Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (Marriage and Sex, Part 2)
November 26, 2019
by Peter Amsterdam
Living Christianity: The Ten Commandments (Marriage and Sex, Part 2)
(Points for this article are taken from Christian Ethics,1 by Wayne Grudem.)
As we saw in Marriage and Sex Part One, marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond, which is entered into by a man and a woman, in which they make a pledge to each other before God, asking Him to be a witness to their solemn commitment. Having made this pledge, they are committing to a life together as “one flesh.”
In the Gospels, Jesus confirmed what was stated about marriage in the book of Genesis when He said:
“From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”2
Jesus affirmed that marriage is to be a lifelong union, and that once God has joined the couple together, it is meant to be a union which lasts until one of the spouses dies.
The decision to marry is one of the most important decisions a person can make, as it is a commitment to be together for life. In wedding ceremonies, the bride and the groom pledge to remain together, to be faithful to one another, and to love one another. Often at Christian wedding ceremonies the pastor or priest will deliver a sermon which touches on various aspects of marriage. In researching the topic of marriage, I came across a book which contained a number of such sermons that expressed some thoughtful and profound points, and I felt it would be beneficial to include them below.
While these quotations are taken from sermons given at weddings, they offer wise counsel and instruction for all married couples, no matter how short or long a time they have been married.
(The author is listed first, followed by portions of the wedding sermon. At the end of each quote is the page number in The Pastor’s Book,3 from which the quotes are excerpted).
James A. Johnston
First, remember that God created you both in his image. … As husband and wife, you each bear God’s image—you are pictures of God himself. … Both husbands and wives have equal value because they both bear God’s image. As you enter into marriage, remember that you are living with, talking to, sleeping with, caring for a picture of God himself. Be gentle and speak kindly to each other. Protect each other. See God’s reflection in each other. Honor each other. (166)
The second principle is that God designed and invented gender. God created us male and female. ... Your marriage will honor God and give you the most joy when you recognize that you are the same, yet different. You shouldn’t expect each other to have the same strengths, the same perspectives, the same roles. God created you to complement each other, to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. (166)
God created harmonious roles for husband and wife—equal, yet different. Matthew Henry noticed that Eve was “not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.”4 (167)
When God created marriage, he also created a new family. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife.” This means that your marriage takes priority over every other relationship in your life, even with your own parents. The covenant you are making today is a picture of the faithful relationship between Christ and his church. Nothing comes before it. (167)
Some marriages end up in trouble because the husband and wife never leave their parents. They clean out the rooms they grew up in, set up their own home, buy their own furniture, even have their own children—but their first loyalty stays stuck to Mom and Dad. They fail to leave and cleave. Today, your relationship with each other is your first loyalty. You can’t go home anymore—home is where your husband is, home is where your wife is. Your parents will love you, support you, and cheer you on, but your relationship with each other comes first. (168)
Not only did he create you, he created both of you—as a man and a woman—in his image. … As you explore the new lands of married life, remember that you are walking next to, talking to, and sleeping with a priceless picture of God himself. Treat each other with care. Look past the other’s sin to see the image of Christ himself being renewed in the other. Protect each other and handle each other gently, for God created both of you in his image, and you are precious. (170)
As two believers, live out the “one anothers” of Scripture with each other: encourage each other; be patient with each other; be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32); stir up one another to love and good works; pray for each other daily. Model what it means to live together in the kingdom of God. (171)
Your marriage is a relationship God has ordained to bring spiritual blessings to this world as the gospel grows in your own life and as the gospel grows through you in the world. This begins with each of you personally. So make your own spiritual growth a priority, and encourage each other to grow in your love and obedience to God. (170)
The beginning chapters of Genesis are a foundation for marriage, and they lay the groundwork for what the rest of Scripture says or assumes about marriage, not least Ephesians 5. They tell us why marriage was created—its purpose: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). God did not take another piece of earth, nor did he form his helper from another outside source. Rather, he took something from within Adam, a rib, and fashioned it into his wife, Eve. It is crucial to note that God did not take the two and form them into one. He took one and formed them into two—the parts from the whole, the whole in the parts. Why? Because God created man in his image, to reflect himself to the world. God designed into marriage the great reality of his own being: he is one and yet three. His threeness does not contradict his oneness, nor does his oneness contradict his threeness. They work together perfectly. (172–173)
The first key to a powerful marriage is that you do not attempt to live as two people struggling to become one, but that you realize you are inextricably one, living life as two. Realize your unity, then live out your diversity in light of that. (173)
You must live like one because you are in fact one. So what does that look like? How does this play out practically? Your oneness, as God has designed you, is demonstrated in love. (173)
If love is a central feature in our relationship to God, and if this relationship is the blueprint for marriage, then love is the greatest expression of the covenant you are making today. (173)
The Lord has given us another rich image of what exactly marriage is designed for, and that is the reflection of Christ’s relationship to the church. Ephesians 5 is a great example of this. It says that marriage is a bold demonstration in living color of how Christ loves the church. (173–174)
What is marriage? That is the question of our day. How it is answered will have a profound effect upon the future of our world. The first two chapters of the Bible reveal that marriage was not born out of the mind of man. Rather, it is God’s idea—an idea first expressed when the Lord said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18a). … So Adam by himself in God’s creation was not a good thing. (175)
Adam did not find a helper who corresponded to him. … God continued to solve this problem by doing five things: He made Adam sleep. He took one of his ribs. He closed up the place where he’d taken the rib. He made the rib into a woman (notice that she was from Adam, not from the earth like the animals). He brought her to the man. Upon waking up, Adam’s response to God’s solution was literally a poem: Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). (175–176)
Along with the cross, you must embrace the fact that marriage is not a contractual relationship but a lifelong covenant. It is not a Christian marriage if it is conditional or contractual. Christian marriage calls for a solemn oath before God—swearing together before him that you will never, ever break your promise.
To the Groom: Such [an incarnational] life means that you are to be a sensitive man, realizing that your masculinity is elevated by your sensitivity to your wife’s femininity. You must set yourself to understanding her heart and the subtleties of her mind and her emotions—the Fahrenheit of her soul. You never will perfectly! But the pursuit will make you Christlike and a better husband. Your actions are to say, “My life for yours.” (155)
To the Bride: Encourage him to be a man of God who loves God more than he loves you. Challenge him to be a man—a man of his word, a man who always speaks the truth, a man who never compromises his ethics, a generous man, a man who loves the poor, a man who loves the church, a man who loves the gospel and the lost world. (157)
Pray for your husband following the analogy of the Holy Spirit, who “helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
As his wife, his “one flesh,” his constant soul, you will know his inarticulate center and the things that he cannot express. May you then intercede for him in the things too deep for words. (157)
To the Couple: Your vows are for life. They must never be broken! God and this congregation are your witnesses. Beautiful and handsome as you are today, there will come a time when the blossom will fade. But when the petals fall, may your love radiate the beauty of Christ. (157)
We are all sinners! And sinners are sometimes quite difficult to work with, to live with, and to love day after day, year after year, decade after decade … “till death do us part.” It is for this reason that Paul prays in Ephesians 3 the way he does—praying for inward strength, that you two would be “rooted and grounded in love” and that “Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). We all need Jesus, who saves us from our sin. And we all need the power of the Holy Spirit to live within us so that we might live for God and for others more than we live for ourselves. This is the great challenge in any relationship, and especially in the covenant of marriage. Will I (a sinner) serve you (a sinner), sacrifice for you, and be committed to you? Will I love you? That is what you are asking and answering each other this day. And so, because we are sinners, we need God and His power. (163–164)
In this great marriage text, Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together…” Have you ever thought about that statement? It is an incredible statement! What is the claim here? The claim is that when you two said, “I will,” when you two will say, “With this ring, I thee wed,” and when you two will join those longing lips together and then turn around and run down this aisle with smiles on your faces, it is not a mistake. It is part of God’s plan. He joined you together. … He is wedding you this day. And the purpose for such a union is not yet known to you. Will you be rich together or poor? Will you both enjoy great health and live long lives, or will one or both of you get sick, perhaps much sooner than expected?
The vow is this: “I will wed you, have you as my wife/husband from this day forward, no matter what—for better or for worse.” … God has brought you together, but God hasn’t told you why. Is it for joy and gladness or for struggles and sorrows? But whatever befalls you, ... I want you to know that marriage is not primarily about happiness, reproduction, or whatever else we might think most important in this life. Rather it is primarily about sanctification, about learning to love as God does, to love the unlovely, to love the sinner, to love when love is the last thing we want to do. ... When times are good and when times are bad or difficult, remember this one phrase of Jesus, read and talked about on this day—“What God has joined together.” Remember that, and learn to rejoice in that reality no matter what sorrows or joys come your way. (164–165)
So marriage, the Bible says, is a mystery (Ephesians 5:32). Not that it’s something mysterious that is to be kept secret. Rather, marriage is something symbolic, something that exists to draw attention to something else. Thus, your marriage is to be a drama, a play, that depicts the relationship between Christ and the church.
As you seek to play your parts of Christ and the church, think of these three sayings as lines you should say to one another. The first thing is very simple: “I love you.” Perhaps because it’s so simple, it’s so easily neglected. But say “I love you” to one another often, every day, multiple times a day. Yes, you know—we all know—that you love one another, but it’s good to say it to each other regularly. The second is to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s very easy to verbalize, but we often find it very difficult to say, don’t we? These words are massively powerful in any relationship, not least in a marriage, because, as you will soon realize, if you don’t already, [your spouse] is not perfect. You’re both going to fall short in this marriage. But be quick to say, “I’m sorry,” and seek forgiveness. The third and final thing to say is this: “How can I help?” You will need each other’s help every day. That’s what a marriage is all about: mutual encouragement, support, love, and sacrifice. So make it your ambition to be regularly asking the other person: “How can I help you? How can I serve you?” (177)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018).
2 Mark 10:6–9.
3 R. Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).
4 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, 6 vols. (McLean, VA: McDonald Publishing), I.20.