Question:

I have a question regarding church issues. Some members in the church I am part of have what I believe to be an unscriptural view on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Unless I am misunderstanding what one of the elders I talked to about this said: They believe people can be remarried, even if they divorced without fornication involved. Now I could be misunderstanding the specifics involved because the elder I talked to did tell me something about it being acceptable to baptize people that are in adulterous marriages, so he could be specifically talking about those that were unbelievers being accepted into baptism and salvation.†

My problem is I feel very uncomfortable now that I know that at least some in my church, especially one of the elders, believe differently about marriage, divorce, and remarriage according to the Bible. I believe in what Matthew 19 teaches that nobody can divorce and remarry unless the other spouse committed fornication. I find myself questioning the church I worship with and am worried. I feel awkward being at a worship service with them knowing that a portion of the church believes differently about marriage.†

I have heard that there are some that believe in the biblical view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, so I guess I am not alone on this issue.

How do I handle this situation mentally and spiritually? What should my attitude be toward the church I worship with and toward this issue? There are quite a few reasons why I enjoy the church I worship with, and am afraid to leave. I am also afraid of causing division if I raise questions against the church regarding this issue. What is the biblical way to handle this issue as well as other problems that may arise?

One other big problem I am having is how do I know that what you teach on your web site about marriage, which is also what I believe, is scriptural? I often find myself feeling guilty believing this way because I am afraid that I could be wrong, and because I find myself thinking Iím in the minority in my church? If it ends up that some of us are wrong on this issue, yet still follow Godís Word correctly on other issues, will we make it to heaven?


Answer:

"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:1-6).

Your question is actually one concerning fellowship. Ideally every member of the church strives for agreement concerning our understanding of the Scriptures. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10). But that goal isn't often reached because we are dealing with people. People make mistakes. People become Christians at different points in their lives. They grow at different rates. They bring in ideas from their past which often can't be addressed all at once. And there are some who just won't stick with the simple teaching of the gospels. This doesn't mean we don't continue to strive for unity, but it does mean we must admit we are going to run into difficulties along the way. Even in the same letter where Paul told the Corinthians to be united, he also stated, "For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you" (I Corinthians 11:18-19). Disagreements are bound to happen because we are dealing with people.

I started out with a quote concerning the church in Sardis. It wasn't a good church. It was close to dying. Jesus warned that he would break the church without warning if they did not repent. But what is interesting is that even in this group there were a few Christians whom Jesus praised as being faithful even though they were worshiping with a group that for the most part was unfaithful.

We have to remember first and foremost that we are judged individually in regards to salvation. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Our salvation isn't dependant on who we had for parents, nor on where we go to worship God.

Now, I'm not saying we could worship anywhere we want and be acceptable to God. There are a large number of places I could not attend because they way they worship God is not scriptural. For example, many denominations do not partake of the Lord's Supper every first day of the week as we find recorded in Acts 20:7. Since that is a requirement of God, if I tried to worship with such a group, I would fail in doing my duty to God and I would be judged accordingly.

But there are some issues which I might disagree with some of my brethren but which doesn't interfere with my obedience to God. A common example I give is the head covering issue. My wife wears one because of I Corinthians 11:1-16. For many years we disagreed over the issue, I didn't think it was necessary. However, I realized that if I was right, then wearing a head covering caused no harm. If I was wrong, she still was doing what she thought the Lord required of her. Over the years I learned more about the issue and became better versed in the Scriptures and realized I was wrong -- we now hold the same position on the topic. Still we work and worship with brethren where the majority don't agree with us. We are able to function and have fellowship together because my wife's wearing of a covering doesn't impact the worship of those who choose not to wear a covering. Their not wearing a covering doesn't impact my worship or my wife's worship. We discuss the issue once in a while, but it is not a cause for division.

In general, when I move to an area, I look for a congregation that comes the closest to agreement with how I view the Scriptures. But there have been times when it hasn't always been possible. I've attended congregations which supported institutions from their treasury (something I strongly disagree with) but they were the only church in the region. So I attended there but sent my contributions to another congregation with whom I agreed with how they spent the Lord's money. I was told that this group didn't talk about these issues because they didn't want any trouble. Being who I am, I made sure that I talked about those issues often, but as pleasantly as I could. It turned out that only a few families there were actually unsound in their beliefs. Most never thought about it before because it was never discussed. But I had a chance to hold quite a few Bible studies while I was there.

I have a close friend who has served as an elder for decades in the church. There was a period of time in his life when he had to move to a region where there was no sound congregation nearby. So he picked the soundest group that he could find and decided to work with them until they tossed him out. He figured that if that happened then it would be the Lord's hint that it was time to start a more faithful work in the area. He didn't hide what he believed in, but they asked him to teach classes and he participated in the preaching, working with them for about a year. There was a weekend that both he and his wife happened to be out of town and the congregation invited a preacher from another part of the state to come and speak that Sunday. This preacher heard about my friend, and knew what he stood for, he came and said the most slanderous things about my friend and his wife you have ever heard! The congregation immediately withdrew from my friend and his wife. They found out about it when they came home. Even though they had been with them for over a year, they withdrew from them on the word of a preacher who did not know them personally, and never even asked them whether the statements were true or not!

The next weekend, there was a new congregation in town.

Your situation is a bit more difficult because the congregation is accepting adulterers into its membership. Paul stated, "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner -- not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:9-11). You have an obligation to follow that command whether the congregation as a whole does so or not. I can't decide for you whether you are going to be able to do so or not. I can envision that it could cause a number of awkward situations in upholding the truth.

I don't know where you are, but if you want I can see if I can locate other congregations whom you can visit and investigate to see if they are more sound in their teachings.

Meanwhile, you still have an obligation to stand with what the Bible states. It might make you unpopular, but keep in mind the words of Jesus, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12). If you are unpopular because you are teaching what God has said, then you are in good company.

The one concern I have is that you aren't certain that what you believe is scriptural. You should believe things because it is what you always believed or because it is something I or some other preacher teaches. You should believe things because you are convinced that this is what God teaches. If you are uncertain, pull out your Bible and start looking at all the passages involved. Read things written by other people who might not agree and analyze their arguments to see if they are sound. Talk to some at the church as ask upon what Scripture do they base their beliefs and then compare that to what you know the Scriptures to say. There is no topic off-limits for a calm discussion between brethren. You might not immediately come to an agreement, but so long as you can still personally obey God, do what you can with the opportunities presented to you.

One last point to consider: If a person is living in adultery before he is baptized, being baptized doesn't suddenly make his marriage legitimate. It would be the same as a drunkard claiming that once he is baptized he can now get drunk without sinning. What people forget is that prior to baptism is repentance (Acts 2:38). A person must leave their sins before they can become a child of God.