Dear Pastor Don:
Why do so many pastors tell the men in their church not to divorce their wife even when she has committed adultery? A friend of mine is going through great anguish because his wife has committed adultery with another man in the church. Doesn’t Jesus permit divorce for adultery?
Signed: Trying to be Righteous in Chicago
Dear Trying to be Righteous in Chicago:
Fornication, not adultery, is the only reason a husband need have to divorce his wife. Adultery is the most grievous type of fornication so of course Jesus permits divorce for adultery. Reconciliation with an adulterous wife has never been promoted in any shape or form in the Bible. Why would you reconcile with a dead person? The penalty for adultery is death. That’s the reason that Jesus didn’t give adultery as a reason for divorce. His listeners were Jewish and they were well aware that the penalty for adultery is death. That has not changed. It does not make sense to stay married to a corpse.
The verse some pastors use to let disgusting people get away with disgusting things is John 8:7
“So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
The problem is that in quoting the verse, the words ‘among you’ are left out. The sin of those bringing the woman to be judged was that they did not bring the man who was caught in adultery with her.
Many laymen and ministers misquote Jesus by repeating the liberal line, “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” I say ‘liberal line’ because this quote is not from the Bible and is certainly not what Jesus said. Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Jesus was speaking to the case before him and to a specific group; the Scribes and Pharisees. The Scribes and Pharisees had brought a woman who they claimed was caught in adultery before Him. Then they did their own misquoting of scripture saying,
“Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” John 8:5
It must be pointed out that their case had no merit because Moses in the law did not command what they said. Here is what Moses in the law actually commanded:
“And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man’s wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10
Where was the man? The Scribes and Pharisees did not bring a man because they were tempting Jesus to improperly render justice so that they could accuse Him. “They said this, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.” John 8:6
The law required both the man and the woman to be stoned. Jesus did not change the penalty for adultery and it remains the same today; “The adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” And what is an adulterer? “the man that committeth adultery with [another] man’s wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife.”
The double sin of pastors who quote John 8:7 out of context is that they full well know that John 7:53 – 8:11 have been deemed spurious by most theologians. This is easily discerned by reading John 7:52 followed by John 8:12,13,&14. I’ve done it for you below. See how they fit seamlessly together in discussing Jesus’ authority:
“They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.” John 7:52, John 8:12,13,&14
John 7:53-John 8:11 was likely inserted between the lines of the above narrative but regardless, it may still be Scripture. It doesn’t contradict Scripture but must be understood in light of the fact that the Scribes and Pharisees “said this, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.” John 8:6
The liberal search for the perfect judge referenced in the incorrectly abbreviated phrase, “he who is without sin” takes a path far different from that advised by Jesus’ true and prudent words “first take the mote out of your eye.” He even calls upon us to judge when he says to make a “righteous judgment” in John 7:24 How could we even have judges if a judge must be without sin “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Since our government does not impose the death penalty for adultery, the wife who commits adultery should simply be given a Bill of Divorcement and excommunicated from her church. The wife of the man who is caught with another man’s wife should put whatever legal pressure is necessary to get him to give her a civil divorce and make sure that he writes that it also serves as a Bill of Divorcement. He should then be excommunicated from his church. The Bible requires death so no one should complain of harsh treatment, they’ve gotten off with a light sentence.
A Bill of Divorcement is first mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:1 with clarifications for its application in Deuteronomy 24:3 further references to it can be found in Isaiah 50:1, Matthew 5:31, Matthew 19:7, and Mark 10:4. A Bill of Divorcement is extremely important for without it a wife remains married to her husband. Nowhere in the Bible is permission given to a woman to divorce her husband, only to separate from him. The reverse is not true. The Bible is not an equal rights manual when it comes to the rules applying to men and women and since you’re a Christian, I’m sure this is no surprise to you. The Bill of Divorcement is important for a number of reasons. First, many churches do not recognize civil divorces. The Roman Catholic church does not recognize a civil divorce. Orthodox Jews do not recognize a civil divorce unless it is accompanied by a Bill of Divorcement. Many other churches and ministries similarly don’t recognize a civil divorce. The odd thing to many is that although the state recognizes only a civil divorce, virtually all the states recognize a marriage, civil or otherwise. It is a perversion of scripture to advise a man not to divorce his adulterous wife. It is to allow the land to become polluted. Jeremiah 3:1 If a man may not take back his wife whom he divorced and who married another man, how much more so a woman who was not given the benefit of divorce, committed adultery, and wanted to be taken back. The first did not commit adultery, the second did. She’s lucky enough to be getting off without the death penalty. You don’t hear these points from most churches because Retail Christianity is primarily supported by women who want to pretend that they are the same as men. Adulterous women and the men who share in their crime are guilty of heinous acts punishable by death. If we don’t consider these things in accordance with what God teaches in the Bible then our understanding of our own fallen nature will be clouded for we won’t understand the true depravity of man. We will simply become Romans handing out dispensations for contributions to the practitioners of Retail Christianity who rather than ministers should be called Simonists. There is nothing wrong with a man forgiving his adulterous wife posthumously or at the very least after the divorce is final and she has disinherited all the children and given them to him. But there is no reason for someone guilty of a capital crime to retain any say in the household. Finally, if a woman isn’t willing to give her children up entirely to the man against whom she has committed adultery then she isn’t repentant in the least for she doesn’t even realize that the penalty for her crime is supposed to be much worse than losing the rights to her children. It is supposed to be death. How can a woman repent of adultery if she doesn’t even accept that her crime is worthy of death.
In fact, a man may divorce his wife for offenses far short of adultery. A man may divorce his wife for fornication as Jesus stated. So what sins are fornication? If a wife goes into her front yard and does a Buddhist chant then she is committing fornication and may be divorced. If a wife walks around the neighborhood naked she has committed fornication, and may be divorced. If a wife refuses to submit to her husband in her daily responsibilities, stacking up debt he did not approve, she is not behaving as his wife but as his enemy. She is putting objects higher than her husband. Offering sex to another man is fornication although if the wife doesn’t follow through on the offer it is not adultery but fornication and the husband can divorce his wife for that. This is a topic for another article so I will address it elsewhere.
In closing, remember that everything that Jesus said regarding permission for divorce was said to men who understood that the penalty for adultery was death. Jesus spoke to grounds for divorce that were short of adultery because a man does not have to divorce a dead wife. Joseph was a righteous man, therefore he sought to put away his wife quietly. Matthew 1:19 In other words, instead of having her stoned, he decided to divorce her. Besides, without two eye witnesses his wife could not have been convicted of adultery because circumstantial evidence is not accepted under Biblical law. Granted, the penalties are much greater but so is the burden of proof. Now Joseph was a righteous man and yet he would have divorced his wife had he not been told by the angel that his wife was with child by the Holy Spirit. A man who makes light of adultery by forgiving instead of divorcing his adulterous wife is not a righteous man. He is a polluter of the land. Jeremiah 3:1
It is love for God that we should obey Him. It is not love for God when we pollute the land for in polluting the land we make it more difficult for others to see their sinful nature and they become less likely to come to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Can one guilty of adultery go to heaven? Of course. Everyone is capable of repentance with the help of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of God. The man being crucified with Jesus repented and saw the Kingdom of God. If we enact the death penalty for adulterers and adulteresses in America that would not prevent them from repenting prior to their death by stoning and if their repentance were genuine they would see the Kingdom of God.
So what can a wife do if her husband has had relations with the wife of another man? She can request that he give her a Bill of Divorcement but if he does not give it she will not be free to remarry. Regardless, she must not have relations with him again because he has polluted himself by having relations with the wife of another man. And the case of King David has no bearing here. Kings are never stoned nor does a subject of a king have power to defy him. If we reach the point where the civil authorities are willing to enforce biblical law short of the death penalty for adultery they could at least compel him to give her a Bill of Divorcement in lieu of imprisonment. There are many righteous ways that fornicators and adulterers and adulteresses can be dealt with. We don’t need to lower our standards in order to deal effectively with sinners. In addition, the Bible has such high standards for prosecuting cases that even though the penalties are harsher, the percentage of cases resulting in conviction are lower.
Now you may be asking yourself whether there may ever be restoration to fellowship for those who have committed adultery? Of course there can be but to restore the guilty party in the same congregation as the offended party would be like restoring a murderer in the same church as the child who he murdered. God forbid that we should be so unloving that we should put victim’s rights below the rights of the perpetrators of heinous crimes. If you’re having a hard time understanding that adultery is a capital crime then please read your Bible more and pray.
What other results may come of having our governments follow Biblical law in particular when it comes to marriage and chastity? The bride price would go up. What this means for modern women is that their value would be elevated. Today, women give themselves away for free. Some even shack up for nothing with no commitment whatsoever from the man. Under Biblical law a number of things happen regarding women. Since a man can have more than one wife the number of available women becomes scarcer. This means that women can expect a higher caliber of men courting them. Under Biblical law, a man found laying with a virgin is required to pay the father the bride’s price plus take the woman as his wife. Under Biblical law a rapist must think twice for if he rapes a married or betrothed woman he will receive the death penalty. If he rapes a virgin he’ll be required to pay 50 Shekels which was seven times the bride’s price. In addition, the man will not be permitted to divorce her, even if she runs naked through the streets! Hmm, sounds like the penalty for belonging to some churches in America; no divorce even if the wife is guilty of the worst types of fornication. On the other side of the coin it would not pay a woman to lose her virginity for if she did then she’d have little protection from rapists if her lack of virginity were known. There would be no monetary penalties other than those imposed for cases of simple assault.
I will add Biblical footnotes to this article shortly.
Note: Pastor Don Milton specializes in topics of Biblical Marriage and Chastity. Feel free to ask Pastor Don any question you may have.
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