Second Response to brother Ron Chaffin 

By David Watts Jr. 

July 27, 2005 

This article is a response to an article written by brother Ron Chaffin titled, “Responding to David Watts Jr.” and sent to me on June 3, 2005.

I have received and read carefully brother Chaffin’s response to me. Given that brother Chaffin desires his response be made public, I also encourage each reader to carefully read what he has written, as well as the previous email communications between us.

I’ll begin by pointing out that the level of animosity in brother Chaffin’s article is surprising. Consider what brother Chaffin said to me (the paragraph number where the quote is located is in parenthesis):

  • “I cannot accept you as an honorable man…” (2)

  • “…nothing but lies,” (2)

  • “…to make me look as stupid and idiotic as possible!” (7)

  •  “…which makes it an outright lie,” (7)

  • “…you understand why I said I do not consider you to be honorable?” (7)

  • “…trashes brethren that disagree with him,” (8)

  • “…you ‘err, not knowing the scriptures’ (Mt. 22:29) nor, evidently, modern English language,” (12)

  • “…grabbing at straws to try to prop up a position you have taken rather than trying to understand what God’s word says!!! Shame on you!” (20)

  • "By such shallow shenanigans did Pres. Clinton bring shame and reproach on himself and the country, by twisting words away from the truth. YOU ARE DOING THE SAME THING! You did it with bro. Cavender and now you have done it with me.” (21)

Dear reader, notice that neither in my first response to brother Chaffin, nor in this last response, have I questioned brother Chaffin’s honor, called him a liar, accused him of trying to make me “look stupid,” questioned his knowledge of the English language or compared him to President Clinton. Yet, he evidently finds such tactics to be proper.

I did, however, compare his teaching to what God revealed. That comparison shows his teaching to be false. In this response, I will continue to compare his teaching with what God revealed. When and where his teaching contradicts Scripture, I will identify such as false teaching and warn others about his false teaching.

The Background

Readers need to understand the background. I read some letters/articles brother Chaffin had written on this subject. From all appearances they were intended for public distribution, as brother Chaffin clearly encouraged such in his documents.

I wrote to brother Chaffin privately on February 24, 2005. In that email I explained to brother Chaffin that I believe he teaches error on marriage, divorce and remarriage. I also explained that I was going to write a response. I asked several questions of him. For example, I asked him to indicate to me whether his articles/letters were intended for public consumption, or whether they were just “thinking-out-loud” kind of documents.

I wrote to brother Chaffin again on April 4, 2005 because I had not heard back from him. He wrote to me on April 12, 2005 and told me that if the teaching of Tim Haile, Bill Reeves and Bill Cavender…

“have not been able to penetrate your mind to convict you of truth, then I do not believe there is any thing more that I could say that would help you.”

Furthermore, in that email brother Chaffin declined to participate in a formal written discussion on this topic and told me:

“So you say or write anything you want to and if I happen to see or read it and I desire to reply in some fashion, then I will do that.”

I wrote back to brother Chaffin on April 18, 2005 and thanked him for his response, expressed my disappointment that he would not participate in a written discussion, and advised him that I would reply to his articles/letters in a time and manner of my choosing.

Therefore, while brother Chaffin protests greatly that he was mistreated by me, it is abundantly clear that I gave him clear warning that I would be writing, and gave him every opportunity to participate. He declined but invited me to write a public article when he said, “If I happen to see or read it…”.

Well, I did write a response and posted it publicly. He “happened to see it” but now acts as though some great injustice against him was committed.

Beyond personal details about how this discussion came about, we are here presently; therefore we will now examine what brother Chaffin teaches and what God teaches. If they match up, we will commend brother Chaffin’s teaching. If they do not match up, we will reject brother Chaffin’s teaching.

Divorced, But Still Married?

Brother Chaffin argues that when a man puts away his wife (not for fornication) they are still married. Here are some key examples of this from brother Chaffin’s second article. I have noted in parenthesis the paragraph number in which the quotation may be found and have added emphasis where necessary to highlight the key teaching:

  • “In Mt. 19:9, which you want to focus on, the man is still married to the first wife, being the reason that Jesus says he commits adultery.” (13)

  • “If it is done for any other cause, then that husband and wife are STILL married in the sight of God, regardless of what the courts may do, and they become guilty of adultery upon marrying another.” (16)

  • “Every time that man and his 2nd wife went to bed, they went to the bed of adultery (Rev. 2:22), because his first marriage is still intact (to use one of your favorite words). He commits adultery against her and that’s why his first wife has the right to put him away.” (19)

  • “Did he put her away in the eyes of (approved of) God? NO! He is still married to wife #1 in God’s sight and that is why it is adultery.” (19)

What is it that leads brother Chaffin to conclude that they are still married to each other?

First, he cites some authorities (e.g. Thayer, Souter, Kittle), which state that adultery involves at least one party who is married. He also appeals to the English language definition of adultery as involving a married person. Brother Chaffin’s argument therefore goes something like this:

  • Human authorities say “adultery” involves a married person.

  • Therefore, when Jesus says the man commits adultery when he remarries, this proves the husband and his first wife are still married.

  • Therefore, since they are still married, the wife can somehow “repudiate” the man away for adultery and lawfully remarry another.

Later, in his second article, brother Chaffin reminds us that

“Thayer is a standard authority that brethren have accepted for many years.”

I appreciate good reference works. I am glad that men spent their lives building reference works for our benefit. And yet, I realize such men are not inspired. When and where the writings of men like Thayer adhere to the Scriptures, I find their work valuable. But when and where such works do not teach what God has revealed, they should be rejected in that particular point.

So, does God reveal that after an unlawful divorce the man and woman are still married? Paul evaluates such an unlawful divorce in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 and gives this inspired direction:

“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.”

Paul’s teaching to the “married” is simple. If a divorce should occur, they must remain “unmarried.” This is so important that I want to examine this in a table, because if we miss this we can misunderstand all of God’s teaching on this subject.

Paul, by the Holy Spirit and by Jesus, stated:

What Paul Said

Plain Meaning

“to the married”

I’m talking to people who are married at this moment.

“A wife”

A woman married at this moment.

“is not to depart”

This is the law – don’t depart/divorce.

“from her husband”

Again, this shows that this commandment is to married people.


Despite the law “not to depart”, something contrary to the law can occur. A person can depart.

“even if she does depart”

Even though Jesus forbids departing, if this wife departs…

“let her”

This is the departing woman.


Whatever is about to be said about her, is her condition at the moment she departs.


Once she has left, she became unmarried. After she left she is to remain unmarried.


She now has an additional choice.

“be reconciled to”

Go back with and rejoin…

“her husband”

The man she was married to at the beginning of the previous sentence.

This shows us very plainly that when Paul was talking to married people he recognized one could break the law of God and leave their spouse. If she does that, she becomes “unmarried” and must remain “unmarried.” Nothing is said about godless heathen judges. Instead, Paul states a fact – the woman (the wife) is now in a state known as “unmarried.”

What choices are available to her? Paul answers the question. He says choice number one is to remain unmarried. You can’t “remain” in a condition that you are not yet in. For example, you can’t “remain pregnant” if you are not presently pregnant. Choice number two is to go back to your husband and be reconciled.

A wife is not to depart from her husband. Quite obviously, a divorce leaves the man and his wife “unmarried.” Regardless of what Thayer may say, I’ll take my stand with Paul.

It is also clear that when Christ says in Mt. 19:6, “let not man separate” that He is not saying it is impossible to end this marriage. He simply says that man should not do it. It is abundantly obvious that an unlawful divorce is a real divorce that really ends the marriage. Consider the language of Christ:

  • “whoever divorces his wife…” Mt. 19:9

  •  “whoever marries her who is divorced…” Mt. 19:9

  • “whoever divorces his wife…” Mt. 5:32

  • “whoever marries a woman who is divorced…” Mt. 5:32

  • “whoever divorces his wife…” Mk. 10:11

  • “if a woman divorces her husband…” Mk. 10:12

  •  “whoever divorces his wife…” Lk. 16:18

  • “whoever marries her who is divorced…” Lk. 16:18

We have shown each place where Jesus teaches on marriage, divorce and remarriage. In each case, there is a pattern:

  • Jesus presents the possibility of an unlawful divorce.

  • Jesus declares that the person put away (whether man or wife) is really, truly and actually “divorced.”

Jesus does not treat it as an unreal event with no consequences. Rather, God recognizes it as unlawful yet real. God declares there are consequences to that real event. One such consequence is that the one who did the divorcing cannot remarry another while their original mate lives (Rom. 7:2-3). Another consequence is that the one put away cannot remarry another while their original mate lives (Rom. 7:2-3).

Friends, while Thayer and others may disagree, Paul and Christ are in harmony. The parties to a divorce are left unmarried. The marriage has been put asunder. Remember what the Creator of the universe said through Paul, “REMAIN UNMARRIED.” I’ll let the kind reader compare what the CREATOR said to what brother Chaffin says (e.g. in paragraph 16 of brother Chaffin’s response, “…then the husband and wife are STILL married in the sight of God…”) The Creator says that following an unlawful divorce the parties must  “REMAIN UNMARRIED” while brother Chaffin says they are “STILL married…”

It defies my imagination to see that these two statements, one by God and one by brother Chaffin, are in harmony. Wisely choose which one you’ll believe and follow.

Of course, there is more at play than just the marriage. In his response, brother Chaffin did not mention even one time the truths detailed in Romans 7:1-3. In this place, Paul reveals that irrespective of the unlawful divorce action that breaks a marriage, the parties are still bound by God’s law to each other.

Being bound by God’s law is something different from marriage. One can ruin and break the marriage by divorce but such an unlawful divorce does not change the fact that they are bound to each other by God. Because they are still bound together (obligated) by divine law to each other, future sexual relations with another are adulterous.

So here lies the critical difference.

  • God reveals that the marriage is broken by unlawful divorce (1 Cor. 7:10-11).

  • God reveals such unlawful actions do not change the fact that they are bound together by law to each other. Because they are still bound together by law future sexual relations with others are adultery (Rom. 7:1-3).

  • Jesus authorizes a person who is married and bound to put away their mate for fornication. (Mt. 19:4-9)

When men take Jesus’ teaching to the married and bound and try to apply it to the unmarried and bound – they have changed the context of Jesus’ teaching. Sometimes the reason they do this is to arrive at the conclusion they desire.

I do not know brother Chaffin’s motivation. However, I do know his fruit. His teaching ignores the context of what Jesus taught in Mt. 19 and drags it into a new context. It takes divorce for fornication (that Jesus authorized for those that are married and bound) and extends it to those who are no longer married.

The bottom-line is this: God declares that the parties to an unlawful divorce are unmarried yet still bound. What brother Chaffin must do is find Bible authority for people who are unmarried and bound to divorce their mates. He won’t find it. Jesus gives authority only to those who are married and bound.

Jesus’ Commentary on “Divorce”

A key part of brother Chaffin’s response is that the woman can take some sort of “divorce” action (years after she was divorced) against her former husband when he remarries. Brother Chaffin recoils at the term “mental” divorce. For example, he says:

  • “I NEVER SAID “the innocent may mentally ‘divorce’… I have told you there is action involved.”

Yet brother Chaffin said in his very first article:

“So that if six months later or two years later he commits adultery against her by marrying again, then she (1st wife) can repudiate him and her vows to him (before the congregation even) and be free to marry another if she wishes.”

So let’s examine this. Two years after they have divorced, two years after they have shared a marriage bed, lived in the same house, lived as husband and wife, and carried out all the duties of husband and wife – the wife may now “repudiate” her ex-husband and tell the church. I urge readers to see that virtually the entirety of the divorce action as brother Chaffin describes it is mental.

There’s no separation. They’ve been separated for two years. There’s no cessation of the sexual relationship. It was over two years ago. There’s no termination of the cohabitation. It ended two years ago. All there is in brother Chaffin’s “divorce” is repudiation and perhaps a notification to the church.

Clearly the “divorce” that brother Chaffin prescribes is not one that is consistent with either the ordinary or (most importantly) the Biblical use of the word. Brother Chaffin’s uses “divorce” as essentially a mental repudiation and no more.

Since brother Chaffin finds the term “mental divorce” offensive, yet it does accurately describe the fact that his “divorce” is virtually purely mental in nature, we can modify our terms somewhat. Let’s use the words brother Chaffin uses. Let’s call it a repudiate-and-tell-the-elders divorce[1]. We’ll abbreviate this as a RATTE divorce.

Does the RATTE divorce qualify as what Jesus describes as divorce? We’ll need to examine Mt. 19 again. Notice as we do this that while brother Chaffin quoted at length from Thayer, Souter, Kittle, etc. he has mistakenly ignored commentary from God.

I showed in my previous article that Jesus used apoluo in equation with the “sending out of the house.” I argued that this proves that Jesus’ concept of “divorce” is not a mere mental divorce or even a RATTE divorce. Jesus’ concept of divorce is the kind of thing that severs all relations: sexual, cohabitation, etc. A mental divorce does not do this. A RATTE divorce does not do this.

Brother Chaffin objects and claims that I am doing what denominationalists do with instrumental music. That is, he says I am going back to the old law for authority for today. On the contrary, I am living with the exact wording of Mt. 19:9 which is our law for today.

In seeking to live with the exact teaching of Mt. 19, I wish to know more about what one of the words of Mt. 19:9 (apoluo) means. I want to know what Jesus meant by that word. When I see Jesus equating apoluo to the “sending out of the house” of the Deut. 24:1 passage, that means something.

In Mt. 19:7 the Jews asked about the divorce that Moses permitted. They are referring back to Deut 24:1. In that place, there are two key components of the divorce. The first is declaration and notification (writing of divorcement and putting it in her hand) and the second is the “sending out of the house.” In Mt. 19:7 the Jews used the word apoluo to describe the “sending out of the house.” Jesus agreed with that equation of apoluo to “sending out of the house” because he used it in Mt. 19:8 when He used “apoluo” to refer to the “sending out of the house.” Then, Jesus explains the divine regulations on apoluo in Mt. 19:9.

Clearly, the kind of divorce Jesus is describing a person can take against their mate who is guilty of fornication is a divorce for marital infidelity, a divorce that ends the marriage, and terminates the marriage in a real physical way.

Emotional Language

Brother Chaffin chafes at my comments about his emotional test case. I’ll remind the reader of what he said in his first article:

“But this is a far cry from when a rascal of a husband decides he wants to be free of the marital constraints and so he wants a divorce. She is shocked because she loves him dearly…”

I observed in my first article, that:

“We should be wary when an argument leans heavily upon emotional baggage. It should be a clue for us that perhaps insufficient Biblical authority is being compensated for with excessive emotional appeal.”

Brother Chaffin responds with various objections. He says that my “line of thinking” would prohibit a put away wife from feeling any emotions. He also says that I do not see adultery through the eyes of God and shows numerous passages where God condemns adultery. He also shows examples of Luke describing men as “good” or “evil” and similar writings of Paul.  He wonders if I think we need to rewrite the Scriptures since Paul used emotional terms.

Paul and Luke identified the truth of what certain men were. As brother Chaffin points out, some were “lovers of self,” “good,” “wise,” “slanderers,” etc.

Brother Chaffin confuses the issue. The issue is not whether sin is bad. The issue is whether the badness of sin authorizes a put away wife to remarry. Read brother Chaffin’s comment again (above) and you’ll see that he attempted to use the badness of the sinful husband as a tool to convince us that she could remarry.

The answer as to whether a put away wife can remarry is completely independent of whether her husband can be described by a bunch of bad descriptions, and she by a bunch of good descriptions.

In fact, Jesus Himself simply said, “whoever puts away his wife except it be for fornication and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery.” Whether the husband is a big scoundrel or a gigantic scoundrel is not the issue. Whether the wife is a little bit pure or incredibly pure is not the issue. The issue is: what did Jesus say.

Since Jesus delivered His teaching in such objective, non-prejudicial terms – so should we. Unfortunately, virtually every person whose writing I have read, who supports a mental divorce view (or in brother Chaffin’s case a RATTE divorce), consistently supplies a long list of emotional terms to describe both the husband and wife.

This is a simple persuasive technique used in argumentation. Lawyers do this in the courtroom. They do not describe their client as the “animal” that pulled a gun and shot dead an innocent woman. They describe their client as “a man with a troubled youth, beset with various problems, a confused man, who in a moment of lapsed judgment made a serious mistake and now the prosecutor is seeking to ruin the life of this poor victim of society.” They try to use the emotional plea as the basis for the decision. Brother Chaffin also tries to do the same sort of thing by emphasizing the badness of the man and the purity of the wife.

In the examination of Biblical matters we must shun such emotional ploys and stick to the simple question: What does God say? What do the Scriptures say?

Brother Chaffin says that I have made the same mistake of being emotional. If I have, that simply proves that both of us have been wrong. But let’s examine whether I have used emotionalism in lieu of Biblical authority. Brother Chaffin quotes me:

“You say, ‘Brother Chaffin goes on to argue that this post-divorce divorcing…’ Where did I ever say anything about ‘post-divorce divorcing,’ brother Watts? Would you quote that from what I wrote for me? Did you add that for effect, bro. Watts? Be careful because you might become guilty of ‘emotional baggage.’

Brother Chaffin wants to know, “Where did I {ie. brother Chaffin – dwjr} ever say anything about ‘post-divorce divorcing.’?” Yet brother Chaffin really did talk about post-divorce divorcing in his first article:

“He goes and gets a no fault divorce…{here’s the divorce – dwjr} So in the above situation he has repudiated (put away) her and his vows to her, but is still bound to her by God… So that if six months later or two years later he commits adultery against her by marrying again, then she (1st wife) can then repudiate him {brother Chaffin says mere repudiation is what constitutes a divorce, thus here is the post-divorce “divorce” – dwjr} and her vows to him… and be free to marry another if she wishes. This is exactly what Jesus teaches in Mk. 10:11…”

Interesting. Brother Chaffin describes a man who puts away his wife. That’s a divorce. Then, he says that she can repudiate him. Indeed, brother Chaffin has prescribed a “post-divorce divorce.”

One more time, in summary version brother Chaffin said:

“He goes and gets a no fault divorce… then she (1st wife) can then repudiate him and her vows to him…”

He appeals to Mt. 19:9 for authority for this wife “repudiating” her husband. Mt. 19:9 regulates divorce. Therefore, brother Chaffin is indeed talking about a post-divorce divorce. My claim that he prescribes a post-divorce divorce is not emotionalism. It’s simply an accurate picture of what brother Chaffin taught.

Brother Chaffin also does not like my phrase “whether it be six months, six years or 40 years after the divorce.” He says,

“Can you give me a direct quote from my writings where I say ‘six years or 40 years”? Were you shooting for the best possible construction of what I actually did say, or for a worse construction?”

Brother Chaffin clearly argued in his first article that the put away wife could carry out a RATTE divorce against her former husband once he commits adultery regardless of how much time has passed. For example, he said:

“So that if six months or two years later he commits adultery against her by marry again, then she (1st wife) can then repudiate him and her vows to him… and be free to marry another if she wishes.”

And again:

“How long after he put her away did he remarry and therefore commit adultery? Jesus didn’t say did He? It may have been six months or two years for all we know.”

Brother Chaffin is clearly arguing that the amount of time that passes between the “first divorce” and the “RATTE divorce” is irrelevant. It can be “six months” or “two years.” It matters not.

So, I simply took the point brother Chaffin was making (that the time between the first divorce and the second post-divorce divorce is irrelevant) and said:

“A reasonable person sees that whether it is six months later or two years later, it is too late for the innocent to divorce the guilty. The marriage has already ended. There is no more “sending out of the house” – the “sending out” has already occurred.

And again I said:

“Brother Chaffin goes on to argue that this post-divorce divorcing, whether it be six months, six years, or 40 years after the divorce is authority by Mk 10:11.”

Since brother Chaffin had already established that the time interval between the divorce and the post-divorce divorce is irrelevant – I simply illustrated his argument with the examples of “six months, six years, or 40 years.”

Was this an unfair and emotional tactic? Not at all – I simply analyzed what brother Chaffin said and made application. Brother Chaffin doesn’t like the 40-year illustration. Probably he realizes that it shows the absurdity of his position. Nevertheless, it was hardly unfair and emotional for me to point out this fatal flaw.

Mark 10:11

Finally, some comments are necessary on Mark 10:11. Brother Chaffin seems to think that if Jesus was asked about a particular question, it precludes Him from teaching on a subject different from that question. He says:

“WAS JESUS ASKED ABOUT A MAN AND HIS SECOND WIFE? Or was he asked about a man putting away his first wife? Don’t dodge it. Come clean and give us an answer.”

The teaching in Mark 10 is parallel to the teaching in Mt. 19. The Jews asked whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for “just any reason.” Jesus answers the questions, but goes beyond their question and gives them and us teaching that they and we need.

It seems as though brother Chaffin is saying that what Jesus teaches in Mk 10:11 can’t possibly refer to the man and his second wife, because the question dealt with the man and his first wife. But surely we understand that Jesus had the right to respond to the question and add any additional teaching on any other scenarios that He as God determines appropriate.

Factually, Jesus answered the question and provided additional details about other related situations in these Bible examples:

  • When asked, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He answered the question and then warned about causing others to sin. Mt. 18:1-9

  • When asked why His apostles didn’t wash their hands, He did not directly answer the question and instead lectured the Jews about false worship and false doctrine. Mt. 15:1-9

  • When asked about a woman who had married 7 brothers, He used their ignorance to teach that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still living.

  • When Jesus is asked about whether a man can put away his wife, He reveals the answer and describes the adultery that results if the put away woman marries another.

Furthermore, I have no quarrel with the translation in Mk 10:11 of “against her” referring to the commission of adultery with the new wife the man marries. Why quarrel with it? Jesus simply says that a man commits adultery against the new wife. That shows that the new adulterous marriage is injurious to the man and the new wife. That’s simply what it says.

As I detailed in my first article, the plain English rendering clearly points to this “against her” as being the new wife that the man marries in adultery. The pronoun “her” will be identified by the nearest antecedent that agrees in terms of plurality and gender. The nearest antecedent is “another” (the new woman that the man marries) and “another” is perfectly consistent with “her.”

Furthermore, the tense of the Greek that is translated “commits” is that of a durative, ongoing action. The new marriage is adultery in an ongoing and continuing way.

Finally, the declaration that when a man divorces (not for fornication) and marries another he commits adultery with the new wife is consistent with the rest of the Scripture. For example, it is consistent with Mt. 19:9 and Lk. 16:18 , “…marries another, commits adultery.”

Much more can be said. This will suffice for the present.

I look forward to another response from brother Chaffin.

I repeat my warning that brother Chaffin is teaching false doctrine. We have learned even more about his false teaching in his reply. I hope his future replies to me will abandon all of this false teaching.

I remind the reader that he teaches a new Gospel:

  • He teaches that unlawful divorce does not end a marriage. The Bible shows that unlawful divorce does end a marriage.

  • He teaches that after an unlawful divorce they are still married. God says they are “unmarried.”

  • He teaches that the kind of divorce that Jesus was describing can be accomplished with a repudiate-and-tell-the-elders divorce (RATTE divorce). Jesus shows that divorce entails consequences that are simply not possible after the initial divorce.

  • He teaches that Mark 10:11 describes adultery against the original wife. Yet nothing in the context demands that. Jesus clearly teaches about the original husband, the original wife and the new wife.

And unfortunately, he continues to give false hope to people who have already been victimized by an ungodly mate.

I pray that brother Chaffin will repent from this false teaching.

I pray that God will be merciful to all of us as we seek to know and carry out His will.

David Watts Jr.
2090 Fort Drive
Longview, TX 75604
(903) 704-4133

[1] Brother Chaffin described two things in his original letters/articles. He said, “…she (1st wife) can then repudiate him and her vows to him (before the congregation even) and be free to marry another if she wishes.” Later he said, “…she gets her paper from the elders of the church…” I’ll summarize brother Chaffin’s process as “repudiate-and-tell-the-elders.”

Home | Search This Site

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