Amazing Grace - Part 4
Amazing Grace 4
Grace Yet Consequences
Even the Old Testament made it clear that God abounds in mercy, grace and lovingkindness (Exodus 20:6; 33:19; 34:6 "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7); "For His lovingkindness is everlasting" (Psalm 136:1); "For with the Lord there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption" (Psalm 130:7). The King James Version translates the term "lovingkindness" with the word "mercy". The Hebrew term is "hesed", and is variously defined or translated as "mercy, steadfast love, faithful love, kindness, and loyalty". It refers to God’s merciful and faithful aid. Points To Note: 1. In spite of the fact that God is abundant in lovingkindness and forgiveness, even after he was forgiven, Moses still couldn’t enter the promised land (Numbers 20:12). Even after true repentance and pleading on the part of Moses, God still said no (Deuteronomy 3:23-26). 2. Remember, this is the same God who would later say, "For I delight in loyalty (mercy) rather than sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6), and which Jesus would repeat centuries later, "But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the innocent" (Matthew 12:7). 3. The lesson that we must learn is that in the presence of grace, there may still be some hard consequences which we must still face even after we have been forgiven. Even man understands that forgiveness may be extended, but the forgiven person may still suffer for his crimes. 4. Hence, David was forgiven (2 Samuel 12:13), but the offspring of his affair would die (12:14). 5. King Saul could have been forgiven, but wouldn’t change the fact that he had forfeited an enduring dynasty for his sons (1 Samuel 15:28-29). 5. God doesn’t have any problems with society punishing Christians when they have done wrong, even if such Christians are repentant (1 Peter 2:20).
Grace And The Marriage Question
When it comes to someone who has divorced their mate for a reason other than their mate’s sexual unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9), how do we apply the grace of God in such situations?
Grace And The Guilty Party
Some might argue that there is no command, example or necessary inference which states that the person divorced because of their own sexual unfaithfulness can never marry again. Yet I find the following necessary inference: 1. God gives the single person a right to marry (1 Corinthians 7:2); the widow (1 Corinthians 7:39); and the person whose mate has committed adultery (Matthew 19:9), but I never find God giving the guilty party a right to remarry. If we are going to consistently apply the principle that Biblical Silence never authorizes anything, then we must conclude that God doesn’t give them the permission to marry again. One of my major disagreements with those who say the guilty party can remarry, is their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:2. From this verse it is argued that men and women can never forfeit the right to be married or to be married again. But such would contradict 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, which forbids an individual to remarry anyone other than the spouse whom they just divorced. 2. "And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32). To me, this is a direct command and a necessary inference that the guilty party cannot remarry. We know that the innocent party can remarry, so this isn’t talking about a woman who divorced her mate because of his sexual immorality. Rather this verse is talking about a woman divorced because of her own sexual immorality (i.e., the guilty party) and it would also apply to a woman unscripturally divorced. Grace is available to the guilty party, in the New Testament God doesn’t require that they be executed, they are allowed to live (Leviticus 20:10). Even though, they can’t remarry without sin and involving others in sin, they can be forgiven and go to heaven. Even after their adultery, God does give them the chance to repent and be saved. In addition, God doesn’t require that they be put away, God’s grace gives their spouse the option of whether to divorce them or not.
Grace For Unscriptural Remarriages
It can seem difficult to reconcile grace with the idea that people who unscripturally divorce or were divorced and then remarry, must separate in order to be saved.
- First, we need to clarify what is the real issue. The issue isn’t whether God will forgive such sins, He will. The issue is whether or not the adultery caused by the forming of this new marriage is a one-time sin or a continuous condition. "If one’s sexual activity in a second marriage following a divorce for a cause other than sexual immorality is adultery, then that practice (which for all practical purposes is to say, that marriage) must cease" (Rethinking Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage, Jerry F. Bassett pp. 96-97).
- The above writer and others then argue that: A. The adultery under consideration in Matthew 19:9 is not sexual in nature, rather it is the sin of divorcing to remarry, or unscripturally divorcing and remarrying. It is argued that there is no way that two people who are married can commit adultery with each other (Bassett p. 112). Webster’s definition of adultery is cited as proof, "Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband" (Bassett p. 97). Points To Note: 1. But Webster doesn’t define adultery as being the sin of divorcing to remarry. In fact, his definition is limited to the above quotation. 2. To define adultery as the sin of divorcing to remarry doesn’t fit the Bible either. In Matthew 5:32, a man, who could be a single man, who hasn’t divorced anyone, is said to commit adultery when he marries a divorced woman. And a woman who didn’t initiate a divorce, but found herself divorced, but who hadn’t been sexually unfaithful, is said to commit adultery when she remarries. 3. The adultery in the context of Matthew 5:32 is obviously sexual in nature, (5:27-28). 4. Jesus taught that two people who were "married" could commit adultery, "whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32); "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery" (19:9). 5. The same truth is also found in Romans 7:3 "So then, if while her husband is living, she is joined ("marries" NIV) to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man". The clear inference is that this woman is called an adulteress as long as she is in this second "marriage", because verse 2 says, "For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband". So, if while he is living, she is joined to another man, she is still bound to that first husband in the sight of God and that is why the second marriage is called "adultery". This being the case, the only way to end the adultery, or repent of the adultery being committed, is to end the relationship with the new husband. Hence, she can receive the grace of God, but not until she gets out of the sinful relationship. She can be forgiven, but not while she is remaining in something that is sinful. 6. Two other points back up these truths: A. This is the reasoning behind 1 Corinthians 7:11 "but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband". Here a divorce took place (without any sexual unfaithfulness on the part of the husband), yet this woman is forbidden to marry anyone else but her former spouse. She is "unmarried" in the sight civil law, but she still has a husband in the sight of God. B. The tense of the expression "commits adultery" in Matthew 19:9 is the Greek Present Indicative Active. Concerning the normal meaning of this tense, Davis writes, "Only in the indicative mode in Greek do the tenses show time absolutely…Continued action, or a state of incompletion, is denoted by the present tense—this kind of action is called durative or linear. The action of the verb is shown in progress, as going on" (Beginner’s Grammar of The Greek New Testament, William Hersey Davis, p. 25).
The argue that the adultery in Matthew 19:9 is a one time act, non-sexual in nature, and while the entering the marriage was a sin, continuing in it isn’t, one must: A. Believe in a definition of adultery which doesn’t fit the parallel of Matthew 19 (Matthew 5:32). B. Find something in the context which demands that the usual and predominant meaning of the Present Indicative Active "commits adultery", cannot mean action which is continuing.
Unmarried But Still Bound
Those who argue that all remarriages can be made right because the sin in contracting them simply constituted a one time act which in no way contaminates the relationship, contend that man can completely asunder what God has joined together (Matthew 19:6), "divorce breaks the marriage bond" (Bassett p. 113). That is, when a divorce happens for any cause, God cannot hold either party to their vows, God cannot insist that His law supersedes the law of a human divorce court. Man may separate from his wife (Matthew 19:6), but this doesn’t mean that God releases him and gives him the right to remarry (19:9). Romans 7:2-3 makes it clear that a divorce and remarriage doesn’t release a person from their former marriage, which's why the woman in the second marriage is called an adulteress.
But I’’ve Already Done It
It is argued that Matthew 18:23-27 would apply to someone who has been the guilty party and or divorced and remarried without scriptural cause. The damage has already been done. But, this passage isn’t talking about the earthly consequences of our sins (if it does, then putting repentant murderers in prison is wrong). Rather, the huge debt that was owed, is the guilt of any sin. To apply this passage to someone who insists on keeping someone they don’t have the right to, or to the guilty party, who insists on having the right to remarry, doesn’t fit.
Here is an example of what one needs to do when they have gone ahead and gotten themselves into a relationship which God has forbidden (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Points To Note: There was nothing in Deuteronomy 7:1-4, which specifically said what was to be done if Israelite men went ahead and formed such forbidden marriages. But Ezra, a very spiritual man, who knew that God was gracious, and that the Lord desires mercy and not sacrifice, knew that forbidden relationships (including some marriages) remain forbidden and cannot be made right. God’s grace won’t cleanse marriages that God has said are forbidden to us.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/ (503) 644-9017