Jerry C. Brewer
Suppose an employee embezzled $50,000 from you, then confessed and asked you to forgive him. Would you do it? But don’t answer yet. Suppose that after he stole your money, he decided to become a Christian, told you he repented, confessed his theft, asked your forgiveness, then continued to embezzle money from you. Did he really repent? Would you still forgive him? Would God?
Now, suppose two people divorce their spouses because they, “don’t love them any more” and marry each other. After a time, they hear the gospel and decide to become Christians. They believe in Christ, repent of their sins, confess Christ and are baptized—then continue to live together as husband and wife. Have they repented? Will God forgive them?
Jesus said there is only one reason acceptable to God for divorce—fornication—and one who divorces his spouse and marries another, except it be for that cause, “committeth” adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Notice the word “committeth.” The “eth” ending is the English equivalent of the Greek sense of a verb indicating continuous action—meaning, “keeps on committing adultery.” These passages exclude every other reason that man allows—including “incompatibility”—and permit divorce for only one reason.
According to Jesus, a state of adultery exists when two people marry, one or both of whom divorces his spouse for any reason other than fornication. That state of adultery continues as long as that union continues, and those who enter and remain therein are adulterers, according to Jesus. One who refuses to quit embezzling from his employer cannot be forgiven until he ceases to do so, nor will God forgive those who refuse to leave an adulterous union that will ultimately lead to hell.
If the Bible teaches anything about repentance, it teaches its necessity for one to become a Christian and be forgiven (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 17:30-31). Repentance is a change of the mind. One decides to stop committing sin and start serving God. That’s repentance—a change of mind, or the will (Matt. 21:28-30), prompted by godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10), and resulting in a change of life, or turning from sin (Matt. 3:8).
Now, if godly sorrow prompts a man to change his mind about sinning, he will cease to sin. But if he claims to have repented and continues to sin, he has not repented. Those who remain in adulterous unions have not repented, remain in a lost condition, and receive no forgiveness until they are willing to cease living in adultery.