God's Purpose For Marriage
May 28, 2017 | Randy Smith
God's Purpose For MarriageEphesians 5:31-32
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
Though the attitude is declining for several reasons, for the most part the majority of Americans still want to get married. They seek the lifelong companionship. They envision a fairytale wedding. They imagine raising a family together.
Yet when you consider the statistics, the reality is the majority of marriages today will sadly end in divorce. And those that do continue, face the reality of unwanted cohabitation at best or downright agony at worst. So while the intuition of marriage is held in high regard by many, those who have experienced the pain of marriage often tend to see things from a different perspective. Some are outright cynical.
According to author Fay Angus, the "Four D's of Marriage" are "depression, despair, drink and divorce."
One woman to another at the office, "Did you wake up grouchy today?" The other replied, "No, I just let him sleep in."
The German poet Heinrich Heine gave his entire estate to his widow on the one condition that she remarry. His reasoning? "So at least one other man will regret my death."
Someone said, "Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning handsprings or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it" (Helen Rowland, quoted by Robert Keeler in The Toastmaster, Reader's Digest, June, 1994, p. 130).
Is the answer, as we are doing nowadays, simply to redefine marriage or outright abandon the institution altogether? Or there any hope?
I want to tell you that there is hope because God is the One who created marriage and He has given us a marriage manual (called the Bible) that that will teach us everything we need to know. It is possible to have a marriage that will exceed your expectations for a lifetime of joy if we simply do the things He has commanded of us.
And the good news for you Grace Bible Church is that since we started studying Ephesians we have been learning everything we need to know.
Let me explain. In chapters 1-3 we learned about God's great love for His creation. We learned the marvelous invitation He's extended to have all our sins forgiven and enter a personal relationship with Him on the basis of grace. It begins with having faith in Christ. It's a relationship where He blesses us and fills our hearts with joy, hope, contentment and purpose. He even gives us the Holy Spirit that empowers us and floods our hearts with God's love. This is definitely needed for a good marriage!
Then in chapter 4 and 5 we learned what God expects of us. It simply comes down to this: He calls us to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1). Specifically as it pertains to marriage, as He is a God of order we should strive for order in our homes. As He has shown us gentleness, love and forgiveness we should extend those graces to our spouse. As He is a God of purity we should avoid the darkness of sexual sins. As He has blessed us with all we need we should not steal or be greedy in our hearts, but rather be thankful. As He is kind and tender-hearted to us we should let all bitterness and wrath and anger and slander be put away from us. As He serves us we should cheerfully serve our mate. As He is the truth we should speak with honesty. As He gives us grace we should give grace though our words that seek to build up our husband or wife.
We already covered all of this in detail. If you just do that with your marriage partner I can almost guarantee you will have a blessed relationship!
But there is more! A few weeks ago I taught you the biblical procedure of conflict resolution, how to solve your interpersonal problems. As Christians we don't fight or flee. We serve as peacemakers that use God-honoring principles as we labor for unity in our relationships. We make peace with others as and because God has made peace with us through Christ. Didn't Jesus say, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt. 5:9)?
And then we got more specific near the end in chapter 5. We learned that the husband's role is to love his wife in a way that Christ loves the church. He is commanded to sacrifice for her and lead by service and example. And women are to respect their husband's God-given authority in an effort to build them up and be an equal partner in the direction of the family.
Next week I would like to cover verse 33 regarding love and respect.
Yet today I'd like to cover God's purpose for marriage in verses 31-32.
When it's all said and done, I am confident that if you are in Christ you can have a marriage that honors God and brings unspeakable joy to your heart if both you and your Christian spouse are committed to obeying Christ and working through these principles. Or put in the negative, all marital disharmony and pain and division is because you are not doing what Scripture has commanded. It's not that hard to understand. God gives us strength. It's simply from the sinful pride of willful neglect.
So, today's sermon, "What is the purpose of marriage?" Like anything else, you get this one wrong and you are bound to have problems because you are using something contrary to its intended purpose.
Since God created marriage, I believe it's fair to go to Him for the purpose of marriage. Is it companionship? Sure. Is it to have children? Sure. But most people, dare I say even most Christians, miss the primary purpose.
It is spelled out for us right here in verse 32. Yet first look with me at verse 31. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." That is a direct quote from Genesis 2:24, the chapter that explains God's creation of marriage.
This is a fitting place for that comment. After all, God just spent nine verses giving us the most comprehensive explanation of the expectations for wives and husbands found anywhere in Scripture.
And we are familiar with verse 31 in the context of human marriage. When we marry a new union is formed whereby in the eyes of God a husband and wife are now "one flesh," glued together we say never to be separated.
And in order for this oneness to be complete, the cords of dependency that each had with their parents must be severed. New authority structure. New responsibilities. Full allegiance is now devoted to the spouse. This second relationship in marriage now becomes more binding and more permeant than the first that existed with our parents. Great verse! Essential concept for success in marriage!
Yet Paul throws somewhat of a curve ball at us when we get to verse 32. "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." Did you get that?
My paraphrase of Paul's words: Of course everything I told you pertains to your marriages. Do these things in verses 22-31 and you will be fulfilled and you will honor God in your relationship with each other. But please do not misunderstand what I am getting at. Human marriage is good and important, but what I am ultimately speaking with reference to the divine marriage between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. As I said it is a great mystery. It was something unknown, but at this time God through divine revelation has made known to you the ultimate purpose of marriage.
You see, the primary reason God designed human marriages was to show forth the greatness of the Gospel. That through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ would purchase a people for Himself in a divine marriage and bless them in ways unimaginable. Christ is Immanuel, God with us. It's about relationship. It's about Him desiring intimacy with us now and forever into eternity. It is a marriage between you and Christ!
Let's get this straight, Christ's marriage to His church is not patterned after human marriage. Quite the contrary. Human marriage is a metaphor, an illustration, a parable to show the world the greatness of the marriage that Jesus Christ has with His bride. Therefore, the success of your marriage infinitely extends beyond your personal joy. Adherence to God's design is essential if you are to image forth the Gospel and show the world the greatness of God's character. That should be your greatest concern. This is the purpose of marriage.
So what I decided to do this week is put this principle to the test. I went through the Bible and I found the top eight statements that pertain to marriage. I was curious to see if everything the Bible has to say about human marriage aligns with God's divine marriage between Jesus Christ and the church. Let me briefly take you through each of these eight observations.
1. Marriage Roles
Let's start with the one that should be most familiar. In chapter 5 of Ephesians we just learned over the past three weeks that God has clear and differing expectations of how the wife and husband must function in their marriage.
Men are to love and women are support and help their husband's leadership. Verse 22, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." And for the guys, verse 25, "Husbands, love your wives." Again in verse 28, "So husbands ought also to love their own wives." And again in verse 33, "Each individual among you also is to love his own wife."
The complaints roll in: Outdated, cultural, dysfunctional and oppressive. But if we agree human marriage is to show forth the relationship that Jesus Christ has with the church (as seen in verse 32), they do make perfect sense!
The answer on this one is easy because Paul in the text gives the reason. He does the "heavy lifting" for us. And the reason is that we might image forth the divine marriage relationship. So why do women respect their husband's spiritual leadership in verse 22? Because they represent the church, the bride of Christ. The verse next two verses. "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:23-24).
Why are the men called to love their wives? Because they represent Christ, the ideal Husband. They are to love, verse 25, "Just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." That's a love motivated by sacrificial service, making decisions that honor God in the wife's best interest that she might blossom in her relationship with the Lord. They love like Christ, verse 29, who nourishes and cherishes His bride.
2. No Divorce
Matthew 19:6, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." God's ultimate plan is that a marriage couple be together until death do them part. It's a big deal to God. In Malachi 2:16 He says, "I hate divorce." When we got married we made a vow to our partner and ultimately to God that we will not leave our spouse. Why? And what relationship is this to Christ and the church?
What did Jesus promise His bride? "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mt. 28:20). "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). So if Jesus would never divorce His spouse and I believe it's safe to say that we would never divorce Jesus (Christ won't let us go!) and marriage is intended to show the world this inseparable union, what are we communicating to others if we divorce our human spouse?
3. Leaving and cleaving
We just looked at that one already in verse 31. Spouses are to leave their parents and establish a new relationship that takes priority over all of our other human relationships. A father symbolizes this when he walks his daughter down the aisle, transfers authority and gives her away in marriage.
Christ and the church? When we come to Christ we receive Him as Lord of our lives. Our love for Him and our allegiance to Him, takes priority over all of our other human relationships. "We must obey God rather than men" (Ac. 5:29). Christ (not child, not parent, not spouse) is to be foremost in our affections and foremost in our faithfulness. We show that by prioritizing our wives on a human level.
4. One flesh
Again, as we already saw in verse 31, a husband and wife on their wedding day become "one flesh." There is a change in legal status. They are to form an inseparable unit. They share the same last name.
Christ and the church? In John 17 our Lord prayed, "That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us… I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity (Jn. 17:21a, 23a). We call this abiding in Christ. Christ in us and us in Him. Galatians 3:28, "You are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." Are we one flesh with Christ? Right here in verse 30 we read in Ephesians 5 tha "we are members of His body."
5. Sex after marriage
Again, why? People cry, "Nobody follows this archaic and outdated principle from some puritanical era." They claim, "We love each other." "We want to see if we are compatible." "It's consensual." "We're not hurting anyone." Is the command just there because God wanted to spoil our fun? Does the command have any meaning beyond the fact that it's a religious obligation?
In the Bible, human sexual relations consummate the one flesh union. It is the intimacy we share with each other only after a covenant commitment to each other is made in marriage.
Christ and the church? Does an unbeliever have intimacy with Christ? Is Christ in fellowship with him, answering his prayers, working all things together for good? Of course not! Intimacy with Christ only comes when we enter a covenant relationship with Him. The same then is true for human marriage as well - first covenant and then intimacy.
6. No Adultery
Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." Exodus 20:14, "You shall not commit adultery." The Bible is clear. We are to stay sexually faithful to our spouse until we are parted by death.
Why? Is Jesus faithful to His church? That goes without answering. Is the church faithful to Jesus? Not always, but they are commanded to be and it provokes the Lord to jealously when they are not (Jas. 4:5). You see, when we chose to live in sin we are committing idolatry. We are finding our pleasure in a false god. We are indirectly saying to our Savior that He can't meet our needs. We imply we need intimacy outside of Him to have meaning, adventure or heightened joy. That's why God calls it spiritual adultery. This was a huge problem with Israel. Paul told the Corinthians, "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3).
7. One man and one woman
Marriage is created to a held in the context only of one man and one woman. That's why in Romans 1 God refers to homosexuality as unnatural. (Rom. 1:26, 27). That's why it's condemned from cover to cover in the Bible along with all the distortions of God's marriage principle. In the span of one week, I read of a woman seeking to legally marry herself and a straight man seeking to legally marry a pair of bisexual women. Why is it wrong? Who are they hurting?
Back to Jesus and the church. The marriage union God created is to show Jesus Christ and His marriage to His bride. 2 Corinthians 11:2, "I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin." Revelation 21:2, "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Anything outside of that is outside of God's intended design and by nature intentionally perverting that design.
We are commanded to live with our spouses in unity. We forgive each other. We speak with gentleness and kindness. We enjoy each other. Why?
Because again we are showing a picture between the relationship Jesus Christ has with His church. Hosea 2:19-20, God says, "I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD."
My friends, may our marriages bring us joy and not grief. But may we as Christians ultimately desire strong marriages because we want to show our children, our church and our world, the greatest marriage between Jesus Christ and His bride. That is why God created human marriage so that He might (Eph. 1:10) lead all things to reveal the supremacy of Christ. When we do it God's way, everybody wins-both us and God-because our joy can never be separated from our relationship to Him.