A Response to Brother David Watts. Jr.
by Bill Cavender
November 14, 2004
Gospel Truths, September 2004, contained a lengthy article by brother David Watts, Jr., preacher of the Reel Road church in Longview, Texas. His article was supposedly precipitated by four articles from me, printed in Truth Magazine, March 10, April 1, May 6 and 20, 2004, entitled "Observations And Experiences Regarding Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage." (It would be of much help if editor Smith would print these articles in Gospel Truths. Then his readers could read and understand what I really did say, not what brother Watts says that I said. I doubt brother Smith will do this. If any readers of Gospel Truths would like a copy of these articles, please go to the Truth Magazine website, www.truthmagazine.com, where they are posted, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone me at 615-890-7198. I will see that you receive a copy.)
DW (I will use initials for brevity and space, not intending any offense), writes: "After reading and considering four such articles in this series, I am now convinced that these kinds of articles are not the answer to the problems many brethren and churches face regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. There is something more needed by brethren than the 'observations and experiences' of a man. The solution to the marriage and divorce problems that brethren and churches are experiencing will not and cannot come from human observations and experiences; the solution can only come from Bible doctrine and Bible principles." I could not agree more!
Yet, from what is said in that paragraph, DW misconstrues, misjudges and misunderstands my motives, reasons and purposes in writing the articles in Truth Magazine. Beginning in April, 2002, I began a series of articles in that paper under the preface of "REMINISCENCES" (to date, twenty-seven such articles have appeared, along with other articles on a variety of topics. I hope to continue writing "REMINISCENCES" in Truth Magazine, if the Lord lets me live and the editor will print them). All of these "REMINISCENCES" have been in reference to me, reflecting my life in the kingdom of God, for fifty-eight years, as a Christian, a preacher, and as an elder of two congregations where I have preached. These "historical" articles have been important to me, to my family, and to many brethren who have been my friends through many years and who "have fought the good fight of faith" along with me. The articles have enjoyed a warm and approving reception by a great number of readers. I have received many, many written and oral words and communications of interest, appreciation, commendation and encouragement. There are still a few older brethren and friends, my contemporaries in the church of the Lord, who have known my history and my work through the years (Lord willing, I will be seventy-eight in November). Many, many younger brethren have contacted me and commented to me, appreciating my efforts to preserve a bit of history of the Lord's people over the past half century, events and history which these younger brethren did not experience but can only wonder and read about, as they view and live the aftermath and results of the tragedies and divisions among brethren in this troubled period. Before my work on earth is done and while I am still able to think and write, I've wanted to record, from my perspectives, participations and experiences, a brief history of the days of my life in the church of our Lord. With some I am evidently succeeding in these objectives; to others I am miserably failing; with many there is no care nor interest, one way or the other.
I did not write these articles in Truth Magazine as "the answer to the problems" among brethren and churches regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage, or any other problems among brethren, as DW indicates. I DID write the articles as a review of my history and participation in the problems of institutionalism, of centralization of the work of local churches, of the divisions and alienations amongst the brethren, and of some of the marriage, divorce and remarriage circumstances of people which I have encountered through the years, from 1946 until the present. I DID express my studied convictions in all of these problem areas. I DID NOT write with a view to detailed argumentation and debate in those matters mentioned. My brethren have had so many problems during the past fifty - sixty years (MDR, with all its various facets and theories, being just ONE of the many). Had our Heavenly Father not been merciful and forbearing to His foolish children, we would not today exist as an identifiable body of people. I, nor any other man, nor all men collectively, could never "answer" all the problems, even if we attempted to try, and even if we could understand the problems! By the time one problem would be settled (I've lived to learn that no problem is ever REALLY settled and put to rest among my brethren), there would be a dozen more, figuratively speaking. Churches of the Lord have been a problem-plagued people all my lifetime. A brother in the Lord, older than I am in the faith and in years, recently remarked to me that "we are a horrible, haggling house of God's children, never satisfied unless we are arguing and fussing with each other." But was it not that way also in the first century? Different problems and "issues" then, but the same basic attitudes and practices observed then as now. Those churches of the first century had a rather brief recognizable history. "We" ("conservative, faithful" churches; "NI churches," as the liberal brethren designate us) are traveling the same road into oblivion, in my judgment. We are a diminishing body of people, both in numbers and in influence, as I view our present existence, being a very small body of religiously divided people in a large sinful world of over six billions of lost souls. There is little evidence that we, as a people, believe or even recognize that this is so. Long ago our spiritual gunsights and hunting scopes turned inwardly upon one another rather than outwardly upon Satan and his wiles (Eph. 6:10-19).
DW is an aggressive young preacher, in his first "local work" of some four years. He is not of sufficient age and experience to have had many, if any, "observations and experiences." If the Lord lets him live, and if he remains faithful in his personal moral life, in family life, and in working with people, and especially with his brethren, he will learn much from "observations and experiences." These are not to be scoffed at and dismissed as of no value. With God's inspired and holy word, the Scriptures, to teach and guide him and with "observations and experiences" to mature him, he will be a productive servant of our Lord. He will find that, next to God Himself as our Teacher (John 6:44-45) through His only-begotten Son (Heb. 1:1-2), "experience IS the best teacher." We learn to do by doing. What DW sees in others, good or bad, right or wrong, will benefit him in his decisions, in his work for and in his walk with the Lord toward eternity. And if he has judgment enough to comprehend, and humility enough to admit that he doesn't know it all, whatever "all" is, and if he will avoid theories and opinions, he will be a good, faithful and profitable servant.
On April 15, during a meeting with the Judson Road church in Longview, Texas, Marinel and I were invited to a noon meal at a restaurant by brother Barry Pennington and his wife. He preaches at Judson Road. When we arrived, also present were brother and sister Watts and brother Dennis Abernathy, who preaches in White Oak, Texas. It was obvious that these three brethren had made prior plans to discuss MDR with me. This was fine and as it should be if they desired to do so. I have never refused to discuss Scripture, or to set forth what I honestly and sincerely believe to be the truth on any Bible subject. To obey what Peter said, 3:15 in his first letter, has always been a matter of principle with me, ever since I learned in 1946 that that Scripture was in the Bible! Here is how DW, in Gospel Truths, relates that noon meeting of April 15:
"…And discussed in detail with him what he teaches and what he believes about Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. In our presence, brother Cavender acknowledged that he believes and teaches that a wife, who was put away by her husband for some cause other than fornication, can remarry with God's approval when her ex-husband remarries or has sexual relations with another. He teaches that this woman, who was put away not for fornication, can remarry with God's blessing and without committing adultery. I find brother Cavender's views to be without Scriptural basis and to be in contradiction to God's word…"
If our readers will keep the above paragraph in mind (for I will be referring to it throughout this response), I will now give a brief dissertation of Bible teaching regarding MDR. As DW correctly wrote, "the solution can only come from Bible doctrine and Bible principles." I will try "Bible doctrine and Bible principles" once more with him. I did this on April 15 with those three preachers at lunch. I didn't get through to them. I have done this in much detail in e-mail correspondence with DW. I didn't get through to him. Perhaps this third time will be a charm! I wrote some of "Bible doctrine and Bible principles" in the articles in Truth Magazine. This has been my understanding of God's will all of my preaching life of over fifty-seven years.
In the beginning, with the first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, God through Adam stated His perpetual, binding law regarding marriage, the God-approved relationship between a man and a woman. Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:23-24). This principle and this law have never changed. It applies to all people for all time, of all cultures and in all countries, regardless of what form of civil government a country may or may not have, if any at all, and regardless of what marriage and/or divorce laws the civil or ecclesiastical authorities may or may not conceive, legislate, enforce and/or change. Jesus our Lord reaffirmed this original and continuing law of God (Matt. 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-9). Paul, by the Holy Spirit, reaffirmed this abiding law of God (Eph. 5:31), in illustrating the abiding relationship between Christ Jesus and His redeemed people, the church. This law is co-extensive with the human family. In its beginning (Gen. 2:23-24), God's law said nothing and decreed nothing about a man putting away his wife, divorce and remarrying, nor anything regarding a man or woman remarrying after the death of a spouse. With the passing of time those matters were regulated by the Almighty.
This original law of God from the beginning in Eden established a "one flesh" relationship and communion between a husband and wife, a permanent life-long union, in which the two people, a male and a female, were "glued, cemented" together (a man should "cleave" unto his wife). Jesus affirmed this "one flesh" union, as did also the apostle (Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-8; Eph. 5:28-32), as still being in force and as being God's purpose and will in marriage. (I trust the readers to read in their Bible all the referenced Scriptures. I am not writing them, in order to save space.) This "one flesh" relationship is superior to the parent-child affinity, even though children are the products and offspring of this "one flesh" union between their parents. The "one flesh" union and principle is severed by death, just as is the child-parent connection. This body of flesh itself, and all earthly ties, are dissolved by death. The foundations of this "one flesh" union lie, not only in the fact that Eve's body (her flesh and bones) was literally taken from the body of Adam, but by mutual love and respect, agreements and vows, commitments, affections, cohabitation, and bringing children into the union as the embodiments and results of that heart-felt admiration and life-long affection between the husband and wife. Truly they are "one flesh." They are "joined together" by the Creator Himself.
A lawmaker may change, add codicils (addenda), or abrogate a law that has once been of force and effect. Jehovah God, the Creator of men and women, and whose offspring we are (Gen. 1:26-27; Acts 17:28-29), the Supreme Lawgiver, revealed codicils, addenda, to His marriage law in Eden. He did so through Moses to the Hebrews and through Jesus to all married people. God had delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, brought them to Sinai, gave them laws, forming them into a nation called a "theocracy," with God governing them through both civil and religious statutes. They were a small nation of people, numbering possibly two and one-half to three millions of people at the time. His law to Israel contained a number of provisions regarding sexual relations, chastity, marriage, and duties of husbands and wives which the original law in Eden did not mention. Foremost among the marriage laws through Moses at Sinai was a provision by God to Hebrew husbands, men who had "hardness of heart" toward their wives, who found fault with them, who found "some uncleanness" in the wife, allowing such men to divorce, put away ("repudiate, dismiss, reject, send out of the house," etc.) the wife by giving her "a writing of divorcement" and sending her out of his house (Deut. 24:1-4). This woman WAS NOT an adulteress, NOT sexually immoral (another precept of the law dealt with adultery by a married person, with a death sentence attached, Deut. 22:22). This innocent "put away," unloved, unwanted wife, for her own protection, safety, and well-being, could marry another man if she chose to do so and had the opportunity. She was an innocent, put away, divorced woman. She had a God-given right and privilege to remarry. Who can gainsay it? Deut. 24:1-4 was not a part of God's law in Eden. Under Deut. 24:1-4, Hebrew men who did not love, cherish, and care for their wives were restrained; this addendum was for the sake of the women, wives who were rejected, unwanted and mistreated. This is the first instance in Scripture whereby God authorized and sanctioned divorce and remarriage, even though His law pronounced in Eden (Gen. 2:23-24) was still in force and effect over everyone. The world of sinful people had been violating His law through the centuries, beginning with Lamech (Gen. 4:19-24). God put restraints upon the Hebrews. This addendum (Deut. 24:1-4) to God's original law in Eden was in effect for about 1,500 years, ending when the entire law of Moses was abrogated and "nailed to the cross" (Col. 2:13-17; Matt. 5:17-20).
Over a thousand years after Moses lived, the last prophet of the Old Testament period, Malachi, said that God hates "putting away" (divorcing) (2:14-16). God always has, even though He had been permitting it to Hebrew men, in certain cases and circumstances, for a millennium. He still does, even though in the New Testament, in certain cases and circumstances, He permits it. "Putting away" always involves sin, conflicts, mistreatment of husbands and wives, and violations of the marriage "one flesh" covenant. "Putting away" was not a part of God's original plan and law in Eden. Sin had not entered into the world when the law of marriage in the beginning was revealed. Sin separates (Isa. 59:1-2). Sin bring spiritual and physical death (Rom. 5:12-14; Ezek. 18:20; Heb. 2:14-15; I Cor. 15:50-58). Sin hurts and damns. Sin brings burdens, pain and sorrows. All who believe God, obey Jesus, and walk by faith also hate "putting away." No true believer can uphold and encourage divorcing and remarrying. Yet God does NOW permit such in one well-defined circumstance.
In the New Testament God's original law in Eden is appealed to and reaffirmed by Jesus and by the apostle when they taught upon the subjects of divorcing and remarrying. Jesus taught that God's law in Eden is binding upon human beings, believers or unbelievers, male or female, and that no one has a cause or reason to "put away, divorce" his/her spouse and marry again in the absence of adultery (Matt. 19:9; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12; I Cor. 7:10-11). To do so is to "commit adultery," to sin against God, against one's spouse, against oneself, and against third parties. Adultery, fornication, is always sinful, whenever committed, by whomsoever committed! (Matt. 5:28-32; 14:1-12; 19:3-9; Mark 6:14-29; 10:1-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:1-4; I Cor. 7:1-5, 10-11, 39-40; Heb. 13:4).
Paul tells us that one may remarry after the death of his/her spouse (Rom. 7:1-4; I Cor. 7:39). Death is the only honorable, godly way and reason that a marriage can be terminated and the "bond" broken. Divine permission is granted for remarriage of the widow or widower. (The law of Moses also granted a remarriage concession to the childless widow, Deut. 25:5-10.) The original law in Eden did not mention this but God added a codicil, an addendum. Mormons teach blatant error when they teach about "celestial marriages" and "being married for eternity," etc. Jesus exposed that falsehood (Luke 20:34-38; Matt. 22:23-33). A marriage ends with the death of a spouse. Marriage is for this present life only. Marriage does not extend into eternity. Death ends all human, fleshly ties.
In Matthew's record of the life and teaching of Jesus our Lord there is found an exception, a codicil, an addendum, that Jesus, the Son of God, made to God's original law in Eden (Matt. 19:3-9). Through Moses God had made a codicil, a supplement to His original law (Deut. 24:1-4), allowing a certain type of man to divorce his innocent wife and permitting the innocent, moral wife to marry another man. Jesus abolished that codicil, the allowance granted to a "hard-hearted man" to "dismiss, divorce, and repudiate" his innocent wife for "some uncleanness." Jesus, the Lawgiver, said that the ONLY CAUSE and REASON that God NOW permits for dismissal and repudiation, a divorce and remarriage, is adultery, fornication. A husband or wife can divorce ("apoluo" - "dismiss, reject, loose, repudiate, send out of the house," etc.) his/her spouse for the CAUSE of adultery, and whoever marries this adulterous, immoral, dismissed husband/wife "commits adultery" in doing so. Where Deut. 24:1-4 gave divorce, rejection rights only to a man, a husband, Jesus gave repudiation, divorce right to women, wives, as well as to husbands (Mark 10:11-12; Gal. 3:26-29; Rom. 2:11). Where there is no adultery, there can be no divorce and remarriage approved by God (Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12; I Cor. 7:10-11). All New Testament Scriptures are uniform on this point. Adultery, "whoredom," is CAUSE and REASON for God to sever the "bond" and the "one flesh" union between a husband and wife. Where no adultery enters the marriage covenant and union, the "bond" remains. Where adultery does enter the marriage covenant and union, the "bond" and "one flesh" union can be terminated. The innocent, moral, vow-keeping spouse is granted repudiation and remarriage rights. The guilty, adulterous, immoral spouse is not allowed repudiation and remarriage rights. This is the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:3-9. This is the conviction that most all faithful brethren, elders and preachers have taught and believed through the years. This has been my life-long conviction. God "joins" a man and woman in the "bond" of marriage. God severs the "bond" in the death of a spouse. He will do so also for the CAUSE of adultery, provided the innocent spouse exercises his/her God-given concession and right to "apoluo" ("dismiss, repudiate") the guilty, immoral mate.
"In the Gospel Advocate, this question was raised: 'If a man divorced his wife without cause and married another, would the wife, being an innocent party, be free to marry if her former husband and not she obtained the divorce?' I answered 'Yes.'
"A brother wrote: 'I disagree with your answer as Matthew 19:9 says, And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another committeth adultery: and he that married her when she is put away committeth adultery.'
"He has grossly misapprehended the teaching of our Lord in this passage. (1) He has ignored the exception that the Lord put into the verse. He strikes out the words, 'except for fornication,' in order to deny what the Lord, by implication, affirmed. It should read, in his view, 'Whosoever shall put away his wife, EVEN IN THE CASE OF FORNICATION, and marries another, commits adultery and he who marries her thus put away commits adultery.' (2) He disregards the grammar of the passage which makes the exception clause, EXCEPT FOR FORNICATION, modify the entire statement including the final clause, 'He that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.' (3) He rules out any occasion when an innocent party may properly and scripturally remarry. He is therefore in grave error in the conclusion drawn.
"To put the matter in proper perspective, let us assume the following instance: Jane and John, both single, neither have been previously wedded, marry. John, of weak character, soon tires of Jane and abandons her though she is a good wife, and a faithful Christian woman. As soon as he can conveniently do so, he contracts another marriage. Not free to remarry, his relationship with the second woman, though legal, is adulterous. Jane, meantime, has remained free of marital relationship, and would have received John back at any time prior to the adulterous marriage into which he entered. Being a Christian woman, she does not recognize the state's legal grounds for divorce, willing only to accept the Lord's ground - fornication. By unscripturally contracting marriage with the second woman John is now guilty of the act constituting the exception clause of Matthew 19:9. Jane meets Bill, a fine Christian man never before married. May she scripturally marry him? Of course she may. To deny her this is presumptuously to pass judgment on the validity of the Lord's edict and take from her what the Lord granted.
"Jesus said, 'Whosoever shall put away his wife, EXCEPT FOR FORNICATION, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.' If the objection is raised that Jane did not divorce John but John (the guilty party) divorced Jane, it should be remembered that divorce is a civil, legal action having nothing whatsoever to do with determining the moral and religious principles involved. It is the Lord's edict, not man's, that governs. 'But,' it may further be objected, 'Jane and John were not living together at the time when the fornication occurred.' Who said they had to be? To inject this condition into the exception clause, to speak where the Lord has not spoken, is to legislate for him! Suppose, for example, that Jane, while married to John, had suffered mental illness and required residence and treatment in a mental hospital for five years. During the interval John cohabited with another woman. Would Jane, because she was not living under the same roof as John, be denied the right to put him away for fornication'? He who so affirms has abandoned reason, revelation and good sense!
"The implications of scripture touching marriage and divorce are crystal clear. The New Testament teaches that when one of the parties of the marriage bond becomes guilty of fornication, the other (the innocent one, not the guilty) may scripturally put away the offending party and remarry. Luke 16:18 does not countermand Matthew 19:9; it simply supplements it." (Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers, Vol. II, pp.45-46). The above by Guy N. Woods well states what I have believed and taught for fifty-eight years.
"From these Scriptures we see it clearly was God's purpose from the beginning for a man and a woman to be joined together for life. Nothing is to put them asunder but death. But we are reminded that Jesus mentioned one exception (Matt. 19:9). He intimated that if fornication is committed the guilty party may be divorced, or put away, and the innocent party may marry another and not be guilty of adultery. This certainly is implied in his language as given by Matthew. Mark and Luke do not mention this exception. It is given twice in Matthew, but is never mentioned anywhere else…If his language is not misunderstood, he teaches that fornication will dissolve the marriage vow and leave the innocent party free to marry again…Our Lord was discussing what would dissolve the marriage and thus violate the original purpose and law of marriage given by Jehovah in the beginning (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:3-9). Paul was not discussing any violations of this law, but merely setting forth the law (I Cor. 7:10-11). He set forth marriage as God intends for it to be - a man and woman joined for life…No divorce is ever scriptural for both parties. When a marriage is broken, a soul is lost…Paul does not contradict Christ. They agree upon what the will of God on marriage is" one man and one woman joined for life. Christ showed that a man may violate God's law and break the vow. Paul only discussed the law, not any violations that might occur…We must always so preach the gospel that those who come to obey it will know that they cannot obey the gospel, cannot be forgiven and saved, unless they REPENT OF THEIR SINS. And REPENTANCE requires them to get out of any unlawful business in which they are engaged, to quit sinful habits or practices, and to break up any sinful relationship or alignment in which they are bound. This includes unlawful marriages, of course… But all GOSPEL PREACHERS stand in the pulpit and tell their audiences that persons who are divorced for any cause except for fornication and marry again are living in adultery…Remember that God's law concerning marriage was given at the beginning of man's life on the earth, and it has been God's will on the subject in all ages and applicable to all men, whether men have respected it or not" (Matt. 19:3-9). (Excerpts from The Gospel Advocate, 1931).
Comparing and contrasting God's two codicils, addenda, in Deut. 24:1-4 and Matt. 19:3-9, provisions regarding divorce and remarriage, additions to the original pronouncements in Eden, Gen. 2:23-24, we see the following: (1) Deut. 24:1-4, spoken through Moses, the SERVANT of God (Heb. 3:5); spoken only to certain "hard-hearted" Hebrew men; spoken only to such men while the law of Moses was in force over Israel; allowed such men to divorce, repudiate, send out of the house, a wife for "some uncleanness," when she found "no favor in his eyes;" such a man had to give his repudiated, rejected wife a legal document, "a writing of divorcement;" the divorced wife, being innocent of any immorality and being a "put away" woman, could go and marry again, if she desired and if she had opportunity; she could never return to the husband who rejected her, to again be his wife. (2) Matthew 19:3-9: spoken by Jesus, the Son of God, the Spokesman from God to man now (Heb. 3:6; 1:1-2; Matt. 28:18-20); spoken to "Whosoever," i.e., every married man and woman, every husband and wife, of any nation and culture at any time; spoken to an innocent, vow-keeping, faithful, moral husband or wife who has a fornicating, adulterous wife or husband; allowed that innocent, vow-keeping, faithful, moral husband/wife to divorce ("apoluo" - "dismiss, repudiate, reject, send out of the house," etc.) his/her sinful, immoral, adulterous husband/wife; no particular "writing of divorcement," civil or legal procedure or document described or enjoined; the adulterous, immoral husband/wife who was repudiated, divorced, was prohibited from remarriage; whoever would marry the divorced, rejected, adulterous husband/wife would be committing adultery; the innocent husband/wife could remarry without sin, not committing adultery by so doing. Conclusion: both Moses and Jesus, revealing God's will, allowed the innocent party to remarry. No one has a right to legislate for Jesus and prohibit what He authorized!
DW's theory is that no innocent, moral, vow-keeping, put away, faithful divorced husband/wife is authorized to remarry, when divorced by a fornicating, immoral, ungodly spouse. IF that adulterous, unfaithful, cheating spouse is the first to decide to repudiate his/her innocent, faithful spouse and is the first to get to the lawyer, file for divorce, and get the decision of legal divorce from the judge in a civil court, then the innocent party has no recourse and no rights, except to live single, celibate, the remainder of his/her life. DW quotes and misapplies part of Matt. 5:32, 19:9, and Luke 16:18, to get to the heart and substance of his theory. He writes: "and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery…and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery…and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery." Then he plainly states his theory again: "Who is this woman? Jesus answers that question when He describes this woman as 'a woman who is divorced…' or 'her who is divorced from her husband…' Contextually, the woman that commits adultery if she remarries is the woman that was unlawfully put away by her husband. It is the innocent wife put away not for fornication." DW's theory could not be stated clearer! Here is an innocent, moral, covenant-keeping, godly and faithful wife whose husband turns out to be a sorry, cheating, fornicating, immoral, ungodly man. He repudiates and divorces his "lawful" wife (DW says above "that was unlawfully put away by her husband"), marries his paramour, and then his true, lawful and godly ex-wife is doomed to a life of loneliness, celibacy, and rejection because her immoral, fornicating husband decided to divorce her and beat her to the lawyer, judge, and court to get a civil divorce. DW says she will be an adulteress if she remarries, no matter how pure and godly she really is or has been. And DW calls Jesus to witness of his contorted theory by misapplying the three verses he quoted: Matt. 5:32, 19:9, and Luke 16:18.
Regarding those three Scriptures, he turns Matthew 19:9 "topsy-turvy" by making the "whosoever" mean a fornicating, immoral husband who repudiates his innocent, godly wife, instead of the "whosoever" being an innocent, true, moral husband who repudiates his immoral, fornicating wife, as taught and contemplated by Jesus. Matthew 19:9 gives the innocent spouse the right of divorce and remarriage, and prohibits the one put away for fornication to remarry. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus did not give and grant the adulterous, immoral husband/wife any "putting away" right or privilege. That right and concession was granted only to the innocent partner. The "whosoever" is a godly, faithful spouse, not an adulterous, unfaithful spouse. In Matthew 5:32, Jesus says nothing about the RIGHT of remarriage for anyone! Jesus says the put away woman is FORBIDDEN remarriage; she committeth adultery if she does so, and anyone marrying her commits adultery. The husband did not put her away because of fornication. He tempts and causes her to commit fornication by his action and by her remarriage. If she had committed adultery before he put her away, then he does not cause her to do so by putting her away. She already has! Luke 16:18 DOES NOT deal with the exception clause which Jesus stated in Matthew 19:9. Our Lord did not state the exception clause in Luke 16:18. Jesus only stated God's law from the beginning, i.e., that we are bound to our wife/husband for life. Any subsequent marriage would be adulterous. But and if adultery intervenes in a marriage, the codicil of Matt. 19:9, which Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 do not discuss, applies. DW has misused and misapplied all three of these Scriptures and has tried to make them say and teach something Jesus did not say and teach, all in a vain attempt to uphold his theory and opinion. He should consider what II Timothy 2:15 says, and heed the warning in Galatians 1:6-9.
DW says: "Brother Cavender strongly believes (and tried to convince me of it as well) that a put away wife (where no fornication was involved) can remarry just as soon as her ex-husband remarries or has sexual relations with another. This is nothing more than the old waiting game and mental divorce repackaged to be more appealing." DW does NOT speak the truth. This is a gross misrepresentation! Brother Cavender did not try to convince DW of any such thing! Brother Cavender DOES NOT "strongly believe" that a put away wife can remarry "JUST AS SOON AS" her ex-husband remarries or has sexual relations with another. The very opposite is the truth! All my life I have urged and cautioned divorced, put away, people NOT to remarry, although Jesus gave innocent, divorced people a right of remarriage, when his/her spouse has been guilty of adultery. I have NEVER conducted a marriage, wedding ceremony for a divorced person. I have ever believed that even "innocent" people, who have kept their vows and have been faithful, moral and pure in their marriage, might not be aware of their shortcomings, attitudes, habits, words, traits, mistakes, etc., which might have contributed to the unhappiness and unfaithfulness of the sinful husband/wife. (Had DW read my four articles in Truth Magazine more carefully, he would have read this.) Jesus gave a right of remarriage to the innocent spouse. I have never been willing to make a test of fellowship with a divorced brother or sister who tells me that he/she has a scriptural, God-given right of divorce and remarriage, as per Matt. 19:9. DW would exclude such ones from fellowship, and bind where Jesus did not bind. I cannot find in my Bible where Jesus or the apostle bound the length of time an innocent person has to wait after a divorce for fornication before he/she can remarry, no more than how long a person has to wait to remarry after the death of a spouse. I am not willing to make tests of fellowship in such matters. DW will create problems over such untaught matters, matters not dealt with in God's word.
DW further multiplies his transgressions by saying above, "and tried to convince me of it as well." All that I tried to convince DW of, in conversation and in our correspondence was that he is misusing Scriptures and teaching error concerning MDR. For example, I Corinthians 7:10-11 teaches that the husband and wife are not to depart from each other, but if they do, they are to remain unmarried to anyone else, or be reconciled to one another, and the husband must not put away his wife. Paul said that Jesus commanded that. Where? In Matt. 5:31-32, 19:9; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18. Why? Because the two are "one flesh," and they are "bound" for life. They have no right to anyone else. No adultery has been committed. Separation from our husband or wife may create circumstances which will tempt us to commit adultery, to be unfaithful (Matt. 5:31-32; I Cor. 7:1-5). One prime reason for marriage is to avoid fornication (I Cor. 7:1-5). Married people need to be together, to meet each other's needs, to care for each other. Don't separate or depart from your lawful spouse.
But, and IF, a husband or wife, in separation and departure one from the other, whatever the reason or excuse he/she conceives to justify their separation, no matter how much distance is between them, no matter how much time expires in their separation, IF adultery does take place, then the exception clause of Matt. 19:9 applies. Paul said Jesus commanded them to remain unmarried and to be reconciled (I Cor. 7:10). But one spouse will not obey Jesus, will not be reconciled, lives apart from his/her spouse, and goes and commits adultery. The other party remains faithful to the vows of marriage and desires reconciliation. The codicil of Matt. 19:9, which Jesus gave, then has application. Jesus gave the innocent husband/wife the right and concession, for the CAUSE of adultery, to repudiate and dismiss the adulterous, unfaithful companion. DW says the innocent husband or wife cannot remarry, else he/she will be in adultery! Why? Because the innocent, moral spouse "played the old waiting game"! DW believes that no faithful husband or wife may remarry IF his/her fornicating spouse beats the innocent mate to the act of repudiation and beats the innocent mate to the civil courts for a divorce decree. DW believes that no faithful husband or wife may remarry IF the adultery, fornication, of the guilty mate does not occur before there is a departure and spatial separation. Jesus never spoke about such a condition and never bound such a stipulation. But my young brother Watts hesitates not to state the proviso and bind it. One can never remarry unless he/she believes what brother Watts says about it!
DW thinks if a husband and wife separate, this is "the old waiting game" and "mental divorce." Who is he (or any other man), one to be talking about "the waiting game"? He does not know the problems of this couple (unless they truly understand their problems and honestly relate them to him), what has transpired in their marriage to create their problems. He does not know all their attitudes, words and deeds. He is an outsider to their marriage. He cannot read hearts. He cannot judge motives. "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is within him?" (I Cor. 2:11). God knows, those two troubled people know, but DW does not know! Yet he and other preachers stand on the sidelines of troubled marriages and dogmatically yell and assert that folks' heartaches and difficulties in their marriage, which may lead to temporary or permanent separations, is "the old waiting game." If any spouse deliberately and willfully withholds himself/herself from the other spouse, tempting them, desiring them to and causing them to commit adultery, then this is another matter. Such behavior is despicable and exceedingly sinful and God will condemn their thoughts, deeds, and their souls in sin. But this is not true in every case! If a husband/wife separates and departs, and one spouse is not wanting separation but desires reconciliation and resumption of the marriage, that one is not guilty, even though it might appear to DW that he/she is "playing the old waiting game." DW is not competent to judge in such matters. He is "a busybody in other men's matters" (I Peter 4:15) and is completely out of his place and work as a gospel preacher. Only two people in a marriage and God Almighty REALLY know what all has occurred in the relationship, to trouble and disturb it. DW doesn't know, yet he presumes to be a judge in such matters.
DW says this is "mental divorce"! How does he know the mind and motives in any particular case? Are not all marriages and divorces, in their inceptions, "mental"? Are not the thoughts, emotions, motives, purposes, determinations and deeds of people, "mental"? Is not falling in love, or hating, or envy, or jealousy, "mental"? Paul said, "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:25). Joseph, upon learning that Mary was with child, "was minded to put her away secretly," and "while he thought on these things…" (Matt. 1:19-20). Was not this "mental divorce" which would have led to further action, had the angel Gabriel not intervened? Jesus said that "from within, out of the heart of men," our evil thoughts and deeds proceed (Mark 7:20-23). Is this not "mental evil"? Jesus said so! Paul said that "ye have obeyed from the heart…"(Rom. 6:17). Is this not "mental obedience" which results in prescribed outward acts of obedience? Everything a human being does in relationship to God's will, good or bad, obedient or disobedient, including all laws pertaining to marriage, the home, our children, etc., is "in spirit," "from the heart," is "mental" at the beginning and then leads to the doing of our deeds, right or wrong. Lust, which leads to adultery, is first conceived "in the heart," and is "mental lust" (James 1:12-16; Matt. 5:27-28). "Mental divorce," "the waiting game," and all such cliché's (as "campbellites" and "orphan haters," etc.), which are trite, meaningless expressions, contribute nothing to the cause of truth and expose the weaknesses of theories and causes of those who rely upon such "hackneyed expressions," as Webster defines them.
DW says, "Innocent people sometimes live with the consequences, for the rest of their lives, of the unlawful and unscriptural actions others take." He says this, trying to convince his hearers and readers, that those who believe his theory (that the innocent, faithful spouse cannot remarry when divorced by an ungodly, adulterous, immoral husband/wife) will just have to suffer the life-long, never-changing consequences for unfortunately having a husband/wife who turns out to be a rascal, a cheat, an adulterer or an adulteress, for DW says that God has decreed that the innocent must suffer! If God in heaven imposes a sentence of suffering upon His children, fine and well. So be it! We must submit with joy, wait in patience, and walk by faith, believing and knowing that God has a righteous purpose for us in the heartaches and sorrows of His children (Rom. 8:18-39). But when men, as DW, teach a false theory, call Jesus and the apostles to witness that what is false is true, and then impose their own penalty of suffering, of sorrow and loneliness upon unfortunate, innocent people who had their marriages to dissolve against their will, then it is unconscionable. As Guy N. Woods said of this theory, "He who so affirms has abandoned reason, revelation and good sense!" This is truly binding where God did not bind, "heavy burdens and grievous to be borne" (Matt. 23:4), and should be rejected by all true believers who love the word of the Lord, and who will not allow opinionated preachers to bind their opinions and the consequences of their theories upon people who already have enough heartaches, sorrows and difficulties with which to cope.
This is all of any substance in David Watts, Jr.'s article which needs particular attention. There are other statements made by him that are deserving of notice but I have written enough. I do not plan any further exchange with him, or any other writers, or to submit any other writings in Gospel Truths. I have many other Bible subjects I want to think about and write about in the time I may have left in this world. This MDR discussion is not one of my top priorities. For clarity and full explanation of my views, which DW calls into question and which he misrepresents in various facets, I have written copiously. I trust brother Smith to print all of this response. I have wondered if he agrees with everything that brother Watts has written. It would be interesting if he would say "Yea" or "Nay."
The theory defended by DW has been vociferously and passionately advocated in the past decade or so. I remember years ago when the divorce problem increased dramatically after World War II, and to the present. Back then brethren insisted that "For Adultery" had to be written on the divorce decree from the court in order for the innocent spouse to be free to remarry. But changes in civil laws nullified that idea and we don't hear it anymore. "For Adultery" on the divorce paper from the civil court did not make it so or prove it scriptural. Most of the brethren have learned that! Then it was argued that if the innocent, put away spouse would ever be eligible to remarry, such a one must contest the divorce in court with a counter-suit, or publicly declare his/her innocence before the church, or talk to the elders and make a declaration of innocence. Those ideas and stipulations have since passed and are heard no more. NOW the theory has developed and has been refined to the point that the innocent spouse cannot remarry if the sorry, adulterous mate beats the innocent to repudiation and to the civil courts. DW and many others who espouse this idea consider it "a fellowship issue," and will divide churches, alienate brethren, and condemn as "false teachers" those who do not believe their ideas.
This is a sad period in our history as a people. This "issue" is impractical and unnecessary. No one's marriage has been made better, no marriage has been salvaged from divorce, nor corrected from an unlawful divorce. If so, who and where? When marriage partners have difficulties, it is an individual, family problem that can only be settled on a personal, family level. Elders, preachers and all faithful brethren of good will, who are asked to assist by listening and teaching and advising, will have to deal with these problems one on one, person by person, family by family. The very obvious practical upshot and glaring feature of this theory advocated by DW is that a faithful, vow-keeping, pure husband/wife, who has the sad misfortune of learning that the spouse has been, or is being, immoral and unfaithful, would be an absolute idiot and imbecile if he/she did not immediately, at once, without delay, get a lawyer, file for and obtain a divorce, and be rid of the adulterous mate. Otherwise the innocent spouse would never again have any opportunity of marriage, companionship and bliss, according to brother Watts! The theory advocated by DW and others completely nullifies patience, waiting, working through the problem, prayer, counseling, love, long-suffering, repentance, sorrow for sin, restoration and forgiveness of the offender, conversion of the sinner, reconciliation, and full restoration of the marriage in all facets. Instead of being long-suffering as God is (2 Peter 3:9; Rom. 2:4), the innocent had best act hastily to end the marriage and forget about forgiveness. The innocent, if he/she has any foresight at all, should "beat the sinful, adulterous spouse to the draw" and "beat him/her to the judge and the courthouse," or else that innocent spouse can never marry again without committing adultery. Believe it, who can? But some are doing so!