WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
T. PIERCE BROWN
If we were sent a questionnaire asking, “Does God save a disobedient person?” probably more than 90% of us would answer with a resounding, “No.” However, if we were asked, “Did God send Jesus into the world to save sinners?” more than 90% (probably the same group) would say, “Yes.” Whether we would get confused and frustrated if we were asked, “Is a person who is disobedient to God a sinner?” or whether we would just answer the question with a “Yes” and go on our way, blind and ignorant of our apparently contradictory answers, I do not know.
When the question is raised about God saving a disobedient person, most of us would probably assume that the questioner meant a person who continued in his disobedience. If we were asked about God saving sinners, we would probably assume that the person asking about a sinner who did not continue in his sins. My point here is that in both cases most of us would probably assume whatever we assumed and answer the question in terms of our assumptions instead of pausing to ask the questioner what he meant. We would assume that the question was so simple that everyone would know what he meant.
Many of us could probably give dozens of similar examples of persons who fussed, wrote articles, lost friends, divided churches or did all sorts of other things as a result of assuming that we had all the answers when we did not even know what the question was. For example, we may raise the questions, “If Mr. A marries Miss B and unscripturally divorces her and marries Miss C does he now have two wives, or one? If he only has one, is it the former Miss B or Miss C?”
Those who take the position that one who divorces unscripturally are not really divorced, and still have the original wife, might answer, “Only one, the former Miss B.” Others would say, “No matter if it is scriptural, he has only one, Miss C.” When we speak of a bigamist. We may say, “He has two wives.” Neither we, the law of the land, or God recognize that the second is his “proper” wife, but we use the expression because he went through the usual legal process of taking her as a wife. So, we might want to say, “He has only one wife” if we mean scripturally or legally.
The fact that she may be called his wife in one sense and not in another is in perfect harmony with other expressions in the Bible such as Jesus saying about the maid, “She is not dead, but sleepeth” (Mt. 9:24) when she was dead. A person may be dead in sin, but alive to Satan, or dead to sin, and alive in Christ. Or one may be dead while she liveth (1 Tim. 5:6).
The purpose of this article is not to deal with the subject of divorce and remarriage, but primarily to help those who try to communicate with others or to understand the Bible, not to assume that they automatically know what an expression means because they mean something by it in a certain context. Someone else may properly mean something different in a different context.