Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

An Exegesis of Luke 18:28-30

This section of scripture in Luke 18 recounts a conversation recorded by the physician between Jesus and his disciples. The exchange is also recorded by Matthew (chapter 19), and Mark (chapter 10).

The conversation immediately followed Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man desiring to know, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life” (vs. 18). When Jesus revealed his covetousness (putting his riches before service to God), the young man went away sorrowful. Jesus told his disciples that it was extremely difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, but “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (vs. 27). What is obviously established in this teaching is that nothing can come before God in our lives. This elicited a response from Peter contained in the text under consideration:

“Then Peter said, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (Luke 18:28-30).

The parallel account in Matthew includes in Peter’s statement a question, “Therefore what shall we have?” Though not included in Mark or Luke’s accounts, it is obviously implied in Jesus’ answer to Peter.

Important to an understanding of Jesus’ statement in verses 29-30 is Peter’s statement made in verse 28. Jesus’ teaching was in response to that statement. Peter said that, “we have left all and followed you.” Jesus did not deny Peter’s statement, rather using it as a means of establishing the necessity and profitability of putting God first in your life. Both Peter and our Lord, in acknowledging that the disciples had left “all”, were referencing their leaving behind their homes, jobs, families, leisure and social life, in following the Master. Remember the scribe in Matthew 8:19 who proclaimed a willingness to follow Jesus wherever he went. In answer, Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (vs. 20). Service to Jesus is a life of sacrifice, and we must all put Him first in our lives. As Peter noted, the apostles had done this.

An Issue

It has been asked if this text gives scriptural justification for divorce. In effect, if it is necessary for me to do so in order to put God first in my life, may I divorce my spouse? This reasoning is in response to Jesus blessing a “leave” -ing of a wife “for the sake of the kingdom of God.”

At least two points would seem to mitigate against such an interpretation.

First, Peter didn’t. You will note that whatever the “leaving” of verse 29 is, it is something that Peter had done. He stated in verse 28, “See, we have left all and followed you.” Those who are familiar with the life of Peter are aware of the fact that Peter had a wife. Paul referred to that fact when emphasizing his own rights as an apostle of the Lord. “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5). You may also remember that Jesus healed the mother of Peter’s wife (Matthew 8:14-15).

What becomes obvious from this is that Peter sometimes in his work as an apostle had his wife “along”, and during Christ’s ministry was on occasion at his own home, where his wife and his wife’s mother were found. And yet, Peter “left all” to follow Jesus. As we noted, the significance of the phrase has reference to the priorities of life, putting God first.

Second, as divorce is considered by God to be sinful, such an interpretation gives an unstated exception to God’s law on marriage. We have long stated that marriage is designed by God to be “One man, one woman, for a lifetime with one exception.” Such would not be true, as here is another unstated exception to God’s rule on marriage, if it be so that Luke 18 allows for divorce “for the kingdom of God’s sake.”

Further, if divorce is allowed, then why not abandonment of children? The same verse that mentions leaving “wife” says leaving “children.” We know that abandonment of children is sinful, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he had denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

What about leaving parents? Jesus condemned the Pharisees for designating funds to be used to support parents as “Corban” (cf. Mark 7:11). But, if it is necessary to set aside your obligations to your parents for the sake of the kingdom of God?…

Of course, the Mormons claim a similar thing with their doctrine of mental reservation. It is a sin to lie, but if that lie is for the benefit of the kingdom, it is acceptable. We have long condemned such a doctrine as moral relativism, and unscriptural, but the argument seems parallel to those who would allow for divorce based upon the text of Luke 18.

It seems dangerous to take a text which says nothing of divorce, and use it to justify divorce when the Bible clearly teaches but one exception to the marriage law (cf. Matthew 19:1-9). The argument is not valid!