Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 16, 1953


Cecil B. Douthitt, Box 67, Brownwood, Texas

Divorce And Remarriage

Dear Brother Douthitt: We have had a condition to arise in our congregation concerning divorce and remarriage. I will explain the case and would appreciate it very much if you would give me your thoughts on this condition.

The case is this: If a man while a sinner, divorces his wife and remarries and has children by his second wife, then hears the gospel, repents, confesses Christ and is baptized that his past sins are remitted, and he arises from baptism and walks in newness of life. Is he a Christian, or must he also put away his second wife and children?

If he must put away and leave his second wife before he can become a Christian, wouldn't a preacher have to make all this clear in every sermon and invitation that he issued, else he would cause some to obey thinking that his past sins were forgiven when he obeyed the gospel?

I will appreciate any help that you can give me on this condition as several families are involved in this condition and are anxious to have the matter clarified as there is some contention among some of the members.


The case described in the above letter is such that I cannot give a categorical answer to the brother's questions. My answers must be hypothetical because there are two things pertaining to this case that I do not know. (1) I do not know whether or not the man was ever married in the sight of God to the woman from whom he separated; that is, I do not know that God joined them together as husband and wife when the marriage ceremony was performed. (2) I do not know whether or not fornication was involved in the divorce case. Therefore, I would not say that the man should put away the wife with whom he is living now and who is the mother of his children. If I knew that God had joined him to the first wife and that he was married to her in God's sight, and that fornication was not involved at all in the case, then I could say definitely that repentance demands that he no longer live with the second woman as her husband.

When God has "joined together" a man and woman in marriage there is only one cause for divorce and remarriage, and that cause is fornication. (Matt. 19:9) If a man puts away his wife, except for fornication, God will not join that man to another woman in marriage while the first wife lives. If he marries another while the first wife lives, he becomes guilty of adultery and he cannot repent and keep his second wife too, because repentance requires that the practice of sin cease.

All gospel preachers should teach that repentance (turning away from sin) is necessary to the salvation of the soul, but I would not say that a preacher would "have to make all this clear in every sermon and invitation that he issued." I think he could make clear the meaning of repentance without stating in every "sermon and invitation that he issued" that every sinner who had taken a wife or an automobile that he had no right to take would have to give up the wife or automobile, if he wanted to become a Christian. John the Baptist told Herod that he had no right to take his brother Philip's wife (Matt. 14:4), but it was not necessary for him to repeat the statement every time he preached; he had other ways of convincing sinners that they must "bring forth fruit worthy of repentance." (Matt. 3:8)

A man and a woman must comply with God's law of marriage in order for Him to join them together, even though it be their first marriage. If God does not join together (Matt. 19:6), they are not married in the eyes of the Lord. God does not honor all divorces granted by civil law; neither does he honor all marriages recognized by civil law. God is not bound by the laws of men.

I have a letter on my desk now from a person who thinks that God does not join any in marriage, except Christians. This person thinks that sinners are not married at all in the eyes of the Lord. But I do not agree with that view. It is true that many so called marriages are not marriages in God's estimation, but it is not because the contracting parties are not Christians. God's law of marriage is one thing, and His law of pardon from alien sins is another thing. People who never comply with the law of forgiveness can comply with God's law of marriage, and many of them do comply with it and God joins them in marriage and they become husband and wife as they would be, if both were Christians.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a sister who had married a man when she was a girl in her teens. She lived with him two weeks, then the officers came and arrested him for many crimes he had committed. He was sent to prison and her marriage was annulled because the man had deceived her. A few years later she married another man and they now have children almost grown. She wanted to know if she was living in adultery with her present husband. I answered that I do not think that God ever joined her at all to that criminal that deceived her, and that I do not think she is an adulteress. I advised her not to leave her present husband.