What did the Lord Jesus Christ teach about marriage, divorce, and re-marriage? This post is a sermon on a foundational passage in the Gospel of Mark about this topic.

Mark 10:1–12 says,

1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. 2 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

This passage treats of a very delicate and difficult matter. Verse two says the Pharisees asked the Lord about divorce, “tempting him”—that is, to put him to the test. Divorce and remarriage was highly controversial in Jesus’ day, so much so that the Pharisees hoped they could ensnare Jesus in his own words and accuse him to his demise merely by asking him about it. After 2,000 years, the controversy has not mitigated.

We have more light than they did, for in addition to the Old Testament we also have the New Testament’s teachings on divorce and remarriage. But even with the greater clarity provided for the church on this topic, the controversy has by no means calmed. If anything, it has all the more increased as applicable cases abound.

Scarcely can a minister address this topic from the pulpit without perking up people’s interest due to the fact that they have personal, vested interest in it. Even as I approach it at this moment, thoughts probably abound in your minds, such as: “Will the pastor’s view accord with my own?” “Maybe his position will be too strict: Will he say something that unduly condemns or criticizes the marital abnormalities that characterize my personal experience or the experience of my extended family or friends?” “Will he overreach the due application of Christ’s teaching and harmfully brand the innocent as guilty?” “Or maybe he will be too lax: Will he teach something that compromises the standard of God’s Word and give false affirmation to those who have sinned?”

These are all important questions. To unjustly acquit the guilty or to unnecessarily condemn the righteous are both offensive to God (Prov. 17:15). May the Lord mercifully spare us all from either of these errors. As for me, if I unintentionally commit some mistake in my approach to this text, I pray you may be both merciful and patient with me, dear church, allowing the common Christian charity that dwells between us to override any potential discord that a disagreement could occasion. Remember: we are all seeking to honor our consciences as we would have them to be informed and persuaded by the Word of God.

Let us remember the exhortation of Colossians 3:12–13 in all our dealings with one another: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” And if any of our brethren have suffered through the terrible sorrows caused by the dissolution of the marriage bond and may have incurred some measure of guilt in the process, let us remember that charity and humility must govern the totality of our interaction with them, according to Galatians 6:1–2, which says: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” If that is you, dear brother or sister, know that I have been commissioned by the King to preach the Word with all authority, even if it exposes past sins or hurts; but know that it is not my intention to reinjure old wounds and cause your soul to bleed. My heart is to hold out the gospel balm that may help you heal—not as having dominion over your faith, but as a helper of your joy, that you may stand by faith (2 Cor. 1:24).

One more clarification is necessary before we begin our exposition proper: this passage does not purport to offer the whole of our Lord’s teaching concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Because of this, it is not adequate, in itself, for constructing a full-orbed biblical ethic about this topic. We must not overprioritize this one passage alone in our ascertaining of the biblical position, as some have unhelpfully done. Mark 10 is the Word of God, but so is the rest of Scripture; so to have a well-balanced understanding of the whole will of God, it is important to study the whole counsel of God and to harmonize all of the biblical testimony in conjunction. To do that would be well beyond the scope of our present limitations as we seek to expound this one text. That being said, it is probable that this brief sermon will leave many important questions unanswered. If that is the case with you, I would be happy to recommend some helpful resources for your private study if you approach me after the service.

As we approach our text, our outline is as follows: (I) verses 1–5 gives us an accommodated concession; (II) Verses 6–9 specify an original ordinance; (III) and in verses 10–12, we have an authoritative clarification.

I.     An Accommodated Concession (vv. 1–5)

We are told that the scene of this interaction between our Lord and the Pharisees was when “he arose from thence and cometh into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of the Jordan.” The Lord bid his final farewell to the hill of country of Galilee—specifically from Capernaum—and resolutely headed south toward Jerusalem. The movement described in this verse is the same as that described in Luke’s Gospel, when it says, “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). He was marching as a lamb to the slaughter. The Lamb of God was born to die! And he knew it. Soon he would be slaughtered for sins not his own. As the Lord contemplated his arrival to Jerusalem, the dark clouds of Golgotha began to cast their ominous shadow over his brow, even as he continues to teach with all patience. So, dear believer, know that he may sternly condemn unlawful divorce, but he is also about to mercifully die to make satisfaction for the sins that are associated with it.

In the midst of this movement, verse 2 says, “the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.” The Pharisees frequently sought to trip the Lord up in his words, that they might use his own words against him to condemn him. This was a particularly dastardly question to ask in front of the multitude. It was a real theological quandary and no doubt, many among the crowds wanted to know what Jesus would say. How would he answer?

The question was not whether divorce was permissible at all. All the Jews agreed that it was sometimes permissible.[1] And with the question of permissible divorce comes, by implication, the question of remarriage. If divorce is permissible, remarriage would also be. So, the question of the Pharisees is: ‘What constitutes the lawful grounds for divorce that makes remarriage justifiable?’ This is confirmed in the parallel account in Matthew 19:3, where the question is whether divorce is permissible “for every cause.” That is the issue.

This was a difficult question. It would seem that no matter how the Lord would answer, his teaching could land him in a mortal snare. If he answered along the lines of a conservative rabbinical position, he could entangle himself into an altercation with Herod Antipa who had taken his brother’s wife—the same Herod who beheaded John the Baptist because the prophet denounced his second marriage as unlawful! If Jesus, on the other hand, took too lax of a position, the Pharisees could accuse the Judean Rabbi of abrogating the law of Moses.

The Pharisees themselves were divided on this. There were the two predominant positions among the Jews at this time, each corresponding to a prominent rabbi’s teaching. One commentator explains, “The more conservative school, that of Shammai, stated that the only justifiable ground for divorce was adultery. The school of Hillel taught that any displeasure with a wife—including her cooking or her looks—justified a husband’s seeking a divorce.”[2] If Jesus sided with Shammai, these Pharisees could pit the followers of Hillel against him. If he sided with Hillel, the followers of Shammai could be turned against him.

So, Jesus’ answer could have political ramifications and theological ramifications, and any one of these could have landed him in trouble. But Jesus responded with wisdom that transcends that of mere mortals. We read verses 3–5: “And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” Here is Jesus, the new Moses, giving the definitive interpretation of the much-debated passage in the Law to which the Pharisees here refer. And his interpretation is a rebuke to the Pharisees.

Deuteronomy 24:1–2 is the text in question. It says, “When a a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.” The majority of Pharisees sided with Rabbi Hillel. According to him, the “uncleanness” as the grounds for divorce is basically anything that causes the husband to be displeased with his wife. They wanted easy divorce. In all their legalism they were hypocrites, and in the name of honoring the law, they broke it. But they were very well studied. No matter how Jesus would answer, they were ready to employ the best arguments to demonstrate publicly that Jesus was ignorant at best and a lawbreaker at worst.

But Jesus teaches that this passage from Deuteronomy was not a positive prescription for healthy conduct but an adaptive concession due to the prevalence of human sin. “For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” In other words, Moses said this not as a commanded ideal but as an accommodated concession. By this we mean that Moses’ instruction on this does not represent God’s perfect plan but is accommodated to the context of an evil society—to deal with a societal evil. It was primarily intended to prevent further evils from accompanying the inevitable prevalence of divorce that would break out among selfish sinners in this fallen world. It served at least four purposes:

First, to uphold the covenantal commitment of marriage. If a divorce was to be pursued, it needed to be accompanied by a formal process in accord with civil law. A man could not put away his wife on a whim, or by a mere word; Moses commands that he obtain a legal bill of divorcement through a formal, public process.

Second, to uphold the relative permanence of marital commitments in both marriage and divorce. In Deuteronomy 24, verses 3–4 specify that the woman who is put away cannot return to her prior husband to be his wife or have sexual relations with him, for such would defile the land and be an abomination to the Lord. Once the divorce is issued, it stands permanent. This highlights its serious character and urges Israel to take marriage and divorce seriously. Even second marriages stand and must be taken seriously.

Third, to protect women who would be sent away. In a patriarchal society, women could be easily abused by their husbands. If sent away, they could bear tremendous social stigma, making it difficult, if not impossible to get remarried. This would effectively condemn these women to poverty and misery, since women were not the breadwinners in ancient society. Moses’ provision protected the women, especially the innocent. It demanded that the first husband formalize a divorce to give them a clean break—to make a new start possible. It also made it possible for the woman to remarry and live a normal life.

Fourth, to provide Scriptural justification for the innocent to divorce in the case of adultery or abandonment of marital vows. An innocent spouse may suffer on account of the other’s adultery or abandonment. The “uncleanness” of Deuteronomy 24 is probably adultery, as is evident for a number of reasons. [1] Jesus appears to interpret it as adultery. [2] This seems to be confirmed by Jeremiah 3:8, where he says he gave Israel a bill of divorcement (using the same language as Deut. 24) on account of Israel’s adultery. [3] And adultery ruptures the one-flesh union between a husband and wife.

The Pharisees, for the most part, got it all wrong. They did not approach Moses’ instructions with the desire to uphold the covenantal sanctity of marriage. Instead, they distorted Moses to justify their own patriarchal abuses, their sin and their infidelity. And the holy Christ exposes their unholy sin. They sought to trap Jesus in his own words and incriminate him—but Jesus uses their own trap and turns it on its head. He uses their own words to demonstrate theirignorance and expose their sin! What a wise Lord we have!

Dear friends, how often do we commit the same errors as the Pharisees? In our sin-soaked society that has been handed over to rank narcissistic self-indulgence, so many approach the issue of divorce and remarriage with ulterior motives. They eagerly want to know what justifies divorce. They want to find permission to break the bonds of their marital commitments. Their inquiries into the subject are governed by the motive of desiring to find a loophole in God’s law that will absolve them from their covenant. This is all wrong! Sometimes what you need is not a loophole, but sincere repentance for failing to love your God-given spouse!

Be careful that you do not approach the Word of God with ulterior motives. Your personal desires may so influence your interpretation of the text that you get it backwards. Whenever we interpret a passage, we should understand it in light of its whole-Bible context. That is what Jesus does when he goes back to Genesis, and insists that there was…

II.   An Original Ordinance (vv. 6–9)

The Lord takes it back to “the beginning of the creation”—to God’s original creative purpose. This was before the fall, before the sin and the shame and the sorrow that wrecked the perfection of God’s good world. This was the world of which God said, “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Of course, divorce did not exist in this world. And since that perfect world is reflective of God’s perfect will, that means God’s perfect, preceptive will—at least in an idealistic sense—is that there would never be divorce. As Malachi would later say, God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16).

Let’s put this in perspective. The Pharisees wanted to use Deuteronomy to justify their flippant views of marriage. But they were using the Torah’s emergency plans for a marriage gone wrong. That passage is about how to mitigate the consequences of a bad situation to prevent further harm. When the situation is not redeemable, due to the hardness of people’s hearts that has brought devastation upon a marriage, then Moses’ concession steps in and offers some help. It prevents the situation from becoming as disastrous as it could turn out to be. It curbs the consequences of human sin.

But Jesus emphasizes that if we desire to discern God’s plan for marriage, we should not start there. To use an illustration, if a pilot desires to fly an airplane, he should read the manual of operations. He should not merely consult the instructions on what to do in an emergency crash landing and think that it adequately equips him to understand how the plane was intended to work.[3] Deuteronomy 24:1–4 is not an adequate or comprehensive instruction manual on God’s will for marriage. It is his emergency provision for divorce. But the manual starts in the beginning, where God established marriage as a creative ordinance, designed to be reflective of his very own goodness and faithfulness.

The Lord quotes Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” This too highlights the permanence of marriage. What he means is that the union that results from marriage is the most intimate bond that exists in the whole world. Two are made one. To separate them through divorce would be, in effect, to a cut a person asunder. Then the Lord Jesus thunders out his own words in interpretation of the Genesis text: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” That summarizes the force of the original ordinance as ordained by God. Jesus goes back to the beginning.

The creation account of marriage lays a solid foundation that reveals God’s perfect will and at the same time condemns all deviations from it:

1. As we have seen, in an idealistic manner, it condemns all divorce; in a realistic manner adapted to our fallen context, it condemns all non-necessary divorce.

2. It ordains the only valid context for sexual intimacy. The creation account establishes the exclusive covenantal commitment that sanctifies the intimate self-giving of the body in mutual love. Two physical persons express their one flesh union is this love. All acts of sexual engagement outside of this sacred bond are condemned as damnable. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

3. It condemns polygamy. God made Eve to be Adam’s companion, and the two are made one flesh. Again, I emphasize, two are made one. In God’s perfect world, there are not three or four or more joined to this perfect marriage. Eve was made to be Adam’s sole intimate helper; as the gift of God, she was fully adequate to that task. When we read of polygamy in the Old Testament, it is to be understood as a deviation from God’s ideal.

4. It condemns ‘gay marriage.’ This is a huge issue in our day. The creation account teaches that the One who ordained marriage is the One who defines it. He established it to be a union of a man and a woman. ‘Gay marriage’ is not marriage it all—because man has no authority to override the authority of the Lord of all who established marriage as a union of opposite sexes. It is “against nature” to suggest same-sex unions. Human physiology itself as created by God—male and female—necessitates a union of opposite sexes for procreation to occur in fulfillment of the dominion mandate.

So we see, friends, that the Lord Jesus is very wise in appealing to the creation account in order to clarify God’s will for marriage. It was adequate to refute the deviations of the Pharisees, and it is helpful to refute the corruptions and gross perversions that abound in our day as well. As we face the challenges of an increasingly corrupt society, let us remember these Genesis foundations. We must stand firmly on an uncompromising, biblical worldview as we approach the topic of marriage and human sexuality.

A biblical worldview is one that begins with God as Creator. The One who made reality is the One who determines and defines its meaning. No man has a right to overturn the necessary nature of reality as it exists in the created order. For man to assume to himself the prerogative of the Creator and redefine and corrupt the sacred creation ordinance of marriage is to be like Satan, to vaunt himself in the place of God; and to do this will only result in being thrust down to hell. What God has established, let not man seek to pervert it.

As Christians, we will be increasingly counter-cultural as we stand on the same worldview as that of our Lord Jesus in Mark 10. Our culture is slipping further and further from conservative Judeo-Christian ethics, and they hate it when we shine the light of God’s Word on their vile love for sin. The world may seek to crucify us, as it did to him. But out of reverence and love for our great Creator, we must insist on a high view of marriage and a high view of sexual ethics. The world may think we are extremists, that we are harsh, that we are biased, that we are too narrowly conservative. But we’re in good company, for we follow in the steps of the incarnate Son of God who not only appealed to the creation account but was there as the Author of it. He is the Author of marriage and here, we have his defining words as to how it was intended to function.

The Lord’s words were strong. They were more forceful than what any rabbi was saying in Israel in those days, because he had a much higher view of the sanctity of marriage. Naturally, the disciples were deeply impacted by this teaching, which leads to our next point.

III. An Authoritative Clarification (vv. 10–12)

No doubt, the disciples were surprised at the Lord’s teaching. In the parallel account in Matthew 19:20, they said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” Christ had such a high view of marriage that they feared the risk of incurring sin when they contemplated the consequences of violating the covenantal union. The risk of adultery, of offending God, was so great, their initial reaction was one of shock and overreaction.

Of course, it is still good for a man to marry. Wisdom tells us that “whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). We should never take such a radical position about the risks of marriage that we come to despise the goodness of this precious gift from God. In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul says marriage a gift of God. The Genesis account itself declares that “it is not good for man to be alone.” And this is the pattern that sets the precedent for the majority of people, being God’s ordinary will for most, since most do not have the gift of continency. Whereas the Roman Catholic church has held that celibacy is more holy than marriage, the Reformation restored to the church a sound understanding of the goodness, the virtue, and the purity of marriage. In the case of most believers, the Lord intends to bless them with the gift of a godly spouse.

What should our reaction be to the Lord’s words? Instead of fearing marriage altogether or depreciating its goodness, we should embrace it as a token of God’s kindness and at the same time, strive to make sure that we marry in the Lord, and make a wise decision regarding our potential spouse. In other words, the correct response to Christ’s words is not the rejection of marriage by saying “It is better not to marry, then!” Rather, our response should be to ensure that we are discerning, wise, careful, prayerful, and necessarily selective in our choosing of a spouse before we say, “I do.” The Lord is not saying, “Do not get married.” Rather, he is saying, “Do not get married unwisely”; and furthermore, “Do not burst the bonds of the marital union unless it is absolutely necessary due to the other’s guilt.”

The Lord says in our text in Mark 10:11–12, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” What he is saying is that if a marriage is absolved on grounds that are not biblically justified, it is not a true absolution in the eyes of God. Just because society gives a man or a woman a right to divorce and remarry does not mean that God does. Anyone who divorces and remarries without biblical justification commits an act of adultery in so doing and incurs great guilt before the Lord.

The words are stated in Mark’s Gospel as if they are absolute. This is because in the context, whether divorce was permitted in the case of adultery was not at issue among the Jews. All the Jews agreed that adultery constituted just cause for divorce. The school of Shammai said that it was exclusively adultery that constituted this just cause. Hillel said that in addition to adultery, many other things could be just grounds. But when the Lord uttered these words in Judea, it is very probable that nobody would suspect him of contradicting the fact that adultery was to be seen a just ground for divorce. There was such unanimous consent among the Jews on this that if adultery were not the just grounds for divorce, we would have expected the Lord to rescind this—to oppose this view by a clear declaration to that end. I think that is why Mark’s Gospel declares this prohibition of remarriage as if it were absolute (i.e. without specifying that adultery is a just ground for divorce), without that further qualification. It is not that such a qualification did not exist, but it would have been superfluous for Mark to record it, seeing that it would have been generally understood, and was not necessary to his purpose in this passage. Mark intended to highlight the permanence of marriage as a rebuke to the rampant sin caused by low views of it. It was not his intention to specify the just cause for divorce, which was the focus of the Pharisees.

In Matthew chapters 5 and 19, however, Jesus does give us this additional information. Matthew 5:31–32 reads, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Here he specifies that “fornication” is a just ground for divorce. The Greek words means, ‘sexual immorality.’ The reference in this context is primarily to adultery, but also applies to gross sexual perversions that violate the one-flesh union of the marital covenant. When fornication has occurred as defined by Jesus, the innocent party is justified in procuring a divorce.

The Apostle Paul adds further clarification to this in 1 Corinthians 7:15 when he says, “if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Inspired by the Spirit of God, the apostle adds abandonment as a just cause for divorce. If an unconverted spouse departs on account of the Christian faith or piety of their believing partner, then the believer is freed from the marital covenant when he or she procures a legal divorce and free to remarry in the Lord (i.e. another Christian).

Those are the only two just grounds for divorce. Any other ‘ground’ is merely an excuse and is not justified by the Lord. We must clarify, however, that not every situation is as clear-cut as this. Often there is a complexity in martial breakdowns that make it very difficult to make clean applications of these principles. In those cases, we need to strive to be as sensitive as possible to the implications of the biblical teaching. If you are going through difficult times in your marriage and are contemplating the possibility of divorce, you should speak with your pastors. It is nearly impossible to think through the issues with a clear head when one is in the midst of the agony of marital conflict. Biblical elders who sincerely desire to apply God’s Word faithfully while caring for your soul can help you to think more objectively through the issues.

One more question comes up that is important to mention. Jesus says that unjustified remarriage is adultery. The question is: Is it perpetual adultery or an act of adultery? The difference is significant, because it would require a different response. If unjustified marriage is perpetual adultery, then any current marriage relationship in which one abides that was not justified in its inception would not be a marriage in the eyes of God. It would be ungodly cohabitation and continual fornication. As long as two individuals remain in this subsequent “marriage” relationship, they would be living a lie.

This is a complicated issue and I cannot deal with it thoroughly here. But here are some guidelines:

In the first place, in the case of a current marriage relationship in which one or two of the spouses were previously married and did not divorce their former spouse, it would seem that they should still be considered to be married to that person. A person who leaves their spouse and ‘marries’ another person without issuing a ‘bill of divorce’ has not made their divorce official. There is no clean break. The previous marriage would seem to stand. This is a general guideline, but many different scenarios can complicate the clarity with which this guideline should apply to the complexities that may arise in a given case.

Second, in the case of a person who pursues formal divorce on grounds other than adultery or abandonment, the divorce is not justified. Hence, remarriage for that person is not either. If they divorce and remarry for selfish reasons without biblical grounds, this would be the case that Jesus evidently refers to. They sin against the Lord. They commit an act of adultery. The question arises: what should they do in the case that once they are remarried, they come to their senses and recognize their sin? Here is my counsel based on the best application I can think of that, I trust, honors the sense of all of the biblical passages: they should sincerely repent of their past sin before the Lord. But they should not add to that sin by rupturing another marriage. Though their second marriage was not justified by a previous biblical divorce, that does not mean that the second marriage is not a binding covenantal commitment before the Lord. The second marriage was formed by solemn vows before God and witnesses; it was consummated in intimacy; there was mutual commitment to dwell together. The marriage stands. It would be further sin to divorce again. Deuteronomy 24:3–4 confirms this when it recognizes second marriages and forbids a person who has been twice married from returning to the first spouse.

Again, I stress that every situation needs to be considered on a case by case basis. The Lord gives us general principles, but we must apply them to each particular case with much care and wisdom.

Concluding Applications

1.     To those who are unmarried.

My single friends who desire to marry, listen! You see with what esteem the Lord upholds the sanctity of marriage. You can also see—all around you in our society—the disastrous consequences of marriages that have ended in tragedy. Allow the high regard for the former and the sober reality of the latter produce in you a due sense of carefulness. As you pray to the Lord and look around you at potential prospects for marriage, remember that this is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make in your life, second only to the decision to follow Christ. Study the will of God in his holy Book. Read good books about preparing for marriage and on how to choose a spouse. As you move forward, do so in close, transparent conversation with godly elders in the faith, with your parents, and with your pastors. Don’t focus on mere externals, such as appearance, but make true heart piety your priority in choosing a spouse. Use all the means that God’s providence has given you to make a wise and God-honoring decision.

2.     To those who are married.

What a solemn relationship the Lord has placed you in! You have covenanted yourself to a relationship that entails no small obligation. Your spouse is made one flesh with you. You are to pour out your body, your heart, your soul, in love to your spouse. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved and gave himself for the church. Wives are to love their husbands by showing respect and humble submission for conscience’ sake. If your marriage is going through difficult trials, don’t you dare think of bursting asunder the bonds flippantly! Hear again the words of the Lord of heaven and earth: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Retake to those vows, Christian! Love your spouse out of the love by which Christ has loved you! Is your spouse a sinner in your eyes? Behold, you are a much greater sinner in Christ’s eyes. And yet his love is so magnanimous, so infinite, so everlasting! Remember that your Lord will never break his vows to you. Do, then, follow in his steps.

3.     To those who are divorced and remarried.

You may be wondering if your previous divorce was truly lawful in the sight of God. You may even realize that it was not lawful. What should you do now? Here is my advice: go before the Lord in prayer and apologize out of deep heart repentance. And commit your ways to the Lord in your new marriage. Express your repentance to God by renewing your commitment to love, to cherish, to be faithful to your current spouse until death do you part. Demonstrate the sincerity of your repentance before God by making a correlative restitution in your current marriage relationship—by loving your spouse with all your heart for Christ’s sake. Be resolved to refrain from falling into the sins into which you fell in your previous marriage, that led to your divorce. Abominate them and let the shame of them drive you cultivate faithfulness in your current state with all holy zeal to love your current spouse with tenacious, zealous love.

4.     To everybody.

Finally, friends, we know that marriage is not the ultimate end. It is a shadow of a greater reality. What is that greater reality? It’s the relationship between Christ and his church. God instituted marriage to be a reflection of the gospel. All the goodness and blessing that comes with marriage is but a faint shadow of the goodness and blessing of being united to Christ. As you enjoy the blessings of marriage, let them turn your eyes upward to the greater blessings of the wedding supper to come, where the Lamb will consummate his intimate love for his church. As you suffer through the pains that accompany marriage in this fallen world, know that those imperfections remind us that this life is not what we place our hope in—for those trials are temporary, Christian! All such imperfections on this earth highlight a corresponding antithetical perfection that awaits us when our great Bridegroom comes again…

We conclude by quoting again the words of our Lord: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Thanks be to God, that when it comes to our union with Christ and earnest expectation of glory to come, what God has joined together no man will ever be able to put asunder!



[1] Even the strictest Jewish groups among the Qumran Essenes seemed to permit divorce in some cases. See James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 300

[2] Rodney L. Cooper, Mark, vol. 2, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 164

[3] See James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 301.