Follow along with audio and full transcript below…
We’ve been looking at the third section of Matthew 16:21 – chapter 25 and we’ve divided that into two parts; 16:21 – chapter 17 and chapter 18 – chapter 25. The message of this section of scripture we call “the nature of the kingdom of heaven”. The nature of the kingdom of heaven, the essence of it and heart of it is a spiritual kingdom rather than a physical kingdom. It has to do with the heart. The reason we broke it down in these two sections because it deals with the nature of the kingdom; that is, spirituality. I suggest that this is one easy way to digest some of the facts that are inside. 16:21 – chapter 17 gives in three stories that are mentioned in that section, three great principles about what it means to be spiritual; how to be spiritual. Each of those stories contains a principle. If we are abiding by these principles, then we’re spiritual. To any degree whatsoever we lack in those principles, we also lack in spirituality.
We looked at the first principle, chapter 15:21 – 17:13, the transfiguration. The principle was “see Jesus glorified”. If I’m spiritual I’ll be seeing Jesus glorified. That means I will be seeing the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the Lord Jesus through this Bible. Anyone who is spiritual sees Christ in the scripture; not just the facts but the Spirit’s revelation. The second story was the healing of the lunatic child after they came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. The principle was “trusting Jesus unreservedly”. The illustration was of prayer and fasting. Prayer is laying hold of God and fasting is letting go. It’s that heart attitude that lays hold and let’s go; attachment and detachment. The third principle is illustrated by the story of the miracle of the coin that was lodged in the fish’s gill; resting in the all-sufficiency of Jesus. If those three things are in my life and increasing and I’m seeing and trusting Christ and resting in Christ, then I’m spiritual.
Then you come to the second part. If that is true what will I look? What does a spiritual Christian look like and what are the characteristics and out workings of such a life? I suggested the eight or nine stories going all the way to chapter 25 gives the characteristics of such a life. We’ve already looked at two of them; chapter 18:1-14, the first, most cardinal, most basic characteristic is childlikeness. If I’m really spiritual I will be childlike. That is the most fundamental of all the characteristics. Don’t forget what childlikeness is. It’s helplessness; helpless dependence on God. It’s not copying the disposition of children. The opposite is true. It describes their nature. They are just helpless and always dependent upon Him; need constantly leaning on supply. That’s what childlikeness is.
The second characteristic from last time, chapter 18:15 through the end, through 35; a forgiving spirit. If I’m really spiritual, then I’ll have a forgiving spirit. If I know in my soul that I’ve been delivered from ten million dollars’ worth of debt, and I’ll know the worse anybody can ever do to me, no matter how bad it is, is under twenty dollars’ worth, as I enter into His forgiving mercy, then it will flow out of my life. Once again, you don’t work on childlikeness. You can’t make yourself helpless and come before God and say, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to be helpless today.” If you’ve got self-trust, you’ve got to trust God. You can’t wish that away and you can’t put on a forgiving spirit. If you do not have a forgiving spirit, you can’t forgive. And you can’t create a forgiving spirit. You can’t work at it and say, “Well I’m just going to go find someone I’ve offended and I’m going to go forgive them.” It won’t work. It won’t work on the outside but not on the inside. You can obey God but you can’t delight to obey God until He writes that in your heart. Delight is a matter of the Lord. When I’m really entering into this, that will be true and this will be true and that’s where we are now.
Chapter 19, and the third characteristic, 1-15. We have a little problem with this third characteristic. Let me read the passage and then I’ll state the problem for you and a possible solution to it. Follow along, the Spirit uses the illustration of marriage and divorce. He uses marriage and divorce as an illustration. In our day marriage and divorce has become such a problem that it’s more than an illustration. It’s the point and not the illustration. So, there’s a temptation to dive right into that and miss the point that He was illustrating. It’s possible to lose your very point by too strong an illustration. When Jesus gave this illustration it wasn’t as strong as it is today because all we hear about today is marriage and divorce. So, when you read this, all of a sudden all you see is marriage and divorce and that’s not His point. He has another point and that’s His illustration.
Recently I saw an ad on TV. Three men were coughing and the first man coughed smoke out of his mouth and ears. The second man coughed feathers from his mouth and the third man coughed a jet of fire from his mouth. I notice when it was on TV my children liked it and they say, “Come on. Here it is again.” They got a big kick out of seeing the smoke and the feathers and the flames. When the ad was over I started with Lillian and I went through all the children and I asked, “What are they advertising?” Nobody knew the product. The next time I paid attention it was some kind of cough drops and I don’t even remember the name of the cough drops that they were advertising. The point is this, that is not a good ad. It’s too good. It’s so good that you lose the point. You can’t buy their product because all you think about is the feathers and the smoke and the fire. There’s too much scenery. You go after the illustration and you miss the point.
Back to this chapter, the point is not marriage and divorce. That’s His illustration. It’s true He has a lot to say about marriage and divorce, but we’ve still got to deal with this passage as if that were the illustration. So, here is what I’m going to do. Because of the modern day in which we are living and because there is a problem, I hate to leave Matthew 19 and not say anything about marriage and divorce because that’s a big issue today. When I teach a book I try to give principles and stay off of controversies and issues and that which is disputed but in our day, because so many of God’s people have been burned with this thing – marriage and divorce – I believe every Christian ought to know exactly what the Bible teaches about marriage, divorce and separation.
Here’s what I’m going to do and I’ll invite you, if you’d like to, after the study tonight, (we’ll go through this in terms of Matthew), we’ll have a little fellowship of ten of fifteen minutes, and then there is going to be another teaching. If you want to stay for that you are certainly welcome to because I’m going to teach it and put it on tape. If you can’t stay and would like the tape, of course you may have the tape. And if you can’t stay and don’t want the tape, that’s okay, too. You don’t have to explain anything to anybody. I just want you to know we’re going to have a double session tonight for those want it. We’re going to do Matthew as it appears in the flow of Matthew first now. Then we’re going to come back after and those that can join us are certainly welcome. I want to deal head on without glittering generalities exactly what the Bible teaches about sex, marriage and divorce. We’re going to touch on the real principles and I trust that you’ll pray that the Lord will guide us in that.
First let me give you the background and occasion of this marvelous passage. In verse 1, “He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea.” You get the idea that took a day. It didn’t take a day. There’s an awful lot in verse 1 that Matthew doesn’t tell you. If you want to know what happened between Galilee and Judea, read Luke 9:51- chapter 17:11 and if you want to know what else happened in that one verse, then read John 7:2 – chapter 11:52, because all that happened between Galilee and Judea. The Holy Spirit is not concerned, really, that we get the chronology. He’s concerned that we get the spiritual logic. The Holy Spirit is writing the story of redemption and He homes in on those occasions that lay out the principle. For example, we’re studying Matthew. The Holy Spirit selects certain incidents which will give the principle that develops the message of Matthew. He stops at certain events that illustrate his truths.
It’s always been amazing to me how our Lord Jesus could take the most un-genuine circumstance and turn them around to present spiritual truths. For example, notice verse 3, “Some Pharisees came to Him testing Him.” These were not genuine seekers. They weren’t seekers of God and of truth. They came to trip Him up and catch Him in His words and to corner Him. They didn’t have true questions that come from the heart. They had barbed questions. No matter which way He answered they tried to accuse Him and catch Him in His words. The Lord Jesus takes this dishonest question and He turns it around for an occasion to lay down great spiritual truths. These men weren’t seeking the truth. They didn’t care about God’s light. They didn’t want that. They wanted to involve Him in a very heated discussion.
Let me give some background on this. In New Testament days it wasn’t much different than it is today. They also had their theological bull sessions and their divisions and disagreements. One of the big battlegrounds in the New Testament days was Deuteronomy 24:1-4. That’s the only Old Testament passage on the teaching on divorce, or at least so they thought. Not everyone agreed as to what was meant by Deuteronomy 24:1-4. If you have the NAS, speaking about divorce, “If he, the husband, has found some indecency in her,” (okay what is indecency), he could divorce her. What is indecency? Well, they had their liberals and conservatives in that day, too. There was a man named Hillel, a Jewish rabbi who was very liberal. He said, “Indecency was anything the husband deemed indecent.” For example, these are his examples from history; too much salt on the food. That’s indecent. You could divorce her for too much salt on the food. Overcooking the food, wearing a veil in public and too much talking were some of the things Hillel said you could divorce her for any cause.
On the other side there was another school of thought with another rabbi equally as famous; Shammai. He had another school of thought and he had many followers. He said, “No, there is only one grounds for divorce and that’s moral indecency; fornication, adultery, sexual impurity.” It was the purpose of the Pharisees to involve our Lord Jesus in the conflict. Verse 3, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” The popular interpretation was that of Hillel; any cause at all. If you get tire of her, give her a boot. The Pharisees felt they had Jesus trapped because if He said, “Yes, any cause,” then the whole school of Shammai would be against Him. If He said, “One cause,” then the whole school of Hillel would be against Him. If He said, “No cause,” He contradicted Moses in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 24. Anyway He answered He was stuck. It was this dishonest question and occasion of their trickery that Jesus used for good. He turned it around in order to lay down what we are going to call the third characteristic and outworking of a spiritual heart. If I’m really spiritual, what will my life look like?
So we don’t have any doubts about what we are saying, let me state it for you very clearly and then try to illustrate it through the passage. If I’m spiritual I’ll be childlike. If I’m spiritual I’ll have a forgiving spirit. If I’m spiritual I’ll be pure. That’s the principle; purity. That’s why he uses marriage in order to illustrate. You can take pure, holy, sanctified or set apart but you get the idea. If I’m really spiritual I’ll be going forward and one of the characteristics will be godliness. The Lord uses this occasion and the purity of the marriage relationship in order to illustrate this principle of purity. If I’m spiritual I will not only have a passing wish to be pure, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I were more godly.” Not at all! If I’m really spiritual I’ll have a passion for purity and not a passing wish; a burning desire and an all-consuming hunger to be more like Him, to be holy and to be pure.
In this connection I love John 2, when the Lord Jesus cleansed the temples, when He had a passion for the purity of God’s temple. The reason He gave was, “The zeal of My Father’s house has eaten me up.” That’s passion; it ate Him up. When I’m spiritual, the zeal for the purity of God’s temple will eat me up. I’ll have a passion to be pure in God’s holy temple. You’ll also have a passion to be pure. An awful lot of people teach the opposite; that if you are spiritual and you are looking to Jesus you can live any old way. The bible doesn’t teach that at all. Titus 2:11&12, “When the grace of God comes it will teach us.” What will the grace of God teach us when it comes? Titus 2:11&12 says, “The grace of God instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly and righteously and Godly in this present age.” It’s grace that teaches us that; not law. Grace teaches us to be holy. Ungodly Christians are not spiritual Christians. Holiness is an outworking of a spiritual relationship.
In order that this lesson might be practical, let me give you three principles of purity as they are illustrated in this passage. Just glance at the text and I’ll show you the divisions. Verse 1-9, Jesus answers the Pharisees. Verses 10-12 Jesus answers the disciples. Verses 13-15 the little children come and the parents bring them for blessing. There are three distinct stories there; Jesus answering the Pharisees, Jesus answering the disciples and then the little children coming for blessing. Each of those stories sheds light on the truth of purity. We’re going to look at each of those stores in order to get different principles concerning purity.
The first comes from the first nine verses Jesus answered to the Pharisees and it may be stated in these words; purity or holiness, godliness, does not come from rules. It comes from principles. Let me illustrate that. Jesus gave a very important answer to these Pharisees about divorce but the method of His answer is every bit as wonderful as His answer. Watch what He did. In answering the Pharisees He pressed back to God. Do you see how He did that? He pressed back to the purposes of God. He didn’t deal right away with the problem of divorce. They asked if it was legal to divorce. He said, “Let’s go back to the beginning and look at the purposes of God and back to the reason why God instituted marriage. Let’s go all the way back to Him.
In verse 4 you have the expression, “From the beginning.” In verse 8 you have the expression, “From the beginning.” The Pharisees had no concept of principles. They had no idea why God instituted marriage. They didn’t have a clue. They left God out of it altogether, “What does He have to do with this problem?” They wanted a rule and a list of regulations. They were concerned about rules, “How should we live? Give us some rules and then we’ll know what to do. Give us some regulations. Do you agree with the rules of Hillel or do you agree with the rules of Shammai? Or do you have some other interpretation of Moses and Deuteronomy? We need to know how to live. List for us all the reasons that we can divorce somebody and then we’ll obey them and we’ll know how to live. Give us some rules.”
The Lord Jesus refused to give rules. He pressed back to God. He didn’t care about the opinions of men or Shammai or Hillel or anybody else. He said to go back to God and what God intended. Because when you go back to God and when you find out His purpose and His intention, His design, you’ll find you’ll have the answer to your questions without rules. You don’t need rules. That’s what is so dangerous about what we call traditions, that expression that we’ve seen twice in this passage; “from the beginning.” Tradition doesn’t go back to the beginning. That’s what makes it so wrong. It doesn’t press back to God and see His original heart.
There’s a lot of things that have been started by principles, by the purpose of God and have been turned into traditions and rules. Let me give a couple of examples so that you know what I’m talking about. The mid-week prayer meeting. I’m not against mid-week prayer meetings, if you press back to God and you go back to the purpose for which they started. But sometimes you forget that. Sometimes you say, “I’m supposed to go because it’s a religious duty.” And it becomes a tradition. The same thing is true of table grace. I’m sure when somebody started table grace there was a purpose for it. Maybe the Pilgrims or whoever started it but the idea was, “This came from God. Everything comes from God. We need to eat to stay alive. Something had to die in order that we might stay alive physically. Everything you eat was alive at one time. Something had to die in order to keep you alive and you want to thank God for that because it pictures spiritual life. He had to die in order we might live spiritually.”
I know in our family sometimes table grace is nothing more than a ritual. You recite a bunch of words. I’ve already caught myself praying with the children at night saying, “Thank you for this food,” and we’re already going to bed. It’s just a ritual, a habit and it just comes out. Some years ago in a church I pastored we stopped taking an offering and started putting a box in the back of the room. The principle was that God will supply our needs; He knows our needs. But it wasn’t long before that principle became a tradition. The box still stayed there but the principle was gone. So, every week we had to make sure that everybody knew the box was there, so they didn’t forget to drop it in. You lost the principle. I’m not saying to not have traditions but press back to God. That’s what Jesus did here. When they asked for a rule he said, “No rules.” Press back to God. Find Him and the purpose for which He instituted it. Find His heart and His reason and then you won’t need a rule. That’s what Jesus said. You can fill that in with almost anything, anything that begins with a principle can be turned into just tradition; the family altar, memorizing scripture, Sunday School, visitation, camp works, tapes, whatever. Once again, I’m not saying to throw out traditions out the door and out the window. But press back to God. Purity does not come through rules. That’s the principle. You aren’t holy because of rules. I’m not holy because of rules. Jesus went back to creation, back to God and the beginning and the institution.
Verse 7 they were confused at Jesus’ method of pressing back to God, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce? What about Moses’ rules? Moses had rules. How come he had rules?” I love the answer the Lord Jesus gave in verse 8, “Because of the hardness of your heart, that’s why you have rules.” Let me word it this way and say; rules are only for the hard hearted. Think about that. Don’t be afraid to believe this. The spiritual Christian does not need rules to be holy or pure. He doesn’t need a list of do’s and don’ts. When he sees Christ glorified and trusts in Him unreservedly and rests in His all sufficiency, he WILL be childlike and WILL have a forgiving spirit and he WILL be pure. He’ll be conformed to the image of Christ. Rules are for the stubborn and for the hard hearted. The Pharisees said, “Moses commanded divorce.” Jesus said, “No, he didn’t command it. He permit it. Read it carefully. He permitted it because of the hardness of hearts.”
Here is what was happening. Jewish men had become very cruel to their wives. They were bigamists and everything else. They were throwing them out all the time for no reason. Moses came along and said, “This had got to stop. You can’t treat those women like that. You are hard hearted. What’s the matter; you throwing your wife out on the street because she over salted the food? We’ll have none of that. From now on you can’t do that unless you have a formal bill of divorce.” Moses wasn’t trying to encourage divorce. He was trying to protect the women. It was because of the hardness of their hearts. He said, “From now on there’s a law. You can’t do that unless you have a certain bill of divorce.” Of course, they twisted that all up. Rules and laws are for the hard hearted.
Why do you think they have laws against being a litter bug? It’s because there are hard hearted people out there who throw their trash all over the place. Why do you think they have laws against drunk driving? It’s because there are hard hearted people out there who will drive a car when they are drunk. That’s why they have laws against anything. That’s why they have speed laws and laws against stealing. That’s what laws are for; the hard hearted. Christians don’t need a law. They are going to be law abiding, not because of some rules but because of another principle by which he’s operating. A spiritual Christian does not live by rules and regulations. If you need a rule to read your Bible, you are in trouble. If you need a rule to tell you to pray to the Lord, you are in bad trouble. If you need a rule to tell you to fellowship with the dear people of God, you’ve got a spiritual problem. You don’t need rules for those things. Purity doesn’t come from rules.
What a slap in the face it would be to my wife Lillian if all of a sudden I said, “From now on there’s going to be some rules around here.” And I began to tell Lillian, “Here’s the rules. I want supper at such and such a time.” And I gave her a rule against spending money or a rule about flirting with other men. She’d say, “That’s an insult. I’m not going to flirt with other men. I don’t need a rule for that.” And I say, “Oh, yes, you need rules; rules for carousing at night. Not going to have that.” She doesn’t do that. And it isn’t because she follows rules. Jesus went right by the rules of the Pharisees and Hillel and Shammai and even stepped by Moses. Jesus said, “If you want an answer to your question, let’s get the principle and once you have the principle the question will be resolved.” And oh it was!
What did God have in mind when He created male and female? What did God intend when He said in verse 5, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” What’s the principle? Once you have the heart of God, you’ll find all your questions are answered. Brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t think I can stress enough that purity and Godliness and holiness does not come by following a bunch of formulas or rules. I think you all know that by now. I hope those of you listening by tape understand that you are not made God-like by following a bunch of rules and formulas. You aren’t going to be made holy by logging in so many hours a day in Bible study or prayer or fasting or witnessing or something like that. It doesn’t matter if you can read the Bible through in a year. It doesn’t make you holier than you were before. Holiness comes by pressing back to God always. That’s what Jesus did; by seeing His purposes and understanding His mind and heart and intentions.
Let me give some illustrations. Sometimes somebody comes to me and says, “What does God allow us to do on Sunday?” You know what they are after; give me some rules. What can I do and what can’t I do? Find out why God instituted the Lord’s Day and you won’t have any more questions about what you can do on Sunday. Get back to the heart of God on that. Why did He start it in the first? “Give me some rules on Bible study and how I can really get into it and understand it.” Why did God give us the Bible? Go back to God and find out the purpose of the Bible and then you’ll know how to study. You don’t need rules for anything. The spiritual Christian doesn’t need a rule. He just needs to press back to God. “How do brothers and sisters get along with one another?” Go back and see why God instituted the church; the purpose for the body and what He set it up for and you’ll know how it works together. Always press back to God and you’ll be amazed at how wonderfully free your life will become.
That’s the first principle; purity doesn’t need rules and it presses back to God Himself. The second principle can be stated in these words; not only does purity not issue from rules but real purity issues from relationship with God. There are two pictures of relationship from this passage. One is the relationship of marriage and the other is in verses 10-12, the heart eunuch. Both teach the same thing. Purity issues from relationship. We’re going to come back to that heart union in a moment. Why did the Lord Jesus go back to the institution of marriage? I think He was doing more than pressing back to God. He was also exposing the most wonderful relationship on the earth; marriage, as a picture of union with Jesus Christ. It’s true that the epistles develop this more than the gospels do but Matthew hints at it. Look at verse 12 when He talks about those who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He’ll get a little bit spiritual there. We’ll explain that in a moment.
Let me go back for a moment to show how He climbs up to heaven in these relationships. The first relationship He talks about is not marriage but the relationship of parents to children and children to parents. What a relationship that is! Isaiah 49 uses that. The prophet Isaiah calls the relationship of a baby to its mother the closest on the earth. When he wants to illustrate the love of God, he uses a baby and its mother; there’s your close relationship. But he says in verse 5 that there comes a time when a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife. The relationship between a child and his parents is not the highest, even though it’s the greatest illustration of the love of God. The marriage union is more intimate and so it better pictures union with Jesus Christ. Marriage is higher than the filial relationship when it comes to picturing God. God chooses marriage, the most intimate relationship on the earth and then He chooses the physical side which is the most intimate side of the most intimate relationship on the earth, in order to give us a little foretaste of what it means to be united to God. In verse 12 He goes even a step higher. There is the relationship of the child to a parent and the relationship of a husband to a wife but as a man would leave his parents to be united in marriage, the eunuch would leave marriage in order to be united to God. This is the highest union; the kingdom of heaven in union with Christ Himself.
Let me back off a moment and show you God’s institution of marriage. Turn to Genesis 2 because I think this will help get us into the heart of it. I want you to notice the method by which God instituted marriage; the way He did it was so full of purpose, so full of desire and He was moving toward a goal. Genesis 2:20, “And the man gave names to all the cattle, to the birds of the sky and to every beast in the field but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” The way the Spirit of God wrote this, it was His desire to catch your attention. He created the birds, male and female He created them and He created the sea monsters, male and female He created them. And He created the animals, male and female He created them. And even the creeping things He made masculine and feminine; male and female. Then He made plants; male and female. But in verse 20 we read, “But for Adam there was not found a helper.” The way He did that grips you. He did that on purpose because He’s going to illustrate something. He created man with no counterpart; absolutely complete in himself. Everything was in man and He called man “Adam”. In verse 21, “So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and he slept and he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.”
Why didn’t He just say, “Let there be woman?” It would have been easier; just make a woman. He said, “No, I’m going to show you something.” So, He made the sleep fall upon Adam and He performs surgery on him and takes a rib (don’t think necessarily the bone we call a rib. The Hebrew is not clear. Some people think it might mean some kind of an organ. It’s not important). The point is this; that man was made complete in himself and then God causes a deep sleep to fall upon man and then He takes something from man. I didn’t get much further in this but I know that if you have something complete and by the process of subtraction you take something from it, it’s no longer complete. That’s just simple math. He did that on purpose. Verse 22, “And the Lord God fashioned a woman from the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man and the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. She shall be called “woman” because she was taken out of the man.’” This is an awful lot of work that God goes through, instead of just creating out of nothing a woman. He makes man complete and then He makes man incomplete and then He gives back what He’s taken and makes man complete again and they become one.
In verse 23 Adam recognized that completeness and marriage was instituted. Verse 24, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother,” don’t forget that those words were out of the mouth of Adam and he didn’t know what a father and mother were at that time and that was prophesy, “and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.” One of the problems of studying a book like Matthew is that you’ve also studied other things at other times and you don’t want to slap too much on. But when it comes to the institution of marriage I don’t want you to think that I’m guessing. God did not leave us in the dark as to what was intended. Ephesians 5:30, “We are members of His body. For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. The mystery is great, but I am speaking in reference to Christ and His church.”
I don’t know how far I can push the illustration. I have an idea that the deep sleep pictures the darkness of the cross. I won’t press that. I don’t know if Adam bore scars in his body, the scars of deep, deep birth. I don’t know. But I know this, that he was made complete and then he was made incomplete and then he was given the woman and they were complete again. So, I’m not surprised when I read that man was made complete and that he fell into sin and that Christ came and were joined together. Colossians 2:10, “In Him you have been made complete and were married to Him and are one in Him.” God intended marriage to illustrate our union with Christ. Ideally, you ought to be able to look at me in my relationship with Lillian and you ought to be able to say, “Now I know what it means that God loves the world. It’s the same thing that Ed has for Lillian.” Ideally, you ought to be able to look at Lillian and say, “Now I understand what it means to surrender to Christ. It’s the same thing Lillian is doing with Ed.” That’s God’s picture. That’s God’s plan.
There’s no way we can understand the teaching about divorce apart from that institution of marriage (and this is what Jesus was doing), because if you don’t understand divorce, it’s because you don’t understand marriage. Marriage was instituted by God to be a picture of union with Christ. Let me hold that for you and ask this question. If marriage is to be a picture of an in-dissolvable union with Christ, what about divorce? The question disappears. If it’s a picture of Christ and union with Christ, going back to the fountainhead dissolves the question. That’s why the union of marriage is to be so pure and so spotless and so holy, because it pictures our union with Him.
Matthew 19:10-12, “The disciples said to Him, ‘If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.’” They were saying that this was too high and it’s too much and if they couldn’t get rid of her for salting the food, it’s better not to get married. They completely misunderstood the spiritual impact of what Jesus was saying. Verse 11, “But He said to them, ‘Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.’” It’s amazing to watch the commentators on this verse. Some say not all accept the statement of the disciples, that is that it’s better not to marry. Not all can accept that. That’s true but is it? It’s the statement that follows from the Lord Jesus, “Not all can accept this statement.” I don’t think that either one of those is the statement that all can accept. I don’t think that’s what He’s talking about. He said the same kind of thing in Matthew 11 about the coming of Elijah; not many can accept it. If you can accept it, and you can take it, John the Baptist is Elijah. If you can accept it and can not accept it this way… What is He talking about?
You see, I know in Matthew 11 He’s talking about spiritual discernment. He said, “I’m going to say something spiritual and not all of you can accept it. Only those to whom it was given can accept what I’m about to say because it’s spiritual. The same thing happened in John 6. It says, “Except you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you.” In John 6:6 they said, “This is a difficult statement. We can’t receive that and can’t accept that.” Not all of you can accept it. He had in mind when He said, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” He’s talking about spiritual discernment.
In Matthew 13 He told His disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see. Blessed are your ears because they hear. To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but to them it has not been granted. Unless it’s granted you can’t see.” I believe that’s what He’s saying. He’s about to say something spiritual in verses 10-13 and He said, “Not all can accept what I’m about to say. Not all can accept the spiritual truth that I’m about to give. What is that spiritual truth? Let me state it as a principle. Every Christian is called to be a spiritual eunuch. Not all accept that but that’s the principle He is laying down. Every Christian is called to be a heart eunuch. Jesus goes from the earth to heaven, from the physical to heaven, from the physical to the spiritual. You all know what a eunuch is. A eunuch is a castrated person. It’s a male that has been altered and has been emasculated. That’s more than a vasectomy because castration completely destroys all the desires as well. It’s complete.
Jesus used the eunuch as an illustration of a spiritual Christian. It’s a metaphor. He’s not talking literally. He goes from the literal to the spiritual. He mentions three kinds of eunuchs in this passage. He mentions congenital eunuch; those that are born that way and they can’t get married because of their birth. Maybe they are crippled and maybe severely retarded or handicapped in some way, but they are born that way; as eunuchs. Then He talks about forced eunuchs; those who were made eunuchs by cruel men. Many times after a war men were made eunuchs; just the violence from the heart of men. There were other times they did that, too; to slaves and people watching over the wives, etc. Thirdly, He mentioned voluntary eunuchs; congenital eunuchs, forced eunuchs and then those volunteering, those who deliberately (He’s gone spiritual – don’t be like Origen who took it literally and became a voluntary eunuch. He’s not talking about that.) He’s now gone spiritual and that’s why some can’t accept it. There are some who have voluntarily exercised self-denial (don’t forget that we’re upstairs and not talking about the marriage anymore). I’m talking in such a way that they are spiritual eunuchs.
You’ll understand when I quote Paul. 1 Corinthians 7:29, “The time has been shortened. From now on let those who have wives be as though they have none.” What does that mean? Then He gives you a few other illustrations. “Let those who weep be as though they did not weep. Let those who rejoice be as though they did not rejoice. Let those who buy be as though they did not possess. Let those who use the world be as though they used it not, for the form of this world is passing away.” Do you see what He’s saying? A heart eunuch is the picture of a total absolute surrender to God and it’s even stronger than fasting. The illustration of fasting is letting go but it’s only temporary. For example in the occasion that we studied fasting there was a special Christian service; the casting out of the demons where you need an unction, an anointing and need the power of God. That heart attitude of a special need where you cry out, “Lord, I’m going to hold you and let go of everything for a season, in order to have the power.” This is not for a season. This is an attitude of the life, a heart eunuch who has the principle of self-denial written in his life and in his heart and cut off willingly and refusing the highest relationship on the earth.
Let me describe it in terms of what we can understand. A heart eunuch puts his relationship with God far above any position he can ever get on the earth; far above any relationship of friendship he can have on the earth; hold his relationship with God higher than any possession he could ever gain on the earth; higher than any opportunity that could ever be afforded him; higher than any ambition he could ever have in his mind; higher than any achievement he could ever make; higher than any goal he could ever press toward; higher than any gift he possesses; just God and just the Lord. You might say, “Yes, but how about other important things, like family?” “I’m a eunuch for God and cut off from everything.” “Does that mean I don’t love my family?” Of course it doesn’t but let him that has a family be as one who has none. In this relationship to God nothing is as important as His union with Jesus Christ. He’s just describing that our relationship should be wedded bliss and we ought to be heart eunuchs.
That purity issues from relationship. Let me word it this way. If your purity, your good works, your behavior, your godliness, is the source of your relationship, you are not spiritual. If your purity is the expression of your relationship, you are spiritual. Do you see what I’m saying? Get clear on this, whatever else you do. The things you do cannot create relationship with God. You do things to express relationship. You don’t create it. For example, you don’t study to get close to God. You are close to God and that’s why you study. You don’t pray in order to be spiritual. You pray because you are spiritual. That’s not just terms. That’s another direction.
I heard the illustration of a swimmer. I don’t swim well but if you use your motions to hold yourself up, you’ll never be a good swimmer. Your arms and legs don’t hold you up. The water holds you up. Until you learn to rest in the water and use your motions to take you forward, you’ll never be a good swimmer. You trust God’s finished created work, the water will hold you up, so now you can use your motions to go forward. It’s the same thing in the Christian life. If you are using your quiet time to hold you up, you’ll never be a spiritual Christian. It’s not designed to hold you up. It will take you forward but it won’t hold you up. It’s the expression of a relationship. The same thing is true of Bible study or memorization or tapes or books. Don’t trust those things to hold you up. Christ holds you up.
When Jesus makes the comment about the heart eunuch, showing that all relationships and all purity issues from relationship, little children are brought to Him. Mark and Luke had a lot more details than Matthew does, such as the anger of the Lord against the disciples. He was steaming, “Don’t you do that to those little kids.” One of the gospels says that He actually picks up the little children. At least one of them was a brand new baby and He held him in His arms. Purity doesn’t come from rules. Purity does come from relationship. Purity is very practical and right down to earth. Some people have mystical ideas about the heart eunuch and that he’s too holy or he can’t be involved down on the earth and he can’t be bothered with us commoners. He’s too spiritual and contemplative. Let him go off in the woods or mountains some place and let him meditate with God.
That was the attitude of the disciples about being a heart eunuch and separated from everything except God, but then here comes the kids. They said, “Oh, get these kids out of here. He’s so holy, He doesn’t want to be bothered by a bunch of screaming kids. He’s a voluntary eunuch and a literal eunuch. A swarm of kids come up and they’re going to protect Him. “He has important business. Don’t bother Him. Get those kids out of here. Don’t you know that our Master is a heart eunuch and He needs to do spiritual things? He has to pray and worship and do miracles and stuff.” Jesus said, “I’ll not allow that view of holiness. Holiness is very practical and down to earth. It doesn’t put you on a plane over everybody else.” Jesus touched bodies; the bodies of children. It’s a picture. He told you what the children were a picture of. Jesus touched the bodies of children in order to illustrate that He touches the lives of the humble. What He is saying is this, “If you are really pure, one sign of that purity is going to be that you are not going to hinder the humble to be touched by the Lord for blessing.” That’s what they were doing. They were hindering the humble to be touched by the Lord for blessing. An awful lot of purity sets itself off on a mountain some place and just meditates on the Lord and where do the hungry go? Those who are needy? The real pure, those who are humble and want to be touched by God, they encourage the humble to be touched by the Lord for blessing.
The first principle is that purity doesn’t come from rules. The second principle is that purity is an outworking of a relationship. The third principle is that purity is very practical and down to earth. It doesn’t take the kids away. It has a heart to see people touched by Christ in order to be blessed.
Our Father, we do thank You for this passage. We pray in our lives that You might allow us to press on to You. Deliver us from those restrictions that would keep us all bogged down. Give us lives of freedom and liberty as we live in a deep relationship with you, a heart ministry with You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.