Committed to the Kingdom Matthew 19:10-12

The Disciples came to an erroneous conclusion about marriage, namely that it is better not to marry if divorce leads to adultery. Jesus offers gentle correction and points them to the timeless truth of marriage’s goodness and God’s rare gift of celibacy for the kingdom’s sake. We take the principles of the passage and apply it to broader life in terms of the difficulties we all face.

“Committed to the Kingdom”       2/5/2023                        Matthew 19:10-12

HI:  Christian commitment is your duty done through God’s grace

Introduction:  (Origen’s terrible misinterpretation…)

(Begin with a question)—did you know this passage was in Matthew?  If you’re like me, you had a vague notion it existed, but weren’t sure where…of course, we’ve read it many times, it’s just one of those strange passages that you pull an “OT feast style reading on it”.  You know what I mean—“you PASSOVER it”.

Whatever the case—here it is. 

Anyone here heard of Origen? 

  • I first heard himàNIV Life application study bible—notes referring to O
  • Many exegetical and theological works—parallel OT translation from 6 versions, commentaries and writings about orthodoxy vs. heresy
  • Church Legend—based on his reading of this passage
    • Castrated himself for the kingdom of God…making himself a eunuch

That’s not what this passage means

Jesus uses hyperbole, a lot.  Matt 18:8-9 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.

  • The point there was to take temptations to sin seriously
  • You don’t need to literally cut off a hand, but you kill sin, every sin with no mercy

Here Jesus’ point is that whether you are married or single, Jew or Gentile, man or a woman, a boy or a girl, God calls all of his people to live for the kingdom—seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added to you.

Four points:  1.  The Disciples’ sinful thoughts;  2.  Gentle Correction;  3.  One Goal; 4. Beyond Marriage—applying this more broadly

  1. The Disciples’ Sinful Thoughts
    1. (10) The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
      1. Fair enough—to keep me from sinning by failing at marriage, I just won’t get married
      1. They missed Jesus’ bigger point
      1. Sin makes marriage hard, sin makes life hard,  sin doesn’t excuse us from pursuing God’s original design
    1. The disciples were acting like the Pharisees, seeing divorce as their “safety net” if marriage got too hard
      1. Matthew Poole. Instead of copying the Pharisaical approach, “they should rather have said, If the case of a man be so with his wife, then both husbands and wives must learn to deny themselves, to comply with another, to silence the passions of their selfish and lusting natures, because, having been united into one flesh, husband and wife might also have one and the same spirit, and not be like a diseased piece of flesh, which needs to be cut off to preserve the other.”[1]
    1. Marriage isn’t easy, but it’s good
      1. Lucy asking Mr. Beaver about Aslan (L, W, and Wardrobe). Lucy, “is he safe?” Mr. Beaver, “I didn’t say he was safe—he’s a lion, after all.  But he’s good.”
      1. Same way with marriage.  Sharing your life forever isn’t easy or safe, but it’s good
      1. A sinner uniting to a sinner for the other person’s ultimate good is blessed by God
        1. The wife to help the husband  “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
        1. The husband to sanctify the wife “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her
      1. It requires commitment to Jesus, to his ideals, and to that sinner you’ve married
  2. Gentle Correction
    1. One of those moments that I wouldn’t have handled  so well
      1. like that time the disciples thought he was talking about bread… “how is it you thought I was referring to bread”
      1. Jesus must have been thinking something like, “I just showed the Pharisees how what they thought was against God’s meaning for marriage—now my disciples too?  E tu Brute?”
    1. He didn’t do that.  Jesus was gentle.  “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.
      1. Matthew Poole. “Our Saviour, knowing the sinful custom and giving some allowance for that, along with his disciples’ infirmities; doesn’t answer them severely,  but reproves them gently. What Jesus said amounts to this: You aren’t considering what you say. Not everyone can abstain from marriage without sinning. An ability to live chastely without the use of marriage is a peculiar gift of God, and what you’ve said has no place in persons to whom God hath not given that gift.[2] (Poole)
      1. A side application from this verse: be more gentle than we are
        1. A soft answer turns away wrath.
        1. Being clear doesn’t mean being harsh or vulgar
        1. Love overlooks offences—(Elisabeth story time permitting)
    1. The Correction itself points to the grace required to walk down the path less chosen—singleness is received to the one it has been given.
      1. Life-long singleness is a gift from God to the person who pursues it for godly reasons
      1. As with any gift from God, it has challenges.  Judging from the frequency of marriage, and inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage, singleness comes with a challenge to great for many people to bear.
      1. But, as with any gift from God, it also comes with God’s enabling grace and a reward.  The reward is like the Levite’s reward, God himself— “I am their inheritance”.
        1. More time and energy devoted to spiritual disciplines
        1. Less distractions from earthly family to devote energy in the church
        1. A “more fit instrument to promote the kingdom of God”  (Poole)
  3. One goal for all Christians—commitment to the Kingdom
    1. (12) For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
      1. Eunuch—unable to reproduce
      1. Three classes—two aren’t by choice.  Jesus is focusing on the third—the person unable to reproduce by choice. 
        1. Marriage has many purposes—joy, fulfillment, sanctification, having children is one. 
        1. God’s plan for children being born was marriage. 
    1. Some people are called to a life-long singleness, for the sake of the kingdom
      1. This calling is far less common than the call to be married
        1. Where would the next generation of believers come from?
        1. Approach—Psalm 78 things we heard from our fathers, and God’s glorious deeds that we will tell our children.
        1. God’s people are called to have people themselves—in the form of children, and bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord
      1. Singleness will require self-control that exceeds most people’s ability
        1. (Spurgeon) A single life is not for all, nor for many: nature forbids. To some, celibacy is better than marriage; but such are peculiar in constitution, or in circumstances. Abstinence from marriage is to a few a choice gift, answering high purposes; but to the many, marriage is as necessary as it is honourable.[3]
    1. There’s one goal for all Christians—seek first the kingdom of God.  Whether married or single, everything is to be given over to God.
      1. Legg, the real point of this section, Jesus is setting before his disciples the absolute demands of his kingdom. Nothing is exempt from the principles and ethos of the kingdom. Our attitude to marriage must be that of the kingdom, not of the fallen world.[4]
      1. For the single, it’s a life of being singly devoted to Christ and his Church along with the difficult task of abstinence, denying yourself of a physical urge God himself gave to every person alive.
      1. For the married, it’s a life of being, above all else, devoted to Christ and his church, while at the same time balancing that with your devotion to your spouse and children.  And, by the way, the church begins at home with your spouse and children, but don’t use your duties at home to excuse any negligence you have toward church.
  4. Beyond Marriage—applying this to our lives in general
    1. Either of the options involves a hard row to hoe…
      1. Impossible to fulfill by ourselves
    1. Jesus said “not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given”.  Packed with meaning, sparked a lot of debate, but one thing is clear—there is a gift involved.
      1. This is called the divine passive—indicates that our work is a result of God’s grace
      1. Augustine in his confessions, “grant what you command, command what you will”
      1. We we won’t do this by our own power/ability—and we don’t have to.  God the Spirit grants us the power to obey
    1. No matter what your life’s callings are, they are Christian in the sense we’re supposed to do all things to the glory of God.
    1. This is part of your life in the new creation—believers are part of the new heavens and new earth, even now
      1. Chamblin, “Jesus’ very reason for invoking the creation ordinance (v.4) is to promote kingdom morality.  For with the dawn of God’s end-times ruling, which began at Jesus’ birth, then the powers which were unleashed in his ministry foreshadow the regaining of paradise on a transformed earth (Rev. 21–22). A Christian marriage or Christian celibacy is meant to bear witness to this great present and future reality. Either calling, marriage or celibacy, is not in itself more or less honorable than the other. God grants some the one gift, and some the other (see 1 Cor. 7:7); what matters is fidelity to God and to his kingdom in the place of his choosing (cf. 6:33).[5]
    1. No matter the callings God has given you, it is Jesus’ work through you that matters.  Jesus’ work equips your work.
    1. Three areas of difficulty we all endure:  temptations, suffering, and correction
      1. Temptations—God always provides an escape from temptation, 1 Cor. 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
        1. The escape is always to Jesus who was tempted as you are and understands your plight so he prays that you will be strengthened.
        1. Knowing you have the Son of God praying for you should encourage you to run to him.
      1. Suffering—the cursed world comes with suffering.  Suffering can strengthen your faith, or suffering can weaken and even destroy your faith. 
        1. God uses suffering to destroy our faith in ourselves, or to crush our faith in our faith, so that we will put our faith in him. (repeat)
        1.  2 Cor. 1:9  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
        1. God raised Jesus from the dead and it’s that same resurrection power that raises believers into the new creation life.  Trusting God grants you strength in Jesus’ resurrection power.
      1. Correction—God corrects or chastises the one he loves.  But because of our sin, we think of God in sinful ways and attribute sinful characteristics to him.  We begin to think that His correction is out of anger, or impatience, because that’s how we correct sometimes.  God’s correction comes from love, because God is love.
        1. Without Christ in us we could never see God in this light, nor cry out to him as Father! 
        1. And without Christ’s work in us, we couldn’t have his unique perspective of God as the Father who corrects but always loves and holds and nurtures his children.
        1. Jesus wasn’t being corrected on the cross—his punishment was ours, but as he suffered the fire of God’s wrath, he looked to the Father who was administering it and said “into your hands I commit my spirit”.
        1. Following that path requires more than knowing it—you have to be transformed into the person who knows God is good, even in terrible correction and loss.
    1. You can’t follow Christ’s commands until you have received the person of Christ for your savior.  HAVE YOU? Amen.

[1] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 89.

[2] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 89.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Commentary on the Book of Matthew (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1893), 160.

[4] John Legg, The King and His Kingdom: The Gospel of Matthew Simply Explained, Welwyn Commentary Series (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press., 2004), 360.

[5] J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010), 935.