Does Baptism Wash Away Unlawful Marriages?
Introduction. In our efforts to convert the lost, by leading them to an understanding of the glorious forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ from all past sins -- and yet at the same time to stand up for the beautiful teaching of the New Testament regarding the permenance of marriage, sometimes we run into a tension between these two doctrines. What is one to do who has come to Christ for forgiveness of sins, who finds themselves in a marriage relationship which Jesus defines as unlawful? Can such a relationship be sustained? Does baptism change the nature of the relationship from unlawful to lawful? This is a powerful, serious, and often emotional issue to consider.
Recent decades have seen this issue become a battleground among brethren. Since the views on divorce and remarriage of the late bro. Homer Hailey became public, followed by a book he published on the issue, this view (which was promoted years before by Fuqua and Bales) brought this debate again into the forefront - and has in turn spawned even further controversies.
While we have studied this issue to some extent in the past in general studies on marriage, divorce and remarriage, it is important that we remain ever aware of the truth on this issue so that the pressures of our world do not complel us to accept error on this matter. This evening I would like for us to considerthe question - Does Baptism Wash Away Unlawful Marriages?
I. The Law of Christ on Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage.
II. The Law of Christ on Repentance.
- “What God Has Joined Together, Let Not Man Separate.” (Matthew
19:1-6). God intended for marriages to last throughout the life of a man
- “A Wife is Bound By Law As Long As Her Husband Lives.” (I
Corinthians 7:39). When two people (who are free to marry) are joined together
they are God-joined for life.
- “Let Her Remain Unmarried or Be Reconciled to Her Husband.” (I Corinthians
7:10,11). If a circumstance occurs that effects this condition the course
is clear reconciliation or remaining unmarried. Note: vs. 11 - Greek passive
and middle forms in most cases have the same form only the context can
determine. Thus either a wife is not to - “depart for herself” or “has
been separated” (reflecting the man putting away the woman against her
will - as was often the case).
- “Whoever Divorces His Wife and Marries Another Commits Adultery” (Mark
10:11,12) KJV & ASV “puts away” - In Scripture divorce is an action
done by one party to another. Deuteronomy 24:1 - putting away literally
involves sending one out of the house.
- “Whoever marries Her Who is Divorced From Her Husband Commits
Adultery” (Luke 16:18) Thus the one who puts someone away and remarries
commits adultery - and the one marries one who is put away commits adultery.
- “Except For Sexual Immorality” (Matthew 19:9) The only condition
under which one is allowed to remarry is when an innocent party puts away
one guilty of sexual immorality “for” - Greek word is epi- meaning
literally “over” fornication.
The crux of this issue concerns what repentance
would require in a situation in which, prior to obedience to the gospel
one has divorced unlawfully and remarried in violation of the law of Christ.
To answer this we must consider what repentance requires in general.
III. Arguments Against These Principles.
- John’s Teaching on Repentance. (Luke 3:7-14).
- Paul’s Teaching on Repentance. (Acts 26:19-20).
- Repentance and Unlawful Marriages. No specific examples that perfectly
match a divorce and remarriage scenario but some principles can be determined
from 1 situation before the NT, 1 during the life of Christ & 1 during
the history of the early church.
- Unlawful Marriages After the Exile. (Ezra 9:1,2; 10:1-4).
- Herod’s Unlawful Marriage to Herodias. (Matthew 14:3,4).
- The Corinthian Man Who Had His Father’s Wife. (I Corinthians 5:1-5).
In each of these examples it is clear that one who is in an unlawful relationship
must end that relationship.
Conclusion. In obedience to the Gospel the
Lord offers to man the wondrous opportunity to have sins forgiven and to
start a new relationship with God. This never gives man the right to continue
in those things that are wrong.
- “Since Baptism Washes Away Sins, Wouldn’t It Make Everything
- Baptism washes away sin. (Acts 22:16).
- Baptism does not equate with repentance. (Acts 2:38). Just as those
on Pentecost could not continue to oppose Jesus as the Messiah after they
were baptized - baptism does not change something that is wrong into something
that is right.
- “God Wouldn’t Ask People To Break Up Families.” (Matthew 19:6). “What
God Has Joined Together” - If people do not have the right to be together
children produced from such unions do not make a union acceptable. E.g.
Incestuous unions. African, South Pacific or South American Tribes. In the recent polygamous unions which have been in the spotlight from the LDS compoound in El Dorado Texas. These unions involved children and families. What if one of those folks wanted to obey the gospel? Could they stay in their polygamous relationship? Of course not!
- “The Laws of Divorce Only Apply to Christians.” This is a strange
argument that presents a number of logical dilemmas that I don’t believe
those who hold such view have thought through.
If the NT doesn’t apply to all how can we tell anyone what sin is?
Some will say that the world is accountable to the Patriarchal law that
existed from the beginning. How can we determine whether they have sinned
then? (I Corinthians 9:19-22)
- “Isn’t the Sin Breaking the Covenant rather than continued Fornication?”
A preacher named Edwards has written a book, popular among institutional
brethren that makes this argument. (Romans 7:2,3). Note: She is an adulteress
- this is a state that continues while the relationship continues.
- “If That Is What the Bible Requires, Wouldn’t There Be Examples of
People Who Had Done That?” (Matthew 19:10-12). Early church history offers
no refuge to those who would hold this view.
2nd century Christians generally didn’t allow themselves the right to marry
even in the case of the exception.
Justin ca. 150 A.D. condemned 2nd marriages and referred to people in all
nations in their 60’s and 70’s who had remained unmarried (First Apology
Ambrose 339 A.D. in discussing the qualifications for a bishop specifically
addresses the very question we are discussing stating directly “Sin is
washed away in baptism, law is not” (Letter 63.63).