Matthew 19:1-12 Part 8

Here’s what I intend to do today.  Since we’ve been over two months on this passage, I think we all need to hear a very short synopsis of what has been done so far.  Then we must invest a considerable amount of our time in exploring the Scriptures with regard to fornication – what it is, and its grievous and accursed effects on marriage, the family, and the society as a whole.  And after that we will try to extend our understanding past the limited Scriptural data and utilize the elements of God’s Revelation, in a good and necessary sense, to some individual cases.  You remember, the apostle Paul’s response to questions from the Corinthian Church consists of only six observations with regard to marriage, fornication and divorce.  But since he by no means provides us specifics on all the ingenious ways that man degrades himself sexually, it becomes necessary for us to do “wisdom work” – that is, to “judge” the earth with the righteousness of Christ; to bring the rule of Law to bear upon the sin of man; to use the “analogy” of Scripture to reach good and necessary conclusions.  With fear and caution we will do that later on to the extent that time allows it.  And then we’ll comment on the last three verses, which won’t take very long.

But for now let’s do a quick review of where we’ve been.  In the first sermon we set the context of this passage, and we saw, with the leadership of Israel as the backdrop, that sexual degeneracy, unrestrained and approved by society, leads to national chaos and disintegration.

Secondly, fidelity and infidelity in marriage is used in Scripture as an image depicting what is going on with the Lord’s Covenant people – especially with regard to their faithfulness and obedience to God.  In other words, faithfulness to one’s spouse equates, in some definite ways, to faithfulness to God.  So much so that one is the image of the other!

In the third week we saw where Jesus took Deuteronomy chapter twenty-four away from the Pharisees as a means of their justifying their own sexual perversions.  Moses did not command the people of God to put away their wives for any cause; Moses legislated against rejoining a sexual union after there had been a divorce and a second marriage.

Then, in the fourth sermon, the Pharisees were confronted with the creation institution of marriage from Genesis one, twenty-seven and chapter two, verse twenty-three and asked if they had ever read it!  Jesus declares that the union of two-in-one-flesh – is of the essence of the created order, and is indissolvable by man.  Therefore anything that man does to abrogate that union overrules the Sovereignty of God over His Own creation.  Divorce and remarriage is an attack on the created order; and an attack on the Scriptural image of Christ and His Church!  We also saw that sexual activity of any kind outside the one-flesh-union is porneia – fornication; and that experimentation with sexual things outside of marriage is experimenting with sin against God.

In the fifth week we heard that there are sins so abominable to God that they burst asunder the two-in-one-flesh union which God has joined.  Those sins are called “fornication.”  Porneia is the sexual assault upon the one man/one woman union which God has created for man.  It severs that which God has joined, and it is defiling and corrupting.

Then, in weeks six and seven, we explored the other explicit passages of Scripture having to do with divorce and remarriage.  Especially important is the letter of Paul to the Church in Corinth because there are six categories of human predicaments referred to there – written in response to questions from the Church.

The first group he mentions is the unmarried young people.  Touching, or pre-marital sexual experimentation, is experimenting with fornication, he says.  So, because of fornication, let them be married!  Premarital sex is an assault on the union that is to exist between a man and his wife, and it is a grievous sin against God!  No assault on the union, says Paul!

Then Paul commends the state of celibate self-emasculation, in trying times, for the sake of the Kingdom.  It is a gift of God to some.  More about that when we come to the last three verses.

Thirdly, Paul says that, although widows and widowers would be happier should they remain unmarried, they are free to remarry.  Even under the circumstances of trial and persecution, it is better for them to remarry than to be aflame with passion and commit fornication.

Then Paul says that those who are married are not to put away their spouses.  Remain in the union ordained by God, he says.  And, fifthly, those who are married but divorced for reasons other than fornication are to reconcile or remain unmarried and celibate.  They are to avoid unholy, defiling acts in the body of Christ in protection of God’s creation ordinance and for the sake of the image of Christ and His Church.

Then, lastly, Paul speaks to the issue of those Christians finding themselves married to pagan spouses.  The believer is to do nothing whatever to sever these marriages!  There is such union in Christ that the one-flesh marriage is united to Christ, even if one spouse is a pagan!  The marriage is two in one flesh; and that flesh is in union with the Risen Lord!  And the marriage and its offspring are set apart in the covenant!  But if the non-believer disunites himself, then he commits fornication and the marriage is dissolved.  If an infidel cuts off his own flesh by his fornicating perversity, if he’s so blind that he can’t see the benefits of being in covenant with Christ via his spouse, then let him be disunited.  The Christian spouse is not bound.  Paul goes on to say that the death of a spouse (an act of God) is the only way for a marriage to be severed.  He joined the two in one and He alone can disunite that flesh!  And also Paul says that there is an antithesis between the Kingdom of Christ and the world order, so a Christian is to never enter into a marriage with a non-believer.  Should God choose to elect one out of a pagan marriage to call to Himself, that is His choice.  He is the One Who has joined the two into one flesh in the first place!  But one who is already redeemed and in union with Christ has no option to join his or her flesh to one who is still dead in Adam!  He goes on, there, to comment on the folly of thinking that a believer can join flesh with an unbeliever and win him to Christ!

So, now, having pursued the mind and heart of God with respect to this all-important doctrine, we are left with but one thing to do.  The one man/one woman, one-flesh sexual union, ordained by God as “essential” to creation itself, and used by God Himself to image the union that exists between His Son and His Church, is prostituted by the human filth of fornication.  Now that we know the extent and depth of the holiness requirement which exists in union with Christ, it is now much easier for us to acknowledge that whatever interferes with that sexual union is born of lust and obscenity.  Porneia.

There are sins that are so enormous, and so abominable to God, that a complete man (that is, two flesh in married union) a complete man is cut off from his own flesh!  The wonderful mystery of two – in complete oneness, joined by God Himself through this miraculous and tantalizing thing called sex, this completeness is defiled and brutalized by those who are vile and lawless.  One flesh, made one from two by God, is torn asunder and severed by the atrocity which Jesus calls “fornication.”  It is such an abominable and vicious transgression, it is so reprehensible God, that what He has joined together is aborted.

Fornication.  The defiling sins of the flesh.  That which rips and tears at flesh.  The sins that defile a home.  Those which defile a land – the community.  Those which defile the Kingdom!  In fornication flesh is joined to flesh in debasement, in perversion, of all that is holy and righteous.

The Older testament calls these sins of licentiousness “whoredom,” and the prostitute signified complete estrangement from the community of God.  An incident of adultery was cause for execution of both parties.  Children born from fornication were excluded from the temple and all of its ceremonies.  The rape of Dinah resulted in the execution of an entire family.  Homosexuality, incest, bestiality – all offenses against God; and all bearing death penalty sanctions.  Those who read the Older Testament Scriptures and glean from them that God was “soft” on sexual sins are definitely reading a different Bible from mine.  Every incident of sexual sin, be it premarital sex, or multiple wives, or adultery, bore great consequences for the people of God.  And they all fall under this category of “fornication.”  They are defilements.  And those who involve themselves in sexual sins are best called “profligate.”  In other words they have a “mindset” toward that which is “base.”  The “baser” things of human depravity.  They abandon themselves to that which is deviant.  The fornicator “perverts” the righteousness that God requires in the two-in-one-flesh union of marriage!

In the New Testament, Paul’s concern was for the community of believers to be free from this licentious behavior….  That is all members of the Church!  Toleration of a sexual offender makes the whole Church guilty.  He demands that the Church excommunicate the parties involved in incest at Corinth, and He demands that the whole Church break off fellowship with any who lead licentious, or profligate, lives!  He says that God’s mighty will is for the holiness of His people in Christ, which includes sanctification of the body and excludes any acceptance of fornication.  A man shames his body by fornication, for the mindset of the flesh is antithetically opposed to living under the Spirit.  Christ and fornication cannot co-exist!

In the Revelation of St. John, the city of Jerusalem was named Babylon.  And her harlotry with the world order (porneia) is listed right alongside idolatry, murder and witchcraft.  There is no question that the word porneia, fornication, is used by this apostle to describe utter degeneracy.  The great whore (Revelation chapter nineteen, verse two) is the epitome of apostasy, and John contrasts her with the New City of God to which the “unclean” man has no access.  He then says the “second death” awaits pornoi – fornicators, idolaters, murderers and others.

So the Testaments say identical things about “porneia” – debased and profligate men and women – and children!  The prophetic portions of Scripture even use fornication as an image of unfaithfulness to God.  As the faithful, one-flesh, marriage images the Christ and His Church, so the fornicator images the idolatry of the nation of Israel!  The fornicating wife (Israel) is divorced, then, because she has debased and severed the faithful union with God; and the Son of God takes a new and virtuous bride who has cleansed herself of every foul and gross sin.  The Church is then to grow up into the complete man in union with Christ.

Now, those who say that this image (fornication as an image of idolatry) allows them to divorce an apostate spouse – or one who is deemed to be apostate (probably judged to be so because one party wants to be set free), those are desperately trying to find a way to justify severing that which God has ordained indissolvable!  The profligate mind-set searches the Law (Phari­saically of course) for the purpose of circumventing it, in order that he can satisfy his own lust elsewhere!  But he can’t do that from this image of an idolatrous and apostate people; because that’s what it is!  It’s an image!    Whoredom, licentiousness, or profligacy is an image of apostasy.  The unbelief of a spouse does not sever a marriage!  You can’t use an image as the reality itself.  The pagan nature of a spouse is not a legitimate reason, in and of itself, to sever that which God has joined.

Now, by the analogy of Scripture there are those men and women and young people who are so bent toward overruling the Sovereignty of God, and so predisposed to defacing the image of Christ and His Church, that they are, by their very nature and actions, fornicators.  Even though they may not be homosexuals, or rapists or adulterers, they are, indeed, profligate “pornoi”!

They may be consumed with sexual things, or they may commit such abominable sins against God that they are worthy of execution.  For example:  a child molester; a maker or distributor of pornographic material; a pimp; an evangelist who takes call-girls to motels and masturbates in an attempt to avoid fornication; one who hates his own flesh so much that he (or she) pounds and crushes his spouse into submission – beating, and depriving the spouse of the very dignity of the image of God in man; one who plans and executes the death of another person; a wife who, secretly from her husband, aborts an unwanted baby; one whose depth of perversity has sunk so low that he (or she) is now involved in witchcraft.  All of these sins are defilements.  They are in the Scriptures as abominations before God, and they cause the home and the community and the land to be unclean.  And although I’m not absolutely sure as to whether remarriage is always allowed, they certainly would sever a marriage and be an acceptable cause for legal divorce.  They are fornication.

Of course some kinds of perversity are more abominable to God than others.  There certainly wouldn’t be any question about divorce and remarriage for a man whose wife became a lesbian, would there?  Homosexuality, undisputedly, is the most unclean and corrupt act of the flesh before the face of God!  Not only does it debase the one-flesh union of a man and his wife, and not only does it pervert the image of the union of Christ and His Church, but, as the apostle Paul says, in Romans chapter one, the homosexual sees the power and glory of God in His creation – yet he purposefully leaves the natural use (created use) of the woman and lies woman with woman and man with man -in the most awful kind of debauchery.  This kind of fornication antagonizes God and causes burning anger in His breast to a greater degree than any other sin of the flesh.


Now.  Quickly let’s mention this:  many of the problems for the Church with regard to marriage and divorce arise due to the fact that the civil magistrate does not obey the Law of God.  The perplexities (because of the almost unlimited variations of sin) are enormous!  I’ll just give you one example of that from John Murray’s book Divorce:  suppose a couple has been divorced by the state on unscriptural grounds (usually the case).  The woman is innocent, but the husband is profligate.  The state doesn’t recognize adultery, so it grants the divorce without fault!  And the husband then remarries.

Most Churches recognize, ipso facto, the state’s right to do that, and they proceed on the assumption that the woman now has the freedom to remarry.  The state said so!  But is that a satisfactory way to handle this situation?  I don’t think so.  Because the honor of Christ, the purity of the Church, and the good name of this woman are to be preserved.  So it is here that there should be an ecclesiastical decree of divorce on the proper grounds – adultery by her husband!  The state acts against God’s Law in declaring a divorce on unscriptural grounds, so the Church must then vindicate its prerogative and grant the proper decree.  The innocent party is given the relief to which she is entitled, and her honor is protected, and the offending party is branded for life as an adulterer by the Church!

It doesn’t look like the state is going to deal with fornication according to God’s Law.  At least not right now.  So it is absolutely necessary that the Church become active in this area.  Fornication is a very, very serious offense against God.  And the people of the Church must once again become aware of it!  As the Church acts justly with fornicators, whatsoever it shall bind on the earth shall have been bound in heaven.  And whatsoever it loosed on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Fornication bursts asunder that which God has joined.  And it is only in union with Christ the Lord that forgiveness is granted!  There is washing of the unclean and defiled; there is covering by the blood of Christ; there is turning away and mortification of sin by the Power of the Spirit of Christ.  But that does not allow for the continuance of the sin!  There can be no forgiveness and expiation for unrepentant and continuous sin – either by Christ or by His Church!  Fornication is of squalor and filth, and it must not be tolerated in the body.  If we do tolerate it, then we share in the defilement.

Now, before we make final comments, let’s look at the last three verses of the text.  The apostles are absolutely astonished at the teaching of Jesus – in opposition to the laws and customs of the Pharisees.  So much so that they jump to the conclusion that it is better not to marry at all if such things are the case!

But Jesus, in protection of the marriage decree of God, says to them that sexual abstinence is a gift of God to some.  And those who have that gift from Him, let them receive it!  There are eunuchs of all kinds – even those who have made up their own minds not to marry (self-emasculation).  But marriage and family and sexual union in one flesh is the natural order of things.  It is decreed of God, and it is holy, and it is full of good things.  Only God can gift a man with continence for a peculiar purpose – such as was His will for the apostle Paul.  If a man can receive it, if God has gifted him with it, then let him receive it.  Otherwise let him marry in avoidance of fornication.

And now, finally, our Lord said to the Pharisees that God joined two in one flesh. 


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


 Divorce is an abominable sin against God.  Remarriage after divorce is adultery – an abominable sin against God.  The only God-ordained, legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage is the case in which one spouse has overruled the Sovereignty of God, and burst asunder that which God has joined, and soiled the image of Christ and His Church – by fornication.

Jesus said, “Let not man divide the flesh that God has joined together.”