A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 5:31-32
In reading this passage, it’s understandable to assume that Jesus’ primary focus is solely on adultery, divorce, and remarriage, but that assumption would be inaccurate. The bible’s teaching on these issues cannot be properly understood apart from its teaching on marriage, so it is essential that we interpret this passage with biblical marriage in mind.
I was born in 1955. In all my years of elementary, middle, and high school I could count on one hand how many kids I knew whose parents were divorced. The dissolution of marriage was rare in my world, but today that has dramatically changed. In most circles “the sanctity of marriage” (the quality or condition of being considered sacred – inviolable) no longer exists.
Today, the biblical view of marriage (and family) is under assault. Both are viewed as institutions that are oppressive to women, and the reason for many of society’s ills. Marriage is no longer important and remaining married even less so. Everything from co-habitation to same sex marriage is now normal, and this all works to assault the truth about why God created marriage and all that he intends for our marriages.
It is no wonder then, why Jesus in Matthew 5:31-32, addresses God’s view on marriage because similar to our culture the Jews of Jesus’ day, typified by the scribes and Pharisees, developed their own standards for marriage, divorce and remarriage, which they erroneously taught as God’s standards.
To fully grasp the content of Jesus’ teaching in this passage we will also look at Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and Matthew 19:1-8 to help us understand and interpret our passage. It’s in these three passages that we will see three things.
First, in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 we encounter Moses’s view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
[Read Deuteronomy 24:1-4]
The treatment of women in ancient Israel was abhorrent to the Lord. As God’s covenant people they knew God created marriage, and his standards for marriage. They knew the only way a marriage ended was by death, naturally or because of adultery. But over time the sanctity of marriage was lost, and now a husband could end the marriage and kick his wife out of the home for any reason.
Contrary to the false teachings of feminism God sees men and women equal in worth and value. He did not create a system designed to enslave or oppress women, but sin destroyed the roles, harmony, and peace that originally existed between a husband and his wife, and now conflict, unfaithfulness, and divorce were common. The sanctity of marriage established in Genesis 2 was lost.
Husbands threw their wives out on the street simply because they wanted someone else. Here in Deuteronomy 24 God has Moses institute this law to protect women, and to protect the sanctity of marriage because his covenant people had lost their way.
Even with this law God was not condoning or commanding divorce, but simply making a concession to protect the marriage institution and wives due to unrestrained sin. It made dissolving the marriage much harder, it provided a way for women to not be out on the street, and it kept in view God’s original intention for marriage – “until death do us part.”
Although this passage does not define what indecency is, it is not adultery because that required the death penalty. The certificate of divorce also prevented the husband from making up some worthless reason to end his marriage because to get a certificate of divorce he had to have witnesses attest to her indecency.
Second, in Matthew 19:1-8, we gain a fuller picture of the scribes and Pharisees’ view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
[Read Matthew 19:1-8]
Centuries later the Scribes and Pharisees interpreted and manipulated this law to meet their own desires just like they did in ancient Israel. They sinfully used this law to divorce their wives in order to appear righteous: “We gave a certificate of divorce as Moses ‘commanded’ (which he did not), and we know we could do this for ‘any cause’ which is not what Moses said.
They sinfully used the law to divorce their wives for any trivial reason. They thought they looked righteous because they were following the law, and in Matthew 19 they test Jesus to see if he would support how they interpreted the law.
Jesus makes it clear that they wrongly interpreted and missed the whole point of Deuteronomy 24. They had totally lost sight of God’s view on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Moses did not command divorce, and he did not allow it for any cause. It was the scribes and Pharisees doing violence to God’s word and doing violence to marriage! They wanted an easy way out of marriage, and they were willing to use God’s word sinfully to do it.
Finally, we come to Jesus’ view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage, which we see in both Matthew 19 and Matthew 5:31-32.
[Read Matthew 5:31-32]
Jesus addresses marriage, divorce and remarriage here in Matthew 5 by explaining the limitation of Deuteronomy 24 and going further back to Genesis 2. While the Scribes and Pharisees sought out “any” reason to divorce their wives, and where Moses said they could divorce for the issue of “indecency,” Jesus tells his listeners that God’s standard is so much higher, and there is only one reason for divorce: adultery.
Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 state clearly God’s intention for marriage. It is a relationship so special to God that it is what he uses to describe his relationship to his covenant people.
In God’s eyes the phrase “Until death do us part” is not just traditional words in a marriage vow, but a clear doctrinal truth on how he views marriage. It is a lifelong commitment that is only severed by death, and possibly because of adultery.
Sin has so distorted marriage, and sadly more than half of those who marry today divorce because they believe divorce is the easiest remedy to a difficult marriage. But by ending the marriage Jesus is saying that you are committing adultery if you remarry, and you are causing your spouse to commit adultery if they remarry.
Here’s another problem: You think your problem is your spouse without realizing that your sins are also the problem. And reality teaches that the marriage issues you had before will resurface because you’re still who you’ve always been.
Matthew 19 fills out these verses here in Matthew 5. This is what God intends for our marriages because they fulfill his purpose to display his glory and proclaim the gospel. Having a “good” and “happy” marriage is not our ultimate goal. Our marriages are to be so much more than that. They are to be a testimony, a declaration, a revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we read about in Ephesians 5:22-33. We are to imitate Christ in our marriages through things like sacrifice, cleansing, honoring, cherishing, and permanence.
How Jesus loves his church is how we are to love our spouse. It’s simply the gospel lived out. He willingly lived in our world, suffered and died for our sins that our relationship with God might be whole. This is our example for our marriages. Whatever problems exist in your marriage there is good news: Jesus died for our sins, forgiving us so we can forgive, particularly in our marriages.
When you married you got what was attractive and unattractive about your spouse. Conflict exists because of what is unattractive and we often try to change that in our spouse. Demanding change because we want them to be like us never works. We can often have in our minds an image of what our spouse should be like. In essence we want to recreate our spouse in “our” image (because we admire ourselves so much), rather than allowing God through the Holy Spirit to renew them into the image of Christ.
Consider if you are more aware of your spouse’s sins and shortcomings than you are the grace of God, you will not see them as God sees them, and in your heart your dissatisfaction will grow, and as those roots grow deep the seeds of bitterness, divorce, and even adultery will sprout. We all need God’s grace and the help of others in our marriages.
Don’t let your marriage suffer. Ask for help if you are struggling. It will take hard work to undo sinful patterns, but you live in a community of like-minded people who want to see your marriage flourish, and they are here for you.
The reality of living in a fallen world is that marriage is hard because we are all sinners, but our sin is not the last word! Christ’s transforming grace is!
Song of Response
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