Matthew 19:1-12 Part 7

In the years before the final siege of Jerusalem (which began in 68AD and ended in September 70AD) emperor Nero ruled the known world from Rome.  However many men there have been in the history of the world who exhibited near absolute depravity in everything they did, Nero was certainly among them – and it might be that he heads the list.  As an example, he burned nine sections of his own capital city, in 64AD, just in order to blame it on Christians.

He died in 68AD, and Titus, the commander of the Roman legions in Judea, became emperor, leaving his son, Titus, to finish the siege of Jerusalem; which he did.  Later on it was the emperor Domitian who commanded the world to refer to him as “Domine,” or Lord – a command that believers refused to obey.

Never in history has there been a government to rival the brutality of this fourth world-wide kingdom of Daniel’s prophecy Jesus Christ was shaking the foundations of the creation as the Old Covenant was brought to a close and the New Heavens and the New Earth was being covenantally established.  And it was into this world-order that the apostle Paul writes to the Roman Church, chapter thirteen, that all authority is instituted by God; and that, because of that, believers are to give honor to those authorities.  Those who resist God’s authorities resist the authority of God!

It was also into this world order, in 57AD, that Paul writes this letter to the Church at Corinth, the seventh chapter of which we’re considering with regard to divorce and remarriage!  We must remember that the moral “atmosphere” in which this Corinthian Church, and all the others, existed, was diabolical and vile.  And, yet, Paul gives not an inch of Theological ground to that dominant world-view.  He upholds, vindicates and confirms every aspect of Christ’s authority, as is evidenced by His exposition here of Jesus’ words from Matthew chapters five and nineteen.  The “Rock” upon which the Church is built is its highest Authority, and He has set the standard of holiness.  “From the beginning it is not so…” He said.  “Whoever shall dismiss his wife except for fornication and shall marry another commits adultery.”

Now, the point here is that since God’s Word (the epistle of Paul to Corinth, chapter seven) required submission and obedience from Christians in the midst of the immorality and brutality of the Roman government, why would the Church see fit to compromise the faith with today’s manifestation of the world order?

Why are Christian families, and young people, and Churches, and other Christian organizations so “out of touch” with the standard of holiness set for the Covenant Community by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?  Why does the Church allow, among its membership, participation in the present-day legal system which promotes divorce and remarriage down to any reason on the list?  Why is there now a defense of homosexuality and lesbianism in the Churches, along with a “more favorable” interpretation of every other form of forni­cation?  What is it about our world-order that parents and ministers think that Biblical standards must be relaxed to some degree in order that we might not “lose” our youth?  Parents of today, for some reason, make a devastating assumption that God’s standards are unrealistic for their children; when, in fact, that assumption is completely out of touch with reality!  Because an unclear, compromising standard provokes children to confusion, and wrath, and rebellion and to an isolated individualism!  The children of America’s Christian homes and Churches are being lost because there is no sharp trumpet sound of Biblical holiness.  Their authorities are not clear, with their words and their lives and their discipline, about what God requires.  You see, when the standard is confused, it is unintelligible.  Confusion and compromise with this world order is the provocateur – not absolute Biblical standards!  Our Lord, and His prophets, and His apostles (including Paul here in I Corinthians chapter seven), were absolutely uncompromising with that Roman world order!

John the Baptist condemned the practice of incest in the leadership of Israel; Jesus condemned divorce and remarriage as adultery; Paul judged homosexuality as blasphemous abomination in Romans chapter one.  And here in First Corinthians seven he condemns any kind of sexual practice before marriage as fornication – confirming God’s original decree and the Law of Moses.

So what’s going on with us?  Is our world-order more immoral than that of Rome when this letter to Corinth was written?  Is it more brutal?  Does the Churched community feel that the standard of holiness set for them by God the Son is to be compromised, and that the present moral environment is to be embraced due to societal and governmental pressure?  Who do leaders of Churches and leaders of families think they are that they consider it an in­trusion upon their government of things that there might be a Higher Authority?

Don’t “think down” on this now – but the question is “by whose authority?”  “By Whose Authority” was the two-in-one-flesh decree pronounced?  By Whose Authority is it written that any sexual activity outside that exclusive marital unity is fornication?  By Whose Authority is it written that divorce (except for fornication) and remarriage is adultery, and that whoever marries one so divorced is an adulterer?  And by whose Authority is it written to the Christians of Corinth (First Corinthians seven, verse eleven) that their split marriages are to be reconciled – or they are to remain abstinent for the rest of their lives?

Is it by the irrational authority of individuals, or heads of families, or Church leaders that those standards are seen to be “inconsistent” with Christian charity?  Or is it by the original Authority of Christ the King that believers live and breathe and have their very being?  The issue is clear-cut and non­negotiable.  Jesus is the King and Head of the Church; and those who live in His body are to obey with hope and joy and confidence.

In the case of the Christian marriage that has been split asunder on unscriptural grounds, and the only two options are reconciliation or abstinence, the compromisers stagger with incredulity at the callous hard-heartedness of the faithful!  Why, how can you possibly demand that two red-blooded young people abstain from all sex for the rest of their lives simply because they can’t live together?  Have you no sensitivity at all to suffering?  Do you have a stone where you should have feelings?  Has your Reformed faith anesthetized your humanity?

Well, in the first place, it isn’t we Reformed people, who demand abstinence in such a case, and, secondly, our sensitivity to human suffering isn’t the final judge as to what is right (Holy)!  Surely there is great suffering in a divorce – and especially a Christian divorce.  And even more suffering if God’s decree is understood by the parties!

Abstinence is demanded by Christ – for the sake of the honor of God and His marriage decree; and for the sake of the image of Christ and the Church; and for the authority of the King; and for the purity of the Church!  Jesus said,


“What therefore God has joined, let no man sever”!


The second part of that scenario, though, is that obedience brings joy and peace and contentment.  If there had been no sinful divorce, there would be no suffering in abstinence.  But if there has been sin and a Christian marriage has been severed for unscriptural reasons, submission in the Spirit to Christ’s commands for abstinence – for the glory of God and the purity of the Church – will produce a man (or woman) broken before God and dependant solely upon His grace.  The suffering may be terrible (the consequences of sin being what they are), but God is powerful to sanctify us and fill our every need in Christ Jesus.  We are but to obey.

Now.  We’re back to the point where we can finish examining Paul’s words here at First Corinthians chapter seven, verse fifteen.  Apparently there were a number of questions from the Church regarding Christian marriages; and Paul is supplying them with answers based on God’s Creation decree, and from the Law of Moses, and from the Words of Jesus – all of which speak in perfect unison.

There are questions concerning the unmarried; some, with regard to sexual relations within Christian marriage; others concerning Christians whose spouses had died; and even some with regard to Christian marriages which had been severed for unscriptural reasons.   Then, in verse twelve Paul begins to address the questions that had to do with those believers who were married to unbelievers – none of which were addressed by Jesus in His condemnation of the Pharisees.

First he says that, due to the sacred nature of marriage, a believer, under no conditions, is to leave an unbelieving spouse because he is an unbeliever!  There must have been some questions in the Church about being unequally yoked with unbelief, and whether divorce was appropriate in this case.  But Paul meets that kind of thinking with the awesome doctrine of union with Christ sanctifying an entire family unit – even if only one spouse is a believer!  The one-flesh union of two is in union with Christ, even if only one spouse belongs to Him, providing a gracious confirmation of the marriage and its offspring.  The concrete reality of union with Christ so attends and accompanies the God-ordained marriage, that great benefit accrues even to a non-elect spouse!  If one is unregenerate, and will suffer eternally for his unbelief, then the next best thing (at least for him) is to be joined by God in one flesh to a spouse who is in union with Christ!  So even if he isn’t a direct recipient of the salvation and character and virtues of Christ, at least he is a beneficiary albeit temporarily, by virtue of his intimate union with one who is!  They are one flesh, and that one flesh is united to Christ!

Now.  That marriage union is binding upon the believing spouse by God’s decree and because of the image of Christ and the Church.  It is indissolvable by the believer!  And his union with Christ prevents him from doing anything which might encourage or promote the dissolution of that union!  In other words the believer cannot one day decide that it’s preferable to be without this unbeliever, and then make it so unbearable to be married that the unbeliever goes out and does something which dissolves the marriage!  That is deceptive manipulation which deserves Sovereign contempt, because one cannot cause another to sin and himself be free of that sin!

But Paul then addresses, in verse fifteen, the dissolving of the marriage by the unbeliever.  Listen:  “…but if the unbelieving one separates himself, let him be separated; the brother or the sister is not bound in such cases.”  Now, this word “separates” can also be translated disunites.  “But if the unbelieving one disunites himself, let him be disunited….”  The believer is not to dissolve the marriage or do anything to promote that; but if the unbeliever disunites himself, then let him be disunited… not the believer!  That’s the high view!

In other words, if an unbelieving spouse sees no value in obeying the two-in-one-flesh creation decree of God; if he refuses to image the union of Christ and the Church with a faithful marriage; if he has no understanding of the benefits of being united to one who is in union with Christ; if he is such an infidel that he disunites himself from that which God has joined together, then let him be disunited!  Let him burst asunder that which God has indissolvably joined together – the brother or sister isn’t bound in such matters!  There’s no binding of guilt and no binding of the law of marriage for the believer if an infidel spouse assaults the Sovereignty of God by his fornicating perversity and separates himself from his own flesh!  By the immediate satisfaction of his own decadence, the heathen has cut off his own flesh and violated an inviolable decree of God; and the believer is to be held guiltless.

Now, there has been a lot of speculation going on in the interpretation of this verse – especially with regard to the meaning of the word “separation.”  Modern-day concepts of trial separations and legal separations and desertion have been poured into the Biblical language.  But it is clear, now that we have the full context concerning the two-in-one-flesh union that God has created, that Paul speaks directly to the issue of a pagan disuniting himself, or separating himself, from a one-flesh marriage with a believer!  And it is also as clear as air that a faithful, believing spouse is loosed from the marriage when the pagan spouse disunites himself by overruling the Sovereignty of God. 


“Whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall have already been loosed in Heaven….” 


“Whatsoever God has joined, let no man sever.”


Our next-to-last passage of Scripture in your supplementary sheet is Romans seven, verses one through three.  And in this passage Paul makes one very precise point about our union to Christ by his analogy of marriage.  Depraved, Adamic man is under bondage to sin by the Law.  The Holy Law of God binds all men to sin because of our depravity.  But the regenerate dies and is resurrected in the death and resurrection of Christ and in that union he is loosed from his bondage to sin by the Law!  It was the death of Christ (and His resurrection) which frees us from that bondage.

Paul uses the example of a spouse being freed from the law of marriage by the death of the other spouse as an analogy of the death of Christ freeing us from being bound to our depravity!  As I said, this is a very precise Theological analogy by Paul; but, in the process of making the point, he also confirms, once again the God-ordained sanctity of marriage!  Nothing before or during the God-created, two-in-one-flesh marriage is to interfere with it; God only can sever it with the death of a spouse!  It is the image of Christ in union with His people.

The last supporting passage in your supplementary sheet concerning divorce and remarriage is First Corinthians seven, verses thirty-nine and forty.  There are a couple of points to be made here with regard to additional information about the subject matter.  And it is to be understood that Paul is writing to the Church concerning Christian marriages.  He says here that widows (and I think widowers is implied here too) are free to be remarried – but only in the Lord!  All widows and widowers (but with special reference to those marriages in which one spouse remained a pagan) are free to remarry – but only to another believer!  Any future unions are to be those in which both husband and wife are in union with Christ!  The Biblical rationale for this commandment is too obvious to spend much time on, but if marriage is to be the image of Christ and His Church, then it stands to reason that it is to image the faithfulness which exists between the Head and the Body.  Yoking together one who belongs to the Kingdom of Christ with one who is still dead in Adam is joining life with death!  And that “death” will manifest itself in sorrow and pain and adultery and fornication and divorce – and anything else that the world order can dredge up!  Not only is God terribly offended by such a thing (which is far more reason than we need to avoid doing it), but the reasons for which a Christian would even think about marriage with a pagan are vacuous!  At best they would manifest a complete lack of understanding of the antithesis between the Kingdom of Christ and the world-order!  Those who profess to be in union with Christ cannot operate blindly, moving around this world order as if in a fog of unreality!

One who is regenerate in Christ lives in a New Heavens and a New Earth!  We live in the Kingdom!  We are His body and He is our Head!  And we are called to radical holiness – righteous living in the crucified and resurrected Lord!  How could anyone who professed the Name of Christ ever claim that this is just “high Theology,” and impractical?  A believer would have be walking around unconscious in order to miss it!

Well, Paul finishes his statement in verse forty by saying that Christian widows would be happier if they didn’t remarry (which again also applies to widowers) – not because there is virtue in widowhood, but simply that another marriage would once more claim the attention of the believer and detract from the establishment of the Church and the Kingdom in very difficult times.

Now. Having established the Biblical foundations of marriage, and having examined all of the major portions of Scripture concerning divorce and remarriage, we are left with one more sermon which will deal with the reason for legitimate divorce:  Fornication.  At that time we will also finish the last three verses in our text and say some more about righteous living in the Kingdom of Christ.

We are very slowly, but very surely, witnessing the God-breathed Truth concerning this subject.  It is being confirmed to us that sex and marriage are especially important subjects to God our Father; and that we as Christians must give discriminating attention to our every thought, word and deed with regard to them.  Again, this is not just high Theology; it is the mind and will of God.  It is “life” for us as Christians.  Critical.  Practical.  Every-day, righteous, life-producing standards for our obedience.  Do not slough them off as “idealistic.”  Do not live in a hazy cloud of world-order confusion in which professing Christians are “desensitized’ to the Truth!  Turn away from that, and begin living by the Standards of holiness required of those who live in union with Christ.