This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
The Pharisees also came to Him [Remember, they were the very strictest sect of the Jews. They were very technical, very legalistic and very self-righteous. They were trying to trick Jesus and they were constantly testing Him on things. They wanted to see if they could catch Him on some mistake or embarrass Him or trap Him in some way.], testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?"
Greetings, friends around the world!
We are going through the Gospel of Matthew—perhaps the most important Gospel. It is the very beginning book of the New Testament, and sets the stage for the entire New Testament. It gives us an understanding of the whole way of God, starting early on with the Sermon on the Mount. Today we are starting with Matthew 19, but you can watch or listen to the earlier programs in this series on your computer.
Notice what Jesus says here at the start of Matthew 19; He is discussing marriage:
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. [He was teaching thousands and thousands of people.] The Pharisees also came to Him [Remember, they were the very strictest sect of the Jews. They were very technical, very legalistic and very self-righteous. They were trying to trick Jesus and they were constantly testing Him on things. They wanted to see if they could catch Him on some mistake or embarrass Him or trap Him in some way.], testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?"
That is virtually what they did. The Jews had gotten into a situation where a man could find his wife with just a blemish or just some little thing wrong, and he could say "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you" and just get rid of her.
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning [The Great God, in other words. Showing God's purpose.] 'made them male and female.'"
Notice that He didn't say "males and female" and he didn't say "male and females." He did not intend for a man to have a number of wives. He did not plan polygamy at all from the beginning—that was not His teaching, it was one male and one female. He did not make two men together either, did He? Two men cannot procreate themselves. One man is not designed by God to be submissive to and to be the help and partner and companion—in that particular way—of another man. It does not work! It never will work! It is not God's purpose, was not God's purpose from the beginning, and is not God's purpose now! In the Old Testament, which is still the mind of God, God called men laying with men an abomination. Think about that. He made them one male and one female.
"And said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?"
One man and one woman—once they covenant with God in a marriage relationship, God Himself considers them one flesh.
"So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
Mankind has no authority from God to be separating for all these reasons that we come up with—for all of these Hollywood divorces and remarriages, "the Hollywood marriage-go-round" they used to call it. It is an abomination to Almighty God.
"Therefore what God has joined together [He says here powerfully.], let not man separate [or "put asunder," as it is given in the King James Version.]" They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"
Moses allowed them to put away their wives by simply giving them a certificate of divorce. They asked: "why then did Moses command" them to do that? But, in fact, Moses had not commanded them to do that. In their hearts, they knew better. He allowed them. Because they were carnal in the Old Testament, they did not have God's Spirit, except for a very few of the prophets. He knew they were going to have trouble in this area of their lives. He knew they were going to have the opportunity and the desire to cheat on their wives or have multiple wives or live-in partners, as they do today. In order to preserve the family, and in order to preserve the opportunity for children to have a sense of stability, at least, He allowed them to divorce and remarry for some imperfect reasons at that time. But notice what Jesus said:
He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted [He did not command—he permitted, or allowed] you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."
It was not in God's plan from the beginning, but He allowed them to do that because they were carnal. They were going to get in even worse trouble if He did not allow them to do that.
"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, [notice] except for sexual immorality…
The Greek word here is porneia; it is used to indicate illicit sex between two people before marriage or to indicate perversion of some sort—such as homosexuality, incest or multiple whoredom. If some man has a girlfriend in every town, so his actions become, in effect, whoredom—it is considered porneia. There is a word, moicheia, which means simple adultery. This is where a couple is bound, but one slips and the other can forgive him—and normally should forgive if they are really deeply sorry. But a pattern of multiple— multiple!—sex offenses is called porneia.
"…except for sexual immorality [porneia], and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
Under our laws today, and in the laws of so many churches, people are allowed to divorce and remarry because of incompatibility or arguments over marriage or over "emotional distress." People can come up with almost anything as a justification. But you are supposed to love and forgive one another and stay with one another. You are not to play games with marriage. God tells us that very, very clearly. Except for porneia, if someone divorces and marries another he or she commits adultery. It does not mean they commit adultery at the first act after their new marriage. It means they are living in adultery. They are adulterers! That is something important for all of us to understand.
'…and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
Unless, of course, she has been divorced for a right reason that the Bible clearly indicates, such as porneia. Another reason Paul gave later, in 1 Corinthians 7:19, is the matter of desertion by the unconverted mate. If someone has a mate who is not converted at all, and they simply desert the one who is in God's church, then that would free the one in God's church. Those are the only two major reasons for divorce and remarriage—porneia and desertion by the unconverted mate. Of course, another reason would be fraud, where a person never intended to marry in the first place—if that can be proved, as in those cases sometimes where a man will marry a widow just to get her money.
His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife [In other words, if this is the only way out of marriage…], it is better not to marry."
Wow! "When you get married you are trapped, you've got to stay right there!" The disciples had been taught and understood the old way; that you can divorce your wife if you don't like her. So they said: "Maybe it is better not to marry."
But He said [I think there is a little masculine humor and irony, by the way, in this, folks. Jesus had a sense of humor too.] "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: for there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb [Well, they don't want to get married in the first place, so they don't have to get married.], and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men…"
We know that many young men during the Dark Ages under the false church were castrated. They called them the castrati. They kept their high tenor voices to sing in the choirs. They did not develop properly, and their organs were not developed, so they could not marry. That is a terrible and awful thing—to deprive someone of the opportunity to be a father or a mother and to have a family. That happened—and went on for hundreds of years in the so-called Christian church. We have to understand those things that went on.
"…and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake."
Which Paul did. Paul may have been married in his earlier life, but once he was converted, maybe his wife died or something happened—we don't know. He was not married during his ministry. He lived singly, with the help of God's Spirit. Some few can do that.
"He who is able to accept it, let him [receive it] accept it."
If you can get married within God's Law, knowing it is a binding covenant before God—which you are not to play games with, and to which you will commit yourself—then, yes, you can get married and should get married. But, you should not get married unless you are willing to commit yourself to another human being "until death do you part." Please understand that. God made marriage a type of the relationship of Christ and the Church. You find that pictured back in Ephesians 5, beginning in verse 22. The church is to be subject under Christ as a woman is unto her husband, or vice versa, I should say. Of course, the husband is to love the wife and to serve his wife, as Christ loved the church and died for the church. It is a picture of everlasting love and commitment and loyalty. That is what marriage should picture. We have to be sure we get our understanding straight before we marry in the first place.
Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.
The disciples were younger men and all zealous. "Well, why are these little children bothering Jesus?"
But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
We have seen that before, in chapter 18. Little children—humble little children—picture true Christians, if they are humble and teachable.
And He laid His hands on them [God works through the laying on of hands. That is a symbol of God's authority, of God's government. God works through human instruments in healing the sick, ordaining ministers, in blessing little children and so on.] and departed from there. [We read elsewhere where He blessed them. He asked God's special blessing upon them.] Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
So many have thought: "If you want to enter life, do what they say in those great big evangelistic campaigns and great big TV sermons: 'Just give your heart to the Lord, make your decision tonight. That is all there is! Come as you are! Come as you are!'" That is what so many say, over and over. You have heard that—but is that what the Bible says? No, the Bible does not say that! It says that if you want to enter into life—yes, you must accept Jesus as your Savior, but you must also accept Him as your Lord and Master whom you will obey! You must follow Christ's teaching. Christ said, "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments"—plural! You must not just "give your heart to the Lord"—you must keep God's commandments.
He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" [You see that He was beginning to list some of the Ten Commandments.] The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor [You see, this young man was rich and Jesus sensed that his riches were his "god" which he put ahead of other things, and ahead of God and Christ and everything else. Christ sensed that right away, having deep insight through God's Spirit.], and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
Oh, it is hard. People who have money like that money. They watch it. They will usually give less to God's Church and God's Work, proportionally, than the average person or certainly the poor person who senses that he needs God's help and will give more generously.
"…it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
You see, the Kingdom of God (notice it here in verse 24 and in verse 23) is called the Kingdom of Heaven—they are both the same thing. It is not the Kingdom in heaven—the Bank of Morgan, as I have explained, is not in Mr. Morgan's tummy. He did not swallow his piggy bank. It is the Bank of Morgan. It is the Kingdom of Heaven, directed from heaven, which is God's throne.
"And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" ["How can anyone be saved?"] But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Yes, God can help you. You can enter His Kingdom and overcome even if you have money because He can give you His Spirit, which will let you put God first through God's help and guidance. God can help you make your marriage secure—a binding marriage—through His help and His guidance, as we discussed at the start of this program.
I want to offer you a very wonderful, very helpful booklet—Build a JOYOUS Marriage. This booklet spells out God's approach to marriage. It has helped thousands of people. We have received many, many letters about this booklet thanking us for it. So be sure that you contact us to request this booklet if you have not already; it will be sent absolutely FREE upon your request.
We will stop right here, and pick up in the next program at Matthew 19:26, Keep up with this series; it will open your mind to the book of Matthew. Follow us along—and we will see you next time.
This is Roderick C. Meredith, for the Living Church of God.