CTT | Christian Dating?

So, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. It’s been a while since we last tacked the subject of dating relationships, so I thought I’d revisit the topic. In covering this topic, there is going to be a lot of Law. We’ll get to the Gospel in this area, but in our society and even in our churches, there is a great deal of lawlessness in the area of romantic relationships.

Where does the Bible address dating?

Before I answer this question, let’s start off by clarifying what we mean by “dating”. In our modern context, “dating” in its cleanest form is what we call two unmarried individuals getting to know each other in hopes of determining whether or not they’d like to marry. I have no doubt that there are some who put this into practice with the best of intentions. In its dangerous form, “dating” is a short-cut to companionship and carnal knowledge between two unmarried individuals in hopes of gleaning all of the benefits of marriage without any of the commitment. Should this “relationship” last long enough as the most desirable, or the best each individual can hope to get, then it might progress into a marriage relationship. The common theme here is that it’s somewhat considered a process for selecting a spouse, but the difference between good dating and bad dating is the level of premarital intimacy. A major element in American culture is the hyper-individualism we embrace in every decision we make. We “date” for what we think will make us the most happy. We explain away dating mistakes, abuses, and heartbreak through the lens of “finding ourselves” or “doing what’s right for me”. Nowhere in Scripture is the marriage relationship described in such selfish and self-centered terms. Since marriage is never described as such, how can anyone justify “dating” with that mindset as a valid approach to finding a spouse. So, we have an issue with the term “dating”. Our modern context goes about it selfishly, carnally, and individualistically. So, let’s discuss this Biblically. For starters, let’s ask a better question than “where does the Bible address dating” by asking “Where does the Bible address finding a spouse”.

Where does the Bible address finding a spouse?

The short answer is “Yes, but not in great detail”. The first mention of finding a spouse we’ll look to is in Genesis 2. Let’s also look at what Jesus taught in regards to the Law of marriage.

Genesis 2:23-24 (ESV)

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The first point I want to make here, is that until we are married, we are not individuals, we are very much a part of our family. Western society had a “kick them to the curb at 18” when I was growing up, and millennials tend to more of a “the kids know what’s best for them these days” mentality. Each of this is destructive to our understanding of the estate of the Family and the vocations of parents and children. The fourth commandment (5th Reformed) is in play here (honor your father and your mother) for both the man and woman leading up to marriage. Who you choose to marry impacts both families greatly. There are those whose family ties are already fractured, for now I’m talking to families that are intact. There are boundaries that need to be placed, for it is you who must choose to marry, but the fourth commandment applies across every social context. Rebellion is a horrible way to enter into the marriage covenant.

The sixth commandment (7th Reformed) “do not commit adultery” is one we modern-day Christians like to minimize either by stratifying the degrees of adultery or by crafting environments where we can understandably “oops” into sexual immorality by suddenly being overcome by burning passion, “in the heat of the moment”. The first approach comes by renaming the form of adultery we are more comfortable forgiving/excusing into “premarital sex” rather than adultery. We like to reserve that word for when one or both parties engaged in sexual intimacy is in-fact married to someone else. Then, we like to create degrees of error depending on the extend of the physical intimacy so there’s sex, and then there’s foreplay, and there is “heavy petting”, wet vs dry kissing, sexting, flirting, etc. Is this the right approach? No, it isn’t. To quote Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. (ref)“. Changing what we call a sin, and inventing our own taxonomy of terms sub-dividing that sin into categories does not have any real impact on the sinfulness of the sin. It’s still sexual immorality. It’s still adultery. Jesus addresses this attempt at diluting the Law directly in His sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV) | Lust

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

This goes for women, too, by the way. None is immune to this sin. So, if thoughts and fantasies apart from action are no less adultery, there is no muting of the sin of adultery in your dating by simply drawing a line in the sand where you think you’ll be able to refrain from crossing before marriage.

As for the “heat of the moment” approach to sexual sin, Proverbs 5 addresses this quite plainly as well. Whether you run toward sexual sin, or simply plan to be carelessly swept away by your own passions or are caught in a temptress’ snare, death is death, and to flirt with death is folly.

The Scriptures point to sexual purity whenever the discussion of marriage comes up. The primary reason for this is that sex is given as a gift only within the covenant of Marriage. Outside of marriage, sex is a curse. Sex in all of its forms outside of marriage is sin. It is a particularly dangerous sin. So, we’ve established that sex outside of marriage is sin. Let’s take a moment to see what happens when the Pharisees tested Jesus concerning marriage and divorce, particularly with how the disciples heard His teaching.

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

If you take some time reading through Malachi, you’ll see that the priests were abusing the letter of divorce under the Mosaic covenant and leaving the wives of their youth for younger models (Malachi 2:13-16). The LORD sends rebuke through the prophet, Malachi, for this and several other grave sins. So, marriage is a life-long covenant, not to be broken by man. The disciples, realizing the seriousness of the marriage covenant here, come to the conclusion that it’s better not to marry. They were right, but Jesus reminds them that not everyone can go through life without sexual sin. That is a particular grace; therefore, God has given us marriage. No marriage = no sex of any kind. That’s the Law. At this time, adultery was punishable by death, though not always sentenced to it. If you recall, Joseph thought to quietly divorce Mary, the mother of Jesus until and angel spoke to Joseph confirming the Word of the Lord to Mary (Matt 1:19-25).

Okay, so what about choosing a spouse?

Dear brother and sister in Christ Jesus, you are free to choose whom you will marry. You are not free to include sexual sin in your selection process, that is still sin and will require continual repentance. It’s also a horrible, terrible metric for selecting a spouse. In our modern context of dating, we allow things we don’t like in hopes of getting whatever we want. It is reckless to base a life long commitment of marriage on a few moments of sexual pleasure that may or may not be genuine and may cease the moment your marriage is settled. Physical beauty is fleeting, we all age. Making physical attraction/chemistry the focal point of choosing a lifelong spouse is also foolish.

I’d like to take a moment to read through the Apostle Paul’s instruction regarding marriage and remarriage in his first letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (ESV) | Flee Sexual Immorality

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The vast majority of us fall in the category of those to whom it wasn’t given to be born a eunuch. We struggle with sexual immorality. We are told to flee from it. Marriage is a blessed escape vehicle from sexual immorality, for within marriage sex becomes a gift of uniting us with our spouse into one flesh. A word of LAW here, and it is not my aim to offend any of you, but where Paul writes “prostitute” we should consider those who are comfortable with sexual intimacy outside of marriage. In this Roman culture where we find Corinth, they were more “sexually liberated” than we are even today. The “red-light” district in those days were mainstream, publicly known, and even included in worship of various deities. Paul is having to rebuke Christians for engaging in such practices and providing Biblical instruction to them on the matter. This teaching couldn’t be more relevant for us today. Brothers and sisters in Christ, do not take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute or an immoral woman, and do not lead each other into sexual immorality.

Chapter 7 goes into great detail regarding marriage, remarriage, and being single. I encourage you to read through the whole chapter as one letter, but for now I’ll quote the portions that directly relate to what we’ve discussed so far.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (ESV) | Principles for Marriage

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Remember when we talked about our individualistic, self-centered, selfish approach to marriage. This blows that right out of the water. Now, I’ve sat through many a “marriage seminar” that has taken this passage and turned it into a pragmatic “if you meet your spouse’s needs then they’ll meet yours”, but this isn’t teaching a quid-pro-quo approach to sexual relationships within marriage. This isn’t about negotiating sexual favors, this is about surrendering ownership of your body to your spouse. You don’t get to desire/demand the things she hates, and vice versa. And it is usually here where the temporal effects of carnal living attack our marriages the hardest. Sexual immorality scars the mind and the body and twists and shapes your desires and fantasies. There is more to 1 Cor 6:18 than unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease, sexual sin will numb the conscience and warp the mind. The enemy will fire condemnation at you for things you’ve done, and hurl accusations toward your spouse for the things you wish they do or don’t do. For those of you who have not fallen in this area, Praise be to God. Continue to abstain and pray for continued grace in this area, that the enemy will not be given more ammunition. If you’ve fallen in this already, Repent, and trust in the LORD.

1 Corinthians 7:8-16 (ESV)

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul is urging that we keep the covenant of marriage in as far as it is within our charge. We see here that Paul is teaching what Jesus taught (no surprise since Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ) regarding being single. If you can be unmarried, remain unmarried. But better to remarry than to burn with passion (sexual sin). Paul instructs the Corinthians later (2 Cor 6:14-15) not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but here he is addressing marriage and stating quite plainly that being married to an unbeliever is not cause for divorce, especially if that unbeliever is willing to remain in the marriage. But, if the unbeliever separates, let them go.

So where does that leave us?

The Church is the Family of God, we who are of the household of Faith are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. The Law of God is summed up in 2 Commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). If you are unmarried, take a spouse from among the household of faith. Do not prey upon the weak, do not cause one to stumble into sin.

My children are still quite young, but a day will come when I will have to give sound advice on this matter to them.

  • Stop looking for “someone to date”, you’re looking for someone to marry.
  • Look for a spouse from among the Household of Faith, the Church.
  • Understand that finding a spouse is a family affair. Know their family and let your family get to know them.
  • Remember the 10 Commandments, and pray/confess them daily.
    • 1. Am I trusting the LORD for all of my needs? Have I made an idol of my singleness or my desire to marry? Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
    • 2. Have I called upon the Name of the LORD in this matter? Pray to the LORD, make your petitions to Him.
    • 3. Am I resting in Christ Jesus? He is our Sabbath rest. Lord, forgive me for being anxious in the things I cannot control, and for trying to bring about my own peace of mind through dating and seeking a spouse.
    • 4. Is my desire for a spouse in keeping with honoring my parents? Am I guilty of rebellion in my pursuit of a spouse? Lord, have mercy.
    • 5. Have I thought evil of an ex? Have I harbored anger at a rival suitor or thought evil of a brother/sister in the Christ? Lord, have mercy.
    • 6. Have I committed adultery in my heart, or in my flesh? LORD, have mercy.
    • 7. Have I stolen another person’s property or failed to protect my neighbor’s belongings? Lord, have mercy.
    • 8. Have I destroyed (or failed to defend) the reputation of an ex, a rival suitor, a brother/sister in Christ, my neighbor? LORD, have mercy.
    • 9/10. Have I coveted my neighbor’s spouse/fiance/friendships in my heart? LORD, have mercy.
  • Choose a spouse. Don’t engage in mysticism, don’t look for a “soul-mate”, don’t let fate (or hormones) decide, choose a spouse. If that spouse choose you in return, marry and be blessed in the LORD.
  • The Christian life is one of repentance. The Married life is one of repentance and forgiveness. You’ll have to grow into your marriage in much the same way you grow in Faith and repentance. God is faithful and His Mercy endures forever. Amen.

As a mere layman, I’m sure this list will need some work. If you are struggling with this, do please contact your pastor about praying through the 10 Commandments.

The Gospel of Grace and Forgiveness

The problem of sin is an ever-present one while the LORD tarries. Many of our families are broken by sin, death, adultery, abuse, divorce. The wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is everlasting life. There is forgiveness for sin at the Cross of Jesus Christ. All sin. Including sexual sin.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In this life, we will have struggle. In our struggling, we will have temporal consequences for sin. Praise be to God our LORD and Savior that our right-standing with God is not based upon our works of the flesh; rather, they are in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Mark 10

GWWelcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Two weeks ago we covered Mark 9, where we saw Jesus transfigured into His glorified form in front of Peter, James, and John. We also worked through some difficult passages. I’d like to remind my readers that if anything I write seems novel (new) to you, please discuss these things with your pastor, for I am but a layman sharing my thoughts as we read God’s Word together. Particularly in the difficult passages… do not simply take my word for it.

Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 10 of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 10:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

We’ve discussed this teaching and the subject of Divorce before. This is a question of the Law, and Jesus answers it lawfully. To divorce is to sin against God. What God has joined together, let not man separate. Specifically it is the sin of adultery by virtue of having sexual relations with 2 different people. There is a tendency for Christians to provide an escape clause of sorts for those who have been abandoned and for those whose spouses have committed the sin of adultery. They don’t use this passage, they refer to the one in Matt 5:31-32. The intent is to relieve the consciences of those Christians. It is a noble intent, but we already have the best solution for that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Law doesn’t provide an out as we see here. When it comes to righteousness coram mundo (in the sight of the world/neighbor) we do all that we can to save the marriage, bring reconciliation within the marriage, and seek forgiveness and absolution… there is no “easy out” of the marriage covenant. There are no “biblical divorces” that receive God’s blessing. It is sin. The solution for this sin is the same solution for all sin, the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In this sinful life, we have to deal with sin all around us and within us. There are times when a divorce is unavoidable and the necessary course of action due to sin and unbelief as is the case with the guidance of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. There is repentance, forgiveness, and absolution by faith in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Marriage is a vital gift from God and divorce is a destructive and odious sin to be avoided. By the Law we uphold the highest view of marriage possible, and we cannot fulfill its demands on our own, we need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to grant repentance, forgiveness, and healing.

There is room for Pastoral care, teaching, and guidance in all things marriage related and it is necessary. There is a role for Church discipline regarding sexual immorality, marriage, divorce and even remarriage… but we must ever be Gospel focused in how we treat this subject.

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV) | Let the Children Come to Me

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Jesus receives whom He will receive, and it isn’t for man to determine who merits the gift of God’s Grace. Praise the LORD!

Mark 10:17-31 (ESV) | The Rich Young Man

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again,“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This man came to Jesus for confirmation that he was “good to go”… because he had kept the Law and was good. We see this first demonstrated in Jesus’ response to the man calling Him good teacher. The man didn’t catch on, and he even went further to claim that he had not only kept all of the commandments, but he believed he had kept them since childhood. Being the father of two precious little children myself… I know this cannot be the case. I love my kids… and they break commandments daily. So, we see a man seeking justification according to the Law, not understanding that the Law condemns everyone in sin… no one is good except God alone.

Mark 10:32-34 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Mark takes us through tough encounters of teaching regarding the Law of God… and now he presents to us the Gospel in the foretelling of His death and resurrection. The disciples didn’t get it at the time, but praise be to Our God and Father for His patience and mercy on us, and Grace to us in His Son Jesus.

Mark 10:35-45 (ESV) | The Request of James and John

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Quite the bold request made in ignorance. Jesus graciously redirects their focus away from a theology of glory and back toward a theology of the cross, of service to others in Christ Jesus. I believe the right hand and left hand of Jesus to be already prepared in Trinitarian Godhead. We know that Jesus ascended into heaven and exalted at the Right Hand of the Father (Acts 2:33). When we are all joined together in the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit of God will be there also. As for dividing up the Kingdom of God among the elect who are designated reign and rule with Christ (1 Cor 6:3), such things are not open for dividing up in the moment by contracts here on earth… such places have already been prepared according to God’s infinite Will and purpose, for His Glory Alone.

Mark 10:46-52 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Praise the Lord. May that be our prayer today… “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!“.

Conclusion

Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | “I Deserve to be Happy”?

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post is a reaction to some disturbing trends in social media. The ideology behind the trends is nothing new, sinners are absolutely confvinced that they deserve whatever they want, that they deserve to “be happy”. The recent #ShoutYourAbortion campaign was an all-time low in American depravity, in that these unrepentant sinners shamelessly celebrate their murder and twist the narrative to paint their evil as though it was a good thing. Their proof? How happy they were. I much prefer the #ShoutYourAdoption response.

This weekend I saw something else that falls in that same vein, albeit stopping short of murder. I saw an acquaintance posted the following Facebook announcement:

divorce

This lady is not a Christian. A few years ago she and her now ex-husband jumped headlong into a cult that hosts what they call Insight Seminars. It’s a humanistic and pantheistic self-affirming cult that sometimes poses as workforce or family unity seminars. It’s a load a garbage, and the result is full-grown adults becoming infantile in their selfishness and self-actualization. Notice the hashtags. The self-absorbed can rationalize many things by declaring themselves empowered by them or somehow liberated from some form of bondage (real or imagined). Even the hashtags that seem to thank others, do so in light of what the others had done for her… which, from the text of the comment, was clearly encouraging her that she was doing the right thing by seeking her own happiness above all else. She is not alone in this. The world is filled with selfish sinners… this sin is in our fallen flesh, each and every one of us.

No, You Don’t “Deserve” to be Happy

Let’s begin with the reality of our sin. We are so depraved we don’t even have a right understanding of “good” and “happy”. These terms are grounded and defined by the very nature of God. Depending on the Bible translation you use, you could search for the word “happy” and not even find it in the New Testament. The KJV uses it a few times when translating the word makarios. In the ESV this word is translated “blessed”, and even in the KJV it is more often translated “blessed” (44x) than it is “happy” (5x). So what happens when a fallen and sinful world tries to understand a concept like “happy” with out the God who defines it? It bases “happiness” on its own desires, passions, and emotions. Let’s look at Romans 1 again.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

It’s that last part that gives this away. Sure, the folks celebrating their divorces and the ladies celebrating their abortions use words like “love”, “empowerment”, “peace”, and “life” they are using these words to give approval for themselves and others who practice the very things that God hates, like murder and divorce.

Okay but Christians Deserve Happiness, right?

God is the one who blesses… and He chooses who to bless according to Grace and Mercy. Dear sinner, what do you DESERVE?

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Wrath is what we deserve. No, this isn’t an exaggeration for effect, this is the plain Truth. Our sin has earned us (deserved) the Wrath of God. This is the Law. Thankfully, there is more than the Law, for where the Law brings death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings Life. Let’s continue in Eph 2:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Dear Christian, if your salvation was by God’s grace, a gift of mercy, then where do we ever get the notion that we DESERVE anything more? We get that from our still-sinful flesh, not from the Word of God.

What About the Promises of God?

Okay, so if we’ve properly destroyed the misuse of the word “deserve”, there remains many who make unsubstantiated claims to the Promises of God. What is the Promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Resurrection in Christ Jesus.

Titus 1:1-4 (ESV) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

When it comes to focusing on the Promise of Salvation, the focus needs to be firmly fixed in the future, the Day of His Return or the Day of our release from these fleshly bodies. We have been promised comfort in our struggles by the Grace of God and His Holy Spirit, but that is not mean we will live miraculous lives free from pain, hunger, or persecution.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 (ESV) | God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Conclusion

We don’t live according to what we DESERVE; rather, we live by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Emotional “happiness”  will come and go. It is foolish to live your life chasing an emotion. As we see in Romans 1, mankind rejected the Creator and was given over to their desires and passions and a depraved mind. As Christians, we are to put to death what is fleshly in us on a daily basis. The Happiness we pursue must be by faith, not by sight/emotion/circumstance.  We seek the blessing of the Lord that comes only by faith in Christ Jesus. Pray for the lost that their eyes and ears will be opened to the Truth, so that they might repent and trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to save them in the Last Day. 

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

He’s Moving, Cast Another Stone!

I had planned another DiM post for today… it will have to wait for Tuesday. Today, we’ll be commenting on some current events, church discipline, and public stoning in the social-media square.

If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw that I was working through old Friday Sermon posts trying to salvage those whose links pointed to LIBERATE.org, which has been closed indefinitely. It was very tough for me, and I was only able to salvage one post by finding the lecture and .pdf hosted on different sites. I’m ever so thankful that we still have access to that lecture by Rod Rosbenbladt, (Church History | The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church). Sadly, the same could not be said of Tullian Tchvidjian’s lecture entitled “It is Not Finished” that he gave at this year’s LIBERATE 2015 “It is Finished”. That lecture in particular was a great blessing to my wife and me. I’ve never met Tullian, I only know of him through his sermons, lectures, and that he’s considered a friend by Pastor Chris Rosebrough.

Background Information

We have to begin here. Let me defer to public information.
From the information put out by Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church:

In June 2015, after an admission of moral failure which disqualified him from active service, Tullian resigned from his position as our senior pastor and the founding director of LIBERATE. Given his leading role in this ministry, it was with heavy hearts that our Church Leadership decided to close LIBERATE indefinitely. This included canceling our 2016 Conference and refunding all registration fees.

To help protect Tullian, his family, and the integrity of his message, we have moved his sermons into a secure archive for the foreseeable future. Sadly, his messages were being slanderously misused in the media and on the Internet. We are prayerfully considering when and how his sermon archive might be made available again to the general public. We appreciate your patience and prayers during this season.

Some additional information from the associated Presbytery was published by the folks at the Aquila Report:

The South Florida Presbytery (SFP) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted at its meeting on August 11, 2015 to depose Tullian Tchividjian from the ministry. The PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) says that, “Deposition is the degradation of an officer from his office.” That is, the minister has his ordination credentials removed so that he no longer can perform the duties of a minister of the Gospel.

The Presbytery issued the following statement:

The South Florida Presbytery met for its regular stated meeting on August 11, 2015 and acted on a case concerning TE Tullian Tchvidjian. While Pastor Tullian Tchividjian was deposed of his pastoral credentials, the South Florida Presbytery is committed to continuing to offer him pastoral care. Our goal in doing this is to both protect the integrity of the Church from which his credentials were given while, at the same time, wrapping Tullian in the grace offered by Jesus Christ to all those who confess sin, pursue repentance and desire restoration.

Tchvidjian resigned as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on June 21, confessing to an extra-marital relationship. The Coral Ridge congregation voted on June 28 to formally accept Tchvidjian’s resignation. He had served as pastor of Coral Ridge since being called there in 2009.

The PCA’s Book of Church Order has a section on restoration from various church censures, including deposition. The steps for restoration are clearly outlined including this statement, “In the restoration of a minister who has been deposed, it is the duty of the Presbytery to proceed with great caution.”

This is church discipline, folks. Tullian confessed, resigned from his position at his local church, and then was deposed of his pastoral credentials by the South Florida Presbytery. By all accounts, Tullian has repented of the sin of adultery. It is now time to follow Paul’s instructions to the Galatians.

Galatians 6:1-10 (ESV) | Bear One Another’s Burdens

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

He Filed for Divorce… Cast Another stone!

We have learned that Tullian filed for divorce, a point that many have tried to use against him. I wanted to share a post by Paul Tripp, but that source page is now unavailable. All that remains is the Christian Post article that references Paul Tripp’s now-missing announcement.

In a statement posted to his website Wednesday, Tripp bemoaned the public spectacle Tchividjian’s marriage had become before explaining how they arrived at the painful decision.

“I wish we lived in a world where pastoral counsel and heart, life and ministry restoration could take place in private, but those days are regretfully long gone. So, in light of the news getting out that Tullian Tchividijian has filed for divorce and to mitigate any unnecessary and unhealthy speculation regarding the details of the situation, as Tullian’s friend and counselor, I have decided to post this statement,” Tripp began in the statement.

“Sadly, there are times in this broken world where things that have been damaged by sin don’t get put together again. So, we groan, reminded that sin still lives inside us, that we live in a shattered world and that God’s work of redemption is not yet complete. So, it has been with sadness that I, along with others, have come slowly and cautiously to the conclusion that his marriage is irreparably broken,” he continued.

Tripp explained that Tchividjian, who resigned as lead pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida in June, after confessing to an “inappropriate” relationship with another woman who was not his wife after finding out that she had also been cheating on him, tried hard to save the marriage but the trust in his marriage could not be re-established.

“From the point of Tullian’s confession and repentance, he has been committed to dealing with the issues of his heart and to restoring his marriage. Much grace, counsel, thought, prayer and action has been invested over a six month period of time with the hope of healing the marriage. But sadly, there are times when the trust is so deeply broken and patterns so set in place that it seems best to recognize that brokenness, cry out for God’s grace, mourn, commit to forgiveness, rest in the truths of the Gospel and with a grieved heart, move on,” he wrote.

He added: “I remain committed to Tullian as a brother and counselor and I will continue to give him the Gospel as he now deals with what we together hoped and prayed would not happen.”

Tchividjian and his wife, Kim, married in 1994 and have three children together.


While trying to find someone or something outside of me to blame for my sin seemed to promise freedom, it only delivered deeper slavery.

— Tullian Tchividjian (@PastorTullian) August 21, 2015


On the day he filed for divorce last Thursday, Tchividjian noted on Twitter: “While trying to find someone or something outside of me to blame for my sin seemed to promise freedom, it only delivered deeper slavery.”

In another tweet on Monday, however, he noted in another tweet that he still felt God’s presence.


Sometimes God reminds you that he’s there when you’re looking out an airplane window and begging him to show himself: pic.twitter.com/HrngrZ1znM

— Tullian Tchividjian (@PastorTullian) August 25, 2015


Frankly, I’m very disappointed in reading many of the comments that flooded social media criticizing him of being too quick to abandon the marriage. I, for one, refuse to levy a judgement over what I do not know first-hand… but what we do know is that the struggles in his marriage have been ongoing for some time now. Tullian’s marriage covenant was with his wife and it was before God. I don’t get a say in the matter, neither for nor against. I mourn the devastation this divorce will wreck on all involved, and I pray for the Grace, Mercy, and Healing that only God the Holy Spirit can provide.

Please remember from our discussion in yesterday’s Gospel Wednesday post, I do hold a permanence view of marriage under the Law. There is no Lawful scenario for divorce… divorce is always a sin. Having said that, the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the sole remedy for sin, and is sufficient for all sin, including the sin of divorce. Indeed, the Gospel still brings life to believers caught in a transgression.

He Has a Job in a Church… Cast Another Stone!

I am exceedingly grateful for online discernment ministers, as I am for the local police force. The job is difficult, draining, and can become quite consuming. In the same way that Police officers need to guard themselves against treating every citizen as a criminal, I think it is important for us to guard ourselves against treating everyone as a wolf, and every story a proof of apostasy. Such is the case with the revelation that Tullian Tchvidjian was offered a staff position at his new church, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (Our Ministry Staff). Let’s work through what we see on the church website and practice some basic discernment, shall we?

Is this a Pastoral Position?

No, it isn’t. This church’s website has separate staff directories, Senior Pastor, Pastoral Staff, and Ministry Staff. Now there is room here to question the church polity in play here, particularly if you are not Presbyterian and are unfamiliar with their system (I’m still trying to figure it out), but that is a question for Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (WCPC) and even the South Florida Presbytery (SFP) of the Presbyterian Church Association (PCS)… but this does not fall on Tullian. For those who claim to demand justice for the sake of the Gospel, you’d do well to address the leadership of the WCPC rather than cast another stone at Tullian. I think at this point it is helpful to remember the biblical qualifications for Elders as laid out in Titus 1:5-9.

Titus 1:5-9 (ESV) | Qualifications for Elders

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Whatever the WCPC does under the SFP of the PCA does regarding Tullian, I have to resign myself to trust that they will keep themselves accountable to the Scriptures.

Is this a special position carved out for Tullian?

Possibly. On the Ministry Staff page we see the following positions:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Facilities Manager (male)
  • Facilities Maintenance (male)
  • Youth Ministries Director
  • Youth Ministry Assistant x2
  • Director of Guest Care
  • Director of Music (male)
  • Director of Preschool
  • Director of Nurseries
  • Director of Children’s Ministry (male)
  • Director of Ministry Development (Tullian’s Job)

Look at the list of staff positions… and look at the ones labelled “director”. I’ve seen folks in social media blast this as clear breach of the qualifications of a Deacon, since there are only 2 offices in the New Testament, Elder and Deacon (1 Tim 3). If these positions are deacon positions… only 5 are currently held by men. Only half of the “directors” are men. Think that one through. These are not deacon positions. I don’t know how the PCA squares their definitions of “staff” with the Biblical Offices, but as I said earlier, that is a discussion to take up with them, not with Tullian for accepting a staff position.

What Will Satisfy Your Need for Justice?

I confess that I am exposed to a lot more Reformed Baptist writing than anything Presbyterian. So the vast majority of the stone-casting I’m witnessing comes from the non-Presbyterian Reformed camp. My biggest question to the social media fervor is, “what will satisfy your need for justice?” What penance must Tullian pay for you to be satisfied? Is it your place to seek satisfaction? Or does that fall to his overseers, those who have been given the charge of shepherding the flock under their stewardship?

In Romans 14, we see Paul addressing some specific schisms going on in the church of that day, but Paul’s prescriptions for those problems ring out in a broader sense. Particularly in the following verse:

Romans 14:4 (ESV) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

and in the next prescription:

Romans 14:7-12 (ESV) 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This is not to say that we are not to identify sin, we must. We must preach Law and Gospel faithfully. So then, is it a sin for Tullian to work? Is it a sin for the WCPC to give him a staff position? If you cannot clearly identify the sin, then you are in no place to pass judgement on the servant of another. Should sin arise, I trust it will be addressed in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20, and that chain of escalation will be within WCPC or at the very least the PCA.

Conclusion

Put down your stones. I am deeply concerned for Tullian Tchvidjian and want to see him restored. I worry that the publicity is hurting that process. I’m worried about him remaining faithful throughout the divorce proceedings. I worry about his children, his estranged wife, and I’m worried about the woman with whom he sinned. All of this is deeply troubling… but I’m appalled by what I’m seeing in social media regarding this man. Skepticism is natural, but let’s not walk in the flesh. Let us walk in the Spirit by faith and extend grace and forgiveness and honor the authorities put in place by God.

Matthew 18:29-35 (ESV) 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 (ESV) | Final Greetings

11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

PS: There are already some wonderful examples of grace, humility, and clarity in the blogosphere.

The Taste of Crow

► Clarity on the TT Situation

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 19

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 18.

Last week’s look at Matthew 18 ended with the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, Our Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrating the proper framework or perspective from which we should view the call to forgive our brothers who have sinned against us. That framework being of one who is fully aware (by faith) of the insurmountable debt of sin of which we have been forgiven by God for the sake of His Son, Jesus. In light of what we have been forgiven, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from our fellow sinful man. I think it is extremely important that we maintain this proper perspective, since the very next topic that presents itself in the Gospel According to Matthew is that of divorce and marriage.

Matthew 19 (ESV)

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

There is a common teaching that takes verse 9 to indicate that Divorce is allowed in cases of adultery, but not in anything else. I think that is a poor reading of this text. The Pharisees had their own laws regarding divorce, and some had gone so far as to make the slightest infraction (burned dinner) capable of warranting a divorce. They sought to draw Jesus into their dispute, to get Him to weigh in on their laws with their initial question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”. That is the opening question. The question is open for a fully open “yes” meaning that any cause is lawful or a limited answer of “yes” in which they would debate to establish the left and right limits of lawful divorce. I don’t think they were expecting Jesus’ answer, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. His answer was “no”, there is no lawful case for divorce. What does that answer mean? It means that in all cases, divorce is a sin. The Pharisees were white-washed tombs, on the outside they were clean… this is an “on the outside” question. They wanted to establish a way to divorce their wife while still coming out the “good guy”, the “clean” guy… or in our modern-day language, the “innocent victim”. According to the Law, the punishment for adultery is death. Death ends the marriage covenant. A widow or widower is free to remarry without incurring the sin of adultery (provided the new spouse is free from adultery).

The Pharisees then attempted to refute Jesus’s answer by pointing to Moses and the certificate of divorce. Jesus points out that it was a concession made as a result of their hardness of heart, from their sin. Jesus is directing the Pharisees beyond Moses and the Mosaic covenant… this is an important distinction, one that the author of Hebrews conveys wonderfully in chapter 10:

Hebrews 10:1-10 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

That Moses granted a certificate of divorce does not indicate that God was in any way pleased by divorce in any circumstance. King David rightly understood that it wasn’t the sacrifices that pleased God; rather a broken and contrite spirit were pleasing sacrifices to Him (Psalm 51, specifically vs 16-17).

So, by the time we get to verse 9, Jesus isn’t presenting a get-out-of-marriage-lawfully card, He is saying that every case of divorce and remarriage is the sin of adultery. The case of adultery is a different case under the Law because the adulterer is put to death. Under the Law, there is no lawful case for divorce, because even if there was no adultery and both divorcees lived, if they remarry they are committing adultery. What does this all mean? Sin. Those who are under the New Covenant must repent of their sin and be forgiven… the sin of divorce is the sin of adultery (as is the sin of adultery). Does this mean we are to place the burden of the Law on the necks of Christians and deny them remarriage after having repented of the sin of divorce? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven and extend Grace. God is not mocked, He disciplines His own. All cases of divorce is sin… Christ’s Finished Work on the cross is sufficient for all sin. This takes discipline, discernment, rebuke, repentance, grace, and forgiveness. This is the role of the church, to build up one another in the faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints. Marriage is not to be taken lightly, neither dare we take sin lightly. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The permanence of marriage is so strongly conveyed here by Jesus, that the disciples decide it’s better not to marry at all, then. Jesus doesn’t disagree… but He does make clear to them that not everyone can live that way, for such a life is a call to celibacy, since sex is only lawful within the covenant of marriage. I find it very interesting that Jesus (through Whom everything was created) declares that some are born eunuchs. Some people are born without a driving sexual desire, and that is by design. Now, the world perverts this idea by insisting that everyone has sexual desires that need to be satisfied, so those who God designed to be born a eunuch are tempted to seek gratification in sinful ways. The world is all to eager to push us into sexual immorality, even those for whom sex isn’t as strongly wired as others. Just a thought that has no bearing on what is sin and what is righteous but the church should remember that Jesus plainly taught that some are born eunuchs… by design. Then there are those individuals who are made eunuchs (castration) and still others who choose celibacy for the sake of the ministry of the Kingdom. Not all can accept this life, so as Paul will teach later, better to marry than to be burned up with passion.

Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) |  Let the Children Come to Me

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

This was a major theme in last week’s posts, and here I think it is important to remind parents that their children are their first ministry. We are called to bring our children (even infants as we see in the language used by Luke) to Christ… for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:16-30 (ESV) | The Rich Young Man

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

What a passage. In the first part, we see a man seeking to be commended for his good deeds. He was prepared to demonstrate his righteousness and was awaiting the approval of Jesus. Jesus crushes that notion with His first comment, there is only One who is good. His actual answer to the question of what goo deed, is keep the commandments. God is the only One who is good, and Jesus (the God-Man) is good for He is the only One who kept all of the commandments. God is One. The next question from the man is diagnostic question… leading to the “what do I still lack?” Jesus’ response is a picture of repentance, dying to self, and following Christ. This lesson is further given to His disciples. We generally refer to this notion by quoting a different passage:

Luke 9:23-26 (ESV) | Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

How wonderful it is to see the Gospel message remains the same across writers and circumstances. Eternal Life is found in none other than Jesus Christ.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 20. We’ll see a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, and we’ll see Jesus give a third warning of His death. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge