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Marriage & Divorce

John Collins09/16/2013

Video available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyZH6kco2bI

I will never forget those long, hot evenings in the Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville, Indiana, when the pastor would decide to play the recorded sermon by William Branham, “Marriage and Divorce.”  Sitting there listening to what I believed to be “God’s Word” as children sat for over two, long hours counting the holes in the ceiling tiles.  Seems as though I remember a few adults counting with them, trying to concentrate on the sermon from 1965, but not succeeding.

At the end of the sermon, the pastor would say something to the effect, “I’m so glad that brother Branham brought us this sermon so that we would know the truth about marriage and divorce.  Looking back, this statement is a bit shocking when you consider that it comes from a pastor.  One would assume that a pastor would base his teaching upon the Bible, and the Bible tells us everything we need to know about the union between a woman and a man. 

Let me preface by saying that I am not in support of a man or woman leaving his or her spouse for another.  I do not believe that this is God’s perfect plan.  I truly believe that if we had the love that Jesus displayed in His example of the perfect life, there would be no separation.  The man and his wife are a representation of Christ and His Bride.

And I’m not going to argue or debate against the decisions of a pastor as he teaches on this subject – so long as his teaching remains based upon scripture.  You’ll find many articles on the internet describing “Branham verses Bible” that will show you the Words of Scripture pointing to Truth without having to even begin to debate.  The Word of God should stand, though every man be found a liar.

Instead, I think we should join together as an encouragement for God’s children, no matter who they are or what they have done.  This is what Christ taught us to do.  While it was not God’s intention for any to separate, it was also not God’s intention for love to fail.  Sadly, it happens.  This is a world filled with sin, and we are all sinners saved by God’s Grace.

I am not a pastor, and do not consider myself a shepherd of any kind.  I am free to voice my opinion without fear of how one of my “sheep” might be affected.  I believe that if I were a pastor, I would preach strongly against men and women separating, using the words found in scripture to try to mend relationships before they are severed.  What God has put together, let no man put asunder.

But this is only one small part of the responsibility of a pastor.  What I want to discuss now is the other side of the issue:  showing support and love to those who have severed past relationships and have started new lives.  A pastor who stands in duty on the first half of the issue and then hides from the second half of the issue is not standing at all.  Turning their backs away from God’s children, they become less of a shepherd and more of an open hole in the fence.

Very few outside of Jeffersonville know the background story to Branham’s sermon entitled “Marriage And Divorce.”  Even fewer know why the original founding fathers of this religious movement have to pretend that they did not know what the Bible said on the subject before Branham preached this sermon. 

This sermon was the result of the failed union between Branham’s son, Billy Paul, and his first wife.  Though he preached harshly against “marrying and giving in marriage” on recorded tape, there were a number of men Branham gave a special “pardon” to because their separation was prior to the preaching of this sermon.  Billy Paul just happened to be one of those men.

But Billy Paul was not the first.  According to government archives, Branham officiated the second and third marriage for his brother Jesse.  Jesse’s marriage to Agnes Gulleth and Mary Merryman were both officiated by William Branham, though each was married multiple times. 

Melvin Branham, William’s brother, also traded women around a bit.  William Branham officiated Melvin’s marriage to Charlotte Brumback (Hope’s sister), and later Catherine Hendricks.  Both Melvin and Catherine were married multiple times when Rev. Branham officiated their wedding.

But my point is not to condemn Branham for helping his brothers trade women around like cattle.  We do not know the background story behind each situation, and though Branham did not practice what he preached, it is not our duty to judge his actions.  Only God knows why Branham would preach one thing while doing another.

Pause for a moment and picture the stories of two women, two separate stories that are similar in situation:

Both women are accused of living in adultery, guilty of breaking the bonds of marriage.  Both women are shamed by their accusers.  Both women are certainly guilty of their sin, standing before their shepherds in the face of the men who condemn them.

One Man falls to his knees in front of one of the women, drawing something in the sand.  The other man raises his nose in scorn.  One man addresses the accusers, pointing to what he had drawn in the sand, while the other man addresses the other accusers pointing his finger at the woman.

As the two sets of accusers watch the women and their respective shepherds, we find a vast difference in the outcomes.  One man asks the accusers which of them are without sin.  The other tells the woman being accused that she will never be part of the Bride of Christ.

Both of these are true stories.  One is found in John 8, when a woman was brought before Christ to be stoned for her adultery.  The other was brought before her pastor in a church that follows William Branham.

The love that Jesus displayed for this woman changed her life forever.  Though she was guilty of a crime that was punishable by death under the Mosaic Law, Christ stood by her side against her accusers.  While the Law of Moses declared punishment and death, the Love of Christ declared new life. 

Similar testimonies are coming in from around the world.  Pastors have made themselves judge, jury, and executioner.  Rather than stand for the sinner in love, showing them the way to Christ, they stand with the accusers like the Pharisees did during the days of Christ.  They have based their teaching on the extra-biblical doctrines that this religious movement have produced, and declare judgment upon the guilty, telling them that they will never be part of God’s Bride.

One woman tells me that they were instructed to divorce her new husband, and then she might be a “servant to the bride” if she is “lucky.”  Instead of asking the accusers “whoever is without sin, cast the first stone,” the pastors have proclaimed, “here are some more stones, let me help you punish this woman for her sin.”

Nothing can separate us from the Love of God.  The Bible says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and that the blood of Christ is sufficient. 

As I said, I am against divorce and remarriage.  Families are separated.  Children are caught in the middle, and their lives are changed forever.  Some relationships are never mended.  God did not intend for things to be this way.  The same love that he showed for the woman accused of adultery is the same love that a man should have for his wife: unfailing. 

But we were falsely taught that remarriage was “perpetual adultery,” a sin that could never be forgiven.  We were taught that this sin was somehow greater than all others, and that the power of this sin was greater than the power of the cross.  We were taught that this could not be forgiven.

Because of this, we find partners abusing the false security of their seemingly unbreakable marriage.  Women refusing their marital duties to their husbands, falsely thinking that he is stuck with her and can never leave.  Men who abuse their wives and treat them like servants – because he falsely thinks she is unable to find another man.

What the pastors do not tell you is the elements of Jewish custom.  Women who did not perform their marital duties under Jewish custom were put away.  Divorce was permitted under the statutes of Moses, and according to Jesus was due to the hardness of their hearts.  They did not have this love that Christ displayed for the Bride of Christ.

When a woman was put away, this was a death sentence.  Women did not have skilled trades, and could not provide for themselves.  If they were to survive, they must find another husband.  For this reason, the scriptures tell us that separating from your wives causes the wife to “commit adultery.” 

But notice, the scriptures do not tell us to condemn those who went through a separation.  We do not find scriptures forcing ourselves to remain in an abusive relationship for fear of denying the power of the cross – the work that Christ did on the cross was once for all.

What we do find is several examples of Christ telling us that no sin is greater than another.  We find examples telling us how damaging our sin of pride is towards others, and how our condemnation of the sins of others is useless until we can remove the “log from our own eye.”

Christ rebuked those enforcing the punishment of death towards adulterers when he told the Pharisees that they were also committing adultery as they looked upon another woman in lust.  Christ was not imposing a new more difficult rule as many pastors falsely preach – he was explaining to the Pharisees that none were worthy and all had fell short of the Glory of God.

I never will forget when I met my first person that told me that their failed marriage was the reason that they had left the message.  Not long after that, another in a similar situation who had not only left the message, but had left Christianity simply because of the false teaching of condemnation for past sins. 

Since SeekYeTheTruth started, I have came across several who were trapped in failed marriages.  Some were the fault of the spouse still in the message, some the fault of the one who left.  One told me that he tried to stay with his spouse, but reaching his arm under her head in the middle of the night, his hand landed on an axe under her pillow!  Not only was his marriage suffering, his life was in danger – and the only reason he forced himself to stay with this woman was the fear of eternal separation from God!

Now that we have exposed the failed prophecies of William Branham, some have blamed their failed marriages on me, personally.  While denying their spouses the love, security, and even marital duties, they believe that their husbands or wives are eternally bound into an abusive relationship.

I will be the first to tell you that God does intend for us to be bound in chains to an abusive spouse until death causes those chains to fall to the ground.  But while there is a chance of mending a relationship, I support finding ways to restore love where love can be restored.

But I will say this:  If fingers pointed at me can help mend otherwise broken bonds of love between mothers and fathers and their children or families, I’ll gladly bear the load. 

Scriptures tell us that it was not God’s plan for husband and wife to separate.  It was not intended to be this way from the beginning, and the hardness of heart has led to many separations throughout time.

But we find no punishment declared under either the Mosaic Law or in the New Covenant of Grace.  Even the churches that support the teaching of William Branham, who create a mixture of Old Covenant Law and New Covenant Grace have to add scriptures to their Bibles to support this theology of eternal separation due to marital separation. 

Even their leader, William Branham, did not live his life this way.  If they would simply examine the lifestyle of the Branham family, and study the men and women married and remarried by Branham himself, they would never condemn another for their difficulties in life.

We must remember that separation is not an easy thing.  No genuine man and woman gets married with intentions of separation, and the pain that drives them into leaving the love of their life is severe.  While we stand condemning, like the men bringing the woman to Jesus, we must remember that underneath that body of flesh is a broken and battered life.

But then, we must stand up for that life with the love that Jesus displayed.  We must offer the man and the woman the same undying love and support that Christ displayed as he drove the accusers from her side.

Remember the woman at the well.  She had five husbands, and was living with a man that was not her husband.  She could not provide for herself, so each time she was abandoned, she had to find another man to support her.  No woman in Jewish custom willingly left a providing husband – to leave was to die of starvation.

Jesus did not tell her that her first remarriage severed her from the body of Christ.  He did not tell her that her second remarriage excluded her from being part of the “little bride.”  He did not tell her that her third remarriage limited her to status of “servant to the bride.”  He did not tell her that her forth and fifth marriage condemned her to hell.

What is interesting about that situation is that the woman seemed to be a believer.  She knew of the coming Messiah, and was looking for his arrival.  She believed it to the extent that she asked Jesus if he was the One.  Her many remarriages seemed to be as a believer, and Christ offered her salvation.

Because of the love Jesus showed to this woman, lives were saved.  She found forgiveness and love at the hands of the one who was going to soon die on a cross for her eternal life.  Because Christ did not scorn her into broken spirit, not only her, but many in the city were saved!  The love of the Gospel shown to one person has the power to save!

Divorce was never part of God’s plan.  But we must remember also that neither was pride or selfishness.  The scorn that the pastors have shown towards brothers and sisters that have started new lives after abusive or immoral relationships was never part of God’s plan – pastors are supposed to be shepherds of the flock, not butchers.

I don’t believe that Christ intends for us to drive His Children into leaving Christianity for decisions that we do not fully understand.  I do not believe it is God’s perfect will that we excommunicate our brothers and sisters after they start new lives, as many have now told us as part of their testimony.  It is God’s will for all to be saved and to come to knowledge of the Truth.

So let’s offer that same support and love that Jesus gave to the woman at the well.  Let’s show the others that the love within us comes from Christ, and it knows no boundaries.  Let’s try to re-establish love in the many failing relationships across this nation by leading them to this Christ who died for their sins. 

Let’s tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News that Christ came and lived the perfect life that we could not.  Let’s tell them how Christ died on the cross for both sides of that failed marriage, and with every blow of the hammer to the nail, their sin was erased from the mind of God.  Let’s assure them that Christ rose, and they will one day rise with him – no matter what they have said or done!

And let’s remind ourselves that it is by Grace that we are saved, through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not of ourselves – there is nothing that we can do to save our sinful flesh.  It is a Gift, from Almighty God.  The Gift of the Father when He offered His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9