A Theology of Marriage
I want to preach to you this morning on A Theology of Marriage. There has never been a time in American life when such sermons were more needed, since there has never been a time in American life when the institution of marriage has been under such sustained attack.
When it comes to the battle for traditional marriage, the question on many people’s mind is “Can it survive?” Many Americans don’t think so. A 2010 Pew Research survey reveals that nearly 40% of U.S. citizens think marriage is obsolete, and that 44% of American under 30 believe that marriage is heading toward extinction.
As with all institutions, the news is a mix of good and bad. On the bright side, when it comes to married life in America sexual fidelity seems to be on the upswing. According to research by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia (2010), Americans have become less tolerant of marital infidelity over the last forty years, and somewhat less likely to stray over the last 20 years. The report also stated that those who regularly attend religious services of some kind stray least of all. There is also some good news in regard to divorce: In a news article released just last week, it was reported that the divorce rate in America is trending down. According to the 2010 Census, 55% percent of all married couples have been married for at least 15 years. 35% have celebrated their 25th anniversaries and a special 6% have made it more than 50 years. That is good new.
But not all things are rosy. On the negative side, the marriage rate has dropped in half since 1970, as more and more couples simply decide to live together without the benefit of marriage. The number of unmarried couples living together soared 12-fold from 430,000 in 1960 to 5.4 million in 2005. Just six years later, that number has skyrocketed to 7.5 million couples cohabitating. The majority of Americans now live together before getting married. Of couples married after 1995, 65 percent of men and women in first-time marriages lived together beforehand. One result has been a tripling of the number of babies being born outside of wedlock. Incredibly, 41% of all babies born in America this year will be delivered by single mothers. Sadly 41% of all first marriages still end in divorce. The divorce rate in America for second marriages is 60%; the divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%. Moral: The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence!
The radical homosexual agenda is also having a negative affect on marriage. Not that the homosexual population makes up such a large percentage of the populace—it doesn’t, but that their agenda fundamentally seeks to change the traditional, historical, and biblical definition of marriage. And that puts our culture on a dangerous course. The last few months have witnessed a sea-change of dizzying proportions in the march toward the normalization of homosexuality within our culture. The long-standing don’t ask-don’t tell policy that has guided the military in regard to homosexuals within the ranks has been repealed and will summarily be done away with. The result of lifting the “don’t ask-don’t tell” ban is the continued “legitimization” of the homosexual life-style.
In February of this year, came word of the decision by President Obama’s administration that it will no longer back the federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA for short. In a breath-taking violation of their constitutional duties, the President of the United States and Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, have said with one clear voice that a law (DOMA) which limits marriage between a man and a woman is not only wrong but also unconstitutional and they will not defend it. The problem is that they don’t get to decide which laws are unconstitutional!
The liberal media hailed their decision. The media would have us believe that if you are persuaded that the message of Genesis, as repeated by Jesus—that marriage from the beginning has been the union of male and female, husbands and wives called to give themselves to each other and to their children—then you are a bad person. You are a racist, or a homophobe, or a bigot or narrow-minded. You should be ashamed and publically shamed. You should, ideally, lose your job. I guess I’m a bad person, because I believe what Jesus said about marriage!
In this atmosphere, we need to take a fresh look at what the Bible says on the issue.
I. THE CREATION OF MARRIAGE
- “And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22–24, ESV)
- a theology of marriage begins with certain affirmations which relate to God's purposes in marriage
- Affirmation #1: Marriage is not a fabrication of man nor a result of man’s social evolution
- Affirmation #2: Marriage is a divinely ordained institution designed to meet our most basic needs
A. THE FIRST PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE IS TO ALLEVIATE LONELINESS
- “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)
- God created man as a social being
- Adam had a need for a relationship which was not met by the rest of God's creation
- did you ever wonder why woman was not created at the same time as Adam?
- I think God wanted Adam to understand his need for companionship in order that he might appreciate more fully the gift of woman
- ILLUS. I can picture it in my mind: Adam is naming all the animals. It's obvious to him that there is a male and a female in each species. At the end of the process, Adam looks up at God and inquires, "Where's mine?"
- the creation account portrays the man choosing the woman as the one among all created beings who is uniquely qualified for life-partnership
B. THE SECOND PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE IS TO ASSURE PERSONAL FULFILLMENT
- in Genesis 2:20 we are told that when Adam had named all of the animals that "for Adam no suitable helper was found."
- the word helper comes from a root word which mean to succor
- succor is an archaic word which can also be translated as aid, help or relieve
- the idea is of going to the aid of another who is in distress
- God created us as needy individuals who cannot—except in rare occassions—find complete satisfaction or fulfillment in singleness
- those needs include items such as . . .
- love and companionship
- sexual oneness and expression
- reinforcement and encouragement
- mutuality (a fancy way of saying reciprocal sharing)
- regardless of what the National Organization of Women contend, God created men and women to complement each other within the marital relationship
- what is lacking in the nature and character of men is made up for in the nature and character of women and visa versa
- marriage, therefore is a provision of God for man's well-being
C. THE THIRD PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE IS TO PROCREATE AND RAISE CHILDREN
- in Genesis 1:28 od commands Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth ... “
- here is one commandment that men have been thoroughly obedient to
D. THE FORTH PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE IS TO BE AN EARTHLY ILLUSTRATION OF CHRIST'S RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CHURCH
- “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.” (Ephesians 5:28–32, ESV)
- the Apostle Paul here reveals that consistent Christian living touches every phase of life—including marriage and sex
- ultimately, a wife’s relationship to her husband and a husband’s relationship to his wife are guided by our relationship with Jesus
- according to this passage the two—not the three, four, five, or six—become one flesh
- all adultery and promiscuity, by whatever fancy name it may be called, is here condemned
- but the most important teaching in this passage is found in v. 32
- the intimate love, companionship and fidelity which should ideally exist between a husband and wife is an earthly example of the spiritual relationship between Christ and his Church
II. THE COVENANT OF MARRIAGE
- marriage has some basic characteristics outlined in God's word
- the most important of those characteristics is that marriage is a sacred union between a man and a women which places them in a covenant relationship with each other
- covenant is a Biblical theme of major significance
- its theme is found throughout the Scriptures
- now, there are two kinds of covenants recognized in the Bible
- covenants between persons on an equal or mutual basis are covenants of parity
- covenants between unequals, such as between God and man, are known as covenants of suzerainty
- marriage then consists of two covenants of parity and one covenant of suzerainty
A. MARRIAGE IS A COVENANT BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND HIS WIFE
- this covenant indicates a special relationship
- it is a relationship of "cleaving"
- “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast [cleave] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, ESV)
- the word literally means glued together
- ILLUS. The union between a man and woman is not like two-liquids poured together in which each loose their own identity and uniqueness, but like two boards glued together—they become one, but still maintain their own unique identity. If we were really going to have a ritual at a wedding that signifies what marriage is all about, we’d loose the “Unity Candles” or the “Colored-Sand-Mixed-Together” and we would Elmer’s glue a couple of 2x4's together.
- it means a bonding of heart and soul as well
- this is a special relationship we are to have with no other human being
- every society on earth—from the primitive to the industrial—has its own rituals for uniting a man and a woman in formal, legal and social ties
- in our culture a couple promises to "love, honor and cherish" the other
- both vow to be faithful to each other amidst all the shifting scenes of life, including sickness and health, poverty and wealth, and worse or better conditions
- these are vows of mutual exclusivity
- the exchange of rings is a way to mark that exclusivity and tells all others "keepa your hands off!"
- exclusive relationships demand utter allegiance
- ILLUS. Theologian Emil Brunner writes: "It is true, of course, that marriage springs from love, but its stability is based not on love but on fidelity. Fidelity is the ethical element which enhances natural love, ... It is ... the only quality which can guarantee the permanence of the marriage relationship."
- God's will for marriage is a lifetime commitment of ourselves to the one with whom we've entered into a covenant relationship with
- ILLUS. A Fiddler on the Roof is my favorite Hollywood musical. The principle character is an orthodox Jew named Tevye. He and his family live in a small, obscure Russian village at the turn of the 20th century. Tevye is going through a difficult time. His daughters—of which he has five—are falling in love and getting married—sometimes to men of whom he does not approve. There's trouble in the town and the Jews are threatened with persecution. In the midst of all of this he asks his wife, "Golda, do you love me?" She gives him one of those looks that says, “You’re a fool.” She seeks to avoid answering the question directly. She's busy getting ready for the Sabbath. Whose got time to talk about love? Instead she begins to list all the things they've done together, the hardships they have suffered through, the hard work they've shared, the children they have brought into the world together. In the end they decide that they really do love each other. Twenty-five years of commitment has proved that.
- but he does more than quote it, he adds his own commentary to the passage
- he quotes Moses and then includes, "What therefore God has joined together let no man separate."
- biblical teaching and preaching on marriage will always uphold the ideal of permanency
B. MARRIAGE IS A COVENANT BETWEEN THE COUPLE AND SOCIETY
- a second covenant of parity is entered into between the married couple and society
- marriage is a covenant that exists between a husband and wife and their community
- not only must a married couple recognize the exclusivity of their relationship, but neighbors, friends and community must recognize and respect that exclusivity
- marriage and an on-going commitment to the marital vows do not take place in a vacuum
- those vows, must have witnesses, and supporters
- when the marriage covenant between a husband and wife breaks down, the affects ripple through the community and society
- children are affected
- parents are affected
- neighbors and friends are affected
- even churches can be affected
- ILLUS. Linda and I had lived in Adrian, a good number of years. One of the shining couples of that community was Chuck and Ronelle Menefee. They were active in their church and their community. They had a son and a daughter, both immensely talented. They were well liked and well respected. An example of the American ideal for a family. I don't think I ever saw a divorce so surprise and so devastate a community as theirs did. As people in their church took sides, it caused a lot of dissension within that congregation.
C. MARRIAGE IS A COVENANT BETWEEN A COUPLE AND GOD
- a moment ago I told you that Jesus added his own commentary to the Biblical injunction of a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving unto his wife
- Jesus emphasized the permanence of the relationship when he said it was a relationship that man should not separate
- he also emphasized the supernatural dimension of marriage when he says "What ... God has joined together"
- the covenant that exists between a couple and God is a serious and binding one
- the couple's part in that covenant is to live by God's standards and play by the rules He has established for marital relationships
- God's part in that covenant is to bless the couple and their family as long as they live by His standards and play by the rules He has established for marital relationships
- ILLUS. In an article in Leadership magazine, Cathern Paxton illustrated the marital relationship this way. She wrote, "A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair. But it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands. If the two could be put together at all, they would quickly unravel. Herein lies the mystery: What looks like two strands requires a third. The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps the strand tightly woven." Then Paxton concluded, "In a Christian marriage, God's presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife together."
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF BROKEN MARRIAGES
- Malachi would not be well accepted in the liberal society of our day
- he saw infidelity and divorce as a violation of the marriage covenant—a covenant which God had witnessed
- he viewed divorce as an act of treachery against God
- “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 favor 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.” (Malachi 2:13–15, ESV)
A. BROKEN MARRIAGES FREQUENTLY RESULT IN BROKEN WORSHIP
- God is very clear
- "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel," (Malachi 2:16, NIV)
- God hates divorce because He see the detrimental affects it has on people, on society and on the spiritual lives of those affected by it
- 1st, there was the sin of infidelity
- 2nd, infidelity led to divorce
- 3rd, divorce led to remarriage—usually to "foreign women"
- “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!” (Malachi 2:12, ESV)
- prayers will be hindered
- worship will be neglected
- the Spirit's presence will be muted
- marriage is to be a covenant relationship between a man and a woman that is solemnized by the traditions and customs of one’s society that is broken only by death
- what does this mean for the message and ministry of the church?
- divorce is always a sin even though the Scriptures allow it under certain limited conditions—this must be our message
- it is a sin because it fails to live up to the ideal which God has established for the marriage covenant
- those who have been involved in a divorce need to repent of their sin that played a part that led up to the divorce
- to remarry after a non-biblical divorce is to commit adultery
- divorce and remarriage is not the unpardonable sin, and those in the body of Christ who experience it, must continue to be loved and ministered to
- illegitimacy, sexually transmitted diseases and poverty all have their root in the scandalous treatment of marriage and place a burden—both financially and emotionally—upon a society
B. GOD'S SOLUTION TO BROKEN MARRIAGES
- “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.” (Malachi 2:15, ESV)
Let me close by sharing with you the beatitudes for a successful marriage:
Blessed are the husband and wife who continue to be affectionate, considerate and loving long after the wedding bells have ceased ringing.
Blessed are the husband and wife who are as polite and courteous to one another as they are to their friends.
Blessed are they who have a sense of humor, for this attribute is a handy shock sbsorber.
Blessed are they wholove their mates more than any other person in the world and who joyfully fulfill their marriage vow with a lifetime of fidelity and mutual happiness.
Blessed are they who love God and remember to thank Him for their food before they partake of it, and some time each day share together Bible reading, prayer and devotions.
Blessed are those mates who do not speak loudly to each other and who make their home a place, where seldom is heard a discouraging word.
lessed are the husband and wife who can work out their problems of adjustment without interference from relatives.
Blessed is the couple that has an understanding of financial matters and has worked out a partnership plan with their money under the control of both. Blessed are the husband and wife who humbly dedicate their lives and their home to Christ.