Justifying the Guilty
(Proverbs 17:15
; Luke 16:15) 

By Jeff Belknap 

In Matthew 19:3, when the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” the Lord referred back to “the beginning” when man was created and said, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (v. 6).

The same Greek word that is translated “put asunder” (chorizo) in Matthew 19:6 is also found in I Corinthians 7:10-11, where we find that an unapproved sundering of the “one flesh” marriage relationship caused a couple to become Biblically identified as “unmarried.”

Since “to put away” in Matthew 19:3 is referred to as “put asunder” (the breaking up of the “one flesh,” marriage relationship) in Matthew 19:6, the term “put away” in Matthew 19:9 is clearly equated with  the same. This is not rocket science!

The term, “put away” (Matthew 19:9) is used to simultaneously denote both authorized and unauthorized divorces (“Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication…”). Consequently, it is undeniable that the act which causes another to become “put away” (as in Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b and Luke 16:18b) denotes the sundering of the “one flesh” marital relationship and nothing more.

There is absolutely no statement of fact, command, approved example or necessary inference to support the assertion that it is possible for man to “put away” (put asunder) his “one flesh” marriage partner, after the two have become twain / “unmarried”!

Notice what others have articulated concerning the impossibility of post-divorce “putting away.” Connie W. Adams revealed brother Weldon E. Warnock’s erroneous advocacy of this position when he wrote:

“He brought up a case in which divorce occurred which was not for fornication, then stated that should the one putting the other away remarry, the other party could then put the husband away ‘in purpose of heart’ and be free to remarry. This involves the notion of mental putting away after the fact of actual divorce and termination of anything that might even resemble a marriage” (emp. jhb). Connie W. Adams, Editorial, The Warnock-Deason Exchange, STS (March 1986)]

In the above quote, it is clear that brother Adams understood that the Lord was referring to the separation of the “one flesh” marriage relationship when He used the term, “put away”! What inspiration refers to as “putting away” is simply the dissolution of the marriage; nothing more than that, nothing less than that, and nothing else but that!

Brother Adams also revealed that the flaw in the post-divorce “putting away” contention is that the cause of fornication occurs after the fact of divorce and not before…for one waits (post-divorce, jhb) until the other sins and then claims scriptural cause (ibid; emp. jhb).

Additionally, in brother Donnie V. Rader’s book [“Divorce and Remarriage: What does the text say?,” Lesson 8, Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry)], he also condemned the second “putting away” theory as fallacious (Connie W. Adams also commended brother Rader’s writing in the Book’s Foreword). On page 83 he wrote:

A second putting away: According to the position under review the put away one now puts away his mate. That is two putting aways. Jesus didn’t know anything about a second putting away. If a man puts away his innocent wife and then remarries, what more can she do in ‘putting him away’ that he has not already done? If he has already terminated the marriage and the covenant what more can she do? She can’t put him away if they are no longer married” (emp. his).

As brother Rader accurately stated, “She can’t put him away if they are no longer married” (emp. jhb). Yet, note his basis for continued fellowship with brother Halbrook:

“Second, while Ron and I do differ on some points of application, we both agree on the principle that the one granted the right to remarry is the one who puts away his mate for the cause of fornication. Furthermore, we agree that law applies to all men” (emp. jhb). Donnie V. Rader, [A Response to Bob Owen’s Statement About My Lecture; Truth Magazine.com] http://www.truthmagazine.com/replytoowen.html

So, in essence, the basis for brother Rader’s unity or continuing fellowship with brother Halbrook1 (and others2) is their agreement (Amos 3:3) upon a doctrine whose applications include what brothers Adams and Rader say is not even possible (post-divorce “putting away”). Is it just me, or does anyone else see a problem with that (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11; cf. James 3:17)?

Those who claim to show no partiality must refrain from willful attempts to justify their friends and associates, when those acquaintances stubbornly continue to defend and advocate that which is sin,” “adultery,” and what the Bible emphatically forbids.”3 The claim that we “agree on the principle…” as justification for the inconsistency between one’s teaching and practice (i.e. unity in diversity/perversity) is abominable (Proverbs 17:15; Luke 16:15; cf. Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 13:22; II John 9-11).

1 “Brother Pickup made me aware a couple of years ago that it is being widely reported that Mike Willis and I differ in doctrine on this. As I left home to come, I sent my manuscript to two people for proofreading purposes by computer. After their proofreading it, not only they helped get the corrections done, but also I received this statement from Mike Willis: ‘This is to affirm that I have read brother Halbrook’s material.  I agreed with him that our differences on how to treat one whose mate is guilty of FORNICATION FOLLOWING A DIVORCE which he tried to avoid is a difference of judgment in the realm of application of the one law of divorce and remarriage and not the teaching of another law.’ Harry Osborne made in essence the same statement. Those are the two who proofread it for me” (emp. jhb). Ron Halbrook [Towards A Better Understanding (False Teachers, Ron Halbrook’s Rebuttal to Bob Owen (pgs. 34-35); Burnet, TX (February 3-4, 2000)].

“When a man leaves faithful wife over her protest to marry another, does his adultery give her the ground to appeal to God to dissolve her marriage bond? And If so, may she marry again, or does she remain bound to him?” Ron Halbrook [“Judgements: Fine Tuning Some Points of Application;” Athens, GA (July 27-28, 2000)]. See: Ron Halbrook’s Hand Study Papers at Athens, Georgia

Immediately following a review in Gospel Truths Magazine [which had reproved the application” of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication, (“Differences in Application”, March, 2001) brother Ron Halbrook forwarded the article to a brother on March 14 (2001) with the following note:

“[J.T. said Jeff has me in mind in this article. It appeared in the March GOSPEL TRUTHS with J.T.’s editorial. My thought is this: If Jeff cannot see the vast distinction between doctrinal differences and differences in some point of application, he will end up thinking virtually every difference is doctrinal regarding funerals & and weddings in the building, the Sunday P.M. Lord’s Supper, the covering, etc., etc. Ron]”

Please also note a paper by brother Halbrook [“Balance or Lack of it in Modern Controversies” (Chart # 26); Posted to the Truth Magazine Website], which, in its context, reveals his objection to the following statement: “If Prospective Fornicator Gets Divorce Paper & Then Commits Fornication, Faithful Mate May Not Remarry”. http://www.truthmagazine.com/powerpoint/BALANCE-MaintainingTimesControversy-11-22-03.ppt  

See: An Examination of Ron Halbrook’s Charts

2 The following quotes regarding brother Rader’s fellowship practices were used to justify those who contend for post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication:

“As you perhaps know Donnie Rader holds the same position you do, but we have no problems as <sic> work together in the Guardian of Truth Foundation. I don’t consider Donnie a heretic and he doesn’t look upon me as one, either.” Weldon E. Warnock, [Letter written to me (7-8-02)] See: Brother Warnock’s Fifth & Sixth Weeks in a Row

“Bro. Rader agrees with Bro. Belknap on this point, but Bro. Rader does not draw lines of fellowship over the issue!” (emp. his). Bill Reeves [“Review of Jeff Belknap’s ‘Examination of Mark 10:11-12;’” BibleBanner.net (9-19-03)]

3 In brother Donnie V. Rader’s book [“Divorce and Remarriage: What does the text say?,” Lesson 8, Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry)], he condemned the post-divorce “putting away” theory as an erroneous “application” (p. 74). Within this chapter, brother Rader equated post-divorce “putting away” and subsequent remarriage with instrumental music in worship and ice cream on the Lord’s table.” Moreover, he called it sin,” “adultery,” and what the Bible emphatically forbids (p. 78).

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