I once wrote a sermon on the Doctrine of Marriage. The following is in 'Sermon' form, but could be rewritten as an article.
We have recently moved into a house that we bought. It is a very nice house, but it is rather old. Being old, it is full of old things: old walls, old paint, old carpet… and old wires. Now, old wires are dangerous, so we’ve decided to replace the wiring. Here I’ve got a piece of the new wiring, you see? I’ve cut this wire so you can see something. You see how this big wire has two smaller wires in it? A little white wire and a little black wire. Two wires, and they run all the way through, you can see them both come out at both ends. Now, these are two different wires. If I attach this wire to the electricity, this other wire won’t be attached. If I touched here I might get a shock, but not if I touched here or here. But suppose I was to take this little wire nut and screw these two wires together. Now if I were to attach this end to the power, I could get a shock by touching right here! These two wires, one black and one white, have now become one wire. A good electrician, if he had attached the wires like this, would take a little band of black tape, and attach it in a ring around the white wire… to tell us that it is now attached to the black wire. To tell us that they are now one wire. Any switch, or plug, on the white wire will act just the same as one attached to the black wire. These wires, which before were two different wires, are now one wire. Today we are going to be talking about a different relationship, one that we also mark with a ring; another relationship where two become one. This here is the ring, and the relationship is called marriage.
One of the ways that we can tell if a doctrine is important is if it is under attack, and another is if it is frequently mentioned in Scripture. The doctrine of marriage is indeed mentioned frequently in scripture, and treated as extremely important. And certainly no one can say that the Christian doctrine of marriage is not under attack the world right now. The television, radio, and papers are full of blasphemous images and ideas blatantly contradicting or subtly perverting, the God given gift that is marriage. Nowhere in Scripture do we find an explicit definition of marriage. I have, however, made an extensive study of what Scripture has to say on the subject, and I have put together a working definition which I will then support from Scripture. I propose that marriage is: "a permanent commitment to physical union between a man and a woman with a goal of producing Godly children". I would like to go through this definition one part at a time, support it from Scripture, and talk about how that particular part is under attack by the world.
I said that Marriage is "a permanent commitment to physical union between a man and a woman with a goal of producing Godly children". The first part of my definition is that marriage is permanent. For this we have the clear words of our Lord Himself. In Mark, chapter 10 we read:
2And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. 3And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? 4And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. 5And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 10And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. 11And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
The law that Jesus refers to here is Deu 24:1-4. You will notice that this law is based on a series of ifs and mays… a series of possible actions. The conclusion of all these possibilities is a must not. If you divorce your wife, and if she marries again, and if her new husband divorces her, then you may not marry her again. Jesus points out that what you have really done, in divorcing her and thus allowing her to marry this other man, is made yourself responsible for her adultery. After that you may not take her again.
The idea that marriage is permanent has been under attack for as far back in history as we have records. It is under attack within the church and without. One king of England went so far as to found his own church just to be allowed to divorce his wife. One of the ways in which it is under attack goes in the guise of the word ‘love’. Love is an extremely important word, representing an extremely important concept. God, we learn in scripture, is ‘love’. In I Cor 13 we have an entire chapter dedicated to defining ‘love’. But unfortunately a perversion of this word ‘love’ is responsible for much of the damage that has been done to marriage recently. The perversion that I am talking about often goes under the name of being ‘in love’. But being ‘in love’ is actually a confusion of two very different things: physical attraction and exclusive commitment. A boy who comes home and tells his mother ‘I think I am in love’, is really saying, “I am attracted to a girl”. If this attraction leads him to do something about his feelings, then he may begin to develop a commitment to the girl. He may begin to think about her in an exclusive way, to think about joining his life with hers. So his initial false ‘in love’ changes to a stronger true ‘in love’.
What happens in modern marriages is that people ‘marry’ each other ‘as long as we both are in love’, by which they mean ‘as long as we are both attracted to each other. Most of them don’t explicitly put those words in the marriage vows, but you can tell from the way they act and talk that that is what they mean. But ‘attraction’ is a feeling. And feelings are notoriously fickle and uncontrollable. No one can choose to hang on to some feeling permanently. Thus, by very definition a marriage that is based on a feeling is non-permanent.
Before we go further with that idea, however, let us look at the second part of our definition. We said that Marriage is a permanent commitment to physical union between a man and a woman with a goal of producing Godly children. The second part of the definition is, then, the idea of ‘commitment’. A commitment is a choice, a choice to obligate yourself, to pledge yourself, to promise. If you make a ‘commitment’ to bringing the flowers for next Sunday at church… then people will be expecting you to bring flowers. They will be surprised, and disappointed, if you don’t. Others may or may not bring flowers, and no-one will particularly get excited… but if you, the one who made a commitment to do so, the one that signed up on the ‘I will bring flowers next Sunday' list don’t bring them… they will be upset.
In modern society, where love is defined as a feeling, and marriage as an ‘act of love’, people will find it strange to talk of marriage as a permanent commitment. What, they will tell you, if you are no longer ‘in love’? I had a friend of mine tell me, as he went through some difficulties in his marriage, “Von, I don’t know if I ‘love’ her any longer". However God does not leave us this choice. God does not look on either love or marriage as a feeling or a temporary ‘while it feels good’ kind of thing.
In our text today we read two words that the modern world considers heresy. You all know, do you not, what a command is? In our English language, when we want to give someone a command, we just start our sentences right out with the verb: ‘eat your peas’, ‘pay me that money that you owe me’, ‘come home right now’. Sometimes we give the name of the person we are talking to first: “Joey, turn off that water and come inside.” “Ralph, take out that trash, it is starting to smell.” Either way, we know what a command sounds like in our language. Let us look at our text, and we will find a couple of words that our in command form. The first is in Ephesians 5 verse 22. ‘Wives’, Paul says, ‘submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” Like many commands, this command has both a positive and a negative command. If I tell my son to bring me a glass of milk, I am telling him both to bring the milk, and not to bring water. Here, Paul is ordering wives to submit to their husbands, and implying that they should not be out submitting to other women’s husbands. Well, that verse alone will get us in enough trouble with the world, but I want you to look next at a verse that will set us totally at odds with the worlds ideas on marriage. In verse 25 we read ‘Husbands, love your wives,’. Please notice, that this too is in command form. Husbands are commanded, by the apostle Paul, speaking the words of God in Scripture, commanded to love their wives. Do you see what a contradiction this is to the world’s idea of love? This love that Paul is talking about is something that you can, and should, choose to do. Just like taking out the trash or turning off the water, a man should choose to love his wife. Later on, we see words that detail how he should do this, when in verse 29 and verse 31 we read about nourishing, and cherishing, and leaving ones father and mother, and cleaving to ones wife.
In First Corinthians 13 we read a definition of Love (charity in the KJV):
4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
So in saying to husbands, ‘Husbands love your wives’, Paul is saying, in effect, 'Husbands be patient to (suffer long) your wives, husbands be kind to your wives, etc. So marriage, I submit, is a commitment to a series of appropriate actions, not a state resting on temporary feelings. The world’s definition of love is excluded from Gods definition, and Gods definition is disgusting to the world.
Physical union between a man and a woman
There is much more to be said, whole sermons, on the permanent and the committed nature of marriage, and the attacks on them in the world. I had to throw away three quarters of my notes just to keep it as short as I did. But we need to move on to the other parts of the definition if we are to succeed in getting home for lunch sometimes before nightfall.
The next part of our definition of marriage is ‘a physical union between a man and a woman’. Now, it is a measure of the way the attacks of the world on this doctrine that I have to bring this up at all. Our forefathers would be exceedingly surprised that anyone could dream of questioning this. But we live in today’s world, so I will continue.
In Genesis we are given the foundation and beginning of marriage. After God had made Eve from Adams rib, and Adam had named her and proclaimed her ‘bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh’ God declared “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Therefore. Because God made Eve from Adam Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother.
Those who are purveying the modern perversions of marriage normally have no love at all for Scripture. And even the heretics within the church shy away from anything in the Old Testament. So it is easy to see how they miss this, the fundamental definition of marriage, that a man and a woman will become one flesh. It was Eve, the woman, who was made from the body of Adam, the man,… so therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife.
This part of our definition is under attack from all sides. Fornication, Adultery, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, and divorce all attack the basic idea that the physical act of marriage represents a physical union. In I Corinthians chapter 6, beginning in the middle of verse 13 we read:
Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
Continuing in verse 15 we read
‘know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
The physical act of marriage is meant exclusively for the committed relationship that is marriage. Any perversion of this is a violation of our own bodies, which are, we are assured in Scripture, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Many were particularly appalled that the perversions of our former president took place in the White House itself. But what we should be appalled by is that they involved the temple of the Holy Spirit that was his own body. In I Cor 7 we read more about the nature of this physical union:
..let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
Do you understand what God is saying here? In the King James version this verse says that to deny the physical act of marriage to your spouse is to ‘defraud’ them. In the NIV this is translated ‘marital duty’, in the RSV they translate it ‘conjugal rights’. Going further the next verse says that our body does not belong to us. When we are married it belongs to our spouse! Our body, our very body, is not our own. What a blasphemy then the modern words ‘I have a right to do what I want with my own body’. According to Scripture, we have no such right. In I Cor 6 we read that the body was not our own but was the Lords. Here we read that it is not our own, but belongs to our spouse. (Some of you may see that as a contradiction… but it is not.)
Remember the verse that said, ‘What God has joined together…’ It is God himself, the owner of our bodies, that has given that body to our spouse.) Our body, according to Scripture, does not belong to us, has never belonged to us. From our infancy our body belongs first to the Lord, is given in trust to our parents, then is given in trust to our spouse… but has never belonged to us.
It is amazing how we get into habits; continuing doing the same thing day after day, acting in the same way. And then we are shocked when we bump into someone who does things differently from us. Suddenly we realize that there are different ways of doing things and perhaps our way is not even the right way, or best way. As Christians we are not at all immune to this phenomenon. I have traveled in many different countries, and throughout this country, and I can tell you that the way you do things here, in Vsetin, is not the same as they do them in Europe, or Africa, in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Peru, or even elsewhere in the United States. And yet as Christians we have an obligation to live, not ‘the way we have always done’, but according to Gods word, Scripture. We have a revelation, as standard, a guide for what God wants us to do.
Our world is being turned upside down right now. A runaway judge in the State of Massachusetts is issuing blasphemous documents he calls ‘marriage licenses’. The rest of the state government is then acting in accordance with the folly and treating the people who hold these meaningless pieces of paper differently than they did before.
But we who are Christians know better. We read our definition of ‘marriage’ not in the so called laws of the State of Massachusetts, but in the Word of God. And in that standard we learn that no government can define marriage. A marriage ‘license’ from the government is a meaningless piece of paper. We read that marriage is not a state action. Most of us went through a ceremony in church, called a ‘wedding’. But the church can no more define or create a marriage than the state can.
Goal of producing godly children
The final part of my definition promises to be no less controversial in the worlds eyes than the preceding. Marriage is a permanent commitment to physical union between a man and a woman with a goal of producing Godly children. A goal of producing Godly children.
What utter blasphemy in the worlds eyes. Children, to the world, are one of the many ‘choices’ that could be made. If you happen to want them, well, that is your choice and we hope it will make you happy. If not, well, even better, since you will have more money to spend on things and won’t increase our school taxes.
And Godly children! More nonsense. Children are already such innocent perfect little things… except for those juvenile delinquents that we read about in the paper, and I don’t exactly like for my brother in law to bring his kids to our house, they are so noisy… and what do you mean my little Johnny did something naughty at school?! In Genesis chapter 1 verses 26-28 read
‘And God said…and God blessed them and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.
In Psalms 127 we read
‘Lo children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that had his quiver full of them, they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.’
Continuing into Psalm 128 we read
Blessed is everyone…thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine … thy children like Olive plants about thy table… behold that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord… shalt see thy childrens children and peace upon Israel.
In Proverbs 10 we read
‘a wise son makes a glad father.
In Proverbs 31 we read
‘who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies, the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her, many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Yet today, in the world, we hear the opposite. If we see someone who has been blessed with many Godly children, we don’t say to them, ‘How the Lord has blessed you”, we ask them “don’t you know what causes that?” The quiver that men nowadays want to be full is not their children’s bedrooms, but their own garage… filled with cars, and tools, and toys.
Women today consider themselves fulfilled not if their children and their husbands rise up and call them blessed, but if their employers and their clients and their bank managers do so. It would be difficult to find a doctrine of Scripture that is more under attack then that of marriage. It is under attack at every point of the doctrine. The very definition of marriage is under attack. A wise man in a similar circumstance once asked a journalist, ‘If you were to call the tail of a horse a leg, how many legs would the horse have?’ “Five” the journalist replied. “No,” responded the wise man, “he would still have four. It doesn’t change what a thing actually is if you change what you call it.”
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