Almost every day, we are faced with certain and various exceptions.
Exceptions are exclusions that must be met in order to qualify for a given
thing. A basketball player must shoot the ball through the hoop in order to add
points to the teams score. The condition to scoring points is, except the ball
goes through the hoop, no points are scored. We can understand this! Another
illustration–Except you buy a ticket for the basketball game you cannot enter
the arena to watch the game. All would agree that this means that only those who
buy a ticket may enter the arena to watch the game. We can understand this too!
Can we not?
In the Bible, there are numerous exceptions that are easily understood just like the examples above. Consider these passages:
Amos 3:3 - “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Two cannot walk or work together if they do not agree. There must be cooperation and agreement by both parties involved in order for there to be true unity.
Matthew 5:20 - “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees were “models of righteousness in their own sight and in that of the people.” Hence, Jesus sets a higher standard with the stated exception.
Matthew 18:3 - “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” In a sense, the Lord’s disciples were acting like children (c.f. 1 Cor. 13:11). Jesus taught them that in order to be His disciples, they must turn from their sin of selfish pride and humble themselves as a child is humble in spirit and dependent upon their parents.
Luke 13:3 - “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The meaning of this statement of Jesus is clear! Those who do not repent will perish spiritually (c.f. Acts 17:30).
John 3:2 - “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” Nicodemus correctly concluded that the miracles Jesus performed confirmed that God was with His son.
John 3:3 - “...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In order to enter the kingdom of heaven, one must be born again in the spiritual sense.
John 3:5 - “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The new birth involves two elements — being born of the water and the spirit. Thus, those not born of the two elements mentioned by Jesus, cannot enter the kingdom of God!
With out a doubt, most brethren understand and agree on the force of the word except in these passages. The word except in these passages carries with it the idea off, “if and only if.” But, one other passage must be considered:
Matthew 19:9 - “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Does not the word except in this passage have the same meaning and force as in the other passages we have considered so far? If not, why not?
Countless dodges and excuses have been made by many of my own brethren in an attempt to avoid the force of the word except in this passage. Justification for divorce for any and every cause is made by some. Some say “we can’t know for sure” what the truth is on divorce and remarriage. One preacher I know was asked the following questions: Do you believe God’s law on marriage is universal in application to believers and unbelievers? Do you believe one put away for the cause of fornication may scripturally remarry? Do you believe repentance demands separation for those unscripturally married? Do you believe 1 Corinthians 7:15 constitutes authority for one who is deserted by an unbeliever to be remarried? He responded by saying, “I don’t know whether to envy or pity those who are so sure of themselves on this subject...I don’t want to appear rude, but I won’t be specifically answering your questions.”
I am made to wonder, then, how this brother can be “so sure” on the subject of water baptism? How would he answer the question: “What must I do to be saved?” John 3:1-5 deals with the new birth, but, the word baptism is not found in this text. Can this brother be “so sure” that being “born of the water and the spirit” involves water baptism? Is he “so sure” and confident that he will affirm to those of denominational persuasion that water baptism is “for the remission of sins” and use this passage as a proof text? Shall we “envy or pity those who are so sure of themselves” on the meaning of the word except in Amos 3:3; Matthew 5:20 and 18:3; Luke 13:3; John 3:2, 3 and 5? Yet, many seemingly can’t seem to figure it out (or maybe they don’t want to) when faced with the obvious truth of Matthew 19:9–that the only scriptural cause for the innocent mate to put away the guilty mate is for fornication! It sure seems strange to me that they can understand, and we can agree, on the meaning and force of the word except in all other passages, EXCEPT when we come to EXCEPT in Matthew 19:9!