Matthew 19:1-12 Part 6

In this time, when we see the foundations of our own culture being shaken, the predominant world-view sees Biblical Christianity as the greatest threat to its freedom.  In fact (retrieving a word back from the vocabulary of that world-view), you might say that the society is suffering from “Christophobia!”  In government, in the media, in education, in the arts and sciences, in entertainment, in general social dealings, (and even in some churches), faithful Christian living is despised – and feared.  It is social and political suicide to be united to Christ and stand on His Holy Law.  We know this hostile climate as well as any, since our two Churches are small and we’ve been isolated (as families and as Churches) –a condition not to our liking and not by our own doing.

There were times in our history when the atmosphere wasn’t so inhospitable to those united to Christ – times when the general population wasn’t so open with its defilements and its rebellion; and men and women and children of the “churched” community were not so “desensitized” to sin.  But it’s to the point now that we are seldom vexed in our souls when God is offended at the human stink in His nostrils.  Our stomachs don’t churn; we don’t agonize; we aren’t perplexed and sickened and offended when God is offended!

It’s so commonplace – the language, the dress, the glorification of illicit sex and adultery, the exclusion of Christian language and culture….  And when the soul-wrenching vexation disappears – look out!  It could well be that you’ve been incorporated into the world order!  I want to speak to you some more about these things and what it means to live in the Kingdom a little later.

But a good example of the desensitization that has occurred in the Christian community is the general attitude concerning divorce and remarriage.  We seem to have arrived at a condition in which we are no longer appalled and grieved by sexual “improprieties” and split marriages.  But if God is provoked and sickened by these things, then why isn’t there some anguish in us!  Why aren’t we vexed when illicit sex is treated as normal and commonplace?  Or when a marriage disintegrates?  Have we been narcotized?  Or acclimatized to the world order?  Or desensitized? 

Having spent five weeks now with this passage, we are grounded in the theology of marriage.  And now we can leave the context for a little while and deal with the topic of divorce and marriage from this and other passages of Scripture.  And, hopefully, we can identify, in this very complex subject, that behavior which is righteous and holy (as opposed to that which is offensive to God).  And then, maybe, we will learn to fear God and we will be grieved as He is grieved when men attack the creation ordinance and distort the image of Christ and His Church.

Jesus says, in our text – verse nine – that one who divorces his wife, except for fornication, and remarries, is guilty of adultery.  And we defined fornication as whatever defiles and severs the two-in-one sexual union of a man and his wife.  The complete man is two – in one flesh. It is foundational to the creation; and it is a Biblical image of Christ and the Church.  And it is indissolvable by man without assaulting the structure and order of things.  Fornication is the bursting asunder, by man, of that which God has decreed “in unity”.  Fornication is overruling the Sovereignty of God and turning His creation upside down.  It is uncleanness and defilement; and it includes sexual sins such as homosexuality, incest, adultery and bestiality.  And according to Jesus’ words here to the Pharisees, they are all adulterers because they split what God had joined together, and remarried, for reasons other than fornication.  And they did it in such a way as to retain the outward show of holiness!

Now, it is our purpose here to explore the rest of Scripture to learn what is holy before God – not so that we can push against the fringes and find out how far we can go!  That’s Pharisaical.  It’s a matter of the heart; searching diligently in order to discover what pleases God.  The attempt is not to justify ourselves in what we do, but what it means to be justified before God and live righteously in union with Christ!

So, with that in mind, let’s look now at the supplementary sheet where all the other Scripture passages are printed for you.  The Malachi chapter two, verses thirteen through sixteen passage says little that we’ve not already heard.  The leadership of Israel, four hundred years before Christ, is already deeply involved in this great sin against God, which the prophet describes as “dealing treacherously with their wives.  He also says that God hates “putting away” – or divorce.  For putting away one’s wife, and spreading ones cloak over another woman, is “covering violence”.  It is violence against the two-in-one-flesh union to engage in any sexual activity outside that marriage.  The prophet says that God has witnessed all this treachery, and He also sees your hypocritical worship at the altar.  Your public show of holiness is totally unacceptable, He says, for you are engaged in distorting all that the temple and the altar prefigures.

Now, I’m not going to get into this in any detail, but it certainly says a lot about ministers – and other Church leaders – who divorce and remarry and then continue in their leadership roles, doesn’t it?  It is an assault against the holiness of God for ministers and elders and deacons to violate the creation decree and distort the image of Christ and His Church, and then continue to lead God’s people in their union with Christ!  It is paradoxical.  It is mockery of the holiness of God, and it is hypocritical Phariseeism.  And yet the Churches persist, in our time, to just take no account of the plain words of Scripture!  And that kind of neglect isn’t maintained for very long without some sort of manifestation of Sovereign contempt!

But back to the issue of divorce and remarriage, there are three other places in the Gospels where the Pharisees are condemned for their practices.  And these three passages add some information which isn’t present in our Matthew nineteen text. They are Matthew five, thirty-one, Luke sixteen, verse eighteen, and the parallel passage to our text – Mark ten, verses two through twelve.  All three are printed in your supplementary text sheet.

The Matthew five passage indicates that that one who puts his wife away, except for fornication, places her in the realm of adultery; and that one who marries her is caused to be an adulterer!  The emphasis here is on the “chain” of sin resulting from the Pharisees’ hypocrisy.

The Luke sixteen passage says the same thing.  The Mark ten passage, however, adds the occasion of a wife divorcing her husband (for reasons other than fornication) and remarrying.  Now this may have been added later on, but, nevertheless, it is true.  However the two-in-one-flesh decree is violated, and however the image of Christ and His Church is distorted, whether by the husband or the wife, a grievous sin has been committed!  We don’t see much Scriptural emphasis placed on wives divorcing their husbands, because the historical situations all have to do with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (who all happen to be males).

Now.  Let’s review what we have so far from the mouth of Jesus Himself.  The two-in-one-flesh creation decree of God is indissolvable by man without calamitous results; the Holy Seed and His union with God’s people is imaged by faithful marriage; divorce and remarriage, except for reasons of fornication, is defilement, and it causes a chain of adulteries to occur; and Moses did not legislate against God’s decree.  Therefore the entire law is still in effect.  And, in fact, there is a potentiation of the effect of the Law by the appearance of Jesus Christ – the Fullness of the Law!

So, having said all of that, let’s now go to Paul and see how he applies the Law to the Churches.  We have two major passages which give us almost all of the Biblical information available concerning divorce and remarriage: First Corinthians chapter seven, verses one through fifteen, and Romans chapter seven, verses one through three.  Both are included in your supplementary sheets.

As far as the seventh chapter of First Corinthians is concerned, the major points of the context of this letter are these:  first, the Church has a lot of doctrinal problems, and, therefore, has a number of “lifestyle” problems.  There is undisciplined incest there; there are many there who have been, in the past, involved in divorces and remarriages; and many of the men have more than one wife.  The Jews brought their own problems resulting from having been taught by the Pharisees, and the Gentiles of the Church were called out of Greek, pagan lifestyles, and they brought the fruit of their sin with them to the Church!  It was a terrible conglomeration of “sin-consequences.”  And Paul’s two letters are just full of dealing with all of that.

And the second major point of the context of this letter is the fact that the great tribulation was about to occur.  Judgment was coming upon Israel; and Jews would be the subjects of world-wide holocaust – along with what was perceived to be its “offshoot,” Christianity!  So many of Paul’s admonitions were guided by what he knew to be coming – great persecution and suffering.  The Church was soon to come under fiery trial.

So with those things in mind, let’s go now to First Corinthians chapter seven, verses one through fifteen, and see what we can learn about divorce and remarriage.

In response to the Church inquiring about sexual matters, Paul writes, verse one, that it is “good” (kalos) – for a man not to touch a woman.  In other words, there is to be no contact at all, of a sexual nature, before marriage.  Period.  Then in verse two he calls those contacts “fornications.”  “But because of the fornications, let each man have his own wife..,” etc.  Any contact outside of marriage is fornication.  So Paul immediately protects the creation mandate of “one man, one woman, one flesh.”  Anything else is an assault upon the holiness which God has prescribed for man.

Then Paul, in verses three through five, addresses the depth of that sexual relationship which exists in marriage, which doesn’t particularly concern us here.  Then Paul explains that his celibacy is a gift from God.  And, under the circumstances, he wishes that all the men could be that way.  It looks as if he wishes that marriage and pregnancies and families could be suspended during the “trial by fire” that is about to come upon the Church through the divorce and terminal judgment of Israel.

In verses eight and nine, he says that widows and widowers ought to remain unmarried; it would be good if they did.  But it is better, even under these circumstances, for them to marry rather than to burn.  So celibacy after the death of a spouse is the preferred state.  But even under extreme circumstances it is still better to marry than to be aflame with passion and commit acts of fornication!  Do you see Paul’s protection of the one man, one woman sexual union? His goal is the avoidance of unholy acts of defilement among the Lord’s people!

Then in verses ten and eleven, Paul goes right back to the words of Jesus and commands that men who are already married not dismiss their wives.  But if there are those in the Church who have been dismissed (for any of those frivolous reasons), then they must remain unmarried or be reconciled to their husbands!  There may not be adultery in the Church!  If there are Jewish men in the Church who have followed the example and teaching of the Pharisees and sinned against God by dismissing their wives, then there must not be another marriage.  Celibacy or reconciliation are the only two options!  A sexual union between two other people in this case is profaning the creation marriage decree, and it is a distortion of the union that now exists between Christ and His Church!  It is adultery, and it may not occur in the body of Christ.  Paul says that this is what Jesus commanded, and, of course, we now know that he was making application of the words in our text – Matthew nineteen.

And lastly, in verses twelve through fifteen, we have the most remarkable statement in all of Scripture concerning the “joining” by God of two – in one flesh.  His inspired interpretation of the Genesis marriage decree is just awesome.

Here’s the setting.  As families were being spewed out of Israel into the nations, and as Gentiles were being converted to Christ and brought into the Churches, there were many, many families in which one spouse became regenerate and the other was not! (That’s the last group spoken to.) And in these marriages it could be that only one was elect; or it could be that both were elect and one was regenerate long before the other.  In any case this is the last group which Paul addresses in the Corinthian Church – those believers who had unbelieving spouses.

First, in verse twelve, he says that Jesus did not address this issue personally, but Paul is inspired of God.  And He proceeds to direct the Churches into the truth of God’s marriage decree.  A believer is not to leave an unbelieving spouse!  Why?  Because a marriage is the joining of two flesh in one.  And that union is of such a nature that should one party to that union be also in union with Christ, the unbeliever is also set apart in holiness!  And the children of such a union are also set apart.

Now I want you to know that this is the supreme portion of Scripture with regard to this issue; and it is the highest and loftiest perception of the covenantal union between a man and his wife; and the union existing between Christ and His Church is exalted with soaring and towering language!

A marriage, even if one party is pagan, is one flesh.  It is a creation decree of God.  And the union of Christ and His Church so recognizes that one-flesh union that the pagan member of that union is sanctified – or set apart!  And so are off-spring of that union!

Now, Paul is addressing marriage – not salvation!  This says nothing about the eternal salvation of an unbelieving spouse; but it says everything about the one-flesh union of the marriage!  If the flesh of that union is also in union with Christ, then that one-flesh union is set apart and confirmed in His body!  The unbelieving member is one flesh with a believer who is in the body of Christ; so the marriage-union is sanctified in Him!

Get your altimeters out because this is Theological colossus!  It involves the reality of union with Christ, and the reality of the two-in-one-flesh union in marriage; it requires absolute and detailed attention to the Words of God with regard to adultery and fornication and divorce and remarriage; it demands compliance from all men – especially believers – to total abstinence of any sexual contact outside the marriage covenant; and it confirms the original decree of God for the structure of His cosmos!  And lastly it glorifies Christ and His Church.  What would you do, then, to overrule what God has done?

Well we still have much to do; and we can’t do it all today.  But we now know so much more about the marriage union and its reality than we did before.  And we know the heinous nature of divorce and remarriage.  We have heard that it is better for widows and widowers to remain unmarried; but marriage – even in severe circumstances – is better than sinning against God with unbridled passion – fornication!  We know that divorce under any circumstances except fornication is an assault on the Sovereignty of God.  What God has joined together, let no man sever.  And let no man, nor any world order, desensitize you to the facts and truth of the case.  That might be commonplace and natural to them, but it must never be to us!

This is the nature of the Kingdom of Christ.  He is the Fullness of the Law, and we are in covenantal union with Him.  Now, that union is an existing reality from which we receive assurance and stability and satisfaction and hope.  And it produces good works in us.  Constant realization of union with Him builds us and establishes us, because the power to do all He commands flows from that union.

Waking every morning by acknowledging our union in Him sanctifies us and sets us apart into holiness.  And we know, as we go about our duties during the day, that the power and glory of the Kingdom is there.  It is not us, but Christ; and we in Him.

Therefore our language, and the way we address our jobs and businesses, how we dress and look, our response to hardship and suffering, and all the other aspects of life are, to a great degree, dependant on our acknowledgment of Him and our union in Him.  As I said, therein is the power of life and the power to effect the Kingdom in this world.  Calvin said that we are in “rise above this world order” by faith, and enter into that Holy of Holies where we wholeheartedly respond to the Grace of God in Christ.  Contemplating our union in Him produces joy and happiness and stability in this world. Living in Him is the source of the powers by which we put to death our sin and rebellion.  And daily living in that union produces an expanse of the Kingdom as the Sovereign Ruler of the nations defeats all His enemies.  The world has already been graced in Him; and now we need to recognize the power of living in His Kingdom.

Do you wish your marriages, both present and the future ones, to reflect the grace of God and the image of Christ?  Then be sanctified, through faith, in union with Christ.  There is the power to overcome the lust of the flesh, and there is the grace to establish and build your union with your mate.

Next week we learn more about divorce and remarriage – and finish the last verses of this text.