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Marriage, Divorce, and Commitment

March 19, 2017 Speaker: Afshin Ziafat Series: Sermon on the Mount

Passage: Matthew 5:31–5:37



I don't do this all the time, but I'm gonna do it today. It's not an overstatement to say that last week, I probably preached one of the most important sermons that I've ever preached at Providence. And half of you were here, because it was spring break, and it was Daylight Saving time. I'm not upset. It was just a difficult weekend, right? So literally, we had about half our numbers.

So I just wanna say, not because I'm like, Man, you've gotta go hear this, it was a great sermon, if I may so myself. But because this topic is so critically important for us in our culture. So the topic was lust, and specifically, in our culture, the epidemic of porn, and how we are to fight against this epidemic.

So I just want to really challenge you, if you have time, to go back to our Podcast and listen or watch last week's sermon, because, again, I think it's something that's really important for us to be hear and for us to be considering what God is saying to us about lust. And so, three weeks ago, in verse 20 of chapter 5, we saw Jesus saying that our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were all about just the outward righteousness. And Jesus is teaching that man, our righteousness should go to the heart.

And so that's why 2 weeks ago we looked at anger. Jesus says, "You've heard it said, don't murder, but I'm saying to you, don't be angry." And it's not that what He's saying is that what the Old Testament taught was wrong. He's saying that the way it was interpreted was wrong. In other words, murder isn't just, not shedding someone's blood. Murder is in the heart, even -- if you have hatred towards your brother. But you can actually commit murder with your words.

Calling your brother a derogatory term, bringing him down, that is actually murder. That's what He's doing. And so the same thing with adultery. He said, "You've heard it said, Don't commit adultery, but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart."

And so Jesus is saying that your righteousness must go beyond the surface level and come to the heart. And so today we are going to continue down that train, and He's gonna hit another one that I've gotta say to you right up front, is a very difficult sermon to preach.

You know, when I was an itinerant speaker for about 10 years, before I became a pastor, I couldn't wait to pull out this text and preach it -- said no itinerant evangelist ever, okay? What I want to say to you is, being at a church where we preach through, verse by verse, a book of the Bible, this is what's so good about it. There are texts that I would probably avoid preaching. And there's texts that maybe a lot of churches would never even preach. I'm not trying to pat ourselves on the back. I'm just saying that we really believe that all the Bible is important, and that we need the whole counsel of God's Word.

And so today we're gonna look at the issue of divorce. And let me just say, I know this is a very sensitive issue for many in this room, right now. It's a hard sermon to preach. First of all, because it's a very hotly debated issue. There are people who I really look up to and respect, that I may disagree with some of what they believe on the whole issue of divorce and remarriage.

And it's a complex issue. There are many layers to it, many different situations that you can consider. But then really, most importantly, let me say, as a product of a divorced marriage, as a child that was raised in a broken home, I know that for many in this room, this is a deeply emotional and painful issue to discuss.

So I hope that I'm coming with great sensitivity as I talk about this issue. Hang with me. I know it's a very emotional and painful issue. But hang with me, because I do think that the main thing that is being taught to us is fidelity in marriage; faithfulness in your marriage. And I think that this is something that we've got to hear, especially in a culture that is constantly watering down marriage and all commitment.

So we're gonna see that Jesus really combats that here. So look at Matthew chapter 5, verse 31.

"It was also said, whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

And so, what Jesus is coming against, is really what the scribes and Pharisees were doing with Deuteronomy chapter 24, an Old Testament command of Moses that they were actually using to make divorce something that was very easily given. And so what Jesus is doing here is coming and saying, No, if you divorce except for the case of sexual immorality, your divorce is causing adultery. Why? Because remarriage after an unbiblical divorce, Jesus is saying, is equivalent to adultery, since in the eyes of God, the divorce is not valid.

And this is actually assuming that there would be remarriage after a divorce, which is not a huge assumption to make in that culture. Women who were divorced would most often remarry. A few of them may end up in their parents' home with shame, but most of them would remarry.

And so for us to really dig in deeper to what's being taught, there's only two verses here that do sum up Jesus' teaching. But there's another passage later in Matthew where Jesus expounds even more on what is taught here. So I think it's good for us to put those together. So turn with me to Matthew chapter 19, starting at verse 3. I want you to see this account of the Pharisees coming and challenging Jesus.

Matthew 19:3-6

"3 The Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?' 4 He answered, 'Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Now stop there before we read on. Again, as I said, it's referring to Deuteronomy 24:1. When they come with the question, Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause? Here's why, in Deuteronomy 24:1: "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, (then it goes on to say) let him write her a certificate of divorce."

So the question is, what does the word "indecency" mean, that he has found some kind of indecency in her? And in those days, in the days of Jesus now, there was actually a controversy between two rabbinical schools. The school of Shammai basically had a very conservative view of indecency, that it was only sexual immorality, like adultery. Whereas the school of Hillel took a much more liberal approach and basically said that indecency could be twisted to mean anything. If you don't like the way she cooks; if you don't like the way she looks any more; if you've become bored with her. I mean, they could twist indecency to mean so many things.

So essentially when they come to Him in Matthew 19 and say, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" that shows you that the Pharisees are in that second camp, the liberal camp. And so they're trying to say, Hey Jesus, are You on our side? And can we divorce for any cause?

And so I love what Jesus does. They are focused on the legitimate reasons for divorce, and Jesus redirects them to God's original intent for marriage. That's what He's focused on. And so what does He do, in verses 4 and 5 he turns them back to Genesis. Verse 4, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female? (verse 5) Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?"

And friends, I think it's very important for us to note. What does Jesus highlight about marriage? He highlights two things from Genesis: God's original design is that marriage would be exclusive, male and female; and would be permanent. "Hold fast and become one flesh."

And so, listen to me, in a culture that wants to redefine marriage for us, we as a people of God's word have to hold fast to what God's original design for marriage is. And we should be a people who in our marriages aren't looking for a loophole out of our commitment. They're looking for legitimate reasons for divorce! But we should be fixated on God's original design for marriage: Exclusivity. A monogamous relationship between one man and one woman, husband and wife; united, becoming one flesh, that no man can separate for all of life.

And this is what we should do. Not just, listen, by picketing our government buildings, but actually living this kind of marriage out. And so, what's amazing is, now look what happens. Then in verse 7 they come to him, and this is where Deuteronomy 24 comes in.

7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

He repeats what He said in Matthew 5. And so, here is what I want you to see. Not only were the Pharisees fixated on a reason for divorce, whereas Jesus was focused on the design of marriage that God had from the beginning. But on top of that, don't miss this, the Pharisees saw divorce as a command Moses had given them. They were fixated on the command and on giving the certificate.

Jesus says no, Moses never commanded it. He never even encouraged it. It was actually a concession that God was making through Moses, because of your hardness of heart.

So in order for you to see that, turn with me now to Deuteronomy 24. Go all the way to the Old Testament and look in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 24. Let's read this together.

1 When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband (meaning the first husband), who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

So even in this reading, you can see how God was making a concession here because of their hardheartedness. So let me explain what's going on in the time of Moses, when this law came down. First of all, in those days, women were not held in high esteem. And a man could divorce his wife for any frivolous reason. And so this Mosaic legislation came in to put a control on a very chaotic situation surrounding the issue of divorce.

So this legislation, if you read it carefully, is doing three things. First of all, it's actually limiting the cause of divorce. I know it sounds funny because we know that in the New Testament, the Pharisees are actually using this text to widen the reasons for divorce. But actually, in the time it was given, it was used to LIMIT the reason for divorce to being something that is indecent in the husband's eyes. And so it wasn't making it so that you could do it for any reason. Now you had to show, you had to have an evidence. Now, you had to, before two witnesses, say This is why I'm divorcing.

So, number one, it was actually limiting the reason for divorce.

Number two, it was mandating a certificate of divorce. Now what's that all about? It was protecting women who would be divorced by their husband and pushed out of their homes, out into the streets. Man, they could be accused of adultery and unfaithfulness. The punishment for that was the death penalty -- to stone them.

And so to have a certificate of divorce, Moses was saying, look, we gotta rein this in. We've got to give them a certificate of divorce so that they can show this to people. It was to protect women.

And so I want you to see that thirdly, this legislation said that a man cannot remarry his divorced wife. What's that all about? Again, it's trying to press down on men in that society, that look: You can't just walk in and out of marriage at will. And so, hear this: What Jesus is saying, nowhere in this, if you read it carefully, is Moses even commending divorce. But rather, what this is doing is setting up parameters, again, because of their hardheartedness, to rein in a very chaotic situation surrounding the issue of divorce.

Nowhere in here is he even commanding it. And it's interesting what the Pharisees say to Him in Matthew19, "Why then did Moses command us to divorce -- to find something indecent and to give a certificate of divorce?"

And Jesus said, no, it wasn't a command; it was a concession. And we've seen this before in scripture. It's the same thing, by the way, that we're gonna see later in Matthew 5, when the legislation, the Mosaic law comes down. Jesus says, "You've heard it said, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'" Well, what was that law all about? What was the heart of "an eye for an eye?" It wasn't saying that if somebody knocks out your eye, you are commanded to retaliate in the same manner. That's not what that law was doing.

What that law was doing was saying, look, if somebody takes out your eye, you can't go and kill them for it. That's what it was It was trying to rein in this cycle of destruction and saying you can't go excessively beyond. That's what it was doing. But it wasn't commanding that you retaliate and take out the person's eye. It was a concession.

And that's what's happening here. Jesus is saying, it was a concession; it was never God's command. And so back in Matthew 19, that's what He does. He says in verse 8, that from the beginning it was not so. This wasn't God's command. Therefore, Matthew 19:9, again, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. Why? Again, because God's design is that the two have become one flesh.

So, except for the case that one of the spouses breaks that bond -- because of adultery, you cannot divorce. And if you do, you are forcing adultery. Because even though you have secured a divorce in the eyes of human law, in the eyes of God you are still married to your first spouse. And to remarry is to actually engage in adultery if the divorce was unbiblical.

And so there's an exception given. You see it very carefully, in Matthew 9:19, Except for sexual immorality. Same thing it says in Matthew 5:32, except on the grounds of sexual immorality. So what seems to be taught here, Jesus is saying that the only situation, again, where divorce and remarriage is not adultery is in the case of sexual immorality or adultery. So, again, this exception clause is very much debated, and I really don't have time today to dig into all the different camps.

But let me say a couple of things. First of all, the word that's rendered here as "sexual immorality" is "porneia" which actually can include any kind of sexual immorality. It can include fornication, adultery, marital unfaithfulness. But then, second, some people come against this and say, Wait a minute, why does Matthew have this exception clause, but Mark and Luke, in their accounts, they don't write Jesus' exception clause?

And so some say that this is something that was added, and it was not God's intent to have an exception even.

And to that I would say that Mark and Luke probably didn't put in their accounts because, after all, they probably took it for granted, not because they thought it was not so. What I mean is this: The punishment for adultery, friends, was the death penalty. So there was no need to actually include it because no one would question that marital unfaithfulness was a just ground for divorce. Because marital unfaithfulness meant the death penalty. So of course the marriage is over.

And so, the exception is there, that unless the bounds of marriage have already been broken because of sexual immorality, you must not divorce.

There's another exception you find in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul is addressing an issue. Because the Corinthians were becoming Christians, and maybe one spouse was a Christian, and the other wasn't. And they're hearing this teaching that we're to be separate from the world, and they're thinking, Well, man, maybe I need to divorce my wife because I've become a Christian.

So Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says, No, you stay married to your unbelieving spouse. And by the way, you take that teaching to our modern culture that says, well, I'm just incompatible; we just don't get along; we're going to divorce. Well, you talk about how much more incompatible can you get, than a Christian with a non-Christian, and what the scripture says is, no, you shouldn't divorce.

So incompatibility is not a just reason for divorce. But then Paul goes on to say, if the unbelieving spouse deserts or abandons the believing spouse, then the believing spouse is released from the bounds of that marriage.

And so it seems to me in the New Testament there are two exceptions given to this command that we are not to divorce.

So how do we apply this teaching? Let me say a few things. Are you still with me? It's not fun to preach on these things, I promise you. But it's important.

We saw what the Old Testament said. We saw how the Pharisees had perverted and twisted that teaching and lessened marriage. And then we see how Jesus comes and interprets it rightly.

So how are we to apply this teaching to our lives? Let me say a few things.

First of all, I believe that we must know and embrace the truth, that God hates divorce. We must know and embrace that truth. So let me just say. Even the exceptions I mentioned -- even the exception of sexual immorality that Jesus actually states, I think, is not a command, but a further accommodation to the hardness of human hearts. So Jesus, like Moses, is giving, I believe, a very reluctant concession to divorce. He's not saying that if your spouse cheats on you, you're commanded to divorce them. Or, in fact, that you should divorce them. But I think all He's saying is that you have grounds for divorce.

But I believe as you study the scripture, even in the case of sexual immorality or infidelity in marriage, even in that, I believe that reconciliation should be the first goal. That's what we should strive after. And I believe that's the heart of the teaching. Even Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 are really more stressing God's design for permanence in marriage. And so, listen: This is the nature of God and the way He relates to us.

There is an entire book in the Old Testament that I think is teaching us that we shouldn't be looking for a loophole out of the marriage -- Oh, great, he cheated on me, so now I can divorce. But that we should actually continue and try to reconcile first.

And the book is Hosea; you know the book I'm referring to. So it's the most amazing book. Hosea is a prophet, and the Lord comes to Hosea with an unusual command in Hosea 1:2. Just listen to it:

"Go marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her. For like an adulterous wife, this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord."

So God is saying, I'm gonna use you to be an object lesson of how my people are unfaithful to Me, but I continue pursuing them in love. And so what does he do? He goes and he marries Gomer. And they have three children. And then Gomer leaves Hosea to go live with another man. And so God comes with a very unusual command in Hosea 3:1. He says to Hosea, "Go show your love to your wife, Gomer, again. Though she is loved by another man, and though she is an adulteress, love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.

And Hosea obeys. He actually goes and he buys back his wife with 50 shekels. His loyal love, undeterred by Gomer's unfaithfulness, is a picture of God's loyal love to us when WE play the harlot; when WE are the adulterers.

And so with that in mind, I'm trying to say to you, first and foremost, we have to remember that God hates divorce (Malachi chapter 2). He hates divorce. By the way, it says at the end of that, that God desires godly offspring. I'm a product of a divorced marriage, and I'm telling you, it does affect children. And so we are to, first of all, know that God hates divorce.

Therefore, secondly, just let me say, in the case of an unrepentant, continual, adultery, I think that's a different camp. But I'm saying that we are not to have a heart that's looking for a reason to get out of marriage, but we're to fight for marriage.

Number two, that was it, therefore we're to fight for our marriages. Listen, friends, I really believe that God's design is that two become one flesh. And let me say this: I believe that our marriages are either growing in oneness or they are falling apart. There is no such thing as stagnant in your marriage. Stagnant means you are drifting apart. That's what that means. And I believe we are to fight for unity in our marriages.

And so we're to have a defensive posture, like Song of Solomon 2:15 says, "catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom." So the little secret sins that are coming in, and the little divisions and arguments -- the enemy's design is for those to grow and devastate your marriage. Men, like we said last week, walk in the light and in purity. Fight for it.

So the defensive, but also the offensive, that we're to promote this kind of unity in marriage. Again, men, as the leader in your home -- husbands, take the initiative and promote spiritual unity in your marriage. Pray with your wife. Read scripture with her. Memorize scripture with her. Go through a Bible study with her.

Promote emotional unity in your marriage, what we talked about last week. Come home and determine that you are not gonna turn on your phone once you enter that house. And spend time with your family. When your kids go to bed, actually spend time listening to your wife, and what's in the deepest part of her heart. Take her on a date.

Missional unity: Serve the church together. Go on a mission trip together. Promote unity, and promote this kind of eternal love, the secure love that God loves us with. Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love" Romans chapter 8:35, "What shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?"

And so, friend, I'm telling you, this is why divorce is such a stain on the church, because it reflects poorly on the gospel, on God's everlasting love. So listen to me, people, in your marriages, fight for that kind of security. I tell young people that I marry that God's love will never leave us. And that allows me to be able to open up and confess my sin, knowing that God will deal with me; there will be consequences. He'll forgive me, but He's not gonna leave me. And so, that security breeds intimacy.

The same thing in marriage. When you have a security in your marriage that says, "I'm not going anywhere," then you watch your spouse open up and share sin or share struggles or share fears with you. I think security breeds intimacy in your marriage. So we are to fight for our marriages.

Thirdly, divorced parties -- let me explain this, unbiblically divorced parties, must first seek to reconcile to their original spouse, or else stay single.

Now this is a very hard thing to teach, but I believe this is the teaching of scripture. And by the way, I think that the disciples understood that this was the teaching of Jesus. Why? Because after He taught this in Matthew 19, that except for sexual immorality, divorce and remarriage is committing adultery. They got it. Why? Their next response was, "Well then, it's better for us to stay single than to marry." So even they understood -- they were saying that, look, you can't go in and out of marriage. You marry, it's for life. Unbiblical divorce means you've got to reconcile or stay single.

And so, I think it's something that we've got to see. And I think it's interesting, after they say that, Man, it's better not to marry; actually, Jesus doesn't say, that thought isn't crazy. Jesus actually says that that thought is given to some to live out, for the sake of the kingdom of God -- that's what He says.

So, by the way, singles, as a side note, let me say this: If you're single in the house, some will be called to embrace singleness for the sake of the kingdom of God. So you've heard me say this before. Your singleness is not just a time for you to just kind of wait for my wife to show up so I can get married, or my husband to show up. No, your singleness has a purpose. And I can give testimony after testimony of how God used the period of time (that was a long time for me), being single, God actually used it in ministry. And so, divorced parties must first seek to reconcile with their original spouses, or stay single.

Now, one last thing I want to say, and then we'll move on to one more point.

Remarried couples, even after an unbiblical divorce, should not divorce again, but stay married In their second marriages. You hear that? So if you're sitting here going, Well, man, I think my divorce could have been unbiblical. Are you telling me I've got to fix this by divorcing my wife and going back to my first wife?

No, you stay committed to your second marriage. If it was an unbiblical divorce, you repent, you confess to God, but you stay committed to your second marriage. And I think that there is biblical warrant for this. Even when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well, and He says to her, if you remember, "Go call your husband and bring him back to me," and she says, "I do not have a husband." And He says, "You're right. You've had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.

So it's interesting. Jesus somehow is showing that she's actually had five, and he calls them husbands, and he distinguishes them from the one that she has currently that's not her husband, that's just a live-in boyfriend. So he didn't see these five as just live-in boyfriends; he sees them as legitimate husbands.

So what's the difference between this live-in boyfriend, the sixth guy, and the five previous husbands? I think the different must be, that in the case of these five men previously, there must have been some sort of ceremony, some sort of oath was taken, a commitment to marriage. So I see that Jesus actually calling those men husbands is proof that we are not to therefore break our vow again and divorce, but to stay committed to our second, or third, if that were the case, marriages.

John Piper has a really good point on this as well. He recounts the story of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9.

The Gibeonites hear that Joshua and all the Israelites are destroying cities, and so they know they're next on the list. And so they pretend to be from a faraway country, and they lie to Joshua about it. So they ask Joshua to make an oath not to destroy them. Joshua makes that oath, and later finds out that the Gibeonites were lying. And listen, in Joshua 9:19 what it says. "The leaders of Israel say, we have sworn to them before the God of Israel, and so we must not touch them." So it appears to me that what's happening there in Joshua 9, is that a vow was made wrongfully, against God's will, but they are saying that, no, we made the vow before God, and we must keep it still.

And so I think biblically speaking there, it is warranted. Look, even in an unbiblical divorce situation, if you're remarried, you stay committed to that wife or that husband.

All right, now. I've got one more thing to talk to you about, and then we'll be done. Read on with me what Jesus does in Matthew 5. Because we're not just to be committed to our marriages, but to our word. I want you to see this because it ties in, and I want you to look at this. Matthew 5:33-37.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

So hear this. Again, and I think it ties with what He's taught on divorce. Again, the Pharisees were twisting the Old Testament law. Now, there's not a specific Old Testament verse that says, "You shall not swear falsely but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn" in verse 33. That is actually a summary of several Old Testament verses where the scripture is clear that you are not to commit perjury. You are not to make a vow to God and then break it.

And now look what the Pharisees were doing. The Pharisees in Jesus' day were actually twisting it and finding a loophole. And just like they did with divorce, they were doing it with their word. And so what they focused on was WHO they were making the vow to, or in the name of who. And they weren't focused on actually keeping the vow. And so they were coming up with a system by which they could have some vows be more binding than others. So in other words, if you made a vow in the name of God, then you'd better keep that vow. But you could make another vow and not invoke the name of God. And that one, you don't really have to keep.

So in essence, they formulated a way to make a vow but kind of cross your fingers behind your back. And so this is what Jesus is coming against. And if you're saying, where do you get all that from? Here's where I get it from, in Matthew 23:16. Jesus says to the Pharisees, "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold in the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?" And then you say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, then he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?"

And so, this is exactly what I think He's doing here in Matthew 5. He's saying, Look, you can go ahead and make an oath to Heaven, or even to hair on your head, to all these things. But He's saying, in the end, God is over all of creation. It's His footstool. You can make an oath that "By the hair on my head, I commit to doing this" and think that it's less binding, but He says, No, God is the one who makes your hair black or white or whatever. God's in control. So even invoking that, you're actually invoking the name of God. So He's coming against that loophole.

And then, what's His teaching? The very last verse I read: Instead, don't even make an oath. Let your yes be yes, and your no, no. In other words, He's saying that the people of the kingdom of God should not resort to making an oath. They shouldn't need to make an oath in order to validate their vow or to put more weight behind their word. Their word should be weight enough for what they're saying, what they're gonna do. And this is what He is teaching.

Now you might say, Well, is all oath-taking bad, then? No, all oath-taking is not bad, because we know Jesus Himself was put under oath by the high priest in Matthew 26, and he actually responded and made His confession; He didn't resist it. We also know that God Himself actually made an oath. He says, By Myself I swear to you, Abraham, I will do this. And by the way, there, it's not because God needed to add weight to His word. It's that he was condescending to our unbelief. Trust me.

But don't get lost here. What I'm trying to say is that Jesus is teaching here that we are to be a people who, Yes, if under authority, you're forced to take an oath, you take an oath. Yes. But we are to be a people who never need to say, "By God, I swear that I'm gonna do this, or by This I swear I'm gonna do this."

Let me bring this into modern culture. I do this a lot. And Matt Boswell busts me for it all the time. There are many times I'll say, "If I'm being honest . . ." and then he'll stop me and say, "Oh, NOW you're being honest? So before, you weren't being honest?" I shouldn't have to say if I'm being honest. I should cut that out. I should just say, This is what I'm saying, and this is what I mean. We should say what we mean, and mean what we say. We're to be a people of our word.

And so just like divorce reflects poorly on God, because it reflects poorly on God's eternal love for us, listen to me, the need to resort to an oath condemns us because it shows that we are not true to our word, and that reflects poorly on the gospel. Because we are to be a people who love truth. We follow the One who IS the truth. And listen to me: The gospel rests on the fact that the Word of God is truthful, and His promises will always come to pass. And if we're a people who are sons of God, and yet we're not truthful to our word, we are reflecting poorly on our God.

Let's not run quickly past this one. Because I think there are people in the older generations that look down on us younger folk and probably scratch or shake their head at how frivolous we are, and how little we put stock in what we say; in our word. And we do it all the time, man. Either we stretch the truth, or we make a commitment and we just renege on the slightest sense of inconvenience to us. We do it at church. You know, we sign up to serve in the children's ministry. We sign up to serve in the hospitality ministry; we sign up to be involved in our community group. We sign up to be a member and say that we're gonna faithfully give, and you know what?

I know, people get sick, things come up, I understand that. What I'm talking about is the heart attitude that says, at the slightest inconvenience, I'm gonna bail. That reflects poorly on God, and it affects other people, by the way -- especially if you renege on serving here on a Sunday morning. It hinders the gospel. We have to close classes. Families are turned away. So I'm telling you, in all of life, now listen to me, don't respond like the Pharisees did with marriage, Well then, hey, who should marry? Let's just stay single.

Well, don't do the same thing here -- Man, if I have to keep my word, then I'm not gonna make an commitments. No, that's not the teaching. The teaching isn't, Don't make any commitments. The teaching is, prioritize your life well. Make good commitments, and keep them. Prioritize your life well. Commit yourself to things that are of eternal value -- to your church, and to your wife, and to your kids. And put those first. To your God. And don't renege on those. It's not, Don't make commitments. It's, Keep your commitments.

And so before we pray, let me just say this one last thing. Man, we do fail to keep our commitments, and we are the adulterer. But here's the good news: If you're looking at me and saying, My life's a wreck; I am the adulterer. I have run away from God.

The great thing is, again, God is a God who will always pursue you and always take you back. You can't go too far for His grace. And I say, You turn back to Him. You repent. You see how He restores the years you wasted away. You see how He can refresh your life again, bring you back to Him, renew your life. And I'm telling you, He will do it. And God is not only a God who loves us that way, but He's a God who's true to His word. In other words, you can bank on His word. He will come through with what He promised.

And so I commend Jesus to you. He will never divorce you. And He always keeps His word. And I'm telling you, that's solid rock for us to live and base our life on. Let's pray.

Father, we love You, God, we thank You for Your word, and we thank You for the clear teaching on divorce, on marriage, and on our word. And Lord, may we be a people who allow You to look at our hearts and see the places where we have been very Pharisaical. Maybe looking for a loophole out of our commitments. God, would you breathe into our marriages unity and a sense of permanence in our love and our commitment to each other as husband and wife. May husbands lead out in promoting this kind of unity and eternal security in their marriage. God, may we be a people who do not take lightly Your Word -- a people who model integrity, faithfulness in our commitments and in our word. Jesus, we thank You that though we are faithless, You remain faithful, for You cannot deny Yourself.

Lord, we turn to you. If there are any who need You, we turn to You to find the love we need, find the security we need in you. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

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