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The importance of this topic cannot be overstated. We all know people who have been involved in some aspect of divorce and remarriage issues. It would be far preferable to determine our biblical convictions before we were under the emotional pressure of dealing with specific individuals and specific circumstances that hit close to home. But regardless, we have come upon the topic at this point in our study in Mark and must address it here.

Statistics: very disputed

1910 – 10% of US marriages ended in divorce

1948 – percent had grown to 25%

In the United States today, researchers estimate that 40%–50% of all first marriages, and 60% of second marriages, will end in divorce. [ these stats regarded as a myth by others] There are some well known factors that put people at higher risk for divorce: marrying at a very early age, less education and income, living together before marriage, a premarital pregnancy, no religious affiliation, coming from a divorced family, and feelings of insecurity. The most common reasons people give for their divorce are lack of commitment, too much arguing, infidelity, marrying too young, unrealistic expectations, lack of equality in the relationship, lack of preparation for marriage, and abuse.

How can civilization survive when the most basic unit of the society is so broken???

Now we are redefining gender and redefining the basic composition of marriage – no longer just between one man and one woman.

Then you have the great masses of young people that are rejecting or at least minimizing the institution of marriage altogether and just choosing to cohabit on a long term basis. They would look at today’s discussion as an antiquated argument.

– The divorce rate for a third marriage is 73%–When it comes to marriage, practice doesn’t make perfect. In fact, it only seems to make you worse. That’s why the divorce rate continues to get higher for each additional marriage. Nearly 3 out of every 4 adults who are on their third marriage end up divorced again.

– Christian couples have the same divorce rate as the national average—It seems there’s little truth to the saying “The family that prays together stays together.” Protestant Christian couples are just as likely to get divorced as their secular counterparts. In fact, Atheists have a much lower divorce rate than Christians. [but how do you define Christians?]

Approach: study through this text on its own; but it merits a much wider treatment on a topic level throughout the Scripture to make sure that our interpretation is consistent and holds up against the various objections that could be lodged (Matt. 19, 1 Cor. 7:15)

Then address the more complicated objections and case study issues that arise and pastoral implications of how to respond in a wide context of situations —

Value of study completed by H. Van Dyke Parunak

Today’s lesson will not fully satisfy you and is not intended to answer all your questions. But we will start with this simple teaching from Mark’s gospel. (gave you some homework to dig deeper)


A. (:1) Setting

1. Significance of the Geographical Region – confrontation between Herod and John the Baptist

“And rising up, He went from there to the region of Judea, and beyond the Jordan;”

Parunak: In the Gospels, the Jewish leaders often try to force the Lord into a position that will make enemies for him. They spring one of these traps as he travels from Galilee to Jerusalem just before his crucifixion. Several roads lead from Galilee in the northern part of Israel to Jerusalem in the center.

Both Galilee and Jerusalem are west of the Jordan River, so most routes stay on the west side of the Jordan. One very popular route, though, is east of the Jordan, through the territory of Perea. The Lord follows the eastern route on his last journey to Jerusalem (Matt. 19:1; Mark 10:1).

The ruler of Perea is Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist. Herod did not dislike John, and in fact rather enjoyed listening to him preach (Mark 6:20). But John spoke out against Antipas’ marriage to Herodias, whom he had seduced to divorce her first husband so that he could take her. John’s preaching convicted Herodias, and to silence the prophet, she persuaded Antipas to imprison John and later to execute him (Mark 6:17-28).

The Pharisees know that divorce is a sensitive subject in Perea. They also know that the Lord’s position on divorce, as presented in the Sermon on the Mount, is similar to John’s. When they find Christ in this region, they try to lure him into saying something about divorce that will enrage Herod’s wife, so that she will destroy him as she did John. Matthew and Mark record portions of the resulting conversation.

2. Switch back to Public Teaching Ministry

“and crowds gathered around Him again,”

3. Systematic Teaching

“and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.”.

B. (:2) Setup

1. Initiated by the Pharisees

“And some Pharisees came up to Him,”

Did not come to Jesus because they had a sincere interest in his teachings on this important subject.

They saw an opportunity to discredit the ministry of Jesus and put him at odds with the crowd.

Remember, he was quite popular at this point. The Pharisees were feeling insecure and had experienced numerous defeats in confrontations with Jesus.

2. Intended to Trap Jesus

“testing Him,”

Need to examine our heart motivation in studying this topic; is our intent to truly learn God’s heart on the matter of divorce?

If so … why would we not be satisfied with a simple OT declaration: “God hates divorce”

When would you want to commit yourself to a particular behavior that God clearly hates??

3. Involved Case Law in the Area of Divorce and Remarriage

“and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.”

What about this situation …. What about this situation …

You can’t really separate the two issues … if you are asking questions about the one topic (divorce), the answers have implications for the second topic (remarriage) – you must consider the two issues together

Remember the two camps represented at the time: both rabbis were near contempories of Jesus

School of Shammai – conservatives – interpreted the law more rigidly; no divorce except for the case of sexual immorality

School of Hillel – liberals – interpreted the law more loosely; divorce could be legitimate for almost any justification you could imagine; anything that embarrassed, disgraced, or even displeased her husband; the wife burned the toast; etc.

Both schools believed in the legitimacy of divorce – just under what conditions …. So this is really an abbreviated question … Pharisees were asking: is it lawful to divorce under any grounds other than immorality?

Voddie Baucham: camps in Christendom today

1) Permanence View — no divorce or remarriage under any circumstances – Boice, Pentecost, Piper, Voddie Baucham

2) Semi-Permanence – You may divorce but not remarry

3) Permissive View – allows for divorce and remarriage – MacArthur

– one clause view – adultery only

– two clause view – also abandonment of believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse

– liberal view – just about for any reason

Righteousness has to exceed that of Pharisees – but on this one Jesus would agree?? Makes no sense


A. (:3-5) What Did Moses Command?

1. (:3) Question Posed by Jesus

“And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’”

Jesus knows that their thinking will revert to the case study of Deut. 24 … but the thinking of Jesus goes back to what God had set up from creation – recorded by Moses in the early chapters of Genesis

2. (:4) Response Put Forth by the Pharisees

“And they said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’”

In their minds, Moses legitimized divorce – the only issue was under what circumstances was it allowed

James Edwards: a text of concession, not a text of intention. You do not learn to fly an airplane by following the instructions for making a crash landing; you will not be successful in war if you train by the rules for beating a retreat. The same is true of marriage and divorce.

3. (:5) Rebuttal Proclaimed by Jesus

“But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.’”

Your confusion and lack of understanding on this issue can be traced back to one fundamental problem = your hardness of heart

“this commandment” from Deut. 24 that you are referencing is not a command to divorce; you have not answered the question that I asked initially; it was a command prohibiting certain actions when you were confronted with a specific situation

Moses teaches that:

IF a couple is divorced,

and IF the wife remarries,

and IF that second union ends, whether by death or by divorce,

THEN the original couple may not remarry.

Parunak: That is, Moses knew that the people had hard hearts, and that they would stumble into divorce. He wrote Deut. 24:1-4 to tell people what to do when they find themselves in such a circumstance. But God never intended that man and wife should separate. Christ reminds the Pharisees that the same Moses who wrote Deut. 24:1-4 also recorded the institution of marriage in Genesis:

Piper: The remarkable thing about these four verses is that, while divorce is taken for granted, nevertheless the woman who is divorced becomes “defiled” by her remarriage (verse 4). It may well be that when the Pharisees asked Jesus if divorce was legitimate he based his negative answer not only on God’s intention expressed in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, but also on the implication of Deuteronomy 24:4 that remarriage after divorce defiles a person. In other words, there were ample clues in the Mosaic law that the divorce concession was on the basis of the hardness of man’s heart and really did not make divorce and remarriage legitimate.

Baucham: Initiating a divorce is never lawful — You are reading the case law wrong; Moses did not command a certificate of divorce to be given; Moses assumes the issue of the giving of the certificate; he is writing about the remarriage issue; putting restrictions on a practice that was rampant; he allowed that stuff to continue but not by way of commandment; never lawful to divorce your wife

Transition: Raise the bar … from asking what Moses commanded . . . to now revealing what God has commanded since creation began (Moses did not come on the scene until thousands of years later)

B. (:6-9) What Does God Command?

1. (:6) Origin of Gender

a. Time Stamped

“But from the beginning of creation,”

goes back way before the days of Moss

b. Two Mutually Exclusive Genders

“God made them male and female.”

This simple explanation of the origin of gender would solve a lot of controversial social problems today

You can’t go around saying today I identify as a female even though God made me with male parts … or vice versa

Is this too rigid and too harsh on God’s part? Locking each person in to a specific gender?

Not at all; the Creator knows what is best for His creatures; knows their very nature from even before the point of conception

2. (:7-8) Essence of Marriage

a. Creation of a New Household Unit

“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother,”

Edwards: a husband’s allegiance to his wife in the union of marriage surpasses his allegiance to father and mother

b. Creation of a New One Flesh Relationship

“and the two shall become one flesh;

consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Parunak: The Bible regards marriage as the only legitimate context for physical union between man and woman. Physical union, though, is not enough to make a couple man and wife before God. The Lord Jesus makes this clear to the woman at the well of Sychar when he tells her that the man with whom she is presently living is not her husband (John 4:18). In the next chapter, we will see that at least three things are true of unions that the Bible recognizes as marriage.

• The man and woman enter into a covenant or commitment to one another.

• They make this commitment in keeping with the standards of their society and culture.

• They unite physically.

Baucham: Wedding vows are permanence view vows – for better or worse – adultery covered here; until we are parted by death; next issue addressed in Sermon on the Mount is vows!

3. (:9) Defining Principle Prohibiting Divorce

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

The husband is not in control of the marriage – terminating it as he will; God is in control of the marriage union

Why no exceptions cited here?

Piper [cf. his position paper on his website – not the position of his church elders]: Before we jump to the conclusion that this absolute statement should be qualified in view of the exception clause (“except for unchastity”) mentioned in Matthew 19:9, we should seriously entertain the possibility that the exception clause in Matthew 19:9 should be understood in the light of the absolute statement of Matthew 19:6, (“let no man put asunder”) especially since the verses that follow this conversation with the Pharisees in Mark 10 do not contain any exception when they condemn remarriage.

What we studied last week about the Lesson on Saltiness was complicated; this by contrast is as simple a teaching as you can find in Mark’s Gospel

Parunak: The Pharisees see divorce as a right guaranteed by the Law, following the three law interpretation of Deuteronomy 24. The Lord says that it merely makes provision for man’s sin. He supports the interpretation of the entire paragraph as a single command.

If no divorce … then no remarriage apart from the death of the spouse – or else you have a situation of adultery


A. (:10) Clarification Needed

“And in the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again.”

The teaching of Jesus did not resolve the issue for the disciples. They needed further clarification and instruction.

B. (:11-12) Case Studies

1. (:11) Husband Divorcing a Wife

“And He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her;’”

Only 2 possible situations to address since marriage is between one man and one woman

Divorce does not end the marriage relationship in the eyes of God

2. (:12) Wife Divorcing a Husband

“and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is

committing adultery.”

Parunak: The disciples’ next question shows that they have always thought of divorce as a possible escape from a bad marriage. His disciples say to him,

“If the case of the man be so with the wife, it is not expedient to marry” (Matt. 19:10).

If there really is no escape from marriage other than death, then one had better remain unmarried. The disciples’ suggestion shows how strong they understand the Lord’s teaching to be. Some modern readers may try to find loopholes in the Lord’s words. To the disciples, who hear the teaching over and over and discuss it with the Lord, there are no loopholes.

The Lord’s answer to their comment certainly doesn’t add any, either. He said to them, “Not all receive this word, but those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him who is able to receive it, receive it” (Matt. 19:11-12).

Their analysis is correct, as far as it goes. He who can follow it, should. But the disciples need to realize that not everyone can live a godly life as a single person. Celibacy requires a special gift from God. Most people should marry—and marry with the understanding that only death can end their union.

What about objections like the desertion of an unbelieving spouse?? 1 Cor. 7:15

Believer is freed from the obligations of marriage … the cares of providing for that spouse .. but only death breaks the marriage bond and frees the individual to remarry.


  • Need to ask God to give us soft hearts on this issue … not hard hearts that are clouded by the messiness of sinful practices and sinful traditions.

  • Need to go back to the divine intention from creation – What is the essence of marriage?

  • Need to understand that God intends for marriage to be permanent until the death of a spouse.

  • Need to embrace this view of the permanence of marriage – regardless of the pressures from society around us.