Category Archives: Matthew 7:1

Reclaiming God’s Provision of Divorce: God’s Prescribed Means of Dealing with Sin in the Church

Divorce and divorcees are viewed by the church as unholy.  Yet God divorced Israel for her unrepentant godlessness.  God’s divorce action against Israel cannot be unholy because God is most holy.  If God, of whom it is said is Holy, Holy, Holy, divorced his bride because she was so unholy, then should not God’s children follow their heavenly Father’s example?  So why does much of the church prohibit unequally yoked divorce?  The Old Testament could not be more clear in its teaching that separation between the godly and the ungodly is necessary because the ungodly will pull the godly into idolatry, which is also called spiritual adultery.

Pastors routinely use Christian divorce rates as a proof of the declension in the church.  But should they be doing this?  Christian leaders commonly place divorce alongside sins listed by the Apostle Paul as “the deeds of the flesh”, but Paul never listed divorce with any other sin, and God’s word does not call divorce a sin nor does it prohibit divorce.  The word of God properly places divorce as a provision of God’s laws to protect innocent spouses and to prevent further sin.  Therefore the proper category for divorce is alongside church discipline, rebuke, reproof, punishment, and even giving a so-called believer over to Satan with hopes that he will repent and believe.  This entire category could be called “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church”.  This category is chiefly concerned with the punishment/restoration of the unrepentant and the protection of the innocent, which are in essence two halves of the same coin.

Godly men and women lament the scarcity of church discipline, but inexplicably decry every divorce.  Yet, both are similar actions belonging to the same category in scripture.  Both remove the leaven from the body of Christ.  Both have been abused by wicked people.  Both are greatly under utilized by the church.  When a church member is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then appropriate church discipline will always result in the expulsion of that individual from the body of believers because he is a danger to the body.  Divorce performs the exact same function in Christian marriages and families that church discipline does for the church.

So then, it is no surprise that the very people who hate to follow through with God’s command for church discipline also hate God’s gracious provision of divorce?  Whether they are uncomfortable with confrontation, lack trust in the Lord to bring about a good outcome, fear being called judgmental, lack wisdom and spiritual discernment, have a lax and slothful oversight, favoritism or just not wanting to be drug into the kind of fight that godless people seemingly enjoy, most churches never or rarely do any church discipline and most churchmen get away with repudiating divorce by classifying it with sins listed in Scripture when, in fact, divorce is never called a sin anywhere in the word of God.

In both cases churchmen remain sitting when they should stand up for battle.  Scripture refers to believers as soldiers and provides them with the full armor of God.  Christian leaders are under Christ’s command to protect and feed the flock.  Instead most Christian leaders take a let go and let God approach to these difficult situations involving unrepentant sinners within their flocks.  This disobedient, slothful approach says that if God wants the brother or sister to be set free from a godless, treacherous spouse, then God can always take the life of the wicked spouse.  And if we just wait upon the Lord, then God will remove or redeem the worthless fellow.

This is decidedly not the approach that the great apostle Paul took.  He said, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”  And “In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened (1 Corinthians 5:4-7).  It is the Christian’s task to clean out the leaven, which means to actively remove unrepentant sinners from their sphere of influence.

Perhaps divorce actions have been improperly categorized because they can be and often are messy, but church discipline is also frequently messy.  Whenever unrepentant sinners are exposed to the light and held accountable for their sin they will usually fight back with wickedness (Contentiousness, lies, accusations, threats, deceptions, disputes, quarrels, comparisons, attempts to divide the church, self-defense, etc.), which pulls the Christians involved into the mire…a very uncomfortable circumstance for believers.  It matters not whether this unpleasant duty is a church discipline action or a divorce action the goal is the same…remove the leaven.  The outcome of obedience is peace, which is God’s desire for his children.

It is clear why church leaders do not enjoy church discipline.  It is equally unpleasant to go through a divorce with an ungodly spouse, and with the current mindset of most Churches unequally yoked divorce is made all the more difficult because Christian leaders turn upon and attack the Christian who is seeking to obey God’s call to separate from the godless.  Understandably, Christians hate the difficult work of separation, but as soldiers they must fight the good fight even when the immediate battle is difficult and unpleasant.  It would be great if the Church would get on the same page, but that will never be the case this side of heaven.  Individual churches and individuals must take upon themselves these difficult tasks because scripture prescribes these measures when unbelievers are in the midst of the people of God.

The heart of this article is that the divorce of an unequally yoked spouse is not a sin and should cease being treated as though it was listed in any of Paul’s “Deeds of the flesh” passages.  Divorce is not classified as a sin anywhere in the Bible notwithstanding Malachi 2:16, Matthew 5 and 19, and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 all of which have articles addressing them rather extensively on this blog.  Divorce in general and especially unequally yoked divorce is properly classified in God’s word under “God’s prescribed means of dealing with sin in the Church.”  Divorce belongs to the same classification as church discipline, rebuke, being removed from leadership position, restoration and even giving the unrepentant sinner over to Satan with hope that repentance will ensue.

It is well established that divorce is an allowance in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 21 & 24), and Jesus did not annul or overturn that law as many understand from Matthew 19.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

In Matthew 19 Jesus did not say that the Pharisees were guilty of divorce.  Of course he would not say that because Jesus knew that divorce was permitted by God’s law—it is not a sin.  Jesus said the Pharisees were guilty of adultery because they wanted to cover up their adultery with illegal usage of God’s legal divorce provision.

A comparison will help clear the muddied waters.  Suppose the Pharisees exchanged their desire for gentile wives with a desire for unpaid servants.  If they asked Jesus if it was permissible for them to adopt gentile children, but their real motive was to force the children into unpaid labor, then Jesus would have said they were guilty of human enslavement, child abuse and child endangerment.  But Jesus would not have said the Pharisees were guilty of adoption just as he did not say they were guilty of divorce.  And the church would not have treated adoption as a wicked sin through the centuries, yet this is precisely what has been done with God’s provision for divorce.  Man’s abuse of divorce should not diminish at all God’s gracious provision.  God understood that since the fall people’s hearts were wicked and innocent partners would require relief from wicked spouses.

The Pharisees were merely trying to cover up their adultery with God’s legal provision of divorce.  Jesus showed their argument to be nothing more than a rouse.  He understood that they were not asking about divorce as it is allowed in the Law, but they were asking whether or not legal divorces could be obtained without just cause.  So he said anybody who would carry out what the Pharisees had devised would be an adulterer because they would be divorcing a wife who has not broken her marriage covenant conditions in any way.  Jesus understood that if their wives had given them no just cause to divorce them, then their reason for seeking divorce was in their adulterous hearts, which is why he said they would be committing adultery.

Christian leaders beware of the glibness with which you disagree and continue holding your unbiblical view on divorce.  Both God’s law and Jesus tie judging people wrongly to unjust balances and weights in the market place.  God’s law reads, “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.  You shall have just balances, just weights…” (Leviticus 19:35-36 underline mine).  And in his Sermon On the Mount Jesus said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:1-3 underline mine)?  Do you have an answer to the Lord’s question to the Pharisees?  Try to answer it before reading further.

Jesus is using an analogy to teach about judging others.  It is easily understood that if a street vendor is selling food items using a false scale or balance and deceitful weights, then he is cheating innocent consumers.  Jesus is saying that the religious leaders do the same to the people of God by changing God’s standards or laws by which men are to measure themselves.  In context, Jesus was saying that with their false standard of measure the Pharisees’ were twisting God’s Laws in their attacks on Jesus and his apostles for healing on the Sabbath and picking grain from fields as they traveled on the Sabbath, yet at the very same time these religious leaders refused submission to the very Son of God who was standing right in front of them.

So then, a log in the religious leaders’ eye today is using a man-made standard of measure that restricts God’s allowance for divorce.  Divorce is protected in God’s moral law.  What right do you have prohibiting it for the people of God?  God does not want his people bound together with unbelievers, but you have restricted them from accessing God’s allowance of divorce that would allow them to repent of their unequally yoked marriages.  Millions of new unequally yoked marriages take place because the church has made a propitiation for Christians in such marital relationships.  Young people have no fear of disobeying God by getting unequally yoked because the church long since stopped church discipline for this sin.  In fact, the church has gone so far as to call repentance of these relationships the sin rather than being in an unequally yoked marriage.  Because of this sinfulness a pall of darkness is placed upon all who have divorced wicked spouses even though they followed the provision of God’s law.  God forbid the church continues this lunacy.  The people of God are suffering for it.  Families are suffering in unspeakable ways.  The church is filled with unbelieving spouses as a result.  Churches are so full of unbelievers that the believers are being corrupted by the bad company IN THE CHURCH!  Brethren, these things ought not be this way.  “Clean out the old leaven.”


A Misunderstanding of Jesus’ command to “Judge Not” Is Causing Unequally Yoked Marriages By the Millions

It is often thought that the most memorized verse from the bible is John 3:16.  I suspect that is true for those who truly love Jesus and are in Christ.  But I strongly believe that far more people have memorized Matthew 7:1 and they have done so without any effort whatsoever.  Perhaps most of them only have two words memorized: “Judge not”.  These two words are very likely among Satan’s favorite passages of the bible.  And not only Satan but all who hate Christ and his church favor these two words.  Then, of course, we think of those of whom the great Apostle Paul warns believers not to associate.  These regularly and happily abuse the Lord’s phrase against judging others:

“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges.  Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13[underlining mine]).

Few biblical passages are as universally believed and repeated as Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount “judge not least you be judged”.  “Judge not” is thrown back in Christians’ faces and has been a mantra for liberals alongside: Diversity, social justice, political correctness and globalism.  With such associations one should quickly realize that “Judge not” does not in any way, shape or form carry the same meaning that Jesus intended.  So then, what does “Judge not” mean for the millions of Americans quick to use it?

It has two primary meanings with major implications:

First, “judge not” as understood today means that it is taboo to make a judgment about the rightness or wrongness of somebody else’s thoughts, words or actions because nobody is perfect.  People universally recognize and often say that “nobody is perfect”, but nobody seems to have a problem with that anymore.  We need to understand that the perfect holiness of God demands that we be holy too, which is why the perfect righteousness of Christ is necessary to make atonement for our imperfection.  The modern moral compass is off by one hundred and eighty degrees because sin is no longer considered a problem, and liberals go so far as to deny the existence of sin altogether.

If the modern understanding of “judge not” were accurate then the bible would not command us to reprove, rebuke and correct one another.  In the fight against sin the Christian needs all possible assistance including other Christians coming alongside to rebuke and correct in the spirit of love.  The modern understanding says that the only loving response to sin is to accept, confirm and even celebrate the person’s decision to defy the ways of God, and support for the person’s corrupt choices and lifestyles is demanded.  Those who refuse to celebrate sinful choices are called bigots, homophobes, racists, misogynists and xenophobes.  But know this dear believers, that any unpleasantness is not caused by a concerned brother’s loving confrontation, but rather by the angry, rebellious response of the person in need of rebuke and correction.  It is a total unwillingness to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and obey the commandments of God. It is the response of an unbeliever.

Jesus’ phrase “Judge not least you be judged” has a second, equally disastrous understanding today, which is that even many of the elect cannot discern whether or not a claim to Christian faith is valid or specious.  The overwhelming, predominate mindset is that any claim to Christianity whatsoever is to be honored.  If somebody says they are a Christian, than by golly they must be a very fine Christian indeed notwithstanding a truckload of evidence to the contrary…after all who are we to judge?  This, of course, is completely inconsistent with Old and New Testament teaching.

People who are consumed by pride, unbelief, rebellion and gross immorality are still considered brothers in Christ with nothing more than an empty claim to Christianity.  Jesus showed us how to recognize the difference between genuine disciples and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  He said to the Pharisees “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Few today understand the obvious inference of the ‘log’ and the ‘speck’.  The former is the sin of unbelief.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ day refused to believe in the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world, yet they still wanted men to view them as spiritual titans.  Jesus was telling these “hypocrites” to remove the log of unbelief and become believers in God’s redeeming Son and then they would be part of the family of God and could reprove and rebuke fellow partakers in the kingdom of God, but they continued in their unbelief.

Jesus went on to say in the Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  It is obvious that modern Christians cannot see past the clothing.  Jesus then said, “You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”  Therein we discover the problem.  So many wolves have entered the church that Christians and so-called Christians alike are incapable of recognizing the difference between good and bad fruit.  Most in the church cannot discern the difference between an unrepentant sinner and a saint who is engaged in a battle to mortify the remnants of indwelling sin.

If the church is blind, then how dark is the modern darkness?  How will the members of the church of God know with whom they are to evangelize and with whom they are to fellowship?  How can any Christian hope to obey God’s command, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” if they cannot discern the distinction between a believer and an unbeliever?  Christians are marrying unbelievers at an alarming rate and most of them mistakenly believe their new marriage partner to be a Christian when they are clearly not.  If they were only practiced in the word of God, then they would be able to discern good from evil.

Those who throw around the phrase “Judge not” are demonstrating a clear failure to recognize salvation.  Those who cannot recognize salvation reveal their ignorance of the biblical gospel.  This problem existed in the churches of the first century as well: Jude said of them, “These are the ones who cause divisions, merely natural (worldly minded), devoid of the Spirit.”  Salvation is not merely natural but supernatural.  Salvation cannot happen apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation does not mean being part of a church or a denomination.  Salvation is not inherited from one’s parents or from one’s parents religion.  Salvation cannot be earned through works.  Salvation cannot be chosen by the will of man.  Salvation is entirely of God.  God does not save without transforming.

So then, what is Jesus’ meaning when he said “Do not judge one another”?  Jesus was saying that we must not hold one another in contempt.  We must never want someone else to be eternally separated from God.  We must not hate one another.  We must not judge another to be beyond God’s forgiveness.  The liberal says that God loves everybody unconditionally just the way they are, which means they do not need to repent or change at all.  God forbid!  On the other end of the spectrum, self-righteous religiosity holds the masses in contempt while uttering false blessings like ‘God bless you’.  Equally appalling!  There is a better way.

Paul told the Roman Christians “…not to judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”  So judging has to do with hindering someone from coming to the Lord.  Paul’s question to the Roman Christians was, “But you, why do you judge your brother?  Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

What do Christians need to change in their thinking?  It is not contempt but wisdom that recognizes the lost condition of a false confessor.  Each person has a reliable tendency to favor themselves, so is it any wonder that millions of people think that they are living lives pleasing to God when they are not?  If a person has become born-again, then they need to become practiced in the word of God so that they will recognize the clear biblical signs of salvation.  This needs to be done early in the life of young believers, before they make a choice for a life-long marriage partner.  This is the proper order: First get your own house in order and know the word of God, then seek a marriage partner who has fruit consistent with true faith.

Go to the word of God and learn the truth about the gospel and salvation.  Know what salvation looks like—that is the thing.  Do not equivocate; do not think in generalities or vagaries.  When it comes to the gospel start with the Gospel of John and then read the New Testament book of Romans.  Every regenerate Christian must have clear and obvious fruit that is readily recognizable for those who know God’s word.  Every unregenerate person lacks this fruit.  There is no gray line here.  It is obvious to the mature Christian who is and who is not saved.

The problem lies in the fact that a much larger body of people, known by the world as Christians, are in the camp of being ignorant to what the word of God says about salvation.  This majority insist, to their own detriment, that simply desiring salvation is all that is necessary to possess it.  That is all fine and good in the here and now where the biblically misinformed believe whatever makes them feel good, but it will not transport them into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in the next lifetime.  Of equal importance, when a true believer in Christ Jesus marries one of these “Christians” they will learn sooner or later that they are bound together with an unbeliever, which is an awful condition and a sinful state.

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).