This chapter is part eight of our continuing series on Set-Apart Communities, or also part three of our sub-series on adultery. While it is something that should not happen, we need to know how to properly deal with adultery when it does happen, and scripturally, this is done by utilizing what is called the Matthew 18 Process.
To review what we saw in the last section (part two), the modern-day concept of permanent divorce is not found in Scripture and Scripture does not support it. What we need to understand instead is, when a woman is born she is born under her father’s headship. And as such, she remains under her father’s headship unless and until she marries, which in legal terms is a transfer of her headship from her father to her husband. Once her headship transfers to her husband that is where it should remain until either her husband dies, or unless she remarries. And, ideally, remarrying is something she should not do as long as her husband lives.
Now, there are exceptions to this rule. I encourage everyone to read all about these exceptions, all of the ins and outs, and to study what is called “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage“. You can find that in either the Covenant Relationships collection or you can also find a video of that study on the Nazarene Israel YouTube channel. But I encourage everyone to learn all about this. Because while it is something that ideally should never happen, the reality is, if we are going to live in set-apart community, then it is a subject that has to be dealt with, especially if you are in leadership.
As we see in “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage” and to also review “Matthew 18 and Adultery, Part 2”, the modern-day concept of permanent divorce is a rabbinic invention which Yeshua was adamantly against, even though it has ironically found its way into the legal code of most western-Christian nations. Yeshua tells us in Matthew chapter 5, verse thirty-two that the only valid reason for a man to divorce his wife is when she is committing active physical adultery. That is one factor we need to take into account.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:32
32 “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”
Another factor that we need to understand is that Scripture tells us in many different ways how the adulterous wife is to be received back again (willingly, eagerly) by her husband and is to be forgiven completely, once she repents. And we know this is the case because this is the same pattern that Yahweh uses with His bride (the house of Israel, or the house of Ephraim).
For example, we can see this in Jeremiah chapter 3, verse eight and later in verse fourteen.
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 3:8
8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery [idolatry], I had put her away [i.e., divorced her] and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also” [by instituting the rabbinical order (I.e., making up man-made traditions and teachings of men that have nothing to do with what Yahweh says to do)].
[Yahweh Elohim said that He “divorced” the house of Ephraim. Yet afterwards, Yahweh says that He is “still married” to Ephraim.]
Clearly again, we see that Yahweh divorced the house of Israel (the house of Ephraim), put her away, and gave her a certificate of divorce, and yet we see six verses later (in verse 14) that Yahweh says He is still married to her.
Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 3:14
14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says Yahweh; “for I am [still] married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Tsion.”
Notice we just saw in verse eight how Yahweh says that He divorced the house of Israel (the house of Ephraim). And now in verse fourteen, He says He is still married to her. So clearly, we can see that Yahweh’s divorce of the house of Ephraim did not terminate the marriage. So, what we need to know here, as we explain in more details in “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage”, is that in Scripture, Yahweh uses the term divorce to mean something more like what we would call a legal separation today. Because divorce does not terminate the marriage.
So, people have a hard time understanding how this could be. How can a man not be able to separate from his wife permanently? Well, what we need to know is that what Yahweh has in mind is for men to form a fraternity, or a true brotherhood, with a code of honor and a code of duty. Men are supposed to have righteousness, they are supposed to do the right thing at the highest possible levels.
If we think about this logically, what is that highest possible level? The highest possible level is for men to hold one another accountable to Yahweh’s highest standards. And one of those highest standards is for a man to love his wife as he should ideally love his own daughter. And that is just because we are supposed to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. So, if a father would ideally like someone to love his daughter at least as much as he loves her, then when a man marries and takes a wife, he should ideally love this daughter at least as much as her father loves her. Ideally, more.
So, according to this code of honor, code of duty, and code of righteousness, the men of Israel should look out for everyone else’s family members. And when they take a wife and her headship transfers from the father to the husband, the husband is supposed to love the daughter at least as much as he would want his own daughter to be loved. And if we think about this, if the child has problems, there should never be a time when the father stops loving his daughter, even if the daughter runs away or abandons the father. So this should also be true if the wife runs away from the husband, or abandons the husband, or commits adultery against the husband. And we see witnesses to this all throughout Scripture.
For example, Yahweh tells the prophet Hosea to take an adulterous wife by the name of Gomer, and then of course by chapter three she has run off and she has sold herself into prostitution.
Hoshea (Hosea) 3:1
1 Then Yahweh said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of Yahweh for the children of [the northern house of] Israel, who look to other [false] elohim, and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
Yahweh is saying, ‘Yes, take an adulterous wife and love her, even though she sells herself into adultery. Even though she runs off, continue to love her.’ Because that is how Yahweh loves the house of Israel (the house of Ephraim).
What we need to understand in all this is that Yahweh only put His bride Ephraim away temporarily. Divorce was only a temporary measure, and it was always intended to get His bride Ephraim to turn back to Him. In other words, divorce (or legal separation) is a temporary time out for an adulterous bride, and even then, only when she is in active idolatry (an act of spiritual adultery). But Yahweh’s plan was always to receive His bride Israel (Ephraim) back as soon as she repents and turns back to Him. And that is also how the men of Nazarene Israel should be with their brides. With that understanding let us continue into part three of our sub-series on “Matthew 18 and Adultery”. And again, this is part 8 of our series on Set-Apart Communities.
One of the things that helps us to understand is that there is a big difference in the way sin is put outside the camp inside the land of Israel (under a cleansed Levitical priesthood) and outside the land of Israel (in the dispersion, under Yeshua’s Melchizedekian Order). Sin must always be put outside the camp because a little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump. If you allow a little bit of sin, this sin is going to increase and grow. And then, pretty soon it will no longer be a set-apart community, it will just be a community of the world. And we cannot allow that, Yah does not like or want that. But there is a big difference in the way we put sin outside the camp in land of Israel under the Levitical Order and outside the land of Israel under the Melchizedekian Order.
Inside the land of Israel, under the Levitical Order, sin is to be put outside the camp by literal stoning. For instance, someone who breaks the laws of sexual purity (as found in Leviticus 20 and other places) is to be put to death by stoning. One place that Yahweh tells us this in Leviticus chapter 20, verse ten.
Vayiqra (Leviticus) 20:10
10 “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.”
That works inside the land of Israel, under the Levitical Order with a cleansed Levitical priesthood, and at no other time.
In contrast, outside land of Israel, under the Melchizedekian Order, we are told to obey the governments which are appointed over us. And in general, the governments which are appointed over us prohibit us from stoning anyone for breaking Yahweh’s torah. And this condition has been given to us as a punishment for breaking Yahweh’s torah.
Yahweh is saying,
‘If you are not going to obey my whole torah, I am not going to let you obey any of it.’
So we are now presently in the dispersion as a punishment for having rejected Yahweh’s torah.
Now, there are some exceptions to this which are very important. I recommend that everyone learn about the details. Because we are in the end times, and we will see these kinds of situations. So I encourage everyone please to read “Obedience to Government version 2.0” for further details on the subject, it is found in Nazarene Scripture Studies volume 1.
But for example, in Romans chapter 13, the apostle tells us that every soul (meaning all of us) need to be subject to the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from Elohim.
Romim (Romans) 13:1-2
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from Elohim, and the authorities that exist are appointed by Elohim.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of Elohim, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
[For more details, please read “Obedience to Government v2.0”, in NSS volume 1.]
The authorities that exist are appointed by Elohim, which is very true. We can notice that Yahweh calls Nebuchadnezzar my servant. Yahweh is in charge. Even when it is an unrighteous government, it is Yahweh who has allowed the unrighteous government to come about for His ultimate purposes. So we need to breathe, pray, hear His voice, and submit to Yahweh’s spirit. Again, there are certain exceptions to submitting to the government, so I encourage everyone to please read “Obedience to Government Version 2.0” in Nazarene Scripture Studies Volume 1.
But there are several reasons why we do not stone in the dispersion. One reason is that most of us in this dispersion are not raised with the knowledge of Yahweh’s torah. We have not been trained up in the way that we should go so that when we are older we shall not depart from it. But a more important reason is that stoning someone for adultery is not going to allow for repentance. We are going to see that repentance is so very important to Yahweh. Yahweh is not seeking people’s deaths, Yahweh is seeking repentance. Yahweh is seeking His bride to turn back to Him, that is what Yahweh wants. That is why He grants His bride a divorce, is to give her time to repent. So Yahweh put Ephraim outside the land of Israel, gave her a certificate of divorce, and sent her out of His house and out of the land of Israel. And He put her in a very difficult spot to give her time, encouragement, and motivation to repent and turn back to Him. That is what Yahweh wants. He does not seek Ephraim’s death, He seeks Ephraim’s repentance.
So, therefore, if that is Yahweh’s example for us, then we also should not seek anyone’s death. But rather, we should seek their repentance. And so that is the purpose of the Matthew 18 Process. Whether in regard to adultery or whether in regard to any other sin, we are trying to set those who sin outside of our set-apart communities until such time as they repent and return back to Yahweh through Yeshua’s spirit.
So, we know that Yahweh grants Ephraim mercy and gives her time to repent, and that we should do the same thing. We see this also in James chapter 2.
Yaakov (James) 2:13
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
There are a lot of things we could say here. But briefly, our overall mission is to establish Yeshua’s ordered, righteous kingdom. And we need to extend mercy in such a way as Yeshua’s ordered, righteous kingdom is built and comes about. We need to extend mercy in a way that leads to people’s repentance and not extend mercy in anything that will not lead to building Yeshua’s kingdom. We see an example of this in First Corinthians, chapter 5, where the apostle or Paul tells us of a man in Corinth who was being sexually immoral with his father’s wife.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:1-2
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!
2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
This is a very clear-cut case of adultery, it is a very clear-cut case of sin, and it is absolutely prohibited. But notice that even though this was clearly a sin, rather than advocating stoning, Shaul (Paul) advocates shunning the sinner until such time as there is repentance.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 5:3-5
3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.
4 In the name of our Master Yeshua Messiah, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Master Yeshua Messiah,
5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Master Yeshua.
The purpose of the shunning is to get the sinner to repent, that is the whole purpose behind the shunning. Paul is rebuking the people for accepting the sin and for not putting the sin outside of the camp. He is saying ‘you have not mourned, that the leaven might be cast out from the lump, so as not to leaven the whole lump over time.’
There are some very important things here. Shaul is not saying to stone him. He is not saying to deliver such a one to destruction. That is not the point. He is saying to deliver such a one to the destruction of the flesh. Not for the purpose of destroying the flesh, but so that his soul might be saved in the judgment. The whole point of the Matthew 18 Process and the point of shunning is to bring the sinner to repentance. And if he will not repent, then to put him outside the camp.
One thing we notice about First Corinthians, chapter 5 is that all the elements of the Matthew 18 Process are still there. There is a specific process in which we talked about in earlier parts.
The first step is to go privately to the sinner and try to help them correct their sin in private. And that is very important. In Israel, the purpose of this is to protect someone’s name. Names and reputations are very important inside Israel. But if the sinner does not listen when someone goes to them privately, then the one needs to take one or two more witnesses, ideally elders or deacons in the assembly. And then if the one who sinned does not listen when to the additional witnesses, that is when the matter is to be brought before the assembly, in an orderly way as directed by the elders of the congregation. All of this is to protect the reputations.
At first glance, it may seem as if Shaul skipped the first two steps in First Corinthians, chapter five. But because the matter was already widely known by the whole congregation it was not necessary to handle the matter privately. So there was no reason to not take the judgment public in this example.
But now notice, in Second Corinthians, chapter 2, the man who had been sexually immoral with his father’s wife has at this point in time repented. And so now we read Paul addressing the congregation to let him back into the congregation, and then confirm their love toward him.
Qorintim Bet (2 Corinthians) 2:5-8
5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.
6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,
7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.
This is the same thing that Yahweh seeks with His bride Ephraim. He seeks that Ephraim should repent and turn back to Him and then, in turn, Yahweh will confirm His love toward His bride Ephraim.
Shaul is saying that the inflicted punishment (the shunning) is sufficient for such a man. Because we are not seeking the destruction of his flesh, we are seeking his repentance and he has repented now. So the punishment which was inflicted by the majority proved to be sufficient for such a man because he repented. Therefore, the congregation should forgive and comfort him so that he is not consumed with too much sorrow after he has already repented from his heart. The shunning had the desired result which was the repentance of the sinner. So once the sinner repents, fellowship can be restored. Just as Yahweh wants to restore Ephraim and call her back to His house after she repents.
And this is of course what we as Ephraimites want. We want for ourselves as a nation to repent, to turn back to Yahweh, and then (after we have repented) for Yahweh to reconfirm His love for us and let us back into His house. Meaning, He is going to let us back into the land of Israel. And when that day comes, Yahweh’s mercy will have triumphed over his righteous judgment. But notice, in order to reach that mercy we first have to apply Yahweh’s torah. We have to apply His righteous standards, His judgments, His laws, and His ordinances. And once we apply His statutes, His judgments, His ordinances, and His standards, then we end up with repentance on the part of the sinner. And that is when Yahweh’s mercy and favor can be applied.
If we do not do things just exactly that way then we end up with the church situation known as greasy grace which is also practiced a lot in Messianic Israel. Because they do not have true standards in the Messianic movement, they do not truly have order, structure, and authority. Therefore, they end up extending a lot of greasy grace where they give favor to the sinner before the sinner has had true teshuva (heartfelt repentance).
So to recap the Matthew 18 Process, when there is a matter of adultery, sexual immorality, or any sin, the first thing to do is to mention the sin privately to the sinner. And this gives an opportunity for repentance without having to destroy a person’s reputation publicly. But if there is not repentance on the part of the sinner, then the ideal is to take one or two witnesses, preferably elders or deacons from the community, people of stature in the community who can be listened to and heard. And then if the sinner still does not hear the elders or the deacons, then the elders should be the ones to make the matter known before the congregation. And if the sinner does not hear it even from the congregation, then as sad as it is, there is really no point in continuing fellowship. So the next step is to therefore shun the sinner, thus putting sin outside the camp.
Now, particularly in the Messianic movement, sometimes you will see that sinners do not even care about being shunned or put outside the camp. One of the things that is wrong with the Messianic movement is, in general, there are no standards or accountability. There is no Matthew 18 Process, per se. And things get so bad that in the Messianic movement that you even have leaders and teachers committing serial marriage and divorce. They get married and divorced, and married and divorced, and married and divorced. They teach that divorce is okay, and nobody cares about being shunned or being put outside the camp because there is not really any effect in the Messianic movement. There is no order, structure, purity, no possibility for them to establish set-apart communities. There is no accountability because they do not have Yahweh’s standards. So they are not truly set-apart from the world, whether they have a false-level of set apartness.
So you have Messianic leaders and teachers with Saturday Night Live tv shows. They get married and divorced and married and divorced. They teach all kinds of things, and they never stop selling their books and tapes, so they are teaching a lot of people the wrong standards and they are really going the wrong way. We need to Pray for those people and for their repentance.
It is really too bad in the Messianic movement. Because most of your Messianic do not truly understand that, in order to have a set-apart community, you need to have standards, and it is the set-apart community that is the body. If we are not part of that set-apart community, then really, we are still just another part of the world. And being put outside the camp (outside the set-apart community) is really the spiritual equivalent of being stoned to death. That is how Elohim looks at it. And it is really sad that so many Messianic do not understand the truth of these things.
Yeshua tells us a very important symbolism in John chapter 15.
Yochanan (John) 15:4-6
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
People need to understand just how this applies in the context of set-apart communities. Yeshua is talking about abiding Him in the set-apart community. He is saying that you cannot be a rogue branch and still bear fruit, He is talking about both spiritually and as part of a community. He is basically saying ‘I am the vine and you are the branches, he who abides in me both spiritually and as part of the community, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without me you can do nothing.’ Because if we are not part of His set-apart community then we are not helping to build Yeshua’s true ordered kingdom, we are not truly doing his will if we are not abiding in His spirit 24-7. And if we are not walking in his Spirit 24-7, then we are likely not part of a spiritual set-apart community.
Yeshua says that “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
In context, He is talking about the tribulation that is coming. Very important symbolism here. But again, most of your Messianic either do not know or do not care that the camp (the center part community) is the body, and the body needs to be kept pure. Because if there is no purity and you are going to allow leaven inside the lump, really there is no point. Because a little bit of leaven is going to leaven the whole lump, just as the Messianic movement has become leavened over time.
So, if you have someone that is sinning and not willing to listen to the Matthew 18 Process, then the sad fact is there really there is no point of having them inside the camp. That is, someone goes to the sinner privately, but if they do not listen, then one or two more witnesses (hopefully elders or at least deacons) also go and talk to the sinner but they do not listen, and then the elders and the deacons bring the matter before the assembly and the guilty party is not even willing to listen to the assembly, then the sinning person must be put outside the camp. Because if you are not going to help keep the camp pure then you are not helping to build Yeshua’s kingdom. Yeshua’s kingdom is pure, Yeshua’s coming for a pure bride without spot, wrinkle, and blemish. He means that in a very pure sort of a way.
So the standards are really high. Perfectly high is what He is looking for and this is something that can only be done through walking in Yeshua’s spirit continually and not quenching Yeshua’s spirit continually, and by us not setting up our own false standards, as in the Messianic movement.
So these all these things regarding Matthew 18 Process, particularly adultery in the Matthew 18 Process. These are some very difficult, heart-wrenching decisions that have to be made, and they have to be made by the servant leadership of the assembly. These are very difficult decisions and that is why in the next part of this series we are going to begin to talk about the selection requirements for congregational deacons and elders. Because, especially at the congregational deacon and elder level, you will be exposed to the Matthew 18 Process and more likely than not, you will be exposed to adultery and the Matthew 18 Process. It will be your job to walk it out in purity, in truth, and in love. So please join us again for the next section, which will be part nine of Set-Apart Communities, as we talk about the selection requirements, first for elders, and then also for deacons or congregational servants.