Just added, a new message preached by Dr J Stewart Gillespie from John chapter 8:
Just added, a new message preached by Dr J Stewart Gillespie from John chapter 8:
Just added to our series of messages from 1 Corinthians; a new message preached by J Stewart 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:
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:
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:
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.
“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)
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)
“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):
Marriage is no:
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.
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)
‘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:
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:
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.
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?
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?
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!
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.
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.
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?
This is an EXCEPTIONAL mess!
There are at least 4 ways of reconciling this text with a consistent view of marriage and its indissolubility:
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:
Whilst the above view is certainly feasible it is perhaps simpler and it perhaps succeeds in answering more questions if we see that:
Download or listen online to mp3 recordings of messages preached from 1 Corinthians chapters 7 to 9