It is not good for the pilgrim to be alone. This paraphrase of the Word of God as found in Gen. 2:18 is permissible because it was already in the Divine mind, before God created male and female, that man should reveal himself as a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth. Even though it is possible for a man or a woman to be a good pilgrim and faithful servant in the single state, this is certainly the exception. God is able to provide special grace to those few whom He wills to live without marrying that they may serve Him and His kingdom in some unique way. But for most men and women, marriage is good, right, and even necessary. It would not be good if they did not marry. We take a look at this institution of God, not only to discover what marriage is in itself, and not only to discover some of the implications of marriage for the Christian, but especially to find an answer to the question: what is the significance of marriage for the pilgrim? If pilgrimage is something that permeates all our life and outlook, and if marriage has an influence in all our living, then at what points exactly do pilgrimage and marriage touch? Does marriage help the child of God in his calling, or can it be a hindrance? We cannot even mention here all the rich passages of Scripture which speak of marriage, much less develop their deep meanings and imports. We shall confine ourselves to those which will allow us to form a clear picture of the pilgrim’s calling.
Marriage Held in Contempt
Marriage has fallen on hard times. In this land, as in many others, the wedded state can hardly be recognized in terms of its original institution. There are trial marriages, common-law marriages, young people simply living together in the carnal assurance that society lacks the integrity to ostracize, much less punish them. Weddings are performed, if at all, in swimming pools, football stadiums, and even in the name of the Devil. And what shall we say of divorce, than which no single practice has caused more grief, mental breakdowns, suicides, and rebel children? In many counties, divorces far outnumber marriages. State legislatures are outdoing each other in liberalizing their divorce codes. The process must be speedy. Marital problems used to involve thorough investigation by the courts, counseling and warning, an attempt to patch things up and try again. Time was that you at least had to go to court and say something uncomplimentary about your mate: he caused you mental distress, he was cruel, you were incompatible or had irreconcilable differences. No more. Today it is possible in some areas for husband and wife to fill out a form together, mail it to city hall, and by return mail receive their divorce decree. It is clear the only waiting involved here will be due to the volume of mail.
These goings-on in the world of sin and darkness have some influence on the communion of pilgrims called Church. Thankfully the Church does not immediately follow in the path of these immoral practices, but she is influenced. Let us recognize that by way of the devilish propaganda that infiltrates the Christian home (worldly literature and the television screen) our view of marriage stands in danger of being altered. It belongs to the ministry of the church and the instruction of the home to instruct and warn, therefore. The only weapon which can successfully be used on this home-frontis the Word of the God Who conceived of marriage and the home.
The idea of Marriage
Despite the cavalier fashion in which man treats marriage, it is not the creation of man, but an institution of the Lord God. When the Lord observed Adam as for a short time he stood alone, He noticed what Adam himself experienced, that “it was not good that man should be alone.” God saw and Adam felt a lack. There was something missing with Adam so that he could not live a full life nor reach all his potential as a prophet, priest and king. Living in the Garden alone, he could never fulfill his calling before God and experience unmixed happiness and joy. Before such would be the case, and before God could pronounce “very good” upon all that He had made, He must create them male and female. Thus, marriage is also good. God brought to Adam a woman in marriage, and for all time “he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
In the second place, marriage was instituted as a bond of the most intimate possible nature. The Genesis narrative stresses this when it reveals “(God) took one of Adam’s ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” The closeness of the marriage bond is taught also when the Lord expresses that it shall surpass the relation of parent and child, for a man shall leave his father and mother in favor of the wife he finds. What can be stronger and closer than the blood-tie between parent and child in which the former bring forth the latter out of their loins? Marriage is! It is closer, stronger, more intimate. It is, ever true that if a marriage is to succeed, a young husband and wife will have to consciously break former parent-ties. Perhaps the intimacy is shown most clearly by the amazing words: “And they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) These words, repeated by Jesus and emphasized by the apostle Paul, bring us closer to the heart of marriage than any other. Man and woman do not just come next to each other, they do not simply cleave to each other, but they becomeone, so that they are not twain, but one flesh! More is involved in that expression than the beautiful union of the sexual relationship. Being one flesh expresses the coming together of the entire nature of a man and a woman. There is a oneness of their body and soul, a unity of their thoughts and desires. A sharing of hopes and experiences and disappointments. Because they share one earthly life together, perhaps the observation of countless children that long-married couples resemble each other is not to be taken lightly; a child can often “catch” things we miss entirely. Alone, a husband and a wife are misshapen parts of a puzzle, but together they form a whole. Each supplies what the other lacks, they give and take, and take and give, without selfishness.
There is little more that we can say concerning this two becoming one. From experience we can relate specific instances in which the wife has been a tremendous factor in sustaining her husband in his work, or we can recall the sorrow of soul that comes to the married when death is about to snatch one from the other. But after we have all had our say, we will not have yet fully comprehended marriage as far as its basic intimacy is concerned. The more we understand of it the richer shall our lives together be, yet there will always be something here that mysteriously eludes us.
Marriage is a Mystery
Just at the point when Paul in Ephesians 5 writes that “they two shall be one flesh,” he is inspired to say as well, “This is a great mystery.” In Scripture a mystery is not something contradictory, nor is it something which cannot be known at all, but a mystery is a phenomenon that cannot be understood without Divine revelation. Also, because we read such phrases as mystery of God’s will, mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, mystery of godliness, we can also say that a mystery always stands related to our salvation. Marriage is a matter of revelation if it is to be believed and appreciated (confer Matt. 19:11), and it is related to salvation! “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:32)
If, therefore, we would understand a little more of marriage, and of the pilgrim’s calling in the wedded state, we must understand the relation between Jesus Christ and those whom He saves. There is between Jesus and His Church the closest relation possible. The Scriptures state this in a variety of ways. Christ is the Head and His Church is the Body. We are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. Christ is in us, and we in Him. “I live,” says Paul to the Galatians, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” And it is certainly true that at the table of communion, we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ unto our souls, nourishment, until we reach the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Clearly, the relation between Christ and the Church is THE marriage. Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride, given to Him of the Father before the world was. At the cross the Bridegroom made the Bride worthy of Himself, by gaining for her white wedding garments of righteousness and holiness. The return of Christ upon the clouds is the coming of the Bridegroom for His dearly beloved! The bride must be waiting for Him, and must keep herself unspotted and faithful. Finally, Heaven is pictured to us as the consummation of the marriage! Christ and His Church shall live together forever in one house, the house of many mansions.
The Pilgrim’s Calling
The duty of Christian husbands and wives is to regulate their marriages according to the standard we are given in the Christ-Church relation. The husband must love his wife even as Christ loved the Church! This involves not the taking of what one wants by brute strength, but giving of one’s self, for did not Christ give Himself for the Church? This is a giving of time, and affection, of your body and strength, of your knowledge and understanding. Be tender towards your wife, knowing she is the weaker vessel. Love and esteem her exactly because she is that. If you love your wife you will show yourself to be the head of the wife, the children, and the home. Finally, loving the wife involves prayer: for the wife, for the marriage relation, for each other after you have confessed your sins mutually.
The wife is to submit herself to the husband, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church. Wives, you are not equal to your husbands. You have been made out of him, after him, and for him. Your life does not have a purpose which can be identified apart from the life and purpose of your husband. You do not have private objectives and aims. You are the supplementing, supplying part of the marriage that enables the husband to be strong and cheerful in his work. Be of a meek and quiet spirit, honor the husband, submerge yourself in the helping of your husband unto his calling. He has authority over you!
If the husband loves the wife and the wife is in subjection to the husband, the goal of marriage on earth is reached. Then in the home and in marriage there is a reflection of salvation as it is in Jesus Christ. The love of Christ for His people that lead Him to give Himself to the death of the cross will be revealed in every Christian home. And the submission of the Church to Christ in all things will also there be demonstrated. Our marriages will show that, if they are truly Christian. When they do, the pilgrim husband and wife not only exalt their Father in Heaven, but they also have a living testimony in their lives of their sure salvation!
(To be continued)