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Jesus on Marriage, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
January 27, 2021 9:00 am

Jesus on Marriage, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 27, 2021 9:00 am

In this message from “Forever Family,” Pastor J.D. walks us through Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 and helps us see that, though God’s command about divorce is clear, there is no situation that he cannot redeem.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Jesus' understanding of the covenant of marriage is so strong that it made listeners say, wow, if that's what you're telling us we got to commit to, it might be better to never even go into it.

Because Jesus, basically what you're saying is, when you get married, you're saying I'm not going to leave you no matter how much you disappoint me or how difficult you make life for me. Welcome. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. And as always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. So let's start the program with a doozy of a question. What does God really think about divorce?

What an important topic as our world wrestles with this question with alarming regularity. In today's message from the series Forever Family, Pastor J.D. walks us through Jesus' teaching and he helps us see that while God's command about divorce is clear, there is no marital situation so hopeless that he cannot redeem and restore it.

If you missed the first part of this message yesterday, you can find it online at Let's join Pastor J.D. in Matthew chapter 19. God designed marriage, Paul says, and everything that goes with it to give us a taste of his love. Not only is that going to give you a pattern for how you can love your spouse, but ironically it's going to show you how you can be happy and fulfilled in a season when you're not married, even when you really want to be. How you can be content in a marriage that you're disappointed in.

How you can be happy in an unhappy marriage. Right before I got married, the first time that I went out with Veronica, I went into my class the next morning, seminary class, and one of my friends who knew what had gone out with Veronica the night before was like, well, what'd you think? And so I whipped out of my notebook a piece of paper and I just wrote down every adjective that I could think that described her. It was like 60 some different adjectives. And I put it on his exit.

That's what I think about her. A couple of years later, when we got engaged, I was like, I wonder if I still have that notebook. Went back, found that list, got it framed. And then on our wedding day, gave that to her.

And it had a little statement under it by C.S. Lewis that basically was you represent something that can never be taken away from me. And what I meant was, yes, there are situations where Veronica could be taken away from me.

Death could come to one of us. And she might not be a part of my life, but she represents something. The beauty that I experienced through her, the love, the tenderness. Those are things that emanate from the sunshine of God's love that can never be taken away. And if some dark cloud were to obscure the ray, the sun of God's love remains.

By the way, I hope that you'll start learning to look at all of the blessings of life that way. The attention, the tenderness I felt for my parents, that was a stand in for God's love. The affirmation sometimes, the community that I feel from friends, those things are all manifestations of the goodness of God and experiencing them.

I'm learning to experience goodness that comes from him. The sun itself is God's love in his presence. One of the rays, one of the manifestations is marriage. And it's a great one.

But C.S. Lewis said, and the Bible tells you don't get fixated on the ray because of the sun is what's important. The essence of marriage is the covenant. The purpose for marriage is friendship. And the pattern for marriage is the gospel. Now let's look at how Jesus uses those concepts to spell out what he's going to say is an obvious answer to the divorce question. All right, what does Jesus teach in our marriage mean for divorce? Verse six, verse six, therefore, what God has joined together, no man ought to separate. Notice there, you got there at the end there, no, just period, no comma, no fine prints, no recommended reading, period.

End of sentence. If marriage is a covenant instituted by God to demonstrate his love, if marriage really is a fusion of two souls into one, he's saying divorce should never be an option. Ah, verse seven, they said to him, whoa, wait a minute, Jesus, why then did Moses, who was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, why did Moses then command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?

At that point, if you're writing the score for this scene, you cue the dramatic music, because that was true. Moses had said in Deuteronomy 24, one, when a man takes a wife and marries her, if he finds any indecency in her, then, well, he could divorce her. And they're like, well, wait a minute, Jesus, you're saying we shouldn't get divorced, but Moses clearly says we could.

In fact, they use the word command. He commands us to, gotcha, Jesus. By the way, for the record, it's going to go ahead and say it, you should never get in the battle of wits with Jesus, particularly over the Bible. But the Pharisees were not always the spiciest Doritos in the bag, so they did.

And Jesus looks back at them very calmly and says, okay, it's because of the hardness of your heart. Moses allowed you to divorce your wives. He didn't command you.

He allowed it. But from the beginning, according to God's original design, it was not so. Rabbis in Jesus' day taught a distinction, listen to this, between a command in the law and a concession from the law. The command, they said, expressed God's heart. The command reveals God's desires and his plans from the beginning. A concession was something that God allowed in society because of the fallenness of man, because we're broken people, in order to keep peace in a society that are filled with different ones of us at various levels of spiritual maturity. This allowance for divorce, Jesus said, it was never a command, and you know that, he tells the Pharisees. It was not a command that expressed God's heart.

It was a concession due to our fallen state. And the Pharisees knew that. Many of the rabbis at the time taught the difference in a command and concession of the law.

That wasn't something new with Jesus, but here was their trap. What did Moses mean by something indecent? In Deuteronomy 24, he said you could get divorced and technically not be in sin if it was because of something indecent. In Hebrew, the phrase for something indecent is erwat dabar. And it was an ambiguous phrase even for people who were fluent in Hebrew.

What qualifies as erwat dabar? And there were two dominant schools of thought. The first was represented by a very popular rabbi around that time named Rabbi Shammai.

And he said in that context, something indecent means only sexual indecency, meaning that Moses allows divorce only in cases where some sexual indecency has occurred. This was the very conservative position. All the Southern Baptists would have been on this one.

This is what we would have believed. On the other side, you had Rabbi Hillel. Hillel was the progressive thinker, the progressive rabbi.

He lived over in Chapel Hill and he drove a Prius. Hillel said indecent means anything that you don't like about her. Maybe she has indecent behavior by talking too much at parties. Maybe she has indecent cooking skills. Maybe she has indecent morning breath.

I'm actually not exaggerating this. We have a record of Rabbi Hillel saying, if she consistently burns the bread, erwat dabar, right? You may divorce her. If you will fall out of love with her, erwat dabar, divorce her.

If you fall in love with somebody else, erwat dabar, divorce her. Here's the thing. Most of the Jewish world was on the side of Rabbi Hillel, who was the more progressive thinker. So the Pharisees are trying to get Jesus on record saying something about marriage and divorce that would make him really unpopular. So what does Jesus answer?

How does he respond to this? Verse nine, I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality and marries another, commits adultery. Jesus actually comes out stronger than the conservative position. Not only should you not get divorced, he says, if you marry somebody else after leaving your first spouse, you are living in adultery with the second person. Because in God's eyes, that first covenant is still active.

Because see, marriage is not a contract where you agree to a set of conditions, so long as the other party satisfactorily fulfills theirs. Marriage is a covenant, he said, where you leave and cleave. You covenant, you pledge complete, unconditional, sacrificial love that mirrors God's love for us. What God has joined together, he says, nobody should separate.

There were two understandings of marriage in that day, just like there are two in ours. I call one a consumer understanding and the other a covenant understanding. A consumer relationship is a relationship where you contract with somebody to meet a need. And just so you know, there's nothing wrong with consumer relationships in the right context. I have a consumer relationship with my grocery store. I go to my grocery store because it is convenient to my house, it has fairly good prices, and they carry those white chocolate covered Oreos that I love. But if I find another grocery store that is more convenient, if it's got better prices on those Oreos, well, then I go there. It's not a huge deal, I don't have to meet with the owners of the store and break up with them and have a really tearful, none of that has to happen.

It's a consumer relationship and there's nothing wrong with a consumer relationship in that context. But see, I can't have that kind of relationship with one of my children. I don't go to one of my children and say, you know, Raya, things have really changed for me and it's just not working out anymore.

It's not you, it's me. I've actually been hanging out with some of the neighbor's kids and I'm much happier with them. So you're just not going to be seeing dad much anymore.

No, my relationship with my kids is not a consumer relationship. We are united in a family. So here's a question, according to Jesus, which relationship is marriage more like? Well, you know the answer, covenant.

Dissolving a covenant because it's not working for you is not an option. Inherent in the covenant was, it's not about working for me, it's about making a covenant with you that mirrors what God has pledged to me. In fact, Jesus' statement is so strong that the apostles respond by saying, look at verse 10, whoa, if that's the case, a man with his wife, it's better not to marry.

And you're like, wow, typical male commitment foes. Well, yeah, but what you should take from that is Jesus' understanding of the covenant of marriage is so strong that it made listeners say, wow, if that's what you're telling us we got to commit to, it might be better to never even go into it. Because Jesus, basically what you're saying is when you get married, you're saying, I'm not going to leave you no matter how much you disappoint me or how difficult you make life for me. You say, well, wait a minute, Jesus said, except in the cause of adultery, what's that all about? And why would that be an exception?

I want you to pay very close attention here because the logic of this is very important and is going to answer some of the other questions we have about this. There are certain things that can kill the marriage covenant. Well, let's say the obvious one, the death of a spouse. When the spouse dies, then that covenant is no longer alive because the person you made it with is no longer alive. The covenant is dead and therefore when a spouse dies, you're free to remarry. Well, what Jesus is alluding to here is adultery. Listen to this, adultery also kills the covenant. Adultery is so powerful and it is so destructive that many people can't come back from it. It doesn't mean if there's been adultery that you have to get divorced. It just means that the reality is many people can't come back for that and Jesus allows that as an understanding that the covenant has been killed. You say, well, is adultery the only exception?

No. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 seems to use the same logic to point to desertion. He says in the case of desertion, 1 Corinthians 7, the believer is no longer bound. And the word for bound, it means he's no longer considered to be obligated to that marriage covenant anymore because in desertion, they have killed the covenant. Some people say, well, what if there is technically not adultery or the departure of an unbelieving spouse, but one spouse is abusive or they're involved in illegal activity, they won't stop, that is putting your family in danger.

Well, the first thing I want to say, if that's you or somebody that you know, you should definitely get yourself out of the situation immediately. As far as divorce, many Bible scholars say that the logic of Paul and Jesus' statements here may allow for divorce when a spouse has killed the covenant by getting to a place where they are no longer able to be lived with. You and your kids are in physical danger because of them. This doesn't mean that they've gotten annoying or they've just changed or I've changed or they're just not doing it for me, but that they've killed the covenant through adultery or abandonment or abuse. The point is divorce ought to be as radical as amputating an arm or a leg.

What God has joined together, nobody should separate because now it's one union, one entity. It ought to be as radical as amputation. There are times when amputation is necessary, but any doctor would be run out of the practice if the doctor was constantly or quickly saying to any problem you had, oh, just amputate, right? You got to hang out, let's just amputate. Sprained ankle, amputate.

Ugly freckles, let's cut it off. Now, amputation is the last thing that you turn to. And so if that's where you are in this state of your relationship, yes, you understand that there are ways that the covenant can be killed, but you ought to do this under the close advisement of a Christian counselor or the pastors of your church.

If there is abuse happening, you need to go to the authorities, to Child Protective Services or the police. Let me just say, if you're considering a divorce, this message, while you may find parts of it helpful for you, it should not be the only thing weighing in on your decision. The local church, we often say around the summit, is God's plan A, even in a situation where you're facing possible divorce.

It is tragic how common it is for people to slowly, quietly, and secretly head toward divorce without letting anybody else know what's going on. Other people who might be able to help not only comfort you, but counsel, you find out only when the situation is way down the line, and it's way past the moment for good counsel. God gave you the church to walk through this. You don't have to go through it alone. I want to say this before I move on to our last question. When divorce happens, that does not disqualify you as a Christian. It does not make you second rate. Let me just say, a lot of people in the church are so self-righteous when it comes to divorced people. They look down their nose at them.

It's like the scarlet D that you wear around from that point on in your life. I don't want you to consider this. Jeremiah 3.8, in the Old Testament, that Jesus knew. God says this. God himself says, I give faithless Israel her certificate of divorce.

They've killed the covenant. God calls himself a divorced person, which means if you're the kind of person that just feels like you're too good, you don't want anything to do with divorced people, you feel like you and your family are too good for them, right? Or you don't want your son marrying or daughter marrying somebody that comes from divorced parents.

You're in the unenviable position of feeling like you are too good for God, which is not a place you want to be. You say, well, what if I was the one at fault? What if divorce happened and it wasn't for biblical reasons? Is divorce the unforgivable sin? The answer to that, of course, is no. Well, can you repent and remarry after you've cheated?

Can you get forgiveness and move on with your life? I love what Tim Keller says or the way he answers this question. King David started his relationship with Bathsheba and the worst of possibilities. Talk about being knee deep in sin. I'm sure there's some messed up situations, even here in the church, but I'm going to say there's not many of them or any of them that are going to quite reach this category. But when he confessed, when David confessed and repented, God cleansed and, watch this, blessed his new marriage to Bathsheba to the point that from that marriage came Solomon and from Solomon came Jesus.

Unbelievable. What does that mean other than God is trying to say to all of us, I can redeem the worst situations? In fact, I love doing it. I love redeeming the hardest cases. Go ahead.

Try me. No one who ever has brought their messed up situation and messed up life to Jesus has ever gone away disappointed. Jesus can take the hardest cases.

He never turns anybody away. He can forgive and restore you. That's what Jesus teaches us here about marriage and divorce. One last little thing here. What does Jesus is teaching a marriage mean for singleness?

Now we're only going to touch on this really briefly because we're going to return to it later. When the disciples say, this is the case with a man with his wife, it's better not to marry. Here's what Jesus says.

Not everyone can receive the same, but only those whom it has given. In other words, if you're going to say, if you're going to survive in marriage, God's going to have to give you grace for it. If you're going to survive in marriage, then God's going to give you the grace for it. I know that firsthand because I married the perfect girl.

I always say that I've been married to her for 16 wonderful years and three other ones for a total of 19. God's grace has dragged us through those three, as well as surrounded us the whole time. He's saying, yes, if you're going to get married, it's going to be because you have the enabling power of God's grace.

Four, right? But there are also, that's how you read that, but there are also eunuchs who have been sowed 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 was able to receive this receive it. Marriage was God's answer to loneliness. Marriage was his plan A. But see, we live in a fallen world, and in that world, some people end up single. Technically, a eunuch is a man whose reproductive organs have been destroyed. But here, Jesus uses eunuch as a metaphor for somebody who's not married. For some, he says, they're single from birth. And what I take that to mean is that they just have no desire to be married, or for some reason they can't be married. Some were single by choice. They've chosen to be single because of other things you feel like God has called them to do. They're single for the sake of the kingdom. For others, they're single by circumstance. They haven't found the right person yet.

Some physical thing happens that their situation keeps them from getting married. And what Jesus says is, in order to live happy as a single, it takes a special enabling by heaven. That's what he means when he says there in verse 12, the one who is able to receive this, let them receive it. Living as a single person is a special enabling by God. But here's the thing, living successfully as a married person also takes a special enabling of God. In other words, marriage is so difficult that you can only make it with God's help. Singleness is so difficult that you can only make it with God's help.

The point is, whether God has called you to be single or married in this season, you need his help. Based on how I read Genesis 2, listen, if we lived in the perfect garden of Eden, everybody would be married. For every Eve, God would supply an Adam and vice versa. But we don't live in the perfect garden of Eden right now.

We live in a fallen world. And in that world, marriage is not going to be for everybody. But what you see here is that God has a plan for singleness. That means he will supply anything that we're missing from marriage. After all, marriage was just a stand-in to teach us about God's love. And if for some reason in this season or for your whole life, your life is shielded from that ray of God's goodness, right? Then God's love will supply what you lack because even when the ray is hidden, the son of his love remains.

Here's what you need to hear. Not being married is not keeping you from a relationship that is essential to life. I mean, think about it, right? Jesus was the most happy, fulfilled, fully alive person ever to walk the face of the earth. And he was single, right? At no point in the gospels do we even see a hint that his singleness was a symbol of inferiority or or a source of dissatisfaction for him. And Jesus' singleness certainly did not mean that he didn't fully know love, right? I mean, just before he died, he looks at his disciples and he says, and he says, greater love is nobody than this, than a man laid down his life for his friends.

Jesus knew and experienced the greatest love available. Paul, who wrote much of our New Testament, was single. And he said he wished everybody in the church had the gift of singleness, the enabling of singleness like he did.

He said because there's so much you can do with that gift. There's so many ways you can be used in ministry in ways that married people cannot be because they're encumbered by necessity with the cares of a family. For those who are not married, Jesus said, and I'm going to show you this later, the church, the body of Christ, that is your forever family. Our biological families, our marriage partners, that's just temporary. Christ's body is permanent.

Not something single and married people can participate in alike. Where this passage should leave you is asking, what does God want from me? Because whatever he wants from me, you're going to need his grace to accomplish it. If you're thinking about getting married, you need his grace to teach you what it's like to approach that. If you are married, you need to understand what his enabling grace is able to do in your marriage.

Whether you're married or single, the application is the same. You seek God first because whatever state you are in, you're going to need his help. In fact, I'll just say this.

If you are single and you really want to be married, let me remind you of Jesus's great promise about this and every other thing in your life that you're anxious about, you're worried about. Matthew 6 33, if you will seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Jesus said all the rest of things will just be added to you. You see us, Lewis, and I always, whenever I give you Matthew 6 33, I use Lewis's insight here. Matthew 6 33, Lewis said, Jesus is identifying first things and second things. And he says, you got to get them in the right order because when you put first things first, when you put God first, knowing God, seeking him first, he throws in second things and you enjoy them.

They're a blessing. He said, but when you put second things first, not only do you lose the first thing, God, you also end up destroying the second things. The first thing in your life that Jesus tells you to seek is God, the forever family of the kingdom of God. And then God can supply, God will supply the secondary things that you need, whether that's marriage or some other type of situation where he takes care of you and communicates you and where you're not lonely. If you go back and study Acts, the early church had lots of problems. I mean, write lots of, I mean, face persecution and, and famine and, and, and all kinds of problems.

One thing you never see anybody in Acts struggle with is loneliness, because God is using the body of Christ to be that for them. And God wants that. He will supply that for you. And in many ways, it'll blow your mind the way that God will supply those secondary things if you put him first. Whatever situation you find yourself in, don't miss this important reminder to always seek God first so that you have his grace in every relationship and believe that he can ultimately redeem and restore.

You're listening to the forever family series on Summit Life with JD Greer. One of our primary goals around here is to equip everyone who listens to Summit Life with resources to be disciple-making disciples. Pastor JD, can you remember what created a love for the Word of God in you? You know, I grew up, I had the privilege of growing up in a home and in a church setting where, where the Bible was taught.

We were championed to memorize it. Even now preaching some 30 years later, I'm going back and reaping the harvest of what was sewn into me by my church. And so I am so deeply, almost, almost unspeakably grateful for how that church taught me to, to memorize scripture. One of the great hopes here of what we do in the ministry at Summit Life here, one of our great hopes is that we could assist people in knowing the Word better. This isn't a replacement for your local church, but maybe it can supplement what you're hearing on the weekend and take you deeper into the gospel. One of the reasons that we were, we're providing verse memory cards this month is because we really want to see you have tools to be able to, to line the chambers of your heart with God's Word so that, as we said the other day, when life cuts you, you believe God's Word. As our way of saying thank you for your one-time donation of $25 or more, or for your monthly commitment as a gospel partner, we'll send you our brand new exclusive resource, the All Things New Memory Verse Cards and Magnet Set to not only help you remember, but apply the Word of God in a fresh way this year. Ask for your set today when you call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give online at I'm Molly Bidevich. Thank you so much for joining us today.

You know, we often equate marriage with making us complete, but Jesus taught something altogether different and more beautiful. Join us Thursday as we continue the Forever Family series on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-16 13:10:24 / 2023-08-16 13:21:41 / 11

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