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

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 18

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 17.

Last week’s look at Matthew 17 ended with a short demonstration of God’s provision for His people. I debated stopping short of that portion so that it could serve as the introduction into today’s, but decided against it since chapter 17 is such a short chapter already. Today, we’ll start with what today would seem to be a deep theological question of who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18 (ESV)

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Notice how Jesus addresses the question… He didn’t answer “who is the greatest” He instead charged them to focus on who will even enter. That should be a sobering thought for each of us. Now, usually when I read this passage, my thoughts go to exploring what it means to have a child-like faith, and what I need to do to cultivate such a faith (notice how the flesh is so bent in on itself always looking for works to perform to gain faith)… but this time around, my thoughts focus more on verse 6. When we talk about the dangers of false teachers and wolves in the church, maybe we should start emphasizing the need to protect the children first and foremost. My kids are 5 and 3, and right now nothing scares my wife and me more than the idea of allowing our kids to falsely indoctrinated in a public (pagan) school system… or in a Sunday School class that mishandles Scripture for the sake of entertainment.

This is a bible study, but I hope you’ll allow me to share some personal application. Last night at dinner, my 3-yr-old daughter prayed for the blessing on the food. Immediately after the Amen, she said, “Daddy… you wanna know something about God? He never sins. You wanna know what God has? A Holy Spirit. And God is Jesus.” So at dinner, my wife and I discussed with our 5-yr-old and 3-yr-old the definition of sin, the nature of God, and the Trinity all while gobbling up some delicious arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Now sure, I had to say several times, “I know it can be hard to understand, so for now we say that God is One in three persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit.” I was so moved by the experience, and the weight of the responsibility as their father and the priest of the home is heavy, particularly with what Jesus said in verse 6 above. Thankfully, it is not by my will or intellect… but by grace through faith that I can walk humbly and faithfully in my responsibility to the children God has placed in my care. This is why we don’t entertain fantasies such as santa, the tooth fairy, or the easter bunny. We refuse to bear false witness to our children about these lies and we fear causing the little ones who believe in Christ to stumble.

Matthew 18:7-9 (ESV) | Temptations to Sin

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Temptation will come… and it is necessary. It was necessary for Jesus to be tempted, we know this because the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness for that express purpose. But woe to the one by whom it comes. There is really poor argumentation out there that suggests that the ends justify the means. Christians should know better, but we are weak. The ends are in God’s hands… He allows the means, but He is the only Judge over all. God doesn’t tempt, but He allows it for our good and His Glory.

James 1:12-14 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Part of remaining steadfast, is knowing when to flee temptation. Knowing that we are sinful creatures for sin yet remains in our flesh even though we have the Spirit of God working within us, Paul was clear in his writing of the war that rages within between our sinful flesh and the Spirit. Jesus graphically depicts the need to avoid temptation by any means necessary. Resist the devil, yes, and that includes fleeing youthful lusts. But we don’t blindly run away, James tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4).

Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV) | The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

This parable should be held in close connection with Jesus’ charge in verses 5 and 6. The Father takes special notice of the little ones who have gone astray. Remember the millstone. He actively seeks out the one who is lost. Woe to the one by whom temptation comes! The Father rejoices over the lost that was found more than over the 99 who never went astray.

Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) | If Your Brother Sins Against You

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

This is how we are to deal with fellow members of the Body of Christ. This is how Church Discipline is to be administered. Sadly, steps 1&2 are often skipped and people jump straight to shunning and excommunication. What follows is a parable that reinforces what Jesus was teaching above, but from a different perspective… one of stewardship of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV) | The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him,“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 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.”

Fellow Christians… be good and faithful stewards of God’s grace and mercy and extend forgiveness in Jesus’ Name. This isn’t a matter remedied by mere lip service… for God looks at the heart. We are to forgive our brothers from the heart… and repent of the sin of falling short of that standard.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through some tough topics such as marriage, divorce, celibacy, works-righteousness and idolatry. 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