A Question about Divorce

By Joe Boot/ January 29, 2017

Series  Mark: The King and His Kingdom

Context  Westminster Chapel Toronto

Topic  Marriage

Scripture  Mark 10:1-12

Marriage is rooted in God's creation norms; in a world tainted by sin Jesus calls us to be faithful in marriage, persevering through challenges.

Scripture: Mark 10:1-12; Matt. 19:1-12

Sermon Notes:

  1. Marriage is subject to God’s norms, but it is also subject to the failures of sin. Divorce was part of the social milieu in Jesus’ day.
  2. Marriage and divorce is not an easy topic; the parallel passage in Matt. 19:1-12 provides further insights.
  3. No-fault divorce is about pleasing one’s self, when your spouse doesn’t please you. Jesus calls us to be faithful in marriage, persevering through challenges.
  4. Divorce is a major cause of stumbling for children who witness warfare between their parents.
  5. The context of this passage is a complex question, and the Pharisees ask it with the intent of discrediting Jesus.
  6. Jesus roots marriage norms in God`s creation ordinance. Because of sin, we violate the norms of creation.
  7. In the creation of mankind as male and female, each one is made for the other in the unique and lasting attachment of marriage. Jesus appeals to Gen. 2:24 and 1:27 as the original creation ordinance.
  8. The normative command of God is to seek marriage in its blessing and fruitfulness. A specific call to celibacy is an exception to the norm (cf. Matt. 19:12).
  9.  Marriage is a community of moral love between husband and wife in an organic sexual bond while both still live.
  10. While marriage can have political, financial, legal or procreative aspects, none of these are essential to marriage.
  11. Marriage finds its particular character in the sexual relationship. There is no such thing as celibate marriage.
  12. Many in the early church followed platonic philosophy in viewing even marital sexuality as sinful. Many rationalists saw marriage as utilitarian, and downgraded the importance of marital pleasure. Even Christians like John Wesley and George Whitefield fell into this error.
  13. Any two sinful people will face difficulties in marriage which must be worked through. If sins are left unaddressed then marriage relations can become cold.
  14. The Pharisees tested Jesus by asking whether divorce was lawful for any reason (cf. Matt. 19:3). The Pharisees hoped to show that Jesus was a violator of God`s law while they themselves were upholding it.
  15. Jesus shows that He is the one confirming and upholding the true intent of God’s law (cf. Matt. 5:17-23).
  16. It is a profoundly mislead perfectionist legalism which would require a criminally abused spouse to stay in the marriage. Jesus’ teaching on marriage does not require this.
  17. The disciples of Hillel and Shammai disputed over the legal grounds for certificates of divorce, based on Deut. 24:1-4, which forbids remarrying a divorced and remarried woman.
  18. There were two schools of thought on this issue. The disciples of Shammai held that sexual immorality was grounds for divorce in Deut. 24; Hillel held that there were additional grounds for divorce if the wife merely failed to find favour (i.e., “any cause”).
  19. The school of Shammai saw unfaithfulness, as well as neglect or abuse, as grounds for divorce; a wife could go free if neglected (Ex. 21:10-11).
  20. In this passage we see that polygamy was tolerated, but that it was a violation of the creation norm.
  21. With the entrance of sin, provision is made for divorce as a last resort in the case of irreconcilable marriage covenant violations.
  22. Jesus teaches the seriousness of marriage, rejecting “any cause” divorce and our modern “no-fault” divorce.
  23. Most of the families Jesus interacted with would have been touched by divorce in some way.
  24. Jesus’ answer doesn`t mean there are no other grounds for divorce; neither Jesus nor Paul abrogate the law of God.
  25. Those who are antinomian end up as Pharisees because they end up putting their ideas and traditions in the place of God’s laws.
  26. Sexual relations are a marital obligation, and in 1 Cor. 7:15 Paul cites abandonment as grounds for divorce.
  27. Marriage is a moral sexual bond; adultery is a ground for divorce.
  28. In a biblically invalid divorce, the innocent victim is free to remarry if reconciliation is not possible. Divorced Christians may be guilty of technical adultery in their past, and yet they are now obligated to be faithful in their new marriage.
  29. In failed situations, divorce and remarriage is not the unforgivable sin. Reconciliation is not a permanent injunction; if the marriage is irreconcilable, then with pastoral counsel remarriage may be evaluated.
  30. If we are the innocent victim of abandonment, we are free to remarry. If a covenant is violated, we are free.

Application Questions:

  1. What characteristics are essential to biblical marriage?
  2. Identify God’s secondary purposes for marriage.
  3. What are some common threats to biblical marriage?
  4. What are the implications of Jesus’ teaching for the church and for society at large today?