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.