The Kingdom of God, The Pharisees, and The Law of Christ . . . Luke 16:18 On Marriage And Divorce

By Ron Halbrook

In Luke 16:1-12, Jesus told a parable about a master and his steward. Accused of unfaithfulness in using his mater’s goods and warned of judgment, the steward “called every one of his lord’s debtors.” Making settlements with them, he collected all the debts and was com-mended for his wisdom. Jesus’ lesson concerned the wise and unwise use of blessings and opportunities. Particular-ly, he charges certain ones in the audience, “Ye have not been faithful” in using material wealth; “who will commit to your trust the true riches?” He added this stinging rebuke, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (v. 13).

What Jesus taught about materialism offended the money-loving Pharisees; they, therefore, scoffed at Him (Lk. 16:14ff). They well knew the Law and taught it to others. But while parading as patterns of righteousness, they prepared in their hearts every devious means of circumventing the law. Jesus told them,

The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and every man entirety violently into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fall.

The law was temporary; Jesus has come to fulfill it. But He assures these clever Pharisees that their every violation of Moses’ Law will be punished. The Law will be fulfilled by Jesus. But it cannot be circumvented by these self-sufficient, money-loving men who trust in their material advantages.

Men were pressing to enter the kingdom. In fact, instead of waiting until the gates were properly opened, many were pressing violently to enter immediately! “The people were full of preconceived ideas with regard to the kingdom, and each one sought to hasten and enjoy its pleasures as one who impatiently seizes upon a bud and seeks with his fingers to force it to bloom” (J.W. McGarvey and P.Y. Pendleton, The Fourfold Gospel, p. 284). But Jesus stings the Pharisees again, showing that in no case shall they enter “the kingdom of God.”

“Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (v. 18).

“See,” he said, “the new state of things which I am now teaching, instead of loosening the cords with which the old Law regulated human society, will rather tighten them. Instead of a laxer code being substituted, I am preaching a yet severe one. My law of divorce is a severer one than that written down by Moses” (H.D.M. Spencer, St. Luke, Vol. II, p. 65 in Vol. 16 of The Pulpit Commentary).

These Pharisees trusted in their material advantages, devoured widows houses, and extorted from the poor. They were in both blood and spirit “the children of them which killed the prophets” (Matt. 23). The sanctity of marriage and protection of women provided for by the Law were not exempt from their twists and turns!. Jesus chooses to use a law of His kingdom with the same skill He used in choosing a parable of His kingdom – making sure His audience gets the point. If they flagrantly violated the Law of Moses on marriage, how certainly they could never submit themselves to the Law of Christ.

Whereas they looked for loopholes in the Law of Moses, they will find the law of Christ will strangle them; for, it is even stricter, higher and holier! The Pharisees were of-fended by the suggestion of the parable that they with all their wealth could not enter “the kingdom of God.” Instead of bowing to their offended pride, Jesus merely strengthens the point by laying out His law on marriage. They who trust in their material advantages, self-sufficiency, and ability to circumvent Moses’ Law can never, never enter Messiah’s kingdom.

We may wonder why Jesus stated the rule but not the exception elsewhere given (cf. Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Perhaps Jesus omitted it simply because it had no purpose on this occasion, i.e., the rule with or without the exception was an insurmountable obstacle to the Pharisees. They could have none of this, for they could not abide even in Moses’ Law. The more likely explanation is the abbreviated character of the record (and thus the advantage of four records, which repeatedly appears). “Probably … here, as in many parts of the Gospel, we only have just a bare sketch, or precis, of what the Lord said; hence its fragmentary character” (Spencer, p. 64).

Convict, Not Conform To, the World

Material security often blinds the minds of people, including God’s people (Amos 6:1ff). Men who trust in their material security and refuse to obey the Law of Christ can-not enter into “the kingdom of God.” Neither can those who are in the kingdom remain in it if they trust in material things and set aside the Law of Christ. We must teach the Law of Christ to the world in order to convict men of sin (Jn. 16:7ff). What law is violated more than God’s law on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in this dark world of sin? Instead of conforming to this darkness, let God’s people “shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).

When we conform to the world instead of convicting the world, we are engulfed in darkness! Sadly, more and more of God’s people are being engulfed in this darkness – like the Pharisees of old, trusting in material security, playing loose and easy with God’s word. It would not work then, it will not work now!

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 15, p. 459
August 4, 1983