The Master Teaches
About Marriage and Children
“And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”
It is ever the ploy of unregenerate religious men to attempt to trick God’s servants and his people into saying things they can use against them. Crafty followers of the Serpent, in a pretense of sincerity, try to ask leading questions, which will cause us to give answers they can turn against us. You do not have to experience their craftiness many times before you are able to hear the hiss of the Serpent in their speech. When we meet with such people, the best way to send them slithering back into their own slime is simply not to answer them. I learned long ago that if you get into a spitting contest with a skunk, though you may win the contest, you are sure to come away smelling like a skunk.
Here in Mark 10 our Savior had just such an experience with the Pharisees. They posed their question about divorce in such a way as to try to get him to speak against Moses and the law so that they might pretend to have a basis upon which to accuse him of being an antinomian, against the law. Our Master was too wise for them. Rather than answer in his own words, he answered them from the Word of God. The things taught in these verses are of utmost importance. May God the Holy Spirit teach us that which he inspired Mark to record in this passage.
“And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again” (v. 1). — Our Lord Jesus Christ was an exemplary, faithful, fervent preacher of the gospel. How faithful, patient, and persevering our Lord Jesus was as a preacher. “Unwearied in all his services,” wrote Robert Hawker, “with zeal to his Father’s glory, and his people’s happiness, the sun watched his path by day, and the stars witnessed to his communion by night.” In all things he was the example of what we ought to be. But his exemplary conduct as a preacher and the demands it places upon those who follow him in the work of the ministry are often overlooked.
Wherever our Savior went, he was always about his Father’s business. From the opening day of his public ministry, to his last breath upon the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ labored for the good of men’s souls for the glory of God. He threw away no opportunity. We do not read in the entire history of his earthly ministry that he spent a solitary day in idleness. He “sowed beside all waters” (Isaiah 32:20). “In the morning he sowed his seed, and in the evening withheld not his hand” (Ecclesiastes 11:6). What an example to preachers he was. He was untiringly, unceasingly fervent and faithful. When he came to the farther side of Jordan and the people gathered around him, he did “as he was wont. He taught them.”
Those men who conscientiously devote their lives to the labor of the gospel ministry are often urged, by well meaning friends and people who love them, to slow down, not to take the work so seriously, and to preserve their energies. Let none heed such counsel. When we open the Book of God and see the kind of preacher the Son of God was, we should pray, Savior, give grace to your servant to follow your example. It is far better to burn out than to rust out!
I am sure one reason why our Master was always “wont” to preach and teach the gospel was the fact that he knew the urgency of his work. No one else understood this. His mother didn’t. His friends didn’t. His disciples didn’t. His apostles didn’t. No one understood the urgency of his mission but him. He knew that the time was short. Therefore, he redeemed the time.
The Lord Jesus was faithful, fervent, and zealous in his work, always ready to preach the gospel, even though the vast majority of those to whom he preached refused to believe his message. His miracles were popular, but not his doctrine. For the most part, his words fell upon deaf ears, unheeded and ignored. Those who did not ignore him despised him.
Once in John 6 he preached to the great multitude who saw the miracle of the loaves and fishes, many of whom ate the bread and the fish. But when he preached to them the message of God’s free and sovereign grace, they were offended and walked away. In that passage our Lord Jesus proclaimed that the only way a sinner can please God is by faith in his Son (v.29), — That Moses spoke of him (vv. 32-35), — That the only way any sinner would ever believe on him unto life everlasting is by the effectual work of God’s irresistible grace (vv. 36-40, 44-45, 63-65), — That the singular object of faith is his obedience and death as the sinners’ Substitute (vv. 53-58), and — That salvation is according to God’s sovereign election (vv.64, 70). When they heard these things, the multitude turned and walked away.
That which is required of all who would, like the Lord Jesus Christ, serve God is faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). We are not to give up our labors because we do not see the results we desire. We are not to relax our efforts because we see no fruit from them. Let us always labor fervently, understanding that it is our duty to do what we have opportunity and ability to do. The results are totally up to our Master. It is not to the good and successful servant that the Master will say, “well done”, but to the “good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Not all of God’s servants are reapers. Some plow, some sow, some water, and some reap; but it is God who gives the increase. In this, as in all other spiritual matters, we must judge nothing by what we see. Every faithful servant of God is a successful servant of God.
Marriage and Divorce
“And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (vv. 2-12).
Our Lord’s teaching with regard to the dignity and permanence of marriage is crystal clear. In these verses our Lord Jesus Christ answers the question put to him by the Pharisees publicly and then answers the question put to him by his disciples privately. This is our Master’s teaching about marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Two other passages that are very important in understanding what our Savior taught on this subject are Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:3-9.
“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9)
These three passages of Scripture show us what the Lord Jesus Christ taught about the dignity and permanence of marriage. Other aspects of the privileges and responsibilities of men and women in marriage are found in Romans 7:1-4, 1 Corinthians 7, and Ephesians 5. I have no interest in debating with anyone about these issues. I do not, for a moment, think that I am going to change the thinking of godless people about the dignity, importance, and permanence of marriage. I am addressing myself to you who reverence God and his Word, to you who seek to honor him and do his will. The things I have to say are for you. I hope you will all read these lines with careful attention.
In these verses our Lord teaches us that marriage is for life. The marriage union of a husband and wife is never to be dissolved. It cannot be broken, except for very specific and very serious reasons. The importance of our Lord’s teaching cannot be overstated. The well-being of nations, the happiness of men and women, the moral strength of society, and the welfare of God’s church in this world greatly depends upon the strength of families. And family strength, family values, and family wholeness depend upon a proper understanding of and respect for the teaching of God’s Word about marriage.
During the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry, when the Roman Empire was at its zenith, moral decadence was much the same as it is in western society today. Divorces were almost as common as marriage. Marriages were dissolved at the drop of a hat, even among the Jews, for the most frivolous and trifling reasons.
Mark did not record the Pharisees question quite the same way Matthew did. In Matthew 19:3 Matthew tells us that the Pharisees asked the Lord Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”
It is true, because of the hardness of men’s hearts, to prevent them from abusing and even killing their wives, Moses did permit them to divorce their wives, but not “for every cause” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Yet, by long tradition and laxity, that which Moses permitted, men and women commonly practiced. Marriage had become, as it is today, a whimsical thing, regarded by most as a bothersome burden. The disciples’ comment in Matthew 19:10 will give us some idea of just how bad things were. — “His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” When they heard the Lord Jesus say, “No you cannot put away your wives for every cause,” they as good as said, “If a man cannot get rid of his wife whenever he wants to, he would be better off not to marry.” When men and women abandon God’s law and look contemptuously upon marriage, they produce a generation of children who are utterly without conscience (Malachi 2:14-16).
Marriage is a relationship of greater importance and greater influence than any other earthly relationship. It was established by God in the garden for the happiness and well being of man before sin entered into the world (Genesis 2:18-25). Marriage was chosen by God to be typical of the relationship which exists between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:25-33). Marriage is a relationship superior even to the relationship of parents and children (Ephesians 5:31).
Marriage involves commitment — devotion. A man ought to be committed to his wife, like Christ is committed to his church. A woman ought to be committed to her husband, like true believers are to Christ.
Marriage involves sacrifice — self-denial. Husbands are to sacrifice themselves to their wives and families, just as Christ sacrificed himself for us. Wives are to sacrifice themselves to their husbands, just as believers sacrifice themselves to Christ.
Marriage involves love. Husband are to love their wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it. Wives are to reverence and obey their husbands, as the church reverences and obeys Christ in love. Love is giving, never taking. Love is yielding, not demanding. Love is unconditional, not qualified.
Marriage necessarily involves the dissolution of all other relationships and a blessed isolation to and with one another. Again, it is a blessed isolation to and with one another, like the isolation of Christ to and with his church. It is a growing isolation, like the isolation of the church to Christ.
In a word, our Lord Jesus teaches us that this blessed relationship of marriage is a life long union. J. C. Ryle wrote…
“He refers to the original institution of marriage at the creation, as the union of one man and one woman. He quotes and endorses the solemn words used at the marriage of Adam and Eve, as words of perpetual significance: ‘A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.’ He adds a solemn comment to these words: ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ And, finally, in reply to the inquiry of his disciples, He declares that divorce followed by remarriage, except for the cause of unfaithfulness, is a breach of the seventh commandment.”
These days, very few people enter into marriage with the determination — “This is forever, no matter what.” Multitudes write out prenuptial agreements in anticipation of divorce. Many do not even bother with having a wedding ceremony. They just shack up like wild animals until someone more attractive comes along. — “From the beginning it was not so.” — “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” All who violate God’s Word in this matter are guilty of adultery and cause those who are recklessly abandoned to do the same.
This lifelong marriage union can be dissolved lawfully, biblically, only for extreme reasons. Though Mark omits it, in Matthew 5:32 and in Matthew 19:9 our Lord cites fornication as the singular basis for divorce. The word “fornication” is the word from which we get our word “pornography.” It refers to all sexual perversion. As used in relation to marriage, it speaks of any form of sexual infidelity. Our Lord does not teach that men and women ought to get a divorce if one or the other commits an act of sexual infidelity. We ought to forgive! However, he does teach us that in such cases the marriage union may be dissolved. It is permitted because of the hardness of men’s hearts. The apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration, also allows that abandonment also dissolves the marriage union (1 Corinthians 7:15). In such cases the person abandoned, or the person against whom the infidelity was committed is free to marry again in the Lord (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
What about those who have already experienced divorce and remarriage? How do we deal with those believers, or those who are converted by the grace of God, who are already divorced, or who are already divorced and remarried? We are to deal with them as we are to deal with any other redeemed, forgiven sinner, — as redeemed, forgiven sinners, just like the rest of us. If they are believers, if they are washed in the blood of the Lamb, they are forgiven of all sin, free from all condemnation, and are new creatures in Christ (Romans 8:1). Here are three words of instruction that will benefit all who heed them:
As in all things, the example to be followed is Christ himself. Our blessed Savior refuses to put away his wife, the church. He who inspired the Apostle Paul to write, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19), has never been and can never be bitter against his wife. He who teaches every husband to love his wife as his own body, ever nourishing and cherishing her (Ephesians 5:28-29), so loves, nourishes, and cherishes his wife as his own body. Robert Hawker, commenting on this passage, wrote, “As no man ever hated his own flesh; even though covered with sores and wounds, so Jesus loved his Church, though leprous and unclean. Oh, precious, precious Lord Jesus!”
How blessed it is to hear the Lord God of Israel say that, “he hateth putting away” (Malachi 2:14-16). Let all who worship and serve him hate it as well. How we will praise and give thanks to him in eternity when, after all the treacherous departures of his church, in all her spiritual adulteries, the Lord Jesus presents her “to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 19:5-9).
“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (vv. 13-16).
These little children were brought to our Lord just like other sick and diseased, that he might lay his hands on them and bless them. There is no more and no less in the text than that. It is ludicrous beyond imagination to suggest as J.C. Ryle and many others have, “to teach how much encouragement there is to bring young children to be baptized”. That is just nuts! There is not a word in this passage about whose children these were. There is not a word in these verses about baptism, much less sprinkling! And there is not a word here about baby dedication services. Here our Savior teaches us that all who enter into his kingdom must do so as little children. These verses of Holy Scripture are given to us by the Spirit of God to teach us three things.
When we think of what a preacher should be, let us look to Christ. He is the pattern. When we think of marriage, let our hearts be drawn first and foremost to Christ. Be married to him! Those who are first married to him make the best husbands and wives. When you see a child, embrace it, care for it, take a little time for it, and ask God to make you as a little child before him.
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 1 Timothy 3:2 has nothing to do with divorce and remarriage. In that passage Paul is dealing with the matter of polygamy, which had to be dealt with in receiving Gentile converts into the churches. It would be insanely ludicrous to tell a converted man who had many wives and children by them before God saved him (as do many of our African brethren) that he must choose one woman and her children and throw out the rest. That would be barbaric. However, a man with more than one wife cannot be pastor of a church. That is the teaching of 1 Timothy 3:2.