A Ghastly Pandemic

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ss=MsoNormal align=right style='text-align:right'>1) 7-21-09…AM…SBC     2)“A Ghastly Pandemic”

Part 1

Mark 10:1-12


1-      there is a battle going on today that reaches farther than the borders of Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea

2-      this battlefront reaches not only our borders but the borders of every country and affects every person in one way or another –Divorce is a universal stench in our world today!

3-       Trying to find one person that has not been affected by the catastrophe of divorce today is almost impossible!

4-      I believe that the widespread pandemic of divorce in Jesus’ day was just as ghastly as it is today and I believe that this text, and the supporting texts, illustrate just that

5-      After the fall of man in Genesis 3 the battle of the sexes began—and women’s liberation and male chauvinism have ever since been clouding and corrupting God’s original plan for marriage

·         Divorce is like a person cutting off an arm or a leg because of a splinter in it.  Instead of dealing with whatever trouble arises between h/w, divorce tries to solve the problem by destroying the union

At a time when the stance on divorce is weakening both inside and outside of the church…

Proposition:  God’s people must not sweep the problem of divorce under the rug.



Ø      I want to give three opening statements about the subject of divorce before we look at the first part of the passage before us

·         First, I realize the controversial nature of this topic and by no means desire to communicate that my position on this topic is the only position and everyone else is wrong

-          this is the position that God has led me to at this time—I will do my best to support it over the next two weeks

·         Second, by no means do I desire to communicate that any divorced person is some king of “second-class” citizen – that will not be the case in this church

·         Third, I understand that there are a lot of “what if” types of questions and scenarios that we could entertain this morning – my goal is to state what I believe the texts say as clearly as possible

-          I will come back to the issue of the difficult questions that the Bible doesn’t address in closing


·         Lastly, as with all issues, we must examine the Bible to find the other texts and contexts that address it


-          I will incorporate what I believe to be the most relevant texts to us this morning

Transition:  Now let’s begin with Mark 10:1

Bible Geography:  Beginning at Ch9—Caesarea Philippi—Galilee—Capernaum—(Ch 10) Region of Judea and

                                                                                                                                                    Beyond the Jordan

1- The Dialogue     v2-9                           cf:  Matt 19:3Matt 5:31-32 record the teaching but not the dialogue

A-    The Pharisees ask a question         v2              

1-      They came to Jesus in order to discredit Him in the eyes of the people so that He would lose His popularity and be easier for them to destroy (motivation)

2-      Their question was meant to place Christ as odds with Moses, the great giver of God’s law

B- Jesus responds with a question     v3


1-      The question that Jesus responds with was meant to provide the occasion for confronting not only their sin, but also their twisted interpretation of Moses reference to divorce in Deut 24:1-4

a-      Divorce had been a very volatile debate among the Jewish people for quite some time

There were 2 opposing viewpoints

o       Rabbi Hillel (liberal) – divorce for the most trivial reasons

o       Rabbi Shammai (strict) – divorce was never permissible

o       The group here with Jesus are the disciples of Rabbi Hillel (liberal view)

b-      In Matthew 5:31 Jesus introduces the “it was said…but I say to you” wording to tell the people that what they had heard taught on divorce by the Pharisees was wrong and that what he was telling them was right.

Summary:  Jesus set the proper boundaries for the discussion. The issue was not rabbinical interpretations, but the teaching of Scripture.[1]

            C- The Pharisees answer Jesus’ 2nd question                     v4       cf:  Matthew 19:7


1-      the Pharisees justification for easy divorce was based on an erroneous interpretation of Deut 24:1-4


Ø      the debate that arose between the schools of Rabbis in Deut 24 was based on the words “some indecency”


·         Hillel interpreted it as these Pharisees did – divorce for any reason was acceptable

·         Shammai interpreted differently – only divorce for sexual immorality was acceptable

·         I take the meaning of these words to mean something that was repulsive based on Deut 23:12-14, not necessarily having to be a sexual act (it’s closest contextual context)

Ø      this is the only part of the interpretation that I believe the Pharisees got right – they got nothing else right

-          an interpretation with the meaning of repulsion would be that Moses was referencing a divorce that was initiated because a husband found something indecent or repulsive about his wife

-          this would be the equivalent to burning toast, squeezing the toothpaste wrongly, etc


a-      These Pharisees interpreted Moses words as “If you wish to divorce your wife for any reason whatever, go right ahead, but be sure to hand her a divorce certificate.” [2] - just make sure that you do it properly according to the legal procedure

b-      The real meaning of the passage, however, is, “Husband, you better think twice before you reject your wife for frivolous reasons. Remember that once you have put her away and she has become the wife of another you cannot afterward take her back; not even if that other husband should also have rejected her or should have died.”[3] – unbiblical divorce / no remarriage

Ø      The Pharisees interpreted Moses’ words to mean that if you found something distasteful (“some indecency”) in her then go ahead and divorce her

Ø      They comforted themselves with the thought that as long as the legal forms were filled out properly a divorce was perfectly lawful – after all that would be preferable to adultery wouldn’t it (in their minds)

Ø      My Summary of Deuteronomy 24:1-4


·         the focus of the passage is not whether divorce is permitted – it is a recognition of the legal process

·         Moses point is that unbiblical divorce (for any small reason) leads to adultery and therefore is to be avoided

·         I believe the passage also assumes that remarriage will take place because the certificate is given to assure that it is a “legitimate” remarriage and not adultery – the certificate protected her remarriage against the defilement of adultery

-          what else would a women who had no rights by herself, no money and no value outside of marriage going to do

-          here the woman goes out, I believe as was expected, and got remarried

-          we are not told that she was wrong for getting remarried, but that her remarriage was wrong because it followed an unbiblical divorce(Matt 5:32)

-          I believe that Moses and Jesus are standing together here both condemning divorce for any reason outside of adultery

·         I believe that in Deut 24 we have an unbiblical divorce and I base that on Jesus’ refuting of the Pharisees misinterpretation of the passage and the teaching in Matthew 5:31-32 that makes divorce acceptable in the case of adultery and unacceptable for reasons other than adultery

-          the woman and her second husband and the prohibition of her marrying her first husband again is seen as defilement and perpetual adultery because it is an unbiblical divorce

Summary:  Improper divorce (some indecency) leads to defilement/adultery in the remarriage (Mt 5:32) not the accepting of divorce for any and every reason

Conclusion to Part 1

1-      Jesus asks the Pharisees the question about Moses’ teaching to expose their faulty interpretation of it

·         it was never permissible to divorce someone for reasons other than adultery

2-      Prepare your position before you find yourself directly affected by divorce (illustration of daughter)

·         if you don’t you most likely will be heavily influenced by your emotions

·         you might be convinced of divorce or no divorce but for the wrong reasons

3-      Moses and Jesus together uphold the holiness of marriage (serious nature) – the exact opposite of the Pharisees

4-      How are you doing at upholding God’s view of marriage?  What does your marriage look like?


·         Patient, humble, serving, loving – more concerned about your spouse then about yourself

·         How would your kids define and describe your marriage?

·         Is your marriage a mess?  Maybe it is because God is not a part of your life?  Salvation

·         Eph 5 – divorce is a reflection on Christ’s relationship with his church and is a tragedy



Begin reflecting the Redeemer by upholding His view of marriage

Beginning of Part 2                 Let’s review for just a moment from last week…

1-      Jesus initiated a conversation on divorce and remarriage as a result of the Pharisees unbiblical view and twisting of Moses teaching in Deut 24:1-4


A-    Jesus view on divorce and remarriage trumped the view of both schools of Rabbis

Shammai – required divorce if adultery had taken place

Hillel – permitted divorce for any and every reason considered indecent by the husband

1-      “The main thrust of the Deut 24 passage is the prohibition of easy divorce and a light view of the marriage covenant.  This was bypassed all together by the Pharisees.  The focus was shifted from an emphasis on the defiling and a light attitude toward the Covenant of Companionship to concern about a mere formality that was incidental to the major thrust of the passage” (Adams)

B-    “Because the penalty for adultery was death in Moses’ era, whatever indecency over which the man in Deut. 24 divorced his wife must have come short of adultery.  As despicable as that reason might have been, it was obviously not sufficient grounds for divorce since the wife became defiled by adultery when remarrying.”  (MacArthur)

C-    Remember that Jesus and Moses stand together and uphold the sanctity of marriage

1-      by not allowing for divorce except for fornication (Matt 5 and 19) both Jesus and Moses show that marriage is not something to be entered into lightly

Transition:  We pick up the conversation in Mark 10:5 where Jesus does not restrict his discussion of divorce to Deut

D- Jesus addresses the Pharisees misinterpretation of Moses’ teaching     v5-9

1-      When Jesus asked in v3 “What did Moses command you?” He was thinking of Genesis 2 and the way marriage was intended to be from the beginning – the Pharisees were thinking of Deut 24

a-      (v5)  Jesus indicated that provision for divorce was due to human rebellion against the divine ideal (“because your hearts were hard”).[4]

·         Jesus viewed Gen. 2:24 (in combination with Gen. 1:27) as a divine ordinance, and not as a mere description of what generally takes place on earth.[5]

·         Jesus said, in view of their hardheartedness, their obstinate refusal to accept God’s view of marriage. Moses acknowledged the presence of divorce in Israel but did not institute or authorize it.[6]

b-      (v6-9)Jesus was basically asking them in Matt 19:4 if they had ever even the very first thing that God said about marriage

1.      Jesus brilliantly upholds the true significance of the Mosaic Law by stating God’s ideal plan for marriage


Four reasons in Mark 10:6-9 why divorce was never God’s intention

a.       only one man and woman existed in the beginning – no provision for others

b.      leaving and cleaving – total commitment and consecration to each other

c.       they became one flesh – they are “stuck” together never to be separated

d.      God made marriage in heaven and it is his handiwork never to be broken

Transition to Exception Clauses:

Ø      It is at this point of the discussion in the parallel passage of Matthew 19:9 that we come to the exception clause

·         this exception clause is also reflected in Jesus’ previous Sermon on the Mount lessons in Matthew 5:31-32


Ø      We have seen that God hates divorce and never instituted it

Ø      In this section of our study we want to see that Jesus teaches that not all divorces are sinful

1-      Some fear that if we take Jesus’ exception clause at face value then we will be seriously loosening our Christian stand on divorce

A-    Matthew saw the effect of including the exception clause in exactly the opposite light

1.      Based on the long debate on divorce among the Jews, Matthew saw the exception clause as actually tightening down on the morality of the church and elevating marriage

2.      Allowing only one reason for divorce eliminated all the insignificant reasons that the Pharisees had come up with and supported in Deut 24

3.      note that this exception clause is permitted but not/never mandated


2-      Jesus names adultery as the only permitted grounds for an acceptable divorce

A-    The word that Jesus uses as the exception is a general word referencing all kinds of sexual sins

1-      the definition of this word covers all illicit sexual sins including, but not limited to adultery

2-      Because words by themselves meaning nothing without a context we go to the context to determine the meaning of this word (ESV – “sexual immorality”)


Ø      it is in the context that we find that Jesus’ argument is centered around the marriage covenant

Ø      Jesus, speaking of the marriage covenant says that there is only one instance where divorce does not lead to adultery – that is in the case of adultery      (i.e. The inclusion of a third party in the marriage)

Betrothal Period – it is as this point in the argument that the “Betrothal Period View” is put forth by some

Ø      This was the time of engagement in Jewish culture where the couple was legally considered married but having not yet consummated the relationship

1-      Supporters of the betrothal period view say that this text is permitting divorce but ONLY in the engagement period

2-      They combine this text with Matt 1:18-19 to show that because Joseph and Mary had not had sexual relations then divorce was permitted on the grounds that the marriage was never consummated

3-      Supports of this view believe that only a non-consummated marriage can be severed by a divorce

4-      They place the emphasis of the Bible’s teaching on divorce from Mk and Lk where divorce is not even mentioned

5-      They say that the Matthew passages teach no divorce once sexual union takes place

6-      They would say that since no binding marriage had taken place yet (no sexual relations) then divorce/break up was permitted without defilement ensuing

7-      They also say that if Jesus was referring to divorce in a binding marriage then he would have used the specific word for adultery and not the general term for sexual sin

8-      This view amounts to a “no divorce under any circumstances” position because no one today questions breaking off an engagement for sexual infidelity

Summary of Betrothal View

·         Divorce is not an option once sexual relations takes place

·         Divorce is only acceptable in betrothal or engagement period because of no sexual relations

My argument against this view

1-      if Matthew talks of betrothal period why does no one argue for a betrothal period in Deut 24

2-      one implication of this view is that you end up defining marriage as when a couple first has sexual relations

3-      there is nothing structurally or grammatically that would suggest a betrothal period

4-      back in Mk 6 John the Baptist addresses an illegitimate divorce by Herod and Herodias and is killed for confronting that—John is obviously addressing an illegitimate divorce and an illegitimate remarriage

My Summary on Divorce:                Divorce is permitted (never mandated) only on grounds of death (1 Cor 7),

                                                            adultery (Matthew 5&19) and abandonment by unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7).

Transition to Remarriage:  We cannot talk about divorce w/out talking about the issue of remarriage

·         an study on divorce automatically leads one into talking about remarriage because Scripture does

·         Deut 24—Matt 5—Mk 10—Rom 7—1 Tim 5—1 Cor 7

·         The topic of remarriage was not only considered, but very favorably considered

1-      In 1 Cor 7 we find the most direct teaching on remarriage that there is in the Bible

A-    Paul is addressing two different audiences here beginning in v10

Group #1 = “to the married”            v10

Group #2 = “to the rest”        v12


·         with the phrase “not I but the Lord” Paul is referring to Jesus early teaching on divorce in the Gospels

·         with the phrase “not the Lord but I” Paul is referring to an issue that Jesus didn’t address in Gospels

·         what Paul writes in v12 is adding to the teaching on divorce given by Jesus – additional issue


B-    v10-11  Paul says to the first group, believer to believer, (based on the teachings of Christ) is not to separate by divorce

1-      Paul gives no permission to separate, but realizes that one may disobey this command

2-      If this command is disobeyed then the h/w is to remain unmarried to anyone else – reconciliation

3-      In Light of Jesus teaching, Paul says that a couple that divorces for unbiblical reasons has two options—remain unmarried or be reconciled

C-    v12-16  Paul says to the second group, believer to unbeliever, (his own inspired additional teaching) that if the unbeliever wants to stay the marriage must be upheld and if the unbeliever wants to leave then the believer can let them leave and is free to remarry, but only in the Lord  (7:39)


·         Paul allows divorce and remarriage for the party whose unbelieving spouse has abandoned them

2-      The argument against remarriage is sometimes stated like this...”the NT says nothing of remarriage for a divorced person in a positive way.”

A-    The clearest passages on permitting remarriage are 1 Corinthians 7:26-28a and Ezekiel 44:22


1 Cor 7:26-28a           cf:  7:39

·         speaking in a context of persecution Paul says it is important to remain in the state of marriage that you are currently in

·         “seek to be free” must mean the same thing in both passages – both mean to be released by divorce

·         To be released is the opposite of being bound to a wife

·         Paul affirms that there is no sin in remarrying in some divorced persons, but not the ones in Matthew 5&19 who are divorced for reasons other than adultery

·         He is not talking about the betrothal view here because he addresses virginity in v28b

Ø      when we couple this with the other passages we have studied I believe that Scripture concludes that divorce and remarriage are permitted but only in cases of adultery, abandonment and death.

Ezekiel 44:22


·         here we find special marriage instructions for the priests – not to marry widows or divorcees

·         I believe that the teaching here is not that it is wrong to marry widows but that priests are in a special class and may not do what is perfectly right for others to do

·         The entire force of the passage is to specify requirements peculiar to priests.

·         If no one was allowed to marry a divorced person, then the prohibition would be pointless

·         The verse only makes sense in it’s context if the practice was generally accepted


Even though Moses and Jesus and Paul permitted divorce and remarriage in some circumstances, everything should be done to uphold a high view of marriage and to preserve marriage wherever possible.

What about all the hard questions the Bible doesn’t answer?

1-      Neither Moses or Jesus gives explicit answers to all the questions that the Bible’s teaching on divorce raises in real life – sometimes we have to do the best with what we got

2-      Unfortunately, divorce usually creates a tangled mess of broken lives and broken relationships. 

·         to set that all right again would be comparable to unscrambling an omelet made of a billion eggs

3-      If we as a church will seek to routinely follow Matthew 18 many instances of marital infidelity can be stopped and dealt with before the situation ends in divorce.

4- One overriding principle that is neither confusing nor ambiguous is the truth that God still hates divorce.

What are some practical implications for divorce today?

1-      When a sinner come to faith in Christ he/she becomes a new creature – Mary Magdelen and Paul

2-      God forgives for unbiblical divorce – you can go on and live a faithful life with your spouse

3-      Don’t lose hope – God can save your marriage!         Find Hope in the Almighty God

4-      You can have a godly Christian marriage but not without being a Christian yourself

5-      You can change the sin of unbiblical divorce and remarriage in one generation by following God’s Word


[1]MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Mk 10:3

[2]Hendriksen, William ; Kistemaker, Simon J.: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 10), S. 377

[3]Hendriksen, William ; Kistemaker, Simon J.: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 10), S. 377

[4]Brooks, James A.: Mark. electronic e. Nashville : Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1991 (Logos Library System; The New American Commentary 23), S. 157

[5]Hendriksen, William ; Kistemaker, Simon J.: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 10), S. 378

[6]Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:149

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