1 Corinthians 7: Is Marriage Indissoluble Because Covenants are Indissoluble?

1corinthians[Mojohn: I’m convinced that “contract” is not the most accurate English word to describe the marriage relationship. God himself calls marriage a covenant (Malachi 2:14). As I understand covenants in the ancient Near East, a party was bound to perform his treaty obligations even if the other party defaulted. Only the death of a covenant party could terminate the covenant.

[We see this played out in the Prophetic books where it is recorded that God divorced his faithless wives Israel and Judah for their spiritual adultery (Ezekiel 23; Jeremiah 3:6-10), but, he did not get new wives. Instead, he restored the house of Jacob (Jeremiah 33) following repentance in Babylon. [Based on what history teaches us about covenants, reinforced by Paul’s unambiguous statements in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7, I’m convinced that the marriage relationship continues until one of the parties dies, even if the laws of the land view a marriage as terminated when a judge says so. Thus, I do not believe that a woman deserted by a Christian or pagan husband is permitted to marry with God’s blessing until the faithless husband dies.]

JFG: Evidence? Where is the evidence for this claim regarding the nature of covenants?

Since you are arguing from an Old Testament concept, let’s see what the Old Testament says on the subject. First, you argue that marriage is a “covenant” in the Old Testament sense, based on Old Testament usage of the term. You then argue that therefore marriage can only be ended by death.

But Moses, who surely knew the law of covenants better than anyone, disagrees —

(Deu 24:1-2 ESV) “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife …”

Moses, inspired by the breath of God, taught that a marriage could be dissolved by divorce. And yet marriage has been a covenant since Adam and Eve.

The real rule is found in “The Covenant of Companionship — (Exodus 20 and 21),” by William F. Luck, Sr. He notes that covenants among nations are in the nature of treaties, except that ancient treaties are always between non-equals — a ruling nation and a tributary nation. The terms are imposed by the more powerful nation.

The Law of Moses is written along these lines, with God as the more powerful state imposing very generous — even gracious — terms on the nation of Israel as a vassal. There was no negotiation, and Israel didn’t get to decide whether to be chosen by God as his elect people. (Doesn’t sound much like a marriage, does it? But they had arranged marriages back then.)

However, covenants between people are always between equals. And he quotes the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, which states that “all human covenants are bilateral and conditional.”

In fact, I’ve just checked over a half-dozen Bible dictionaries under “covenant.” Not a one says that covenants, by virtue of being covenants, are indissoluble. Rather, the Bible attributes the indissolubility of God’s covenant to the nature of God

(Mal 3:6-7a ESV) 6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.

(Rom 11:28-29 ESV) 28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 

According to the scriptures, it’s because of God’s  unique character that he honors his covenant of grace even though we violate it.

We should further consider that while God’s election of Israel is unconditional — that being the nature of God — his election of individual Jews is not. The vast majority of the Jewish individuals fell out of grace multiple times in history, but God always preserved a remnant because of his covenant and his nature —

(Rom 11:2-5 ESV) 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

One last point: an argument that proves too much proves nothing. If human marriage is indissoluble, then Jesus was mistaken to allow dissolution for fornication. After all, in God’s covenant with Israel, he frequently accused them of fornication, even “whoring after idols,” and yet God did not dissolve the relationship. And so the argument “proves” Jesus himself to be in error, making it a clearly fallacious argument, despite it’s recent popularity in some circles.

So how does one analogize God’s covenant with Israel or the church to human marriage? I’m not sure it fits at all in terms of indissolubility — and so I reject the theory that human marriage is indissoluble because God’s covenant with the church is.

The fact that marriage may be properly called a “covenant” hardly means that it has all the characteristics of God’s covenant with his elect people. The fact that I’m in covenant relationship with God means that I submit to him as Lord in all things. Does this mean my wife, who is in covenant relationship with me, must submit to me as I submit to God?

The fact that I’m in covenant relationship with my wife means that I may, indeed, should be in a sexual relationship with her. This is at the heart of the relationship, per Paul in 1 Cor 7:1-7 based on Moses’ “one flesh” language. Does this make sex a key part of my relationship with God? That would have been true of countless pagan religions. But not Christianity or Judaism.

So common covenant terminology does not make all covenant features common. And so it’s just a stretch too far. The argument just doesn’t hold.

On the other hand, Paul’s analogy of marriage to Christ’s marriage to the church in Ephesians 5 is potent and true — because it’s Paul’s analogy. But all analogies have limitations, and we uninspired people may not press the analogy beyond the points actually made by the inspired writer. Otherwise, my wife would have to have to be baptized to be married to me, would need to eat a symbolic meal each week in my honor, and faithfully attend services held in my honor. As a husband, I may have certain very limited similarities to Christ, but they are very few.

So, no, the fact that God’s covenant with the church (and Israel before) was not and will not be dissolved by God despite the disobedience of the church (and Israel) does not mean that human marriage may not be dissolved. The Bible says no such thing, and the argument presses the analogy beyond the text — which we are not permitted to do.

I think the rule for theological analogies is simple. If the analogy is itself inspired, it’s true. Other analogies may also be true, of course, but when it comes to scripture, they must be shown true by other means. Hence, for mortal interpreters, analogies may only illustrate and buttress a point made on other evidence. After all, no one has yet written a concrete rule for when an analogy is pressed too far, and uninspired humans may not build doctrine on such an uncertain method.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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53 Responses to 1 Corinthians 7: Is Marriage Indissoluble Because Covenants are Indissoluble?

  1. David Himes says:

    Jay, I really appreciate the quality of your exegesis on this topic. It’s remarkably thorough and detailed.

    However, for me, this is really much simpler. Jesus says to love one another, the way he loved us (i.e., unconditionally).

    That is a very high standard. And it applies to everyone of my relationships, including my wife.

    Now, equally, true, is that I fail to succeed in following that command in every relationship, including my wife. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at it over my 64 years … but I still fall short.

    For the sake of full disclosure, I’ve been divorced from my first wife (actually twice, since we remarried and were divorced again). My wife and I have now been married 27 years, and the quality of our relationship is a constant joy in my life (our lives, as well).

    Now an interesting point to recall, is that the Text also tells us that if we have a righteous relationship with him, he forgives our sins and does not remember them.

    So, when does God forget our sins?

    I believe the Greek tense there is present, which means he is always forgetting them, as if they never even happened.

    So, while I acknowledge that my divorce was not what God wanted. It was a failure to follow God’s will for me and my wife. God has forgotten about that. I remember, but if I’m to take God at his word, he has forgotten.

    So, the task before me today, regardless of my failures yesterday or before, is to love each person as he loved me and gave my life for me. I will fail, again. But God will forgive and forget my failures, and I get to try again tomorrow.

    Thank God, he is more forgiving than we are. If that were not true, I’d be very depressed.

  2. John says:

    .David, I’m right there with you, friend. I, too, am divorced and remarried. And to simply state it plainly, I have been a failure as the child of my parents, as a husband, as a father, as a Christian brother and as a friend; and unless all of these are within the love and forgiveness of God, I may as well hang a sign around my neck that screams, “Unclean Reprobate!!! Stay Away!!!”

    As my head sometimes does a complete 360, I see those who claim to be Christian, yet give no hope to the divorced and remarried. And I also see those who feel they have no hope because of so many wrecked and ruined relationships, who have yet to see that God’s love is truly seeking them out. And while I also fail at times in being an example, I pray that God can use me as a spring of hope for all.

    I would have no life without God. Christ is my hope as my feet touch the floor each morning. If I could not read the scripture, the writings of those who are wiser than me, if I could not talk to God as I sip my coffee watching the sun come up, I would have no day before me. Sometimes my day is unbroken sunshine. Other days make the stormy ship at sea that made the disciples fear for their lives look like a canoe ride on a beautiful spring day; that’s how it feels, anyway. But the only time I can be a better husband, father, friend and brother is today, and the only way I can survive it is to wake up with “From God, through God and to God” being a total, continuous reality.

  3. Alabama John says:

    David, In a normal Church of Christ, when being interviewed for membership, do you think you and your wife would be approved?
    Questions: First wife, must of been more?
    Remarried twice, dog returning back to vomit
    Any sexual relations (adultery) in between marriages?
    Around here those would be asked and you would not be accepted.

    My point?
    What you said about your relationship with God is how I too believe and more and more are coming to that thinking and belief.
    Interesting that most of the denominations we were taught to fear and actually hate have been teaching this God you speak of for many years.

  4. David Himes says:

    Alabama John, I’m not sure I know what a “normal Church of Christ” really is. I can tell you that the matter has never been raised at the congregation where I currently worship (and it’s a C of C). I teach classes regularly and lead the marriage ministry.

    And, I refuse to answer the kind of questions you delineated … as a matter of principle!

  5. Alabama John says:

    David, I would never ask you those questions but it would be normal to be asked around here.
    I guarantee your statement above would bring on those questions and more, possibly interviews of other wives, etc. and if you refused to answer you would be refused membership.

    Can’t have a member living openly in error among us. Teaching a class, would never happen UNLESS you AND your present wife changed and met all the required changes back, then you would be welcomed to teach since you and your wife of 26 years (is that total accumulated years or years in a row?) would be shining examples of how to change.

    Problem is most folks in these situations cannot change to meet all required as its too late, too many past unreconciled errors, their situation cannot be changed back to kids having their first marriage.

    Been around many of these unacceptable situations and asked for grace and forgiveness from God and Jesus and moved on.

    Sang the song with words that say “I like to hear about the mansions you will give, but the sweetest words I’ve ever heard is, I forgive”.

  6. George Guild says:

    I find it interesting that many view Divorce and Remarriage as the unpardonable sin. I have witnesses an Elder and a Preacher tell a man that he had to put away his second wife (in a Sunday school setting with many adults present).

    Background this man married and divorced (because of adultery on both parties part), he remarried and had two children. He and his “new” wife heard the gospel and were baptized. Later when it was discovered that the man was on his second marriage, he was told that to be right with God, he had to divorce his second wife.

    Although it did not come directly out of the mouth of the Elder or Preacher, it was essentially understood by this man (I spoke with him about it) that his baptism was invalid. In other words his “adultery” was NOT washed away in baptism. This makes his “adultery” by remarriage unpardonable.

    He was told to divorce his second wife in spite of having children and breaking up his family. I for the life of me do not see how breaking up a family can honor God. The example from Nehemiah of putting away the foreign wife does not apply because his second wife was baptized also.

    This man and family left that congregation, and went to a denominational church that was more loving and understanding of the Grace of God that covered ALL of that married couples sins. I also did not stay with that assembly for much longer. I just could not squared that this man’s “adultery” was not washed away in the grave of baptism, that his sin became in fact “unpardonable” in the eyes of that assembly. This church did not morn the loss of that man’s family at all. Some actually seemed relieved to hear that they had left.

  7. Randall says:

    Nice discussion Jay. By now you know me well enough you no doubt understand that I can like nearly all of what you wrote and nit pick one tiny thing. For example, above you wrote the following: We should further consider that while God’s election of Israel is unconditional — that being the nature of God — his election of individual Jews is not.

    Says who? God may not have unconditionally elected every Jew w/o exception to salvation but that doesn’t mean he didn’t unconditionally elect some Jews to salvation. He very well may have done so and some Gentile too. And I would argue that he did. Perhaps Paul, or Daniel or Jeremiah or John the Baptist. How about Jacob — Jacob I loved but Esau I hated. God is sovereign over EVERYTHING and never surprised by anything, (I’m not an Open Theist) despite Biblical language that may accommodate our puny intellects. Before He formed us in the womb He KNEW us individually. That’s all for now.

    Enjoy your vacation. This will still be here when you get back.

  8. This takes us to the general idea of divine election, the very mention of which has been known to cause my brothers to break out in boils of Jobian dimensions. I got fired from a church one time just for thinking about this subject out loud. A topic well worthy of discussion, but too far afield for this thread.

  9. Randall says:

    Further to my comment above if “God’s election of Israel is unconditional — that being the nature of God” then why would one find it inconsistent that God would elect individuals since that would simply be a reflection of His very nature.

    @ Charles McLean: How sad that a church that claims to “speak where the Bible speaks …” would actually fire someone for thinking out loud about such a Biblical topic which was strongly believed by Thomas Campbell. The criticism that the CofC has “majored in the minors and minored in the majors” holds true to this very day.

  10. Dwight says:

    The covenant relationship wasn’t with the whole of Israel, but with one person from which Israel sprang. God made covenants with people. When we are married we are in a covenant relationship with our wife according to Malachi. We forget that the church is not an institution or a thing…it is people and these people have joined with Christ. Jesus is the husband of the congregation or the people.

  11. Dwight says:

    Many don’t consder remarriage an unpardonable sin, but when the remarriage is adultyery, then when does the sin end, meaning that if you are living in an adultuerous relationship, then you are living in sin and just asking for forgiveness doesn’t change the fact. Baptism washes away sins, but it doesn’t change us into a better person and doesn’t change our current condition. We have to change us. Now if we are comitting adultery before and during our baptism and we continue in that adultery, what makes us think that baptism changes the situation. This is like us stabbing a person and then leaving the knife in the person and going and getting baptised and then saying that this is no longer accounted to me as a sin, even though we have never bothered to take the knife out and help the person. Divorce is called a violent act and if we can heal the wound then we should try. Repentance requires us to go back and make corrections in our life to the best of our abilities and not leave our past sins still in progress mode.

  12. Randall says:

    Perhaps the blood of Jesus continually washes away the filth of both sin (a particular act of iniquity) and the sin nature (the fault in our nature that is the root of choosing to sin) rather than baptism. A greedy, envious, gluttonous or self righteous person (add you own example if you like) might find some comfort there. I know I do! I don’t know if I ever met a person that had a problem with sin until they were baptized and then didn’t have to struggle with that particular act of iniquity again after they were baptized. I don’t think it is the same as leaving the knife in the person we murdered or continually twisting it after we were baptized.

  13. George Guild says:

    Ok, Help me here….

    1. God forgives all sin at Baptism. Sin removed as far as East is from the West, Psalm 103:12
    2. Man and second wife become new creation, 2 Cor. 5:17
    3. Therefore, because sins are forgiven and they are new creations, it is no longer adultery.

  14. George Guild says:

    See my previous post for contest of syllogism.

  15. Larry Cheek says:

    Possibly you should consider the fact that baptism forgives sin but it doesn’t change the fact that you had been labeled as many different kinds of a sinner. If you had been a thief, murderer, lair, child molester or what ever those labels still apply but you have been forgiven. If you are pardoned for a crime, whatever crime you had committed is still a part of the history of your life.
    It would also be important to understand that a Christian married to a non-christian sanctified that marriage partner in scriptures.

  16. Dwight says:

    George, Psalms uis a reference to God’s character and not our actions. If man and wife become a new creation and then thier sins are forgiven them, then what if they sin again, do they have to be rebaptized or do both of them have to be baptized to to fulfill your outline and what if only one of them was baptized does that mean that only one of them are in adultery? And what if we are married and then baptized does this change the state of marriage we are in?

    My point is that baptism is supposed to change us spiritually, but it doesn’t erase our physical perdicaments. If we repent and turn, then we will turn to correcting our mistakes if we can if the mistakes are still in progress. We will not leave the person lying in the street we previously ran over with our car if we have truly become a child of God, we will go and help them. It has nothing to do with labels, but our responsibility to correct past wrong and avoid future wrongs when we can.

  17. Dwight says:

    Larry, I think baptism doesn’t pardon you for the crime, but rather for the sins of the crime, meaning that if you have stolen from someone and then come to God you maybe absolved from the sin that you did, but other person is still without whatever you stole. If you can return to them what you stole, then you should as a Christian and possibly give them more.
    Matt. 5:24 talks of instead of going to the Temple to give an offer first go to your brother and reconcile, meaning that the offering is pointless if you still have something against your brother or they have something against you and then offer your gift.
    According to Matt. to remarry another, unless there is a divorcemnt for the cause of fornication, is to commit adultery. If you haven’t somewho changed the conditions of the prior you are still living in adultery, because you are still man and wife with your previous partner. I would love to get around this, but I don’t know how and I don’t like loopholes.

  18. George Guild says:


    Does God forgive sins or not? The answer from Psalms 103:12 is yes. God removes them.

    When the couple became baptized, God removed their sins as far as the East is from the West. Including any Adultery.

    They are children of God, and hence a new creation. And new creations that are no longer Adulterers 2 Cor. 5:17. If they are forgiven by God, then they are no longer Adulterers. And if they are no longer Adulterers, then God has sanctified their marriage.

    1John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

    As long as they walk in the light, they are alright.

    This is no where near being guilty of murder. God does forgive a murderer. However the forgiven murderer still faces the consequences of his actions in the judicial system of man. Man demands restitution for the murder.

    In a Divorce situation, Man’s Law has been satisfied with the court. They no longer face charges like the murderer (the forgiven murderer).

    The Divorced, Remarried, then baptized couple satisfied the Laws of Man first, then satisfied the Holiness of God by their baptism, and are pronounced FORGIVEN by Him.

  19. Someone tells us that as long as my brother has something against me, God won’t accept my gift. Nonsense. This interpretation allows that one old sorehead to hold hundreds, even thousands, hostage outside the grace of God by a single man’s unforgiveness. Nobody believes this, not even the fellow who is suggesting it.

  20. As the old hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. And if my sin is divorce, not even that is sufficient.”

    Why is it that those who pronounce these quasi-unforgivable sins never place that definition on one of their own sins, but only on the sins of others? Let us again repeat our club motto (will the congregation please rise?): “I thank you, Lord, that I am not as other men are.”

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    you are still living in adultery, because you are still man and wife with your previous partner

    Where does the Bible say “living in adultery”? Where does the Bible say you are still married even though you are divorced?

    These are inferences drawn by some exegetes, but they are not what Jesus actually said, and so we should not treat these inferred conclusions as holy writ. Whether they are truly inferred must be tested by how well the conclusions fit with the rest of scripture. And it’s my view that these inferences fit very poorly with the rest of what is actually taught in the scriptures. And that fact should send us back to our studies to consider whether we’ve inferred correctly in the first place.

  22. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    when the remarriage is adultyery, then when does the sin end, meaning that if you are living in an adultuerous relationship, then you are living in sin and just asking for forgiveness doesn’t change the fact.

    The first part of your question is quite right. The remarriage is adultery. The forming of the new marriage in violation of duties owed to a former spouse breaks covenant with him or her. The remarriage is (in certain cases) a breach of covenant and hence adultery (metaphorically).

    But the remarriage is an event. The text does not say that the second marriage continues to be adulterous. The verbs in Matt 19:9 are aorist — point in time verbs — not present tense, implying continuous action. The point in time is when the “adultery” occurs is when the second marriage is entered into (in certain circumstances).

    (Mat 19:9 RSV) “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries [subjunctive aorist] another, commits adultery [subjunctive aorist].”

    Moreover, the parallel of the voices and moods suggests that “marries” and “commits adultery” — both happening at a point in time — happen at the same time.

    Jesus is not saying that if you remarry (point in time) you then enter into a lifetime of continuous sin. That’s not the grammar. He’s saying that the remarriage is sin.

    And so the grammar severely undercuts the “living in adultery” interpretation.

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    The covenant relationship wasn’t with the whole of Israel, but with one person from which Israel sprang.

    But the scriptures say,

    (Gen 17:7 ESV) And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

    (Gen 17:10 ESV) This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

    (Deu 7:12 ESV) “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers.”

    (Luk 1:72-75 ESV) 72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

    And there are far more examples. The Abrahamic covenant was not just with Abraham.

  24. Dwight says:

    George, Matthew wasn’t addressed to the sorehead, but to the one who made the sorehead angry. It was his job to reconcile if he could to any extent that he could. We might not ever be able to make things right, but that doens’t mean that we shouldn’t try and I think that is the point. We can’t correct all mistakes and I know I can’t, but I can try to correct the mistakes that I make and I can try to correct the mistakes that are still haning out there if I can. That is the least I can do for my brother and neighbor. If we care less about our neighbor after we are baptized, then we haven’t understood who we were baptized into.

  25. Dwight says:

    Jay. I will send you a study I have done if you want to peruse it and critique it. This format does very little to express why I have come to these conclusions because there are too many things in the background. I will send it to you, but you need to address it and then let me know why you think it is wrong, before you post it. I can be reached at criticalchristianthinker@gmail.com from which I will send it. It is not an outline, but a flow of information and it is not meant to confine, but allow for things that even my conservative brothers in Christ bind.

  26. Dwight says:

    We have to go back to what adultery is, so what is it? Most would say that adultyer is when you cheat on your wife or husband, so this means that you must be husband and wife. But Jesus states that if you divorce for any reason other than fornication and marry another, then you commit adultery, right? So the divorce must not have changed the husband and wife state of the first. And if you remain married to the other, then you are in a state of adultery or living in adultery. Jesus never says what happens after this point and I guess he was trying to get them to never reach this point. Jesus never states that if you become a Christian, then this state of adultery with the other goes away and why should it?

  27. Randall says:

    Dwight wrote: “Many don’t consder remarriage an unpardonable sin, but when the remarriage is adultyery, then when does the sin end, meaning that if you are living in an adultuerous relationship, then you are living in sin and just asking for forgiveness doesn’t change the fact.”

    If this were the case than remarriage would rank right up there with blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I also find some of these comments very difficult to distinguish from legalism. We serve and obey God because He is worthy of our love and obedience, He has put it in our hearts to do so. I hope no one is serving him in order to obtain salvation as they find themselves disappointed in themselves all the time, like every single day. There is no happiness or peace to be found in legalism.

  28. George Guild says:


    Interesting. I think you are confusing repentance and reconciliation. Reconciliation may be a sub part to repentance, but it is not repentance itself. Not all repentance requires reconciliation. What do you do if you can not reconcile because someone is dead?

    Where does Peter at Pentecost tell his audience, which were from all over the Roman Empire (I counted 16 dialects), to go back home and be reconciled and then come back to Jerusalem and be baptized?

    He does not.

    Peter says “repent and be baptized.”

    He does Not say “be reconcile first and then be baptized.”

    I am not saying that reconciliation is not needed after baptism, in SOME cases. But to repent means to think again. You are repenting to God before baptism. You are rethinking your sinful life and wanting to change it to living a life pleasing to God. I am heading toward hell (via sin), I repented (turned around) and I am now heading toward heaven (via Christ).

    You repent to God because it is his law and holiness that you have offended. Yes, we also offend people when we sin against them. But First and Foremost we offend God, because it is his law that tells us what is right and what is wrong.

  29. Dwight,
    In your last post, I fear you make assumptions (that are not based on direct statements in Scripture) and then draw inferences based on those assumptions.

    This is the way the Jews who put the Talmud and Mishna together reasoned. Each layer of assumption and inference took them further and further from what the Torah (i.e., God’s instruction, the Scriptures) actually said.

    You started with the assumption that adultery is cheating on your wife or husband. Your “authority” for that was “most would say.” But when have you ever known “most” to be right? Jay’s argument is the post to which so many are now commenting is that essentially adultery is covenant breaking and he asks the question, “Is marriage indissoluble because covenants are indissoluble?”. While spousal “cheating” is certainly an example of covenant breaking, it is not the only way we can become adulterous. Witness James 4 where “friendship with the world” is “adultery” against God. Indeed, this usage of “adultery” is common in the prophets.

    I have not noticed any of the comments dealing with Exodus 21:1-11 where laws regarding slaves and marriage are laid out by Moses. Many assumptions about marriage do not “fit” these laws. The Rabbis agreed that if the conditions in vv. 10-11 were the “right” of a slave woman, they would also be the “right” of a free woman. That was not under debate. In Matthew 19 the issue revolved around Deuteronomy 24:1ff and what is or is not “unseemly in her.” Is it “any cause” or is it fornication?

  30. Dwight says:

    Jay I agree that the covenant wasn’t just with Abraham, but it was established through Abraham. Abraham put the covenant in motion and there are at times where Israel agrees to it and fails by not doing the Law and seeking false Gods. But you are right in that the covenant existed between God and Israel after it was established and they were bound to it, which is why when the committed adultery with other gods they were held accountable and God could have divorced them, but it wasn’t a given and He didn’t. Ironically the other nations were also held accountable for thier sins as well and were punished as well. The fact that they were under covenant didn’t make them any better at times than the surrounding nations, except they were under God’s direct care.

  31. More invented terms, representing extrabiblical ideas: first “living in adultery” and now “state of adultery”. A recent poster calls a divorced couple “still man and wife”– having excised the very definition of “divorce” from his personal dictionary. I have even heard of “adulterous marriage”– a phrase which clearly deserves a golden pedestal in the Oxymoron Hall of Fame. Some offer us such extrabiblical concepts and then proceed to insist upon biblical refutation, presuming that their ideas qualify for such treatment. Many do not. (Dwight insists that Jesus never says the “state of adultery” ends at one’s baptism. So what does that mean? Absolutely nothing. Jesus never mentions any purported “state of adultery”. But Dwight offers this lack of anything as evidence of something.) Personally, I have no answer for the person who insists that a red barn which was painted white 25 years ago is still a red barn, and has never really been a white barn at all.

    I appreciate Jay’s repeatedly pointing out the lack of biblical substance in these ideas; he’s apparently a man of preternatural patience..

  32. Dwight says:

    George, I agree reconcilliation is probably a subpart of repentance, but if thsi is true, then like I said if in repentance we should try to reconcilliate. It was stated in the earnestness of being a Christian in trying to do things that correct error that still exist if we can. In being a Christian we are reconciled with God. And we should towards our brothers and others be reconciled as well if at all possible. I don’t for a moment believe the people in Acts were thinking about things that they had to do before following Jesus and in fact Jesus told people to follow him first, but part of following is love and if we love each other we will do the best for them. We might be free from our guilt and sin, but might not be free from our responsibility towards another. If I knowingly design a car with a flaw that affects others and then become a Christian, am I then absolved from fixing the flaw within the ability that I can? If I can’t, then I will have to live with it, but if I can, then I should. This is what I understand.

  33. Dwight says:

    Jerry, Ip osted “most would say” to indicate that “most would say from what they understand the Bible to say”, but you never stated what you think. You must have a basis for what adultery is, right?
    In regards to “cheating”, cheating never in the OT law broke the covenant otherwise Israel would have been separated from God at the moment they cheated and divorce was a moot point in Deut. According to Deut. only the putting away for fornication broke the relationship and allowed for remmarriage.

  34. Dwight says:

    Randall, It was Jesus who said that marrying another while still man and wife is adultery. I didn’t. We like to comment on the future, but not what happened as if it didn’t happen at all. I don’t believe remmarriage is adultery, unless as Jesus says it was done under the auspicous of a divorce not for fornication. I am simply restating what Jesus stated.

  35. Dwight says:

    Charles, yes the terms are as invented as trinity and others, but they serve to show a thought that is biblical. When Paul speaks of murderers as being sinful, what is he speaking of? Do you use the term church, I bet you do, but that is not in the scripture, as ekklesia or congregation is.
    We can continue in sin even after being baptized. It doesn’t stop us. It may have erased our sin, but it may not erase our pattern. Simon was converted and yet had a heart that thought he could buy the miracles and was warned that this could keep him from heaven, but he wasn’t asked to be rebaptized.
    Charles, I too will send you my study if you wish and you can get back to me.
    All state means is that which you are in. When Jesus says you commit adultery if you remarry after a divorce not for fornication, then they are in the state of adultery. Why do we know this? Because accordingly they could have been stoned for committing adultery. They were not stoned at the time of the adultery, but after it and they carried that sin after that point.

  36. Dwight says:

    I know fo many people that would argue that baptism is legalism, but is it or is just something we should do because God wants it. Well I view divorce in the same light. God gates divorce. If we don’t approach it from that viewpoint, then we are missing God’s viewpoint. When we join with a woman we become one flesh, so the argument that it is just an event is like saying that baptism is just an event and it really doesn’t have any lingering effects after that point of being dipped in water, except we are bound to Jesus. Harlotry wasn’t exactly the same as marriage, but God treated it the same when he talked of divorce and the right to divorce Israel.
    When Israel went to others nations, they were in adultery OR was it only the one time that they went and hooked up that was adulterous and after that point they were not living in adultery. God seems to inidcate that as they were in adultery, they were in it. They had to come out of it and they would still be adulterours, until God forgave them.

  37. Dwight says:

    If anyone wishes to critique a study I have done I will gladly send it to them. It looks at all things associated with marriage from the Jewish standpoint including betrothals. It is not meant to be the authority on marriage, but it does approach it from a different viewpoint and I think it makes a difference. It does use terms like “state of man and wife”, but why is made clear from the reading and all “state” means is that which you are in. If you are confused you are in a state of confusion and are in it, until you are not. If we are Christian we are in a “state of grace” and even though that term is not found in the scriptures I don’t think people have a problem with the term or concept.
    Mind you this is my study and is not meant to be law, but a study that attempts to reconcile many problems that we have issues with.

  38. Alabama John says:

    If a married person has sex with another person other than their marriage spouse, it is adultery.
    Wouldn’t baptism or even prayer erase that sinful act?

    Why would marrying that person that they had sex with be a different adultery and not forgivable?

    Stages or types of adultery, some forgivable and some not? I don’t believe so.

  39. Larry Cheek says:

    I have also studied this matter of divorce many years ago and have several documents on that subject. It is very ironic that in the few posts that you have posted there are several conclusions that you have posted that you will not be able to support from scripture. I will not at this time attempt to address those on this blog. But, to save yourself from much criticism, I would highly suggest that you download the free PDF book in the heading of this blog that Jay published years ago on the subject of ( But if you do marry) and read it thoroughly, I believe you will find that he has covered any and all of the substance that pertains to the subject which you are posting. Compare his writings to your own then explain your findings.
    After you have done that notice the Table of Contents drop down box on the right side of the blog home page. Drop down to the topic Church of Christ doctrinal issues and notice that there are 63 sessions devoted to Divorce and Remarriage, I am sure you will find in them thoughts which even you have never entertained. Then you might be able to enlighten us to errors in our studies.

  40. Dwight says:

    Alabama John, You ask a question that you can give no answer for except what you suppose. All I can commnet on is what Jesus said and what the OT Law said and they do not contradict one another. Jesus said that, “if you divorce for any other cause than fornication and marry another, then you committ adultery” and this was after being queried by the Pharisees on whether a “man can divorce for any reason”.
    Does baptism erase that sinful act? Baptims erases our sin, but I have never heard it said that it erases the act itself. There may be a reason why repentance is often put before baptism and that is to indicate that baptism itself doesn’t change our heart, but is a reflection of our heart and it does change our state with God. We become a new person in baptism, but this is only because we start over with a new birth with a new father. We have to change our heart from our sin and turn to God, but if we willfully continue in sin after having turned to God, it is worse for us than before or at least as bad .

  41. Dwight says:

    Larry, I will look at Jay’s article, but let me point out that to make an assumption that I cannot support my conclusions when you don’t know why I have reached them to insist that my conclusions are wrong, even though they haven’t been proved wrong. I have let a few preachers look at them and although they do not agree with them they cannot tell me why they are wrong. I will look at Jay’s, but although my arguments seem strange from the onset, they really aren’t. We find it strange talk that man and wife could exist outsuide of marriage, but the Bible talks like that many times and God made Laws that reflected that. In our western eyes we see marriage as being the totallity of everything between a man and a woman, but in the scriptures this was not so. Divorce and adultery could happen before the marriage even took place according to God’s law and they regarded as man and wife before marriage. If you don’t believe it look it up or look at my study. It changes the premise of how we look at divorce and adultery and it makes more sense of it all.

  42. Dwight says:

    Larry, Question- If I do critique Jay’s article, how do I get the article back to Jay or you for that matter. I am all for exchanging information, but I can only assume my article is right until it is proven wrong, which no has done so far. That is all I ask really. I honestly believe articles are not truth, but our thoughts on the truth and that there might be truth in all articles and then again all of our articles might be inherently wrong due to our inital wrong bias. The things we question today are the things we were absolutely sure of yesterday in our minds. I am not out to be right, I am out to be better than I was before and am open to change of thoughts. God Bless.

  43. Dwight says:

    Jay, by the way I agree with the initial discussion that marriages are dissoluble, but only because contracts and covenants were dissolluable. In Malachi the condition of man and wife is called a covenant. But we also know that according to the Law a woman could be put away for fornication and both parties would be allowe to remarry, so this shows complete dissolution. God states that he could have put Israel away for fornication/adultery, but He chose not to, so the covenant remained.

  44. Randall says:

    So many of these comments indicate Baptism saves. BAPTISM DOES NOT SAVE – Jesus Saves. Will the CofC never quite get it. Also the emphasis on living in a state of adultery, while not expressly stated in the comments, seems to indicate a person is lost if they were die in that state. The blood of Jesus continually saves all those that are in Christ. This swallowing a camel to strain out a gnat is getting to me. I guess that is obvious.

  45. Dwight says:

    Mark 16;16 and yes Jesus does save, but faith and baptism play a part in Jesus plan for us, according to the author of our salvation.
    If sin does not condemn us, then murder, adultery, lying, etc. do not put us away from God and we cannot live in them or practice them (II Cor.12:21). If trying to buy miracles did not condemn Simon (even after he was saved), then Peter was wrong, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
    If we are continually saved, despite our transgressions, then what is the point of asking for forgiveness and if we do not forgive our brother, will God forgive us? We can stray from the light of Jesus and just keep walking or we can come back. Mercy is God taking us back.

  46. Dwight says:

    It occured to me that those who spouses die are allowed to remarry, so that must mean the covenant is then broken or dissolved.

  47. Randall says:

    Just to be perfectly clear, it seems that Dwight is stating/implying a couple who had previously been married to other spouses and the couple decide to marry might well be living in a state of adultery – depending on circumstances, And, if that were to be the case they would both be lost and not saved even if they were each baptized for the right reason with the correct understanding in their minds at the time of their baptism. They would be lost because they were living in a state of adultery. Is that it Dwight? I do not want to overstate your position here.

  48. Larry Cheek says:

    You asked how you could bring your ideas to our attention, I understand that while you are reading in any of those (63) Divorce and Remarriage articles I directed you to, if you have questions that need discussing you may comment upon them just as you are here and now.

  49. Larry Cheek says:

    One of the first comments that you made which created doubts in my mind of how well you had studied as you drew conclusions on the subject was this comment.
    “According to Deut. only the putting away for fornication broke the relationship and allowed for remmarriage.”
    I cannot find any form of the word (fornication) in Deuteronomy, the first occurrence is in 2 Chr 21:11, and in the complete OT usage of all forms of that word, it was never used in a communication about a divorce or a marriage.
    The only communication in Deuteronomy concerning a divorce is in the following verses.
    (Deu 24:1 KJV) When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
    Non of these even remotely convey the message which you have stated.
    You may notice, that I used KJV version, I use that often because it is linked to Strongs Greek Dictionary, and I can also search the Greek words quickly from there. i have searched many other translations concerning that message you provided and found they did not present information any different than KJV.

  50. MARIO says:


  51. Dwight says:

    Let’s look at what Jesus stated Matt.19:9, as this is my source, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
    So Jesus is stating that if a man or woman who divorces for any reason other than adultery and marries another commits adultery. In order to commit adultery they must be the husband or wife of another, so the divorce doesn’t change this fact, even though they are divorced and married to another. Only divorce for the cause of fornication changes this to where they can marry another and not commit adultery. If I understand what defines adultery in the Bible.
    So it is possible that two people could be married and committing adultery. If they were not divorce for the cause of fornication. As they would still be the husband or wife of another.
    Where does baptism and forgiveness fall not this? I admit I do not know, as Jesus didn’t even include baptism or forgiveness in his discussion.
    I would assume that repentance would cause one to turn from their state of sin, if it is adultery, to an attempt to not be in the state of adultery.
    Hope this makes sense.

  52. Dwight says:

    I admit that fornication doesn’t show up in Deut., but rather uncleanliness. By Jesus time half of the school of thought said that uncleanliness” meant “sexual immorality” while the other half regarded “uncleanliness” to “anything”, which was what the Jewish leaders presented to Jesus.
    They wanted to see where Jesus gravitated to the school of Shammai or Hillel, (sexual immorality) or (anything) respectively.

    Jesus makes the correlation between the “uncleanliness” and “fornication-sexual immorality” when he states Matt.19:9 “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

    Deut.24:1 “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”

    So Jesus is commenting, when asked if you can divorce for any reason, with an agreement with what the law said in His understanding as he places “fornication-sexual immorality” in place of “uncleanliness” in his understanding of what you could divorce for.

    So while technically I should have commented that “According to Deut. only the putting away for uncleanliness broke the relationship and allowed for remarriage”, I was allowing for Jesus understanding to retrofit the word “fornication” for “uncleanliness”. So I was giving my understanding of Deut. in relation to what Jesus said and commented on. Otherwise I wouldn’t know myself what was meant exactly by “uncleanliness” either in Deut. if not for Jesus.

    Didn’t mean to confuse everyone.
    God Bless

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