“It Appertaineth Not Unto Thee”
By Jeff Belknap
In II Chronicles, 26, we read of King Uzziah, who began his reign honorably, but who made a presumptuous error at the height of his strength as a ruler. He “transgressed against the Lord” when he entered the temple and burned incense upon the altar of incense (verse 16).
It follows that Azariah and fourscore priests who were “valiant men” went in after the king. “And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God” (verses 17-18, emp jhb).
Burning incense on the altar of incense was an authorized practice – for the priests of Levi. However, just because it was an authorized practice for the sons of Aaron did not mean that it was an approved practice for King Uzziah! Thus, the reason that Uzziah’s actions were sinful, is because the authority to burn incense on the altar did not pertain to him.
Likewise, in the New Testament, we find certain practices that are specifically authorized only for certain individuals, thereby excluding everyone else. Ephesians 5:23 tells us that “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church,” while verse 24 continues, “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” In I Corinthians 11, we learn that it is a shame for a man to have long hair, but that such is glorious for a woman (verses 14-15). Preaching the word is authorized, yea commanded (Mark 16:15; I Thessalonians 1:8). Nevertheless, Paul wrote “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” I Timothy 2:12; cf. I Corinthians 14:34).
I once heard a story about a preacher who was teaching from Philippians 3:4-6. He made the statement that the apostle Paul’s credentials had increased to such a degree, that if he had continued in the Jewish faith, one day, he might have become a high priest. However, such an opportunity did not pertain to “Saul,” since he was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5; cf. Hebrews 7:12-14).
In the 1950’s, the Lord’s church split, largely due to a disagreement over WHO was authorized to carry out the Lord’s work of benevolence among non-saints. The institutional brethren contended that it was “lawful” for the church to do it. We maintained that God’s command to financially assist non-saints did not pertain to the church, but only to the individual (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27; cf. I Timothy 5:16). Unfortunately, many were deceived by emotional scenarios and unfounded “applications.”
History is a powerful teacher, and it is said that those who refuse to learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them. Thus, we must bring to remembrance the lessons we have learned from days gone by. It is important to determine who is authorized to do what, if we are to “prove all things” and to “hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21; cf. II Corinthians 13:5; II Timothy 2:15).
Although generic authority is inclusive, we must never forget that specific authority is exclusive. Therefore those who seek the Lord’s approval must always have divine authority for all that they say and do (Colossians 3:17). A Bible truth that has been reaffirmed by the faithful since the restoration movement, is that silence is not permissive (I Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8-9; II John 9).
The Lord’s Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage rule is simple and clear (Matthew 11:30; II Corinthians 11:3). Those lawfully bound people who are involved in divorce may not marry another while their bound spouse lives (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:10-11). Nevertheless, Jesus gave one exception to that rule. That exception is given to the one in a divorce who puts away for the cause of his or her spouse’s sexual infidelity (Matthew 5:32a; 19:9a).
For each lawfully bound couple, Jesus spoke of only one putting away (whether unapproved or approved), in which there is a distinction between the one who did the putting away, and the one who was the put away. The Lord gave the clause, “except for fornication” specifically to the person who puts away in this one and only putting away (note the silence of the Scriptures: there is no mention of a second “putting away” anywhere).
For the person who “is put away” in this divorce (whether for scriptural cause or not), the Word simply teaches that he or she becomes an adulterer upon remarriage to another. The Lord himself made these distinctions between those who put away and those who are put away (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18).
Contrariwise, Jesus did not distinguish between those whom He acknowledged are put away unscripturally, and those who are put away for scriptural cause. Many who wish to justify remarriage to another for some put away people (whose original mates still live) make and rest their case on an unrevealed distinction between scripturally put away people and unscripturally put away people. They do so, even while denying the clear distinction that Jesus did make between those who put away, and those who are put away.
Nevertheless, the Lord simply taught that a “put away person” (whose bound spouse still lives, Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:39), commits adultery when marrying another. We must not add to that or take away from it.
Scriptures clearly teach that a person who is put away “is put away” (and thus, is among those who commit adultery upon remarriage to another). After one secures an unscriptural divorce, does his subsequent fornication make his put away spouse any less a put away person than she was before his post-divorce fornication? The obvious answer is no, post-divorce fornication does not magically turn a put away person into an “un-put away” person, nor does it negate the consequences that Jesus outlined for all who are put away (Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke 16:18b; I Corinthians 7:10-11).
Nowhere in Scripture is there anything even remotely close to authorization for one to enact a second “Biblical Putting Away” after becoming a put away person in an unapproved divorce. Hence, it goes without saying that an authorized marriage to another cannot follow after such an unauthorized divorce, while one’s bound mate still lives (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3).
Clearly, Jesus taught that the exception clause “appertaineth not” to those who are put away, but only to those who (at the time of the break-up of the original marriage) put away their original mates for fornication.