Can Two Non-Christians, Involved in Adultery, Be Baptized?

Question:

I want to hear about your views on this particular topic. There’s this man who is married with kids. He had some problems with his wife — she being aggressive and abusive. He met another woman while he was still married to his wife and had sexual relations with her. He eventually divorced his wife, and now he’s planning to marry this new woman he is currently seeing. These two who are now involved in a relationship are not Christians. The question is: Can these two (admitting that they are in an adulterous relationship) seek forgiveness and be baptized for the remission of their sins and start going to church together serving God?

Answer:

Certainly, these two can seek forgiveness, be baptized for the remission of their sins and serve God the rest of their lives.  That is the only way they will ever obtain salvation.  However, they will not be able to find forgiveness if they continue in their adulterous relationship together.  The reasons are numerous:

  1. The only God-given reason for a divorce is adultery.  “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  Notice the person who is the one committing the adultery, as stated in your question, is not permitted to marry again.  In your given situation, the man’s wife may divorce him for adultery, but he, being the offender, will always be an adulterer unless he finds repentance.
  2. Baptism removes sins (Acts 2:38). A prerequisite to baptism is repentance. Repentance means “to regret” to “change one’s mind” [Vines Complete Expository Dictionary].  The man in your question will be unable to demonstrate his regret (repentance) for his sinful actions by maintaining the sinful relationship.  A man who takes another person’s money cannot repent unless he returns the money he took.  Likewise, a man who takes another person’s spouse cannot repent unless he returns the spouse he took.
  3. Just because a person desires to repent does not mean they will find it.  Esau was such a person who wanted to repent but wasn’t willing to do what it took to repent.  “For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). The only way this man will find repentance is by having no further relationship with anyone other than his spouse.
  4. Marriage does not remove sin.  Forgiveness is not obtained by changing the civil relationship.  To God, the man who commits adultery and marries another is an adulterer in his new civil relationship (Matthew 19:9).  God only approves of the marriage He binds regardless of the number of civil relationships that person might have in the future (John 4:17-18).  To God, these two are “shacking up.”
  5. Hypothetically speaking, if the man was baptized (assuming he regretted his sinful conduct) and was forgiven at that moment in time, if he ever has sexual relations with another woman other than his wife, even in a newly created civil relationship, he once again has committed the sin of adultery.  It would have been better for him had he never been baptized (Hebrews 10:26-27; II Peter 2:20-22).

I’m sorry to say the man in your question will have to remain unmarried the rest of his life or be reconciled to his wife (I Corinthians 7:10-11).  If he is willing to repent of his adultery, then he could be baptized to have his sins removed (Acts 2:38).

Steve Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Accuracy in Translation

If a person were to study the subject of wine from most any English translation of the Bible, that person might come away with an idea that the Bible condones a moderate use of alcohol.  The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness (Lk. 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1 Pet. 4:3).  Yet, certain passages sound like they approve of the consumption of intoxicating beverages (Deut. 14:26; Prov. 31:6; Hos. 4:11; Lk. 5:37-39; 7:33-35; Jn. 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:21-22; Eph. 5:18; 1 Tim. 3:8; 5:23) while other passages condemn the very use of intoxicating wine (Lev. 10:8-11; Judg. 13:3-4; Prov. 31:4-5; 23:31; 20:1; 1 Tim. 3:2-3).  It appears that the use of alcoholic beverages are not clearly condemned or clearly condoned consistently throughout the Bible.

This problem can be traced back to the earliest English translations of the Bible.  Accuracy in translation was often sacrificed for more palatable words.  The King James translators; in particular, were more interested in producing a version that everyone would accept than producing a version that was consistent.  They purposely published a version that would not appear biased toward any particular doctrine.

The most blatant example of this is the creation of the English word “baptism.”   The Greek word means immersion.  However, the earliest English translation of the New Testament was produced by a Catholic priest named John Wycliffe.  Wycliffe along with the Catholic Church practiced sprinkling rather than immersion.  The transliterated Greek word for “baptisma” became a new English word that had no definition except what was consequently created.  Hence, the English word baptism includes in its definition dipping, sprinkling, pouring or washing.

The English word “wine” serves as another example of inconsistent translation.  There are at least 13 different Hebrew and Greek words that have been translated into the single English word “wine.”  Surely, the English language is not so limited that the translators couldn’t differentiate 13 different words.  This discrepancy is not acceptable especially when we consider how the King James Version of the Bible avoided uniformity in the translation.

Concerning the translation of the King James Version of the Bible: “They said they did not think it right to honor some words by giving them a place forever in the Bible, while they virtually said to other equally good words: Get ye hence and be banished forever.  They quote a “certain great philosopher” who said that those logs were happy which became images and were worshipped, while, other logs as good as they were laid behind the fire to be burned.  So they sought to use as many English words, familiar in speech and commonly understood, as they might, lest they should impoverish the language, and so lose out of use good words.” (McAfee, “The Making of the King James Version; Its Characteristics,” www.bible-researcher.com)

A lack of consistency in favor of diversity in word choice suggests an ill intent when we find, in fact, a lack of diversity in word choice in favor of inconsistency when it comes to the word “wine.”  The intentional inconsistencies in translation of our English Bibles have produced versions that are not truly accurate.  We must be wise to the misleading way many words were used because the translators were purposely trying to prevent disagreements and controversies. In essence, they willingly used “politically correct” terms when the subject matter was in question.

Great care must be taken to insure a proper understanding of the words that were chosen to represent the original text.  For example, the English word “sober” is used to represent two different Greek words in the Bible.  We understand “sober” has three definitions when it is applied to the subject of intoxicating beverages.  It could mean not intoxicated, someone less than drunk or someone who is thinking clearly.  However, only one definition was actually in the mind of the author when he wrote it.  Could the word “sober” ever be defined as less than drunk in any passage of the Bible (Rom. 12:3; 2 Cor. 5:13; 1 Thes.  5:6, 8; 1 Tim. 3:11; Tit. 2:2, 12; 1 Pet. 1:13; 5:8)?

Christians are commanded to be sober (1 Thes. 5:6, 8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).  Sobriety occurs in both mind and body.  Someone who is sober in body (not intoxicated) is also sober in mind.  Impaired thinking would not be considered sober even if the impairment did not reach the civil definition of drunk. Obviously, any amount of alcohol impairs a person’s sobriety.

It should also be noted that King James was a heavy drinker, the head of the Church of England and the one who commissioned the King James Version of the Bible.  Was there any motivation to treat the subject of wine delicately by the translators?

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

A Pardon Refused

In 1829, two men robbed a United States mail carrier in Pennsylvania.  The men were tried on six indictments that included robbery and murder.  George Wilson and James Porter were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  However, a petition for pardon was made on George Wilson’s behalf by some of his influential friends.  President Andrew Jackson was agreeable and granted a formal pardon to Wilson. Incredibly, Wilson refused the pardon!

This had never happened before.  No one had ever declined a presidential pardon much less for an offense that didn’t carry the death penalty.  What where they to do with a man who preferred to die on the gallows?

The case reached the Supreme Court.  Chief Justice John Marshall ruled, “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed…  A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential; and delivery is not completed without acceptance.  It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it be rejected, we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him…  It may be supposed that no being condemned to death would reject a pardon, but the rule must be the same in capital cases and in misdemeanors.”

A Pardon must be accepted.  George Wilson refused his pardon and was; therefore, hung until dead on the gallows!

Likewise, God has provided every human being a chance for pardon from their sins (John 1:12; 6:37).  However, that pardon must be accepted in the way God has ordained (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Those who do not accept the pardon will perish (2 Peter 3:9).

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Was Melchizedek Jesus?

A cursory reading of Hebrews 7:3 lends itself to the notion that Jesus was possibly Melchizedek. It is said of Melchizedek that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life…”  Who else could that describe but Jesus himself?  In fact, our Lord is the only one in scriptures to be described this way (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:8, 11, 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13).  Does that mean Melchizedek has to be Jesus who was making a divine visit with Abraham in Genesis 14:17-24?

This position assumes Jesus’ appearance as Melchizedek was brief much like other heavenly visits Abraham received (Gen. 18).  If Jesus had reigned as King of Salem while adopting the name Melchizedek, it would qualify as His first coming to earth.  That would directly contradict passages that talk about Christ’s second coming when it would have to be counted as His third coming (Heb. 9:28).

However, Melchizedek was a historical figure who reigned in Salem.  “Modern archaeology has now shown that Melchizedek was from a long line of Jerusalem Kings who used a title disclaiming any hereditary claim to the crown. At every formal mention of the king, there was a statement to be made: “It was not my father and it was not my mother who established me in this position, but it was the mighty arm of the king himself who made me master of the lands of my father” (INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, p. 230. Quoted from “The High Priesthood of Christ,” by Cecil Willis).

Further, Melchizedek reigned for 113 years in Salem according to an ancient text.  In Adam Clark’s Commentary while quoting the Bereshith Rabba, sect. 18, fol. 18 he relates, “In this way both Christ and Melchisedec were without father and without mother; i.e. were not descended from the original Jewish sacerdotal stock.  Yet Melchisedec, who was a Canaanite, was a priest of the most high God.  This sense Suidas confirms under the word Melchisedec, where, after having stated that, having reigned in Salem 113 years, [emp. mine SAH] he died a righteous man and a bachelor.”

Melchizedek was an actual person who lived during the era of Abraham.  Jesus could not be Melchizedek as he reigned 113 over the kingdom of Salem.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (Jn. 18:36).  If Jesus was Melchizedek it could be argued that Jesus had a kingdom in this world and that His earthly kingdom preceded His appearance the second time on earth after His virgin birth.  Yet, Jesus is emphatic that He had no kingdom in this world.

One other point ought to be emphasized. The same verse that has led to the misunderstanding of the identity of Melchizedek also says that he was “made like the Son of God.”  To be “made like” someone is to be representative of someone.  He could not be the same person but someone who is similar by comparison.  Therefore, Hebrews 7:3 is a verse that compares Melchizedek to Jesus without implying they are the same in identity.

Obviously, Melchizedek was not Jesus!

By Steve A. Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net

Sins Just Prior to Death

       What will happen to a Christian if he commits a sin just prior to his death?  Will he be saved?  It certainly is an intriguing question.   It seems plausible that a Christian could curse just prior to his death say in an automobile accident.  In light of James 2:10, does that mean his soul is eternally lost just because he slipped up just prior to his death?

          If that scenario is possible, then we could easily think of many more situations where God’s mercy would be required to save us.  By extension of that logic, if God is willing to grant us mercy for one unrepentant sin, He certainly should be willing to extend mercy to us for all our unrepentant sins.  However, that would not be just if God extended mercy either arbitrarily or with partiality.  So is it even possible for God to make exceptions to His law?

In order to properly analyze this hypothetical situation, we must be careful to address the subject by examining what is revealed in scriptures.  It is very tempting for us to speculate on the outcome of a person’s conduct (Matt. 7:1-2).  We should always allow the Bible to be our guide in this and any other important question.  We should also respect the silence of the scriptures if it does not address the issue (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  We certainly do not want to make up our own rules for God’s judgments.

We cannot be certain what decisions Christ will make on the Judgment Day unless He reveals it to us.  “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.   But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.   For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:11-16).  The apostle Paul continues these thoughts when he wrote, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:14-16).  God’s judgment will be righteous and God will have mercy on whomever He decides to have mercy.  Obviously, God’s mercy is conditional.  Just because we live as a Christian does not mean God will automatically extend His mercy.  John asked a good question that illustrates this point well.  He wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17).  In light of James 2:13, it would seem such a merciless individual does not deserve any mercy even if his only other transgression was committed just prior to his death.

Christ is not a respecter of persons (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; 1 Pet. 1:17 ).  “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col. 3:25).  The fact that a person is a Christian does not skew His judgment.  How we feel about a matter does not change the truth (Prov. 3:5; 28:26).  Just like in math class, how we feel about the problems has no bearing on the answers.  Human logic that suggests God will forgive unconditionally is not the kind of justice God will use on the Judgment day.

God has revealed that He expects obedience (Lk. 6:46; Jn. 14:15, 21; Rev. 22:14).  We must keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22; Jas. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:3).  For the Christian, this is accomplished through confession and repentance of our sins (1 John 1:5-2:6; Lk. 17:3-4).

One unrepentant sin could cause us to lose our souls (Jas. 2:10).  One misspoken word subjects us to judgment (Matt. 12:36; Jas. 5:12).  Hating our brethren will prevent salvation (1 John 3:14-15).  A Christian that teaches a false doctrine will be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4; 2 Pet. 3:16-17). God is not even going to cut any slack to a weak brother whose sin was caused by a more knowledgeable Christian (1 Cor. 8:11-12).

Ananias and Sapphira were Christians.  They lied just prior to their death (Acts 5:1-11).  Will they be saved even if they prayed for forgiveness of all their past sins just prior to the events that took their lives?  Remember, it was Christ who said, “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).  If we say Christ will be merciful to all Christians for a few unforgiven sins at the Judgment, then Ananias and Sapphira should be safe.  But then again, who would dare to make such a judgment since we aren’t God?

Many will ask, “What hope of salvation is there if God is so strict (Heb. 12:29)?”  Peter provides the answer.  “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”  (2 Pet. 1:4-11).  Peter is saying if we give all diligence to these things we will be fruitful, productive, obedient, forgiven at a moment’s notice to God.  However, if we aren’t obedient in our diligence to these things, we are blind perhaps even thinking that we can’t keep ourselves pure because we are so wicked.

God gives time for repentance.  Longsuffering means patient endurance.  It is a quality of God toward all mankind (Rom. 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).  “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4)?  This doesn’t mean God tolerates sin.  It means God gives us an opportunity to repent (Matt. 7:7-11; Lk. 11:9).  God knows our hearts and will give us time to repent (though it may not be for long).  He gave the churches in Asia time to repent (Rev. 2:4-5, 14-16).  Ananias and Sapphira had their moment just prior to their death to repent.  However, it appears they didn’t take that opportunity nor was that opportunity extended for very long.

Notice how quickly Peter rebuked Simon the Sorcerer and the reason for the rebuke in Acts 8:18-24.  Despite the fact that Simon is a new convert committing a sin in ignorance the Apostle required immediate repentance.  There is as much urgency for us to repent of our sins as there is to be baptized once we learn the truth (Acts 16:25, 33; 22:16; 2 Cor. 6:2; Jas. 4:14).

Sin is a choice.  When we are tempted to sin, God not only gives us a way out but He won’t allow a temptation beyond our ability to resist.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).  If we sin just prior to death it is because we allowed it to happen.  Once we recognize our error, we must immediately repent as we might not have much time remaining.

God is as long suffering as he is merciful.  When you think about it, the scenario where a person sins just prior to death is really a hypothetical situation that is unlikely to ever occur to any true Christian.  If we are living our lives as we should, we will take every opportunity to repent of our sins. The Lord doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).   It doesn’t make sense to think that God would allow our death to occur in a manner in which no opportunity for repentance exists.  We can take comfort in knowing that God will give all of us an opportunity to repent of our sins; even for a sin that occurs just prior to our death.

By Steve A. Hamilton

“You Did Not Do It”

The Bible has much to say regarding the future judgment.  Jesus speaks of the judgment in Matt. 25:31-46.  The saddest part of this text is the words of our Lord to those on the left hand (vs. 41): “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  The question is, WHY?

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Strong Drink

Most English versions of the Bible consistently translate the Hebrew word “shekar” as “strong drink.”  “Shekar” literally means “drink.”  It is used 23 times in the Old Testament.  The vast majority of the times when it is used in the Old Testament are in contexts where its use is condemned (ex. Lev. 10:9-11; Num. 6:2-4; Judg. 13:3-5; Prov. 20:1; Isa. 5:11).  Incidentally, our English word “sugar” is derived from it.

Shekar is a sweet beverage produced primarily from palm or dates. It may include beverages made from grains, fruits or honeycombs.  It is an unfermented beverage while it remains sweet.  As the sugar in “shekar” breaks down into alcohol, it becomes bitter.  It is the bitter “shekar” that is an intoxicating beverage.  Perhaps this is the reason Isaiah alludes to the wicked as those “Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa.5:20).

Isaiah gives us another passage that defines this word.  In Isaiah 24:9, it simply states, “Strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.”  As translated into English, this statement sounds rhetorical.  In Old Testament times, intoxicating beverages were all bitter.  However, “shekar” which is translated into the words “strong drink” is not always bitter.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  “Shekar” is known as a sweet beverage unless it is allowed to spoil and become fermented.  Leon Fields in his book, Oinos: A Discussion of the Bible-Wine Question (1883),  “correctly observes that “the contrast between ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter’ in Isaiah 24:9 (literally, ‘bitter shall be the sweet drink – shekar – to them that drink it,’) shows that shekar was valued on account of its sweetness, a quality which decreases in proportion to the amount of alcohol present.  The fact that it was commanded to be consumed ‘before the Lord’ (Deut. 24:26), and to be offered in sacrifice (Num. 28:7), indicates that it included unfermented forms of fruit juice.”[i]

“Shekar” does not inherently mean strong or intoxicating.  The word “strong” is an added word imposed by the translators.  It can only be assumed that the original English translators must have incorrectly thought that since “shekar” is so frequently found in a context where it is condemned, that it must always be intoxicating and therefore “strong.”  In some of the more recent versions of the Bible the word “strong” has been replaced with the word “similar.”  The New King James Version of the Bible is one such translation to make this correction.

Those who defend the moderate use of alcohol like to point out Deuteronomy 14:26 as a divine sanction for the use of alcohol.  In this passage, a special ordinance for the use of “strong drink” (KJV) is allowed when the journey to the annual harvest feast is logistically preventative. The spurious position relies upon the premise that no error was made in translation.  If this premise be true, then the ordinance would allow a distant traveler to the feast to drink alcoholic beverages from the Lord’s tithe.  Yet, those in close proximity to the feast must drink new wine (Deut. 14:23).

A proper understanding of the harvest feast would prevent such an erroneous understanding of the ordinance.  The context of Deuteronomy 14:3-21 calls for God’s people to abstain from anything unclean.  Those instructions are immediately followed by the instructions for the harvest feast.  Sacrifices such as those prepared and consumed during the harvest feast could not contain leaven (Lev. 2:11; Deut. 12:5-7).  Fermented wine was leavened and considered unclean (Lev. 10:9-10).   In order to allow the distant traveler to drink alcohol at the feast, it would have to be an exception to God’s laws. Yet, no exception is necessary when we understand new wine (tirosh) or similar drink (shekar) is being specified.

Another passage that is called into question is Proverbs 31:6-7.  It states, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”   This passage sounds like approval to drink alcohol for the purpose of burying one’s problems.

In context, this advice is given to a young king that is being admonished by his mother not to drink intoxicating beverages because it impairs thinking and results in injustice (Prov. 31:1-5; Isa. 5:22-23).  The mother affirms that alcohol is not for responsible people.  In contrast, the mother asserts that alcohol is for the irresponsible.  It is for people who find the remedy to their problems at the bottom of a bottle rather than seeking justice.  Sarcastically, she is saying alcohol is only fit for those who relish in their misery.  This is not a passage that condones alcohol but one that condemns it.

By Steve A. Hamilton


[i] Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, (Michigan, 2004) p. 229.