Matthew 19 can cause an immediate defensive response. Everyone doing a Bible study on Matthew 19 wants to know the issues revolving around marriage, divorce, and remarriage. As we go through the verses in this chapter, we will not address the many-faceted and controversial issues that so often cause division and throw people on the defensive. Let’s put away all of our preconceived ideas and notions and just read what the Bible says.
Before we do that, let’s preface this by making this point. We deal with the subject of adultery too late. When couples are struggling with their marriage, we finally get around to addressing the sin of divorce, but we do so too late. Why do we not warn others about the dangers of divorce as well as how to have a happy marriage so that couples can avoid separating what God has joined? The best way to deal with marriage, divorce, and remarriage is to educate couples on how to have a healthy, happy marriage so that divorce never becomes an issue in the first place.
Let’s study Matthew 19, and draw from this text, some thoughts that can help us to have a happy home and avoid the problems that often lead to divorce.
In the first two verses of Matthew 19, we are told that Jesus leaves the region of Galilee and travels all the way down to Judea. There was a large crowd who followed Him, and He healed their various ailments. Our study picks up in verse 3 where we learn that in marriage, husbands and wives need to see themselves as one.
Why would you ask that question? Why would you ask if it is lawful to divorce your spouse for any reason?
Why not ask how you can work things out? Why not ask how you can resolve your difficulties? Couples are far too eager to give up on their marriage. But notice how Jesus answered the question.
Jesus describes husbands and wives like this:
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 19 that when two people are married, they are as one person. In the Bible we read about Adam and Eve. We don't usually think of Adam without also thinking of Eve. When we read in the Bible about Abraham and Sarah, we don’t usually think of Abraham without also thinking of Sarah. We do the same with Joseph and Mary, Aquilla and Priscilla, and many other couples in the Bible. You don’t think of one without also thinking of the other. Do you have friends who are married? You don’t think of one without also thinking about the other.
The apostle Paul made this same point in Ephesians 5.28,29. In this passage, Paul wrote that your spouse is a part of yourself. A husband needs to treat his wife as his own body. A husband and wife will have a hard time mistreating each other when they keep that in mind. To mistreat my wife is to mistreat myself, because we are one. If you want to avoid the problems of divorce, see yourself as one unit.
Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. In other words, they were stubborn. The point is implied that if they would have had a better attitude toward their spouse and toward God, they would not have had to struggle with their marriage. If their heart was in the right place, this whole issue of divorce would never have come up in the first place.
This reminds me of what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3.1: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.” The apostle Peter is being guided by the Holy Spirit to tell wives that they are to be servants to their husbands. Then he addresses husbands in 1 Peter 3.7: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding giving honor to the wife.” Just as a wife is to be a servant to her husband, so a husband is likewise to be a servant to his wife. In other words, work on your attitude.
If couples are struggling in their marriage, it is because of something that is far deeper than the relationship itself. There is, with one or both of them, an attitude problem. There needs to be a change in attitude. Husbands and wives need to go to the Bible and start reading about what love really is, and what it really means to put the other ahead of themselves. Let God through the teachings of scripture help you change your attitude.
This is where there is so much controversy. Does this mean that one who divorces and remarries commits adultery and keeps on committing adultery as long as his second marriage exists? Does this mean that the action of divorcing and remarrying constitutes a single act of adultery? There are so many debates and so many divisons as to what Jesus means. There are so many people who try to figure out what constitutes a legitimate divorce and remarriage.
We don’t have to deal with any of the controversy if we can get this one point. Remove divorce out of your mind. If you want to avoid the problems of divorce, the answer is simple. Don’t get divorced.
After the disciples of Jesus heard how He answered the Pharisee who questioned Him, the disciples were confused and troubled suggesting that perhaps it is better that people remain unmarried.
Jesus responded by saying that there are some who cannot engage in sexual activity.
In the beginning, God instituted marriage and set the parameters for how this marriage could be successful. He also helps us to understand His desire for what a marriage should be. Thus, Jesus reminds us in Matthew 19 that "what God joined together, let not man separate."
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