Biblical Marriage: Mark 10/ Matthew 19

 ***This is the 5th article in this series. It is VERY important that you read these articles in order. If you have missed any in this series, please go back and read them before continuing to read this post. First Article, Second Article, Third Article, Fourth Article***

The two largest passages in the Gospels concerning marriage and divorce are recorded in Mark 10 and in Matthew 19. These are parallel passages. Meaning, they are describing the same event. It is important to study both of these texts together, as doing so can help to “fill in the gaps.”

The Setting

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. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Mark 10:1-2 (ESV)

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

Matthew 19:1-3 (ESV)

What we see taking place before our eyes is a pretty familiar scene at this point in the ministry of Jesus. The Pharisees came to test Him. They were not coming to Jesus for instruction. They were not coming to Jesus in order to learn. They were coming to Him in order to put Him to the test, and do their best to trap Him. Here, Matthew records a slight detail that Mark does not. The Pharisees were not simply asking if it was lawful to divorce. As has been demonstrated in previous writings, it was lawful to divorce. The question was, is it lawful to divorce for “any cause”?  

Not as simple as it seems:

When the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him this question, it was not as simple as it appeared to be. They were trying to lure Him into a trap. They were asking Him to pick a side in an ongoing debate that had been taking place. Many pages have been written detailing this debate. I will briefly summarize the issue here, but will make no attempt or claim to exhaust every facet of this debate. 

The Jews were essentially divided into two camps when it came to their understanding of what God allowed as reasons to divorce. Each of these two schools of thought had a leader. Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai. These two Rabbis disagreed on what constituted grounds for divorce. In a previous article we discussed Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and what God, through Moses, was communicating there. Within that text, there was a Hebrew word that was a little ambiguous and hard to define. Some translations translate this word as “uncleanness” or “some indecency”.  It is difficult to define the word precisely, as shown below.

nakedness of a thing, i.e. prob. indecencyimproper behavior”

Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament:

Nakedness of a thing. That is about as clear as mud. Shammai focused on the word “nakedness” and determined that this was to refer to sexual sin. Therefore, one could divorce if their spouse was sexually unfaithful. Hillel focused more on the word, “thing”. He took the approach that this wasn’t about sexual sin, but rather something that was shameful. Which opened the door for basically, “any-cause” divorce. Anything that the husband found to be shameful, was grounds for him to divorce his wife. Consider the following excerpt:

 “On the other hand, the school of Hillel interpreted this something objectionable in the widest possible way. They said that it meant that a man could divorce his wife if she spoiled his dinner; if she spun, or went with unbound hair, or spoke to men in the streets; if she spoke disrespectfully of his parents in his presence; if she was an argumentative woman whose voice could be heard in the next house. Rabbi Akiba even went to the lengths of saying that the phrase if she does not please him meant that a man could divorce his wife if he found a woman whom he liked better and considered more beautiful.”

– William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Third Ed., The New Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 2001), 231.

Think about this. Jewish Rabbis were teaching that if a wife messed up a meal, the husband could divorce her for that reason. If a wife argued with her husband, he could divorce her. If a man found another woman he liked better than his wife, and now found his wife displeasing because he liked someone else more, he could divorce her. This was what was being taught within Judaism. As you might imagine, the school of Hillel was more popular than the school of Shammai. People preferred the less restrictive approach, which freed them to essentially discard their marriages at will. This was the trap that the Pharisees were laying for Jesus. They were not asking Him questions for the purpose of learning. They were not interested in what the totality of God’s design, desire, and laws were for marriage. They wanted to involve him in this debate, and make Him pick a side. When they asked the question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for “any cause?” They were asking, “Do you agree with Hillel?” 

         Let Not:

3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Mark 10:3-9 (ESV)

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Matthew 19:4-8 (ESV)

Before answering their line of questioning Jesus turns their attention back to creation. Sin had certainly done it’s damage among God’s people concerning their marriages. What God designed to be a lifelong union between one man and one woman, had devolved into discussions about being able to divorce because a man found a woman he found to be more attractive, or because last night’s dinner didn’t go as planned. How can man go from God’s beautiful design, to this extreme display of selfishness and disregard for God’s laws? Jesus called their minds back to the beginning. Back to the design. Back to the intent. 

Jesus then spoke these words, “let not man separate.” He is clearly stating God’s design/intent for marriage. It is to be lifelong. Man is not to separate for “any cause”. They are supposed to hold fast to one another, cherishing this union. Some have taken this statement to mean “cannot separate”. Indicating that it is not possible for them to separate. This does not track with the other commands of God. For example, God commanded His people to not murder (Exodus 20:13). However, they still had the ability (and sometimes did) murder. God’s people were told repeatedly to rid themselves of idols, yet they repeatedly turned to idols. When Jesus said, “let not man separate” He was not indicating the impossibility of their separation. Rather, that to separate would go against His command, and would therefore, be a sin.  

Following the story:

This concluded what Jesus said to the Pharisees. They tried to lure Him into a trap. They wanted Him to pick a side. They wanted to see if He would side with Shammai or Hillel, or possibly teach something that was not in the law so that they could have grounds to charge Him. Jesus did not side with either school of thought. He called their minds back to the design for marriage that was unchanged since creation. One man, one woman, for life. Rather than giving the pharisees “reasons” for divorce, He told them that they should not separate what God joined together. 

10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

Mark 10:10 (ESV)

In Matthew’s Gospel, the account reads as if it were one flowing conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. However, Mark records for us that this was the end of His discussion with them on this matter. At a later time, (possibly the same day) the disciples were still thinking about what Jesus had said to the Pharisees, so they asked Him about His teachings again. 


9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 (ESV)

11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Mark 10:11-12 (ESV)

Matthew is the only NT writer who records what is commonly referred to as “the exception clause”. The word translated as sexual immorality is the word πορνεία (porneia). 

πορνεία (porneia)- “fornication, sexual immorality, sexual sin of a general kind, that includes many different behaviors”

– James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). 

While alone with His disciples, Jesus is stating his agreement with Shammai in the debate that the Pharisees tried to lure him into. Can we divorce for “any cause” or for sexual immorality? Jesus states that only πορνεία (porneia), not “any cause”, was grounds for divorce. 

One other additional observation about some differences in Matthew’s Gospel and Mark’s is that Mark also addresses women. While not possible to confirm, a common belief is that Matthew does not include Jesus’s address of women in his Gospel account because women initiating divorce was not common and possibly not practiced at this time within Judaism. Whereas, Mark’s audience was of a completely different makeup, and those women were active in initiating divorce. The same rules applied equally to men and to women. 

Commits Adultery:

In Matthew 19:9 we read that a man who divorces his wife (without cause) and marries another commits adultery. When we parallel this account with Mark 10, we see a detail that Mark records that Matthew does not. 

11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,

Mark 10:11 (ESV)

Mark records that, yes, this man who behaves in this way commits adultery. However, He is committing adultery “against” his first wife. This is significant for our understanding of the text. Consider with me:

22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,

Revelation 2:22 (ESV)

We read of Jezebel, and how God had given her time to repent of her sexual immorality. In this text we read of those who committed adultery “with her”.  When we consider Jesus’s teachings in Mark 10 He is not describing an individual who is committing adultery “with” someone, but “against” someone. In our next article, we will delve deeper into this by examining what is meant by, “adultery” in the Biblical context.

Better Not To Marry:

Mark’s account of this teaching and conversation has come to a close, and we are left now with only what Matthew writes. After hearing not only what Jesus said to the Pharisees but also the private conversation that they had with Him. The disciples were in shock. After all, the teachings of Hillel were the dominant voices of the day. To them, marriage wasn’t a large commitment, because it could be discarded for “any cause”. When they heard what Jesus had taught, they realized that there was a lot more to this marriage commitment than they had previously believed. 

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Matthew 19:10-12 (ESV)

The disciples had a classic overreaction when they heard what Jesus had to say. They stated that if “such is the case”, (man cannot divorce for “any cause”) it would be better not to marry! Jesus pointed out to them that not everyone could receive this saying. What saying could some people not receive? The statement that the disciples had just made. Jesus said that only those to whom it had been given could receive this statement. He then concluded with, “Let the one who is able to receive this, receive it”. Jesus certainly, is not referring to His command. God does not command something that we do not have the ability to obey. However, the statement concerning “not marrying” is something not everyone can do. This agrees with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:6-7. Jesus said, only those “to whom it is given”. Paul would call the ability to remain single/celibate a gift from God in his writings. 

This is the longest article in this series, but it needed to be so. We have seen what sin’s corruption ultimately did to God’s design. What was meant to be a lifelong union was being discarded for “any cause”. Jesus instructed the Pharisees to go back to God’s design. Jesus elaborated on His teaching with His disciples. He did not side with Hillel in this debate, rather He sided with Shammai. He taught that those who did otherwise were committing adultery against their spouse. In our next article, we will talk more about what that means. 

“4 Questions Christians Need to Stop Asking”

Illustration Of A Old Question Sign Not Allowed  Generally speaking, I love it when I am teaching Bible class and someone raises their hand, or just interrupts me with a question. I enjoy the questions because often times the one asking, has a different view point than I do and I can learn from them. Other times I enjoy it simply because it means they are paying attention and trying to understand. I often encourage people to ask questions because I think it is a healthy thing to do.


However, I think there are some questions that are not only, “not healthy” but are damaging to themselves, and the church. No, these questions are not the questions typically asked in a Bible class setting. These are questions that are asked often only in the mind of the questioner. They rarely speak these questions out loud, though, they often think them.

Allow me to suggest 4 questions, that the Christian should never ask again:

  1. Do I have to go to every church service?

You know the question I’m referring to. Maybe it is from an individual who rarely attends a worship service and they are seeking justification for their decision to not go. Maybe it is the family that faithfully attends each Sunday morning worship service but is usually absent on Sunday night and Wednesday night. Regardless of the situation the question usually comes down to the same core question, “do I have to?”.

Allow me to approach this a bit differently than usual. I believe that it is extremely important for each Christian to be at every gathering of the Lord’s people that they can attend. I believe this because of the charge found in Hebrews 10:25 not to forsake the assembly. I believe Christians have an obligation to submit to the oversight of their elders (Hebrews 13:17) and if your elders ask you to be present at certain times for your benefit, you should listen to their wisdom and try to follow it. Most importantly, when the church meets on the Lord’s day it is to worship our God. It is my belief that nothing is more important than bringing honor and glory to God.

With that being said, let me tell you why I think this question is such a dangerous one to ask. It is dangerous because it is in keeping with a “checklist” mindset. The idea that Christianity is about checking items off of a list. As long as I have ________ then I can go to heaven. This mindset is dangerous. Look no further than the Rich young ruler in Matthew 19. He was a good man, he kept the commandments, and he was asking the question, “What do I still lack?” You see, he was a good man, and he cared about the truth. However, He was more interested in making sure he had “checked off” the appropriate items than he was with giving Jesus his heart.

Many Christians today who ask the above question, whether out loud or in their mind, are good people. They are nice, kind, generous, and law abiding people. However, many times, they have fallen short just like the rich young ruler by failing to truly give Christ their heart.

  1. Do I have to talk to people about Jesus, or can I just be a good example?

Throughout my lifetime, I have often heard Christians speak of evangelism in a way that distances themselves from any real responsibility in the matter.  One of the most common examples are Christians that suggest they do not ever have to verbally speak about the Gospel to the lost of this world, they simply need to live a good life and they have done their part.

Allow me to first say, that any evangelistic efforts made from Christians who are not living the life that they are trying to persuade others to follow, will fail. A Christian living in the footsteps of Christ is a prerequisite to effective evangelism. However, simply living a quiet life is not all it takes to do your part in bringing others to Christ.

In Matthew 10:27 Jesus instructed His disciples with these words, “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” There will always be the exception to the rule. The one who approaches a Christian because they notice something different about their life and ask them about their faith. However, it is incumbent upon the Christian to open their mouths and proclaim the greatness of their savior. 

  1. Can someone else do that?

This question dates back to Moses in Exodus 4. God was calling Moses to be the leader that He needed him to be. His response was to try to find someone else. Do you ever do that? Do I? When a new service opportunity is presented to the congregation is your first response to think of ways you can help or to just be glad that “someone will take care of that.”?

We are a busier people than perhaps ever before. However, we can never allow ourselves to be too busy for the work of the kingdom. In James 4:17, James writes “Whoever knows the good he ought to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Don’t allow Satan to fool you into thinking that you are “escaping sin” because you aren’t doing the “bad things.” Recognize that we are not called to be a people who are known for all the things that we do NOT do. We are called to be known for what we do. (Matthew 5:16)

  1. If it isn’t broke, why fix it?

This question is a killer. It may be a good policy while talking about a vehicle. If my A/C is running fine in my car, I’m not going to replace it. However, this isn’t always the best mindset while speaking of the work of the church.

Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us that our work is not for us, it is for Christ. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us to work with all of our might in whatever we do. What can we learn from this? Well, instead of asking “has this worked for the last 10, 15, 20, 50 years?” We ought to be asking, “Can we make it better?”

*Disclaimer* – I feel the need to clarify that no matter what we want, we cannot change doctrine. We cannot change the Word of God. We cannot change His commands. The changes I’m speaking about are dealing with matters of operation and tradition.

            In Mark 7 Jesus chastises individuals that clung so tightly to traditions of man that they couldn’t see the things that were truly important. If we are not careful we can fall into the trap of getting so focused on tradition that we lose sight of the purpose.

Souls are at stake. May we never allow ourselves to get caught up in our own comfort and miss opportunities that are passing by. We should never settle for what is comfortable, but always pursue what is best.


In Him,


“The King Has Fallen, and So Have You”

Fallen KingMost Bible students know king David as the great king of Israel, the guy who killed Goliath, the guy who cheated on his wife with Bathsheba, or the man after God’s own heart. Without a doubt, David’s life had it’s ups and downs.

               Some of the most powerful writings of David come from his lowest points in life. It is powerful because I struggle in life, and so do you. You have tremendous burdens on your shoulders and sometimes you can’t stand the weight of that load. David teaches us how to deal with a heavy, heavy load.

Allow me to briefly guide you through a study of Psalm 3:

  1. David’s Predicament

Psalm 3:1-2- O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

                        David’s predicament is horrifying. In 2 Samuel chapter 12 David is confronted by Nathan concerning his sin with Bathsheba. David is warned that terrible things are coming his way. In the following chapters, David’s new born son dies, a daughter is raped by her step brother, that brother is then killed by another brother (Absalom), who then flees out of fear of punishment.

To make a long story short, Absalom began convincing many people that he would make a better king than his father. 2 Samuel 15:6 tells us that “Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” It’s revealed in chapter 17 that Absalom had more than 12,000 men at his disposal. This was no small uprising.

Absalom decides to use his new-found strength to try to kill his own father. When David learns of this plot, he, the mighty king of Israel, flees. In chapter 15:32 we read that while David was fleeing he went “to the summit, where God was worshipped” It very well could be at this place that David wrote Psalm 3. Needless to say, while David was writing this Psalm, he was in a predicament. His family has eroded, his kingdom is falling, and his own son wants him dead.

David didn’t just have to deal with the fear of losing his life. He also had a mob of people mocking him. Everyone knew that David was a “Man of God.” They had seen his incredible feats and heard him proclaim about God. However, the odds we stacked against him so much that this time people were crying out about David saying, “Not even God can save you now!”

  1. David’s Peace

Psalm 3:3-6- But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

              The incredible thing about Psalm 3 is realizing that while David had a terrible situation on his hands, he had peace. He had peace because he knew God. He spoke glowingly about the Lord’s faithfulness. He spoke of the Lord’s protection. He spoke of the Lord’s providence. He spoke of his confidence in Him. Given the circumstances, it truly is remarkable the thoughts that flowed from the pen of David during this trying time.

  1. David’s Plea

Psalm 3:7-8- Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah 

            While being on the summit where God was worshipped, David had a plea. It is the same plea I would have and I would guess the same plea that you would have as well, “Save me, O my God!” 2 Samuel 18 reveals for us that God did answer that prayer the way that David prayed it, and Absalom was destroyed.


What does this have to do with my life?


That is a valid question. We live thousands of years removed from this time period, so sometimes we struggle to relate. Allow me to suggest it is as relevant of a message for us today as ever. For the simple reason that you have challenges in life. You have hard challenges in life. You may not have the family struggles that David was going through, and you may not have more than 12,000 people trying to take your life, but you have your own set of struggles. Allow me to suggest that when you face them, the perfect formula for dealing with them are modeled for us here by David.

You may have noticed there was a word in this Psalm that seems a little out of place. It is found at the end of Verse 2,4, and 8. The word is “Selah”. You see, this Psalm was likely a song that David wrote while he was worshipping God, and on the run. The word Selah was a musical term that meant to “pause, and consider.” Might I suggest that when things are rough in your life, you follow this example set forth by David?


  • Pause and consider your situation. Consider everything that is happening, allow yourself to wrap your mind around your circumstances. Chances are you will find that they often times are not as bad as you first feared.


  • Pause and consider what God has done. Just as God had protected David up until this point in his life, God has blessed you richly up to this very moment. Allow yourself to truly pause and consider what God has done in your life.


  • Pause and consider what God can do now. After reflecting on his situation, and past blessings from God, David paused to consider what could be, with God, now and in the future. Too many times we can allow ourselves to be convinced that the glory days are behind us and it’s only downhill from here. Don’t fall in that trap, pause and consider in your life, what can you and God do now? Notice how David ended this Psalm, “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” While people shouted that not even God could save him, David understood that salvation was God’s to give. There may even be people in your life that hold you back, and say that there is no hope. Pause, and consider… your God.


In Him,


“How much time do you have?”


Last week on Wednesday night, I was doing one of my favorite things on this earth (delivering a devotional lesson.) Everything was going along just fine until I began developing a little bit of a lisp. I started having trouble thinking clearly, I offered the invitation quickly. Walking out to the car I began seeing spots and not being able to walk very well. I asked my wife to drive. We just started going down the road and I saw my Bible fly off the top of the car from where I had left it, (I have never even put my Bible on top of the car before.) I then started shaking uncontrollably, had a piercing headache, and couldn’t speak well.

My wife thought maybe I was having a blood sugar issue. Even though I had never had one before I thought it was worth a shot. I drank a milkshake and ate some proteins, I began feeling slightly better. When I laid down at home my bed started spinning so fast (or so it seemed) that I had to clutch the sheets to keep from flying off of it. I stood up to get Meagan’s help, and collapsed onto the floor.

Since it was late and we have small children Meagan stayed home with them and made arrangements for a dear friend to take me to the ER. Upon arriving my blood pressure was 165/90 (I’ve never had blood pressure problems before.) 10 minutes later it had fallen to 100/50. It went up and down, for more than 4 hours. The highest was 206/133, the lowest was 90/46. Needless to say I (along with the Dr.) was concerned. He ordered a cat scan and said “I think something “unwanted” is going on upstairs, and I’m scared to mess around with it.” I was terrified.

When the results came back, I was relieved. I had developed a rare infection in the base of my sinus cavity that had gotten so bad it was causing the brain tissue to swell. Once the swelling occurred, I saw the side effects. After a week of steroids and antibiotics, the infection seems to be gone, blood pressure returned to normal, the swelling disappearing, and life returning to normal.

The point in me sharing this is because of the thoughts/fears that developed in my mind when the Dr expressed his sincere concerns. I became deeply worried about my family. I began asking myself questions that I never wanted to ask myself. How would my family get along without me if something terrible happened? Have I prepared them (wife and kids) the best that I can at the stage that they are at? Would my children remember their daddy? When I asked myself that last one I wanted to slap myself because I knew it was too early to think of those things (thankfully I was right.) I looked at the friend who had taken me to the hospital and could tell he wasn’t buying my “im fine” statements. It SEEMED as if all were crashing in around me.

However, even though what was wrong turned out to not be nearly as serious as what we were thinking at the time, was it really too early to ask those questions?

James 4:14- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

We have no idea what will come of our life. We have no idea how long we have. We have no idea when Christ will return. Are we living like we have “all the time in the world?” Or, are we living like we must build relationships with our God and our family today?

“O God, thank you for your mercy. You continually amaze us with all you have blessed us with. You are our shelter, and our comfort in times of trial. Father, thank you for blessing us with our families and our friends. I pray that you will give us the strength we need to lay aside anything that keeps us from living for you. Help us to love you, love our families, love our neighbors. In Jesus name, Amen.”