Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine, Uncategorized

Other Tongues

By Mac Deaver

In John 8:43 the Lord once asked some of his contemporaries, “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word” (ASV). The footnote shows that the Greek word translated “understand” is actually the word for “know.” The Lord was asking why it was that those who spoke the same language did not know what he was saying. His explanation was that they could not hear his word. That is, though they spoke the same language as he did, they could not grasp the meaning of what he was saying. It was one thing to know the meaning of isolated words; it was another to comprehend the connection of words in sentence construction. In verse 45 he declares why it was that they could not comprehend what he was saying. In their case, it was a perversity of character. Since Jesus was telling the truth and their hearts were not attuned to the reception of it, they were not getting it. And in verse 47, he ascribes their lack of understanding to the fact that they were not “of God.” Dishonesty stood between them and understanding of truth.

But there are other reasons why someone might not understand or comprehend a message, one of which is that the sound of the message may, in fact, be presented in a language that he does not know. That is, the message is completely unintelligible to him because he does not know the words of that language. Each word is merely a sound that signifies nothing to him.

The New Testament doctrine of “tongues” is historically rooted in an event that God had long ago caused. When men refused to scatter on the earth, God confused their language. At the time only one language was being spoken (Gen. 11:1), and the people were not scattering out over the earth. So, in order to motivate human scattering, God made it impossible for some of the people to understand others of them. The details are not provided, but somehow in the power of God, he changed the language comprehension of some of them so that a language barrier now existed. And since humans tend to associate mainly with those with whom they can by words communicate, some people then left the area. This change in language was preceded by changing the relationship between humans and snakes (Gen. 3:15), changing the male-female relationship (Gen. 3:16), and by changing the relationship between man and the sustenance of life (Gen. 3:19). These changes followed the commission of the first sin. Later following the flood, another change took place: the relationship between humans and animals (Gen. 9:1-4).

So, the change in the then immediate language capacity was the latest of the changes that God brought about to position man as he desired him now to be on this earth. This was God’s own way of separating people so that they would “replenish the earth” (Gen. 1:28) and not simply stay in the vicinity where they had all been born. Evidently, there were none or few who would on their own at this time adventure out into the great unknown world. So, it was God himself who created the situation in which men could not understand other men. Because of human reluctance to venture out into the world, God created the language barrier between humans. We are not told how many languages were now being comprehended. We can only know that the number was sufficient in God’s eyes to cause the desired scattering.

Notice please that God divided the nations in the earth after the flood (Gen. 10:32). The division of the earth referred to in Genesis 10:25 is not geological; it is ethnological. God would later separate another group from all the rest of humanity, not by language but by a covenant. All of Abram’s descendants were to be distinguishable from the rest of the world. By means of the circumcision covenant that God made with Abram, God created the Hebrew nation (Gen. 17:1-14). Abram was “the Hebrew” (Gen. 14:13). His descendants became known as “Hebrews” (cf. Gen. 39:14).

But our point just here is that all of these changes were initiated by God himself. And the language barrier was only one of the changes he wrought in the earth. And as with all the changes just mentioned, it affected the course of human existence and history for all time. The issue of the language barrier did not need additional divine attention until it was necessary for all men to hear the gospel of Christ. As long as Jews were amenable to God through the law of Moses and as long as the Gentiles were amenable to God through moral law (Rom. 2:14-15), (that is, as long as there was divinely imposed ethnic segregation) there was no necessity of divine intervention regarding the language barrier in any way.

But when the universal religion of Jesus Christ became operative on Pentecost of Acts 2, the stage was now historically set so that eventually all men would become answerable to God through Christ (Acts 17:30-31). Several years passed before the gospel was preached to the first full-blood Gentile (Acts 10), but by the end of the first century, all accountable men then living were answerable to the gospel (Col. 1:23; Mark 14:9; 16:19-20).

But in order to fulfill the mission of taking the gospel to the whole world (Mark 16:15-16), the apostles made use of a gift in order to speak to men whose language they did not know (Acts 2:5-12). Later, when the Holy Spirit deemed it appropriate, other brethren were endowed with this gift as well (1 Cor. 12:4-11).

Since God had changed the structure of human accountability, it was up to God to make the announcement. Men could not be held accountable to a message that they never received since they were already living within the confines of divinely imposed religious responsibility. God had left Gentiles in Gentile-ism and the Jews in Judaism. But now that divinely imposed human amenability would no longer be sufficient in God’s mind to allow humans to any longer retain God’s favor. As the announcement of the change in amenability was made, human accountability changed. And since there were various languages spoken throughout the world, it was necessary (if God wanted the gospel carried throughout the world in a relatively short period of time) that men be able to speak languages that they had not studied and did not know in order to make the announcement known throughout the Roman empire.

Miraculous divine intervention was utilized in pointing out the places to go to for optimum success (Acts 16:6-10) and in providing the languages that must be utilized but were not by the teachers then known. It was God’s will that the change in amenability be announced within the historical context of divine miraculous involvement. He would not and did not leave matters simply to human decisions and human capacity. The work of taking the gospel to the world was finalized within the time of the miraculous workings of God. That is also the same time period in which he completed his divine book by inspiring the writing of the complete New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; 1 Cor. 2:12-13).

That book had to be completed before God could withdraw the miraculous element from the earth, just as the preaching of the gospel had to be completely taken into all the world before God could hold all men now answerable to the gospel and judge all men by Christ. Men became amenable to the gospel as the gospel became accessible. They were being called out of two divine systems already in place. Those alive in the first century were being “transitioned” from Gentile-ism and Judaism into a new divinely imposed accountability to the gospel of Christ. Nothing like that historic moment has ever existed again. That is, the time period in which God was relocating Jews and Gentiles under obligation to the gospel was a period of time and a religious situation that could never be duplicated since Gentile-ism and Judaism were divinely replaced by Christianity.

The “tongues” that the Spirit provided were the means of God’s addressing the language barrier that existed then (and which still exists now but without any need for miraculous intervention). God settled for all time the issue of human amenability within a thirty year period (from about 30 A.D. to about 63 A.D.). Everyone had access to God’s announcement of the change of amenability! There was no geographical area on earth inhabited by people that was not contacted.

Tongues” were for a sign to the unbelieving world (1 Cor. 14:22). The kind of question raised by the yet unbelievers on Pentecost was no doubt raised time and time again. How is it possible for someone who does not ordinarily speak my language to speak it now (Acts 2:7-8)? The event itself signified that something divine and miraculous was occurring!

Thus, it is clear that “tongues” were languages. The disciples of John on Pentecost of Acts 2 spoke “with other tongues” (v. 4). These tongues were real languages (v. 6). They did not simply utter unintelligible sounds, but languages that were known and spoken by others. Furthermore, by the fact that “tongues” were always subject to rational interpretation, we know that they were sounds that made sense (1 Cor. 14:13).

It should also be observed that in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul discusses the cessation of miraculous gifts (including miraculous tongues), he mentions three specific things that will cease as he compares the cessation of miracles to the permanence of faith, hope, and love. That is, in chapter 13 he is contrasting what is passing away and what remains. The miracles are coming to an end; faith, hope, and love are permanent features of the faithful church. So, in 1 Corinthians 13:8 he declares that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will all come to an end (v. 8), and the gift of prophecy was miraculous (1 Cor. 12:10). He states that tongues shall cease, and miraculous tongue-speaking was another miraculous gift (1 Cor. 12:10). Thirdly, he says that knowledge will cease. This, of course, is knowledge that is miraculous to which reference had already been made (1 Cor. 12:8). Thus interestingly, each of the three items that Paul cites in 1 Corinthians 13:8 has to do with information! Miraculous information will cease being provided, he is saying. In verse 10, when he refers to “when that which is perfect is come,” he is contrasting that perfect or completed information with the partially and miraculously supplied information. When the perfect thing is finally here in its completed form, Paul is saying, then no longer is there a partial thing here. And when the perfect thing is here, there is no longer any need for the miraculous process that had delivered information up to the time of the perfected or completed form. When the perfect thing is come, that which is in part (the partial product) ceases. That is, there is no longer a merely partial thing. It has eventuated into the perfect or the now completed thing.

Finally, let me say a word about the transmission of scripture. God removed the miraculous element from the earth. Scripture would remain as promised (1 Pet. 1:25), but its permanence would obtain through translation. God would not keep scripture here by miraculous intervention. His divine providence would suit the situation so that capable people would be available at the right place and the right time to transmit scripture into languages that were then, as seen by God, now ready for scripture dissemination through them. Today those who are capable of translating scripture and those who have an inherent interest in certain people and places are all entailed in the marvelous providence of God. And neither group, translator or missionary, has access to the first-century gift of tongues.

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Christian Living

I have been young

By Mac Deaver

Our society places a lot of emphasis on the concept of “youth.” If one did not know better, he might by such a cultural stress get the idea that youth is what life is all about. He would, however, be wrong. While there is certainly a benefit to that time period in one’s life, it is not the focal point of living, according to the Scriptures. We must not lose our perspective as we go through or get beyond youth. Let us consider—

The foolishness of youth. Solomon wrote, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Those of us who are no longer youthful can likely remember that our “bad ideas” didn’t go away once we got past elementary school. It took some time and experience, listening and learning for us to get a better comprehension of that around which our lives were to be revolving. As young people it was hard for us at the time to see how ignorant we really, really were.

The days of youth. Solomon long ago gave us warning, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Eccl. 12:1). The path of life is to be planned early on. The direction in which one is to travel is to be located soon and followed thereafter. In our youth we are to determine to live for God and in light of the eternity that is fast approaching. Youth is not meant by God to be wasted and then regretted. Parents are to help their children to seek God early (Eph. 6:1-4; cf. Luke 2:40-52).

The vanity of youth. Solomon said, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Eccl. 11:9-10). It is exciting to be a young person. There is so much to learn, so much to experience, so much to feel. Life is before us! And with so much energy we are willing to live it. But this period in one’s life is but for a brief moment. It indeed has its own value as a time in one’s life, but its worth should not be overestimated, given the way life becomes once one is past his young years.

The value of youth. Paul once said to a young preacher, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). With proper training, a Christian can become quite useful in the work of the Lord at an early age. While many youths may be correctly apprised as yet foolish, those properly directed can be seen by older people as using good judgment and showing sense in the way they are living.

The sins of youth. Following the flood God reflected on the nature of man. Moses recorded for us these words: “…I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21). Indeed, all of us adults must admit that our first sin occurred in youth. David prayed, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord” (Psa. 25:7).

The memory of youth. Late in life David said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psa. 37:25). Old age contains the memory of days long gone. The totality of life’s experiences can be contemplated almost fully as one approaches his last day on earth. The old person knows what youth is like. He knows how such a state compares with middle age. And he knows how middle age appears in the
light of the last days of his earthly pilgrimage. And the faithful old person sees the evidence of God’s love and God’s care and the necessity of human righteousness on the earth as he surveys the scene of his youth and all the days that followed that long ago time in his life.

I am glad that God somehow in his gracious providence kept me from making a fool of myself in youth. It was such a great time! It was such an exceedingly important formative period. It was wonderful to be a young person raised in a Christian home where the gospel and the church meant everything. The complete atmosphere of human living was spiritual. May God help our parents to help their young to grow up right, straight, and strong.

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Christianity and Culture

I Am Ashamed

By Mac Deaver

With the absolutely absurd recent decision rendered by the United States Supreme Court with regard to marriage, I am ashamed.

I am ashamed because the nature of marriage entails heterosexuality as any right thinking person should know. One does not have to be a Bible student in order to determine that in nature itself human sexuality is to be expressed between males and females. Such knowledge does not require the Bible nor a preacher nor a course in a Bible College. It requires only the knowledge of anatomy and a reflection upon it. High I.Q. is not prerequisite to this knowledge. The Bible, of course, reinforces this truth obtainable through nature itself. Perhaps if more Americans still lived on farms and ranches, more children growing up would not venture to disgrace themselves in adult life by attaching their intellects to such pathetic conclusions as that recently reached by the highest court in our land. Evaluating animal behavior perhaps could bolster the right concept of human sexual behavior if, for some reason, the concept had grown vague or fuzzy in little minds.

Furthermore, since child conception is in humans restricted to heterosexuality, that in and of itself should inform confused people of the fact that sexual expression is natural only among heterosexuals. The continuation of the human species is tied in nature to heterosexuality. The species can continue with no homosexuality whatever. However, the reverse is not true. If all contemporary adults practiced homosexuality from the initiation of their adulthood, the species would die out. Does that not say something to us about the proper direction of human sexual expression? This by itself shows that homosexual activity is not natural.

But what if a homosexual’s response to the foregoing paragraph went something like this? “I admit that the species would die out if all men and all women exclusively practiced homosexuality, but who is to say whether human sexuality is simply for the purpose of child conception? Practicing homosexuals are not practicing such for the purpose of child conception anyway.” In response to such thoughts I would offer the following: I am not saying that child conception is the only purpose for sexual intercourse, but I am saying that by the fact that child conception comes via heterosexual human intercourse, such provides us with the knowledge that since conception can only take place within the confines of heterosexual expression, then whatever other purposes there can be for sexual intercourse are purposes that are ontologically correspondent to or related to a heterosexual relationship, as child conception shows. Since child conception is natural only in heterosexual intercourse, nature is saying that any other legitimate purpose or purposes of human sexual activity are restricted by nature to expressions of heterosexuality.

I am ashamed because that since my first point is true, the nature of marriage should never have become a political issue in the first place. It is only to the fundamentally and radically confused that such an idea that two women could actually “marry” each other or that two men could actually “marry” each other would appear as a legitimate possibility. It is the depth of depravity and the extreme of irrationality for anyone to attempt to uphold the concept that marriage is for those of the same sex! What are citizens (who practice normal sexual behavior and who have not caved in to “political correctness” regarding homosexuality) to think when the highest court in the land decides (albeit by a close vote) that marriage cannot, after all, be restricted to husband and wife?

It is enough almost to make one ashamed to be an American. How can our culture have reached such moral depravity to produce justices who would attempt to attack nature in the name of law? But it is no more possible for two women to “marry” one another or for two men to “marry” one another than it is for a man to marry his dog or that two dogs can “marry” one another. Will animal rights activists at some point call for the legalization of “marriage” among animals? Calling the relationship “marriage” in no way secures it as real. A merely legal redefinition of what marriage is or can be in American society does not attack its actual standing in reality at all. Such simply cannot be accomplished by any set of judges. American law currently stipulates that if a person is missing for so many years, that person can then be legally declared “dead.” Such a declaration, however, with all of its legal ramifications, still has absolutely no bearing whatever on whether or not the person is actually dead! A man declared “dead” by such procedure can be on the one hand legally dead, and on the other hand actually very much alive. This much ought to be clear to all of us. Legal definition and actual condition are not always the same!

Why not let the high court go on and redefine “sisters” and “brothers”? If a real marriage can exist between two men or between two women, why can’t the high court redefine “brothers” (plural) and redefine “sisters” (plural)? In other words, why can’t the court simply say that “brothers” can minimally mean not only two males born to the same parents, but that it also can legally entail one male and one female born to the same parents? And why can’t the high court redefine “sisters” so that it at least minimally applies not only to two females born to the same parents, but also to one female and one male born to the same parents?

If it is simply a matter of legal definition, what is the limit? Where does it stop? Language becomes meaningless as concepts entrenched in nature become distorted.

It has taken us well over two hundred years to reach this absurd historical moment, but it is pitiful beyond proper description that the moment arrived at all. The nature of marriage cannot be altered by mere human vote, even if the vote is unanimous! A horse cannot become a cow and a cow cannot become a dog by vote! And humans cannot become non-humans and non-humans cannot become humans by redefinition, by constant declaration, or by a vote! And being human entails certain characteristics, which characteristics do not disappear or subside by what a society says. Legal declaration is no substitute for natural existence and cannot affect it at all!

As technological advancements have characterized our country for years, our morals have lagged far, far behind. The Supreme Court decision sanctions sexual abomination and degrades the concept of marriage. The New Testament tells us to honor marriage. The Supreme Court now stands in outright violation of that biblical obligation and in the unenviable position of having attacked marriage, which God himself arranged for man’s welfare on the earth. Many have been in our time dishonoring marriage by the immoral practice of licentiousness, fornication, and adultery for years. The high court, however, has now attacked the institution of marriage at the point of concept. And that constitutes a more fundamental attack since it is an attack on the nature of the institution itself.

I am ashamed of a court, supposedly comprised of relevantly informed people, that voted five to four in favor of attempting to change the nature of marriage in the country. In one sense, one might think that at least four people voted with reason and nature. But to think that five did not is mind-boggling! Why in the name of common sense, did anyone vote in favor of attempting to legally give sanction and dignity to that for which God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Homosexuality is and always has been a distortion of human sexual expression! It is not a natural condition.

If one were to argue that we cannot depend on the Bible for truth regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, much less the nature of marriage, I would respond by saying that if God is removed as the originator of marriage, then, morally speaking, we need not concern ourselves with marriage as a morally binding relationship at all anyway ever. If there is no God and if God has not defined what marriage is, then “marriage” can be what men want it to be, but in their determinations, they cannot ever make of it anything that is morally superior to fornication and adultery. “Adultery” ceases to be a morally meaningful concept when marriage is reduced conceptually to a merely human construct! If God is not the divine arranger of marriage, then there is no dignity to it that raises it above the moral level of fornication, adultery, and sexual relations among animals. And if that is the case, there is no “dignity” in the marriage arrangement worth the perverted pursuit of it that homosexuals have been giving to it for years.

If one had been living in Sodom during the days of Abraham, he would have found that homosexuality was indeed normal behavior in that it was widely practiced and socially accepted. But it was never natural behavior! That is, the practice of homosexuality was the norm to and among many, but it never redefined what was natural. The God who created nature does not make homosexuals and then condemn them for what at birth they could not help, any more than he would by nature’s laws arrange for a genetically identifiable Anglo-Saxon baby born to Anglo-Saxon parents and then condemn the child for his Anglo-Saxon heritage! Such is absurd, but such absurdity evidently escaped the notice of our high court.

Perversity of human sexual desire may well begin very early in human experience, but no one should ever blame such an unnatural desire upon God or the nature that God has made. God is the father of our human spirits and the original creator of the earth from which the human body was taken. We surely should realize that temptation to sin, including the temptation to practice

sexual deviation, does not arise ontologically (that is, in the nature of being itself) from our human spirit or from the body in which it is encased. Something must happen in order to redirect the proper channel of human sexual expression. And when humans are redirected in a perverse way, they stand in need of help. They do not need their deviate desire to be dignified and protected as though it were something natural. Such people should be pitied and helped. And when society attempts to “help” them by sanctioning their deviation, it is providing no help at all, but rather encouraging them to feel “natural” when they are “unnatural.”

Voting cannot turn nature into non-nature; it cannot change non-nature into nature. When two non-natural persons (homosexuals) are told that they can “marry” and they attempt such, they and the society that encourages them, face the impossible situation of trying to take two non-natural persons (persons with non-natural sexual desire) and form one legitimate natural relationship. It simply does not and cannot happen! If a man develops a sexual desire for his pet dog, no court in the land by changing the definition of “marriage” can provide legal cover that actually dignifies such a relationship so that the man can attempt to “marry” his dog. If a person cannot grasp this concept, then he is unreachable on rational grounds with regard to the comprehension of what marriage is.

If a trial had been held in Sodom over the legitimacy of homosexuality as a proper and natural route to human sexual expression, the vote perhaps would have been unanimous. It gives me little comfort to think that our court was divided. That the vote was close gives me little encouragement. Over something so basic to human existence and to society, it is appalling that anyone on the court could have voted in support of an effort to reconstruct the nature of marriage at all. It requires much ignorance and no little arrogance to attempt such. As Jesus once told Pilate, Pilate would have no power against Jesus unless God had given power to him. His sin, therefore, was indeed “greater.”

Our Supreme Court has sinned against God and this country in rendering their five to four decision which attacks the home and seeks to legally sanction abominable immoral practice. The confusion of the high court should be evident to most Americans. That it is not evident to all Americans, and given the fact that the decision is now celebrated by quite a few Americans, it is clear that America is, as a country, losing its moral and intellectual direction. Our national law is becoming hostile to God and family, and by such hostility, it is becoming its own destroyer. The Bible still declares that it is righteousness that exalts a nation and that sin is a reproach to any people. And while Christians are under obligation to pray for our government, I shudder to think what it has already become. Yet, we will continue to pray for it and for the welfare of our heretofore divinely blessed country.

But I am ashamed of the repulsiveness characteristic of the Supreme Court in its ridiculous decision regarding the nature of marriage. Those of us who respect the Bible as the inspired, infallible, and all-sufficient word of the living God, will continue to live our lives before God with the proper concept of marriage in mind, which concept corresponds to our divinely provided human nature. Our high court has attempted to redefine what marriage is, but it can no more change the nature of marriage than it can reconstruct by redefinition human nature itself.

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Remarriage Right and the Law of the Husband

By Mac Deaver

Recently, Weylan posted the oral exchange between my father, Roy Deaver, and Gus Nichols (listen at: biblicalnotes.com/audio/roy-deaver-gus-nichols-debate). The exchange took place on the campus of the then Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee in 1973. At issue between the two parties was whether or not the “guilty party” of Matthew 19:9 could by scriptural authority remarry. Deaver said that the “guilty party” could not remarry. Nichols said that he could.

Deaver spoke first and gave an argument based on the alleged unfairness of allowing the guilty party to remarry since God disallowed the “innocent party unjustly put away” the option of a remarriage. That is, according to Matthew 19:9, if A put his wife B away, not for fornication, then A and B were still joined in marriage, and so if someone married B after the legal divorce, the second marriage was only legal but not scriptural. The case is such that A’s condition at the time of the putting away is simply that of a non-guilty party who legally divorces his wife but not for fornication. The wife in the now legally divorced condition commits adultery with whoever legally marries her. So, she is stuck in a scripturally necessitated celibacy as long as she remains the “innocent party” unjustly put away by a person not guilty of fornication. She is still scripturally married to her husband regardless of his attempt to get rid of her.

Now, Deaver’s argument that he presented was based on this point. That is, if God necessitated the perpetual celibacy of the “innocent party unjustly put away,” that it would be unfair for God to allow the remarriage of a “guilty party” put away because of his fornication. How could God reward the “guilty” with a new marriage and “punish” the “innocent” by withholding one? Dear reader, it doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Deaver’s syllogism was:

(1) If it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of an innocent party unjustly put away, then it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of the guilty party justly put away.

(2) It is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of an innocent party unjustly put away.

(3) Then, it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of the guilty party justly put away.

This syllogism was based on the principle that punishment is justly related to sin committed. He cited Matthew 12:41-45, Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 12:47-48, and 2 Peter 2:20-21 to identify the principle that the syllogism incorporates.

In response, Nichols declared that we, as a people, have always taken the position that someone who kills his wife has a scriptural right to a new marriage, but that if we say that (1) a murderer can remarry, but that (2) a guilty fornicator cannot, we are allowing, in effect, the more guilty more right and the less guilty less right. Nichols did not use these exact words, but these words represent precisely his point. He was saying, in effect, that Deaver’s position is not fair. That is, if a man can kill his wife in order to marry another woman, but that the “guilty party” cannot remarry, then we are imposing on people a position that is completely unfair. So, he was hitting at Deaver’s argument based on the concept of fairness. I must confess that I had always taken Nichols’ position on the murderer’s right to a remarriage as the correct position, but in this reinvestigation, I think that my father was, after all, correct in his analysis of the situation. And I am very glad to now see what he and Warren affirmed in 1973. As usual I come to the truth as a latecomer.

Now, let me say that Deaver’s position (that the guilty party has no right of remarriage) did not depend upon any argument on “fairness,” though I now agree that the argument is sound. And in all fairness to my father, in his discussion with Nichols, he rightly observed that the contention that the guilty party can remarry is in outright contradiction to the “except for fornication” clause! It was not clear to Nichols at the time, however, that Deaver’s own position regarding the guilty party was fair at all.

When my father later faced James D. Bales (from whom Nichols said that he had learned his position on the “guilty party”) at Searcy, Arkansas he had a syllogism based on Matthew 19:9 that was not based on the concept of fairness. The syllogism was written:

Maj. Prem. If it is the case that Mt. 19:9 teaches that the only scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage is the ground of one’s having put away his companion because of that companion’s fornication, then it is the case that any interpretation of any passage which contradicts that teaching is an erroneous interpretation.

Min. Prem. It is the case that Mt. 19:9 teaches that the only scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage is the ground of one’s having put away his companion because of that companion’s fornication.

Con. It is the case that any interpretation of any passage which contradicts that teaching is an erroneous interpretation (“Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage—Harding Lecture, April 19, 1977, p. 15).

Now, this more wide-sweeping argument covers the “guilty party” issue as well as other matters. But in Deaver’s 1973 confrontation with Nichols, he used an argument that was more narrow in scope or focus and which he thought would do the job in exposing the idea that the “guilty party” did have a right to a remarriage. God is, after all, always fair. That is certainly correct, but it needs to be noted that “divine fairness” is not always easy to comprehend due to human failure to grasp features of a situation that only God can know. What was fair to Deaver didn’t seem fair to Nichols at all.

Fairness” is not always easy to discover. Some issues become so involved that it is hard to determine where fairness lies. And I would repeat that, though we know God is always fair since he is infinite in justice, we are not always able to determine how it is that he is fair when he gives definite positive legislation. At times the “fairness” is somewhat hidden from our view. God kept Cain, the brother-murderer, alive and allowed him to remarry and yet later decreed that all such murderers should be put to death (Gen. 4:9-15, 17; 9:6). And following his humanly undetected adultery, David was allowed to marry the widow of the soldier that David had killed under the camouflage of war (2 Sam. 11, 12). Because we are not privy to all knowledge to which God is, we are not always aware of how something is fair or “fair enough” in the eyes of God at a given time. So, from this angle of examination, “fairness”—though always rightly ascribed to God and to God’s applicable law—can be fair without our being able to explain in what way it is fair or why it is fair at all. The “fairness” of some laws is not on obvious display.

The issue of “divine fairness” has come up many times in marriage discussion. Some have wondered how it is fair for God to allow fornicators (before marriage) to commit fornication for hundreds of times and then be given scriptural right to marriage, while at the same time disallowing a “guilty party” the right of one more marriage. No preacher that I know has ever taken the position that the Scriptures teach that unmarried fornicators cannot enter a scriptural marriage. What about a person who—knowing Bible teaching—purposefully refuses to marry for years, during which time he fornicates over and over again? Let us say that in his 60’s he decides finally to marry. Where is the passage that disallows the marriage? Is the New Testament law on marriage and divorce unfair if it allows an habitual fornicator to get married?

Note carefully that we are not discussing whether practicing fornicators can go to heaven. They cannot (Gal. 5:19). But entry into heaven is not to be confused with marriage rights on earth. Nichols made this point in his part of the discussion. And he was correct. To say that a man has a right, given his circumstances, to another marriage is not at all the same thing as saying that the man stands before God approved and heaven bound. Plenty of people have a right to marriage who at the time of the application of the right are not in fellowship with God. But since God allows all persons guilty off pre-marriage fornication the right of entering a scriptural marriage and yet disallows, per Matthew 19:9, some parties to remarry, it is evident that God looks at the marriage covenant as something to be protected and maintained. After all, God does the actual joining in marriage (Matt. 19:6); he is no party to fornication!

Now, at the 1973 confrontation between Deaver and Nichols, Nichols took the position that if a man killed his wife in order to marry some other woman, that even though the murder was certainly sinful, marriage right still characterized the murderer since his wife was now dead. Evidently Nichols was thinking of Romans 7:1-6, though I do not remember his actually referring to the passage. But when he said that a man could kill his wife and marry again, both Deaver and Thomas B. Warren (who was in the audience and who in the question/answer session asked Nichols some questions) objected and declared that the murderer had no such right. When Nichols called for the passage that prohibited the murderer from remarrying, Deaver cited Matthew 19:9.

Earlier in his own presentation, Deaver had gone over Matthew 19:9 very carefully, presenting the words in Greek and giving a detailed analysis of the passage. Clearly, per Matthew 19:9, someone may and someone may not remarry. If all can remarry, according to God’s approval, then, Deaver asked, why did the Lord address the topic at all? The passage affirms that someone may remarry without being guilty of adultery and that someone may remarry but only by becoming guilty of adultery. “And I say unto you, 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.” According to Deaver, the Lord said that only persons who put away their mates for fornication are persons who may marry again without committing adultery. And guilty fornicators are not in that class of persons.

I agree with my father and Warren that the guilty party cannot with divine sanction remarry. And it is my view that Deaver’s 1977 syllogism that he gave to James Bales presents the truth on the topic. Furthermore, in the past (although I have taken the position that Nichols took at Memphis with regard to a wife-murderer having the right to another marriage since his wife was now dead), I now confess that such is absolutely wrong. I now see that Deaver and Warren were both correct in their claim that no wife-murderer has the right of remarriage even though his wife is dead. I had taken the position that even though a wife-killer was hell bound, his eternal destiny and his marriage rights were not to be confused. And they should not be. However, as we will see as our examination continues, though a wife-murderer is no longer bound to a wife, he is still bound to God who in the New Testament gives him no more marriage rights.

When Nichols called for the passage that prohibits a wife-killer from remarrying, Deaver, as already stated, cited Matthew 19:9. Now, Matthew 19:9 deals with putting away and marrying again and with someone’s marrying the party put away. Murder either is a form of putting away or is not a form of putting away. If Deaver cites Matthew 19:9 as conclusive that a murderer (who kills his own wife in order to marry some other woman) has no right to a remarriage, then he is saying either that murder is a form of putting away or he is saying that murder is not a form of putting away. But, he cannot be saying that it is a form of putting away, because the last part of the verse contemplates a marriage on the part of the put away party. The “put away party” is not a dead person but a living one. Since we are told that “he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery,” we know that the “put away” party is a living party. If we say that murder is a form of putting away, we are then implying that someone can marry the dead which is, of course, absurd.

So, Deaver must be saying that murder is not a form of “putting away.” So, why would he think that Matthew 19:9 applied to the murderer’s case? How does the passage apply at all to the case of a murderer? Evidently, he thought it did because the only cases of remarriage allowed by Matthew 19:9 were cases involving “putting away” by parties whose spouses or ex-spouses were still living. No one else (no murderer) was being contemplated in the cases that involved “putting away.” Since all that we are to do is to be authorized by the New Testament (Col. 3:17), and since Deaver knew or at least assumed that there was no other passage that gave the scriptural right of remarriage to anyone else, then he cited the passage as conclusive that no man could kill his wife and then marry again. And this would mean that Deaver (and Warren, who agreed with Deaver that no man could kill his wife and remarry) considered Romans 7:1-6 to be inapplicable to the murderer’s case.

And this would mean, then, that Warren and Deaver considered Matthew 19:9 as applicable to the case of murder in the sense that it authorized only cases of remarriage on the part of non-murderers (just as the passages that authorize singing authorize singing only, and because of the complete absence of any other passage authorizing mechanical instruments in worship in addition to singing, then only singing is authorized). Deaver and Warren evidently thought that Romans 7:1-6 was inapplicable to the case of the murderer since, though the passage teaches that when the husband dies, the wife is free from the law of the husband so that death ends the application of the law of the husband generally speaking, it does not terminate the application of that law in cases of murder.

Now, if Romans 7:1-6 does not apply to a wife-killer (thus giving him a right to another marriage), how can we prove it? How was it that Deaver and Warren were both convinced that the wife-killer had no marriage rights? This exact point was not a part of the formal discussion at Memphis. And I do not remember ever discussing this point with my father or with Warren. But if they were right, how could we prove it now? From the discussion it is clear that Nichols thought that Romans 7:1-6 released the wife-killer so that he could remarry; it was Deaver’s and Warren’s contention that Romans 7:1-6 did no such thing. But there was no recording of any elaborate support of the Deaver-Warren position. I want to supply that information right here.

In Romans 7:1-6, Paul draws an analogy between the relationship that obtained between (1) a man and his wife and between (2) a Jewish Christian and his relationship to Christ. First, he gives the fundamental principle that the law was binding on a person only so long as that person was still alive. The law ceased in application to anyone who had been under it at the point of that person’s death (7:1). Second, after stating the fundamental feature of any law regarding its application, he then applies the binding nature of applicable law to marriage. He states that a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he is living. When he dies, she is free from “the law of the husband” (7:2). If she is joined to another man while he still lives, she is an adulteress, according to marriage law, but if the husband is dead she is not an adulteress though joined to another man (7:3). Third, Paul then draws an analogy between the two cases: that of a woman bound to a husband under the law and to Christian Jews who were once married to Moses but who are now married to Christ (7:4). Paul affirms that Christian Jews are not now in “spiritual adultery” because the first husband was dead (7:4). Moses, (the binding law of Moses) was now dead. And even though they were now joined to Christ, the joining was not “spiritual adultery” because the first husband had passed away.

Now to the very point of contention: how do we know that this passage does not free a wife-murderer to remarry? We know it because Romans 7:1-6 is a discussion of the relationship of the law of Moses to Jews who were now Christians. And these Jewish Christians who were now joined to Christ had been formerly married to the first husband (the law of Moses, or Moses) to whom they were “made dead” by the body of Christ (7:4). And notice: that law (the first husband) to which these Jewish Christians had formerly been married was a law that demanded the death of any murderer! Murderers did not have remarriage rights in Israel. Murderers were to be put to death (Exod. 21:12; Lev. 24:17). The analogy that Paul draws is between (1) the law of Moses and its binding nature on Jews (a law that gave no marriage rights to murderers) and (2) the law of Christ which, unless it be Romans 7:1-6, gives no marriage rights to murderers either). This proves that “the law of the husband” does not give marriage rights to murderers of their wives even though their wives are now dead! Wife-murderers are still bound to God’s marriage law which disallows them a new marriage.

And this serves as proof that in Deaver’s confrontation with Nichols, he and Warren were correct to think that according to Bible teaching, no wife-killer had scriptural right to another marriage. Notice further that if “the law of the husband” (now completely incorporated within the law of Christ) still binds the “put away fornicator” (the “guilty party”) to God so that any marriage attempt on his part in the future will be simply a case of “adultery,” then it follows that “the law of the husband” binds a wife-murderer to God so that any marriage attempt on his part in the future will be simply a case of “adultery” as well. Both cases entail “adultery” by parties no longer bound to their spouses but still bound to God’s marriage law. Nichols had contended that when the handcuffs that bound a husband and wife together were taken off due to fornication or death, both parties were free to remarry since they were now free from each other. Deaver had correctly observed that there were three sets of handcuffs in any scriptural marriage. One set of handcuffs bound the married persons to each other, and one set bound the husband to God’s law, and the final set bound the wife to God’s law.

It amazes me that my father and brother Warren were so clear and correct in 1973 in their contention that not even Romans 7:1-6 gave a wife-murderer the right to remarry. They were far ahead of most of us then and, perhaps, many of us now.

Let me make one final comment concerning the relationship of Matthew 19:9 to Romans 7:1-6. Please note that the precision in language used by Paul together with the precision of language used by the Lord presents to us a striking instance of internal testimony to the profound inspiration of Scripture! Not only does Romans 7:1-6 not condone “murdering one’s way” out of a marriage so as to give the remarriage right to the murderer, but the language is so precise as not to contradict the allowance of polygamy under Gentile-ism and Judaism! Notice carefully that while Jesus restricted divorce right, compared to the most generous divorce allowance by the law of Moses (Deut. 24) in his remarks in Matthew 19:9, that Paul is careful in his use of marriage in his analogy as to protect divine sanction of polygamy under the previous regimes. He says that if a woman is joined to another man while she retains a living husband, she shall be an adulteress, but he does not say that a man joined to another woman while having an already living wife shall be called one under the governance of “the law of the husband.” The “law of the husband” allowed, in principle, both polygyny (one husband with more than one wife) and monogamy (one husband with one wife). The kind of polygamy (many marriages) allowed by God in the previous regimes was only polygyny. It was never polyandry (many husbands with one wife). Thus, Paul’s precision is for the purpose of harmonizing his illustration not only with the permanent New Testament requirement of monogamy but with divine approval of polygyny under Gentile-ism (i.e. Patriarchy) and Christianity. Incredible!

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 5: Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

Note: The “great commission” has been fulfilled because the purpose of its completion was to make all men answerable to the gospel. The book of Acts is not basically about conversions or even about kingdom entry, though it certainly discusses this in detail, but it is about how God changed human accountability for all time from Gentile-ism and Judaism to Christianity, thus making it possible for the reconciliation of two heretofore separated groups of people (to each other and of these people to God) by means of one divinely authorized approach (Eph. 2:13-22; cf. Acts 19:9). We cannot now do what the apostles were commanded to do (see chapter 15, “Facts That Paint the Picture of Acts” in Except One Be Born From Above).

  1. The apostles were the ones to whom the commission was given (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; Read carefully Mark 16:15-20; cf. Heb. 2:1-4; cf. Acts 8:1-4).
  2. The ones responsible to the great commission were the “ambassadors” of Christ, distinguished from the rest of the church (Acts 1:21-26; 26:16; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Acts 1:22).
  3. Two of the apostles were even given special assignments entailed in their great commission (Matt. 16:19; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 8:14-24; 10:44-48; Gal. 2:7; Acts 9:15).
  4. Each apostle had “witnessing” power unavailable to other Christians (1 Cor. 12:11; 14:1, 13; 1 Tim. 4:14; 1:6; 2 Cor. 12:12).
  5. Not all Christians were given the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:6, 22).
  6. Even if it could be proven that the early church bore the same relationship to the commission that the apostles did, we today still could not have that relationship to it (Eph. 2:20; 4:11; Heb. 2:1-4; the apostles were in a category all their own: Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 18:18 with Matt. 16:18-20; 19:27-28).
  7. During the thirty year period of evangelism in all the world, God was miraculously managing the whole affair (Acts 13:1-4; 16:6-10; cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-13; Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:8, 9, 11; Rev. 3:7; Col. 1:16, 23).
  8. Passages that obligate Christians today to teach cannot in and of themselves prove that the evangelism is to be based on the great commission (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Matt. 22:37-40).
  9. God has withdrawn all miraculous assistance, which was absolutely necessary to carrying out the commission in the first century (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Cor. 13:8-13; cf. Acts 17:27; Matt. 7:7-11 with Luke 11:13; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4).Note: Our world is not like that of the first century (transition era)! Today all men outside the church die in sin when they die without obeying the gospel. In the first century, there was a way (Judaism and Gentile-ism) for men outside the church to be saved before the gospel reached them because of the religious arrangement that had been made by God for them! Gentile-ism (Patriarchy) and Judaism were finally superseded by Christianity!

Consider these arguments:

Argument #1:

  • All assignments that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working are assignments that Christians today cannot carry out.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; Heb. 2:3-4).
  • Therefore, the assignment to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that Christians today cannot carry out.

Argument #2:

  • Any assignment that the apostles were given which changed human amenability on earth for all time is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment which changed amenability on earth for all time (Col. 1:23; Acts 10:36; 17:30-31).
  • Therefore, the assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 4: Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

I. Some incorrect reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I knew only a little truth when I was first baptized (cf. Heb. 6:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:1ff.).
  2. Others for whom I have love or respect have been rebaptized (cf. Acts 19:1-7).
  3. I would feel better if a certain preacher baptized me (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:4-9).
  4. To increase the “chances” of my eternal salvation (cf. Col. 2:12; Luke 10:31; Eccl. 9:11).
  5. My baptism was ineffectual because I could not make the confession with my mouth or I did not make the confession before many men (cf. Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10; Rev. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:12).
  6. I’m not sure the water was pure (cf. Heb. 10:22; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26).
  7. The person who baptized me was not a Christian or later apostatized from the faith (cf. Luke 8:11; cf. Demas in 2 Tim. 4:10; Col. 4:14; Philem. 23).
  8. I did not realize at the time that I would receive the actual baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).
  9. I was baptized because I didn’t want to go to hell (cf. Acts 2:40; 1 John 4:18).

II. Some correct reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I was baptized simply because others wanted me to be (Rom. 6:17).
  2. I really didn’t understand what I was doing (John 6:44-45).
  3. I did not have faith that I was being saved from sin (Col. 2:12).
  4. I did not really repent of my sins (2 Cor. 7:10).
  5. I thought I had already been saved and that I was being baptized to join some church (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
  6. Even though I was an innocent child (having no sin), I was taught that I should submit to baptism in order to be like Christ (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5-6).
  7. I was “baptized” when I was a mere baby (cf. Matt. 18:1-6).
  8. I never heard anything about the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 19:2).
  9. I did not know that in baptism I was leaving the world and entering the church (1 John 4:4; 5:19).
  10. To have a clear conscience and make my calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
  11. When I was baptized, it was for the remission of sins, but I did not believe that Jesus was divine (cf. Matt. 16:16; John 9:35-37).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

What Happened in Samaria (Acts 8)?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 3: What Happened in Samaria (Acts 8)?

  1. This account of kingdom entry must correspond with Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10, 11.
  2. Consider the background (Acts 1:8; Acts 8:1-11).
  3. Baptism in water only is baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus only (Acts 8:12, 16; cf. Acts 19:5).
  4. The Holy Spirit came as a result of prayer offered and hands laid (Acts 8:15-18).
  5. The hands identified those to receive the Spirit and provided the conceptual connection between the water and the Spirit (Acts 8:12, 14-19; cf. Acts 19:6; John 3:3, 5; cf. Heb. 6:2).
  6. Jesus was the One who administered Holy Spirit baptism (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).
  7. With both water and Spirit, the Samaritans had been now baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:33).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 2: Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

Discussion: No, because —

  1. There are no measures of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).
  2. All who obeyed the gospel received the Spirit (Acts 5:32). [Question: Why didn’t the kingdom arrive ten days prior to Pentecost?]
  3. Baptism in the Spirit is no more miraculous than the forgiveness of sins is (Romans 8:2).
  4. There is only one way into the kingdom (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 4:4-5). [Note: If some entered at the point of Spirit baptism (Acts 2:1-4), and if some entered at the point of water baptism (Acts 10:44-48), then all entered when water and Spirit were combined in their human experience (John 3:3-5)!]
  5. Of the meaning of John 3:3-5.
  6. Of what Jesus did not say in John 3:3-5 —
    (1) Water must come first and then the Spirit;
    (2) Spirit must come first and then the water;
    (3) Water and Spirit must come at the same time;
    (4) One’s forgiveness had to occur at the moment of kingdom entry;
    (5) Forgiveness would occur in every case of water baptism;
    (6) One born of water only could enter the kingdom;
    (7) One born of Spirit only could enter the kingdom.
  7. Entering the spiritual body of Christ (the church) is accomplished by means of entering the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 3:26-27).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

What Happens While We Are Under the Water

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 1: What Happens While We Are Under the Water

  1. We are delivered, forgiven, and redeemed (Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  2. We are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6; Matthew 19:28; cf. Acts 3:19; Romans 6:3-4, 11).
  3. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 1:13-14).
  4. We are added to the saved (Acts 2:47; Matthew 12:46-50).
  5. We are transferred (Colossians 1:13).
  6. We are made sons by birth (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 1:3-5).
  7. We make the great escape (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20-22).
  8. Our nature is altered (2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 6:7-8; John 15:1ff; Galatians 5:22-24).
  9. We are spiritually circumcised (Colossians 2:11-12).
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine

Giving New Life To Old Error

By Mac Deaver

The Bales-Deaver Debate on marriage, divorce, and remarriage was published by the Firm Foundation Publishing House in 1988. That is twenty six years ago now, and a lot has changed in our world and in the brotherhood since that time including the continuing demise of morality in our country. Many who are young adults now were at the time of the great controversy in the church over marriage and divorce unaware as to what all was being said and done regarding the discussion of the proper application of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9.

On April 19, 1977 Roy Deaver and James Bales met on the campus of Harding College (now University) to discuss the issue of the application of Matthew 19:9. Later Thomas B. Warren hoped that he and brother Bales could debate the issue orally. Bales declined, for health reasons, but proposed a written debate between the two. Warren turned down that offer, and finally an agreement was reached between Bales and Roy Deaver for a written discussion. It lasted about five years. Bales, Deaver, and Warren were all friends and each respected the ability of the others. Bales had the year before moderated for Warren in Warren’s debate with the atheist, Antony Flew. Deaver also had assisted Warren in that momentous discussion held in September of 1976. When Bales learned that I was to teach a course on Acts in Tennessee Bible College in the early 1980s, he mailed me a thick notebook full of his own notes. It was a most generous gesture. He had a great mind and had done a tremendous amount of good through his teaching and his writing. He had been a great force for good. But now his talents had come to be employed in the defense of a position on Matthew 19:9 that was “new ground” for the brotherhood. The question was whether or not the novel position was scriptural.

In his own personal study, Bales had concluded that the church as a whole had misunderstood the application of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9. He had decided that Matthew 19:9 applied only to marriages that were composed of a Christian married to another Christian. The passage did not, according to him, apply to a non-Christian married to another non-Christian or to a Christian married to a non-Christian. This novel approach to the passage he attempted to defend in his time consuming written debate with my father. The reader can still purchase that written account and study it carefully. I cannot here go over everything or even most of what was said between the two participants. Very few things from the debate will be discussed.

In completion of my work at Tennessee Bible College for the terminal degree in Christian Apologetics, I presented to the faculty of the graduate school there my dissertation in January of 1991. It was entitled “Moral Law, The Law Of Christ, And The Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage Issue.” In that paper I discussed the existence and nature of moral law, the moral law and positive law, some implications of denying the existence of moral law, and moral law in some recent discussions on the marriage-divorce-remarriage issue. That last part entailed a critical analysis of the (1) Warren-Fuqua Debate, (2) McClish-Billingsly Debate, and the (3) Bales-Deaver Debate. It was clear to me then, and it is clear to me now that the effort to deny the universal application of Matthew 19:9 to all marriages was completely without evidential support.

It came to pass in time that I debated Dan Billingsly in January of 1995 in Arlington, Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth area). He affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that Matthew 19:9 is not New Testament doctrine.” The following September I debated Olan Hicks on the marriage-divorce issue in Robertson County, Tennessee. Brother Hicks affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that God approves marriage for every person, including all who have divorced or have been divorced by a mate, regardless of cause.” The reader can still obtain a written copy of that debate and study carefully what was said. Then in April of 2004, I engaged Dan Billingsly in a second debate in Bedford (Fort Worth area). He affirmed that the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all a part of the Old Testament. Of course, if he could have proven that (which he could not and which was exposed as false), he could have gotten rid of the “troublesome” passage (Matthew 19:9). The position taken by Billingsly in this debate showed the extent to which some of us were willing to go to get rid of the “bothersome” passage. The morality of the country was degenerating, and Christian families were certainly involved. Surely, there had to be a way to get around the restriction of Matthew 19:9.

At the end of my doctoral dissertation, at the end of my polemic encounters with Billingsly and Hicks, I was convinced that the application of Matthew 19:9 is today for all men, both Christians and non-Christians. I never faced a sound argument that proved the contradiction, and I presented many sound arguments in the discussions to verify that for which I was contending. It was and remains clear to me that fornication is the one and only reason for a divorce that allows the innocent (other) party to scripturally remarry.

Now, why do I at this time bring all this back up to view. I do it because recently a book has been published by Weldon Langfield entitled The Truth About Divorce And Remarriage. It claims to be “A Politically Incorrect View of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in Today’s Church.” The purpose of the book is to resurrect the idea that 1 Corinthians 7:15 does, in fact, supply the Christian with a reason for divorce and remarriage other than fornication (as provided by the Lord in Matthew 19:9).

All through the book, Langfield refers to preachers who hold that Matthew 19:9 is of universal application and gives us the only scriptural basis for a divorce and a remarriage as “politically correct” preachers. He calls them “PC” preachers. Thus, in informing us that 1 Corinthians does give us an additional reason for divorce and remarriage, he is providing the “politically incorrect” view by which, of course, he attempts to endear his position to our brethren (who generally despise “political correctness”). On page 88 he concludes, “A critical examination of the PC position shows it to be without support.” Again, on page 153 near the end of the book he writes, “Two-thirds of denominational scholarship and many distinguished brotherhood preachers and scholars are correct in their understanding that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides grounds for remarriage.”

If the reader hopes to find conclusive proof for this position, he will be disappointed. If he searches for a sound argument to prove it true, he will search in vain. He will find many gospel preachers of the past quoted to lend support to his position, but he will not find where a sound argument is ever provided by these quoted preachers to prove the contention true. And this is the very thing that Langfield needs: a sound argument (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:2). We all should know that we prove nothing about the alleged accuracy of a conclusion by citing an approving quotation from someone who also believed it to be true. If the quoted party provided the “proof,” then provide his proof. Langfield couldn’t do this because there was no “proof” from anyone that he quoted to show that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provided an additional basis for divorce and remarriage in addition to what the Lord had provided in Matthew 19:9.

Langfield refers to many preachers on both sides of the issue. He refers to brother Bales several times in the book, but only mentions my father twice in the text, once in connection with his brief debate with Gus Nichols in their 1973 encounter at the Harding Graduate School in Memphis (p. 69) and the second reference (p. 126) is by means of a quotation taken from the July, 1980 Spiritual Sword periodical, the quotation being a description given by my father of the devastating nature of brother Bales’ position to the gospel. However, Langfield never refers to the Bales-Deaver Debate at all, a debate in which my father exposed Bales’ contention that 1 Corinthians 7:15 does provide, after all, an additional basis for divorce and remarriage other than that provided by the Lord in Matthew 19:9.

And this is the very position to which Langfield attempts to lend support in his new book. Brother Bales believed that Matthew 19:9 only applied to Christians married to Christians and that 1 Corinthians 7:15 applied to Christians married to non-Christians and to non-Christians married to other non-Christians. If the reader has not read that debate, I would suggest that he do so. It is indeed interesting and somewhat curious that Langfield, while referring to many books regarding the marriage-divorce controversy, never quotes from this pivotal debate in which Bales himself tried to prove the position to which Langfield in his new book attempts to lend support. Again, I remind the reader that Langfield refers to Bales several times, but he never quotes from Bales or from my father in their debate which was a discussion of the very issue that concerns Langfield in his recently published book.

Bales took the position that the Lord had addressed one group of married people in Matthew 19:9 and that Paul was addressing another group of married people in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15. The Lord had only the “covenant people” in mind (Christians only), and Paul had in mind non-covenant people (non-Christians) and especially Christians married to them, so that Matthew 19:9 did not even apply to the group that Paul was now addressing. It is clear to me that my father exposed this contention conclusively and in several ways. However, among the many things that he taught in the debate, in my judgment, if he had only said one thing that he did to Bales, it was absolutely devastating. And it is something that either Langfield does not know or chose not to notice in his new book. Langfield shows familiarity with some of the crucial material written during the controversy, but for some reason, he never quotes my father (nor James Bales) in the Bales Deaver Debate.

In my father’s second affirmative, he presented his argument on the tense of a crucial verb in 1 Corinthians 7:15. He wrote, “The word ‘bondage’ is the translation of the Greek dedoulotai which is perfect passive indicative, third person singular of the root word douloo. The perfect tense is significant. The force of the perfect tense here is: the deserted believer is not now and in fact never has been under the kind of bondage signified by the word douloo—the kind of bondage which would compel the Christian to give up his or her Christianity in order to preserve the marriage” (p. 61). Bales wasn’t impressed and called for proof that this was the meaning of the tense (p. 90). Of course, all Bales had to do was consult a Greek Grammar and think about the description of the perfect tense (for example, Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers).

Summers points out that the perfect tense “…indicates completed action with a resulting state of being. The primary emphasis is on the resulting state of being…The real nature of the Greek perfect is seen in the passive voice better than in the active” (p. 103). The verb (“under bondage”) in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is in the passive voice. Summers points out that there are three ideas involved in the perfect tense: “an action in progress, its coming to a point of culmination, its existing as a completed result” (p. 103). He illustrates the force of the tense by appealing to the verb gegraptai (“it is written”). [The reader can consult Matthew 4:1-11 and see where the Lord three times uses a perfect tense verb when he says, “it is written”]. According to Summers the meaning is that “it has been written and stands written” (p. 103). If this had been a negative remark (as we have in 1 Corinthians 7:15), it would have meant: “it has not been written and it stands not written.”

Therefore, the meaning of the verb (“under bondage” with the negative word “not”) is that the brother or sister “has not been and is not under bondage.” The force of the tense means that the brother or sister in the case being described has never been in the bondage to which reference is made! That is one way that my father knew that it could not be referring to the “marriage bond.” The brother or sister had been in that bondage (the marriage bond) if they had been joined in marriage by God (Matthew 19:6; Romans 7:2). But the bondage to which Paul refers is one that had never entailed them at all. It is a kind of bondage different from what the marriage bond is. The marriage bond never entails the “slavery” involved in the word used for “bondage” in verse 15!

My father knew that the verb for “under bondage” in verse 15 could not possibly refer to the marriage bond. Furthermore, he knew that in verse 27, we find another perfect tense verb referring to a “bondage” which in the passage is undoubtedly the “marriage bond.” The words “Art thou bound unto a wife” certainly refer to the marriage bond. But, it is a different Greek word! The word in verse 15 is doulao and the verb in verse 27 is deo! Therefore, in verse 15 Paul had said that a believer married to a non-believer had never been, and was not at the time he was writing, in slavery that would compel the believer to pursue the marriage at the expense of his soul. In verse 27 he said that if anyone was married he had been and now remained in that same condition (perfect tense) in a state of “bondage,” but he clearly used a different word for this “marriage bond”!

But, even if we knew nothing about Greek tense, shouldn’t Paul’s last words in verse 15 (“but God has called us in peace”) and the words following in verses 16-24 show us what he had meant in verse 15? If the non-believer has left the believer (“let him depart”), the believer is to remain in peace, and not feel compelled to go after the non-believer with the hope of converting him/her. Paul is anticipating the thinking of the deserted believer. “If I can only find him, I can surely convert him and bring him home.” Paul says that you do not know that you can convert him (v. 16), and you are not (given the fact that he has departed) to feel obligated to go after him.

And please notice that Paul then declares that no one has the right to use his conversion as an excuse to alter a non-sinful state. It was not sinful for a Christian to be married to a non-Christian (see verses 12-14). And it does not matter whether one is converted while he is in the condition of circumcision or non-circumcision (v. 18-19), or as a slave or a free man (v. 21-23). But please notice that each condition is an illustration of a non-sinful state. Paul does not say that it is all right to remain in any sinful condition, including adultery! Repentance precedes baptism.

But now, let me make one more basic point in addition to all that has been said in the past to falsify the contention that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides an additional reason for divorce and remarriage. My father took the position that Matthew 19:9 was universal teaching covering all marriages today. Brother Bales took the position that it applied only to Christians married to Christians. He took it that when Paul said “to the rest” (v. 12) he was referring to those other than Christians married to Christians, and he took it that “not under bondage” (v. 15) gave the deserted believer the right to remarry without fornication being committed against him/her per Matthew 19:9.

Notice, please, that the passage says that if the non-believer departs from the believer that then “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (v. 15). But the question arises, “What if the non-believer chooses not to depart but to remain with the believer?” If Matthew 19:9 applies only to Christians married to Christians, then (1) what is the relationship of the Christian to his non-Christian mate who chooses to remain with him/her and (2) what is that Christian’s relationship to the marriage bond? Notice that Paul did not say that the brother or sister was “not under bondage” in the case where the non-believer chooses to remain with the believer. If anyone today were to take the position that brother Bales did on verse 15, claiming that it was the marriage bond as such, then he would need to face these questions.

Paul said, “Yet if the unbeliever departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage is such cases” (v.15). But what is the Christian’s obligation and what are his rights if the unbeliever remains (does not depart)? Now, if we were to allow Bales to assume that the marriage bond is being referenced in verse 15 (although we have already shown it is not), then Bales would face the following problem. Notice what Paul would be and would not be saying:

  1. Paul would not be saying that a Christian married to a non-Christian is “not under bondage.”
  1. Paul would be saying that a Christian married to a non-Christian is “not under bondage” if the non-Christian departs.

And remember, that Bales believed that Matthew 19:9 did not apply to the case of the believer married to the unbeliever at all, period. Then that would mean that (1) if the unbeliever chose not to depart but to remain with the believer and (2) if Matthew 19:9 never applied to the case of the believer married to the unbeliever, then we would have to face the following facts:

  1. If the unbeliever who remained with the believer later committed fornication against the believer, the believer would have no right based on Matthew 19:9 to put away the unfaithful mate for his fornication and innocently remarry another (since Matthew 19:9 didn’t apply to him/her, according to Bales).
  1. The believer living with a non-believer who chose not to depart was under bondage to that non-believer.
  1. Since, per Bales, Matthew 19:9 had never applied to a mixed married couple, then we learn that Paul is saying for the first time in the New Testament that a believer is bound to an unbeliever if that unbeliever chose not to depart.
  1. Since Paul is telling us, per Bales, that Matthew 19:9 never applied to a believer married to an unbeliever, it would mean that Jesus in Matthew 19:6 was only talking about believers married to believers as well when he said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” [My father made this very point to Bales (Bales-Deaver Debate, p. 133)].
  1. Then if the unbeliever can depart and thus give the believer and himself the right to remarry (per Bales according to 1 Corinthians 7:15), then Matthew 19:6 never applied to unbelievers married to believers and believers married to unbelievers either.
  1. If Matthew 19:6 never applied to anyone in a “mixed marriage” (believer to unbeliever), and if it never applied to a marriage involving unbeliever to unbeliever (per Bales), then the only people whom God has joined in marriage are Christians married to Christians! All other “married” couples are not married at all!
  1. But this conclusion contradicts the position implied at point #2!

When my father engaged Bales in their encounter at Harding in 1977, he referred to a letter that he had recently received from a man in Africa desiring to become a Christian but who was living with several wives. What was he to do? My father asked brother Bales his counsel. Bales responded that the man would need to put away all the wives but the first! But this was completely contradictory to the position that he was taking on the world’s non-amenability to the Lord’s law on marriage and divorce. If God had, in fact, joined the man to these women in marriage (and polygamy has never been against moral law as such), then how could anyone suggest that an alien sinner separate from the wives to whom he has been joined by God?

Brother Bales was no adulterer, but he unintentionally took a position that sanctioned some cases of adultery. I think it is very sad and so unfortunate that we had to go through such a time in the church when there seemed to be so much uncertainty with regard to marriage and divorce.

Years ago, my father and mother were living with my wife and me in Wellington, Texas. I was preaching for the church there, and Daddy was still engaged in his Biblical Notes writing work. Not long before brother Bales passed away, he called the house. I answered the phone. Brother Bales was evidently satisfied to talk with me for he never asked to speak to my father. But he told me that he wanted us to know that he loved us. In the light of that call, I take it that in light of the tremendous battle over marriage, divorce, and remarriage in which we had all been engaged, he wanted us to know that there was no anger or bitterness involved at all. He wanted things to be right between us. He was calling to tell us that he loved us.

I’m sorry brother Bales made this doctrinal mistake. I know he meant well. He was a good and brilliant man. But all of us are responsible to God for our own lives and decisions. None of us can excuse himself for adultery (if he finds himself in that state) because of Bales’ unintentionally sanctioning some cases of it. Each of us must search the Scriptures for himself (Acts 17:11). I once heard brother Warren express himself as he reflected on brother Bales’ situation. He said, “There’s got to be some room for grace.” I hope he found it, too.

The ungodliness in American culture helped to create the situation in the church where we began to think that we needed some relief from the stricture of Matthew 19:9. May God help us never again to allow any cultural condition to weaken our resolve to stand with proven truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:58). And may God give us the wisdom to reject any current effort at giving new life to old error.