Remarriage and Adultery

Probably one of the touchiest subjects that can be brought up in Christian circles is that of Divorce and Remarriage. It cuts rather close to the bone in just about all church communities. We now have millions of Christians who get divorced and re-married. While once the church was distinct from the general culture in this issue, it has now caught up and been mired in the same devaluation of marriage which it once frowned upon.

Getting Real on the Issue

If the church is going to have any hope of finding God’s wisdom on issues where its own values have changed in recent generations, then it must at least remain conscious of the voice of God’s Word. While interpretations, arguments and counter-arguments might rage in certain circles, it would be wrong to pretend that what the Bible says is not there.

Let’s at least acknowledge a couple of facts. The church has moved its goal posts regarding divorce and remarriage, just as society has done. That means we were either not Biblical before or we are not seeing things the same way any more, or something.

Historically the western cultural standards for indissoluble marriage came from the Christian church. More recently the church’s practice of easy divorce has come from the culture. So we have moved from a church which sets social standards to a church which allows the secular culture to set its standards. That seems very much like the salt having lost its saltiness, don’t you think?

The Issue is Discussed in the Bible

This might come as a shock to some people, but the Bible does speak about divorce and remarriage. It has a fair bit to say about it. While the things that it says are challenging, they come from such reliable sources as the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Apostle Paul, who gave us most of the New Testament theology and practice.

While there is a nice thought in today’s church world that just about any kind of remarriage is OK, there are a number of comments in the Bible which clearly indicate that remarriage constitutes adultery, at least on some occasions.

That link between remarriage and adultery has caused the church to give a very high regard to marriage, to publish marriage banns, to insist on time for the couple to be sure of their choice, and to apply marriage vows that are very binding on the couple.

Today, however, there is a sense that marriage is a more casual commitment, it can be entered into just on the basis of emotional confidence and it can be thrown away if it doesn’t work out. With that, too, comes the idea that people are entitled to a second go if their first try didn’t work out as well as they hoped.

All of that brings disrepute to marriage.

The Unspeakable Link

The problem for the church today is that just about every congregation, denomination and group has people as members, leaders and heroes who have also been divorced and remarried. To make matters worse, it seems a bit tough to go to the heathen who are quite entangled in divorces and remarriages and entice them with such heavy-handed messages as “Your Remarriage is Adultery!”

It’s just not politically correct to discuss such things. So the link between remarriage and adultery is one of those “unspeakable” things.

But sociologist, Gerard Egan, suggests that “undiscussibility” in an organisation is an indication of ill-health. So if the church cannot discuss this topic, then the church has become unhealthy as an organisation.

So allow me to press your boundaries a little by simply putting on the table the fact that the Bible makes a clear link between remarriage and adultery, such that Jesus Christ tells us that (at least in some cases) remarriage is adultery.

Politically Correct

The suggestion that remarriage may represent something evil is frowned upon, since it might reflect on someone who is a respected church leader or pastor. So the church has become silent on the subject. Thus it is interesting to see that Jesus was not silent on this topic.

To be politically correct, let’s not make anything of what Jesus said, but just have a little peep at it. All we want to do is acknowledge that Jesus linked remarriage with adultery. That is not to say that He did so in every case – but He at least did so in some cases. So too did the Apostle Paul.

Let’s just do a quick skim of those references and leave the implications for some other time, a l-o-n-g time from now. That way it can’t really be too much harm to look at what the Bible says.

Bible Quotes

All I want you to acknowledge in these quotes is that Jesus and Paul do actually make a link between divorce and remarriage – at least in some cases. That’s all we’re looking at here.

“But I say to you, That whoever will put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever will marry her that is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

“And I say to you, Who ever will put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and will marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9

“And he said to them, Who ever will put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman will put away her husband, and be married to another, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11,12

“Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:18

“For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Romans 7:2,3

“And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” 1Corinthians 7:10,11

A Consistent Theme

I don’t know whether you noticed, but the connection between remarriage and adultery is made in those verses a total of nine times. That means it has more direct Biblical emphasis that being “born again”.

Note also that it is consistent. Christ taught it and so did Paul. Christ made his statements in the context of upholding what God created in Eden (Matthew 19:4-8). Paul and Christ gave special emphasis to the lasting quality of the bond that God creates for the couple when they are married. That bond is the reason why future divorce and remarriage is seen as adultery by God, Christ and the church.

So, What are You Saying?

At about this point someone will be jumping up and down accusing me of saying things I haven’t said. Read my lips! I am simply getting YOU to read what the Bible says. What you do about it is your business. What the broader church decides as its theology on the issue is the church’s business.

But if you blithely head off into a course of action based on what is culturally popular and you have not stopped to look at the words in red in your Bible (assuming you have a Red Letter edition with the words of Christ in red ink) then you are in danger of coming to conclusions which Jesus may wish to talk with you about.

I am not your judge. I would be in danger if I were to make judgements. I’m just a regular Joe who thinks we need to remain at least Biblical, whatever else we decide to do.

Now, class dismissed!

Rodney Gipsy Smith Evangelist

Rodney “Gipsy” Smith was born in a gypsy tent near Epping Forest, England, on March 31, 1860. Rodney’s dad, Cornelius, made a living by playing violin in the taverns and was converted through a prison chaplain on one of his numerous imprisonments for failure to pay fines. Rodney’s mother died from smallpox when he was young and Rodney was “born again” through the encouragement of his father, in a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Cambridge on 17 November, 1876.

Rodney’s mother confessed Christ on her deathbed and all six children went into Christian service.

Having been born to a gipsy lifestyle, young Rodney had no proper education. Rodney carried a Bible and Dictionaries with him and when people mocked he reassured himself with the knowledge that one day he would be able to read them. At the age of 17 “this unschooled, unlettered gipsy became an evangelist under the auspices of William Booth’s Christian Mission of London, which became the Salvation Army” (25 June, 1877).

On December 17, 1879 he married Annie E. Pennock, one of his converts from Whitby. He had also led his younger sister to confess Christ.

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For five years he served the Salvation Army “on street corners and in mission halls”.  His evangelistic gift was evident to all who heard him.  But on 31 July, 1882, after he was about to move on from a successful mission in Hanley (“I preached every Sunday to crowds of 7,000 to 8,000 people and every night of the week we had the place crowded” (Autobiography, page 131), the congregation presented him with a watch inscribed:  “A memento of esteem and in recognition of his valuable services …” General Bramwell Booth demanded that the watch be returned!  He “did not approve of such presentations” (page 133).  “So ended my connection with the Salvation Army” (page 139).

Defying his superiors, “Gipsy” Smith launched out on an itinerant evangelistic ministry, which took him to Sweden, Scotland, America, South Africa, France and Australia (in 1894 and again in 1926).  Certainly thousands responded to his preaching and singing of the old-time gospel.

On 2 June, 1938, he aroused some criticism by marrying Mary Alice Shaw.  After all, he was a 78-year-old widower … and it was her 27th birthday!  His services were always informal … “I’ll be stiff enough when I’m in my coffin!” he once quipped.

On 4 August, 1947, at the age of 87, after 70 years of world-embracing evangelism and en route to America, three hours out of New York, “Gipsy” Smith died on the Queen Mary, stricken by a heart attack. Some say this was his 45th crossing of the Atlantic.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Samuel Rutherford Steers Scotland

Saintly Samuel Rutherford died, on March 30, 1661.  I know that Protestants do not usually use the word “Saint” for special folk, but if there is one who deserves it more than most others, let me suggest the godly Samuel Rutherford.

Spurgeon spoke of Rutherford’s letters as “the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in the writings of mere men” (Holy Men of God, by E. Cumming, page 69).

Born in Scotland in 1600, Rutherford was converted some 26 years later – and became a minister of the Gospel. He was a brilliant scholar such that people expected him to excel. Following his studies at the University of Edinburgh he, as a young man, was then made Professor of Philosophy there. He then took the post of minister at Anwoth in Galloway and was a most diligent man. He rose often at 3am then spent his time thoroughly, “reading, praying, writing, catechising, visiting, and other duties belonging to the ministerial profession and employment”.

In June 1630 – and again in 1636 – he was tried by an ecclesiastical court for erroneous doctrine and irregularity of church practice, based around his book, Exercitationes de Gratia.  His first wife died at about this time and in banishment at Aberdeen he wrote the letters that have become a blessing to so many. Rutherford also contracted tertian fever and was so ill for thirteen weeks that he could barely have the strength to preach.

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Rutherford returned to his congregation at Anwoth and was made Professor of Divinity at St Andrews.

The complexities of the history of the church at this time need not concern us here. Rutherford’s stand against Arminianism ired some. He was charged with non-conformity. His stand for the right for families to establish private worship in their homes also received opposition. He opposed the Anabaptists and other sects in his book, Lex Rex. He participated in the Westminster Assembly, from which came the Westminster Confession.

He opposed the flourishing independent groups of worship which sprang up under Oliver Cromwell, but when Charles II gained the throne Rutherford was accused of high treason and his book, Lex Rex was burned as a public condemnation. However Rutherford did not get to face his kingly accusers.

Suffice to say, the saintly Samuel Rutherford entered into rest on 30 March, 1661.

So it was that Rutherford presided over the Lord’s work in a very troubled Scotland, refusing to take appointments abroad because he felt it his duty to endure on behalf of the Lord. History records that his faithful spirit did prevail, against the host of opponents and challenges.

His letters are still in print – “I am pained, pained with the love of Christ,” he writes.  “He hath made me sick and wounded me.  Hunger for Christ outrunneth faith … Oh, if they knew His kindness to my soul …”  (Life and Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by A. Bowen, page 22).

The hymn, The Sands of Time are Sinking, by Mrs Cousins, is based on some of the best and sweetest parts of Rutherford’s letters.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

The Battle Scene

He lay in agony for an eternity.
His cries of pain drowned in the tempest of deadly conflict.
Blood drained from his body as the sodden earth sucked warmth from his mangled frame.

He lingered for a day and half a night.
Delirious he sobbed and cursed and faced a thousand fears.
In the nether-land he halted, too weak to live, yet too strong to die.

The battle was abandoned.
All was fought in vain.
The violence and blood were now a crying shame.
The territory held by all the hated foes
Was still his own domain.
With no-one to oppose.

Nature’s lamp-light rose and cast its eerie pall across this dreaded vale.
And there a hand reached out to touch a cheek now pale.
An eye turned up to see what comforter had come.
Who smoothed away the tears upon a frame now numb?

In silhouette above he saw his deadly foe, now crouched in soft compassion.
Then only did he know that though men face and fight
And each believe he’s right
When death comes in the night
We face a common end.

The issue of our day, exalted to hold sway,
Is like a passing rage that tears across the stage.
Upheaval in its wake, it makes the strongest quake
Then once the thing is passed, peace returns at last.

Leviathan long gone, society moves on
And there returns again, awareness we’re just men.
Compassion stirs a hand and joins a brave new band
Who reach out to unite those caught up in the fight.

And so the wounded soul was lovingly caressed
Until he breathed his last and slipped into his rest.
Then grass began to grow where blood once flowed so free.
And life continues on, bequeathed to you and me.

Be careful of your heart and issues which hold sway.
For men still rise to fight on this a brand new day.
Be careful of the rage and cry that sweeps our land.
For God is over all, before whom you must stand.

His only is the fight and His alone the cause.
And we are mortal men who need to take a pause,
And listen to His voice and do His will again.
Remembering in all, that we are only men.
C.G. Field 2003/2008

The Reason Why

Have you ever been caught up in the emotion of an issue? Have you seen others get swept away by their feelings? Rage abducts nice people out of their comfortable existence and turns them into destroyers, willing to lose all for next to nothing.

People died thousands of years ago for causes that mean nothing at all today. People are dying today over issues that have no right to exalt themselves over people’s domestic happiness.

Oh, and yes there are some serious issues afoot. There is evil which needs to be arrested. I am not a pacifist, suggesting that all strength of will and purpose is somehow invalid. But I am concerned that many a battle which has left people bloodied, bruised, dying and dead, has not deserved the passion with which it was fought, nor the price which was paid.

The same is true in homes, where marriages and families are torn apart because of rage, intolerance, unforgiveness, depth of emotion, jealousy and so on. In the heat of the moment and the rage of the battle we can forget that our feelings are lesser things than God and His purposes for our lives.

How many people have ended up in prison, pain or deep regret because they were drawn into a battle that should never have been fought?

When the fight is over and the storm is passed we seem to be able to remember that we are but mortal flesh and that God is master of all. Would it not be better to have that in mind all the way through?

Winfred Scott Weeden Surrenders All

Winfred Scott Weeden was born in Middleport, Ohio, on March 29, 1847.

Early in life he showed musical ability, later teaching singing in schools, and as song leader and soloist in churches.  Various Christian organisations also used his talents in their conventions.

His friend, Judson Van de Venter, launched into full-time evangelistic work, preaching throughout the United States as well as England and Scotland.  Winfield Scott Weeden became his associate and soloist.

Billy Graham, in Crusade Hymn Stories, tells of Rev. J. Van de Venter, “who influenced my early preaching”.

Together, the evangelist and the soloist united in giving the church one of the great Gospel songs:

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.

The words were penned by Rev. Van de Venter, the music by Winfield Weeden. 

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They also collaborated on:……….

Sunlight, Sunlight, in my soul today,
Sunlight, Sunlight, all along the way;
Since the Saviour found me, took away my sin,
I have had the sunlight of His love within.

Weeden’s published works include The Peacemaker (1894), Songs of the Peacemaker (1895) and Songs of Sov­er­eign Grace, (1897).

Winfield Weeden died at Bisby Lake in New York State on 31 July, 1908.  The words, “I surrender all”, are engraved upon his tombstone.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com