Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 29, 2015
Open your Bibles once again to Ephesians 5:22-32. Today marks our last Sunday in our sermon series on Marriage. We are concluding by examining the unique roles that husbands and wives are called to live out.
Let us being by, once again, reviewing what we have covered so far. First, we have seen that God is the Designer, Creator, Implementer, Provider, and Joiner of marriage. It is his institution to do as he sees fit. Second we observed that the purpose of marriage was to be a reference, or display, of the union between Jesus and the Church. We are created to image God, and marriage is created to image the Gospel.
With this in mind our marriage is to take its cues from the relationship between Jesus and the Church. The first thing we learn is that our marriage must be a covenant of grace. This means that our marriage is held together by a promise to our spouse that we will never leave them nor forsake him. This is what a covenant is. It is not a contract that can be broken, it is a covenant that lasts. We also saw that this covenant is one of grace. If we are in Christ, we have been forgiven, therefore we must forgive.
Last week we introduced ourselves to the concept of complementarianism. Complementarianism is the Biblical teaching that God has designed marriage so that the man is given the unique role of headship and the wife is given the unique role of submitting to the headship of the husband. Men are to lead their wives and wives must embrace their husbands leadership and follow.
The primary purpose of last week was to lay out the Biblical text that expressly state and teach complementarianism. I wanted you to see Genesis 2, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, Colossians 1, 1 Peter 3, Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2. I wanted everyone to recognize that male headship and female submission is at its core a Biblical truth. The reason I did this was because the real question is will you humble yourself to trust God’s design or will you reject God’s Word and live your life your way?
With this in mind I want you to hear these words of Jesus in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is the essence of a Biblical marriage. If you love God you will throw away your preconceived and sinful misunderstandings of marriage and obey God’s good design for marriage. You will trust His way, not the Worlds.
With that said, today we are going to unpack how male headship and female submission looks. So let us again read Ephesians 5:22-32 for the last time and examine what God’s Word says.
We are going to begin by looking at the husband. However, wives do not zone out. Your call is to submit to all that I am about to say. Verse 23, “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.” The first thing we must recognize is that this is God’s design. It is not optional. Men, this is God’s calling for you. You are to lead your wife. The buck stops with you. The minute you said I do, was the minute that you signed up for a great and awesome responsibility. This responsibility is weighty. It is heavy. It is burdensome.
If you walked out of last Sunday’s sermon beating your chest saying that you’re the man and your wife has to cater to every whim of your sinful heart, then you don’t get it. This is a daunting responsibility that no man should ever enter into lightly. We are to be head of our wives as Christ was the head of the Church.
How is Christ the head of the Church. John 17:12 Jesus prays these words the night of his arrest, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them”. Christ was given a people to guard. Husbands you have been given a wife to guard. Marriage is not a vacation it is war. We are to be on guard against the attacks of our flesh and the attacks of Satan.
After last week, I was asked by several of you about specifics. What about this and what about that? In fact, at the Women’s study the issue of finances came up. Can the women take care of the finances? These type of questions, I believe, miss the point.
Take a look at verse 24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” The two words I want us to key in on is “in everything.” There is nothing outside the headship of the husband. He stands guard over everything. Therefore, the husband is the head of the money. He is the head of the kids. He is the head of the TV. He is the head of everything. This is the point of headship.
Here is an example. I am the Jones County Attorney. I am the head of my office. In my office I have two employees. These employees have things they do. Many of those things they do with zero input from me because it is unnecessary. However, in the event that there is uncertainty in regards to their job, they both know that I am the one that makes the decision because it is my responsibility. The buck stops with me, and men the buck stops with you. Just like when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, even though it was Eve who let the sin in, Adam was called out by God first and was ultimately held responsible for the spread of sin in the world.
Now what I didn't say is that the man has to do everything. Can women do the finances, sure. Can women mow the lawn? Sure. Can women discipline children? Sure. But above all those things the man is the head. This must be lived out and displayed within the home and outside of the home SO for example, when I am at work, my wife disciplines, but my kids know that they must eventually give an account to me. It is not uncommon for my kids to ask my wife to keep their disobedience a secret. So do not miss the point and become Pharisaical.
Loving Male Headship
So how does this headship look. One word. Love. The way that men are to lead their wives is with love. Verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives.” Once again, notice this is not a request but a command. The love that is spoken here is not a feeling. It is not dependent on your emotional state. It is not dependent on circumstances, such as your wife remaining beautiful, or your wife's respect, or even your wife's faithfulness. We are to love our wives no matter what. This is covenant love.
What should this love look like? It should look like Jesus dieing on the cross. Verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The pinnacle of love is laying down your life. Christ said it himself in John 15:9, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This was the cup that Christ was called to drink from and husbands this is the cup you are called to drink from. Everything you do towards your wife should be through the filter of sacrificial love.
So what does it mean to sacrifice? Verse 28-29, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” Husbands are to sacrificially love their wives by nourishing and cherishing.
When we hear these terms, nourish and cherish we automatically think physical provisions, and I don't think this is wrong. For there is no doubt that the husband should be providing for his family. Some of the strongest words are reserved for the dead beat husband.
Men if you physically can provide for your wife and your choose not to, and instead you have her go to work as you sit around, you should be ashamed of yourself. It is time you man up and accept your duty. If you don't, there is a question as to whether you truly are saved.
However, there is more than physical needs in the mind of Paul when he speaks about nourishing and cherishing. The word cherish in Greek is thalpō which is used one other time in the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 when Paul is talking about new believers, “But we were gentle (thalpo) among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” Therefore to cherish your wife is to value her at the same level you value your children. Husabnds should see our wives as precious gifts of God and therefore care and provide for her in a tenderhearted way.
The word nourish in Greek is ektrepho. It is used one other time in the Bible in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up (ektrepho) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So to nourish your wife is to invest in their lives so as to transform them into maturity. What kind of maturity are we talking about? Lets look at verse 26-28.
The goal of a husband's sacrificial love is your wife's holiness. Men, are you hearing me? The end goal of your headship is not the American Dream. The end goal is not Leave it to Beaver. The end goal is the splendor of your wife as she stands before God. The burden that God lays on you is for your to lay down your life so that your wife lays down her sin.
How are we to do this? Just as Jesus did. Verse 26, “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” A husband, above all, is to be a Pastor of his home. Men, if you are married you have an obligation to make your home one that is drenched in the Word of God. Men, you are the ones who should be opening God's Word every morning with your spouse and washing her. Men, you are the ones who should be ensuring that your family gets to Church every Sunday morning to hear the Word preached. Men, you are the ones who should be giving up Tuesday nights to allow your wife to attend Women of Courage. Men, you are the ones who should be on your knees praying that God would give your wife a hunger to hear from God. It doesn't matter if you are a reader or not. It doesn't matter if your wife is more Biblically literate than you are. Your duty is to nurture her to holiness.
So in summary, husbands your are called by God to lead your wife. This leadership is a sacrificial leadership. One that puts them before you, and one that points forward to a goal. The goal of the holiness of your wife. This is God's design for you.
Ladies, your turn. As I desired to make clear last week, the Bible is explicitly clear what the role of wives is. It is a role of submission. This word, submit, causes strong emotions. My guess is that some of your ladies can feel your flesh rebel as you read God's Word.
But let us remind ourselves that as Christians, our lives are defined by submission. We as Christians are told to submit to our authorities (Romans 13:1-7). We are also told to submit to the elders of the Church (Hebrews 13:17). Ultimately, however, we are told to submit to the Lord. James 4:7 explicitly says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” How many letters did Paul start by calling himself a slave to Jesus? A life of a Christian is a life of submission.
But it does not end there, for Jesus himself submits to the Father. John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” When Jesus says he does the will of the Father, he is not saying that he is not God, or that he is of less value than the Father, he is merely saying that his role is to do the Father's will. Likewise, the Holy Spirit likewise submits to both the Son and the Father. We discussed this last month. The Holy Spirit is the proceeding power from both Jesus and God the Father. Submission defines the relationship of the Trinity. So I want us to be clear that submission is not a dirty word, it is a word that is at the core of how reality exists.
In regards to submission, I think it is helpful to see this in terms of leading and following. As I said earlier, the Husband has the burden of leading his wife, and the wife has the responsibility to follow his lead. This may seem trivial, but this is important, because so few wives actually follow their husband. Imagine if Jesus did not follow his Dad's will. Everything would have fallen apart. Likewise, imagine if at work, you stopped following your bosses commands. You would be fired. Having said that most women refuse to follow their husband. You will follow the advise of your parents. You will follow the advise of your friends. You will follow the advise of Dr. Phil. Wives, you must recognize that your role is one that submits to your husband, and this must be your default. This must be automatic. You must respect his God given role. It is not something you pick and choose. Your are to regularly image forth submission. This means you have to humble yourself and be vulnerable. You have to give your husband permission to fail, and let me give you a spoiler, he will. But the point is not to live a flawless marriage, it is to live a Biblically harmonious marriage. Remember, the primary purpose of marriage is to display the union between Christ and the Church. If you continue to try to lead, you are destroying the picture and instead displaying the actions of Satan, not the Bride of Christ.
Now, let me be clear about two things. First, submission does not mean silent. Don't forget that your role as a wife is as a Helper. If you see your husband moving in the wrong direction, you do not sit back and watch the train wreck. You can engage, but you need to do so with a spirit of submission, not Lording over. If after a discussion, you still do not see eye to eye, the husband is the one who has hold of the reigns and you must let him steer the horse, otherwise you both will eventually go over the cliff.
The second thing I want to be clear about is that this does not mean that your are to submit to your Husband when his will is against God's will. Above all of this discussion on marriage is our walk with the Lord. Your ultimate call is to do God's will. If your Husbands will comes into conflict with God's will, then God wins. For example, if the Husband refuses to go to Church, you still go. If your husband won't read the Bible to the kids, you do it. If your husband wants you to do something immoral, you refuse. The bottom line is that Biblical submission is not complicated, but because of sin, it can be difficult.
Imagine the Image
So in closing, I want to say this. The life of a Christian is a life of faith. Not only faith in Jesus Christ, but faith in all that God commands and promises. The question in regards to marriage is do you believe God? DO you believe that His way is above our way? Do you believe that he knows what he is dong when it comes to marriage? Do you believe that He is good? Do you believe that his Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path? Do you believe that if you submit to him, your marriage will bear fruit for His glory? The question is not what the Bible says, that is abundantly clear. The question is will you trust in the Lord?
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 22, 2015
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5:22-33. Today marks our fourth week in our five week series on marriage. Today however will be, potentially, the most controversial. I will be introducing the topic of complementarianism, which is the understanding that in marriage, the man is the head of the household and the women is called to submit to his leadership. I have decided to stretch this sermon over two Sundays, and as I said today will be an introduction and next week we will look more at the mechanics.
There are some in this room who may push back against what God’s Word has to say to you today. Who knows, some of you may even decide to stop coming because of the scripture we will look at this morning. Having said that, my role as a Preaching Pastor does not change. As I stated at the end of last week’s sermon, it is my responsibility to preach Sunday after Sunday the words of this Book. I do not have the authority to add to or take away from the Word of God. In fact the Bible ends with these words of admonishment in Revelation 22:18.
So as we begin I want everyone in this room to recognize that the material for my sermon, and every sermon, is not concocted by Phil Parsons, but originates from the unchanging Word of God. We are Cornerstone Church are Bible people, not because we have to be, but because we want to be. We see this book as the words of life.
Before we begin, however, let us spend some time in review. Up to this point we have learned from the Scriptures that marriage is an institution of God. He created it, implemented it, provides for it, and joins is. God has all authority over marriage. This foundational truth will be substantially important for today’s teaching.
Second, we observed that God designed marriage for a purpose. God is not a God of chaos, but a God of order and there was a reason behind creating marriage. The purpose of marriage we saw, once again from Scripture, was for the displaying of God’s glory in the person of His Son Jesus, specifically his union with the Church. Or to say it another way, marriage was created to display the Gospel, the laying down of the Bridegrooms life for the Bride.
Last week, we continued to unpack this purpose and observed that like the Union that exists between Christ and the Church, marriages should be held together by Covenant Grace. What we meant by that was that marriage is not held together by money, looks, feelings, comfort, etc. Marriage is held together by a promise. When we marry we promise our spouse that we will never leave them, nor forsake them. This is covenant. Within this covenant the main ingredient needed to uphold the covenant is grace. We, as Christians, are to be conduits of grace. We have been forgiven greatly; therefore we must be great forgivers. And no one needs more forgiveness then our spouse.
Now, let us walk deeper into this mystery of marriage and start to examine the inner workings of this marriage covenant of Grace. Turn with me to Ephesians 5:22-33. We will read our text, pray for humility before God, and then we will unpack our text.
So let us begin by reminding ourselves of some fundamental truths. First, this is God’s Word. Ephesians 5 is in the Bible.
Second let us recall that not only is Ephesians 5, true, perfect, and should cause us to rejoice, but let us remind ourselves that marriage is God’s institution to design it as he sees fit. If he wants to structure it a certain way, He has that right. He is God, and our role is to have faith in His Word, trust his ways and be obedient. It is not our job to take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and decide for ourselves what is good and not good.
Made to Complement
With those truths under our belt, let us examine what it says in Ephesians 5. Verse 23 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” In our text we see God structuring marriage in such a way that He puts the husband in the role as leader and the wife in the role of being led. As I said, the term for this structure is called complementarianism. It is the idea that in marriage God forms man a certain way and he forms women a certain way and when joined and operating under these predefined roles they complement each other. There is harmony.
Perhaps the best way to understand the complementary roles of headship and submission is dancing. When a man and a women dance it is predetermined that the man will lead and the women will follow. No one questions these roles. What happens if the man does not lead? There is no dance. What happens if they women does not follow? Toes are stepped on.
This Biblical teaching of complementarian is not only found in Ephesians 5. We see this teaching throughout the Bible. I want to read some of those to you so you understand this is not an isolated teaching for the Church in Ephesus.
And just as Paul indicates in 1 Timothy the understanding of headship and submission in marriage finds its ultimate root in God’s purpose behind the order of creation of Adam and Eve.
If you recall from our study on Genesis 2 several weeks ago, on day six of creation, God formed Adam. After forming Adam God said these words in verse 18, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” What is God saying? He is saying I am going to create another being that complements Adam. That will fit, suit, come up alongside man so as to help. This was to be the role of this new creature. He then had Adam exercise dominion and authority over the animals by naming them. After which God then created Eve out of a rib of Adam. God then brought Eve to Adam and Adam exercised authority over Eve by naming her woman.
At this point I to be clear about something. Prior to Genesis 2, there is Genesis 1. And in Genesis 1:27 it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” It is important for everyone to understand that both man and women are created in the image of God. Man is not superior in value, or more precious to God then women. If you don't believe me, just read the Gospel and see how Jesus interacts with women. He loves them. Man and women are equally precious in the eyes of God, but having said that he does ordain that they have differing roles.
Once again, I think it is important for us to recognize that God didn't have to structure marriage this way. He could have easily had one gender that represented the human race, but he didn't. Jesus emphasizes this in Matthew 19:4 when he says “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female .” God chose to structure the union between a husband and a wife to be such that the Man is the head and the women follows his leadership. Why? As we said two weeks ago, it was so that marriage could be a living display of the Gospel. The existence of these God established roles better display the Gospel then if they are not present.
The Cultural Problem
What I am preaching is highly controversial in this post modern western world. And as I said when I began my sermon, some of you may desire to call me sexist, a bigot, closed minded, stupid, or if you are kind you will call me old fashioned. You will argue that our society has advanced beyond oppressive gender roles and we are now enlightened and therefore liberated from the chains of male leadership.
First, let me remind you that these chains that so many of you want liberation from are God's design. They are not man's traditions, they are found in the pages of the unchanging Word of God, from beginning to end, and if you want to reject these complementarian roles, you must reject the Bible.
And this is exactly what took place when the feminist movement began in the 1800's. They rejected God's Word. A lady by the name of Elizabeth Stanton was one of the earliest leaders of the feminist movement. She called herself a Christian but she did exactly what Revelation 22 warned about and took out the text that she saw as interfering with her cause. She and some other women created what was called the Women's Bible. This Bible took out the stuff they believed interfered with their cause and kept what supported it. In fact this was a quote of Elizabeth Stanton regarding her dislike of the Bible, specifically the fall in Genesis 3.
“The whole foundation of the Christian religion rests on her temptation and man's fall, hence the necessity of a Redeemer and a plan of salvation...Women's degradation and subordination were made a necessity. If, however, we accept the Darwinian theory, that the race has been gradual growth from the lower to a higher form of life, and that the story of the fall is a myth, we can exonerate the snake, emancipate the women, and reconstruct a more rational religion for the nineteenth century, and thus escape all the perplexities of the Jewish mythology as of no more importance than the Greek, Persian, and Egyptian.”
I think it is also important for us to acknowledge that the reason you may resist this idea of complementarianism is because you have been soaking in a meta-narrative that has rejected the authority of God. People who attempt to argue against male headship and female submission have not come to that conclusion because of years walking with the Lord, it is from years of walking with the World. You are a product of the Western Culture. The removal of gender roles is a recent anomaly, limited to the last 100 years of Western Societies only. All of human history and across cultures has seen the obvious and natural reality of the God ordained dance of the man leading and the women following. The question is will you reject the reality of nature and the reality of God's Word or will you humble yourself and believe that God knows what he is doing when he designs marriage.
The Sin Problem
This leads to our next problem. Not only have each of you, husband and wife, been soaking in a Western culture that rejects God's Word, but your sinful flesh also rejects God's Word. Both men and women want to default on their God ordained responsibilities.
For the man, our sinful flesh rejects God's call for us to lead. We instead want to sit on the sidelines and let someone else carry the burden of God's calling. We have become a nation of Homer Simpsons, sitting around drinking beer and falling asleep at work. We have chosen to take the wide and easy road of letting our wives make all the calls, because it is just easier to let her have her way. You get tired of fighting so you pull back and isolate yourself right out of the relationship, until you are just a roommate sharing a home for economic purposes.
For women it is the opposite problem, instead of allowing your husband to lead, you want to rule over him. This is part of the curse of Genesis 3:16 when God says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” You can't help yourself. You want to control what your husband eats, wears, says, works, hangs out with, you name it you want to dictate it.
Both of these positions are the complete opposite of Ephesians 5. Why? Because we are sinners and but for the grace of God we are depraved and we rebel against God's truth. And what do we get out of this, we get man acting like women and women acting like men. We get families that are out of sync, and burnt out. We get midlife crisis and social affairs on facebook. We get Bruce Jenner as a hero and our youth being sexually confused. We get separations, adultery, and divorces.
We are all like Elizabeth Stanton and have created our own Bible. We are living out your marriage in any way that we see as right, not as God has declared to be right. And our way is a broken way. It is dysfunctional. It is not in accordance to how God designed marriage. If you don't believe me, just look around, perhaps even at your own marriage. This was not God's intent. God's intent was for Eve to be a suitable helper fit for him. One that compliments Him. One that dances with him. One that is a beautiful display of the Gospel.
Next Sunday we are going to take one more step and unpack what that looks like. But until then, I encourage you to spend time dwelling upon the Word of God and ask does our marriage match God's intent? If it doesn't, pray that God would give you a heart to desire to align with his will and allow him to make your marriage beautiful.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 15, 2015
Today marks our third Sunday on our sermon series on Marriage. As I have stated in the past, when I preach topically, like I am doing on marriage, I like to build upon each sermon. The reason I do this is first, because the topics are so immense, and second, to give perspective and foundations to what God is laying out in His Word. Very few people recognize how logically connected the Bible is. It is a book built upon premises that lead to one conclusion. So with that in mind, let us begin by reviewing what we have learned so far.
First, we began in the beginning and we observed from Genesis 2 that God is the creator, implementer, provider and joiner of marriage. Marriage is God's institution, created by Him for His will. We do not have authority over marriage. Culture does not have authority over marriage. Government does not have authority over marriage. Marriage is God's and God's alone.
With this in mind, last week we asked what is God's purpose in creating marriage? And not only that, but why did God, not only create marriage, but why did He make it so intertwined with the human condition? Why do all people, throughout all time, long for marriage? The answer as we saw in Ephesians 5 was the God created marriage to be a living display of the Gospel.
When we ended last week we spent a brief moment talking about that monumental effect this understanding should have on your marriage. Recognizing that the ultimate purpose of your marriage is to be a living image, or display, of the bond between Jesus and his Bride should change every detail of how your marriage operates. Today we will unpack some of those things.
What is the Gospel?
To start, if marriage is designed to display the Gospel, then the first thing we need to do is to understand the Gospel. It is one thing to say our marriages display the Gospel, it is another thing for your marriage to ACTUALLY display the Gospel? So, what is the Gospel?
The Gospel is this: We are all sinners. We have all rejected and rebelled against God. The punishment for our sin is death and the wrath of God. However, because God is love, he sends His Son Jesus to save us from this wrath. He saves us by living a sinless life and then dies in our place and absorbs God’s wrath as our substitute Because Jesus is sinless, and because He is the Son of God, He overcomes sin and death and is resurrected from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God. He then promises us forgiveness and eternal life with Him if we repent (turn) and place our trust in Him as our Lord and Savior. Now many of you may ask, how does marriage reflect what I just said? In two significant ways: Covenant and Grace.
Covenant of Marriage
Let us begin by talking about covenant. When someone is born again and places their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior they are forgiven. We are all familiar with this basic Christian principal. But what is going on when we place our faith in Christ? Why are we forgiven? Why does faith in Christ appease God’s wrath? Likewise, why do we receive eternal life and all of the rewards of Heaven? Romans 6:4-5 tells us.
And it is this union with Christ that saves us. We become one with Jesus and he can therefore take our punishment and we can receive his righteousness. Without this unity the exchange of our sin for His righteousness cannot occur. And we see this principle of union with Christ throughout the Bible.
This union is one that is not done by the will of man, but by the will of God. He is the one who fuses Christ with his Bride. You can see this in Jesus' High Priestly prayer to His father in John 17. In this prayer he is praying for us. Jesus prays in verse 20 and 21:
Jesus is asking God to make the elect Bride, the Church, one with Him. It is God who unites. And this bonding of God cannot be broken. Once you are united to Christ and become one with him you cannot be separated. This is one of many reasons that the Gospel is such good news, for what God has joined no one can separate.
In Genesis 2:24 it says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The Hebrew word for “hold fast” is debaq, which means to cleave, adhere, to be glued. When God chose to create and implement this institution of marriage, he did not create it to be casual; He created it to be binding.
In Matthew 19:5-6 Jesus reiterates this by saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” The Greek word that Jesus uses to quote Genesis 2:24 is kollao, which means to glue together, cement, fasten firmly.
And this is why we speak of marriage, not as a contract that can be easily broken, by as a covenant that withstands. For a covenant is not built upon terms and conditions, but is instead built upon a promise. For God, His covenant to us through Christ is that he will never leave us nor forsake us. This is the promise of the New Covenant sealed with the blood of the Bridegroom.
Likewise our covenant to our spouse should be the same, a promise that we will never leave nor forsake them. A covenant marriage is not susceptible to the ups and downs of life. A covenant marriage is built upon a promise, not upon a bank account, or busy schedules, or fleeting beauty. And it is a covenant marriage that displays the Gospel. On the other hand, a contractual marriage that is casually entered into and easily broken is a not a display of the Gospel, but instead is a display of the deception and lies of Satan. Hence why Satan spend so much time trying to destroy your marriage.
Covenant marriage is why we have vows during wedding ceremonies. The purpose is for the husband and the wife to make unconditional promises to each other. They are to declare that no matter what happens in this life, I promise to cleave to you, to hold fast to you...no matter what comes our way. Divorce should never be a word on the mouth of a Christian. Paul addresses this exact issue in 1 Corinthians 7.
The bottom line is that if you are married, you stay married. Now because of many of your hard hearts some of you might be saying, “Phil, you don't know what I have to put up with. You don't know my story.” And your right, I do not know your story, but God does, and his Word does not have a loop hole. However, many of you are looking for one.
One loop hole I have heard over and over again is the one that says, “But doesn’t God want me to be happy?” This type of question is a child of the health and wealth prosperity Gospel. It is the belief that God is a candy machine and he exists to make your life comfortable. This worldly way of thinking is the wide gate and easy way that Jesus tells us leads to destruction in Matthew 7:13.
When you read the Bible do you ever see God say take the path that makes you the happiest? No . When you read the Bible you see Jesus say pick up your cross, lay down your life, count the cost, put your hand to the plow, let the dead bury the dead, renounce all that you have. God desires his children to be obedient.
And this is what so few people understand, it is out of our obedience to God that true and eternal joy flows. All other happiness is counterfeit to the joy of being in step with your Creator's will.
The Power of Grace
And this leads us to the second way that marriage displays the Gospel. From beginning to end, the Gospel is all about Grace. This relationship with Christ is initiated, sustained and completed by the Grace of God. We deserve God's wrath, but we are given His Grace.
Grace is the backbone of the Gospel and it is the backbone to your marriage. Not only do you need the grace of God in your weakness, but you need to display the Grace of God when your spouse is weak. What do I mean by this?
What I mean is that marriage should be grace unleashed. The grace of God should be pouring into our lives and pouring out of our lives. What your spouse needs almost more than anything from you is your forgiveness when they fail to live up to your expectations, when they miss the mark, when they sin against you. And I am not just talking about the small sins like chewing with your mouth open, or nagging, or showing up a few minutes late, but I am talking about the big sins too, like adultery, drug abuse, an accidental death of a child. There is no sin too big for God to forgive, and there should be no sin to big for us to forgive.
However, because you are a sinner, in the midst of your spouses sin, you will want justification. You will want your pound of flesh. You will want vengeance, but what your spouse needs to see is not your wrath, it is God's grace. You need to forgive as you have been forgiven. And not only does your spouse need to see it, but your children need to see it, and your co-workers need to see it, and your neighbors needs to see it. This is how marriage is a display of the Gospel, it should be a display of grace.
And just like obedience, grace towards your spouse is not the end of the story. Grace in marriage produces fruit. This is the amazing power of grace, it transform, not only you, but your spouse. Loving your spouse when they are unlovable makes them become more loveable. If you don't believe me, try it for yourself. The next time your spouse sins against you, instead of biting their head off tell them that you love them. I guarantee those three words ringing in their head changes the entire mood of the night.
Now at this point, many of you may again be looking for a loop hole and saying, “But what if they never change?” How long should I forgive my spouse?” This same question was posed to Jesus.
Obviously, Jesus is not being literal here. Instead he is saying that you never stop forgiving. Forgiving, for a Christian, is like breathing, you never stop until your dead.
In conclusion, marriage is a living display of the Gospel. How? In two fundamental ways. First, it is a display of a covenant promise that we will never leave nor forsake our spouse. And second, marriage should be saturated in Grace. If the Church would embrace this two fundamental truths, our marriages would not be in lock step with the the world, but instead our marriages would stand out as salt and light in this decaying and dark culture.
So like all sermons, the ball is now in your court. You can reject what I have said and continue down the path of a casual/self-centered/angry marriage and see how that works out for you, or instead put your faith in God's good design for marriage, trust Him, and bear the fruit of God's blessings, 30, 60 and 100 fold.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 8, 2015
Today marks our second week in our sermon series on marriage. After last week, Tristan asked me if anyone had any negative comments about my sermon last Sunday, and I can honestly say no, but that doesn't mean that your weren't thinking them. I will admit, at times, I get somewhat passionate about God's Word. However, if you do find something I say disagreeable please come and talk with me about it. Don't just stop coming. My advice is that when you hear or read something in God's Word that you do not like, do not run from it, but lean into it, and allow God to lead you into all truth.
Today we are going to unpack the profound mystery of marriage. It is a mystery that I was not aware of until about five years ago, which is sad because I have now been married for eleven years. Perhaps this mystery had been taught to me when I was younger, but I didn’t have ears to hear.
Having said that, I want my hands to be clean as it relates to Cornerstone Church. I want everyone in this room to understand the ultimate, and specific reason as to why God created the institution of marriage. I want all of us to have our eyes on the purposes of God as it relates to marriage. I want us oriented with a proper trajectory so that our marriage reach the destination that God desires. However, before we read our text and unpack it, let us review.
Last week we examined the very first wedding ceremony as found in Genesis 2. This marriage was officiated by none other than God himself. In Genesis 2 we observed the foundation of marriage. We discovered that marriage is created by God, implemented by God, provided by God, and joined by God. No matter how you look at marriage, you can only reach one conclusion, it is Gods institution, not mans, not governments, not anyone else’s but Gods. God has complete and utter authority over this institution. Therefore, in order for us to have any hope of seeking answers in the mystery we call marriage, we must look in the Bible.
As we saw last week in Matthew 19, this is how Jesus approached questions on marriage. His preface to their marital questioning was, “Have you not read?” These words “have you not read” echo still today, and we, the Church, should pick up the baton and continue to pose the same question to ourselves, our family, our friends, our communities, and our government “Have you not read?” For the Word of God, the Bible, is the ultimate authority regarding all things, especially marriage.
Today, however, I want to ask the next logical question, “Why?” Why does an all-powerful, all knowing, perfectly Holy God, create such a mysterious thing as marriage? We can agree that God didn't have to do it this way. God could have chosen a variety of different ways that humanity exists, but he didn't. Our perfectly wise God, omniscient God, intentionally chose for a man and women to be joined in holy matrimony. Why?
Before we begin, I want to stress how important this question is of why is. Understanding the purpose of marriage determines whether your marriage flourishes or flounders. If you want you could exchange the word purpose for goal, and ask what is the goal of marriage? Keeping your eyes on the goal helps keep you pointed in the write direction. It helps you filter out things that either support the goal or interfere with the goal. It gives you a proper perspective in times of difficulty. It produces in you a motivation. Think of this question of why as our attempt to set a correct trajectory for your marriage. Too many of you have worldly coordinates plugged into your marriage, therefore instead of hitting the moon, you miss your mark and drift off into darkness. Understanding the purpose of your marriage is the key to satisfying your hearts longing that we unpacked briefly last week.
For the Glory of God
To answer the question of why let us start, once again with a foundation. If I were to ask you, why did God create the Universe, what would you say? Hopefully many of you, here at Cornerstone, would respond that God created the Universe for His Glory. We regularly cover this topic. The Chief purpose of all things is the Glory of God. How do we know this? Because God tells us this fact in His Word.
They question is do you see your marriage through this lens? Do you recognize that not only is marriage through God, but it is ultimately for God. Your marriage is for His glory. Let’s say that again, your marriage is for the glory of God. It is not for your glory. It is not for your spouses glory. It is not for your kids glory. It is not for this nations glory. Marriage is for God's glory.
So often we commit the sin of Romans 1:23 and we exchange the glory of God for the glory of man. When we do this, things start to fall apart. Why? Because the foundational rock the institution of marriage has been replaced by sand.
For the Glory of Jesus
Having said this, I think we can narrow the purpose of marriage down even more then the glory of God. Colossians 1:16 says this about Jesus.
Once again, is this how we think? When two people stand before God and are joined in Holy matrimony, are they ultimately doing it for Jesus? Do we live out our marriage for the purpose of Christ? Do we lay our marriage at the foot of the cross and say it is yours to do with it as you please?
My guess is that the answer is no. You do not view your marriage through the lens that it exists for Jesus Christ. Instead we approach marriage as if it is ultimately a gift for us. We are like little children that scream, “MINE!” We have bought into the lie that marriage is for the preeminent purpose to make us comfortable, or wealthy, or sexually satisfied. And when it fails to produce those things we think it is broken. This is the wrong way to view marriage, because ultimately your marriage is for Christ, not you. Using it to be your ultimate source of happiness will fail every time. Marriage is not a candy machine that exists for your passions and pleasures, it is an God ordained Union for the glory of His Son.
For the Pinnacle of God’s Glorious Grace
But once again, I think we can get even more specific then this. Yes, marriage is for the Glory of God, and yes, marriage is for Christ, but there is something more profound going on in the creation and implementation of marriage by God. Turn to Ephesians 5:22-33.
First, let us recognize what Paul is quoting. Paul is quoting the same text that Jesus quoted in Matthew 19. He is quoting Genesis 2:24. When Paul is attempting to teach on marriage and to unpack its purpose, he goes straight to God’s Word as the ultimate authority and foundation to the conversation. So once again we need to recognize that the two main people in the Bible who teach on marriage, Jesus and Paul, both see the Bible as the light upon the path when seeking answers about marriage.
The next thing we must see if this wonderful nugget of truth hidden in verse 32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” What is Paul saying? He is saying that this unity of husband and wife is a reference, or pointer, to the union that takes place between Christ the Church, those he died for and rescued from Hell. Verse 32 is saying the ultimate and specific reason why God created the institution of marriage was for it to be a living display of the Gospel.
When we think about this, this makes complete sense. In Genesis 1:27 we are told that man and woman are created by God in the image of God. Then in Genesis 2 He takes these two image bearer and joins them in marriage so as to image, or display, the most important truth in the Universe, the Gospel. God desires this image of the Gospel to cover the earth just like his image bearers. So once again we understand why marriage is a universal and cross cultural longing in humanities heart. Therefore, the primary and specific purpose of your marriage is to image forth the love between Christ and his Church. Ephesians 5 is not the only place you see evidence of this mystery. The bible regularly speaks of Jesus and His Church as the bridegroom and the bride.
And, once again, this makes sense. If as we already said, God created marriage for his glory, and he also created marriage for His Son, then it makes sense that marriage would point to the pinnacle of that glory of Christ which is the laying down of the Bridegrooms life for His Bride. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the apex of the Glory of God and marriage is its image.
The Overwhelming Implications
The realization that your marriage and every marriage is a shadow of the of the glory of God in the Gospel should have a monumental effect in your life. If the purpose of your marriage is to point to the Gospel it should change how you talk to your spouse, eat with your spouse, live with your spouse, and love your spouse. It should change everything about your relationship.
This is one of the greatest problems that marriages have. Couples have the wrong purpose for marriage in mind. They believe the purpose of marriage is the American Dream. They believe the purpose of marriage is economic freedom. They believe the purpose of marriage is sexual satisfaction. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is why your marriage is failing. You are trying to make marriage do something that is not its ultimate purpose. It is like trying to train an eagle to swim. Eagles are not made to swim, they are made to soar.
But this is what is beautiful, when you lay aside your idolatrous purposes and allow God to be the Lord of your marriage, out of your Gospel driven marriage will flow joy, contentment, peace, intimacy, love, and a thousand other Spirit given fruits. God will give you a taste of the Garden of Eden before the fall. The question, as always, is will you trust God? Will you trust God enough to reorient your marriage to be all about reflecting the Glory of God in the Gospel of Christ?
Next week we will begin to unpack the specific ramifications for embracing this Gospel centered purpose of your marriage, but until then, let us pray that God would push this mysterious truth deep into our hearts and deep into our marriages. Let us pray that God would make the Gospel the rudder of our union with our spouse. Pray that starting today every decision will be filtered through this glorious reality that our marriages are designed to point the World to the glory of God in the person of Christ in the manifest love of ransoming his bride.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 1, 2015
Open your Bibles to Genesis 2:18-24. Today we begin a five part sermon series on Marriage. Before we unpack our text today I want to say a few opening remarks. First, I have said this before, the number one thing that I counsel people on is their marriage. Very few people want to seek my help regarding their job, their fiances, their children, their dreams. The number one issue that is brought to my attention by a number of you is your marriage. The reason I want everyone to know that is so that you would recognize that you are not alone if your marriage is struggling. Cornerstone Church should be a place that we take off the masks and live out our lives as a real Christian community. This does mean that we relish in our brokenness, it means that week in and week out we humbly confess our sins and seek the prayers, encouragement, and wisdom of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second, I want to draw everyone’s attention to the reality that in this room there are a variety of people at different stages in their life, different experiences, and different God ordained destinies. Some of you in this room have been devastated by a broken marriage. Others of you find yourself in a marriage that is on the brink. You are one Saturday night away from everything falling apart. Perhaps that is why you are here, this is your final hope. Still others of you have experienced those “on the brink” moments, but currently are on more solid footing.
Then there are some like my daughter who long for marriage. To her marriage is the wonderful mystery that draws her like a moth to a flame. Lastly, there are some of you that God has a different destiny for you that will bring him glory, and it is one of singleness. As we take this journey together, I want us all to be mindful of that reality. I am preaching God’s Word to all of you, and make no mistake, God wants to speak to all of you. I don't care who you are, or where you are at, God desires for you to understand the wonderful depth that is marriage.
The third thing I want to say before we read our text is this. John MacArthur is known to say that soft words produce hard hearts and hard preaching produces soft hearts. Each time I step to this pulpit I have a choice to make, preach a sermon that tickles your ears, or preach a sermon that resonates in your soul. Because I love you, I choose the later. It is not my job to entertain. It is not my job to build up your ego. It is my job to sanctify through the preaching of the powerful Word of God. Some of the things that I say this month, or any month for that matter, you may not like. My guess is that one of the reasons Churches are full of broken marriages is that very few pastors are preaching the penetrating and convicting words of God regarding marriage. Instead what is preached is a lot of the flowery junk that we here at weddings.
My prayer is that this month, all of you would submit yourself to the unchanging Word of God. That you would trust it and implement God's wisdom into your marriage, and allow God to get the glory due his name through your marriage. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and then explore this wonderful gift that God has given us called marriage.
It is Not Good
In reading verse 18, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” some people believe that this verse tells us that an all-powerful, all knowing God made a mistake. They believe that this “not goodness” of Adam is an oops moment. The belief that God made a mistake is absolutely ridiculous.
In verse 18 when it says, “It is not good that the man should be alone” It is the first time in the Bible that we see something that something is “not good”. Up to this point God has declared everything good. Genesis 1:10, “it was good.” Verse 12, “It was good.” Verse 18, “It was good.” Verse 25, “It was good.” Verse 31, “It was very good.” In chapter 1 God sets up a rhythm. Why does He do this? One reason is that in Chapter 2 God will intentionally break that rhythm so as to draw attention to something magnificent that He is about to do. It is as if God lolls us to sleep and then yells, “Wake up!”
Up until this point, marriage did not exist. Animals do not marry, angles do not marry. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Marriage is an institution created by God exclusively for his image bearers, and it only lasts until death.
So the first thing that we can say about marriage is this, it is created by God for humanity. This may seem like an obvious point, but I fear that it is not. Our world today is operating as if marriage is a man-made institution. Society is currently trying to redefine it, twist it, and distort it, to suit our desires and passions as if we have authority over it. We don’t. Marriage is an intentional design and creation of God. He has exclusive rights to determine how it works and what is its purpose. Jesus himself speaks of this reality in Matthew 19 when he is tested by the Pharisees.
The question I submit to all of you is do you operate this way? Do you view marriage as God's institution? Many of you would probably say yes, but I wonder if your walk matches your talk. When you are struggling in your marriage do you do as Jesus did and go to the Word of God and seek answers? Do you read the Bible with your spouse with the intent to strengthen your marriage? Do you point your friends to the Bible when they come to you with problems? My guess is that many of you don't, but you should. If marriage is God's design then not going to God regarding marriage is playing Russian roulette.
A Longing Given by God
In between verse 18 and verse 21 we see something that may seem disconnected at first. In between God declaring that he would provide a helper fit, and forming Eve out of Adam’s rib, we see God giving Adam work to do. His work is to name the animals. As these animals passed by, Adam started to experience something. He experienced a longing for a helper. He started to experience the “not goodness” that God spoke about in verse 18, and this is something God desired Adam to experience.
As these animals passed by Adam he saw them in pairs. He saw the male and female of each species and recognized that none of them were like him. He recognized that none of them bore the mark of the image of God. None of these animals fit him, or were suited for him. You can tell that Adam was feeling the ache for a spouse by his words in verse 23 when God brings Eve to Adam and he rejoices by saying “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
This longing that God gave Adam is the same longing that all of us have. I don’t care who you are, you desire to be married. Young and old, rich or poor, all races, all nations, all belief systems, throughout all time, everyone wants to be married. In a sense, all of life revolves around this institution of marriage, and we must recognize that God wants it this way. In my opinion, marriage is one of the greatest pieces of evidence that God exists. The longing for us to commit the rest of our lives to another human being, and for them to do the same.
As I stated earlier, my daughters are coming to terms with this longing. As life parades before them they start to wonder, does God have someone for me? I as their father should cultivate this longing. Not in a worldly way, but in a biblical way. As her father I should speak to this deep desire of her heart and unpack why she feels what she feels and let her know that it is because of God’s design of her.
This soulful longing for marriage that all humanity has explains a lot. For example, this is why we find ourselves in the midst of a political debate on who can marry according to the Government. People are passionate about being able to marry who they want, when the want and how they want because God has designed us with a longing to be married, even if it means in a sinful way.
Or why do people marry wretched, wretched people? Because they God has designed them with a longing to get married and they pursue it at all costs, even if it means marrying a domestic abuser, an alcoholic, or an adulterer. Or why is divorce so devastating to those involved? Why is that no matter how hard we try to make marriage about a piece of paper, deep down in our heart we know that it is more than just a contract. Because marriage is a deeply spiritual reality that God has implemented.
God Provides a Helper Fit
So with this in mind, what does God do? Does he produce this longing so as to torment Adam forever? No, he fulfills the longing that he placed in Adam’s heart by creating a unique helper fit for him. God quenches the spiritual thirst of Adam by providing him a wife.
If someone was to ask me, do I believe in arranged marriages, I would say absolutely, arranged by God. The number one problem with marriages today is that people never ask God his opinion. Instead they let their hormones do the picking. Kids, pay attention, the biggest decision you will make in your life after your decision to follow Christ is who will you marry. It is utter foolishness to leave God out of this. If you want your marriage to be blessed by God, let him set you up.
In fact, kids and parents, you should start today to pray for your future spouse, God willing. Pray that God would pour out his grace upon them. Pray that God would keep them pure. Pray that God would captivate their heart. Pray that God would refine them through the fire of his grace. Then allow God to bring to you, on his timing, your Adam, or your Eve. Do not take matters into your own hand. Trust the Lord with one of the biggest decision of your life, and be patient.
Lastly, after God has designed, implemented, and provides, he joins. The two become one. This is what Paul calls in Ephesians 5, a profound mystery. This is what Jesus declares to be sacred, the joining of a husband and wife in marriage.
Once again, I wonder how often Christians ponder this. You are joined by God. You are not joined by the State, you are not joined by a Pastor, you are not even joined by yourselves. You are joined by the all powerful God who in Genesis 1 spoke the heavens into place.
This is one reason that so called same sex marriage is “so called.” For it does not matter what Supreme Court declares it to be, God is not in it. There is no joining of two people in sin. God plays no part in fitting together two men, or two women. Homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord. Why? Because it is not according to his design and purpose for marriage. Above all, as we begin to unpack marriage we must all recognize that marriage is from God. He designs. He implements. He provides. He joins. Therefore we must trust his Word and submit to His will if we want to have any hope of our marriages flourishing for His glory and our good.
Today, what we have done is merely to lay foundation. God willing, next week we will begin to unpack the purpose of marriage. We will answer the why to marriage. This is something that few people understand, and therefore why so many marriages fall apart. But until then, I would ask that all of us to be in prayer this month for the marriages of this Church. Let us not only pursue the truth of God, but let us pursue the power of God. Let us do so now, as we close in prayer.