Matthew 19:1-12

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 15, 2007

:1-2 Moving South

:1 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.

:2 And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.

Jesus’ ministry moves south as He heads for Jerusalem.

:3-9 Marriage and Divorce

:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?"

The Pharisees are going to try and trap Jesus with a tough question.

It reminds me of reporters asking questions of politicians as they are running for office.  Find an issue that the people are already divided on, and ask the politician to pick a side.

There were two views on divorce in Jesus’ day, named after famous rabbis:

1.  The Shammai (conservative) school of thought:

The only reason for divorce was “uncleanness”, which was a reference to Deut. 24:1.

2.  The Hillel (liberal) school of thought:

A man could divorce his wife “for any reason”, no matter how small.  If she overcooked his dinner, if she put too much salt in the stew, even if he found another woman to be more beautiful than she was.

If Jesus answers in line with the Shammai school of thought, which was the more unpopular, then Jesus would alienate Himself from the people who held the Hillel ideas.  If Jesus answers in line with the Hillel, then He alienates the Shammai folks.  If Jesus says that there is no reason at all acceptable for divorce, then they will have something to charge Him with since Moses included a clause about divorce in the Law.

:4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,'

:5 "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'?

joinedproskollao – to glue upon, glue to; to join one’s self to closely, cleave to, stick to.  There is another form of the word (kollao, also “to glue”) that is used for physical intimacy, but the word used for marriage is more intensive, “super glue”.

I was helping one of my son’s with a school project last month and we were using “super glue” to build a tower out of balsa wood.  They don’t call it “super glue” for nothing.  If you’re not careful, you can glue your finger to the wood.  You can glue your fingers together.  It’s a pretty permanent bond.

It hurts to tear apart two fingers that are glued together.

Jesus is not going to quote the Law of Moses for his answer. He’s going to get His authority from the book of Genesis (Gen. 1-2), from God’s original design for a husband and wife.

:6 "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."


Permanence in marriage.

God’s original intent was for marriage to be permanent.
The language in Genesis 2 speaks of two living beings becoming a single, functioning organism.  Divorce is like cutting a body in half.
God hates divorce.
(Mal 2:16 NLT)  "For I hate divorce!" says the LORD, the God of Israel. "It is as cruel as putting on a victim's bloodstained coat," says the LORD Almighty. "So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife."
Just look at the price the kids pay for divorce:

Kids from single-parent families, whether through divorce or illegitimacy, are two to three times as likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, and half again as likely to have learning disabilities, as those who live with both parents.

Teenage girls who grow up without their fathers tend to have sex earlier. A 15-year-old who has lived with her mother only, for example, is three times as likely to lose her virginity before her 16th birthday as one who has lived with both parents .

-- Lee Smith, "The New Wave of Illegitimacy," Fortune Magazine, April 18,1994, vol. 129:8, p. 82.

I hesitate sharing these kinds of statistics because single parents always get discouraged.  My desire is to speak to married parents – don’t do this to your kids.

People considering marriage ought to take it seriously – they ought to enter marriage only if they’re ready to destroy all the exits, burn all the bridges, to leave no way out of the marriage in their head.
Some people in the church look at marriage as simply the mechanism that makes it possible for them to have sex.

They realize that it’s wrong to have sexual relations outside of marriage, so they fix that “problem” by getting married.

But at the same time people adopt the idea that is prevalent in the world, the idea that says, “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll divorce”.

You should never enter into marriage with that idea.

Divorce should never be a part of your vocabulary.

I’ve heard that Barbara Bush has quoted Ruth Graham saying something like, “Being married to Billy, the word ‘divorce’ has never entered into our vocabulary. Murder maybe, but never divorce”.

:7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"

They are referring to:

(Deu 24:1-4 NKJV)  "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, {2} "when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife, {3} "if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, {4} "then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

The “certificate of divorce” was a simple piece of paper on which the man writes out a statement that he is divorcing his wife.  This was obviously before lawyers got involved.
The actual intent of this law was to prevent “wife-swapping”.  When a person is correctly divorced, they are allowed to remarry.  But if the next marriage ends, you aren’t allowed to go back to the first wife/husband.
The word “uncleanness” (Deut. 24:1) has a sexual tone to it.  Some would interpret this very strictly to only include a woman who had previously had sex with another man before getting married.  Others had a much broader view, giving all sorts of reasons to make divorce acceptable.

If Jesus is saying that marriage should be permanent, then why did Moses allow for people to be divorced?

:8 He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

God’s original intent for marriage was that there should be no divorce.

God’s best is always that a marriage stay together.

Even when there has been unfaithfulness, divorce isn’t the automatic option.
God had the prophet Hosea marry a prostitute.  After having a couple of kids, she went back to work.  And God asked Hosea to take her back.

But God also understands that not everyone can do this.  Sometimes our hearts simply get too hard.

The betrayal of adultery is a horrible thing to survive.
(Prov 6:32-35 NKJV)  Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. {33} Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away. {34} For jealousy is a husband's fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. {35} He will accept no recompense, Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
God understands that some people are betrayed by someone who has no intention of straightening their life out.
God understands that not everyone is going to be able to, or should forgive something like adultery.
And so God makes allowances for “hard” hearts.

I believe there is another allowance for divorce:

(1 Cor 7:15 NKJV)  But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
We call this abandonment.  If your spouse leaves you and has no intention to come back, this appears to fit the qualifications of this verse.

:9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."

sexual immoralityporneia – illicit sexual intercourse; adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals; a simpler definition might be, “sex outside of marriage”.

It’s difficult to talk about this today because statistics show that half of marriages end in divorce.  Supposedly these statistics even carry over into the church.  And if I took a poll on Sunday morning to see how many people had been divorced, I’d imagine that at least half of the people have been through it. And of the people that have been through divorce and remarriage, I’d be pretty sure that a decent number don’t meet the criteria that Jesus laid out.   A lot of people divorce because it simply gets too hard, “irreconcilable differences”.

What if I’m in a marriage that qualifies here as “adultery”? 

What if your previous marriage didn’t end in a proper divorce, and you’re now married to another person, qualifying as adultery?

1.  Admit you were wrong.

Don’t make excuses, just admit you were wrong.  Ask God to forgive you.
(1 John 1:9 NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

2.  Stay where you are.

Sometimes I get the impression that some teachers would suggest that you divorce your current spouse and go back to the your first spouse.
Yet according to Deut.24:1-4, it would be an abomination for you to go back to your former spouse now.
Stay in the condition you're in when God calls you!
(1 Cor 7:20 NKJV)  Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.
(1 Cor 7:27 NKJV)  Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife.
David committed adultery with Bathsheba.
When he finally admitted his sin, God forgave him.  And he stayed married to Bathsheba.  In fact Solomon even came from this marriage.

3.  Don’t repeat your mistakes.

Though it may not be the same as your previous marriage, you will find that you will still have trouble in marriage.
That’s because marriage is made up of two sinners.
Make this marriage your last.  Work at your problems.
We don’t grow by bailing out of every difficult situation, we grow by working through the difficult times.

Why can't I just divorce my spouse, get remarried, confess my sin, and go on like everyone else?

We can find forgiveness, but there are still consequences to sin.

God would much rather you stay with your old battle-axe, learn to love him/her like you should, and avoid the much greater pain of divorce.
Changing spouses is no guarantee of happiness, but it is a guarantee of a lot of pain.

What if I’m separated from my spouse, or divorced, but neither of us is remarried and neither has had an affair?

Hold out for your marriage until:

Either the other spouse remarries (and forces the marriage into adultery)
Or it is clear they’ve abandoned you and have no plans to come back.

:10-12 Celibacy

:10 His disciples said to Him, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry."

The disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ teaching is a little bit funny.  They think that Jesus’ idea of marriage is just too difficult to fathom.

It almost sounds as if the disciples don’t want to be able to give up the idea of divorce, or being unfaithful to their wives.


This from 1989: Are we true to our mates?  Or do we just SAY we are?

About a third (39 percent of men, 27 percent of women) of USA Today readers responding to a living in the USA survey say they’ve had an extramarital affair.
“My guess is more of them had an affair and didn’t admit it,” says Fred Humphrey, past president of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Major studies on extramarital affairs conducted in the ‘40s indicated that at least 50 percent of married men in the USA and 26 percent of married women had affairs by the time they hit 40.  Some researchers think the number of women having affairs is rising—possibly approaching 50 percent.


The young preacher was shocked to hear the well-known evangelist utter the words, “I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.  Yes, I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.”  Then, following a pause, the evangelist added, “That woman was my mother.”

“I’ve got to use that!” the young pastor thought to himself. A few weeks later, as he was speaking to a civic group, the phrase leapt into his mind and he exclaimed, “I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man’s wife.”  Then, after another long pause, the young man muttered meekly, “But for the life of me I can’t remember who she was.”

I find it humorous that the disciples would rather forget marriage than try and work at something that might be difficult.

:11 But He said to them, "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given:

In other words, you can’t opt out of marriage just because you think it’s too hard.

I’m sure we all know people who avoid marriage because of how difficult it is.

They’ve either had a difficult marriage, or they’ve seen others who have had difficult marriages.
The problem is, if God hasn’t “gifted” you to be single, you’re going to be miserable.

:12 "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it."

A eunuch is an individual who is incapable of sexual relations.  Jesus gives three types of people who are eunuchs:

1.  Those born that way.  They were born with some sort of physical disability.

2.  Made eunuchs by men.  Ancient kings would castrate male servants who would be assigned to guard or serve their women.

3.  Made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom – People who have chosen to live a celibate life so they can serve God better.

But this should only be for those who are “given” this gift.

How do I know if I’m “gifted” with singleness?

It seems to me you would not have a desire for marriage.  I don’t mean that you’re afraid of marriage, I mean you don’t have a desire for it.  You’ll be glad you’re single.

(Psa 37:4 NKJV)  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
If you are single and are delighting in the Lord and you have NO desire for marriage, it’s possible you might have this “gift” of singleness, at least for now.  Enjoy it.  Serve the Lord!

If you are single and are delighting in the Lord and DO want to get married, then pray.

Pray for your spouse – even if you don’t know who it is.  God knows how to answer that prayer.
Make sure your standards are the same as God’s standards.
Over the years I’ve seen some folks never get married because they had standards that were virtually impossible for anyone to meet.
When Peter was being shown that it was okay to reach out to the Gentiles, he had a vision and a discussion with God…

(Acts 10:15 NKJV)  And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."

Don’t be afraid of marriage.  If you have the desire to be married, you will find that marriage is VERY good.  Sure it is difficult, but it is wonderful.