Stan Cox


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Let None Deal Treacherously

Are Non-Christians Amenable to Jesus' Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage?


There are myriad positions taken regarding who has the right to divorce and remarry.  Most of these positions do violence to the rule established in this series, one man, one woman, for a lifetime.  It may be an attempt to bring in more "exceptions" in addition to the one specified by Jesus in Matthew 19:9, fornication.  It may be speculation regarding what happens after the bond is broken.  It may be a blatant denial of plain teaching.  One of these positions contends that while the rule is valid, it applies only to those who are Christians.

Precisely stated, the contention is that non-Christians are not amenable to the law of Christ.  The word amenable simply means "responsible to."  That is, that Jesus teaching on divorce and remarriage simply does not apply to those who are not Christians.

The position has been espoused by E.C. Fuqua, who at one time preached for a congregation near Fort Worth,  in Sansom Park.  Fuqua defended his position in his paper, The Vindicator, back in the 1950's.  Lately, the position has been championed by the recently deceased Homer Hailey, who wrote the book, The Divorced and Remarried Who Would Come to God, published in 1991.

It needs to be noted that while the vast majority of Christians reject the position, Hailey's standing and influence has led to a crisis regarding the fellowship of those who teach such erroneous positions.

Fuqua took the position that those outside of the body of Christ are amenable only to civil law.  Hailey and others believe that the non-Christian is under a "universal moral law", though no one is able to establish the tenents of such a law, as there is no divine commentary on its existence or its requirements.  If there is a "moral law", then where is it written down?  What is contained in it?  No one can say.

In reality, though not all men are obedient to the requirements contained in our Lord's new covenant, it has been delivered to "all men."  Notice the following two passages:

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt. 28:18).

"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).

Jesus affirmed that he had "all authority in heaven and earth" (Matt. 28:18).  In John 17:2 he said he had, "authority over all flesh."  He is the judge of the world (cf. Acts 17:30-31), and the Lord of all (cf. Acts 10:36).  Just because not all obey the laws of Christ, this does not mean that they are not responsible to such laws.

Logically, this follows.  If the law of Christ demands baptism for the remission of sins (cf. Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16), then the one who refuses to obey this law is nevertheless amenable to it.  This does not mean that the alien sinner is subject to every single requirement in that law.  This is not even true with those who are Christians.  For example, the husband is not required to follow the laws regarding the wife, and vice-versa.  The fact that an alien sinner is not able to partake of the Lord's Supper does not mean that he is not amenable to Christ's law.  And it does not excuse him from obeying Christ's teaching regarding divorce and remarriage.

Matthew 19:9

A further point may be made with regard to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:9.  Though it is indeed a part of his new covenant with man, it should be noted that the audience he addressed did not consist of a single Christian.  You will note that Jesus applied his law to "whosoever", and there is no indication that the context limited that term in any way whatsoever (cf. Matthew 19:9; 5:32).

Further, as you look at Jesus' teaching in Matthew 19, he stated that the truths he was affirming were so "at the beginning" (vs. 4)  While there was a time, due to the hardness of hearts, that God allowed a writing of divorcement for any cause, "from the beginning it was not so" (vs. 8).  The teaching of Jesus predated the establishment of the old covenant with the Jews.  The principles Jesus stated were in effect from the beginning, and had their application with all men.

Conclusion

The idea that only Christians are amenable to the law of Christ is false.  Christ has authority over all flesh, and his teaching on the sanctity of the marriage bond is applicable to "whosoever", inclusive of those who are not Christians.

Those who advocate this position do violence to the bond formed by God.  His intent from the beginning has been one man, one woman for a lifetime.  Those who advocate multiple divorces and remarriages as acceptable prior to becoming a Christian do not give sufficient thought to the sanctity of the relationship itself.   "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:6).

 

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