“Emmanuel on Marriage” – Matthew 19:1-12

February 28th, 2016

Matthew 19:1-12

( Dt 24:1-4; Mal 2:10-16; Sg of Sol; Mk 10:1-12; Eph 5:21-33)

“Emmanuel on Marriage”

Auxiliary Text: Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-24

Call to Worship from: Psalm 117


Service OrientationMarriage is a great place to apply our relational skills.   Divorce is surrendering to our depravity.   The Spirit of Jesus can make any marriage heaven on earth if we are willing to submit to Him.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. —  Proverbs 18:22


Background Information:

  • We know from the other Gospels that Jesus had already made several visits to Jerusalem, especially during key festivals. Matthew records only this final trip to the capital city of Jerusalem.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 367)
  • Jesus speaks here of a literal Adam and Eve.
  • Jesus is trying to get the Pharisees to ask themselves, “Why was the Law given”? And, “Why was the divorce law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 given?”
  • (v. 1) The clever Pharisees were well aware the Perea, where Jesus now ministered, was under the rule of Herod Antipas. He was the tetrarch who had John the Baptist imprisoned and eventually beheaded for condemning his unlawful marriage to Herodias, whom he had seduced away from his brother Philip (see Mt 14:3-12).  No doubt the Pharisees hoped that, by denouncing divorce for any cause at all, Jesus would thereby publicly condemn Herod’s adulterous relationship just as John had done–and suffer John’s fate.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 164)
  • (v. 2) He healed this large crowd, and that large crowd, as he moved toward Jerusalem. And then, after all that healing, then came the Pharisees, these blind men with their deaf and dumb question.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 534)
  • (v. 3) What a tricky question. If Jesus moves this way a bit (“ah, he doesn’t revere Moses”) or that way a bit (“oh, so men can indulge in any and every lust”), the trap springs, he’s caught, and down he goes.  Or so they think.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 535)
  • (v. 3) The Pharisees regarded Dt 24:1 as a proof text for divorce. But Jesus focused on marriage rather than divorce.  He pointed out that God intended marriage to be a covenant–a permanent promise of love and faithfulness.  The Pharisees regarded divorce as a legal issue rather than a spiritual one–marriage and divorce were merely transactions similar to buying and selling land (with women being treated as property).  But Jesus condemned this attitude, clarifying God’s original intention–that marriage bring unity that no one should separate.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)
  • (v. 3) Moses did not command divorce; he only recognized that it was happening and tried to regulate it. As Jesus says, he permitted divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  What the text actually says is something like this:  “If a man marries a wife and she does not find favor in his eyes . . . and he writes her a bill of divorce and sends her away . . . and she marries another man. . . and her second husband also writes her a bill of divorce and sends her away, then the first husband must not marry her again.”  The text says nothing about a divorce being allowed, only about the sin of remarriage after the woman has been joined to another man.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 402)
  • (v. 3) In no OT passage, including the Dt 24:1-4 text to which the Pharisees no doubt were referring, is specific permission for divorce given. One reason is not hard to surmise.  If the Israelites so abused implied permission for divorce, how much more would they have abused explicit permission?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 169)
  • (v. 3) The religious leaders’ controversy focused around the interpretation of the words “something indecent.” There arose two schools of thought representing two opposing views.  One group (followers of Rabbi Hillel) said a man could give his wife a “certificate of divorce” for almost any reason, even finding another woman more attractive than his wife; “something indecent” could refer to anything that “displeased” him.  The other group (followers of Rabbi Shammai) believed that a man could divorce his wife only if she had been unfaithful to him; that is “something indecent” referred to adultery.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 368)
  • (v. 3) The adherents of the Qumran sect judged all divorces to be wrong. The well-known Rabbi Shammai permitted divorce but only because of gross indecency, though he did not spell out clearly what that was.  The equally well-known Rabbi Hillel permitted divorce for all kinds of offenses, even preparing bad meals.  Hillel was the liberal spokesman on this matter:  Shammai was the conservative.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 400)
  • (v. 3) The school of Hillel interpreted this something objectionable in the widest possible way. They said that it meant that a man could divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner; if she spun, or went with unbound hair, or spoke to men in the streets; if she was an argumentative woman whose voice could be heard in the next house.  Rabbi Akiba even went to the lengths of saying that the phrase if she does not please him meant that a man could divorce his wife if he found a woman whom he liked better and considered more beautiful.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 231)
  • (v. 4) Jesus’ answer began with the words “haven’t you read,” implying that they had not truly read their own Scriptures with any understanding (compare to the words “go and learn” in 9:13). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)
  • (v. 4) Jesus was referring to Moses’ words in Genesis about the ideal state of creation and particularly of marriage. In his answer, Jesus was using a rabbinic technique of arguing from the “weightier” text; in other words, an argument from creation was “weightier” than one from the Law because it had been written prior to the Law.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)
  • (v. 5) The Hebrew word (dābaq) behind cleave refers to a strong bonding together of objects and often was used to represent gluing or cementing. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 165)
  • (v. 5) The Jewish term for marriage was Kiddushin. Kiddushin meant sanctification or consecration.  It was used to describe something which was dedicated to God as his exclusive and peculiar possession.  Anything totally surrendered to God was kiddushinThis meant that in marriage the husband was consecrated to the wife, and the wife to the husband.  The one became the exclusive possession of the other, as much as an offering became the exclusive possession of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 236) (red bold emphasis Pastor Keith)
  • (v. 6) God and man are so far apart on this issue that what God unites, man divides. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 412)
  • (v. 9) The Greek word for adultery is moicheia. It is the equivalent in Greek of the Latin words ad alterius torum, which mean “to another’s bed.”  We have condensed the three Latin words into our single word adultery.  This is what moicheia means, but it is not the word in this passage.  The word that occurs here is porneia, which most older versions of the Bible rightly translate as “fornication.”  It is broader than moicheia.  Porneia refers to different kinds of sexual sin.  It is based on the verb pernemi (“to sell”), referring to the arch of a temple, which was where the temple courtesans collected.  From this we get the word fornication.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 402)
  • (v. 9) This is also the true meaning of the passage from Deuteronomy. The word translated “something indecent” (NIV) or “some uncleanness” (KJV) in verse 1 is actually the word for “nakedness” or “nudity.”  It was associated with being unclothed for the purpose of sexual relations and thus was often associated with sexual sin or impurity, which is the case here.  It cannot refer to adultery because adultery was punishable by death, and in that case there would be no need for a divorce.  If the word does not refer to adultery, which is sexual sin after marriage, the only thing it can refer to is sexual sin before marriage, which is what we mean by fornication.  In other words, Jesus was reinforcing the OT’s teaching by his interpretation of Moses’ specific “divorce” regulation.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 403)
  • (v. 9) Mark also discusses this issue (Mk 10:1-12), but the exception clause that has been the cause of so much controversy does not appear in his Gospel. Matthew is the only Gospel that contains it.  Why is that?  Some liberal commentators (and even some conservative ones) argue that Mark’s version of this saying is the original one and that Matthew added the exception because of divorce problems in the church of his day.  That is hardly satisfactory.

Isn’t it more reasonable to explain the addition, which Jesus certainly spoke, by noting that Matthew is also the only Gospel to record the reaction of Joseph when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy.  Matthew wrote, “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19).  Joseph and Mary were not married, though they were formally engaged, which was nearly as binding, and Joseph wanted to annul the engagement, which was regarded as a divorce, when he learned that Mary was expecting a child.  If someone read that, followed by Jesus’ statement in the nineteenth chapter that any divorce was wrong, the reader might conclude that Joseph was willing to break the law by what he planned to do.  Matthew included the explanation to explain what had happened in the case of Jesus’ parents.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 403)

  • (v. 12) A “eunuch” is an emasculated male–a man with no testicles. Some are eunuchs . . . from birth, who perhaps had physical limitations that prevented their marrying.  Others were made eunuchs by others, such as those servants who, in ancient cultures, were castrated in order to serve the master without sexual distractions or without the ability to create offspring (such as the men who presided over the king’s harem).  Those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven are those who voluntarily remained totally abstinent, choosing not to marry because, in their particular situation, they could serve God better as single people.  They did not literally castrate themselves.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 374)
  • Remember that this teaching in Matthew 19 comes right on the heels of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, where Jesus taught His disciples to forgive extravagantly (Mt 18:21-35). The implication is that we are to work and pray toward reconciliation and restoration, not because it’s easy, but because Christ is in you.  Divorce is possible, but because of the gospel, it’s not inevitable.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 255)


Some people equate marriage with flies on a screen…The ones on the outside want to get in and the ones on the inside want to get out.  —Dennis Rainey


The question to be answered is . . . What does Jesus have to teach us about marriage and divorce?


Answer: God made us to enjoy marriage as one flesh.   Our sinfulness destroys marriage and promotes divorce.  Great marriages are but a superficial symbol of the marriage Christians will one day enjoy with Jesus.


But let me just say that when you think about all the possible questions related to marriage and divorce and remarriage, I want you to think Genesis and think gospel.  Think Genesis:  hold fast to one another.  Think gospel:  forgive one another.  Think Gospel and think Genesis and think the goal of both, which is the same:  what God has joined together, let no one separate.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 542)


The Phrase for the Day is . . . One Flesh


What is Jesus teaching us about marriage and divorce?  Four questions we need to answer:



I-  What is marriage?   God made male and female as relational creatures in His image and likeness who would leave all else and covenant together and become one flesh for mutual love, encouragement, pleasure, happiness and joy.  All marriages are made in heaven.  (Mt 19:4-6; see also: Gn 1:26-28; 2:18-24; Ps 128:3; Prv 5:18-19; 18:22Sg; 1 Cor 7:1-5, 32-35; Eph 5:21-33; Heb 13:4)


One man/one woman/one flesh. . . till death.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 539)


The true basis of marriage is not complicated and difficult to understand–it is simply the love which thinks more of the happiness of others than it thinks of its own, the love which is proud to serve, which is able to understand, and therefore always able to forgive.  That is to say, it is the Christlike love, which knows that in forgetting self it will find self, and that in losing itself it will complete itself.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 239)


In marriage each partner should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other; that is, marriage should be a matrix of Christian hedonism.  (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 250)


A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.  —Ruth Bell Graham


Home:  where each lives for the other, and all live for God.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 11)


While the application of Jesus’ words requires interpretation to specific situations, one truth is inescapable:  “God created marriage to be a sacred, permanent union and partnership between husband and wife.  When both husband and wife enter this union with that understanding and commitment, they can provide security for each other, a stable home for their children, and strength to weather any of life’s storms or stresses.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 372)


We cannot redefine what only God has the prerogative to define.  Marriage is the one-flesh union of a man and a woman in a wholehearted, mutual, and lifelong relationship.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 252)


According to God’s plan, when a man marries, he establishes a bond with his wife of such a nature that she is as much a part of him as his own body is.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 377)


Every marriage is made in heaven.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 166)


No child can be conceived by the procreative act of a man and woman who is not first conceived by the creative act of God.  Every marriage and every child is a creation of God, and therefore divorce and abortion share this tragically evil common denominator:  they kill a creation of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 167)


A good marriage is not something you find, it’s something you work for.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 133)


Love is a heart that moves…Love moves away from the self and toward the other.  -Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III


Love is essentially defined in terms of preoccupation with the other’s needs.  The central goal of every interchange between partners must be to minister to the other’s deepest needs for security and significance.  I may legitimately desire a particular response from my wife.  But if my spouse for whatever reasons fails to respond as I wish, then I must honor my goal of ministry through an uncomplaining, nonpressuring acceptance of my disappointing spouse.  This acceptance would be motivated by my awareness of her deep needs for love and by my commitment to do all that I can do to touch those needs.  (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 53)


Gentlemen, what are we doing each day for our wives that involves sacrifice?  What are you doing each day for your wife that is costing you something?  —C.J. Mahaney


A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.


The measure of our love is the measure of our sacrifice.


If you love, you will suffer, and if you do not love, you do not know the meaning of a Christian life.  —Agatha Christie


The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve. —Albert Schweitzer


We find our happiness by helping others find theirs. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 117)


When God calls a man, he bids him come and die.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer; The Cost of Discipleship)


The ultimate answers to life don’t cost money.  They cost your life.  (D. James Kennedy, What Is God Like?, 19)


Love will find a way.  Indifference will find an excuse. 


Men may question why they keep going back to a woman who treats them poorly or may wonder why they never seem able to feel, deep inside, a commitment to a woman after having sex partner after sex partner.  Sadly, they simply do not know that their brains are flooded with vasopressin during sexual intercourse and that this neurochemical produces a partial bond with every woman they have sex with.  They do not realize that this pattern of having sex with one woman and then breaking up and then having sex with another woman limits them to experience only one form of brain activity common to humans involved sexually–the dopamine rush of sex.  (A. Aron, H. Fisher, et al., “Reward, motivation, and emotional systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love,” Journal of Neurophysiology, 327-37)


Christ affirmed the teaching summarized in it—that marriage is not merely a mechanical or legal union but so complete a merging of two lives that the husband and wife become “one flesh,” one organism.  Their sexual union is only part of the complete union, which is also psychological and spiritual.  To separate the two partners of such a merging is rather like hacking the leg off one man and trying to graft it onto another man’s thigh.  (Chad Walsh, Early Christians of the 21st Century, 125)


Just as a car is made to drive safely on the road, not to skid around colliding with other cars, so marriage was made to be a partnership of one woman and one man for life, not something that could be split up and reassembled whenever one person wanted it . . . Moses didn’t say, as it were, “when you drive your car, this is how to have an accident”; but if, tragically, an accident occurs, this is how to deal with it.  (N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, vol. 2, 42)


Marriage should not narrow life; it should complete it.  For both partners, it must bring a new fullness, a new satisfaction, a new contentment into life.  It is the union of two personalities in which the two complete each other.  That does not mean that adjustments, and even sacrifices, have not to be made; but it does mean that the final relationship is fuller, more joyous and more satisfying than any life in singleness could be.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 237)


The marriage relationship that God designed has three basic aspects:  (1) the man leaves his parents and, in a public act, promises himself to his wife; (2) the man and woman are joined together by taking responsibility for each other’s welfare and by loving the mate above all others; (3) the two become one flesh in the intimacy and commitment of sexual union that is reserved for marriage.  Strong marriages include all three of these aspects.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 370)


The union of husband and wife merges two persons in such a way that little can affect one without also affecting the other.  “Oneness” in marriage does not mean that a person loses his or her personality in the personality of the other.  Instead, it means caring for the spouse as oneself, learning to anticipate his or her needs, and helping the other person become all he or she can be.  The creation story tells of God’s plan that husband and wife should be one (Gn 2:24), and Jesus also referred to this plan (Mt 19:4-6).  Are you experiencing oneness in your marriage?  Are you caring for your spouse as you should?  What can you do to work toward God’s perfect plan of oneness with your spouse?  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 372)


Any marriage entered into simply because an urgent physical desire can be satisfied in no other way is from the outset doomed to failure.  Marriage is given not that two people should do one thing together, but that they should do all things together.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 236)


No nation has ever had a higher view of marriage than the Jews.  Marriage was a sacred duty.  To remain unmarried after the age of twenty, except in order to concentrate upon the study of the law, was to break a positive commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.”  The man who had no children “slew his own posterity” and “lessened the image of God upon earth.”  “When husband and wife are worthy, the glory of God is with them.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 228)


“Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.  The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another.   We double our delights in God as we expand it in the lives of others.   If our ultimate goal were anything less than joy in God, we would be idolaters and would be no eternal help to anyone.  Therefore, the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed.   And if you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 121)


Jesus focused on God’s ideal in creating male and female.  The Hebrew words for “male” and “female” reveal that the two had been created complementary to each other.  God’s plan was that in marriage the husband and wife become one flesh, an intimate closeness that cannot be separated.  The wife is not property to be disposed of but a person created in God’s image.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)


Jesus drew a distinction:  God’s creation of marriage and his absolute command that it be a permanent union versus the provisions written hundreds of years later that tolerated divorce because of people’s utter sinfulness (their “hard hearts,” 19:8).  God permitted divorce as a result of sin, but his command was that husband and wife be no longer two, but one flesh, describing an indissoluble union.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 369)


It is God who has done the “cementing,” it is not for a human being to try to undo it.  Indeed, it might be argued that it is impossible, that there is something onto-logical about the “one flesh” union which no human decision can destroy; the man and the woman are no longer two independent beings who may choose to go their own way, but a single indivisible unit.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 718)


The concept of marriage here restated by the Lord was the divine ideal.  It is still the divine ideal.  Marriage is for the benefit of man and woman, for the sanctifying of the most intimate of all human relationships, for the protection of the children resulting from the marriage, and for the health of society.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 378)


Responding to their question with a question of His own, Jesus was in effect asking, “Have you not read the book of Genesis?  Are you not aware of what God Himself declared at the very creation?  Don’t you know the very first thing God said about marriage?  Don’t you recall that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’” By quoting from Gn 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus was saying, “Your argument is not with Me, but with God.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 165)


When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of all the other men of her acquaintance for the inattention of just one.  —Helen Rowland


“A church in which everybody is nice is a dead church.  A marriage in which there is no fighting is  a dead marriage.  One of the problems with most marriages, as well as most other relationships, is the problem of ‘gunny sacking’.  Gunny sacking is when you’re so angry or upset about something in a relationship that you want to say something, but don’t.  You put it in a gunny sack and, after a while, the gunny sack gets so heavy that you can’t carry it anymore.  So, you take the sack off your back and throw it in your friend’s face.  That will destroy a relationship.  Gunny sacking can kill a marriage.  It can also kill a church, a family and a potential relationship.  If honesty and confrontation destroy a relationship, it was not worth anything, anyway.  Forgiveness provides the opportunity for honesty.  So, forgive easily.”  (Steve Brown; Living Free, 162-3)


In the Christian home each person has the mission of lifting the other to know more of God’s care.  Greater strength, higher authority, and deeper insight are neither abandoned nor used for the promotion of self, but rather are fully used for the good of the other.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 15)


A husband must learn to tolerate his wife’s infirmities, because in doing so he either cures her, or makes himself better.  —Jeremy Taylor


When a new activity or experience occurs, it can result in a strengthening of the connection between neurons, or even in a new connection altogether.  These connections are critical for memory, behavior, emotions, desires, and any number of other outcomes that activity or experience brings.  If that experience or activity occurs again, the connection is used and strengthened in the process.  If that connection is not used, the synapse eventually breaks down and dies.  This process refers to either a continued connection between neurons or to a loss of connection–not the life or death of the neurons themselves, although that can and does occur as well.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 28)


An individual who is sexually involved, then breaks up and then is sexually involved again, and who repeats this cycle again and again is in danger of negative emotional consequences.  People who behave in this manner are acting against, almost fighting against, the way they are made to function.  When connectedness and bonding form and then are quickly broken and replaced with another sexual relationship, it often actually causes damage to the brain’s natural connecting or bonding mechanism.  (Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., MD & Freda McKissic Bush, MD, Hooked, 105)


Yes, it is difficult to love your spouse.  But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there.

It just may be one of the most spiritual things you can do.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 51)


My family once went through the National Gallery of Art, looking at some original Rembrandts, and one of my very tactile children reached out to touch the painting.  My wife let loose with a harsh whisper and grabbed our child’s hand before it could even reach the canvas. “This is a Rembrandt!” she hissed under the guard’s glare.  “You can’t touch these!”

My wife was created by God himself!  How dare I dishonor her?  In fact, shouldn’t it even give me pause before I reach out to touch her?  She is the Creator’s daughter, after all!  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 63)


II-  What destroys marriage?   Our sinful, unforgiving, self-centered, hard hearts make marriages hell on earth.    (Mt 19:7-8; see also: Bk of Hosea; Mt 5:33-37; ch 18; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 4:22-32; Col 3:5; Phil 2:3; Jam 3:16)


It took years for me to understand I have a Christian obligation to continually move toward my wife.  I thought that as long as I didn’t attack my wife or say cruel things to her, I was a “nice” husband, but the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy.  To stop moving toward our spouse is to stop loving him or her.  It’s holding back from the very purpose of marriage.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 155)


A passage written by John Owen, one of the greatest Puritan scholars ever:  “The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful, and solid in his beliefs and obedience.  Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches, and all other relationships.  In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistency.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 64)


One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”  —Gary and Betsy Ricucci


Kathleen and Thomas Hart write, “Sometimes what is hard to take in the first years of marriage is not what we find out about our partner, but what we find out about ourselves.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 93)


Blaise Pascal wrote, “We have not sufficiently plumbed the wretchedness of man in general, nor our own in particular, when we are still surprised at the weakness and corruption of man.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 95)


Even seeking for a reason to divorce shows how hard your heart is.  Why even speculate about being married to another?   Live as Adam and Eve lived.  As if your spouse was the only one on earth for you.  Because they are!  —Pastor Keith


I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 97)


The formula for a happy marriage?  It’s the same as the one for living in California:  When you find a fault, don’t dwell on it.  —Jay Trachman


Once I asked this young man why he had not ended this nightmare marriage.  His words were as courageous as they were simple.  He said, “My wife is a good mother most of the time.  My children need her.  But more than that they need to know their Savior.  How can they know of a Father in heaven who forgives them if their father on earth will not forgive their own mother?  How can my wife know the love of God if the spiritual leader in this home will not love her despite her faults?”  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 22)


In order to act as you want to act and not just react to a situation do not excuse your behavior, regardless of what prompts it.  Go to God and confess your sin, asking him to give you a gracious spirit.  Then confess your unkind words or behavior to your partner so that your conscience can be clear.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 43)


You have not married a perfect person; neither has your partner!  Therefore, you will both have to forgive one another for your mistakes, sins, selfishness, and other forms of thoughtless behavior.  Never carry a grudge; it is a burden too heavy to bear.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 50)


Your willingness to forgive your partner affects both your personal and family life spiritually.  Make it your responsibility to initiate forgiveness.  It will help you to achieve a strong spiritual home, which in turn will enrich every other area of your marriage.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 51)


Selfishness is the greatest cause of marital failure.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 104)


Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals.  Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 22)


Christianity does not direct us to focus on finding the right person; it calls us to become the right person.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 236)


The basis of marriage is togetherness, and the basis of togetherness is nothing other than considerateness.  If marriage is to succeed, the partners must always be thinking more of each other than of themselves.  Selfishness is the murderer of any personal relationship; and that is truest of all when two people are bound together in marriage.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 238)


But it is good to marry!  The problem is not with the institution of marriage, since marriage is God’s idea.  It was God who brought the first bride to the first groom in Eden, after all.  Everything God does is good.  The problem is sin, or to put it another way, the problem is with our own hard hearts, which Jesus refers to explicitly in verse 8.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 400)


Marriage is the most intimate of all relationships, and in marriage the most piercing pain can be experienced.  It follows that it is the relationship above all others that must be upheld by that “seventy-seven times” forgiveness about which Jesus speaks.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 400)


Marriage is not the problem.  Hard-hearted men (and let’s add women, to be fair) are the problem–then, now, always.  You are the problem. Take away the disease of hard-heartedness, and you can take away all divorce laws, divorce attorneys, and divorce settlements.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 539)


“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple,  Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.   If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.  If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 116)


People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses.  They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person.  But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness to your heart–its’ marriage itself.  Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself.  Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 154)


Hardness of heart suggests the condition where adultery was prolonged and the sinning spouse was unrepentant, making reconciliation and a normal marriage relationship impossible.  When an adulterous husband or wife became totally insensitive to marital fidelity, God through Moses indirectly and reluctantly permitted . . . divorce.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 170)


Whenever the goal of our behavior is essentially to change the other person–whether the change is good or bad–we are wrong.  Unless there is the purpose of communicating love based on an awareness of our spouses’ needs, we qualify as manipulators, not ministers.  The key to achieving Soul Oneness is to maintain the fundamental goal of ministry to our partner’s deepest needs and to keep that goal inviolate.  (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 54)


Yet when psychologists Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of the University of Denver studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage, they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationships.  Among couples who would ultimately stay together, 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were putdowns.  Among couples who would later split, 10 of every 100 comments were insults.  That gap magnified over the following decade, until couples heading downhill were flinging five times as many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples.  “Hostile putdowns act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over time,” says Notarius, who with Markman co-authored the new book We Can Work It Out.  “In the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and the couple can’t get through a week without major blowups.”  (U.S. News & World Report; February 21, 1994, 67)


If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—“OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless.  Just how far can I go with other women?  Can I hug them?  Kiss them?  Go to bed with them?  How often?  How many?—we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man.  If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love.  And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way—“Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance.  What can I get away with?  How far can I push it?”—that Christian will end up equally impoverished.  Paul’s response says it all:  “God forbid!” (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 186)


Francis de Sales, the seventeenth-century author of the classic, An Introduction to a Devout Life, wrote something in a letter that is simple, but powerful:  “Have contempt for contempt.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 54)


Contempt is conceived with expectations.  Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.  We can choose which one we will obsess over–expectations, or thanksgivings.  That choice will result in a birth–and the child will be named either contempt, or respect.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 67)


Marriage is the operation by which a woman’s vanity and a man’s egotism are extracted without anesthetic.  —Helen Rowland


In its fallen state the human consciousness is a marvelous instrument of self-deception.  It is capable of selectively attending to only those motives that preserve our cherished image of ourselves as good and kind and of disowning or at least disguising the ugly, self-centered objectives to which we are really committed.  Only the Spirit of God unfolding His truth as revealed in Scripture can cut through our lying hearts to expose our selfish motivation.  (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder, 52)


If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life.  If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin.  If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision.  Yet the trouble is not within the institution of marriage but within ourselves.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 40)


What do you mean when you say, “I love you”?  Do you mean I love you or do you mean I love what little bit of me that I can detect in you?  Which in reality, is not love but arrogance, ego, pride, vanity, and narcissism.


Older views of marriage are considered to be traditional and oppressive, while the newer view of the “Me-Marriage” seems so liberating.  And yet it is the newer view that has led to a steep decline in marriage and to an oppressive sense of hopelessness with regard to it.  To conduct a Me-Marriage requires two completely well-adjusted, happy individuals, with very little in the way of emotional neediness of their own or character flaws that need a lot of work.  The problem is–there is almost no one like that out there to marry!  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 28)


A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you.  Simply put–today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 30)


If the highest good is personal pleasure, one’s divine duty is to fixate on personal needs and wants.  Pop singer Whitney Houston echoed this theme in “The Greatest Love,” which struck a platinum vein in the American sensibility.  The greatest love, it turns out, is to be found in the mirror.  It seems to matter little that self-centered people tend to be miserable.  Once a vice, and even a mortal sin, self-worship is now a cultivated skill. (Robert H. Knight; The Age of Consent, xix)


“I can’t promise you forever,” a Hallmark card says, “But I can promise you today.”  It’s the quintessential love card for the 90s:  No commitment, just warm feelings…as long as they last.  No wonder 60 percent of marriages are failing.  Young people are literally training themselves for relationships without commitment.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 205)


The God of the OT is unique in that He attached himself to a people.  For thousands of years, loyal adherents worshiped the god of the hills, the god of the valley, or the god of the sea, but the idea that there was a God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–a God of people–this was something new!  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 105)


It takes two to argue; if you refuse, that ends the argument.  Much family heartache could be avoided if even one of the members would respond to God’s guidance instead of his own selfish desires. This illustration is only one of the many areas in which consistent actions according to God’s principles will open up the way for happy marital adjustments.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 44)


This passage is one of the primary places that the “dance of the Trinity” becomes visible.  The Son defers to his Father, taking the subordinate role. The Father accepts the gift, but then exalts the Son to the highest place.  Each wishes to please the other; each wishes to exalt the other.  Love and honor are given, accepted, and given again.  In 1 Cor 11:3, Paul says directly what is implied in Philippians 2–namely, that the relationship of the Father and the Son is a pattern for the relationship of husband to wife.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 198)


In the dance of the Trinity, the greatest is the one who is most self-effacing, most sacrificial, most devoted to the good of the Other.  Jesus redefined–or, more truly, defined properly–headship and authority, thus taking the toxicity of it away, at least for those who live by his definition rather than by the world’s understanding.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 199)


Joseph had reason to divorce Mary but he didn’t because of grace.  Jesus had reason to divorce us but He didn’t because of grace.


In a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor.  And you have a relationship as long as  the vendor is giving you a product at a good price.  But you are always looking to an upgrade.   And so you say to your vendor, “We have a relationship.  But, you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out-a-here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” . . . But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. . . . A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I have made a promise.  And the relationship is more important than my needs.  My needs are less important than the sustenance of the relationship.”

Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter; that will be bad for the covenanter; that covenant will be exploited.  (Tim Keller message “Love and Lust”)


If you get into a covenant relationship . . . you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety, a place where you can finally be yourself.  You see in a consumer relationship you are always marketing, you are always selling yourself, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to meet the other person’s need or they’re out.  But in a covenant, in a marriage . . . you can finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades, you can finally let him know, her know about your insecurities.  You can finally be yourself.   (Tim Keller message “Love and Lust”)


When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow.  For example:  The other covenant relationship is the relationship between parents and children. . . . In parenting you get very little back, for a long time, and they never catch up.   You give and you give and you never get back. It is not a consumer relationship at all.  You adjust to them. . . . What is weird is you do it and you are so invested in your children so that even when they in no way act in a lovable way, you love them.  There is a deeper richer kind of feeling because you are invested in them.  And in the same way, if you treat your marriage . . . as a covenant relationship, if you are committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow.   (Tim Keller message “Love and Lust”)


Jesus’ teaching starts rather from the “one flesh” of Gn 2:24, so that it is only because “sexual unfaithfulness” has already violated the unity of the one flesh that the marriage must be regarded as no longer intact.  Shammai was concerned with a man’s right to initiate divorce, Jesus with the formal recognition that the marriage has already been broken by the wife’s action.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 721)


The Rabbis had many sayings about unhappy marriages.  “Among those who will never behold the face of Gehinnom is he who has had a bad wife.”  Such a man is saved from hell because he has expiated his sins on earth!  “Among those whose life is not life is the man who is ruled by his wife.”  “A bad wife is like leprosy to her husband.  What is the remedy?  Let him divorce her and be cured of his leprosy.”  It was even laid down:  “If a man has a bad wife, it is a religious duty to divorce her.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 240)


We live in an imperfect, sinful world, and there will always be situations in which a Christian will have to choose the lesser of two evils.  In some circumstances, this could be divorce.  For instance, a woman may be married to a brute of a husband, a man who spends his money on drinking or gambling and then deserts his wife while she must raise and educate the children.  Under the laws of the United States, it is entirely possible that the man might return just when the children are ready to go to college and claim the money the wife has saved and waste it.  In a situation such as this, I believe it would be right for the wife to initiate the divorce, even if she is a Christian, since her chief responsibility at this point would be to the children and their future.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 405)


Any view of divorce and remarriage (taught in either Testament) that sees the problem only in terms of what may or may not be done has already overlooked a basic fact–divorce is never to be thought of as a God-ordained, morally neutral option but as evidence of sin, of hardness of heart.  The fundamental attitude of the Pharisees to the question was wrong.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 413)


III-  What is divorce?   Divorce is a last resort when one or both partners surrender to their selfish, sinful depravity(Mt 19:8-9; see also: Dt 24:1-4; Jer 3:6-8; Mal 2:10-16; Mt 5:31-32; Mk 10:1-12)


It was said that the very altar wept tears when a man divorced the wife of his youth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 229)


In the case of Adam and Eve, divorce was not only inadvisable; it was not only wrong; it was completely impossible, for the very simple reason that there was no one else whom either of them could possibly marry.  Therefore Jesus was laying down the principle that all divorce is wrong.  Thus early, we must note that it is not a law; it is a principle, which is a very different thing.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 233)


Jesus’ answer was that what Moses said was not in fact a law but nothing more than a concession.  Moses did not command divorce; at the best, he only permitted it in order to regulate a situation which would have become chaotically promiscuous.  The Mosaic regulation was only a concession to fallen human nature.  In Gn 2:23-24, we have the ideal which God intended, the ideal that two people who marry should become so indissolubly one that they are one flesh.  Jesus’ answer was:  “True, Moses permitted divorce; but that was a concession in view of a lost ideal.  The ideal of marriage is to be found in the unbreakable, perfect union of Adam and Eve.  That is what God meant marriage to be.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 234)


The great difficulty is that both Mark and Luke make the prohibition of divorce absolute; with them, there are no exceptions whatsoever.  But Matthew has one saving clause–divorce is permitted on the ground of adultery.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 235)


Because many persons become Christians after they have been married and divorced, sometimes more than once, we must never forget that their previous conduct, along with their past, is wiped clean by their conversion to Christ and that they therefore have the right to marry for the first time as Christians.  The church at Corinth must have been made up largely of persons in this category, for Paul wrote that many of them were fornicators, adulterers, and idolaters before their conversion (1 Cor 6:9-11).  Still, he calls them “new creatures” in Christ.  When a new creature in Christ meets another new creature in Christ and God leads them to each other, do they not have a right to marry and establish a Christian home regardless of their previous marital history?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 404-5)


It is true that Christians who marry out of God’s will and get divorced often remarry (frequently to Christians) and that God seems in grace often to sanctify and bless the second marriage.  Does this mean that God modifies his standards?  No.  But it does mean that divorce and remarriage, as bad as they are, are not unforgivable and that God is always willing to begin again with us wherever we are or whatever we have done.  Churches should never be closed to such people, and Christians above all should be understanding of others and show mercy.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 405)


If he commits adultery seventy times seven and repents seventy times seven, she has to forgive him and receive him as a brother in Christ.  However, forgiving him does not mean she has to remain married to him.  So often the spouse who was violated and chooses to divorce has to wear a stigma the rest of his or her life because he or she was the unforgiving partner.  But a man or woman can forgive the spouse who sins against him or her and still choose to divorce.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 561)


So, sexual immorality is the one ground for divorce that Jesus mentioned.  The Apostle Paul added another, which is the desertion of a non-believing spouse (1 Cor 7:15).  However, just as there is debate about what constitutes “sexual immorality,” there is debate about “desertion.”  If one partner leaves the bed of the other and refuses conjugal rights for ten years while still living in the same house, is that desertion?  I believe it is.  Of course, we have to be careful not to make the definition of “desertion” so broad that we end up in no-fault divorce.  But desertion is a legitimate, biblical ground for divorce.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 561-2)


IV-  What does marriage have to do with the Kingdom of Heaven?  As good as marriage can be on earth it is only a superficial symbol of the reality Christians will one day enjoy being married to Jesus.  (Mt 19:10-12; see also: Isa 62:5; Jer 2:2; Mt 9:15; 22:2-14; 25:1-11; Mk 2:19-20; Jn 2:1-11; Eph 5:22-33; Rv 19:1-7; 21:2; 22:17)


If God had the gospel of Jesus’ salvation in mind when he established marriage, then marriage only “works” to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


One of these early thinkers, Augustine (A.D. 354-430), suggested that there are three benefits of marriage:  offspring, faith (fidelity), and sacrament.  Of the three benefits, he clearly points to the latter (sacrament) as the greatest.  This is because it is possible to be married without either offspring or faith, but it is not possible to be (still) married without indissolubility, which is what a sacrament points toward.  As long as a couple is married, they continue to display–however imperfectly–the ongoing commitment between Christ and his church.  Thus, simply “sticking it out” becomes vitally important.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 31)


The ancient Jewish text The Holy Letter (written by Nahmanides in the thirteenth century) sees sex as a mystical experience of meeting with God:  “Through the act [of intercourse] they become partners with God in the act of creation.  This is the mystery of what the sages said, ‘When a man unites with his wife in holiness, the Shekinah is between them in the mystery of man and woman.’” The breadth of this statement is sobering when you consider that this shekinah glory is the same presence experienced by Moses when God met with him face-to-face (see Ex 24:15-18).  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 206)


If Paul tells us that a man is not to join himself to a prostitute because his body is a holy temple–that is, if we are to use such imagery to avoid sinning–can a Christian not use the same imagery to be drawn into God’s presence in a unique way as he joins his body with his wife?  Isn’t he somehow entering God’s temple–knocking on the door of shekinah glory–when he joins himself to a fellow believer?  And isn’t this a tacit encouragement to perhaps even think about God as your body is joined with your spouse?  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 209-10)


For a man, the first place he should check when it comes to building a strong family is a blueprint found in Ephesians 5.  In this important chapter, the man is called to be the “head” of his wife–the primary lover–just as Christ is the head of the church and the lover of the church.

Nowhere does it say that a man is to “lord it over” his wife.  In fact, Christ specifically commands that “lording it over” another person has no place in a Christian’s relationships.  Rather, the Scriptures tell me I am to love my wife as Jesus loves His church.

How did Christ lead in love?  By serving, by committing Himself to our best interest, and by doing so regardless of the cost.  The greatest among us are simply following a pattern Christ set down–namely serving those He loved and for whom He laid down His life.  (Gary Smalley with John Trent, Love is a Decision, 99)


In verses 4-6 and 8, 9 Jesus teaches that you can’t have too high a view of marriage.  It is so high the disciples are taken aback by it.  But in verses 11, 12 he adds that however high your view of marriage is, your view of the kingdom ought to be far higher.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 543)


The disciples believed Jesus upheld such an impossible standard that it would be better for people not to get married than to enter into the covenant of marriage.  It seemed better not to make the vow than to make the vow and not be able to keep it.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 372)


Chastity before marriage, fidelity after marriage, and a lifelong commitment of one married partner to the other with no thought of divorce!  What a terribly high standard that is!  No wonder the disciples reacted with the cynical comment I referred to at the beginning of this study:  “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 403-4)


God had taken Israel as a wife, and like Hosea’s Gomer, she too was unfaithful.  Through Isaiah the Lord rebuked Israel for her spiritual adultery in worshiping pagan deities.  “Where is the certificate of divorce,” He asks them rhetorically, “by which I have sent your mother away?” (Isa 50:1).  The answer, of course, was that God had not given such a certificate, because, just as Hosea with Gomer, God was not ready to put Israel away, despite her constant spiritual adultery committed against Him.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 169)


Thomas Hart observes that “our fascination with sex is closely related to our fascination with God.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 211)


I would not consider any spirituality worthwhile that wants to walk in sweetness and ease and run from the imitation of Christ.  —John Climacus  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 129)


Jesus promised us that everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt (see Mk 9:49, NKJV).  The desire for ease, comfort, and stress-free living is an indirect desire to remain an “unseasoned,” immature Christian.  Struggle makes us stronger; it builds us up and deepens our faith.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 129)


Teresa of Avila wrote, “Lord, how you afflict your lovers!  But everything is small in comparison to what you give them afterward.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 132)


We need to further explore the power of human love to feed our divine love.  Rather than seeing marriage as a cosmic competitor with heaven, we can embrace it as a school of faith.  Maximus the confessor (580-662) observed that the love we have for God and the love we have for others are not two distinct loves, but “two aspects of a single total love.”  Jesus suggested the same thing, when in response to a question about the “greatest” commandment he declared that there is not just one, but two–not only must we love God, but also our neighbors.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 267)


Yes, it is difficult to love your spouse.  But if you truly want to love God, look right now at the ring on your left hand, commit yourself to exploring anew what that ring represents, and love passionately, crazily, enduringly the fleshly person who put it there.

It just may be one of the most spiritual things you can do.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 51)


Do for your spouse what God did for you in Jesus, and the rest will follow.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


Jesus redefined all authority as servant-authority.  Any exercise of power can only be done in service to the Other, not to please oneself.  Jesus is the one who did not come to be served, as the world’s authority figures expect to be, but to serve, to the point of giving his life.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 200)


When two Christians who fully understand this stand before the minister all decked out in their wedding finery, they realize they’re not just playing dress-up.  What they’re saying is that someday they are going to be standing not before the minister but before the Lord.  And they will turn to see each other without spot and blemish.  And they hope to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.  Over the years you have lifted one another up to me.  You sacrificed for one another.  You held one another up with prayer and with thanksgiving.  You confronted each other.  You rebuked each other.  You hugged and you loved each other and continually pushed each other toward me.  And now look at you.  You’re radiant.”  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 134)


We, the church, submit to Christ in everything, and the parallel of a wife submitting “everything” to her husband is no longer daunting, since we know what kind of behavior the husband has been called on to imitate.  To what role must he submit?  To that of savior, a servant-leader, who uses his authority and power to express a love that doesn’t even stop at dying for the beloved.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 201)


Both women and men get to “play the Jesus role” in marriage–Jesus in his sacrificial authority, Jesus in his sacrificial submission.  By accepting our gender roles, and operating within them, we are able to demonstrate to the world.  Concepts that are so counterintuitive as to be completely unintelligible unless they are lived out by men and women in Christian marriages.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 201-2)


As the head of the church, Jesus sacrificed himself so that his people could know their value to God (cf. Mk 10:45; 2 Cor 8:9; Ti 2:14).  This redeeming work continues through the way God organizes families.  Husbands who reflect Christ’s headship use their authority as he did, seeking for their wives to know and reflect their preciousness to God.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 41)


Worship Point:  Worship the God Who made us to seek significance way beyond ourselves by creating us to relate to others.  He gave us a righteous way to be encouraged, unified, fulfilled, pleasured, and loved by becoming “one flesh” with our spouse.  And He empowered us to love others by loving us.  


A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God. —  Gary and Betsy Ricucci


Love begets love.  (Shirley Marsh 3-27-13)


The fact is, I need God to help me love God.  And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans.  Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)


I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love.  I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient.  We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way.  None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.

But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying.  We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.

Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us.  Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives.  And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)


By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact.  If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God.  How will that individual become more loving, then?  Can we grow in love by trying to love more?  No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love.  The solution, John implies, is to know God better.  This is so simple that we miss it all the time:  our means for becoming more loving is to know God better.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 146)


You can only love when you know you have been loved.  And only then can you love to the degree that you know you have been loved.  —Steve Brown


If you find your love beginning to wane then go to your heavenly Father, the author of love, and he will give you a new love for your partner.  It is yours for the asking!  You may be inclined to ask, “But is it worth it?”  Or “What if my partner doesn’t deserve it?”  That has nothing to do with it.  You should love your partner for the Lord’s sake, but, because of the principle of reaping what you sow, loving will bring you love.  If you go to God by faith for his supply of love to give to your partner, then God’s divine law will bring love to you.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 115)


Only the Christian can accept the Christian ethic.  Only those who have the continual help of Jesus Christ and the continual guidance of the Holy Spirit can build up the personal relationship which the ideal of marriage demands.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 240)


Only those who truly honor Jesus as Lord and Savior can truly accept His teachings.  Even then His teachings become fully acceptable only in the life walked in the Spirit, who alone can keep believers from carrying out the natural “desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16), which is committed to self rather than to God, one’s life partner, or others.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 176)


Nobody can give anyone else the kind or amount of love they’re starved for.  In the end we’re all alike, groping for true love and incapable of fully giving it.  What we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all.  Someone who loves us radically, unconditionally, vulnerably.  Someone who loves us just for our sake.  If we received that kind of love, that would so assure us of our value, it would so fill us up, that maybe we could start to give love like that too.  Who can give love with no need?  Jesus.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98-9)


The love that God requires of a husband for his wife and wife for her husband is admittedly a supernatural love.  Self-preservation is the first law of life; therefore, to love someone else as your own body demands a supernatural kind of love.  It is just not possible for man to love this way of his own accord.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 112)


I think marriage is designed to call us out of ourselves and learn to love the “different.”  Put together in the closest situation imaginable–living side by side, sleeping in the same room, even, on occasion, sharing our bodies with each other–we are forced to respect and appreciate someone who is so radically different.

We need to be called out of ourselves because, in truth, we are incomplete.  God made us to find our fulfillment in him–the Totally Other.  Marriage shows us that we are not all there is; it calls us to give way to another, but also to find joy, happiness, and even ecstasy in another.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 50)


Why did God create us and later redeem us at great cost even though he doesn’t need us?  He did it because he loves us.  His love is perfect love, radically vulnerable love.  And when you begin to get it, when you begin to experience it, the fakery and manipulativeness of your own love starts to wash away, and you’ve got the patience and security to reach out and start giving a truer love to other people.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 99-100)


We were made to worship.  If we don’t grow in our worship of God, we will descend to worship something or someone else–power, money, our reputation, a sports team–it could be anything.  In the same way, if we are not creating in our marriage–if we are not filling our souls with the meaning that comes from doing what we were made to do–we will become dissatisfied very quickly.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 242-3)


I can’t make myself love God, but I can come to know him better.  And because God is love, the more I come to know him, the more my love for him will grow.  Love is a by-product of knowing.  So I can spend this day loving God.  And tomorrow I can seek to love him a little more.  This is a life “rich toward God.”  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 30)


In short, the “secret” is not simply the fact of marriage per se.  It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself.  And what was that?

Jesus gave himself up for us.  Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Phil 2:5ff).  But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Rom 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Pt 1:4).  He gave up his glory and power and became a servant.  He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Rom 15:1-3).  Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him and he with us.  And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage but to living it.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 41-42)


What you are in the home is what you really are.  Your partner soon finds out exactly what you are.  If you are not consistent in your relationship to God, you will not have the right spiritual point of view to make proper mental or physical adjustments.  (Tim LaHaye, How to Be Happy Though Married, 42)


Until you see you can’t really love you can’t really love.  You can only really love when you come to realize you can’t really love.  —Tim Keller


The teaching of Christ demands the presence of Christ; otherwise it is only an impossible–and a torturing–ideal.  So, we have to face the fact that Christian marriage is possible only for Christians.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 241)


Gospel Application:  Our happiness in our marriages on earth helps us to see a foreshadowing of the intense, pleasurable, intimate, and loving relationship we will one day enjoy with our spouse Jesus.


The Christian Way — The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.   A baby feels hunger:  well, there is such a thing as food.   A duckling wants to swim:  well, there is such a thing as water.   Men feel sexual desire:  well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 120)


I wonder if it isn’t possible for the marriage relationship to reawaken this humility within us.  If we experience a shadow of this surrender before a sinful human being during a sexual encounter, can we not learn to offer ourselves equally unreservedly to a perfectly loving and absolutely benevolent God?  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 86)


What I’m suggesting is that we connect our marriages with our faith in such a way that our experience in each feeds the other.  The next time you caress your spouse, think about how that caress might open up new avenues for your prayer life.  The next time you are virtually overcome by passion for your spouse, consider how you can offer yourself with equal abandon to your God.  Don’t be afraid to use all aspects of marriage–even sexual expression–to expand your prayer life.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 86-7)


The OT verb “to prostrate oneself” gives us room for reflection.  While we must never lapse into worshiping the created, there are those intense moments in which the unity of marriage and even the ecstasy of physical union lead you to stand in awe before another, wanting to fully offer yourself, without reservation.  When a wife says to her husband, “Take me, I’m yours,” she demonstrates a trust that whatever the husband does will be done out of love and with genuine concern and care.  It is a remarkable testimony to self-giving and to the joy of intimacy.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 84-5)


This desire to diminish, almost debase, yourself for another, simply to lose yourself in their presence and favor, carries this OT sense of prostrating devotion.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 85)


Spiritual Challenge:  Endeavor to get the most out of life and to experience all that God wants you to enjoy.  That means dying to your own pathetic, self-centered, superficial agenda that your depraved and perverted self has concocted and pursue Christ.  (Psalm 1; Jn 10:10)


You should stop making excuses for selfishness, you should begin to root it out as it’s revealed to you, and you should do so regardless of what your spouse is doing.  If two spouses each say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 64)


Sacrifice:  In its essence, it is the exuberant passionate love-gift of the best I have to the one I love best.  —Oswald Chambers


Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice.  Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love.  To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him.  Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)


Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other.  And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 50)


A servant puts someone else’s needs ahead of his or her own.  That is how all believers should live with each other.  And if all believers are to serve each other in this way, how much more intentionally and intensely should husbands and wives have this attitude toward one another?  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 51)


Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making.  Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:  whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before), you will, nine times out of ten, become original without having noticed it. The principle runs through life from top to bottom.  Give up yourself, and you will find your real self.  Lose your life and you will save it…Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours…  (C.S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 190)


We should rightly object to the binary choice that both traditional and contemporary marriage seem to give us.  Is the purpose of marriage to deny your interests for the good of the family, or is it rather to assert your interests for the fulfillment of yourself?  The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.  Jesus gave himself up; he died to himself to save us and make us his.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 43)


In verses 22-24, Paul says, controversially, that wives should submit to their husbands.  Immediately, however, he tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and “gave himself up for her” (25), which is, if anything, a stronger appeal to abandon self-interest than was given to the woman.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 50)


There is the essence of sin, according to the Bible–living for ourselves, rather than for God and the people around us.  This is why Jesus can sum up the entire law–the entire will of God for our lives–in two great commands:  to love and live for God rather than ourselves and to love and put the needs of others ahead of our own (Mt 22:37-40).  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 62-3)


It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself.  In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give.  The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner’s joy and freedom on the altar of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul.  (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, 77)


This desire to diminish, almost debase, yourself for another, simply to lose yourself in their presence and favor, carries this OT sense of prostrating devotion.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 85)


How often we have tried somehow to love somebody that we can’t stand!  The harder we try to love, the more difficult it becomes.  We get super-frustrated and angry at the other person for making love so difficult.  All our human efforts to try to love others are bound to fail because the more we put ourselves under a performance principle, the more our failures make us feel guilty and cause us to love less.  This is the corollary to the central message of God’s freeing love throughout the discourse of the book of Romans:  that all human efforts, all performance principles, will only bring failure and despair.  Only when we are set free from the demands of the law can we discover the Hilarity of living in love through faith.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 145)


Most of us do not WANT to believe in Christ  We do not want to give up allegiance to ourselves.”  (Sally Monroe at Bible study 3-29-06)

Quotes to Note:

The second-century theologian Clement of Alexandria comes nearer it.  He says:  “The true eunuch is not he who cannot, but he who will not indulge in fleshly pleasures.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 242)


We do not make physical eunuchs nowadays in our society, but many churches impose celibacy on divorced persons by forbidding remarriage, even when there were Scriptural grounds for the divorce.  These churches ignore the anguish caused by the unnatural lifestyle they enforce.  For all practical purposes, they make divorced people eunuchs.  A church that takes a hard line on divorce virtually forces a divorced person to remain single or else face excommunication or some other form of church displeasure.  There is something harsh and impractical about a rule that tells a young divorced person, “You can never marry again.”  Such a ruling inflicts great hardship on a normal healthy person, exposes him to fierce temptation, and often drives him out of the church and into the arms of the world.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 381-2)


Identifying with and seeking to help people who have failed in their marriages does not mean lowering the standards.  We must maintain the standards, but we must also be compassionate and understanding of those who have not followed them.  We will never be of much help to anyone if we are not.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 405)


What did Jesus mean when He said, “whoever divorces his wife . . . and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery?”

He was saying that if a couple gets a divorce not according to the law of God, in the eyes of God they remain married, even though the state may have dissolved the marriage.  Someone who divorces unbibically and remarries, then, has entered an adulterous relationship.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 562)







Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply