Friday, July 18, 2014

Jesus’ Teaching On Marriage

Matthew 19:1-12

“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.”(Matthew 19:1-2)

Most of Jesus’ early ministry was in northern Israel, all around the Sea of Galilee northward into Syria and west to the Mediterranean coast.  After about a year, he ventured down to the region of Judaea along the east side of the Jordan River, avoiding Samaria.    Large crowds followed him and he healed them where he found them.   

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:3-6)

Jerusalem was the home of the Pharisees and they knew about the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees in Galilee.  They met him with the intent of discrediting him, confident they were better trained than the ones in Galilee.    Divorce and separation had become a major issue as Greek and Roman influence spread in Israel, so they used it to try trick him into making statements that they could contradict based on their interpretation.  They were literally asking him what were the proper grounds for a divorce. 

Jesus started with the basis of marriage, that God had created man and woman and had declared that when they were united they were a single body joined by God and that no human entity, whether government, church, or individual had the right or authority to separate them.   No one has the authority to grant a divorce except God. 

They thought they had him at that point because the law made specific provision for getting a divorce.  Deuteronomy 24:1-2 was quite clear, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.  And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.” 

“They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.   And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:7-9)

How could Jesus say no one had the right to grant a divorce when Moses had been so clear in Deuteronomy 24:1-2?  Jesus pointed out that that was no in the original covenant with God, but was stated by Moses forty years later, just before they entered Canaan.  Moses had added it as a concession to their unwillingness to work things out.  God’s standard was that anyone who separated from his wife for any reason other than her sexual infidelity and had sexual relations with someone else, even if they married them, was guilty of adultery, and under the law that called for the death penalty.  Anyone who married the woman who had been divorced was also guilty of adultery.

In I Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul commands, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”  Paul recognizes the separation, but indicates that as far as God is concerned they are still married.  They can either get back together or remain single. But they are not free to marry someone else.

“His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)

After hearing Jesus teach, the disciples had the same attitude that is common today, that it would be better to not marry than to be stuck with an unsatisfactory marriage for life.
“But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.  For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)

Food is essential for the body, and the body is made specifically to handle it.  In the same way, our body is designed to require a spiritual relationship with God and God is seeking that relationship.   I Corinthians 6:13 compares sex with these two needs and points out that sex is not a need, but only a desire.  “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” 

Jesus pointed out that some people are born without the ability or desire to have sex.  Others are surgically or chemically neutered so they have no craving.  Others voluntarily choose nto to have sex in order to please God.  Marriage is not and essential of life, but God has not forbidden it either.  Some people may choose not to marry to better please God, but celibacy is not for everyone.  It is their choice.

Paul says basically the same thing in I Corinthians 7:6-9.  “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.  For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.  I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.  But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”

Paul ultimately concludes that while marriage is good, celibacy is even better in I Corinthians 7:38.  “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.”  Once they are married, they give up their freedom of choice.  In I Corinthians 7:39. Paul continues, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”  Only if the mate dies is one free to remarry.

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