Volume 1, Number 24 – May 2022
Continuing in an Adulterous Marriage Means Continuing in Sin
Jesus clearly defined the law of divorce in Matthew 19:9 when He said, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (Fornication [KJV]), and marries another, commits adultery” (ESV). While the world seems to have always taken issue with this command, choosing to divorce spouses for whatever reason they desire, today many Christians now ignore this plain teaching and believe they can divorce their spouses for any reason. Even worse, so many Christians become unscripturally divorced, then remarry (“marries another“), realize the need to ask God for forgiveness, but then continue living in the adulterous marriage upon repenting. Let me explain from the Scriptures why continuing to live in an adulterous marriage means you continue to live in sin.
First, we need to provide a scriptural definition of adultery. W.E. Vine’s Bible Dictionary defines “adulterer” as “one who has unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another.” Adultery, then, involves sexual intercourse. Consider how adultery is condemned in the following passages:
- John 8:4: “They said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.’” – The woman was not caught in the middle of a marriage ceremony, but, rather, she was caught having sexual intercourse with a man who was not her husband.
- Hebrews 13:4: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” – “Bed” is a euphemism for sexual activity. Therefore, adultery is something committed in the “bed” and is outside the bounds of those who are in a scriptural “marriage.”
- Matthew 5:28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Simply fantasizing about sexual intercourse with one who is not your scriptural spouse is a sin.
Regarding adultery, Jesus would also go on to say in Matthew 19:9, “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” (NKJV). In other words, when a divorce occurs for reasons other than sexual immorality, not only is it wrong for the one doing the divorcing to remarry, but it is also wrong for the one who was divorced to remarry. It is sinful for either party to remarry. We find the reason for this fact in Romans. It is written, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Romans 7:2-3). Thus, the reason it is wrong for unscripturally divorced people to remarry is because they are “bound” to one another for life. Though the government may say they are no longer bound to their marriage oaths, they are still bound together in the eyes of the Lord.
Upon feeling remorse that leads us to ask God to forgive us, repentance requires us to turn away from our sins, not continuing in our sins. Consider what Paul said to Agrippa when recounting his preaching during previous travels. He said, “They should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20). Continuing in sin certainly is not “in keeping” with repentance. The Proverbial writer describes one who does not turn away from his sins as this: “As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). We find this Proverb exemplified by God’s people in Jeremiah 34. The people were guilty of unjustly enslaving people. Upon realizing their errors, they turned to God through repentance. However, God made it clear to His people, thus making it equally clear to us today, that simply repenting without the proper follow-up is not enough to satisfy Him. God through Jeremiah, told His people, “You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves” (Jeremiah 34:15-16). These people were to be commended for repenting of their sins, but God recognized that they did not turn away from their sins and instead went right back to committing the same mistakes again, leading God to tell His people they “profaned His name” by returning to their iniquities. Thus, if we do not turn from our wickedness when we repent today, we likewise profane God’s name, which brings the most severe of punishments (Leviticus 24:16; Ezekiel 43:8). Instead of being like God’s people in Jeremiah 34:15-16, who acted like a dog returning its vomit, our Father in Heaven has called us to turn aside from our evil ways. God says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This is what true repentance looked like for God’s people during the days of the Divided Kingdom, and this is what true repentance looks like for us today – “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). If we want to exhibit true repentance for committing the sin of adultery, and if we want God to accept our repentance, we must turn away from our sins. In other words, we must terminate the adulterous marriage.
Passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 inform us that “adulterers” (and other types of sinners) “will not inherit the kingdom of God,” meaning they will not be saved. However, one can repent of adultery and be forgiven just like any other sin. But for God to forgive one who commits adultery, the adulterer must truly repent by turning away from the adulterous marriage. Some will argue “two wrongs don’t make a right,” but it is never wrong to stop sinning. In the case of an adulterous marriage, terminating an unscriptural marriage is not a wrong; it is a correct course of action; it is a “fruit” of repentance (Matthew 3:8). Consider three Bible parallels in closing:
- The book of Ezra describes the Israelites marrying foreign women in direct violation of Deuteronomy 7:3-4. As result of their sin, Ezra exhorted them by saying, “Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives” (Ezra 10:11). Though the Israelites were not under New Testament law, we can see the parallel. When people today violate passages like Matthew 19:9 and Romans 7:2-3, God expects them to get out of those unscriptural marriages.
- We learn from secular history that Herod divorced his wife and Herodias divorced her husband. Mark 6:17-18 records the following in regards to this marriage – “For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.'” The word “have” denotes possession, ownership, or continuing to undergo and experience something. In this case, based on his rebuke, do you think John the Baptist wanted Herod to keep (“have“) his wife or terminate the adulterous marriage? I believe we all know the answer.
- If a person was in a homosexual marriage and wanted to become a Christian, would God accept him if he did not turn from the sin of homosexuality? If we say one in an adulterous marriage does not need to terminate the marriage, we must also say the homosexual can continue in his homosexual marriage even though the Bible clearly says it is sinful (Romans 1:26-27). If we can see why a homosexual relationship must be terminated upon repentance in order to be right with God, then we must apply the same logic to adulterous marriages, which, like every sin, must be forsaken (Job 11:14).
Adulterous marriages are like any other sin we commit – we must stop committing them.
Living for Christ
A Bible class discussion was taking place and the teacher was trying very hard to put across the idea of sacrificing for the Lord in one’s life as a Christian. When attention had been duly called to the fact that the first century Christians had been tortured by being burned at the stake, the teacher asked the class, “How many of you would actually stand up and be shot to death, if enemies of Christ were persecuting all known Christians today, and had ordered all Christians in this audience to stand and be identified as His followers?” One student spoke up after a long thoughtful silence and said, “I think the number would actually be few, but I was also thinking that some might be more willing to stand up and be shot than to stand up and live for Christ daily.”
Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Did Paul know whereof he spoke? We answered with a firm “Yes,” in consideration of his relating some of the things he had gladly suffered for the cause of Christ. Of the Jews, he had on five occasions received 39 stripes in separate lashings, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times he suffered shipwreck, a night and a day he had been in the sea, in perils of waters, robbers, perils by his own countrymen, by false brethren, and in the wilderness. He had experienced for righteousness sake, weariness, painfulness, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11:23-30).
Yes Paul knew what it meant to follow Christ in living for him. He had indeed “denied himself and taken up his cross and followed” Jesus (Matt. 16:24). Could it be that this was in the student’s mind who expressed the idea that more people might be willing to stand up and be shot for Christ than would stand up and live for Christ daily! Paul wrote on another occasion, “. . . nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
If you and I will be followers of Christ as Paul followed Him, we too will obey the Lord’s plan of salvation faith, repentance, confession of Christ, and baptism (Acts 22:16; Mk. 16:15; Rom 10:9, 10; Acts 2:38) as did Paul and will gladly suffer for him as we faithfully serve him daily. Jesus assured us that we would be blessed for our obedience to his will. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10-12). Paul thought more of obeying Jesus, than he regretted the scorn and ridicule of relatives who would belittle him for leaving the Jew’s religion to become a Christian. He dared to live a pure and righteous life morally, even though it was not the popular thing to do in his day, and gladly bore ridicule for so doing because he stated, “...or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). It was also Paul who taught Christians to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Tit. 2:11,12) as we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” This takes determination, courage, prayer, and the help of Christ “who strengtheneth us,” if we would daily bear our cross in following Jesus in living the good moral life. To follow Christ as Paul followed Him, we will say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). For the love of Christ and His cause, let us dare to be different from this sinful world in which we live. By growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18), let us feed on the sincere milk of the word (1 Pet. 2:1, 2), add to our faith (which led us to obey the gospel, 1 Pet. 1:22) “virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love” (2 Pet. 1:5-11), and “do good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Let us continue in the light (1 John 1:7-10), being faithful unto the end (Rev. 2:10); then we can face death with the same assurance of confidence and hope which Paul expressed shortly before he passed from this life. Yes, living for Christ as did Paul, will enable us to die as did Paul with the blessed hope he expressed when he wrote these words to Timothy: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12-13). “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Volume 1, Number 25 – May 2022
Strength for a Failing Heart
The Bible is not shy about speaking of pain during our lives on earth. This is why the hope of salvation in Heaven is so precious. We anxiously look forward to the time when no longer will we “be mourning, nor crying, nor [in] pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4). However, while we walk this earth, we will surely face times of mourning, crying, and pain. The Psalmists speak frequently about such tribulations, sufferings, trials, and persecutions that they specifically faced. However, they also inform us – followers of God – of similar hardships not specific to them that we can generally expect to face. Psalm 73:26 is one such hardship all humans can expect – that is, a failing body.
The speaker’s despair over the frailty of human life is obvious, yet also just as obvious is his sense of peace and comfort in God. Whenever our flesh and our hearts fail, when darkness falls and storms rage in our lives, we should be like Asaph, the writer of this Psalm. Asaph was a God-fearing man, who used his gifts of composing and singing psalms to teach Israel to praise God, even when all else seemed to fail. Asaph knew he could find no real relief from his suffering in this world. This realization is what lead him to say, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
We can thank God for Asaph’s example and that God’s word recognizes the strains we face on earth. Let’s remember the words of a hymn we often sing, and when our hearts break, move closer to God and put our trust in Him, just as Asaph once did:
“Living below, in this old sinful world Hardly a comfort can afford. Striving alone, to face temptation’s sword Where could I go but to the Lord?
Neighbors are kind, I love them everyone We get along in sweet accord. But when my soul, needs manna from above Where could I go but to the Lord? Life here is grand, with friends I love so dear Comfort I get from God’s own word. Yet when I face this chilling hand of death Where could I go but to the Lord?
Where could I go, oh where could I go? Seeking a refuge for my soul. Needing a friend, to help me in the end. Where could I go, but to the Lord?”
James (J. B.) Coats (1940)
Kill the Spider!
One of the deacons was frequently called upon to pray at the mid-week service, and he always concluded his prayer the same way: “Lord, clean out all the cobwebs in our lives.” I think you know what he was talking about – those little unsightly words, deeds, and thoughts that we let accumulate throughout the week.
Well, it got to be too much for one brother who heard him say that prayer so many times. So, one Wednesday night, just after hearing these words again, this one brother jumped to his feet and shouted, “Don’t do it, Lord, KILL THE SPIDER!”
Brethren, how well it would be if we would kill the spider rather than continually having our lives full of cobwebs. We will never be able to live acceptably for God and reach heights that Christ presents for us until deep within us we have that clean and rightful desire.
The great problem in the average Christian life is that we do not have the desire to really give up the world and completely surrender to Christ. Thus, we always find our lives cluttered with “cobwebs” – with sins. Let’s kill the spider instead so these cobwebs will permanently disappear!
Sweet are the Promises
There’s an old hymn titled “Where He Leads I’ll Follow” that begins by saying, “Sweet are the promises” (W. A. Ogden, 1885). Let’s reflect on just a few of the sweet promises that God guarantees in His Word:
- God promises His love and mercy will never fail – “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
- God promises salvation to all who believe in Christ – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
- God promises to provide for our needs – “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
- God promises all things work out for good for His children – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called ac- cording to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
- God promises comfort during our trials – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
- God promises to hear our prayers – “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
- God promises eternal life for the faithful – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
There is no greater comfort for the soul than the sweet promises of God!
Honesty, Error, and Truth
There are many good people in the world who are honestly mistaken, but when a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, one of two things must happen:
He will cease to be mistaken . . .
He will cease to be honest.
If he does not obey it, he will no longer be honest. If he does obey it, he will no longer be mistaken. Honesty and error must separate when truth comes along. No man can be honestly mistaken if he has heard the truth.
- Collapse in the Christian life is rarely a blowout . . . it’s usually a slow leak.
- A baby is born with a need to be loved, and never outgrows it.
- A sermon that pricks your conscience must have had some good points.
- Don’t let your dark past cloud the sunshine in your future.
- To be angry with a weak man is proof you are not very strong yourself.
Do You Pray During the Worship Services?
The worshipper who would pray in the assembly must do more than bow his head and close his eyes. He must pray. “Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uniformed say ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?” (I Corinthians 14:16). This verse suggests four requirements if one is to enter into a prayer.
He must listen to the prayer. One cannot legitimately say “Amen” at the conclusion of a prayer if he has not listened to the prayer. “Mind-wandering” is an ever-present problem. We sing, but we don’t observe the words of the song. We bow our heads, but we don’t listen to the prayer. We sit through the sermon, but our minds wander to things of an earthly nature. Consequently, we attend worship periods, but we don’t worship as we ought. If one is to pray, with the congregation, he must listen to the prayer.
He must understand the prayer. When a man in the first century led a prayer in an unknown tongue, the worshiper could not say “Amen,” for he could not understand the language in which the prayer was spoken. Neither could the worshiper say “Amen” today if the leader has not spoken loudly enough to be heard or if he has used words or phrases which the worshiper does not understand. Those who lead prayers in the assembly should be conscious of the needs of the whole congregation, speaking up where all can hear and using words which all can understand.
He must agree with the prayer. A number of years ago, while sitting beside an older preacher, I observed his saying “Yes” or “Yes, Lord” at the conclusion of each separate phrase of the prayer as it was being led. He spoke the words softly enough that I was probably the only one in the assembly who could hear them, but I was impressed. Obviously, this brother was listening to every phrase, determining whether or not he agreed with the phrase, and was then softly speaking his agreement. He was not just sitting through a prayer; he was praying. Occasionally, we hear sentiments expressed in prayer with which we do not agree. To these sentiments we cannot say “Amen.”
He must say “Amen.” The word “Amen” means “so let it be.” We long to hear the strong, resounding “Amen” at the close of prayers which we used to hear. We fear that the move away from this practice is just another step toward cold, lifeless formality in our worship periods. We are not contending, however, that one must say the word “Amen” audibly; but we are suggesting that at least in his mind he should say “Amen,” thus making the prayer his own prayer. He has listened to the prayer; he has understood the prayer; he has agreed with the prayer; now he speaks to God his “Amen” or approval of the prayer as his prayer. In this manner, he unites with other worshipers in common prayer unto God.
“Come As You Are”
Often times the phrase “come as you are” is used in religious discussions pertaining to one’s approach toward the worship of God and has even been used as a motto and/or fundamental principal by some churches. What does this phrase suggest? Is it a biblically inspired teaching? Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about it.
When the phrase “come as you are” is used in relation to the worship of God, it suggests that all individuals are welcome and that there is no need of action to meet any special criteria for God to accept you (i.e. repentance from sin, dress, etc.). Although the bible teaches that all are welcome since Christ died “once for all” (Romans 6:10) and “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11), it also shows in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22 that one must make preparation in order to be accepted of God. Jesus began His ministry teaching the need for repentance, as seen in passages like Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, and states “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” in verses 3 and 5 of Luke 13. Repentance is often defined as a change of mind that results in a change of action. This concept is taught in Ephesians 4:22-24 where the Bible states that we must “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt and put on the new man which was created according to God.” This completely disavows the idea that God loves us “just the way we are” and that there is no need of action on our part to meet His standards. His standard is clearly identified in 1 Peter 1:16 where God says, “be holy, for I am holy.”
We are NOT good enough the way we are, and God does NOT love the way we are. However, God DID love us so much that He sent His son Jesus who “gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). When people use this phrase “come as you are,” they are teaching the exact opposite of what God intended. God did not love us and sacrifice His son for us so that we could remain in sin and stay “just the way we are.” He sacrificed His son for us so that we would REPENT and TURN from who we are and become a changed, purified people that are zealous for obeying His word.
With these teachings in mind, we MUST acknowledge that to be accepted by God, one MUST transform themselves – (Romans 12:2). The phrase “come as you are” is not only wrong, but is totally contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His teaching on the necessity of repentance (Acts 2:38). May we all imitate Paul and “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), and humble ourselves to meet all of God’s standards so that we can one day receive that crown of life spoken of in James 1:12.