Question:

The following scenario has been presented to me by another person for my thoughts and guidance on it:

I have a tough situation. A man I've known most of my life was baptized the other day. This man was in adultery. The church went ahead and baptized him. I don't know all the details but I do know the congregation's reputation about MDR. They are very strict. And as far as I know they believe and teach the subject correctly. I'm assuming they told him he had to repent of this act in order to be baptized. I'm assuming the man did attempt to repent or they wouldn't have baptized him.

The question I have is this: This man currently is in an adulterous marriage. Now this man could've said I realize I'm in adultery and I'm going to repent and start the process of getting a divorce. In the mean time, I'm not committing fornication with the woman any more, and I'm going to separate from her. We all know that divorce takes time.

What is God's view on this? Does God expect him to get a civil divorce before he is baptized? Or as long as he was able to repent that very hour and start the process of divorce, could he have went ahead and got baptized? I sort of think they made the right decision because as we all know today is the day of salvation and we're not promised tomorrow. This man is elderly and may not live long enough for his divorce to be final.

Now for those of you who disagree with me on the subject of MDR; I'm not trying to start another argument on this subject. I know your positions and don't agree with them. So please don't take this topic out of context. If you want to discuss the law of MDR, we can do it another time. This question is primarily for those who hold the Bible view on MDR.

My understanding with regard to this man's friend's baptism is whether or not his friend's divorce had to be final before he could be baptized. Repentance involves a change of heart and mind about sin. If the man had decided to quit having sexual relations with his wife and had contacted an attorney about a divorce, having started the process of separating himself from his adulterous partner, would that be enough "repentance" so that God would accept his baptism? Or would he need to wait until his divorce was final before being baptized? Your thoughts on this matter are greatly appreciated.


Answer:

I always shake my head in wonder at people. MDR (marriage, divorce, and remarriage) are three different topics. For each topic, I know of probably a half-dozen positions. Yet, this person treats the issues as if there is a only a "for it" or "against it" position. Notice too the assumption that whatever view the person holds, he assumes his is the Bible's view and everyone else is holding their views against the Bible. God has taught on each of the topics and we must conform to God's view on each subject.

So let's just focus on whether someone, involved in sin, can repent and be baptized. When Zacchaeus repented before Jesus, he declared, "Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold"" (Luke 19:8). At the time other people only looked at Zacchaeus as a sinner (Luke 19:7), but Jesus said, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:9-10). Yet, note that Zacchaeus had not yet done anything. His intentions are clear and we are confident that he carried them out. It didn't matter that was yet carried out or that others knew of his change. The important point is that he did change.