The following is from my book on MDR.

1. We must understand that, in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus said things like, “you have heard that it was said” (Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, etc.), He was not talking about what “Moses” said and taught, but what the “Scribes and Pharisees” were saying and teaching. As the religious teachers of the day, they had misunderstood, misapplied, and misused most of the things that God had intended in the moral requirements of the Law of Moses. They had either changed God’s commands altogether or misapplied what God had said in the commands. This is what Jesus was correcting in His teaching. The Law of Moses was “holy and just and good” in its moral precepts and commandments (Rom. 7:12). God did not “create” sin by giving the “law” through Moses. Sin already existed long before the Law of Moses was given.

2. We must keep in mind throughout the sermon that Jesus is both explaining and exposing. He is explaining what God actually meant in giving the moral requirements in the Law of Moses. And He was exposing what the Scribes and Pharisees were teaching about the Law. They had “made the commandment of God of no effect by their tradition” (Mt. 15:6). Jesus specifically told His disciples to “beware” of the teaching of the Pharisees (Mt. 16:12). They “justified themselves” (Lk. 16:15) and appeared righteous “outwardly,” but inwardly were full of hypocrisy and deceit. (Matt. 23:28).

3. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught them what the Law of Moses actually meant and, at the same time, exposed the Scribes and Pharisees for changing, corrupting, and making void God’s commandments by their false teaching. They were false teachers whom Jesus described as “wolves” in sheep’s clothing (Mt. 7:15).

4. In the sermon, notice how Jesus taught the same thing that Moses did. Jesus explained that when God said not to “murder,” He was not just talking about the “act” itself. He was also condemning the attitude of heart that leads to murder. He explained that the attitude that leads one to want to murder is the real problem and that we should seek to settle differences in the quickest and easiest way possible before it leads to all kind of problems—including wanting to murder someone else—and we bring judgment on ourselves. This same truth was taught in the overall teaching of the Old Testament. Jesus was not changing God’s moral law on this subject.

5. The Law of Moses taught the same thing about anger that Jesus did, because it taught men to “do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). The Law taught men to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Mt. 22:39-40). The Old Testament warns against “anger” and taught men to be careful what they say and do when they are angry just as Jesus did here.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm. (Ps. 37:8).
A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. (Prov. 15:18).

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. (Prov. 19:11).

Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools. (Ecc. 7:9).

6. Obviously the Jewish leaders did not teach this and they certainly did not practice it. They only thought or taught that it is wrong to commit the “act” of murder but did not teach people what the Old Testament taught about the attitude that leads to murder. In doing so, they could justify themselves (Lk. 16:15) because they were angry with Jesus and others for no reason.

7. Consider also what Jesus taught about sexual sin.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt. 5:27-28).

8. Jesus explained that when Moses gave this law, he was not just talking about the “act” itself, but also the lust in the heart that leads to committing the act. Moses himself taught that one should not “covet (desire/lust after) your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17). Moses and others in the Old Testament clearly taught that it is wrong for a man to lust after a woman in his heart.

And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, (Num. 15:39).

Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. (Prov. 6:25).

And there a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart…With her enticing speech she caused him to yield…Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth…Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways…(Prov. 7:6-27).

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart… (Ps. 24:3-4).

9. The Pharisees were an “adulterous” generation (Mt. 16:4). They were full of “uncleanness” (Mt. 23:27). According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “uncleanness” means: “in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living.” When we look at the other ten times this word is used in the New Testament, it is obvious that it refers primarily to “sexual uncleanness.” (See Rom. 1:24; 6:19; 2 Cor. 12:21; Eph. 4:19; 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 2:3; 4:7; 2 Pet. 2:10). Therefore, the Scribes and Pharisees were obviously lusting after women and sometimes putting their faithful wives away in order to marry them. In other cases, they were breaking up marriages in order to get the women they wanted. This is, no doubt, one of the reasons Jesus brought the subject up about committing adultery in the heart. He was not only teaching that it is sin, but also condemning the Jewish leaders and others who were full of sexual uncleanness (Mt. 23:27).
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matt. 5:31).

10. This was a part of what Moses taught, but not in the sense that the Pharisees had interpreted it. They had conveniently left part of what Moses said completely out. Moses did not just say that a man could divorce his wife by simply giving her a “certificate of divorce” and sending her away. Moses said if he found some “uncleanness” in her, he could put her away. Jesus explained that the husband who put her away must do so because he has found some “sexual immorality” in her, which is exactly what Moses had taught. Otherwise, he causes it to appear that she has committed “uncleanness” or “sexual immorality.” By putting her away he causes it to appear that she has “broken the marriage covenant” and is guilty of “uncleanness” (or marital adultery). See Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

11. As with the other subjects, the Pharisees were teaching that a man could put away his faithful wife for “any cause” as long as he gave her the “bill of divorcement.” She did not have to be guilty of “uncleanness” like Moses actually said. They obviously taught that one does not sin by putting away his faithful wife in order to marry someone else, but Jesus said doing so “causes her” to “commit adultery,” even if she is not guilty of doing anything wrong.

12. And whoever marries one who is “put away” because of “uncleanness” or “sexual immorality” is committing adultery because he is also responsible for breaking up the marriage covenant between a husband and wife. I believe that the reason Jesus said this is because the Pharisees, who were “adulterous” (Mt. 16:4) and full of (sexual) “uncleanness” (Mt. 23:27), were committing fornication with other men’s wives and causing them to be put away, thus destroying the marriage covenant between that couple. And, of course, the same thing happens today. Anyone who causes the break up of a marriage is “committing adultery” against the innocent marriage partner in that marriage that he helps breaks up.

13. “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord’ (Matt. 5:33). This is what Moses taught, but the Pharisees had corrupted what Moses taught to such an extent that they taught that it was right to lie and not even tell the truth at all. The Pharisees obviously taught that the only oaths that one had to perform were those made “to the Lord” and they were the ones who decided which oaths were made to the Lord and which were not. In other words, they decided which oaths were binding and which oaths were not. Jesus made this clear when He was condemning their hypocrisy in Matthew 23. Observe the reading:

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he, who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He, who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he, who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. (Mt. 22:16-22).

14. Observe that the Scribes and Pharisees taught that it was not a binding oath if one swears a certain way. In other words, one could swear by the temple that he was telling the truth and yet be lying and it would not be wrong to lie as long as he did not swear by the gold of the temple. This is the kind of ungodly teaching that Jesus was correcting in the Sermon on the Mount.

15. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matt. 5:38-39). The Pharisees were obviously teaching that this command applies to personal vengeance. In other words, whatever someone does to hurt you, you can do the same to them. Jesus explained that Moses was not referring to personal vengeance when he wrote this command. God never taught personal vengeance against others.

16. When Moses said “eye for eye” he was referring to the right of the government to exercise vengeance on evildoers. It was and is God’s way of executing wrath on murderers and the like. Observe what Moses actually said:

“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:15-21).

17. Observe that it was the judges who were to render the verdict for punishment for sins and this only after “careful inquiry” and on the testimony of “witnesses.” This has nothing to do with God authorizing personal vengeance against another person.

18. The Law of Moses taught that if someone was breaking into a person’s house, that person could kill him as a matter of personal protection. But one was not allowed to go out later and hunt him down and kill him as a matter of personal vengeance. Notice what Moses said:

If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. (Exodus 22:2-3).

19. Observe that personal protection is allowed, while personal vengeance is denied. Jesus explained that God taught us to do good to others and not retaliate. As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself said that a man would not allow his house to be broken into (Matt. 24:43), but He, like Moses, also forbids taking personal vengeance (Matt. 5:39-42).

20. The Law and the prophets taught, “do unto others as you would they do to you” (Matt. 7:12) and to love your neighbor as “yourself’ (Matt. 22:39-40). This is exactly what Jesus is explaining in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is emphasizing that God has always wanted us to “overcome evil with good.”

21. The Old Testament taught the exact same thing as Jesus did in this sermon. God said, through Moses, “Vengeance is mine and recompense” (Deut. 32:35). Paul’s application of this statement is in the New Testament in Romans 12:19-21 which reads as follows:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written it is written “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

22. Observe that Paul told the saints in Rome not to “avenge yourselves.” Why? Because of what God had “written” in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 32:5 and reaffirmed by both Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and Paul in Romans.

23. Consider also that Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matt. 5:43-44).

24. Moses did teach that we should love our neighbors, which the Pharisees were right about. But he did not teach that we are to “hate” our enemies. In fact, Moses taught what Jesus did. Like Jesus, He taught that men were to “do good to enemies.” Observe what Moses wrote:

If you meet your enemies’ ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it. (Ex. 23:4-5).

25. The Old Testament taught almost word for word what the New Testament does about enemies. Read it for yourself for Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
26. We must keep in mind throughout the sermon that Jesus is not contrasting what He said with what God said through Moses, but rather what “has been said” by the Jewish false teachers for years.

Wayne Dunaway

MDR: Can the Guilty Person Remarry?


This is from my book “Just As I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried”

But the question is: Can a man (and the same would be true of a woman) who has been guilty of “sexual immorality” (Matt. 19:9, NKJV) or “fornication” (KJV) and who has already been “put away” (divorced) be forgiven of that sin? Can he later marry someone else without sinning? In other words, can a man who has been divorced by a mate because he has been guilty of adultery then later marry someone else without being guilty of sin when he does so? Does he have a right to be married to another person? Does God recognize/approve/sanction the marriage to the other person? Will he be married in “God’s sight” to his new wife?

3. The Bible answer to all of these questions is: YES! Of course he can be forgiven if he repents and seeks forgiveness. And yes he can marry again. According to Jesus, when a person is “put away” because of fornication (KJV) or sexual immorality (NKJV) or marital unfaithfulness (NIV), he is “put away” (Matthew 19:9). He is not “partly” put away, or “nearly” put away, or “somewhat” put away, or “almost” put away—He is “put away.” He is divorced and the marriage is formally terminated, totally and completely. That means that he is not still married to her in any sense. He is not married in man’s sight. He is not married in God’s sight. And he is not married in anybody’s sight that can see things as they are! Most all agree that the wife who put him away is free to marry someone else because she put him away because of his fornication. But if she is free from that marriage and, therefore, no longer married to him, then he is no longer married to her. Both are unmarriedafter the divorce. The idea that the “guilty party” is somehow still bound to the woman who divorced him, or that he is bound by some “mystical magnet” or “invisible clamp” or to some (unknown) “law of God demanding his celibacy,” is not only wrong and unscriptural, it is downright ludicrous. One mate cannot be free from a marriage and the other mate still be bound by that marriage. The idea that “she” is not married to “him,” but he is somehow still “married to her” in some sense, makes absolutely no sense! In fact, it is nonsense! There is no “invisible clamp” that God places on a “marriage covenant” that cannot be broken if they divorce. If they are divorced then they are both “unmarried.”

4. The question then is: Can a person who has been “loosed from” or “released from” (divorced from) a wife marry someone else without sinning? Read the answer from the Bible for yourself. It is in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28:

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. (New American Standard Bible)

5. Notice carefully that the Bible clearly says if you have been “loosed” or “released” (divorced), and are therefore unmarried and do not have a wife, then “if you do marry, you have not sinned.” Why is that the case with the one who is guilty of unfaithfulness in a divorce for fornication or adultery? It is because he no longer has a wife. He has been “put away” and is, therefore, “unmarried.” The marriage to his first wife is as though it never happened. His former wife is totally free from that marriage because she “put him away,” and he is totally free from that marriage relationship because he has been “put away.” It would be impossible for him to still be married to her, but her to not be married to him. If she is free from the marriage, then he is as free as she is. There is no possible way that he can “commit adultery against her” (Mark 10:11) when he remarries, because she is not his wife and he is not her husband. He has been “put way.”

6. Another thing that needs to be pointed out is that Jesus did not contradict Moses on this subject. He did not change what Moses said about it (Matthew 5:1-20). In fact, He upheld what Moses taught. In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Moses wrote:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife,…..

7. Observe that Moses taught that the one guilty of “uncleanness” could go out and marry and when she does she “becomes another man’s wife.” Even though she was “guilty” of “uncleanness,” she was nevertheless free to remarry because she had been properly and formally divorced.

8. Jesus taught the same thing but He used the words “sexual immorality” instead of “uncleanness.” (Matt. 19:9). In doing so, He was actually explaining what kind of “uncleanness” to which Moses was referring.

9. Jesus said in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 that in a case where the marriage ends because of fornication, the “one flesh” relationship is over—totally and completely. Therefore, both parties (the innocent and the one guilty of fornication) in a divorce because of fornication (or adultery) are free to remarry someone else without sinning when they do.

10. God “hates divorce” in such cases (Malachi 2:13-16). But these things happen. Those who sin in ending marriages in an unscriptural way should repent and seek forgiveness. But there is nothing they can do about the past. What’s done is done! A person who has believed and been baptized is forgiven of all sin (Mk. 16:16), including marital unfaithfulness. A Christian, who has repented and confessed, has been forgiven of all sin, including marital unfaithfulness (1 John 1:9).

11. David was forgiven of this very sin (2 Samuel 11, 12; Psalm 52, 32). Those today that deliberately violate God’s marriage law can also be forgiven just as David was when they repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Acceptance of those who have committed this sin is not an approval of the sin that they have committed. God certainly did not approve of David’s sin with Bathsheba and David suffered for it, but He forgave David and blessed him in his subsequent marriage to her.

12. Paul committed many sins, including murder, which most of us have not done. But he said that he was “forgetting those things that are behind” (past mistakes, sins, and bad decisions), and “reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:6-13). Paul refused to live in the past and so should the rest of us. In First Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul said that some in the church in Corinth had been very sinful. Some of them had been “fornicators” and “adulterers” in the past but, having been forgiven, they were “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” by the power (in the name) of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God. This is what knowing Jesus and the salvation that He freely gives us is all about!

13. Forgiveness is for those who have failed, not for those who are faultless.


Numerous leaders in the Church of Christ in the past believed (at least at some point in their studies) that the guilty party who is put away for fornication can remarry. Among those are:

1. Gus Nichols: “May the guilty party marry again? I see no way in the world for it to be true that the ‘innocent party’ may PUT AWAY the ‘guilty’ party and the ‘guilty party’ not really be put away. I see no way for the ‘innocent party’ to have a right to another marriage, but the ‘guilty have no such right. If the ‘guilty’ is REALLY “put away’, he is no longer married to the ‘innocent party’. How could the ‘innocent party’ be loosed from the bonds of wedlock, and the ‘guilty person’ still be tied to the ‘innocent’?…It seems to me impossible for the innocent to have the right to another marriage, and the guilty person have no such right.” (Words of Truth,” July 27, 1973, p. 2).

2. J.W. McGarvey: “Whether it would be adultery to marry a woman who had been put away on account of fornication, is neither affirmed or denied. No doubt such a woman is at liberty to marry again if she can, seeing that the bond which bound her to her husband is broken” (emphasis added). (Commentary on Matthew and Mark, p. 165).

3. Bobby Duncan: “Is he (a brother) an enemy to the church because he believes that the Bible allows the guilty party in divorce action to remarry under certain circumstances (emphasis added) (“Words of Truth,” April 13, 1979; It is common knowledge among many of us that Brother Duncan believed that the “guilty party” could remarry in certain circumstances.)

4. Foy E. Wallace, Jr wrote, concerning the permission to divorce in cases involving fornication: “The treatment of the permissibility of divorce, not a mere separation, but a separation so complete that the marriage tie, or bond of union, is null and void, leaving both parties free to marry again” (emphasis added)(The Sermon on the Mount and the Civil State, p. 42).

5. G. C. Brewer, one of the most influential preachers from the early to mid-1900s, wrote: “If the ‘innocent party’ can marry again, can the ‘guilty party’ be forgiven of this guilt? If he is forgiven, can he marry again? If not, is he forgiven? How is he forgiven if he is punished for life for his sin?” (The Truth About Divorce and Remarriage, Weldon Langfield, p. 58).

6. Homer Hailey: The contention that Genesis 2:18-24 was recognized as law which demanded that the person who takes the wife of another must give her up as demanded by repentance is disputed in the case of David…..Surely no one would deny that David repented, yet he was permitted to keep the woman as his wife. Repentance did not demand that she be put away or that the two live apart for the remainder of their lives, for she bore him four sons (1 Chron. 3:5). Will not the same God of loving-kindness and tender mercies forgive and blot out sins under a system of grace? Even then it was an act of grace. Would anyone argue that God was more merciful under law than He is under grace? Surely not! . (The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God, pp. 72, 73).

Hope this helps! Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).

Wayne Dunaway

MDR: Filling the Church with Fornicators

If people believe what you have written in your book on marriage, divorce and remarriage then we will “fill the church with fornicators.

My response to this is here:


There have been and still are those who hold the view that says that those of us who accept those divorced and remarried for reasons other than fornication on the part of a mate are guilty of “filling the church with fornicators!” This very serious accusation is applied to those MDR couples: who were “unjustly” put away; who suffered “physical abuse” and sometimes “beatings;” and to those whose mate simply “walked out” on the marriage. Therefore this unfounded charge is even made against a great host of “innocent victims” who were mistreated by an unloving and/or abusive mate and have come to Jesus for healing and help. I can appreciate the fact that those who hold this view are only “concerned for the souls” of those involved, but the demands that this view makes on those “souls involved” is of great “concern.” The “souls” involved, in almost all cases, are more “concerned” about their families than they are about the unreasonable, unmerciful, unscriptural, and sinful requirements that this view demands. There are virtually no “souls” who are going to break up their established families and leave their children without “married parents” by divorcing the mates they are committed to in a marriage relationship in order to gain the approval and/or acceptance that this view demands.
This is also a very serious charge made against us in these churches and is one that is not taken lightly nor ignored by many of us. Any view that says a husband and wife who are married to each other and are committed to each other in a loving marriage relationship are “living in adultery” in their marriage is serious business indeed! This is not the teaching of the Bible and, in my judgment, no one can prove that it is. It is a serious charge not only against those MDR couples who have come to Jesus for forgiveness and healing, but also for their children, parents, relatives, friends, and the churches involved in forgiving those who have experienced marital difficulties, mistreatment, mistakes, and/or failures and who have started over in a new relationship. For one to say that a divorced woman, who was beaten and/or abused by her first husband and who divorces him for abuse, then later “remarries” someone else who loves her as a husband should, is “living in adultery” with the man she is “married” to will most likely not be passed over or treated lightly nowadays. Those who make such serious accusations may need to re-think and possibly re-study the whole marriage issue…especially before they “sit on the sidelines” and judge, or “sit up in the stands” and condemn those involved in MDR. Demanding divorce of others or tagging them with slanderous designations if they do not divorce their mates and live single is a heavy load for anyone to take on. In my judgment, there is simply no way for a person to actually study what the Bible really says and conclude that MDR couples are “living in adultery” with each other when they have been divorced and are now committed to each other in a loving marriage relationship. So, in answering this unfounded and very, very serious charge that is made, I offer the following:

No one would deny that most of our churches have some who have been guilty in the past of marital “adultery.” Some in the church in Corinth had been fornicators and adulterers before turning to Jesus. But they had been “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” and, therefore, they were no longer guilty of adultery and/or fornication. As Paul put it, “And such were some of you…” (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
For Paul to continue to refer to them as “adulterers” or “fornicators” when they had been forgiven of those sins by coming to Jesus for forgiveness would be unthinkable. But according to your view, as well as the view of others (and that number seems to be steadily shrinking as more and more are actually studying for themselves), the Corinthian Church was “full of fornicators” because of their past, and so are a lot of churches today if it is to be defined by the past sins of the members…including the church where I am and, most likely, the one where you are.
I dare say that the majority of us have been guilty of “fornication” in our past before we were married. How would we like it if someone accused us of still being “fornicators?” If this definition is correct and we can count past sins as still existing, then most (if not all) churches I know are filled with fornicators, liars, racists, and prideful hypocrites. The verse in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 would read, “such are some of you.”

If a husband is told three times to “abide in the state” in which he is called (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24) and is specifically told that if he is “bound to a wife, do not seek to be loosed” (1 Cor. 7:27), then he cannot possibly still be classified as a “fornicator” or “adulterer” except by those who totally ignore, overlook, or misunderstand what God has said. Paul did not ask “are you bound” to your “first” wife, or even to your “second” wife, but are you bound to “a” wife.
The real truth could be that in some of our churches we have “filled” them with “fabricators,” whose fabricated view seeks to destroy established families by unreasonable and unscriptural, as well as sinful, demands on others. We have “filled some churches” with views that demand the very thing that God said that He hates, which is divorcing the faithful mates that they are married to! (Mal. 2:14). God “hates” divorcing faithful mates no matter who commands it. This would include any view that seeks to destroy established families by teaching faithfully married couples to “divorce.”
There is no verse in the Bible that says a “married” couple “commits adultery” when they have sex with each other. No verse! No. Not. One. The Bible teaches that the “marriage bed” is “undefiled” for those who are “married.” There is no verse that says a husband commits adultery when he has sex with his wife. I repeat. No. Not. One. See Hebrews 13:4.
The fact that you bring up “Herod” does not help your case in the least and only proves that you most likely have never really studied the issue, other than what you have been told by others. It was not “lawful” for Herod to have “his brother Phillip’s wife,” not because she had been “divorced” according to the “law” she was under, but obviously because the law they were under forbade a brother to “uncover the nakedness” of his “brother’s wife.” (Read Leviticus 18:16). This has absolutely nothing to do with divorced and remarried couples today or even to the divorced and remarried persons under the Law of Moses. There is nothing in the Bible about Herod and Herodias being legitimately divorced and remarried according to the “law of Moses” which clearly “allowed” divorce and remarriage for “uncleanness” when they were given a “certificate of divorce.” (See Deuteronomy 24:1-4). One cannot prove from the Bible that she was divorced according to the Law of Moses (Deut. 24:1-4) and they certainly cannot prove that those MDR couples today are in the same situation or category she was in. There were quite obviously numerous couples who had legitimately divorced and remarried according to the Law of Moses that John did not condemn. For one to accuse those today who have been divorced and remarried under the Law of Christ of “living in adultery” with their present mate because of “Herod’s case” makes about as much sense to me as accusing them of “incest.” If they are going to accuse a married couple of “incest,” then they need to be sure that they know what they are talking about and the same goes for those accusing a married couple of fornication. As a matter of fact, they should just go ahead and accuse MDR couples of “incest” if Herod and Herodias is the example they use for their definition of “unlawful marriages!” But regardless of which “charge” is made–whether fornication or incest–it can carry serious consequences when applied to those who have been divorced and remarried today.
The very idea that you mention concerning a “divorced” woman being still “married” to the husband she “divorced” is absolutely absurd! What on earth does “divorce” do? A “woman” who is “divorced” is not married to the ex-husband she divorced. That is what divorce is. It is the termination of a marriage. For example, a person who is single is not married. That is the reason we say they are single. Being single means that one is not married. There is no such thing as a “single married” person or a “married single” person when used in this sense. One is either married or else they are single. They simply cannot be both “married” and “single” at the same time. In the same way, there is no such thing as a “divorced married” person or a “married divorced” person. One cannot be both at the same time. It is either “divorced” or “married,” but not both. A divorced woman is nobody’s wife unless she decides to marry somebody. A divorced wife does not have a husband. Divorce terminates the marriage. That is what divorce is. In other words, a person cannot be “married’ and “unmarried” at the same time. Paul clearly said that if a wife “departs” from her husband she is to remain “unmarried” (1 Cor. 7:10-11). If some in our churches teach others that the “unmarried” are still “married,” or that the “married” are “unmarried” then we may have indeed “filled some of the churches with foolishness!”
This is no small matter. Those who make such charges need to be aware of what they are doing and saying, as well as who is affected by such slanderous charges. These charges involve some very tender and troubled hearts and real life situations involving real families who love, care about, and are committed to each other in a marriage relationship. For example, here are some real life situations:
A boy got a girl pregnant when he was sixteen years old. Back in that day and time, some parents insisted that the boy and girl get married when this happened. The boy’s father more or less made him marry her. As soon as he got out of school and away from his dad’s authority, he divorced her. He most likely never intended to stay married to her from the beginning. He leaves her, but not for anyone else. Years later, she remarries and has other children with a loving and committed husband in a new relationship. She and her husband become Christians and are bringing their children up in the church. I believe she is faithful….your view says that she and her husband are both “fornicators.”
Another young lady was happily married for a few years and then her husband got hooked on drugs and became violent and physically abusive. She was afraid for her life and the lives of her children. She divorced him and got a restraining order against him. She tried to stay single but she was not gifted for celibacy and finally met a good Christian man who loved her and who was not abusive. She and her husband are Christians who are very involved in church. I believe that this innocent victim of abuse and her husband to whom she is now married are faithful…your view says they are both “fornicators!”
A couple who were in their teens decided to get married. They both were from non-religious families and knew nothing about pre-marital counseling or even the sacredness of marriage. After less than a year together, they both agreed that the marriage was over and both agreed to divorce. Later they each married Christians, had children, and became Christians themselves and are very active in church. I believe that they are faithful…your view says they are “fornicators!” (All four of them!)
A wicked husband murdered his wife who was pregnant. If he gets out of prison, then remarries and later hears the gospel and sincerely turns to Jesus for forgiveness and healing, we all believe that he can be forgiven and continue in his present marriage relationship as a faithful Christian. Another weak husband has a one night stand on a business trip and it is found out. He is sorry and agrees to go to counseling and do whatever it takes to save his marriage. But in spite of his remorse, his wife cannot live with the betrayal and she divorces him and later marries someone else. The guilty man later remarries, then hears the gospel and sincerely turns to Jesus for forgiveness and healing. I believe the view that says he can be faithful to the Lord in the marriage relationship that he is in…your view says that both he and his wife are “fornicators.” There simply must be something wrong with the idea that a “wicked husband” can murder his wife, remarry, and be forgiven and stay in the marriage relationship he is in, while the “weak husband” who was caught up in sin cannot stay married to his present wife. There is nothing he can do about the sins in his past and divorcing his present wife that he is committed to in a loving marriage relationship will not change anything about the past. But it will cause him to sin against his present wife by breaking his promise to her. He cannot undo the divorce and remarriage any more than the other man can un-murder his wife. Any view that makes one better off to murder than to commit fornication makes no sense to me. Most of the people I know have most likely committed fornication at some point in their lives…very few have actually murdered someone.
Surely you can see how unmerciful and ungodly such a doctrine is. All of us are opposed to “divorce” in most cases, but we should not be opposed to “marriage.” Some of you who claim to be against divorce are the very ones who hold a view which demands that married couples get divorced in order to be faithful. Over forty-five years ago, Foy Wallace, Jr. (a highly respected preacher in many of the conservative Churches of Christ at the time and an editor of the Gospel Advocate) called it a “presumptuous procedure” and sharply criticized the breaking up of “established families” by “some marriage-counseling preachers who are so readily disposed to break up marriage relationships that are not in conformity with their own immature human opinions.” (The Sermon on the Mount and the Civil State, pp. 41, 45).
How would those who hold the anti-remarriage view and the view that is actually pro-divorce concerning most remarried couples (that is, the view that insists that most people who are divorced and remarried get divorced again) feel if some held the radical view that concluded from reading 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 that the sex act constituted the “one flesh” relationship of marriage and therefore we are all “married” to the first person with whom we had sex. (I have actually known people who held this view, believe it or not.) Since so many of us have committed fornication before we were married with someone other than our present mates, we are therefore not married to our present mates but “living in adultery” with the one we are married to now, according to this view. They teach our friends, relatives, brethren, and our children that we are “adulterers” and “fornicators” and just “living in adultery” with our mates. How would we feel? The answer to this question is: exactly how those “divorced and remarried” feel about the “radical view” among us that unjustly accuses our relatives, friends, and neighbors who have been divorced and subsequently remarrie that they are “fornicators.” Believe me when I say that this is a very, very serious charge that will most likely not be taken lightly by those involved. It is also a charge that cannot be proven by those who are making such serious, insensitive, and slanderous accusations against “married” couples who love each other and are committed to each other in a marriage relationship! The days of just sitting on the sideline and “condemning the guiltless” without suffering the consequences could be over!
I know this may sound like I am personally upset with those individuals who make such charges, but that is really not the case. I even respect their right to disagree. I realize that most are likely sincere, honest, and care about the souls that are involved in MDR. (If fact, it is most likely easier to convince me of their sincerity than it is to convince those MDR couples that are turned away because of these unscriptural demands.) It is not that they disagree with me. It is that their view condemns them (MDR couples). I have tried (maybe without success) to keep my response from sounding too personal. This is not about you or me. It is the “view” and the “slanderous charge” that I oppose–not necessarily those who misunderstand the MDR issue. The opinions/views of those who believe in breaking up established families and teaching children that their parents who are faithful to each other in the covenant of marriage are somehow “living in adultery” mean little or nothing to me because I know in my own heart and from my own study that those charges are not true. But this view will have a negative effect on many (maybe most) of those who are involved in MDR relationships. I know what I believe and it is in my book. But those MDR couples that are turned away from Jesus by this view are the ones who suffer and the ones we really need to be concerned about. Those established families (especially those with children) that this view seeks to destroy and/or slander are the ones who really suffer. Those influenced by what I believe will “abide in the state” that they are in just as God said to do. (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24). If you and others can continue to hold a view that accuses “married couples” of being guilty of “fornication” or “living in adultery” with the ones that they love and are committed to in a “marriage relationship” then you all must live with that…but not me! The churches who are accused of being “filled with fornicators” because we have accepted those who come to us “just as they are in their marriage relationship” are actually “filling the Church” with those who need “healing” and “help.” Most (practically all) of them have been hurt enough already. We are “filling the Church with those forgiven” of past sins and who are just like you and I, except for, perhaps, the nature of our past sins. The view that we hold in these churches that Jesus offers pardon to those in MDR relationships when they come to Him for grace, mercy, and forgiveness is far more in harmony with the love of Jesus presented in the Bible than the view that seeks to “fill the Church” with those who say that Jesus is pleased with “breaking up” established “families” and teaching “married couples” to “divorce.”
God bless you brother and I hope this helps. Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).


MDR: Why Is My Book Needed?

Someone writes: I do not believe that people need a book like yours to know what the Bible teaches about MDR. All they really need is the Bible.
My response: I really couldn’t agree more. All they really need is the Bible and time to study it. You are exactly right.  And if there had never been any false teaching on the subject, then there would be no need for me to spend well over a year writing a book about it. But the truth is that there have been a lot of false ideas that have been taught concerning MDR over the years by various religious groups such as the Catholic Church, Herbert W. Armstrong and the World Wide Church of God, as well as others including members of the Church of Christ.  (Note: I am not “taking shots” at the Catholics or Armstrong, Church of Christ, or any others. I am a member of the “Church of Christ” myself and have been for over 45 years and there are some of our brethren even now who are basically teaching the same thing that the Catholics teach and that Herbert W. Armstrong taught for years. So this is not about talking bad about brethren or trying to speak disparagingly about other groups but it is about what has been taught by influential religious leaders on the subject of MDR and the need for my book). Therefore there is a need to “clear the cobwebs,” so to speak, so that people can actually read what the Bible really says about it. Many people who say what you say about using the “Bible only” will only want people to read Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:1-9 as if that is all that is said on the subject. But nothing could be further from the real truth. Matthew is only primarily dealing with one aspect of the question…only O-N-E. (Is it lawful to divorce a faithful mate or cause a mate to be divorced in order to marry?)  I am glad for anyone–and I mean “a-n-y-o-n-e”—to simply read what the Bible says on the subject for answers to their questions. Here are some of the questions people might ask and the Bible answers without any comment from me…or you. I will use the New King James Version for all the answers since it is my primary study Bible.
1. What was God’s original plan for married couples?
But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9).
2. Does Jesus allow one to divorce a faithful mate and marry someone else without sinning in doing so?
So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12).
3. If two Christians are now married are they allowed to divorce?
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to departfrom 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. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
4. What are two Christians who are now married to do if they have problems down the road and divorce anyway?
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 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. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
5. What if a Christian is married to an unbeliever, do they have to divorce them to be faithful?
But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:12-13).
6. What if the unbeliever is “not willing” to live as a marriage companion at peace with the believer? Maybe he proves it by “beating her” or otherwise “abusing her?” What then?
And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:13).
But God has called us peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15b).
7. What if a Christian is married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever “leaves” or simply “walks out” on the believer?
But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15).
8. If a couple divorces and remarries before they become Christians must they divorce again and live single to be faithful?
a. But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. (1 Corinthians 7:17).
b.  Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:20).
c. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:24).
9. Does the word “calling” or “state/condition” include marriage?
 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. (1 Corinthians 7:27a).
10. Can a person who is already “divorced” from a mate remarry without sinning?
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. (1 Corinthians 7:27-28).
11. What if a Christian woman is married to a man and he becomes an “idolater” (or is committed to any false religion) and he demands that she practice “idolatry” in order for him to remain married to her. What does God say for her to do? Must she stay in that relationship and be involved in that idolatry/religion?
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore” Come out from among them. And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37).
The real question is: Are we really willing to let people study the Bible for themselves concerning the subject of MDR? Are YOU? Really? Can they really “read all that the Bible says” and make up their own minds? Suits me! I am all for it!! But many of those who say “let them read the Bible for themselves” and “make up their own mind”…believe “nothing of the kind.”
Hope this helps! God bless! And “Thank God for Jesus!”  (2 Cor. 9:15).

MDR Question: Husband Walks Out!

A Marriage Question: Brother Wayne, my husband who is not a Christian has walked out of our marriage. There does not seem to be anyone else. He just decided he doesn’t want to be married any longer. He refused to go to counseling and walked out on me and the children. He had been pulling away for years and finally decided to leave for good. I have heard about your book on divorce and remarriage, but do not have it, and do not know what to do now. I am in complete turmoil and fear of having to live alone for the rest of my life. I was brought up in a very conservative Church of Christ so you most likely know what I have been taught. What am I to do? Can I ever get married again?

My response: I believe that the Bible is very clear about what must be done in some/most of these cases. LET. HIM. WALK!!! And while I certainly would not make the decision for you, because that is between you and God, I do believe that you need to know what the Bible says, then make up your own mind. But some things are obvious. We cannot keep people in our lives that refuse to be kept in our lives. One cannot stay married to someone who has deserted the marriage. In those cases where it cannot be saved, then the deserted party must recognize that the “marriage is over”…and seek God’s help in getting “over the marriage.” When a “relationship is over”…seek God’s help in getting “over the relationship.” Paul is very clear about what some should do when in this very situation. Read it yourself.

But if the UNBELIEVER departs, LET HIM DEPART; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But GOD HAS CALLED US TO PEACE. (1 Corinthians 7:15; NKJV).

God has called us to “peace”—not to persistent punishment, self condemnation, and self abuse, or to a life time of celibacy because a former marriage partner decided to walk out of the relationship. If a mate has “walked out” then in most cases all we can do is “LET’EM WALK!”

Is it a sin for you to marry if you are divorced? You decide! You do not need any help from me or from anyone else to understand what God has said. All you really need to know is what He said and where He said it. The main ones who need “help” in understanding this are those who have been taught by those who have misunderstood this. Read what God said about those “loosed from” (which, in my judgment, must include those divorced) a mate.

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. ARE YOU LOOSED FROM a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even IF YOU DO MARRY, you have NOT SINNED; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. (1 Corinthians 7:27-28; NKJV).

It is not a sin for a deserted partner to marry because a believer is “not under bondage” to a mate or marriage that no longer exists because one party chooses to walk out (1 Cor. 7:15). If some of your friends or Church members need help “understanding” this, then it is obviously a situation where more help is needed than we are qualified to give them. We can “explain it” to them…but we cannot “understand it” for them. Paul clearly says that those “loosed from” a mate have “not sinned” if they “marry.” That must include those who have been deserted by an unbelieving mate because Paul had just dealt with that earlier in this very chapter. Sometimes the best way to “get over” an unfaithful mate…is to find a faithful one. But again, your decision about what you should do is between you and Jesus. Reading my book, reading this response, or listening to others may help, but your decision needs to be based on what “you understand” the “Bible” to teach. Pray, ponder, and then practice what Jesus teaches and leads you to do. I would believe that if it is God’s will that “you marry”…then He will bring someone into your life that will “marry you.”

I deal with this in chapter 10 and chapter 24 of my book on MDR. Also in Appendix 6 I quote from some of the best minds, and at one time some of the most respected men in the Church of Christ, who also understood 1 Corinthians 7:15 exactly as it is written. If you want a copy of my book, send me your address and I can send it to you. I actually wrote it to help people like you. I will also be praying for you and your family. God bless! Thank God for Jesus!

Wayne Dunaway

Covenant Sex or Sexual Covenant

A Question? Is marriage a “Sexual Covenant?”

Covenant Sex or Sexual Covenant?

It seems to me that marriage involves “covenant” sex but it is not a “sexual covenant.” The difference being that “covenant” sex means that sex is enjoyed by those already in a covenant relationship (marriage) and the covenant is there whether there is sex or not. A couple too old for sex can get “married” and be married companions and in a “one flesh” relationship for life even though they are not interested in having sex. However, a “sexual covenant” would mean that without sex there is no covenant. If marriage is a “sexual agreement/covenant” then without sex there is no agreement/covenant. If it is indeed a “sexual” covenant then there must be “sex.” One could not be in a “sexual” covenant without sex.

Malachi’s definition of marriage is, “She is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14). A couple is married by an agreement or covenant. In other words, they are already married before they start on their way to the bed (the honeymoon). The “married bed” is undefiled, but if a couple get into the bed in order to have sex and they are not “already married” then that is fornication or adultery or both (Heb. 13:4). Mary was married to Joseph long before that had sex (Matt. 1:24-25). They are married before they have sex and they are still married when they are too old or unable to have sex for other reasons. But, of course, if marriage is indeed a “sexual” covenant then it cannot exist without the “sex.” However we are married “by covenant” or by “agreeing/pledging/vowing” to “commit” to each other to be marital “companions” for life and having sex is an expression and privilege of that commitment. But sex is not included in that “commitment.” We are committed to be marital companions and that is why people pledge to stay married “until death” and not just until they get to old to have sex…which does/will happen at some point…at least in most cases.

Furthermore, if marriage is a “sexual covenant” then the marriage “covenant” gets weaker and weaker the longer we are married, instead of stronger and stronger. But, as most married Christian couples will probably attest, our “commitment” to each other grows while our sexual desire diminishes…at least to some degree. If it is indeed a “sexual” covenant then in our first year or so of being together we were almost “totally committed” but as the years have gone by we are not nearly as committed to the “covenant” as we once were. And in some marriages there is very little or no commitment at all nowadays…due to age, disability and/or lack of sexual desire on the part of one or both parties. Believe it or not, when it comes to sex, some married couples can only sit on the side of the bed and sing…“Precious Memories!” But they are still married, because marriage is not a sexual covenant.
But don’t get me wrong, I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that sex is very important in marriage. As a matter of fact, sex is a very, very, very important part of the marriage “relationship.” But we must understand that it is not part of the marriage “covenant.” The marriage “covenant” (agreement, commitment) places a couple in a “relationship” (one flesh/family unit) where sex can be and should be enjoyed without guilt or shame. In fact, the first recorded command in the Bible that God gave to any man or woman is for married couples to have a lot of sex. “Be fruitful and multiply…” relates to married couples having sex (Gen. 1:28). One of the next things we learn from the first two chapters in Genesis is that married couples can and should sometimes/oftentimes be “naked” and not be ashamed (Gen. 2:25). Another important truth we learn early in the book of Genesis is that sex in marriage is intended for “pleasure” (Gen. 18:12). Furthermore, the Song of Solomon speaks plainly and pointedly about sexual intimacy in marriage. One of the main reasons for getting married is to have a legitimate relationship for sexual intimacy (1 Cor. 7:1-2). It is sinful for a marriage partner to withhold sex from a mate (1 Cor. 7:3-6). The marriage bed is an honorable place for sexual expression, exploration, and experimentation (Heb. 13:4). So please understand that I am by no means minimizing the importance of sex in a marriage, but I am emphasizing that the “covenant” (or commitment) is what makes sex in a marriage important. I believe in “covenant” or “marital” sex. What I do not believe is that “sex” is what “makes” or “consummates” a “covenant” or a “marriage.” Sex has nothing to do with whether a couple is married or not. According to the Bible it is the “covenant” (marriage) first and then the “sex.” I know how important it is, especially in the MDR discussion, to know what the Bible teaches about the “one flesh” relationship. I deal with these issues in Chapters 6 & 7 and in Appendix 1 & 2 of my book on MDR if you have it. If you not have my book you can get it from me or from Amazon. Of course, some good brethren will disagree and that is fine with me. I have to live with what I believe the Bible teaches at any point in time during my spiritual journey with Christ and so do they. I respect their “right” to be “wrong” on this as well as other subjects that they disagree with me on. (LOL) God bless and I hope this helps.Thank God for Jesus!

Wayne Dunaway
gandpministries.org 2/17/16

Stressed Over MDR for Years

I received the following note today from a brother who read my book “Just as I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried” (this is only one among many I have received):
Dear Brother Wayne
May God bless you greatly for your love, care, and diligence to put together this message for those who are in the MDRsituation. I have personally been in stress for over 34 years, being condemned in a no-way-out situation. I praise God that He gave you the wisdom to discern the truth of His word, and the loving heart to share it with those who desperately need to hear it. Thank you so much!
My response to this is:
This is what makes writing the book worthwhile. The “gospel” (good news) of salvation in Jesus for one “in stress for over 34 years” (not seconds, or minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, or months, but 34 years) and one of those who “desperately need to hear” that Jesus has grace and mercy for those who are seemingly “condemned in a no-way-out situation.” This brother apparently maintained his faith in Jesus for 34 years in spite of the opposition, criticism, and condemnation he must have received from some in the church. This is very commendable on his part and serves to illustrate how much some MDR couples love Jesus and want to do His will for their lives but “cannot change” what has happened in the past…and neither can we! Condemn them if you must, but God have mercy on all our souls concerning our past…including those of us who have turned MDRcouples away from Jesus and unjustly “condemned” those who are  in a “no-way-out situation” and caused undue “stress” in those whom Jesus came to bless! Read John 4:4-39.
Read about the: The Savior, The Sinner, and the Soul-Winner!


Refusing to Baptize the Divorced and Remarried

Refusing to Baptize the Divorced and Remarried

Another MDR question. One reader (who obviously is not familiar of “our group”) wants to know, “Who would refuse to baptize or demand that a divorced and remarried couple divorce again especially if they are now happily married and have children together?”

My response:

Some preachers and leaders in the “Church of Christ” do. I have a friend who is Catholic and he is refused “communion” because he is divorced so I guess they do it at least in some sense. If I understand it right, the Catholics believe in the “indissolubility” of marriage and therefore do not recognized divorce and remarriage for any reason. They believe that the Church decides who is married and who is not regardless of what the couple involved do or believe. Some of our brethren believe like the Catholics concerning the “indissolubility” of marriage but they make an exception when one of the mates commit fornication but then only the “innocent party” can ever remarry. I am sure there are a few others who do not accept the MDR couples unless and until they divorce and remain single or go back to the first partner…which is usually not even possible in most cases.

According to my understanding neither of these views is true as I explain in my book and the “indissolubility” of a marriage has never been true whether they are married in the Catholic Church, Church of Christ, or outside the Church. God authorizes divorce for sexual unfaithfulness (Matt. 19:9) as well as for desertion and marital abuse (1 Cor. 7:12-15). It is wrong to teach married people that they have to put up with “abusive mistreatment” or that they are “still in bondage” to one who has abandoned the marriage…regardless of who teaches it or how long it has been taught. We all believe that if it can be worked out, it should, but that is not possible in all cases. We all believe that marriage should be for life and that is the way God originally designed it, but the question usually is, “What do we do with those whose marriage did not work out and they have started over in a new marriage relationship?”

As far as I can tell most of us in the Church of Christ do not refuse to baptize those involved in MDR, but, believe it not, there are still some (probably only a few nowadays) who refuse to baptize them unless they divorce. Others will baptize them, but then treat them like “second class” members of the church…and there are still quite a few of these in our brotherhood. It is a serious issue among us and most of those who reject those involved in MDR do so out conviction and, in my judgment, a serious misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches. I certainly do not believe that they are “hypocrites” or that they just want to “hurt” people. I believe that in almost all cases they are sincere and think that they are doing the right thing based on what they have been taught and/or on what they believe the Bible teaches. But the results are the same and most of those involved in MDR are turned away by them because those involved in MDR rightly refuse to break up their families and leave their children without “married” parents. There is no “gospel” in that kind of message…at least not for them. As a group we have made a lot of progress along these lines since I became a member back in 1970, but we obviously still have a way to go. This is the reason I wrote my book on the subject. There are numerous other good books on the subject written by our brethren who believe MDR couples can be forgiven of marital mistakes and go on from where they are without having to divorce again and live single. I have had a lot of positive response to my book, especially from those involved in MDR as well as from numerous preachers and other leaders in our group. Of course, I have also been criticized for it, but the good responses I have personally heard have been really great and most encouraging. As you most likely know (and if you don’t, you should), I am far more concerned about the souls of those MDR couples and their children who want to come to Jesus than I am about the opinions and/or criticisms of those who seek to “break up marriages” and “destroy established families.” If they can sleep well with that decision then all I can say is…sweet dreams! But I personally believe that those who have made bad marriage choices and decisions need to be treated like all others who come to Jesus for salvation. Most of us have been forgiven of such sins as pride, prejudice, fornication, lying, drunkenness, covetousness, hate and a host of other sins in our past, and I believe those who have made bad marriage choices or sinned against their previous mates need to be forgiven and go on from where they are just like we do/have regarding our sins of the past. Paul clearly said that converts should “remain” in the state in which they were called (1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24) and he later specifically applied that statement to married couples in the context (1 Cor. 7:27). My book is dedicated to those who have been “hurt” or those who have “hurt” others in failed marriages and have come to Jesus for forgiveness and healing. Divorce is rampant enough in our country without church leaders demanding more…but, believe it or not, it does still happen! But again, as far as I know, most of us in the Churches of Christ are opposed to breaking up established families.

One final point. Refusing to baptize those involved in MDR has never been the norm as far as I can tell. For example:

One of the most conservative and influential men among our churches (at least at one time) was Foy E. Wallace, Jr. He had this to say years ago about breaking up families and destroying marriages.

It is in this connection that the apostle added in verse 20, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called” and it should serve as a check to some marriage counseling preachers who are so readily disposed to break up marriage relationships that are not in conformity with their own immature human opinions. (Comments on I Corinthians 7, THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT AND THE CIVIL STATE, pg. 45)

H. LEO BOLES (another very influential brother) wrote years ago, when ask about a preacher who refused to baptize a lady involved in MDR:

I think that if I had been the preacher, I would have baptized her…. It is a fearful thing to hinder or keep anyone from obeying the gospel. I do not want to have to answer for such a sin. I have had a few cases like the one described above, and I have baptized the parties and left it with them to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. (Questions & Answers, Sermon Outlines & Bible Study Notes, pp. 63 & 64)

Hope this helps! God bless! Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).
Wayne Dunaway

Not Under Bondage: R. L. Whiteside

I recently received the following very encouraging note from a brother (who has been preaching for quite some time) concerning my book on “Just As I Am: Married, Divorced and Remarried.”

“Freeing, practical, healing.” Just As I Am” can be summed up with these words! It will not only aid in the healing of those who have experienced the pain of divorce, but is also a helpful resource for those who are married, or considering marriage. I used this book the first week I had it in my hands to help a couple in premarital counseling better understand Jesus’ teachings on ‘one flesh.’ This is a great book!……I never noticed or paid attention to 1 Cor 7.15 til I read your book.”

Obviously a lot of people in our brotherhood today have “never noticed or paid attention to 1 Corinthians 7:15.” A lot of the confusion about MDR would/could be cleared if people just read what it says in the context. In my book I refer to a number of great preachers in Churches of Christ who believe what I wrote in my book about “Desertion.” One of them is R. L. Whiteside. The following is one of the best articles I have read on 1 Corinthians 7:15 that brother Whiteside wrote years ago.

R. L. Whiteside

What is the bondage mentioned in I Cor. 7:15? Does the language mean that the injured, or innocent, party is so released from the marriage bonds as to be free to marry again? How would we contrast this verse with Matt. 19:9?
The verse reads: “Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us in peace.” The passage seems plain enough; yet opinions differ as to its application. This difference of opinion grows out of the notion that its plain meaning does not seem to harmonize with Matt. 19:9. If a person did not already have his mind made up, he would have no trouble in understanding this verse. It can refer to nothing else than the marriage bonds, or vows. If either husband or wife becomes a Christian and the other is so bitter, against Christianity as to refuse to live with the be­liever, the believer is not under bondage in such cases—is completely released from the marriage vows, and as if no marriage had ever taken place. If this be not so, the believer, is still under bondage. But does that contradict Matt 19:9? It does not, any more than Matt. 19:9 contradicts God’s original marriage law.

In the beginning God made a male and a female. The one female was suited to the needs of the one male (Gen. 2; 24). This is evidently the original law of marriage for the whole human family, and would have continued to be the law with no exceptions had not sin entered into the world.

The first and permanent marriage law is found in Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:24. This law made no provision for divorce—not even for a separation. But the authority that makes a law can abolish it, or he can amend it, as circumstances or occasions demand. Notice carefully what led up to the things Jesus said in the verses in question: “and there came to him Phari­sees, trying him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said. Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined to­gether, let no man put asunder. They say unto him, Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and put her away? He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, who­soever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” It will appear plain from what Jesus says that the original law made no provision for any separation for any cause; yet the law of Moses suffered a man to put away his wife, but commanded him to give her a bill of divorcement when he did so. That bill of divorce­ment was required when the separation took place (Deut. 24:1). Because God added this amendment to his own mar­riage law, will someone accuse him of contradicting his own law. And when Jesus gave fornication as grounds for divorce and remarriage, will someone accuse him of contradicting God’s marriage law? And when the inspired apostle gave another cause for the complete annulment of the marriage vows, he did not contradict that law. Therefore, “if the unbelieving departeth”, let him depart; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases.” If the believer, in such cases, is not entirely free from the marriage vows, he is still under bondage. We usually have argued that as the apostles were the last and final revelators of the will of Christ, all that went before should be understood in the light of their teaching; but when we seek to bend First Corinthians to fit Matt. l9:9, we re­verse the principle of interpretation. Besides, the two pas­sages deal with different angles of the matter. Jesus speaks of the man who shall put away his wife for other reasons than adultery; Paul speaks of man or woman who has been forsaken by the wife or the husband. The man must not put away his wife and marry another, except for fornication; but if an unbelieving husband or wife leaves the believer, what then? “The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases.” As long as the unbeliever was content to dwell with the be­liever, the believer was still under bondage (Verses 12, 13). The believer must not put the unbeliever away. “Yet if the unbelieving depart, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases.” If his future actions are in any way limited by his former marriage, then he is still bound by that marriage — is still under bondage. To me the language means that the brother or sister is as free as if he or she had never been married. What else can the passage mean? If we did not have our minds made up another way, the passage would mean to us just what it says. (Reflections, p. 414-417)

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Wayne Dunaway