Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to 19:1-22, a portion in which Matthew places together certain incidents in Christ’s life to show the requirements of the kingdom. In 19:3-12 the Pharisees tempt the Lord by asking Him about divorce, and in 19:16-22 a rich man inquires of Him concerning eternal life. The Gospel of John does not mention either of these cases. But in Matthew they are not only recorded; they are put in the same portion of Matthew’s Gospel. In chapter nineteen we see the matter of divorce and the matter of loving riches. Between these two things we have the matter of receiving the little children (vv. 13-15). Apparently, these three things are not related. But when we get into the depths of the significance of these things, we see that all are related to entering the kingdom of the heavens. Hence, they are the requirements of the kingdom.
Matthew 19:1 and 2 say, “And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words, He withdrew from Galilee and came into the districts of Judea across the Jordan. And great crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.” Due to the rejection of the Jews, the heavenly King left them and went to Galilee in the north. Now He was coming back to Jerusalem to accomplish His death and resurrection, as He had prophesied in 16:21 and 17:22 and 23, for the establishment of the kingdom. He came back still with the power of healing indicating that, as the King of the heavenly kingdom, He had authority over the negative things that damaged God’s creation.
If we mean business with the Lord concerning the kingdom, we must deal with lust, pride, and the love of wealth. The Gospel of John says nothing about dealing with lust because John is a book of life. But because Matthew is a book on the kingdom, it speaks of dealing with lust and other things as well. The kingdom is a matter of exercise, and most of this exercise involves various kinds of dealings. Lust, pride, and the love of wealth keep us from entering into the kingdom. The love of money is no doubt related to the self. By nature, we all love money for ourselves. However, if we would enter into the kingdom of the heavens, we must deal with this love of money. Again and again, the Gospel of Matthew deals with lust. In the constitution of the heavenly kingdom, the King explicitly mentions dealing with lust. The reference to plucking out our eyes or cutting off our hands in Matthew 5:29 and 30 shows how strict and serious we must be in this matter. Otherwise, there is no way to enter the kingdom of the heavens. The thorough dealing with lust has been neglected by today’s Christians. Very few Christians have ever heard a sober word from Matthew 5 and 19 regarding lust. Because of this lack, there is no genuine church life or kingdom of the heavens among today’s Christians. How the Lord needs a testimony on earth! For His testimony the Lord must have a recovery. We are not concerned about having a large number. At the time of Elijah, the Lord had only seven thousand. If the Lord had seven thousand in this country, He would have a prevailing testimony against all adulterous things.
Matthew 19:3 says, “And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” The religionists did not let the Lord go, but came again and again to tempt Him. However, their tempting always afforded the Lord an opportunity to unveil Himself and God’s economy. Here the opposition of the religionists afforded the Lord the opportunity to expose the seriousness of divorce. The source of divorce is lust. If there were no lust, there would not be any divorce.
The Lord’s word in 19:4-6 not only recognizes God’s creation of man, but also confirms God’s ordination of marriage, that is, one man and one woman joined and yoked together as one flesh, inseparable by man. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is God’s ordination, and it is very serious for anyone to break it. God’s ordination here involves not only physical things, but also spiritual things; for the union of one man and one woman in marriage signifies the oneness of Christ and the church. As there is one husband for one wife, so there is one Christ for one church. There should not be more than one wife for one husband, or more than one husband for one wife. How serious it would be if there were one Christ and many churches, or one church and more than one Christ! God’s ordination is to have one Christ and one church. In figure and in shadow, there must be one wife for one husband. That this was God’s ordination in creation is clearly recorded in the Word.
In verse 7 the Pharisees asked the Lord, “Why then did Moses command to give her a writing of divorce and to put her away?” This commandment was not a part of the basic law, but a supplement to the law. It was given by Moses, not according to God’s ordination from the beginning, but temporarily because of the hardness of man’s heart.
Instead of arguing with the Pharisees, the Lord said, “Moses, because of your hardness of heart, allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it has not been so.” The commandment concerning divorce given by Moses was a deviation from God’s original ordination, but Christ as the heavenly King recovered it back to the beginning for the kingdom of the heavens. This indicates that the kingdom of the heavens, corresponding with God’s ordination from the beginning, does not allow any divorce.
In verse 8 we see the principle of recovery. Recovery means to go back to the beginning. Things that exist may not date back to the beginning. We need to go back to the beginning. In the beginning, God ordained one husband and one wife, and there was no divorce. Because of the hardness of the people’s hearts, Moses tolerated divorce and allowed a man to divorce his wife by giving her a writing of divorce. The Lord was asking the Pharisees if they would care for God’s ordination or for the hardness of their heart. Every seeker of God should say, “O Lord, have mercy upon me that I may care for Your original ordination. I do not want to care for the hardness of my heart. I condemn and reject the hardness of my heart and return to Your original ordination.” This is what is meant by recovery.
Today many Christians are arguing for certain things. Because of the hardness of the fallen human heart, the Lord tolerates some of those things. Should we agree with this toleration and the hardness of the human heart? Certainly not. Rather, we must receive the Lord’s grace to go back to God’s original ordination. We must go back to the beginning.
Verse 9 says, “But I say to you that whoever puts away his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries her who has been put away commits adultery.” The Greek word for fornication means harlotry, whoredom, which is worse than adultery. The Lord’s word here indicates definitely that nothing but fornication breaks the marriage tie. (Of course, death automatically breaks it.) Except for fornication, there is no ground for divorce.
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