Gospel Truths, Volume XVI, NUMBER 5 (May, 2005)
Posted with permission

Debating The Scriptures # 2 

By J. T. Smith 

The New Testament is replete with those who held different positions on various subjects and discussed what the word of God taught on the subject. For example: Acts 15:1, 3, 5, 7 “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ 3So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 5But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’ 7And when there had been much dispute, …”

As we concluded last month’s editorial on this subject we mentioned a debate that was going to be conducted between brother Tim Haile and me. The discussion did take place and there are DVDs, CDs, voice tapes and video tapes available. (See note at the end of this article describing how they may be obtained). DVD’s, CD’s, MP3’s Click Here

As I pointed out last month, the positions were all-important to the purity of the church.

“If brother Haile’s position is true, then there are a number of people who have been divorced and remarried who are not living in sin. However, if the position that I am presenting is true, those who accept and practice brother Haile’s teaching are living in adultery.”

During the discussion brother Haile made this statement.

The following chart clearly sets forth the position of both disputants.

There are different stages in one’s life when fornication may be committed:

1. One might commit fornication before he met the person he married.

2. He might commit fornication while he was engaged to the person he married.

3. He might commit fornication while he was married.

4. He might commit fornication after the marriage was dissolved. The question that must be answered, of which stage was Jesus speaking when He made the statement in Matthew 19:9?

Since brother Haile and those who agree with him add: “whenever,” they are pleading for the putting away taking place after the marriage has been sundered – when they are UNMARRIED! But is that what the Lord had in mind in Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18? Jesus was talking about one putting away his mate for fornication with the right to marry another while the marriage was still in tact. It is a perversion of the Scriptures for anyone to teach otherwise.

Notice the chart again. If brother Haile’s position is correct, then “whenever” would allow one to put away his wife and be free to marry another without sin while they are married if he discovered that she had committed adultery before he ever met her.

“Whenever” would allow him to put away his wife during their marriage if he learned that she had committed fornication while they were engaged.

“Whenever” would (as these brethren are trying to prove) allow a person to put away his wife if adultery was committed after the marriage was dissolved (sundered) whether it had been two weeks, two months, two years or twenty years after the fact. WHENEVER

It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone who reads Matthew 19:9 could conclude that Jesus had any time-frame in mind other than the period while the two people were married before the marriage was sundered!

You will recall that Jesus said, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:5-6).

Matthew 19:9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

When the two became one flesh, they were joined together by God. Man “puts asunder” when he “puts away” his wife.

Apoluo As Used in New Testament

The words “put away” are translated from the Greek word apoluo, “Apoluo(put away, dismiss, depart, send away) is a word the Holy Spirit used for the break up of a marriage. When used in relation to husband and wife, it speaks of a total rejection of a spouse, a break up of a marriage, a severing (separating – Matthew 19:6) of the marriage relationship.

What is there left to “put away” (apoluo) after a break up, severing, separating of the marriage relationship? What, I say is left, except a statement that “I am now putting away my husband for fornication,” But again I ask, what is there to “put away” (dismiss, depart, send away; break up of a marriage; severing, separating). None of this can be done as it has already been done and the marriage is gone. As one proponent of this position said of “apoluo,”:

Apoluo (put away) Means Action

  • “The spouse that puts away, or repudiates, his mate looses him, or severs him, from acceptance in marriage. This is the meaning of Apoluo.

  • “He explicitly declares to the mate that he no longer wills to live in marriage with the mate. He releases her; he declares her repudiated That’s not merely mental / thought process; that’s action. Civil procedure is a process that follows this and that often takes much time to complete. In the mean-time, the two spouses are separated (unmarried—not living together).

  • The two spouses are separated (unmarried—not living together). (Bill Reeves’ Charts 185, 188 used during his debate with Joel Gwin).

During the debate with Tim Haile I used the above statements by brother Bill Reeves because it teaches the truth as we both understand the word apoluo. In the quotation I left out (“Civil procedure is a process that follows this and that often takes much time to complete. In the mean-time”) because we were not discussing Civil procedure. Brother Reeves wrote me and said that I had done him a disservice by leaving that part out. However, as I told brother Reeves in reply, I see nothing in the part that was left out that would in any way change the thought or meaning of his statement

Apoluo and Civil Law

Why not discuss Civil Law? Because in our society a legal divorce in the courts is only to declare and make legal (for the purpose of property settlement, the right to marry again, etc.), what has already taken place. The marriage has already been dissolved.

Inception of This Position

The first time I recall hearing or reading anything about this position was in 1985 when Weldon Warnock wrote an article in the November issue of Searching the Scriptures on this subject. His article was answered by Jim Deason. Later, in 1986 brethren H. E. Phillips and Marshall Patton had a written debate in Searching the Scriptures. As far as I knew, brethren Warnock and Patton were the only two people in the brotherhood who believed this position. In the last few years there has been much discussion (pro and con) on the internet on this subject. Also, brother Ron Halbrook has had a great deal to say in his sermons and in answering questions on this subject.

I regret that brethren have so perverted the Scriptures. That which the Lord set forth on this subject is plain and clear and easy to be understood. Ron and others have tried to side-step the issue by saying that each congregation will have to take care of this situation when it arises. That is a cop-out. Every congregation must settle every situation according to the truth taught in the New Testament. What these brethren teach is not the truth. If congregations settle this issue according to what is taught by Tim, Marshall, Weldon, Ron, et. al., they will settle it by fellowshipping people who are living in adultery.


It has come to my attention that a new scenario on marriage is now being taught. (Surprise! Surprise!). If I understand it correctly it is as follows:

A boy and girl are out on a date. They vow to each other that they want to be husband and wife. They consummate their vows in the back seat of the car. According to the scenario they are now married in the sight of God. If, however, one or the other or both decide that was a foolish thing to do and it was just hormones and neither love nor marriage, that is too bad. They are married, we are told. They do not live together. He marries someone else and decides to become a Christian. He and his present wife (whom he has lawfully and scripturally married) would have to divorce the one to whom they are legally married (leave wife and children) and return to the one he became one flesh with in the back seat of a car. Whew! Have brethren gone crazy or what? We have mental divorce and now seemingly we have mental marriage.

I have always been taught (and taught) that the above scenario was fornication. In order to be married, two people must make a commitment to each other. They must, (according to Romans 13 and II Peter 2:13), obey the laws of the land, take their vows and then consummate the marriage becoming one flesh.

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM