"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Jesus On Divorce, Remarriage, & Celibacy (19:1-12)
INTRODUCTION 1. A serious problem in the world today is that of divorce and remarriage 2. As described by God, divorce is a treacherous, violent act - cf. Mal 2:16 a. Its affect on children has been well documented by Judith Wallerstein, author of Second Chance (Ticknor & Fields, 1988) 1) Almost half of children of divorces enter adulthood as worried, under-achieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry young men and women 2) Half grew up in settings in which the parents were warring with each other even after the divorce -- Reported in Time, 2/6/89 b. Parents who divorce are not left unhurt either 1) "A divorce is like an amputation: You survive, but there's less of you." - Margaret Atwood (Marriage Partnership, Vol.7, No. 4) 2) Average percentage change in a woman's standard of living the year following a divorce: minus 73% -Daniel Evan Weiss, (The Great Divide, Poseidon Press, 1991) 3. Remarriage after divorce is not without it problems also... a. It does not always heal the wounds inflicted by the divorce: "I'm lucky my parents have stayed together. Unlike so many of my friends, I've never had to cry on a holiday." - Tales Out of High School. Marriage Partnership, Vol. 5, no. 6 b. Many remarriages are unlawful in God's eyes, constituting what Jesus called "adultery" 4. While I am concerned about the social and psychological effects of divorce and remarriage, it is the spiritual effects that concern me most... a. Too many people are ignorant of what the Bible teaches on this subject b. Such ignorance leads to quick and easy divorces, and to adulterous marriages that are unlawful 5. In Mt 19:3-12, we find Jesus discussing divorce, remarriage and celibacy... a. His teaching was occasioned by a challenge from the Pharisees b. But He used the opportunity to teach His disciples what people today need to know! [As we consider this passage carefully, we find that Matthew first records...] I. THE PHARISEES' QUESTION (3) A. TO TEST HIM, NOT TO BE TAUGHT BY HIM... 1. Divorce was a touchy issue then, even as it is today 2. Divorce was not uncommon (e.g., King Herod) 3. The scribes were divided over the proper grounds for divorce a. The school of Hillel taught that a man could divorce for just about any reason b. The school of Shammai permitted divorce only in the case of fornication B. ANY ANSWER JESUS GAVE WOULD OFFEND SOMEONE... 1. If He took the popular lax view, the Pharisees could deride His claim as a teacher of superior morality - cf. Mt 5:20 2. If He upheld the stricter view, He would be unpopular with the majority (which the Pharisees could use against Him) [Of course, Jesus was not concerned with what man thought, but in pleasing His Father in heaven. This becomes evident as we next consider...] II. JESUS' ANSWER (4-6) A. HE APPEALS TO THE WORD OF GOD... 1. "Have you not read...?" - Mt 19:4; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24 2. He does not place stock in the opinions of religious leaders of the day -- Is there not something for us to learn here? Where should we go to find the answer concerning the issue of divorce? B. HE REMINDS THEM OF THEIR GENESIS... 1. "He who made them at the beginning `made them male and female'..." - Mt 19:4 2. It is helpful to keep in mind: a. Where we came from b. Who created us c. What we are 3. For our views on divorce and remarriage will be influenced by our views of ourselves! a. Are we simply animals? 1) Compelled by instinct? 2) Unable to control fleshly desires? -- Then divorce and remarriage ought to be free and easy b. Or God's highest creation? 1) Made in His image? 2) Able to control fleshly lusts to the glory of God? -- Then divorce and remarriage ought to reflect God's desire for man's holiness! C. HE ATTRIBUTES THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE TO GOD, NOT MAN... 1. Notice, it was GOD who said "For this reason..." - Mt 19:5;cf. Gen 2:24 2. Therefore questions about marriage (such as divorce and remarriage) must be answered by God, not by man (nor by man's laws)! D. HE EMPHASIZES THAT IN MARRIAGE GOD CREATES A UNION... 1. The two become one flesh - Mt 19:5-6; cf. Gen 2:24 2. They are joined by none other than God Himself! E. HIS CONCLUSION: LET NOT MAN SEPARATE WHAT GOD JOINED... 1. What GOD has joined together, let not MAN separate - Mt 19:6 2. Man has no right to separate what God Himself has joined [It is clear that God's intention is that marriage is to be for life! It is God who joins the couple, and no one has the right to rend asunder what God has joined together! Are there any exceptions to this rule? The Pharisees thought so, as we now notice...] III. THE PHARISEES' REBUTTAL (7) A. THEIR REBUTTAL APPEARS BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD... 1. Jesus had urged scriptural reasons against divorce - Mt 19:4-6 2. They allege scriptural authority for divorce - Mt 19:7 B. THEIR APPEAL TO SCRIPTURE WAS ON SHAKY GROUNDS... 1. They appealed to Moses' statement in Deut 24:1-4 2. Which they took to permit divorce as long as a "certificate of divorce" was given to the wife - cf. Mt 5:31 3. Yet a careful reading of that passage reveals: a. Moses was forbidding the remarriage of a spouse who marries someone else b. The reason was despite the "certificate" the woman became "defiled" when she remarried - Deut 24:4 c. The word "defiled" is used elsewhere to describe adultery - Lev 18:20; Num 5:13-14 d. She actually became an adulteress by the remarriage! - cf. Ro 7:1-3 4. While they appealed to this passage in divorce (and presumably, remarriage), it actually described the treachery of divorce: defilement of the spouse - cf. Mt 5:32 [The shakiness of their rebuttal is seen further as we consider...] IV. JESUS' RESPONSE (8-9) A. MOSES "PERMITTED" DIVORCE DUE TO THEIR HARD HEARTS... 1. The Jews at that time were a hardened people - cf. Deut 9:6;31:27 2. Is this not a commentary on the state of one's heart when they desire to divorce their spouse? a. It takes a hard-hearted person to want to divorce their spouse 1) Either to divorce arbitrarily (for no scriptural ground) 2) Or to divorce when the guilty person is pleading for forgiveness and reconciliation b. Of course, that is exactly the condition of those in the world (or those in the church who are of the world) - cf. Ep 4:17-19 B. IT WAS NOT WHAT GOD HAD IN MIND FROM THE BEGINNING... 1. The permission to divorce was only temporary 2. Note carefully: a. The Law of Moses (which was temporary) considered the hardness of men's hearts, and permitted hard-hearted actions b. The gospel of Christ cures the hardness of one's heart! 1) His grace removes the heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of love! 2) I.e., a heart able to abide by God's original design for marriage 3. Paul would later make it clear that under normal conditions divorce is not an option - 1Co 7:10-11 C. JESUS SETTLED THE POINT WITH AN AUTHORITATIVE "SAYING"... 1. "And I say unto you..." - Mt 19:9 a. His sayings were with authority - cf. Mt 7:28-29 b. Upon which He expected people to base their lives - cf. Mt 7:24-25; 28:20 2. Divorce is allowed only in the case of fornication - Mt 19:9 a. Divorce for any other reason results in adultery when there is remarriage b. Which is what Jesus taught in Mt 5:32 3. To marry a divorced (put away) person results in adultery a. Does this apply only to a person put away for a cause other than fornication? b. Or to the one who is guilty of fornication? c. The lack of the definite article would suggest any "put away" person 1) Either an innocent person wrongly "put away" 2) Or a guilty person rightly "put away" for fornication D. OBSERVATIONS... 1. Any divorce must be on those grounds specified by Jesus... a. For marriage is an institution ordained by God - Mt 19:5 b. And we must not separate what God has joined - Mt 19:6 2. A divorce for any other grounds... a. Is an attempt to separate what God has joined together b. Results in a remarriage where people commit adultery - Mt 19:9; cf. Mk 10:11-12 3. Jesus' teaching was contrary to two views held by the Jews of His day... a. That as long as a "bill of divorcement" was given, they were free to divorce and remarry for any reason 1) Consider Mt 5:31 as an example of their belief 2) Yet Jesus taught: a) To divorce for any reason other than fornication causes the spouse to commit adultery - Mt 5:32 b) To divorce and remarry for any reason other than fornication is to commit adultery - Mt 19:9 b. That they could marry a woman who was divorced (with the exception of the priests - cf. Lev 21:7,14) 1) Yet Jesus taught that to marry a divorced woman was to commit adultery! 2) Again, the lack of the definite article in both Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9 indicates: a) Whether the woman was put away for the right reasonor not b) In either case, the end result is adultery! 4. Jesus defined the meaning of adultery... a. It was not uncommon at that time for some Jews to believe: 1) That a man was guilty of adultery only if he violated another man's wife 2) That he could be married, have relations with a single woman, and still not be guilty of adultery b. But Jesus defined adultery to include: 1) Sex with the spouse of another (the standard definition) 2) Looking at a woman to lust for her (certainly this would include either a married or single woman) - Mt 5:27-28 3) Marrying a person who was divorced by his or her spouse - Mt 5:32; 19:9 4) Remarrying when one did not divorce for fornication- Mt 19:9 [As one might expect, what Jesus said prompted strong reactions. While we do not know how the Pharisees reacted, we do know...] V. THE DISCIPLES' REACTION (10) A. IF DIVORCE IS ALLOWED FOR ONLY ONE REASON... 1. It is better not to marry! - Mt 19:10 2. The single life would be preferable to being so bound to one's wife! B. CONTRAST THIS WITH THE REACTION OF MANY TODAY... 1. The disciples of Jesus: a. "If such is the case with divorce and remarriage, it is better to be single!" b. With them, there was no question about obeying Christ's law on this subject c. Only that in view of His teaching, the preferable option is celibacy 2. Many people today: a. "If such is the case with divorce and remarriage, it is better to be lost!" b. Rather than submit to scriptural marriage or celibacy, many people are more likely to opt for eternal damnation! c. Choosing to prefer a few years of adultery over an eternity of bliss! [With the disciples' mention of celibacy as a viable option, Jesus used the opportunity to speak on the subject as it related to His previous "saying" or teaching...] VI. JESUS' REPLY REGARDING CELIBACY (11-12) A. NOT EVERY ONE CAN ACCEPT THIS "SAYING"... 1. I.e., the saying of Mt 19:9 2. The saying of Jesus regarding divorce and remarriage B. WHO CAN ACCEPT IT? 1. "those to whom it has been given" - Mt 19:11 2. "he who is able to receive it" - Mt 19:12 C. WHO MIGHT THESE BE? 1. Those willing to accept it "FOR the kingdom of heaven's sake"- Mt 19:12 a. The kingdom of heaven means that much to them b. They are willing to do whatever necessary to enter it 2. Even it means making themselves "eunuchs" - Mt 19:12 a. I.e., remaining single, even though they were not "born thus from their mother's womb" b. In order to remain true to the teaching of Jesus 3. That such sacrifices might occur is implied in Mk 10:29-30; Lk 14:26 a. One must put Christ before all others, including one's spouse b. Doing so may even cause one to leave their spouse c. Yet the only situation in which one would be justified in doing so... 1) Would be if their marriage was unscriptural 2) For otherwise one is not to leave their spouse - cf. 1Co 7:10-11 4. For those willing to live the celibate life if necessary... a. They will receive the ability to live by His Will - cf. Php 4:13; Ep 3:20 b. They can provide more service to the Lord being single cf. 1Co 7:32-35 ...just as many single and widowed serve the Lord faithfully in celibacy! CONCLUSION 1. Any view of divorce and remarriage must take into consideration... a. The Word of God b. The nature of man and woman c. The sanctity of the union between man and woman created by God d. The consequences of rebelling against God, trying to separate what He has joined e. The value of entering "the kingdom of heaven" 2. The only course for faithful Christians is to comply with the teachings of Jesus... a. That divorce: 1) Is an indication of one's hardness of heart 2) Puts the spouse in a position to commit adultery when they remarry 3) Causes one who has divorced their spouse to commit adultery when they remarry b. That there is only one ground for divorce and remarriage: 1) Which is fornication 2) In which the innocent person has the right to divorce and remarry c. That celibacy is a viable option: 1) For those who desire to enter the kingdom of heaven 2) Who may find it necessary to "make themselves eunuchs" (remain celibate) in order to do so 3. For those who find themselves in "unlawful" (i.e., adulterous marriages - cf. Mk 6:17-18), there is forgiveness through the blood of Jesus... a. But as with any sin, forgiveness in conditioned upon repentance b. Just as the Jews who had married foreign wives needed to repent by putting them away (cf. Ezra 9-10) c. So one repents by leaving any relationship described as adultery May the Lord bless those with the faith to live according to His word, and may we be diligent in teaching our children what the Bible teaches regarding divorce and remarriage!