Don’t Mess with One Flesh (Mark 10:1–12)

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Doug Van Meter - 25 August 2019

Don’t Mess with One Flesh (Mark 10:1–12)

Though what Jesus said is straightforward, and therefore provides us with a biblical basis for the question of divorce and remarriage, he was saying a lot more than they asked. These words equip Jesus’ disciples with what we need to stand our biblical ground in matters of sexuality and gender as well as marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

Scripture References: Mark 10:1-10

From Series: "Mark Exposition"

An exposition of the Gospel of Mark by Doug Van Meter.

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As I trust we have seen, the text before us doesn’t exist merely for the sake of equipping us for chapter-and-versing our way through the Christian life, particularly concerning questions related to divorce and remarriage.

Though what Jesus said is straightforward, and therefore provides us with a biblical basis for the question of divorce and remarriage, he was saying a lot more than they asked. These words equip Jesus’ disciples with what we need to stand our biblical ground in matters of sexuality and gender as well as marriage, divorce, and remarriage. And in equipping us, Jesus used this confrontation to teach his would-be followers that Christian discipleship is a path of a very different value system. Jesus’ followers have a value system that is radically different from the world; even from the religious world. And when it comes to the question of divorce and remarriage, Jesus’ teaching is radically different. Our Lord’s teaching is radically different from the lies of the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:1–4).

The text tells us that it was Jesus’ “custom” to teach those who would hear him (v. 1). And he always taught the truth. He never shied away from saying the hard (because unpopular) thing. He was committed to faithfully proclaiming God’s kingdom rules, as he did here. And those who call him King are expected to treat the covenant of marriage with the honour it deserves, and which God demands.

Jesus’ views on marriage are only controversial to those who have another standard by which they are living. His views on marriage (and on gender for that matter) are only controversial to those who are seduced by the competing—and doomed—kingdom of darkness.

Disciples and Marriage

Jesus was discipling disciples. He had exhorted them to deny themselves, take up their cross, and to follow him. And practicing marital fidelity, particularly when you are wronged, provides a powerful proving ground of our professed discipleship.

Remaining covenantally faithful in marriage is motivated by covenantal faithfulness to the gospel. Covenantal faithfulness in marriage is a wonderful picture of Christ’s covenantal faithfulness to his bride, the church.

Jesus had recently exhorted the disciples that they were salt (9:50), and should behave like salt. As salt preserves, so healthy marriages help to preserve an otherwise crooked generation. As salt preserves otherwise decaying meat, so a biblical worldview of human sexuality embraced and practiced goes a long way towards preserving an otherwise decaying moral landscape. As salt preserves, so church members, who embrace God’s standard with reference to marriage, powerfully help to preserve the integrity of the local church. In turn, salty local churches are used by God to preserve the culture.

In this study, I hope to help us fill up the saltshaker of our minds and hearts in preparation to season our homes, our church, and our society with the biblical conviction to not mess with one flesh. After all, the words of Jesus are not unclear: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The Establishment of a Marriage

Verses 7–8a highlight the establishment of a marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:7–8).

A marriage is established when two human beings, of the opposite sex, from different biological families, consent to commit as husband and wife, and then physically consummate their commitment. God’s word further emphasises that, when this happens, the two become one flesh.

The physical consummation of the consensual commitment results in a new family that is so intricately and intimately intertwined that it is considered to be one unit, and therefore indivisible.

What is fundamental to this is the realisation that it is God who establishes a marriage. Jesus makes this clear when he says, “What therefore God has joined together.”

Jesus was saying that this one-flesh reality makes divorce forbidden, even unthinkable, for it is clear that God has brought about the marriage. Only he can therefore end it. He does so by death. Entering into a marriage is therefore to be done, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.

Those who marry are accountable directly to God and indirectly to those who witness the making of the covenant. As John Murray so clearly states, marriage “is not a contract of temporary convenience and not a union that may be dissolved at will.”

We often look for loopholes to justify what God forbids: “irreconcilable differences”; “incompatibility”; “I’m not happy and surely that matters”; “he or she does not meet my emotional needs”; etc. But none of this is in any text in Scripture with respect to marriage and divorce. What is clear is the formation of a one-flesh relationship and this is to be honoured, protected, and preserved.

This one-flesh relationship is such that “it is a serious thing to drive a wedge between husband and wife” (Grogan). A home established in accordance with God’s creation ordinance is a serious thing to mess with; it is a serious thing to divide.

Fleshing Out the One Flesh Union

What does it mean that “the two shall become one flesh”?

The one-flesh aspect includes oneness physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

Physically, oneness relates to the sexual consummation and the ongoing celebration of this consummation. It is good—very good—and husband and wife owe this gift to each other.

Emotionally, oneness involves entering into the lives of each other in the ups and downs. Marriage involves shared joys and sorrows. Build this.

Socially, marriage expands one’s relationships as two families come together. Friends from each spouse are sometimes shared. Children often enter into marriage, and responsibility is shared. The one-flesh relationship calls for working together in the building of relationships.

Marriage also brings about spiritual oneness. This is a significant matter. If a Christian marries a non-Christian, the one-flesh relationship will suffer in every way.

Emotionally, your joys and sorrows will often not be theirs (e.g. the joy of worship and sorrow over sin). Socially, friends of your unbelieving spouse may prove to be fools with a wrong worldview. This may affect your children. Sexually and physically, instead of a Spirit-filled marriage bed it may be completely fleshly and selfish.

I have a great burden for wives who are married to spiritual eunuchs, especially men who professed to be Christians but post wedding show themselves to be unbelievers. Women, be careful. Fathers, be faithful. It’s okay to say no.

The exhortation to not mess with one flesh arises from God’s establishment of marriage. Jesus therefore warns against divorce.

The Expectation of the Marriage

In vv. 9–12, we read of God’s expectation of marriage:

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

(Mark 10:9–12)

A simple, surface-level reading of these words establishes that God expects the husband and wife to fulfil their marriage covenant. He expects fidelity until death ends the one-flesh reality, the one-flesh relationship. As Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” In other words, Jesus—God in the flesh—reveals that two human beings, who are of the opposite sex, from different families, who willingly commit to live in a one-flesh relationship are to perpetually do so. The only thing that is to end the marriage is death of either party.

So it is wrong for a man to divorce his wife or for a wife to divorce her husband. In either case, the one who divorces and then remarries is guilty of adultery. This is the word of God. We need to unpack this so we can faithfully obey it.

The Breaking of a Marriage

Though God’s expectation for marriage is until death ends it, nevertheless, ever since Genesis 3, marriage has been difficult and, sadly, divorce has existed from the early days of fallen human history. Jesus acknowledges this. What does he say about it?

Who’s King?

I read this week that well-known radio talk show host Larry King has filed for divorce from his wife of 22 years. He is 85 years old and has now been married and divorced eight times to seven different women. I think it safe to assume that Mark 10:1–12 has not been an authority in his life. Of course, Larry King is not a Christian, and so this might be excused, but Christians need to pay close attention to what Jesus taught about marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

This is a subject that can be controversial and it is, of course, deeply emotional. And yet, as I have sought to stress, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to submit to his lordship in every area, including what he taught about divorce and remarriage.

Jesus, having established the parameters and requisites for a legitimate, biblical marriage to come into existence, spoke here to the inviolability of marriage.

Is it Lawful?

Contrary to what many teach, Jesus never corrected or abrogated God’s law. In the Sermon on the Mount, he repeatedly contrasted tradition (“you have heard it said”) with truth (“but I say to you”). He was correcting the faulty exegesis and the flawed pastoral application of God’s law. In no instance did he nullify the Mosaic law. Rather, he returned it to its former glory by going to the heart of the matter. For example, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21–22). Again, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28).

In neither case was Jesus saying that they had been taught erroneously concerning both murder and adultery. These, of course, are two of the commandments given by God. What Jesus was saying to them was that the teaching they had received did not go deep enough. The Pharisees chapter-and-versed their way around issues of the heart. As long as they didn’t commit the physical act of murder or adultery, they thought they could carry on with hearts controlled by bitter hatred and lustful passion. Jesus sought to set them straight. Here, he went to the heart of the matter.

The Pharisees wanted a reinforcement of their proof-text to justify divorce. Jesus knew this and so addressed their hearts. Cole observes that his “teaching was designed to give a new depth of meaning to the law…. Jesus was not creating a new legalism: he was recalling to God’s absolute standard and intention.”

What is a Divorce?

You will remember that Jesus was dealing with this question by returning to first principles. We have been following his example. If we will properly understand the question of divorce, we need to address the question, what does the Bible mean when it uses this word?

The Greek word, apoluo, means to free fully. In a literal sense, it means to relieve, to release, to dismiss, to let go, to loose, to put (or send) away, to release, or set at liberty.In Mark 6:36, it is used when the disciples urged Jesus to “send [the crowds] away” to find food in the surrounding villages. It is the word used to describe Barabbas’s “release” from imprisonment in Mark 15:6, 11, 15. It is used to describe how the religious leaders “let [the apostles] go” after questioning them (Acts 4:21) and of Timothy being “released” from prison in Hebrews 13:23.

When a man divorces his wife (or vice versa), he dismisses her, sends her away, and sets her at liberty. This is the effect of the divorce, but what constitutes a divorce?

Again, we return to first principles, for whatever constitutes a marriage must be considered when asking, what constitutes a divorce? Simply, a divorce takes place when one or both spouses refuse to fulfil their covenantal commitment to live as one flesh. This might happen when one spouse becomes one flesh with someone else (1 Corinthians 6:16) or when a spouse abandons his or her biblical responsibilities to love or submit. An abandonment of biblical responsibility might be displayed through physical and/or emotional abuse, by a husband’s refusal to provide for his family, or by either spouse’s continual refusal to fulfil conjugal responsibility.

Our Father, not Big Brother

As with the establishment of marriage, divorce is not determined by the state. Theologically and biblically, it is not a legal issue, despite the plethora of divorce lawyers. Consider an Old Testament text that deals with divorce.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

(Deuteronomy 24:1–4)

The text says that a certificate of divorce must be given to the wife when the husband has “sent her out of his house” (v. 1). The certificate was a legal document that gave protection to the (in most cases, mistreated) wife. The document did not establish the divorce; it merely recognised the reality.

For some reason, most of us have assumed the viewpoint that the state establishes a marriage and therefore we have assumed that the state also establishes and grants a divorce. The Bible does not teach this.

The state is in a position to regulate a divorce (particularly if the marriage was recognised by the state). However, recognising and regulating either a marriage or divorce is one thing; establishing is quite another. The state has no ability to do either. Our Father establishes marriage, and he establishes divorce—not big brother.

What about the Church?

Though the local church will have much to say when a couple in its membership is contemplating divorce, it cannot issue either a divorce or an annulment.

Summary

A spouse divorces his or her spouse when he or she refuses to keep covenant. This may or may not be accompanied by a legal document. I have on occasion encountered scoundrels who treat their wives with utter contempt but will not pursue a legal divorce. In God’s eyes, I am persuaded that such a man has divorced his wife, even if it is not legally recognised. Too many husbands, and sometimes wives, are guilty of playing legal games. Meanwhile, God sees their sin and he holds them accountable with or without a legal document.

This seems to be the problem that Malachi addressed.

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!

And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.  Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking?  Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

(Malachi 2:10–16)

Note that these people continued their religious appearances, but the Lord considered it repugnant. God sees whether we love or hate our spouse. In fact, it seems pretty clear that divorce and hatred go in hand in hand.

In Malachi’s day, these men were not loving. They hated their wives. They neglected, despised, and treacherously mistreated their wives. In other words, they were not keeping covenant (see v. 14). And God characterises their hate-fuelled unfaithfulness to their wives as being clothed in injustice (v. 16). The attitude that leads to divorce, generally speaking, is unrighteous. We might excuse this for a non-Christian, but how could we excuse this in the lives of those who are dressed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Malachi makes it clear that the spiritual effects the marital. If you are not covenantally faithful to God, you set yourself up to the temptation to not being covenantally faithful to your spouse. There is a lot of talk in our day about the sexual temperature in a marriage. I would suggest that we need to focus on its spiritual temperature. Don’t be surprised if the latter heats up the former.

There is debate about the translation of v. 10. Older translations (KJV, NKJV, NASB) indicate that God hates divorce. Newer translations speak of the man hating his wife and divorcing her (ESV, CSB). The latter seems to fit the context best. However, clearly the entire passage speaks of God’s grief at divorce. God hates what divorce does. God hates infidelity. Our faithful, covenant-keeping God hates covenant breaking. Yet the text before us emphasises the hatred that one has towards his spouse—a hatred that is tantamount to divorce. Think about that. Think about it long and hard.

Loving for the Long-Haul

The marriage covenant is about loving one’s spouse “for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, for better, for worse.” Love is defined by God. Love perseveres. Love is appropriately unconditional. Love protects. Love cares. Love forgives.

In some ways, a bride and groom don’t understand what they are committing to at the altar. They might understand generally, but not specifically. For example, “in sickness and in health” may mean the common cold and flu or it might mean cancer or some debilitating illness. “For richer or poorer” might mean a few times of struggling or it might mean unemployment and facing real poverty. “For better or worse” might mean a minor offence or a serious wrong that will require great forgiveness. But the couple make the commitment with the understanding that God’s grace is sufficient for their failures.

Guard your hearts from despising the one to whom you are to be devoted (see Malachi 2:15). Work at this. Don’t take each other for granted. Seek help; seek counsel. Don’t easily throw in the towel. Too much is at stake.

The Exception in Marriage

Mark 10 is not the only passage in the Gospels about divorce and remarriage. Here are some others:

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18).

“But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

“They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ 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.  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery’ (Matthew 19:7–9).

These passages, taken together, have led to some confusion—especially the texts in Matthew. In those cases, Jesus said that divorce and remarriage are prohibited except in the case of “fornication.” The word translated “fornication” is a general word for sexual immorality. It is the word from which we get the term “pornography.” It includes the act of adultery, but is not limited to this. Perhaps because the Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking were so legalistic, Jesus used a more general term to close all loopholes. You see, there are various sexual sins that can violate the marriage covenant.

You will do well to remember that the next time you are alone with your cell phone or computer. Remember it the next time you stop by that massage parlour when out of town on a business trip. Remember that the next time you go online for a sexting experience. When it comes to defining adultery, Jesus doesn’t play games with the text. He is no legalist.

So, why did Mark not mention this exception? I would argue that it is assumed. Again, Jesus was saying, “Let’s talk about marriage” not, “Let’s debate divorce.” Mark was emphasising Jesus’ emphasis on the permanence and the inviolability of marriage. And so should we.

Yet, the issue needs to be addressed: Does God recognise grounds for divorce? The answer is straightforward: Yes he does. And there are at least two exceptions specifically detailed in the New Testament: adultery (or sexual sin) (Matthew 5:32; 19:7–9); and abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:10–16). Each of these exceptions warrants an entire discussion on their own.

The Ground of Adultery

Adultery violates the one-flesh relationship (see Proverbs 2:16–19). It is therefore a valid ground for divorce. At the same time, we need to be clear that God never commanded divorce, but allowed it. Be careful of looking for loopholes to justify divorce. Rather, first prize is usually mercy and forgiveness.

Years ago, there was a man in the church in which I grew up who, some twenty years after his wife had committed adultery, pulled out the Matthew texts as a justification for divorce. Lo and behold, he was married to another woman within a couple of months. It was clear to anyone looking on that he was simply using the texts as a loophole to justify his own desires for another woman.

In the case of serial adultery, divorce may indeed by the best course of action. But we should be careful both in our counsel and in our compliance.

The Ground of Abandonment

Paul details a second ground of divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10–16:

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you  to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

(1 Corinthians 7:10–16)

Essentially every divorce involves some form of abandonment: the abandonment of one’s promise. The text seems clear that, if the unbelieving spouse “departs,” the believing spouse is free from the marriage covenant. I believe this means they are free to remarry.

Many ask the question, what about a case of abuse—either physical or emotional? I believe this falls into the category of abandonment. The abuser has broken covenant (see Malachi 2) and divorce is permitted because, in fact, the abuser, by his or her behaviour, has divorced his or her spouse. Again, in such a case, remarriage is permitted.

Be Careful

There are many scenarios regarding divorce and remarriage which require great wisdom. In many situations, we are justified in saying, “I just don’t know.” When that is the case, be very slow to take action. Be very cautious in your counsel. Be swift to hear and slow to speak, and be very slow to anger (James 1:19).

The Heartache of a Broken Marriage

In many ways, this has been the most difficult message I have had to prepare In a long time. This Is not because of wrestling with the text, which is quite straightforward, but because of the pastoral Issues that arise from Jesus’ teaching In a broken world.

The Need for Gospel-Driven Compassion and Hope

Donald English pastorally addresses this with this helpful reminder: “The Christian church … has to find ways of showing the deep compassionate sympathy and understanding of Jesus towards those for whom life has not turned out according to the highest ideals.”

James Edwards helps us to do so when he writes, “The essential thrust of 10:1–12 is the inviolability of the marriage bond as intended and instituted by God…. The intent of Jesus’ teaching is not to shackle those who fail in marriage with debilitating guilt. The question is not whether God forgives those who fail in marriage.” God, as one who forgives, needs to be held up high as we examine this text.

There are people in our own church who have experienced divorce, and some who have experienced remarriage after divorce. This is not merely a theoretical matter. The teaching of Jesus cuts very close to the bone of the congregation of BBC, as it will to any local church. We need to be sure that we guard our hearts and our tongues.

Jesus’ response to hardened hearts in this passage reveals that he had compassion on those who had been callously treated by their husbands. Jesus was compassionate about the divorced spouse. We need to pause and feel his pain about the pain of those who have been a part of a broken marriage.

As with matters of gender and sexuality, we need to be compassionate as we interact with those who have experienced heartache and even confusion when it comes to divorce and remarriage.

Divorce is Destructively Painful

Jesus makes this clear by emphasising the one-flesh relationship and then commanding that no man may tamper with it. When Moses wrote about leaving and cleaving, he used a word to describe being glued to something. The implication is that the husband and wife are so mutually and intimately connected that the oneness is indivisible. Like two pieces of wood so joined that if they are forcefully separated, a break occurs with two uneven parts resulting.

We talk about divorces being “amicable.” In some cases, this term might accurately apply. But that is simply a relative statement, for with divorce there are always painful ramifications—on the separated spouses, on the children and family, on local churches, etc. Divorce is never inconsequential.

Divorce and Remarriage are Not Unpardonable

Divorce and unbiblical remarriage are not categorised In the Bible as unpardonable. If you have broken God’s word in pursuing a divorce, or if you have broken God’s word in an unbiblical remarriage, confess your sin, ask for forgiveness, and accept God’s forgiveness. Then move forward. You cannot change the past, but you can make the most of the present.

Some suggest that, if one has unbiblically divorced and remarried, that the marriage should be annulled or ended by divorce. In fact, some argue from Ezra 10 and Nehemiah 13 that this is biblically justified. That is a wrong-headed argument. Those were dire times and God was preserving his people to preserve his promised seed. Don’t make an exception a rule.

As with the law in Deuteronomy 24, God never says that divorce is right, but once it occurs, it is to be respected and therefore regulated (as in the case of polygamy). If you have remarried, by God’s grace, make it work to glory of God to the good of your spouse and family.

I have no doubt that there are some sad, and even hard, consequences that are experienced by those who have divorced and remarried. Living in a sin-cursed and therefore broken world includes this. But the gospel provides hope, even amid wrongful divorce and remarriage.

Conclusion

Listening to Jesus in Mark 10, we hear his passion for guarding the marriage relationship. Why did this matter so to him? There are at least a few reasons.

First, Jesus hated injustice, and what was happening in Jewish homes—exemplified by the Pharisees—grieved him. He wanted spouses, particularly wives, to be treated with loving dignity.

Second, as in Malachi’s day, the condition of marriages reflected the spiritual condition of the people. By going back to first principles, Jesus was taking the people back to God—the God who created male and female; the God who created marriage; the God who created the nation of Israel; and the God who was about to enact a new creation.

Third, and related to the above, marriage was God’s good gift, which finds its ultimate fulfilment in the relationship between Jesus Christ, and his bride, the church.

Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 5:22–32:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:22–32)

Jesus’ commitment to his bride is such that he will never leave or forsake her. Even though he can so often find something indecent or unclean in her, and even though we sometimes play the spiritual harlot, like Hosea of old—yet with deeper commitment—Jesus takes us back. In fact, he brings us back. And yes, even though we defy his lordship in our marriage, Jesus forgives and restores.

You see, Jesus came to secure his bride. He gave his life for his bride. And he took back his life for his bride. Now he lives to purify his bride.

We have a long way to go. We fail our groom time and again, and yet he loves us and forgives us. He will not allow anything or anyone to separate us from him. What God has joined together, no one can separate. Jesus says to anyone or anything that seeks to break our relationship with him, “Don’t mess with one flesh.”

What a glorious meditation! God has joined Christ and his church—forever. That is good news. That is gospel. Will you be joined to him? Repent of your sin, trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and become his bride today.

Perhaps you are single and will never marry. I would no more pity you than I would pity Jesus who was single. He had the most fulfilling life—without a wife. Well, not quite so, for he had a wife whose name is Church.

Some of the best Christians I know, perhaps the most insightful Christians when it comes to the church, are those who have never been married. They are very fulfilled and live a life to be exemplified and even—in a godly way—envied.

Perhaps you have been divorced. There is hope for what may seem like a hole in your life. That hope is Jesus. Look to him as your groom and you will find in him your all in all.

AMEN