Jesus Teaches on Marriage and Divorce, Part 1 (Matthew Sermon 89 of 151)
February 22, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Marriage and Parenting
A Sweet Blessing Gone Bad
Alright, so this morning I practiced this sermon and it was 56 minutes and 44 seconds long, okay? So it led me into a quandary. I can do one of two difficult things. I can hold your attention for 56 minutes and 44 seconds, or I can try to split this sermon in two on the fly. Either one of those are difficult to do. I've chosen to do the second, and so I'm going to preach in my normal way at the normal length, and I don't know where that's going to be, but I think what's going to happen is, I'm going to establish this morning from Matthew 19, the clarity of Jesus' teaching on what marriage is, from the way God intended at the beginning. So I'm going to set up the standard that Jesus sets up. And then next week I'm going to deal more thoroughly with the questions of divorce and remarriage that so plague us and are so difficult and painful for so many. So next week then I'll have to re-establish again with clarity that clear standard that Jesus established, and then try to answer as many practical questions as I can.
The problem at the end of this sermon is that I seek to apply it as well, and I will want to apply some things that I might have to say again next week, so please bear with me. As Jesus said, the night before He died to His disciples, "I have much to say to you, more than you can now bear." Alright, [laughter] so let's go with it that way, okay? So I've decided to go that approach.
Remember Your Wedding Day
On my dresser in my bedroom there's a picture of Christy and I taken on May 14th, 1988. I asked her permission to say those words to you before I came up here. She has granted that permission. It's a picture of the day that I received the greatest earthly blessing I've ever gotten in this world. Christy said often we look like children in that picture, and I think about that, we look so young. I don't think we fully understood what we were getting into at that point, I don't think we still fully understand what we've gotten into. [laughter] But I know this, that a river of blessings has come to me from the commitment I made that day, as I stood before God and man and made a promise to her that I would be her husband, she made a promise to me that she would be my wife, and God has held us to that promise for over 20 years now, continues to hold us to it, and it's been a river of blessing.
Those of you that are married, I ask you to think back to your wedding day, that day that God gave you the greatest earthly gift that He could give, another human being created in the image of God, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish from that day on and forever until death parted you. Remember how happy you were, you remember what hopes that you had, what longings you had for the future. Remember how beautiful each of you looked. You never looked better physically in all your lives. Wore your best clothes, you looked wonderful. I've seen lots of you in that condition. Lots of weddings. And you looked incredible, wearing special clothes for the most important act of your lives in this world. And how many pictures were taken that day? Some videos maybe, capturing your happy faces, the hopes in your hearts. How is it now? How is it now?
Remember the First Wedding Day
I wanna say to all of you married and unmarried alike, I want you to go back in your minds to that very first wedding day, God had made a perfect world. We can scarcely imagine the radiant beauty and glory of that pristine world, a perfectly blue sky, a radiant sun, glowing vegetation, all the flowering plants, fruitful trees giving off their fragrance, boasting of their succulent fruit. The Garden of Eden, a lush paradise of sights and sounds and smells and sensory pleasures by the fountain of delights the God who made them all for our pleasure and our enjoyment. Magnificent beasts with all their strength and variety, the creeping things, the soaring birds with their magnificent plumage, and there God put the man that He had fashioned from the dust of the earth, a living and breathing man now tasked with the responsibility of watching over and protecting the Garden of Eden, taking care of it, serving it, tasked also with the responsibility of naming all of those animals, and tasked with the responsibility of filling the world with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, of replicating the image of God throughout the world, of filling the earth with that image.
It was a task that Adam could not fulfill alone, he needed a helper suitable for him. And so God caused him to fall into a deep sleep, and while Adam sleeping God took a rib from his side and closed up the place with flesh, and God wondrously crafted a woman from the rib and brought this magnificent gift, categorically the last thing God ever created.
Some would say the best, I would have to agree. But I won't argue the point theologically, God saving in that sense the most magnificent creation for the... And I think Adam would have agreed when he saw her, a beautiful woman perfectly suited for Adam, a helper suitable for him, and he responded the only way that a man can when he sees the woman he's gonna spend the rest of his life with, with poetry. "This at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man." I often wondered how Adam knew that in that he was asleep at the time, but I think it was that God told him about her, God understanding a woman perfectly, as only God can do. [laughter] Adam had an education that lasted hundreds of years after that, but God explained from the beginning what she was and where she had come from. So God had given Adam the greatest physical gift he would ever receive, and Eve would become eventually the mother of all the living.
But sin soon entered the world through Adam's rebellion, through his sinful negligence, his failure to act, sin of omission of immense proportions as he stood there saying nothing while the serpent tempted his wife. And we have been suffering bitterly ever since, and divorce is part of that sin package. And it is the sad focus of our time in the Word this morning and next week.
How Is It Now?
So how is it now with marriage? How is it now? Well, there is, some have called it an epidemic of divorce. Some years ago, a journalist for a national news magazine asked this rhetorical question, "Are there any person's left in this land who have not had a friend or child or parent describe intimately the agony of divorce?" The statistics are shocking. Annual divorce rate is 3.9 per thousand people of population equaling well over one million new divorces every year. Sadly, the divorce rates among self-described Christians are not very much different from those of non-Christians. With one million new divorces every year, of course, comes two million newly divorced people plus several million perhaps new children of divorce.
Every single person involved in this process is hurt deeply, some use this language that they have been wounded for life, scarred for life. One commentator I read said this, “Every divorce destroys a little world, a little society with its own culture and traditions and history and network of relationships. A miniature world has been crushed forever.” The tragedy is unspeakable. Men and women feel rejected to the very core of their being, ripped apart from inside. The most significant promise they ever made broken, the most significant relationship in their lives ended in tragedy. It's bitter beyond all measure. And they remember all the moments with bitterness and sadness, the photo of the couple on their first date, a love letter tumbling from the pages of a book, a box of memorabilia from the wedding day, video of the wedding itself, all the smiles, the kisses, promises made, hopes for the future. The honeymoon, their first home together, started their life together and how tragic now, the photos of their first child coming home from the hospital, the three of them smiling around the Christmas tree, the baby's first Christmas smiling for the camera.
And now all of it is destroyed and they can't look at those photos pleasantly. It's somewhat in that way like a suicide, where you just can't look at the photos of the person the same way ever again. And in that way, again, I think far worse than if it had ended by a tragic auto accident or a terminal illness, this world, this little world has come to an end through the choices to some degree that each person has made and their own foolishness, their own sin has brought it to an end. We cannot calculate the agony that these one million divorces pumps into the national atmosphere every year. Now, divorce used to be rare. Why was it rare? Well, in past years, the vast majority of marriages held secure and stable, it doesn't mean that people were any less sinful than we are now, but there were certain pressures brought to bear in a positive way to the marriages. John MacArthur lists some of these pressures.
He says, first of all, the extended family was a powerful moral force. Relationships to parents continued to exert tremendous pull long after marriage. Married couples felt the pressure to work out their differences rather than bring shame on their parents by getting a divorce. So also there was a much stronger network of relationships extending to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etcetera. These relationships did not merely put pressure on the couple to save the marriage, but they also offered resources that the desperate couple would need at that difficult time. Advice, prayer, moral example, money, a shoulder to cry on, etcetera. This network has become gradually weakened over the last number of decades. The fluidity of our society, frankly the multiplication of divorces itself as we've mentioned tends to create more divorces. So also the proliferation of anti-biblical ideologies, like moral permissiveness, feminism, humanism, proliferation of television, movies, internet, etc., have pumped out a worldview that is hostile to the biblical worldview, and divorce is one of the by-products.
MacArthur also lists community expectation back in the day. The surrounding communities expected marriages to survive for the most part, and responded generally to divorce negatively, divorce laws therefore were difficult. Divorce was hard to come by, community ethics stood in favor instead of working out the issues and maintaining marriage.
Strongest of all the influences that John MacArthur lists are... the spiritual or religious aspect. Churches universally taught the Bible truth on divorce and remarriage. All branches of Christianity, Catholic, Protestant, orthodox strongly supported healthy family life and just as strongly opposed divorce. But this has all changed, especially in the church more and more people feel compelled in the name of Christian love and compassion to change the clear biblical teaching on divorce. I read recently that a Christian entertainer got a divorce, claiming that her husband stood in the way of her career advancement. She said she did not believe her divorce related to her religious views as a Christian in any way, and even if it did, she believed God would forgive anything she did, and loved her the same either way. More and more Christian counseling, both of the formal and informal sort, has imbibed this kind of approach, and the general prevailing worldly perspective, and has turned to helping people through the divorce process and has turned to giving worldly advice rather than biblical advice. Helping people through with minimal pain, helping them prepare for their future lives after the divorce.
Some Christians in the name of love then become hostile to anyone that teaches the biblical standard on divorce and remarriage, and calls it legalism. However, other Christians, seeing all of these things, what is going on in society in general, raise the biblical standard beyond the biblical norms. In a zeal to protect what the Bible says, they established strictures that I think go beyond what Jesus says in this text. John MacArthur, speaking of that phenomenon, either way it says, “But that which is contrary to Scripture can never be either loving or spiritual. A human standard may be more lenient or more restrictive than Scripture, but it can never be better.” Do you believe that? The Bible is the measure for all things and can never be more lenient, it can be lenient, it can be more strict, but never can be better. “When God's word is ignored or perverted in any area, tragedy is always the consequence, the matter of marriage and divorce standards then are no exception."
Now, generally in our culture, there are deeper questions about marriage that go beyond even this issue of divorce and remarriage. More and more confusion exists on what marriage is. Hence, we are starting to talk about things like gay marriage. I saw a humorous piece recently about a clerk who is working in a town hall issuing marriage licenses to an ever stranger series of people who are applying. First of course a regular couple, a man and wife wanted to become husband and wife, and then came two men who wanted marriage license, then two women, then a man and a boy, then a woman and a girl, then three people together, ended up with a man who wanted to marry himself, [chuckle] and at that point the clerk resigned his position. I believe in this general societal discussion on what marriage is, it is impossible for us to carry it on in the end without an absolute standard of truth and right and wrong. It's really just going to be impossible. In this pluralistic society in which we live that kind of thing may well come. Because we are talking about a definition that comes from God. It is God that defines marriage, and the further we get away from, "Thus says the Lord," the more confusing the discussion is going to be.
It's going to be very difficult for Christian apologists who do not argue from Scripture to talk about what marriage is. I don't know how they're going to do it. I don't think they should. I think they should say, "Thus says the Lord," and say what marriage is, and just keep doing that, 'cause it is the truth.
Now, this morning, we're going to face this painful question together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We're gonna sit at Jesus' feet, we're gonna allow Him to teach us about marriage and divorce. I believe every one of us who has been married, is married now, will face painful issues concerning our marriage, and we're going to be called on by the text as always to repent. There's a constant call from Jesus to repent. All of us will need to do it. We're going to look at Jesus' standards of marriage, and all of us are gonna look in and find flaws. And so therefore, it's my joy to proclaim forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even over this issue. There is grace, there is mercy, and there's forgiveness for any sin and blasphemy Jesus said. But still there needs to be repentance. Jesus loves us too much to allow us to continue in sin.
So we're gonna let Him speak the truth to us, no matter how painful it may be. We're gonna allow Him to heal some of the most painful of spots in our souls, and hopefully we're going to prevent, as a church, future pain and agony. All of those things are in my mind as I preach this morning.
The Pharisees Ask a Treacherous Question
So let's look at Matthew 19 and the context. In Matthew 19:1-2 it says, "When Jesus had finished saying these things, He left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed Him and He healed them there." So for about two years, Jesus has been ministering almost exclusively in His home area of Galilee. Now, for the last two months in the narrative, He'd been focusing, it seems, almost exclusively on training the 12 for their future responsibilities as leaders, Apostles of His church. He now goes south to the most important appointment of His life, and that is His arrest, His condemnation, His death on the cross, and His resurrection on the third day to save us from our sins. So that's why He's traveling south.
The region beyond the Jordan that He's in now in this text is part of the territory of Herod Antipas, the very man who had arrested John the Baptist for preaching that his marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip's wife was unlawful. Herodias and Herod did not take it kindly and arrested John the Baptist and had him executed for it. Now, I believe the Pharisees came seeking to get Jesus into similar trouble. I think they were trying to have Him killed. It clearly says in the text that they're asking a question in order to test Him, or trap Him, they're seeking to get Him into trouble.
The Treacherous Question
And so, look at Verse 3 at the treacherous question. "Some Pharisees came to Him to test him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?'"
They're not looking for information and they don't want a debate. They really just hated Him, and they wanted Him killed. The backdrop in Judaism to their question is a long-standing debate between Jewish Rabbis on a text in the Old Testament. The text is Deuteronomy 24, and in that text, based on that text, the Jews believe that every Jewish man had the right to divorce his wife. The text talks about a condition in which a man finds something indecent in his wife and writes her a certificate of divorce and sends her away, and then she goes and then becomes the wife of another man, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and sends her away. She cannot then go back to her first husband and marry him. Would not the land become utterly defiled? That's what Deuteronomy 24 says. Now, as they wrestled over that text, the Rabbis had different opinions on what it was that was the indecent thing in Deuteronomy 24. What was it that was indecent, and on the basis of that the man wrote his wife a certificate of divorce?
Now, the stricter school of the Rabbi Shammai felt that the indecent thing that the first husband found had to be adultery. He found adultery in her, but it doesn't say adultery, but that's what they interpreted. Now, the more lenient School of Hillel interpreted it more widely and said it referred to anything offensive to the husband, even to the point of the spoiling of the husband's dinner. The Pharisees tended to follow this latter and broader interpretation to follow Hillel, and allow divorce for any and every reason, whatever the husband thought was best. A later Rabbi along the same line named Akiva interpreted the words of Moses, "if she finds no favor in his eyes", to mean that if the husband simply found a prettier woman, he could divorce his first wife and marry her, because she no longer finds favor in his eyes. So you can tell that even back then feelings ran very high on this topic. No matter what answer Jesus gave, He would antagonize somebody. Maybe especially they were hoping, I think, Herod Antipas, who had the power to kill Jesus. So you can see that divorce was a hot topic in Jesus' day, just as it is in our day.
The Timeless Answer of Jesus
So look at the timeless answer of Jesus to this question, Verses 4-6, “‘Haven't you read,’ He replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has joined together let man not separate.’” Now, I'm about to give you four foundations, timeless foundations to Jesus' answer, and then His answer, but just for clarity's sake I just want to draw out what's happened here. They came and asked Him a treacherous question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Jesus' answer is, “Absolutely not.” I mean, that's a summation of it. His answer is no. Now, there's more to say on that, and we will say more, but just if you're looking at the question they ask, “Is it lawful to divorce a man... For a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Jesus' answer is no.
But He does give foundations to His answer. And I wanna look at those four foundations. These are four immovable foundation stones on which our concept of marriage should be based.
Foundation #1: The Sufficiency of Scripture
The first foundation is the sufficiency of Scripture to address this issue, foundation number one, the Scripture itself. "Haven't you read?", He says. Now, these were the Pharisees, they spent their whole time working on Scripture. This is what they did. And so Jesus is really to some degree critiquing them for missing this. "Haven't you read?", He said. He begins this dispute by setting the ground rules. The answer will be found only by a right reading of Scripture. Therefore I take from this, just as a pastor, as a preacher, and as a counselor, and a Christian man, Scripture is sufficient to answer all questions of marriage and divorce and remarriage. And we don't need another book, we don't need any more information, we need to understand the Scripture rightly, that's all. Jesus teaches us the sufficiency of Scripture.
I think this is the big flaw with much Christian counseling these days, they get more information about marriage from psychological studies and clinical research and prevailing patterns of therapy in the field than they do from the Scripture. In this way they are widely divergent from Jesus' methodologies and counseling centers. True Biblical counseling answers the problems of marriage the same way it answers the problem of all of life. "Haven't you read?" Or Romans 4:3, “What does the Scripture say?” Now, I want you to notice some aspect of Jesus' view towards Scripture. Now this is one you might miss if you read too quickly. I'd like to ask that you take... Keep your finger here in Matthew 19, and go back to Deuteronomy... Sorry, Genesis Chapter 2. Genesis 2, Jesus quotes Genesis 2 at the end of the chapter, Verse 24. So just keep your finger in Matthew 19, we're just gonna be in Genesis 2 for a moment. But quoting Matthew 19:4-5, this is what Jesus says.
“‘Haven't you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female and said, “for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”’” Now, Jesus here says that the creator, God, does two things, not just one thing, He does two things. “‘Haven't you read,’ He said, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,’” so He makes them, the Creator makes them male and female and said, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh." So the creator not only creates them, but He makes a statement about them, that's what the force of the phrase "and said". The Creator made them male and female and said for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. Now, if you look at Genesis 2:24, you do not see the introduction phrase such as "the Lord said" or "the Lord God said" or "Lord God answered", "the Lord God replied", or any of those introductors that you see frequently in the Genesis narrative. They're not there.
What is the significance of that? You know what it is? It's Jesus' mind towards the Bible. Every single word in the Bible is God's word to you. The Creator is speaking to you today about marriage. That's Jesus' attitude towards Scripture. This is the one who'd rather die than Scripture be broken, friends. He has a very high view of Scripture, I would say He has an infinitely high view of Scripture. He has a higher view of Scripture than I do, he has a higher Scripture view... View of Scripture than any one of you does, that's Jesus' view of Scripture. We ought to come more and more up to His standard. And so, Augustine says in The Confessions, "Indeed, oh man," this is putting this mentality in the voice... The words of God. "Indeed, oh man, what my Scripture says, I say." Now, should you thereby get rid of your red letter editions to the Bible, which have Jesus' words in red and all the other words in black? No, you can keep them, that's fine, but please don't put any higher value on the red letters than you do on the black ones, or the purple ones or the green ones or whatever color the editors chose to print the Word of God, and it doesn't matter to me.
What matters is what the Scripture says, okay? So just notice in Genesis 2, it's not the Lord God that says it, Moses wrote it just in the narrative. But in Jesus' mind, it's God that's saying this to you. So go back to Matthew 19. God wants to speak to you today about marriage, and so He's saying, What my Scripture says to you, husband and wife, I am saying to you."
Foundation #2: God’s Original Intent
Foundation number two, God's original intention of marriage. What did He intend by creating marriage? Look what Jesus said. "Haven't you read that at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female?" We need to go back to the beginning. What did God intend? What God did with Adam and Eve, therefore in Jesus' mind was intended to be a pattern for every marriage that followed. It is the pattern for all marriages, right from the very beginning. At the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
When Jesus says, "For this reason," He's saying, this is a lasting principle for all time. Adam didn't have a father or mother, Eve didn't have a father or mother. These words are inserted in the Genesis narrative, though there were no fathers or mothers at the time, to teach us all, the whole human race about marriage. It's a lasting principle. So foundation number two is what is God's original intent in marriage? Jesus calls God the Creator, the Creator does everything for a purpose. He will argue then that divorce was no part of God's original purpose. Look at Verse 8, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning." Do you see that? He's arguing from original principles. What was God's original intention? And God's original purpose was one man, a male, one woman, a female, coming together in a complete physical union, one flesh for the purpose of filling the earth with His glory, the knowledge of His glory with His image.
Genesis 1:27-28, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God, He created him, male and female, He created them, God blessed them, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.'" So essential to God's purpose in creation of marriage is procreation or children. He wants children, He wants the birth of little ones. Though it is not God's only purpose in marriage, yet this is why the gender, I think, is mentioned here, male and female. This completely rules out so-called homosexual marriage, which I liken to speaking about a square circle. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Homosexual marriage is nothing, it doesn't exist. God defines marriage and procreation is part of it, right from the very beginning. God wanted children, He wanted lots of children. He wanted lots of human beings who would fill the Earth with the image of His glory, and they would know His glory and worship Him, that was God's purpose.
And so, in the covenant marriage relationship from the beginning with a male, a father, and a female, a mother who would train them, at least in part, to get ready for their own future marriages. That was a bad slip there. Not to get rid of them, alright? But rather get them ready for their future marriages, alright? There does come a time that they leave, and they cleave together and they form their own home. And so for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This is the precise reason I believe that God hates divorce, it violates His purposes and is therefore violent to the spouse. Listen to Malachi 2:13-16, this is the prophet speaking to sinful Israel centuries down the line, this is what the prophet says, “Another thing you do, you flood the Lord's altar with tears, you weep and wail because He no longer pays attention to your offerings, or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask why? Well, it is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her. Though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit, they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man covering himself with violence, as well as with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” Do you see how God equates divorce with violence there? At any rate, to understand marriage, we must go back to God's original intention as related in the Genesis account, and as commented on throughout Scripture.
Foundation #3: God’s Action in Marriage
Foundation number three is God's direct action in making marriages. Christ says that the Creator physically prepared them for marriage by making them male and female, their physical bodies were well suited for God's purpose in marriage. Parenthetically, some aesthetics within Christian church history have written against any kind of sexual involvement as though it were somehow dirty or unclean. As if it were intrinsically evil, because it is fleshly. The Scripture stands vigorously against their viewpoints. God created marital relations within the context of marriage. That anti-flesh bias is more from philosophy than from the Bible, end of parenthesis there. The creator made them male and female, and then Jesus says, brought them together so the two would become one flesh. It says very plainly in the Genesis account that God made the woman at some remote location, wherever that was, I don't know, and brought her to the man and the two became one flesh. And so, there is a distance between the two when they're single, and then God closes that distance and providentially brings the two together. And so God makes marriages, that's what Jesus is saying here. What God has joined together, let man not separate. That's the third foundation.
Foundation #4: The Two Become One Flesh
The fourth foundation is that the two become one flesh. What happens in a marriage in God's mind? The union is deep and real.
It's not merely a piece of paper as some unbelievers who co-habit together say, "It's just a piece of paper." I've heard them say this to me. Frankly, if it's just a piece of paper, then Satan would behave differently than he does around it. He would behave differently, he would stop tempting Christian kids have relations before they get married, and tempting Christian spouses to stop having relations after marriage. He behaves radically differently after you say "I do". He changes his entire strategy. He doesn't think it's just a piece of paper, because God doesn't think so. So, we are deceived when we think it's just a piece of paper. No, the two become one flesh. God does something very profound, very mystical. Yes, it is physical. The marital bed is pure and undefiled and physical, but God also creates a unity where there was none before. It is so profound that the Apostle Paul likens it to the spiritual unity between Christ and the church, quoting the same Scripture, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
This is a profound mystery, but I'm talking about Christ and the church, says the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:32. Even more amazing, then, Christ's unity with the church is itself a picture of the trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in perfect unity with one another, it's a picture of all human relationships after that. As Jesus prays in John 17:21, "That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, and may they be also be brought to complete unity." So therefore, these are the four foundations, the sufficiency of Scripture, God's purpose at the beginning of marriage and setting marriage up, God's providential actions in forming marriage, and then the unity that He speaks of here, the two become one flesh.
The Timeless Answer
Those are the foundations, now comes the answer. Christ gives this timeless answer, "Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate." And answer to the treacherous question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?", the answer is simply and clearly absolutely not.
We have no right to undo what God has joined, to rip it apart, separate it, cleave it apart in any way. Because Scripture is God's perfect word to you, because in Scripture God's original intention of marriage is made plain, because God is active directly in marriage from the very beginning and even now is personally involved in making marriages, and because the two become physically, spiritually, mystically one. "Let man not separate what God has joined." Now, there are more questions to ask. Indeed, the Pharisees and the disciples ask more questions, we won't answer them today. God willing, we'll have time next week. We might say, "Of course, this is God's standard and it would be best if all of us followed it, but things happen. Will God still love me? Will He still forgive me? Will He still bless my life if I violate this standard?" Well friends, that's an entirely different question, isn't it? In Jesus' world view, it's somewhat like asking, "How much poison can I drink before I die? How many times can I shoot myself before I bleed to death? If I scoop fire into my lap, will my whole body be burned or only part of it?"
Whenever we violate God's standards and go our own separate way, either as individuals or pastors or as a church, there are deep and painful consequences. Now, is the grace of God acting through Jesus Christ sufficient to cover this river of sin? I tell you, yes, in an infinite number of rivers besides. In a single day, Jesus atoned for the sin of the whole land. And that is the glory of the Gospel I preach, that there is forgiveness, that God's grace can put together a broken life, it can put together a broken heart. That God is able to work through second and even third and fourth marriages when the people come to repentance and bring their sin to God and be honest about it, He can establish a new home. God moves on. We'll talk more about that next week. Look at the case of David and Bathsheba and the birth of Solomon. Study it in advance. God moves on. But what if it hasn't happened yet? What if it hasn't happened yet?
What does God's grace do for you? Doesn't it behave very strongly with you and tell you, "Don't get a divorce. Work on that marriage."? I have much to say about that, more next week. I just wanna give you a couple of applications and we'll talk more about divorce, remarriage, and how to work on a marriage next time, God willing, but I wanna begin by just urging you to celebrate the gift of marriage. This is a good thing. I think it's so interesting that the Lord says, "It's not good for the man to be alone." The disciples contradict and say, "Well, it's good not to get married." Well, who's right then, God or the disciples? Is it good or not good to get married? I'll go with God. What do you say? It is good to get married, it's a good thing. Now, the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but God comes to give life and give it abundantly. So let's celebrate the goodness of marriage. I think you ought to celebrate, if you're a married couple, celebrate it every day, thank God for your spouse. No, I really mean it, thank God for your spouse.
Thank God deeply and richly and fully for your spouse. Thank God for marriage, thank God that He invented it. Thank God for your life together. Thank God for it. Secondly, can I urge you to glorify God in your marriage? Glorify God, let your marriage be a lamp, a light shining in a dark place. Let God put it up on a stand, make it glorious. Go back one sermon to the 10,000 talents, if you need help on forgiveness, but forgive each other, forgive each other deeply and fully and richly and love each other and work on your marriage so that it can be glorious. I have more to say about that next time. Thirdly, I want you to think of divorce as unthinkable. Think of it as unthinkable, don't bring it up when you're having an argument, don't talk about it. It's unthinkable. Again, I wanna talk more about that next time. But just no, the Lord said, no, we're not going there, we're gonna work on the problem, we're gonna work on our communication. We're gonna work on our sin, we're gonna pray for each other, we're gonna love each other, we're gonna fast, we're gonna do whatever it takes, but we're going to work it out.
Think of it as unthinkable, I'll say more about that next time. Just like I did with my pro-life sermon a few weeks ago, I just wanna finish with just a word to those of you that have been just deeply hurt by this topic. I hope not un-wrongly hurt by my sermon. I just wanna promise you that the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for you. Wisdom of God and the Word is sufficient for you. There is a path ahead from this point forward in which you can live a life completely pleasing to God, and that's a sweet thing, isn't it? God's mercies are new every morning, they're new every moment. If we turn to Him honestly, we seek forgiveness, He will give it. Trust Him for that and pray for me over this next week as I put together what's left of this sermon into something coherent next week, and let's talk some more about this topic then. Close with me in prayer.