Let Our Word Be Your Guide

By Jeff Belknap 

In the course of the present controversy over the so-called “application” that allows for some already put away people to “put away” and marry another while their bound mate still lives, it has been disheartening to see how unreasonable and inconsistent brethren have become in their attempt to obtain acceptance for their doctrine.

During the course of the last MDR controversy, the same brethren who had emphatically taught that any doctrine resulting in adultery cannot be fellowshipped, are the very ones who are now encouraging fellowship among those who are at odds regarding whether their “application” results in adultery.

Moreover, instead of making a genuine attempt to articulate how a post-divorce “putting away” and marriage to another is scripturally tenable (I Thessalonians 5:21), they continue to close the door to open dialogue, and label those who oppose their teaching as divisive (John 3:19)!

Despite the Lord’s unequivocal decree that “whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18b cf. Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Romans 7:2-3), these brethren are telling us that the “innocent” put away person is exempt from this unmistakable law. Their next step has been to accuse those who oppose them of “binding” and “factionalism.” They do this because we will not accept their unsupported word that the above scriptures about put away people do not apply to certain put away people whose bound mates still live.

If these brethrens’ teaching was actually authorized by the Word (Christ), why have they not implemented the power of God to convince others? Why have they, instead, demanded that brethren blindly accept their word (when it so obviously contradicts the words of our Lord)? Please note the following quotes, in which the errorists arrogantly expect us to let their word be our guide:

“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.” Ron Halbrook, [Towards A Better Understanding (pp. 34-35), False Teachers, Ron Halbrook’s Rebuttal to Bob Owen (February 3-4, 2000)].


“I do take issue with your making what I understand as ‘application differences’ matters of division among brethren. Consistent with your conclusion that your understanding that those who disagree with you about who sues whom in a divorce for fornication and what role the civil decrees play in divorce are matters of ‘the faith,’ you are making these a test of fellowship and advocating that all those who disagree with you on these matters have ‘fallen from grace.’ Consistent with my conclusion, you are dividing the church over a matter of human judgment, just as those in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 did. The newsworthy aspect of what happened at Parkersburg is that you made the application (drawing lines of fellowship) as the logical conclusion of the position you asserted. The effect of your teaching is to produce the alienation that resulted between Tim and Ron, brethren who have worked together for years. It will continue to have this effect and, it is for this reason, I am calling on you to quit treating matters that belong in Romans 14 in the category of 2 John 9-11.” Mike Willis, [E-mail letter to Jeff Belknap (August 10, 2001)]


“Are we talking about matters of principle? We can’t tolerate different conclusions. Or are we talking about matters of application of that principle that are left out in an area unspecified by God – Jesus did not specify procedure. I can’t either. And yet, when we do, there will be division that will arise. It will arise whenever one looses principles of doctrine, or it’ll come about whenever one binds specific applications left generic…you’ve got to do it before a judge bangs his gavel, or whatever it might be that’s added to the word of God. They’ve taken away from the central point, here’s a doctrine that is according to godliness…What we need to do is fight the good fight of faith but stay away from needless disputes. Keep ourselves avoiding from the binding of human additions. That’s what must be so.” Harry Osborne, [“Fight of Faith or Needless Controversy?” Sermon at Paden City, WV (April 10, 2003)]


“She was unjustly ‘put away’ in a civil court of men by an ungodly mate but in the court of heaven she is innocent and could remarry if she desired to do so.” Bill Cavender, [Truth Magazine (May 20, 2004)]


“On Wednesday, Greg Gwin, Ron Halbrook, Harry Osborne, and Donnie Rader participated in a discussion of ‘The Role of Civil Government in Divorce (Mental Divorce).’ Brother Gwin designated the position of those who disagree with him as sinful and called on brethren to draw lines of fellowship in keeping with his definitions, explanations, and qualifications of what he calls ‘mental divorce.’ Brother Halbrook pointed out that there are any number of views, scruples, and judgments among brethren on this subject, even though we are equally committed to preaching Matthew 19:9. Therefore, he urged all of us to be careful not to ‘splinter the remnant’ by dividing the church over our individual judgments.” Mike Willis “First Annual Lecture Series: ‘The Renewing of Your Mind’Truth Magazine, Vol. XLVIII, No. 17 (September 2, 2004).


“Differences in application that do not violate the God-given pattern for marriage, divorce and remarriage should not be made tests of fellowship. That is the ‘forgotten side’ of Romans 14. Will we have the abundant ‘love’, ‘knowledge and all discernment’ necessary to ‘approve the things that are excellent’ and to remain ‘sincere and without offense till the day of Christ’ as we address this subject (Phil. 1:9-10)? Or, will we disrupt unity with the stumbling block of binding personal conscience upon others? Romans 14 still has application today. We must be able to distinguish between necessary things and allowable differences or we will forever be laying a stumbling block that Romans 14 commands us to avoid (see Rom. 14:1, 10-13). The factiousness of binding where the Lord has not bound is just as devastating to the body of Christ as is loosing where the Lord has not loosed. There is no virtue in being ‘ultra-conservative’ when that means trampling on God-allowed liberties.” Joe R. Price, [“The Forgotten Side of Romans 14,” The Spirit’s Sword (October 10, 2004)]


“On the issue of marriage, divorce and remarriage, faithful brethren agree that Matthew 19:9 applies to saint and sinner alike. Faithful brethren agree that Jesus allowed one exception regarding divorce and remarriage: ‘except for immorality/fornication.’ However, brethren frequently differ regarding civil procedure. Why? Because Scripture does not focus on procedure (civil or otherwise), but rather upon the cause of the sundering of a union. Unfortunately, fellowship among like-minded brethren is being imperiled today by those who would bind their opinion regarding divorce procedure and foster division over an issue that is not specifically addressed in Scripture. We can agree upon the things that God has revealed. However, we differ regarding the secret things, i.e., things that are not revealed (cf. Deut. 29:29).” Mark Mayberry, [“Heresy and Factionalism,” Truth Magazine (September 15, 2005)]

We are well aware that these brethren do not consider their teaching to lead to adultery (if they did, there would be no controversy)! No promoter of a false doctrine on MDR agrees that his teaching is adulterous. However, brethren who say that we should not oppose their teaching (since our differences are supposedly only over an “application”) well-know that we must not tolerate adultery. And they also know that the reason why we oppose their teaching is because we differ over whether or not every put away person (whose bound man/woman still lives) commits adultery when they marry another, regardless of any post-divorce action that cannot be found in the word of God.


“Even though we consider this issue to be a matter of personal scruples (Romans 14), we realize that you strongly believe that we are promoting a doctrine which leads to adultery and will result in the damnation of eternal souls. But because we don’t believe our self-proclaimed application to be adulterous, you must follow our judgment on this matter. Although we condemned continued fellowship with those who taught that an alien sinner is not amenable to Jesus’ MDR teaching, we now condemn you for refusing fellowship with us simply because we teach that the ‘innocent put away person’ is not amenable to the Lord’s law regarding those who are put away.

You simply must lose your fixation on the Lord’s words that ‘he who marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.’ We won’t bother to prove it to you, but trust us, those words do not apply to the innocent put away person. When it is an ‘innocent’ person who ‘is put away’ and their obligated man/woman commits post-divorce fornication, you must allow them the rights for one who justly puts away, rather than applying the prohibitions of the one who is put away. Just ask us, we said so!

Therefore, we are calling on you to allow us to determine which doctrines you should tolerate and which doctrines you should oppose. You can believe whatever you want on this matter (including your belief that our doctrine ends in adultery), as long as you keep it to yourself (Romans 14:22). Just don’t make an issue out of it, or you will destroy our ability to overlook one another’s contradictory teachings.

We can still be friends. We’ll forget that you have been binding where the Lord has not bound if you will quit accusing us of loosing where the Lord has not loosed.”

Absurd, isn’t it?

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