Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 22, 1971

Questions And Answers

Send All Questions To: Eugene Britnell, P.O. Box 3012, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203

From Wauchula, Florida:

"I have had a number of discussions with a member of the church about the 'except for fornication' found in Matthew 5 and 19. Your comments in the Guardian might be of some help on the following question:

"Jesus taught the exception of fornication as cause for divorce in Matthew 5 and 19. However, this was before his will went into effect after his death. Paul brings up the marriage relationship in Romans 7 and First Corinthians 7, but no mention is made of any exception permitting dissolution of the marriage. Therefore, is fornication not now a scriptural cause for divorce?"

It seems to me that there are more theories and conflicting positions taught on marriage and divorce than any other subject mentioned in the Bible, and this is just another one of them. Since they are closely related, I desire to comment on two positions as I reply to this question.

First, some people teach that what Jesus taught before the cross, while he was alive, is not now binding on us. If this be true, and we speak especially of marriage and divorce, his teaching was never binding on anybody and never will be. Jesus did not make laws contrary to the law of Moses and demand that people obey them while the law of Moses was in force. The law of Moses was in force while Jesus lived and he taught people to obey that law (Matt. 23:1-3). We conclude, therefore, that the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:9 is applicable after the cross. If not, when will such teaching be binding on people? It will not be binding in the next age, for in that time there will be no marriage (Mark 12:25). So, if the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:9 is not binding now, it never was and never will be binding on anybody, and Jesus is found guilty of making an idle statement.

Then there are those who teach that what Jesus taught while on earth is not now binding unless repeated by an inspired apostle. I don't believe that either. There are two false positions with reference to the teaching of Christ and the apostles. I have talked with people who believe that what the apostles taught is not necessarily binding on us unless there is a record of where Jesus taught the same thing. They seem to forget that Jesus authorized and the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to teach what they did. The other extreme (the position mentioned in our question) is that what Jesus taught is not binding unless repeated by an apostle. These rules are of human origin, and without any foundation in the scriptures.

If we can show where Jesus taught something which is binding on us, though not repeated by an apostle, we can safely conclude that his teaching in Matthew 19:9 could be binding today without a verbatim quote from an apostle. In Matthew 18:15-17, Christ teaches the proper procedure for settling differences among brethren. For the final step he said, "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church." This could not have been binding before the cross, for the church did not exist then. It has to be binding upon the church since Pentecost, but where was such teaching repeated by an apostle? It was not! Therefore, we must conclude that what the Lord taught can be binding upon us in spite of the fact that no inspired writer mentions it this side of the cross.

Some people fail to understand that the New Testament of Christ became effective after his death (Heb. 9: 16,17); others seem to feel that when he died everything he had taught became null and void — unless repeated by someone else.