Two Become One
The text is Matthew 19:3-12. The subject is marriage and divorce. The series is called The Tax Collector’s Guide to Fulfilled Prophecy. I have been working through the gospel of Matthew and exploring every time Matthew quotes or refers to the law and prophets. Many times a quotation from the scriptures reveals something in the way of prophecy, and the way prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. This particular post, however, will focus on how Jesus used the old testament scriptures to teach about marriage, divorce, and even sexuality. There is a parallel passage in Mark 10:2-12 which is worth comparing.
The power of the teaching of Jesus rests in how He quotes the scripture directly without trying to alter it in any way. Jesus had been teaching about marriage, divorce, and sexuality for some time before this encounter with the Pharisees. In Matthew 5:27-32, Jesus taught a moral standard which upheld the law and even exceeded it. Jesus taught that when a man looks at a woman with lust, that is in the same category as committing adultery with her, or basically, like he had sex with her in his heart. This reminder couldn’t be more timely. Billboards, magazine covers, and television advertisements are all using the beauty of the female body to sell things. They are trying to get men to lust in order to appeal to them because they know the weakness of men, just like in the days of Jesus. Jesus had also taught that divorcing your wife can be equal to committing adultery. He had not given the reasoning behind this teaching, but had simply stated it. Any time a man divorces his wife, except in the case where sexual immorality has already occurred, he is causing adultery to occur. The Matthew 19 passage will explain why this is a sin.
In the passage we are examining, the Pharisees come to Jesus and test Him. The question that they ask Him is so specific that we must consider that these Pharisees knew of the previous teaching of Jesus which Matthew had recorded. The question is, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Jesus had already taught (with authority) that the only reason one can divorce their wife and be blameless is in the case where sexual immorality has already occurred. Because the Pharisees are ready with their response, it seems that they have already determined that Jesus has contradicted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus could have responded by pointing out that Deuteronomy 24:1 is only in the case whereby some indecency has been found in her. This would have sparked a debate over what was meant by indecency because if adultery was meant then the penalty was death, not simply permission to divorce, see Deuteronomy 22:13-30. The beauty of the words of Jesus is that instead He appeals back to creation itself. Genesis and specifically the creation account is all a part of the law as well. In Mark’s version, Jesus questioned the Pharisees about what Moses commanded, so it makes you wonder as to exactly what part of the law of Moses that Jesus was hoping the Pharisees would quote. They went to Deuteronomy, but Jesus is going to Genesis.
Back to the Beginning
Jesus uses the very words “at the beginning” or “from the beginning” to describe God’s original intent. He then quotes Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to give the foundation for marriage. He comes back again in Matthew 19:8 to contrast the position of the Pharisees with God’s original intent for marriage by saying, “From the beginning it was not so.” This type of language is basically showing the Pharisees that their view on divorce is not the same as the Creator’s view on divorce. The Pharisees had originally wanted to expose Jesus as being out of step with the law, but here they are being exposed as out of step with the very foundation of what marriage is all about.
The first passage Jesus quotes is Genesis 1:27 which reads, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It is to the language of “male and female” that Jesus refers when giving the foundation for marriage. At creation God assigned genders. He has a role for the male and a role for the female who are both in the image of God. Let’s word Genesis 1:27 just a bit differently. God created mankind (Hebrew word allows for this) in His own image, created in the image of God, male and female He created them. This designation of male and female was not used in reference to any other part of creation, (meaning not to plants or animals) only to those being created in the image of God. So at the beginning, God created male and female, one man, one woman, and then gave them the entire world. It is to this definition that Jesus builds the foundation for marriage, one man, one woman; male and female in the image of God.
Then Jesus quotes Genesis 2 with seamless transition. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are creation accounts from different perspectives. Some have tried to point out inconsistencies between the two. It seems that Jesus saw the two different accounts as complementary. Genesis 2 contains the fuller explanation of how God created them male and female. There is no contradiction, only different emphases in each passage. Initially it was just Adam, the man. But God had said that it was not good for him to be alone. Out of all the animals in creation there was no companion suitable for Adam. Only after the creation of woman was there a suitable companion, or helper, for Adam. God created man and woman to be together in relationship.
Jesus quotes from Genesis 2:24 and states that this is the reason why He opposes divorce. Here is the verse, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The verse is immediately after Adam states his intimacy with the woman because they are essentially of the same makeup, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Before looking at how Jesus applies the verse, let’s ask, “Where did this verse come from?” It is not Adam speaking because he did not have a father or mother to leave, unless he is speaking prophetically here of future generations after him. It could be a commentary from Moses as he was documenting the story of creation. This would be odd because there is no other example quite like this. The best explanation comes from the words of Jesus Himself. Notice how Jesus attributes the statement to God the Creator. Jesus said, “Have you not read that He Who created them at the beginning made them male and female and said…” So Jesus states that these are words that God Himself spoke in the garden of Eden as Adam and Even became one flesh. God was speaking prophetically for all generations after this. Adam proclaims that he and his new wife are essentially one flesh by saying “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God reiterates this by saying that when a man leaves father and mother and holds fast to his wife that they become one flesh in the eyes of God. God the Father walks Eve down the aisle and presents her to Adam. Then God states that they are one, and anyone after them that does this same thing.
Let’s not overlook the significance of this. Something special happens when a man and woman come together in marriage. They become one. In the original context, Adam is saying, “This is someone like me. This is someone I can identify with.” These are the things men should be saying when they get married today. Also in the original context, God is giving authority over the entire earth to this newly married couple. God tells them, “Multiply and have dominion over the earth. Everything on this entire planet is yours.” Lest too much be made of reproducing, note that the man and woman are one flesh before they have any children. Lest too little be made of it, remember that none of us would be here without it. So many love songs have been written about this wonder that God has created, namely marriage. So many songs about broken hearts have been written as well. If only we could get back to the truth that God instituted at the beginning. Two become one. They weren’t meant to be separated. Ever.
Now let’s examine the application of Jesus concerning these words. Jesus quotes and applies Genesis 1:27 literally. One man and one woman were created at the beginning. Jesus then quotes and applies Genesis 2:24 literally. When a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, they become one flesh because God ordained it this way at the beginning of creation. Jesus then says, “They are no longer two but one flesh.” There has been an identity change in the eyes of God. God views them as united in a way that cannot be separated by man. Jesus continues by saying, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Can people separate something that God has joined together? Some people think so. When a man and woman get married, whether they admit it or not, God is involved. God has joined them together. The intention was for them to remain united. The sooner people realize this, the sooner they will understand why there are so many broken hearts in the world. People have bought the philosophies of the world and are hurting as a result. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the radio, or open up a tabloid, or turn on the television. Divorce, breakups, broken hearts, there is no shortage. And then of course, falling in love all over again to make you forget.
The Pharisees have an objection. Perhaps they hadn’t listened to the force of the words of Jesus, or perhaps they had planned on raising this point regardless of what the response of Jesus would have been. They point to the law and ask why Moses commanded to give a certificate of divorce and send her away. They are correct. In a case where divorce was happening, a certificate of divorce was to be issued, thereby denoting an official end to the marriage. This was originally meant to be a protection for the woman. In those days, a man might claim divorce but then later say he had never said that. So if there ever was a divorce, it was not to be verbal, but in writing. Deuteronomy 24:2 explains that this is so that the woman would be able to be another man’s wife. Remember in that day that the men held the majority of the authority. If you were a woman who was not living with her father or was not married, your chance of survival was pretty slim. If your husband said, “It’s over,” the first thing you would look into would be trying to marry again. However, without a certificate of divorce, there would be a risk that the man would cry foul or say he didn’t really mean it. In God’s economy, divorced women were valued and protected. Men were not allowed to just kick a woman out without allowing her to begin her life over again. If the man was serious, he had to take the time to have a certificate written out. Once she had that certificate, that was her protection against recourse.
Jesus responds to this by stating that this command was because of the hardness of the hearts of man. This was permitted or allowed to happen, but, Jesus clarifies, from the beginning it was not this way. Jesus continues by stating the exact same thing that he had back in Matthew 5:32. Anyone who divorces his wife, except in the case of sexual immorality, and then gets married is committing adultery. Why? What God has joined together should not be divided by men. Remember that the penalty for committing adultery was death. So essentially Jesus is saying that if you divorce your wife and get married to someone else, you deserve the death penalty. Those that do this are simply lusting after other women and trying to justify it by doing it the legal way. “Hey, I’ll just divorce my wife and get married to someone else.” God calls that sin.
This concludes the answer that Jesus gave to the Pharisees. However, there are two addendums that Jesus adds in a discourse to his disciples. One is found in Mark and shares the words of Jesus who applies the situation to women divorcing their husbands as well, see Mark 10:12. The other is found in Matthew 19:10-12 and is unique to Matthew’s gospel. Here the disciples seem surprised by the severity of the command of Jesus. They say that in that case that it would be better not to marry. This is the logical conclusion since (if we want to obey God) we don’t want to be committing sins worthy of death. So the disciples conclude that divorced people shouldn’t get married at all. Now Jesus shows his soft side. After talking about the sanctity of marriage, the seriousness of the sin of divorce, now Jesus says that not everyone can receive this saying.
Let me just interrupt this text for a minute and state that we should remember the context of the entire ministry of Christ. He was introduced by John the Baptist who said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus continued by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Everyone, repent! Tax collectors, Pharisees, soldiers, prostitutes, mothers, fathers, divorced people, married people, everybody, repent! Just because someone is divorced, it doesn’t mean that they cannot repent and believe the gospel. However, confessing our sins should include confessing all of our sins, including divorce. And just because someone was religious and had never had a divorce didn’t mean they were above repentance. Repentance was for everyone, especially the religious who didn’t think they needed it, see Matthew 3:7-8.
After the disciples state that it is not good for divorced men to get remarried, Jesus states that there are different types of situations. Matthew 19:12 is one of the more difficult verses in the Bible. But since it uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven”, we need to apply it to the ministry of Christ and the work of the Kingdom of Heaven of which all Christians are a part. The word “eunuch” is a compound word in the original Greek and basically means “bed-holder”. The application is that they performed a duty that other men might not be trusted with. So they were considered “bedchamber attendants” or “keepers of the beds”. The reason these men could be trusted with intimate matters of the bedroom is that they did not have the sexual desire for women that other men had, or perhaps they did not allow their sexual desire for women to affect their judgment.
Jesus gives three different examples of “bedchamber attendants”. The first are those who were born this way, “There are some… which were so born from their mother’s womb”. These men were either born with no sex drive or with the inability to reproduce, or maybe both. In these cases, these men were trusted to be servants in areas where other men would not be trusted. This is something that should be considered an aberration from God’s original intent for men to be intimate with women. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” We realize this is a fallen world, though. But even in our sinful state when diseases and deformities are occurring naturally, we know that God has not forgotten about us. Instead of viewing the sterile man as an outcast, Jesus states that this is someone who would be a trusted servant, leading to a later comparison in serving in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some people think the Bible has nothing to say about transgenderism, or many other recent issues concerning sexuality in the news, but this is not the case. There have been people who were born “not sexually normal” throughout all ages, at least back to the days of Moses. For priests, not being sexually whole would disqualify you from serving in the tabernacle, see Leviticus 21:16-24. Notice how the blemished priest could eat of the bread of God, but he could not come near to offer the offering. For the rest of the Israelites, this would mean that they were not to be considered as part of the congregation of Israel, but would have something like a foreigner status, see Deuteronomy 23:1. They weren’t put to death, but they were considered unwhole or impure in some way. People have been born with sexual deformities for a long time and instead of ignoring it, God acknowledged it by pointing out that this is not normal, but then gave guidelines for people who are born this way. Someone who is born sexually deformed is not forgotten about in God’s economy, but encouraged to live godly with the people of God. They may have a different role, but that role may just be a trusted advisor that normal men cannot be trusted with. I will have more to say on contemporary sexual issues later after discussing this passage.
The second example that Jesus gives is something that has been forced upon someone by other people, “some… were made eunuchs of men”. This could include castration, as many would point to that as the primary definition. However, the word “castration” does not appear in the Greek. It simply states that they have been made to be a bed-holder. The position could have been forced upon them expecting the man to remain celibate. There is debate in history as to how prevalent castration was for those who were to be these types of servants. The evidence that some thought was there has been assumed by many. What we do know from this text and from the context of remaining unmarried of which Jesus is speaking is that this position is forced for the purpose of having a paying job. The man was to remain single in order to serve his master/employer.
The third and final example that Jesus gives is of someone who has voluntarily made themselves a bed-holder in order to work for the kingdom of heaven, “some… have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”. It seems highly unlikely that someone would undergo castration without someone forcing it upon them. The more likely view is that someone took a vow of celibacy or perhaps just refrained from getting married for a certain time period in order to devote their time to serving God. People may think of monks and nuns as the primary example, but our thoughts need not be confined to just these people. Someone who is simply single, maintaining sexual purity while serving the LORD could be considered in this very category. It is possible that the Apostle Paul was in this category, see I Corinthians 7:7-8. Some of the advice in I Corinthians 7:32-33 shows how someone who is unmarried is able to devote their time to the LORD rather than husband or wife. Rather than view the unmarried man as an outcast, Jesus elevates His status to bedchamber attendant in the Kingdom of Heaven. The intimate details that most men cannot be trusted with are being trusted to this man.
So what was Jesus saying and how did that correct the view of the disciples that a divorced man could never get remarried? The point that Jesus made is that not every eunuch, or bedchamber servant, was in the same category. Every situation is unique. To the Pharisees in general, Jesus spoke the truth about marriage. It’s permanent. Two become one. But to the disciples, to those that are servants within the kingdom of heaven, already following the teachings of Jesus and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says not everybody is in the same situation. There is not one answer for all. Not everybody can receive this saying, except those to whom it is given. For those that follow the strictness of the law and don’t get remarried, they may end up in an elevated position. For example, the verb in this verse which means made into a eunuch does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament, but the noun which means eunuch only appears in one other passage, and that’s in Acts 8:26-40. It is speaking of a high ranking official, the personal treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia.
That concludes how Jesus quoted and applied Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. To extend this a bit further, there is no room for the definition of marriage to be anything other than one man and one woman being joined together. In the beginning, God created them male and female. One man and one woman were designed to become one flesh in the eyes of God. The world is sinful now, and because of this sin there are many sinful desires which run against nature itself. Homosexual desires are very real, but very ungodly. Romans 1:26-27 shows the lust that people are tempted with which runs against God’s will. The example of Sodom and Gomorrah is often cited because of their homosexual desires, see Jude 7 which explains the reason for the destruction on those cities as being sexual immorality by going after different flesh. The law had prohibited this in Leviticus 20:13 and it is reaffirmed in the new testament writings.
Also, notice the command in Deuteronomy 22:5. A man is not allowed to wear what pertains to a woman, and vice versa. This tells me a couple of things. First, there would be a temptation for a man to dress like a woman. The commandments were typically commanding the children of Israel to refrain from the pagan practices of the nations that lived in the land of Canaan. These were things that people were doing way back then. Cross dressing is not something new. It’s been going on for thousands of years. But it has always been condemned by God. When the temptation came for a man to dress or act like a woman, the children of Israel were to obey God and refuse to do this sin, and the same went for women being tempted to dress and act like men. Of course Satan is going to attack men and confuse them. God created male and female for specific purposes and Satan wants to confuse us about God’s will.
I have noticed different trends on the subject of marriage, divorce, and sexuality. One is that somehow society is changing therefore the positions of the church should be changing. In response to that I say God does not change. The reason for God creating male and female at the beginning has not changed. Another trend is to minimize the seriousness of the sins being committed. Don’t minimize it. It’s still sin. When two people of the same sex desire each other, that’s sin. When a man dresses or acts like a woman, or says that he is a woman, that’s sin and Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ should call that sin. There is also the overreacting trend. Some people act like society is so bad today like no other generation has had these types of sin. That’s not true. It’s all there in the law of Moses which was written thousands of years ago. God knows about it. And God will judge it, not us. We can speak the truth, but don’t act like this is the first generation that saw same sex marriage legalized, because it’s not. It was legal during the reign of the Davidic dynasty, see II Kings 23:7 and note that this was in the midst of the people of God, not to mention we have no real record of the pagan nations.
Remember the teaching of Jesus. Uphold the sanctity of marriage. Two become one. Teach it to your children.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman