Yesterday I preached from Mark 10:1-12 on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. What exactly does the Bible say about this often debated subject? My sermon was one of the longest sermons I’ve ever preached and I sought to deliver it with pastoral sensitivity while not compromising one ounce of God’s truth. I felt as if I had delivered a weighty message upon the completion of the sermon. This is a very important subject in our age of compromise regarding marriage.
Jesus’ Ministry of Teaching (Mark 10:1)
Upon arriving in the Perean region beyond the Jordan, a great crowd came to Jesus. Their agenda was to receive healing of physical disease and perhaps to see this man who had literally become famous through His preaching and miracles. Jesus, as was His custom, taught the people. While He did perform miracles, His foundational ministry objective was teaching and preaching. This should be emphasized when reading about how Jesus ministered and it should not be forsaken in the church’s ministry in our present day.
Jesus’ Teaching on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage (Mark 10:2-12)
First, we must note the way Jesus ended up teaching on this subject. The Pharisees were seeking to trap Jesus, and they raised a question about divorce. According to the parallel account in Matthew 19:3, they asked, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Two competing rabbinical schools existed in Jesus’ day, one ultra liberal and the other somewhat conservative, both had opposing views on the subject. The Hillel school purported the liberal position which created loopholes for divorce for almost anything. The Shammai school taught a more conservative position. Jewish history accounts for instances of men divorcing their wives on the basis of an inappropriately cooked meals, talking too loud, speaking to men in public, or dishonoring the husband’s mother-in-law.
The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus to see if He would deny the Law of God or align Himself with the conservative position that John the Baptist preached which would therefore position Jesus against the house of Herod. In either direction, they were looking to trap Jesus. Jesus pointed out that Moses never commanded the practice of divorce, but it was merely a concession based on the hardness of the people’s hearts. Rather than looking at Deuteronomy 24 as the basis of His answer, He went back to the beginning of creation to establish God’s plan for marriage. Jesus said:
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,  and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9).
Furthermore, after entering a house with the disciples, they needed additional clarification on the subject and Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,  and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). In other words, don’t divorce your spouse. God’s intention for marriage was not for the holy covenant to be broken by divorce. God never created a pool of people for Adam and Eve to go shopping and find someone that they believed to be a better match for them. God established their covenant and it was designed to last for life.
The question remains, based on the parallel account found in Matthew 19:1-12, is divorce ever permissible and what about remarriage? There are a few positions on this subject in evangelical circles.
The permanence view of marriage (no divorce and no remarriage under any circumstances)
The semi-permanence view (divorce is permitted, but no remarriage)
The permissive view: two clause view (one option for divorce and remarriage based on adultery only – Matt. 19:9 and Matt. 5:31-32)
The permissive view: one clause view (two options for divorce and remarriage based on adultery and abandonment -Matt. 19:9; Matt. 5:31-32; 1 Cor. 7)
Although I fully respect the permanence view of marriage taught by many able theologians, scholars, and preachers – some of which are friends of mine, I simply don’t hold to that position. I feel that the permanence view seeks to uphold and protect the sanctity of marriage, and for that I’m extremely grateful. The reason I reject the permanence view (no divorce and remarriage) is based on the exception clause spoken by Jesus. I recognize that Paul never used Jesus’ clause nor did any other apostle in the New Testament, but Jesus did teach it and it’s recorded in two places in holy Scripture.
I hold to the two clause permissive view that allows for divorce and remarriage based on adultery and abandonment of a believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse. While that may seem like it’s a fairly cut and dry issue, it’s really not. All positions embraced by evangelicals who truly seek to honor God and His holy Word will find many difficult circumstances to work through on a pastoral level. For instance, in the permissive view (two clause), if a person claims to be abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, there is much work that must be done on a pastoral level before a pastor can condone the divorce and subsequent remarriage. Were both the husband and wife unbelievers when they married? How long until one of the two became a follower of Christ? Exactly what caused the problems in the marriage? Did the unbelieving spouse walk away based on a rejection of the gospel or based on other circumstances? How much patience and true prayer has gone into a pursuit of reconciliation? Is there any hope of saving the marriage?
The point is abundantly clear, God’s intention for marriage is not divorce and remarriage. We, as Christians, must not allow marriage covenants to end with the ease of instant potatoes or a drive-thru happy meal. God’s intention is for the marriage covenant to be kept in order to honor God and put on display the covenant keeping love of Jesus toward His bride – the church. Even if a person is married to an unbeliever, Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 7:10-14, it’s best to stay married. The goal is not divorce – the goal is to remain married in order that the believing spouse might win the unbelieving spouse with the gospel. However, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7:15-16, if the unbelieving spouse separates, the believing spouse is not held under bondage.
Based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19 and the Sermon on the Mount, I believe that the sin of adultery (porneia) is grounds for divorce and then a subsequent remarriage. Based on Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7, if a believing spouse is abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, that is grounds for remarriage. In a great number of situations that time does not permit me to explain, as a pastor I would be forced to counsel a person to remain single for life. If a person divorces on trivial reasoning as a lost person and then after a period of serval years passes and he becomes a Christian, I can’t condone remarriage even after he has become a believer. In such cases, I would have to counsel this brother to remain single. As you can see, these issues can become extremely complicated, but we must honor God and His Word.
My pastoral counsel to the unmarried: Remember that marriage is not a video game and God takes the marriage union seriously. Enter into that union with humility and a desire to honor God.
My pastoral counsel to the married: Create no room for divorce. Remember, Jesus never commanded divorce. Paul never commanded divorce. Divorce is not forced on a couple – even when faced with the horrific sin of adultery. Always seek reconciliation and restoration in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seek to finish your course well and remain married for life.
My pastoral counsel to the divorced: If you don’t have biblical grounds to remarry, lean upon God and remain single for life. It would be far better to live a life of singleness and holiness as opposed to entering into a relationship knowing that you will be committing adultery.
My pastoral counsel to those who have been remarried without biblical grounds: Confess your sin and trust that God is capable of forgiving you. Adultery is not the unforgivable sin. David found grace and forgiveness in God, but we must never use God’s grace as a license to sin. We must never tempt God and play Him as a fool.
I conclude with words from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones regarding forgiveness:
“‘Have you nothing to say about others?’ asks someone. All I would say about them is this, and I say it carefully and advisedly, and almost in fear lest I give even a semblance of a suggestion that I am saying anything that may encourage anyone to sin. But on the basis of the gospel and in the interest of truth I am compelled to say this: Even adultery is not the unforgiveable sin. It is a terrible sin, but God forbid that there should be anyone who feels that he or she has sinned himself or herself outside the love of God or outside His kingdom because of adultery. No; if you truly repent and realize the enormity of your sin and cast yourself upon the boundless love and mercy and grace of God, you can be forgiven and I assure you of pardon. I hear the words of our blessed Lord: ‘Go and sin no more.’”
Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon our return home, I decided to write a series of posts on the lives of specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the life of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and George Muller. Today’s focus is on the Oxford martyrs – Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer.
The Catholic Queen – Bloody Mary
Queen Mary I, the daughter of King Henry VIII, tried to correct her father’s attempt to sever England from the rule of Roman Catholicism. Her agenda was to move England back to a firm connection to Roman Catholic authority. This agenda would cause 288 Reformers to be burned at the stake. Of these, 1 was an archbishop, 4 were bishops, 21 were clergymen, 55 were women, and 4 were children.  Therefore, Queen Mary became known as Bloody Mary.
The Blood of the Martyrs
Augustine was once quoted as saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” A seedbed of martyrs often gathered in a little pub in Cambridge called The White Horse Inn to talk about the gospel and biblical theology. It would be there that men such as Robert Barnes, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Miles Coverdale, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Bilney, Robert Clark, John Frith, and John Lambert. Some actually believe William Tyndale was one of the group who would meet to discuss the Word of God. 
This group would produce two archbishops, seven bishops, and nine martyrs of the faith. Bloody Mary was vehemently opposed to anyone who would preach and teach in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. Converts would be rebaptized and this was an open sign that they had renounced the Catholic faith. Bloody Mary took issue with those who refused to confess that the presence of Christ was among the people in the Catholic Mass. This was one of the primary issues that she had with Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer. According to John Piper:
And why were they burned? Because they stood by a truth—the truth that the real presence of Jesus’ body is not in the eucharist but in heaven at the Father’s right hand. For that truth they endured the excruciating pain of being burned alive. 
These were truths worth dying for. For Bloody Mary, they were worth killing for. For the evangelical church today it would hardly seem like an issue worthy of sacrificing your life. The present day evangelical church has lost sight of what it means to be Protestant. Ecumenical unity and a refusal to offend others has led to blurred lines and muddy religious waters. Does the evangelical church today have any doctrines worthy of death?
Augustine was right, these men didn’t die in vain. The bowels of the Roman Catholic Church had been pierced in 1517 and desperation was setting in as the Word of God continued to spread far and wide. Freedom for us today seems so easy and “free” but it cost Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer and others their lives. We have much to be thankful for.
The Unquenchable Flame
After imprisonment in the Tower of London, Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were transported to Oxford to stand trial for their beliefs and doctrine. They refused to honor the pope and his teachings. They all refused to embrace the Catholic Mass and the doctrine of Transubstantiation. As Latimer and Ridley were prepared to die at the stake by fire in 1555, the crowd of Catholic supporters gathered around them in streets of Oxford. They taunted them and laughed at them. Their close friends also gathered to support them. Records tell of friends weeping as they bid them farewell.
As Latimer and Ridley came together at the stake, they embraced one another and then knelt to pray. After praying they were bound to the stake and the flames were ignited. John Foxe records the words of Latimer to Ridley. He said, “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out.” As the flames engulfed their bodies, they died in ease according to the witnesses. After their bodies were burned, the flame eventually burned out, or did it?
Just as Latimer promised Ridley, the flame of the gospel continues to burn in England and beyond. The Bible has now been printed and distributed openly in the common man’s language. Bloody Mary’s evil reign was short lived. If you visit the city of Oxford today, you will find a large monument dedicated to the martyrs in the middle of the intersection of St Giles’, Magdalen Street and Beaumont Street, in a very well traveled popular location. Information about the memorial is provided on a memorial board that explains the martyrs memorial. It likewise points people to nearby Broad Street where a cross in the road marks the very spot where the martyrs were burned. If you travel there, as my wife and I did recently, you will find the cross in Broad Street as a place where many pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles are passing frequently. The flames on their bodies have long disappeared, but the flame of their legacy and their unwillingness to capitulate on the gospel of Jesus Christ remains bright.
We can learn much from these men who remained faithful to the end. As we see a growing trend of Christian persecution that’s starting to get media attention, it would serve us well to evaluate our faith. Is your faith the real thing or would the fires of persecution cause you to recant Jesus Christ? May you be found faithful in the day of testing.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, let us mediate upon the blessings of the gospel and the great freedoms that many of us enjoy as we embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ without the threat of Christian persecution. We have much to be thankful for.
Colossians 3:15-17 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
John Charles Ryle, Light from Old Times (Moscow, Idaho: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2000, first published 1890), 36.
Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace – A Long Line of Godly Men, Vol. 2 (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011), 452-453.
One of Dr. Steven Lawson’s responsibilities is teaching at The Master’s Seminary in California. He lectures on preaching and instructs the students in faithful expository preaching. Although recorded in 2012, this video will give you insight into the classroom of TMS and provide you with some really good material regarding expository preaching.
Banner of Truth – If you’re looking for some good Christmas specials on books, you need to visit the Banner of Truth site to view their gift sets specifically arranged and priced for Christmas.
Reformed Forum – Gregg Allison was a special guest on the show to discuss his new book and to explain the flaws of Roman Catholic theology.
Thinking in Public (Interview) – Albert Mohler’s interview of Thomas Kidd is worth your time. – “America’s Evangelical Founding Father: A Conversation about George Whitefield with Historian Thomas Kidd.”
Westminster Bookstore Special – A good special on some ebooks that ends November 27th. Grab Michael Reeves’ book Delighting in the Trinity and more.
Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon our return home, I decided to write a series of posts on the lives of specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the life of John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon. Today’s focus is a man known as Muller.
George Muller’s Salvation and Doctrine
George Muller was born in Kroppenstaedt, a Prussian village, on September 27, 1805. George Muller was born as a German, but also as a sinner. He loved his sin and excelled in it. According to his very own testimony, he was a liar and a thief.  After finding himself in jail for stealing at 16 years of age, his father devised a plan for his life that would be a good occupation for his son and a good retirement plan for himself. Muller’s father sent him to the University of Halle to study divinity and prepare for the ministry. There was no desire for God by George or his father.
In November of 1825, when Muller was 20 years old, he was invited to a Bible study and that was the turning point for this man. He would come to discover his true happiness in God. Later, he would discover the doctrines of grace, although he had often spoken evil of the doctrine of election. Muller came into contact with a particular man who taught him the doctrines of grace, and it literally changed his life and subsequent ministry.
The doctrinal conviction of George Muller in God’s sovereignty changed the way he looked at the world, the way he trusted God, the way he prayed, and the way he preached. The present day stereotype of Calvinism as a missions killing doctrine is simply not accurate. If anyone could put that to death by demonstrating what real Calvinism looks like in the pulpit and in mission, it’s George Muller.
George Muller’s Preaching Ministry
George Muller spent his life in Bristol, England (west of London). He gave his life primarily to one church for 66 years. It’s estimated that he preached nearly 10,000 sermons to the flock that God entrusted to his care. Muller had challenges that he faced, people to care for, orphans to minister to, and he did all of this while preaching every week for over six decades. His passion was relentless. His preaching was God centered and Christ exalting. He didn’t manipulate people for results, yet many people came to faith under his preaching and were discipled in God’s Word.
Early in his life, he had ambitions to become a missionary. At the age of 70, he set out to travel to different countries to preach the gospel. He visited 42 different countries over a period of 17 years and preached to between 3 and 4 million people.  Muller would often preach in the people’s known language since he knew six languages fluently (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, French, and English).
George Muller’s Legacy of Faith
George Muller had a love for God and this self denying and God glorying pursuit led him to engage in ministry to orphans. In Bristol during his time, there was a massive problem with orphans. When Muller recognized it, he put his hand to the plough and never looked back. Muller prayed for God to provide the land, and God provided. He prayed for God to provide the housing, and God provided. He then prayed for God to provide the children, and God provided. The first orphan entered Muller’s care on 11th of April 1836. The first entry into their log books was Charlotte Hill.  Over the course of Muller’s ministry, he would care for over 10,000 orphans and through his ministry beyond his death, 17,000 orphans in total would be ministered to. He was serving as unto the Lord rather than unto men.
During Muller’s ministry, he experienced hardships and trials. He married Mary Groves at the age of 25, and they had four children, two of which were stillborn. His son Elijah died when he was only 1 year old. Mary preceded him in death. If you travel to Bristol, you can see the sermon text from Mary’s funeral in the little one room museum devoted to George Muller. As he preached her funeral, more than 800 people gathered outside in overflow and were unable to enter due to the crowd. Muller said of his wife Mary:
Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. I never saw my beloved wife at any time, when I met her unexpectedly anywhere in Bristol, without being delighted so to do. I never met her even in the Orphan Houses, without my heart being delighted so to do. Day by day, as we met in our dressing room, at the Orphan Houses, to wash our hands before dinner and tea, I was delighted to meet her, and she was equally pleased to seeme. Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time, since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”
Yet through the death of his children and the death of his wife, he never became sidetracked in his mission for God. He would marry Susannah Sangar at 66 years of age. She too would precede him in death. Yet, Muller kept serving God.
George Muller loved orphans because he loved God and God had demonstrated love to Muller who was lost in his sin. Muller had unshakable faith in God to provide. He never asked people for money, but he did ask God for the people’s money. He was constantly on his knees praying. Two years after the first orphans entered his care, he had no money. On the morning of August 18th, 1838 he writes in his journal, “I have not a penny in hand for the orphans. In a day or two many pounds will be needed. My eyes are up to the Lord.” By that evening, he wrote in the journal, “Before this day is over, I have received from a sister 5 pounds. She had some time since put away her trinkets to be sold for the benefit of the orphans. This morning, whilst in prayer, it came to her mind, I have this 5 pounds, and owe no man anything, therefore it would be better to give this money at once, as it may be some time before I can dispose of the trinkets. She therefore brought it, little knowing that there was not a penny in hand.” 
George Muller lived among the orphans and loved them dearly. He invested in them by teaching them the gospel, educating them, and although he received grief because the orphans were often better educated than those who came from good homes in Bristol, the business owners eventually had to compete for the orphans who were “graduating” from the care of Muller.
One famous story about Muller’s faith is taken from a specific time when the orphans were out of food:
“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.” Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children. 
Eventually George Muller’s work was finished. He led a prayer meeting at his church on the evening of Wednesday, March 9, 1898. The next day a cup of tea was taken to him at seven in the morning but no answer came to the knock on the door. He was found dead on the floor beside his bed.  The orphan-loving pastor was gone at age 92. The city of Bristol came to a standstill. All of the factories and shops closed. People lined the streets to pay tribute to the orphan-loving, Christ exalting, gospel preacher known by many as – Muller. According to Arthur Pierson, “A thousand children gathered for a service at the Orphan House No. 3. They had now for a second time lost a ‘father’.”  As the streets were lined with people, the casket made its way to the cemetery followed by a train of orphan children.
Today, if you visit Bristol you will discover a tragedy. Nobody knows George Muller. Things changed over time and the way orphans were cared for changed politically, and so the mission of Muller and his care for the children was blessed by God. Eventually, the orphan houses became empty and were eventually sold. Muller saw the change coming and after his death, they continued to care for orphans and assist in providing care, but the orphan house ministry was no more. Over time the orphans disappeared from the streets. The orphan houses were sold. Today, if you walk the streets of Bristol and come to Ashley Down orphan houses, you will discover that of the five houses, two are apartments, and three are owned by a college.
As my wife and I stood in the intersection and looked at the busy streets from beneath an umbrella, I asked Kari – “Why don’t we go into the visitor’s center and just ask them if they know the history of the buildings?” She reluctantly agreed. As we entered the busy building full of people, we approached a desk and I asked the lady, “Excuse me, you wouldn’t happen to know the history of this building would you?” She said, “Hang on.” She then got up and got a book with a blank cover and handed it to my wife and I and said, “There is a table over there, go take a seat and have a little read.” As we opened this book, it was a collection of approximately 40 photocopied pictures of all of Muller’s work with the oprhans. As my wife and I sat in the busy college campus, we wiped tears away as we considered the history and work of this man that Bristol has forgotten.
We departed from that building and made our way to the cemetery where Muller was buried. We walked the street and arrived after dark. After discovering a way to enter the already closed cemetery, we asked permission at the newly constructed cafe to find a grave although it was already closed. After receiving permission, we walked up a muddy pathway in the dark to the location that we had on a small general map that was provided to us at the museum. It took a little effort, but we found his grave by flashlight. I must admit, I’m grateful to my wife for hanging with me on this journey.
It’s hard to believe that this man of faith is buried back in a wooded cemetery in a city that has failed to remember him. One thing is for certain, George Muller may be forgotten by Bristol, but he is remembered by God. George Muller persevered in the faith and we can learn much from his life that was spent for the glory of God.
George Mueller, Autobiography of George Mueller, or A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer, compiled by G. Fred Bergin (Denton, Tex.: Westminster Literature Resources, 2003), 1:10.
Arthur T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol and His Witness to A Prayer-Hearing God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1999), 257. Originally published as “Authorized Memoir” (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1899).
Roger Steer, George Muller – Delighted in God (Christian Focus Publications, Denmark, 2012), 65
Yesterday we gathered for our annual worship service and celebration meal to follow with our church family. We do this every Thanksgiving season and it always proves to be a good time of fellowship. Yesterday, my text was from Mark 9:42-50. As it turned out, I preached about hell in our Thanksgiving service. Rather than choosing another text to “be thankful” I focused on why we should be thankful for God’s warning about hell.
One of the most sobering warnings about the eternal wrath of God comes from the lips of Jesus in Mark 9:42-50. However, if you examine this text closely, what you will discover may shock you. Jesus isn’t preaching in the town square to unbelievers. Instead, Jesus has left his public ministry behind and is now focused on the disciples (the inner circle) as he prepares them for his upcoming death and resurrection. Therefore, as Jesus gave this sobering warning about hell, it was directed to his closest followers – the inner circle of disciples.
Warning About Our Influence Over Others
Jesus first warned about influencing his followers to sin. Jesus made the point clear, before you lead a Christian into sin, you better consider the consequences. Jesus said, ““Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). The millstone was the large stone that weighed thousands of pounds that would be drawn by a mule to grind the grain. It would have a hole in the center of it and when pulled by a mule, it would grind the grain against another stone.
When Jesus issues this warning, he was pointing to this particular stone. His point is clear. If you lead one of my children astray – it would be better for you to have the most horrific death in this life than for you to lead one of his disciples astray, because what’s awaiting you will be the eternal wrath of God.
Warning About Sin’s Influence Over Us
Jesus then turns to sin’s influence over his disciples and issues a stunning warning. Jesus speaks about a place called hell where the fire is unquenchable and where the worm does not die. This word Gehenna is derived from the historic name of the valley Ben-hinnom south of Jerusalem. It was known as the place of fire. It was where children were burned and sacrificed to the false god Molech. Years later, it would be the place where the city’s garbage was dumped and burned. There was a constant fire there. It was considered unclean, vile, and a place to avoid.
Jesus refers to the place of God’s eternal wrath by using this term to describe it. Constant fire, pain, and death abides there, but never ends. This is what the rebel of God has for his future. Jonathan Edwards once said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.”
Jesus uses great imagery to speak of the radical commitment that’s expected to be a child of God. Every true disciple is expected to do the following:
Persevere in the faith
Preserve unity among the disciples
In order to fight sin, Jesus speaks of plucking out eyes and cutting off limbs to prevent ongoing and perpetual sin. The person who claims to love Jesus but continues in a perpetual sin pattern proves to love a different Jesus – someone other than the Christ of God. Those who are true disciples will wage war on sin. To use the old language of the King James Bible, true Christians will mortify the flesh. What seems radical to the world is in all reality a normal pattern of life for the Christian. We must not allow sin to have a safe harbor in our minds, hearts, and homes.
Jesus made a statement about everyone being salted with fire. This is most likely a reference to experiencing the trials of the faith, the persecution that would eventually come among them to test them. Everyone of these disciples would pass their test, except one. When Judas was tested, his faith was found to be insufficient. Judas’ faith was false.
Jesus goes on to address their spirit of competition among themselves. They had been arguing about who was going to be the greatest in God’s Kingdom. Jesus addressed that issue and then came full circle at the end of this paragraph to point out the need to be at peace with one another. John MacArthur is right when he says, “Failing to seek and preserve spiritual unity weakens Christ’s church. Even more significantly, such failure to pursue unity is a sin.”
Is your faith true or could it be that your faith is like that of Judas?
Why would Jesus warn his disciples of eternal hell and urge them to persevere in the faith? The answer is clear, one of them was a false believer. He also knew that we would read this passage and he wants us to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith.