Marriage is a beautiful thing. We celebrate with those who get engaged. We smile as they take their vows. We shower them with gifts and well wishes for a long and happy marriage. But after the gifts are well-worn (or returned) and the top layer of cake has freezer burn, marriage gets real. Squabbles. Mistrust. Brokenness. These are real issues. How do we think rightly about marriage when there is often so much pain and brokenness surrounding the marital covenant? Two questions have come in regarding brokenness in marriage as seen in Scripture. Although they are different questions (and cite different Scriptures—one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament), they have some similar underlying issues. In light of this, we'll deal with both of them in a single post. We'll attempt to answer each briefly and then consider some underlying principles they both seem to share.
The first question:
(Regarding Jacob marrying both Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29) Was this before the covenant of single marriage? Was this before the command (not to commit adultery) or was this technically not adultery since he (Jacob) was deceived?
No. The covenant of single marriage was from the very beginning (Genesis 2).
Yes. It was before the command not to commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).
No. This was very much adultery. Just because it was before the giving of the law does not take away the fact that it was adultery (and wrong). An example would be if you have a cancerous tumor but don’t ever see it until the MRI. You’ve had the tumor the whole time, but only after the MRI do you see that it’s there. It's the same with sin and the law.
On the other hand, we must remember that Jacob is not guilty of sin just because of the fact he commits adultery. He’s guilty because, through Adam, sin and death spread to all men. Jacob is guilty of (and condemned by) sin even if he marries one woman and is considered the most morally upstanding man of his time.
The second question:
Does Matthew 5:31-32 lead us to believe divorce is to be viewed on the same level as homosexuality or couples living together who are not married? How are we to view divorced and remarried families? Do the verses lead us to believe second marriages are never okay in God's sight unless death or sexual immorality is a factor?
Divorce. Homosexuality. The one who looks at another with lust. They're all sin. Jesus takes what we think we’re good at (avoiding big sins and writing off smaller ones, thus creating hierarchies where we feel better because we’re not *completely awful* sinners, just regular sinners) and demolishes it by saying that none of us gets off the hook for any guilt. None of us is righteous. And none of us more unrighteous than anyone else.
We are to view those families the same way we view ourselves or anyone else, as sinners in need of grace. There are no worse sinners. There are none who need less grace than others. And we love as we’ve been loved.
Second marriages, while the spouses are still alive, seem to be wrong. There is always the possibility of repentance and restitution. We never know how God is working on another person to break the chains of sin and give him or her a desire to repent and make restitution. However, in the instance that vows are taken and a second marriage is entered into, to seek divorce at that point would be wrong. What is needed at that point is confession and repentance within the marriage.
With that said, here are some things that help fill out how we should think through marriage and marital issues:
The design, by God, for marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
This verse makes clear that it is a man (singular) holding fast to his wife (singular), and the two become one flesh. Here we have two people involved in marriage. Additionally, when it explains whom the man is leaving, it is his father and mother (two people—a man and a woman, one union). This is also before the Fall, which means that marriage, from the beginning, has been a foundational institution of all human flourishing. In other words the design of marriage was not a reaction on God’s part to something that we as people just couldn’t seem to get right. It was the standard from the beginning.
We did not ease into sin after the Fall.
When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate of the fruit, sin entered all humanity. This sin brought about guilt and condemnation for every person. It was instant. The entirety of the human race was affected. The effects of the Fall did not gradually appear; they were instantly seen and felt, and they were catastrophic. Murder, adultery, greed, and strife spiraled out from the Fall with intensity, and every relationship was affected. Marriages were no exception. They were broken and all manner of sin was present within them. This includes Abraham and Isaac lying about their wives instead of protecting them as honorable men should, it includes Jacob taking two wives (and having sex with their maidservants), and it even includes the later practice of divorce given through Moses. All are different forms of broken marriages.
Jesus illuminates how sinful we really are, and we’re all the same kind of guilty.
In Matthew 5 (part of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus is taking us through things we think we’re not guilty of, and showing us how we’re guilty. You think you’ve never murdered. Anger is the same thing (v. 22). You think you’ve never committed adultery. Lust is adultery (v. 28). Divorce and remarriage is adultery (v. 32). He’s walking straight down our lists of accolades that we’ve built up for ourselves of certain things we’ve avoided, and he’s showing us how we’ve never avoided them at all. In effect, he’s ripping up our list and inviting us to be devastated at our own state of sinfulness in such a way that we have nowhere else to turn but to him. When we realize exactly what he’s saying, then it becomes all the more inviting that there he stands as the one who has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17). He’s the only one who’s lived perfectly. Jesus is doing us a favor by showing us how sinful we really are, because unless he shows us this, we will continue to think we are doing just fine on our own, and we’ll have no need to trust Him.
Marriage is ultimately a reflection of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Human marriage is not ultimate. We are not born married. After we die we're not married. It’s a covenant we make some time in the course of this life (or not at all). While marriage is a temporary thing, it does picture something greater—something that does last. It’s a small sampling, in this life, of Jesus and those (from all time and all ages) who are in a covenant relationship with him, namely the Church (His bride). This is key to understand because it will free us up to realize that every marriage, though a picture of the marriage of Christ and His Church, is at best a poor picture of this grand reality. Marriage is certainly a gift and is thoroughly enjoyable and is good in God’s eyes, but, like everything else we experience here, it is broken in some way. This brokenness, however, is not to lead us to despair. Instead, let's let it lead us to worship. Let it make us see Him with a little more glory, love Him with a little more gratitude, hope with a little more optimism, and worship with a little more awe.
We are reading through the Bible this year as a church family. As we do so, we are going to encounter great history, captivating prose, beautiful poetry, and a storyline like no other. We will also encounter things we don't understand or things that are not completely clear to us. We will have questions. We will not always have answers. But we will press in and attempt to be stretched in our knowledge of God and His story. As we press in and learn, we will hopefully have our faith reinforced and see our hope grow. Along the way, if you have any questions that you'd like to submit, please feel free to e-mail me or comment below. Our first question is this: When did evil enter the world?
In Genesis 2, the Lord puts in the midst of the garden two trees, one of which is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This seems to indicate that evil already exists because it’s in the title of one of the two main trees in the garden. Additionally, in Genesis 3, the opening verses portray a serpent who is already clearly evil. It questions God (3:1), misrepresents God (3:5), and outright calls God a liar (3:4). All this is before Eve and Adam ever take a bite out of the fruit (3:6), so it seems by the biblical evidence that evil is already present in the world before the Fall of man. The question then is this: When did evil start?
A few other places in Scripture seem to indicate that there was another plotline that played out in the heavenly realm that didn't make its way into the Genesis narrative of the beginning. There was an earlier rebellion, an attempted overthrow of the Lord’s rightful place of pre-eminence. Revelation 12:9 gives us a little more detail about the serpent we encounter over in Genesis 3. "That great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
That “ancient serpent” is Satan himself, and apparently he’s got quite a following, a company of angels all his own. He, and they, at some point took it upon themselves to vie for more (glory, power, standing) and were denied. The Lord shut them down and cast them out. Jude 1:6 says this: "The angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day."
These particular angels had a position of authority in God’s created order. But they weren’t content to stay there—where there was sweet, satisfying service and worship of the Lord--and they left their proper place in search of something else, something more. Second Peter 2:4 calls this act exaclty what it is--sin. "God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment."
What are we to make of this?
It seems then that Satan—the serpent, the deceiver—at some point, with a bunch of angels, desired more than what he (and they) had been given by God. Maybe more glory. More power. More authority. We don’t exactly know. But it’s clear that he and his angels sought something more, were denied and demoted, and evil was now present in the world. The Fall would then bring evil into a whole new realm, the realm of mankind. From that point evil would spread to every person who would ever live, as Romans 5:12 clearly indicates when it says, "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned."
The good news is that all of this is very early in the Scriptures. This is not the end of the story, and as we will see, even evil will serve to accomplish the purposes of God—namely the very redemption of those who sinned against him. One day there would be born one who would not know evil, and he would reverse the curse. Through the evil done to him, he would die with our sin, and he would restore the glory to his Father. He would save his people from their sins. And he would finally crush the head of that old evil serpent.
On Friday, June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex marriage is constitutional (and any state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional). Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.
What does this mean?
This means that every state must recognize same-sex marriages as legitimate marriages and offer same-sex couples the same rights that come with marriage in those states.
What should we remember?
Believers in Christ should remember:
How should we respond?
Believers in Christ are bound to respond the way Christ did. He did not come to Bethlehem and grow up and preach a politically-charged gospel of government correction or overthrow. He said things like, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” and “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Jesus never backed down from anyone, and neither should we. We should be a people who declare the truth. But Jesus never dealt with people out of hatred rather than grace, and neither should we. We should be a people who show grace and genuine care as we proclaim truth. Like Jesus, we should be a people full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Where is our hope?
Our hope is in God, not in having everything around us agree with God. It never has and never will be circumstantial. The church was established and flourished in graver circumstances under the Roman Empire than we are experiencing today. We will be fine. God is sovereignly directing all nations, even this one, in the direction he chooses. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes,” (Prov. 21:1). He is sovereignly protecting and providing for His kingdom of people. He is faithfully establishing and growing his church. He is preparing them to worship Him and serve Him and enjoy Him for all of eternity. He is reconciling all things to himself and will one day make all things new.
Our hope is where it has always been, in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone.
His kingdom is not of this world, and, as we are seeing very clearly as His followers, neither is ours.
I remember that day well. After school, my mother and I drove to the church building to talk with my pastor. God had been working on me, drawing me ever so gently toward himself. Upon arrival, my pastor was thoughtful enough to provide an after-school snack of chips and Coke. We went to his office and talked. I listened to him explain the gospel with clarity.
I walked out of that office a different person. I entered condemned; I left justified. I entered a rebellious defector; I left a joyful servant of the King. I entered dead; I left alive.
That was 25 years ago, and it was a great day. But equally as weighty and strong and meaningful have been the over 9,000 days since then. These have been days of God’s merciful, sanctifying work—work in which I have not only believed in Christ, but I have learned Christ. I have learned that the Truth I confess with my lips is bringing profound comfort in my life. Looking back over this span of sanctification, I am stunned by God’s patience and grace, and I am laid low at the thought of his goodness toward me. Since that Monday afternoon in 1990, I have learned many things, five of which are here:
I have learned the bitterness of my own inability, weakness, and sinfulness.
I had one sense of inability, weakness, and sinfulness as a nine-year-old boy. I have a much different sense of it now. I’ve seen it, felt it, been pulled by it, hated it, crawled back to it, ignored it, attacked it, depended on it, been overcome by it—myself, my own flesh—for a quarter of a century. Now, more than ever, I know that “nothing good dwells in me,” (Rom. 7:18) and apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5).
I have learned the sweetness of God’s grace.
There is a profound relation between the knowledge of our own sinfulness and God’s grace. The more bitter the taste of your own sinfulness, the sweeter the taste of God’s grace. The uglier the darkness, the more beautiful the light. The drier the desert, the more satisfying the deep, cold drink. “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Ps. 34:8) I have. And I do.
I have learned new values, desires, and ambitions.
Tasting the goodness of Christ changes us, and this change shows up in what we love and admire and value. The longer we walk with Christ, the more the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. Our desire to receive glory grows dim in the light of a love to give God glory. Empty excitement and temporary pleasure grow dim in the light of an offer for full joy and pleasure forever (Ps. 16:11). And we don’t have to will these changes; Jesus changes us from the inside as he works on us, and we want these things.
I have learned the slow guidance of God’s patience.
God is a good and gentle guide. Oh how many times he could just do away with us and be totally justified in it, but he leads us with his patience and forbearance! Instead of being put out with us and venting his frustration, he draws us into his disciplining love, refocuses our eyes on the cross of Christ, and whispers in our ears, “This is the way, walk in it,” (Is. 30:21).
I have learned what it is to be filled and yet always seeking more.
In one sense our relationship with the Christ is completely settled. We are his. We stand in his salvation. We’re justified. But on the other hand, there is a journey we are on—a pursuit that is taking us ever deeper in our knowledge and identity in Christ. “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:12). Christ laid hold of me that Monday afternoon and has never let me go (and never will). I am so thankful for his grace and patience and purpose in the years since, and I am looking forward to the continued pursuit of knowing Him as supremely satisfying in the next 25.
Suffering becomes so much more urgent and meaningful when it gets personal. When the things we’ve only heard about in the lives of others enter through the door of our home and takes up residence under our roof, it becomes real. We feel it. We cringe. We cry. We react to it. We fight it. We pray for it to leave. We pray for strength. We trust Christ in its midst. The one thing we don’t do is ignore it and pretend all is ok.
Suffering has hit our family, our spiritual family. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being killed because they follow Jesus. Though we have never met them, we know them because they follow the same Master we do. They’re family. The ones killed in Mosul because they were associated with Jesus, the Nazarene, are our family. Those killed in Nigeria around the holidays are our family. The 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt beheaded in Libya are our family. The 150 believers kidnapped in Syria this week are our family. The missionary abducted in Nigeria is our sister.
Proximity doesn’t lessen suffering, and it shouldn’t lessen its impact on us. Though thousands of miles away, the persecution is rampant. How much more urgent would we feel the suffering if it were our children, siblings, parents, spouses, or ourselves who were being tortured or killed for the faith? If ground zero for Christian persecution was our own community and neighborhood, instead of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, or Nigeria, how much more would we feel it? For the sake of those who are suffering, let’s make a concentrated effort to feel it. Let’s put ourselves in their place so that we might “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). Here's how we can remember them:
Pray for them
Pray for their safety and deliverance from evil people and evil acts.
Pray for them to love their enemies.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt. 5:44)
Pray for them to have the spirit of Christ by forgiving.
But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Pray for their faith to remain strong, and pray that their faith would translate into belief in their persecutors as they see their faith and the way they endure suffering.
When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
Dream about their future
Those martyred for the sake of the gospel will one day gather to worship the Lamb in fullness of joy and with special recognition.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they,
and where have they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones
who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:13-14)
Increase our own resolve
Let our faith be encouraged and spurred on by the faith of our brothers and sisters who are enduring intense suffering for the sake of the name.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone
to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being
accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
We were created to work. It’s in our nature. Down deep in our bones we feel the compulsion to create and produce and make and do. It’s there because God put it there. Way back at the beginning of time, when God created the heavens and the earth and then people, he put them in the garden “to cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). God put it there because He was making us in his image, and his image is one of creating, producing, making, and doing. Work honors God.
But this design to work can sometimes lead us into territory that is not ours to work in. There is work that is given to us to do, but there is work that is reserved for God alone to do. Our trouble comes when we venture into the realm of God’s work by trying to help out where we can’t help out. Our compulsion to contribute can actually be devastating to our own spiritual growth.
We see this compulsion in an apt representative for us as believers—Peter. The scene is a high mountain. The cast of characters includes Jesus, Peter, James, and John, along with cameos by Moses and Elijah. Our main characters ascend the mountain, and Jesus becomes transfigured before them. His clothes become “radiant and exceedingly white” and Moses and Elijah show up to talk with Jesus. This is when we see our beloved Peter try to help.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. (Mark 9:5-6)
Don’t get me wrong—I like Peter. I like him a lot. I like him because he was often decisive and led out in word or action even when he wasn’t sure what he was saying or what was about to happen next. I like him because I think he represents many of us—the only difference being that he actually said or acted out what we are afraid or unwilling to do or admit.
Here Peter represents our impulse to help. This was a good situation. It was good for them to be there. He wanted to do something to help keep it going. Maybe he wanted to prolong the meeting by having a place for them to rest in between conversations. Maybe he wanted to help protect them because he sensed the weather would change soon. He just knew that he wanted to help. But what happened next was a reminder of how misguided our compulsion to help can be.
Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7)
This is not a give and take relationship that God makes with us. God doesn’t give us Jesus and expect us to spring to action making a tabernacle for him. God doesn’t save us by grace and then leave it up to us to stay saved by works (Gal. 3:3). The gospel is a gift, not a loan (John 3:16; Rom. 6:23). We have been set free, not to be enslaved again (Gal. 5:1). We must be careful to fight against the impulse to help God. His desire for us is not to live with a “do for” mentality but a “listen to” mentality. We grow as we glory in the God of our salvation, not by helping, since He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25), but by hearing his word. So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17) Be a man or woman who is quick to listen and lean in to the words of Christ.
‘Tis the season for sickness. Fevers, congestion, stuffy sinuses, rumbling stomachs, and aches and pains are in full swing. For the last few weeks of winter I largely sat on the sideline of this game, but this week, Coach put me in. As I’ve been battling the opposition’s stuffy defense through my over-the-counter playbook, I’ve been reminded of the frailty and brokenness of the human body, and it’s caused me to think upon Romans 8.
Paul was writing to the Romans about how our world is broken. It’s been broken since the fall of man right after the completion of creation. Since then we have experienced a myriad of consequences for our sin, ranging from natural disasters like earthquakes to moral disasters like abortion. As he is writing, he uses an interesting way of describing the world by saying that all of these things that seem to be haywire in our world are the world’s way of crying out for a new world. It’s groaning for all things to be made right. Everything will be made right when Christ comes to reign in his Kingdom with us, his followers made family members through adoption. That’s why Paul writes this:
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God…for we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:19, 22)
It’s interesting to think about the creation groaning for a new creation, but it's a little abstract to be able to identify with it. But it’s much easier to identify with what Paul writes next:
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (8:23)
Just as the creation is crying out for a new creation, so our bodies, every time they creak or give out or hurt are reminding us that these are temporary bodies. And the fact that we have the Holy Spirit residing within us, he reminds us that we have new bodies on the way. Part of the fullness of the salvation that God has given us includes a new body—one with no pains, no hurts, no failures. And oh, how we wait eagerly for that!
Take heart in this as well, you are not alone in your groaning. The Spirit, who is within you, groans as well. In fact, when he groans, he does it in prayer, and the groanings he mutters are in conversation with the Father on your behalf.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 8:26-27)
Medical doctors often can’t diagnose our groanings. But ultimately they’re not meant to. Our groanings, physical or spiritual, are the result of our sin that will one day be wiped away forever. For those who are in Christ, the penalty of our sin has already been wiped away, but we look forward, with eager anticipation, to the day in which our groanings of a fallen body will be silenced out by the grateful praise of a new one, and we experience the wiping away of even the presence of sin.
For awhile now I've been writing articles for our church newsletter and posting on this blog (many of the same articles) without a title. Well, it's a new year, and for this new year, I have a new title. From now on, I will be writing and blogging under the title “Drink Deeply.” The idea for the title comes from Isaiah 55:1-2:
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
The words “drink deeply” never appear specifically in this text, but the idea is all over it. Each one of us is thirsty. We have dry mouth. There is a longing within us for more, and we can’t find it anywhere around us. There is no thirst-quenching liquid that we can lay our hands on. Like pouring sand into the mouth of the parched is the pursuit of the hopes and things of this world to the one thirsty for God.
But we don’t have to remain thirsty. There is one who satisfies. There is one who fulfills. His name is Jesus. From his own mouth we hear these words:
...If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)
There is satisfaction for the soul-seeking thirst you have. There is an answer for the anxiety you have. There is freedom from the addiction you have. There is healing for the hurt you have. There is peace for the fear you have. There is purpose for the suffering you’ve been through. It’s all found in Jesus.
This is great news, but it gets even better. This water, this satisfaction, this peace has no price for us. Oh, it had a price, but the price was paid for by Christ when he bought your redemption and your joy through his blood sacrifice on the cross. And now the offer is to come. The banquet has been spread before you and the invitation has been extended. You thirsty? Come. You hungry? Come. You don’t have any money? That’s ok! Come. Eat. Drink. Delight yourself in abundance.
Every one of us thirsts. We all feel the thirst deep within us—the longing for freedom, peace, holiness, rest, and fulfillment. Jesus is the water we need, and we will only be quenched when we heed the invitation to come. So let us come. Let us bow down at the edge of the river of life. And let us drink deeply.
In order to take an appropriate look at the family, we must have a home base, or starting point, which we consider authoritative. As Christians, our primary authority for all matters of faith and practice is the Bible, so we must let Scripture inform our views and beliefs. With this in mind, and as we look at the family over the next few weeks, we must ask ourselves two primary questions:
1. What does the Bible say about the structure and function of the family?
2. Are we going to accept and submit to what the Bible says?
These two questions address the real issue. The issue is not what we want the family to be or what we think should be fair or what the culture believes should be the case. The issue is the conversation of what Scripture says and how we respond.
Marriage is What?
Early on in Scripture we have the record of the first marriage—Adam and Eve. After the creation of Eve for Adam and Adam’s response of exuberant acceptance, we read these words:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
There are four elements in this statement of marriage that we need to see in order to understand the foundation of marriage as the foundation of the family.
1. It contains a man and a woman.
A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife.
This is God’s designed definition for marriage: one man and one woman in a covenant with one another. Because it has been designed this way, any change, by definition, is not marriage. Two men cannot be married because one is not a woman. Two women cannot be married because one is not a man. It takes a man and a woman to make a marriage.
2. It is built upon the covenant of two becoming one.
A man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
When this story was taking place, there were no other people—no other men, no other women. We might see a covenant in this context as unnecessary. Wouldn’t they be fine just existing together in a relationship by default? Not exactly—God is a covenant God. He establishes the marital covenant by saying that a man should leave his parents’ household and be joined to his wife and that they should become one flesh. In this we see that God makes marriage a beautiful covenant that paints what we understand later to be the picture of Christ and His bride, the Church.
3. It is a haven for the enjoyment of God’s gift of sex.
And they shall become one flesh.
The marital covenant is not about keeping anyone from pleasure. It’s about maximizing the enjoyment of pleasure. God created sex, and he created it to be experienced within the covenant of marriage. Only there can it be enjoyed to the fullest as two become one with no shame, no guilt, no remorse, and no feelings of being used or abused. When experienced within marriage, it is beautiful and right and thoroughly enjoyable.
4. It should give rise to other marriages and families.
A man shall leave his father and his mother.
This is interesting—this verse is given before there were any children or other generations on the earth, and yet it mentions a father and mother. Adam and Eve were not the children of an earthly father and mother, which leads us to understand that this is clearly a prescriptive mandate for how marriage should look. There is the marriage of a man and woman. They have a child. That child leaves them and goes to marry a spouse, and the filling of the earth continues.
The upcoming adoption of our son has me thinking more about our family and how it’s going to change forever. We are organizing his room. We are accumulating clothes for him. We are preparing mentally and emotionally as much as we can to receive him into a healthy environment. And we are trying to contain our joy from spilling out all over the place!
Additionally, all the preparation for our son to come home has me thinking about the institution of the family in general. What is it and what is it supposed to look like? Can many of the problems we see in our culture be attributed to the breakdown of the family? How can we help people recover the sanctity of the biblically established family?
There are three things we must consider.
First, we must understand that the ultimate answer for people’s problems is not found in the family—it’s found in Christ. The answer to each person’s guilt and fear and struggles with sin is not a new home. Our hope as a broader society is not solely in the recovery of the nuclear family. No, our hope is solely in Jesus and his gospel. Our hope is in the message of God becoming a man and being tempted and tested (yet not ever yielding) and suffering on behalf of us, so that he might restore glory to His Father, rescue us from our demise as dead sinners, and reconcile us back to the God we’d rebelled against. That’s the gospel, and it’s our only hope.
Second, no matter what your family history, the grace of Jesus is able to heal your hurts and prevent the past from defining your responsibility to your home in the future. All of us have regrets and hurts from our families, and all of us can point to failures within our own homes. As you trust in Jesus, he makes you a new creation. Old things go away, and new things come (2 Cor. 5:17). Let that newness in Christ be the starting point in which he changes you by giving you grace to forgive others as you’ve been forgiven.
Third, one of the permutations of the gospel is that it is restorative. That means that it has a renewing effect on every area of our lives, and one of those areas is our commitment to Christ in the home. It doesn’t matter what type of home you came from, your union with Christ as a believer will have implications on how you exhibit Christ in your home. It also doesn’t matter if you’re single or married or with kids or empty nesters or divorced or widowed—Christ’s grace comes to you in your situation and draws you in to a heavy desire to walk with Him in purity and holiness.
So what does it look like to have a God-designed family? Are there replaceable pieces in the family? Is the structure able to be manipulated, and are the roles of members interchangeable?
In order to help us think through these questions, we will be covering these topics in the coming articles. This one marks the first in a series that will help us walk through these issues.
My hope is five-fold for this series: 1) we will see clearly God’s design for the family and how it glorifies him, 2) we will joyfully submit to what we see in Scripture as the basis for the family, 3) we will receive and stand in the grace that comes from Jesus to cover family hurts, 4) we will commit to glorify God within the family structure that is in our home, and 5) we will pray for our family to grow strong and resolute in the knowledge and grace of God.