STS, Volume XXIX, NUMBER 11 (November, 1988)
Posted with permission


By P. J. Casebolt 

Several times in Matthew, chapter five, Jesus uses the phrase “it hath been said” with reference to the law of Moses. But, he contrasts what “hath been said” with “But I say unto you ...”

The same distinction was made between what Moses “suffered” the Israelites to practice, and what God originally intended “from the beginning” (Mt. 19:7, 8). Jesus fortified God’s position by saying, “And I say unto you ...” (v. 9).

In our times, as we look down the long list of what “hath been said” by men on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, and look at all the resultant confusion, there is a need to get back to the words of Jesus when he said, “But I say unto you ...”

“It Hath Been Said”

1. “Put away his wife for every cause” (Mt. 19:3) – The Jews tried to make it appear that Moses sanctioned their practice. At least, they were “to give a writing of divorcement” and state the reason for the putting away.

2. “No-fault divorce” – This is simply a generic term to cover “every cause” without stating the specific cause.

3. “The adultery of Mt. 19:9 is not literal, but figurative” – What would these say about the woman “taken in adultery” (Jno. 8:3)?

4. “Mt. 19:9 under the law of Moses” – This position also causes some to eliminate the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and relegate their contents wholly to the Law of Moses. These have a hard time explaining the 400 yr. gap between Malachi and the four letters mentioned which were written around A.D. 60-70.

5. “Mt. 19:9 applies to the church but not the world” – If this part of the law of Christ does not apply to alien sinners, how does any part of Christ’s law apply to those “not under the law of Christ”?

6. “When the innocent party remarries (having the cause of fornication), this gives the guilty party the right to remarry.” – With this saying, all you would have to do to get out of a marriage is commit fornication, wait for the innocent party to remarry, then get married again. And, if you could do it with the first marriage, how about a second? A third?

7. “The ‘not under bondage’ of 1 Cor. 7:15 gives the believer cause to remarry.” If this be true, all would be better off to marry an unbeliever, then goad them into leaving the believer.

8. “You can be put away for causes other than fornication, but when the other party remarries, you can then ‘put them away’ retroactively, or ‘after the fact.’” With this saying, the last part of Lk. 16:18 is meaningless; the Lord could have just omitted it.

No claim is made to have exhausted all that “hath been said” by man on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Neither has an attempt been made to debate or exhaust all that could be said on the various positions mentioned. I have attempted to show briefly how these positions either contradict the Bible or each other.

It is my hope that when we look at all these confusing positions, that we can readily see that “God is not the author of confusion ...” (1 Cor. 14:33). Further, we know that no two of those positions can be right at the same time, as long as they contradict each other. And, as with either of two contradictory positions, one must be wrong, and both may be wrong.

Some brethren use rules of interpretation and take positions with respect to divorce and remarriage that they wouldn’t touch with the proverbial “ten foot pole” on other subjects.

Some authors (mostly preachers), of these “it hath been said” positions have reversed themselves, leaving confused and mis-taught “disciples” in their wake. I personally know of two preachers who did this.

Without exaggerating, or resorting to hyperbole, I think it would be safe to say that if a new position were taught on this subject today, you could find a situation by tomorrow that would fit the doctrine, or vice versa.

Given the present rate and direction, the church of tomorrow will see the majority of pulpits and elderships filled with divorced/remarried men. And, when we reach that state, what shall be the fate of those not involved in divorce and remarriage, who will then be in the minority?

Again, at the present rate, if two people can have an adulterous marriage washed away by baptism without dissolving that relationship, why not a homosexual marriage or a “free love” relationship? Sectarian churches are already endorsing such practices, and given time and consistency, so shall we be.

When the church finds itself in such a sad condition, those same preachers who helped to bring it about will be the first to disclaim any responsibility, just as some are now attempting to do with liberalism. Each fellow will blame every other “it hath been said” position except his own. And, like the parents of the blind man, they may even deny their own “offspring.”

Then, congregations will want to send for someone with the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of Daniel, and the power of Elisha to strike his hand over the malignancy, say a few magic words, and make everything clean and whole again.

Brethren, if you want me to preach on the subject, I would prefer to do it before the congregational ship gets so lopsided that there won’t be a level place to stand.

“But I Say Unto You”

We need to spend more time preaching and teaching what God and Jesus have said on the subject of the marriage relationship, instead of spending so much time trying to get around what they said and thus giving birth to all the “it hath been said” philosophies among us.

And, we should have started back there with Timothy’s grandmother, instead of waiting until Timothy’s grandchildren have been divorced and remarried two or three times (2 Tim. 1:5). “The night is far spent…” (Rom. 13:12). 

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