Why Marriage?

This is a sermon that I preached at a wedding early this year. I've never had as many people angry at me as I did after the ceremony. But I also had a number of people come up to me and thank me profusely. It has always been the case that the preaching of God's word causes division. And now, the sermon.

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(Ephesians 5:31-33) 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Today a wedding is a strange thing. It is full of old traditions that we don’t understand, and often there are new traditions that are completely contradictory to the old traditions. For example, weddings still typically include the exchanging of rings, which are meant to be a symbol of the permanence of marriage. The irony that we do this shortly after signing prenuptial agreements is completely lost on us.

Often old traditions stick around long after we have forgotten what they mean, but there is a deeper reason that we don’t understand weddings anymore. It is because we don’t understand marriage itself. Until we understand why marriage exists, we won’t be able to understand why it starts this way or even really appreciate the ceremony. So now I want to answer the question, “Why marriage?”

The Bible gives us 3 basic reasons for marriage:

  1. Mutual companionship: (Genesis 2:18, 24) “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
  2. Propagation of a godly seed: (Genesis 1:28) “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
  3. Protection against impurity: (1 Corinthians 7:9) “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” 

And so it becomes clear that we hate marriage today. I know. You think I’m crazy, because you’re all married or wish you were, so you must not hate marriage. But that’s simply not true. Many of us today hate marriage. The proof is that we hate the reasons the Bible gives for marriage.

The Bible says it is better to marry than to burn with passion. But we say that it’s better to live with each other first to determine whether you are “compatible”. We say that it is better to burn with passion than to get married before you have established your career. We say that it is better to give ourselves to lust than to give up the prospects two high-paying jobs. We even say that it is better to give ourselves to impurity before marriage than for people to think we are weird or to get called legalists or prudes.

God gives us the command to be fruitful and multiply. Psalm 127 says:

 (Psalms 127:2-5) 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. 3 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

But we say, “Wait to have kids! You don’t want to have them when you are too young. You’ve got to put the hard work in of making sure that you’re able to provide for them!" We are directly contradicting God, who says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep."

We say, “Children are such a burden. You don’t want too many of them.” But God says, “children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” We say, “Won’t you be ashamed if they aren’t dressed as well as their friends? Won’t you be ashamed if they don’t get to go to the expensive private school, because you started too early and had too many?” People will say, “Don’t you know how that happens? When are you planning on stopping? Oh dear! You do have your hands full, don’t you?" (which translates to "Your husband must be a caveman.") But God says, “How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [the children of one's youth]; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.”

Finally, we hate marriage, even where we think we love it, in the area of mutual companionship. If there is one place where we think we love marriage it is in the relational aspect of it. But we exactly contradict what God has revealed about how that relationship is supposed to work. We start out by describing it as falling in love, which is easy to do—just as easy as falling out of love, which is about as easy as stubbing your toe. It just happens by accident. But God has not made the marriage relationship a temporary thing. It is permanent. “The two shall become one flesh.”

Then we say there is nothing unique about the man or woman in the relationship. We call them "equal partners", to drive the point home. Maybe we talk about mutual submission to one another. But God says that wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.

Yet these three reasons each rest on a bedrock principle of what marriage is.

Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and his Church. This is why in the Ephesians passage that we heard earlier, while Paul is talking about husbands and wives, he keeps making reference to Christ and his church. Near the end of the passage, he even says, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

And that is so amazing, because here we thought marriage was about us! It isn’t. It’s about God!

This is why there has never been, and never will be such a thing as a homosexual marriage, no matter what the state laws might say. It isn’t just because they cannot propagate a godly seed. It isn’t just because rather than protecting against impurity, homosexual relationships embrace it. It isn’t simply because they cannot have the beautiful relationship of one man loving and laying his life down for one woman who is submissive and obedient to him. 

The core reason that there can never even be such a thing as a homosexual marriage is because marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. A homosexual relationship isn’t like Christ and the church in any way. It cannot ever be a marriage in God’s eyes. 

If marriage is a picture of Christ and the church, suddenly there are so many things that we understand about marriage!

Now we can reclaim the purposes of marriage.

Now we can have companionship in our marriages like Christ and the church. We can be husbands who are not emotionally distant from our wives, because we see that Jesus loves and is caring for and sacrificing himself for the church. We can be wives who are subject to our husbands because we see that the church is defined by obedience to Christ.

Now we can be protected against impurity by getting married and acting like Christ and the church. When Christ and the church are together, there isn't temptation to turn to others or to worship at the altars of other gods. And when we are properly intimate with each other in marriage, the temptations that we have to turn to other men and women, to pornography, to soap operas and romance novels will begin to fall away. We will be like Christ and the church: devoted fully to one another, just like we heard described in Song of Songs. 

Now we can have sex as it is meant to be, when we see how Christ is intimate with his bride. What does it look like? It is holy and productive. If the church is not growing, and producing fruit, making converts; If she is not being fruitful and multiplying it is because she is not intimate with her Lord. We can talk all we want about how much we desire to have new converts in our church, but unless we are intimate with Christ, willing to allow him to purify us and make us holy and then to use us up in producing new believers, we will not be a part of his glorious work of increasing his family. 

And so, each of you, if you love marriage, I free you from any commitments to unbiblical marriage, and I command you in the name of the Lord to be a proper picture of Christ and the church from this day forward.

Comments

Guarding the good deposit

>>I've never had as many people angry at me as I did after the ceremony.

Some will say you're preaching your own (monstrous) interpretation...even though it's been the uniform witness of the church through the centuries and is right there in the Scriptures. You can make these happy by directly disobeying God and never preaching His Word with authority, but just being a pretty decoration making optional suggestions.

Others will say more obliquely that while everything you said is true, you're putting too much emphasis on the wrong things and are unhelpfully out of balance. You can make these happy by fighting where there is no danger (less conflict that way) and having no concern for the sheep (cleaner that way).

Or you can preach the Word boldly and be the savor of death to some and the savor of life to others.

Keep doing the third one, brother. Thankful for your example.

Love,
Daniel

Pleasing God

>I've never had as many people angry at me as I did after the ceremony.

A good sermon may or may not please congregants but it will always please God.

Thank you for the encouraging

Thank you for the encouraging words, Daniel and David. May the Lord use me up in the ministry of his word.

-Joseph

why is it that...

Whenever you talk about anger/criticism directed at you (and this happens ALL the time at the Bayly blog) assume it is a sign that you are in fact doing God's work? Makes you pretty immune to actual criticism...which is why I can never hope to engage you or your ilk. Alas for the self-righteous.

Criticize away, anonymous person...

Dear Anonymous person,

This is not Bayly blog, and I don't write there all that much. Maybe I'm just not remembering, but I'm pretty sure I haven't written more than once or twice about having people angry at me or criticizing me. Certainly you can't say it happens all the time on a blog I've only rarely contributed to.

Anyway, I don't assume that when people get angry at me I'm doing God's work. Nor do I assume that when people thank me I'm doing God's work. But it is true that "it has always been the case that the preaching of God's word causes division."

I'm certainly not immune to criticism. But I am immune to criticism from anonymous persons complaining that I don't listen to criticism. You don't like this sermon? Feel free to point out where it is unbiblical. Make an actual criticism. It's so much more helpful than just complaining that you can't criticize. Of course you can. Go for it!

By the way, if you are in the area, I and my ilk would love to have you over for dinner. You can meet my 10-day old daughter, Eliza-Jane.

-Joseph