Marriage, By God's Design - Part 1

Today we will return to the record of the life and ministry of Jesus as told by Mark. We will be in Mark 10:1-12. And this passage of Scripture is Mark’s version of a lengthy discussion by Jesus on the issue of divorce. Divorce is an important topic, and one which God’s people need to understand the mind of God concerning.

And although divorce is the central, presenting issue, Jesus will actually spend most of his time reaffirming God’s original design for marriage. A proper understanding of divorce begins with a proper view of marriage. 

Divorce is a challenging subject because there are many viewpoints in the church concerning divorce, and divorce touches individuals and families very deeply. It isn’t a theoretical discussion, but one that is intensely personal and practical.

I found this study to be tremendously energizing. The reason is because I came to the place of confidence in how to think through these situations from God’s perspective. 

God accounts, in principle, for every situation we might face. And to know the mind of God produces such confidence and clarity and comfort because it gives us instructions on what pleases God, and what to do when we do something that is displeasing to Him.

Now, with the topic of divorce many questions come up. You may have situations that are unresolved in your mind. You have some thoughts, but you don’t know specifically how to process it according to Scripture.

Every person in this room has felt the impact of divorce. According to the Barna Group, a trusted research group, 1 in 4 adult Americans has been divorced, a full 25% of the adult population.

This is a pertinent topic. Perhaps right now as I’m speaking you have a situation with a family member, or a close friend, or maybe in your own personal history that you are lacking biblical clarity on. You have some thoughts about marriage, divorce and remarriage, but you aren’t confident. Situations that raise questions such as:

  • Is it ever okay to get a divorce, and if so under what circumstances?
  • Can a divorced person remarry, or is that perpetual adultery?
  • If remarriage after divorce is unbiblical, what does repentance look like? Does that mean getting another divorce to end the perpetual adultery?
  • Is a divorced man disqualified from being an elder?

Over this week and next, we will Lord willing open up the Scriptures and together gain a clear understanding of the principles to apply to these questions. Also, I would love to personally answer any specific questions that you may have later.

But for now, we are just going to walk through this passage and let it unfold for us. A heading for this passage that effectively sums it up is:

4 Points as Jesus Corrects a Corrupt View of Marriage (10:1-12)

Mark 10:1–12—1 Getting up, He went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them. 2 Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. 3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8and the two shall become on flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 10 In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

4 Points as Jesus Corrects a Corrupt View of Marriage (10:1-12).

  1. The critical setting for the lesson (1-2) setting the stage (the vital context)

In fact, if you are going to rightly interpret this passage, you have to get the setting correct. So, let’s understand this critical setting for the lesson:

(1) Getting up, 

Easy enough to understand. 

Back in Mark 9:35 we find Jesus sitting down, now He is getting up. Where was He sitting? According to 9:33, Jesus was at Peter’s house in Capernaum. He was sitting because that was the posture of a rabbi when teaching. It was in that house where He instructs the disciples on true discipleship and He challenges their self-significance and self-importance. 

This was a short stay in Jesus’ home base for ministry. Remember in 9:30, when He arrived He didn’t want anyone to see Him. Capernaum was just a pit stop as He traveled from the northern part of Israel down to Jerusalem. 

And so just like that He leaves…

He went from there to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan; 

Judea and beyond the Jordan refers to the boonies on the outskirts of the national boundaries to the south east. It is a place known as Perea.

Jesus hasn’t spent a great deal of time in Perea, but He was known in this region—it was also the previous stomping grounds of John the Baptist. So, the people here weren’t complete strangers to the itinerant preaching ministry. 

But Mark makes it sound like He made a beeline directly from Capernaum. But that wasn’t the case. As a matter of fact, five-and-a-half months have gone by between 10:1a and 10:1b. What has Jesus been up to for those almost six months?

Mark doesn’t record anything about it. Matthew doesn’t record anything about it. But Luke and John both do. John 7-11, and Luke 10-18:14 (nearly 30% of Luke’s Gospel). Over this time period Jesus has been to Jerusalem three times.

They would have largely known of Jesus and been very familiar with John and his ministry. Mark 3:8 lists Jordan as one of the regions from which a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.

And so as expected, Mark says…

crowds gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.

He is so consistent. According to His custom… the pattern of his ministry was teaching people. I get asked sometimes, “why do you emphasize teaching so much?” Well, it is certainly a mandate for the church throughout the New Testament, but it was also the pattern of our Lord. 

Everywhere we see Him, His priority—His custom—is to teach. People show up, and because He loves them, He begins speaking truth to them. Part way through the day, perhaps He stopped for a snack break or a bathroom break, and seizing the opportunity, v. 2—

(2) Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.

The Pharisees fit the bill of the scoffer in Proverbs. 

Proverbs 13:1—A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Proverbs 26:12—Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Proverbs 9:7-8—7 He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you.

A scoffer is calloused when someone brings a correction to them from the Scriptures. This is the opposite of a wise person who is soft and tender to Scriptural reproof.

The text says that these scoffers came not to learn, not to understand, not to see those around them edified, but testing Him. That was the motive. Mark breaks out of the narrative to give us a little editorial comment. As I’m telling the story, let me interject, they came testing Him.

For the Pharisees they are coming off a series of defeats and are licking their wounds from going toe-to-toe with Jesus and getting leveled repeatedly. It’s never been a relationship filled with warm-fuzzies, but things have hit an all-time low at this point.

In Luke 11:37-54, Jesus had a bad lunch meeting. He showed up to eat with a Pharisee and things went south after Jesus didn’t go through the ceremonial washing ritual before He ate. Things got confrontational and Jesus ends up pronouncing woes upon the Pharisees. It is raw, and intense.

So much so that a lawyer standing nearby says, hey what you are saying about them is insulting us too (v. 45). And Jesus says, “Woe to you lawyers as well!”

Luke 11:53–54—53 When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54 plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.

Jesus publicly warns people to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (in front of many thousands of people) in Luke 12:1-12.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells the parable we commonly refer to as the prodigal son, that indicted the older brother who didn’t love the father (in the story the older brother is Israel, the younger brother are the Gentiles, and the father is God the Father).

He confronts their love of money and says they are going to hell in Luke 16.

He compared them to tax collectors (low-life thugs) and said that a tax collector who prays is justified, while they are still in their sins, Luke 18:9-14.

John 7 the Pharisees try to arrest Him.

John 7:32—The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.

John 8 they try to stone Him for blasphemy.

John 8:56–59—58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

In John 9, there is a lengthy narrative when Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. 41 verses that portray the intensity of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. This man’s parents don’t even want to tell what happened because John says that at that time, if anyone said that Jesus was the Messiah, the Pharisees would kick them out of the synagogue.

That passage ends with Jesus saying, you guys are all blind. I’m here, and you can’t see it.

Then John 10 Jesus calls Himself the good Shepherd, and them hirelings, and then we see the intensity of the moments:

John 10:30-31—30 “I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.

John 10:37-42—37 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” 39 Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. 40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. 41 Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42 Many believed in Him there.

Why this is so important to establish is because it highlights that Jesus isn’t giving an exhaustive lesson on a comprehensive study of divorce, but rather responding to scoffers who are attempting to trap Him.

In other words, Jesus is going to give a basic principle, but there are many issues related to marriage and divorce that Jesus never speaks to. That’s why I said understanding the setting is so crucial. 

Careful interpretation requires us to recognize that this is not comprehensive nor exhaustive answering every question about divorce, but rather a distillation of the core principles to correct a primary erroneous view of the day.

But why this issue? And why frame it up this way? And how is it a test? Well we need to become historians for a few minutes and get our bearings on the prevailing views concerning marriage and divorce in the first century in Palestine, and then the rest of this makes sense.

In their day, as in ours divorce was a hot topic, and one that was controversial. You had then, as now, theological conservatives and theological liberals. Mark says the question was,

whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.

The answer to the question taken at face value is of course, it depends. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. But this isn’t an honest question.

See, Mark in typical fashion is economical in his words, plus he is writing to Gentiles who won’t appreciate the nuanced discussion taking place here. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, gives more detail, knowing his readers will understand the nuances of the argument. 

Matthew 19:3 records the rest of the question as …is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?

For any reason at all… 

The question then is, “what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce?” Under what conditions is it okay for man to leave his life? 

You had two main camps on the issue:

Camp #1—the Shammai: you can leave your wife and divorce her if she commits adultery with another man. This was restrictive and narrow. Said another way, unless your wife abandons the marriage by cheating on you and not repenting, then you stay married to her.

Camp #2—the Hillel: you can leave your wife and divorce her if she becomes displeasing to you.

The Hillel view was tragic and left women vulnerable in a patriarchal society. Rabbi Hillel gave examples for appropriate grounds for divorce, which included everything from a wife burning dinner, to having the wrong hairstyle, to embarrassing her husband, to being less attractive than another woman.

It was a wretched commentary on the depravity of the human heart. Absolutely offensive in the eyes of God. It was an unconscionable level of chauvinism and the mistreatment of women. Heart-breaking to think of how these men had twisted the purpose of marriage, and even used Scripture to attempt to validate their position as being acceptable to God.

You would find someone to marry… not thinking, “oh someday I will divorce her.” But rather,” she will make me happy” and then by and by you begin to find she doesn’t make you happy.

Not like today where single women can pursue a career or education.

Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote in his autobiography about his own divorces:

While he was a young man, Vespasian ordered him to marry a captive, yet she did not live with me long, but was divorced… however I married another wife at Alexandria. 

And then later in the same work says, “… I divorced my wife also, as not pleased with her behavior, though not till she had been the mother of three children… after this I married a wife who had lived at Crete.”

You tell me. Does that sound like a high-regard for the marriage covenant? Does that sound like men and women are given the same dignity and equality before God in a relationship? No. A low view of women and a low view of marriage.

This was the thought of the day. And although I’m sure there were godly people who didn’t have that perspective, even the disciples had been influenced by this thinking.

Listen to this. The corollary passage to this in Matthew’s Gospel at the end of the text after Jesus gets done saying that adultery is the exception, and all of these petty reasons are not reasons for a divorce, Matthew records.

Matthew 19:10–The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus, if you are saying that we don’t have an escape clause except if the marriage is destroyed (the implication is unrepentant adultery) then we would rather not even get into it at all.

And so, we begin to see why this was a test.

Like shoving a microphone in the face of a politician and asking them direct questions about immigration or gun control, you are forcing them to publicly choose a side in a politically-charged environment.

The majority view of the day was Hillel, the liberal view, the one taught and practiced by the Pharisees. You see the crafty scheme? Get Jesus to say that people are committing adultery due to invalid divorces and the tides of populism will shift.

Most Jewish men adopt this easy-come, easy-go, no-fault view of divorce. Now Jesus would look strict and out of touch, and narrow and restrictive.

They know his viewpoint. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 comes chronologically prior to this event. Jesus already went on record saying, 

Matthew 5:32—but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

That entire sermon was flipping the prevailing views of the day on their head. But I say to you (in direct contradiction to the lies you’ve been fed by the Pharisees).

The Pharisees weren’t dummies. They didn’t gain and maintain prominence without some shrewd maneuver. One more historical note that adds color the narrative. There was a power-couple who had an illegitimate divorce. Herod Antipas and Herodias ring a bell? The ones who killed John the Baptist, and for what reason? Mark 6:17 because Herod married his brother’s wife. It was a sinful divorce and remarriage.

The Pharisees and Herodians have been in cahoots already (3:6) and will be again (12:13) conspiring together to destroy Jesus. At one point in the last six months, the Pharisees even threatened Jesus about Herod intending to kill Him:

Luke 13:31—Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.”

There is a lot on the line right now in this answer. If Jesus sticks to his story from the Sermon on the Mount He is going to offend the people, and potentially provide ammunition to incite action on the part of Herod and Herodias. This is a high stakes, potentially very costly moment.

So how does Jesus deal with this? As always, He appeals to the truth.

4 Points as Jesus Corrects a Corrupt View of Marriage (10:1-12)

  1. The critical setting for the lesson (1-2)
  2. The common abuse of Scripture (3-4) looking for loopholes

(3) And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” 

Such a great question. What’s the Bible say? 

Matthew flips the order, with Jesus speaking first and then the Pharisees arguing. But we will take it the way Mark lays it out here.

Jesus answers their question with a question and says, “you tell me…” Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Genesis is history, but when you get to Exodus, God makes his covenant with Israel, and stipulations or rules of that covenant come in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 

Jesus says, what do learn about in these 5 books, roughly 125,000 words?

(4) They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 

Your translation of the Bible probably has part of that verse in small capital letters, indicating that each of those words is a direct quotation. They knew the Scriptures well and stood ready with a Bible verse for that question.

Let’s examine the text in its context. Turn back to Deuteronomy 24 with me. Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

Deuteronomy 24:1–3—1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

The key word indecency means literally: nakedness of a thing. This is what the rabbis spent all kinds of time debating concerning the meaning of. It wasn’t adultery because adultery was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:22-24).

Now you have had 30 seconds to take in this passage. According to this Moses is permitting a man to divorce his wife for an indecency. But is that what the Spirit of God was saying here through Moses? Absolutely not.

Moses is instructing what to do when a man divorces his wife. In other words, he is acknowledging divorce and allowing for it, but in no way encouraging it or speaking to the morality of it. 

The main of the passage is to prevent adulterous men from using divorce as a means of legalizing their sinful desires and avoiding the consequences. The marriage certificate would include a financial arrangement of support after the divorce.

The husband would be required to repay the dowry. Upon marriage, funds or property from the bride’s parents are given to the groom as a means of providing financial security. If the bride’s husband dies leaving her as a widow (or in this case divorces her) then the dowry is hers to protect her from becoming destitute.

But when Moses explains the divorce certificate, he isn’t condoning divorce, or talking about when it is okay. He is giving case law—a prescription on what to do when it happens.

Allow me to briefly illustrate this in our church context.

I once knew a man who was extorting money from individuals in the church by privately sharing with them a false story of financial hardship. He would get people to give significance resources that he was spending on an immoral lifestyle. 

So, let’s say we wrote a protocol for dealing with such situations and said: 

When someone extorts money from people in the church, and they want to repent, then they must pay restitution to the people they have defrauded, and publicly confess their sin for the protection and reconciliation to the body.

If we did that it would be an instruction to limit the exposure and damage of a sinful situation. It isn’t an explanation of how we view stewardship, or generosity or meeting needs within the body. 

Now imagine someone says what does Cornerstone Bible Church teach about finances, and someone says, “well they permit extortion.” See right here, they instruct about extortion. Do you see what is taking place with Deuteronomy 24?

Picture this. A young woman gets married to a young man. Some years in to the marriage the man divorces the woman, and provides her with a certificate. What is the point of the certificate? 

A way of leaving someone in a position where they were free to remarry? It gave the woman the ability to remarry, and it protected her dignity as much as possible. This was a patriarchal culture, and this protected the divorced women. 

So, the woman gets the certificate. Then she remarries, and her second husband dies or divorces her, again with a certificate. Her first husband is disallowed from remarrying her.

This provision assumes the practice of divorce and describes a right to which a wife is entitled: she is to be given a bill of divorce which authenticates her release from the marriage contract and affirms her right to remarry. The Mosaic provision was made for the contingency of divorce, but did not in itself determine whether that contingency was right or wrong. Its primary function was to provide a degree of protection for the woman who had been repudiated by her husband.

A divorced woman who didn’t have a career prior to marriage can be in a difficult spot financially in our country today. But our times are radically different. In the Ancient Near East, a divorced woman had few options for sustenance.

She was in a vulnerable spot. The point then, was to protect an unrighteous man from not only divorcing his wife, but leaving her destitute.

He that desires to be divorced from his wife for any cause whatsoever (and many such cases happen among men), let him in writing give assurance that he will never use her as his wife any more; for by this means she may be at liberty to marry another husband, although before this bill of divorce be given, she is not permitted so to do.

Moses just stated what to do when it happens, namely that you can’t divorce your wife and then remarry her after she marries and is divorced from someone else.

What happened here? For the Pharisees marriage wasn’t a love relationship between two equals for their mutual satisfaction and usefulness to God, but it was a contractual agreement that was to be entered into with a full knowledge of the loopholes. This was their main go-to passage for teaching about marriage.

Jesus didn’t say, what is the exception to marriage, but what did Moses command (implies positive instruction) look at v. 3. What did they respond with? The technical instruction for when a divorce is carried out.

In business when I was signing or writing contracts what was one question I always wanted answered: what are the ways out of this thing? They wanted an out-clause because they viewed marriage as existing for their personal fulfillment, and ready to be discarded when done.

How the Pharisees took this verse was a license for divorce. It served as a pretext for them to validate their desires. You know what’s so alarming about this?

This is a word-perfect quote from Moses. Moses is talking about marriage, they are quoting Moses here about marriage. 

Mark my words you can twist the Scripture to support the outcome you want.

2 Peter 3:16—as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

What’s our protection? A Spirit-enabled conviction that wants to hear from God through the pages of Scripture which results in a willingness to change positions as the text convinces you, and then applying a careful method of interpretation that uncovers the author’s original intent in writing.

You don’t outgrow this. As a leadership team we challenge each other in these things. What text is driving your position, is that the proper interpretation? Are you considering the broader context of the Bible in what you are holding to? 

We have to help each other and maintain that as our anchor-point. It’s a protection for the church. 

4 Points as Jesus Corrects a Corrupt View of Marriage (10:1-12)

  1. The critical setting for the lesson (1-2)
  2. The common abuse of Scripture (3-4)
  3. The careful affirmation of God’s design (5-9) teaching the text

Jesus starts off by stating that what Moses wrote wasn’t a commandment, but a concession. 

(5) But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

It was written due to an acknowledgment that there would be sin, and marriages would be destroyed, and by commanding how that should be done it would limit the cost to the wife.

In Deut. 24:1 divorce is tolerated, but not authorized or sanctioned. When Jesus affirmed that Moses framed the provision concerning the letter of dismissal out of regard to the people’s hardness of heart, he was using an established legal category of actions allowed out of consideration for wickedness or weakness. What is involved is the lesser of two evils, and, in this instance, a merciful concession for the sake of the woman.

Like a chapter in a manual on flying an airplane devoted to the safest method for crash landing, that doesn’t inform your general practice of learning to fly an airplane. This statement was planning for inevitable, but far from desirable situation.

Jesus is saying, “you quoted the verse word-perfect, but you don’t actually understand what it means and the purpose for which it was written.” Man, that’s scary!

And now Jesus will take the argument into a totally different realm. The Pharisees wanted to debate about the technicalities of where the line was on divorce, what are the exact rules of when you can and when you can’t? What are the loopholes?

Jesus is operating from a totally different approach. Let’s talk about marriage! His original question was an opportunity to quote where Moses explains God’s design, purpose and intention for marriage. This is the necessary starting point.

So, Jesus goes back to Genesis 2, to quote… Moses.

(6) “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 

Male and female just one of each. Marriage then, by design is one man and one woman for life. Gets rid of polygamy, gets rid of homosexuality, gets rid of extra-marital relationships, and it gets rid of fornication (sexual activity outside of marriage). This was from the beginning of creation. It was by original design.

An argument will be made sometimes that Jesus never addressed the issue of homosexuality so it wasn’t something that was important to Him. Since He never spoke about it, it means that He would affirm homosexuality.

There are two flaws with that argument. First, Jesus didn’t address homosexuality directly because that wasn’t a sin that was commonly practiced in Israel. Of course, there were many areas of spiritual blindness and corrupt religion that He addressed, but that wasn’t an issue of the day.

Second, and most importantly. By affirming that God made male and female, two genders, and then going on to describe their exclusive monogamous union, and then in short order calling all sexual activity outside of that union sin, Jesus has covered the bases of any and all deviations from that standard.

Jesus explains what He is for, and what is acceptable. That takes care of all the aberrations. Next He goes on to 

(7) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 

This marital relationship takes priority over all other relationships. Closest relationship growing up is parent-child, and then that gets superseded by husband-wife. Upon marriage a new family is formed. People say, when are you going to start a family? Uh, we already did when we got married. Kids don’t make a family, the marriage constitutes a new family unit.

(8) and the two shall become on flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Commonly referred to as the mingling of souls. Two people, complementing one another’s strengths and weaknesses. The woman designed to help the man, and the man designed to lead the woman. 

Sin separates, but the goal here is the joining of two souls. In the original it had the idea of gluing together or sticking together. One goal, one intention, one direction, a sharing of life that it is no longer his and hers, but ours. 

Sometimes someone will say, when I got married so much changed from when I was single. That’s the point. That’s the design.

(9) “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

So, now Jesus gives authoritative teaching, which is the natural implication of a theology of marriage. God is the one who did this, now don’t you attempt to undo it.

In the minds of the Jewish rabbis, do you know who controlled the marriage? 

The man. 

A woman was essentially at the mercy of her father, or husband with few rights of her own to speak of. Jesus is saying the husband isn’t the lord of the marriage, God is the lord of the marriage.

The debates the Pharisees were having about divorce were the consequence of a bad theology of marriage. They failed to understand the wonder and weight of God’s design. They had an earthy, easy-come-easy-go, if it suits me great, and if it doesn’t great, mentality.

Well this shouldn’t have been revolution, but it was. And what Jesus said it a lot to digest for these hearers. They are accustomed to no-fault divorce. 

Jesus isn’t elevating marriage above the calling to singleness, but rather elevating God’s design of marriage over the one which is most commonly held by society.

Marriage is a high calling. So is singleness. Both have their distinct set of blessings and challenges. Singleness provides you a level of personal freedom and ability to pursue the Lord and knowing and serving Him that is unique to singleness. Marriage provides companionship and a teammate who helps to round you out and make you more effective in life.

The heart of adultery and the heart of divorce is a self-centered view of marriage. That doesn’t mean that marriage is the miserable death of self. It is a great blessing. But selfish single people that get married turn into selfish married people. Discontent single people turn into discontent spouses.

Every spouse in the room has given cause for offense to the other spouse. Some you are fickle in your love. Others withhold affection. Some struggle with stability and consistency—you are all over the map either undisciplined in your lifestyle or maybe in your emotions. Some of you are disrespectful or unforgiving. 

Men who are passive and don’t lead spiritually. Women who are complaining and negative. Men who are impure and lack godly character. Women who are un-submissive and want control. Men who don’t provide. Women who neglect their God-given priorities for selfish ones.

We are sinful people. And do you see how many grounds we could find for divorcing one another if the point was to break the covenant relationship over sin? Every spouse has given ample grounds to the other.

But God is honored, when two sinners, maintain a commitment to one another, and love one another weaknesses and all. Divorce is always the result of sin. Not always equal in terms of responsibility with both parties. But it is always the result of sin.

Marriages end because one or both partners come to determine that their happiness is most important, and they would be happier alone or with someone else. It is an idolatrous view of marriage that says, “what’s in it for me?” “How does this marriage accomplish what I want to get out of life?” Then when there are unmet expectations, you consider it a clear sign that it is time to jump ship on the relationship. 

God’s design, for believers and unbelievers is that the joining of two souls in covenant would remain unbroken until death. Let no man separate.

So, with that being established, it is time to apply it to divorce.

4 Points as Jesus Corrects a Corrupt View of Marriage (10:1-12)

  1. The critical setting for the lesson (1-2)
  2. The common abuse of Scripture (3-4)
  3. The careful affirmation of God’s design (5-9)
  4. The concluding application (10-12) developing the doctrine

(10) In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 

The details of the passage just provide such joy to my heart. Here’s Jesus from the stress of a public altercation, a public trap. He’s in the limelight, he’s teaching. This is a tiring day. He gets home ready for whatever would have been a refreshing beverage and appetizer.

And the disciples begin questioning Him again.

Ministry takes place, even at the end of the day when you’re tired. I hope that’s an encouragement to you. When the work of the day is over, there is still time to minister to others.

Well, having exposed the wrong thinking about divorce and marriage, and having explained a proper understanding of marriage, Jesus is now going to apply the teaching to divorce.

And so, Jesus explains:

(11) And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”

There is so much Jesus says in these two verse. He is again challenging a commonly held viewpoint of the day.

All of that for next time. We are going to pick up with these verses next time. But I will leave you with the conclusion today.

God wants His people to stay married, that’s his design. But He allows for divorce under two circumstances. There are two exceptions: adultery and desertion. When one spouse deserts the other, or commits unrepentant adultery, the marriage covenant is destroyed.

Sexual immorality is a betrayal of the sexual faithfulness and exclusivity that are expected of the marriage partners; desertion is an abdication of the mutual physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual support that is pledged to one another as covenant partners (cf. Exod. 21:10-11; 1 Cor. 7:3-5; Eph. 5:25-32). 

Now you have an individual who can no longer maintain their marital vows. And in that situation, God permits them both to divorce and to remarry. Whether or not someone can remarry is based upon what took place in the divorce. 

If it was a biblical divorce, then a believer is encouraged to remarry in the Lord if that’s their desire. If it was an unbiblical divorce and there is an opportunity to reconcile, then believers are encouraged to do that.

We will study this thing out together next week, Lord willing. I’m not going to assert these viewpoints without demonstrating them from Scripture. But I didn’t want to leave you hanging without the conclusion in a nutshell.

Most people don’t get married with the hope that one day their marriage will end in divorce, or even the expectation that it will. 25% of adults in the United States have been divorced, many of them multiple times. Jesus Christ is the greatest champion of God’s will. He loves to promote God’s plan and purpose. And so here, he is extoling God’s view of marriage.

The apostle Paul is clear that in particular Christian marriage reflects the covenantal, love-relationship of Christ and his bride, the church. Of course, every husband in the room is a pretty dim reflection compared to the Lord Jesus Christ and his love for us.

These are important reminders for us to come back to ground zero as it were. Jesus went all the way back to Genesis as the starting point. It’s so good to regain God’s design in marriage.