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The Pharisees were intent on putting Jesus to the test with difficult questions, so they approached him and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce[a] his wife for any reason?”[b]

“Haven’t you read the Scriptures about creation?” Jesus replied. “The Creator made us male and female from the very beginning,[c] and ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and live with his wife.[d] And the two will become one flesh.’[e] From then on, they are no longer two, but united as one. So what God unites let no one divide!”

They responded, “So then why did Moses command us to give a certificate of divorce and it would be lawful?”

Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce because your hearts are so hard and stubborn,[f] but originally there was no such thing. But I say to you, whoever leaves his wife for any reason other than immorality, then takes another wife is living in adultery. And whoever takes a divorced woman in marriage is also living in adultery.”[g]

10 His disciples spoke up and said, “If this is the standard, then it seems better to never get married.”

11 “Not everyone is meant to remain single—only those whom God gives grace to be unmarried.[h] 12 For some are born to celibacy; others have been made eunuchs by others. And there are some who have chosen to live in celibacy for the sacred purpose of heaven’s kingdom realm.[i] Let those who can, accept this truth for themselves.”

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Footnotes

  1. Matthew 19:3 The Greek word used for divorce (apolyo) here and in this chapter can also mean “to loose,” “to dismiss,” “to send away.”
  2. Matthew 19:3 This a clever test by the Pharisees. Jesus was now in Judea and under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, the one who had John beheaded over challenging his divorce. They were hoping Jesus would say something that could get him arrested and killed by Herod. Their question was based on Deut. 24:1. Jewish divorce law had a “for any reason” clause that made divorce legal. They were pressing Jesus for his interpretation of this “for any reason” law.
  3. Matthew 19:4 See Gen. 1:27; 5:2. Notice that Jesus highlights gender difference in the context of marriage.
  4. Matthew 19:5 Or “cling to his wife.”
  5. Matthew 19:5 See Gen. 2:24.
  6. Matthew 19:8 That is, in a fallen world with frail human beings, God allowed divorce to accommodate broken humanity. Jesus restates divorce as being permitted only in the case of immorality. Adultery breaks the bond of marriage and requires God’s healing grace. Those testing Jesus were attempting to trap him by getting him to say something against Moses, their venerated historical leader.
  7. Matthew 19:9 As translated from the Hebrew Matthew, Aramaic, and some Greek manuscripts. The majority of Greek manuscripts do not include the last sentence.
  8. Matthew 19:11 Or “This doesn’t apply to everyone, but only to those to whom it [grace for singleness] has been given.”
  9. Matthew 19:12 Three types of “celibates” are mentioned. First, there are those who from birth have grace to remain celibate. Second, sometimes a male who has been castrated, usually before puberty, which would greatly affect the hormonal changes of a boy becoming an adult. In biblical times, these eunuchs were chosen to be male servants of a king, having been castrated in order to ensure they don’t have sex with the king’s harem. Third, this is a metaphorical class of people (male and female) who are like “spiritual eunuchs,” having been chosen to never use the bride of Christ for their own purposes. Jesus gives us a parable of God’s servants who will lead the church but never harm or use the bride of Christ for their own desires. They will always point the bride to her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. They have made themselves “eunuchs” and are determined to extend God’s kingdom, not their own. The rare Greek verb for “make themselves eunuchs” can also refer to being “always watchful, sleepless, diligent.” To become a “spiritual eunuch” has nothing to do with sex, but with always watching out for the interests of our King, and not taking for ourselves what only belongs to him in order to serve our own desires.

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