Thursday, February 23, 2017

Matthew 19:1-12 Sermon Notes

Matthew 19:1-12
Don’t Be a Hard Heart
Sermon Notes
Lynchburg, Virginia

         There are several things going on in this chapter. Jesus teaches on marriage and divorce. He establishes the need for humility for His disciples. Furthermore, He reorients His disciples about priorities. God’s kingdom is not made up of worldly riches, so we need to have our priorities right towards our own kingdom building mindset.
         The creation mandate for marriage is clear in this chapter. If anyone wondered what Jesus taught about marriage, this passage makes it clear. God’s intention for marriage is one man, one woman for life. Any other version, or perversion of marriage, is sinful.
         The Pharisees seek to catch Jesus in a controversy. There are many Pharisees around today. They do not want to know what God’s teaching on marriage or divorce is, they just want to catch ministers at odds with the prevailing culture or the law itself. We should use Jesus’s method when dealing with such people. We ask, “Have you not read your Bible?”

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; 2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
Wherever Jesus goes, He attracts a crowd. And as is His practice, Jesus heals them.

3  The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
Wherever crowds of disciples are following Jesus, envious Pharisees also follow. The crowds desire healing. The Pharisees seek to catch Jesus off guard. It says here they tempted Him. Essentially, they are tempting Him to give an answer.
If Jesus says that it is lawful to put away your wife for every cause, He will run afoul of certain religious leaders. If He says that it is not lawful to put away your wife for any reason, then He will run afoul of the people who have grown accustomed to this practice. We can tell by the response of His own disciples that the people had grown very accustomed to no fault divorce.
This tempting of Jesus was the interpretation of a particular Old Testament clause. Keep in mind that the Pharisees intent here was not to get expert analysis on the exegesis of the Old Testament passage. This was a controversy and they were pulling Him into it. From their perspective there was no way for Jesus to answer without causing offense.
Lightfoot says, “The question here propounded by the Pharisees was disputed in the schools, and they divided into parties concerning it, as we have noted before. For the school of Shammai permitted not divorces, but only in the case of adultery; the school of Hillel, otherwise.”
Deut. 24:1   When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.
Jesus is reinstituting the creation order. Christians ought to live the way God intended man to live in the beginning. That is, one man one woman for life. In Christ, this is possible. Any aberration from this is sinful. Jesus is making that point paramount.
The Jews wanted special pleading. They wanted to divorce their wives and to do so without being condemned of sin. Jesus does not allow this.
Have ye not read? Jesus has no problem putting the Pharisees in their place. He asks them, You have a Bible right? Did you read it? Jesus makes it clear that the Pharisees do not know how to accurately interpret their Bibles. They chop up texts to prove their points not with the intent to submit to the text.
Male and Female- The point here that Jesus is making is that God intended for one man to be married to one woman for the rest of His life. In Adam’s case there was no second choice for him. In fact, Eve failed him greatly, and Adam did not get to opt out. He could not give Eve a certificate of divorce. No one else to marry. One man, one woman for life.
Jesus’s point is no any reason divorce. But we also should pay attention to His method of argument. He appeals to the creation mandate. One man, one woman. That was God’s intention and it held true 4000 years later in the New Testament. Marriage is only between one man and one woman and these two shall not separate unless there is particular adulterous sin.
A priori argument- Shall a man put away his parents? A son leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife. However, his parents always remain his parents and he always has obligations to them. Jesus taught that an adult son is still responsible to take care of his parents. Here, He is teaching that the relationship between husband and wife is even closer than this. If the obligations to parents is so strong, how much more the obligation to a spouse?

6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
One flesh- The one flesh union is how man and woman fit together. The two join in conjugal relations and become one. It is this and more. The two have become one and therefore ought not to be separated. Since God has joined them, only God, or only God’s standard can separate them.
Because the wife is so fully at one with the husband, it would be as if he was cutting on himself to send her away. No man would cut off his own member and so he ought not cut off his wife with whom he is one.

7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
The Pharisees succeeded in getting Jesus to take a side. They figured they had Him. Jesus, you say we cannot divorce for any reason but Moses said we can. They try to pit Jesus against Moses. But Moses was righteous in all his house.
Again, the Pharisees think they know the Scriptures but they do not submit to the Scriptures, they sit in judgment of them.

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Sklerokardia- sclerosis of the heart.
The Pharisees think they know something about marriage and divorce but they do not. He confronts them directly. Moses did not disagree with the creation mandate. Jesus points out that the people in the wilderness were lustful. They desired to seek other wives and husbands. This was not part of God’s creation mandate for marriage.
In such a situation, women are at a great disadvantage. If they are put away and cannot remarry, then they are in real danger. So, Moses required them to put away wives with a specific reason. If she has not committed adultery, then she can remarry. If she cannot remarry, then her former husband may be the cause of her downfall.
It was mere hardness of hearts toward wives, women and children that forced Moses to put into action a law that would protect them.

9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
If you put away your wife for any reason other than adultery and marry another, then you commit adultery. And if you seek to marry such a wife then you are committing adultery.
         Jesus took a firm stand against ‘any reason’ divorce. But He did it in such a way that the Pharisees were condemned and He was not caught in their controversy.

10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
Jesus’s own disciples take issue with His rule. They had been so influenced by the culture of their day that they cannot imagine such a high standard for marriage. This resonates in our day.
Many Christians have dramatically lowered their standard for marriage. Furthermore, many Christians have completely abandoned the creation mandate. They deny one man, one woman. They deny even the need to wait until marriage before conjugal relations.
The disciples think it would be better not to marry than to have to stick with a wife for an entire lifetime.
Many young man today are taking this same tack. They are marrying later and later or not marrying at all. They think it would be better not to marry than to have to marry for a lifetime.

11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
There are only some men for whom it is really better to not marry. God made men with the desire for a woman. This is a sexual, emotional and spiritual desire. The Bible is unambiguous about this. Most men need to find a wife, and soon.
If you are among those who have the gift of singleness, then you are an exception, not the rule.

12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Don’t be a Hard Heart
         Why is their divorce? Because of heard hearts. In every divorce, whether for Biblically lawful reasons, or not, there are hard hearts. This is at least one hard heart and more likely two.
         These hard hearts did not get there all at once. At one point, the man and the woman loved each other and wanted to be together. But the hardening of the arties occurs little by little over time, until eventually there is a stroke or a heart attack.
         How do you keep these arties clear? Love and respect, confession of sin, looking over faults. You have to do this daily. You have to do this today.
         Your heart can grow hard towards God or a spouse, towards a parent or even towards a child. What once was a weird character flaw that you enjoyed can start to bug you. After a while it really annoys you. Then you hate it. Then you cannot live with it. Stop all that. Stop it!
         Jesus would not do that. He is faithful to His bride. He loves her and gardens faithful, weeding, beautifying until there is only beauty. But He does not grow weary in doing good.
         I hate when you do that. I hate it when. Look, the better response is to accept the weirdness. Learn to cherish it. The Lord’s cherishes you and you have no right to be cherished.
         Think about what you think about. Is that all good? The Lord knows those thoughts. Think about what you say. Is that all good? The Lord knows those words. Think about things you’ve done and the things you do? Would you want Him to put you away or to cover all that sinful mess up with the grace of His body and blood? Of course, the latter and this is exactly what He does.

         Furthermore, having done that for you, He calls you to do the same for your husband, your wife,  your children, your parents, your fellow saints.    

Suffer Little Children

Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was always glad to receive little children and bless them. The disciples tried to prevent people from bringing the little ones and infants to Jesus. Did they think the little ones had not earned the right to be in His presence? Or, that the little ones had no benefit to offer Jesus? Or, perhaps because the infants did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah?
We are not told why the disciples tried to prevent the little ones from coming to Jesus but we do know that Jesus rebuked them for doing so. Jesus gladly receives His little ones. The Kingdom of Heaven is made up of such children. The point is clear. We who are God’s children must act like humble children, little ones and even infants.

If God is our Father, and Jesus our elder brother, then we must come to Him submissively, seeking to do His will to please Him. Like Jesus, we seek to please our Father and the Father gladly receives such into His presence. Furthermore, when we come to the Father in the name of Jesus, the Father calls us His beloved children, in whom He is well pleased.

The Adorning Husband

Jesus is not hard hearted. He takes His wife and is ever faithful to her. He would never put away her who is faithful to Him. Furthermore, though His bride was her who was barren, Jesus takes her, purifies her, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. And from this union flow a world full of God's children.
The bride of Jesus is the Christian Church. He is faithful to her, the one to whom He is wed in the new creation. He washes her in the Word. He makes her beautiful. He shows her even as a city shining on a hill, or a light that leads the way, or a haven of rest for the weary soul. Jesus is the perfect bridegroom and His bride grows ever lovelier day by day for He is the adorning husband.

Let us take heart in this as His Church, the bride of Christ. Let us also learn the lesson of His fidelity as we seek to bear His image in the power of His Holy Spirit, in our own marriages, towards our children, children towards parents, in our worship and work, and even in our mundane duties. We show ourselves faithful because Jesus has been and always will be faithful.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Matthew 18:15-35 Sermon Notes

Matthew 18:15-35
Two or Three Gathered
Lynchburg, Virginia

         In the context of Matthew 18, the discipline chapter, we have the Lord’s teaching on leaving the ninety-nine and pursuing the lost or straying sheep. Jesus has great concern for those who stray and who are lost. As the Good Shepherd, it is His desire to bring them home.
         So, when we get to this process of confronting a brother in sin that may eventually lead to excommunication, we need to understand that it is the Lord’s process to bring lost sinners home. Excommunication only occurs after the shepherd of souls has made a gallant attempt at finding a straying sheep and returning him to the fold. It is that recalcitrant sheep who is responsible for being treated like a tax gatherer and a sinner, if it ultimately comes to that. His obstinancy cannot be laid at the feet of Jesus.
         If formal church discipline and excommunication is done properly, it is only carried out after repeated admonitions for repentance. If the sinful member will not repent, then eventually the session of elders merely agrees with him or her that they are not a Christian.
         Of course, there are cases in which a wayward Christian is not rejecting the faith but simply living in some scandalous sin. Say, they have left their spouse for another, or they will not repent of some other known and ongoing sin.
In these cases, the Church should make it clear that those who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. In these cases the Church does not merely agree with the person that they are an unbeliever but formally declares that such behavior is outside the realm of true Christian fellowship. This is commonly called the keeping of the keys.

Matt. 18:1   At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,  3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The prelude to Jesus’s teaching on discipline is that we must become humble learners. We must be converted from our adult hardness of heart to a childlike sensitivity to the leading of the Lord.
Furthermore, we are not to put roadblocks of unbelief in the paths of our children or other believers.

Matt. 18:7   Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Keep in mind that there was a little child in their midst. Jesus is talking about stumbling your children through sinful behavior. He is saying that you must go to great extents to make sure this does not happen.

12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
Jesus continues to warn about stumbling children and believers. He goes on to say that we must go to extreme measures to root out sin in our lives so that we do not stumble into disobedience and unbelief and so that we do not cause others to stumble.  Whatever things causes us to stumble, we must resist and put away from us. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life. He is talking about mortifying the flesh, puttind to death the deeds of the flesh. Instead of doing this, some Christians feed the flesh, sometimes even using God’s grace as an excuse to do so. They say, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more, so I am going to sin because God will forgive me.”  It is true that God’s grace is bigger and more abundant than sin but a believer who thinks that he can sin with impunity while testing the Lord’s grace and patience, is already in self-deception and is in danger of being completely lost into sin.
Just as we should go to extreme measures to resist sin in our lives, so will the faithful shepherd go to extreme measures to seek that which is lost and gone astray. Jesus did so with us and we ought to do so with our brothers and sisters. But when the faithful shepherd goes to look for that one lost sheep, he leaves the 99 safely in the sheepfold. They are also secure. He does not put them at risk to rescue the one. He has already secured them so that he can search for the lost.
This is the  prelude to the discipline passage. The discipline passage is an example of how the good shepherd goes out of his way to rescues the one. He goes with one. He goes with two. He brings in the elders. He summons the  whole church. And not until his extreme efforts are exhausted does he declare the lost sheep completely lost.

The Process of Formal Church Discipline
Matt. 18:15   Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
The first step is personal informal admonishment. We sometimes call this accountability. If your brother sins against you or sins in such a way that you want to address it, then you are required by Scripture to go to him privately and call him to account.
The goal of the confrontation is not to win the contest over your brother but to win your brother. Reconciliation and restoration is the aim of discipline.

1. Be Spiritual- Gal. 6:1   Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2. Impetus on Offended Party- We always want the offender to recognize his sins and come to us in confession and repentance. I would say that this is especially true in marriage. An offended spouse stays offended because the offender never fesses up. So, the offended one feels justified in staying offended.
The first problem with this is that it is unbiblical. The second problem is that it does not work. The one committing the offense may not know that they have done so. They may simply think they are in the right and therefore not feel motivated to get things straight. Also, they may simply be resistant to the Spirit’s leading because they are in the wrong. God gets to determine how these things work. If the offended parties would do their jobs of confronting sin, then it would make for many more occasions for the growth of the offender. If he is godly, then he will attempt to stop offending and maybe he will gain some understanding of how his behavior is offensive. But confronting his sins will bring the situation to light for sure.
Love does cover a multitude of sins. How do you know the difference? Easy, are you offended? Do you still remember the offense against them? Then you have not let love cover it and you have not forgiven. You need to do one of them now. My experience has shown that if you will confront, then the issues will decrease AND you will be less sensitive because some of the sins are confessed and repented of. Both are good options for more peace.
Matthew Henry-“Let us apply this to scandalous sins…Christ, having taught us to indulge the weakness of our brethren, here cautions us not to indulge their wickedness...”

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
If your brother fails to hear you, then you can take one or two more. This fulfills the biblical law for witnesses. You now have two or three. It is assumed that any right thinking humble man would heed the counsel of two or three witnesses. He should be thinking that they now have enough witnesses to accuse me so I should listen to them.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church:
We are still in the realm of discipline here. We have not yet passed into judgment. The purpose of telling it to the church is so that the offender is shamed into confession and repentance. It also affords many more voices to seek out that which is lost. If a sheep is lost in the wilderness, one shepherd has a low chance of finding him. But if two or three go, the chances increase. If the whole church goes, then it is more likely that the sheep will be found. If such a search party cannot find the lost sheep, then it is highly likely that the sheep is dead or that he is hiding out so that he cannot be found.

but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
This final stage of looking for the lost sheep is a pronouncement of judgment. If that lost one simply will not heed all the voices of those that love him and seek his safe return, forgiveness and reconciliation, then the searchers are going to agree with him. Yes, he is lost and we simply cannot find him. Or, we found him and we all called out to him and pleaded for him to return with us, but he would not. Such a one is to be considered completely outside the church and lost in their sin.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
This is an often misquoted passage. It is usually quoted in a positive sense that the Lord’s Spirit dwells with God’s people whenever two or three of them gather in His name. It may even be used as an encouragement to corporate worship because at least two are gathered in the name of the Lord. But that is not the context of this verse.
It harkens back to the testimony of the law. Two or three witnesses are required in order to condemn someone of a capital crime, a crime punishable by death. He is saying that to put someone out of the church and count them as a publican and a heathen is tantamount to pronouncing the death penalty. This person who was lost is now considered dead to us. And Jesus says this sort of authority binds not only on Earth but also in Heaven. That is, if the judgment and sentence is righteous, then God honors what we have done on Earth, in Heaven.
Now, there is not only binding but also loosing. And the goal of discipline is that the disciplined one will come to his senses and repent. When he does so, we can loose that which we have bound and the Lord will honor that as well.

Matt. 18:21   Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Peter’s question is a good one. If we keep rescuing that sheep and he keeps getting lost, when will we give up on him? Jesus’s answer is essentially that He does not give up on us, therefore, we should not give up on anyone who will repent.
It is also true that there must be fruit in keeping with repentance. If our brother seeks our forgiveness, then we forgive but it is good and right for us to expect him to change his behavior. He cannot expect our forgiveness while at the same time continuing in the very sin he is seeking forgiveness for.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
So, we are to see that the purpose of discipline is so that those who are wayward would be brought back into the sheepfold. If the shepherd is successful in bringing the wayward sheep back, then those in the sheepfold are required to rejoice and forgive. If they remain indignant and will not forgive, then they show that they are not of the Spirit of Christ and in danger of being cast out themselves.


         This is a very practical passage for daily living and daily discipline. Be humble towards God’s Spirit, receiving instruction and discipline as your faithful children do. If your brother comes to you and points out your sin, then listen to him and repent. If you confront someone and they repent, then quickly and gladly forgive them.