1 Timothy 3:1 "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do."
Yesterday we considered what God's will is on men, women and the church, with some mention of His will on marriage. We concluded yesterday's post with the fact that much of the qualifications for Pastors and Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 cetner around their marriages and home lives. This is not incidental but intentional, since God's design of his church not only includes all individual believers whom He loved and called unto salvation, but also for the church to be a place that promotes the proclamation of His intentions for marriage. Pastoral leadership functions to set examples before the people of God, since truth is more often reinforced by example and word. Today we consider God's will on marriage, since it is spoken of so prominently in the qualifications of pastors and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13, is used elsewhere to describe the risen Christ and His church that are referenced explicitly in 1 Timothy 3:14-16 and which is predicted to be opposed by unbelieving culture in these last days as warned in 1 Timothy 4:1-6.
God's will for marriage
We noted yesterday that marriage is a big deal to God in his church, and He wants men and families of pastors and deacons to champion and model before the congregation and ultimately the culture what sound marriages and homelives look like in a world where disfunction is unfortunately, but in reality, the norm. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit and the cross can pastors, deacons and the church body live out God's will for men, women and the church. But now the question is: what is marriage? How does God spell it out in His word?
The sacred covenant of marriage
When we note the sacred covenant that is marriage (i.e the sanctity of marriage), we are recognizing it being a sacred, holy institution ordained by God that must be protected and promoted in the culture. Why? 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 Bible knows of no other biological definition for marriage than that of one man, one woman, for life. (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6). Marriage as described biologically, is 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." 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." 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.
Spiritual Christian marriage is one Christian man, one Christian woman, for life.
In short, when two people are contemplating getting married, if they so-desire the marriage to be a Christian one, it makes sense logically and moreso Biblically for them both to be converted. Consider for example 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
Now what happens if after two people have gotten married, one becomes a Christian? Passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 1 Peter 3:7 command the believer to remain faithful to their unbelieving spouse and to shine the light of Jesus. Undoubtedly that is a completely different situation versus the purposeful courting or contemplation of marriage that goes on so frequently between Christians and non-Christians. Certainly if someone finds out they are courting an unbeliever, they ought to share the Gospel with them and urge them to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. However, to practice so-called "missionary dating" or committing oneself to an unbeliever for the sake of evangelizing them is not only ill-advised but dishonest. To mix the proclamation of the Gospel with any sort of emotional coercion, even if well-intended, is at worst disasterous. If the choice comes down to between heeding God's Word and keeping that relationship, Jesus must be chosen over anyone, at anytime. Living as a Christian is not easy, however faithfulness to the Lord is always necessary.
Closing thoughts for today
The ultimate meaning of marriage intended by God from the beginning was meant to picture His relationship with His people. When it comes to understanding God's will on marriage, in general terms we saw two truths:
1. Sacred covenant ordained by God
2. Specifically one man, one woman, united for life.
Then in regards to the specific context of marriage among Christians, we added a third distinguishing mark to the other two marks as constituting God's will for Christian marriage..
3. Spiritual Christian marriage: one Christian man, one Christian woman, united for life.
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. These are the things Paul tells Timothy he is writing about (1 Timothy 3:14), and that all pastors are to point out (1 Timothy 4:6).