Paul and the Night of the Long Knives – 1 Corinthians Chapter 9

Just added, a new message from 1 Corinthians chapter 9 preached by J Stewart Gillespie:

1 Corinthians chp 9 vs 1 to 7 – Paul and the Night of the Long Knives – JS Gillespie – 17032015

Healing the Wounded Conscience – 1 Corinthians chp 8 vs 7 to 13

Just added; a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 8:


1 Corinthians chp 8 vs 6 to 13 – Healing the Wounded Conscience – JS Gillespie -24022015



Outline notes for this message:


Maybe for us today a significant proportion of 1 Corinthians chp 8 may seem distant and far away – food offered to idols and idols temples

Yet the overall pattern of 1 Corinthians chapter 8 is immediately familiar:

  • It begins with a disagreement
  • It ends with a disaster
  • It begins with a conflict
  • It ends with a casualty

Sadly not only has the pattern been repeated over the years but so too the path to this disaster!

This may be an ancient text and yet there is something very personal about it; it is the story that we never give a platform to; not the testimony of how I came to Christ; but the sobering tale of how I wandered away and backslid from fellowship with Him!

Notice the path and pattern laid out here to destruction (8:11); it is a distinctive path to what we have elsewhere in the NT.

There are:

  1. Actions which are ‘self destructive’ – ie certain actions which will bring with them an automatic and built in destruction; ‘if you sow to the flesh of the flesh you shall reap destruction.’ Romans chp 1 – God gave them up to homosexuality, the judgement lay in God abandoning men to a lust which is of itself destructive:
  • Dishonours (Rom 1:24)
  • Disappoints (Rom 1:26)
  • Disaster and Disease (Rom 1:27)

We see that in drugs and alcoholism – self destructive

  1. Actions which bring the judgement of God (1 Co 11:27ff; 1 Co 10:8)
  2. Actions which are triggers to ‘auto destruction’ – the destruction of self by self by the workings of the conscience; compromise becomes inner conflict which becomes catastrophe. From the compromise of a moment we reap the consequences for a lifetime!
  • In the pressures of a moment Moses would strike the rock twice
  • In the passions of a moment David would compromise a clean Spirit and pure heart and surrender the joy of his salvation
  • In the pride of a moment David would number the people (2 Sam 24:15)
  • In the persuasion of a moment – a prophet compromises the Word of God and eats where he ought not to eat (1 Kings 13)
  • In the problems of a moment Peter will deny his Lord

Stronger than all of that?

  • Than the patriarch Moses?
  • Than the King David?
  • Than the Prophet of 1 Kings 13?
  • Than the Apostle Peter?
  • Than the priest Aaron?

The compromise of a moment left:

  • 70,000 people dead
  • 2 princes dead
  • a prophet dead
  • Moses dead on Mount Nebo

Conscience at Corinth would present one final hurdle to happy dysfellowship – that is the dysfunctional fellowship of those not in mutual agreement!

The troubled conscience:

  1. Conscience
  2. Conflict
  3. Cure

The troubled conscience:

  1. Conscience

Conscience discerns

Some had a conscience about meat offered to idols and som didn’t

Irrespective of who is right and who is wrong we straight away have an issue

What is conscience and why the difference

If you take your Theology form Walt Disney and maybe today many do, then you may well be of the view that:

‘conscience is that infallible God given ability to know the difference between right and wrong, to help us choose what is is right and reject what is bad.’

Thus Jiminy Cricket assures Pinnochio; ‘always let your conscience be your guide’

The only definite thing that we can say about this kind of an idea is that it is definitely wrong!

From: Proceedings and Papers of the Georgia Association of Historians:

Illust: India and the Raj, Lord William Bentinck outlawed Suttee in 1829; the practice of burning a living widow on the funeral pyre of her dead husband:

The son of a rich Rajput besought the British ‘resident’ to allow his mother to burn with her dead husbands body, it being a point of conscience with herself and her family, and the British government being famed for its regard for its peoples conscientious convictions; ‘Of course your mother may do as her conscience enjoins her replied the resident, ‘and you as her first born son may light the Suttee fire, Only then you must permit me to follow my conscience and my governments and hang you for murder’

Conscience then is:

  1. Not infallible – the illustration above points to that and we need not go out with the chapter to see this point – division at Corinth over the matter of conscience with food offered to idols in chapter 8 and consider the issue of 1 Corinthians chp 5 which some seem to have had little conscience about!
  2. Conscience is not creatorial and thus at least in its purest sense is not truly God given – Genesis chapter 3 is clear about that; conscience comes after the fall; it was not built in at creation.
  3. Conscience is not purely about knowing what is wrong! Eve in Genesis chp 3, in order to develop conscience it was not enough to be intellectually exposed to sin or evil:
  • In Genesis 3:4 – Satan infers God is lying or is fallible – yet Eve does not develop conscience here
  • In Genesis 3:5 – Satan imputes malice to God – yet eve does not develop conscience here
  • In Genesis 3:6 – Adam sees that Eve has partaken of the fruit and yet this is not sufficient to trigger conscience in Adam.
  • Eve can see no problem with a talking snake! What about the talking snake? That’s pretty suspect if you ask me. Did snakes talk? To form language you need a larynx, vocal cords, need to be able to modify those sounds with a tongue, soft and hard palate and lips, you need control over the air flow, diaphragm, lungs and neurological control, language centre Brocas area and Wernicke area of the brain. Snakes just don’t have all of that; so I would judge that a snake using human language was something not before encountered by Eve, yet it raised no suspicions! This was a corruption of creation in itself!
  • Despite the intellectual exposure to sin, conscience does not develop!
  • Conscience only develops when there is personal participation in evil.

Colin Anderson: Counsel: “conscience is the inner voice that approves or disapproves of what you have done or are thinking of doing it is more a judge than a guide

cf. Roms 2:15

  1. Conscience does not necessarily empower us to choose what is right – it is more a judge than a guide – cf. Genesis 3:8 “Adam and his wife hid.” Conscience didn’t stop them from committing evil but my it certainly made them flee from what was good; the holiness of God! This can become a major disability when it comes to dealing with our sin, our failings; we flee from God rather than to God! “I was afraid” (Gen 3:10). Yet the soul that flees to God will find another kind of righteousness (Psalm 51:14)!
  1. Conflict

A conflict of conscience arising out of a conflict at Corinth over meat offered to idols

Not that the conflict over meat offered to idols was sincere; this was a carnal desire masquerading as an intellectual argument.

The conscience of some picks up a problem with food offered to idols, or perhaps anticipates where the flesh is going:

  • as touching things offered to idols” (8:1)
  • as concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifuce unto idols” (8:4)
  • sit at meat in the idols temple” (8:10)
  • neither be ye idolaters” (10:7)
  • neither let us commit fornication” (10:8)

In compromising their conscience; notice that they found disappointment (1 Co8:8) rather than the promised satisfaction!

Compromise was not all that it was cracked up to be!

The grass wasn’t greener on the other side after all!

Like Adam and Eve in the garden; the temptation was not worth the trouble it caused and the outcome was thoroughly disappointing!

This was an experience shared with:

  • Achan and his riches from Jericho
  • David and Bathsheba
  • Judas and his 30 pieces of silver

Conscience had been brought to conflict by a path of:

  1. Deception (8:10)
  2. Defilement (8:7)
  3. Destruction (8:11)

Conscience can be deceived / tricked by many means:

  • Pride – in the case of David when he numbers the people
  • Passions – in the case of David as he breaks Gods moral code with Bathsheba
  • Persuasion – the man of God in 1 Kings 13
  • Persistance – Samson and Delilah
  • Pressures of a moment – Peter as he denies the Lord

All of this leads to a conscience crying out:

  • Fake
  • Fraud
  • Failure
  • Forget it
  1. Cure – Psalm 51

I want to go beyond 1 Corinthians chp 8 to find the cure for the wounded conscience

Psalm 51:

We begin with the character and attributes of God (Psalm 51:1):

  • God of mercy
  • God of loving kindness
  • God who is able to wash and cleans from sin

In the state of troubles conscience we are apt to recall the greatness and holiness of God and the smallness of ourselves and to be crushed in our spirit by that very thought.

Like the Corinthians we may also equally fail to follow through that same thought, a God who is unable to deal with failure and sin would hardly be a great and glorious God!

Gods greatness not only implies His holiness but also His ability to save and to deal with sin.

Gods mercy, love and cleansing power converge on:

  • One person – Jesus Christ
  • One place – Calvary
  • One act – the offering of Jesus Christ for my sins

Consider in parallel with Psalm 51:1:

  • Gods love – John 3:16; 1 John 4:10 – is in Christ
  • Gods mercy – Titus 3:5-7 – is in Christ
  • Gods power to cleans – Revelation 1:5 – is in Christ

I am not trying to persuade you that sin is not serious, quite the opposite!

I am not suggesting that God isn’t as great as you think He is, quite the opposite.

But simply; as you remember the greatness and holiness of Christ in the depths of your troubled conscience, don’t forget the greatness of Gods mercy, love and saving power in Christ!

How do we access this?

  1. Repentence (Psalm 5:3)
  • of WHAT I am guilty of:

my transgressions” (v3)

my sin is ever before me”

a specific acknowledgement of my sin; not a vague generalisation about it!

  • of WHY I am guilty of it:

Sin is not a purely personal matter

I have not only hurt myself

This is sin against God

  1. Renewal (Psalm 51:7ff)

Hyssop – the means of applying blood

This verse takes us back to the cleansing of the leper in Leviticus chapter 14

Blood – satisfies God

Water – cleanses and satisfies man

Christ is all sufficient

  • His sacrifice satisfies God (Isaiah 53)
  • His sacrifice satisfies man (Psalm 17:15; Jer 31:14)
  1. Restoration (Ps 51:12ff)

Restored to fellowship with God

Seeing His hand in my life

Hearing His voice

Restored to fellowship with God

We often stop at repentance and renewal; happy that we have assurance of the forgiveness of our sins and the prospect of another opportunity

God does not simply desire to undo sin!

God desires to undo sin for a purpose, to restore us to fellowship with Him!

If that fellowship is not restored I will return to my sin!

the joy of the Lord is my strength

the joy of my salvation” (v12)

  1. Rejoicing (Ps 51:12)

From that enjoyment of Christ flows the most natural thing in the world / out of the world – evangelism!

He that believeth in me as the scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”

What do you Do When you Don’t Know What to do?

Just added; a new message in our series on 1 Corinthians:


1 Corinthians chp 8 vs 6 – What do you do When you dont know What to do – JS Gillespie – 17022015



Outline notes from this message:

1 Corinthians chapter 8 may seem distant from us today
What is the relevance for us today?
Here is a chapter about food offered to idols
Perhaps this seems;

not much of a problem, compared to the other problems at Corinth

Moral Problems (chps 5 to 6)
Marital Problems (chp 7)
Meeting Problems (chp 10 to 14)
Miracle of Resurrection Problem (chp 15)
Money Problems (chp 16)

Maybe we might feel that this problem with food is not really a big problem compared to the real problems of my life;

Family Problems
Health Problems
Financial Problems
Relationship Problems
Church Problems

What is the big problem here with food offered to idols?
It is really not that big is it?
Yet here is a strange thing, that the Apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Spirit, devotes not just chapter 8 to this issue but a sizeable portion of chapter 9 and 10 as well!

I am going to suggest to you, that as elsewhere in the epistle, that all is not quite as it seems!

You may recall that when we began to look at the epistle we suggested that 1 Corinthians is more than just a ‘Church Epistle,’ and that the real agenda will be found in chapter 1 verse 30; that Christ is to be made unto us:

1. Wisdom
2. Righteousness
3. Sanctification
4. Redemption

When we came to chapter 7, we suggested too that chapter 7 was not really about marriage at all, but rather it had as it’s big theme, that of sanctification; with marriage seen as the Divine provision for the high calling of the Christian life.

Likewise as we take a look at chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians, I would like to suggest that there is more to the chapter than a section on foot offered to idols.
Chapter 8 provides the key which unlocks the answer to many of the ethical dilemmas of the Christian life.
Food offered to idols is really but the stage upon which a far greater drama will be worked out.
Food offered to idols is but the platform, from which a far greater sermon will be preached.
Chapter 8 provides the key to unlock the answer to that question we often face in the Christian life:

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

For some of the ethical problems we face in the Christian life we will be able to turn to clear cut definitive texts:

Is murder right?
Thou shalt not kill.

Is theft right?
Thou shalt not steal.

Is adultery right?
Thou shalt not commit adultery.

But for many of the ethical problems we face in the Christian life there will be no specific text per se which addresses that particular issue.
How do we find the answer to our problems when the Bible doesn’t seem to give us a clear answer?
How do we discover the mind of God on an issue when the Bible doesn’t seem to give us Gods mind?
For such problems 1 Corinthians 8 will give the answers we are looking for.
1 Corinthians chp 8 is all about:

Resolving the ethical dilemmas in the Christian life
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Sometimes in the Christian life, you desperately seek the answer to a question.
Sometimes you soul search for the answer to the question and yet all of the time, the answer is there, staring you in the face.

Like King Saul faced with Goliath; who would be fit, brave and equipped to fight Goliath?
David steps forward and picks up not a sword and a spear or even Sauls armour but 5 stones from the brook, stones that had been there all along.
A young boy of faith will take Gods provision and rest in Gods power, the God who had been there all along, to show that the battle is the Lords.
At Corinth, they have a problem and the answer lies there in what they already well know.
The answer begins in a sense with a question:

Do you love God? (8:3)

“If any man love God, He is known of him”

Unless I do love God, the answer which the apostle gives to these Corinthians in their dilemma will have no appeal and will come with no power at all.
Unless I have been converted and changed, unless fellowship with Christ, unless hearing His voice, unless ongoing communion with Christ, unless living to please God is everything to me then this answer if 1 Corinthians 8:6 will mean nothing to me.

“if any man love God, He is known of him”

We take our interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8:3 here from:

The manuscript P46
The text of Clement
The translation of JN Darby
The commentary of GD Fee

So, if any man love God, God is known by that man.
The man who loves God is the man who knows God.
We can claim all sorts of deep spiritual insights in life.
We can claim all sorts of superior knowledge, wisdom and learning; as they did at Corinth (8:1-3); yet the proof that this understanding is of the Lord will be seen in whether or not it is motivated by and results in love for God!
The knowledge from God must be consistent with the source.
If that knowledge comes like an ice blast from the North Pole, cutting Gods people in half, then I can be pretty sure that it does not emanate from the war breezes of Divine Love.

What do they know about God?
From Deuteronomy chp 6 verse 4 they know well that “The Lord your God is one Lord”, every morning and every evening this would be repeated in Temple and synagogue.

Here is the ‘Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad’

What did they ‘know’ about God?
They knew that the Lord their God was One God.
From this they argued, they divided and they attempted to resolve the problem of meat offered to idols:

So you have a problem with meat offered to idols?
Is that because the food has been offered to a false God?
Yes that’s right
So tell me, how many Gods do you believe that there is?
Well sure I only believe that there is one God (Deut 6:4)
So then this food hasn’t really been offered to a God at all then?
Well no, I don’t suppose that it has
So you won’t have a problem with eating food that hasn’t been offered to a God then?
Whilst this was a persuasive point, it was also highly divisive, resulting in the offence to another’s conscience and the weak brother perishing; hardly consistent with a knowledge received by the Love of God (8:3)!
So what had gone wrong?
Some have suggested that they adopted the wrong approach to their ethical problem at Corinth, and that instead of attempting to resolve ethical problems on the basis of knowledge they ought to have done it on the basis of love!
I don’t agree however.
All true knowledge of God must come through the Love of God (1 Co 8:3); irrespective as to whether or not we approach the problem using the key of the love of God or the knowledge of God, the answer ought to be the same at the end of the day.
Irrespective as to whither or not I measure the length of the curtain pole with a yellow tape measure or a blue tape measure, the length should come out the same!

So where did they wrong?
It was not that they approached the problem from the perspective of knowledge but rather that they didn’t follow the truth through fully; they didn’t have the full picture / perspective on knowledge.
In verse 6 Paul will follow through the truth of the oneness of God, and bring it to its rightful conclusion:

Notice the repeated pattern of 1 Corinthians 8:6 :

1 – Appellation – “one God, the Father”
2 – Attribute – “of whom are all things”
3 – Application – “we for Him”

And again:

1 – Appellation – “one Lord Jesus Christ”
2 – Attribute – “through whom are all things”
3 – Application – “we through Him”

From this verse there are 2 great principles to guide the ethical dilemmas of the Christian life:

1- For His Glory : “we for Him”
2 – By His Power: “we through Him”

Is what we do “for His Glory”?
All things to have any ultimate meaning or purpose, must be (Col 3:23; Rev 4:11)
Dividing Gods people, imposing food sacrificed to idols on those with a weak conscience and destroying the brother for whom Christ dies is certainly not!

Is it By His Power?
No, matter how much enthusiasm, how much ability, how earnest we may be, how sincere our motive, how earnest our desire, how deep our feelings, or how strong I may be, if it is not ‘through’ Him and by His power it will come to nothing!

Take courage though; if it is undertaken by His Power then:

There is no wall so strong that it will not fall – Joshua will testify to that
There is no giant too tall that he will not fall – David will testify to that
There is no day too far gone for the victory to be won – Joshua will see that
There is no pit too deep and yet Jeremiah will rise
There is no throne too high that it will not bow before the Most High God, Nebuchadnezzar will discover this
There is no start too lowly and inauspicious that Joseph will not rise to the throne of Egypt
There is no cause too far gone that Christ cannot help – Mary and Martha will see this
There is no stone too massive that it will not be moved aside – Mary will testify to this.

This is your God
Do you believe it?
Do you know Him?

The Way to an Idols Heart is through His Belly – 1 Corinthians chp 8

Just added to our section on 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians chp 8 vs 1 to 4 – The Way to an Idols Heart is through His Belly – JS Gillespie – 27012015


Notes available from this message:

We saw in 8:1-3:

1. A Question which Should never have been asked (v1)
2. An Attitude they should never have had (v2)
3. A Truth they Should never have forgotten (v3)


1. A Question which Should never have been asked (v1)

Simply because it aught never to have needed to have been asked!
If those who knew that that they knew, were as spiritual as they thought they were, then they would have been marked by:

i. Sensitivity – to their brother
ii. Sacrificial attitude to one another
iii. Spirituality – seeing the big issues of love, spiritual welfare as the big issues and the small matters of food as that. They ought to have had a sense of spiritual perspective.


2. An Attitude they should never have had (v2)

They were marked by pride, arrogance and were puffed up
‘we know that we know’
Knowledge is not wrong in itself
We are exhorted in many places in scripture to “add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge..” (2 Peter 1:5-8) and to value knowledge, wisdom and understanding

Pro_2:2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Pro_2:6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
Pro_2:11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
Pro_3:13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
Pro_4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Pro_4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.


“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:5-8)


The problem here was not so much about WHAT I know but HOW I know.
It is about the effect that knowing has on me
It is about ‘ego’ – self as known to self.
The ‘ego’ can become inflated because of value / virtue we see in ourselves
That value / virtue may be:


or in the attainment of something of more enduring value than this:

the knowledge of God

To ‘know God’ is the greatest thing a man can possess:

To know the eternal in time
To know the spiritual in the midst of the temporal
To know the enduring when all is passing
To know God in a world of men
To know purpose when all seems aimless
To know hope in the midst of despair
To know order in the midst of chaos
To know peace in the midst of turmoil
To know answers when all else have only questions

This is the greatest possession – to know God


“Wisdom is the principal thing” (Prov 4:7)

How does that puff up?


“For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” (Pro 8:11)

“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” (Pro 16:16)

1. It affects the way I think about myself (1 Co 8:2) – with such a rich possession of knowledge, owning something that endures beyond time, my view of self becomes inflated (Prov 8:1; 16:16).
2. Knowledge can produce prosperity and success (Ezek 28:4-5) that also inflates the ego
3. Knowledge in the hands of an imperfect person can become corrupted (Ezek 28:17 and Solomon)


‘I know that I know’ – this was an attitude they should never have had (v2)
Because the knowledge of God is the product of “love” (8:3) (John 3:16; 1:18)
The love of God towards us brings us all knowledge by the revelation of Jesus Christ
It is only by loving God that I gain knowledge
Therefore all knowledge is the product of Divine Grace
This effect of being puffed up by knowledge or by thinking I have knowledge is perhaps most clearly seen in John chp 9; not only in what those Pharisees claim to know but in the confidence with which they approach what they don’t know.
If they have confidence where they lack knowledge (“we know not from whence He is,” (9:29), “how opened He thine eyes?” (9:26); then that confidence is not in their knowledge, that confidence is in themselves.
Whilst in the context of 1 Corinthians chp 8 this is an attitude which is emerging amongst believers, this is surely an attitude which is very familiar to us today, amongst opponents of the Gospel; an attitude of confidence in ignorance.
There is an abject ignorance of the Word of God, a superficial knowledge of what pro-ports to be an alternative – atheism and evolution and materialism, and a yet a firm confidence in their rejection of Christ. This confidence is not in their knowledge; for they do not have any of any great significance, that confidence is in themselves.


3. A Truth they Should never have forgotten (v3)

For truth to be the truth of God
For knowledge to be the knowledge of God
It is utterly dependant on love
It is the love of God which is ultimately responsible for the revelation of all truth (John 1:18; 3:16)
For me to know anything of God I must first love God (8:3)
Love, the love of God ought to be demonstrable in all of our knowledge
If his love is not demonstrable in all of our knowledge then our knowledge is spurious.

What is the issue here?

Do you ever overhear or even arbitrate in an argument where you ask yourself the question; what was all that about?
What is the problem?
What is the agenda?
What is the point of all of this?
It all seems to be a bit pointless!


What is the agenda here?
What is the big deal here?
Was it just a disagreement here about wither or not you could eat food offered to idols, some feeling you could, some feeling you couldn’t?
Why is this such a big deal?


1. There was obvious common ground – why not share it?

If those with knowledge would eat anything and those with a sensitive conscience would only eat meat not sacrificed to idols, why not just eat meat not sacrificed to idols which would be acceptable by both groups?
Apart from pride (8:1) – what would hinder them?


2. Who really knew what you were eating anyway?

Who knows where you shop?
Who knows where the meat came from in your fridge?
Is anyone going to be checking up?


3. It was an old debate – the Jews had been there and done that years ago

They were obviously suspicious of anything linked with idolatry as it was an abomination to God.
The Rabbinical writings rejected meat offered to idols as being fit for Jewish consumption on the basis that there was no guarantees that the ritual food laws had been adhered to in its slaughter (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10ff; Deut 12:23ff)

What was the big issue here?
Was this just some intellectual debate about the legitimacy of meat offered to idols?
I want to suggest that the issue was bigger than that and more sinister than that.
This was not really an argument about wither or not meat offered to idols was suitable for eating by Christians.
There was a far bigger agenda:

1. Things offered to idols (8:1)
2. The eating of those things offered in sacrifice to idols (8:4)
3. Sitting at meat in the idols temple (8:10)
4. “neither be ye idolators” (10:7)
5. “neither let us commit fornication” (10:8)


What was this all about?
The flesh was pulling
The flesh wasn’t going to come clean and be upfront about what it wanted
The flesh wasn’t going to come out in the open and say what I want is to go back to idolatry, pagan religious worship and the sexual immorality that is linked to it!
The flesh will say; ‘but what’s wrong with meat offered to idols?’
The flesh wasn’t really that interested in the food offered to idols, it all tastes the same anyway.
The flesh wanted the idols.
Eating meat sacrificed to idols was just a stepping stone to get there!


Watch for this in your own Christian life!
Not so much the slippery slope – that would suggest something passive and accidental, this is altogether deliberate; perhaps not consciously planned by the sinning believer but nonetheless it is the inevitable destination and active pursuit of the believer.

This path has been tread before:

Numbers chp 25

25:1 – fornication

25:2 – people did eat

25:2 – called to the sacrifice

25:2 – bowed down to their god

25:6-8 Sexual immorality

25:8-9 – Divine judgment


1 Corinthians

5:1 – fornication

8:4,10 – Food offered to idols

10:7 – idolatry

10:8 – sexual immorality

11:30 – mortality

The pattern of Numbers 25 is the pattern of 1 Corinthians chapters 5 to 11
I don’t think that the real agenda is in eating food sacrificed to idols
I think the real agenda is getting the idols that the food is sacrificed to!
The way to an idols heart is through your belly!
This may seem all a bit academic; what they did, what they really wanted
It would be a bit academic if this were the only time it ever really happened.
Its not the only time that the flesh has ever operated like this :
Leading towards where we want to go without taking us immediately to where we intend to be:

1. Hebrews 2:1 “lest at any time we should let them slip”
2. Lot – camping in the plains, moving into the city and sitting in the seat of Sodom.

We can place ourselves in situations, we can make decisions, we can head in directions, which perhaps of themselves cannot be faulted, but spiritual insight into the geography of the land will tell us that we have just left Abraham behind and pitched our tent in the plains because it is en route to Sodom!

There may be nothing wrong with the son of Luke 15 having an advance on his inheritance but that is but the means to an end.
He is not for investing that inheritance or setting up in business to support himself and his father in his old age!
Neither is there anything wrong with migration nor of emigration – Exodus is full of it.
All of this was a means to and end, once in the far country with his inheritance he would spend it on ‘riotous living’ and squander it on harlots.
This was freedom financed for fornication (Luke 15:30)
Not a slipper slope

This is the deliberate abdication of our guidance to the flesh; we are responsible for the ultimate destination
The flesh leads in a very definite direction:

1. Lust – Romans 13:14 “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof”

2. Corruption – Galatians 6:8 “for he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption…”

3. Death – Romans 8:13 “for if ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live.”

This is no slippery slope
This is calculated and deliberate and deginite
In abdicating to the flesh they remain responsible for the ultimate destination.
As the flesh directs our drift into destruction it often distracts by constantly affirming that this is definitely no drift into destruction.
What blows the agenda out of the water is:


Ramming Your Liberty down Another Mans Throat

Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians; a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 8 verses 1 to 3:

Ramming your Liberty down another Mans Throat – 1 Corinthians chp 8 vs 1 to 3 – J Stewart Gillespie


notes available for this message:


now as touching” (v1)

Another question answered by the apostle Paul

That this question arises at all highlights the fact that all is not well at Corinth

It is doubtful that the need ought ever to have arisen to ask this question about meat sacrificed to idols.

  • The sensitive conscience wouldn’t have eaten food sacrificed to idols – no problem
  • The spiritually minded wouldn’t have offended them by eating it – no problem
  • But there was a problem!

If the situation was as those ‘in the know’ (8:1-2) concluded; namely a problem between those who are spiritually mature and who know better – namely us, and those who are not spiritually mature and who do not know what we know; namely those of a ‘weak conscience’ then the conflict ought to have been easily and quickly resolved by someone of spiritual maturity and understanding, if indeed that was where they were.

If the spiritually enlightened could really see that there was nothing (v4) in the idol and nothing in the meat and if those spiritually strong were really able to discern ‘weakness’ rather than difference of perspective (v7) in others, they as the spiritually mature ought to have been able to demonstrate how spiritually mature people deal with issues of no eternal consequence –

  • Sensitively – With insight into the immaturity of the brother they are dealing with
  • Sacrificially – With a willingness to sacrifice meat of no consequence for the spiritual prosperity of their brother
  • Spiritually – esteeming the conscience of their brother, way above the food for their belly

Instead it became a:

  • Stumbling block (8:9)

The spiritual elite lacked sensitivity, spirituality and a sacrificial spirit – they were not as spiritual as they thought they were!

The question seems to have been asked of Paul:

‘well Paul, you and I both know that these things offered to idols are nothing. ‘

‘we have been convicted and convinced of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord; that there is but one God. ‘

We have heard how the true and living God speaks through His Word

‘ So we know, you and I Paul that these idols are fake’

To this seems on the surface to initially agree (v1)

But then he puts a major caveat on it all:

knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. ‘

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (8:2)

The approach condemned in verse 2 is not knowledge or wisdom or understanding per se; after all we are exhorted in many places in the Word of God to seek after knowledge and understanding:

Pro_2:2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;

Pro_2:6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

Pro_2:11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

Pro_3:13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

Pro_4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

Pro_4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

Pro_4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Pro_5:1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:5-8)

The attitude condemned in 8:2 is not knowledge

It is not the ATTAINMENT of knowledge that is the problem

It is the ATTITUDE of knowing that is the problem

That confidence not in the knowledge but in myself because I know.

It is the effect that knowledge can have on the unspiritual mind – puffing us up (8:1-2)

It is an attitude which so often manifests itself as the arrogant; ‘there is only one handle on this problem and I’ve got it’

There are 2 ways you can see this; my way, the right way or your way; the wrong way.

Or as one liberally minded brother put it:

  • you serve the Lord in your way
  • I’ll serve the Lord in His

It is not the ATTAINMENT of knowledge that is the problem

It is the ATTITUDE of knowing that is the problem

To consider that in what we know there is no gainsaying, no possibility of growth, nor of development, to close our minds to any other aspect of the truth.

This is the distinction between:

  • the blind man of John chapter 9
  • the Jews of John chapter 9

The blind man can’t answer all of their questions (John 9:25); “I know not

here was a baffling problem; Jesus Christ was surely a real live human being,

Was Jesus Christ not made of the same stuff as the rest of humanity is, descended from Adam?

If He was a person then surely He must have had His faults like all men?

Did the Jews not appear to name one; an infarction of the Jewish legal code (Jo 9:16)?

The blind man would hardly have known anything of the virgin birth; the Deity of Christ, the impeccability of Christ, nor of the Lordship of the Creator over the Sabbath rest.

There were answers to the accusations of the Jews but they would not be known to the blind man!

It is not that he is ignorant and foolish either.

The contrast in John 9 is not between; we the Pharisees who know and understand and you the blind man who is illiterate, ignorant and lacking in understanding! This is not a contrast between the:

  • ignorant and the enlightened

But rather it is a contrast between the:

  • humble and the arrogant

The blind man does understand and know what happened to him; “whereas I was blind and now I see” (John 9:25); yet his knowledge is incomplete (9:35-36); but so was the knowledge of the Pharisees – incomplete; in fact how embarrassing; there they were; having spent their life studying for an honours degrees in gnat straining and a PhD in hypocrisy and along comes a blind, illiterate beggar and pops them a question they don’t have a clue about (9:30-34) “and dost thou teach us?” Well actually he does. That didn’t go down well at all, did it?

What really distinguishes these 2 men is not their ATTAINMENT of knowledge but rather their ATTITUDE to knowledge


Their ATTITUDE to what they don’t know:

  • The blind man – marked by humility towards the unknown and certainty towards the known (John 9:25,27)
  • The Pharisees – marked by puffed up self confidence and arrogance (John 9:30,34)

The blind man is willing to acknowledge that whilst he is certain of what he knows (9:24,30) he will not be dogmatic about what he does not know.

He is happy to trust God where he cannot trace God.

The Pharisees on the other hand are not only adamant about what they do know but are equally emphatic about what they don’t know, because they have such confidence in their own opinions.

The Pharisees had deified their own knowledge as absolute!

They had turned their knowledge into an idol.

They ‘knew that they knew’ and that precluded the possibility that there was something which they did not know.

With this came pride, arrogance and intolerance.

They refuse to be taught (Jo 9:34); “dost thou teach us?”

he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (8:2)

Not WHAT we know but HOW we know.

Knowledge of God and of the ways and mind of God must be guided by love for God.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.” (v3)

The love of God is an acknowledgment of trust in the absolute

The love of God is acquiescing my will / knowledge / understanding to His

I am not absolute; He is!

Here is a man who acquiesces to God

Here is a man who does not claim Lordship over his own life

Here is a man who does not deify self

Here is a man who acquiesces to God

This is the distinction between:

  • Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”(Job 13:15)
  • Jobs comforters who it all worked out in their own heads as to who was at fault here; namely Job

Verse 3 is usually taken to mean that:

‘ if a man loves God that man is known by God’

This of course is very true:

  1. Loving God as the evidence of God knowing us; that the evidence that God knows a man, or that God has saved a man should be and will be seen in the fact that that man loves God. The man who God ‘knows’ with that special meaning of ‘knowledge’; that meaning of intimate or saving relationship:
  • O righteous Father, — the world hath not known thee:but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:25)
  • But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9)

The man who God knows in a saving sense, will have had a work of transformation in his life, he will have been indwelt by the Spirit of God and the very first fruit, if not the only fruit of the Spirit that will be seen in his life will be that of “love” (Galatians 5:22)

1 John 4:7,19


  1. Loving God is the consequence of God knowing us. Unless God knows a man, in the sense of saving a man, such a man cannot love God, by nature; ‘there is none that seek after God,’ (Romans 3:11) and it is God who takes the initiative amongst those, ‘who are dead in trespasses and sins’ to quicken us (Ephesians 2:1). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1Jn 4:10)

The problem with the standard view here is that verses 1 and 2 are not about God knowing us but about us knowing God as we ought.

Verses 1 and 2 are not really about how God knows but rather they are about how I know.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (verse 2)

There is another way to understand this verse however.

The second half of the verse literally reads:

he is known of him‘ (JND Translation)

This could mean as CK Barrett notes that it is not that:

‘God has been known by him’

But rather

‘God is known by this man. ‘ (CK Barrett p190; Blacks NT Commentary)

In other words:

‘The man who loves God, that man knows God. ‘

Not simply that knowledge makes us love God; that loving God is a consequence of knowing God; which is true enough, but something altogether more profound than that.

Verse 3 starts with’ love’ and not with knowledge

It is not the thought that the knowledge of God makes us love God but rather that the love for God allows us to know Him.

Loving God is a condition for knowing Him, for making any spiritual progress.

This is no new truth!

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luk 9:23-24)

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat 10:37-39)

That is that the knowledge of God flows from the love of God

True knowledge has its origin in love!

Truth is a product of love!

We understand this truth well, maybe so well we are apt to forget it; that was it not for the love of God there would be no knowledge of God!

John3:16 – It is because God So loved this world that the act of revelation and thus redemption came.

Had God not loved we would know nothing of Him.

His love motivated the giving of His Son

By this giving comes salvation (John 3:16) and the revelation of God

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.’ (John 1:18)

Illust: At the head of the Afton, there is a great reservoir, from which we all benefit for cooking and drinking and cleaning, but that reservoir is a long way from your kitchen sink, so that watery resource flows through conduits, pipes right to your home.

The knowledge of God, that great reservoir flows likewise through pipes, pipes of Divine Love.

Gods love is Gods means of bringing His knowledge to us.

Of course by implication, any revelation which claims to be of God or from God would need to be consistent with this truth.

If what is claimed as being the teaching of Gods Word is:

  • Harsh
  • Cold
  • Cruel
  • Divisive

Or if that revelation of truth cuts us in half like an icy blast from the North Pole, we can be pretty sure that it does not arise from the warm currents of the love of God.

It is immediately spurious, as was the claimed revelation here in 1 Corinthians chapter 8.

Of course 1 Co 8:3 doesn’t quite say that, what 1 Corinthians 8:3 says is; ‘if any man loves God, that man knows God,’ in other words, a revelation of the knowledge of God, given in love can only be received in love.

In other words to know God, I must first love God.


God will only reveal Himself to those who love Him

  1. God refuses to reveal Himself to anyone who does not love Him!

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

  1. Anyone who does not love Him cannot receive the revelation of Him:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to himIf a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (Joh 14:21-23)

For God to reveal Himself to a Soul who does not love Him would merely increase their hatred for Him and increase their condemnation, such a revelation would simply be a revelation of Gods Judgment!

  • Consider the revelation of Christ in the Gospels; the more the High Priest knows of Christ The more he hates Christ.
  • Consider the reaction of the Sanhedrin to Stephen testimony (Acts 7:54ff; 7:57ff).
  • Consider Pharaoh in Romans chp 9
  • Consider Nebachudnezzar in Daniel 3:14ff

The solution to the problem of 1 Corinthians chp 8 comes from an unexpected source – CONSCIENCE!

Is conscience not subjective?

Is conscience not inferior to absolute truth?

Is conscience not the consequence of the fall?

Is conscience not the moral immune system – sensitive to the presence of foreign spiritual material?

What do we do when conscience says no but personal knowledge says yes?

When conscience tells us, “God would not approve”, but knowledge says’ “it’s ok!”?

Do we move towards knowledge even when it causes offense to conscience, to a sense that God would not be pleased?

Where do we go?

What is the priority?

  • Our liberty?
  • Our sense of pleasing God?

That pursuit of knowledge even in the face of the sense that this is not what God would be please with, for me (v7) or for others (v11), deifies and idolises what I know:

‘I know that I know”

A knowledge that quashes conscience and brings violence to our trust in and pleasing of God is a knowledge that hinders and that does not help.

Irrespective as to wither conscience is right or wrong in its deduction, what is absolutely true is the reality that I am faced with a choice; to do that which I ‘feel’ is wrong but ‘think’ is ok.

To go where I sense that God will be displeased but where perhaps I personally wish to go!

When faced with the choice which way do I go?

The direction tells me everything I need to know about the true desires and priority of my heart.

Living without Anxiety 3 Golden Rules

Just added to our studies in 1 Corinthians; a new message preached by J Stewart Gillespie:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 25 to 40 – Living without Anxiety 3 Golden Rules – JS Gillespie – 13012015

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 25 to 31 – When Time is Short

Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians, a new message preached by J Stewart Gillespie:


1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 25 to 31 – When Time is Short – J Stewart Gillespie – 30122014

Service in Any Circumstances – 1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 17 to 24

Just added: a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 7:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 17 to 24 – Service in any Circumstances – JS Gillespie


Notes are available from this message:


We leave the section on marriage (7:1-15)
To return eventually to a section on engagement (7:25ff)
Between the 2 we have this section here (7:16-24) which seems on the surface to speak about quite unrelated subjects:

Circumcision (7:18-19)
Slavery (7:20-24)

Maybe this would indicate a bit of an aside?
Maybe this is a bit of a tangent?
More to it than that?
There is in 7:16-24 a principle already worked out and made explicit through the ministry Paul has given on marriage, this is then extended to other areas of the Christian life.
There has been evident a consistent way of dealing with the marriage related issues:

Unmarried – stay as you are (v8-9) with a “but if…” (v9)
Married – stay as you are (v10) with a “but if…” (v11)
Mixed marriage – stay as you are (v12-13) with a “but if…” (v15)

So stay as you are has been the ministry
Going to see this principle applied to:

1. Marital Status – Relationships – Marriage (7:8-17)
2. Circumcision – Religious / Social rights (7:18-19)
3. Service – Economic circumstances – Occupation (7:21-23)

There are many attitudes which are profoundly destructive in the service of God; few are more destructive than the attitude of heart which sees:

No opportunity in the circumstances into which God has placed us
No opening through the door which God has opened
No gifts in the abilities God has bestowed upon us

There is an outlook which perceives our:

Social circumstances as a mere hindrance
Personal circumstance as a burden
Our occupation as a distraction
Our marriage as a problem

The only positive you can get from some believers is that if only they were:

somewhere else
with someone else
with some other gift

Then every thing would be so much better
Or maybe like Elijah in the wilderness we get it into our head that the only prospect of a positive career move in the Christian life is promotion to glory by means of death. In so doing of course we:

neglect every gift God gives
ignore every open door
miss every opportunity

The reply of the apostle to that mindset is interesting:

‘who do you think God is?’

What is your view of God?

Is God someone who gives you a wee helping hand with that heavy load you carry, that heavy burden that hinders your higher service? Or do we perceive that Gods highest service is to take His yolk upon you and bear that load He has given with Himself? It is His load! It is His service! It is His burden!

Is it God to whom we pray asking for pleasant / congenial / improved circumstances? Is God the God who ‘distributes to every man’ and who ‘called every one’ in those very circumstance?

Is it to God I appeal to bring me into more pleasant paths? Or do I recognise this path as the path He has set me on with the instruction; “so let him walk” (7:17)? “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psa 40:2).

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Pro 4:25-27)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Pro 3:5-6)

In 1 Corinthians7:17 it is God who:

1. Distributes the gifts we have – The Provision
2. Calls us in the circumstances we are in – The Purpose
3. Sets the path upon which we walk – The Path

Don’t have a narrow view of God!
He is:

1. The Giver of Gifts
2. The Caller in all Circumstances
3. The Setter of Paths

Our disappointments are Gods appointments.

1. The Provision

‘as God hath distributed to every man…’ (v17)
God gifts the abilities
We have already had an indication that the circumstances and abilities of the Christian life exist by Divine appointment: “every man hath his proper gift of God” (7:7); the gift of maintaining a single life or of living a married life.
‘distributed’: ‘merizo’:3307
Just as the Lord ‘divided’ the fishes amongst the 5000 (Mk6:41) and each received something, so too us.
We have all that we need for His service.
“every man” – each has his gift – a theme picked up in 1 Co12:7,11.
On the path for a few months – what is your gift?
How long have you been using that gift?

2. The Purpose

‘as the Lord hath called every one…’ (v17)
God calls to the opportunities
God deliberately calls us in the circumstances of life in which we are found, rather than in spite of those circumstances

3. The Path
The path before us, with all of its problems is the one God has set us to walk for Him.

David – Status against him

Some can only see the giant looming before the shepherd boy, to conclude:

“Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1Sa 17:33)

they can perceive the absence of:


others see it as DESIGN (1 Sam 17) as the circumstances ordained to demonstrate that:

“This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
(1Sa 17:46)

Joseph – Slavery and Service against him

There is an outlook on the Christian life which sees a man:

Betrayed by your family
Sold into slavery
Taken into Egypt
Thrown into prison
Joseph you are a slave – Joseph are not even a person; you are a possession; you are only worth what someone is willing to pay for you!
Potiphar bought you, he can choice to do as he pleases with you.
You are a nobody

And asks; ‘Joseph how can you possibly serve God in those circumstances?’
You you have the view that service for God is spiritual activity in congenial circumstances you’ll miss Joseph!
Your ministry to Joseph will be; Joseph the first thing you must do is get out of that slavery, get out of Egypt, get out of Potiphars household, get out of prison and get back home; then you can serve God.
If only you were:

Somewhere else
with someone else
doing something else
then you could really be somebody for God Joseph!

You would have missed it – the plan and purpose of God in raising up Joseph through the path of:


to “Zaphnathpaaneah”

Moses: Circumcision against him

There is an outlook which is only able to perceive:

The persecution of Pharaoh
The slaughter of the children
Vulnerability of the boy born in a Jewish household
The slavery of a nation
The edict of Pharoah

Yet here is a unique, carefully ordained set of adverse circumstances in which Gods power will be shown:

“And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exo 3:17)

“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:” (Exo 6:6)

“And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.” (Exo 6:8)

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exo 9:16)

These adverse circumstance deliberately ordained for the Glory of His name.
Even the circumcision of Moses; a Hebrew boy who had to be hidden, and who thus in his hiding was smuggled in to overthrow Pharaohs household.

Don’t tell me that you are not:

Young enough
Fit enough
Old enough
Mature enough
Smart enough
Free enough
Happy enough
Rich enough
Gifted enough
Able enough

to serve God
God doesn’t buy it!
Because what you are really saying is that God isn’t great enough to use someone who isn’t:

Young enough
Fit enough
Old enough
Mature enough
Smart enough
Free enough
Happy enough
Rich enough
Gifted enough
Able enough

That makes you a Christian Atheist!
There are in the purposes of God no circumstances adverse to Gods servants, only servants who are adverse to Gods circumstances.

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 12 to 16 – Difficult Questions and Divided Homes

Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 12 to 16 – Difficult Questions and Divided Homes – JS Gillespie – 16122014


Notes from this Message:

Questions from last week:

1. Betrothal

The Betrothal theory of Matthew chapter 19 has many notable strengths
It has been adopted over the years by a number of very able students of the Word of God: John Heading in his commentary on Matthews Gospel, and Jack Hunter
It answers or rises above the 9 objections we gave last week to the exception clause theory of Matthew 19:9
It has the added strength of having some background in Matthews Gospel in the events of Mary and Joseph, wishing to put Mary away privately due to her conception during the Betrothal period.

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Mat 1:19)
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,” (Mat 1:24)

The theory has to my mind 2 weaknesses however:
The context of Matthew chp 19 is that of marriage, it is a question and answer session over marriage, therefore to answer the Pharisee questions about marriage with an answer about Betrothal seems to be a bit off subject. In response to this it is generally asserted with great confidence that Jewish Betrothal went way beyond our Western ideas of engagement and that a betrothed couple had the leak rights of a married couple.

This takes us to the second problem as to the exact character of Betrothal. Despite the confidence of the advocates of this idea that betrothal was so close to marriage that the terms could be used interchangeably, there is really a paucity of biblical evidence for this. We do know that in Deuteronomy 22 When it came to rape that the rights of a betrothed woman were the same as the rights of a married woman rather than being the same as the rights of a single woman. The AV versions also refers to Mary as Joseph’s wife in Matthew chapter 1; although the fact that the Greek words for Man and husband, woman and wife are the same can lead us to overly read into the terminology here. Luke will refer to Mary as Joseph’s espoused wife. We also know that Joseph sought to put Mary away privately during the betrothal period, something, which so far as I can see would have been impossible under marriage.
In the AV Joseph and Mary are referred to as husband and wife during the betrothal period. This seems on the surface fairly strong evidence for marriage and betrothal being synonymous, however consider:
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Mat 1:20)
ie Mary is not yet his wife!
However in Luke we have a distinction:
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (Luk 2:5)

Considering the history which we have from the OT scriptures on pre marital practices we really are left somewhat in the dark regarding the precise nature of betrothal in a biblical context:
Abraham and Sarah – we know very little
Isaac and Rebecca seem to have nothing in the way of betrothal per se, marriage being arranged by a 3rd party followed by what seems like a more or less immediate marriage
Jacob and Rachel and Leah – any betrothal here seems to have been pretty perfunctory in so far as Laban felt free to substitute Leah for Rachel.
David obtained Michal as a reward for services rendered and Abigail as a consequence of the death of her husband and Bathsheba by a circuitous route
So little authoritative biblical help here.
Our knowledge of what betrothal meant to the Jews therefore appears to rely on extra biblical sources and I personally would hesitate to be dogmatic about that.
Encylopaedia Judiaca: “Shiddukhin as such has no immediate effect on the personal status of the parties – it being only a promise to create a different personal status in the future (Resp. Rosh 34:1; Beit Yosef EH 55). Nor does the promise give either party the right to claim specific performance from the other – since a marriage celebrated in pursuance of a judgment requiring the defendant to marry the plaintiff is repugnant to the basic principle that a marriage requires the free will and consent of both the parties thereto.”
Alfred Edersheim: “ From that moment Mary was the betrothed wife of Joseph; their relationship as sacred, as if they had already been wedded. Any breach ot it would be treated as adultery; nor could the band be dissolved except, as after marriage, by regular divorce.” (p106)


2. Marital Violence
Having considered what you have said about the absence of any exception clauses in Matthew chapter 19 and 1 Corinthians chapter 7, what about the case of marital violence. Is a woman (or man) expected then to stay in an abusive relationship? The simple answer here is of course no. The important issue though is surely, is there any indication in scripture that the Lord does not expect us to stay in those kind of relationships?

If I could highlight however 1 Co 7:10-11 which whilst instructing us not to leave our spouse, Paul then in an uncharacteristic fashion proceeds to tell us what to do if we do leave our spouse; “but and if she depart” (7:11), in other words 1 Corinthians chp 7 combines the biblical and creatorial ideal of marriage; that it is not to be broken with a down to earth realism and appreciation of the true nature of fallen man – that it will not always be possible to stay in a relationship and for a variety of reasons unspecified in the text we may be forced to leave.
Our commitment is to marriage and to the Lord, not to being perpetually abused.
Importantly however, just as the laws of men cannot break the marriage bond neither can the lawlessness of men, we have the liberty to leave but no liberty to try again for someone a bit better than the last one (7:11).


3. Is the believer under Deuteronomy 22?
In Matthew 19:9 you interpret it in the light of Deuteronomy chapter 22 and see that under OT law marriage was effectively annulled by pre marital fornication. Does that mean that you are saying that believers are now under the law of Deuteronomy chp 22?
There are 2 ways you could take this:
a) Either as a NT endorsement of an OT text presenting it’s abiding relevance to all believers at all times, in the same sense as we have the re-echoe of the 10 commandments in 1 Co 6:9-10., not so much as a legal exception clause but as the abiding standard expected by God of those entering into marriage.
We can certainly be assured that as with the law Gods standards have not changed.
(b) It becomes clear however from subsequent texts (Rom 6:14; Gal 2:21; 5:4) that the believer is no longer under law and so whilst the Lord highlights to the Pharisee the only legitimate basis for the annulment of a marriage in the OT we cannot claim this today as a legal right; as a Divine standard, certainly but not as a legal right, because under Grace we no longer have legal rights. I would judge then that whilst Deuteronomy chp 22 continues to reflect the Divine standard of Righteousness, as with all law the NT believer is not under it and would not claim it as a legal right. I would judge that this lies at the root of its omission from Mark and Luke.



4. What about divorced and remarried people?
We have spent a considerable amount of time looking at why marriage is indissoluble and at the absence of any credible exception clauses, so what about when divorce and remarriage is a fait a compli? What is the status of people who have previously been divorced and remarried? Can they be accepted into fellowship or as some have indicated is divorce and remarriage effectively the unforgiveable sin?
Pragmatically I do believe that whilst divorce and remarriage is wrong it is no less the recipient of Divine Grace and restoration than any other sin. I believe that there is very good evidence in the NT that amongst Gods people there were those who had been divorced and remarried:
i. John 4 – The Samaritan woman at the well became the first missionary to the Samaritan, and yet married 5 times! Is it feasible that she would have been excluded from the church which which resulted from her evangelism?
ii. 1 Timothy chp 3 – the elder was to be the husband of 1 wife
iii. In 1 Corinthians chp 7 almost all possible permutations of marriage which the Corinthians would have encountered, are addressed by the apostle Paul, except one; that of those who were previously divorced and remarried! Were such conditions acceptable to the Corinthians; undoubtedly they were (1 Co 5:1ff). A believer coming then to 1 Co 7 who had previously been divorced and remarried would have only 1 section applicable to them (1 Co7:17-24).


3 scenarios presented in this section:
1. Unmarried (v8-9)
2. Married (v10-11)
3. Mixed Married (v12-16)
v12 – There is nothing said in Matthew / Mark / Luke or John about this scenario; “but to the rest speak I, not the Lord.”
Some were obviously entertaining the idea that if they were married to an unbeliever they ought to put that unbeliever away (v12) or leave him (v13).
Why would they have though like this?
For a commendable reason: v14 – Sanctification and holiness
Paul has already taught the defiling nature of relationships with prostitutes in 1Co 6:15-17 and will give teaching on unequal yolk in 2 Co 6:14ff.
Consider through the Word of God the damage done and dangers encountered with an unbelieving spouse:
Solomon and pagan wives
David and Michal – discouraged him
Job and his wife; ‘curse God and die.’
Moses and Zipporah (Ex 4)
Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1:3ff) – a heart break if thre ever was one
Samson and the Philistine woman and Delilah


What is interesting is the argument which Paul will use to to assure them that it is alright to stay together (v14)
If we are saying that union with an unbelieving partner is defiling then to be consistent we would need to affirm that the fruit of that union is also defiled, that is the child and if we are compelled to put away our spouse we would also be compelled to put away our child, to be consistent; since that is unthinkable, then it must be legitimate to maintain both our relationship with our child and with our spouse.


V15 – The 3rd NT text sited as evidence for freedom to remarry after divorce
‘let him depart’ – permission to depart
‘bondage’ : 1402: ‘douloo’ : to make a slave or servant – never used of the marriage bond
Does this imply the right to remarry?
Problems with seeing a Pauline Privilege in 7:15:
1. Contradiction with 1 Co 7:10-11: “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.”
2. Contradiction with 1 Co 7:39; “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.” (1Co 7:39)
3. The problem of missing scenarios. What about an unbeliever putting away his wife? Why is this not spoken of in verse 15? Technically remarriage would seem only explicitly permitted where the unbeliever leaves? If it is desertion which justifies the remarriage then why is it only desertion by an unbeliever? Why should a believer abandoned by an unbeliever be able to remarry and yet a believer abandoned by a professing believer is not (7:10-11)? What about a woman ‘forced to leave.’ She is not technically abandoned, she has left and yet it may be under threat of violence or her life. If anyone deserves to marry it is surely her. Yet this scenario is not dealt with!
4. The problem of legality again. We fall into the same problems as before with exception clauses. Where we have exception clauses we have exceptions to what? Exceptions are to rules and regulations; this is the language of legality or legalism! We often link legalism with a strict and austere form of Christianity; one with many do nots and thou shalt nots. That can certainly be true. Remember however that the masters of legality themselves; the Pharisees, often used it as a tool for liberalism and immorality where it suited them (cf. Matt 19:3; Mark 7:11); not to impose regulations but to find ways around them!
So who left who? Not as straightforward as you might think! Bear in mind that property and often the children belonged to the husband in Roman law! The husband could ‘leave’ with everything and thus put the woman out – so she physically left the home! Who left who?
When Samson left his Philistine wife; who in reality left who? Samson got up and left certainly and yet was that not as a consequence of his wife in heart leaving him first? Did she not betray his trust and her loyalty to his enemies the Philistines? I’m sure a good lawyer would have a field day with that one. That is sadly what we become when we start to acknowledge exception clauses; lawyers!
You may well say that is just splitting hairs, actually its defining rules and laws and exceptions; for if we have exception clauses that is where we are – under laws and rules!
What about a man / woman leaving the unbeliever?

5. ‘bondage’ : ‘douloo’ : 1402 : to be a slave; this is never used of the mariage bond. It is used of:

Slavery in Egypt (Acts 7:6)
Slavery to Righteousness (Rom 6:18)
Slavery to God (Rom 6:22)
Slavery to man (1 Co 9:19)
Slavery to the world (Gal 4:3)
Slavery to alcohol (Titus 2:3)
Slavery to corruption (2 Peter 2:19)

V15 does not set out to give permission to remarry at all and in fact there is no mention of remarriage, v15 gives permission to the believer to; ‘let them depart’ (v15); permission to acquiesce to the demands of an unbelieving partner who wishes to leave; this is different from permission to divorce and remarry.
Verse 15 is not permission to remarry, it is permission to let them go.
Permission to let them go is only relevant if they are going and thus this is the only scenario dealt with.
Verse 15 is written to diffuse an intolerable tension between a believer trying their very best to be obedient to the ministry of 1 Co7:10; 20-24 and an unbelieving partner who is pulling in the opposite direction.

Christ and Divorce – 1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 10 to 11 and Matthew chapter 19

Just added to our series of messages from 1 Corinthians; a new message preached by J Stewart Gillespie:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 10 to 11 and Matthew chp 19 – Christ on Divorce – JS Gillespie


Notes from this message:


We notice that as we approach Matthew chapter 19, Matthew introduces the ministry of the Lord on marriage and divorce by connecting it back to:

and it came to pass that when Jesus had finished these sayings” (19:1)

The teachings of Christ on divorce and remarriage are linked back to the preceding ministry in chapter 18 on:

  • forgiveness (18:21ff)
  • reconciliation (18:15ff)
  • restoration (18:10ff)


The Pharisees come to Christ with a question (19:3): ‘regarding marriage, how do you break it?’

A word of caution here; if you take a conservative view of marriage, you may be accused of being:

  • Hard hearted
  • Unspiritual
  • Resisting the Grace of God
  • Standing in the way of the gospel


Notice however from Matthew chapter 19 that it is not those who appreciate the unique and unbreakable nature of marriage who are hard hearted and unspiritual, but rather the Pharisees who approach the issue of marriage with the attitude of what are the rules for getting out of marriage?

Here is marriage, how do we break it?

The Pharisees completely miss the point!

At the root of many complex problems often lies a fundamental error and here in Matthew chp 19, is no exception.

The Pharisees are experts in law.

The Pharisees know little in theory of Gods Grace and even less in practice.

What is the fundamental error of the Pharisees?

The fundamental error of the Pharisees is to attempt to subject Gods Gracious provision for Adam and mankind to law; “is it lawful for a man..?” (19:3)

That constitutes 3 errors:

  1. God is not subject to law
  2. Grace is not subject to law
  3. Law does not have as its purpose the modification or limitation or adjustment of the work of God but rather the detection of sin and restriction of the effects of sin in men.


If after your studies in marriage you end up with a set of; conditions, clauses, rules and regulations, by which marriage might be broken, who have made the same error.

  1. God is not subject to law

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God...” (Rom 3:19)

  1. Grace is not subject to law

Gods Grace cannot be subject to law:

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom 6:14)

Gods Grace surpasses law:

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” (Rom 5:20)

This distinction, lies at the heart of the progress form the Old to New Testaments, not surprisingly the Pharisees missed it.

Marriage was Gods gracious provision for Adam:

And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” (Gen 2:22)


  1. Law does not have as its purpose the modification or limitation or adjustment of the work of God but rather the detection of sin and restriction of the effects of sin in men.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:19-20)


Christs response 19:4ff.

The Lord will not only answer their question but will give them the reason for His answer (19:4-6):


  1. Origin – of God: “He which made them…” (v4)
  2. Ordinance – in Creation: “made them at the beginning...” (v4)
  3. Oneness – of the bond: “shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh…no more twain but one flesh…” (v5,v6)

So then:

  1. Origin – of God: “He which made them…” (v4)

Marriage is no:

  • social convention
  • legal contract
  • human convenience

Marriage is a Divine ordinance

We can no more pass laws or issue a decree nisi dissolving marriage than we can pass laws banning the rain from falling in New Cumnock in December.


  1. Ordinance – in Creation: “made them at the beginning…” (v4)

Lets not miss the basic truth here; if God ordered His creation as male and female and ordered human relationships in this fashion, and if God delights in what He does then He cannot possibly desire nor delight in the destruction of what He has ordered.

God is in fact the destroyer of that which destroys His creatorial order:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” (Heb 2:14)

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21:27)

In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22:2)


  1. Oneness – of the bond: “shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh…no more twain but one flesh…” (v5,v6)

Cleaving‘ and the ‘one flesh.’

It is difficult to imagine stronger language to describe a human bond, than that of ‘Cleaving‘ or ‘one flesh‘. In other words, divorce finds it parallel not in the separation or parting of once good friends but in amputation or excision of a part of our own being.

Eve how can you divorce Adam?

Simply hand him back his rib, intercostal muscle, subcostal nerve, artery and vein and costochondral cartilage.


cleave” in Genesis 2:24 is the Hebrew word ‘dawbak’ – it is a word used later in the scriptures of:

  • The human soul hanging onto God permanently, perpetually, and persistently throughout the whole of life (Deut 10:20; 11:12; 13:4; 30:20; Joshua 22:5; 23:8)
  • That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deu 30:20)
  • But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Jos 22:5)
  • Of the example of Ruth: “And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.(Ruth 1:14)
  • Of the grip that leprosy will have on Gehazi; “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” (2Ki 5:27) – that is one sticky bond, the bond of Mycobacterium Leprae spreading through the flesh! Fancy trying to divorce it with a court order?
  • My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.” (Job 19:20)
  • Job speaking of the scales of Leviathian – a not so prehistoric monster, “They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.” (Job 41:17)


Don’t worry Gehazi – all you need to do to get rid of that leprosy is issue a court order!



The Pharisees have a good answer however (19:7)

Surely if Moses “commanded” divorce they have a strong case for continuing what God comanded in His Word.

Well they would have, had God or Moses “commanded” it!

Actually Deuteronomy 24 does not “command” divorce at all.

Deuteronomy 24 places certain obligations and restrictions upon those who do divorce.

To legislate on something is not the same as commanding that act.

Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is in fact a complex ‘if’ ‘then’ clause, with some very interesting implications in fact.

The clause is well brought out in the ESV:

When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.” (Deu 24:1-4)


Keil and Delitzsch (p950):

In these verses, however, divorce is not established as a right; all that is done is, that in case of a divorce, a reunion with the divorced wife is forbidden, if in the meantime she had married another man, even though the second husband had also put her away, or had died. The four verses form a period, in which v1-3 are the clauses of the protasis, which describe the matter treated about; and v4 contains the apodosis, with the law concerning the point in question. If a man married a wife, and he put her away with a letter of divorce, because she did not please him any longer, and the divorced woman married another man, and he either put her away in the same manner or died, the first husband could not taker her as his wife again.”


I would have to confess that the most natural way to read the English text of Matthew chapter 19:9, in isolation from the rest of the NT, would be to read it as providing for the one, or one of the few provisions for divorce and remarriage in the New Testament.


There are however 8 major problems with accepting an exception clause in Matthew chapter 19:


Problem 1:

  1. As hinted at by RT France it introduces a tremendous ‘tension’ in the text of Matthew chapter 19; which is surely a euphemism for ‘obvious contradiction’ in the teachings of Christ in Matthew 19, between the absolute ideal of God, established in creation, to which Christ refers back to in 19:4-6; and an acceptance of divorce and Remarriage by verse 9! A tension between the:
  • Divine Presidence over marriage (19:4); “He which made them” – marriage is not a social construct; ie it is not simply how we order our society out of convenience or to provide stability for families and for societies, nor is it primarily a legal contract it is a Divine ordinance. There are many implications which flow from this but the most pertinent and pressing one to note here in Matthew 19 and later in 1 Corinthians chp 7 is that I cannot come with man made laws and loop holes and trump what is a Divine ordinance. To paraphrase the message of 19:7-9; you can wave about any bit of paper that you like but that bit of paper does not dissolve a marriage. God is not subject to our bits of paper. Bits of paper have no more power to divorce husband from wife, than they have power to divorce rain from New Cumnock in September. Divine ordinances are NOT subject to human decrees. Divine creation is not subject to human courts.

This elevates marriage above the status of a merely human convenience or legal convention or social construction. This is Divine constitution in origin and creatorial in its establishment. Men passing laws over what the God of heaven has done is like spitting in the wind, or passing laws over the weather or standing like King Canute commanding the tides to go back; ‘Henry of Huntingdon tells the story as one of three examples of Canute’s “graceful and magnificent” behaviour In Huntingdon’s account, Canute set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the incoming tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes.

Yet “continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying: ‘Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.’ He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again “to the honour of God the almighty King”. It would seem however, that despite Christ carefully establishing marriage as this Divine bastion, impenetrable to all human authority, and, governed by eternal laws, that on further prompting by the Pharisees He then back tracks with an exception clause or two. Put very simply God made them “male and female” to bring them together and not to pull them apart

Put simply we don’t read through all of that and then expect to find an exception clause at the end! Having read through all of that, the last thing I expect to find, is the Lord saying; ‘and here is how you can get divorced.’

It dilutes Christs point concerning the CONCESSION of Moses in verses 7,8. Having explained that Moses teaching on divorce was a concession to hard hearted sinners rather than a Divine commandment to divorce, Christ seems then to make the same concession, according to some. In which case perhaps we really haven’t moved on much beyond the law. Having removed Moses exception clause Christ simply introduces His own exception clauses.


Problem 2:


More importantly this provision for ‘hard hearts’ (19:8); also seems, at least in part to transfer to Christs disciples, as a provision for our hard hearts too! What is the problem with that?


  • And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:” (Eze 11:19)
  • Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Eze 18:31)
  • A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Eze 36:26)
  • Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Joh 3:3)
  • Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Co 5:17)


If Christ has to make provision for hard hearts, redeemed and regenerate by Grace, I’m not sure that this Gospel is much worth preaching at all! This regeneration being offered by Christ, is a regeneration with a view to failure. If Christ has no confidence in His Gospel, how can I?


Problem 3:

  1. If the text under discussion is that of Deuteronomy chapter 24 (19:7) and Christ makes the interpretation ‘stricter’ as some would have it, to allow divorce and remarriage only for adultery, then either
  • Christ misinterprets the law; for Deuteronomy 24 does not prescribe nor permit divorce for adultery, the law commanded death for adultery! This is a point often made, of which admittedly more could be said.


  • we have here in Matthew chp 19 a unique scenario in the whole of the New Testament in which Christ changes the law and then places the believer under that altered law. We have the law modified that the believer may be subjected to it! This is a point often forgotten / ignored or missed by proponents of an exception clause or clauses. This may seem a strange, almost obscure point to make, but it is in fact critically important. The attitude of Christ to the law in Matthews Gospel, is to intensify the appreciation of the righteous demands of the law (Matthew chp 5); the righteousness of the law stands, undiluted from Moses; “For truly I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:18); with the true righteousness behind it amplified (Matt 5:21ff; 27ff; 31ff; 33ff). The position of the apostle Paul is to free us from the delusion that by achieving that standard we will earn salvation. Nowhere, but nowhere does Christ or the apostles dilute the righteousness of the law, nor alter it that they might then place the believer under it! Because of this, a belief in an exception clause or clauses leads inevitably to something: arguments abouts laws, rules and loopholes – legalism.


Problem 4:

  1. It fails to explain the significance of the interchange of terminology in 19:9, between the 2 words “fornication” and “adultery. ” Under Jewish law a married woman who had a relationship out with her marriage was guilty of adultery. Why use the more general word “fornication” then if adultery is in fact meant?


Problem 5:

If this is an exception clause, and as such the only clear exception clause in the gospels why is it omitted by Mark (Mk 10:1-12) and Luke (16:18). It is not that a truth needs to be repeated 3 or 4 times in the Word of God to make it true. Mark is clearly dealing with the same incident (Mk 10:1ff) and yet he omits the ‘exception clause’! Why omit something so important? Bear in mind too that it would be another 20 to 30 years at least before the NT would be complete, this would mean, that whilst early Jewish converts to Christ, with their Hebrew Gospel of Matthew had an exception clause, that gentile converts converted under the preaching of Paul, Barbara and Mark didn’t!



Problem 6:

The introduction of an exception clause to an ideal and original view of marriage is as fatal a flaw as the Pharisitical interpretation of Deuteronomy 24. If this is an exception to the high standards and authoritative teaching of Christ on divorce, then watch what happens when it comes in to effect. A couple separate, perhaps over something which cold have been resolved, personality issues, family stresses, arguments and finance etc. No one is guilty of any adultery and thus according to the teaching of Christ neither can get remarried. Let us suppose that one of those partners wishes to get remarried. He is aware that the word of God prohibits it. So what does he do? Wait! All he needs to do is wait. In having encountered many of these difficult and trying circumstances over the years, I can think only of 1 marital break down where one or other of the partners have not ultimately found someone else. In other words all of the high standards, all of the radical interpretation of the OT text, all of the moral high ground which seems to be taken by Christ, degenerates into this: ‘divorce and Remarriage is ok so long as you don’ t do it first! ‘ Or to put it another way you are permitted to break the 7th commandment so long as someone has done it before you! That is an utterly astounding teaching! That is practically no different whatsoever from Moses teaching in Deuteronomy chapter 24.


Problem 7:


If Matthew chapter 19:9 is an exception clause permitting remarriage after divorce for adultery; it explicitly only gives permission for a man so to do. Invariably this is ignored and glossed over in any commentary which interprets this text as an exception clause to divorce and remarriage after adultery; that the supposed permission to remarry in the event of adultery is explicitly given only to the husband! Invariably those who infer an exception clause here are then forced to add to the verse an exception clause likewise for a woman whose husband commits adultery. Such an exception is not given.


Problem 8:


What happens to the woman put away for adultery? Since it would appear by this interpretation of Matthew 19 the only occasion in which a man might put away his wife is for adultery then the woman who is put away at the end of the verse must be the woman put away for adultery. She is not permitted to remarry; but why? In so doing she is party to adultery! In other words she is still married to her first husband! The Lord has given the husband permission to remarry! Has the Lord then given the husband permission for polygamy?


Problem 9:


  • If this is an exception clause permitting divorce and remarriage after or because of adultery; then this exception clause effectively permits divorce and remarriage for everyone at any time. It completely and immediately deregulates all marriage. Do you believe in the inspiration of Matthews Gospel? Do you believe that Christs commentary on the law of Moses, in the sermon on the mount was inspired? Do you believe that His insight into Gods view of sin, which goes beyond the merely external and legal is true, real and accurate? cf. Matt 5:20; 21-22; now consider Matt 5:27-28. If divorce and remarriage are permissible for adultery. We need to remember how Christ actually defined adultery and leave behind narrow legal definitions of adultery! Did you know that under Jewish law at the time, that a married man only was guilty of adultery if the woman he was having an affair with was also married? If divorce and remarriage is permissible for adultery there is not a marriage which cannot be dissolved on those grounds!




This is an EXCEPTIONAL mess!


There are at least 4 ways of reconciling this text with a consistent view of marriage and its indissolubility:


  1. Marriage within prohibited degrees: eg 1 Corinthians chp 5:1-2; the case of Herod and Herodias – FF Bruce
  2. The setting is that of betrothal – John Heading
  3. That the exception applies only to the first condition and not the second

Not surprisingly then the earliest expositions of Matthew 19:9 understood this verse in quite a different way; this seems in part to be due to the very unusual if not unique grammatical structure of the verse. The almost universal opinion of early Christian writers; including around 25 so called church fathers; was that verse 9 was to be understood in the light of Matthew chp5; Mark chp 10 and Luke chp 16. Those early writers understood the unusual construction of the Greek verse better than you or I could understand it.

DuPont (in Wenham and Heth p51) notes that verse 9 is a;

double conditional clause in which an elliptical phrase is placed immediately after the first condition, ‘to put away’. The elliptical phrase – ‘except for immorality’ – does not contain a verb, and one must be supplied from the context. The only verb which has already been stated for the reader to understand is the one immediately preceding the exception clause – ‘put away’ – the verb Matthew’s readers just passed over. Matthew 19:9 would then read:

‘If a man puts away his wife, if it is not for immorality that he puts her away, and marries another, he commits adultery.’

‘The exception clause is thus stating an exception to the first condition, ‘If a man puts away his wife.’

Also Grundy in Wenham and Heth p51:

‘the exceptive phrase applies only to divorce. In the word order of 19:9 the exceptive phrase immediately follows the mention of divorce but preceeds the mention of remarriage by the husband. Had Matthew been concerned to establish the right of the husband to remarry under the exception, he would hardly have omitted remarriage here in 5:32 and then put the exception only after the matter of divorce in 19:9. To be sure the Jews took the right of remarriage after divorce as a matter of course. But it is not for nothing that Matthew’s Jesus demands a surpassing sort of Righteousness’

‘Dupont admits that it might be possible for the exception to qualify the second clause, ‘and marries another.’ But he also says that it is not likely here because the precise question posed by the Pharisees is, ‘what reason justifies divorce?’ The Phrase ‘for any cause at all’ in Matthew 19:3 anticipates the answer ‘except for immorality’ in verse 9, and both are peculiar to Matthew’s Gospel. We should therefore have expected Jesus to reply to this issue eventually and in a manner consistent with His earlier remarks in 5:32. Thus 19:9 could be paraphrased on this interpretation, ‘No cause, save unchastity, justifies divorce, and even then remarriage is adultery.’ This makes Jesus give an explicit reply to the Pharisees that is consistent with His earlier remarks allowing no real divorce but only separation.

Is there anything in the text that would help us decide wither or not the exception applies to one or both conditions?

I would suggest that if Matt 19:9 is taken as an exception clause, the clause can apply ONLY to the first condition; ‘shall put away his wife’ and cannot logically apply to the second; ‘and shall marry another.’ Here is why:

  • If we take Matt 19:9 as permission to put away a wife for adultery and permission for the innocent party (husband) to remarry what do we take from this verse is to happen to the wife?
  • Does the wife put away for adultery have permission in this verse to remarry?
  • As the only person who is put away in this verse with Divine endorsement, surely the last sentence of verse 9 must apply to the guilty party put away?
  • So by the double exception the innocent party can remarry and the guilty can’t.
  • That seems straight forward and fair!
  • Just a minute why can’t the guilty party remarry? Because that would be “adultery” (19:9) – in other words the guilty party put away is still married to her original husband, who according to those who advocate the double exception and permission to divorce and remarry, has just married another wife and thus the Lord has just given permission for the innocent party to become a bigamist!


Whilst the above view is certainly feasible it is perhaps simpler and it perhaps succeeds in answering more questions if we see that:


  1. The exception here is for premarital fornication in the context of Deuteronomy chp 22.
  • The ‘exception’ mentioned here is not ‘adultery’ but rather ‘fornication’. This is interesting, for adultery is used here in Matt19:9; Matt 5:32; Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 for illicit relationships out with the marriage bond, whereas fornication has a broader meaning including sexual relationships when unmarried.
  • The Matthew 19 exception appears only in Matthew, which has a Jewish audience and in a discussion with the Pharisees
  • As well as the provision for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 there was a further provision for the dissolution of marriage in Deuteronomy chp 22.
  • This interpretation also explains why in Matt 19:9 the right to put away and possibly remarry is given only to the man, for the detection of fornication at the beginning of the marriage, is in the terms of Deuteronomy chp 22 only detectable in the woman.