Jesus Teaches on Marriage and Divorce, Part 2 (Matthew Sermon 90 of 151)
March 01, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Marriage and Parenting
Review: The Pharisees Ask a Treacherous Question
The Treacherous Question
I remember early in our marriage, Christy and I went to a marriage conference put on by a family life ministry, and I remember there was a slide that they put up on the screen and it stuck with me. I've remembered it to this day. It's of a husband and wife on their wedding day, they're in their wedding outfits and they're looking happy and they're holding hands together. And you're seeing them through the cross hairs of a high-powered rifle or an artillery gun. You're seeing a happy marriage from Satan's perspective. And it stuck with me the idea that my marriage is going to be a focal point of Satan's attack in my life. And the more I see the significance of good solid marriages in a church, in a community, in a nation, and in the world, the more I realize what a priority this is for Satan. It's an incredible priority for him to damage marriages and destroy them. And therefore, it's a very strong priority of a church to help marriages thrive for the glory of God. This is an important part of my ministry as a pastor to preach the full counsel of God's Word, so that marriages can thrive in this church. And that's my delight. Today for the second week, we're looking at the topic of marriage and divorce that Jesus teaches on these issues.
And we looked last week at the passage in Matthew 19:1-12, as the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him what I called a treacherous question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" I noted that Jesus was standing on the territory at that point of Herod Antipas, and that Herod had had John the Baptist executed for preaching so vigorously against his sinful marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and so, I have a feeling that the Pharisees were trying to trigger the machinery of the state against Jesus and have him killed.
The Timeless Answer of Jesus
But Jesus ignores all of that concern, he just wants to tell the truth, and so he knows he's going to die on the cross, he's not going to be beheaded by Herod Antipas and so, he just tells the truth and he gives this timeless answer, in Verse 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 remember I gave you in a very simple way, Jesus' answer to the question they asked. They asked the question, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" His answer is clearly, absolutely not. But he gives a deeper answer than that. He gives four-fold foundation to it. We looked at those carefully last time.
The Four Foundations of Jesus’ Answer
I'm just gonna mention them again this time, but foundation number one was the sufficiency of Scripture. If you wanna know God's perspective on marriage, you go to the Bible. The Bible is sufficient for everything's... Everything concerning marriage. And we saw last time what scripture says, God says. The Creator didn't just make them male and female, He made them male and female and made statements about them. He said, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother," so you wanna know what marriage is about, you go to the Bible.
The second foundation is God's original intention in setting marriage up. What was God intending? And Jesus says, "Haven't you read that at the beginning Creator made them male and female... " In Verse 8 he says, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning. So we looked at what God's original intention was in marriage. And I actually didn't thoroughly unfold that, I'm not going to thoroughly unfold anything concerning marriage today. The topics are so deep that you're going to be left with more that could be said, more scriptures we could go through, more questions you would have, but we did talk about that. And so, God's purposes are multifaceted in marriage, not just procreation, having godly children, but also I think sanctification as we'll discuss later, and other purposes as well, including great commission work to the ends of the earth. But God has a purpose.
Foundation number three is God's personal activity or action in marriage. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. We saw from the beginning in Genesis how God created Eve from the body of Adam and did so it seems at another location, a remote location and brought the woman to the man. And I think that's very important, because that shows also I believe a pattern of God bringing a godly wife into the life of a man. And so, God then does more than that, more than just providentially bringing them together, I think, very significantly and supernaturally and mystically at the moment when the couple makes this promise to one another, when they make this pledge before God, God sees them as one, he joins them together. That's foundational to my understanding even of second marriages and other marriages, that God joins them together.
And then foundation number four, the two become one flesh. This union is deep and real. It is mystical, physical, yes, spiritual as well. For Paul says, it pictures Christ in the church, Ephesians 5:32, all of that we talked about last time, and therefore, Jesus' timeless answer, what God has joined together, let man not separate. So that's what we covered last time. That was the pure, simple standard of marriage that God established.
Two More Questions and Two More Answers
But that doesn't answer all questions. There are more questions to answer, always more questions to answer. What about this, what about that, and what about the other? And if you're in counseling or pastoral ministry, you're going to face that river of questions. It's never going to end really, but the questions in this case, two of them come right up off the narrative, right out of the text.
Question #1: Why Did Moses Command Divorce?
And so it says in Verse 7, why then, they asked, did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away? So this question is coming from Jesus' enemies, from the Pharisees.
So they asked this question, why did Moses command divorce? Now, notice that despite the clear answer that Jesus has given with its four-fold foundation, its deeply rooted answer, they're still not satisfied and they wanna press on, it's not enough, they have more questions to ask. Now, I think it's important for Christians who sit under the authority of Jesus Christ at some point to let Jesus' answer calm their hearts and end their questions. At some point you do that. Are we here to argue with Jesus or are we here to allow him to speak authoritatively to us, even in the most controversial issues? That's a key question for a disciple to ask.
Now, Jesus' statement was so absolute that made even the conservative stricter teaching of Rabbi Shammia, as we remember, he said that the... That Deuteronomy 24 was saying that a man could only divorce his wife for marital unfaithfulness, but Jesus seems to go beyond that, doesn't seem to permit divorce for any reason. And so they come back with this Command. Moses commanded they said that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away. Now notice, they have twisted this. Deuteronomy 24 has been twisted in the hands of Jesus' enemies. Remember that Moses was not so much regulating divorce and remarriage as he was forbidding the remarriage of a twice divorced woman back to the original husband. That's all it covers in Deuteronomy 24.
Jesus’ Answer: Hardness of Heart
So Jesus gives an answer to that question. Look at Verse 8-9, Jesus replied, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you the truth that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman, commits adultery. So Jesus gives His answer with really four clarifications. Let's look at these four clarifications. Clarification number one, let's be clear on this. Moses never commanded anyone to get a divorce. As a matter of fact, you'll not find any such command in the entire Bible. We are never commanded anywhere to get a divorce. Moses permitted divorce. He didn't command it. And Jesus here is not commanding divorce in the case of porneia, marital unfaithfulness. He's not commanding it either.
Clarification number two, divorce is rooted in the hardness of human hearts, in the hardness of heart that all sinners depict. Sin is always the root cause of divorce. Now I'm not saying at this moment that there is no innocent party in any divorce. I'm not saying that, there are some absolutely heart-wrenching cases in which a Christian husband or wife has been cruelly sinned against by some spouse and then struggles valiantly to save the marriage, but ends up losing that struggle. But I say, even in that case, divorce is still rooted in someone's hardness of heart. It's the root cause of divorce. Now, what do we mean by hardness? Well, hardness means a failure to yield to God, God commands, the individual does not yield but stiffens their neck against it. It's a matter of habitual rebellion. Resisting God, that's what hardness of heart is about. And so, Jesus says, this permission that Moses gave for a divorce was not in God's original intention, it was not this way from the beginning.
Clarification number three that Jesus makes, is that unlawful divorce and remarriage is adultery. It said so again and again in Matthew 5, in Mark 10, in Luke 16, here in Matthew 19. It's not taught in just one place. Jesus says, if you divorce your wife for any reason other than porneia, we'll get to that in a moment, and you marry another woman, you commit adultery. So that's a very, very strong statement. Clarification number four, divorce is sometimes permissible. Now, here we get into the fun things, if you wanna call it fun. Here I break company with many godly pastors and men whose ministries I respect, in doing so, I join other godly men whose ministries I respect. There's no surviving that one. When you see two pillars in the church whose ministries you admire and respect in every other respect, and they disagree on this question, well then, you say forget them, Lord, what do you want me to do? [chuckle] And you listen to their arguments, you pray, and you do your best to discern. And so I give my judgment on this text.
This is what's known as the controversial exception clause in Matthew 19, and the implication for many, including me, is that this exception clause says there is a lawful way to get a divorce. It is controversial, because there is no exception given in Mark or Luke, in the parallel passages in the synoptic Gospels. Synoptic means that Jesus' life is looked at from three different perspectives, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and Matthew and Mark and Luke give different accounts of the same encounter. And so, as an exogee to the New Testament you have to do your best to put those accounts together and understand them, and it's not always easy to do. In Mark 10:11-12, Jesus gives the answer. "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her." Verse 12, "And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." Luke 16:18, same thing, "anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery. And the man who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." And so, some godly scholars and pastors and individuals say based on this, divorce is never lawful, never permissible.
That when you stand in front of God and you make a commitment for life, God holds you to it for life, as long as your spouse is still drawing breath somewhere on the earth, you are in God's eyes married, God is holding you to it. I think it's a reputable position. I just don't agree because of the weight of the word ‘except’ here in Matthew 19. If we accept all scripture as God-breathed, we must not pit one scripture against two. We must instead, try to find a way to harmonize all of them as though it is true. All of them are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training and righteousness. Therefore, when two parallel texts or three parallel texts say the same thing, but one text adds additional information, then you must adjust your mind on those shorter accounts to include the additional information. “All scripture is God-breathed” including the exception clause.
Now, some scholars, they're not ignoring the exception clause, they say that Matthew had a special issue in his Gospel, in that earlier Joseph fought to divorce the pregnant Mary. And so the word is used there and they were betrothed and the word is used there, so they say that this covers the betrothal period, etcetera, not marriage itself. Again, a reputable position. I just don't hold it. I don't think the issue so much as what is Matthew trying to do but did Jesus say this? And Matthew told us that Jesus said it, and so therefore, I really am trying to understand what Jesus is saying. I don't think he's trying to protect Joseph's reputation here, he'll leave that to the Holy Spirit and His reputation is fine. I think instead he's giving a legitimate exception. Now, there's a similar situation in another text, stay with me here. You don't have to turn and look there, but just listen. In Mark 8:11-12, the Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. Listen to this, to test him they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." Period. None.
But in Matthew it says, in Matthew 12:39, he answered a wicked and adulterous generation asked for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it, except the sign of the Prophet Jonah. Did Jesus say, except for the sign of the Prophet Jonah or not? I say he did, because Matthew tells me he did. There's no controversy about this. The scholars don't go back to Mark and say he actually didn't say the exception clause, they just say that Mark shortened the account. All the accounts are shortened, you know that don't you? John tells us that if everything were written, even the world couldn't contain all the books that would be written, all of them are shortened, and that's fine. But we have to work and labor to harmonize them, so therefore, I believe there's a legitimate exception. Well, what is the exception for? Now we get on to the next challenge. It's for ‘porneia.’ That's the Greek word, what does it mean? Well, NIV translates it marital unfaithfulness, others give us sexual immorality. It covers a broad range of sexual impropriety, not just adultery, but fornication and other issues as well. Any kind of sexual unfaithfulness.
Now again, notice Jesus is not here commanding people to get a divorce in the case of porneia, he's just saying it is permissible through the exception. And I believe that since Jesus is right here in this text dealing with the question of remarriage, that in that case, remarriage is permissible. Some say he is permitting divorce, but not remarriage. I find that a bit problematic, because he's discussing remarriage right here. Furthermore, John MacArthur brings up the point that in the Old Testament, if somebody had been caught in this kind of sexual immorality, adultery, they would have been stoned to death, whereupon the surviving spouse would have been a widow or widower and free to remarry. So, why penalize the New Testament graciousness of God, in which the adulterer is allowed to live? That's his logic. I find it forceful. Later on in the New Testament, Paul will add another case and that is the abandonment of a Christian spouse by an unbeliever who doesn't wanna live with that person anymore. Again, whenever you have additional information, you don't reduce it or say something's wrong with it, but you add it to your growing understanding of God's insights.
Question #2: Isn’t It Better Not to Marry?
Hence Jesus' answer. Well, the disciples aren't satisfied with this, and they ask a question, question number two. This one comes from Jesus' own disciples, look at Verse 10. “The disciples said to Him, ‘If this is a situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’” Human nature as usual taking things too far. We always do this, we go too far. The disciples in this case, then have clearly overturned a blessing of God. Remember how God said in Genesis, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him,” therefore, it is good for a man to find a godly wife, that is a good thing. The disciples here disagree, they say, "Well, if that's the condition if you can't ever get out of it, it's better not to get married. It is good not to marry." About a week before I went to be married and then had my honeymoon, I was working with a non-Christian guy named Dave, and we were talking about what he called my impending marriage, I called it my upcoming marriage. So he was talking about my impending marriage, and he mentioned the ball and chain I was about to put on. You've heard that kind of expression before. Elton John wrote a whole song. Someone saved my life tonight, I was able to escape marriage. This is the way that non-Christians look sometimes at marriage, a ball and chain. And here the disciples are saying, we've gotta get out, we've gotta have freedom. We need to be able to escape.
Like an animal caught in a trap, willing to gnaw off the leg to escape, we gotta be able to get out of it. And looking for autonomy, always desirous to be the ones to make the final pronouncement on our case, we make the final decision. We want an escape route, we wanna be in charge, and God does not intend to give that to us, not here. In the Christian church, marriage is at least in part, intended to serve God's greater purposes. He is a witness, he upholds the covenant we make before him, and he has an interest in the matter. It's not just the two individuals, what God has joined together, let man not separate. God is interested in this.
And one of God's greater purpose is sanctification for each partner, that we grow in grace in the knowledge of Christ. Friends, that is not easy to do. Have you noticed? At least it's not for me. It's hard to face your sin, it's hard to face how much you need grace and mercy, it's hard. And the process is so painful within the context of marriage that we would take the escape route, if God gave it to us. We would not stand and fight our sin and the devil and the world, we would run. So also the process of raising a family is very difficult. It's a daily challenge, and many individual find it so challenging that they can't do it and they run from it.
God is not making it easy to run from these challenges. There's a story commonly told about Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés, that when he and a small force of about 700 men, landed in Mexico, 1519, he burned his ships so that the men would not be able to chicken out and run back to Spain. I wonder what that must have felt like in 1519, standing on the shores of Mexico, watching your ships burn. I wonder if it might have felt like being on Mars, and watching the LEM burn, something like that. Well, here we are. Make the best of it.
But in effect, Cortés was saying, we must be victorious. We've gotta wait and make our way through it. And so I think to some degree, God is burning our way out, he's saying, "No, there is no way out, stand." We'll talk more about that later.
Jesus’ Answer: It Depends on Your Gift
But Jesus gives a multifaceted answer to this too. Jesus was not a simple person. And these are not simple issues. And when they came and said it is better not to marry, Jesus' answer in effect is, "That's true sometimes." It is actually true that sometimes it's better not to marry. He doesn't simply say, "You're overturning the good gift of God, it's always good to marry." He actually says in some cases it is better not to marry.
Look what he says in Verse 11 and 12, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way, others were made that way by men, and others have... " NIV gives us, "Renounced marriage because of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." Disciples are saying it's better to be single. Jesus actually accepts the statement. For some people it is better to be single. He himself is the prime example of that, he never took on a human wife. For him, it was better not to be married. So also the Apostle Paul cites himself is an example of singleness, some people believe that he had been married earlier, and was a widower, and chose not to remarry for the sake of the kingdom.
But it is a gift and Jesus says not everyone can accept it, in Verse 11, the Greek word literally means, make room for it, make a place in your heart for this concept, I'm going to be single the rest of my life. Not everybody can do that. He cites different cases. Some are born eunuchs, namely those who will never marry, and they're born that way, perhaps because of physical or mental defects. A child could be born with a mental handicap and they would not be legally permitted in this state to marry. So they're born that way, they will not get married.
Others, Jesus said, are made that way by men, perhaps he was referring to the Persian or the Babylonian courts in which there was emasculation involved and someone was made a eunuch in order to serve in a harem. I think that's what he's referring to here. And then thirdly, he says others have literally made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now there was a man in church history, named Origen who literally did this. And I think the NIV translators knowing that tried to help us not to make that mistake and say instead they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Again, the apostle Paul says if you can do it, if this is your gift, then do it. He says, actually, it's an advantageous situation because a husband is worried about the things of this life, how he may please his wife. And then the wife for her part, has to worry about how that she can please her husband, if it can even be done. She's gotta at least worry about it. Notice I didn't say anything on the other side, very careful about that, but as if it could be done, that's... It's a focus. And what he's saying is that if you can be free from that focus, it's better for the kingdom of heaven, that's what Paul argues in 1 Corinthian 7. But he says, either way, it's a gift. One man has one gift from the Lord, another man has another. Jesus uses this same kind of language, the one who can accept singleness should accept it, that's all He's saying.
Alright, well that's the teaching, we've been through every verse now it's time for some applications, and some... I'll try my best to give good judgments statements. I'll do my best as a pastor. First of all, and some of this, we covered last week but it's okay to cover it again.
Celebrate the Gift of Marriage
All of us should celebrate the gift of marriage. We should not have hard thoughts about marriage because of this, like the disciples were tempted to do, we should be happy about marriage. It's a good thing, it's a delightful thing. As a matter of fact, we're gonna spend eternity married to God, so therefore it must be a wonderful thing if it marvelously describes our eternal state, with God, with Jesus as part of the bride of Christ. It is Satan who wants us to think hard thoughts of marriage in many different ways. So if you're married, thank God for marriage, for the wisdom and goodness of God in bringing the two of you together.
If someday you will be married then thank God for that blessed state and look forward to it with holy expectations, more about that in a moment, but thank God for the good gift of marriage. If you're struggling and having a challenging time in your marriage, still basically thank God for marriage and for your spouse. So much changes when you thank God. If you're a widow, or a widower thank God for the time that you had married and that it was a good gift of God.
Glorify God in Your Marriage
Secondly, glorify God in your marriage. If you are married, then make your marriage a display of the glory of God, think of your marriage primarily as for God's glory just like you should think about everything in your life, as primarily for God's glory, your money, your time, your body, your gifts, all of it, for God's glory, every encounter with another person, for God's glory, whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, for God's glory. So your marriage then is for God's glory. That's why it exists.
And if you're married, understand that your marriage then will be a battle ground. As I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, Satan's got you in his cross hairs, he wants to make you miserable, the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, it's Jesus that came to give you life. You might have it abundantly once you have an abundant marriage. So you need to keep in mind that your struggle is not against flesh and blood. As I've said before, I say it again, I think married people need to understand that almost more than anyone else. No, instead, your spouse could be, should be your greatest ally in your sanctification struggle. The struggle is not against them, it's again Satan.
Your mentality then should be that God puts you together primarily for the purpose of putting himself on display, that His attributes might shine forth, both in how you treat each other and in the way you help sanctify each other for the glory of God and the way you make your family a launching pad for the great commission. For all of those reasons, that's why you were brought together. Now, what about this statement, "God wants me to be happy, that's why I'm getting a divorce." I've heard this kind of thing before.
Friends, can I tell you something? I think God wants you to be happier than you can possibly imagine. Psalm 16 says that “in his presence is the fullness of joy,” that's what he wants you to have, the fullness of joy, but even Jesus, who for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame. He may not want you to experience happiness today. Maybe not even for the rest of the week, maybe not even for the next month. He may want you to work on some things, and he knows full well that working on those things is going to be very painful, for the both of you, it's gonna be hard.
So yes, he wants you to be happy, even in this world, but maybe not today, don't make that an idol, don't make that... And make the glory of God your focus. Certainly don't get a divorce based on this logic, that God wants you to be happy and you're not happy with this person right now. So often divorce is essentially selfish. She doesn't meet my needs, he doesn't understand me. We have irreconcilable differences. It all sounds so selfish to me. The best remedy then to selfishness in marriage is to see your marriage as having been crafted by God for His glory and His purposes.
Think of Divorce as Unthinkable
Thirdly, I mentioned this last week, I'm mentioning it again. Think of divorce as unthinkable. Burn the ships, it's unthinkable. I'm not minimizing the exception clause here, I'm not. God does permit it; he doesn't command it, but he permits it. But I want you to think of divorce as unthinkable, theologically unthinkable as I mentioned because the Trinity is eternal and no member of the trinity has ever sought or will ever seek to get out. They are forever one. Secondly, because Jesus says, the husband of our souls, is the husband of the bride of Christ, has promised, he will never leave us and never forsake us, and that's a picture of the permanence that marriage should have in this life. And thirdly, because we're going to a place where we won't divorce one another, horizontally, we're gonna live with each other forever, and we'll be a much better people then so it will be fine and you'll be a much better person too.
So it'll be fine, but we're gonna be with each other forever. It says in 1 Thessalonians 4, "And so we will be with the Lord, we will be with the Lord forever." For those three reasons then, then think of divorce as theologically unthinkable, but think of it as practically unthinkable too. See God has brought us here to work on things, we're not gonna give up, we're gonna fight for this marriage, we're gonna fight for one another's sanctification. In this world of sin, the purpose of the standard of divorce as unthinkable so shocked the disciples they said it's better not to get married. But the standard is there to protect us from our cowardly sin natures.
We give up too easily. When two sinners come together to get married, their mutual sin habits will conspire to make life challenging. It will. I'm not gonna say any more than this 'cause I intend to have a happy lunch with my family later on and we're gonna be fine, but life gets challenging. Stuff bubbles to the surface. And you know what? I was much holier before I got married, than afterwards. I was really amazingly holy in my seminary room, living alone. I really was. I was remarkably patient, and kind, with the other guys who were also living single on their own. And when things got a little difficult, "Have a good day," and then that was it, and I was remarkably...
Friends, I'm holier and more sanctified now than I was then, but I feel myself much more sinful now. I was smug and arrogant in my singleness, thinking I was further along in sanctification than I really was. Oh, the stuff that bubbles to the surface. Married couples, you know what I'm talking about? The stuff that just bubbles right to the surface, it comes up, it was there all along. God wants you to deal with it. So think of divorce as unthinkable when you're having a conflict, please don't mention divorce. Make it a law that you're not going to mention it, you're just not gonna talk about it, it's not gonna be in your minds.
Now, I wanna talk to various case studies and situations that may be in this church. I wanna speak to those who have never been married but would like to be some day. I want you to respect the sanctity of marriage, and maintain sexual purity. You will never regret setting too high a standard for yourself in this area, you will not regret it, but many have regretted compromising with a boyfriend or girlfriend before they got married. And the real danger here I say to you that there is forgiveness for any sin. Jesus declared it plainly, and if you have already committed fornication, if you've already sinned sexually, you're no longer a virgin, there are some dangers you face. First is believing that there is no forgiveness for you and that Jesus' blood is insufficient to purify you, that is a lie, from Satan.
Jesus is gracious and welcomes sinners. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but there's a second danger, and that is, you may develop a habit of rebellion against God, because once you've done it once, it's easier to do it again and again and again, and your heart may become so hardened that you'll drift vigorously away from Christ. It's a great danger. So, I would urge you to set up a standard of purity now based on what Jesus teaches here, and be pure from this point forward, and if you have maintained your purity up to now defend it with everything that you have. And wait for the Lord to give you the gift that he's intending to give you.
Now, if you're a young man waiting for the Lord, you're gonna be waiting differently than if you're a young woman waiting for the Lord. A young man, yes, he may say, "God joins them together. So I'll wait here," alright, kinda like Isaac waiting for Rebecca to come on a camel. Alright? Well, look, Isaac and Rebecca had a wonderful marriage, and all that. Don't wait for your bride to come on a camel. It's not likely to happen, you need to go out and get her. Prayerfully seek the Lord when you're ready to be married, when you are ready to support a wife financially, economically, you should be pursuing God, say, "God have you given me the gift of singleness, or are you giving me the gift of marriage?" And if it's the latter, and usually it is, then seek God for it, and be bold.
If you are a young woman focus your heart entirely on Christ as the lover of your soul, you don't need a husband to be happy and fulfilled, any more than a young man needs a wife, for that. Christ is what we need, amen? Mary sat at Jesus' feet, Martha bustling around. "Martha, Martha, you're so worried about so many things, but only one thing is needful." Do you know what the one thing that's needful, Jesus. Don't you love that that song, wasn't it sweet? That Ashley sang, it's beautiful. Give me Jesus, that's what you need. And so wait for your husband like that, give me Jesus, and pray for him and seek the Lord that He might bring this young man into your life, and keep yourself pure while you wait.
Now, to married people, again, celebrate the gift of marriage, delight in it, even when things are tough, study everything the New Testament says about how to have a healthy marriage. I'm not preaching on Ephesians 5 this morning. But couples study it, learn Colossians 3, find out how to have a good marriage, and follow it.
If I could say to, especially to the men, but really to both, guard yourself very, very carefully from the threat of porneia, adultery, sexual immorality. Yes, it's gotten very, very tough for men to maintain purity of their eyes in this world, it's very tough these days, with Internet pornography and cable TV and all that, Jesus said, gave this exception that for porneia, a marriage may be lawfully dissolved in my opinion. That makes porneia deadly dangerous, and we should fight with everything that we have. Put safeguards between you and the computer.
Be open and vulnerable, allow people to look at what you do. Protect yourself, it's worth fighting for, make the focus of your marriage to live for the glory of God, for husbands to seek to develop their wives to full maturity in Christ for their sanctification, for wives to pray for the same and to influence the same for their husband that the wife may help the husband in his vision for ministry, that she is a helper suitable for him.
And work hard on your communication. Most people tell us, secular counselors, Christian counselors tell us that poor communication is one of the number one deadliest things in a marriage, talk to each other, pray together. It says concerning husbands that they should treat their wives with respect as equal partners and heirs with them in the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder your prayers. A bad marriage can make it hard to pray together.
Like John Bunyan said, I love this, "Prayer drives out sin or sin drives out prayer." Oh, may prayer drive out sin, so you can pray together, communicate together. Now to those whose marriage is in trouble, as I've said, divorce should be unthinkable. Understand that times of trouble are inevitable, the security of marriage is to give a solid relational foundation for you to work out your salvation and your marriage with fear and trembling. Make your troubles then an occasion for coming together in prayer. Don't let the troubles divide you, let them unite you. It is so tragic, I hear these stories about children that are tragically killed or die of leukemia, and then the husband and wife get a divorce within the next two years, that's just so tragic, because they didn't learn to come together around that incredible trial and pray their grief through and work on it together, as each other's best friend.
Make your troubles an occasion for coming together. The fact that there's no godly escape from marriage actually helps you stand in the face of your problems rather than seeking to escape them. And get godly counsel, lean on the body of Christ. We're starting in 2009, God willing, a counseling ministry here in this church. My guess is that one of the most powerful ministries we're gonna have, is to help troubled marriages come to a healthy solid ground. Take advantage of these brothers and sisters that have spent a lot of time preparing to give good godly counsel. Take advantage of that. It's coming to you very soon.
Now, what if there's been adultery? What if there's been porneia? Do we have to get a divorce? Well, the answer is no, you don't have to get a divorce. May I divorce my adulterous spouse? Yes, I think that's what we already covered. Yes, you may, you don't have to, if you can fight for it, fight for it. Use the parable of the 10,000 talents, do everything you can to forgive. If the partner is willing to continue, then continue. And know that God has given you everything you need to continue in that marriage: The 10,000 talents, the indwelling spirit, the fact that the Lord has forgiven so much in your life, you have what you need. You don't have to get a divorce, you may, but you don't have to.
Now, suppose you are the innocent party and the individual you're married to is determined not to be married or you've already gotten a divorce, and you were the innocent party in that regard. Your spouse abandoned you, perhaps he or she was unfaithful to you, they didn't want you anymore, you fought to save the marriage, they were determined to leave. I want you to know that God's mercy is there for you. I know some of you by name, and it has literally caused me to cry for you, and I'm sorry for you.
I do believe that Lord has shown some of you some remarkable grace and it's caused me to be in awe and it's encouraged me in my faith. As it says in Isaiah 43, "Fear not for I have redeemed you. I've summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you, when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.”
I also believe in contra-distinction with some godly men that you are free to remarry if your spouse abandons you, and you are the innocent party, others disagree. You'll have to come to your own conclusions. If I'm wrong, you'll still be accountable to God and his word for making a right decision. Be a Berean on this and take what I say and compare it to scripture and be sure that what I say is true.
But do the same with those who would be more restrictive than I would. It's not good to be more restrictive or less restrictive than the word of God, amen? Let's find out what the Word of God says, and the answer is there. We didn't need a 67th book of the Bible friends, it's here. Jesus said to the Sadducees, "You're in error because you don't know the scripture, the power of God." Let's study the scriptures and follow them.
Now, suppose you've sinned, suppose you did get a divorce, you were not the innocent party, you were the guilty party even, or you didn't even know any of these teachings, you just in a light way, kind of threw away a marriage, and then later came to Christian convictions or... There's 100 different scenarios that are so painful. What then? Well, I'm well aware that that can happen. How can I not be, that there are perhaps even some listening to me today who have experienced divorce and you know in your heart that what you did was wrong.
I'm here to declare to you that there is mercy and grace and forgiveness for you as there is for anyone and everyone. But there are ways to receive it, and I think we have to start with calling sin by its proper name. Jesus calls it adultery let's call it adultery, that's what it is. Let's not shy away from it. Jesus didn't shy away from telling us the truth. A physician doesn't misdiagnose, he says, "You have cancer, this is the treatment." He's a good physician, he tells us the truth.
But understand this and this is so beautiful, I believe that God in all of His Holiness, the one who can't even look at evil, and cannot tolerate wrong, he looks at a world of evil all the time, and he seems to deal with it better than some Christians. He is able to move on. Take the case of David and Bathsheba, that is not a way for a man and a woman to get together, not at all. David standing up on a roof sees Bathsheba, he lusts after her, he takes her, he sleeps with her, she becomes pregnant, he tries to cover it up, it will not be covered up. He then murders Bathsheba's husband and marries her and takes her and what a perverse way to get married.
God brings him to conviction. He calls it adultery and bloodguilt, gives it its proper name, through Nathan, God says, "You will not die but because what you did caused Israel to show contempt, the child born will die." And David, of course, as you remember fasted, prayed, sought the Lord, wept, the Lord took the child. There are ramifications for our sin. Then do you remember what happened, David comforted his wife Bathsheba, comforted her, and she conceived and bore a son named Solomon, and God sent word through Nathan the prophet, “Call him Jedidiah, which means ‘Beloved of the Lord.’”
That's God moving on, friends. And when you're in a second or third or fifth marriage and you realize it's been a life of adultery, one after the next... Now I'm in this godly... This marriage now, to a godly person, I've come to this place. What do I do now? Well, you don't get a divorce, and go find the first spouse, 'cause that's the very thing that's forbidden in Deuteronomy 24. Instead, you must repent, deal honestly with the sin, accept your forgiveness and then stand pure and blameless before God, from that moment on. And make the best of your marriage at that point, and I do not believe it's repeated acts of adultery every time that you are maritally intimate with your fifth spouse. I don't believe that. The issue is, have you genuinely, honestly, dealt with the sin and called it by its name, and sought repentance, and forgiveness?
If you have opportunity within the context of a church ministry to talk about that, I'm not talking publicly, like I'm doing here today, but I'm saying you're discipling some younger couple, or somebody's talking, please tell the truth about it. You don't help young married couples, by saying, "Well, I got a divorce. There's no big deal. Actually it was pretty... And God forgave me." And that's the very thing Satan's telling them as they're struggling through their marriage, that it's easy to get a divorce and that... Don't tell them that. Say, "It was a wrenching thing, it was a sin, but God's grace is greater than my sin, and He forgave me, and reconciled me and restored me."
Tell the truth biblically, and you will be an instrument of righteousness at the church, and not an instrument of division and trouble. Bottom line, and I wanna end with this, what a glorious good gift is marriage, amen? What a good gift it is, it's worth fighting for. It's worth fighting for, it's worth putting your life into it so that you can see the beauty of a consummated Christian marriage, even as I remember Annie Garrett, 10 years caring for David Garrett, as he had Parkinson's disease and she sat by his bedside and cared for him for 10 years. What a beautiful marriage that was at the end of their lives. We could have that kind of beauty in this church. Close with me in prayer.