Matthew 25:21,23 (The Importance of Faithfulness)

We have seen in the parable of the talents that when the Master, who represents Christ, returned to settle accounts with His servants, He commended two of them as good and faithful for using the treasures entrusted to them to further enrich His kingdom.  Good and faithful describe God’s own nature, and so the commendation is especially notable because it identifies them as true sons of God.  For “having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” to follow Christ in establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, they had become “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pe 1:4).  These servants contrast with the not so good and unfaithful scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus had just forsaken in the temple and who had squandered the spiritual treasures entrusted to them as stewards; see Luk 16:1,10-15.

As important as faithfulness is in our covenant relationship to God because it is a reflection of His own nature, is it any less important in marriage that typifies our relationship to Him?  Should we be surprised that the enemies of the Lord who seek to undermine men’s faithfulness required in their relationship to God would therefore seek to undermine the faithfulness required in marriage?  In what primary way does Scripture teach that husbands are to be faithful in their marriage relationship?  See Eph 5:25,28, Col 3:19, 1Pe 3:7.  In what primary way does Scripture teach that wives are to be faithful in their marriage relationship?  See Eph 5:22-24,33, Col 3:18, Tit 2:5, 1Pe 3:1.  In what way are these different roles in the marriage relationship similar to the different roles in man’s covenant relationship to God?  As God is the stronger partner in His relationship to man, in what way does He also assume a greater responsibility for its preservation?  See Jer 31:3, Hos 1:2, 2:14-16, 3:1, Rom 10:21, 1Jo 4:19.  In the same way, who is the stronger partner in the marriage relationship that must assume greater responsibility for its preservation?  Cf. 1Pe 3:7.

Consider that Christian truth turns upside down fallen man’s understanding that he, having sinned and fractured his relationship to God, must somehow by his own works reach out and be reconciled to God, and the knowledge of the gospel truth and the great love of God that inspires it truly liberates man from the bondage and oppression of sin.  Cf. Luk 4:18.  In what related way does that same Christian truth also turn upside down his understanding about marriage that truly liberates women in a way that nothing else can from the oppression that as the weaker sex they have often endured as a result of mankind’s fall into sin?  Consider that apart from the gospel, a man as the stronger partner could divorce his wife, often at will, and remarry, which put the onus for maintaining the relationship on the woman and kept women in the vulnerable position of having to submit regardless of their circumstances or risk even greater suffering by being put away with no means to provide for themselves and their children.  But under the gospel, parallel to God’s part as the stronger partner in His relationship to man, even when the woman is at fault in a broken marriage relationship and gives an actionable cause (the meaning of the word used in Mat 19:3) for divorce, the man still has a responsibility rooted in God’s faithfulness and his own creation in the image of God for the preservation of the relationship, because to divorce his wife and marry another would be to commit adultery.  See Mat 5:27-32, 19:3-10, and observe that unchastity in Mat 5:32 and immorality in Mat 19:9 are literally fornication (cf. the KJV), and refer to the Jewish period of betrothal during which a couple were already considered man and wife, but before the marriage was consummated at the wedding feast.  Immorality after this period would be referred to as adultery, but during the period of betrothal (which could last a significant amount of time, see Gen 29:20-21) is more properly called fornication and was the only exception Jesus gave for which a man could divorce his wife and marry another without committing adultery.  It was in this regard that Joseph, “a righteous man”, contemplated divorcing Mary when she was found to be with child “before they had come together” (Mat 1:18-19).  Because this understanding and custom was unique to the Jews this exception clause was reported in Matthew’s gospel that was written to the Jews, but was omitted from the gospels of Mark and Luke and Paul’s letters, all of which were written to Gentiles who didn’t consider an engagement as having the same binding nature; see Mar 10:2-11, Luk 16:18, Rom 7:1-3, 1Co 7:12-16,39.  Is it surprising that the Jews to whom God had more completely revealed Himself would have a higher view than the Gentile nations of faithfulness that applied even to an engagement?

Hence, as a result of Jesus’ teaching on divorce, the gospel sets women free from their oppression by the same law of love that sets men free from their oppression by sin; for since a man cannot divorce his wife and remarry without committing adultery and incurring God’s judgment, he must love his wife in the same way that God loves sinful men: he must live with his wife in an understanding way, treating her with the same consideration God does sinful men, and “grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life” so that his prayers will not be hindered; 1Pe 3:7.

How does this way that the truth of the gospel sets women free contrast with the supposed freedom promoted by feminists?  Are women less, or more oppressed today than they were as wives and mothers in traditional Christian marriages as a result of the feminist movement’s demands for birth control (that fueled the sexual revolution and the sexual exploitation of women we see today), abortion on demand (that increased women’s risk of breast cancer and other adverse physical and mental health consequences), and relaxed divorce laws (that increased the number of single moms struggling to provide for their children)?  Can women, or anyone else truly be free apart from a willingness to submit themselves to the purpose for which God created them?  Cf. Joh 8:34-36.  Again, how do these things help us to understand the importance of faithfulness to God, not just in our relationship to Him, but in our relationship to others, and especially in our marriages, as an expression of our faithfulness to Him?  See 1Jo 4:20, Eph 6:1-9, Col 3:20-4:1, and cf. Mat 12:36-37.

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