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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 19

 

 


Verses 1-30

The setting now is changed from Galilee to Judea, with great crowds following Him, finding healing from their illnesses. But since the Lord Jesus has been announcing a kingdom of a different character than anything preceding it, then matters of fundamental character arise. He has frequently said, "But I say unto you," thereby setting aside what others have said or inferred. What of the question of marriage? The Pharisees raise this with ulterior motives, for they think they can trap Him. They ask, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Evidently this was a matter of controversy between Israel's religious leaders, some even considering it permissible to divorce a wife if she spoiled a meal.

But the Lord makes it transparently clear that the basic, original order in creation is not to be changed, but affirmed by the truth of the kingdom of heaven. God, in creating both male and female, made a marked distinction between them, but in marriage indicated a unity of vital character. Because of God's manifest order in creation it was right that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. This verse settles many questions. First, when marriage takes place, the man (or woman) is no longer in the place of subjection to parents. Secondly, he cleaves to his wife:--only one wife, so that bigamy and polygamy are absolutely unscriptural. Cleaving to his wife involves genuine love for her, and faithfulness and devotedness.

The two are then recognized before God as being "one flesh." It is God Himself who has joined the two together. Therefore man has no authority to divorce them. Governments today of course ignore God's decree in this matter, but the word of God will not change to accommodate men's preferences. Marriage was from the beginning intended to be a binding agreement so long as both individuals remain alive.

Yet we know that throughout the Old Testament these things were ignored. Many (even believers) had more then one wife. The Pharisees too thought they could prove the Lord wrong by referring to Deuteronomy 24:1, which speaks of Moses, the lawgiver, instructing that if a man had found some uncleanness in his wife, he could give her a bill of divorcement and send her away. This bill of divorce was to guard against a man's cruel treatment of a wife by discarding her while not leaving her free to be married to any other.

However, the Lord's answer to this is most penetrating. Moses had allowed this because of the hardness of their hearts, but from the beginning it was not so. How clearly this shows that the law itself was not at all the manifestation of God's heart! In this case law was more permissive than is the grace of God! For grace enables one to surmount difficulties in a way that law could never do.

Therefore, confirming what was implicit in creation, the Lord adds, "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and who so marries her which is put away doth commit adultery." The one exception allowed here is because the marriage bond has been so violated as to be virtually broken already. If the one party is guilty of fornication, then it would not be adultery for the other party to divorce the first and marry another. But the one who married the party put away for fornication would be guilty of adultery.

Today many other complications have arisen because of careless ignoring of the word of God, but the Lord leaves the matter with only this basic declaration. 1 Corinthians 7:1-40 adds somewhat more that is intended for the serious consideration of believers, and since it is written to the church of God, also gives helpful principles as to maintaining assembly order in regard to such questions.

Verse 10 seems to indicate that Jewish custom had so obscured the sanctity of marriage that the disciples felt the Lord's instructions to be so exacting that to remain single would be preferable. But they had not stopped to consider the most important matter of the guidance of God in marriage. If this were sought and submitted to by both parties, how much ensuing difficulty would be avoided!

The Lord's answer is perhaps more accurately translated in the Numerical Bible, "Not all have capacity for this, but those to whom it hath been given," that is, not all have capacity to remain unmarried, though some do. Some were by nature eunuchs, being born as such. Others had been made eunuchs through the cruelty of men, as slaves deprived of their sexual powers. Other still, however, had voluntarily made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Then He adds that this is only for those able to receive it. Therefore, as to the third class, there is a spiritual explanation. Rather than one being a literal eunuch in this case, he willingly denies himself the privileges connected with marriage in order to devote himself entirely to the service of the Lord.

The kingdom of heaven then calls for faithfulness and honour in the marriage bond. No less does it call for proper respect for the family relationship, the becoming consideration of children, as is seen now in verses 13 to 15. When young children were brought to the Lord, the disciples evidently thought that the kingdom was too advanced a matter for their tender age, and they rebuked those who brought them. Many believers still have virtually the same attitude.

But the Lord corrects them with firm, decided words. They must not hinder, but willingly permit little children to come to Him, "for of such is the kingdom of heaven." For, if the church of God includes only those who are born again, the kingdom includes families of those who own the Lordship of Christ. In fact we have before seen (Matthew 18:3) that anyone who enters the kingdom must do so in the spirit of a little child. Now it is made clear that little children are fully welcome there. He laid His hands on them.

Verse 16 speaks of one who comes to the Lord, but not as a little child. He is in earnest, no doubt, but his words show confidence in his own ability to do something to earn eternal life. In this case the translation should read, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" This is not the simplicity of a little child, and the Lord asks why the man inquires concerning good, for only one is good, that is, God. Since the man is not good in himself , how can he expect to do a good thing ?

The Lord does not give him the Gospel , for he is not ready for it, but rather refers him to the standard God had given by Moses as regards doing good. To enter into life (life on earth, not eternal life) let him keep the commandments. The man asks, "Which?" Did he think any of them could be ignored? But the Lord lists only those that have to do with men's responsibility toward others, not including those God ward. Why? Because the men was not thinking of God, but of goodness in himself. Was he really satisfied with his measure of keeping these commandments ? He said he had observed all these things from his youth but he was not satisfied. How could he be? For he had actually ignored the vital question of his relationship toward God. He knew he lacked something, and it was a matter far more serious than he realized: he lacked the knowledge of God. What a shock must have been the Lord's answer to him! If he desires perfection, let him sell what he has, give to the poor, exchanging his riches for treasure in heaven, and follow the Lord. If he had by faith only known the Lord, and really loved his neighbour as himself, should this have been so unthinkable? He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Such works as those of verse 21 require implicit faith in the Lord Jesus. This was what the rich man lacked. We do not know whether these words of the Lord might have had such effect on him that he would later realize his need of the pure grace of God. No doubt the Lord's words were designed to this end. But at the time the Lord speaks of the extreme difficulty of a rich man's entering the kingdom of heaven. In fact, He goes farther in verse 24, for it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, as the Lord indicates in verse 26. The tendency of rich men is to trust in their riches, so that the Lord has proposed a rigid test: would he choose to trust his riches or trust the Lord? The amazement of the disciples was due to the fact that under law God had promised great increase to those who obeyed it, and too often riches were considered a sign that the possessor of them must be keeping the law. This was not by any means always the case, for in fact all were guilty of breaking the law. But if his riches only strengthened him in his claim to be keeping the law, then the riches were a hindrance to his realizing any need of the grace of God. On the other hand, the Lord adds that with God all things are possible. He alone is able to break down the pride of the rich, to no longer trust in themselves, but in the living God. Some rich have indeed been brought to God, though as Paul says of the wise and mighty and noble, "not many" (1 Corinthians 1:26).

Peter's answer to the Lord however (v.27) shows even in a true disciple some lack of that implicit faith that fully trusts the Lord. It was true that the disciples had left their own means of livelihood to follow Him, though Peter himself had not been rich. But he asks, "What shall we have therefore? Was it not enough to him to have the Lord's own presence and approval?

Yet the Lord assures them of reward far greater than they would have imagined, that in the regeneration, which is the total change of things in the millennial age, the twelve would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Of course this did not include Judas, for twelve is simply a represent active number. Judas had not in heart followed the Lord, so another would take his place.

Not only would the apostles be rewarded, but everyone who had forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for His name's sake would receive an hundredfold, and also inherit everlasting life. This forsaking does not mean giving up any sense of responsibility in regard to these relationships; but it does mean giving Christ supreme place, so that none of these things hinder our prime responsibility to Him.

Receiving one hundredfold does not only speak of reward in heaven, but even in this life the spiritual reward will be great. Compare Mark 10:30, which speaks of receiving, "now in this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions." This of course is spiritual recompense; then it speaks of eternal life as connected with "the world to come." Certainly the believer has eternal life now, and eternal life goes beyond the world to come; but that life will be enjoyed more fully then than it can be in present circumstances.

"But many that are first shall be last; and the last first." If we desire a first place, we shall likely find ourselves last: if we are now content with a last place, we may find the Lord giving us the first. Paul found no difficulty whatever in these matters. For the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord he willingly suffered the loss of all things, counting them only refuse, not something to be regretted, but gladly given up for something infinitely better (Philippians 3:7-8).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 19:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/matthew-19.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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