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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Matthew 19

Verses 1-30

JESUS NOW APPROACHED Judaea again and the Pharisees returned to the attack. They raised a question regarding marriage and divorce, hoping to entrap Him. This they utterly failed to do for they were pitting themselves against Divine wisdom. A complete answer lay in referring them to what God had ordained at the beginning. Man was not to undo what God had done. This raised in their minds a question as to why divorce had been permitted in the law given through Moses. The answer was that it had been permitted because of the hardness of men’s hearts. God knew that well, and hence He did not set the standard too high. The law set forth God’s minimum requirement for life in this world. Hence to fail only once at any time was to incur the sentence of death. Only one thing can dissolve the tie according to God, and that is the virtual breaking of the bond by either of the parties.

It is only when we come to Christ that we get the full thoughts of God— God’s maximum in every respect.

The Lord’s teaching as to divorce was new and surprising even to His disciples, and prompted their remark recorded in verse Matthew 19:10. This in its turn led Him to declare that marriage is the normal thing for man, and the unmarried state the exceptional, as is also inferred by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:7. If “it is given” to a man, then “it is good not to marry,” but normally, “Marriage is honourable in all” (Hebrews 13:4).

Following this, the Lord gave to children their true place. The disciples manifested the spirit of the world when they treated them as of no importance, so much so that the bringing of them was an intrusion. Thus they showed that they had not as yet learned the lesson that He taught in the verses that open Matthew 18:1-35. The Lord on the contrary laid His hands on them in blessing and uttered the memorable words, “Forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Next comes the case of the rich young man who claimed to have kept the law, as regards the commandments relating to one’s duty towards one’s neighbour. The Lord did not deny his claim, so apparently he had been blameless as far as outward observance was concerned. He was much mistaken however in thinking that by doing some good thing he could have eternal life. Coming on that ground, Jesus at once tested him, and under the test he utterly failed. “What lack I yet?” was his question, and the answer was designed to show him that he lacked the faith which discerned the glory of Jesus, and which consequently would have moved him to give up everything in order to follow Him. He approached Jesus as “Good Master,” and the Lord would not accept the epithet “good,” unless it were given Him as the fruit of acknowledging His Deity. “There is none good but one—God,” so that if Jesus was not God He was not good. If the young man had recognized the Deity of the One who said to him, “Follow Me,” his “great possessions” would have been as nothing to him, and he would gladly have followed Jesus. Have we each so recognized the glory of Jesus as to be lifted clean out of the love of mere earthly things?

The Lord now pointed out to His disciples how tenacious a hold earthly riches have on the human heart. The rich enter the kingdom of God with great difficulty. Among the Jews wealth was regarded as a sign of God’s favour; hence this saying also overturned the thoughts of the disciples and greatly astonished them. They felt that nobody could be saved if the rich had such difficulty. This led to an even stronger statement. Salvation is a thing not merely difficult or improbable to man, but impossible. Only if the power of God be brought in, is it possible.

We may summarize verses Matthew 19:10-26 by saying that the Lord shed His light upon marriage, children and possessions: three things that occupy so much of our lives in this world, and in each case the light He shed overturned the thoughts which previously the disciples had entertained—see, verses Matthew 19:10, Matthew 19:13, Matthew 19:25.

Peter seized upon the Lord’s words, desiring a definite pronouncement as to what reward was offered to those who like himself had followed the Lord. The reply made it plain that there is to come “the regeneration;” that is, a wholly new order of things, when the Son of Man should be no longer rejected but be seated on the throne of His glory, and that then the disciples should also be enthroned and vested with powers of administration over the twelve tribes of Israel. In that age the saints are going to judge the world, and here is indicated the place of special prominence reserved for the Apostles. It is also indicated that all who have given up earthly relationships and joys for His Name will receive a hundredfold together with everlasting life. The life which the rich young man desired, and missed by not following Christ, shall be theirs.

The last verse of the chapter adds a word of warning. Many who are first in this world will be last there, and vice versa; for God’s thoughts are not as ours.

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Bibliographical Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 19". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.