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Matthew 5:31-32 (ESV)
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”CONNECTING THE PIECES OF SCRIPTURE
A few months ago, our family completed a large puzzle featuring smaller images of classic “Frosted Flakes” cereal boxes. Due to the vivid pictures and varied lettering, it really wasn’t too difficult - which is what made it fun! However, there were some moments when we studied a piece and could not figure out how it fit into the larger puzzle. In those moments, we set the piece aside until more was assembled. Eventually, its purpose and location became evident. In other words, we needed a clearer view of its context before we could see how and where such a piece fit.
In a similar way, the reading of Scripture requires some ‘puzzle-like’ strategies.
Now clearly some verses make sense as pieces independent of their surroundings. For example, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
Even someone with a limited understanding of the Bible would likely understand Jesus’ point.
However, there are other pieces of Scripture which do not necessarily make sense on their own. In fact, if taken “out of context,” their reading can actually lead a person away from the truth.
Several portions of Jesus’ teachings within the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ are like that. For example, we should find it very strange if someone insisted on cutting off the hands of persons who struggle with lust (Mt 5:30) or that God only hears prayers which are spoken in bedroom closets (Mt. 6:6). They would be using Scripture…but profoundly missing the point.
Without understanding the broader context, Mathew 5:31-32 can be easily misunderstood. For example, is Jesus saying that divorce should only
occur when sexual immorality has been committed? What about physical abuse or neglect? Is divorce commanded
even if an erring spouse is repentant? And what about remarriage? Is Jesus saying that a divorced person must remain single otherwise they’ll cause someone else to sin
Now, hopefully Sunday’s sermon
clearly addressed some of these important questions. But, to be clear, this devotional is not about revisiting divorce.
What these verses display for us is 1) our need understand the historical and literary context of Jesus’ words and 2) to consider what else the New Testament has to say about this topic.
Without being aware of the Jewish context or other teachings in Mark 10 and 1 Corinthians 7, it is very easy to misunderstand what God says about a difficult subject like divorce.
So, here are two simple principles to remember when putting Scriptural truths together: “Context is Key”
and “Scripture interprets Scripture.”
There are puzzling portions of the Bible. But if its perceived message seems inconsistent with the nature of Jesus, set it to one side and do some deeper work. In time, you’ll see the beautiful interconnectedness of God’s perfect and inspired word. Lord, give us patient, teachable hearts as we seek to understand Your eternal truth and apply it to our complicated lives. Through Jesus, Amen!