25 Aug 2019
Family is God's idea. In Mat 19:1-15, Jesus teaches about the right principles for the various relationships at home. Check out this simple and concise sermon for questions you have always had - what are the principles of marriage? when can one divorce? should I get married? what is singleness for? what's my priority as a parent?
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As a church, we take our people through the Bible and today is no different. We are looking at Matthew chapter 19. You have already read the verses, verses 1 to 15, let me get right into it.
A story is told of Adam and Eve, fictitious story don't quote me on it… so Adam once asked God. God, why do you make Eve so beautiful? God said so that she will take your breath away and then when Eve listened to the devil and fell into sin, Adam then ask God again. God, why do you make Eve so gullible so that she will fall in love with you!
Today we are talking about a husband and wife relationship, about marriage and more than that, we're also looking at divorce and then we are also going to look at singleness and then we are also going to look at parenting and also what it means to be a child, what's the most important thing about the child, so much to cover because that's what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 19, He talks about the family.
Now, I think we can speed through this because a lot of it would already have been covered earlier this year in Home Fix series so a lot of things might sound familiar to you or if you have any questions, any doubt, you might want to check out the sermons which are able to explain, I think, with more detail because we have more services dedicated to the subject. Nevertheless, we are going to look at an overview of the family as given to us in these 15 verses.
The whole story unfolded when the Pharisees came to Jesus and tested Him by asking … is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause? Now, the Pharisees are a religious group of people, a religious sect and they are notorious for being opponents of Jesus Christ. They wanted to discredit Jesus. They wanted to embarrass Jesus and so they tried to do that in various ways. They tried to ask Him difficult questions about the Sabbath, about tax and so on. Now, they come with this question on divorce. They did not come to Jesus with pure motives. They came to test Jesus. They came to trap Jesus. They came hoping to embarrass Him so they asked … is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?
Now this is a kind of devil and the deep blue sea question because if Jesus says yes, you can divorce for any cause then He seems then to undermine the sanctity of marriage and the importance of marriage as given or taught by God in the Scriptures but if most, if Jesus said, no, it is not lawful for you to divorce, then they will say You discredit the law of Moses, who we respect. Moses did say we can divorce, so however, Jesus answers if it's a plain yes or a plain no will be taken as an excuse to run down the ministry of Jesus so here we are going to look at the wisdom of Jesus is in answering this trap question.
Notice in verse 4, He answered have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female so He’s referring to the very first book of the Bible. He’s referring to the very original beginning in Genesis. Genesis 2, to be exact and I think we learned something about answering questions, we learned something about resolving controversies.
It's very easy to resort to humanistic reasoning but Jesus doesn't do that. Jesus, when answering questions, always turns to the Scriptures. He is the God of the Word but He himself would refer to the Word of God so we as His followers should do the same. He turns them to the Scriptures in Genesis 2 and He continues to say therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast, hold tight to his wife and the two shall become one flesh so He is in answering this question about divorce, first, establishing what God has taught about marriage, make sense. You can't understand divorce if you don't understand God's intention for marriage so three things about marriage I like to highlight number 1, marriage is between a male and a female. Amazing truth, marriage is between male and female.
Now it is not so obvious nowadays. There are many countries that have since legalized same sex marriage. In other words, people are saying marriage can be between male and male or marriage can be between female and female, that's what people, countries are legalizing. That's what many people in polls, in surveys, in votes are saying, it's absolutely fine but the Scriptures tell us the creation, the foundation of marriage is between a male and a female. It is not to be homosexual, it is to be heterosexual.
Now I'm not here to represent any political views or social views. I am not in the arena, that's not my business but I think in Singapore and in many parts of the world, there seems to be a tide that is sweeping through, that is pushing people closer and closer to legalizing same sex marriage and there may come a day here in Singapore, where it will be illegal for me to preach what the Bible says that marriage is to be between a man and a woman, anything else in God's eyes is not acceptable. If that day comes, I'll still preach it but please visit me in the prison, that's all but that's what the Bible plainly says and we have to honor that.
There is however, I want to emphasize, a difference between same sex attraction, SSA or affections versus homosexuality. There are people even within this hall who may struggle with SSA. You find yourself attracted to someone of the same gender. That may not be sin unless you indulge in that affection. In other words, you fulfill that affection. You decide to be with someone sexually of the same gender, now that would be sin so SSA and affection is to be contrasted with the act itself of homosexuality. There are people who have SSA but who have denied their SSA for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the Gospel and if that is where you find yourself, I pray that the Gospel will be the reason why you will deny those affections for the glory of God.
Now a lot can be spoken but I just want to say number 1 - marriage is between a male and a female. God did not make Adam or God made Adam and Eve, He did not make Adam and Steve.
Number 2 - marriage is not only to be heterosexual. It is also to be monogamous. Notice that it is one male, one female, two shall become one flesh. The Bible does not encourage, endorse or teach polygamy. There are stories of polygamy but that doesn't mean that it's right, by God it is one male, one female.
A little boy had just been to his first wedding service and when he got home, he said to my mom, mom, I didn't know I can have many wives. Mom says no, you cannot have many wives. You can have only one wife but the pastor told me I can have many wives. When did the pastor ever say that? He said that in the service! Are you sure? Yah! How many wives did he say you can have? 16 how come you know it’s 16? Oh, he said four better, four worse, four richer, four poorer. No, marriage is to be between one man, one woman, monogamy, that's what it is.
Now I don't think you will have such an issue with the first two points that it is to be heterosexual and it is to be monogamous but in practice, many people don't get the third point. God's plan for marriage is not only heterosexuality and monogamy but also in permanence in its lifelong nature because the Bible says that a man shall hold fast to his wife and they two shall become one flesh. This intimacy, this oneness, this permanence is established by God right in the Garden of Eden. People today do not honor that anymore. Any reason they can find, they will take it as an excuse to say I will divorce him, I will divorce her but that's not God's plan, two shall become one, nothing more intimate than that.
Imagine having two potatoes. You skin them, you boil them and then you mash them together, where two shall become one mash. Tell me how do you split the potato to two? Now you can't, it's one and marriage is a union between two that they became, they now become one and it's inseparable so that is God's original plan, so they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate. God’s will, no divorce, no homosexuality, no polygamy, no divorce, that's what marriage is supposed to be.
Then the controversy comes because the Pharisees being a teacher, student of the Old Testament, said to Him, ah, Jesus, didn't you read Deuteronomy 24 which is where this is from? In Deuteronomy 24, Moses gave a provision. A law that says if you find any indecency in your wife, now indecency here is not adultery because if you commit adultery, the punishment then in Moses days is stoning to death. Indecency is something that may lead up to, flag out adultery but has not come to that stage yet so if you find your wife guilty of indecency and you choose to put her away, you have to write a bill of divorcement or a certificate of divorcement so that's found in Deuteronomy 24 and so the Pharisees said aah, ur…then why did Moses give a law like that, if God's will from the beginning is permanence? So the Pharisees now are wondering, is God contradicting himself or is Moses wrong or are you saying that Moses is wrong? So Jesus then answered, because of your hardness of heart, Moses, allowed you to divorce your wives but from the beginning, it was not so.
So number 1, Jesus is not saying Moses commanded divorce. Moses allowed divorce and the reason is because you, the Jews, that nation of Israel, the people, the men are so hard hearted. What do you mean they are so hard hearted? Well, in those days, in Moses days, they were flippantly and casually and very freely divorcing their wives, putting away their wives and in those days and culture, the woman is very dependent on the husband for livelihood and survival but they are so hard hearted they are putting them aside for any reason at all so in order to curb that, in order to discourage that, Moses under instruction of God, told Israel, you don't do that so flippantly, if you really want to do that, you have to put in this certificate of divorce so this cert, is not to encourage divorce, it's actually to make you think twice, to discourage it.
As I've mentioned in this church already, in Singapore, if you want to go for an abortion, it is mandated by law that a woman should watch a video on abortion. Now, why this video of abortion - to encourage you to abort – no but to discourage you to abort so it's the same for the cert of divorcement. It was given because they were so hardened and calloused and neglectful towards their wives so if you sign this, you're saying to yourself, I will never have the opportunity to be with my wife ever again so think twice.
So that was the reason why this was given, it was never meant to encourage divorce, it was never meant to endorse it, it was meant to discourage it, that's the original intent but fast forward centuries later, during the times of Jesus, the nation of Israel has so perverted the understanding of Deuteronomy 24 that they are now saying, it is, is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause? So it was meant to be a discouragement but now they say ah, I get it, as long as I produce this cert, I can divorce my wife for any reason and God will have to accept that. Any cause, really any cause?
According to rabbinical teaching, really, any cause because in those days they, they were, it was said, you could divorce your wife for putting too much salt on your food, “jialat” [local slang: jialat is being used to describe a dire situation or to describe a person in a bad way] already or you could divorce your wife for burning your dinner or he may divorce her if, even if he found another woman more beautiful than she. You could divorce your wife if she spun in the street and somebody saw her knees. You could divorce your wife for taking her hair down, for speaking to men. You could divorce your wife if she said something unkind about her mother in law so they were actually believing that I can divorce my wife as long as I produce my certificate and that was the great perversion, is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause? Jesus, obviously in this passage is saying no, of course not from the beginning, it was not so. So what Jesus has done is to take this question that was meant to trap Him, turn it around and now expose their wicked hearts, their sinful hearts.
The Bible continues to say in verse 9, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality and marries another commits adultery so there is an exception clause. The exception clause is that you can, not that you must, not that you should but you can marry another and not be guilty of adultery if it was your spouse who has committed adultery so this is the exception clause, repeated here because Jesus said it earlier in Matthew 5, I say to you, everyone who divorces his wife, unless it's on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, assuming she marries someone else and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery unless again, it is broken up in the first place by adultery.
So there is controversy in this teaching but I think the Bible does teach us that marriage is to be permanent but there are exceptions to when it can be seen as broken, one in the case of adultery. There are two more reasons why a previously married person may remarry? Do you know what they are? One is adultery, second? Death, yes, your spouse has passed away, you are free to now remarry. Another reason? It's okay if you don't know also can, okay? Just stay married!
Third reason, when your spouse who is a non-believer initiates divorce against you! Now notice it must be that he or she initiates divorce against you. Not you tell him or her, I don't want you, so totally different thing.
Now, if you want to have greater clarification, you can look at the sermon series in Home Fix but the purpose of all this is to help us see the original intention which is the permanence of marriage. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh - that is what you need to get away with. I hope you do not get away with thinking what are the loopholes I can exploit to get out of this marriage, alright? Henry Ford was once asked, what is the secret behind his 50 years of marriage? He said very simple, the same as my company Ford Motors. I stick to only one model, that's what marriage should be, permanence, alright?
Now divorce is a painful reality, just because you do not want to be divorced doesn't mean it won't happen to you and it is a reality in this church even but I think it is important for us as a church to understand these truths so that we do not become judgmental but that we will be compassionate and be able to grieve along with those who are going through this pain and I think it is also helpful that as a church we remind one another that our worth and our value is not in the fact that I can maintain a perfect family but our value and worth is found in our, our identity in Jesus Christ, our union with Him, our position in Him and I hope this church will be a church that will be compassionate to reach out to those even who are divorced that we may lead them to Jesus and find joy and purpose and significance in Jesus.
So we rush through nine verses but then we turn our attention to the next group of people - the disciples. Do you think the disciples understood what Jesus has been teaching? Well, you will know in the next verse, verse 10, the disciples said to Jesus, if such is the case of a woman with his or with a man with his wife, it is better not to marry. Wah jialat [local slang: jialat is being used to describe a dire situation or to describe a person in a bad way], when I heard, when I read this, hah you mean the disciples really think like that aah, if what Jesus is teaching is true, they are saying, if marriage is for life and there is no escape, there is no getting out, then I don't want to marry already. Wow, that probably reveals the culture and thinking of that time. They really think that if I don’t like my wife, I'm just going to get rid of her and find a new one so the disciples have a kind of commitment phobia, they say, I don't want to be stuck, we, we then don’t want to be married. Then Jesus replied, not everyone can receive this saying, but only to those who it is given. Not everyone can remain unmarried, only to those whom it is given. Who can remain unmarried?
Three kinds of people according to Jesus, number 1, they are eunuchs who have been so from birth. Number 2, they are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men. Number 3, they are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who was able to receive this, receive it, you say why - because elsewhere Paul also emphasized, for but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. This is with regards to sexual passions, 1Corinthians 7.
The Bible is not saying, marriage is only for sex but one of the biblical reasons for marriage is sexual fulfillment. There's no shame to that. The marriage bed is undefiled. The marriage bed is honorable and so there's no shame to that. Marriage is not only for sex but it is also for sex, one of the functions and purposes so not everyone can have this self-control.
There are those who are eunuchs who have been so from birth. I believe this refers to those who have congenital problems. They can't have sexual fulfillment or reproduction. Then they are those who are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, something Chinese people you'll be familiar with. If you watch ancient period dramas, you have this guy with makeup come in and say, who is that, oh, he's the taijian (eunuch in Chinese) he’s the gong gong (formal address of a eunuch in Chinese), cao gong gong jia dao (Chinese : arrival of eunuch cao) and, and, and you say, what are the eunuchs? Oh, they are those who have been made eunuchs by the emperor so that they can serve in the courts with no fear that they will have relationships with the concubines so there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men in various cultures and then there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
Now, I don't think this is about physical castration but this is about choice of life. They choose to be a kind of eunuch in a sense, they do not marry and why, not that they can’t find a spouse but that they say we want to dedicate ourselves for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. We want to live for the service of God.
Who is an example of such category, category 3? Apostle Paul, everybody will know that, to the unmarried and widows I say, that it is good for them to remain single as I am so Paul says, I choose to be single and I think it's good to be single and I encourage you to be single as I am so that you may serve God without any other distractions or encumbrances so a word for singles.
Singleness is something relevant to one at all because everyone has been or a single. All of us grew up single, right? I hope you did not grow up married, that will be quite sad but I hope you grew up single and so all of us have been single before.
Number 2, some of us are single right now awaiting to be married and there are those who are now single once again because your husband passed away, because your wife divorced you, you might have been single so I think there is some relevance to every one of us about singleness.
First thing I want to say is that marriage nor singleness is ultimate. Marriage is not the ultimate thing of life. Singleness is not the ultimate thing of life. Serving God is the ultimate thing of life.
There are some religions that say, marriage is most important and then there's some religions that say singleness is more important. Actually, the Bible does not pit one against the other as if the other is inferior. The Bible extols marriage, marriage is great, it’s the plan of God before the fall, it's the gift of God before the fall, it's a good thing, marriage is great but singleness is also great, Paul says so. So we are not to say that I am married, you are, you're single, you're inferior. Neither are we to say I am single, I serve God more than you married people do, I'm superior. There is no despising of the other positions.
So marriage is great, singleness is great but the ultimate thing is that we serve God so use your marriage for the glory of God, use your singleness for the glory of God and do not despise nor judge the other who is not in the same position as you are. Simple?
Number 2, I think, do not delay marriage unnecessarily. Some of you say, Pastor, then when should I get married, when should I date? That's a common conversation between parents here, my son is 11, 7, we think about when should they date, some say 16, some say 18, some say 21, some say 40, some say, I do not know, some say never I don’t want him or her to get married.
Well understand that there are principles involved, it's not so easy. Just say, should I get them married at 13? No, that's a, there are other principles that are involved? Should I get them married very late? 1 Corinthians 7:9 does come into play, uh… unnecessary temptations that we put them through, whatever that may be so there is no absolute number I will give you, you have to decide for yourself with a balance of principles but the point is do not delay that unnecessarily, okay.
Number 3, steward your singleness for the kingdom so if you are single today, don't be hard up, don't let your whole life revolve around looking for a spouse, that's not God's will for you, I can say, now not that you can’t look, not that you can’t pray but that your focus and your priority should be still Kingdom priorities, seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. Alright and number 4, the most important point, simplest point, a word for singles, choose wisely because after you choose you cannot stop, you cannot get out already. When two potatoes are made into one mash, two persons becoming one flesh, that's inseparable, alright, so choose wisely. I'm not asking you to choose Mr. Perfect, there is none but choose someone who knows the Gospel, who believes the Gospel, who loves the Lord. I think that's the most important so if there is any advice in Scripture, any command in Scripture, is that you should not be unequally yoked. Choose wisely, alright?
Okay, finally, another separate incident but just put right beside, is that then children were brought to Jesus that He might lay His hands on them and pray so we come now to children, now who brought these children to Jesus, we don't know. The Bible is not explicit there but I would think that the safe assumption would be that they were brought to Jesus by the parents so parents, families were bringing children to Jesus that He might lay His hands on them and pray for them.
Now the disciples were rather upset, they rebuked the people. They were troubled, disturbed, maybe because they were already very tired, maybe because it has been a long day, maybe they think children are trivial and in those days nobody bothered with children but Jesus said, let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
Now Jesus had already said something like that earlier in chapter 18, except you become like little children, you cannot enter. He's not saying that we are to be childish but we are to be childlike in being humble and acknowledging our desperate need so He's again encouraging the people around there, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
I don't think, let me say two things, that you should not interpret this text to mean. Number 1, you should not interpret that this text is a text to justify infant baptism. There are some who look at this verse and say ah, we should baptize little babies. No mention of that, that would be eisegesis, that will be, okay, I shouldn't have used that word, that would be reading into the Bible, rather than reading out from the Bible, alright, that's not fair, you're projecting your ideas into the text, that's not a fair way to understand Scripture.
Number 2, I think this text should not be a basis for us to say all little infants die and go to heaven. Now there are babies who die before they reach 1, 2 and so on and there are people who say all babies who die young, early, less than one year old, they'll go to God, they'll go to heaven, they will be saved. Now that's what we hope and wish for sure but that's not explicitly clear in the Bible.
I can have a conversation with you as to why some would say it is not so clear, they may not be so point is I don't think this is a promise that says every child below 1 goes to God if they should die. What if they are 1 year 1 day old, can or not? Some say less than 1 year can go to heaven. Then 1 year 1 day, how? 1 year 2 days, how? And it goes on and on, right, it's very hard to be dogmatic about such things.
Nevertheless, I think, the point or takeaway here is that it is a wise thing for the parents to bring their children to Jesus. We all as parents love our kids and want the best for our kids so in Singapore, I think we are very good at that, parents, you, you feed them well, you give them the best milk, you give them the best vitamins, cod liver oil, whatever kind of gimmicks, everything can give, give so they’re “bai bai pang pang” (Chinese : fair and healthy), big, big fat, fat, strong, strong so you want to a healthy boy or girl. Then we give them the best kind of education. We make sure they go to the best schools, we, we get to the best addresses so that they can get to top schools. We give them the best tuition. We make sure they have a good circle of friends. We want them to grow physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally but this text should be a reminder that the most important thing a parent should do for the kid, is to help them spiritually, to bring them to Jesus. I hope this is the priority for your parenting. Oh, I'm so stressed over their school, I'm so stressed over their health. Are you stressed, are you concerned, are you praying for their spiritual life? Because what, so what if your kid has the best health, lives a long life, has a good career, super smart, he wins the whole world but he loses his soul, what's the point?
It would have been a greatest tragedy, isn't it that he should live in your family and not come to know God because you have not been bringing him to Jesus. Don't say that's the job of Gospel Light Christian Church. Nope, the Bible says it's your job, we are only kind of a supplement but the main caregivers that God wants to bring these children to Jesus is parents so make sure you are bringing your children to Jesus regularly in the way you pray, in the way you read the Bible with them, in the way you model Jesus in your life, let them see Christ, let them know Christ and I pray your family will be centered in Jesus, centered in the Gospel so that's a quick run through of 15 verses about the family and I pray that in Gospel Light, we will have families that will come to know Jesus real soon. Glad that many of you are here to witness the baptism and that's a family, baptism is a kind of initiation, public initiation into the family of God, we’re saying that they have repented of their sins, they believe in Jesus and we as a family, we follow our Father, through knowing His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Father thank You again for this morning! We pray that You will help us in our families. There are some grieving today because of marriage breakdowns and divorces. I pray that they will find courage and joy and strength not in the fact that they have or have not a complete home but that they will know they are deeply loved and they are worth and their identity is anchored, is fixed in their union with Jesus Your Son.
I pray today for families and marriages that are struggling, that they will not throw in the towel but they will look to the Gospel, they will look to the love between Christ and the Church and resource from the Gospel.
I pray then that their marriage will reflect this Gospel so that as they fiercely love their wives and as they humbly submit to their own husbands, people around would see the reality of the Gospel through them.
God may we honor You in our lives not just in coming to church or putting in money in the bags but may we honor You with our obedience in our homes, in a way we should treat our spouse, Lord give us grace.
Father, we pray for those who are single that they will make, they will not make singleness, they will not make marriage an idol in their lives that they will not revolve their lives around a potential spouse but they will revolve their lives around You and Your Kingdom. I pray they will steward that wisely and may You lead them to the spouse You have for them.
Father, we pray for our children, our little ones, have mercy. Lord, we can teach, we can preach, we can pray, ultimately, however, we know salvation is of the Lord. Once again, this morning we with united hearts, bring our children to You. Lord, save them in Your mercy, humble them, help them to be grieved over their sin, devastated over their sin, help them to be humbled to realize they cannot save themselves and please turn their eyes to Jesus that they will be saved.
I pray for little ones right now, Lord, work in their hearts, that they, even right here, listening to Your Word, will repent and believe in Jesus.
Father, thank You again for brethren going through the waters of baptism, bless them as they take this stand for You. I pray that this day will be helpful in their memories to encourage them to take many more steps of faith forward and we do pray for all friends and family who are gathered here today that as they witness this, they soon will also repent and believe in Jesus for themselves, so bless one and all, we thank You and we pray all this in Jesus Name, amen.
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Email [email protected] to serve or to report transcription errors.
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