Saturday, October 19, 2013

P1 Defining & Declaring God's Marriage Standard

Genesis 2:22-25 "The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."

Introduction: Marriage - God's fire line and standard
This week I watched a short video of a farmer plowing a fire line around a 30 acre plot in his field that had caught on fire. As that farmer worked out that fire line, the flames at times shot higher and higher, threatening to swallow his rig. The farmer stayed firm to his task and with the help of fire fighters prevented the loss of his entire field. As we continue on into the 21st century, the church has been appointed by Christ to carry forth His gospel.  One of the ways we do that is by defining and declaring God's fire line of marriage.  Marriage is the fire-line that, in the realm of human relationships, can hold at bay the raging fires of increasing immorality and rabid anti-Christian rhetoric.

The Christian's responsibility is to define and declare once again God's marriage standard
Every generation of God's people is called to define and declare once again God's standard of marriage from His Word. Moses was moved by God to write Genesis to equip God's people about what constitutes a true redemptive identity in general and among other subjects, marriage in particular. In a world where practices such a polygamy and homosexuality were practice and encouraged, Genesis functioned and still operates as a Divinely inspired resource for God's marriage standard. Likewise roughly 30 places, incorporating roughly 100 verses throughout God's Word deal with subjects related to marriage. By the time of the New Testament, Jesus Himself had to both define and declare the marriage standard. The Apostle Paul did the same throughout his letters - with perhaps the most notable example being Ephesians 5:22-33. In considering both Genesis 1-2 and Ephesians 5, I would like to consider in today's post God's marriage standard, and how you and I as Christians must both define and declare this Divine fire-line that maintains a righteous standard in our culture and a powerful picture of the Gospel in both the culture and our churches. 

The relationship between marriage, government and God's people 
The God-given standard of marriage functions in concert with two other God-given institutions: government and God's people. In the scriptures three institutions are ordained by God in the following order: Marriage (or family), Government and God's people (Israel Old Testament and the Church New Testament). God's people in both parts of our Bibles function to proclaim the light of God's truth from His word and to be testimony of God's redemptive work. (Genesis 12:1-7; Matthew 28:18-20)

The Biblical teaching on the role of government is explained in the following quote from the Baptist Faith & Message 2000: "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends."Government then serves the needs of people in general and should provide a level playing field for all institutions so that the church can freely practice and promote the Gospel.  

What makes marriage so vital to the service of the other two institutions is what we noted earlier: marriage maintains a righteous standard in our culture and a powerful picture of the Gospel in both the culture and our churches. How does the Bible (and thus how should we as 21st century Christians) define God's marriage standard and then secondly, what should we declare about this standard? 

Defining God's Marriage Standard. 
Whenever you look at scriptures that deal with all the issues surrounding Biblical marriage, God defines marriage in a three-fold manner: biologically, practically and theologically.

1. Defining marriage biologically. 
First of all, marriage is defined biologically as a covenant made before God between one man and one woman. (Genesis 1:26-28) The main point of marriage, at least in the biological sense, is to propagate the human species and to produce Godly offspring. (Malachi 2:15) The Southern Baptist Entity: "The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission" writes: "Beyond the clear scriptural statements regarding fornication, cohabitation presents another breach of biblical ethics. God established the sexual relationship between a man and a woman in Genesis 2 as a sign of the covenant of marriage."2  Not only does such a statement apply to the unbiblical practices of fornication (sex outside of marriage) and co-habitation, but also other un-biblical practices such as same-sex unions. The SBC position statement on contrasting God's marriage standard to that of same-sex unions states: "We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a "valid alternative lifestyle." The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ." 3 Thus biologically, the Bible's definition of true marriage has been and still remains exclusive: one man and one woman in covenant with one another and with God in a lifetime commitment to one another in holy matrimony.

2. Defining marriage practically
When we say practically, we are asking the question: how does God in His Word depict marriage in its daily, lived out reality? Genesis 2:22-25 records for us the first original wedding ceremony.  Practically speaking, God brought the woman he had fashioned out of the man's side to the man. (Genesis 2:22) Next we see Adam making statements concerning he and his wife being one flesh, the type of language that is used in covenants. (Genesis 2:22; 2 Samuel 5:1-5)  Thirdly we see the exclusivity of the marriage relationship over against the parent/child relationship of each spouse in Genesis 2:24. Then finally we see the fact that both the man and his wife were naked, indicating not only physical intimacy but in the meaning of the Hebrew word, unhindered communication. (Genesis 2:25) Included in this practical definition of marriage are the necessary foundations of communication, companionship and the clarity that makes for any good marriage.  Throughout this practical description of the marriage relationship, we see no reference to the two people being either the same sex or both people engaging in such intimacy beyond the covenant context of God, the husband and the wife. All other forms of human intimate relationships (polygamy, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, adultery) are human corruptions and lie outside the Biblical standard of marriage. 

3. Defining marriage theologically
Ephesians 5:31-33 gives us the clearest doctrinal meaning of marriage found in scripture: "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."  The other two ways of describing marriage (biological and practical) are used in this text to point us to the ultimate meaning of marriage intended by God from the beginning - to picture His relationship with His people.  Marriage by its very nature carries much rich doctrinal truth: the Gospel message that Christ came to be the Savior of all men, especially believers. (1 Timothy 4:10) Jesus came to purchase His church, which is His bride ordained by His Father from before the foundation of the world. (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:22-33)  To uphold any other standard than God's marriage standard of one man, one woman in covenant marital union with Him is to proclaim another message which is alien to the Gospel.   

Having explored God's definition of marriage biologically, practically and theologically, we will consider further tomorrow the responsibility we have to truthfully and lovingly declare God's marriage standard in both the church and to the culture.

More tomorrow...........

1. See the entire Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and its remarks on "Religious Liberty - Article 17 (XVII) at

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