Divorce and Remarriage

“Remain In The Calling You Were Called” (Are Adulterous Marriages Sanctified Through Baptism?)


  1. Tied very closely to the last lesson “Are Unbelievers Under Christ’s Marriage Laws?” is this next question: are adulterous marriages sanctified through baptism? If we accept that when the unbeliever divorces and remarriage for any reason except sexual immorality (which we must accept based upon the last lesson), then some argue that when the unbeliever is baptized the sin of adultery is washed away and the marriage can now remain intact.
  2. In this lesson we will consider the arguments for this position. Does baptism wash away the sins of adultery so that a once adulterous relationship is now sanctified and acceptable to God? Let us first consider the arguments.

The Arguments:

  1. Baptism washes away sins (2 Corinthians 5:17). The first argument that is usually presented is that all sins, regardless of the nature or severity of the sins, are washed away at baptism. To further illustrate this point, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17 are quoted, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Therefore, since all things have been created new, this would also include a new believer’s marriage. Even if it was sinful beforehand, God has now made it new in baptism and the marriage is sanctified by God.
  2. Remain in the calling (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). Further, the position goes on to argue that in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, in a chapter talking about marriage, Paul says in verse 20 and verse 24 to “remain in the calling in which one was called.” Therefore, in whatever condition you find yourself in when you come to Christ, one is to remain in the condition. The point being that if you came to Christ with an unlawful spouse at the time, when baptized Paul now says to remain in the calling, meaning to keep your current spouse and not to put them away.
  3. No evidence of Christians being taught to put away spouses. The position further argues that we never read of any situation where Jesus or the apostles preached for people to put away their adulterous marriages. They tell us to consider all the immoral situations that these people would find themselves in, like in Corinth where sexual immorality ran rampant. They argue, if God wanted Christians to put away their spouses, don’t you think there would be a command to do so or an example in the New Testament of Christians doing such? Since there is no such instance, the position argues that we are wrong for telling those who would come to Christ that their marriages are adulterous and they must separate them. This position states that God accepts the marriages because they have been cleansed through baptism. Let us spend the remainder of our time showing why these arguments are false.

I. “Baptism Washes Away Sins” Argument

A. Can we continue in sin? (Romans 6:1-2)

    1. I agree that baptism washes away all sins, no matter how vile in nature or how severe the sin may be. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven by God. Jesus’ sacrifice removed all sins from us when we were buried with Him in baptism (Romans 6:4). When someone who currently has an adulterous marriage is baptized for the forgiveness of sins and submits one’s life to God, I believe that the sin of adultery is washed away.
    2. However, if that baptized person then goes back home and continues to be in a marriage that God has said is unlawful and is adultery according to Matthew 19:9, then the person is committing adultery again. Yes, he or she may have been forgiven for the past sins of adultery, but if the person continues to violate God’s law, they have new sins they have placed upon themselves.
    3. This is the very point that Paul made in Romans 6:1-2. Paul said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Paul says that simply because we have had our sins forgiven does not mean that we allowed to continue sinning. In fact, we are to be dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11).

B. Repentance, which is necessary for salvation, is the ceasing of

  1. We must understand what it means to repent from our sins. We usually give a simple definition of turning our back to sin or changing our mind and purpose against committing those sins again. This is the very base understanding of what repentance is all about. Repentance is about changing one’s life to serve God and follows His laws. How can one go on living in the sin of adultery and expect their to be forgiveness of sins?
  2. Now what the proponents of this view want us to believe is that adultery was in the act of divorce and remarriage alone. Therefore, one can repent of breaking the marriage covenant and dedicate their mind and purpose to never divorce and remarry again. But this is not and never has been pure meaning of the word “adultery.” Jesus commanded in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Did Jesus mean that the person is lusting for a divorce or for sexual relations? Of course Jesus is speaking about unlawful sexual relations.
  3. When Jesus says that adultery is committed when someone divorces and remarries for any reason except for fornication, He is not only referring to the breaking of the marriage covenant, but also what is entailed in the remarriage, which is sexual relations. To make adultery mean only covenant breaking is to redefine the meaning of adultery. Adultery means unlawful sexual relations with someone other than your spouse. To repent from this, one should not only change their mind against divorcing and remarrying unlawful, but must also cease the unlawful marriage union.
  4. Someone who is married to someone else unlawfully is committing adultery. Repentance is not in saying that I will never divorce and remarry again. That is nice, but the person is still committing adultery by remaining married unlawfully. To say that repentance is possible without the putting away of the adulterous marriage is to redefine adultery or not know the meaning of repentance. Adultery can only be stopped by the ending of the unlawful sexual relations and the ending of the unlawful marriage. Otherwise, Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9 are void and have no effect.

C. Baptism never makes unlawful actions lawful

    1. Where can we go in the scriptures to show that an unlawful, sinful activity becomes righteous before God after baptism? Where can one go to prove that something condemned against the unbeliever is sanctified if the believer performs the same act?
    2. How can a marriage, which is defined by Jesus as adulterous in Matthew 19:9, no longer be adulterous because of baptism? Baptism never takes a sinful activity and makes it non-sinful or sanctified. That which is sin before coming to Christ is still sin after coming to Christ. Where did God change His laws on what is sinful and what is not sinful? Suppose you believe that the unbeliever is under different law, the universal moral law, God’s definitions for what is sin and what is not sin are still the same. If you do not think so, read Romans 1:20-32 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. God’s laws for what is sinful and what is not sinful is the same to the believer as it is to the unbeliever. There is no scriptural authority to teach or believe otherwise.
    3. Consider Romans 7:1-3. When was the woman no longer called an adulteress? Was it when someone was baptized? Paul does not say so. Adultery only stops when the one who the person is bound to by marriage dies. Other than that action, adultery continues. By the way, this is a place where we see someone described in a continual condition of adultery. As long as the woman remained with the unlawful man, she was to be called an adulterous. The only way that could be stopped would be for her to no longer be married to the unlawful spouse or for the one who she was bound to pass away. Otherwise she remains an adulterous and baptism does not change that condition.

D. What is true for adulterers is also true for other sexual sins

    1. Consider this point with me and we will make it many times in this study. If someone who is baptized is allowed to keep their unlawful spouse because it is somehow sanctified, why can’t the homosexual keep their partner or spouse? Let that question sink into your minds for a moment because the implications are very important.
    2. If someone can remain in an adulterous marriage, why can’t someone remain in a homosexual relationship? You may say that it is different, but how? Adultery is unlawful and so is homosexuality. If one becomes lawful at baptism, why doesn’t the other? If we can accept adulterous marriages, then we must accept homosexual relationship once they are baptized! Are you ready to accept that? If you accept adulterers, you must also accept those who practice homosexuality, bestiality, lesbianism, and polygamy. If one is sanctified, they are all sanctified at baptism. I hope that we can see that these things are unlawful to the unbeliever and to the believer. No one is allowed to continue in these sins or in any other sin.

II. “Remain In Your Calling” Argument

A. Paul speaks of lawful situations

    1. In answering this argument we must realize that Paul is describing lawful situations and circumstances. For example, in verses 18-19 Paul describes circumcision and uncircumcision. Both of these conditions are lawful to God. In verse 21 Paul describes those in the condition of being slaves and those who are free. Both of these conditions are lawful to God. Paul is describing things that are lawful, or “in the Lord.
    2. Can we apply these words to adultery? Is being in an adulterous marriage or in a non-adulterous marriage both lawful to God? Are these conditions that do not matter to God? If so, why did Jesus and the apostles repeatedly condemn adultery? Adultery is not a lawful condition to be in with God.
    3. Paul is not teaching here that whatever sinful situation you find yourself in to remain in that calling. Can we apply this to the murderer, whose calling it is to kill the innocent? Shall we say to them to remain in the calling in which they were called? Of course not. We would not apply these words to any sinful activity, for one to remain in such a calling. To do so violates what acts of repentance are all about. However, some want to apply these words to all marriages. But it cannot be for not all marriages are lawful to God.

B. Specifically, this is proof that believer is to remain with unbeliever

    1. Further, consider the context careful in 1 Corinthians 7. What is the last situation Paul has described? In verses 12-16 we see that Paul is speaking to believers who are married to unbelievers. What has Paul commanded in those verses? Paul has commanded neither spouse is to depart from one another.
    2. Verses 17-24 are simply a continuation of that argument. There is nothing in the passage that shows that he is arguing a different point or a different condition. To remain in the calling is proof for the believer to remain with the unbeliever. There is nothing more that Paul is proving with this argument. Many make far too much out of these words, applying them to all marriages, when Paul did not apply them to all marriages.

C. What is true for the adulterers is also true for other sexual sins

    1. Again, let us also consider that what applies to the adulterers also applies to others who commit sexual sins. If those who are living in adultery can continue with their spouses, why cannot those who are practicing in homosexual relationships continue with their partners and spouses? Why can’t they “remain in the calling in which they were called?”
    2. You see, Paul said those words to those in lawful relationships, not those who were in unlawful relationships. To apply these words to those who continue to practice sin does violence to the rest of the scriptures. Applying these words to unlawful relationships removes the need for repentance and says that anyone can remain in their sins if that is “their calling.” The scriptures simply do not teach this and this position misapplies Paul’s words.

III. “No Evidence of Christians Being Told to Put Away Spouses” Argument

A. Does silence make things lawful?

    1. Since when does silence give authority for action? Silence authorizes nothing. Silence is just that…silence. If silence gives authority, then we can have rock and roll bands, give away prizes, hold raffles, play bingo, throw Super Bowl parties and have other such acts as worship.
    2. The question cannot be if we see Christians putting away spouses or not. If we look for this kind of authority, then we must also look for an example of a fornicator who quits fornicating, a thief who quits stealing, an idolater who stops worshipping other gods and so on before we would know to not practice such things. How do we know not to do these things? Because they are declared by God to be unlawful. The question must be: Is the action lawful or unlawful? The answer to this will tell us what to do. If an act is unlawful, whatever act it may be, it must stop.

B. What is true for the adulterers is also true for other sexual sins

    1. Let me use this argument one more time: where do we see the homosexual told to end their homosexual relationships with their partners or spouses? Since we do not see such, does this mean that homosexual relationships are lawful? No, we know that is not the case. Why not? Because God condemned homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. This is in the very same passage Paul also condemned adultery.
    2. What is made lawful for one sexual sin is made lawful for all sexual sins. Can the polygamist keep their multitudes of spouses? Can a person keep a relationship with animals? If the adulterer can, so can these. We must see that all these are condemned by God. Though we do not see examples of people ending these relationships, since these actions are condemned by God, we must understand that to be right with God is to end sinful activities.

C. Herod’s unlawful wife (Mark 6:17-18)

    1. In Mark 6:17-18 we see John the Baptist preach that it was not lawful for Herod to have Herodias as a wife. The reason why is that she was still Philip’s wife. Would this incestuous, adulterous marriage have been lawful if Herod had been baptized and become a Christian? Who would believe such a thing? Do you think John told Herod that if he would be baptized that the marriage would then be okay?
    2. The only thing Herod was supposed to do was to not have Herodias as a wife. It was not lawful. To end the unlawful marriage, Herod and Herodias were to separate. There is no other alternative.

D. The example of the people of Israel (Ezra 9-10)

    1. Finally, the people of Israel in the days of Ezra are an excellent example for what one is to do in an unlawful marriage. In Ezra 9, Ezra has lamented and preached to the people that God had forbidden that they marry foreign wives. The people had done so anyway. Ezra is praying on behalf of the people for their grievous sins.
    2. In chapter 10 of Ezra, when the people realize that their marriages were unlawful, what did they decide to do? They put away those foreign wives, even though they had children in those marriages. The people understood that if the marriage was unlawful, they had no right to remain in the marriage.
    3. Why can we not see this same principle today? If a marriage is unlawful, we have no right to remain in it. It is unlawful regardless of feelings and emotions that we may have. It is unlawful regardless of families and children. What is sin is sin and we cannot continue in sinful things. Therefore the people put away their unlawful spouses.


  1. What is sin before baptism is still sin after baptism. We have been called to be new creatures and to no longer live in sin. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2). It does not matter what sin we are talking about, all sin must be stopped to be a true disciple of Christ.
  2. While these words may be hard for us to accept, we must put above our emotions the need to serve God. That is our primary focus. We can put ourselves in a lot of bad circumstances and situations. We must obey God to untangle ourselves from the web of sin and become servants of God.
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