The One-Flesh Union
” ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (vv. 7–9).- Mark 10:1–9
Every generation of Christians is called to understand the will of God and to bear witness to His truth (Heb. 6:1–3; 1 Peter 3:15–16). It is also clear that while the truth never changes, the points at which this truth is attacked are not the same from generation to generation. In our day, the biblical teaching on marriage and human sexuality is one such point. Almost overnight, it seems, our society has gone from one in which marriage was honored and in which sexual activity was seen as truly proper only within marriage—even when people did not live up to that ideal—to a society in which marriage is viewed as a relationship of convenience and all manner of sexual immorality is not only tolerated but celebrated.
Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10:1–12 has much to say about these realities. Today, we will consider what our Lord says about marriage. In the first century, the most liberal interpreters of Deuteronomy 24:1, the key passage from the Mosaic law on divorce, took the text far beyond its original intent. This verse, which the Pharisees cite in today’s passage (Mark 10:2–4), was twisted by the Pharisees to allow for divorce in any manner of situations. For example, many rabbis said that a man could divorce his wife even if the only issue in the marriage was that he did not approve of her cooking. Essentially, they took a law that was intended to protect wronged spouses and broadened it greatly, turning divorce from something designed for limited application into something that someone should seek the moment he is tired of his wife.
As our Lord teaches, however, divorce is not an ideal to be pursued but something we should strive to prevent when possible. It was not given to humanity before the fall, for then there was no sin to destroy marriages and thus no reason for a provision for divorce. God gave the gift of marriage to our first parents with the design that it would be a permanent union, a joining of complementary divine image-bearers as one flesh for the Lord’s glory (vv. 5–9). Jesus quotes from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, unfolding the meaning of these texts: God brings husband and wife together, so no man can divide them. In our post-fall context, this means that no human being can legitimately divorce husband or wife for reasons other than those God Himself has given. There are many implications of this point, the most basic of which is that divorce is not acceptable in trivial circumstances.
As we will see in our study of Mark 10:10–12, God does permit divorce in certain situations. That does not mean, however, that applying His commandments regarding marriage and divorce is a simple matter. This is where we need the help of good and godly pastors and elders who know God’s Word, seek to protect the innocent, and are concerned for justice.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 7:10–16
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