What is an overview of doctrinal statements made by Christian theologians regarding Jesus' statements in Luke 18:

Luke 18:29-30 ESV And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

I'm especially interested to know how one can leave his wife for the Kingdom of God when Paul tells us to love our wives the way Christ loved the church.

Ephesians 5:25-28 ESV Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Jesus made it clear at his ascension that he would never leave his church.

Matthew 28:20b ESV ...And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

  • Are you taking "who has left wife" to mean divorce, or leave her for a season to serve the Lord? The latter seems obvious to me. – Steve Oct 12 '15 at 13:23
  • @Steve I don't know how I'm supposed to take it, but your latter example is what would make sense to me as well. Still confusing, though. – LCIII Oct 12 '15 at 13:24
  • Are you asking how a person can leave his wife, or are you asking what Jesus meant when he said this (which may be--and I believe likely are--different things, in that Jesus was likely speaking in hyperbole and/or metaphor). – Flimzy Oct 13 '15 at 6:08
  • Despite asking for an overview, none of the answers have really done that. A question like this would really be better off at the Biblical Hermeneutics site. – curiousdannii Sep 19 '19 at 11:18

How does one “leave his wife” for the Kingdom of God?

Luke 18:28-30 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

In context, Peter was making his statement in contrast to the statement by Jesus that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom. After which the disciples asked, who then could be saved, to which Jesus replied that what was impossible with man was possible for God. It is at this point that Peter remarks about their having left all for Jesus.

We see in context that “house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children” are equated with the power of riches to keep the heart of someone from following Jesus.

Another example of this is seen earlier in Luke;

Luke 14:15-27 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

In this context Jesus uses the apparently pious statement of a man regarding the kingdom as an opportunity to illustrate that entry into the kingdom was not as automatic as many supposed.

Here we see the illustration that our interest in Jesus has to be more than cursory. If we value family or even our own life more, we fall short of being a disciple.

It is this totality of self that is to be given to Jesus. The “leaving” of a wife is not a physical departure, but the insertion of Jesus as being of greater importance.

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  • I really like the content of this answer, but I can't upvote it because it doesn't actually provide what the OP asked for, which is "an overview of doctrinal statements made by Christian theologians" on the subject. – ThaddeusB Oct 13 '15 at 1:07

I generally like timf's answer. However, I would also add that "leaving one's wife" could also be the equivalent of not getting married. For instance:

"And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.'

The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.' But he said to them, 'Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it'" (Matthew 19:9-12).

Why would one not get married? I think there are 3 good reasons:

  1. If one is born a eunuch or made a eunuch by men (as above). This could perhaps include people who are more towards the asexual side?
  2. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7: to not be distracted by worldly concerns for the sake of one's spouse, in order to be fully focused on matters of the kingdom. It's also worth pointing out that this goes for both genders, as likely most things discussed here do.
  3. If there are no good women (or men) to marry. For one reason or another, one may not be able to find a godly spouse that's suitable and complimentary to them. Some would and have compromised themselves, perhaps even to destruction (over time), for the sake of obtaining a spouse who is not godly. This is not to suggest that everyone married to an unbeliever or a not-so-godly Christian is doomed to destruction or compromise, but it would be hard to argue that such a marriage would not at the very least negatively affect their kingdom focus and work. Thus, "leaving" one's spouse by not getting married in the first place, will be rewarded greatly.

Two other interesting thoughts, while we're on this subject:

  • Being married to someone that is unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14) will surely have some affect on one's kids and how they are raised, no? This is part of the answer and also related perhaps to being an elder of a church in the future, one of the qualifications for that being managing one's own household well (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5; Proverbs 22:6).
  • Could the original passage in Luke 18 perhaps be interpreted as a promise that if one refrains from marrying improperly - and if they are to ever get married - then they will receive a better prospect to marry in the future? That would certainly yield a very interesting understanding of the search for love... (To those who would say, "What about people that never married?" I would point out that they were able to refrain from marriage, despite whatever turmoil they endured.)
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One interpretation is that Jesus is speaking to those who are called to preach the gospel. In this case the “left” is in the temporary sense (as in the song “Leaving on a jet plane”). This view is supported by Peter’s statement in verse 28 and in the parallel passages of Matt 19:27 and Mark 10:28. The disciples “left everything while they followed Jesus, and they took nothing with them when they went to proclaim the gospel (Lk 9:3). In this sense Jesus is promising rewards to those who leave comfort of hearth and home behind to proclaim the gospel for a season (or all of) this earthly life.

Another is the sense of someone who was married as a non-believer to a non-believer, but then later puts their trust in Christ. This is also a plausible scenario, since Jesus is talking to the crowds, and just starting his church. Not everyone who heard him believed, and sometimes spouses disagree. Paul addresses this scenario in 1Co 7:10-16 (ESV):

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Paul’s writings say that in this scenario, the married believer should not seek divorce, but allow it if their unbelieving spouse wanted one. This was a very real problem in those days because the gospel was advancing so fast, but it was so divisive (Matt 10:34-39). Since Christianity was illegal at that time and the church was being persecuted, those non-believing spouses might want to disassociate from the believer to avoid becoming persecuted themselves. If the believer is this divorced from their spouse, Jesus is making great promises to those who feel broken because they have been disowned by their (former) loving families—they are coming to the perfect loving arms of the Father and Son, from whom they cannot be torn away and who will never leave them or forsake them.

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