Lesson 13 “Questions Answered” Mark 10.1-31
ID: Inductive Questions (Asking the text questions like who, what, where, when, why, & how?”)
CR: Cross References (Comparing Scripture to Scripture, understanding the vague by the clear.)
WS: Word Study (Understanding definition, theological meaning, and usages in other passages.)
The WORD: What does the Bible say?
Context: Read Mark 9:47-10:34 to help understand the context of this passage. Read Mark 10:1-31 in a more literal or more dynamic translation than you usually use. Also read Genesis 1:24, 27; Exodus 20:12-14; and Deuteronomy 24:1-4. In this section Jesus answers questions with teaching about divorce, salvation, and commitment.
1. ID/CR: (10:2-5) What did Moses command about divorce? (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Why did God have Moses give those commands?
2. ID/CR: (10:5-8) What did Jesus teach about the purpose of marriage? (Genesis 1:24, 27) Why is divorce bad according to this passage? How does this teaching about marriage compare and contrast with the current culture’s views?
3. CR/WS: (10:10-2) Is divorce ever permissible? How should we harmonize Jesus’ statements here (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-12; Luke 16:18) with teaching about divorce in the epistles? (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-17, 39)
4. ID: (10:13-15) How did Jesus respond to the man? To his question? Why did the answer make him sad?
5. ID: (10:23-27) What is the “eye of a needle?” How hard is it to enter the kingdom of heaven? Why? (Compare verses 15 and 24.)
6. ID: (10:28-31) What does Jesus expect of His followers? Do these verses encourage us to leave our families? How does verse 31 relate to verses 29-30? (The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible says that this verse means, “Abandon your wife and family and Jesus will give you a big reward.” How would you respond?)
The WALK: What should I do?
1. How serious is an unscriptural divorce? Why? Have you ever considered divorce? Why or why not?
2. If someone asked you for one key piece of advice about marriage, what would you say? Why?
3. How do you think your riches, your family, and your friends have affected your relationship with the Lord and His priorities?
4. Have you or someone you know had family members disassociate with you/them because of your/their faith in Christ?
Going Beyond: What do Jesus’ comments in verses 2-12 say about how about how He viewed OT accounts and characters like Adam and Eve?
2. What areas of theology are touched on in this passage?
□ The Bible □ God □ God the Father □ Jesus Christ □ The Holy Spirit □ Man □ Salvation □ The Church □ Angels & Satan □ Future Things
Tulsa Bible Church: What We Teach on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage of Believers
INTRODUCTION: The purpose of this pamphlet is to delineate the position of Tulsa Bible Church on issues related to divorce, including the biblical grounds for divorce, a biblical perspective on remarriage, and what the Bible has to say about ministry restrictions on those who have been divorced.
MARRIAGE: GOD’S PLAN
Marriage is God’s idea, not man’s! It was instituted by God in the time of man’s innocence, beautified by Christ’s presence at the wedding in Cana, and symbolizes the mystical union between Christ and His church. From the beginning, God, by His wise and loving design, has ordained marriage for the propagation of the human race and for mutual companionship and fulfillment of husband and wife. He intended for marriage to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman. Following the account of Eve’s creation (Genesis 2:18-24) is the beautiful statement: “Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Referring to Genesis 2:24, Jesus added, “So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). True, he calls some people to forgo marriage and remain single (Matthew 19:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:7) and in the next world after the resurrection it will be abolished (Mark 12:25). Yet, while the present order lasts, it is to be honored by all, not forbidden, and as Paul says in Romans 7:2, it is intended to be a permanent union to be broken only by death. It is therefore one of life’s most meaningful and lasting commitments.
At the outset, we want to state emphatically that we are strongly opposed to divorce. God’s Word, in Malachi 2:16, asserts that GOD HATES DIVORCE. Knowing God’s original ideal for marriage makes us realize the full tragedy of divorce. Initially SIN is involved and that is an affront to God. IT CONTRADICTS His will; frustrates His purpose; brings to the husband and wife the acute anguish of alienation disillusion, recrimination and guilt; and precipitates in children a crisis of bewilderment, insecurity, and often anger. In a very real sense, divorce is one of the most severe forms of child abuse.
BIBLICAL CRITERIA FOR DIVORCE
Though divorce is terrible for these and other reasons, it is permitted in Scripture in only two cases.
BASIS #1: FORNICATION
The first, stated in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9, is fornication. The term is commonly used in Scripture to refer to the broad range of sexual sins such as adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution, incest, etc.
There are some very practical reasons why fornication, so understood, would be a legitimate basis for divorce. If it were not, the faithful spouse would continue under the obligation stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 to provide sexual fulfillment for his or her partner. It would be emotional torture to require a husband or wife to be sexually responsive to a mate whom they knew was committing adultery. In addition, there would be the possible exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. With the spread of the AIDS epidemic, this becomes an increasingly serious concern. For these and other practical reasons, God does not require a spouse to remain with a partner who has committed fornication.
Foundational to these practical reasons for giving relief to the person whose spouse has committed fornication is a basic principle related to the nature of marriage. The marriage bond consists of two factors. A public or legal commitment to live faithfully as husband and wife, and the consummation of that agreement in physical union. The legal agreement is a public expression of intent regarding fidelity in the physical relationship.
Fornication breaks that physical union. In other words, when a person commits fornication, the two are no longer one flesh in the technical sense of the word. I Corinthians 6:16 states: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For the two, He says, shall become one flesh.” Therefore, the married man having relations with a harlot has become one flesh with her, thus breaking the “one flesh” relationship with his wife.
Since the physical union is broken through fornication, the spouse not committing fornication has the option to reflect that condition legally by terminating the legal contract. In other words, with the severing of the physical union through fornication the marriage is already broken. The breaking of the legal tie through divorce merely reflects that fact legally.
However, where there has been fornication, divorce is not required. The spouse who has been sinned against may choose to retain the legal bond and re-consummate the marriage. When the wronged partner chooses divorce, this does not necessarily connote lack of forgiveness. A spouse may forgive and yet not be willing to trust the unfaithful partner in a renewed relationship.
BASIS #2: ABANDONMENT
A second biblical basis for divorce is found in I Corinthians 7:15. “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.” This passage seems to be saying that a person is free from marital vows and the corresponding obligations when abandoned.
This basis for divorce may not actually be a second one, added to the one given by Christ, i.e., fornication, but may merely be a practical expression of the one which Christ gave us. In most cases where desertion takes place, the person does not leave in order to lead a celibate life. In fact, in the majority of cases, his or her leaving is motivated by an affair with a third party. Even where a person is not involved at the time of leaving, most people who leave a marriage intend to ultimately establish such a relationship. In other words, they intend to commit “fornication.”
In the closed Jewish society which Christ addressed, it would not be too difficult to determine if this were in fact the case. However, in the broader Gentile context, it would be difficult for a person to track down a spouse who had departed to determine if they were committing fornication. In this passage, Paul seems to be reliving the deserted believer of the burden of proving that fornication is taking place. He seems to be making the assumption that if a spouse has departed, they are suspect of fornication to the point that further proof is not required to warrant a divorce. One can see the wisdom of this approach in relation to our society. To actually prove that a person was committing fornication would be difficult. It could be challenging even to establish what might be considered adequate proof. Since sexual activities are conducted in private, it may be impossible to go beyond circumstantial evidence in establishing the fact that the person has committed fornication. Paul seems to be saying that departing is sufficient circumstantial evidence.
In the case of desertion, a value judgment is required to determine how long a spouse must be gone before it is considered desertion. However, God can certainly give His people wisdom to make that determination.
THE NEED TO CAREFULLY CONSIDER THE OPTION OF RECONCILIATION
Two bases for divorce have been described above. However, neither constitutes a requirement to divorce. In such cases, several factors weigh heavily on the side of reconciliation rather than divorce. The first is children, if the couple has been blessed with them. In most cases, destroying a marriage which can be reconciled is not doing that which is in the best interest of the children. To make them choose between mother and father is placing them in a position of great anguish. Forcing them to live without one parent is a painful plight resulting in long-term detrimental effects. Those effects are often amplified by step parents who treat the step children as unwanted baggage.
Another factor in support of reconciliation is that second marriages often end in failure. It is usually easier to make the first one work than it is to succeed with a second one. Many other factors could be cited in favor of reconciliation. This is not to say that reconciliation is always the best option. However, divorce should only be entered into after reconciliation has been thoroughly considered.
The above discussion leads us to the issue of remarriage. In what cases is remarriage permitted by Scripture?
When Christ was addressing the issue of divorce in Matthew 19:9, the matter of remarriage was an integral part of the discussion. These Jewish men were not asking whether they could divorce their wives to live celibate lives, but whether they could divorce for the purpose of remarriage. The fact that Christ understood this to be their intent is clearly reflected in His response in Matthew 19:9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery. . .”
The implication of this statement is that where there has been sexual immorality, the innocent party has the prerogative to divorce. If he or she chooses to assert that prerogative, and since both the physical and legal bonds have then been broken, the innocent party has the right to remarry. It should be emphasized that only the innocent party has the biblical right to break the legal contract, i.e. to divorce. Scripture does not specifically address remarriage for the guilty party.
In the case of desertion, Paul states in I Corinthians 7:15 that “a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.” This language seems to be saying that the person is no longer biblically bound by the legal bond, and therefore is free to remarry.
This understanding of the passage is supported by the language of Romans 7:2-3, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband…so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” Though a different Greek word is used, Romans 7:2-3 refers to the person who has no right to remarry as being bound, and when the bonds are broken, in that passage by death, remarriage is permitted. Though I Corinthians 7:15 speaks of the bonds being broken by abandonment rather than death, Paul seems to be presenting a parallel truth to that found in Romans 7 regarding the freedom to divorce and remarry. This truth is reiterated in I Corinthians 7:39.
SUPPORT FROM THE BIBLICAL TEACHING ON THE NEED FOR MARRIAGE
This understanding of the biblical teaching on remarriage allows some the option of being married. In all situations, there must be a waiting period.
MINISTRY RESTRICTIONS ON DIVORCED PEOPLE
Only two New Testament passages in Scripture could be interpreted to place restrictions on the ministry of divorced people. They are I Timothy 3 and Titus I which describe the qualifications of elders and deacons.
However, the point should first be made that in view of the above, there is no biblical basis whatever for restricting those with a divorce in their backgrounds from any other type of ministry in the church. Of course, if in the case of a person recently divorced, where there is indication that a character flaw or misconduct on the part of the individual contributed to the divorce, those factors should be considered prior to assigning the person to any ministry position. The reason for this however, is not necessarily related to the divorce, per se. Rather, misconduct and character flaws should restrict a person from leadership in the church in whatever context they are found.
This brings us to the question of whether I Timothy 3 and Titus I preclude a person who has been divorced from serving as an elder or deacon. These passages require that those holding the position of bishop or elder (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6) or deacon (I Timothy 3:12) must be “the husband of one wife” (so translated in the KJV, NKJV, NASB and NIV.) The literal translation of this phrase from Greek is: “One woman man.” This can be interpreted to refer to one of several conditions. Some believe that it refers to a divorced person. Others think that polygamy is in view. Another view is that it refers to a person who behaves appropriately in his relationships with women, i.e. a person who is above reproach in sexual matters.
A passage helpful in understanding this phrase is I Timothy 5:9 which deals with qualifications of widows for church financial support. One qualification is that she is to be “the wife of one man.” The expression here is exactly the same as the qualification for elders and deacons, only with the gender transposed.
Used in this context, it is clear that the expression does not refer to polygamy since in that culture a woman would not be married to several husbands simultaneously It is also doubtful that it refers to a person who has not been divorced, since it does not seem likely that the church would refuse support to a needy widow for an event that might have occurred many years before, which might have been beyond her control, and which she now cannot undo.
Rather, it seems much more likely that it refers to a woman whose reputation regarding her conduct with men is above reproach. The NIV seems to have that understanding in view in their translation of the phrase as referring to a woman who “has been faithful to her husband.” This translation is compatible with the verse that follows which stresses the character of the person. It must be remembered that divorce may not be a reflection on the character of a person since he or she may have been a helpless victim. In some cases a person is even divorced because of his or her commitment to Christ.
Therefore, the understanding of “one man woman” as a person above reproach in her dealings with the opposite sex best fits the context of I Timothy 5.
Therefore, a parallel understanding of the phrase “one woman man” as referring to a man above reproach in his interactions with women is warranted in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. This interpretation also seems to fit the context of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The general nature of the qualifications for those offices is related to a person’s character rather than his history. It would seem strange that a blot in his past in the area of divorce would exclude him, though the divorce may not have been his fault, whereas sins viewed as far more serious may be overlooked. It would be more in keeping with the general nature of the qualifications to view “one woman man” as referring to a man who is above reproach in his conduct with women. As with any other matter which would call into question a person’s character, the person with a divorce in his past must be examined very carefully before being considered for the office of elder or deacon.
The qualification of being “above reproach” (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6) weighs heavily on the issue of divorced persons serving as elder or deacon. “Above reproach” means that a person does not have a character flaw that someone can use against him. This “reproach” could involve any area in a prospective elder or deacon’s life and certainly could include the issue of a past divorce. In society at large and especially in Christian circles, divorce carries with it a certain stigma and could be considered by some to be a reproach upon a person, thus disqualifying that person from serving as elder or deacon. The issue of “reproach” however, is one that is not black and white, and requires much wisdom in interpreting in each individual case. Many questions come to mind. What if divorce occurred before one became a believer? What if it occurred after one became a believer? What is a man’s wife was previously divorced and yet he had never been divorced? Does divorce cause a reproach upon the office of elder more than the office of deacon? These questions obviously are not simple to answer and each individual case requires much prayer and searching for the will of God.
APPLICATION IN THE AREA OF SERVICE
In terms of leadership, God places higher standards on those who aspire to the office of elder and deacon (James 3:1, I Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9). In order to maintain the utmost level of integrity for the men who hold these offices, the principles of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 shall be prayerfully followed.
Divorce prior to salvation may exclude one from leadership. It is unlikely that believers who are divorced after salvation can assume the office of elder (including pastor) and deacon. While there may be unusual circumstances where this occurs, it is the ordinary practice of TBC to consider those who have not been divorced.
THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE TO PEOPLE WITH A DIVORCE IN THEIR PAST
In view of the prevalence of divorce in our society, we can expect that a number of people will come to us who have divorce in their background that are not in keeping with the policy stated above. How should we as a church respond to them? First, if the marriage can be reconciled, the church should help them in any way possible toward that end. However, once they have done all they can to rectify relations in their previous marriage, we as a church should extend Christ’s forgiveness (II Corinthians 2:7) and love them as we would any brother or sister in Christ.
After reading and studying this document, you may still have unanswered questions. If so, you may contact an elder(s) who would consider it a privilege to talk with you about these issues.
3. This question moves toward a more topical approach on this important topic of divorce and remarriage. I think that you will find TBC’s What We Teach about Divorce and Remarriage a helpful guide.
4. This question should be a good time to touch on the corrupting effect that a desire to be rich has on our spirits. 1 Timothy 6 and the parable about the rich fool (Luke 12:13–21 esp. v. 15) would be helpful cross references.
6. Cults frequently encourage an unhealthy withdraw from family and friends. This is an opportunity to work through the balance between wrongly abandoning family and letting them influence you to not be whole hearted for the Lord.
1-2 I hope this will give your men an opportunity for some real sharing about their lives. I would note that while divorce has many devestating social, emotional, financial, and spiritual consequences, the primary reasons divorce are wrong is because it undoes a union God intended, is treaturous promise breaking to our spouse, and dishonors the picture of Christ and His church. Be sure to include those in your discussion.
5. There should be a lot of “low hanging fruit” on this question in this passage.
Tulsa Bible Church’s “What We Teach on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage of Believers”