Monday, August 21, 2017

I Would Like To See More Of This!

Brother Kenny Mann sent me these pics! "Primitive Baptist" involved in Revivals and in Soul Winning! 

I hope that the Lord allows me in my retirement years to get involved with these kinds of Primitive Baptists, who are obviously of the non Hardshell type!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hardshells & The Adultery Question IV

In this posting we will begin looking at the pertinent new testament passages which deal with the issue of divorce and remarriage and with the "living in adultery" issue.

Obviously, a church should not take into church membership, nor retain in church membership, a person who is "living in adultery." If someone is in fact "living in adultery," he or she should quit the adultery, confessing and repenting the sin, before membership should be had in the church of Christ. The question is, however, exactly what is "living in adultery"?

It has been my thesis that a person who divorces or marries without a biblical reason, though initially sinning in doing so, does not continue to sin by remaining in what many call an "unscriptural marriage"; And, that repenting of such a sin does not involve annulling such marriages.

It has also been my contention that the refusal to baptize or to take into church fellowship those who have sinned by involvement in non biblical divorces and marriages, is wrong and hurtful to the souls of penitents. Of course, in this writing I am talking about marriages between a man and a woman, and not about "marriages" between homosexuals and lesbians. In those cases, there is actual "living in adultery" or "living in sexual immorality."

In this series, I will talk more broadly about divorce, marriage, and remarriage, than that which would be involved in talking merely about the "living in adultery" issue that has divided groups like the Hardshells and the Campbellites.

Let us begin by looking at Matthew 5: 31-32 and Jesus' teaching.

"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, Causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." (Matt. 5:32 kjv)

There are a number of preliminary remarks that I must make in relation to understanding the teaching of the Lord in these words.

First, let me say that much confusion in interpreting these words is due to the translation of the Greek text. This is not uncommon. Many false interpretations of passages result from trusting a given translation of a particular verse. I know that in saying this that I have already lost the KJV only cultists, for they will contend that the translation of the above verses is perfect and best, and that there is no need therefore to consult either the Greek text or other English translations. But, in spite of the KJV cultists, I must look at the Greek, for understanding it clears up many of the difficulties in interpreting the words of the Lord Jesus.

Second, one of the difficulties is what is meant by "commit adultery" in the two instances mentioned in the text. What is the precise sin denoted by those words? Is it the unjust divorcing? Is it the second marriage of a spouse who had no previous legal or biblical divorce?

Third, is Jesus calling for the breakup of non biblical divorces and for a return to unions with previously divorced spouses?

Fourth, is Jesus condemning a woman who has been unjustly divorced? Or, is he only condemning the man who unjustly divorced his wife for a cause other than fornication?

Fifth, how does a man's unjustly divorcing his wife "cause her to commit adultery"? If the unjustly divorced woman remains unmarried, then how was she forced into adultery by her husbands action? Is such a woman not forced into celibacy in order to keep from committing adultery? Does that not seem cruel and harsh, considering that the woman is a victim of an unfaithful husband wrongly divorcing her?

Sixth, why is it sin, or "committing adultery," for another man to marry the woman who is the victim of an evil and wrongful "putting away"? It seems that such a man, rather than sinning, should be viewed as doing good. She has been put away unlawfully by her husband. She is now homeless, having no means of support, and must needs become a beggar or starve to death, unless she marries. It seems in such a case that the man who marries her is a savior to her.  When Jesus said "whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery," did he mean "whoever marries her that is unjustly divorced" or "whoever marries her that is justly divorced"?

Seventh, is Jesus saying that the person who is divorced because he or she was guilty of fornication must forever remain unmarried? It seems so, based upon the interpretation of many Hardshells and those who share their views on this subject.

Eighth, is it the obligation of every person, who thinks of marrying one who had been previously married and divorced, to investigate the causes of that divorce and become sure that is was due to fornication, before marrying that one? Does every person who marries a person who was divorced because of fornication or adultery thereby automatically commit adultery?

Ninth, was Jesus correcting the law of Moses, or was he simply properly teaching it? Was he changing the law or simply giving the right interpretation of it?

Based upon all these questions, it might seem that the words of our Lord raised more questions than they answered!

Not all of these questions are easy to answer. But, this should not deter us. The answers are there in the text, especially compared with what Jesus said further on the subject at other times, and in looking at all the texts that record the teaching of Jesus on the subject. Having done my research on this topic, I am happy to share with you the fruit of my labors and give to you the conclusions I have reached.

The Wrong Interpretation

Before giving the correct interpretation of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5: 31-32, let me give an example of an incorrect interpretation, which is the one believed by many, including Hardshells who hold to the "strict" or "conservative" view, such as was believed by my father and elder McKee, who I cited in the previous posting. Here is what Dr. John Gill wrote in his commentary on this important passage (emphasis mine), first on verse 31 (emphasis mine):

causeth her to commit adultery; that is, as much as in him lies: should she commit it, he is the cause of it, by exposing her, through a rejection of her, to the sinful embraces of others; and, indeed, should she marry another man, whilst he is alive, which her divorce allows her to do, she must be guilty of adultery; since she is his proper wife, the bond of marriage not being dissolved by such a divorce 

First, the KJV text does not say that the man who unlawfully divorces his innocent spouse may or may not cause her to commit adultery, depending upon whether or not she allows the divorce to lead her into another marriage. There is no "should she" in the text. The text says that the unjust divorce, in every case, "causes" her to "commit adultery." Whatever her committing adultery means or involves, it is seen as the inevitable result of being unjustly divorced. Jesus did not say "whoever unjustly divorces his wife may cause her to commit adultery, depending on her reaction to the circumstance." That is how Gill and others want to interpret the words. By this interpretation, the woman, who is an innocent victim of an unlawful divorce by a hard-hearted husband, is active in choosing to become an adulterer, and goes from being the victim of a sin to being a sinner herself. She could choose to remain unmarried in her reaction to being treated unjustly. Such an interpretation fails to see how Jesus' purpose is not to focus on the possible sin of the female victim but to focus on the sin of the man who brings about an unlawful divorce.

Second, the "causes her to commit adultery" is not an indictment of the woman, of the victim, for in the Greek, as we will see, the words are in the passive voice, denoting not what she does actively, but what is being done to her.

Third, there is no ground for Gill to say that the divorce was not real, or that it really did not, in the eyes of God, dissolve the woman's marriage to the man who divorced her. No where in these words did Jesus say that the "putting away" (divorcing) of the woman by the man was not really a putting away.

Now, let us see what Gill said about verse 32. He wrote:

whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery; because the divorced woman he marries, and takes to his bed; is legally the wife of another man; and it may be added, from Matthew 19:9 that her husband, who has put her away, upon any other account than fornication, should he marry another woman, would be guilty of the same crime. 

First, as we will see, the error of Gill and many others, in regard to verse 32, is in failing to see that the woman in verse 32b is not the same woman of verse 32a. Notice that Jesus says "her that is divorced." Jesus did not think the divorce was not a real divorce. He acknowledged that there was a real divorce, a divorce that actually put asunder the two who had been joined together. No where does he deny that there was a real divorce, a divorce that gave the woman the right to remarry. No where does Christ say that the man and woman are still married "in the eyes of God." But, more on all this later.

Contextual Observations

Professor William F. Luck, Sr., who I will be citing frequently in this series, in his classic book "Divorce and Re-Marriage: Recovering the Biblical View," wrote these words (emphasis mine):

"Clearly, the ethics of divorce/remarriage were in a state of disarray in the days of Jesus. And into this morass of ethical confusion Jesus stepped, spoke a few words on the subject, and, we may presume, in the minds of His disciples eventually cleared up the issues. But we, His latter-day disciples, have taken those few words and produced from them our own Pharasaical controversies and traditions. We disagree as to which of His statements on the subject came first and as to whether all the statements attributed to Him in the texts of the Gospels are His, as opposed to interpretations by the evangelists or even the early Church."

That is certainly the truth! Many today truly "have taken those few words and produced from them our own Pharasaical controversies and traditions"!

For many of Luck's writings on this topic see here.

Did Jesus Correct Moses? 

Did Jesus change Old Testament law on marriage? In Luck's book, section 6, "The Teachings of Jesus on Divorce — (Matthew 5:31-32a)," (see here) he wrote:

"The Deuteronomic provision for the wife of a hard-hearted husband (protecting her from his treacherous intentions, Deut. 24:1-4) was turned upside down to favor the husband, and the Pharasaical schools argued back and forth over what had to be wrong with the wife before the husband could exercise his right to put her away. The liberal school of Hillel thought that a man had the right to end his marriage if his wife did something he found distasteful. The conservative school of Shammai thought the man’s right to divorce was limited to the case of a wife who had committed something nearly equal to adultery. Both schools were concerned for the rights of the man and had little concern for the woman, thus reversing the concern of the Bible."

Many people (including myself at one time) fail to understand the intent and meaning of Deuteronomy 24: 1-4, the passage that Jesus chiefly is interpreting in his remarks in Matthew 5: 31-32. The chief purpose of that Mosaic provision was not to give hard-hearted husbands a way out of a marriage that no longer made them happy, but was rather for the purpose of "protecting" the women who were victims of such hard-hearted men. This is what Luck rightly points out.

Luck also wrote:

"First, all the rabbis centered their discussion upon the very verses that Jesus quotes, Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Second, they all interpreted that passage as a provision on behalf of the husband. By so doing, they all presupposed that the Deuteronomic Law was setting forth a right of the husband and identifying a problem with the wife that justified the husband putting her away. Third, the Pharisees seem to have held that it was morally obligatory for the offended husband to put the offender away. I believe that the teaching of Jesus analyzed below disagrees with all Pharasaical views that accepted these points."

Next, under the heading "CONTEXT OF THE TEACHING," and under the sub heading “I Have Not Come to Abrogate the Law,” Luck wrote:

"Any understanding of Jesus’ divorce teaching in the Sermon on the Mount must be grounded upon a more general understanding of what Jesus is about in the Sermon as a whole and of what He is about in the section that includes the divorce teaching. Regarding the first point there is a great deal of disagreement among scholars. Some hold that Jesus is altering the Old Testament Law. They see this in His quoting of certain commandments and in His immediate “correction”: “but I say unto you … ” Others respond that Jesus is merely trying to clarify certain popular misconceptions about Old Testament Law, pushing His listeners toward a fuller understanding of that Law than was being taught by the religious leaders of His day. There are a number of other views; it is not possible for us to go into this disagreement at any significant length, but I do need to make it clear where I stand on the issue."

I certainly do agree with Luck in these words. Jesus is not changing God's law on marriage and divorce but is simply correcting the false interpretation that many had about the OT teaching.

Luck continued:

"In the Sermon Jesus clearly states, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). He is concerned that His disciples not limit the holiness of God to fastidiously kept rules that relate only to the outer, legal life.

The second thing that stands out is that Jesus is loyal to the Old Testament Law. In verses 17-19 He tells His listeners that He has not come to abolish the least of the Old Testament rules, but that they shall stand until “heaven and earth pass away.” It seems clear, then, that Jesus means to recover the Law and bring out its fullness, not to make changes in it that would negate the least of its principles. This leads us to conclude that Jesus intends to clarify misunderstandings."

Again, I think that this should be clearly understood.

Luck continued:

"Seen in this light, the text is certainly not trying to teach a new doctrine about marital relation—that is, a doctrine that differs from that found in the Law.

But, some will protest, does not Jesus quote the Law and alter it with His own teaching? The answer is no. Jesus does on several occasions in the subsection quote Old Testament material, but He has served notice that He is correcting Pharasaical misinterpretations of the Law. It is as if He were saying, “You have heard the Old Testament quoted and explained in the following way, but let me explain to you its true and full meaning.” In other words, the very quoting of the Law evoked in His listeners’ minds the aberrant teaching that Jesus intended to correct. He does not intend to annul the commandment, only its Pharasaical interpretation.

For these reasons the idea that Jesus is directly altering God’s Law through Moses, must be rejected. Thus, in the divorce saying too, Jesus is rebuking the Scripture-twisting Pharisees."

It seems a bit ironic, but now, almost 2000 years after Jesus' words in Matthew 5: 31-32, we not only must see his words as correcting the misinterpretation of the OT teaching on marriage and divorce, but the misinterpretation of many Christians who fail to understand just what Jesus is teaching.

Kevin Pendergrass, who I have already cited in this series (see here - emphasis mine), wrote:

"Jesus taught on marriage and divorce once during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:31-32), and He taught on marriage and divorce when He was challenged by the Scribes & Pharisees (Mt 19:1-2; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18). Jesus taught the same principles in both occasions.

The Jews had twisted and misinterpreted the law to justify their hardheartedness and the unjust treatment of women through unlawful divorce (Mt. 19:8; Mk. 10:5). It is important to note that Jesus is not giving a new teaching on marriage and divorce. Jesus is giving the correct understanding of the law and answers questions and correctly interrupts the law on marriage and divorce.

Some have misinterpreted Jesus’ words to teach that God allowed unlawful divorce under the Old Law because of the hardness of their hearts. This idea could not be further from the truth. This would imply that they were “rewarded” and God was more “lenient” because of their hardness of hearts under the Old Law. Are we to believe that Jesus was teaching them that had they not had hard hearts, then God would have been stricter on them, but since they had hard hearts, then God was softer on them? Are we to believe that Jesus was teaching that God was more tolerant towards hardhearted men under the Old Law than He is on innocent women who would be the victims of hardhearted men under the “New Law?”

Again, these words, like those of Luck, are "spot on."

Pendergrass continued:

"This makes absolutely no sense. Instead, the law put in place because of their hardness of hearts was the law that commanded that a divorce certificate be given when a divorce did take place (Mt. 19:7-8; Mk. 10:3-5; Deut. 24:1-4).

God, knowing the hardness of their hearts, gave Moses a precept that would protect the woman — the divorce certificate. Even though it was never God’s intent for man to unlawfully divorce, God knew that because of sin and the hardness of their hearts, divorce was inevitable. Therefore, Moses commanded that when divorce did take place, a certificate be given to the woman.

The certificate was put in place to protect the woman from being passed back and forth as well as protecting her future rights and assets if the former husband were to claim she was still his wife in the future (Ex. 21:10; Deut. 24:1-4). The purpose of the certificate was to prove that she had been divorced by her husband and that she could remarry. The certificate dissolved the marriage and intrinsically gave the right to remarry. Historically, the wording of the divorce certificate can be traced as far back as the 5th century BC. The wording reads:

“You are allowed to marry any man you wish” (Divorce & Remarriage in the Bible, Instone-Brewer, p. 29).

Jesus taught the Jews that unjust divorce was sinful and never commanded. The command to give a divorce certificate was to protect the woman and not justify the man’s unlawful divorce. Yet, they had taken this command to justify themselves in unlawfully divorcing and then attempted to put the blame on the law and Moses! Jesus taught that such was an abuse and gross misunderstanding of the law. This was nothing more than a result of their hardness of hearts. After Jesus explains this and makes an appeal back to creation for God’s original intent for marriage (one man-one woman for life; Mt. 19:5-6), He then proceeds to address unlawful divorce."

Why is it that men like Dr. Gill, and the strict Hardshell interpreters, fail to see that the "divorce certificate" actually dissolved the marriage, even when it was unjust? And, as Pendergrass points out, if she is actually divorced, then she has the right to remarry.  As Pendergrass stated, "The certificate dissolved the marriage and intrinsically gave the right to remarry." 

Pendergrass continued:

"It is my conviction that Jesus is condemning the act of unlawfully divorcing. The “adultery” Jesus is speaking of isn’t in a subsequent marriage after an unlawful divorce, but rather in the unlawful divorce...It must be remembered that Jesus is speaking to the hardheartedness of people in these verses. Therefore, I believe Jesus is speaking against the following two groups of people in His marital teachings:

1. Married persons who unlawfully divorce their spouses.
2. The complicit person/catalyst whom the divorcer unlawfully left their spouse for (i.e., the home wrecker).

Both of these groups of people are guilty of actions committed in hardheartedness."

These are insights into the true meaning of Matthew 5: 31-32 that Dr. Gill and many of the strict Hardshells miss seeing. As we analyze the words of the text, we will see how Pendergrass' statement that "the adultery Jesus is speaking of isn't in a subsequent marriage after an unlawful divorce." Rather, the "adultery" is the unlawful divorce. In this case, the adulterer of verse 31 is the man who puts away his wife, thereby "adulterizing" her. But, this is not so evident in the KJV or in some other English translations, though it is evident in the Greek, as we will see. Further, the adulterer of verse 32, the one who marries the woman who unjustly puts away her husband, is the "home wrecker," as we will see.

Unlawful Divorce Produces Adulterers

What is meant by "whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, Causeth her to commit adultery"? How does an unlawful divorce cause the innocent spouse to automatically become an adulterer, what the words of this translation (KJV) seem to say? If the woman, who is a victim of an unlawful divorce, does not remarry, how did the divorce make her into an adulterer?

In an Internet article titled "What Does “Makes Her an Adulteress” Mean?, by Wayne Jackson (see here), we have the two most probable views regarding this problem stated. He wrote (emphasis mine):

"There are two possible views relative to “maketh her an adulteress” (or "causes her to commit adultery KJV - SG), as found in this passage. But before we get to those two possibilities, we would observe that whatever conclusion one reaches, it must harmonize with the overall teaching of the New Testament on the general topic of marriage and divorce.

What are the two views?

One view suggests that the sense is this: the man who divorces his wife in a capricious fashion, without the legitimate reason (see Matthew 5:32; 19:9), causes that put-away woman to be viewed as an adulteress, since the common perception would be that she would not have been put away unless she had been guilty of unfaithfulness.

From this viewpoint, the sense then would be: “he gives her the reputation of being an adulteress.” This would not suggest that she actually is an immoral woman, but she will be perceived as such.

William Hendriksen has argued this view, and his chief point is that a passive voice verb is employed. He writes:

The Greek, by using the passive voice of the verb, states not what the woman becomes or what she does but what she undergoes, suffers, is exposed to. She suffers wrong. He [the husband initiating the divorce] does wrong. To be sure, she herself also may become guilty, but that is not the point which Jesus is emphasizing. Far better, it would seem to me, is therefore the translation, “Whoever divorces his wife except on the basis of infidelity exposes her to adultery,” or something similar (1973, 306).

Another view is that Jesus assumes, given the culture of that day, that a divorced woman would be driven to find another man, having been cast out. Since, in the contemplation of the language employed, she did not have a valid reason for a remarriage, joining herself to another man would place her in an adulterous union.

And so the sense of the phrase would be: “she is caused to commit adultery [by the dire circumstances which impel her to contract a subsequent marriage].” This is the sense assigned by William Arndt and F. W. Gingrich (1967, 528).

Each of these ideas is a matter of interpretation which attempts to extract the meaning from the grammar, the historical background of the passage, and the general biblical information relative to the divorce-remarriage controversy."

It is my conviction that the correct view is the one that keeps the wrongfully divorced woman an innocent victim. The chief reason for this is because of the use of the passive voice for μοιχᾶσθαι, a single Greek word translated in the KJV by two words "commit adultery." This translation gives an active voice meaning to the passive voice. With the active voice, it would be the woman who is doing the adultery. But, with the passive voice, the one who is putting his wife away unjustly is doing the adultery, or adulterating. There are other reasons for seeing this as the correct view.

First, consider the fact that the woman is viewed as being the innocent victim of a hard-hearted husband who divorces her, and who throws her out into the cold, so to speak, to fend for herself (and which would be tragic in those days, almost a death sentence), and it therefore seems out of place in such a context to find fault with the victim. Second, the text is clear that the woman becoming an adulterer is the result of the man who hard heartedly puts her away, and is not viewed as being her fault. Third, the text does not say "makes her to commit adultery if she later marries and makes herself an adulterer," nor does it say "makes her an adulterer perhaps sometime later," which is what the text should say if the view is correct that makes the woman guilty via an unjust marriage after her divorce. Fourth, the idea that the woman commits adultery by her remarrying forces one to affirm that the divorce was not a real divorce in the eyes of God or his law, and therefore did not give her a right to marry again, and this is not tenable at all. It forces us to say that the woman, though divorced, was really still the wife of her estranged hard hearted husband, and that she must remain single, in poverty and deprivation, until her husband takes her back. This too is totally untenable.

One other way in which many err in their interpretation of these verses is the fact that they fail to see the second part of verse 32 as a separate independent clause that is not directly related to the first part of the verse. In other words, the words "and whoever marries her that is put away commits adultery" is not saying "and whoever marries the innocent woman who was unlawfully divorced commits adultery." There are several reasons why this view is correct. But, I will enlarge upon this shortly. Before doing that let me enlarge upon the proof that avers that the words "makes her an adulterer" is not an indictment of a sin of the female innocent victim of an unlawful and cruel divorce.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"Unfortunately, many English translations have caused confusion over this statement due to a poor translation. In the Greek, this literally reads: “causes her to be adulterated” or “causes her to be the victim of his adultery.” In other words, this innocent woman is the victim of her husband. The man is the one who is guilty and the woman is the victim. This is seen as an action actually done to her.

The NIV correctly translates Matthew 5:32a as:

"But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery."

I have no doubt that  ποιεῖ (makes or causes) αὐτὴν (her) μοιχᾶσθαι ( makes her to commit adultery) means “causes her to be adulterated” or some other such translation that keeps the hard hearted man as the one who causes the adultery, and therefore is the one who is the adulterer.

The Pulpit commentary says this: "Revised Version, maketh her an adulteress, since the right reading, μοιχευθῆναι, connotes being sinned against rather than sinning."

That is correct. As stated already, the Greek word in the passage is passive. Various translations render the key phrase vastly different, such as "causes her to commit adultery" or "makes her an adulteress" or "makes her a victim of adultery."

Active and Passive Adultery

The original Greek of Matthew 5: 32 uses the root verb moicheuo (“commit adultery”) twice. In the first instance, in the words "makes her an adulterer" (or "commit adultery"), the word is in the passive voice, as I have already shown and discussed. However, in the second instance, where the words are "whoever marries her that is divorced commits adultery," the word is in the active voice. The man and the woman here do not do the same thing, according to the Greek.

The difficulty in translating the words is due to the fact that we don’t have a convenient passive for “commit adultery” in English.

Some people try to deal with the passive voice use of "adultery" in Matthew 5: 32a by making it insignificant. They will say that the bible sometimes will use the passive voice to describe the woman’s adulterous act even when it is clear that she was not passive but active. For instance, John 8:4 describes a woman who “was caught in the act of [committing] adultery.” And some will say "the Greek verb there is passive." But, this is not tenable. The verb in John 8: 4 is not to be viewed as passive but as middle voice. In Greek the passive and middle voice are both written alike. It is easy to discern the active voice construction of a word for it is different from the passive or middle voice. So, since both the middle and passive voice are written the same way, how do we discern which it is? By the context or syntax. Clearly the adultery of John 8: 4 is middle voice, meaning not only is the woman doing the action (adultery) but is doing it for her own self, for her own benefit. According to (see here) "The Greek middle voice shows the subject acting in his own interest or on his own behalf, or participating in the results of the verbal action."

As we have stated, μοιχευθῆναι (commit adultery) in Matthew 5: 32a is a passive infinitive. The passive voice implies that the subject is the recipient of the action. The NIV correctly reasons that the wife can't be said to commit an action if she is the recipient of it. Support for the NIV translation is found in Thayer's Greek lexicon where it renders one possible translation of μοιχευθῆναι as "to suffer adultery", specifically referencing this passage.

Jerry Starling in “CAUSES HER TO BECOME AN ADULTERESS,” an article discussing Matthew 5:32 (see here) cites several translations of ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχᾶσθαι, makes her to commit adultery, one of which is from the Good News Bible, a paraphrase that translates the words as "he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again." In regard to this he correctly says (emphasis mine):

"How can my action in divorcing my wife make her guilty of anything? The paraphrase “translation,” The Good News Bible, adds a clause not found in the text at all – “if she marries again.” But that is not what Jesus said. He said the one divorcing his wife makes her an adulteress. Some have used this as a way to paper over the problem in this verse. They say that when you divorce without proper cause, you put your divorced spouse in a position where temptation to marry again will be strong – and that if he or she does remarry, then he or she is guilty of adultery. But that adds something to the text Jesus does not say."

Exactly so! As I have already stated, Jesus did not say "perhaps causes her to commit adultery," but "causes her to commit adultery," that is, in every case where a man unjustly divorces his wife. He did not say "sometimes causes her to commit adultery." Further, as we will see, the causing is linked with the divorcing, both occurring at the same time. To say that the unlawful divorcing occurs long before the adultery will not fit the Greek grammar and syntax, as I will show.

Wrote Starling:

"ποιει (poiei) – literally, “is making“ - This is the 3rd person, present tense, active voice, indicative mood of ποιεω. The subject of this verb (i.e., the one acting in it) is the man who divorces his wife.

αυτην (auten) – literally, “her“ - This is the 3rd person, singular number, accusative case, feminine gender of the personal pronoun. The accusative case is roughly equal to the English direct object case, that is the receiver of the action. In this case, the woman whose husband divorces her, except for fornication, is the one acted upon by the verb “makes.” She herself is doing nothing; she receives the action of her husband who is divorcing her. By the divorce, he treats her as if she is an adulteress.

μοιχασθαι (moichasthai) – literally, “to defile a married woman; to have unlawful intercourse with a married woman“ This is the present tense, infinitive, passive voice of the verb μοιχαω (moichao). The passive voice means something happens to the subject of the clause. In this case, the subject of the clause is the woman divorced, except for fornication. This is the usual word for “to commit adultery.” In the passive voice, it would mean “to have adultery committed upon [or against] one.” The wife is the violated one. She becomes defiled passively by the fact he divorces her.

There is a textual variation in the Greek manuscripts for this word. The above paragraph looks at the Textus Receptus (or Received Text), which is the basis for the King James Version (1611). This text is mainly supported by late MSS. The variant, supported by the earlier MSS, is μοιχευθηναι (moicheuthenai). This is the aorist tense, passive voice infinitive of the verb μοιχευω (moicheuo). It comes from the same word family as that in the paragraph above, but with a slightly different meaning. It means, in the passive voice, “to suffer adultery, be debauched” (Thayer). Thayer gives Matthew 5:32 as an example of this use. This older reading is most likely correct.

Each of these variants is passive. The unjustly divorced wife is the violated person. She is not the one sinning; she is sinned against. The older, more likely, reading is even stronger in showing the wife as a victim, not a sinner. To say that my action in divorcing my wife unjustly makes her guilty of adultery makes as much sense as saying that if I beat her up, I make her to be an abuser. She would not be the abuser, but the abused. She is the victim sinned against, not the one who is sinning."

These are exactly my sentiments, what I believe is the correct interpretation of the words of Jesus. Anyone who tries to make the woman in this text into a willing and guilty adulterer is doing serious wrong. Jesus puts the blame for the adulterating of the woman solely on the man who divorced her.

In concluding his remarks under the sub heading "What It All Means," Starling wrote:

"A careful examination of the meanings of these words shows that Jesus is saying the woman divorced without cause becomes an adulteress in the same sense we make God a liar when we say we have not sinned. Her husband treats her (by divorcing her) as if she is an adulteress."

Excellent explanation! Wrote Starling:

"One reason for the difficulty in translating this passage is that the English language does not have a verb corresponding to the noun “adultery.” Hence, translators resort to some variation of “to commit adultery.” This passage is further complicated by the fact it is in the passive voice. To say “makes her to have adultery committed against her” is very cumbersome – and it still does not get the proper nuance of meaning.

The closest English verb that would translate this idea is adulterate, a word that comes from the same Latin word family as adultery. We do not normally use this word to mean adultery – but the meaning is very close, for adultery is an adulteration. That is, it adulterates the covenant witnessed by God between the man and the woman (cf. Malachi 2:14). It violates the holiness of that union and makes it unclean and impure. Her husband treats her as if she were an adulteress; society looks at her with suspicion; and she herself feels adulterated – all without any sinful act on her part. Of course, if she has committed fornication, she has made herself an adulteress. His action in divorcing her does not make her any more of an adulteress than she already is."

Again, an excellent explanation.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"His adultery against her is the result of his unlawful ending of their marriage. This is a sin her husband committed against her, not a sin she committed. Therefore, the first person guilty is the male who unlawfully divorced his spouse. He is rightly the “adulterer” by unlawfully ending his marriage. It is vital that one notes this man commits adultery against his wife here by simply unlawfully divorcing her with no remarriage taking place. He is guilty of adultery by unlawfully divorcing his wife. The “adultery” takes place in the unlawful divorcing.

Therefore, Matthew 5:32a could rightfully be paraphrased as:

“Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality is guilty of committing adultery and makes his ex-wife the victim of his adultery.”

Again, this is what Jesus was teaching, although the KJV and some other English translations hinder arriving at the correct interpretation.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"Now, let’s go to Matthew 5:32b:

“And whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”

Many Bible students read Matthew 5:31-32 as a continuous statement. They assume this is the same woman who was just unlawfully divorced by her husband. However, grammatically, such is not the case. Matthew 5:32b is a completely different statement than Matthew 5:31a. In Greek, the participle is indefinite when speaking of this woman. This means this woman should not be understood as the same woman just spoken of in Matthew 5:32a. This is a different woman and a different scenario Jesus is now speaking to."

This is exactly correct. The divorced woman of the latter half of verse 32 is not the same woman in the first half. The woman in the first half of the verse is a victim of an unjustified divorce, and by that divorce is free to marry who she wills, and therefore it can be no sin for anyone to marry her. Her first husband committed adultery in unlawfully putting her away and she was able to remarry without committing adultery. To disagree with this is to make the woman into a further victim. She has been unlawfully divorced and made destitute. Is she now to be condemned to that destitute condition by being cursed to remain in it? Is she doomed to remain single and destitute with her only hope being that either her hard hearted husband 1) remarries her (takes her back), or 2) commits adultery himself (by fornicating or remarrying), thereby freeing her to marry again herself. For these reasons alone, we cannot accept that the woman in the latter half of the verse is the same woman. Marrying the woman in 32b is an act of adultery for the man who marries her, but it is no act of adultery to marry the woman in 32a.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"Furthermore, if Jesus was condemning the remarriage of an innocent woman who was put away by her hardhearted husband, then this would mean that Jesus was abolishing the protection laws for innocent women found in Deuteronomy 24 and Exodus 21 which gave the woman the right to remarry, as well as protected her from any future exploitation her ex-husband many attempt. If Jesus was abolishing the protection laws of innocent women, then this understanding would make absolutely no sense culturally or historically."

Exactly so!

Wrote Pendergrass:

"Contextually speaking, this is the exact opposite point Jesus is making. Why would Jesus negate the laws put in place to protect women only to give the hardhearted man further power by putting her in a position where she could never remarry? This would mean that not only would the husband not have to financially provide for her living rights as the law states (Ex. 21:10), but she could no longer be free to go to someone else. The tenor of this passage and the marital teachings of Jesus is to protect the innocent, not destroy the regulations that were put in place to protect them."

Again, this just makes sense!

Wrote Pendergrass:

"So, if the woman in Matthew 5:32b is not the innocent woman who was divorced by her husband, who is she? Well, she would be a woman who unlawfully divorced her husband. When considering the “divorced woman” in Matthew 5:32b, the participle could be understood as middle (reflexive intensive) which would emphasize the woman’s unlawful initiation of the divorce in this statement. This also harmonizes nicely with what Jesus said in Mark 10:12:

“If a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

If that is the correct translation (and it is), then it is clear that the two women are not the same. The first woman is the victim of an unlawful and cruel divorce, but the second woman is the woman who initiates the unlawful divorce.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"Therefore, this would mean that in the first saying in Matthew 5:32a, a man who unlawfully divorces his spouse is guilty. In the second saying in Matthew 5:32b, a woman who unlawfully divorces her husband and the man whom she divorced her husband for are both guilty." 

Again, I think this is clearly the correct interpretation.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"This would also make sense as to why the man in Matthew 5:32b who would marry this divorced woman is guilty of adultery. He is guilty because he is the complicit partner and beneficiary of this woman’s unlawful divorcing of her husband. In other words, the “homewrecker” is not innocent. This would emphasize that the adultery is not in the future marriage itself, but in the way it was being attained (i.e., through an unlawful divorce, specifically caused by a third complicit party).

The preferred paraphrase of Mathew 5:32b would be:

“And the homewrecker whom the woman unlawfully divorced her husband for is also guilty of adultery because he is the beneficiary/complicit partner of her unlawful divorce.”

Again, this is how I believe we should interpret the words.

This is a long posting and I know that many will have lost interest before they have finished. But, for those who see the importance of the subject, they will see the importance of such a lengthy investigation. In the next posting I will have a few more things to say regarding Matthew 5: 31-32 and its proper interpretation. I will also deal with whether the there is any suggestion that anyone guilty of adultery in the passage continues to "live in adultery" while in a marriage that was entered into unlawfully. I will also in the next posting begin to look at the other verses in the gospels where Jesus talked about divorce and remarriage and cases of adultery.

Baptized 45 Years Ago!

Tomorrow will mark forty five years since I was baptized by my beloved departed father! It is a precious memory to me! I can remember the words he said as he laid me beneath the waters - "I baptize this my son in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Oh how glad I am that I was baptized as a result of my faith and allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ!

I united with the church that father pastored, the Middletown Primitive Baptist church located in Trenton, Ohio, a place where several PB churches at one time existed in the 19th century. The famous preacher, Elder Stephen Gard, associate of Elder Wilson Thompson, and leader in the Miami Baptist Association, both before and after their split over the mission controversy in the 1830s, was buried not far from our meetinghouse in Trenton. Though I united with this church, it was not during a regular service of that church. The church was a member of the large Powell's Valley Association of Primitive Baptists and I requested baptism and membership with the Middletown church at the associational meeting of that association, which that year (1972) was held in Middlesboro, Kentucky, in the "Cumberland Gap." The Association met every year during the third weekend in August.

It was after the Friday morning opening session of the Association that I walked forward to make my request known to the moderator of the Association, Elder Harold Hunt, who stood in front of the stage at the High School that was being used for the meetings. When I told Elder Hunt of my desire he immediately stopped the singing, and all got quiet, including those in the long handshake line. Since most of the members of the Middletown church were present, they called for a vote and the members consented to my request for baptism and church membership. My baptism was scheduled for the next day, for early Saturday morning, in a small creek at the foot of a mountain. There was another adult man who was also scheduled to be baptized that morning.

This meeting of the Powell's Valley Association was the culmination of a ten day trip that father and I were on. We left on a Thursday, from Ohio, more than a week before the Friday when I joined the church at the PV Ass. meeting. We drove to Knoxville where father had an appointment at the church in Knoxville, a church in the PV Ass. Early the next morning we left to attend the three days meeting of the Sequatchie Valley-Blue Ridge Association. It was held with the Tickenetly Church in Elijah, Ga. I recall vividly those three days of meetings. I was so hungry to hear the gospel that I ate up all the preaching that told the old old story.

I had already been saved at a local Southern Baptist church near Oxford, Ohio. I had gone forward in that church sometime in the Spring of 1972 (I was 16) and would have been baptized by that church, and become a member there, had I not been influenced towards the PBs by my father. Ever since I was saved and given assurance of my salvation I had the strongest desire to be baptized. I didn't know if baptism was essential for salvation, but I did not want to take any chances! I wanted to make my formal public pledge in baptism to follow Christ.

Father and I left the Association in Elijah to go to Decatur, Alabama, the place where father was to have a four night debate with Thomas Thrasher of the "Church of Christ." It was during this debate that I first met several elders, such as Elder S.T. Tolley, who moderated for father during the debate. It was during this debate that I came to fully see and understand what are called "the doctrines of grace." It gave strength to my faith to understand grace and to put all my trust in the work of Christ. It was during this debate that I first made known to father and Elder Tolley of my desire to be baptized and unite with the PB church.

We left on early Friday morning after the debate was over and drove to Middlesboro, Ky. And, it was on that Friday morning, as stated, that I was accepted for church membership and for baptism. We left Sunday afternoon for the long drive back to Ohio. I was a new man! I was rejoicing! School was about ready to start. I was a junior. I wanted all to know that I was a follower of Jesus, a brother to all those who loved and followed the Lord Jesus Christ.

I could write a lot about the things I experienced in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 1972, as it relates to my Christian experience! Though I have not always done my best to follow the Lord, yet I can say that I have never failed in my belief that Jesus is the Christ, my only hope. He has never forsaken me! He has been the best friend!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Error of Eternal Justification II

In this second posting in this series on the question - "when are sinners justified?" - I will first begin looking at the arguments put forward in support of the doctrine of justification from eternity. Following this procedure, I will begin (in future postings) to give arguments that will prove that sinners are not justified until they believe in Jesus and in the gospel. In this procedure I will be showing how the view that says that sinners were justified in eternity past, or at the cross of Calvary, is false, a serious error that begets other errors. Before this, however, let me make some preliminary observations.

Definition of Justification

Justification is a legal or forensic act of a judge or court authority in which a declaration is made respecting an accused or arrested person and which declaration or act thereby acquits or otherwise exonerates the person from the accusation or guilt of the crime(s) spelled out in an indictment.

The declaration or verdict, by design, brings certain effects, or has its intended consequences. Simply put, "justification" declares or announces that the accused has been found to be "not guilty," being declared legally just or righteous, as respects the law and the accusations made against the accused. The best antonym for the word "justification" is "condemnation." The former term denoting a "not guilty" verdict or judgment and the latter denoting a "guilty" verdict and judgment.

How "Imputation" relates to "Justification"

According to the verb "impute" means "to attach to a person responsibility (and therefore financial liability) for acts or injuries to another, because of a particular relationship, such as mother to child, guardian to ward, employer to employee or business associates."

And, according to - "Impute means attribute. Imputation refers to the act or instance of imputing something especially a fault or crime to a person. It can also be an accusation or charge."

Easton's Bible Dictionary, in giving the biblical meaning of "imputation" says:

"Imputation is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., he assumed our "law-place," undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same ( Romans 5:12-19 ; Compare Philemon 1:18 Philemon 1:19 )."

Thus, imputation is the means or ground for either condemnation or justification. The imputation of Adam's sin is the cause of condemnation, first and foremost, and the imputation of a sinner's sins to Christ, and of Christ's righteousness to the believer, is the cause of justification. Other words used in scripture to speak of this legal transaction are reckoning and accounting.

If I was justified in eternity past or at the cross, then we can deduce or infer these things:

1) I was justified before I was born or actually existed, and
2) I was justified even before I actually sinned or was personally condemned
3) I have never actually been under condemnation, under sin, or under wrath
4) I was not actually justified by faith

Arguments against eternal justification 

1. Scripture never speaks of it
2. The reasoning used to prove a justification from eternity would also prove that creation, incarnation, regeneration, sanctification, etc. are also eternal.
3. It would affirm that the death of Christ is not what justifies
4. It has justification preceding faith
5. It has justification before union with Christ
6. It has justification before imputation

Other Questions to be Addressed

1. If actual justification took place in eternity past when God decreed to justify the ungodly, or took place when Christ died upon the cross, then what is meant by "justified by faith"?

2. If actual justification took place in eternity past when God decreed to justify the ungodly, or took place when Christ died upon the cross, then what is meant by "justified by works"?

3. Is justification a process that has stages, steps, or phases? Or, is it a one time single act? Is the day of judgment the final phase of justification?

The Arguments In Support of Eternal Justification

Dr. John Gill, one of the foremost advocates of the doctrine of justification from eternity, wrote the following in his Body of Divinity, in the section on "Justification" (emphasis mine). I have in previous writings dealt with what Gill said on this topic (see here) but will write more critically of his views in this posting. Said Gill:

"...for though pardon and justification agree in some things, in others they differ. In some things they agree.

5. In their commencement and completion: pardon and justification commence together, and both are finished at once, "simul" and "semel"; and are not carried on in a gradual and progressive way, as sanctification is, #Col 2:13 Ac 13:39.

6. In the manner of actual enjoying them, which is in a way of receiving, and that by faith; it is by faith men receive the forgiveness of sins; and by it they receive abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness to justification of life; and, this is what the Scriptures call justification by faith, #Ac 26:18 #Ro 5:1,17,18. But though they agree in these things, in others they differ."

If one only had these words from Dr. Gill on the subject, he would not think that Dr. Gill believed in justification from eternity, but believed that sinners were not pardoned or justified until they believed or had evangelical faith. But, as we will see from the citations to follow, from another section in his Body of Divinity, he clearly contradicts what he says here. I have the highest respect for Dr. Gill, but no man is perfect, and on this topic he has surely contradicted himself. From the above words he clearly sees faith as the instrument of actual justification and forgiveness. He says that it is "by faith" that men enjoy, or receive, 1) forgiveness of sins, 2) abundance of grace, and 3) the gift of righteousness to justification.

Gill next wrote:

"I have, in a former part of this work, see "Justification" 853, treated of justification, as an immanent and eternal act in God; and so it may be said to be from eternity, and before faith; and in what sense it is so, with a removal of objections, has been shown in the place referred to; and therefore shall only now discourse concerning justification, as it terminates in the conscience of a believer; and which the scriptures style justification by faith."

In the section Dr. Gill referenced in the above citation, in Chapter 5 titled "Of Other Eternal And Immanent Acts In God, Particularly Adoption And Justification," he wrote (emphasis mine):

"I shall not here treat of these as doctrines, in the full extent of them; or as blessings of grace actually bestowed upon, and enjoyed by believers, with all the privileges and advantages arising from thence; or as transient acts passing on them, and terminating in their consciences at believing; but as internal and immanent acts, taken up in the mind of God from eternity, and which abide in his will; in which they have their complete "esse", or being, as eternal election has, being of the same kind and nature, and are ranked with it as of the same date, and as branches of it, #Eph 1:4-6."

Dr. Gill again seems to speak contradictorily on this subject. He divides justification into two aspects, the one from eternity, a result of an internal act of God's mind and will, and another occurring in time as a result of a transient act of God, at the point when one believes. Thus, justification, both precedes and follows faith! If we only had the above words, we would conclude that justification was not completed until a person believed, for he clearly says that both adoption and justification are not "actually" bestowed upon, or enjoyed, until a person becomes a believer in Christ. Justification "terminates" in the consciences upon coming to faith.

Now notice these words of Gill:

1. Adoption; as predestination to it stands next to election, #Eph 1:5 which is no other than his will to adopt the chosen ones, which is his adoption of them; for as the will of God to elect any is his election of them, so his will to adopt the same is his adoption of them; and the complete essence of it lies in his will, and is as such an eternal immanent act of it; in like manner as election is, and may be considered as a branch of it, at least of the same nature with it;

Now, I do not agree with Gill and most bible commentators on the subject of adoption, having written on this extensively. "Adoption" is not the best translation of the Greek word "huiothesia." Gill thinks that God's will and purpose to "adopt" was his will and purpose to have children. And, when did God will to have children? From eternity past. Okay, that is alright. But, notice the inferences and deductions that Dr. Gill makes of this fact. He argues that his will to have children is his actually having them! His will to adopt is adoption itself! By this reasoning we may say, as have the Hardshell believers in "Two Seedism" and "Eternal Vital Unionism," that the elect have always existed as God's children! But, it is very clear that God's eternal purpose to have children is not the actual making or producing of them. The begetting or birthing of children takes place in time! After they have come into existence! To be born again requires that one be first born once. One is first born into the world, or comes into existence, and then, if one of the elect, is born a second time, and this is when he becomes a child of God. That second birth was purposed by God in eternity past, but that purpose did not actually make them children. The immanent act in purposing to have children did not make children, rather, the transient act in time in "begetting" is what makes children.

Gill continued:

1a. First, It did not begin in time, but commenced from eternity; it is an act of God's will, and has its complete essence in it; and the will of God is eternal, no new will, nor any new act of will, arises in God in time; or otherwise he would not be the unchangeable God he is.

1a1. It is an act that does not first take place at believing; indeed the saints are "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus", openly and manifestatively, #Ga 3:26 but then it is not faith that makes them children, but what makes them appear to be so; adoption is the act of God, and not of faith;

What "did not begin in time"? Adoption and justification? By his use of the words "begin" and "commenced," he makes justification into a process, with a beginning and ending to it. It does not by this language make justification into a simple declaration or single act. Also, notice how Gill argues that God's decree, in eternity past, to have children, is the actual producing of children. Again, this is what the "Two Seed" Baptists, followers of Daniel Parker, taught! Gill says that the words "you are all the children of God by faith" means "you are all manifestly the children of God by faith." Who gave him the authority to alter the text in this manner? To add a word to the text that is not there? If Paul meant to say "manifestly" he would have said "manifestly." Further, by the reasoning of Dr. Gill one is not only not "actually" made a child of God by faith, but neither by a spiritual birth in time! What he says about "faith" in these words may also be said about being "begotten" of God. Neither faith or being begotten make one a child of God. And why? Because he was already a child of God from eternity past!

Now, I have great respect for Dr. Gill and for most of his doctrinal positions, but his doctrine of eternal justification has led him into the most absurd consequences.

Dr. Gill continued:

"Now, as before observed, as God's will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them; as it is an immanent act in God, it is an act of his grace towards them, is wholly without them, entirely resides in the divine mind, and lies in his estimating, accounting, and constituting them righteous, through the righteousness of his Son; and, as such, did not first commence in time, but from eternity."

Gill's reasoning here is not sound. Further, he bases his whole case on eternal justification on such reasoning rather than upon a clear statement of scripture! Why does he not simply cite verses of scripture that expressly say that the elect were justified in eternity past? It is because he has no scriptures that say so, and therefore he must use logic to prove his case. In other words, his defense of justification from eternity is totally based upon inference and logical deduction. Further, because he accepts that both adoption (acquiring children) and justification are events from eternity past, he is forced to alter the NT statements that speak of people becoming children and being justified "by faith." What he should have done, was to let those NT statements alter his views on God's immanent acts, regarding adoption and justification, rather than vise versa.

Not only does Gill teach that the elect were actually children of God and justified from eternity, but he says that they were actually made righteous from eternity! But, again, such a view leads to the most absurd consequences as we will see.

Even if we grant as true the statement - "God's will to elect, is the election of his people" - it does not necessitate that the statement - "his will to justify them, is the justification of them" is true. Dr. Gill's assertion of such is no proof. Can we also say "God's will to regenerate and birth is the regeneration and birth of them"? Can we say "God's will to sanctify and glorify is his sanctification and glorification of them"?

Gill continued:

2a. First, It does not begin to take place in time, or at believing, but is antecedent to any act of faith.

But, where is the scripture that teaches this? Would it not have been proper for Gill to simply have cited verses that said that justification preceded faith? So, instead of reading in the NT, "justified by faith," we should rather find verses that said "faith by justification." Also, notice again Gill's use of the word "begin." Justification only begins in eternity past. Justification is then a process? Also, when, according to Gill, does justification end? Does it both begin and end in eternity past? Remember he is already on record as saying that it "terminates" at the point when one is made a believer. But, he seems at times to forget that he has said such, and rather argues that justification both begins and ends in eternity past.

Gill continued:

"2a1. Faith is not the cause, but an effect of justification; it is not the cause of it in any sense; it is not the moving cause, that is the free grace of God; "Being justified freely by his grace", #Ro 3:24 nor the efficient cause of it; "It is God that justifies", #Ro 8:33 nor the meritorious cause, as some express it; or the matter of it, that is the obedience and blood of Christ, #Ro 5:9,19 or the righteousness of Christ, consisting of his active and passive obedience; nor even the instrumental cause; for, as Mr. Baxter {5} himself argues, "If faith is the instrument of our justification, it is the instrument either of God or man; not of man, for justification is God's act; he is the sole Justifier, #Ro 3:26 man doth not justify himself: nor of God, for it is not God that believes..."

Every thing Gill here says about how faith is not a "cause" of justification is correct, except in his denial that faith is an "instrumental cause" of it. This is clear, as we will see more fully in future postings, from the NT teaching and its express statements affirming that justification is "by faith." God has willed to justify every believing sinner and not to justify any unbeliever. Of course, faith is not a legal means or instrument in effecting justification, but it is the means of determining who shall be justified.

In my posting "Hardshells and Justification II" (see here) I wrote this on how faith is a "cause" of justification.

Dr. A. H. Strong, in the "Relation of Justification to Faith," wrote:

A. We are justified by faith, rather than by love or by any other grace:

(a) not because faith is itself a work of obedience by which we merit justification, for this would be a doctrine of justification by works,

(b) nor because faith is accepted as an equivalent of obedience, for there is no equivalent except the perfect obedience of Christ,

(c) nor because faith is the germ from which obedience may spring hereafter, for it is not the faith which accepts, but the Christ who is accepted, that renders such obedience possible, but

(d) because faith, and not repentance or love or hope is the medium or instrument by which we receive Christ and are united to himHence we are never said to be justified dia pistin, = on account of faith, but only dia pisteos, = through faith, or ek pisteos, = by faith. Or, to express the same truth in other words, while the grace of God is the efficient cause of justification and the obedience and sufferings of Christ are the meritorious or procuring cause, faith is the mediate or instrumental cause."  (pg. 160, 161)

Gill continued:

"nor is it a "causa sine qua non", as the case of elect infants shows; it is not in any class of causes whatever; but it is the effect of justification: all men have not faith, and the reason why some do not believe is, because they are none of Christ's sheep; they were not chosen in him, nor justified through him; but justly left in their sins, and so to condemnation; the reason why others believe is, because they are ordained to eternal life, have a justifying righteousness provided for them, and are justified by it, and shall never enter into condemnation: the reason why any are justified, is not because they have faith; but the reason why they have faith, is because they are justified; was there no such blessing of grace as justification of life in Christ, for the sons of men, there would be no such thing as faith in Christ bestowed on them; precious faith is obtained through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, #2Pe 1:1 nor, indeed, would there be any room for it, nor any use of it, if a justifying righteousness was not previously provided."

But, the "case of elect infants" does not disprove justification by faith nor prove justification without it, or from eternity. There has been so much false teaching produced by false reasoning on the "case of the infants" and the case of the mentally incapacitated. Hardshells use it to teach their version of a "hollow log," or meaningless "regeneration" or divine "birth." They use the "case of the infant" to try to prove that faith, repentance, coming to Christ, etc., are not necessary for being born again, justified, sanctified, or saved in Heaven. But, "with God all things are possible," and he certainly is able to increase the mental powers of infants before they die in infancy so that they can believe by the teaching of the Spirit in an extraordinary manner.

Further, it is not denied that election is the cause of faith, and not vise versa. But, we cannot say similarly that justification is the cause of faith. Yes, the righteousness of Christ is the cause of faith. But saying such is not the same thing as saying that "the imputation of the righteousness of Christ precedes faith," for that would contradict other clear statements of scripture, such as this: "But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." (Rom. 4:24)

Gill continued:

"2a5. All the elect of God were justified in Christ, their Head and Representative, when he rose from the dead, and therefore they believe: Christ engaged as a Surety for all his people from eternity, had their sins imputed to him, and for which he made himself responsible; in the fulness of time he made satisfaction for them by his sufferings and death, and at his resurrection was acquitted and discharged: now as he suffered and died, not as a private, but as a public person, so he rose again, and was justified as such, even as the representative of his people; hence when he rose, they rose with him; and when he was justified, they were justified in him; for he was "delivered for their offences, and was raised again for their justification", #Ro 4:25"

Gill clearly contradicts himself in these words. How? He has already argued that justification was an accomplished fact from eternity past, because it is the immediate result of God's will or decree. But, here he says that the elect were justified "when" Christ rose from the dead. If justification took place when Christ rose from the dead, then it did not take place in eternity past! Of course, not only does the bible not teach that actual justification took place in eternity past, but it also does not teach that it actually took place when Christ died and rose again. But, more on that in upcoming postings.

Gill continued:

"2b. Secondly, Justification is not only before faith, but it is from eternity, being an immanent act in the divine mind, and so an internal and eternal one; as may be concluded..."Justified then we were," says Dr. Goodwin "when first elected, though not in our own persons, yet in our Head, as he had our persons then given him, and we came to have a being and an interest in him.""

Notice his words "as may be concluded." See how he attempts to prove his doctrine by logic and by inference rather than by express statements of scripture. Notice also how the justification in eternity past was not a justification "in our own persons"! Further, if justification took place in eternity past, then it did not occur when Christ died and rose again! But, more on that in upcoming postings, the Lord willing.

Gill continued:

"Now if God could, and actually did, justify some, three or four thousand years before the righteousness of Christ was actually wrought out, taking his Son's word and bond as their Surety, and in a view of his future righteousness; why could he not, and why may it not be thought he did, justify all his elect from eternity, upon the word and bond of their Surety, and on the basis of his future righteousness, which he had engaged to work out, and which he full well knew he would most certainly work out? and if there is no difficulty in conceiving of the one, there can be none in conceiving of the other."

But, again, notice how he relies on logical reasoning to prove his doctrine of eternal justification! Ought he not rather to rely upon plain declarations of scripture? It is not necessary to hold to justification from eternity to explain how God could justify men like Abraham even before Christ had come and had the sins of Abraham actually imputed to him. Gill even gives the answer. God could justify Abraham, upon his believing, based upon the contractual promise of the Son of God to come and suffer for the sins of Abraham.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

It Surprises Me A Little

As an editor for The Old Baptist Test blog, I often check my statistical information as to which articles are being read the most, which are the most popular. Over the past week I was able to make several entries on various topics. I was not too surprised that my articles on "Hardshells and the Adultery Question" and the first posting on "The Error of Eternal Justification" were popular. But, I was surprised that a couple other postings were not so popular, such as the one on "Incorrect Grammar in the KJV" and "Biblical Teaching Using the Socratic Method." Personally, I thought they were two good articles. Shows you what I know, hey? Perhaps they will become popular in the future. Sometimes articles I write don't get much attention immediately but become more read later as Internet surfers find the postings.

I am hoping that I can get the following postings completed in the next month. I continue to work on these postings, gathering notes and citations, and arranging the material. I also try to pray over most of the articles and get insight and leading from the Spirit.

Old Baptist Test blog

1. Finish the series on Hardshells and the Adultery Question
2. Finish the series on The Error of Eternal Justification
3. Post several one or two entries on various subjects.

Baptist Gadfly blog

1. Finish my series on The Two Witnesses of the Apocalypse
2. Finish my series on Waiting For The Huiothesia (on the doctrine of adoption)

If I can get these finished, I have an interest to write on several other topics in both of these blogs. I hope to write on the Book of Revelation and on Eschatology.

On the Future of these Blogs

I am thankful that Elders Kevin Fralick and Jeremy Sarber have become associated editors for the Old Baptist Test blog. Kevin has been with me from the beginning. I hope that there will be some others who will join. I want these editors to act as trustees for the blog and for all the writings in it. I am not getting any younger and should I depart I want to believe that these writings will be in good hands.

I hope those of you who regularly read this blog will keep the editors in your prayers that the Lord will use what we write to edify the people of God and to help build them up in the most holy faith. It takes a lot of work to study the various topics that we discuss on this blog and I am thankful that God has given me the time over the past few years to labor in writing.

I believe we have more followers than are shown. People can follow anonymously and I believe we have several who follow this way.

We average about 1500-1800 hits per month on this blog, about the same for the Baptist Gadfly. I also have a couple other blogs that get visitors. We get little comment, however. Sometimes I think that is bad, and sometimes I think it is good. I just don't know how to interpret that fact.

I am thankful for all the people we have helped by this blog and our writings. We get e-mails and phone calls from time to time from folks who tell us that we have been a great help and this gives us strength to continue.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hardshells & The Adultery Question III

In beginning this third posting in this series I want to add some additional thoughts regarding the case of king Herod and his marriage to Herodias, the woman who was previously married to Herod's brother Philip. The reason why a study of Herod's case of adultery is pertinent is because his case is put forth as an example of people "living in adultery" when they have entered a marriage for unlawful reasons. The question then is this: "did Herod commit a single act of adultery in marrying Herodias, or was he in a continual state of sinning, or 'living in adultery,' as long as he was married to her?" Further, when John the Baptist said to Herod "it is not lawful for you to have her" as a wife, was he speaking of the law that forbade incest or that forbade adulterous marriage?

Kevin Pendergrass has written extensively on this subject, having numerous articles on all aspects of this subject. I can say that his views are sound and generally represent my thinking. In one of those articles titled "WHY HEROD WAS WRONG" (see here) he wrote (emphasis mine):

"In Matthew 14:4, Mark 6:18 and Luke 3:19-20, Herod was rebuked by John because Herod had married his brother’s wife, among other sins he committed (Lk. 3:19-20). The current understanding of the Jewish law at that time allowed for subsequent marriages and multiple wives (Deut. 24:1-4; 21:15-17; Judg. 8:30-32; 1 Sam. 1:2-3; 2 Sam. 12:7-8; etc.), even though polygamy was no longer a common practice by this time." 

These are important facts to consider in the discussion of the particular violations of the Mosaic law that John the Baptist was alluding to when he said "it is not lawful for you to have her (as wife)." If Jewish law allowed for divorce, even when fornication was not the cause, then John would not be charging that the divorce and remarriage of either Herod or Herodias was illegal. Therefore, we must agree with Pendergrass and say that the violation of the law that John referred to was the law that forbade a man from marrying his brother"s wife.

Wrote Pendergrass:

"One of the condemnations that fell under this category was taking your brother’s wife in marriage:

You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness” (Lev. 18:16).

If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness They shall be childless” (Lev. 20:21).

The “taking” of someone encompasses the idea of marriage (See also: Lev. 20:14, 21; same word is used for “take”). This law began after Israel was led out of Egyptian bondage. Prior to the writing of Leviticus, there are no Old Testament passages that condemn incest. In the whole book of Genesis, incest is a common practice. Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), and both Isaac and Jacob married kinsmen (Genesis 22:20ff; 24:4; 24:43). Of course, all of Shem, Ham, and Japheth’s children, Jacob, all of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren, Isaac, Esau, etc. would have been in incestuous relationships. The people of the Patriarchal Period, therefore, were not under the specific regulations of the Mosaic Code.

While Herod the Great and Herod Antipas were Idumeans (Edomites), Herod Antipas (being the client King of the Jews) would have been subjected to the Jewish law. The Idumeans were subjugated by the Jews and forced to convert to Judaism around the time of the Maccabean wars. Herod Antipas was Tetrarch of Galilee, the part of the kingdom assigned to him. Thus, Herod Antipas clearly and publicly violated the very law he was supposed to be upholding and following as a Jewish king when he took his brother’s wife in marriage.

Here is the chronology of Herod and Herodias’s marriage: Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great through his son Aristobulus IV through his wife Miriamne I, Herod’s 2nd wife. Philip (Herod II) was the son of Herod the Great through Miriamne II, Herod’s 3rd wife. So Philip and Herodias were uncle and niece. While the Law did not prohibit an uncle from marrying his niece (e.g., Judges 1:12-13), it did prohibit a nephew from marrying his aunt (Lev. 18:12-14), and it prohibited a man from marrying his brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16; 20:21). [It should be noted that there is an exception to this found in Deuteronomy 25:5, but this wasn’t applicable to the Herod-Philip-Herodias case].

Some have attempted to argue that, even though divorced by the law of the land, Herodias was still married to Philip in “God’s eyes” because John used the phrase “your brother’s wife” when referring to Herodias (Mk. 6:18)."

It is possible that the present tense "your brother's wife" may be another example of what is called the "historical" present tense. But, more on that shortly. Pendergrass continues:

"There are a couple of explanations to this objection and each would fit the context of Scripture (perhaps even both). According to Josephus, Herodias had divorced Philip (Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.3 136). Some have argued that Herod was wrong because he married Herodias who had unlawfully divorced Philip instead of Philip divorcing Herodias upon Jewish law.

Under Jewish law, a man could divorce a woman, but a woman could not divorce a man (Deut. 24:1-4; Rom. 7:1-4). However, the Greco-Roman culture had influenced society where women were divorcing their husbands. Instead of the man (Phillip) treating his wife treacherously, the woman (Herodias) treated her husband treacherously by unlawfully divorcing him to marry Herod. Therefore, this could possibly be what John was referring to (Mal. 2:14-17).

The second explanation would have to do in understanding how the phrase, “your brother’s wife” can be used. This phrase can just as easily be understood as a former wife. This is one of the common usages in the Bible when speaking of a former spouse (See: 2 Samuel 12:9; Deut. 25:5; Mark 12:19; Lk. 20:28; Acts 5:10-11; etc.). Often times in the Bible, the words husband and wife are in reference to former husbands and wives. In fact, this is even the common way of speaking today.

We often refer to someone’s former husband and wife as simply their husband or wife. We don’t mean to imply they are still married, we are only recognizing the fact that they once were. Furthermore, the Levitical law to which John was referring uses the phrase “brother’s wife” to include the brother’s former wife (Lev. 20:21; As do other passages when speaking of former spouses; Deut. 25:5).

Under the heading "WHAT REPENTANCE DEMANDED" Pendergrass wrote:

"We have to be careful with self-imposed repentance. That is, we have to be careful when we teach what we believe one has to do in order to repent, especially if the Bible doesn’t say it. Some assume that because John told Herod that it wasn’t lawful for him to take/have his brother’s wife, then that meant he had to repent by divorcing her. However, we must consider the context and other passages of Scripture. Consider the same type of wording when it came to David taking Bathsheba to be his wife. The Bible says that David sinned because he:

“…killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife…” (2 Sam. 12:9). “…because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Sam. 12:10).

The sin that took place with David is that he unlawfully took Bathsheba to be his wife. He lied, cheated and killed in order to have Bethsheba. The sin that took place with Herod is that he unlawfully took Herodias to be his wife. Since repentance didn’t demand that David divorce Bathsheba, it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that repentance demanded that Herod divorce Herodias."

Pendergrass wrote:

"If a man took his brother’s wife in marriage, it was a sin but the Bible assumes the couple would naturally continue in their marriage. Consider Leviticus 20:21:

“If there is a man who takes his brother’s wife, it is abhorrent; he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They will be childless.”

While it was a sin to marry your brother’s wife, it simply says that they would suffer the consequence of being childless in their marriage.

Whether the rebuking was due to Herod unlawfully taking Herodias because she unlawfully divorced Phillip (thus violating the Jewish divorce law), or whether it was due to the incestuous union (or perhaps a combination of both; Lk. 3:19-20), nothing in this context would prove that repentance demanded divorce (Deut. 24:1-4). Of course, even if one did attempt to argue that repentance demanded a divorce, it would not have been on the basis of a subsequent marriage since the law allowed for such (Deut. 24:1-4). Rather it would be on the basis of an incestuous union."

Recall that the major argument of those who teach that a marriage entered into without scriptural grounds creates a situation where the parties in such a marriage continue to sin or to "live in adultery" while the marriage is in place; And, in regard to the case of Herod and Herodias, it is argued that John the Baptist's repeatedly saying to Herod "it is not lawful for you to have her," using the present tense, proves it. The argument is made that John's use of the present tense "is" denotes continuous action, and thus Herod's adultery was not an initial act in marrying Herodias, but was a continuous state. John, it is argued, would have said "it was not lawful for you" had he in mind only a past act.

It is further argued that John's call to Herod to repent involved him divorcing Herodias. Pendergrass answers, in regard to the latter argument, that the scriptures do not teach such. The scriptures teach that marriages that were entered illegally were still binding marriages and should not be dissolved. The sin was in the initial act, not in the continuing union. As regards the first argument, about the use of the present tense "is," I stated in the previous posting that such is no conclusive argument because there is such a thing as an "historical present." In cases where an historical present is used, it is the past that is referred to even though a present tense verb is used.

Richard Nordquist (see here) says this about the English "historical present" (emphasis mine):

"In English grammar, the historical present is the use of a verb phrase in the present tense to refer to an event that took place in the past. In narratives, the historical present may be used to create an effect of immediacy. Also called the historic present, dramatic present, and narrative present."

When John said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife," he was stating what was the present law, not what was the supposed present ongoing sin. Take the case of a person who, in the past, committed the criminal offence of speeding. He stands before the judge and the judge says "the law is (present tense) 55 miles per hour and you were (past tense) going 75." Or, "it is not lawful for you to go over 55." Now, certainly the judge could have said "the law was 55 and you were..." But, the message is the same.

Herod had violated the law in marrying Herodias because it was incest, not because he had married a divorced woman, because, as already observed, such was "lawful" by the Mosaic law. Granted, it was against the teaching of Jesus, but that teaching would come later.

John was not saying that the marriage was to be annulled. As stated previously, the law of Moses allowed such adulterous marriages. So, the sin that John is condemning is not the adultery, but the incest, the kind specifically forbidden in the OT. It was not till Jesus gave correction to the Mosaic law, after John's imprisonment and death, that such marriages would be styled as adulterous in their inception. Had John been condemning Herod for an adulterous marriage, rather than for incest, he would not have singled out Herod, for there were many Jewish men, at the time, in marriages begun by an act of adultery.

The Case of the Woman at the Well

"Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly." (John 4:16-18 kjv)

When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman he told her she had had five husbands. Unless all of them died she must have been divorced at times. Each time she remarried it was considered marriage by the Lord for he told her she had had five husbands. They would not have been husbands if she were not married to them. Jesus said the man she was presently living with was not her husband. Why? Because she had never been married to him. Jesus did not tell her she had only been married one time, to the first husband. Thus, in the "eyes of the Lord" this woman was married five times. Our teaching that one cannot remarry is not in harmony with what Jesus taught.

Wrote Kevin Pendergrass in "Marriage Is Dissolved By Divorce" (see here):

"Jesus also taught that marriage can be dissolved. In John 4:17-18, Jesus recognized that the woman at the well had been married to 5 husbands and was currently living with someone she wasn’t even married to.

“The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

Due to the fact that she was currently living with a man to whom she was not married would certainly give way to the fact that her past 5 husbands didn’t just all die naturally. As she admitted, her moral living was not above par. He didn’t tell her that she was “still married in the eyes of God to her first husband.” In fact, He acknowledged that these men had been her husbands and that she currently had no husband.

If marriage was not dissolved through divorce, then Jesus would have told the woman to return to her original spouse, or He would have told her to return to the last man to whom she was scripturally married. However, that wasn’t what Jesus said. Instead, Jesus acknowledged that the woman had been married 5 times. Jesus taught that the woman had no husband (Jn. 4:17). Divorce, even unlawfully, dissolves marriage according to Jesus."

That is the way I see the case of the woman at the well and I do not believe that those who promote the idea that a marriage entered without scriptural grounds becomes a case of "living in adultery" have any proof of their position from either the case of Herod or from the case of the woman at the well.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Error of Eternal Justification

The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 say this concerning Justification:

“God did from all eternity decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did in the fullness of time die for their sins, and rise again for their justification; nevertheless, they are not justified personally, until the Holy Spirit doth in time actually apply Christ unto them."

And they give these verses as proof:

( Galatians 3:8; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Timothy 2:6; Romans 4:25; Colossians 1:21,22; Titus 3:4-7 )

The question at hand is - when were the Elect justified? In answer to this question there are three views.

1) In eternity past, when God decreed or determined to justify certain persons, such as those denominated by the terms "elect" or "believer." This is the view commonly called the Hyper Calvinistic view, and was taught and believed by such great Baptist Calvinists as Samuel Richardson (signatory to the 1644 London Confession), John Gill and John Brine (two giants among the 18th century Particular Baptists), and many today among the "Primitive Baptists."

2) At the Cross when Christ died and paid the penalty for those he represented. The resurrection of Christ being the proof that such a justification took place upon his sacrificial death.

3) At the time when a sinner first believes in Christ and is converted.

Many have written on this subject and anyone who wants to study it thoroughly will want to read from those who defend each of the three views. The debate over this question has produced voluminous writings on the topic. My job in this series of postings on the question will be to give a concise summation of each point of view, striving as much as possible towards brevity and against verbosity.

Though I have studied this issue in depth over the years, at various times, I was led to review it once again as a result of reading Hardshell David Pyles' writing on the subject titled "Justification in Baptist History and Scripture (First Revision)." It can be found HERE. It is rather a lengthy writing and he gives a lot of citations from Baptists of former times who taught that the elect were justified in eternity past, such as from the men I have already mentioned as holding that view. Pyles accepts that view and he seems to speak for his Hardshell brothers.

He admits that the view expressed in the 1689 London Confession is against eternal justification and rather upholds the view that sinners are not justified until they are united to Christ by faith. This is the confession that the Hardshells endorsed in the Fulton Convention of Primitive Baptists in 1900 as being the confession of their forefathers who began the denomination in the 1830s. So, the view that was once "primitive" or "original" Baptist doctrine was not the eternal justification view of Pyles and today's Hardshells. They can hardly claim therefore to be primitive or original on this issue. Further, Pyles does not state this fact; not only did his Baptist forefathers of the 17th century reject both views, either that the elect were justified in eternity past or at the cross, but that most of his forefathers in the 1830s also rejected it and believed what the London Confession stated on the issue.

The point is simply this: the view of Pyles, though held to by some Baptist scholars, such as Richardson, Gill, and Brine, it has nevertheless only been accepted by but a few, nor has it ever been made into an official article in any Baptist or Protestant confession of faith. The accepted creedal majority position of Baptists, Particular or General, has been to affirm just what the Confession cited at the outset affirms. No one is justified until he believes and this is what is meant in scripture as being "justified by faith."

One must ask why Pyles and today's Hardshells want to grab hold of the idea of eternal justification? Having been a Hardshell I can tell you why. It is because they are firmly intent on divorcing faith from having anything to do with being eternally saved in heaven. They are resolved to uphold the late 19th century statement of Elder Waters who said - "Every regenerate child of Adam is saved eternally, faith or no faith." Of course, anyone who seeks to defend that idea, as Pyles, will want to deny that sinners are actually justified when they believe. But, the effort to prove that faith is not essential to actual justification is an impossible task. Pyles does not add anything to the argumentation already given in favor of eternal justification by such men as Gill. Neither does he refute the arguments made against it and in favor of justification at the point of faith. I recently wrote on how the Hardshells of today decry the importance and necessity of faith for salvation and Pyles simply reinforces that accusation.

In Pyle's writing he is willing to accept the view that the elect were justified on the cross, a view that some of his brethren accept. He is willing to accept either the eternal justification view or the justification at the cross view, but not the justification upon faith view. And why? Because the first two views do not require faith for justification! So, either one of those two views are acceptable. What he cannot tolerate is any view that makes faith in Christ essential for justification or for eternal salvation. He and his Hardshell brethren are so dedicated to the idea that many unbelievers will be saved that they will fight the idea that actual justification occurs through the instrumentality of faith. That is sad indeed.

In closing this introductory chapter on this topic I want to add this observation on men like Richardson, Gill, and Brine, men who held to the view that the elect were justified in eternity past when God purposed or decreed their justification. Though these men erred on this topic, yet they can hardly be seen as upholding the Hardshell notion that gospel or evangelical faith was not required to be saved in heaven. All these men believed that faith was necessary to be saved in heaven and that all who die without such faith in Christ, via the gospel, would be eternally lost.

In the next several postings we will give reasons why the view that justification has occurred either in eternity past or at the cross is false and show why the traditional teaching of Baptists and of the Protestant reformers concerning "justification by faith" is correct.