These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 10:1-10 Inductive Bible Study
Moses’ law on divorce (1-5)
God’s original design of marriage (6-9)
Divorce and remarriage is adultery (10-12)
Verses 1-5 Discussion Questions
How did the Pharisees attempt to test Jesus this time? Why was this considered a test and not a sincere question?
If God doesn’t approve of divorce why did He allow it? What does it mean “because of their hardenss of heart?”
Are there any other issues in which the New Testament sets a higher/newer standard than the Old Testament? How can we explain this?
Are there any other Old Testament passages on divorce?
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 – OT on divorce.
Pharisees were constantly seeking to challenge and test Jesus. Many of their challenges were centered on common controversies of that time. It seems that their goal was to get Jesus to declare His position on controversial topics. Once Jesus declared His position, His answer could alienate the people on the other side of the debate. If 50% of people believed that divorce was acceptable, Jesus speaking out against divorce could anger the other 50%. Jesus saw through all of their traps and tricks. Many times He answered the questions they posed in such a powerful way that the entire crowd was speechless. Jesus didn’t just quote the canned answers tossed around by the two sides of the debate, but instead offered a fresh and biblical perspective, looking to the heart of the issue.
Jesus starts off His answer with a question. This allows Him to see their level of understanding and the position they were coming from.
The Pharisees answer that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and send his wife away. See Deuteronomy 24:1-14. Why would Moses allow this? It should be noted that Moses was describing an existing practice of divorce rather than prescribing this method for divorce. The people were already doing this kind of thing. Apparently this was the normal practice for divorce at that time. The husband could send his wife away if he was unsatisfied. Moses, however, limits this practice by declaring that a spouse twice divorced could not go back to their first spouse. Evidently this was a common problem and this was the problem Moses was speaking to in Deuteronomy 24, rather than the more general problem of divorce. Interestingly, by closing this loophole it would make divorce a lot less attractive for people who thought they could always go back to their first spouse later on with no problem. We don’t know why God didn’t prescribe more clear and strict rules against divorce in general (much like we don’t know why he didn’t prescribe clear rules against polygamy in the Torah.) We do know that one-man one-woman marriage for life is God’s natural design which goes back to Genesis and that God has always hated divorce (Malachi 2:14-16). Perhaps divorce was not nearly as much a problem at that time so it was not a pressing social issue like today. In any case a believer who earnestly sought God’s will on this issue could have found it and in the New Testament God’s vision of marriage and divorce is very clear.
Jesus said it was because of their hardness of heart that Moses permitted them to do this. When people sinned, the earth and the human race were cursed. Gender conflicts/problems were one of the effects of this (see Genesis 3). In some cases it seems that God allows people to go their own way and experience the results of their own folly. Romans 1 shows this clearly. Another example in the Old Testament is allowing Israel to have a king. But in God’s perfect will and natural design a husband and wife should not divorce.
Verses 6-9 Discussion Questions
What reasoning did Jesus appeal to, to make His case against divorce?
What was Jesus’ conclusion about divorce?
So what is God’s view on divorce? What are some of the negative effects of divorce?
How does divorce effect the picture of marriage between husband of wife as an allegory of Christ and the church?
If modern day culture applied this principle of no divorce, how would culture look different?
Why is this important for married couples?
Why is this important for singles? How can singles prepare now so that this doesn’t happen to them in the future?
Malachi 2:14-16 – God hates divorce.
Romans 7:2-3 – Bound together as long as both live.
1 Corinthians 7 – Teaching especially on a Christian spouse married to an unbeliever.
Genesis 2:24 – They shall be one flesh.
Matthew 5:31-32 – Except for the reason of unchastity…
Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage bed should be held in honor by all.
Jesus’ refers to Genesis 2:21-25. His answer takes people back to creation when God made one man and one woman and put them together. The two became one flesh. By quoting Genesis, Jesus shows that this is not a cultural principle. It is not a principle which changes for different times or different places. It is a universal principol rooted in creation itself where God revealed His perfect plan for marriage.
This clearly refutes many of the modern world’s excuses for allowing divorce of which there are many:
- Marriage is outdated
- The world is changing
- Society has advanced
- The passage in Genesis teaches us several basic truths about marriage.
What can you learn about marriage from the passage?
- Marriage is established by God
- God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. It is between man and woman.
- Marriage is between one man and one woman for a grand total of two, thus showing that both divorce and fornication are sinful.
- Marriage requires a leaving (parents)
- Marriage requires a cleaving (to eachother). This means that the spouse is now the most important person and responsibility rather than the parent.
Jesus’ conclusion: What therefore God has joined together let no man separate. Jesus’ answer is clear. Divorce is wrong. It is sinful and goes against God’s established plan from the beginning of the world. See cross-references.
Are there any exceptions? There is only one possible exception. It is mentioned in Matthew 5:31-32 and is if one side is unfaithful. There is some controversy on this point. How is this verse interpreted? Wayne, can you give a clear position on what your church teaches on this point? Wayne’s church, like some, holds to the position that this is referring to betrothal like Joseph’s betrothal with Mary and that the two sides aren’t married yet. Whether or not that is the case, when we combine this teaching with other principles in the Bible we will find that this so-called loophole practically disappears. In the Bible, we are commanded to forgive. Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven times. We are commanded to love. A husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church. That includes when she doesn’t deserve it. See Hosea. 1 Corinthians 13 describes love as very optimistic. This kind of love attempts to influence and change others by overcoming evil with good. Jesus also told the parable of the prodigal son. How did the Father react when the son came back? He ran to him. See 1 John 2:6. We are to be like Jesus and that includes loving how Jesus loved us. So tell me, is it biblical for a wife whose husband has been unfaithful (or vice-versa) to cast them out and immediately seek a divorce? Of course not. The biblical response is to forgive and welcome the offending party back even if it happens many times.
What happens if one side is doing it over and over again? What did God do when people sinned over and over again? He is always ready to forgive. That should be the attitude in marriage as well. The likely result will be that the side who keeps commiting adultery will seek a divorce on his/her own. In this case, it would appear that the person is an unbeliever anyway because he/she is living in willful rebellion. In that case 1 Corinthians 7 applies, which tells the believer to stay with the unbeliever if he is willing, but if the person wants to leave to let him.
Verses 10-12 Discussion Questions
What additional point does Jesus bring up in these verses?
Are there any situations where divorce is acceptable? What are some of the most common reasons for divorce?
Should Christian couples set a goal of “not getting divorced?” Why or why not? Is this goal high enough?
How can Christian couples be continually improving and growing together in marriage instead of just coasting?
What are some practical things that husband and wife can do to build up their marriage?
What are some practical things which singles can do to prepare for a strong marriage?
Ephesians 5:22-23 – Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.
Proverbs 18:22, 19:14, 21:9, 21:19 – Wisdom on marriage.
2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be unequally yoked.
Hosea 2:19 – I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy.
1 Timothy 3:2 – Overseer must be husband of one wife.
1 John 4:7 – Beloved let us love one another.
Jesus goes even farther in these verses to restrict divorce/remarriage. If people read only verse 9, they may have an excuse like “yes, I shouldn’t have divorced, but now that I am already divorced that is a thing of the past and I can marry again.” In these verses Jesus makes it clear that divorce and remarriage is committing adultery. It is adultery for the husband and it is adultery for the wife. If one person is committing adultery then the other is as well. There are no loopholes here. Why is this adultery? When a couple gets married they are joined together. In God’s sight this marriage is until death do them part. While the law may recognize their divorce, God doesn’t.
Divorce is sin – However, believers need to aim much higher than just “not getting a divorce.” Many couples go through life in a practical “cold war” state. They share the same roof, but are completely distant emotionally, spiritually, and physically. This is not God’s desire for marriage. According to most marriage experts there is about a one year time period after marriage that is like a honeymoon. During this stage everything seems so exciting, fresh, and romantic. Couples want to do everything together. After this year, the fresh and exciting romantic aspect will fade at least initially. At this point, couples face an important intersection. They can accept this shift and just go through the motions while living their individual lives, or they can make a refocused effort to improve their marriage and get it on an even stronger foundation. What are some practical things that a married couple can do to build up their marriage?
Spend time in the Word together.
Spend time in prayer together.
Read Christian books together.
Spend quality time talking.
Go on dates.
Serve one another.
Think of hobbies that both sides enjoy doing together.
Be romantic. Both sides can think of exciting and romantic things to surprise the other with.
Get away. Take some time every now and again to get away from busy life and spend time together.
Set clear guidelines to limit temptation of either party.
What about singles? How does this apply to you?
What are some practical things which singles can do to prepare for a strong marriage?
Set your mind that there is no plan B.
Choose your spouse carefully and do not give in to peer pressure to get married quickly because “you are old and will not have a chance much longer.”
Be equally yoked. This not only means getting married to another believer, but also includes making sure that your life direction, goals, and priorities line up with Christ in first place.
Discuss important issues together and find agreement before marriage.
Observe your potential spouse in real life situations to get to them as clearly as possible.
Avoid casual, surfacy, emotion-based worldly dating.
Study the Word and Christian books to learn as much as possible about having a strong marriagebefore getting married.
Set clear guidelines for any relationship in order to both limit temptation and set a wise, upright course.
Get lots of Christian counsel.
Get accountability partners.
Do not say “I do” unless you are sure, no matter how much you want to get married. One thing that is definitely worse than being single is being married to the wrong person.