In this message, we continue to learn how marriage and family are holy. We know this subject is foundational to understanding God’s plan. To understand this we must understand how God views marriage and family. In part 1 of this section on the holiness of marriage, we saw how it applied to ancient Israel. How does marriage apply to God’s Church today?
[Gary Petty] A few weeks ago, we began a series of sermons on holiness and sanctification. I want to recap a little bit of what we covered to set the stage for what we want to go through today.
We talked about holiness and the word holy in both Hebrew and Greek have basically the same meaning. It has to do with God taking a thing, or a person, or a place, or a time, and it says that He sets it apart for Himself. Now the Bible talks about how God is holy. When we talk about something being holy, we’re talking about God taking an aspect of Himself and projecting it into something. Now this is very important. Remember, we started with, “Why did God kill Uzzah?” Why did God kill this man who was trying to do something good. And it came down to, he was profaning that God said was holy. And God gave ancient Israel holy rituals, a holy tabernacle, holy sacrifices and holy laws. And He said they were a holy people.
We also looked at – and we’ll cover just briefly today and touch on – that the New Testament church is a holy people. What does that mean? No human being can make anything holy. It’s one of the great fallacies that is, unfortunately, permeating much of Christianity throughout the course of history. In Christianity, there was an attempt to take things that were pagan and declare them holy as a way to attract pagans into the church. Well, declaring it holy didn’t make it holy. Only God can declare something is holy.
We then looked at, last time, how marriage and family was holy in ancient Israel and why it was holy. God said, “You are a holy people.” And He said, “You will produce a holy seed, or holy children.” And the holiness of their children was the commission of that was given to them. They were called by God – separated from the world – to be a holy nation of kings and priests to Him. And then He said, “Your children shall be holy.” We went through and showed, then, why marriage was so important – why divorce was so devastating.
And we also explained some of the strange laws in the Old Testament – or laws we think that are strange – that have to do with the protection of the holiness of marriage.
Now let me just recap a number of points. And write these down, because we’re going to finish up by going back to these points and seeing how they apply to the church today.
The first one is that Israel was to be God’s special people who were to represent Him to all the nations. They were to be a holy people representing Him to all nations. They received God’s holy laws, temple, sacrifices, rituals. All these things set them apart from the world.
Two, marriage was a sacred – sacred is just a synonym for holy – was a sacred institution ordained by God at creation. So they used the fact that it was created by God at creation to support its holiness. And we really, really need – because we live in a world in which marriage is not holy…. One of the things that was talked about at the conference this year is maybe…you know, we have 20 basic doctrines in the United Church of God. There are other things that branch off of that, but that’s sort of the trunk of the tree. We’re thinking about a 21st doctrine – that marriage is holy between a man and a woman, ordained by God – simple – about four paragraphs. This is what marriage and family is – it is ordained by God and is between a man and a woman. There was some discussion by the ministers in England…you realize, if you write that down as a basic doctrine, the United Church of God in England may be shut down. The government may shut us down. Isn’t that unbelievable? We’re not far behind that. The United States is not far behind that.
Three, marriage was supposed to produce children – holy children – dedicated to God. So, marriage was supposed to produce holy children dedicated to God. In fact, we read in Malachi, where it’s one of the reasons Malachi came to and was told to condemn them was because of the divorces that were happening inside of Israel – or inside of Judah at that time – the Jews had returned from Babylon.
Four, the land God promised to Israel, as the descendants of Abraham, was set apart by God and was the Holy Land. It’s still called the Holy Land today, isn’t it? So, when we look at certain laws of the Old Covenant, we find laws that seem strange to us, but they make perfect sense if you have a holy people, who are to have holy marriage, who are to produce holy children, and they are attached to a holy land. So, we went through the laws that said, if a woman’s husband died, and she didn’t have children, it was the duty of the nearest relative – male – to marry her, even if he had a wife – polygamy was not adultery; it was part of the law of God in certain circumstances. Why? Because then, she would have holy children. The name of her husband would continue through and for generation after generation the land would stay in that family – the holy land and they would produce holy children. That may seem foreign to us, but you have to understand the concepts. You couldn’t separate the land from the family. They were connected together – separated by God for His purpose. Now as we went through some other laws that contained eunuchs…remember, it was an R-rated sermon – well, this is going to be an R-rated sermon. You may have to cover the ears of your children in a few places here, but we need to go through some of this. Divorce was allowed in cases of fraud or adultery. So we went through those – fraud or adultery.
And then, the last point, is this special relationship between God, Israel and their family and the land was the means by which God was going to bring the Holy One of Israel – the Messiah – to humanity. So there was a reason for all this. Because Abraham, through his descendants, we were going to have what is called the Holy One of Israel – the Messiah – the Christ. So, everything He’s doing has a purpose here. And marriage is at the center of it.
So, we get into the New Testament. The New Testament instructions on marriage are based in the same principles as the Old Testament instructions on marriage, but they are slightly different. And for one reason why is, the New Covenant isn’t entirely about the land, so you women can breathe a sigh of relief. If you don’t have children and your husband dies, you don’t have to marry his brother. Okay? Then we say, “Well, why? That’s a law. Why don’t we keep that law?” Because, under the New Covenant, the land still goes…the land of Abraham is still promised to his physical descendants, but the New Covenant involves greater promises. And so there is a little change in that. If there’s not, you have to do that. You understand? It is a law. If there has not been a change in that law, you have to do it, or you’re disobeying God. But you don’t have to. As we go through this, you’ll see why.
So, let’s go through the teachings of Jesus and Paul. Peter talked some about marriage, but I just want to stick with the teachings of Jesus and Paul on family. But before we do that, let me set a stage here we have to set. When Jesus came, He said, “I’m going to build a church. I’m doing something different.” And what we have in the book of Acts – especially in that first 15 chapters – are these instructions that, okay, God is now expanding the church to all peoples. Now, I gave a sermon on that about six months ago – the purpose of the church. The purpose of ancient Israel – part 1; the purpose of the church was part 2. I’ve also gone through the covenants over the last year. So, we have a framework for this. So, He says, “Okay, we’re doing something now. God is doing something now.” And they had a hard time with that. It takes the first 15 chapters in Acts. You’re clear up to almost 50 AD. You’re clear up to almost two decades after the death of Jesus before they finally figure out, “Oh, He actually meant that.” And as this covenant expanded out and included people other than Jews, all kinds of new problems arose that they didn’t always have exact biblical answers for. And we’ll show how they had to come up with some answers. They struggled. We think Paul had all the answers. No, he didn’t. He struggled at times.
We know that they were bound together not by the holy rituals – this is very important – they weren’t bound together by the holy tabernacle – the physical tabernacle. They were bound together by something else. 1 Corinthians 12. And when we get to Pentecost – the Day of Pentecost – we’ll going through this. 1 Corinthians 12, and verse 12:
1 Corinthians 12:12 – Whereas the body is one and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit, we are baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, we were made to drink of that one Spirit.
We are not held together by the holy tabernacle or the holy sacrifices or the holy rituals that they were given. They were holy. They were given by God. That’s why it bothers me when I read commentators who say the ancient Israelites, who were sacrificing animals, were barbarians – because it was God that told them to sacrifice animals. They weren’t barbarians. They were doing what God told them to do. God created the animals and that’s how He decided to teach them certain things. But the church is held together by a singular Holy Spirit – we’ll have to discuss that in these series of sermons. As you can see, every time we get to one subject, it just opens up something else. What does it mean – the Holy Spirit? What does that mean? So we’ll have to discuss that.
So, we read last time, in 1 Peter 2 – or in the first sermon – where Peter says, then, that God is creating a holy priesthood, a holy nation – a people who are not a people – we’re not bound together by blood. We come from all different kinds of nationalities, and races, and peoples, and languages. Why? We’re brought together by a singular Spirit, which is a whole lot more powerful than any blood connection we can have. So we’re brought together by the Holy Spirit.
So, now we have a church, brought together by the Holy Spirit. What are the laws concerning marriage to us in the church? Let’s start with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19. Matthew, chapter 19 – now Jesus is talking…we have to understand who He is talking to here, because Paul is going to give us a little different viewpoint on certain things and we’ll have to understand who he is talking to. If you don’t understand the audiences, you will think they contradict each other. They don’t. Matthew 19, verse 3 – Jesus is talking to a Jewish audience that knows the Bible – a Jewish audience that knows the Scripture, and He says – verse 3 – the Pharisees come to Him:
Matthew 19:3 – The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and said, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
Now you say, “Well, that’s a strange question.” Their basis for discussion of divorce was Deuteronomy 24. We read Deuteronomy 24 last time, but let’s go back to that – Deuteronomy 24. Now, remember adultery was a basis for divorce. Of course it was. If you stoned the person who committed adultery, you were now free. I wonder how many people never did turn in a person who committed adultery, because they didn’t want them stoned. But here was another instruction about divorce.
Deuteronomy 24:1 – When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some uncleanness in her, then he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house. When she is departed from his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand, and sends her out of the house, or if the latter husband dies, who took her as the wife, then the former husband who has divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
So when a woman divorces, remarries, divorces this man and goes back to her first husband, he says, “This is just confusion. This can’t be happening.” But notice the reason for the divorce. He finds some uncleanness in her. Now this literally can be translated a naked thing. Now he discovers something at the core – a nakedness – in her. At the time of Jesus, there were two theological schools in Jerusalem – the School of Shimei and the School of Hillel. You’ve probably heard of Hillel. He was more famous, because the rabbis really followed him. His school became the predominant school. The School of Shimei said that what that meant – what Deuteronomy 24 meant – was he found out that she was not sexually who she had said she was. It was a case of fraud. In other words, this was something that he found out that was absolutely fraudulent – like, she’s a pagan. And Shimei said, basically, this has to do with sexuality, because he married her and she has to be a worshipper of God, but there might be something else that had happened, but that’s, basically, what it is. The School of Hillel basically said, “You know, he just finds something really bad in her that really gets on his nerves.” So they had an example, because they always would give examples, where the man found out she was a bad cook. And he couldn’t make her a good cook, so he divorced her – because he had found this uncleanness in her. So, you have to understand the context in which this is being asked. And the Pharisees are coming to Jesus, and this is a huge debate in the Jewish community. By the way, since Hillel was sort of winning the argument, guess what was happening throughout the Jewish world? Divorces!
Now, I want you to notice, ladies, the lady had no power of divorce, unless he committed adultery. She just had no grounds for divorce in the way that the Jewish society had developed. The man, on the other hand, was starting to get away with just about anything, as far as divorce. He just had to come up with a reason that she was, somehow, not fit to be his wife.
So they bring this to Jesus, and Jesus’ answer is very important in understanding our basis for marriage. So let’s go, now, and let’s look at verse 4:
V- 4 – And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So then, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Now He doesn’t directly answer, He just says, “Look, marriage was designed by God at the very beginning between a man and a woman, and human beings don’t have the right to go around just dissolving that.” This is very important in the world that we live in today. And this is one of the reasons I want to go through the whole concept of holiness. You don’t just get married because you want to be happy and you want fulfillment. That’s part of why we get married. You have to understand. You are a holy people. If we are a holy people, our marriages are sanctified and, therefore, holy. And they must reflect holiness. This means we have to understand the severity of divorce.
Now, we’re going to see where divorce is allowed at times, but we have to understand the severity of it. Remember what Malachi said when he said, “God said, ‘Divorce is an act of violence’” – an act of violence. And anybody who has been through divorce knows what that means. And it’s the violence that tears the person apart. You know, God knows what that feels like. You say, “How does He know that?” He divorced Israel. And, if you read the description of how God said He felt when He divorced Israel for being a prostitute – right? a spiritual prostitute – He describes the same feelings that other people describe when they talk about divorce – which I find very interesting. God says, “You want to go through a divorce? I’ve been through a divorce.” Of course, He has the power to fix it in the end.
V-7 – Now they said to Him – verse 7 – “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re saying there’s no reason for divorce.” We’ll that’s not what he said. He just said, “Look, we have to be really careful about divorce. This is a bound-by-God…this is a sacred institution. It is holy.
V-8 - He said to them – verse 8 – “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so.” He said, “The reasons you divorce for now is because what Moses said has been changed and changed and changed” – and here it was 1,400 years later, and divorce was becoming…it wasn’t rampant through the Jewish society, because they still believed in the holiness of marriage, but divorce taking place more commonly than you’d think, because of the men who just, maybe, didn’t like this woman and wanted another woman. Then He says in verse 9:
V-9 – “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her, who is divorced, commits adultery. That is a remarkably powerful sentence that we have never fully understood in the church in all the years I’ve been in the church. That’s a remarkable sentence. And look what His disciples did. His disciples’ reaction is just basically what most of us just felt.
V-10 – His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” “You mean we have to stay with them?! But she can’t cook and she nags me all the time!” And His answer is, “Yes.” Now remember, the women, in this case, don’t have any say so. Now, we live in a different society. So the disciples are saying, “Whoa, this means that a lot of guys we know are living in adultery?!” They looked at what had just been said, and said, “Wow! You know, ole Joseph ben Aaron, down the street there, is living in adultery, because he didn’t have a right to divorce his wife.”
V-11 – But He said to them – now Jesus is really going to say something…you think He’s been controversial to this point…. By the way, all the rabbis who followed Shimei are saying, “Yes! Jesus got it!” All the rabbis who followed Hillel were saying, “Ah man, He’s strict! He just doesn’t have any love.” Now remember, He’s talking to a Jewish audience here, who believed they were holy people and that marriage was holy. They had the entire Old Testament. They studied the entire Old Testament. They believed that they were to produce holy children. They believed that the Messiah was to come through them – the Holy One of Israel. But boy, what He says next is really just strange in the society He’s talking to. But He said to them, “All cannot accept this thing, but only those to whom it is given, for there are eunuchs that are born thus from their mothers’ wombs. Remember, a eunuch could not enter into the tabernacle. Remember? That’s why the street fight we talked about was such an issue. The law…we won’t go through it. And why? Because, if a man could not produce children, he could not perform his holy duty. That’s why the women were so distraught, back then, when they couldn’t have children. I mean, women are distraught today if they can’t have a child, but it was more than just the emotional part of it. It was the fact that she couldn’t fulfill her holy duty! Because they were to produce holy children. And eunuchs…they couldn’t even go into the temple. Now, God loved them. They were part of the covenant people, but they were restricted in what they could do. And now He says:
V-12 – …there are eunuchs that are born that way – who are born thus from their mothers’ wombs and eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men – talking about the mutilation that took place in the day – and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, saying, “He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” Now, He doesn’t mean physically mutilating themselves, but He says, “There are people who decide to be celibate in order to be part of the kingdom of God.” That is a brand new concept in Judaism! If you weren’t married – and it’s still this way in many Jewish communities – if you’re not married, it’s shameful. And you have to have lots and lots and lots of children. Why? Well, that’s what you were told to do. To not be married was a bit shameful. Calvin talks about that. And here He’s saying that, because of sexual immorality and divorce and the problems of this world, there will be some people who will remain celibate in order to be in the Kingdom of God. Boy! He just expanded this whole marriage thing out. He just exploded it! They must have walked away from that just dumbfounded – just dumbfounded – by His comments.
So here we have Jesus reinforcing that marriage is formed by God at creation. By the way, He’s not promoting a monastic lifestyle. All through the New Testament, marriage is taught as a gift from God. And the New Testament church is to produce holy children and have holy marriages. But there was also an idea, the price for the Kingdom of God may include celibacy. So we’re not talking about monastic…you know, Origen took that – one of the early fathers of Catholicism – literally and they had an order that literally did that to themselves. They mutilated themselves in order to fulfill that. Now, that’s not what He means! But what He’s saying here is, not being married is not a shameful thing. In some cases, it is a necessary thing.
That’s a new idea, because you’re not populating the land. You’re preparing for the Kingdom of God. We’re not preparing the land and the people for the first coming of the Messiah. The church is preparing a people for the second coming of the Messiah and the establishing of God’s Kingdom on this earth. We have a different purpose. And marriage plays in that purpose and yes, we all should celebrate marriage, but that’s a remarkable statement.
So, what does Paul teach? Let’s go to 1 Corinthians 7. Here is Paul’s most in-depth discussion on marriage. So Jesus says, “Okay, you can….” Remember, they’re arguing Deuteronomy 24. And He’s saying, “Okay, only for sexual immorality.” By the way, people have argued over the fact that “what does it mean there?” because I think the word He uses in that passage – it’s in one of the Gospels – it doesn’t say adultery. That’s why He says sexual immorality. The word is fornication. And there has been a misunderstanding, many times, of the word fornication, because fornication, people thought, meant sexual activity before marriage. That’s not what fornication means. It can mean that. It means any kind of sexual activity outside of the confines of marriage. Addiction to pornography is fornication according to what Jesus said in Matthew 5, where He expands adultery and sexual sins to the mind. Okay? So, fornication is a greater concept. So He uses this blanket statement to say, “…except for sexual immorality.” Now, we know, in the Old Testament, that could be fraud before marriage or wrong kind of sexual activity after marriage.
Corinth. Corinth…you know, I always love when we get into Corinth. I love describing Corinth. What a mess! But you have to understand something about Corinth that’s fascinating. Corinth is a harbor city with two harbors. It sits in a part of Greece that comes down and it almost connects…and it sits in between two harbors, which means it was full of what? Sailors. Now, all the clichés about sailors? Yeah. The name Corinth – the word Corinth – is a pun. It’s a pun. In Greek, it’s a pun that doesn’t make any sense to us. A pun in English makes no sense in Spanish. And I know because, if I say something that’s a pun, and I look at the people who are receiving translation, and they stare at me – that makes no sense at all. It’s a pun that literally means fornication. It is a city of raw, open sexuality. The temple to Aphrodite had 1,000 temple prostitutes and you were considered a holy person when you went to the temple prostitute – both male and female. That’s why, in Corinth, he has to tell the men, “Stop going to the temple prostitutes.” They’re not probably going just to some brothel someplace. They’re going to the temple, because all their lives they’ve taught that’s what makes you holy. You were connected with the gods when you went to a temple prostitute. This is a city that is absolutely X-rated all the time, every place, everywhere.
And this is the city he’s writing to. You have to understand that, because he’s going to make some points here that seem different than what Jesus did. But, of course, he’s faced with a brand new set of problems. Jesus was talking to a primarily rural group of people who were having too many divorces. He’s talking to a people who are coming out of Sodom and Gomorrah – homosexuality was rampant. And here he was trying to deal with it. Notice verse 1.
1 Corinthians 7:1 – Now concerning the things which you wrote to me: It is good for man not to touch a woman. I wish we had the exact question. 1 Corinthians is the answer to a whole bunch of questions. I wish we had the list of questions. We don’t. But notice what they’re asking him. “Is it best that we don’t even get married here?” Think of the world they’re coming out of. “Is it best we don’t even get married?”
Now, I know, if you’re a young person, you’re thinking, “How could anyone ask that question?” – since we’re into this R-rated material. I have counseled people who lived very immoral lives in their teens, in their twenties, and into their thirties. And they get married. And the romantic and sexual relationship between the husband and wife doesn’t mean anything to them. And the person they’re married to is devastated, because they don’t understand why it doesn’t mean anything to that other person. This is where these people were coming from. You know, “We’ve done everything. Maybe we shouldn’t even get married.” Paul’s answer is very interesting. He says – verse 2:
V-2 – Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife…. Now, remember, we don’t know what the question is. His answer is – to the question – “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” His answer is, “You know, for some of you, you should not get married.” This would have been…in the Jewish society, that is inconceivable! But they weren’t coming from this kind of immorality. In this society, Paul says, “You know, maybe you shouldn’t even get married, but…” – now he says, “Let me step back from that” – nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and each woman have her own husband. He says, “But you’ve got to realize that, if some of you don’t get married, you’re just going to continue to have all immoral sexual activity, so yeah, some of you need to get married.” Okay?” Then he says:
V-3 – Let the husband render to his wife the affection due to her and, likewise, also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does and, likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except with consent for a time that you may give yourself to fasting and prayer, and come together again, so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. In other words, he saying, “I’m telling you this…I’m not commanding you to have a sexual relationship in marriage. I’m saying you should.” You think, “Why would he have to say that? In the Greek and Roman world it was not unusual for people to see family as a way of growing children – or marriage as a way of growing children. They would get married. They would have a wife. The wife would be the baby factory. But the man and the wife would be having all kinds of affairs all over the place. But there was marriage and there was a family, in a way, but she was just there to have children. And so they were a very immoral society. Rome was the same way.
And he’s actually having to tell these people, “You know what? When you get married, there’s supposed to be a sexual relationship between a man and a woman.” Notice he doesn’t say, “…just to have children.” This is very important. He says, “This kind of affection is something that you are due each other. This is part of the relationship.” And that’s a very important statement said to a people who lived in an incredibly immoral environment. Sexual relationship is good in marriage. It’s blessed. It’s holy. It’s part of the holy relationship inside of marriage. It is holy.
These people were having a hard time understanding the holiness of sexuality because why? It’s like today. In 1968, we would advertise and try to reach people in college about why you should save sex for marriage. In 2014, that is a meaningless statement, because the average twenty-two-year old male has already had about two dozen partners, so telling him, “Save sex for marriage” is absolutely meaningless. See, our society is almost to this and the repercussions of that in marriage are going to be very, very difficult – very hard. So, here he has to tell them, “I can’t command you, but I’m trying to…you need to have a wonderful close sexual relationship.” He has to tell people to do it. He has to instruct them that that’s what they should have and that they should not – and this is very important, men and women – whenever you use sexual relationship as a weapon in your marriage, you are beginning to tear down the holiness of the marriage. Do not deprive one another.
Now, he has to go one and expand this out. He says in verse 7:
V-7 – For I wish that all men were even as I am, but each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widow, “It is good for them that they remain even I am.” At this point, Paul was not married. “But, if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Now, Paul never said this, by the way, to a Jewish audience. He seemed to be negative against marriage here, but he was not negative against marriage. He was dealing with the reality of a society of immorality. And he’s trying to say, “Wait a minute. This is sacred. It is holy. Maybe it’s best if some don’t get married” – which must have been the question some were asking. They must have been coming to some of the same conclusions.
You wonder if there’s going to come a time where people will gone through such sexual immorality it’s better for them not to get married. Now, if someone comes into the church and…I’m seen it happen – twenty, thirty years as a homosexual – and say, “I can’t marry.” “Okay, you don’t have to marry.” So the person remains celibate the rest of their life. It happens. They still will make the Kingdom of God. They are a eunuch for the Kingdom of God. He says now – verse 10 – now this is very important – what he’s going to say now:
V-10 – Now to the married, I command – yet not I, but the Lord – a wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife…. Now this is very interesting, because he just said something that you don’t find in the Jewish world – women divorcing their husbands. Did you catch that? The wife departs from her husband? He couldn’t have said that in the Jewish world. They didn’t have the right to do so. In the Greek and Roman world, they did. So he says, “Look, if you are people of the Spirit – with God’s Spirit – and you separate, unless there is a specific reason, you are to remain unmarried. You are to remain separated. That’s hard, isn’t it? It is what the Bible teaches, because why? Because you are holy people and you have been into a holy union. And, if you can’t do that for the Kingdom of God, and you decide to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God, then you have to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God. That’s the point. See, now you see where the teachings of Jesus are right involved here through the teachings of Paul.
Now Paul will give another reason for divorce. You say, “How could Paul come up with another reason for divorce? Because they had never faced this before. They were faced with a brand new problem. You know, we’re faced with brand new problems today all the time. How far can we travel on the Sabbath? You know, a “Sabbath day journey” is about a quarter of a mile. Well, we’ll use a car. Orthodox Jews won’t use a car. Do you know why? It starts a fire – which it does. A combustion engine starts a fire. Every time that piston fires off, it starts a fire. So it’s starting thousands of fires. So they won’t drive a car. But, what if they have to walk more than a “Sabbath day journey?” Well, they determined that where you eat your food is your place of residence, so they go out the day before – I was talking to Mike Isaac once and he said he actually knew an Orthodox Jew guy, in the place where he lived once, that did this – he would go out every fourth of a mile and leave food. So, you could walk a fourth mile, stop, eat something, walk another fourth mile, stop, eat something. He could now keep extending his “Sabbath day journey.” We have a brand new problem, don’t we? I’ve actually had people ask me, “How far can I drive a car on the Sabbath?” Find that answer in the Bible! But you know, they were dealing with the same thing in the first century. Paul said, “Oh, I’ve got a brand new set of problems.” Let’s look at what the new problem was.
V-12 – But to the rest I, not the Lord, say, “If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. Now he says, “I, not the Lord….” What’s he saying? He’s saying, “I don’t have a law for this one, folks, so I’m going to give you my ruling on this.” We have to do that all the time. We try to find the principle. What’s he going to say here? He’s talking about someone married to an unbeliever. He says, “Let him not divorce her. If you’re married to an unbeliever, stay with her.” Stay with her, or stay with him, if they’re an unbeliever.
Now, remember, in the Old Testament, they were commanded not to marry a pagan, or an unbeliever. Let’s look at how Ezra enforced that. You know, Ezra came across the situation where rampant marriage of pagans was going on. Now remember, this did not have to do with their nationality or their race. It had to do with their religion. Let’s go to Ezra, chapter 9. Leave a marker here, because we’re going to come back. So here’s how Ezra had to make that decision. Now I want you to remember what Ezra’s dealing with – a holy people and a holy land with holy families. Right? And he’s got to make a decision. He’s got to make a judgment. See, the Old and New Testament become a whole lot more understandable when you understand what God is doing at the time. And you also understand that, sometimes, these are human beings having to make decisions based on the law of God. …and a purpose – holy people, holy land. They had just come out of Babylonian captivity and then sent back to the holy land as the holy people to build the holy temple. Their holiness was the issue – that they were set aside by God for special work of His and given a sanctification from Him. Ezra, chapter 9, verse 1:
Ezra 9:1 – When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests of the Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that – notice what it says – the holy seed is mixed with the people of those lands. Indeed the hand of the leaders and rulers have been foremost in this trespass. In other words, they were worshipping all the gods and all the religions because they had simply mixed in and married all the people of these different religions. Now they were told in the Old Testament – the Israelites were told – not to do that. What is Ezra’s response?
V-3 – So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair on my head and beard, and sat down astonished. Now that poor guy had a nervous breakdown! He’s literally ripping out hair out of his head! “How could they be doing this? God brought us out of Babylonian captivity to reestablish us as the holy people and what have we done?” Even the Levites had just married all these pagans and now everybody is just sort of half-pagan. Everybody just worships Baal and God, which is why God had put them into captivity to begin with. So what does he do? Ezra 10:10:
Ezra 10:10 – Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now, therefore, make confessions to the LORD God of your fathers and do His will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the pagan wives. Ezra told them to divorce. Faced with the situation he had, he told them to divorce.
Paul is going to come to a different conclusion, because he has a different situation. What is he dealing with in Corinth? Predominantly pagans would come out of the pagan world and many times their mate did not come with them. Their mate stayed pagan. He’s not talking to a church who is going out and just marrying pagans. When I talk about pagan, I’m talking about worshippers of Zeus. Okay? So, they are married to pagans, they’re coming into the truth, but their husband or their wife is not. This is a different situation than what Ezra faced. And Paul has no precedent to go on. So he says, “I can’t tell you this from the Lord. This is not a law. I’m telling you, because I have to make a ruling on this. So this comes from me.” God had it written down and kept in the Bible so it must have been a pretty good ruling. Okay? And he says:
1 Corinthians 7:13 – The woman who has a husband – verse 13 – who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. He said, “Stay with him.” Wow! Stay with them.
You find Timothy’s mother was married to a pagan. And, as was mentioned in the sermonette, who had the influence on Timothy? Not the pagan father. It was the Christian mother that had the influence on Timothy. And he says this in verse 14:
V-14 – For the unbelieving husband is sanctified. He put into a special – he or she – is put into a special relationship with God, even if they are still a pagan. It doesn’t mean they are converted, but they are sanctified. Remember sanctification has to do with hagios. It has to do with holiness. …is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. And boy, we’re going to get into that next time. You kids are holy. You just don’t know it. You kids are holy. I don’t make you holy. Your parents don’t make you holy. God does. And here he says, “Your kids are holy because of your marriage and because you’re a Christian – even if you’re married to a pagan.
V-15 – But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart. A brother or sister is bound in bondage under such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? So, if the unbelieving mate leaves, they are free. They are free to remarry.
Now, here’s where the cases get tough. I’ll give you an example. I had a woman one time whose unbelieving mate was willing to stay with her, and said, “You have to be my wife.” She cooked for him and she was, basically, his sex slave, while he went out and partied every night, drank, used drugs, came home and beat her up. And she’d wake up on a regular basis with him sitting there with a gun cocked and pointed at her head, saying, “One of these nights I’m going to wake you up and blow your head off, but I am pleased to dwell with you.” That’s not what that means! That’s where we have to look at a case and say, “Evil is evil.” Okay? You cannot be unequally yoked with pure evil. You cannot. In fact, Paul said that. Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 6 – and so here we have to apply this – verse 14:
2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? What communion has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.
Now you say, “Well, he just said one thing and now he’s saying something else.” No, the one case is, you have come into the church with an unbeliever. This is, you’re going out of the church and going and getting an unbeliever. They are two different things. He says, “Don’t do that.” And here’s his support material. He goes right to the scriptures.
V-16 – As God has said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people.” Why do we not marry outside our faith? (And when people do, we don’t kick them out of the church.) But you know, I won’t do a wedding between somebody and an unbeliever. There have been people where I say, “No, I can’t do your wedding. I love you, but I can’t do your wedding.” They say, “Well, why?” Because of this. I mean, it’s your decision. It’s your life. But it’s also, you’re holy. He goes on in verse 17:
V-17 – “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate,” says the Lord. This is a quote from the Old Testament. “Do not touch what isn’t clean and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be My sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. Hard words – difficult. It’s what it says. Now that’s your choice. Okay? It’s your choice, but we have a responsibility to tell you – even though it’s your choice. It has to do with holiness. And it’s trying to understand our own holiness.
You know, almost the whole rest of chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians is about, you know, maybe it’s best you don’t get married. Then he keeps saying, “Now I’m not saying you can’t get married. And I’m not saying some of you shouldn’t get married. Some of you should get married, but I’m just saying for a lot of you” – because remember, the question had to do with “Is it good for a man to touch a woman?” – and he’s saying, “Some of you, you’re lives are so messed up, maybe wait before you get married till you sort of work through what you’ve been through all your life.” Then in verse 39 here, he does make one important statement – it says:
1 Corinthians 7:39 – A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives, but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. That should be what we shoot for. That’s our goal. Once again, I sure don’t want to…you know, we don’t put somebody out of the church that doesn’t do that, but we need to explain why we teach it so strongly and why we say…many times a minister will say, “I can’t do that wedding.” It’s not about liking the person. It has to do with the idea of holy people and a holy, sacred union is brought together to produce holy children in the Church of God. We have not emphasized this enough.
Paul also tells Timothy – I won’t read it, but he tells him – there will come a time at the end where there will be false teachers who will teach doctrines of demons, forbidding to marry. Now, I want you to notice in 1 Corinthians, he never forbids them to marry. In fact, three or four times in that chapter – if you read the whole chapter – he says, “Now wait a minute, I’m saying some of you need to get married,” and he says, “especially if you’re really burning….” He says, “If you’re burning with passion for each other, you better get married.” But he also says, “For some of you, it’s better you don’t,” because of what they were coming out of. But he later would say, “There’s going to be people – false teachers – who forbid to marry – forbid marriage.” A monastic system which forbids people to marry has produced what? Think about what it produced.
So marriage is good. It’s wonderful. For most people, they will get married in their lifetime – not everybody, but most. To be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God – there’s no shame in that. And it’s not an easy road. But there’s no shame in that, because Jesus said, “There are some who will do that, who can stand that, who can do that.”
Hebrew 13:4 – Paul actually has to write that the marriage bed is undefiled. In other words, the sexual relationship in marriage is good! He had to remind people of that. Because of the damage they had done to themselves, there was shame and dysfunction within the marriage.
One last place I want to go to, because this is really important – just to zero in on what we’ve talked about here. Marriage is holy – ordained by God. It’s part of the church. It has a purpose in producing holy people for Christ’s return. Now we’re going to get into something here, though, when we get into holy children. Parents don’t decide whether you stay holy or not. We don’t decide that. Parents have this guilt all the time. “I trained my child up fine and then they turned against God.” You know what? You didn’t make that decision. I didn’t make that decision. Who made that decision? In ancient Israel, you were part of the covenant by act of birth. In the church, you are a part of the covenant through an act of faith. And, if you don’t have the faith, and you don’t commit, and you don’t repent, you won’t be a part of the covenant, and your parents don’t have anything to do with that. But we do have an important part to play in preparing you…but that’s next week.
We just went through the Passover a few weeks ago. We talked about the Passover and a type of Jesus Christ and why it is so important to understand and we reverence that type. When you took that bread and you took that wine, those symbols of Jesus Christ, how holy was that? How important was that? What would it be like to make fun of that? What would it be like to take the Passover drunk, as some people did at Corinth? What would it be like to take that type – that Passover – that representation of Jesus Christ – and degrade it? How horrible would that be?
Now, I really want to blow your mind? Let’s go to Ephesians 5. Every marriage sermon goes to Ephesians 5. This isn’t a marriage sermon on how to have a good marriage. This isn’t a marriage sermon on how to have romance, how to get along, how to deal with conflicts. Those are all important things that we cover. This is simply a concept of holiness, which is what this series of sermons are about – that God says, “I have put some of what I am into this.” When God ordained marriage, He revealed something about Himself. When God ordained marriage, and two people with God’s Spirit – Holy Spirit – come together in a marriage, He imparts into that relationship some of Himself. So, Ephesians 5:22 – we go here and we start reading about women should do, about what men should do, but I want to look at something else in this passage.
Ephesians 5:22 – Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. “Oh good, he’s going to talk about submitting.” No, I’m not talking about wives today. I want to talk about something else. For as the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or anything such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
And notice that, really, the whole model here is the relationship between Christ and the church. Your marriage, my marriage is a type of the relationship between Christ and the church. That is just as holy as the Passover. It’s just as sacred as the Day of Atonement. Think about that. We need to take a whole new approach to marriage, and the love we have for each other, and the submission we have to each other, and the dedication we have to each other. Your marriage is a type of the relationship between Christ and the church and, therefore, is just as holy as the types of Atonement, of the Passover, of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It’s just as holy as the holy Sabbath. In fact, he says - verse 31:
V-31 – For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. He goes right back to Genesis, just like Jesus did. Verse 32 though:
V-32 – This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless – verse 33 – each one of you, in particular, so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Marriage isn’t just about being twitter pated. It isn’t just about, “When I look into her eyes, my knees buckle.” It’s not just about “him and me against the world” and “we’ll live off of love.” If you are a Christian, marriage is holy, ordained by God – sacred. In the church, it is what God is using to form His people for the return of Jesus Christ. Some of you will be called and your mates will not, and you’ll have to go to 1 Corinthians 7, and say, “Yes, I must stay with that mate.” Sometimes we face adultery in the church. Of course, fortunately, we have enormous commands about forgiveness, instead of stoning each other – a little different application. But sometimes, divorce takes place over that. But divorce should be rare. Divorce should be rare.
You know, I gave you a list at the beginning, and I said, “Keep that list, because I want to compare it at the end.
Israel was to be God’s special people to represent Him to all the nations. They were given God’s holy laws, His temple, the sacrifices. The church is to be a holy people called by God to represent Him to all the nations. And we are given the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit.
Marriage was a sacred, or a holy institution, ordained by God at creation in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, marriage is a sacred, or holy institution, ordained by God at creation. Notice there are a lot of similarities here, but there is a little difference as we go through a few of them.
Three. Marriage was to produce children who were holy and dedicated to God. In the New Covenant, marriage was to produce children who are holy and dedicated to God.
Four. The land God promised to Israel, as the descendants of Abraham, was set apart by God, called the Holy Land. And special laws were ordained by God to protect marriage and family and their ties to the land. Well, today, the Old Testament laws dealing with tying people to land are no longer applicable, so we don’t adhere to those. And there are quite a few that had to do with marriage. But Christian marriage is to protect marriage and children for preparation for the Kingdom of God.
Next, divorce was only allowed in cases of fraud and adultery. Divorce and remarriage in the New Testament is only really allowed in cases of fraud before marriage or adultery, but Paul added an allowance for cases where unbelieving mates refuse to dwell with the believing mate. Now you say, “Well, what happens if both have God’s Spirit?” Let’s go back to that case I used before. You have a man who is in the church and he’s baptized, but he’s using drugs and he’s beating his wife. She has no way out of it? Well, actually, she does. You know what? If you are using drugs and beating your wife, we will help you get through that. We’ll help you repent. We’ll help you go to a hospital. But, if you refuse to do it, guess what we will eventually do? The elders will declare you as an unbeliever and we will ask you not to come back to church. That’s what we will do. You say, “That’s harsh.” Think of the poor woman. That’s what we’ll do. Now, that doesn’t mean that that person is thrown away by God, or that person has lost God’s Spirit (if they have God’s Spirit), but it does mean that we cannot practice certain things in the Church of God over and over and over and over again without consequences. So, fortunately, there’s nobody here that is a drug addict, beating their wives, but I bring that up just as an example, because sometimes people are in situations where there is pure evil. You’re not believing when you’re doing that. We talk about sin. We also talk about repentance. We try to bring people back together. I have seen marriages where adultery took place, where beatings too place, and drug abuse took place, and those people solved their marriage. Why? Not because they had the power to do so, but because Almighty God, through His Spirit, fixed their marriage. Holy Spirit gives us the ability to holy things. You and I can’t do holy things on our own. It’s through the Spirit of God. And the Spirit of God can heal any marriage. I believe that. That Spirit of God can heal any marriage.
And then the last point. In ancient Israel, the special relationship between God, Israel, their families, the land was how God was bringing about the Holy One of Israel – the Messiah. The special relationship between husband and wife is a type of the relationship between Christ and the church. And the church is preparing the way for the second coming of the Holy One of Israel.
It’s a little bigger than you think, isn’t it? Our marriages are a little bigger than we think. What a privilege we’ve been given! I mean, marriage is one of the greatest – can be one of the greatest – gifts of happiness. Of course, I’ve known lots of people who lived in bad marriages, who were willing to spend the rest of lives alone because they were happier alone. You know, if you’re with somebody who is an unbeliever, you’re with somebody who just despises God, it’s miserable, and they want to be alone. Some people are alone and they don’t want to be, but they choose to be alone, because they choose to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God. And those people are to be respected. Those people are to be honored for those kinds of choices.
Our marriages have been sanctified. They are to take on the attributes of holiness. Therefore, let us strive to build marriages that are holy. And next week, we’ll talk about the holiness of our children.