Title: Abused Scripture…
Text: Matthew 19:1-12 part 1
FCF: We often struggle surrendering our desires and practices to the immovable Word of God
Prop: Because Jesus is the Word of God, we must humbly submit to God’s Word.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 19. Today we will begin another narrative section in the book of Matthew. As we have noticed before, the themes of the previous discourse will flow into this narrative and the last discourse was all about the humble nature of those who are citizens of the Kingdom of God. But as we embark on this next narrative, we will see Jesus leave the backwaters of Galilee and go to the epicenter of Jewish culture and faith, Jerusalem. And what we’ll soon find, is episode after episode, of those who have had the word of God, and have been blessed to have been a people chosen by God, but they are rarely if ever in need of God. Time after time they will choose one thing or another over God. This heart of humility and dependence that Jesus indicated was the heart of each kingdom citizen, is absent from most Jews He comes in contact with. And it is especially absent from the religious elite. The so called experts in the law, have found provision in the law itself and not the God of the law. And as we approach the cross of Christ, this narrative is the true beginning of the rejection of Jesus. They reject His purpose, His mission, and His message. He will correct their misunderstandings of the law, the kingdom, and Israel’s place in it all, but they will reject Him for it. And this will lead right into the 5th discourse of Christ in the book of Matthew… where Jesus pronounces 7 indictments on the Religious leaders, and pronounces woe on Jerusalem and by extension, Israel itself.
This section of Matthew and the one that follows it, is the part Matthew has been waiting to tell since the beginning. From chapter 19 through chapter 25 serves as the final build toward the climax of the book. Matthew has established that Jesus is their King, and has all authority, and he will continue to prove that. But now a sad truth must be revealed. That even though Jesus is the King of Kings… His own people, will reject Him.
I wonder, in the last days, when the remnant of Israel returns to the Lord, when they weep for the one that they have pierced, and repent with many tears. I wonder if Matthew’s words will fuel the flame of their repentance. I wonder if future Jews, will be quickened by God, by the very words we are about to read.
And maybe they will have great impact on you as well. Look with me in verse 1 of chapter 19. I’ll be reading from the NASB this morning, but follow along in the version you have.
Every single sermon poses a unique challenge for me. Most of the time it is in the study of the text that I am perplexed. But occasionally, like this week, it is my own underestimation of the depth and breadth of the text that is ultimately my undoing. At 4:30 PM on Friday afternoon, I had this sermon ready to go. But as I looked it over, it suddenly struck me. This thing has 7 applications, is over 6000 words long, and could easily be divided into two sermons. When I told my wife the nature of the sermon, she looked at me, as only she can, as if to say… I’m gonna be in nursery this week.
So what I am going to present to you instead is a 1 point sermon this week, and a 1 point sermon next week. If my public speech teachers were here they would mark me down for that, but it is necessary. Not just for length but even for content. I realized it is just not fair to you to require you to take home 7 applications from one text.
Why so many?
Well as an expository preacher, my desire is to come to a text of scripture and apply the passage to us the same way the original hearers applied it to themselves. But today, it is not as simple as all that. This week and next, in order to apply this text the way it ought to be, I have several, call it, “house-keeping” applications that must be made to ensure that we do not apply this the wrong way. Once those are out in the wild, we can truly see this passage how I believe Matthew intended us to see it.
What that means in raw numbers is that although this passage has really 1 application for us to take home… that one application has two very specific points that we must observe. One this week and one next week.
And although those two points we must observe are more than enough for us to talk about for these two weeks, the fact of the matter is that in order to get to those two points there are several other side issues that must be addressed.
So without waiting any longer… let’s dive in and see what we can come up with here.
I.) Jesus is the Word of God, so we must not divorce. (1-9)
a. [Slide 2] 1-2 – When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.
i. Now you don’t see it, but there is a significant gap between verse 2 of this chapter and verse 3. Several chapters from Luke and John fit in here chronologically.
ii. [Slide 3] Jesus lingers on the border of Samaria and Galilee, and eventually makes his way to Perea on the east side of the Jordan River.
iii. Why would Matthew omit all this?
1. Matthew is writing to Jews. To have an extended section where Jesus engages with Samaritans and Gentiles is not really Matthew’s aim. He instead wants to show how Jesus interacts with Jews, especially the religious elite.
2. Matthew has already pivoted his gospel to turn toward the completion of Jesus’ ministry. To include all these other details would only lengthen that climax that he has set up.
b. [Slide 4] 3 – Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”
i. Now this certainly was a test for Jesus. Because either way He was going to have to disagree with a major rabbinical school of thought.
ii. [Slide 5] They all agreed that from Deut 24:1 “indecency” meant divorce was necessary. So not only was it allowed, but it was commanded. Where they differed was in what indecency meant.
iii. On the one side you had Shammai. Shammai taught that it was unwise and unbecoming of a husband to submit a certificate of divorce to his wife for any reason except for adultery.
iv. The other side is Hillel who took Deut 24:1 “indecency” to the widest possible angle and anything that was shameful that the woman did would be treated as grounds for divorce. One famous comment in the teachings of Hillel is if a man’s wife gives him a meal that is not to his liking, this would be grounds for divorce.
v. And even teachers like Akiba take the statement “found no favor in his eyes” from Deuteronomy 24 and applied that by saying that if she is not attractive to him any longer he could divorce her.
vi. Other applications of “indecency” could include things like speaking ill of her husband’s parents, not wearing a head covering in public, being childless during 10 years of marriage.
vii. So how is Jesus going to answer here?
c. [Slide 6] 4-5 – And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’?
i. It is interesting that Jesus does not appeal to Moses. Not yet. Instead He goes directly to God, and His intention for His creation.
ii. He quotes God here to emphasize the origin and nature of the marital relationship.
iii. Now Jesus will move to expand and apply how God’s word speaks to this specific situation.
d. [Slide 7] 6 – So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.
i. Jesus emphasizes the union of marriage. A concept that has escaped the religious elite. They only saw marriage as an institution of men, governed by laws and society.
ii. Jesus drives to the heart of marriage and how it is an institution of, by and for God. They have become one.
iii. Therefore, since they are one, and since God has put them together as one, there should be no person or reason for that union to be broken.
iv. But the Pharisees think they have trapped him now… Because Moses… seems to say different.
e. [Slide 8] 7 – They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
i. [Slide 9] The passage they are referencing is from Deuteronomy 24:1-4. But let’s look at the full context and what this legislation actually forbids.
ii. So first we see that the point of this passage isn’t really about divorce so much as it is about remarriage. The when…then statement crafts a scenario for us where a woman has been divorced twice. The first was because her husband found some indecency in her, which we will get to that in a moment, the second was because the husband turned against her or died. After this, her first husband desires to remarry her, but God forbids this because it is an abomination.
iii. So first, what is indecency? - Indecency is a very difficult word to pin down. It could mean impurity, shame, nakedness. But it probably DOESN”T mean adultery. Because in chapter 22 that is dealt with, not by divorce, but death. So the first husband divorces his wife because she did something shameful. Whatever that may be.
iv. The key is, the certificate. He writes a certificate. Which means, she can legally be remarried.
v. Her second husband turns on her and gives her a certificate of divorce OR he dies. Which means that in both cases, she is free, again, to remarry.
vi. In this case then, the bible is very clear… she cannot remarry her first husband. Why?
vii. Essentially this passage recognizes that divorce was already happening among the Israelites. In fact it was happening so much that it needed to be restrained. Because what was happening was, men were taking advantage of the ease of divorce to have intimate relationships with women, only to cast them aside and get another. This legislation then is actually making it much more difficult on men, because once they divorce someone, they cannot remarry them if there is a marriage between.
f. [Slide 10] Application: This brings us quite naturally to our first little application for today. Remember when I told you toward the beginning of our study of Matthew, that the 1st Century Religious culture of the Jews is remarkably similar to our American Christian culture today? Well as I have studied Matthew, I have only found more evidence to prove that that is true. You see in their culture and every culture around them, the rights of women were nonexistent, and the roles of women were heavily pigeonholed. But what does God teach? From the beginning, what was God’s design? Jesus tells us here. Man and woman were both made in God’s image, meaning that it takes both man and woman to display accurately the image of God. Not necessarily in marriage, but generally speaking. And Jesus tells them that when married, the two become one. They are united. So much so that the Man leaves his parents and joins to His wife and they become as if they were one person. What does this mean? Well, when applying this to the 1st Century Jews, Jesus is saying that a woman provides value, purpose, support, help, and completion to her husband. A wife is his own flesh, bone, spirit and soul. That united to him, she is him and he is her. Jesus was teaching that their view of wives, and even women in general, was wrong. Alas in our culture, we have gone the other way with this. At some point the pendulum swung, but as it swung it passed God’s view of men and women many years ago. And now, women declare with certainty that they do not need men. That men are nice to have around if you want them, but there is nothing that men can do that women cannot or may not do. And our culture presses in all around us, forcing a strict egalitarian approach to masculinity and femininity. Radical feminism has overtaken many, and this toxic belief has infiltrated even evangelical conservative congregations. Entire denominations are re-interpreting scripture and undermining the very truth that Jesus was teaching these Pharisees. Friends, the message for us today is the same thing he taught to them. Women… if you have bought into this lie that you don’t need men – you are no different than the Pharisees in the 1st Century who thought they didn’t need women. Christ’s message for them, is the same message for you. A man provides value, purpose, leadership, strength, protection and completion to his wife. And masculinity in general is the other half of the image of God in mankind. We are not equal in every respect. Equal in inheritance and value… yes. But not truly equal. We are different in our God given roles, and we are different in our responsibility toward God and others. God told Adam to work and keep the garden, and God made Eve to help and support him. What does that mean? We need each other. Especially in the realm of marriage, but even broader in society. Ladies… you need men. Even if you are unmarried, you need fathers, brothers, friends and colleagues who are men. Men… you need women. Even if you are unmarried. You need mothers, sisters, friends and collogues who are women. God teaches in His word… Complementarianism. Do not buy into the egalitarian lie. Because if we are truly equal in every respect… then ultimately we do not need each other… which is really no different than how the men in 1st century Judea saw women… They could take or leave them.
i. So how does Jesus answer their rebuttal?
g. [Slide 11] 8 – He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses PERMITTED you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
i. Jesus captures the heart of the Deuteronomy passage exactly. It was not to command but to permit and to control the abuse of divorce that this passage was written.
ii. Divorce was allowed among the Israelites because they refused to be faithful to their wives. So God basically said… well if you are going to continue to do this, here are some laws to follow to keep it from stinking too bad.
h. [Slide 12] 9 – And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.
i. This is what Jesus means when He says that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.
ii. The New Covenant, ratified by His blood, set in motion by His resurrection, is restoring mankind, not to a Mosaic law state… but to an Edenic state. To a time before law was needed. A law written on our hearts. Where no one needs to instruct another the law of God.
iii. That is why Jesus’ statements about the law of Moses always seems like He is saying that the law has been misinterpreted. Because this little law on divorce reflects a truth consistent with the whole of the Mosaic law. That is, that it was meant to restrain the stench until the cause of the stench could be dealt with.
iv. God’s true desire for marriage is an enduring, permanent relationship between one man and one woman for their natural lives.
i. [Slide 13] Application: This brings us to our final housekeeping application for this morning. And that is the topic of sexuality, marriage, and how that relates to immorality. In the context of the bible, sex and marriage were always viewed as one and the same. Today when we say computer, typically we mean both a computer and a monitor or a screen. Technically speaking they are two separate products, but they are so dependent on each other, that when we say computer we typically mean computer and screen to view it on. A screen without a computer displays nothing, and a computer without a screen cannot be displayed. In a similar way, in their culture, sex and marriage went hand in hand. Not only does this help us understand that sex prior to marriage is both culturally taboo and scripturally forbidden, but it also helps us to see the depth of betrayal that adultery truly is. If sex is only and always inside marriage, then to go outside that and do acts of immorality is truly gut wrenching. But this also helps us to understand immorality the word. You see much like the Pharisees who wanted to debate back and forth what the word indecency meant, so they could make divorce and remarriage easier, there are groups of Christians who wish to debate the meaning of the word immorality, so they can also make divorce and remarriage easier. For them the word immorality is simply unfaithfulness or betrayal. Which means that Immorality can mean lying, or spending too much time at work, or spending money on shopping or gambling. But the word does not mean general unfaithfulness or betrayal. The word means sexual unfaithfulness. Meaning that unless your spouse is sexually unfaithful to you, there are no grounds for remarriage after divorce.
So when it comes down to it, what is Jesus really getting at for us in the first 9 verses here?
[Slide 14a] Really it answers the question, what is God’s view on divorce and remarriage?
Quite frankly, this is a discussion that is beyond what we have seen from this passage…
But there are two components of the divorce and remarriage discussion here that we must make sure we see.
[Slide 14b] First, is that in every situation, and in every instance, if we are talking about divorce, we must include the standard that God established, not with the mosaic law, but with creation. That standard is that one man and one woman be united together in marriage, for the entirety of their natural lives. God hates divorce. He hates it because it distorts the image of God, it distorts the functional roles of rulership of the earth God intended from Eden, and it pollutes the image of Christ and the church. If we discuss divorce in a counseling room, or in giving advice, and we do not mention this, or worse, we mention it quickly add a but, and continue for reasons to divorce, we do the word of God and the heart of God, a great disservice. God hates divorce and it was never His intention for divorce to occur. The is the most important point to be discussed when someone is considering divorce, and sadly, this is what is brushed aside the quickest.
[Slide 14c] The second component that must enter into the discussion when discussing divorce, and particularly divorce and remarriage, is that Jesus says that to remarry is to commit adultery. So to divorce is to do something God hates, and to do something against God’s will. And to remarry after divorce is to commit adultery. And to this, Jesus only includes 1 exception. That is when the spouse has been sexually unfaithful – which may include things outside of adultery, but must be sexual unfaithfulness.
But this isn’t the end of the discussion. Certainly there are more principles throughout scripture concerning divorce and remarriage.
[Slide 14d] For instance, Paul in I Corinthians 7:15, introduces the concept that if an unbelieving spouse desires to divorce his believing spouse, then the believing spouse is free divorce and to remarry if they wish.
And that is it, there are only 2 grounds for divorce where remarriage is an option.
[Slide 14e] Does the bible teach that all other reasons for divorce are sin? Yes… because God hates divorce. But the New Testament seems to view it similarly to the Old Testament, in that Paul in I Corinthians 7:10-11 says that if a woman does leave her husband, or a husband his wife, for unworthy reasons, then they ought to remain unmarried. Otherwise they are committing adultery on top of divorce.
So divorce is bound to happen, but remember – God hates it, and unless it is for two very specific reasons, remarriage is not an option for a Christ follower.
[Slide 15a] But what about a husband who defiantly does not love his wife? He never cheats, but is always belitting her, abusing her, or otherwise treating her unlovingly.
[Slide 15b] What about a wife who absolutely will not submit to her husband? She never cheats, but constantly belittles his opinions, undermines his authority, and otherwise treats him as if she was his head.
[Slide 15c] What happens if my believing spouse wants a divorce? What do I do then?
[Slide 15d] If only there was a passage of scripture that spoke of a governing force that will pursue those who are wayward in sin until they repent and are restored or until they are excommunicated and treated as unbelievers…
You want to know another great reason all churches should practice church discipline? Because we’d either have fewer members or fewer divorces. Instead of having churches packed and relationships in tatters.
And church discipline also has drastic effects on sexual immorality being a cause for divorce. Because although Jesus does say that this is the exception, and that you can remarry if you get divorced for that reason, He does not say that you MUST get divorced because of sexual immorality.
In fact, not ever offering your spouse a chance to repent, and never desiring to see their restoration even if not to marriage , but at least to God, is exactly the opposite of what Jesus just talked about in the previous discourse. Indeed, there have been many marriages where infidelity has occurred, and God through the work of the Spirit, has drawn the couple together in repentance and forgiveness, for His glory.
In this whole discussion, the most important thing to guide us is simply what Jesus has said here in this text.
[Slide 16a] God’s plan from the beginning, was for one woman and one man to have a lifelong partnership with one another to bring Him glory and represent His image, together. Divorce and adultery both destroy that.
But restored relationships that were broken by sin, reflects the essence of God’s changing power in our lives.
So for today, as part 1 of a larger application which we’ll finish next week…
[Slide 16b (end)] For His glory – never divorce. For His glory – never cheat. For His glory – leave your parents, cleave to your wife and become one, mutually dependent on one another, as you are both dependent on the Lord.