|Putting Away, Departing
One of the most forceful and persuasive presentations of an inaccurate position on divorce
and remarriage is J.D. Bales’ NOT UNDER BONDAGE. Although acknowledging the many
fine articles and books to come from the pen of brother Bales, NOT UNDER BONDAGE is a
disservice to the truth.
A major plank in the position presented by brother Bales is:
Moses’ legislation on divorce and remarriage was legislation for those in the old covenant. It
is my conviction that Christ’s legislation on this subject is for marriages between Christians,
and not for aliens, or for a mixed marriage (p.44)
Moses’ law on divorce and remarriage was given to the covenant people (Ex. 20:1; Deut. 5:2-
3), for it was part of the old covenant, and not to the non-covenant people. Why should it be
surprising that Christ’s legislation is for married people in His covenant, not outside of it? (p.
In explaining how those outside the covenant law of Christ could sin, Bales, under the
subheading ADULTERY POSSIBLE BEFORE CONVERSION? (1 COR. 6:0-11), says:
Paul said adultery, and a number of other sins, had been committed by the Corinthians
before their conversion. Does this prove that prior to conversion the Corinthians were under
Christ’s new covenant law? Answer: First, it it does, it does not disprove my case o 1
Corinthians 7:12-15 since Paul clearly established that Christ’s law on marriage was for two
believers, and not for others. (7:10-11,12).
Second, Paul did not say here what law these Corinthians violated – whether Christ’s,
Moses’, or the law on the heart (Rom. 2:12-15). Paul did not say Christ’s law was bound on
them prior to conversion (p. 148).
Thus, Bales sees three laws having been in effect during the period of written revelation:
Moses’ law for the Jews, the law on the heart for the non-covenant people, and Christ’s law
for Christians. Two of these, Bales sees as being in effect during the time of the old covenant,
three as being in effect during the time immediately following the cross, and two in effect now.
… the New Testament teaches that the law of Moses had been abolished. Nowhere does the
New Testament teach that the law under which the non-covenant people lived (Rom. 1:18-2:
15) has been abolished. This law could not be abolished without abolishing moral law and
the very nature of man himself (p. 151).
Therefore, he teaches that those who are not Christians are under “the law of the heart,” and
the Christians are under the law of Christ, the New Testament.
Bales goes on to say:
Of course, we know that the law on the heart was never sufficient to justify the sinner,
although it was sufficient to show that man is a sinner. The unwritten and unrevealed
(unrevealed to the Gentiles) law of Romans 1:18-2:15 is still the law under which non-
covenant people live and it is the law which will condemn them if they do not accept pardon
and redemption which is offered through Christ and His new covenant (p. 169).
There are three basic mistakes Bales makes in regard to his position on Matthew 19:9 being
1) His concept of the relation of revelation and morality;
2) His explanation of the law on the heart (Romans 2:12-16); and
3) His understanding of what the definition of “covenant” is in relation to the New
1) Revelation and Morality.
In the beginning when God made man and woman, “they were both naked the man and his
wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). They knew not the difference between good
and evil until they ate of the fruit. Revelation from God is necessary to know good and evil;
man does not innately know what is right and wrong.
Paul reveals of the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-25 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from
heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in
unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath
shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly
seen, being understood by that things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead;
so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as
God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was
darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of
the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and
fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness
through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who
changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the
Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”
God’s existence and power may be gained from nature; but, not morality. It is when the
Gentiles knew not God and followed “their own hearts,” their own understanding, that they
“became fools” and dishonored their own bodies. The knowledge of God and his revelation
brought moral action; to forget God and his revelation was to become without moral
compunction and moral law. Yet, God’s revelation of morality through the patriarchs and
prophets was sufficiently known for even the Gentiles to know of God’s judgment (Romans 1:
2) The Law On The Heart (Romans 2:12-16)
Paul begins the second chapter of Romans castigating the Jews who judged the Gentiles,
condemning them for doing the same things the Jews were doing. It is not what a man is
born, but what he does that God will judge. “For there is no respect of persons with God. For
as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without law: and as many as have
sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before
God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law,
do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto
themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also
bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel
Those who were born Gentiles will perish in their sin, for they were “aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and
without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Forgiveness, “the promise of eternal inheritance”
(Hebrews 9:15), was found in the covenant God had made with Israel. Yet, it was not in being
born under the covenant that that promise was secured; it was in obedience to the law. When
the Gentile, who had not been given the law, did what the law commanded, they did what was
right, and were acceptable in that. This shows the works of the law, the law of Moses, were
written on their hearts. This knowledge of right and wrong, which coincides with the law either
condemns or commends them, depending upon whether they obey or disobey it. Those who
sin shall be condemned at the judgment of Jesus whether they are Jew or Gentile.
“The work of the law written on their hearts” is not a reference to a knowledge of good and evil
born in man. The Gentile may by nature, or naturally, without the law of Moses, do what the
law commands. When they do, they are right in what they do. They have not a law “written on
their hearts,” but “the work of the law.” That is, they have actions which the law commands
“written on their hearts,” or placed in their minds and emotions to guide their actions. This
“work” is “the things contained in the law,” not a separate law. “The law” is a reference to the
law of Moses, the Old Covenant. Again, all Paul is saying is: “When a man obeys the law, and
does what is right, he is acceptable whether a Jew or a Gentile.” All sin shall be condemned,
and all righteousness shall be accepted.
Note the comments of the Gospel Advocate’s A COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
EPISTLES BY DAVID LIPSCOMB, EDITED WITH ADDITIONAL NOTES BY J.W. SHEPHERD,
VOL. I, ROMANS:
“12 For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: -- The
Gentiles had been without law, yet sinned. They were without law because they were gross
sinners, and refused to honor the Lawgiver and obey the law. During all the ages of the
Jewish nation any Gentile could come under and obey the law by becoming a Jew. Then so
soon as Gentiles were willing to obey God they were blessed. If the Gentiles, who were
without law, sin, God will punish without the law because they would not obey the law.
“And as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; -- But if the Jews
under the law sin, they will be condemned by the law, and so perish. All who sin, whether
within the law or without the law, perish. If any who are not under the law, the Gentiles, come
to know the things that are in the law, and of their own choice do the things of the the law, they
become a law unto themselves, and, doing the things contained in the law of their own free
will, show that the works required by the law are written in their hearts. They obey the lawnot
because they are under the law, but because in their hearts they love the things contained in
the law, so they will be saved by the law. All persons out of Christ are in a lost condition, and
can be saved only by the redemption that is found in Christ.
“13 for not the hearers of the law are just before God, -- The Jews heard the law, but did not
obey it. Hearing the law will not help a man unless he obeys it. For a man to hear the law and
refuse to do it renders him less excusable and more worthy of stripes. ‘And that servent, who
knew his lord’s will, shall be beaten with many stripes.’ (Luke 12:47.)
“but the doers of the law shall be justified – Only those who do the law will be justified by the
“14 (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not
having the law, are the law unto themselves; -- The reference here made is to the law of
Moses. This does not imply that the Gentiles, who do not know the law, can obey the law
which the Jews with the knowledge of God could not keep. But in vindication of the justice of
this dealing with the Gentiles, he assumes that even though God did not give the law to them,
yet when they did by nature, not by command, the things of the law, they became a law unto
themselves, and were accepted. Many Gentiles, like Cornelius, living among the Jews and
the holiness of his law, while not formally coming under it, rendered homage to it without
becoming Jews. In the days of Solomon there were one hundred fifty-three thousand six
hundred such persons in Judah. (2 Chron. 2:17)
“15 in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, -- Those who, while not under
the law, yet keep it, show that it is written on their hearts. Their affections have taken hold of it,
and they do it because they, from the heart, fear God and his law. This cannot mean that their
hearts prompted them to do what was in the law while ignorant of it, but that the heart, – the
understanding, the will, the affections – would embrace the law, and then they would obey the
law of the new covenant because they loved God. So this means that the Gentiles might know
the law, and while it was not given to them, they might from the love of it keep it, and in so
doing became a law unto themselves.
“their conscience bearing witness therewith, -- Their conscience in such cases would bear
witness to their love and obedience to the law, for conscience is a witness of what passes
within the heart.”
As brother Thomas B. Warren has stated:
“Bales simply does not understand Rom. 2:14-15. The passage says nothing about a law
which is different from and other than the gospel (law) of Christ being written on the heart of
the non-Christian. The context of Rom 2:14-15 shows that the expression ‘have not the law’
refers to the fact that Gentiles did not have the law of Moses. The Jews had a written law (the
law of Moses); the Gentiles (at that time – i.e., before the day of Pentecost) did not have a
written law from God. Since Pentecost, all men (whether Jew or Gentile, whether Christian or
non-Christian) have one – and only one – written law from God: the Gospel (law) of Christ. But
Bales fails – as did Fuqua – to see that Rom. 2:14-15 refers to the time anterior to the Gospel
dispensation. Now, neither Jew nor Gentile has (is under) the law of Moses. In Rom. 2:14-15,
Paul is not contrasting Christians with non-Christians (as Bales alleges). Rather, he was
contrasting the ante-Pentecostal Jew with the ante-Pentecostal non-Jew (Gentile).” [KEEPING
THE LOCK IN WEDLOCK; Thomas B. Warren; National Christian Press, Inc.; 1980; p. 329]
Yet, even if one accepts Bales’ explanation of “the work of the law written on their hearts,” as
does E.M. Zerr,
“It must be remembered that all of the aforesaid comments about the two laws apply to the
years before the giving of the Gospel of Christ. After that, all persons everywhere were
commanded to be subject to that universal law. (See Acts 10:35 and 17:31.)” [BIBLE
COMMENTARY, VOL. V; E.M. Zerr; p. 352]
No matter what position is assumed on “the work of the law written on their hearts,” it needs
to be recognized that we are now under the universal law of the New Testament. God “in
times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). “And the times of this
ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:” (Acts 17:30).
For the gospel of Christ “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the
Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is to be proclaimed “to every
creature” in all the world (Mark 16:15). For Jesus said: “And said unto them, Thus it is written,
and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that
repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations,
beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46,46). Therefore, as men are judged in the day of
reckoning, it shall be by the gospel of Christ, his doctrine, the New Testament. Our Lord said,
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the
world, but to save the world. He that rejected me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that
judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the name shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:
47,48). Therefore, it is by the gospel, the doctrine of Christ, the New Testament, that all the
world shall be judged.
3) The Definition of Covenant.
Much is made of the phrase “in covenant relationship” when speaking of Matthew 19:9; yet, its
usage betrays a misunderstanding of the word covenant as used in the New Testament, or
the Bible in general. Covenant is translated from berith in the Old Testament, and diatheke in
the New Testament. Berith is translated confederacy (2 times), Covenant (260) times, league
(15 times), and be in league (2 times). Diatheke is translated covenant (20 times) and
testament (13+ times). For the purposes of this study we shall concentrate on diatheke and
covenant as used in the New Testament, especially in Hebrews 8 and 9.
The word covenant is defined in English: by FUNK AND WAGNALL’S STANDARD DESK
“1. An agreement entered into by two or more persons or parties; a compact. 2. Theol The
promise of God, to bless those who obey him and fulfill some other condition. 3. Law A
written agreement, as a contract, under seal” (p. 147; Vol I).
Defined by WEBSTER’S SEVENTH NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY –
“1: a usu. Formal, solemn, and binding agreement: COMPACT 2a: a written agreement or
promise usu. Under seal between two or more parties esp. for the performance of some
action …” (p. 192).
Thus, generally convenant is an agreement made by both parties such as a signed contract.
However, a convenant can also be a promise given under seal for a second party who needs
to meet the conditions of the promise to reap its benefits, yet who are under the covenant (or
a part of the covenant) whether they agree to its conditions or not. As FUNK AND WAGNALL’S
dictionary points out, it is the second of these definitions in use in religion as we speak of the
covenants of God.
Especially the New Covenant is spoken of in these terms. The New Covenant is God’s
promise of salvation sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8,9). Covenant and
testament are used interchangeably in Hebrews 9; and, their usage indicated a unilateral
promise that is conditional upon the response of those the promise is given to, and the
promise of salvation is open to “whosoever will” (Revelation 22:17).
A testament is a will. Hebrews 9:16,17 reads: For where a testament is, there must also of
necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead:
otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Men do not have to agree to a will
to be under it, but they must obey its conditions to reap its benefits. Thus, just because a
covenant is given does not mean it is accepted; but, just because it is not accepted does not
mean it is not given. The covenant of Christ was given to all, and includes all, whether they
accept it or not. If they accept it, they will reap its benefits by their obedience, even as did
Israel under the old covenant; and, if they reject it, they will reap its damnation by their
disobedience, even as did Israel under the old covenant.
Diatheke is defined by GEORGE RICKER BERRY –
“(1) a will or testament, a disposition, as of property, Gal. iii.15; Heb. Ix.16,17; (2) a compact or
covenant between God and man (see Gen. vi,ix,xv,xvii; Exod. Xxiv; Deut. V. xxviii). The two
covenants mentioned, Gal. iv.24; that of the O.T. is termed e prote d., He. 9.16,17; Gal. 3/15;
that of the N.T., e kaine d., Lu. xii.20. The O.T. itself (e palaia d., 2 Cor. iii.14) as containing the
first, and the N.T. as containing the second, are each called diatheke” (p. 25).
Diatheke is defined by The ANALYTICAL GREEK LEXICON –
“a testamentary disposition, will; a covenant, He. 9.16,17; Gal. 3.15; in N.T. a covenant of God
with men, Gal. 3.17; 4.24; He. 9.4; Mat. 26.28; et al; the writings of the old covenant, 2 Cor.
3.14” (p. 96).
Diatheke is defined by THAYER’S GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT –
“1. A disposition, arrangement, of any sort which one wishes to be valid, … Gal. iii.15, where
under the name of a man’s disposition is meant specifically a testament, so far forth as it is a
specimen and example of that disposition …; esp. the last disposal which one makes of his
earthly possessions after his death, a testament or will (so in Grk. Writ. Fr. [Arstph.], Plat.
Legg. 11 p. 922 c. sqq. Down): Heb. ix.16 sq. 2. … As the new and far more excellent bond of
friendship which God in the Messiah’s time would enter into with the people of Israel is called
…, kaine daitheke (Jer. Xxxvii. (xxxi.)31), -- which divine promise Christ has made good (Heb.
viii.8-10; x.16), -- we find in the N.T. two distinct covenants spoken of, duo diatheke (Gal. iv.24),
viz. the Mosaic and the Christian, with the former of which (te prote diatheke, Heb. ix.15,18,cf.
viii.9) the latter is contrasted, as kaine diatheke, Mt. xxvi.28; Mk. Xiv.24 …; Lu. xxii.20 …; 1 Co. xi.
25; 2 Co. iii.6; Heb. viii.8, kreitton diatheke, Heb. vii.22, aionios diatheke, Heb. xiii.20; and
Christ is called kreitionos or kaines or neaas diathekes mesites: Heb. vii.6; ix.15; xii.24. This
new covenant binds men to exercise faith in Christ, and God promises them grace and
salvation eternal. This covenant Christ set up and ratified by undergoing death; hence the
phrase to aima tes kaines diathekes, to alma mou tes deathekes, my blood by the shedding
of which the covenant is established, Mt. xxvi.28 … and Mk. xiv.24 … By metonymy of the
contained for the container e palaia diatheke is used in 2 Co. iii.14 of the sacred books of the
O.T. because in them the conditions and principles of the older covenant were recorded.
Finally must be noted the amphibody or twofold use [cf. Philo de mut. Nom. #6] by which the
writer to the Hebrews, in ix.16 sq., substitutes for the meaning covenant which diatheke bears
elsewhere in the Ep. That of testament because the author regards eternal blessedness as
an inheritance bequeathed by Christ, but also because he is endeavoring to show, both that
the attainment of eternal salvation is made possible for the disciples of Christ by his death (ix.
15), and that even the Mosaic covenant had been consecrated by blood (18 sqq.)” (pp.136-7).
Diatheke is defined by AN EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS by W.E.
“DIATHEKE … primarily signifies a disposition of property by will or otherwise. In its use in the
Sept., it is the rendering of a Hebrew word meaning a covenant or agreement (from a verb
signifying to cut or divide, in allusion to a sacrificial custom in connection with covenant-
making, e.g., Gen. 15:10, ‘divided’ Jer. 34:18,19). In contradistinction to the English word
‘covenant’ (lit., a coming together), which signifies a mutual understanding between two
parties or more, each binding himself to fulfill obligations, it does not in itself contain the idea
of joint obligation, it mostly signifies an obligation undertaken by a single person. For
instance, in Gal. 3:17 it is used as an alternative to a ‘promise’ (vv.16,17 and 18). God
enjoined upon Abraham the rite of circumcision, but His promise to Abraham, here called a
covenant, was not conditional upon the observance of circumcision, though a penalty
attached to its non-observance. The N.T. uses of the word may be analyzed as follows: (a) a
promise or undertaking, human or divine, Gal. 3:15; (b) a promise or undertaking on the part
of God, Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; Rom. 9:4; 11:27; Gal. 3:17; Eph. 2:12; Heb. 7:22; 8:6,8,10; 10:16;
(c) an agreement, a mutual undertaking, between God and Israel, see. Deut. 29 and 30
(described as a ‘commandment,’ Heb. 7:18, cp. Ver 22); Heb. 8:9; 9:20; (d) by metonymy, the
token of the covenant, or promise, made to Abraham, Acts 7:8; (e) by metonymy, the record of
the covenant, 2 Cor. 3:144; Heb. 9:4; cp. Rev. 11:19; (f) the basis, established by the death of
Christ, on which the salvation of men is secured, Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor.
11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 10:29; 12:24; 13:20. This covenant is called the ‘new,’ Heb. 9:15, the
‘second,” 8:7, the ‘better,’ 7:22 …” (pp. 242-3).
All of these definitions show that it is not necessary for man to agree to the new covenant for
him to be subject to it. A covenant can, and is in the case of the New Covenant, a unilateral
declaration which men are under.
Since the New Covenant is addressed to all men, both Jew and Gentile, Christian and
unbeliever (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-48), all men are under the
covenant; but, only those who are obedient to it shall enjoy its rewards.
There is no basis upon which to place Matthew 19:9 as applying only to Christians. The
covenant of Christ is to all men. There is no “law written on the heart” to judge non-Christians.
There is only one law, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). The covenant
of Christ is a unilateral declaration of God’s will to all men, both Christian and non-Christian.