin. The thief must stop stealing (Ephesians 4:28). “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Attempting to circumvent New Testament instruction regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage or any other teaching, irrespective of the means employed, will not work out well eternally for those who do so (Matthew 7:21-23). Remove the emotions and the human subjectivity to view God’s objective and absolute truths about every topic that is taught in the New Testament. Only then will we be on a firm foundation rather than upon shifting sand.
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. (Matthew 7:24-27)
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. CD-ROM. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993.
Making Past Sins Right?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
…If they have to go back and “make that right” where does he stop “making past sins” right? … All this man-made legislating for God has ruined hundreds of lives… Why is this dogma being taught when it is not a teaching that promotes the simplicity that is in Christ? The message sounds like the blood of Christ can and does cover any and all sin, but divorced unbelievers need not apply! Believers in a second or subsequent marriage must divorce their present mate, go back and find their first mate, remarry them and THEN their salvation is once again assured – if this is not done, then hell will be their home. Their other option is to dissolve the present marriage since it was never recognized by God in the first place and live celibate for the rest of their lives. Where in the Bible is all this found?
The quoted paragraph above is more nearly a rant than is it a question, but we will assume that the questioner desires an honest reply from God’s Word. Doubtless many members of the church have similar misgivings about what the New Testament teaches concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage – and I am persuaded that many of them feed off of each other, sharing the same words, phrases and complaints. There is always a contest trying to fit God’s instructions into a world gone haywire away from biblical truth. Unfortunately, far too much of the carnal world has crept into the Lord’s church through its members and its member’s children. Hence, it is quite common for moms and dads to rationalize regarding their children or regarding themselves when marriages crumble.
First, ‘past sins are not made right.’ That is a primary problem regarding confusion about marriage, divorce and remarriage. Troubled parents or spouses involved in multiple marriages often attempt to make biblically prohibited divorce and remarriage somehow right with God after all. For instance, one cannot baptize a marriage to somehow make a scripturally adulterous relationship into a God-approved marriage. Marriages are not baptized! People are baptized – after they repent (stop committing the sin for which they are repenting) before they ever step foot into a baptistery. If one repents of adultery (howbeit man may call it marriage while God does not sanction it), there is no adulterous marriage to attempt to legitimize through baptism.
Secondly, “man-made legislating for God has ruined hundreds of lives” is a true statement when it comes to denominationalism, world religions and sometimes false doctrines promoted by brethren (1 John 4:1). However, it is not ‘man-made legislation’ where God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through the New Testament have made a single allowance for divorce, followed at some future time by a subsequent marriage of the innocent party to another biblically eligible marriage candidate (Matthew 19:9). It is not ‘man-made legislation’ that divorce for any other reason than adultery requires divorced spouses to remain celibate or be reconciled (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). ‘Hundreds of lives are ruined’ because they are living in adultery or fornication, outside of God-sanctified marriage. Apprising such individuals of what God’s Word (New Testament) teaches regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage is an attempt to save ‘hundreds of ruined lives’ from the eternal dismay and doom of heaven missed and the realization of hellfire.
Thirdly, it is ludicrous to imagine that “this dogma being taught… is not a teaching that promotes the simplicity that is in Christ,” when, in fact, Jesus Christ Himself is the very One who stipulated that “adultery” is the only divinely permissible reason for divorce and a subsequent remarriage (Matthew 19:9). In truth, manmade alternatives to what our Lord specifically taught are unable to ‘promote the simplicity that is Christ.’ Instead, they give false hope to impenitent souls who with every passing moment are closer to meeting God in Judgment – for which they are not prepared (Amos 4:12). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11 NKJV).
Fourthly, it is a very controverted way of thinking to complain, “The message sounds like the blood of Christ can and does cover any and all sin, but divorced unbelievers need not apply!” The blood of Jesus Christ covers all sins that it covers in exactly the same way! The blood of our Lord is associated with “redemption” (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9) – a buying back or ransoming from sin. In Hebrews 11:35, the Greek word for “redemption” is translated “deliverance.” The blood of Jesus Christ delivers from sin, but it does not sanitize sin – making what is sinful into something now pleasing to God. The blood of Jesus Christ redeems souls from sin when they quit stealing, stop murdering, cease lying and discontinue living in adultery, but not before one ‘brings forth fruits of repentance’ (Matthew 3:8).
Finally, the questioner asks, “Where in the Bible is all this found?” Jesus stated that there is only one reason for which one may divorce his or her spouse and marry someone else (Mark 10:11-12). “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). The inspired apostle Paul taught that if a divorce occurs for any other reason, the spouses may only “remain unmarried or be reconciled.” “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
As with every other biblical topic, one has two choices. He can obey or disobey. Emotions aside, the biblical truth about divorce and remarriage is not difficult to ascertain. The difficulty does not lie with understanding it, but rather in understanding it well enough to find it distasteful.