Question:

I have a question about the question and answer article: Do I have to divorce my husband in order to be baptized? I am a member of a church of Christ, and we are currently struggling with our study on this subject. As Iím sure you are familiar, this brings a bit of tension to the table when discussing the possibility of our current members being in this exact situation. Although, I do completely understand the scripture and explanation of it that you have posted, I personally struggle with some specific situations I have in my mind. Our preacher here is able to discuss and explain the scripture, but it can often make more sense by getting another preacherís explanation. Please know that although I struggle to agree completely with the point of view, I am only asking for the explanation to help myself grow and learn. This is not in any way to gather ammunition against anyone else.

Situation 1: ††A homosexual man has random sexual encounters with many men. Although he may live in a state that currently provides for legal gay marriage, he chooses to not do this with any of his partners. Years later, he starts reading the Bible after being intrigued by a family friend. He decides to stop living his life of sin and work to make his life with God. He stops all homosexual behavior and starts attending regular services. Upon cleaning up all areas of his life, and leaving his past behind him, he is baptized and forgiven of this past sins after confessing and repenting. Two years later, he decides to marry a woman in the congregation that he attends.

Situation 2:† A young boy is involved in a relationship with his high school girlfriend. Against the advisement of many adults in their life, they decide to enter into a sexual relationship. His girlfriend becomes pregnant, and both sets of parents threaten to disown the children and put them out on the street unless they marry. As two impressionable teenagers, they comply as they feel it is their only choice. One year after having the baby, with no Christian influence to urge them otherwise, they decide that the marriage is not working. They get a divorce. The man continues through his life taking responsibility for his daughter. After seeing her safely off to college, he decides that is time for him to look for companionship. He marries a woman that he met and has been dating for the last couple years. They have children and are living a normal life. Later he is invited to join a friend at the friendís local congregation. After going to services for a couple weeks, he decides that he wants to lead his family on a life of service to God. He starts bring his wife and their children to services, and he participates in as many activities with the congregation as he can with his work schedule. After being with the congregation for several years, he decides he wants to become baptized with God.

It is my understanding from the article, that the church of Christ would openly accept the man and his wife in Situation 1 because although he has led a very undesirable life, those sins were forgiven when he was baptized. I am also to understand that the man in situation 2 would be required to break up his family and possibly cause a lifetime of damage to his children by splitting up their home in order to be baptized with God. This would be because according to the Bible, he would currently be sinning. I understand that the scripture discusses these situations, but I also know that the Bible states that God has immense grace. I personally have a difficult time understanding that God would prefer to break up this family and leave their children in a broken home in order to accept a very willing believer to be baptized.

We have discussed that all sins are equal in Godís eyes. That we should not compare homosexuality with divorce because God does not see a difference. Although I agree with this statement, I believe that God looks at the effect of our sins on others with very different views. The cost of an otherwise Godly family, the possible loss of children being brought up in the church, and the loss of multiple saved, would weigh greater than the sin of divorce. I have also been told that baptism forgives all your sins. Since divorce is a sin, and equal to other sins, I would think that it would also be forgiven. I have been taught that the only way to make the sin of divorce right with God, would be to rejoin the partner that you still have a married bond with. By returning to that partner, you are where God would like you to be. By forgiving the sin, it would indicate the God has forgiven you of your past mistakes.

I have already been taught that death would be an a reason that a Christian would be allowed to remarry. If this is true, would it then be acceptable for the man in situation 2 to be baptized if his previous wife has passed away years before he chose to be baptized? He is no longer capable of rejoining with her, and according to the Bible, he would be allowed to remarry. His baptism would certainly allow for God to forgive him for committing adultery during the time between his marriage to his new wife, and the death of his previous wife?

Any help that you could provide to help me understand this question better in my mind.


Answer:

Actually I find the endless variations on the question of divorce and remarriage tedious. It isn't that what Jesus taught is all that difficult. People make it difficult for themselves because what is stated is not what they expect or want.

Yes, God extends mercy to sinners. That is why Christians are saved from their sins. But what you need to notice is that God extends His mercy. It is not for man to declare whom God should be merciful to. "For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion"" (Romans 9:5). God's mercy is not unbounded. There are many times in the Old Testament when God declared of sinners who refused to leave their sins, "For it is a people of no understanding; therefore He who made them will not have mercy on them, and He who formed them will show them no favor" (Isaiah 11:27).

A covenant is offered by men, but bound by God. "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6). Marriage is a covenant relationship (Malachi 2:14). Homosexuality is a sin (I Corinthians 6:9-10). God does not support sin. Therefore, there is no way for homosexuals to marry; God will not bind sinners in their attempt to make a covenant to sin.

The first situation is of a man who sinned and left that sin. "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:11). He doesn't carry his past sins with him into the future.

I suspect that you would have no problems saying that a homosexual couple would have to separate to become Christians, even if they had adopted children and wanted to raise those children in Christianity. That a secular government acknowledged their union would not matter because it remains a sin. If they insisted that they should continue their relationship and that baptism would wash away the sin would be easily seen as unacceptable. You know that they had not repented of their sin and, therefore, could not be saved by baptism.

In the second situation, notice that you describe a couple who are rebellious and unheeding; yet, you try to garner some sympathy by claiming they were pressured into acting righteously by getting married. Yes, in the ignorance of the man's sinful life, he married a second time when he was still bound by his covenant to his first wife. "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife" (I Corinthians 7:10-11). This adulterous relationship is one of many sins he has been involved in because Paul states that to marry another while still bound in marriage is adultery. "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).

This is what people refuse to accept: that the relationship is adulterous. Sin doesn't become less of a sin just because someone wants to become a Christian. As Peter points out, to become a Christian, one must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). If a person doesn't want to give up his sin, regardless of what it is, then there is no repentance and there is no forgiveness. To claim there would be a loss of multiple saved people is false because people cannot be saved while remaining in sin.

If a drug dealer decides to become a Christian, he has to stop dealing in drugs. It doesn't matter if he is supporting his family with his sin. Is it hard to stop the "easy" money and get a legitimate job? Of course! But difficulty is not how one gauges right and wrong.

The argument you are offering is that "good" comes from continuing this man's sin. But Paul stated, "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"? -- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just" (Romans 3:8).

A marriage covenant ends at the death of one of the partners. Therefore, even when a person divorces for reasons other than fornication, when the partner dies, he is freed from his covenant and can marry again. His marriage to someone else would not be adulterous and this remains true whether he had become a Christian or not.

Firstly, thank you very much for explaining your answers so detailed. I hope that you never find opportunity to teach any subject of God's word tedious enough to stop teaching. I also want to mention that my examples were not created out of sympathy. They were extremes of both sides as I could visualize. I believe that by understanding the farthest out situations on both sides it would allow someone to understand any situation less hard to understand.

I must say that you were able to clear up all the misunderstandings that I had previous to my last email. The words you wrote about mercy being extended and not declared makes a lot of sense to me now. Before, I believed that divorce was the sin, and that this would be removed upon baptism. I now understand that the sin is actually adultery and cannot be carried into baptism. Although we were given a similar drug dealer analogy, our minister was simply not able to word things properly to get the point across. So for this, I truly thank you. I was even able to already speak someone else and clear this up in their minds as well.

I do have an additional question to ask, if you wouldn't mind. I apologize for the examples, but I've found my mind works much better in getting questions out in examples.

Example: A man and woman separate and get a legal divorce. According to God, they would still be bound to each other. If the woman enters into a sexual relationship with another man, that would free the man to remarry. She has committed the sin of adultery. When the man remarries, he obviously has a sexual relationship with his new wife. Since God already severed the bond between the original husband and wife when the she committed adultery, would she be free to remarry after repenting of her sins (including adultery) and being baptized since she is no longer bound to her husband?

It seems like this is a matter of who sins first. It would seem that all someone would have to do, is wait until the other person involved messes up. Once that occurs, they are free to move on. We have questions arise about this in our congregation. Can a person be married as many times as they choose, as long as they are not the first person to engage in a sexual relationship with another?

Jesus' statement in Matthew 19:9 reads, "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." The condition for remarriage without adultery rests on the reason for the divorce. The "for" in this case is critical to the meaning of the statement. If a person, let's pick the husband, is involved in adultery and refuses to give up his affair, then the wife can divorce her husband because of his fornication and marry another without committing adultery. Whether additional sins occur after the divorce isn't considered, only the reason for the divorce.