Andy's New Book
How to Memorize Scripture for Life: From One Verse to Entire Books

Jesus Teaches on Divorce and Marriage (Mark Sermon 47)

Series: Mark

Jesus Teaches on Divorce and Marriage (Mark Sermon 47)

March 26, 2023 | Andy Davis
Mark 10:1-12
Sexual Immorality, Divorce, Sufficiency of Scripture, Marriage and Parenting

God brought married couples together primarily for the purpose of putting Himself on display.



I’m going to ask you this morning to turn to Mark 10:1-12, but also to turn to Matthew 19. I'm going to be walking through, effectively both passages, leaning on the parallel passage of the teaching in Matthew 19, so you want to look back and forth at those two passages. Matthew 19, also Mark 10.

One of my favorite verses in scripture, James 1:17 says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Every good thing we experience in this life comes from God. We also learned from scripture, every good gift that God gives, sin seeks to attack and destroy. Or, we could put it this way, in every beautiful Garden of Eden that God sets up in the world, sin seeks to crowd in and savage and turn into smoldering wreckage. That's true of the original Garden of Eden. Picture that pristine world, radiant with glory, the stunningly beautiful Garden of Eden, well watered with all manner of succulent fruit trees. Picture also the happy and innocent couple, Adam and Eve, married, ready to begin their fruitful life together. Working together, side-by-side, to be fruitful and multiplied to fill the earth with children, in their image. To fill the world, thereby, with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

I. Sin Spoils Every Garden of Eden

But also picture a forbidden tree. A wife we are told, completely deceived. A husband, willingly, rebellious. And through their sin, through Adam's sin, they and all their unborn children, instantly died spiritually because of that act of rebellion, because of one man's sin. Marriage itself, left, damaged and even cursed. What should have been a perfect oneness, now left a tragic battleground in which we are told the woman would strive for dominion in the marriage and seek to rule over her husband and he would use sinful power to rule over her, to dominate her.

Since that time, if you know what to look for, there have been many lesser Gardens of Eden, pockets of God's grace, but then sin comes in and starts to attack it and to savage it. Think about the world after the flood of Noah, how it had been cleansed and ready for life again and how in a very short time, sin came in. Or think about the Promised Land, land flowing with milk and honey, and Israel coming in the promises of God, but sin soon after, attacking. Think about the righteous kingdom of David and then the terrible sin with Bathsheba and the damage that was done there. Think about the kingdom, the wealthy kingdom of wise Solomon, and then the damage done because of his many wives, as intermarriage with unbelieving women. Think even about the beautiful growing church of Jesus Christ, in its pristine days after the days of Pentecost, and it isn't very long before sin comes in to attack that Garden of Eden, as well.

All of those Gardens of Eden are attacked in some way and ravaged by sin and within one household also after another, every Christian marriage starts out as its own Garden of Eden, but in some measure ends up, from time to time, a battleground in which the couple has to fight their own flesh, their own sin, nature, and also that of their spouses, to carve out a harvest of righteousness for the glory of God. Children raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus, ministries carried out to completion, to fruitful completion. The couple can fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, but it's still a battle. That pristine Garden of Eden on their wedding day becomes in some measure, a battleground ever since. 

"Every Christian marriage starts out as its own Garden of Eden, but in some measure ends up, from time to time, a battleground in which the couple has to fight their own flesh, their own sin… to carve out a harvest of righteousness for the glory of God."

That's what we're facing in this text today. We are considering a tragedy, a genuinely tragic topic, the issue of divorce. It is one of the most painful pandemics in the history of the human race. It ravages families, it attacks souls, it destroys happiness. The statistics are terrible and getting worse on divorce. In the United States alone in 1970 there are 4.3 million divorced people. By 1994, generation later, the number had quadrupled to 17.4 million. In the year 2020, the number had grown by 70% again to almost 29 million people. Because of this, more and more young people are just choosing not to get married. As Peter said in Matthew, it's better not to get married. Many people are just coming to that conclusion. In 1990, the marriage rate in the US was 9.8 per 1,000 people, but by 2021 it had dropped to six per 1,000, almost 40% drop in the number of people getting married.

Divorce has therefore, devastating effects on the couple. Research has shown that divorce men and women suffer much higher rates of mortality, depression, physical illness in general and substance abuse, than do those that stay married. For example, people divorced once have twice the rate of alcoholism and three times the rate of suicide to those that stay married.

Divorce is damaging on their children. Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of school as children from one-time married couples. They're three times more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems. Divorce is devastating on the community that surrounds them. We live together in a network of relationships. We live together in a community, here in this local church, First Baptist Church, Durham. To some degree, the marriages of the covenant members of this church are a community concern. If one of us married couples gets divorced, it's going to have a powerful, unmistakable though unmeasurable, ripple effect on all the other marriages in the church. We're not free to do whatever we want with our marriages. We are in a network of relationships.

We have in scripture, God's timeless pronouncement on this topic. In Malachi 2:16, "For all time, I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel. I want to turn this around, and make it positive. By the way, that's my whole approach here. It is a negative topic, but I want to turn it around positively to talk about marriage because that's exactly what Jesus does. But if God says, "I hate divorce," we must think then He would definitely say, "I love marriage.” I think if we look at what Jesus taught in Matthew 19 and in Mark 10 and from Jesus's doctrine, we would say it is God himself who made marriage originally. And it is God himself who makes marriages specifically. So, let me say that again. Based on the teaching of Jesus in this passage, it is God himself who made marriage originally and it is God himself who makes marriages specifically.

This is for us in our time in history and in our country a needed topic. There is more and more confusion in our modern world about marriage. On June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Obergefell decision, ruled to guarantee the fundamental right to marry for same sex couples. In December 13th, 2022, there was the Respect for Marriage Act, one of the worst named pieces of legislation in history, and there is a genuine fear on the part of Christians of the future of religious freedom on this, if we have to respect what has been redefined as marriage, what we would never agree is marriage.

Because of this redefining of marriage legally, throwing out millennia of legal precedence, there's been more and more confusion not just on marriage but on gender itself and sexuality and the floodgates of error have been thrown open and therefore we need Jesus' calm, stable, Bible-centric teaching on marriage and on divorce. It's desperately needed.

Along with that, as a pastor, I really do believe, I can say convictionally, the health of any church is tied to the health of its marriages. The healthier the marriages, the healthier this church will be. Whether you're single or married , all of you who care about this church should care about the health of the marriages in this church. Not only that, as we got to celebrate the children this morning, we have a passage coming up later in Mark 10, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them." The future of the church depends on the health of Christian families because the overwhelming majority of elect people chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, come to faith in Christ through the administrations of at least one Christian parent. Christian families are a factory for the future generation of Christians, therefore the marriage is important. Satan knows this, therefore he's going to be constantly attacking our marriages. Christ's teaching here in Mark 10, also Matthew 19, will be an essential line of defense.

II. The Pharisees’ Darkly Clever Attack

Let's walk into the text now and we see immediately the Pharisees darkly clever attack on Jesus. Mark 10:1-2, "Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?'" We need to understand the context. Jesus has now completed the Galilean phase of his ministry in this moving southward. He's down into Judea and then in Mark 10, we have Jesus ministering across the Jordan River in a region called Perea. This region was ruled by King Herod Antipas, the very one who had had John the Baptist beheaded because John had preached that it was unlawful for him to have divorced his own wife and then married his brother, Phillip's wife, Herodias. Herodias took severe exception to it, so did Herod and eventually Herod beheaded John because of this teaching.

Jesus's enemies, the Pharisees, are cleverly and darkly trying to draw him into the same trap. He's in the same place, not far from where John the Baptist had been beheaded, and so this is an attack on Jesus, trying to get Herod to be his enemy in the same way. But beyond this, we are dealing with the prevailing attitude about divorce among the Jews, at the time. Jesus's teaching on divorce here would've been very unpopular with Jewish people at the time. Many priests and scribes, as well as the Pharisees followed the teachings of a man named Rabbi Hillel, who had died around the time that Jesus was born. Rabbi Hillel taught that it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason. If she burned his meal, or disrespected his mother, or twirled around so that other men could see her ankles, or indeed if he just grew weary of her. For any reason, he could divorce his wife. Therefore, we can see the surprise of the apostles at Jesus's seemingly restrictive teaching on divorce, for divorce for any reason was the norm.

Look at the phraseology. If you look at Matthew 19:3, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause or any and every reason, for whatever reason he wants?” The Pharisees are trying to make Jesus unpopular with the Jewish people, as well. It's a very darkly clever trap that they're springing on Jesus, but Jesus is fearless in proclaiming the truth. Always. He does not care what Rabbi Hillel taught, nor would He care what any society or any culture teaches about marriage and divorce. He would not bow to the Supreme Court ruling or any kind of legislation in our country on this. He would turn forever to the perfect, the unchanging word of God. That's exactly what He does, He turns to timeless scripture.

Mark 10:3, "What did Moses command you?" Mark's account is briefer, so I would suggest we look over at Matthew 19 and follow the ordering that he does there. In Matthew 19. He expands on this, focusing on Moses's writing of the Genesis account. Matthew 19:4-6, “ 'Haven't you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning, the creator made them male and female and said, for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ "

III. Jesus Turns to Timeless Scripture

We start with Jesus's Bible-centered, scripture-centered mind. Some of you know this because I've done premarital counseling with you. Whenever I do premarital counseling with a couple, I always start with Matthew 19, and I have to make a defense for it. It's like I know you're here to get married. You wonder why are you talking about divorce? Jesus talks about marriage and then gives the ruling on divorce, so it's a very good place to begin. Also, notice if Jesus were doing your premarital counseling, He would say, "Haven't you read?" He'd bring you to scripture. We need no other source of information. Unchanging scripture is sufficient to define and heal marriage, and I think it's good that they're Christian books on marriage, but they're only helpful insofar as they basically begin, "Haven't you read?" They’re only helpful insofar as they elucidate scripture’ teaching on marriage. 

Let's walk through the text in Matthew 1, “Haven't you read that at the beginning…?” He brings them back to Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth." He takes them back to that and to Genesis 2. He quotes something from Genesis 1:27, something from Genesis 2:24. In Jesus' mind, the way the Creator set up marriage at the beginning is relevant in his day and in our day. It's an unchanging paradigm. It's timeless, it doesn't evolve, it doesn't drift, it doesn't require redefinition. We don't get higher understanding about it. It never changes. So, “Haven't you read at the beginning?" Then he says, "The Creator." I love that word. Isn't that a beautiful word? The Creator, the one who made and shaped things, the one who made the world and everything in it. The one who made the first man out of the dust of the earth, shaped and created him, and then took a rib from sleeping Adam and made the first woman from her. He shaped and created her, the Creator, what a beautiful concept and idea. God's intention in marriage is all that matters. What did the Creator create at the beginning? He alone created, so He alone has the right to define it, to rule over it, and to judge it. It says,”the Creator made them male and female” [Genesis 1:27]. 

This is so incredibly relevant in our day and age. In our time, in our culture for the first time as far as I understand history, we have a society-wide movement to redefine gender. Therefore, believing that there are two and only two genders, male and female, is disparaged as binary. We're binary people if we think that. As though now we know better within the last 25, 30 years, we now know better. We now know that someone can be born biologically male and identify as female, or born biologically female and identify as male. But this is satanic nonsense and it's damaging to the people who really think that. We do them no help to feed their delusion. We want them to be healthy in their mind and their heart and their soul. It's a direct attack on biblical truth and biological truth. God wrote gender into the scripture from the beginning and into every single human being, from conception, even to the DNA level. Sadly, sin entered into the human race and has confused minds and hearts and made us darkened in our understanding and twisted our thinking. That's true of all of us. We all struggle with this, that perversion of the mind.

"God wrote gender into the scripture from the beginning and into every single human being, from conception, even to the DNA level. Sadly, sin entered into the human race and has confused minds and hearts and made us darkened in our understanding and twisted our thinking."

Therefore, the issue of same sex attraction is at the foundation of this. It's apparently an attempt to be sympathetic to those that have these strong feelings. That's where it starts. But what's happened is that society has validated what the Bible calls shameful lusts, in Romans 1:26, or vile affections or degrading passions or dishonorable passions. That's the clear truth about that drive, that desire[Romans 1:26]; they're now normalized under the teaching “love is love”.

Natural relations, in Romans 1:26-27, nature means biologically-ordained and God-ordained function, for which nature is clearly prepared and aligned and shaped and created. The natural relations between a male and female, which God ordained for marriage and for procreation, for the creation of new human beings in his image, all of that Jesus would establish. It is wrong for those that disagree with this, to think they can recruit Jesus, who's so gentle and mild and that He'll be affirming this idea and, so would the Word. That should never happen. He would not do that. He affirmed biblical truth for the health of the human race and He clearly asserted that there are two genders, “Haven't you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female?”

Then He continues, saying, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife…” If you were to look to Genesis 2:24, that's where the thing that He's quoting comes from, "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Even though Moses wrote that in the narrative, in Scripture what Scripture says, God says. The Creator's the one that makes this statement, even though Moses wrote it in the narrative. Does that make sense? Jesus has a very high view of scripture. I think it's impossible to have a higher view of scripture than Jesus, so the Creator makes this statement about them.

This is a permanent paradigm for all time, all cultures. "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh." We know it's a paradigm because neither Adam nor Eve had a father or mother and Adam didn't leave his father and mother. It was that this was going to be the paradigm from now on. This timeless transcultural pattern is for every nation to the end of the time, “for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother.” So, when a young man is done in his parents' home, it's time for him to leave and establish his own home, usually the pattern then is to get married. Not always, there is singleness. I'm very aware of the gift of singleness in my mind. I'll address it later. But the norm is to leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. The KJV gives the famous, “cleave". We have this “leave and cleave” idea, it's an archaic word. We don't tend to use it that way. It just means “unites with”, “becomes bonded” with her. It’s like the two are glued together. A picture of oneness and the two become one flesh, He says. This is the marital bond, the sexual bond, which God intended by their compatible genders. That sexual bond, one flesh, the two become one flesh, is sacred to God

It is also the focus of much of Satan's attack on the human personality. It's an area of tremendous weakness for us, post-Adam sin. But it was originally intended by the Creator as something good and blessed and holy, a source of tremendous joy and pleasure and obviously a source of procreation, as well, children in his image. It's also we're told in Ephesians 5:32, “a mysterious, even mystical picture of Christ and the church.” This is the essence of marriage, the two become on, and Jesus doubles down in the oneness. He says it again and makes his final pronouncement Mark 10:8-9, "So, they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate." That is his official answer to the question, in Matthew 19, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” The answer is absolutely not. No. Divorce is directly contrary to God's purposes in making marriage in general and it's directly opposed to God's activity in bringing an individual couple together. God has joined them together. Therefore, we don't have the right to break apart what God joined together. God's authority stands over all couples and forbids them from breaking apart what he has joined together.

But then come questions about Moses and divorce in Matthew's account. They come at this point once He makes his pronouncement. It's kind of clear from Matthew's account, that the Pharisees thought that Moses commanded that man divorce his wife. I can tell you right now in all the 66 books of the Bible, there's not a single command to anyone to ever get a divorce, but Moses did permit it, and Jesus is asked to address that. But there's no command. You're never required. There are, I believe, in the exception clause, lawful reasons where it's permissible, but it's never commanded. That's how they were thinking. Moses did not command anyone to get a divorce. If you look at the passage in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where Moses addresses it. It's a very convoluted case study, actually. That's all that happens. And effectively what happens is, if a man divorces his wife and she goes off and ends up marrying another man and then he either divorces her or he dies, she's not free to go back to husband number one. In that case, Moses said the land would be completely defiled. That's all it says. 

 But the question is not so much did he command or permit, et cetera. The question is why didn't he forbid divorce as Jesus is essentially doing here? That's the real question, so that's what they're getting at, so let's answer the question that they're really asking. Jesus' answer is pretty clear. Mark 10:5, "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses gave you this command.” It's because your hearts were hard. God willing, next week I'm going to preach a second sermon, kind of like a group marriage counseling session and it's like I could go anywhere, everywhere on this. Marriage is a huge topic. What I'm going to do is I'm going to focus on two things, God willing, next week: What does He mean by “your hearts are hard” and how does it affect marriage? Secondly, what is the remedy: it is oneness. I want to meditate on oneness next week. We'll do that, God willing, next week.

But hearts are hearts . All divorce stems from human sinfulness, from the hardness of heart. The corruption introduced by the fall into sin and the hardness of heart is on both their hearts. The husband has a hard heart, the wife has a hard heart. That's hardness of heart. What does it mean? It's a resistance to God, a rebellion against God, a fighting against God's purposes. That's what hardness of heart is and it came in because of the fallen into sin.

In Genesis 3, I alluded to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, "He was tempted by the serpent and then she took some fruit and ate it, and then she gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. And the eyes of both of them are open and they realized they were naked. And so they took fig leaves and sewed them up to cover themselves.” That horizontal bond was shattered immediately. That's a picture of the strife and conflict that leads to divorce. They were broken from one another, and then vertically when God came, they were broken from him. They're hiding from Him too. That's the effect of sin, this hardness of heart.

Martin Luther, in his own humorous way, said something like this in his translation, "Good heavens, what a lot of trouble there is in marriage. Adam has made a mess of our nature. Think of all the squabbles Adam and Eve must have had for 900 years. Eve said, ‘You ate the apple.’ And Adam would answer, ‘Yes, but you gave it to me.’ Imagine 900 years of that.” That's Luther. I don't know what it was like to be married to that man. When he was a monk, he said he changed his sheets once a year whether they needed it or not, it’s a different topic. Ask me another time about Luther. Then Katie, the hero that married him.

Anyway, in Genesis 3:16, God's curse on the woman focuses on her role as a mother and as a wife. To the woman, He said, "I will greatly increase your pain and childbearing. With pain, you'll give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you." This is a curse. The statement, “your desire”, is not a sweet thing. It's like, "Oh, you'll just love your husband so much." That's not what it is. The only other time that Hebrew word is used is the next chapter, when God warns Cain that sin is crouching at his door; it desires to have him and he must master it. It's a battle type of desire. He's going to rule over you, so it's strife because the hearts are hard.

Jesus gives this final verdict: “No, what God has joined together, let man not separate." Then He is even clearer with his disciples when they ask him in private. He makes a clear prohibition on divorce, verse 10 through 12, "When they're in the house alone, the disciples ask Jesus about this." He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman, commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’ " The disciples in their typical pattern want more information privately later. In that context, Jesus gives this clear prohibition of divorce, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery." The same goes for the wife. He parallels the statement. He doesn't just assume it, He says it. "And any woman who divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." The sacredness of that marriage bond is paramount here.

Now, is there any exception to this? Well, yes, in Matthew's account there is an exception. It's known as the exception clause, Matthew 19:9, "Anyone who divorces wife except for marital unfaithful and marries another woman, commits adultery." So the word translated “marital unfaithfulness” is “pornea” and that's a general term for sexual sin. Some overly strict leaders, forbid divorce and remarriage categorically, absolutely. They tend to deconstruct or denigrate the exception clause in Matthew 19. I think this is not the approach we should ever take to scripture. It's not the approach I take when trying to harmonize Matthew, Mark and Luke. Whenever any of those passages gives additional information, you act as if all of them gave it. It's reasonable to ask why didn't Mark or Luke put it in. I think clearly under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they chose not to, but there is this exception and the exception is in Scripture. Bottom line, it's clear what Jesus is saying. Marriage is a sacred bond, upheld by almighty God. God invented marriage at the beginning, set up a paradigm He expects to be followed. He'd set it up at the beginning of his history, and He has not changed his mind. His word will not change, his mind will not change, his definition will not change. God is personally involved in making specific couples, drawing them together and making them one. We therefore, do not have the right to sever that bond that God has made.

V. Lessons

Let's take some lessons. First and foremost, the best thing I can ever do every week is just preach the gospel. Hallelujah, what a Savior, Jesus Christ. He shed his blood on the cross for sinners like you and me. Single or married, we're all sinners. Isn't it beautiful to know the gospel is the foundation of every healthy Christian marriage. The fact that we are sinners, but forgiven sinners, that the blood of Jesus has been shed for sinners like you and me. If you repent of your sins and turn to him through faith in Christ, no matter what your marital state or condition or situation, that's lesser important than your vertical relationship with God, God will forgive your sins through faith in Christ. Then if you are married, it will be a solid foundation in which to live out your marriage. Or if you're single, a solid foundation in which for you to live out your singleness. So, come to Christ. I love that song. That invitation song. Come to me. Jesus says again and again. If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink. If anyone is hungry, let them come to me and eat. Jesus says, come to me and find rest for your souls.

Then on the topic of marriage, let's just celebrate the gift. It's a good gift. I began with James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above." It's one of the greatest gateways of blessing there is in life, if God gives you that gift. It is Satan who wants us to think hard thoughts of marriage in many different ways. In church history, there have been aesthetics, who forbid marriage. They think anything physical is evil and so they forbade marriage. But Paul calls that the doctrine of demons, the forbidding of marriage, the doctrine of demons. Like the cult, the shakers, where they would not let the males and females even literally physically touch at all. It's a cult and it's a doctrine of demons. I also think to the same degree, the consistent Roman Catholic teaching of clerical celibacy, which has led to all kinds of problems in their history, is a different version of the doctrine of demons, to denigrate marriage.

But on the other hand, there are more people immersing themselves in the physical pleasures of sex, what the Bible would call marital relations, something reserved only for the sacredness of the marriage relationship. They fornicate, they commit all kinds of sexual immorality, and they sin. Satan is pushing young people to seize privileges that have not yet been given to them by God, by getting married. Statistics show that as many as almost half of self-identified evangelicals, age 18 to 29 have been sexually active. That's a scandal. That's sin. We need to stand strong against fornication, against the sin of sexual immorality. We need to establish, in our own minds, reestablish clear boundaries that scripture set around sex and marriage. 

If you're married, thank God for your marriage, in general, and even more importantly, thank God for your spouse in particular. It won't do your spouse much good to say. "I just want you to know, I thank God for marriage and abstraction." They would say, ”Would you thank God for me?” So let's just start there. Be thankful for the spouse that God gave you. Thank God for him or her, the one God brought you together. Be thankful. And fundamentally, if I could just commend you the fruit of the spirit, let me just zero on kindness. Be kind to each other, just be kind. I mean, we know what kindness is, just start there. If you're having marital trouble, start with kindness. There is more I can say, God willing, next week.

If someday you will be married, you're single now, thank God for the blessed state of singleness. 1 Corinthians 7, Paul celebrates it, and there may be some of you that will have that lifelong gift of singleness. If you don't know whether you have that lifelong gift of singleness, you're looking forward someday to being married, well, thank God for your present state, but look forward with holy expectation to marriage as God has defined it here. Keep yourself pure. Look forward to it with holy expectations and get ready. Prepare yourself.

If you are a widow or a widower, just thank God for the goodness of the marriage you did have and for the love that was poured out to you in your life by your godly spouse who's with the Lord now.

And glorify God in your marriage. If you're married, make your marriage a delightful display of the glory of God. Understand that Satan wants to make your marriage a battleground, but as Ephesians 6 says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood." There be maybe no category of people in a local church and needs to hear that as much as married couples. "Our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against Satan and demonic powers." Your mentality should be that God brought you together, primarily for the purpose of putting him on display, glorifying him, that his attributes might shine forth both in how you treat each other and the way you help sanctify each other, the way you help raise the next generation for his glory, that God may be glorified. That's the reason you exist as husband and wife.

So often, marriages become essentially selfish. “She doesn't meet my needs." “He doesn't understand me.” “What’s in it for me?" Or basically saying, what's in it from me? I would commend Philippians 2, "Look to the other person's interests more than your own. Consider the other person is better than yourself." Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, that picture of humble servanthood, that He commends to the Philippian church. Do that in marriage and think of divorce as unthinkable.

I'm going to say it's a picture of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit, all oneness. I'm going to start next week with that, with oneness. All oneness. It's a picture of the Trinity. It is unthinkable to think of one person of the Trinity wanting out. It's unthinkable, and we should think of it as unthinkable.

Sometime ago, I listened to a training done by a Christian pastor named Reb Bradley. Before he was in family ministry, he was a professional photographer and he did a lot of weddings. In the course of time, there was a particular person that saw his face on a poster for a family life conference and tracked him down and called him. He said, "I don't know what it is, but you look a lot like the guy who photographed our wedding." He said, "Well, actually, I was a professional photographer. When was your wedding?" They exchanged information. "All right, yeah, I remember that. I remember that. How's it going?" Reb Bradley said to this man. He said, "Well, it's not going very well." He said, “Really?" And he said, "Yeah." He said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I think we're going to get a divorce." "You can't," Reb Bradley said. "I beg your pardon?" "Well," I said, "You can't." "What do you mean I can't?" "Well, I was there as a photographer, but I was also there as a witness, and I heard what you promised God, and this is something you promised you would never do, and now I'm holding you to it.” The man said, "What do you want me to do?" He said, "Work it out." So that's my marital advice to all of you. You can't. Work it out. That's the text, right? That's why this is here. It's here to help us. You can't. Go into the room and close the door and work it out. And so next week I want to talk more about how you do that. How you do that. I'm going to do the best that I can. But basically what Jesus is saying, what God is saying here is, you can't, so work it out. And if you're a Christian, you have enough resources to do just that.

Now, if you are divorced, I understand, how could I not think that there would be divorced people? Of course, there are people here who have experienced divorce. Perhaps you are the innocent party, your spouse left you. We've had a number of those heartbreaking cases, and it's just very, very sad to walk through. The one individual wants to do everything they can to save the marriage, the other individual is gone. They don't want to be there anymore and they've committed adultery or whatever. It's very, very tragic. But we also know the other can happen too. Years and years ago, you weren't where you needed to be spiritually, you sin. Maybe it was you that committed adultery. Maybe you had irreconcilable differences and thought that was a reason to get divorced and you got a divorce. Then in subsequent years, you met someone else and got married. Now you're in a different place, perhaps, I hope, and you think about marriage more biblically, but what do you do now? Well, there's nothing you can do about the past. Just learn from it.

You remember the terrible story of David and Bathsheba and how David lusted after another man's wife. He took her, slept with her, she got pregnant, he then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. They got married. In the course of time, she gave birth to a baby, and then God judged that couple by taking that baby. Now David’s in a marriage that was established through overt wickedness and sin. But in the course of time, she conceived again and gave birth to Solomon. The Lord sent word through Nathan, the prophet. He said, "Call him Jedediah, which means beloved of the Lord." That's God's way of saying that he moves on. We can't go back. He's going to tell the truth in the text of scripture, but he moves on.

If that's you, what I would suggest is, accept the grace of God for your sins, for what's happened in the past. You're not required to tell the story to anyone that asks, but if you are in a situation to mentor, let's say younger couples, or the topic comes up, just tell the biblical truth about what happened. You're not going to serve the church well by twisting it or thinking of it wrongly. Establish the biblical pattern in your own mind. Tell the truth, accept God's lavish grace for past sins that you can't do anything about now, and move ahead. God willing, next week we'll talk more about establishing oneness in marriage through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the time we've had to be in your word today. Thank you for the insights it gives us, the truth it tells us. Fill us with your spirit. I pray for both singles and married people, that we would understand this topic properly. I pray that the marriages in this church will be healthy and God-honoring and God-glorifying. And above even this important topic of marriage, above anything and everything, is the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and the empty tomb, which gives us hope of an eternity, free from sin forever. In Jesus' name that we pray. Amen


Other Sermons in This Series