There is an incredible amount of confusion in our culture about marriage. We hear voices saying that the institution itself is passing away – that living together is a better option – that gender should not be an issue in marriage – that divorce is simply the termination of a contract between two individuals who no longer want to stay together – that an occasional extra-marital affair can actually be good for marriage – not to mention all the internal issues like child raising, joint career development, sexual fulfillment, and numerous others.
Of course, I have all the answers and will be happy to share them with you this morning:)
What’s important is to hear God’s voice above the other voices, including our own. Last week we concluded that if we are going to follow Jesus, we must listen intently to His word, and obey. Scripture has much to say about marriage, let’s look at five areas this morning.
Marriage is not for Everyone
- We forget this teaching, to our shame. Read I Corinthians 7:1-2, 8-9, 32-35.
- God has called some to singleness. Single believers can devote themselves more fully to the Lord, and this pleases Him. We need to honor the singles among us who have served the Lord passionately – as well as the widows and widowers who made this choice after their spouse’s death.
- But for most this is not an option, and Paul is frank – it’s better to marry than to burn.
Marriage is a Life Long Commitment
- We admire long term commitment. George Blanda played quarterback and kicker for 26 years, longer than anyone in the NFL. Ella Fitzgerald sang for 57 years. Jessica Tandy acted for 69 years. Strom Thurmond served his country politically for 72 years, including eight terms in the senate. Liu Yung-Yang and Yang Wan were married for a little over 86 years, while Bill & Claudia Ritchie of Kentucky only made it 83.
- Yet only 60-70% of American marriages will make it to “death do us part”. First marriages that end in divorce only statistically last eight years, second marriages only seven. Only 33% of American marriages make it to their 25th anniversary, 20% to their 35th (these statistics do include deaths).
- What does God say? Matthew 19:1-9, I Corinthians 7:10-11, Malachi 2:16. Seems pretty clear that marriage is a life long commitment, with divorce reserved for only the most extreme situations (adultery being the clearest scripturally).
- Before moving on, I want to be abundantly clear about something. If you have been divorced in the past – which a number of you have - that does not make you a second class citizen of the kingdom or unwelcome here. Rather, understand that what God’s word says is for your present, and for your future. Close the trap door, remove the divorce option from your “now” and your future, work at your marriage. If there are past relational sins that need to be taken care of – with your current or past spouse – take care of them, and move forward.
Marriage is for Spiritual Equals
- Many have lost this concept. Marriage is for two believers to enter into, or two unbelievers. Don’t mix believers and unbelievers, it rarely works.
- The Old Testament is full of this concept – Solomon’s pagan wives led to his downfall – revivals under Ezra & Nehemiah both emphasized spiritually pure marriages – many spiritual or governmental leaders in the OT crashed and burned because their spouse didn’t follow God.
- Read I Corinthians 7:39 & 2 Corinthians 6:14. This is very clear – if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, marry a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to deceive ourselves into believing we will convert our spouses (happens sometimes) – or that we will be able work out a good spiritual arrangement – ask those who have gone through it for their input.
- Again, this is not a second class citizen concept. If you are married to an unbeliever, deal with any past sin involved and move on. And please don’t divorce your unbelieving spouse, I Corinthians 7:12-16 is quite clear that you shouldn’t.
Marriage Requires Submission, Love & Respect
- Read Ephesians 5:21-33. There are multiple sermons in this passage alone.
- We are to submit to each other, and wives particularly to their husbands (command is repeated in five separate passages, and exemplified elsewhere). The submission concept is used with governmental & spiritual authorities, servants to masters, demons to Jesus, of the church to Jesus, children to their parents, and younger men to older, among others. We are all in submission relationships. It’s not an oppressive word, our culture has only made it such. It’s an obedience word, and in my personal opinion is only invalidated when we are asked to do something outside of God’s revealed will.
- Husbands are to love their wives – I Corinthians 13 defines this as patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, doesn’t keep record of wrongs – it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. The companion passage in Colossians commands husbands to love their wives and not be harsh with them – which captures the concept well.
- And wives are to respect their husbands. This is more key than we think – men are easily brought down inside and outside their marriage when their wives don’t respect them. And it’s not a conditional command, we can’t say, “well, I would respect him if he was respectable” – in fact, one can make a case that respecting him helps make him respectable.
Marriage is a Symbol of a Greater Reality
- Paul says an astonishing thing here in verse 32 of Ephesians 5 – he’s actually thinking of Christ and the church. The husband-wife relationship is symbolic of an eternal relationship the church has with Jesus Christ – complete with our engagement here and a wedding feast in heaven.
- The two most profound truths that arise out of this is that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church – self-sacrificially – and that the church is to live in purity (found in 2 Corinthians 11:2).
So, what have we learned or been reminded of? Marriage is not for everyone, singleness is at least as good, and often a better, option. Marriage involves a life long commitment, divorce is not to be an option except in extreme situations (like adultery, and I’ve seen adulterous couples come back together and make it work). Marriage is for spiritual equals, believers with believers, unbelievers with unbelievers. Marriage requires heavy and continuous doses of submission, love and respect – a concept that probably needs more development in a different message. And, finally, our marriages are a life time picture of an eternal truth – we will live in intimate relationship with Christ forever.