Dear radio friends,
In our day the marriage covenant could almost be classified as an endangered species. Each decade divorce is easier to come by in many states. And most of us, perhaps in our own immediate families, have known of someone involved in a divorce/remarriage situation. Our hearts grieve.
Truly it is important that the church speak very clearly on what the Bible has to say about marriage. The teaching of the Word of God on this issue must be faithfully presented so that young people will be careful in choosing a mate, and so that married couples will strive, by the grace of God, to maintain their marriage and to preserve it the way God intended.
Divorces in Jesus’ day could also very easily be had. You remember in Matthew 19 that the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked Him His opinion on the question of divorce and remarriage. Jesus answered them, you remember, by going back to the beginning – to the book of Genesis – and quoting from Genesis 2:24, And for this cause “shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Those were the words that God spoke concerning the very first marriage – of Adam and Eve. Those words express God’s standard for marriage. That is God’s original plan. And you will note in those words that there was no mention and no room made for the ending of that marriage except, as Jesus adds, death. For the Lord also said to the Pharisees in Matthew 19, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Yet, today, more and more marriages are ending in divorce. What has happened? Has God’s standard for marriage changed? No. The primary reason for the change is that the church has let down the standard of the Word of God concerning marriage. We have tried to make the Bible relevant to our day. That is always a mistake. We must not seek to make our day the standard for God’s word; but we must seek to make our day measure up to the standards of God’s Word. Very often the church becomes involved in the difficulties of divorce and remarriage through her evangelism. The Lord leads us into some very difficult and heartrending situations. Very often the results are that churches call for conferences, discussions, and studies on the subject, trying to see if there is a way to interpret the Scriptures so that there are some loopholes that would somehow allow for divorce and remarriage of divorced persons.
Yet the Word of God is clear. The Word of God teaches very plainly that marriage is for life, that marriage is one man and one woman united by the hand of God for life, and that God alone ends the marriage in death. This is the plain teaching of the Word of God for all who will have ears to hear.
This teaching must be, in the love of God, faithfully maintained in the church of Jesus Christ. It must be maintained for the good of young people and for those who are about to marry. And it must be maintained for those who are in marriage. This is what God says: “Marriage is My bond in which I unite you for life.”
We must understand, then, that the very hand of God almighty makes a marriage. Marriage is an institution of God. Whether it is performed by the state or in the church, by a justice of the peace or a minister, the fact is that God is God. He is the creator. And marriage, according to Genesis 1and 2, is the institution that He has made for the man and for the woman – for one man and one woman united as one flesh. Therefore, when we are married, we are in God’s institution. We are before God’s standards and we stand before God.
God tells us in His Word that He has a purpose in marriage. That purpose that He has for our marriages is not, first of all, our happiness. Now that does not mean that God will not make us happy in marriage. He will. But that means that our marriage serves a higher purpose than just our own happiness. Rather, the Bible teaches that the marriage of every believer is a picture, a picture of God’s marriage or covenant with His people in the blood of Jesus Christ. To represent the glorious truth that God has taken to Himself a church, a bride, in the blood of Jesus Christ, and that God has bound Himself to the church in an eternal bond of faithfulness, love, and mercy God has instituted marriage. Therefore, we must make God the goal of our marriage. And in making God the goal of our marriage, we will be blessed. In no other way will we be blessed as His children. We must make our marriage, by faith in Jesus Christ, to be a picture of God and His church. Hold that before your eyes every day.
There is a passage that is often quoted or used in marriage situations. That passage is Ruth 1:16. The words of Ruth: “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” As I said, that passage is often used at marriages, Christian marriages. It teaches us that the living God must be the glue, must be the union, of our marriage.
You remember the setting. It was a very crucial moment in Ruth’s life. She was standing at a crossroad, at a decision which she had to make which would affect every day of her life after that. Naomi, her mother-in-law who was an Israelite, was leaving the land of Moab where Ruth was born and raised. Naomi was leaving to return to her own homeland of Israel. Foolishly she and her husband and two sons had left the land of Israel during the time of a famine. They had governed their life by their own eyes and not by faith. Now her husband and two sons had died. And she returns to the place in which, God had said, His people must wait upon Him – the land of Canaan. She had two daughters-in-law: Orpah and Ruth. These daughters-in-law express the desire to return with her to the land of Canaan. But Naomi, if you read the passage, shoos them away, tells them to go back. Go back to your homes, she says. I have no more sons for you. Go back to your people. Orpah kisses her mother-in-law and goes back to her people. But we read that Ruth clave unto Naomi. She would not let her go, so that Naomi speaks even more sharply: Go back, Ruth, don’t follow me, go back!
It was then that Ruth responded, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goes, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” That was a decisive moment. Ruth could have had the best that the world had to offer in Moab. She could have had a husband (she was a beautiful woman, we gather); she could have had ease and things and children. But she will not go back because she was united to Naomi spiritually.
Those words tell us something about the marriage covenant of a man and a woman. It tells us, first of all, that this marriage covenant must be based upon a unity in one faith. Naomi heard Ruth say, “Thy God, my God.” Marriage must be built upon the same faith in Jesus Christ, in the God of the Scriptures. He is the God of salvation. He is the Creator. He is the Sovereign. He is the glorious God. He is the only God. The goal, then, of your marriage is God. The goal of your marriage must be to know God better in the infallible Scriptures and to walk with Him and to yield obedience to Him. The most important thing for the health of your marriage is your personal walk with God.
Picture with me a triangle, one point being up and the two other points at the bottom. How do those two points at the bottom become closer? They become closer when they travel up to the point at the top. So, in your own personal walk with God, when two strive to be faithful to God, they will draw closer together with a love that the earth cannot comprehend. The goal of your marriage, you see, is not yourself. Do not marry him thinking of all the things he will now be to you and everything that he can give to you. Do not have your focus, first of all, upon the other person. Before you get married you had better have both eyes open. You had better take a good look. You had better take a good look at his father and how he treats his mother. And you had better take a good look at her mother and how she behaves towards her father. So, have your eyes open. But after you get married you should close at least one eye and do not focus on the other person. You must focus on God. Marriage must be a unity of faith in God.
But, still more, marriage must be a unity with God’s people. Ruth said, “Thy people shall be my people.” It is more than just the fact that you will marry into each other’s family. You will do that. But your marriage must stand in the unity of God’s people on the earth, in the church of Jesus Christ. Membership in a faithful church is crucial for your marriage. You must be found in the church where His Word is honored and His truth is embraced. You must make the church the center of your life. On the Lord’s day, on Sunday, you and your husband/wife must be found there in the church twice, feeding on the Word of God. I am not going to elaborate on why this is so important. But mark my words – no, mark God’s Word – commitment to the church and the fellowship, truth, and worship of the church is the glue and the strength of a Christian marriage.
Still more, marriage must be a unity of life. Ruth says, “Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge.” When you marry a man, then you pledge to him, before God, that your life and all that comes into your life will be under his control and direction. Did you hear that, men? That woman, your wife, pledged to you before God that whatever her life will be and all that comes into it, for good or bad, she places under your direction. That ought to make you sit up and think of what you are doing and how you are leading your wife. That is what she pledged. That is what God entrusted to your care – her life!
And wives, when a man marries you, then he gives to you his name. That is very close to a man. That represents his rest and his peace. His name – that is a sacred trust, too.
Still more, marriage must be a unity till death. For Ruth said, “Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” Only death separates the marriage. Only God parts in death. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Those were the words of Jesus. Those words are plain. You may not divorce. And you may not remarry. Yes, I know that Jesus taught that if one of the married partners falls into impenitent fornication and continues in that sin, then the spouse has the right to put that person away. But they do not have the right to remarry. God has made this very plain. God has made marriage, because it is so important, very plain. Very plain for the littlest child to understand. When something is so important, it has to be plain. And God has made it plain. Listen. Marriage is for life – one man, one woman, till death. Now, no matter how much this word of God is rejected, no matter how much everything else is defended that rejects this truth, no matter how much remarriage and divorce for whatever reason is advocated, God’s word is plain: Marriage is for life. Why? For some cruel reason? No! It is for life because marriage is a picture of something faithful, something unending. It is the picture of God and His church. It is the picture of the love of God. That is why marriage is for life.
If we understand those things, then we need to live in marriage in a holy way. Therefore we must, in the words of Colossians 3, put on as holy and beloved, bowels of mercy. We must put on kindness and charity one towards the other. We must put on love, which is the bond of perfection ( Col. 3). We must, then, put on the love of God. God’s love – well we could go on and on about God’s love! But this about God’s love is absolutely true: God’s love is unbreakable, compassionate, and gracious. We are to love each other even as God loves the church, even as Christ has loved us. That means that our love will be sacrificial in marriage. How did Christ love the church? For the answer to that, I want you to go with me to Calvary and to Golgotha, to the hill of the skull. He was nailed to a cross for our sins. He gave Himself for us. He gave Himself unto the reproach of our hell. For whom? For sinners, given to Him of the Father’s grace, for those who have no merit, for those who are not lovable and not lovely and not good. That is how Christ has loved us. He sacrificed for unworthy sinners.
That means that you must be filled with “bowels,” with feelings, with spiritual emotions of kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and longsuffering. Do not talk about Christ dying for you on the cross if you are not willing to love your wife/husband with a sacrificial love which puts the other person first.
Our love, then, for each other will be a forgiving love. We will forgive one another even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. That means that the actions of the other person in marriage must not determine what you will do. Your actions must be based upon what Christ calls you to do. Your actions must be based upon and motivated by what Christ has done for you. Your response must not be determined by what he did, or what she failed to do. But your response must be based upon what Christ did for you and what Christ wants you to do, that is, forgive, be kind and forgiving.
If we are to live, then, in marriage, the word of Christ must dwell in us richly with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another. The Word of God must be maintained. Now God is going to maintain His own Word. It is not as if we are the ones who hold up God’s Word. We are given the privilege (and we must be faithful to this privilege) to tell what God’s Word says. But we must do so because we are convicted that the truths of God’s Word are the answers, are the way to peace and happiness and to the glory of God. For your marriage, that means that the Bible must be central in your life. You must read it together. You must read it in a loving fashion. You must read it so that it thrills your hearts. Read it richly – do not be a pauper. Do not give it just a few, fleeting moments now and then. But be rich in the Word of God. Do not worry so much about the earthly things – about how much time you have for entertainment, how much time you give to get this and that. Give yourself, as a husband and wife, from day one, to the Word of God. Make God your goal!
When you get married, by God’s grace, the love of your parents will go with you. When you get married, by God’s grace, the love of brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ will be with you. But all of this will not be enough. It will not be enough because what has happened in marriage of itself is that two sinners have been united. And that is a situation for trouble. The love and the prayers of others are not enough, as important as those things may be. They are important but not enough. But God is enough. His Word is enough. Walk with Him. Make Him your goal and you, in your marriage, will be blessed.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word and we pray for its blessing today upon our needy hearts. Amen.