Matthew 19:1-12 Part 5

As we come to God’s Word again, specifically Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ second question concerning divorce, we do so soberly; we do so submissively – with a degree of awe and fear because of what we’ve already learned from this text.  And we anticipate so much more.  For we wish to be matured and completed in Christ – our sin to be mortified, our union in him to be fully realized, His Name to be praised, His Kingdom to be glorified.

The first step is to hear what God said, and to understand what He has done.  And then, of course, to turn away from and amputate anything that isn’t real and true.

And, as far as this text is concerned, what’s real is that God made woman from the man – for the man – that the flesh of two might become one complete man.  And that that union of two in one might be humanly indivisible without assaulting God’s decree concerning the essence of His Creation!

But by man sin came into the world, and man died to God.  And ever since, there has been a paroxysm of lusty passion and sexual deviancy in rebellion against God and the substance of His creation. Man, in his own creative genius, has found an almost infinite number of obscene violations and assaults against God and His marriage decree.  “Out of the heart come evil matters: adulteries, fornications...,” and they are all offensives against the God-ordained cosmic structure.  They are anti-Creator and anti-creation, and they rip and tear at the fabric of existence itself, which God has called into being by the Word of His Power.  The union of two into one flesh is at the very essence of the man-creature.  And the disintegration of that which God has decreed indissolvable militates against the reality and existence of man.  But, then, man since Adam has always done that which is inimical to his own life and existence.

We also learned, and now understand, that marriage is a Biblical image of the union that exists between Christ and His Church.  In the first Adam we all sinned and died; but our Lord was raised from the dead – the second Adam (our new Genesis).  Outside His resurrected, New Covenant body is chaos and disintegration.  Only in His body, in union with Him, do we exist whole and complete.  The Bridegroom has come.  And down through the ages the true Church has showed up fully dressed for the union.  But many are fornicators and adulterers and are unacceptable, and they are excluded from the union ceremony! 

But it is the Church – the gathering of the body – which nurtures the union.  And it is there that Christ nurtures His Own body!  He is the Head, and we are the body; in union with Him Who is completely faithful.  And marriage, decreed indissolvable by God, images this union!

So marriage is of the essence of creation itself; and it is the image of the union of the Church and its Bridegroom.  Therefore marriage is intrinsic to life.  On the other hand, adulterous and broken marriages are the pieces of disintegrated creation; and they are false and lying images of the faithfulness of our second Adam.

So Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s first question judges them and condemns them, doesn’t it?  “What God has joined together, let not man divide!”  God’s creation decree is the antithesis of their teaching and example.  They are adulterers and fornicators, and they have led the nation into national adultery against God and His Covenant.  The divorce decree is about to be executed, and the nation is about to be put to death.  And Jesus lays the blame for it all sparely upon them.

Now.  The Pharisee’s second question is actually an argument concerning Jesus’ answer to the first one, isn’t it?  If God’s decree “is” from the beginning, and the Pharisees are fornicators (as Jesus implies), then why did Moses command the people to issue a writing of repudiation and divorce their wives?

And Jesus’ answer is, “He didn’t!”  Right now you’re m this state of enmity and antagonism with respect to God because you’ve used the Law unlawfully!  For centuries you have misused Moses for your own purposes.  All that time you have been violating your covenant vows, pretending to be faithful and pure!  You put yourselves up before the people as teachers and examples; you wear your long robes and put on your phylacteries; you pray loudly on the busiest streets; you assume long faces when fasting; you make a show of tithing the mint and cumin; you baptize the outside of your utensils and wash your food; and you make your own law and demand that all the people comply with it!  But in all this public show of holiness, you have profaned the Creation ordinance of “two – in one flesh.”  You re-write Moses’ words in order that you can take many wives and defile the land legally!  (The legality being Pharisee law, of course.)

Your Creator, by three witnesses, has pledged faithfulness to you, but you have nullified His promises and forfeited His troth!  And you’ve shamed and killed the prophets that God sent to demand your repentance!  And you’ve continued to prostitute yourselves.  And now the Messiah has come to claim a new Bride - One who will not desecrate her vows of purity and faithfulness.

Moses did not command you to put your wives away by means of a writing of repudiation! 


“Moses…,” verses eight and nine, “…against the hardness of your hearts, gave you over to dismiss your wives; but from the beginning it is not so. And I say to you that whoever shall dismiss his wife except for fornication and shall marry another commits adu1tery.” 


You, with great pretension, contend with Me for the Law, but you are fornicators!

Moses, seeing the awful state of the people (with respect to their marriages – and many other things) suffered your divorces; and with great vexation he legislated against further defilement.

Moses found you in a hard-hearted, sinful condition; but God had “saved” you out of that four hundred year bondage in Egypt.  And you were to respond to His grace and mercy by abstaining from further sexual sin!

The Law was given to you at Sinai – “you shall not commit adultery”.  That law is the summary against all sexual perversion; and it refers back to God’s creation ordinance concerning the union of two – in one!  And the nation of Israel, being then in a state of covenant union with God, was not to terminate their present marriages and return to their former wives!  That would be an abomination before God, and it would “defile” the land – the Kingdom.  In other words, begin in the state in which you are found – and sin no more!

But you Pharisees, blind leaders of the blind, continued your deviant ways – perverting the words of Moses in order that you could satisfy your own lusts.  Moses didn’t legislate against the creation ordinance – you did!

Now.  As you can see from your text, that was the end of the conversation with the Pharisees.  The next words, beginning with verse ten, take place between Jesus and His disciples.  Apparently, the Pharisees were rebuffed and humiliated before the crowds; and they went away.  But, as we all know, they weren’t finished with Jesus yet.

Verse nine is a continuing condemnation of these Pharisees – that they were adulterers.  As we’ve mentioned several times, there were many allowances written in the Midrashim for divorcing one’s wife.  If a woman didn’t find favor in the eyes of her husband any longer, he could just go to the list of reasons (called “shameful things”) and find one that fit her and use that as the basis for giving her a writing of repudiation!  There was no thought of the defilement of the creation ordinance – only the satisfaction of lusts, using the law unlawfully.  And all the while putting on a show of public “holiness”!

It’s no wonder that Israel, the Garden of God, became a wilderness; and that the Scriptures describe the leadership of Israel as “ravenous wolves.”  The society disintegrated into chaos as a result of the attack on the creation decree.  The covenant of God was broken, and the image of the Messiah to come was distorted. And the nation became a shambles!

And every society in which adultery and divorce and fornication have become “acceptable” and legal has done the same.  And ours is well on the way!  The very essence of things – the way things are created and put together by God – is being violated!  Abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness in marriage are no longer promoted and protected by magistrates; and they’re not insisted on and preached by ministers of the Gospel!  And the Church – that which is imaged by faithful marriage - no longer disciplines its own perverted images.  It tolerates (and sometimes even promotes) distorted images of Christ and His body within its own membership, and even in its leadership!

I have this deep-seated suspicion whenever I hear shallow and non­specific messages about marriage and sexual sins and divorce; and those suspicions also arise when I see open shame going undisciplined in the Church.  Doubts about the fidelity of the leadership of the Church automatically come into my mind!

Not that I want to think the worst about God’s people, but what isn’t being said here?  Why isn’t this minister saying what God said about adultery and divorce?  And why is he causing the people to laugh in the middle of such a serious subject?  And, further, why does the session (or the deaconate) tolerate open defilement?  Is it just because it’s such a sensitive subject, or is it because there’s something being covered up here?

A libertine, or lawless, lifestyle will most certainly beget arbitrary or non­specific preaching and teaching and discipline!  A homosexual, ordained to preach in a Church, will never preach the Law of God!  And if he does, he arbitrarily changes the Words of God to fit his lifestyle!  He preaches tolerance instead!

A group of elders or deacons will rarely discipline sexual sins in the Church if their own practices don’t measure up.  They become more tolerant.  They tend to change the standards of God’s Word to match what they do.  That’s why I get suspicious at antinomianism and liberalism and tolerance and arbitrary preaching.  Why would a man, or a Church, be antinomian (considering the plain words of Scripture) unless there were personal reasons for not wanting God’s Law to be binding?  Considering God’s requirements for holiness in the Body of Christ, why would a Church promote tolerance of sin unless there were personal reasons for accommodating sinners?  Well, this was the nature of Pharisaical hypocrisy – to change the words of God, arbitrarily, in order to support their own lifestyles; and so they could continue to be seen as holy people. (regardless of what they do!)

But now we must go to Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ second question, verse nine, and examine it more closely.  Verse eight destroys the Pharisee’s contention that Moses “commanded’ the divorcing of ones’ wife by writing her a bill of repudiation. Now, in verse nine, Jesus literally condemns them all as adulterers.

Verse nine, again, reads thusly:


 “And I say to you that whoever shall dismiss his wife except for fornication and shall marry another, commits adultery.” 


Well, that’s what the Pharisees had been doing, and teaching – putting away their wives for many other things besides fornication - and remarrying!  So Jesus calls them adulterers right to their faces, and in front of this large crowd of people!

Now, the first thing that needs to be said here about this verse is that this is the “Word of God made flesh” speaking the Truth of God.  “And I say to you.”  First He takes them to what the written Law of God said, in the creation itself and in the Law of Moses.  And, now, the Fullness of that Word speaks authoritatively in expanded confirmation of all that His Father said.  In other words, He is the One Who speaks the Law!  He spoke at the creation; He spoke the Law to Moses; and He now speaks to the Pharisees in confirmation:  “I say to you....”

Moses did not command you to dismiss your wives.  “From the beginning it is not so.”  “Whoever shall dismiss his wife except for fornication and shall marry another commits adultery.”

Jesus says that man shall not dissolve that which God has joined together as the fabric of creation itself.  To terminate what God has done, and be joined to another, is abominable to God because it violates His creation!  God has joined a woman, made from man, to a man in order that there be one complete man.  And then, therefore, to fracture and cleave that complete man by divorce, and then have another joining of two in one (another marriage) is a savage assault upon the order of the created universe!  God made a man to be complete by the joining together in sexual union to one woman.  And man may not then sever and dissect his own body, cleaving the unity of his own flesh, and then enter into a new union with new flesh, without creating great convulsions.  Wildness and pandemonium is introduced into the creation.  The Law of God is broken.  The covenant of God is broken.  The order and structure of the cosmos is assaulted.  What God has done is overruled and overturned by man.  And that is the nature and definition of adultery.  And that’s what a man, or a woman, does when there is a divorce and remarriage.  “What God did join together, let no man divide.”  To divide that which has been mandated indivisible produces severe consequences to the life and health and existence of man, for he cannot have life and be anti-God at the same time.

Now.  Here in verse nine Jesus gives the Pharisees the true exception, (not their contrived ones, but the true one) to the two-in-one sexual union between a man and his wife.  And even this isn’t what we might call a true “exception” to the creation mandate, is it?  There are no exceptions to the fact that the sexual union between a man and his wife makes two flesh – one flesh!

But what this is, is an exception to the divorce rule.  You may not divorce your wives, you Pharisees, under any of the conditions which you list in your writings.  You do so; and your remarriages are abominable to God.  You are adulterers.

The God-ordained exception to the divorce and remarriage Law is “fornication.”  Listen to it again: 


“…whoever shall dismiss his wife except for fornication and shall marry another commits adultery.” 


Again, this is specific language aimed at the Pharisees and their divorce laws.  Jesus doesn’t say everything with regard to marriage and divorce.  He only responds to the hypocrites and brings them face to face with their sinful condition under which, alone, their question concerning divorce could arise!  Had they not been guilty, the testing of Jesus would not have occurred!  The question would not have come up!

Jesus does not address the character of the man’s sin if he puts away his wife for another reason and does not remarry; He does not address the rights of a woman in divorcing an adulterous husband; there is no hint in His words of “obligation” to divorce – even in cases of fornication, therefore Jesus does not address the issue of forgiveness of an adulterer; He does not address the remarriage of the innocent party in the case of divorce for fornication; the issue here is the Pharisees and the illegitimacy of their divorces.  But we’ll deal with as many of those questions as possible, from the texts in your supplementary sheet, next Lord’s Day.

But for now, as we near the end of our time, let’s see if we can get a handle on this word “fornication” as we continue to examine verse nine.  Fornication is seen as the exception to the divorce laws because there are sins which are so abominable that they “burst asunder” that which God has joined.  Irrespective of a divorce, an abominable sin of such magnitude has already ripped at the core of a marriage union.

Fornication is defilement.  Uncleanness.  Abominable things which so militate against God’s order that they disintegrate the unity of the “two – in one flesh.”  And such being the case, they are, a priori, divorce-producing.

Now, in the interest of time, and while reserving the privilege of coming back to them, I won’t read any of the Older Testament texts having to do with these sins.  It is enough to say that there are very specific passages having to do with abominably defiling sins which match those having to do with fornication in the New Testament.  Therefore it is very safe to say that “fornication” – porneia – is the same as “uncleanness” or “defilement” in the Older Testament.  What is so abominable is the unnatural, ugly, obscene, death-producing, sexual assault upon the one man - one woman union in marriage. As I said, it is the creation foundation of civilization and society.  It is the natural order of things, and it is the image of Christ and His Church.  And whatever militates against that sexual union of two in one flesh is abominable to God.

The occasions where there are particular sins which are called “defilements” have to do with these sins of a sexual nature – such as incest, bestiality, adultery, and homosexuality.  And when we come to passages such as Romans one, and I Corinthians five through seven, we will see that the New Testament Greek word with reference to these sins is “porneia” – fornication.  The death penalty is prescribed by God for these sins, and that has not been, by any means, abrogated; for they are destructive of the fabric of the Creation of God.

Finally, one comment concerning the Kingdom.  Revelation chapter twenty-one says that no unclean man (fornicator) has access to the Community of Christ.  It is forbidden.  He is unclean.  But through rebirth and faith in Christ and repentance from sin, man stands before God in the Body of Christ.  There is the power to live – day by day.  The Kingdom is living in Him and by His Sovereign rule.  And there is nothing else on earth that even comes close to the realization of living every minute of every day in His body.  There is the real power of Kingdom life and the power to mortify sexual sin.  More about that at the end of the preaching next Lord’s Day.