Among the many institutions under attack in our day, the home seems to bear the brunt. Ill winds blow from every direction, some of them with tornadic force, shaking the Christian home to its very foundation. Let’s spend a few moments evaluating this attack and hopefully repelling it.
A CRISIS OF IDENTITY
The Women’s Liberation movement has at least succeeded in stirring domestic waters. “Hang on gals, help is on the way”, “The vote wasn’t enough, equal opportunity for women”; “Let me bloom”; “Housewife, blah, Freedom”; such placards are representative of their sentiments. Apart from the silly spectacle and fiery oratory, at least they indicate to us the crisis of identity. What is the expected role of a husband or wife? Is there any basis for determination that a wife should be busy in the things of the home, to desire to have children and to care for them and the needs of the family? Is it merely traditional that the husband gets a job and busies himself with his vocation, or can he just as well care for the children and the wife work out? Are these roles determined by the individual, by society, or does God determine them?
Little wonder that if we separate ourselves from the moorings of the Word of God we find ourselves attracted to the whirlpool of relativism which is so common in our day. Sociologists are seriously proposing that the traditional family concept be abandoned. In place of the mother-father roles, each person should act as an individual. It’s best that the husband and wife get jobs, find fulfillment in outside work and arrange for day-care centers for their children. Some suggest communal living in which more than one couple live together, share their home and children. This supposedly eliminates the boredom of family life. Others suggest trial marriages, that permission be given to a young couple to live together but not to have children. If this succeeds, they may have children later after they would be officially married. The most radical suggest the elimination of marriage entirely; they advocate free love on the broadest scale, preventing the birth of children by birth control.
If we are to deal effectively with this issue, we have to go to the root of the question and ask, what really is marriage? Only after we see clearly that marriage is a divine institution, will we be able to conclude that God also determines the roles of each member of the family. This we hope to do now and in future articles.
MARRIAGE IN THE GARDEN
I well remember a professor I had for a course in sociology who delighted in berating the Scriptural concept of marriage. Time and again he quoted Paul in I Cor. 7:9, “It is better to marry than to bum.” He would shake his head and say, “Is marriage an escape valve for sex? By lifting such a text out of its context, it is possible to ridicule the Scriptures concerning its teaching on marriage.
If one looks honestly at the Bible, it is striking that two things have a direct bearing on the subject of marriage. The first is that God created marriage, it was part of that which God saw as good. The second is that God raised marriage to its exalted height by joining His Son in marriage with the Church He loved.
It is significant that the formula for marriage quoted by Paul in Eph. 5:31, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife and they two shall be one flesh” is a reference to Gen. 2:24where Moses applied it to the marriage of Adam and Eve. We sometimes forget that God did not only make two individuals, Adam a man and Eve a woman; He created a husband and wife and joined them in marriage while they were still in the state of perfection.
Since this is true, we may examine the creative act itself and draw certain conclusions concerning the state of marriage. Marriage was not an afterthought on God’s part. He created Adam and Eve to be married. The creation of Adam was a distinct act from the creation of Eve. God did not make both simultaneous: rather first Adam, then Eve. Adam was fashioned out of the earth, Eve was made from Adam’s own flesh, his rib. From this we may conclude two things: Adam and Eve were distinct individuals who possessed their own bodies, personalities, and individual characters. Yet they were both humans, they possessed a like nature in the midst of creation, and therefore needed each other and could perfectly compliment each other. Man and woman became husband and wife. God made them able to share their whole life together. Adam appreciated this, for he said, upon observing his newly created wife, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman!” God had enabled them to enjoy a communion of life and love.
We may ask, why did God create Adam and Eve as husband and wife? Not to control their lust; they had none, since they were both perfect. Not to bring forth children immediately, as if God intended that they should bring forth the perfect human race, but failed, so now Christ has to make up for Adam and Eve’s failure. Rather, within the state of perfection they could in their personal and individual life enjoy God’s covenant friendship. Since God’s relationship was that of covenant friendship with them, they could experience first hand what that covenant meant to them while they enjoyed this covenant friendship within the bonds of marriage. At the same time the king of creation had someone with whom he was able to share the beauty of his rule.
THE CURSE UPON MARRIAGE
The wages of sin is death. Adam and Eve and all their children soon learned this through the hard road of experience. God had warned them of this before they disobeyed. Once they ate the forbidden fruit, they knew that God’s word is always true. The curse of death also affects marriage.
To understand this we must first consider a few ways that it does not apply. Death, that is the corrupting influence of sin, God’s punishment for disobedience, did not destroy man’s desire to co-habit with a woman. The desire to live with someone, whether we speak of this in terms of one’s whole life or in the limited sexual sense, was not destroyed by death. Neither should we say that the curse of death abolished Adam’s and Eve’s marriage as if the institution of marriage was broken by death. Rather, we must conclude that man, who is born in sin, cannot live properly within the sphere of marriage. Indeed, we observe many marriages today; the newspapers are adorned with all the details. Nevertheless, if man apart from God in Christ marries, he has no proper basis for that marriage. He has the natural instinct, he may be able to live in outward harmony, such a marriage may produce children, yet if the only thing attracting a man and woman together in marriage is themselves, there is no foundation! It is no more than legalized prostitution. The reason is that there is no love! A loveless marriage cannot attain unto the height for which God has created it. There may be mutual admiration and respect, but apart from Christ there is no love.
The results are only too obvious. The history of almost any family in the world is strewn with the wreckage of one broken home after another. This is increasing daily, until proud man finally has the audacity to stand before the living God and say, we don’t need your institution any more! We can’t make marriage work, we will abandon it. This is the ultimate confession of natural man’s failure.
MARRIED TO CHRIST
In Eph. 5:32 Paul writes, “This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” He has described this as follows, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle.”
There is something basic here for our marriages. We may well ask, how is it possible for us, conceived and born in sin, to continue to enter into the estate of marriage and live within it and still serve God? The answer is that the only basis for true marriage is this: we must first be married to Christ and only then can a husband and wife live within the state of marriage to the glory of God. Why? It is only when a husband is married to Christ that he receives the love of Christ which enables him to love his wife, and similarly, when a wife is married to Christ, from that union she receives the necessary love that will enable her to submit to her husband and call him lord. The love which is basic for marriage is received by us when we are joined in a marriage union with Christ.
This indicates to us that the marriage union which the Church enjoys with Christ is not simply the model or example of true marriage by us; it is much more: it is the dynamics for our marriage. Without a living union with Christ by faith, we cannot live properly with one another in marriage. The union with Christ produces the energy for such love.
What is this marriage union with Christ? It has its basis in the unchangeable law of God. Marriage is legal; it must be sanctioned by the judge through the court. This is true among men because this is true with God. The marriage of Christ to the Church, His bride, is rooted in the perfect will of God. From eternity, God decreed this marriage. This is sovereign election. To secure the license for such a union, Christ paid the fee; He had to die to atone for the sins of His unfaithful bride. To make His bride fit for so great a union, Christ sends forth His Holy Spirit Who brings His wife to her knees and causes her to repent of all her spiritual fornication and earnestly strive to be faithful to her Husband. The Church is now joined to Christ by the mystical union of faith. Christ calls His Bride, and she answers. Christ assures His Bride that He is coming for the perfect marriage union and urges her to watch and wait in faithfulness. The Church as the Bride resists all the flirtatious appeal of the devil and this world and prayerfully listens to her Husband, receiving grace for grace and love for love. Such a marriage union is basic to true marriage among men.
THE BLESSED MARRIAGE
God wills that man and woman be united in marriage. “I will that the younger women marry,” I Tim. 5:14. Marriage is a divine institution that is ordained by God through Christ to be used by His people. Not that all people are to be married. Paul reminds us that it is also God’s purpose in giving some the gift of continence, to enable them to work in a distinct way in His service, I Cor. 7. When covenant young people desire to enter into the state of marriage, they may believe that God has also given them this state to be used by them in the service of God, for their mutual enrichment and the bringing forth of the covenant children.
It is also obvious that young people must seriously consider whom they marry. We hope to comment on this in the next article. If marriage is to be rooted in true love, that love must be fused in the love of God in Christ by both partners. The power of God that is so necessary to enable us to live within marriage is love. This love comes to us from a higher marriage, that is our being married to Christ. Husbands and wives who marry in the Lord appreciate this, others ignore this to their own ruin.
The perfect model for human behavior within marriage is seen in this union of Christ with His Church. As Christ loves His Church and gave Himself for Her, so husbands must love their wives. As the Church is glad to call Christ her Lord, so the wife is glad to give honor to her husband, Eph. 5:22-30.
Only death terminates this earthly relationship of marriage. As surely as Christ will never forsake His wife, even forgiving her for her unfaithfulness and fornication, so husbands and wives must seek each other’s good in marriage. Divorce is wrong because it is a breach of love, true love, the love of God for His Church.
Finally, though our marriages are temporal, and there shall be no co-habiting in heaven between husband and wife, yet husbands and wives shall together enjoy the perfect consummation of marriage in that they shall be married to Christ in perfection. That love life shall endure forever and God shall be glorified by the marriage feast of Christ and His Church.