Tag Archives: “Matthew 19”

Paul’s Commentary on Matthew 19:8

The Apostle Paul’s Commentary on Jesus’ Divorce Argument Regarding the Legalism of the Jewish Religious Leaders in Matthew 19:8:

19Why the Law then?  It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is one. 21Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?  May it never be!  For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…4:30But what does the Scripture say?  ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman’…5:1It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 3:19-26, 4:30 and 5:1)[underline mine].

My commentary on Paul’s commentary:

Paul teaches a clear chronological progression:

  1. The innocence of Adam and Eve
  2. The fall of Adam
  3. The promise of salvation
  4. The Law of God (Given to Moses on the mountain)
  5. The fullness of time when faith would come to God’s elect children through Christ Jesus.

Those who fail to understand this progression will frequently misconstrue many passages of scripture as is frequently done in Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees here in Matthew 19.  In the beginning, prior to the fall, man had no need for the law.  The Law came after the fall and it is in God’s Law where we find Moses’ (actually God’s) permission for divorce.  Jesus alludes to “The innocence of Adam and Eve” in his statement, “…but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).  However, then came man’s fall into sin, which brought about the “hardness of men’s hearts”; another statement of our Lord’s from the same verse.  This ‘hardness of heart’ problem made the law necessary until the fullness of time when faith came.

Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 19 cannot be accurately received by those who fail to put his statements in the context of this clear biblical progression.  When the Pharisees reminded Jesus of Moses’ instructions to give wives a certificate of divorce and send them away,  Jesus replied, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but…”  Here Jesus referenced the period of time after the fall when the people of God were living under the Law.  Jesus’ descriptive “hardness of heart” referred to the general obstinance of the Jewish people as being under the curse of the fall (as was the whole world at that time).  Obstinate people do much harm to one another, which necessitated the mercy of divorce as a last resort for a person whose wicked spouse broke the conditions of their marriage covenant.

Many carelessly interpret our Lord’s use of “hardness of heart” to mean that the Jews stubbornly insisted upon the right of divorce until Moses (apparently against God’s will and Law) succumbed to their demands, and Jesus was taking the occasion of the Pharisees’ question to set the record straight and correct Moses’ ancient error.  Such awful interpretations could not be further from the truth.  Jesus was referring to the different periods of this progression to show the pharisees God’s original intent for marriage and then to show the Law’s provision for divorce as a merciful release from a wicked spouse.  In so doing, Jesus was clear that the divorce laws were not given by God so that men could commit adultery every time their lustful eyes fell upon another woman.  Verse 9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Pinched between Jesus’ statements: “Because of your hardness of heart” and verse 9 which I just quoted at the end of the last paragraph, Jesus made reference to the time of innocence in the garden, “From the beginning it has not been this way” meaning that in a perfect world God’s intention for marriage was that it would have been a lasting, loving relationship.  All relationships would be described this way in a sinless world, but because of the Fall we shall not experience such a world until heaven.  Because of sin some people are so wicked that our only recourse is escaping them; thus God’s provision for divorce when those from whom escape is necessary are our spouses.

Those who attempt to interpret our Lord’s comments to the Pharisees here without the light provided by the chronological progression have brought untold harm to millions of people over the centuries–forcing them to remain in marriages with covenant breakers, forcing them to remain in unequally yoked marriages against the will and word of God.

So how would our Lord’s words be understood when the progression is not overlooked?  Jesus is saying that God’s original creation of man was perfect and did not include the fall into sin; therefore, the allowance for divorce does not come from God’s pre-fall perfect world creation, but God made an allowance for it after the fall had taken place.  Divorce was not the only divine allowance after the fall: punishment, including capital punishment, is another good example.

So then, in the perfect, sinless world in which God created man…the very state of the world Jesus refers to in this passage as “in the beginning” neither divorce nor capital punishment would be necessary, but after the fall into sin (a step further in the progression) mankind’s hearts had become hardened (fail to love God and their fellow man), and the whole Law including Moses’ permits for divorce and capital punishment became necessary.

Christians acknowledge the progression when it comes to capital punishment, but the “no divorce ever” Christians fail to recognize the same progression as it applies to their biblical understanding on divorce; thereby restricting divorce because their divorce view, unlike their capital punishment view, has never left the Garden of Eden.

Their doctrine on marital divorce fails to recognize the fall.  Thus their doctrine treats the believer who engages upon a path to divorce as if it is them and not Adam who has fallen from God’s grace.  Therefore, they apply Jesus’ “hard heartedness” statement to anyone who would seek a divorce from an evil, abusive spouse rather than applying it to the evil, abusive spouse.  Clearly all should agree that the unrepentant, abusive spouse is the covenant breaking spouse, and the innocent spouse being abused needs the relief God offers in his permission to divorce.

Thanks be to God, the progression continues on to those who live by faith and not by works under the law; mainly New Testament saints but including the Old Testament saints such as Abraham.  These have always been under the gracious instruction to remain separate from the world in order to avoid slipping into idolatry.  No child of God is to be unequally yoked to the children of Satan in marriage or in any other relationship.

In conclusion, how are we to understand Jesus’ words, “What God has joined together let no man draw apart”?  First, no man-made body such as a civil court or a presbytery has the right to change or wrongly interpret what God has said on the topic of divorce.  Men must not prohibit where God permits, and men must not permit where God prohibits.  Even Jesus said that he would not change the Law of God, nor would he give his church the right to do so.  Secondly, both logically and biblically speaking, if God saves one spouse and leaves the other in a hard-hearted state, then it is not man but God who has separated the marriage partnership.  This should be clearly understood by the fact that being unequally yoked is against the will of God (Literally scores of OT texts & many NT texts but especially 2 Cor. 6:14f).  Therefore, it is safe to deduce that if God wanted a married couple to remain together beyond the temporary injunction (hoping for the redemption of the second spouse) in 1 Corinthians 7 , then God would redeem both spouses.

Finally, two saints married to one another should rarely, if ever, have need of divorce because they have progressed from being hard hearted to being of the faith in Christ Jesus.  Having said this, it is important to note that many people (the majority sadly) call upon the name of Christ in vain, which is to say that they are Christian in name only.  True believers will often find themselves unequally yoked to a marriage partner who swears allegiance to Christ while bearing neither the fruit of repentance nor the fruit of a genuine love of God.  Such believers are simply unequally yoked, but many in the church will not recognize this reality and therefore cause such believers seeking relief through divorce great distress.  To these believers I say to follow the word of God as it guides your conscience.  People pleasing is a fools game.  As Richard Baxter said, “If God’s approbation and favor quiet you not, nothing rationally can quiet you.”

 

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The Mystical Union of Marriage: How Mysticism and Not God’s Word Has Shaped the Church’s Prohibition Against Divorce

Puritan John Milton, author of the universally praised work “Paradise Lost”, and one of the world’s greatest minds authored a book titled, “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce”. His introduction simply reads: “Restored to the good of both sexes, from the bondage of cannon law, and other mistakes, to the true meaning of Scripture in the Law and gospel compared.  Wherein also are set down the bad consequences of abolishing or condemning of sin, that which the Law of God allows, and Christ abolished not.”

A major tenet of Milton’s argument allowing marital divorce was that God’s original intent or purpose for marriage was to cure man’s loneliness. Milton states very clearly that if physical infidelity is a legitimate ground for divorce, then a man and a woman who cannot have happy conversation with one another should be an even stronger ground for divorce because the mental and conversational relationship is greater cure of loneliness than is the mere physical relationship.  And of course an unequally yoked union should be the strongest of all grounds for marital dissolution.  It is not so much man’s body as it is his mind and spirit that set him above the rest of the animal kingdom, so they are the more important aspects to be considered.

For reasons too complicated for this article, Christians have taken a mystical approach on the doctrine of divorce. The word mystical (not in use until after Milton’s lifetime) is defined as something being given or having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence. Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience such as intuition or insight, which is in diametric opposition to the traditional Christian belief that holy writ is the primary source of knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and ultimate reality.

The expected outcome of this sinful approach to the biblical teaching on marriage and divorce has been the creation and continual use of unbiblical and harsh platitudes which have been used to prohibit needful divorces for which God made gracious allowance. These awful platitudes have been based upon a precious few passages of scripture, which themselves have been misinterpreted through the mystic lens in order to gain acceptance for an otherwise entirely unbiblical view of marriage and its dissolution (In the following paragraphs a couple of these passages of scripture and the corresponding platitude will be shown).

A critical component of the mystification of marriage saw the Romanists lift marriage to “holy matrimony” by making it one of the seven sacraments that afford priests the power to grant the grace of God to sinners. Yet the truth of God would clearly teach men that marriage is no more holy than cows, crap, smokes or moly…all of which have also been paired with holiness.  Only God is holy!  And by extension His word is holy.  The Holy Spirit is holy because he is God.  But marriage is definitively not holy and never has it been so.  Marriage is one of God’s institutions to lesson sins’ power over man, but viewing marriage as holy is unscriptural, and the only reason anybody views the institution of marriage as holy is because of the mystical view of marriage taken by the church throughout its long history.  A sinful stubbornness (rebellion) exists within the church to maintain this false teaching.  By the grace of God, it is the aim of this author to do any part in bringing the true body of Christ to repentance on this corporate sin.

Platitudes, which are used in place of serious bible study, were mentioned in the previous paragraph. The first platitude is “God hates divorce”.  This platitude is so powerful that little else is needed to steer any student of God’s word toward the anti divorce bias.  When a single doctrine of God’s word is studied in order to obtain God’s perspective on that particular doctrine imagine if the first biblical statement on the subject was that God hates it?  Any persons’ entire study on the subject would be bathed in the thought that a perfect and holy God hates this thing, which is precisely how believers begin any biblical study on God’s teaching regarding marital divorce and remarriage.

Malachi chapter 2 seen through the mystics lens comes away with the single thought that God hates divorce. This is not at all the impression that an honest study of Malachi arrives upon, but nevertheless churchmen happily use this platitude to continue the lie with which they are so comfortable until it affects them personally.  Once faced with the reality of a failed marriage, and only then, they are forced to truly study the God honest truth on the subject of divorce at which time they realize the horribly unbiblical position the church has held these many long centuries. [See article “Does God Actually Hate Divorce?” to read an honest commentary on God’s Malachi 2 passage]

Regrettably, the next realization they will discover after doing an honest and thorough biblical study of the doctrine of divorce is that the church now considers their biblical discoveries on the subject as nothing more than twisting the scriptures in order to justify their own sin. Christians who feel no need for God’s gracious gift of release from a disastrous marriage will look upon those with ruined marriages and exclaim, “I am glad that I am not like that worthless fellow”.  And they will be dismissive of those who have need of God’s gracious gift of marital dissolution as though they are incapable of objectively seeing what God’s word has to say regarding divorce and remarriage.

The second, third and forth platitudes all come from the same text (Matthew 19:6-9) and they are even direct quotes of that text not just poor translations as is the case in Malachi 2. Having been routinely taken out of context these quotes have been useful platitudes prohibiting what Jesus did not intend to prohibit.  They are as follows: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, “…From the beginning it has not been this way”, and finally, “…Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”.

Most Christians do not care enough about the subject of marital divorce to take the extensive time required to understand all that God’s word has to say about what would have been a relatively simple doctrine had it not been for the mystical abuse the doctrine has been subject to for centuries, which has greatly darkened the clarity with which God’s word speaks upon it.

Dear reader: begin the process of demystifying the doctrines of marriage, divorce and remarriage in your mind so that the church will one day repent of the corporate sin of missing the mark on divorce. Reading as many of the articles herein will go a long way in doing this for the reader.  Contacting the author would be nice as well.  Christ’s continued blessings.


Jesus on Divorce in Matthew 19

By way of reminder, this blog is not so much about divorce as it is about divorce for the believer who is unequally yoked with an unbeliever.

When discussing the topic of divorce certainly the words of our Lord Jesus should be of great interest to everybody.  One text in particular is used by those who hold to the Permanence View (no divorce for any reason).  In Matthew 19:3-9 Jesus is asked (tested) by the Pharisees whether or not it is lawful for a man “to send away (divorce) his wife for any reason at all”.  In short, Jesus’ answer was that marriage takes one man and one woman and the two become “one flesh…What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Then they wanted to know why Moses allowed for a certificate of divorce, and Jesus said it was because of man’s hardness of heart, “but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

With such stark words it is not difficult to see why those who believe that divorce is always a sin hold such a view.  But Jesus is not finished speaking, (Vs. 9) “And I say to you, ‘whoever sends away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery'”.  Now we can see how important it is that people making the decision to get married take it very seriously as the marital relationship is indeed intended to be until the death of one of the two parties.  Nevertheless, our Lord provides two very significant exceptions to this overarching rule.  The second exception is pretty obvious to most people although (and this is unfortunate) many who hold to the permanence view even reject the immorality exception.

We Shall Begin With the Second Exception–Porneia

Jesus made it pretty clear that porneia (Gk) or immorality was a justified cause for divorce and thus an exception to the overarching rule on the permanence of marriage.  The reason for such an exception is that the very act of sexually joining oneself to a third party fractures the marital bond.  The marriage relationship has been so tragically altered that the marriage has actually been ruined/destroyed/broken by the immoral act(s).  The two individuals that had become one flesh have had their union fractured or destroyed by the introduction of a third person.

The marriage covenant is built upon a promise to one another to remain faithful and uphold the conditions of the marriage covenant  until death ends the marriage.  When immorality is committed at least one (forsaking all others) of the two (to love and cherish one another) most significant conditions has been broken .  Jesus is telling us that in this event the marriage covenant has been broken, and the innocent party is no longer bound by the marital covenant.

The Bottom Line: Treachery

Here is the bottom line when it comes to God sanctioned marital divorce.  When a marital spouse commits treachery thus being a traitor to their own spouse the innocent party to the marriage is not only allowed but obligated to divorce their treacherous spouse.

How does a married person commit the kind of treachery that demands a marital divorce?

  1. By demonstrating oneself to be outside of the family of faith (unequally yoked)
  2. By having sexual relations outside the marital relationship (adultery)
  3. By habitually denying the privileges of the marital bed
  4. By abandonment
  5. By endangerment (attempted murder and real physical harm at minimum)

Now For the First and Greatest Exception That Interrupts the Blessing of a Life-Long Marriage

Now we can consider the first exception which interrupts the blessing of lifelong marital bliss. It is in my opinion a far superior, but a less obvious (to our utter shame) exception to God’s intentions that marriage was intended to be a life-long covenant of love between a husband and his wife.   It is also seen in Jesus’ teaching in the 19th chapter of Matthew.

This exception is so ubiquitous in scripture that it is even the first command in the scriptures found in Genesis 1:4 “God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”  In this instance, God’s command is an implied command for man to follow after God’s example and keep separate light from darkness, but it is often repeated as a direct command.  Leviticus 20:26 says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.”

This sin of marrying unbelievers is also called “the matter of Peor” in Numbers 31:16 referring back to Numbers 25 where we read about the Israelites joining themselves with the daughters of Moab, which caused the Israelites to bow down to their gods and they joined themselves to Baal-peor making God fiercely angry with them.  Phinehas in his anger and jealousy for the Lord’s holiness took a spear and drove it through and Israelite and his Midianite woman (wife), and God was pleased with Phinehas.  Then God said, “Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them; for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the affair of Peor…”

God frequently commands His children to refrain from marrying foreigners.  By foreigners God does not mean people from other lands, but rather He is referring to people who worship anything other than God.  God’s people are not to be bound together with unbelievers in marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Today being unequally yoked to unbelievers is almost viewed as an inconsequential condition.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The greatest treachery a spouse could commit is being unrepentant and unfaithful to God.  God does not want His children to be bound together or unequally yoked to unbelievers because bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).  In fact, such relationships to unbelievers always leads to idolatry, which is spiritual adultery.

It was upon this foundation from the Old Testament that marriage was a family of faith institution that Jesus teaches about marriage and divorce. When Jesus says that marriage makes the two become one flesh it is assumed that God’s children would not enter into marriage by breaking God’s command to marry only within the family of faith.  So then, whenever a believer comes to the realization that they are joined in marriage to an unbeliever, then at that time they are to separate the light from the darkness, which means in the context of marriage they must get a divorce.

Not only are these many Old Testament passages the context in which Jesus is teaching, not only is this the assumption that God’s word always has when teaching on marriage and divorce, but Jesus teaches the principle of this exception in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Most modern translations of God’s word have removed the word “wife” from this text demonstrating the bias of the interpreters.

I discovered the inclusion of “wife” in this text when I was reading Jonathan Edwards’ lectures compiled into the book titled Charity and Its Fruits, which you should all read as it is among the very best books ever written. Edwards quotes this verse in lecture XII, and the translation he used still contained the word “wife”. You will also find a note in the column of the NASB Side-Column Reference Edition Copyright 1996 by The Lockman Foundation referring to wife being in at least one early manuscript.

In conclusion, verse 29 indicates that to leave a family member in order to follow and serve Christ Jesus would be worthy of praise and not condemnation…that such would inherit eternal life–not on the basis of works, but because they clearly demonstrate a love for Christ. The spousal relationship was included in the ancient text, so we understand that God means it when He says, Do not intermarry with foreigners (OT) and Do not be unequally yoked to unbelievers (NT).