|Volume 18 Number 10 October 2016||
Does Infidelity Make an
Unscriptural Marriage Scriptural?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Does infidelity to an unscriptural marriage transform the unscriptural marriage into a scriptural (God recognized) marriage? That would seem to be the conclusion embedded in the following question about which someone else asked me to reflect.
Brother Louis, I need your insight on the following: (1) A man marries, with normal vows to remain faithful, into a non-scriptural adulterous relationship. May he repent, leave that adulterous relationship, and then scripturally remarry another who is free to marry? That question leads into the following questioned position taken by an unnamed elder. While not scripturally married to the first woman, the above man had a second sexual relationship during his first adulterous relationship! The elder holds that had the man not had a second sexual relationship during his adulterous marriage, he could have repented, left that adulterous marriage and scripturally could have been remarried to another. However, his position also taken is that since the man had additional sexual activity outside that first unscriptural, but civil, marriage, he then must remain celibate on the basis on Matthew 19:9? His position seems to hinge on the fact that though God did not approve of the first marriage, He did recognize the relationship as a marriage and the first woman as his wife as He recognized the foreign women of Ezra 10 as wives! Your thinking would be quite helpful, if you have time! I have never heard that position taken by any in the last 70 years. How would you answer?
I have neither heard of nor imagined this scenario. It occurs to me that many times with the best of intentions we over think things and end up making rules that God did not put in Scripture. It may be that sometimes we imitate the Pharisees of old when they made rules with the best of intentions to try to prevent people from coming close to violating what God actually commanded. The effect was to displace the law of God with manmade laws.
What God does not authorize as marriage is really fornication or adultery. Like every other sin one commits, repentance (changing of one’s mind internally followed by changing one’s conduct outwardly) erases the guilt of sin. In the case of two people married in accordance with God’s authority in Scripture, the innocent part of a marriage irreparably disrupted by the adultery of a spouse may divorce and can subsequently remarry with God’s approval a biblically suitable candidate for marriage (Matthew 19:9).
In many instances, there is a distinction between what the world calls marriage and what God recognizes as biblically correct marriage. Therefore, Scripture addresses legally sanctioned marriage that is not biblically permissible accommodatingly as “marriage” for the purpose of communication in terms being used by the parties to describe their relationships. Matthew 19:9 is such an example. In that verse, the word “wife” presumes a marriage of which God approves, but the next two times the word “marries” (NKJV) appears in that verse, those marriages are not marriages as far as God is concerned, but rather, they are adulteries. They are only marriages as far as mankind is concerned. The same thing would be true elsewhere in the Bible, including Ezra 10.
I might add that Matthew 19:9 is sufficiently difficult, as the apostles noted, that we don’t need to borrow anything from the Old Testament, which has been replaced with the New Testament, to complicate our thinking, really in a way that is not useful or even explanatory of Matthew 19:9.
Hope this helps. I’m not infallible, of course, by any means. The subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage is a doctrine of wide speculation even among otherwise faithful members of the Lord’s church. Certainly, anyone entertaining doubt for himself or for herself would do well not to marry again (Romans 14:23).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Our church as a community effort could help an “adult assisted living/retirement home,” but we found out the Presbyterian Church is behind this effort. Can we visit/help out this home in any biblical way and be correct? I know we are not to “help out or support” in any way other religions. I guess the question ends up being, “Are we helping out their cause?” I am sure that many of these people are really not members of “this church,” BUT would we be helping out “their cause” in the end? Thank you and respond as soon as possible.
These days, we often find Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist hospitals, especially in metropolitan areas. These clearly wear the monikers of denominational churches. At the same time, they typically receive public funds as well as charge for their services. These benevolent institutions exist generally because of the effect of Christianity on society and specifically perhaps because of the initiative of some aspect of benevolence promoted by various denominational churches. Yet, such hospitals may be the only hospital services available in some communities, and irrespective of that, usually people do not suppose that receiving treatment from them or even being employed by them is recognized as an endorsement of denominational religious tenets.
Additional benevolent institutions may or may not be identified by their names as associated with religious denominations (e.g., personal care homes, nursing homes, hospice houses). Their existence, too, must be attributed generally with the positive effect of Christianity on society, and some of them, but not all of them, may be affiliated with denominational churches. Usually, they do not limit their services to a clientele with a specific religious alliance. They, too, may receive public money as well as charge for their amenities. It is not likely that people suppose that receiving treatment from them or even being employed by them is recognized as an endorsement of denominational religious tenets.
Many of these benevolent institutions will have as their patients or residents members of the churches of Christ besides others of various religious convictions or of no religious beliefs at all. Whether or not the Lord’s church attempts to interact with non-members, certainly our interaction with fellow Christians ought not to be inhibited by the treatment facility in which we find them and to which they have resorted for medical reasons (Matthew 25:43).
Using one’s best judgment, or the seasoned discernment of congregational leaders, a decision will have to be made in keeping with the conscience as to whether interaction in some facility, named or unnamed as being affiliated with a religious group, is an opportunity for benevolence, edification or evangelism, or would it constitute an implicit endorsement of religious error.
For me, there is a difference between participation in a decidedly religious denominational event, campaign or program (e.g., worship service, crusade, ministerial alliance, etc.; Ephesians 5:11) versus a minimally religious or denominationally unaffiliated benevolent institution. Some matters that we encounter today are not specifically addressed in Scripture, and still, in some areas that may be neither right nor wrong, each child of God must act in accordance with his or her conscience (Romans 14:23).