Dear Radio Friends,
The teaching of the Bible on marriage is very clear. Marriage is a bond that God makes between one man and one woman for life. Marriage is a lifelong bond severed only by God in death.
The teaching that I have just expressed is the clear teaching of the Bible. And the one who expressed it in its clearest form was none other than the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ. The teaching that I expressed of the permanency of the marriage bond was not created by men. It is not the product of some culture or society. But it proceeds directly from the voice of the very Son of God in the flesh. Perhaps you recall, in Matthew 19, that the Pharisees came to Jesus, tempting Him, trying to discover if they could argue a reason for divorce, for the parting of the marriage bond. The Lord simply responded to them that from the beginning it was not so. It was not so, that a man could put away his wife. “For God,” said Jesus, “in the beginning made them male and female; and said, Let a man cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.” Then the Lord added the words, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” It was the clear teaching of Jesus Christ that marriage is a lifelong bond that can be severed only by God in death.
That this was indeed His teaching is also plain when the disciples who heard Him that day responded to the Lord that if the case be so, it is best not to marry. To which the Lord responded, “No, they who are given grace to receive this word will find the grace of God to make them faithful in their marriage.” The Lord went on to say that there are others who, for the sake of the kingdom, are eunuchs. Perhaps their spouse has deserted them and now, for the sake of Jesus Christ, they live a single life because they believe in their heart the Lord’s teaching.
Just as the Lord’s teaching on marriage as a permanent bond for life is clear, so the reason for His teaching is also very clear. That is, the principle that undergirds the permanency of marriage is: The unconditional covenant of God’s grace. What do I mean by that? I mean this, that the Scriptures teach that God’s bond with His elect people in Jesus Christ is an unbreakable bond. Or, we could approach it this way: Everything that God has made, including marriage, is made by God to be a picture ultimately of Himself. We read, for instance, in the book of Proverbs that the Lord hath created all things, even the wicked for the day of destruction. The wicked also serve God’s purpose to show forth God’s justice and God’s holiness and His wrath against sin. Everything is made by God ultimately to reflect something about Himself.
Now that is abundantly true of the marriage bond. The marriage bond was created by God, as the Scriptures teach us from the beginning to the end, to be a picture of the bond that God establishes with His elect people in Jesus Christ. So, in the Old Testament, you will find passages to the effect that God says to His people, “I am married to you. Be faithful to Me.” And He would charge them that their sin was really adultery, it was the forsaking of their spouse, the living God. So, in the New Testament, we find this teaching even clearer when the Lord says that marriage is the picture of Christ and His church, that as Christ takes to Himself a bride (the church) through His blood and vows to be faithful to His bride, and as the bride now lives for Christ, so also must marriage be. Marriage, then, as it is instituted on the earth among men and women, is to be a permanent bond. Why? Because God intends marriage to be a picture of that sacred and unbreakable union of God and His people.
That is a blessed truth. In fact, that truth of the unconditional covenant, of the unbreakable bond that God makes with His church, is the foundation of all of our life. Without that truth we have nothing. We have, as believers, one absolute certainty. That is the faithful love of God. God will not cast away His people whom He hath known, says the Word of God.
So marriage is a permanent, lifelong bond.
Consider that as a husband and wife. Consider that if you plan to be married. Marriage, according to the will and the intention of the almighty God, is for life. “For better or for worse, till death us do part.”
When we consider that, as people of God, we are also aware of our sins. We become more aware of those sins as we live together in marriage, do we not? So we ask the question, “How can that be? How can we confidently step out into marriage, if we are going to be married soon, confident that we will find that grace of God to be faithful even unto death?” How can you, today, perhaps going through strife and difficulties, perhaps going through things that, as a wife or husband, you ought not have to go through — the sins of your husband or the sins of your wife — you say, “How can I find that grace yet to be faithful to my marriage bond, my marriage vows? It is very difficult for me.” You say, “The love and the passion are gone out of my marriage.” You say, “I really can’t stomach him any more. I don’t want to live with him. I’m not going to go back to him.” Or you say that about her. How can we, as children of God, find the strength to honor the lifelong bond of marriage?
How can we, as children of God, find the strength
to honor the lifelong bond of marriage?
Today I want to show you that that strength is given, promised to us, in the church. There was a Bible verse that a young couple asked me to speak on recently at their marriage. When they told me the verse, it brought a smile to my face. And I think it brought a smile to the face of their parents and grandparents when they announced to them the verse that they wanted me to speak on at their marriage. It was a verse that, at first glance, you would say, “But that has nothing to do with marriage.” Let me read Psalm 27:4 to you: “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” Now, perhaps, you would ask, “Why did they pick that verse? Why did they want that verse expounded at the very first moment of their married life? It doesn’t talk about marriage at all, does it? There is nothing there about love for each other. There is no wine, no roses. Wouldn’t it have been better if they had asked you to speak on, maybe, something out of the book of the Song of Solomon — about love?”
That verse speaks of devotion to the church: “One thing have I desired of the LORD … that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.” That is devotion to the church — that they will go to the true church of God.
Well, we could say, “Maybe that would be a good verse when a person wants to become a monk, or, perhaps, when a young man is going to become a minister. But for marriage? Is that a good verse?” Oh, yes! Because, you see, what the young couple understood, and what you and I need to understand today, is this: the only safe haven for a Christian marriage is the true church of Jesus Christ! Let us go back to our question: “How are we going to be preserved in a lifelong bond of marriage, faithful to each other and in love with each other and living to God’s glory and to our own happiness?” The answer of the Word of God? A crucial part of that answer is: “Only as you live faithfully in the church of Jesus Christ.” The Word of God is teaching us that marriages, like every other spiritual good, flourish in the house of the Lord.
The only safe haven for a Christian marriage
is the true church of Jesus Christ!
Read that verse once more. David is saying that membership in the true church and attending the services on the Lord’s day will be the central desire of his life, that he will set his affection on one target. He says that he is focused (“this one thing have I desired of the Lord”). Not only is he focused, but he is very intense! “I have desired this of the Lord, I have asked this thing of the Lord — that I could dwell in His house all the days of my life.” Not only is he intense — he has desired this of the Lord — but he is committed. He says “I will seek after it.”
Now if you yourself look at the verse today, there is something to be said there. David is saying, “I desire something of the Lord, something that I truly need and want.” So what does he do? Nothing? Does he say, “Well, they are spiritual desires, after all. We just have to sit and wait to see whether or not these things actually become reality”? No, that is not truth. The truth is this: God creates within us the desire, and then God creates within us also the doing. David says, “I desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, and I am going to seek after it.”
Couples, you must seek after this. You must put your mind and heart to it that you live your marriage in the church, in the true and faithful church of Jesus Christ. This is the haven for your marriage — that you might dwell in the house of the Lord. Now, of course, David is not referring simply to being listed on a membership role of a church. But he is referring to full-orbed life in the church as God intends it. For David, that would have been the tabernacle which was then pitched in Jerusalem. For David, it would have been attending to the sacrifices and coming under the ministry of the Levites and priests and worshiping God exactly as God had required in the Old Testament Scriptures.
For us, that is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then, specifically, that church where His word is honored as the infallible and inerrant Word of God. That is, that church which, not only in creed but in very practice (by preaching the Scriptures faithfully), confesses this about the Bible: that the Bible is word for word the Word of God who cannot lie. And I say, not simply in a nice statement, but each week a minister gets up to expound the Word of God — not all of his personal reflections, but the Word of God — for forty-five or fifty minutes or, maybe, even an hour; where the biblical truths of the Reformed faith that God is everything and man is nothing, that salvation is a wonderwork of the grace of God, where all these biblical truths are preached with zeal and love — that is the church where you must be a member. And if you are, oh, you must thank God for that!
But there is more in that church. There are the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And there are elders committed by Jesus Christ to care for your soul. And then there is the fellowship of fellow believers and the mutual building up of each other in the Lord. Other Christians are there — not just of your age, but older Christians too, grandparents, and young children as well, and single members. Through that church God ministers to your marriage. In the church your marriage finds grace from the Lord. This is crucial. God is saying to us that the first commitment that we must make as we get married and as we are married is to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then can you and will you be able to fulfill any other commitment. I hope young people are listening to me, and I pray for the Holy Spirit to give you to understand what I am saying. Before you can fulfill any other commitment to another person in this world, first God calls you to give that commitment of faith unto the church. You must first see your need to be a member of and to be faithful in the true church of Jesus Christ. Out of that, out of that fellowship of the Lord, you will be able to fulfill your commitments to your wife or husband.
The first commitment that we must make
as we get married and as we are married
is to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A spiritual life which is seeking God and His kingdom is a life that will be replenished by God. But that is a life that must be lived in the church. If you are to grow in your marriage, if you are to grow in love, if you are to grow in forgiveness, then you must center your marriage in attending a faithful church, hearing the Word, and abiding in the fellowship of those believers.
Can two sheep live and have a happy life in the hills of Colorado where the wolves and the mountain lions roam? No! You say, they need a fold and they need a shepherd. So does your marriage. Your marriage, now, is in the world, a world that is saturated with unfaithfulness — sexually — a disdain of marriage, a giving over and a catering to every impulse, every sexual, base desire of men. You live in a world of materialism and a world of pleasure. And besides, we must remember, as husbands and wives, that we are sinners. We possess in our own selves the gunpowder, the explosive, to blow up our marriage, to blow it up over petty little things, little irritants.
Where are you going to find direction, safety, a place for your marriage to be nurtured and cared for? The answer is this: In the church. You must be married as confessed members of the church, the true church, of the Lord. That is the will of the Lord. Follow that will.
David says, “I’m going to seek after that.” I said before that you have to seek after this and you have to seek after this as a young couple as well as an older couple. You know how it goes as well as I do. (Maybe you don’t know how it goes as a young couple.) But what happens is that so readily, even in the church, couples can grow apart. That happens so readily today. They get married and, perhaps, they decide they are going to put off having children so that they can have more of their own career or more of the things of this world through two incomes. So both have jobs. And, perhaps, the jobs are at different times, different shifts, so they hardly ever see each other, except on the weekend for an hour or so. Then, because they never see each other, they decide to go to church maybe once on Sunday but then they need the rest of the time for each other because they never see each other. And, lo and behold, different interests begin to form in them and different friends. And they begin to spend their time with different individuals and they do not communicate. They are never together to communicate. Their whole life is geared toward self. You cannot communicate in a marriage if you are geared to yourself. Then you find how amazingly hard it is to communicate with your wife or your husband. You think you are on the same page and you find out later that she was thinking something totally different.
What does the Word of God say? Listen. Here is where you have to be absolutely clear with each other. “One thing have we desired of the Lord, that will we seek after; that we may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our married life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” This is non-negotiable. This is the basis of your whole life as a husband and wife. Where are you going to work? How are you going to pick out a job? Well, is the church there? Or are you going to take that job at the compromise of your church? If you do so, you do not just compromise your church. You compromise your marriage! What kind of house are you going to have? What kind of friends are you going to have? All of these issues are decided right here — one thing have we desired! We are going to build our marriage in the house of the Lord. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not antiquated, it is not simply a social aid station, it is not something there for spiritual time-out. But it is the body of the Lord where God has promised to keep us and to feed us and to bless us.
When once you see that beauty,
your soul is forever satisfied.
David goes on and says, “There I will behold the beauty of the Lord, and I will inquire in His temple.” David is saying that in the church and in faithful commitment to the church he will find satisfaction for his soul. He will see the beauty of the Lord. That word “beauty” is “grace.” The true church of Jesus Christ is committed to preach the gospel of the grace of God. In the declaration of the gospel of the grace of God, you are beholding the beauty of the Lord. When once you see that beauty, your soul is forever satisfied. It is the beauty of an unconditional, faithful, forgiving love of God, a mighty love of God to save you and to ransom you out of death. And out of that beauty, out of that grace, you now in your marriage are able to live with each other and forgive each other and be faithful to each other.
Not only do you behold the beauty of the Lord, but in the church you can inquire after the Lord. You go through trials in your married life. And, as people of God, we go through many, many trials. We come with many, many questions upon our hearts. But when we enter into the temple of God, what happens? Our life is made plain. We hear the Word of the living God, the sovereign God who controls all things. God sends forth His Word on the Lord’s day through the preaching. And He ministers to our soul so that we are kept upon the pathway of truth and righteousness. We are kept upon the pathway of faithfulness to our wife. We are brought under the power of the Word of God. Oh, your marriage needs the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Yes, you are going to have many sorrows. But you are not going to experience any sorrow or difficulty that will destroy you, that will separate you, when you are rooted in God’s house. In God’s house you will stand and you will grow all the days of your life. Imagine it. All the days of your life.
Is this your desire? Is it your desire as you marry that you will be faithful till death us do part — all the days of my life? Now listen. You will not be able to do that, you will not find grace sufficient to do that without this: that you have one desire, that you abide faithful in the church of Jesus Christ under the pure preaching of His Word. For there you will behold the beauty of the Lord, His wonderful grace. There the Lord will answer every inquiry of your heart. And then all the days of your life you will not only dwell together as husband and wife. You will dwell together in the church of God. And one day you will go home to be with Him forever.
Let us pray.
Father, bless Thy Word to our hearts this day. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.