Monday, December 18, 2017

Do You Warn The Wicked?

"When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself." (Eze. 3:18-19 NASB)

"Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life." (Eze. 33:7-9)

Why do our modern Hardshells not feel the weight of these words? Why do they not tremble at hearing them? Do they warn the wicked? Or, do they only feed the sheep? If they do warn the wicked, of what do they warn them? If they warn them of the final judgment, and of hell fire, then to what purpose? Is it not in order to awaken them from sleep in regard to their soul's danger? Is it not in order that the wicked man might "turn from his way," that is, that he might repent?

Hardshells today admit that they have no message to preach to the wicked who is doomed to die in sin. They believe it is silly to preach to the spiritually dead, as much as preaching to or giving warning to stones. So, they do not warn the wicked. They only warn the righteous, and not in respect of any final judgment upon their souls, but in regard to things pertaining to this life only.

This failure at warning the wicked is not what characterized their forefathers. They believed in warning the spiritually dead, "the wicked," and believed that it was serious business.

So, how did the first Baptist do along this line? Did he not say to the wicked in his day - "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt. 3:7) That is a real "primitive" Baptist!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fate of those who "live ungodly"?

"And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (I Peter 4:18 kjv)


1) Who is denoted by "the ungodly" and by "the sinner"?
2) Who is denoted by "the righteous"?
3) What is the destiny of "the ungodly and the sinner"?

I find it hard to believe that most modern Hardshells will contend

1) that many of "the ungodly and the sinner" will be "saved" along with "the righteous"
2) that many believers in false gods and religions are "saved" and not a part "the ungodly"
3) that eternal salvation or damnation are not under consideration in the text

Nevertheless, the clear teaching of the text is that "the righteous" are not of the class designated as "the ungodly" and "the sinner," and that the one class will be "saved," both now and forever, while the other class will not be saved, but will suffer punishment forever. It is also clear that "unbelievers" are not in the class of "the righteous" and that "believers" are not in the class of "the ungodly and the sinner." This is acknowledged by all, except the Hardshells and Universalists.

Wrote Dr. Gill in his commentary on this verse (emphasis mine):

"where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? the profane sinner, the Christless, impenitent, unbelieving, and unregenerate man; otherwise all men are sinners, in themselves; but here it means such as are destitute of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit, and the justifying righteousness of Christ, and that live and die in their sins: where shall such appear? not in the congregation of the righteous; nor at the right hand of Christ; nor in heaven, into which no defiled sinner shall enter..."

The Ungodly

"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked..." (II Peter 2:4-7 kjv)

"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 1: 4-7)

Notice the clear fate of those who "live ungodly." The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by God in wrath is "an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly," said Peter. Those who live ungodly "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," said Jude.

Why do the Hardshells of today teach that many of "those who live ungodly" will not suffer eternal vengeance? Why do they say - "how people live matters not in the matter of salvation"? Why do they call unbelievers "godly"?

Notice these verses that help us to see the character and destiny of those who are, because of having no love and faith in Christ, "ungodly."

"To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 1:15 kjv)

"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." (II Peter 3:7 kjv)

It is clear that the "judgment" that will be executed upon "all that are ungodly" is that which results from the second coming of the Lord and "the day of judgment and perdition."

If one rejects Christ and the gospel, is he not "ungodly"?

"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." (I Cor. 16:22 kjv)

All non Christians, or all those who do not become Christians, are to be declared "anathema" at the second coming of Christ ("maranatha").

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Elder Sarber's Excellent Teaching

I recommend that people read and listen to the teachings of brother Jeremy Sarber, now an associate editor and trustee of this blog. Two excellent recent teachings, given in expository sermons, are "What is Ecclesiastes about and what its main message?" (see here) and "What does justification by faith mean? (Romans chapter 3 explained)" (see here).

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Spirit Received By Faith

Over the years I have introduced many statements from scripture that prove that faith (belief) in the God of holy scripture, and in the good news about salvation through Christ the Son of God, is

1. A necessary condition for being finally saved
2. An integral part of what it means to be regenerated, born again, renewed, or to have spiritual and eternal life

Once I quit resisting the truth of those statements of scripture, and stopped twisting and distorting their true meaning, I was amazed at how blind I was, when I was a Hardshell, and how hardened I was against the truth, and how I was in a cult. The following verse of scripture is just one of those verses.

Galatians 3:2 - "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?"

In looking over the various English translations and studying the Greek text, I found that the Amplified gave a good translation. It reads:

"Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?]"

Next, notice these two good translations:

Phillips - "I will ask you one simple question: did you receive the Spirit of God by trying to keep the Law or by believing the message of the Gospel?"

Wuest - "This only am I desiring to learn from you. By means of law works did you receive the Spirit or by means of the message which proclaims faith?"

Paul's Socratic rhetorical assumes that the Galatians knew when they had "received the Spirit." Paul takes it for granted that they knew when and how they had received the Spirit and this fact is presupposed in the question he asks. So, we may read it as follows:

"Since you know when and how you received the Spirit, let me ask you - how and when did you receive the Spirit?"

Paul assumes that they know the answer. If he did not assume this, then why ask the question? Especially since the answer to the question will serve as the major premise in his syllogism?

But, if Paul assumes that they know the answer, then his thinking is unlike our modern anti means and anti faith Hardshells. If the reception of the Spirit denotes regeneration or new birth, then his question shows that the Galatians knew when they were regenerated. But, the Hardshells, most of them, affirm that very few of the regenerated know when they were regenerated or born again. Many of them say that they have always believed since they were small children. Many of them even think that they were "regenerated" when they were in the womb. But, very few of them can tell you when and how.

In Acts 5:32 we have a similar statement - "and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." The word "obey" is used as a synonym of believe. Believing is obeying for God commands all to believe the gospel.

Wrote Dr. Gill:

received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? This question supposes they had received the Spirit; that is, the Spirit of God, as a spirit of wisdom and knowledge in the revelation of Christ; as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification; as a spirit of faith and adoption; and as the earnest, seal, and pledge of their future glory.

Not only does the question presuppose that the Galatians had indeed "received" the Holy Spirit, and that Paul knew it, but also that the Galatians knew it. They not only knew that they had received the Spirit but knew when and how. Gill says that...

"this belongs to the Gospel, "or the hearing of faith"; for by "faith", is meant the Gospel, and particularly the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ's righteousness; and by "the hearing" of it, the preaching of it, the report of it, ( Isaiah 53:1 ) which, in the Hebrew text, is (wntemv) , "our hearing", that by which the Gospel is heard and understood. Now in this way the Spirit of God is received; while the Gospel is preaching he falls on them that hear it, conveys himself into their hearts, and begets them again by the word of truth: and in this way the Galatians came by the Spirit, and which is another aggravation of their folly, that they should enjoy so great an advantage by the Gospel, and yet be so easily removed from it." (emphasis mine)

How any Hardshell can continue to claim that Dr. Gill taught the Hardshell anti means view in the light of such comments is astounding. Notice how clear is his statement that the Lord "begets them again by the word of truth." Is that not what Paul was teaching or did the great doctor miss it? Why is it that nearly the whole Christian world so understands the teaching of Paul in the text and yet Hardshells resist seeing it?

How can the Hardshells "get around" the clear teaching of the text? The only way is to get creative with the text, to take liberties with it and say (perhaps) that the receiving of the Holy Spirit is not regeneration. But, this is wholly untenable for the Galatian context and the context of the entire new testament forbids it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Luke 12:46 - A Hardshell Response

A Hardshell has written to me in response to my previous posting The Portion Of Unbelievers. He wrote:

"I'll have to study that verse alot more. I have no idea what that verse is saying. So far I don't see any salvation or anything of significance in that verse. I'll keep looking."

Here is the verse of scripture:

"The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers." (Luke 12:46 kjv)

How can this Hardshell brother not see that these verses are dealing with salvation and damnation?

John Gill in his commentary wrote (emphasis mine):

and will cut him in sunder, and appoint him his portion with unbelievers; whose portion is the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death, Revelation 21:8 and by these are meant, not only the Heathens, who never heard of Christ; nor the Jews only, who disbelieved the Messiah, and rejected him when he came; but all deists and atheists, who deny revelation; even all unbelievers of, and scoffers at the coming of Christ, and who put away the evil day far from them

This passage is to be compared with Matt. 24: 51 - "and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The place of weeping and gnashing (cf Mt. 8:12;. 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Lk. 13:28) is a clear description of hell. The Matthew passage almost perfectly parallels Luke 12:46 and strongly supports the interpretation that the "place" or "portion" is hell (gehenna).

W E Vine, as well as nearly all bible commentaries, affirm that both passages speak of retribution beyond this life. Why do the Hardshells not see it?


1. When does the judgment take place?

Answer - when the Lord comes. It is a judgment that takes place when the Lord comes. Therefore, it can be no temporal judgment. It is the same thing often referred to in scripture. Christ will "judge the living and the dead" when he returns. (I Tim. 4:1)

2. What is the punishment inflicted?

Answer - To suffer capitally, to receive the severest sentence.

Nothing of salvation or condemnation in the text? Nothing of any significance?  What is the place of the unbelievers and of the hypocrites? If it is not hell, it must be heaven! Thus, this is how many Hardshells become functional or quasi Universalists.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

More Hard Questions for Hardshells

Recently in Hard Nut Questions For Hardshells I posed two questions towards my Hardshell brethren who think that faith in Christ is unessential for either being born again or for obtaining final salvation. In this posting I want to advance a couple more questions along the same line.

1. Is coming to Christ necessary in order to be eternally saved?
2. What does it mean to come to Christ?

On God Decreeing The Fall

I have often warned people of the dangers of fighting an extreme view. Sometimes fighting an extreme causes one to go to an opposite extreme. On any road there is a ditch on either side into which one may fall. Staying on the road and avoiding the ditches of extremism in bible interpretation requires constant care and attention. Many vehicles have ended up in the ditch because the driver was careless and thus did not stay in the road.

When it comes to understanding the "decrees of God," or predestination, many people have a hard time keeping the car on the road, failing to correctly understand or accept the truth of the bible on the subject. Just ask the average person this question - "did God will the fall of man?"

Jerome Zanchius in his famous work on the subject, wrote:

"Surely, if God had not willed the fall, He could, and no doubt would, have prevented it; but He did not prevent it: ergo He willed it. And if He willed it, He certainly decreed it, for the decree of God is nothing else but the seal and ratification of His Will. He does nothing but what He decreed, and He decreed nothing which He did not will, and both will and decree are absolutely eternal, though the execution of both be in time." (see here)

I find this argumentation irrefutable.

In the 1689 London Baptist Confession, it is thus written:

"...his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission..." (1689 London Confession, section 5, Divine Providence)

This is also what the "Primitive" or "Old School" Baptists all believed and taught for the first several decades of their separate existence. Prior to the Civil War it was the belief of nearly all of the PBs that all things come to pass as a result of God's decree, or predestination.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fate of the Fruitless

"...every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire...He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:10, 12 nasb)

"He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit...Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit...Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned." (John 15:1-6 nasb)

"For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:8-11 KJV)

These passages clearly show that those who do not bear fruit (which must include evangelical faith) will be eternally lost. Those Hardshells who teach that unbelievers (fruitless) will be saved are against them.

The great Hardshell apologist and debater, Elder C.H. Cayce, wrote:

"All God's children, according to this view, would be a fruit-bearing class." (Editorial Writings - see here) And, Cayce and his modern followers do not believe that all the elect and called are a "fruit-bearing class."

Modern anti means Hardshells will

1. Affirm that many of the Lord's born again people will not bear fruit (have faith).

2. Affirm that the fruitless persons in the above passages will be saved.

3. Affirm that condemnation rendered against the fruitless is not eternal.

In affirming these things, they put themselves in opposition to the clear teachings of these verses of scripture.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Augustine - All The Elect Will Believe

Jerome Zanchius cites Augustine as follows (emphasis mine):

"Agreeable to all which is that of Augustine:* "Whatsoever persons are, through the riches of Divine grace, exempted from the original sentence of condemnation are undoubtedly brought to hear the Gospel, and when heard, they are caused to believe it, and are made likewise to endure to the end in the faith which works by love, and should they at any time go astray, they are recovered and set right again." A little after he adds:"All these things are wrought in them by that God who made them vessels of mercy, and who, by the election of His grace, chose them, in His Son, before the world began." * De Corrept. et Grat. cap. 7." (see here)

Well, amen to that!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

PBs and "Duty Faith"

In "What Is Duty Faith And Is It Biblical?," the editors at wrote:

"Both John Newton in 1770 and Arthur w. Pink in 1936 presented reasoning from Scripture to support the doctrine of “duty faith”. Their writings on this subject also lend great support to the precept that “Gospel preaching” is a means utilized of God in Salvation. I would like to note at this point that many people who go by the name of “Primitive Baptist” do NOT agree with Gospel preaching being a means God uses to bring unsaved sinners to Christ and they have come up with a system of theology that attempts to justify their position, a position that is often referred to as “hyper” Calvinism"." (see here)

I say "amen" to that. I have written much on this subject and anyone interested can put in the words "duty faith" in the search box and find those writings.

Friday, November 24, 2017

If Saved, Then You Will Persevere

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (I John 2:19)

Albert Barnes wrote the following in his commentary on this verse (emphasis mine):

"They went out from us - From the church. That is, they had once been professors of the religion of the Saviour, though their apostasy showed that they never had any true piety."

"But they were not of us - That is, they did not really belong to us, or were not true Christians. See the notes at Matthew 7:23. This passage proves that these persons, whatever their pretensions and professions may have been, were never sincere Christians. The same remark may be made of all who apostatize from the faith, and become teachers of error. They never were truly converted; never belonged really to the spiritual church of Christ."

For if they had been of us - If they had been sincere and true Christians.

They would no doubt have continued with us - The words "no doubt" are supplied by our translators, but the affirmation is equally strong without them: "they would have remained with us." This affirms, without any ambiguity or qualification, that if they had been true Christians they "would" have remained in the church; that is, they would not have apostatized. There could not be a more positive affirmation than that which is implied here, that those who are true Christians will continue to be such; or that the saints will not fall away from grace. John affirms it of these persons, that if they had been true Christians they would never have departed from the church. He makes the declaration so general that it may be regarded as a universal truth, that if "any" are truly "of us," that is, if they are true Christians, they will continue in the church, or will never fall away. The statement is so made also as to teach that if any "do" fall away from the church, the fact is full proof that they never had any religion, for if they had had they would have remained steadfast in the church.

But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us..."

This is old Baptist doctrine. It is clearly the teaching of the Apostle John. How did today's Hardshells slide so far away from the truth as to deny it? Do they not now teach that many "antichrists" are elect and called? What an awful heresy!

You Know All Things

The apostle John wrote:

"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (I John 2: 20)

What does the apostle mean when he says that Christians, those who "have an unction" from the Lord, "know all things"? Certainly he does not mean to say that Christians are omniscient. Rather, it seems to me, that John is saying - "you see the big picture." He is saying - "you know the reason for all things," that is, "you know why God created the world, and what is the purpose behind all things." You know that "of him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom. 11: 36), that everything has meaning and purpose, has a destiny. (Eccl. 3: 1; Prov. 16: 4) John is affirming that Christians have insight into the why of things.

For the whole article from which this citation is taken, see Hardshells And Predestination IV.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Portion of the Unbelievers

"The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers." (Luke 12:46 kjv)

More Questions For Hardshells

1. What is the character of "that servant"? Saved or lost?

2. What is the destiny of "that servant"? Heaven or Hell?

3. What destiny is intended in the words "portion with the unbelievers"?

4. Who are "the unbelievers"? Are they saved or lost?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dr. Piper on Handling Criticism

Dr. John Piper, a teacher to be admired, wrote the following on how to handle criticism. In the article "How Do I Process Personal Criticism?" he said (emphasis mine):

"Today we talk about the grace of receiving personal criticism from others and learning from those criticisms for personal growth. There are some incredibly vivid proverbs on this, like Proverbs 17:10: “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”

So how do we receive rebuke as a wise man seeking greater wisdom? And specifically, Pastor John, how do you do it? It’s the question from an anonymous listener in Australia. “Hello, Pastor John! I was wondering how you deal with personal criticisms from others? How do you process them, learn from them, and determine which ones are accurate and which ones are not?”"

Dr. Piper next gives these words in reply under the following headings.

Desire Growth

First, realize that according to Scripture, it is wise to be eager to grow through rebuke, rather than eager to defend yourself.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. (Proverbs 17:10)

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:8)

Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. (Proverbs 19:25)

Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. (Psalms 141:5)

So it’s wise to want and receive correction, rebuke, and criticism.

Be Persuadable

Second, I try to make it my aim to be humble and open rather than being controlled by anger at words of criticism. I say I try.

James says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason” (James 3:17). I love that little phrase because the Greek word for “open to reason” is “persuadable.” In other words, you’ve just said something, then somebody disagrees, they say something back to you, and then you are persuadable. You’re going to listen. You are willing to be changed if you’re wrong.

James also says, “My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). So humility listens; anger pushes back really quickly. Let’s strive to be humble and not quick and self-defensive in anger.

Cling to Promises

Third, when I feel knocked off balance by criticism or deeply destabilized, which can really happen — it can go really deep sometimes and shake you deeply — I pray for God to hold on to me and guide me, and I try to trust his promises. The psalmist states, “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalms 139:9–10). I really need to feel that God is holding me if I’m being pummeled by somebody, or hundreds, and feel like I’m being knocked off balance in my life.

“Aim to be humble and open rather than being controlled by anger at words of criticism.”

James also says, “My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). So humility listens; anger pushes back really quickly. Let’s strive to be humble and not quick and self-defensive in anger.

Test Everything

Fourth, I try to test everything by the word of God, not just by my preferences or tradition. That includes testing not just ideas, but also attitudes and behaviors. “Test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Or Psalm 119:24: “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.”

So what if you’re criticized for being unloving? First John 5:2 is a real stabilizing help. It says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

In other words, the measure is not just my feeling wobbly right now because I just got criticized for being loving or unloving. The question is, Was I in obedience to his commandments — his word? Was I following his word when I said what I said or did what I did? So measure the criticisms by the word of God.

Give It Time

Fifth (this is so practically important — for me, anyway), give yourself time to consider the criticism before you speak. The flesh, my flesh, is quick to strike out in defense. I’m thinking first of marriage. The person who corrects me most often in the universe is my wife.

Ask for Counsel

Sixth, surround yourselves with enough people who can give balanced assessment of what you’re being criticized for. Proverbs 11:14 reads, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

I would say safety, not just from outside, but safety from your own despair over how many people have criticized you. If people who know you (eight of them, for example) say, “No, no, no. You have not done what they say you have done,” that’s a huge stabilizing force. This is especially true when assessing really serious criticism. We need to ask wise counselors whether they see in us the things we’re being criticized for.

Final Judgement

One last thing: we do what Jesus did when he was abused. This is whether it’s true or not, right or wrong. Jesus “entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). For us, as sinners, that means we do not pass final judgment on ourselves. Others do not pass final judgment on us. God has the final word in Christ. It’s our only hope that he would treat us graciously because of Christ.

None of us is without sin, and therefore, probably there’s a grain of truth in every criticism. But the gospel will keep us from sinking in despair.

That is all good advice from Dr. Piper. God help us all to follow it.

Hardshell Elder Gathering

This is a pic of the ministers attending the 2016 Smoky Mountain Primitive Baptist Meeting, a bi-annual meeting of Hardshells (mostly preachers). (see here)

I attended this meeting a couple times when I was a Hardshell and even once after I had left them. It was begun by Elder Gene Barker, a preacher I met as a young Hardshell preacher in the 70s. This meeting has become a place for preachers to go and show off their preaching talents and to discuss the affairs of the Hardshell denomination.

My nephew, Elder John Davenport, has been attending these meetings, especially since father passed away. I suppose he feels as though he needs these elders as he tries to pastor the church father pastored in Ohio. He is the young minister seated in the front row, fourth from the right.

Does anyone notice anything unusual about this picture? Where are the young preachers? Does this picture not reflect the state of the denomination as a whole?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Faith Is Not Necessary

The following is a response from a Hardshell to my posting hard nut questions for hardshells and these two questions: 1. Is faith necessary for eternal salvation? 2. What is faith?

"My answers will probably be too short for your liking, but here it goes.

1. Is faith necessary for eternal salvation? No

2. What is faith? Faith is the outward works shown by the child of God, given as a gift from the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:8-10). No matter how small that faith might be. A tree is known by its fruit. Although, that answer does make me think about the Hindu or Muslim. Does the Hindu or Muslim show faith for Jesus Christ? I would say no. But do they believe in God? I would say yes. Aren't the Hindu and the Muslims in the same camp as the Jews? Are we to say that all Jews who reject Christ are not born again?"

The Errors

1. Faith is works, outward works

But, these scriptures prove otherwise:

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth" (Rom. 4:5)
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace" (vs. 16)

2. Faith is outward, not inward

"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Rom. 10:10)

Works are the fruit of faith, but they are not the same. All is by faith, for "whatever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14: 20)

3. Hindus and Muslims "believe" in "God" but not in Jesus

But, the Hindus and the Muslims do not believe in the true God. In fact, basic Hindu belief is polytheistic. To call Hindus and Muslims "believers" and contend that the term "believer" in scripture includes such people is a gross interpretation. The bible would call such religious people "heathen" or "unbelievers." But, more on this shortly.

4. Jews who reject Jesus are born again

But, this is not taught in scripture. If so, where is it taught? Explicitly taught? Is it not explicitly taught in scripture that unbelieving Jews, those who reject Christ and the NT revelation, are lost?

"I said therefore unto you (Jews), that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8: 24 kjv)

5. Faith in God seems to be necessary 
(but not right conceptions about God)

The Hardshell in his response seems to want to make some kind of faith necessary for salvation, even though he states positively that faith is not necessary for eternal salvation (or to be constituted one of the "elect" and "called").

When he expressly says that faith is not required to be eternally saved, he is defining "faith" as the NT defines it, as being a belief in the one true God and in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the good news of salvation through Christ. However, when he argues for the heathen having "faith" or being a "believer," then he seems to want to make "faith" universal in all the regenerate.

The Hardshell brother wants to define "faith" as religious belief, truth not being a necessary object to faith.


1. What kind of tree (regeneration, life) is it that has no fruit of faith?
2. Can one be saved without believing in religion or divinities?


I. Faith is the gift of the Spirit


1. Faith is the gift of God
2. Faith is good works
3. Good works are the gift of God

II. Faith is believing in some religion or deity

It seems that the position of this Hardshell brother affirms that atheists have as much a reason to expect to go to Heaven as the believer in Jesus.

Faith is not defined by this writer. Or, at least, not well defined. It is said to be "outward works" and to involve believing in "God," but not believing in Jesus. But, it seems clear that "faith," bible faith, according to this Hardshell brother, is equated with "religious belief." But, this is not a bible definition.

Is "faith" ("religious belief") necessary to salvation? When he says that "faith" is not necessary to salvation, is he denying that religious belief is necessary? Does he not affirm even the salvation of atheists? And, is not this Universalism?

I am sure that when he says that faith is NOT necessary for salvation, that he is thinking of faith as it is generally defined in Scripture and among the Christian community, as a belief in the the Hebrew God and in his Son Jesus, or a belief in the Trinity, in which name all who enter the community are immersed. This is the faith that our Hardshell brother deems unessential for salvation, and as no essential part of the spiritual life given of God in regeneration and renewal. But, if one defines "faith" in an odd and novel way, as do the Hardshells, then "faith" may be essential to salvation and thus what is universal in all the elect and born again.

Necessity of Faith for Salvation

The following post shows clearly that faith in the revelation of Scripture is a necessity for being eternally saved.

Gospel Means Of Grace VII

C. H. Spurgeon said:

"Where there is no faith, there has been no quickening of the Holy Spirit, for faith is of the very essence of spiritual life." (Faith Essential to Pleasing God, MTP, Sermon #2100, Vol. 35, 446).

That is the truth of scripture and one must be blind not to see it. This is also the great truth taught by Baptists throughout history. The only ones to deny such a truth are the Universalists and the quasi Universalist Hardshells like this Hardshell brother.

Notice this verse of scripture that came to my mind as I read the response of this Hardshell to my two hard nut questions for Hardshells.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24 kjv)

These words clearly identify those who have spiritual life and who shall be finally saved in Heaven. Who are they? How can they be identified and known? What is it that separates them from the world? They "hear" the "word" of Christ and "believe" in the Father and Son.

What about the unbeliever?

"he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16: 16)

"but he that believeth not is condemned already..." (John 3: 18)

"...he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36)

"...he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." (I John 5:10)

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8)

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6)

"Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief...Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Heb. 4:6, 11)

Fulton Confession of Faith of Primitive Baptists, from the "Fulton Convention" (1900) in Fulton, Ky., endorsed the London Confession of 1689. The record of that convention is - "The London Confession of Faith was approved by a unanimous vote of the meeting."

Here is what these Hardshells said about the old 1689 Confession:

8. The London Confession of Faith, adopted over 200 years ago by thirty-seven of the ablest ministers of England and Wales, representing over 100 churches, has served one of the most needful services among our people of any document of faith since the days of the apostles, and has stood unquestioned as an expression of the Primitive Baptists’ interpretation of the Bible from then till now. At the present assembly of 51 ministers, representing 335 churches, aggregating 14,500 members in direct correspondence with over 100,000 Baptists, the Confession has been carefully read and approved.

So, this brother, in saying that "faith" is not necessary to be eternally saved, is against the faith of his fathers. Here is what the 1689 Confession says about faith and salvation.


1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, the work of the Spirit of CHRIST a in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened.

2. By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word on the authority of God Himself...and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed...but the principal acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the Covenant of Grace.

I hope this brother will become an old or original Baptist and adopt what the 1689 Confession affirms on the topic.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hard Nut Questions For Hardshells

These are simple questions for Christians. They are not simple questions for Hardshell cultists.

1. Is faith necessary for eternal salvation?
2. What is faith?

Conviction - Evidence of New Birth?

Wrote Samuel Rutherford:

"All these foregoing endeavors and sweatings, being void of faithcannot please God, Heb. 11:6. These who act in the strength of them are yet in the flesh, and not in the Spirit, and so can do nothing acceptable to God, being yet out of Christ, Rom. 8:8, John 15:4-6. And the tree being corrupt, the fruit must be sour, and naught; humiliationsorrow for sindispleasure with ourselves, that go before conversion, can be no formal parts of conversion..."

"Those are not moral preparations which we perform beforeconversion, nor have they any promise of Christ annexed to them, as, He that is humbled under sin shall be drawn to Christ, or He that wisheth the Physician, shall be cured and called to repentance. We read of no such promise in the word..."

"Many have storms of conscience, as Cain and Judas, who go never one step further. When, therefore, Antinomians impute to us that we teach, That to desire to believe is faith, or desire to pray is prayer, they foully mistake. For raw desires, and wishes after conversion and Christ, are to us no more conversion, and the soul's being drawn to Christ, than Esau's weeping for the blessing was the blessing, or Balaam's wish to die the death of the righteous was the happy end of such as die in the Lord..."

"The humiliation and sorrow for sin, and desire of the Physician, by way of merit, or having the favor of a gospel promise, do no more render a soul nearer to Christ and saving grace, than the want of these dispositions..."  (As cited by me here)

Wrote Stephen Charnock:

"The soul must be beaten down by conviction before it be raised up by regeneration; there must be some apprehensions of the necessity of it. Yet sometimes the work of regeneration follows so close upon the heels of these precious preparations, that both must be acknowledged to be the work of one and the same hand."  (As cited by me here)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Good Policy

I agree with the following statement:

"I have a policy of not answering ambush questions. There's no right answer to the wrong question. I reserve the right to reformulate trick questions, loaded questions." (Steve Hays - see here)

I try to always answer legitimate questions, but I will not be gullible. I also ask a lot of questions, all designed to help a person reach the right conclusion, or the truth.

A Critique of a Pb Statement of Faith

The web page for Franklin Primitive Baptist Church or Thompson Memorial Primitive Baptist Church (see here), the church founded by father, there are these three statements of faith.

"The Primitive Baptists believe that if you have a fear of God and are mournful over your sins that you are showing evidence that God has already done something for you that is wonderful…being born again!"

This is what father believed, after he fell into Hardshell errors. It is also what most modern "Primitive Baptists" profess to believe. However, it is not the belief of the oldest Baptist churches nor is it biblical. I have written on this subject extensively, showing how heretical and harmful it is. See these postings:

On Conviction I
On Conviction II
On Conviction III
Wilson Thompson on Conviction
What Do You Say?
Hardshells Make The Spirit A Liar

On whether fear of God is in itself an evidence of rebirth, see these postings:

Hardshell Proof Texts X
The Gospel...
Fearing God

Next, the web page says:

"Many people teach that you have to accept the gift of eternal life, in order to make the atonement of Jesus Christ effective. We’re here to tell you that the gift of eternal life was already chosen, before the foundation of the world, for a great multitude of people. (Eph 1:4-6)"

I also have written much against the ideas put forth in these words. See these postings:

Hardshell Prayers
Hermeneutical Problems For Hardshells V
Saved By Faith?
Hermeneutical Problems For Hardshells VI
Hermeneutical Problems For Hardshells III
Demolishing Hardshell Reasoning

The idea that one can "have" eternal life without having "received" or "accepted" it! Absurd! The idea that men who reject eternal life have it any way! Universalism!

Next, the web page says:

"Eternal Salvation is a gift from God, not of man and certainly not of works. If you have to believe the gospel in order to be saved, that is a work! Believing and accepting that Jesus Christ died for your sins, is a work. Only Gods grace, delivered by the Holy Spirit, can save the dead sinner and bring him/her to spiritual life. (Eph 2:8-10)"

What a false dilemma is set up here! Faith is works! Salvation is not by faith for by grace excludes by faith! In response to this false proposition, see these postings:

Hardshell Presuppositions
Oliphant vs Pence

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thoughts About Father

My father, Eddie K. Garrett Sr., passed away about a year and a half ago and I have thought of him many times. The Lord willing, I will meet him again in the third heaven. I have written some already about father, and my relationship with him. I have spoken of the things that we agreed upon as well as those we did not agree on. In this posting, I want to share some additional thoughts about him.

Father was firmly dedicated to his Christian faith. I am so glad that he was. I know he is in heaven because he was a "true believer" in the Bible, and in what it taught about God and about the world he created. Father did not miss going to church. In about sixty years of going to church I think he missed Sunday service one time, when he had open heart surgery. Bible study, praying, evangelizing, and other such Christian practices, were habit for father. They were not hobbies and sidelines.

When I think of the words that best describe father's Christian faith, his beliefs and practices, yea, his "spirit," these come first to mind: dogmatic, staunch, strict, intolerant, firm, resolute, unwavering, unmoved, uncompromising, hard-shell, stubborn, persevering, resilient, bold. I think of these words and I study them. I think - why did I not include love, mercy, gentleness, meekness, goodness, kindness, tolerance, etc., in the list? Did father not show these qualities? Yes, he did. Stories flood my mind when I think of the many times father exhibited those qualities and spirit. Father could be a lamb as well as a lion.

Father was at one time a believer in the very doctrines that I now hold dear. It was not till he converted to Hardshellism in the mid 60s that he began to seriously alter his beliefs on several important areas of bible doctrine. I have often considered how things would have been different for both him and me had he remained a sovereign grace missionary Baptist. I have also often thought about the reasons why father forsook the truth he once believed in order to embrace Hardshell heresies. Here are some of my responses to these questions.

Had father remained with the real primitive Baptists, the old time predestinarian Baptists, what would have been the results for his ministerial labors and for his religious beliefs?

Had father remained a sovereign grace Missionary Baptist


1. He would have been spared becoming a member of a cult.
2. He would have been kept from the "damnable heresies" of the Hardshells.
3. He would have been instrumental in the salvation of many more souls.
4. He would have experienced greater Christian growth.
5. The church he founded and pastored would have grown larger in number.
6. He would have preached the gospel to sinners.
7. He would have been spared all the trouble that came to him by the leaders of the cult.
8. His preaching would have been more Christ centered than church centered.
9. He would have been happier.
10. He would have been more gentle and forbearing.


1. He would not have preached as much among churches other than his own.
2. He would not have enjoyed as much praise and recognition among the Missionary churches.
3. His standing among his brethren would have been less, having more competition for position.

I have stated in my book on the Hardshells how that I believe that father was attracted to the cult because he felt like he would be more utilized among the Hardshells. I think he saw how elder Bradley was welcomed and given numerous opportunities to preach and desired the same. He saw his entrance into the Hardshell cult as a way for him to enlarge his labors, which were geared more to debating and apologetics than to soul winning.

Had father remained a Missionary Baptist, then it would have affected my life. I would not have become a Hardshell. I would not have married my first wife (who was a Hardshell). I would perhaps have gone to seminary, become a Missionary Baptist preacher, and then who knows how many other things would have been different?

Father believed in the five points of Calvinism as a Missionary Baptist. I would have embraced that just as I did as a Hardshell. Father believed in the perseverance of the saints as I do now. Father believed that regeneration and conversion occurred together, and that the preached word was the means, as I do now. Father also believed in the predestination of all things as I do now.

I remember listening to the debate that father had with Howard See of the "Church of Christ" back in the mid sixties, a year or so before he converted to Hardshellism. That debate was excellent! He preached and ably defended the very truths that I now hold dear, and are the very truths that the real "Primitive Baptists" have historically confessed. I use to ask father to send me that old debate (an old reel to reel) but he never would let me have it after I left the PBs!

I love my father and forgive him for having taught me errors in doctrine. He is in heaven and now holds to no errors. I rejoice in the great truths he did not turn away from but I will always regret his choice to join the Hardshells.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Problem in Interpretation

"But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." (I Cor. 5: 11 KJV)

Many years ago I had great difficulty in regard to this passage. In a church in which I was a member we had a man and wife who were members and one of them (the wife) came under the condemnation of the church and the church was forced to deal with her after the manner prescribed by the apostle in the above passage. Each member of the church was forbidden "to eat" with that censured member, or to have fellowship with her. The problem? Was this to be done by the woman's husband? If it was, then was he forbidden to eat with his wife? To have fellowship with her? Some in the church thought that the husband was to obey the apostolic command. Others thought that it was not applicable to the husband, for if it was, then the husband doing so would mean that the husband could no longer obey the scripture's teaching on how a husband should treat his wife.

The issue becomes even more acute when the woman is excluded. The members of the church are to shun such a person and not to have any dealings with that member. But, how could the woman's husband obey such a command without violating his marital vows?

I concluded, though not without some struggles, that the husband could not refuse to eat with his excluded wife. Thus, the rule had an exception. The members should shun the woman, not eat with her, etc., but this could not be the case with the husband.

Some others disagreed, thinking that the woman's exclusion actually gave the man the right to divorce his wife. What think ye?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hardshells & The Adultery Question VII

In this posting we will begin to look at other places in the Gospels where Jesus taught on the subject of marriage and divorce. In "7. The Teaching of Jesus on Divorce — (Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:2-12)" (see here) Professor Luck wrote the following under the title "Second Confrontation with the Pharisees on the Morality of Divorce." He begins this subsection with the the words “Is It Lawful For A Man To Divorce His Wife For Any Reason?” (Matthew 19:3-12/Mark 10:2-12)." It is a good introduction to this posting that begins with a study of other passages in the Gospels that give the words of the Lord Jesus Christ on the subject of divorce, adultery, and remarriage. We will be giving attention to the two passages mentioned by Luck.

Wrote Professor Luck (emphasis mine):

"Our Lord’s primary teaching on divorce was in His great Sermon preached on a mountain to his disciples (Matthew 5). The focus of that was that men who treacherously divorce their wives in order to marry other woman or who are a party to breaking up someone else’s marriage in order to claim the newly released woman are guilty of adultery in the eyes of His Father. Subsequent to that He had an interchange with the Pharisees (Luke 16) in which He reaffirmed those teachings in an illustration showing to the religious leaders that they were poor stewards of God’s Law, especially as it related to its divorce teachings. We come now to an event, twice recorded (Matthew 19 and Mark 10) in which the Pharisees came to Jesus and queried Him about his beliefs regarding the subject. On most understandings of the chronology of the life of Christ, this confrontation is thought to come after the Sermon, and likely after the confrontation over stewardship. While Jesus says more in this dialogue than in the other incidents, many commentators focus upon it, reducing the prior teachings almost to a footnote. Heth/Wenham’s Jesus and Divorce is an example. It is a study of alternative views of the exception clause as found in Matthew 19:9. I believe the reverse, that this is a footnote on the Sermon, which Jesus would not have spoken, had the Pharisees not confronted Him on the matter."

I agree with Luck that the other passages in the Gospels are to be seen as enlargements of what Jesus previously taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5: 31-32.

Wrote Luck:

"Having studied exhaustively the teaching of the Lord in Matthew 5: 31-32, we will now turn our attention to other texts in the gospels that also give his teachings on the subject of divorce and remarriage. First, we will begin with Mark 10: 11-12 which in the KJV reads as follows:

"And he said unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." 

We will begin looking at the first statement in the Mark passage - “Whosoever shall put away (divorce) his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her." This verse will be compared with Matthew 5:31a and the words - "whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, Causeth her to commit adultery." In what way are these sayings alike? How are they different?

Comparing Mark 10:11 & Matt. 5:31a

Matt. 5:31a - "whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, Causeth her to commit adultery."

Mark 10:11 - "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her."


Both passages

1. focus on the husband and his adultery and
2. have him unjustly and treacherously putting away (or divorcing) his wife and
3. have the man as the active one in the actions of divorce and adultery and
4. have the woman as a passive recipient of the above actions and
5. view the wife as an innocent victim who suffers as a direct result of her husband's action and
6. identify unlawful divorce and remarriage as examples of adultery


But, they are different because

1) Matt. 5:32a does not mention the husband marrying another (although it assumes it), and
2) Matt. 5: 32a does not as clearly say that the husband commits adultery (Mark 10:11 says that he "commits adultery") and
3) Mark 10: 11 says that the husband's adultery is committed "against" his wife (Matt. 5:32a says this indirectly in the words "makes her the victim of adultery") and
4) there is no exception clause in Mark 10:11 ("except it be for fornication")

As stated previously, Mark 10:11 makes illegal and treacherous divorce to be adulterous as did Matt. 5: 32b. Notice that the passage in Mark says that the man does two things that make him guilty of committing adultery. He 1) illegally divorces his wife and 2) marries another. Notice that in these two conditions there is no direct mention of sexual intercourse. Divorce does not involve it, for that is a legal proceeding. "Marrying" also does not directly involve it, as I showed in the previous posting. It will likely lead to it, of course, but Christ did not say "whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, and has sex with his new wife on the honeymoon."

When a man unlawfully divorces his wife in order to marry another, he commits adultery "against her" because he is making her the victim of his sin, separating what God has joined together. His act is sin "against" God and his law and "against" his wife.

Matthew 5:32a showed that one is guilty of committing adultery against his spouse when he divorces unlawfully, and this is so even if he does not remarry, because adultery is committed by unlawful divorce. A good paraphrase reading would be - “Whoever divorces his wife unlawfully to marry someone else makes his ex-wife the victim of his adultery.”

Wrote Luck:

"Nonetheless, there was within Jesus’ words a rather shocking implication. Jesus was saying that the man who took advantage of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and put away his wife was really guilty of the sin of adultery—though sexuality was not involved."

This is what many miss seeing in the teaching of Christ.

The Indictment of Wives

Mark 10:12 also indicts the woman who divorces her husband. Jesus added:

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

This harmonizes with Matthew 5:32b

The best translations of Matthew 5:32b show that it is the woman who unlawfully divorces her husband (for the purpose of becoming someone else's wife) who sins in remarriage. A good translation says - "And if a woman divorces her husband unlawfully in order to marry another man, she commits adultery.” There is then complete harmony between the Mark and the Matthew passages in regard to what they say about the woman who divorces her husband.

If we put Mark 10: 11 together with Matthew 5: 31a we have this:

"whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, makes her the victim of his adultery and if he marry another, he commits adultery against her."

Comparing Mark 10:12 & Matt. 5:31b

Mark 10:12 - “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  (KJV)

Matt. 5:31b - "and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." (KJV)

Having compared Mark 10:11 with Matthew 5: 31a and noted the similarities and differences, we will now compare Mark 10:12 with Matthew 5:31b. Mark 10:11 parallels Matthew 5:31a and Mark 10:12 parallels Matthew 5:31b. By comparing the above two clauses of Mark 10:12 and Matthew 5:31b, we see how they are more alike than different. This is seen especially if we give a better translation (than the KJV) to the Matthew 5:31b clause.

Mark 10:12 - “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  (KJV)

Matt. 5:31b - “And if someone marries a woman who herself has divorced (then) he himself is committing adultery.”

It needs to be pointed out how in Mark 10:12 the clause is given its own numbered verse status by Robert Stephanus (who in the mid sixteenth century gave us our verse divisions) but not so in the Matthew passage. Why make the words of Mark 10:12 a separate numbered "verse" in the one case but not in the other? Further, had Stephanus made Matthew 5: 31b a separate "verse" as he did with the clause in Mark, what would this say about the interpretation of the words of the text? And, how would this affect interpretation?

In our previous writings I have given good reasons why the two clauses in Matthew 5:31 should be viewed as separate independent clauses, and therefore could and should be viewed as separate sentences. I have opposed the view that the woman ("her") in Matthew 5:31b is the innocently divorced woman in the first clause of Matthew 5:31a. If two things had happened in the English translation (and remember the adding punctuation, including numbered verses, as well as choosing equivalent words, are part of the translation process) of Matthew 5:31, then many would not have adopted that fault. Those two things are:

1) The second clause had been translated more accurately to show that the second woman was not the divorced woman of the first clause, but a different woman who had herself initiated divorce (with the intent of marrying another) and,

2) The second clause had been given its own number as a separate verse.


When you look at the context, the history, the Greek, the grammar, and the overall tenor of these passages, it becomes clear what Jesus’ point is: Do not divorce unlawfully and do not be the complicit party/beneficiary of the unlawful divorce (i.e., homewrecker). If you do, then you are an adulterer.

As I mentioned earlier, there are varying positions in regards to the meaning of adultery and the exact nuance of every point Jesus makes. However, one point that the majority of scholarship is virtually unanimous on is that repentance does not demand further divorce, regardless of which subsequent marriage you may find yourself in. This fact, however, was not understood by my father, nor other PBs.

If you are a man or woman who divorced unlawfully, then you committed adultery. If you are a man or woman who was the beneficiary of the unlawful divorce (by being the one whom the person unlawfully divorced their spouse for), then you too are guilty of adultery by being a complicit party in the breaking up of a marriage. However, grace can be found and forgiveness can be given.

If you find yourself in a subsequent marriage after an unlawful divorce, understand that it is not God’s will for you to break up another marriage covenant. On the contrary, you need to sanctify your union by turning to God and realizing your past mistakes and look to no longer break wedlock in the future. Repentance does not demand divorce and even though you may have attained your marriage through an unlawful divorce, understand that it can and should be continued in righteousness.

Answering A Rebuttal

How can the man commit adultery against his wife in a remarriage after the divorce if the divorce ended her time as his wife?

That is a good question and one that needs to be addressed by those, as I, who see unlawful treacherous divorce as a case of adultery, or who see even unlawful divorce as the ending of a marriage, even in the eyes of God.

The argument stated in the "if, then" form:

If the remarriage is a sin, then the prior marriage must still be intact and unbroken; therefore, divorces tolerated by the laws of man are not divorces recognized or approved by God.

We cannot accept this reasoning and conclusion. We deny that all remarriages of divorced persons are acts of adultery committed against a former spouse. We have already denied that the innocent divorced woman of Matthew 5: 31a was forbidden to remarry if she wanted to avoid committing adultery. I do not doubt that some remarriages are acts of adultery. However, I categorically deny that all who were divorced for reasons other than fornication sin when they remarry.

It is true that the man in Mark 10:11 commits adultery "against" his wife even after he has divorced her and after the marriage has ended and that this seems to suggest that the divorce did not really void the marriage "in the eyes of God." But, if what Luck and others, and I also, have affirmed is correct, then the only person who sins in remarriage is the person who divorces with the purpose of marrying another. Some people divorce with no intent of remarrying, having no other person they desire as new spouses. Others divorce so that they can marry another person whom they have been coveting. In the former case there is no sin in the remarrying, but in the latter case there is sin in the remarrying. In the latter case, the remarriage often takes place soon after the divorce, showing that the divorce was obtained for the purpose of obtaining a particular new spouse. Oftentimes this new spouse is what we call the "homewrecker."

The Mark passage seems to suggest that two conditions are needed to constitute one an adulterer. It takes 1) divorcing for a reason other than fornication, and 2) remarrying another spouse after such an unjust divorce. But, this is not what Jesus is saying. Rather, he is affirming that both unjust divorce and the remarriage to the homewrecker are both instances of adultery. The man that does these two things commits adultery twice.

In the next posting we will continue our look at the marriage and divorce teachings of the Lord as given in the other passages in the Gospels.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Hardshells & The Adultery Question VI

With this posting, the sixth in our series, we will wrap up our analysis of Matthew 5: 31-32, which has been our focus for the past several postings. We began with this passage because it is the earliest teaching of Jesus on the subject, from his very first sermon, the famous "Sermon on the Mount," covering Matthew chapters 5-7. It sets the stage for all subsequent teaching by the Lord or his apostles.

To recap, we have mostly focused on the first clause of verse 32 that says "whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, Causeth her to commit adultery." (KJV) Now focus will be on the second clause that says "and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." (KJV) In the previous postings we have focused much on what is meant by "causes her to commit adultery." We hopefully saw how blindly trusting the KJV (or any given single translation for that matter) as a proper and completely accurate translation of the original Greek text, may cause one to misunderstand the true teaching of the text. We have had to do our own translating, or at least to test the accuracy of any given translation.

Preliminary Observations

Every Bible student (especially those who are teachers of doctrine or authors of commentaries) is responsible for his own interpretation of scripture. He can check all the commentaries and various translations, but the decision as to what a given text is saying or teaching is the responsibility of the bible student himself. Of course, some are more serious in their studies of the Bible, probably because they have a calling to teach it, or simply love and enjoy it, and so they will choose to spend more time in study than the average Christian who may read and study the Scriptures very little. Each Christian should seek to follow the example of the first Christians in the Book of Acts, of those in the city of Berea. Of them Luke the inspired historian wrote:

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

To do deep study of the Scriptures requires lots of time and energy and many Christians don't have the time or will to devote the necessary time and energy to the effort. It requires labor and hard toil. In the eyes of the Lord, they are "counted worthy of double honour," of the highest esteem, "who labour in the word and doctrine." (I Tim. 5: 17) Hard and deep bible study is taxing on the body and the mind. After much reading the eyes become sore, and sitting in study can produce a sore bottom. In a word "much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Eccl. 12:12 KJV)

One of the reasons why many of the Hardshells, and some others too, opt to simply trust the KJV as being perfect, is that they think that they can avoid both the hard work and the personal responsibility of correctly interpreting holy scripture. But, the KJV is not perfect. It, like others, has some mistranslations, or at least some bad translations. Some errors in understanding are the result of faulty translations.

People should realize that a translation of the Scriptures is difficult because the languages of Scripture (ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and ancient Koine Greek) are dead languages today. The Hebrew and Greek spoken today is not much like that which was spoken in bible times. In the same manner we can say that the English of the early Middle Ages is not very much like the English of today. Therefore, to properly translate the bible requires linguistic scholars who understand both the original languages of the Scriptures and the languages into which they are being translated.

People should also realize that a given translation is an interpretation. We are not to put our trust in men, such as in the men who translated the KJV. We are each responsible for checking the translators/interpreters. How do we do this? We listen to each side in a debate about the original meaning of a given word, sentence, etc., in the original text of the bible, and make our decision with honesty of heart and in the fear of the Lord.

We have already seen how it was necessary to look at the original Greek text of Matthew 5:32 in regard to the first part that said "whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, Causeth her to commit adultery." It was seen how the main fault in this translation, and others similar to it, was 1) by adding the active verb "commit," and 2) by use of the word "adultery." Remember that the above translation makes use of three English words, "to," "commit," and "adultery," to give to English readers the idea that the KJV translators thought accurately conveyed the meaning of the single Greek verb "moikeuthanai."

Though a translator will attempt to give a literal translation, one word for one word, yet this is not always possible. Some languages, like the Greek, German, etc., make use of long compound words, and these can often only be translated into other languages by breaking them apart into smaller words.

Micheal W. Palmer in "Categories Conjunctions, Punctuation, Translation" wrote (see here - emphasis mine):

"Because Ancient Greek had a much more developed system of grammatical endings (for verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc.), it was possible to write sentences that were considerably longer than what would be understandable in English. Often the parts of such long sentences were held together by conjunctions like καί. There were, of course, many other such conjunctions, but καί was among the most common. Overly literal translations attempt to make English work like Greek and include all of those conjunctions rather than breaking the long sentences down into the smaller units that English usage requires. This results both in “ugly” sounding sentences and a significant loss of comprehensibility."

Thus the Greek, like the German, makes use of long compound words, while English generally does not.

The Greek scholar A. T. Robertson wrote:

"The Greek, like the German, easily makes compound words, and the tendency to long compound words grows with the history of language." ("A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research," page 546 - see here)

Having studied modern German in college for two years, and NT Greek for many years, I can truly same "amen" to this truth.

Palmer also wrote the following under title "Punctuation in Ancient Greek Texts, Part I" (see here - emphasis mine):

"The ancient Greeks did not have any equivalent to our modern device of punctuation. Sentence punctuation was invented several centuries after the time of Christ. The oldest copies of both the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament are written with no punctuation...When there is more than one possible way of dividing the words in a sentence or paragraph, or when there is more than one possible set of punctuation, we (bible students who are responsible for the decision in interpretation - SG) must look for clues as to what the author intended in order to correctly determine which is the correct division and what punctuation the author would have used if it had been available."

He also wrote:

"Of course there is an element of subjectivity in this process, but many scholars have dedicated the better part of their lives to reading the Biblical documents in the original languages and have come to have a good sense of the style and preferences of each author. As we develop this skill, it becomes easier to see what the author would most likely have intended in each of the few places where a sentence could be divided more than one way."

The reasons why we have translations that are different is because "there is an element of subjectivity" involved in the work of translating. Each scholar is attempting to ascertain the original meaning of the text that he is translating and then trying to convey that meaning into another language. God has not promised to inspire any one person, or group of persons, who do translating work. This belief is the error of the KJV onlyists.

Palmer also wrote:

"If you do not read Ancient Greek and Hebrew, it is important to compare various translations to see what the options for punctuation might be. Then you should ask yourself which punctuation results in something that the author would most likely have said. This may not always provide you with the correct answer, but it will be a valuable learning experience."

Again, I repeat, that the responsibility for translating, which would include adding punctuation, rests with the individual bible student. It is his responsibility to "compare various translations" and to see which best makes sense based upon the evidence and argumentation.

The difficulty in ascertaining the original meaning of the words of Scripture is no easy task, and translating it into other languages, especially English, is difficult. For all these reasons, simply translating the single Greek word "moikeuthanai" ("to commit adultery" KJV) is not an easy task.

Knowing that the Greek word is an infinitive we may, as translators, want to use the preposition "to." Most English infinitives, called "full infinitives," make use of this preposition. How infinitives are written, in either NT Greek or in modern English, for instance, are different. The Greeks would incorporate the idea of "to" in a single compound word. Recall how the NIV translators used three words to give the meaning of the single word "moikeuthanai," the words "victim of adultery." The KJV also used three words - "to commit adultery." But, each conveys different meanings. Who is right? How can we decide?

In "AN EXEGETICAL SUMMARY OF PHILIPPIANS" (Second Edition - see here), J. Harold Greenlee wrote (emphasis mine):

"Exegesis is concerned with the interpretation of a text. Exegesis of the New Testament involves determining the meaning of the Greek text. Translators must be especially careful and thorough in their exegesis of the New Testament in order to accurately communicate its message in the vocabulary, grammar, and literary devices of another language. Questions occurring to translators as they study the Greek text are answered by summarizing how scholars have interpreted the text. This is information that should be considered by translators as they make their own exegetical decisions regarding the message they will communicate in their translations."

People need to realize that the original text of the new testament did not have punctuation and that it was all written in capital letters; And it certainly did not have numbered divisions into chapters, paragraphs, and verses. There were not even spaces between sentences to help decide when one sentence began and ended. In the original NT text, there were no periods, commas, colons, semicolons, quotation marks, parentheses, etc. This being the case, it is a matter of interpretation, and scholarly judgment, to add such punctuation to a translation; And, the placing of such punctuation is often crucial in interpretation. Let us look at our text and notice the punctuation that the KJV translators chose to use in their translation of the original Greek of Matt. 5:32.

"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."

Now, picture this text without any punctuation or spaces between words, clauses, and phrases. How such a verse is punctuated will not only reflect the judgment of the translator (or interpreter) but will effect the interpretation of those who read the translation. In looking at the above punctuation, why did the KJV translators put a colon after the word "adultery" and before the word "and"? Why not a period instead? Further, is the second clause that begins with "and" ("kai" in the Greek) a part of one long sentence or is it the beginning of another sentence? How does the second clause - "and whosoever shall marry..." - relate, if at all, to the first clause?

The Man and Woman in the 2nd Independent Clause

In this exegesis we will be looking at the second clause of Matthew 5: 32 that says, in the KJV, "and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." The question for us to determine in regard to this clause is to discern what it literally says and means. The common assumption of many, in regard to it, is that the woman ("her") is the same woman mentioned in the first part of the verse who was divorced by her husband unjustly. In beginning our exegesis of this clause, let us begin by noticing some remarks by Professor Luck, who we have cited much already.

In article #8, "The Teachings of Jesus on Divorce — (Matthew 5:32b)" Luck (see here) made these comments on the second clause that reads - “And, whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery”:

"Treatment of the second divorce saying in the Sermon (Matt. 5:32b) seldom exceeds a paragraph or two, even among scholars. It is usually seen as presenting the occasion for the adultery committed by the woman in the first saying. That is, she is caused to commit adultery when she remarries, which is presumed to be discussed in the second saying. But, as we have seen, the first clause is independent and makes perfectly good sense without recourse to the second saying, though not the traditional sense."

This is correct. The woman in the second clause cannot be the woman in the first clause, as we will see. The woman in the first clause, who was divorced and adulterated by her husband, is free to remarry, and it can therefore be no sin for a man to marry her.

Wrote Luck:

"It is worth noting that the second saying is introduced by the words kai os ean. This is an unusual construction peculiar in the New Testament to Matthew, found only in 5:32b, 12:32 and 18:5. In each case the noted phrase precedes a subjunctive verb, in turn followed by an indicative verb. The verbs are found in clauses, having a form grammarians call a conditional statement. The first verb is in a clause which shows some uncertainty as to whether or not the action will take place. The mode of the first verb, which expresses this hesitancy is called subjunctive. This clause is also called the protasis, because it sets a condition which must exist before the truth of the next clause will hold. The “next” clause is called the apodosis. In the case of each of the kai os ean phrases, the verb in the apodosis is in the indicative mode, which expresses a statement of fact. Thus in each conditional saying, if something might (were to) happen, then something will be true."

The Greek language, like others, makes use of the "if, then" sentence or logical structure. Sometimes translators will translate such "if, then" sentences with those words. Sometimes, however, they will not, as in the case of the clause we are examining in Matt. 5:32, where they chose to translate the "if" part by the word "whoever." Sometimes, when a conditional statement is made, in either Greek or English, by use of the word "if," called the "protasis," there is not actual mention of the word "then," called the "apodosis." But, even in cases where the word "then" is not stated, it is always implied. For instance, I may say to my wife "If I had known that, I would have..." Notice that I left out the apodosis word "then." But, though left out, it is implied. It is understood as "If I had known that, then I would have..."

In the Greek there are four classes of conditional statements in the "if, then" structure. When you hear a Greek scholar say that one of these "if, then" statements is, for instance, a "first class condition," or perhaps a "third class condition," what do they mean? According the, there are four classes of conditional statements. Under the heading "Classification of Greek Conditional Sentences" they wrote (emphasis mine - see here):

"Greek has more ability than English in describing the kind of relationship between the protasis, and the apodosis. It is possible for the writer/speaker to indicate whether the protasis is true or not. Actually they can indicate if they are presenting the protasis as 'assumed true (or false) for the sake of argument'. In order to indicate this kind of relationship between the protasis and apodosis, Classical Greek traditional had four kinds of conditional sentences, based upon what tense and mood the verb occurs in and upon some helping words. These are much the same in Koine (Biblical) Greek, with slight variations."

Here is their breakdown and definition of these four classes of conditional statements:

First Class Condition - Is considered the 'Simple Condition' and assumes that the premise (protasis) is true for the sake of argument. The protasis is formed with the helping word ei ('if') with the main verb in the indicative mood, in any tense; with any mood and tense in the apodosis.

Second Class Condition - Is known as the 'Contrary-to-Fact Condition' and assumes the premise as false for the sake of argument. The protasis is again formed with the helping word ei ('if') and the main verb in the indicative mood. The tense of the verb (in the protasis) must also be in a past-time tense (aorist or imperfect). The apodosis will usually have the particle an as a marking word, showing some contingency.

Third Class Condition - Traditionally known as the 'More Probable Future Condition', the third class condition should actually be split into two different categories, the 'Future More Probable Condition' (indicating either a probable future action or a hypothetical situation) and the 'Present General Condition' (indicating a generic situation or universal truth at the present time). It is formed in the protasis using the word ean (ei plus an = 'if') and a verb in the subjunctive mood. The main verb of the protasis can be in any tense, but if the condition is a 'Present General', the verb must be in the present tense.

Fourth Class Condition - Is usually called the 'Less Probable Future Condition' and does not have a complete example in the New Testament. The fulfillment of this condition was considered even more remote than the Third Class Condition. It was formed with the helping word ei and the optative mood in the protasis. The apodosis had the helping word an and its verb was also in the optative mood."

Now let us return to the "if" conditional clause of Matthew 5: 32. Wrote Luck:

"Translators generally choose “and whoever” to render these words, although “and if…” captures the (third class) conditional construction a bit better, since the former treats the sentence like a simple relative clause, while the ean is a hallmark of the a third class conditional, which has the form of “and if.”"

I think it would have been better for translators to have used the "if, then" words to translate the conditional clause. The clause we are examining is a "third class conditional," stating what may or may not happen to be.

Wrote Luck:

"Additionally, the fact that the protasis of the saying introduced by the kai os ean phrase is in the subjunctive is further evidence that the second saying is not to be seen as causally interpretive of the first (she is caused to commit adultery when she remarries). If the traditional interpretation of the second saying claims that it gives us the occasion of the adultery of the first (then) such an event as the remarriage of a divorced woman would be expected to be in the indicative mode, the mode of positive assertion. This would be the case if the second saying began with a temporal clause introduced by a conjunction other than kai, such as oti (definite as to time) or otan (indefinite as to time). The subjunctive’s hesitancy seems an odd way indeed to provide the necessary situation in which the point of the first saying is to be made." 

This is very strong evidence that the divorced woman in the second clause is not the same divorced woman in the first clause. Were it the same woman, as Luck stated, "the remarriage" would have been "in the indicative mode," not in the subjunctive.

Wrote Luck:

"All scholars will grant Lenski that the participle is perfect as to tense. Most will grant that it is passive in voice. Many will agree that there is a relationship of identity between the women of the sayings. For my part, I question whether the participle is passive and deny that there is any necessary identity between the principal women of the sayings. I offer the following reasons:

The relevant participle, apolelumenan, being in the perfect tense, could be either passive or middle in voice. Most translators assume the passive, but there is no reason this has to be the case. The form is the same in either case, and the context has to determine which is meant."

It is a false assumption that "apolelumenan" (one having been loosed, i.e. divorced) is passive voice. If it were understood as passive voice, then it would tell us that the woman was not the one who initiated the divorce, as was the case with the first woman in the first clause, whose husband put her away. How can we decide if this second woman's divorce is the result of her action or of her husband's action? Clearly "apolelumenan" is either passive or middle voice. But which? The Greek will allow either to be the case, for as stated, both the passive and middle voices are written alike. So, a translator/interpreter must decide which. Many assume it is passive because they think the woman in the second clause is the same woman in the first clause. The woman in the first clause was not the initiator of the action of divorce but was the passive recipient of the divorce action. So, if one assumes that the woman in the second clause is the same woman, then obviously he will opt for the passive voice and translate accordingly.

How would one translate "apolelumenan" if passive voice? If middle voice? If passive it could be translated as "she who was divorced by her husband." If middle it could be translated as "she who divorced her husband." See the difference? In the one case the woman initiates the divorce, but in the other she does not.

Wrote Luck:

"Were the voice middle, the whole interpretative situation would be changed...If middle, the woman would, in one manner or another, be implicated in the divorce process that has been completed. The nature of her involvement would depend on what sort of a middle it is, for there are three major concepts that may be involved in the middle: reflex, intensification, and reciprocity. Of the three, we may rule out the last, as it only occurs with plural subjects. An intensive middle underscores the producing agent rather than the agent’s participation. The reflexive middle, which is the nearest to the basic idea of the voice, refers the result of the action directly to the one who did it, with an emphasis upon that person’s participation in the action. The following middle-translations would then be possible:

Reflexive middle: “she who has divorced herself”

Intensive middle: “she herself who has divorced”

In either case, the point to be noted is that the woman has been not a passive object, but the causal agent.

But is it middle or passive? The context decides, but the near context could abide either. It could be the woman of the preceding clause (passive), or it could be a woman, who, like the sinning divorcer of the first saying, has herself ended her marriage (middle)." 

So which is it? Want to trust a given translator's judgment? In the KJV translation, it could be either way. It says "her that is divorced." This translation does not say anything about who divorced who. It does not indicate whether the woman initiated the divorce or whether it was her husband.

Wrote Luck:

"His supposition that this woman is the innocent divorcee of 32a is wrong if the participle in 32b is a middle—thus rendering the woman the agent of the divorce and not the recipient of the former husband’s action." 

There is no good reason to assume that the innocent woman of the first clause is the same woman of the second clause. In fact, we have already seen how the women cannot be the same, the Greek grammar being against such an interpretation.

Wrote Luck:

"The issues become complex. Were the text to have stressed the woman by using a definite article, “the”, instead of merely putting the participle in the feminine singular, we would almost certainly have a grammatical indicator for tying this saying with the first and identifying this woman with the treacherously divorced woman in the first saying. But the article is missing. This is just “a” woman."

This is another good argument from the Greek grammar to show that the woman in the first clause is not the woman of the second. Not only is the fact that the second clause is in the subjunctive mood, not in the indicative, a proof that the women are not the same, but the absence of the definite article "the," or an adjectival "this" also proves it. Were Jesus referring to the same woman, the one who was the innocent victim of a treacherous divorce in the first clause, then he would have said "whoever marries the woman" or "whoever marries this woman." Said Luck, "The definite article is missing so as not to force us to think of this as the treacherously divorced woman in 32a." Exactly!

Next, under the sub heading "INTERPRETATIONS OF WHAT IT MEANS TO COMMIT ADULTERY IN MARRYING A DIVORCEE," Professor Luck is attempting to translate these words - καὶ ὃς ἐὰν ἀπολελυμένην γαμήσῃ μοιχᾶτα and says:

"As this portion of the verse reads in most translations, it seems to be saying that any man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery with her. In spite of the seeming obviousness of this interpretation, there are several views that scholars have taken of this saying."

It just does not seem right to think that it is always wrong to marry a divorced person, which the second clause of verse 32 seems to affirm. The following words are from the translators of the Revised Version for Matthew 5:32 (see here - emphasis mine):

"To properly understand Matthew 5:32, we must pay close attention to “who” the verse is speaking about, “what” the verse is actually saying, and also to the Greek verbs, which sadly have not been accurately translated in most English versions. Matthew 5:32 is one of the verses in the Bible that people do not really read accurately. Instead, most people read what they think it says. To rightly understand it, we must read what it actually says."

This is what I have been trying to demonstrate in this series. Thankfully there are men who have properly interpreted and translated the words of Jesus, men like the ones I have cited thus far in this series.

They say further:

"In the biblical culture, a man divorcing his wife almost always left her in a very difficult situation. The usually mostly-innocent woman had to suffer many things: the disgrace of being rejected by her husband; frequently, the terrible loss of her children; and the hardship of how to provide for herself unless her parents or a sibling would take her into their home. But Jesus seems to make her situation even worse—the way most English versions are translated. Jesus says that the woman is an adulteress! Furthermore, any man who married her, which would almost certainly be a huge help to her, became an adulterer. This just does not seem to make sense."

Yes, it does not make sense! It is out of character for the Lord to put the innocent woman into such straits by teaching that she is a marked woman, so that whoever marries her commits adultery! Such an interpretation just makes it worse for the poor woman! It is not sin for a man to marry such a woman! Like I said, he is more to be admired than made into a sinner. And, like the above citation also says, the man who marries the woman who was "kicked out" of her house unjustly and made the victim of adultery is rather "a huge help to her."

They say further:

"The way Matthew 5:32 is translated in most English versions, there are many things that should alert us to the fact that something is wrong. For one thing, although it was the husband who broke the original intention of God by divorcing his wife, there is nothing in the verse that says he did wrong or became an adulterer. The verse makes the wife guilty, not the husband, even though he is the guilty party."

These thoughts about the true teaching of Matthew 5: 32 also came into my head as I first began to seriously exegete the text. There were simply "many things that alerted me to the fact that something was wrong" indeed. The thing wrong was in the translations and in the majority interpretation of the commentaries.

They say further:

"Also, the way most English versions are translated, the woman is made to be an adulteress simply because her husband divorced her. For example, the NASB says, “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery.” But why would being divorced make a woman an adulteress? Just because a man divorces a woman does not make her an adulteress; she could have been faithful to her husband before the divorce and then chosen to remain unmarried after the divorce. So why would her divorce make her an adulteress? It would not."

Those ought to be the thoughts of any honest soul as he reads the words of Matthew 5: 32 from the KJV and other English translations that seem to say that the marriage of an innocently divorced woman is a sin! The answer to the problem comes when one sees the errors of the translators/interpreters.

They say further:

"Most commentators explain away that fact by saying that in that culture, a man’s divorcing his wife basically forced her to remarry to survive in society, and thus commit adultery. But there are two big problems with that interpretation—it is not what Jesus actually said, and it does not fit the facts. Just being divorced does not make a woman an adulteress. There were women who were pure in their marriage and then did not remarry after their divorce. Some were taken back in by their families, and a few others, like Lydia in Acts 16, did well on their own. Thus we can see that Matthew 5:32 has been misunderstood and mistranslated."

There are indeed "big problems" with the traditional interpretation! I have already emphasized the fact that the text does not have the words "if she remarries." But such words are implied, we are told. They were certainly the meaning of the Lord, we are told. We are told that the words "makes her commit adultery" actually means "makes her commit adultery if she chooses to remarry." But, those added words are not in the text and their addition conveys false information. And, secondly, such views of the traditional interpretation do not "fit the facts."

Luck continued:

"...there are two questions to ask this position regarding its focus upon the second husband. Why exactly is he singled out, rather than the divorcing woman? And why, if her marriage bond is broken, is he hung with the tag “adulterer”?"

Yes, indeed, what about "the second husband"? Good questions! Why indeed is the second husband "singled out rather than the divorcing women"? Is he simply a man who married an innocently divorced woman? Or, could he be another kind of man, perhaps a man who is called an "home wrecker"? A man who perhaps instigated the adultery by wooing a married woman away from her husband?

Luck continued:

"The suggested answer to both is that the text at hand sees the second husband as an accomplice in the continuing rebellion of the guilty, perhaps even the cause of it. Several matters support this suspicion."

Yes, Jesus was not condemning a man who married the innocently divorced woman of the first clause, but was condemning the man who caused a married woman to divorce her husband so that he could have her himself.

Luck continued:

"The middle participle and the deponent passive verbs in this second saying of Jesus would seem to fit the historical facts nicely. Matthew 5:32b then reads: “And if someone marries a woman who herself has divorced he himself is committing adultery.” This fits the Herodias case precisely. The stress upon the man who marries such a woman would put the blame upon Herod even more than upon Herodias—the man being seen as morally responsible for her divorce. Those who think that this historical episode was not on the mind of our Lord, should consider, first that Jesus was aware of both the preaching career of His cousin, John, and as well as that of “that fox, Herod.”"

“And if someone marries a woman who herself has divorced (then) he himself is committing adultery.” That is a better translation. But, I would have put the apodosis "then" before the words "he himself" to keep the full idea of the conditional statement. So, I woud translate "and if someone marries a woman who herself has divorced, then he himself is committing adultery." Notice the absence of the definite article "the" before "woman" and the placement of the indefinite article "a" instead. That reflects the Greek. Had the woman been the innocently divorced woman there would have been the definite article.

Luck continued:

"Of course, Jesus is not simply condemning Herod, but all who, like Herod, would aid in or instigate treachery against their neighbor. Then as now, it is usually the man who lusts, clears the way for his next love, and wrests the woman away from any prior commitments. And then more than now, few women (who were prevented from holding most jobs) would think of divorcing their husbands without having a new spouse waiting in the wings. In such cases, the “adultery” of the second husband is clearer yet. He was a party to the sundering of the first marriage—a clear instance of adultery according to the spirit of the Mosaic Law, though it might not be precise to speak of him as an adulterer until he actually took possession of her."

My view exactly! The right view I believe.

Luck continued:

"Even were he not to have sexual intercourse with her before the legal divorce, he would not be free from the condemnation of One such as Christ, who could easily see when prevailing law was being used as a cloak for evil by such a trick. To have finally removed a previous covenant (perfect participle) by legalities cannot fool God. The guilty parties are, in their remarriage, about the business of adultery."

This fact I have already well proven I believe.

Luck continued:

"But does this interpretation fit the grammar? Here we return to the matter that the protasis is in the subjunctive. I believe that the fact that women seldom initiated divorce led to the grammatical hesitancy in the saying. Our verse would then read rather literally, “and he, if she who has herself divorced, is marrying, he is committing adultery.” Smoothing the grammar it becomes, “and if he is marrying a woman who has herself ended her marriage (though that is somewhat unlikely), he is committing adultery." It is not that marriage for a man is improbable, but that a man would marry a woman who had initiated the divorce, since few did that in a patriarchal society. On the other hand, it may not have been that uncommon for a man to marry a divorced woman. I am not aware of figures on remarriage, but we do have the text of John’s Gospel, which relates that the Samaritan woman had remarried four times."

"And if he is marrying a woman who has herself ended her marriage, (then) he is committing adultery." That would be another good translation.

Luck continued:

"But if it is unlikely for a man to marry a woman who has initiated her divorce, why make a saying about it at all? The answer, again, is that Herodias had divorced her husband, and Herod Antipas had married her. In other words, that which was unlikely according to Jewish custom, was still happening in the experience of Jesus’ hearers. The silence of the Pharisees on the subject implied that what Herod had done was acceptable because Herodias did, after all, have a legal writ. The verse emphasizes the guilt of the man, because, I believe, the man is assumed to have played a primary role in the woman divorcing her husband. Why would she place herself in economic jeopardy by divorcing unless she had a “golden parachute” with which to save herself once she was cut off from her husband’s provision?"

Again, this interpretation seems to be the teaching of Christ and is far better than the common traditional interpretation that makes it a sin to marry the innocent woman who is put away by her husband.

Luck continued:

"Notice also that this provides a nice parallel to the first saying. There the husband destroys his own marriage trusting in the divorce writ he produces by which to cut off his innocent wife. In the second he trusts in the divorce writ a woman has acquired for herself, by which she destroys her own marriage. Both sayings, in different ways, express a rebuke to those who are involved in the destruction of marriage, trusting in prevailing legalities rather the revealed moral necessity of covenant keeping."

Excellent commentary! Makes perfect sense.

Luck continued:

"Believing that Jesus is condemning those who, with their neighbor’s wives, are treacherous against their neighbor, I do not agree that 32b is “unqualified.” Jesus is not interested in introducing new legislation that prohibits the remarriage of every divorced female. Such an idea would contradict the essence of Deuteronomy 24 and Exodus 21, both of which protect the abused wife by granting her freedom which does not exclude remarriage." 

Again, this is obviously the proper interpretation of the words of Jesus.

Luck continued:

"The interpretation that any remarriage is adultery or that remarriage to an innocent divorced woman is adultery is not a clarification of the law; it would annul several of them, and that is something Jesus specifically said He was not going to do (Matt. 5:17 ff.)."

I agree wholeheartedly.

Luck continued:

"...what do we make of a case in which the “guilty” divorced woman has seen the error of her ways and sought to return to her husband, only to find that he is unable or unwilling to take her back?"

Good question! Those like my father, the strict view, would say that she must return to her husband even though the OT forbid it! They would also condemn her to a life without a husband, a life where she had to fend for herself!

Luck continued:

"To sum up the “academic” words of Christ, we could say that He affirms the Old Testament teaching that covenant breaking as treachery (Mal. 2). Treachery in the heart is adultery. Treacherous divorce is a species of adultery. Treachery fulfilled in remarriage is adultery. Just not doing it in bed will not fool God. Just because the prevailing laws say a writ of divorce ends (moral) responsibility to the first covenant does not mean that God will fall into line. The prevailing laws and teachings be damned. The received teaching of the Old Testament is that divorce without grounds is treacherous. The only proper use of divorce is as a discipline for actions that by their nature breach the essentials of the marriage covenant. Since that is so, the man, who has pledged to provide for his wife, has committed adultery against his wife by divorcing her, has publicly spoken his treachery. No remarriage need take place for this adultery to occur, and Jesus mentions none nor alludes to none in Matthew 32a. Further, since divorce is only to be used as a discipline, the watching public may well (falsely) suppose that the innocent woman was actually guilty. Thus, this man actually defames her with his own sinful acts—an offense specifically proscribed in the Law. In the first saying of the divorce couplet, Jesus is seeking merely to restore to its fullness the meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as further disclosed by Deuteronomy 22:13 ff. and Malachi 2:15."

Again, I believe this is the correct interpretation. Luck makes his case well.

Luck continued:

"Having said that groundless divorce is adulterous against the spouse in the case of the male, it is unnecessary to say it regarding a female, for any legal annulment of the vows is covenant breaking by definition. The woman who groundlessly divorces is also guilty of adulterizing her husband and stigmatizing him as guilty of breaking his vows to her. Those who don’t realize that the law is reciprocal on this point need only listen to the nuances of Matthew 5:32b, when Jesus speaks of a woman who has ended her own covenant."

My view exactly.

Luck continued:

"In the second saying, Jesus wished to point out that her compliance with prevailing (Roman) law, which permitted morally groundless divorce, did not free her from the sin of adultery. She intended to break her vow of monogamy. That is why she divorced her husband—she wished to have relations with another. The spirit of the Old Testament should not be difficult to discern in such a case, but there would probably be a need to pinpoint the adultery of her partner in the crime of vow-breaking: the man who as a result takes her. This man, who dared not to take her while she was still legally married to her husband, trusted in the legal divorce to grant him the right to bed her. Jesus wishes to rebuke such trust. This point is the burden of the second saying."

That is what I believe is the teaching of Jesus in the second clause, the clause that has been so much misunderstood.

Luck next writes some good things under the title


He wrote:

"One position goes beyond the basic statement by absolutizing the prohibition. It says that all remarriage is prohibited by this saying. The logic behind this expansion seems to be the following: remarriage is denied the divorced woman because the consummation of the second wedding defiles her bond with her first husband. (The presumption here is that the marriage bond is unbreakable, and the first union still intact.) Moreover, if she is still bound to her first husband, he must still be bound to her. If he is still bound to her, then he too is not free to consummate a relationship with another."

But, in being put away, the woman is free to marry again. The treacherous divorce by the husband is itself an act of adultery. The law forbids her to return to her husband!

Luck continued:

"This no-remarriage view does not require any relationship between 5:32a and 5:32b. Generally, this interpretation is given in the context of such verses as Luke 16:18a and supported by the idea that for a man to divorce his wife and marry another is adultery.

Concerning the support of this interpretation by verses identifying a divorcing and remarrying man as committing adultery, I shall withhold criticism until we analyze Luke 16:18. Instead, we here turn our attention to the two basic assumptions of this position: first, that a continuing bond is the only way to explain how the man can be said to commit adultery with the divorced woman when they marry and, second, that polygyny was immoral impermissible when the verse was written."

Also, the idea that the innocently divorced woman of the first clause cannot remarry without sinning simply makes her suffer even more!

Next, Luck wrote the following under the title of


"The no-remarriage-for-the-innocent view, exemplified by Murray, is a part of the Erasmian position. The view holds that the union of marriage is not dissolved by the divorce, but by sexual infidelity. Erasmians hold that in 5:32b Jesus is presenting a saying limited to cases in which this bond has not been broken. The woman of that clause is the innocent woman of the preceding saying. Though legally divorced, she is still bound to her former husband. Until that bond is broken by an act of sexual infidelity on the part of either original spouse, each is morally obligated to remain celibate. The legalities of the second marriage no more justify its consummation than the legalities of the divorce did. The verse does not mean to inhibit the marriage of an “innocent” spouse once the bond has been broken by sexual infidelity of the “former spouse,” but proscribes a marriage in which an “innocent” spouse who has been treacherously divorced would become guilty of breaking their continuing bond by consummating a second marriage. Those guilty of groundlessly divorcing their partner are not for that reason guilty of adultery (that is a sexual sin), but would be guilty of adultery if they remarried (before their offended partner?)."

This was the view of my father and the view of many Hardshells. But, I don't think it is what the Lord was teaching. The view of Luck is far better, giving what is the correct interpretation.

Luck wrote:

"Third, I believe that Murray’s view is determined by his assumption that the marriage bond is broken only by sexual infidelity. I believe that assumption is ill grounded in the Scriptures. The divorce of the innocent woman breaks the promise of the husband to continuously provide for her (Exod. 21). To presume that the remarriage of such a woman is adultery flies in the face of Deuteronomy 24 in a way that not even a dispensational argument can explain."

I also agree that it is a false "assumption" to say that "the marriage bond is broken only by sexual infidelity." It is indeed "ill grounded in the Scriptures."

Next, Luck wrote the following under the heading


"The essence of the no-remarriage-to-the-guilty view is that 32b prohibits the remarriage of a treacherous spouse, in this case the woman who divorced her husband. Since it permits the remarriage of an innocent divorced person, this view must deny that the marriage bond lasts past the divorce. Like the previous view, it would most likely argue that whatever moral obligation exists in marriage ends with the offense that determined the guilty party to be such. The most consistent statement of such a position would argue that, if no moral grounds predate the divorce, the divorce itself becomes such grounds. This is not to be construed as saying that the innocent party will always be the one divorced, for sometimes the innocent party will be a disciplining divorcer. Guilt is determined by the unfaithful (not necessarily sexually understood) action of one spouse. When the innocent party divorces as a discipline, it is to serve notice that the moral bond, which the spouse has broken, should be restored by a renewal of the covenant."

Again, I believe that this is the correct view and is well defended by such men as Professor Luck.