What was the original meaning of marriage? And what was Jesus’ teaching on the, subject of divorce?
In Matthew 19 we read that Jesus is heading from Galilee and traveling towards Jerusalem. As He went, He continued performing miracles and healing people. But the dreaded Pharisees were relentless in their efforts to trap Him so they could have him arrested. Verse 3 “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away (divorce) his wife for every cause?” There were two major Jewish groups divided on the, subject of divorce and the Pharisees chose a topic that would serve to divide them even further. Instead of picking sides, Jesus called their attention to the original meaning of marriage and pulled from an authority both groups acknowledged – the prophet, Moses.
Jesus responds in Verses 4 through 6 “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Jesus refers back to Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:2-22. We have no record of God performing any sort of marriage in the Garden. There was no need because from the beginning Adam and Eve were one. Jesus’s point to the Pharisees is that – when a couple come together, they come together in the model of Adam and Eve through marriage and – they become one in the same manner Adam and Eve were one. When a man and woman come together in marriage, which is the sexual union of two bodies becoming one – they are like Adam and Eve – and nothing can break the union.
As you will see the Pharisees are trying to pit the Master against the great lawgiver – Moses. Verse 7 “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” In other words, if a man and woman are truly one in marriage then why did Moses – who you are quoting – allow for divorces? If Moses gave approval for divorce – which we read about in Deuteronomy 24:1 – then certainly divorce couldn’t be wrong or contrary to God. Verse 8 “Jesus saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” Jesus admits that Moses allowed for divorce, but He contends that this was not the original design of man/woman relationships. God intended that marriage should be between one man and one woman and once consummated – that was it. Then, He boldly says, Verse 9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” He is setting the record straight. But remember, Jesus is speaking of how it was from the beginning. Marriage replicates this unity when a man and woman come together, and nothing can tear that oneness apart EXCEPT one or both of them becoming one with – another person. Jesus is teaching how it was from the beginning. And if the couple – who choose to become one – try and break up the marriage for any reason other than fornication – they are committing adultery. If any of you in the audience are in this situation be grateful Jesus came to forgive sinners. And if you’re really sensitive about the label – remember Jesus also said that if a man merely looks upon a woman with lust in his, heart he is guilty of the same. So, while we do all we can to save marriages, we move on – if we are found guilty – we praise God for His forgiveness and grace.
So hard was this teaching that His own disciples responded in Verse 10 “His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” The Jews had made it easy for themselves to divorce a wife when she got quarrelsome etc. So, the disciples were thinking it was perhaps a good idea not to marry if, it meant you had to stay with that person always! Verse 11 “But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” In other words, some men, if they are going to honor God must get married. Just what is it – that unites a man and woman to each other for life? And, what is the primary reason people marry? The answer to both questions is same – sexual relations. Using Adam and Even in the Garden as a model, God said in Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The leaving and cleaving and becoming one flesh, defines marriage far better than some Judge or Bishop or High Priest pronouncing some words and filling out a license. When a man and woman chose to be one, that was it – they were one – for life, married in the eyes of God. From God’s perspective – marriage is sexual union – because they have become one. Sex is reserved for marriage and marriage is reserved for sex. Divorce takes the sexual union and exposes it to another way – which was not established from the beginning in the Garden.
Let’s move on to Verse 16 “And, behold, one came and said unto him, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’” We will read in Verse 20 that this was a young man and we know from Luke that he was a ruler. This rich young man seems to believe that doing one “good thing” will secure his place in heaven. Under the law – the man believed that gaining eternal life was up to him. Jesus answers the man with a question in Verse 17 “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” What Jesus is doing here is attempting to get this rich Jew to realize and admit that Jesus is God. He asks, “Why are you calling me good when there is none good but God!” So, either I am God, or I am – not good. The rich man then asks, in Verse 18 “Which commandments must I keep?” Then the Lord lists the Ten Commandments. Verse 20 “The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” Maybe the young man was saying he has tried to keep them all or, maybe he seriously believed he had literally kept them from his youth. We don’t know. We do know that Jesus was able to capitalize on the last commandment to “love neighbor as himself” and convict the young man’s failure to obey it – by challenging him further to really examine his heart. Verse 21 “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” The Lord seems to say, “If you are going to be perfect – which is required to enter eternal life on your own merits – this is what you need to do.” However, if we are unconditionally saved by grace through Jesus’s life and works – and not our own – what is left is, to be willing to lay down our lives – for Him. That is the difference between religion and relationship with God. Religion says, “What must I do?” Relationship says, “How do I die?” Religion, says, “How do I merit?” Relationship says, “He has done it all.” Religion says, “You must obey.” Relationship says, “You must love.”
Verse 22 “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” He had made his possessions his idol, which was more important to him than a relationship with God. Verse 23 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is giving His Apostles a teaching moment here. Verse 25 “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” When we realize we are so lacking – Jesus comes in with the real answer to the rich young ruler, who seeks eternal life. Listen to what He says, Verse 26 “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this (being saved) is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” With men – following commandments – doing, doing, earning – is impossible to accomplish. But with God – through Him – His perfect life, sacrifice, death, and resurrection, and the power of the Holy Spirit – all things are possible.
Jesus ends the chapter by saying in Verse 30 “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” To illustrate that idea, Jesus says in Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.” Remember, “the kingdom of heaven” means both – here on earth in the hearts of men – and in the hereafter. Interpreted, Verse 1 means – The Church, or body of believers – is like the Lord who went in the early history of man and sought laborers to work in his vineyard. I compare this to a modern example of men – standing in the parking lot of Home Depot looking for day-labor work. But, here in our story these first laborers were the nation of Israel. Verse 2 “And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” Under the covenant between God and Israel agreements were made – you obey, and you get this amount, of blessings. In this parable the amount was “a penny a day” – equal to the price of a day’s labor. Verse 3 “And he (the husbandman) went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,” The third hour was about 9 am. Verse 4 “And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.” With the first labors by working – they put the master of the house in their debt – because there was an obey-reward established. So, it is with people living under the law. If they do what is commanded, they must receive what is promised them. But to the second group (and every group thereafter) the householder gives them no specific amount, but instead tells them He will pay them whatever is right and they had to work and labor in faith trusting the householder would do well by them. This latter group represents the Gentiles – who work and labor in the vineyard by faith. If people want to try and work their way into heaven and try to put God in their debt they can – but then they can forget being a recipient of His grace. Their rewards will be based on their own works – not His.
Matthew 20:5 “Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.” Or about 12 pm and 3 pm. Verse 6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?” 5 pm in the afternoon when there was but one working hour of the day left. These men respond saying, Verse 7 “Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” He offers them the same agreement he has made with all who came in during the day to work after the first group. Verse 8 “So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.” So, when the twelfth hour was come – when the day was ended – it was time to pay the laborers. He instructs the steward to pay them off beginning with the last to the first laborers. Makes senses. If he had paid off the first laborers their agreed upon penny – they wouldn’t be around to complain when the last were paid the same. Verse 9 “And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.” They worked one hour and they received a day’s wage. Is this fair? Of course, what we think is fair – is not always what God thinks is fair.
Verse 10 “But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.” They had worked longer through the heat of the day, so it seems natural that they supposed He would have paid them more and not according to contract. But that wasn’t the case. Verse 11 “And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house.” – who hired them. Verse 12 “Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.” I think we can understand their reaction. The NFL running back says, “I rushed for 2,000 yards this season and you’re going to pay that first-year rookie more than me?” Or, “I’ve been a Christian for years, serving tirelessly, and that new recovering heroin addict is just as saved as me?” Or, “We are the house of Israel and these pagan Gentiles are now welcome into God’s Holy presence?” In Jesus’ response, He has the householder say, Verse 13 “Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?” Nothing I do towards others is any of your business. What happens between you and me is all you need to concern yourself with. I have fully met my obligation to you. Verses 14-15 “Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. It is not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”
This parable is the application of Law and Grace. It is a picture of all of us being equal in God’s eyes no matter when we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who live a life of following Christ in love and service and – those who live a life of meaningless activity who enter the kingdom at the last hour are – all welcomed and treated equally. The parable really teaches, in the end, that Christ makes the difference in the lives and conversion of all people. He is the great equalizer and rewards accordingly. Mormonism – being a works-based, performance-based religion – looks at the amount of “work” and associates that to – a degree of glory. Jesus teaches us that our glory is the same across the board, regardless of how long we have believed and served. Take for instance the thief on the cross. He lived a life apart from God – yet in his last moments – He cried out to God and Jesus to save him (Luke 23:32-43). Mormons might think this isn’t fair – that this thief gets to enjoy the same glory as someone who devotes their entire life to God. But this parable clearly answers that for them.
We will end – with a review of what is called The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican found in Luke chapter 18. Remember the Pharisees claimed to be important religious leaders of the Jews, who are secretly wicked and love to look righteous to others. On the other hand, the publicans are tax collectors and are despised by the Pharisees. These two men in our parable were as different as could be: the one was a law-keeping religious Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest Jewish tax collector working for the Roman government. Verse 9-11 “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners (thieves), unjust (unrighteous), adulterers, or even as this publican.” The Pharisee wasn’t really seeking God as evidenced by the fact that he “prayed thus with himself.” He was basically talking to himself. Haven’t we all been guilty of that? When we said quietly or silently, “Wow, I’m sure glad I’m not a loser like that guy.” The Pharisee erred in thinking that he was “not a sinner.” This Pharisee knew he was far better than the publican he saw praying across the way. Verse 12 “I fast twice in a week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” He was a “full tithe-payer.” Pharisees would fast twice a week on specific days, that were market days in Jerusalem. Which meant that everyone could see the piety in their long faces as they trudged their way to the temple to pray. Do we know people like this? People who try to look like they’re perfect? He doesn’t ask forgiveness for his sins, perhaps because he believes he has nothing to confess. Nor is there any praise or thanksgiving to God. His prayer is all about him. He might as well have stayed home. Such a prayer is not heard by God.
The Scriptures will now show that “unworthy” people were permitted to enter the temple – people who wouldn’t pass the worthiness interview questions. This “unworthy” publican certainly had no temple recommend – nor, was is necessary. We need to note that none of the modern-day LDS temple rites and ceremonies were practiced in the ancient temple of God. This temple was used for sacrificing animals and prayerful worship. Verse 13 “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” He felt so low that he did not think he could even lift his eyes to heaven. He had been convicted of sin and came to the one place where he could find forgiveness – He had come to God and he was seeking mercy. He made no excuses for his sin. He came in totally humility. How many times have we said to the Lord in prayer “I promise I’ll never do that again?” When I make those kinds of promises, I am expressing a confidence in my flesh that – will prove to be an embarrassment to me down the road. I must simply ask the Father to have mercy on me. This publican exhibits precisely what Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Being poor in spirit means admitting we have nothing to offer God to atone for our sin. We come as empty, bankrupt, desperate beggars. The tax collector recognizes his sinful condition and seeks the only thing that can bridge the gap between himself and God. God has promised to accept us, love us, and make us alive again through His Son (Colossians 2:13). No amount of good works, church attendance, tithes, community service or anything else is sufficient to take away the sin and make us justified before God. That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross. His death is the ONLY “work” that is able to cleanse us and make us acceptable to God. Jesus imputed His righteousness onto the tax collector – who went home justified.
Then Jesus says, Verse 14 “I tell you, this man (the publican) went down to his house justified rather than the other (the Pharisee): for every one that exalteth himself (is lifted up in pride) shall be abased (brought down, humbled); and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Once you understand that it is based solely upon mercy – prayer becomes a total pleasure. And when the answers come and the blessings are released and things begin to happen, guess who gets the glory? You can’t take credit because of your spirituality or discipline. You simply glorify God with humility and great appreciation – as you stand in awe of His answer to your prayer and His work in your life. Surprisingly enough, only the tax collector returned home justified before God. The word “Justified” means – God’s act of declaring a person “not guilty” of sin. Only the publican recognized his sin – therefore, he was the only one God justified. The self-righteous Pharisee had said that he had no sin, therefore – there was nothing for God to justify for him. He returned home – no different than when he had entered the temple. The principle is that no one has anything of value to bring to God in order to deserve salvation, mercy, or justification. The proud will be humbled – but the humble with be honored.
And, that includes our review of Matthew 19-20, Mark 10, and Luke 18. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons. com
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