GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 33
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|Divorce and remarriage. What does the Bible say?|
‘Til Death Do Us Part
The title of the message this morning is this: ‘Til Death Do Us Part. This message this morning is not meant to criticize or condemn you. The message this morning is mean to encourage you and to warn you. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 10:1. There are three progressions that we will see in the text this morning and I want to show you the first one as we dive in. We’re going to notice the testing from the Pharisees about divorce. They begin to test Jesus and ask him questions about divorce. Verse 1:
“And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”
The testing of the Pharisees about divorce. Now you have to admit, the question from the Pharisees is pretty surprising. They knew that you could divorce in the Old Testament. They knew the Old Testament well. So the question is really an interesting question. Go to Matthew 19. I want to show you the same account from a different perspective. Matthew adds one interesting addition here in verse 3: “[The] Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife [here’s the key phrase] for any cause?’”
Now, in the first century, there were two schools, rabbinic schools, that were around, the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel. The school of Shammai was the more conservative school. The school of Shammai said you could issue your wife a certificate of divorce but only for one reason, and that was if she was unfaithful to you or if the committed adultery on you. On the other hand, the school of Hillel was more liberal. The school of Hillel said you could divorce her for anything. In fact, it says a man may divorce his wife even if she spoils a dish for him. See, the sense of the question Jesus is getting asked is interesting. They’re asking Jesus “Is it lawful to divorce your wife for any other reason than adultery?” That’s what they’re asking Jesus.
Now, to really understand the question, you have to understand geography. Geography plays a huge role in this passage, I believe. Jesus Christ, it says, goes into the area of Judea. Commentators believe he’s in the region of Perea. And the region of Perea, if you notice, the ruler of that region is a man named Herod Antipas. Do you remember Herod Antipas? Herod was the one who put John the Baptist to death by being beheaded for speaking out against his new wife, Herodias. You remember the story. John the Baptist said, “Herod, you’re in an adulterous affair. God’s going to judge you.” And because of that, he got beheaded. The Pharisees, if you will, could be testing Jesus in this region in order to get him in trouble. They’re putting him on trial. “Okay, Jesus, tell us what you think about divorce,” because Herod divorced King Aretas’ daughter in order to marry Herodias which, in the eyes of God, was an adulterous relationship.
Now for you and I to really get this, we have to do some finger flipping to the Old Testament to really get the heart and to lay a biblical groundwork and a framework for divorce. Go back to Deuteronomy 24:1: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes [why?] 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 of his house, and she departs out of his house….”
The passage does not encourage divorce in this sense. It offers a fair ruling in the case in the unfortunate event that someone is adulterous. That word indecency is the key word there. In the language of the Old Testament, that word is another word for nakedness. It’s another word for spiritual lewdness. What the Pharisees did is they took it to mean whatever they wanted. They said that a husband could divorce his wife for any indecency. If she burns the toast or she ruins the bread, then he can divorce her. And things like this were happening in the first century. See what the Pharisees were doing is this: they were trying to find loopholes in the system to justify their sinful behavior. Jesus interprets the law—go back to Mark 10—and he says this amazing truth. He says the reason God set up Deuteronomy 24 was because of the what? Hardness of your own heart. That’s what he says. He says because God knew that you would be disobedient to follow his command, he set up this ruling.
Go to Deuteronomy 7. Let me give you an illustration of what this looks like. In Deuteronomy 7, God gives the Israelites an interesting prediction about the land of Canaan. You will come in contact with people who are Gentiles. They have different dietary laws. They eat differently. They drink differently. They act differently. They worship false gods. They’re filled with idolatry and sensuality. And you don’t need to hang out with them and you definitely don’t need to what? Marry them. God says do not marry these people. Look at 7:1.
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites [and other names we can’t pronounce; verse 2] and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them [that’s the key word] then you must devote them to complete destruction.” God said destroy them. Don’t leave these people around the community because they will infect and infiltrate your belief system. “You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. [Verse 3.] You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons [Why?], for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.”
So what did they do? They went into the Promised Land and guess what they did. They intermarried. They intermarried and did the very thing that God said was despicable. “Don’t do this. It’s going to ruin your relationship with me.” And they did the unthinkable.
Ezra 10. Go there. Let me show you how it plays out. In Ezra 10, this is just moments after the Babylonian captivity takes place. What happens because of the disobedience of the people, the Babylonians came into Israel. They captured the Israelites, brought them back to Babylon. We pick up in Nehemiah. When Nehemiah hears about the city destroyed and the temple ransacked and the walls taken down, and so Nehemiah decides to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and before they commit the temple to the Lord, the people say, “Okay. What are we going to do to re-institute, to reinstate our covenant with God?” You’ve got to see this because it really blew me away when I saw
Ezra 10:2. Well, let me go back to verse 1. The people came and were weeping before God. They were weeping, uncontrollably sobbing before God. “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.”
Do you know what they’re doing there? Massive divorce. Massive. If you’re married to an unbeliever, she’s gone. If you’re married to an unbeliever, he’s gone. If you’re kids are from an unbelieving relationship, they’re gone. Massive divorce. “Robby, I thought God hates divorce.” He does, but he despises idolatry. And God says put those people away. What’s even more amazing is verse 18 lists the names of the disobedient people. I mean, imagine if your name was in there: Robby and Fred and Michael. Let’s go ahead and list the names. Look at verse 18: “Now there were found some of the sons of the priests who had married foreign women: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, some of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers.” All the names of the disobedient people are listed in this passage.
God put the command in here because of the hardness of their heart in Deuteronomy, because he knew they would be disobedient. God hates divorce but he despises idolatry. And guess what. Then Jesus comes on the scene and he raises the bar. This is what God said in the Old Testament but grace always raises the bar.
We see the testing of the Pharisees about divorce. Then we see the teaching or the truth from the Lord about divorce. Jesus gives us a couple of interesting characteristics in Mark. Go back to Mark 10. First of all, Jesus shows us the intimacy of marriage. He said you’ve heard it said that way but let me tell you what marriage is about. There is an intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Verse 6: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife [that word hold fast is the word for glue. They shall stick together] and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.”
As I’ve already stated in other messages, the idea was that the husband or the male will leave his family and hold fast as one to his wife. The two shall become one flesh. This is a union. This is an intimacy that you cannot get any other place in the world or through any other relationship.
After you have a child for the first time—I guess this happens to men; I know it happens to women, but I guess it happens to men as well—there is a huge weight that goes on your shoulders when you have your child for the first time. Am I there, men? Think about it. Because you realize not only do you have to take care of your wife, but now you have to take care of this helpless and hopeless baby, right? I mean, without you the baby can’t make it at least for the first few year.
Rig and Ryder and I have an incredible relationship. I have a closer relationship with Rig because he’s a little bigger and he likes to wrestle and we always wrestle at home. But we have this tight bond, Rig and I. I mean, I love him with all my heart, but the connection I have with Rig is nothing compared to the connection I have with my wife, Kandi, because the connection with Rig is a father to a son. The relationship I have with my wife, because of divine inspiration and the divine appointment of the Lord to cause us to be two as one, is the one flesh union that can exist only in marriage. In the same way you can’t take Rig and cut him in two to break him apart, God says the same way you can’t take a marriage and break it apart, even if you have biblical reason to break it apart. You’re still ripping the one union flesh that [God] put together. There is an incredible intimacy in marriage.
In addition to that, there’s a permanence in marriage. There’s intimacy and there is permanence. “So they are no longer two [look what he says]. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” R. Kent Hughes says it best. “Divorce is always a tragedy, always a departure from the divine ideal. All the modern talk about creative divorce and positive growth oriented steps is a lot of pseudo-scientific and pseudo-liberated bunk. Christians who go ahead with an unbiblical divorce sin with a high hand against God who despises divorce in the Old Testament. They place themselves in harm’s way.”
Marriage is like a hair braid. See what’s interesting is this. If you braid hair with just two pieces of hair—it looks like a hair braid only has two pieces of hair—but if you really look into it, in order to make the hair braid, you actually have to have three pieces of hair. The three pieces of hair actually hold the two together. Friends, in the same way that you’re married, the two2 are actually held together by three—and the third person in the marriage to make it work is God’s presence. God’s presence actually holds the couple together. It’s God’s presence that creates the intimacy. It’s God’s presence that actually creates the permanence in marriage.
But let’s take a turn in the text because that’s what the text does. We see the intimacy of marriage. We see the permanence of marriage. Let me show you the consequence of remarriage and divorce. The consequence of remarriage and divorce and Jesus says it’s adultery. Verse 10: “And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”
You see, the disciples are pragmatists. They want to know practically what does this mean. This is what Jesus would say to them, I believe. “Guys, if you can be single for the rest of your life, do it for the glory of God. You can do that. But if you feel the Lord leading you to get married, then you are stuck with your wife for eternity. Do not think of being divorced for any reason whatsoever.” Why? Because Malachi 2:16 says it this way, “‘For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her’ says the Lord God, ‘covers his garments with violence.’”
But Robby, what about the exception clause? Didn’t God put an exception clause in there? He did. Go to Matthew 5:31. Here’s the exception clause in the text. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says these words in verse 31: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
You have to understand the context of this section. Jesus is using a rhetorical device to compare and contrast. This is what he says: “You’ve heard it said in the Old Testament, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ but I say to you turn the other cheek.” Right? Jesus said, “You’ve heard it in the Old Testament you shall not commit murder, but I say to you do not call a man a fool.” You know what he’s doing? He’s raising the bar. Grace always demands more from the law. “You’ve heard it said [in the Old Testament] do not commit adultery [but I’m going to raise the bar.] Do not even look at a woman with lust in your own heart.”
Jesus is saying when a man divorces his wife for any other reason other than sexual immorality, meaning she commits sexual immorality or adultery on him, if he divorces her for any other reason, the divorce is not recognized in the eyes of the Lord. What he’s indicating is this also. When the second marriage begins, it begins with committing adultery because God does not recognize the divorce of the first marriage if it happens for any other reason than divorce.
When Jesus is saying that the only grounds for divorce is sexual immorality—don’t miss this, church—the suggestion, I mean, the unfaithfulness is the only reason. He’s not saying it’s the permission to do it. He’s not saying it’s the suggestion to do it. He’s saying this is the only reason it’s allowed, but that’s not what I’m challenging you to do.
Now that word sexual immorality is an interesting word. It’s the word porneia. It’s the same word we get what? Pornography. It’s the same word where we get lewdness. It’s the same word where we get immorality. It’s the same word for homosexuality. It’s the same word for bestiality. And what’s amazing is in the Old Testament, if you engaged in sexual immorality, bestiality, and homosexuality, you not only got a divorce but you got a death sentence, right? In the Old Testament, if you engaged in any one of these practices, your marriage didn’t end by divorce. It ended by death and I’ll prove it to you.
Remember the woman who was caught in adultery? She runs to Jesus with all those men pursuing with rocks in their hands about to stone her to death for what? Adultery. Remember Jesus? He writes in the sand and he says, “He who has no sin cast the first stone.” They were following her because of adultery. In the Old Testament, if you committed adultery or homosexuality or bestiality, you were sentenced to death.
Now, what’s puzzling is this. Matthew is the only gospel that includes the exception clause. In Luke, there’s no exception. In Mark, there’s no exception. Jesus says if you divorce and remarry, it’s adultery. Period. And I think what Jesus is saying here is this: the exception is not the suggestion. What he’s saying is this: I put this in here for the hardness of your own heart. One commentator says this, “It is a text of concession not a text of intention. You do not learn to fly an airplane by following the manual for making a crash landing. You don’t do that. You do not learn how to go into a war by studying how to retreat from the war. The same is true of marriage and divorce.” See, when a husband leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, the mathematics is this: 1 + 1 = 1. And so when you separate that, I think the sin of divorce is this; you’re taking matters into your own hands. In essence, you’re becoming your own god. Divorce is never mandatory. Keep that in mind.
“So, Robby, what do I do? I have a situation in my own life where I have my wife, who has been unfaithful to me. What do I do?” Friends, infidelity is not a one-way ticket out of a marriage that you didn’t intend to be in in the first place. Because that’s what some people do. “My wife’s been unfaithful. My husband’s been unfaithful. Then I’m out of the marriage.” What you should do is this. If you have a partner who has been unfaithful to you, you need to look at their life and see this: is this the pattern of their life? Is this habitual? Is this something they actively engage in, or is this a one-time momentary lapse? Secondly, have they confessed sin to God and to me? Have they repented and are their actions now different than they were before?
The exception clause should be understood this way: No matter how difficult things are, regardless of the pressure and depression that you may face, nothing allows for divorce except one thing—unfaithfulness. And even then in that situation, it should not be used as an excuse to get out of the marriage. “But, Robby, you don’t know who my husband slept with. But, Robby, you don’t know my wife has been unfaithful to me.” Men, if we are as Christ is to the church as our visual image to the world, my question is this. How many times has Christ taken you back into his arms after you have prostituted your bodies out to the world? Ladies, how many times has the Lord Jesus Christ accepted you back after you served self and sin? But there are so many questions surrounding this, Robby. What about this situation or what about that situation?
I thought it would be good for us to end with 1 Corinthians 7. Paul knew that we would ask questions and so he goes through this practical dialog with the Corinthian church and he says, “Here are some challenging words to you, pragmatically how to live this out.” Go to 1 Corinthians 7. We’re going to see the teaching from the Word about marriage. We saw the truth from the Lord about marriage and divorce; we saw the testing from the Pharisees about divorce; let’s go to the teaching of the Word about marriage.
“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. [If you can remain single, remain single for the glory of God.] But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
That phrase if they cannot exercise self-control probably means that you have a strong desire for another person. And that means you probably won’t end up being celibate for the rest of your life. So Paul says if that’s you, then you marry. But if you can remain faithful to the Lord and single, do it for the glory of God because it’s better. That’s what he’s saying.
If you’re a widow this morning or if you’re single because you’ve been divorced for biblical grounds or unbiblical grounds, listen to me. God is not through with you. God can still use you. The final chapter of your life has not been written and I want you to know we love you, I love you as your pastor and God is still using you and will use you for his glory in the days ahead. Whether you have biblical grounds or no, listen to me. You serve the Lord where you are. You commit your life to him for his glory and you say “God, I’m going to be faithful to you all the days of my life.” That’s what happens when you’re single and when you’re widowed. You exercise self-control.
Secondly, notice this. Saved couples exercise faithfulness. This is the picture of two believers in the marriage. Verse 10: “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord):…” What Paul’s saying there is this. God doesn’t specifically explain this so I’m going to give you practical application on what God means. “…the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.” What he’s saying is this. The wife should never separate from her believing husband and that the husband should not divorce his believing wife.
Here’s the thing. If you’re thinking about divorce today and you’re a believer, don’t do it. Seek help. Seek counsel. Bring in friends and family to help you walk through the process. Saved couples exercise faithfulness. Singles and widow exercise self-control.
Finally, saved spouses exercise holiness. Now, this is the most difficult. This is a situation where a believer is married to an unbeliever. Verse 12: “To the rest I say…that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. [Confusing but we’ll explain it in minute.] But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved.”
What he’s saying is this. If the unbelieving husband leaves you or the unbelieving wife leaves you, you’re no longer enslaved. God has called you to peace. God doesn’t want you to fight in the marriage so he’s called you to peace. Verse 16: “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”
This is the toughest marriage to be in and I know in a group this size and in a church our size, there are many cases of this. The unbeliever can be exhausting to live with, difficult to deal with, agonizing to converse with. John MacArthur says this, “Furthermore, God looks on the family as a unit. Even if the family is divided spiritually and most of the members are unbelieving and immoral, the entire family is graced by a believer living among them. Therefore, if an unbelieving spouse is willing to stay, the believer is not to seek divorce.” Notice Paul doesn’t say the believer leaves. Remember this. Paul says the believer shows Christ to the unbeliever. He doesn’t say you do this through agonizing and being obnoxious. He’s saying you do this through being holy before that person. You don’t nag your husband or wife constantly because their lost. “Look at yourself! You’re not going to heaven. You shouldn’t drink like that! You’re going to hell! What kind of attitude is that? Why don’t you ever….” No. That’s not what he’s talking about. He’s saying you win your unbelieving spouse to the Lord through meekness—get this—through humility and through a holy and devoted walk to Christ, not through being obnoxious.
Zig Ziglar said it best, “I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make marriage happy and successful.” Listen to what he says. “I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible you did marry the wrong person. However, if you treat them like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. On the other hand, if you marry the right person and treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person in your own mind. I also know that it’s far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person. In short, whether you marry the right person or the wrong person, it is primarily up to you.”
Now at this point, I know there are a lot of questions. “Robby, what about me? I’m divorced. Robby, what about me? I’m remarried without biblical grounds. What do I do now? Am I living a life of sin with my new husband or my new wife? Am I continually living in adultery now because my marriage was not dissolved for biblical reasons? Should I divorce my new spouse and go back to my new spouse and go back to my former.…” I’ve heard all these questions. “Should I divorce my new spouse and go back to the former spouse before and try to make that marriage right? Am I continually living in sin?” Those are good questions.
Let me just explain shortly, quickly, I don’t have a lot of time to do it. Divorce and remarriage for any reason other than adultery is a sin. However, just as if any sin is committed, the sin happened when you entered into the divorce. One time. And the sin happened when you reengaged in the new marriage. One time. Now, with all that being said, let me say this. Divorce and remarriage is not the unpardonable sin. God says don’t let failure be final. And if that’s you in here today and you’ve been divorced and remarried for biblical grounds or unbiblical grounds, the only thing that you need to do at this point is this. You repent of your sin, your past sin, and you commit your life, you commit your family, you commit your spouse, you commit your kid, you commit your ministry unto the Lord. And the only thing you can do from this point on is to move forward.
The only way you can serve the Lord in your marriage is by surrendering to the supremacy of Christ, to the Lordship of Christ in your marriage. The only way you can love your spouse is if you know the author of love, who is God. And so that’s what you do in your marriage. Whether you’re married for the first time and you’ve never been divorced, whether you’re remarried because of divorce for biblical reasons or you’re remarried for unbiblical reasons, you serve the Lord in the strength of the Spirit, committing to Christ as Lord of your life, knowing the author of love and living for him.