God And Humanity:
The Sanctity of Marriage
1. The things that are most meaningful in our lives have both a human and a divine side.
a. Our Lord Jesus Christ existed in the form of God but became like us in every respect.
b. The scriptures are the words of the Holy Spirit, but by means of human personalities.
c. The church is a divinely planned and purchased family, but every congregation is definitely very human.
2. Marriage is that way, too.
a. The humanness of it is legendary, so much so that everybody knows a funny story or two about what happens when a man and a woman live together.
b. But marriage has also has a divine side. There is a sacred and inviolable quality about it because it belongs to God, too.
c. It’s that divine side of marriage that we intend to examine.
3. Our purpose is to make one major point from the Scriptures: the sanctity of marriage consists in what it is.
1. Marriage is holy by right of creation: “...he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore....’” (Matt. 19:4:5a)
a. The concept of marriage is presented in the context of God’s creating work – in fact, as the crowning achievement of his creation.
i. Marriage draws its life from the unity, love, wisdom and power of God.
ii. God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ (Gen. 1:26). That’s why we have the ability to relate and the need for belonging.
iii. He made mankind male and female (Gen. 1:27), to correspond to each other, to complement one another emotionally as well as physically.
iv. He brought them to each other (Gen. 2:22), and blessed them (Gen. 1:28), and made their relationship the basic building-block of human endeavor.
b. Marriage is to be thought of as God’s first gift of love for the good of those whom he made in his own image.
i. It expresses his own oneness, his loving concern for the best interest of humanity, his wisdom in how to meet the needs he identifies, and his power to do so.
ii. It is something more than a convenient living arrangement or a contract to satisfy legal requirements; it is a divine gift of love.
iii. Not surprisingly, God takes our handling of his gift of love as an indication of what we think of him.
(1) Suppose my dear wife, as a gift of love, were to set before me her very best apple pie, and I was to say, “This is great! I’ll share half of it with my girlfriend.”
(2) She would be – and should be – greatly offended!
(3) And it’s not hard to see why the Lord would want us to respect his gift of love.
2. Marriage is holy by reason of compassion: “...a man... his wife...” (Matt. 19:5)
a. The sanctity of this relationship involves not only what we think of God, but also what we think of another person: marriage involves the well-being of another human being.
i. When God brought the woman to the man, the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh...” (Gen. 2:23).
ii. This woman I married is my equal, someone like me. She is a human being made in the image of God.
iii. She is a person who has feelings and needs that matter just as much as mine: it would not be good for her to be alone, either.
b. Isn’t it interesting that a high view of marriage arises from a high view of the worth of each individual?
i. We’re living in a time (maybe it has always been so) when the world takes the value of the individual to mean that each one just does whatever he feels will make himself happy at that moment.
ii. Marriage, however, means respecting the person of another human being.
(1) She is someone’s daughter or sister or mother.
(2) She is not an object to be used until she no longer suits. She is not an experiment to try. She is not meant to become one in a series of many.
(3) She is to be treated as a unique, valued, holy, person.
iii. The beauty of this sacred relationship is that it means tenderness instead of hardness of heart, honor instead of selfishness, and human dignity rather than baseness.
3. Marriage is holy because of covenant: “...shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife...” (Matt. 19:5)
a. A covenant exists where one person willingly obligates himself to the well-being of another person by means of a promise, just as God does with his people.
i. One so takes upon himself debts and benefits by entering into a vow that he is identified with that person.
ii. In this way, getting married changes us fundamentally forever.
iii. The point was illustrated by Thornton Wilder in The Skin of Our Teeth: “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up it wasn’t a house that protected them, and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that promise.”
b. A covenant like that is, by nature, holy.
i. I’ve seen people honor their promises in circumstances where they demonstrated heroic faithfulness.
ii. I’ve also noticed that the prophets dealt with marriage dishonored in terms of faithlessness. Malachi 2:14, 16, for example has this....
iii. Being married means being faithful, not simply to a person, but to a promise.
4. Marriage is holy by reason of character: “So they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Matt. 19:6a)
a. If marriage is possible because we are made in God’s image, and if it exists because we’re able to care and to enter into a covenant like he does, marriage must be practiced by imitating his character.
i. The mark of godliness is steadfast love, the no-matter-what kind of covenant love the prophet Hosea showed when he went to the slave market and bought back his faithless wife.
ii. God continues to seek the best interest of those with whom he enters into a covenant, not because they always deserve it, but because of his own steadfast love.
iii. Marriage is the place, out of all human relationships, where that kind of love is to be lived out. It is purposeful, chosen behavior: in-sickness-and-in-health tending to the best interest the person to whom you are bound by covenant, not a feeling one falls into and out of.
b. Someone observed that “marriage is a ‘sacred tool’ for helping us transcend the notion of conditional love.” (Bradford Swift, “The Work of Oneness,” Utne Reader no. 78, Nov/Dec 1996)
i. To merely form a physical relationship with another person as long as that pleases you is ungodliness, a rejection of the character of God by putting selfishness in the place of steadfast love.
ii. To forsake one to whom you are bound by covenant, or to take one bound by covenant to someone else, is ungodliness because it is a betrayal of steadfast love.
iii. Marriage is practiced by loving another person as you would your own body – the way the Lord sacrificially loves his people.
5. Marriage is holy because of consequence: “...What therefore God has joined together...” (Matt. 19:6b)
a. The more meaning and value we attach to anything, and the more we know it may be threatened, the more security we put up around it.
i. That’s what God has done with marriage. He protected it with both the seventh and the tenth commandments: one’s own wife is not to be treated faithlessly, and one’s neighbor’s wife is not to be coveted (Ex. 20:14,17).
ii. Hebrews 13:4 – “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
iii. If marriage is God’s creation, due to his interest in what is good for us, entered by covenant, and practiced by his kind of love, it deserves to be held in honor.
b. God guards marriage as he does because he knows that there is no promise, not relationship, no obligation in human experience which has more far reaching consequences than marriage has.
i. The wisdom of the O.T. recognized that a person’s treatment of this relationship may have a huge impact upon himself: “The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin” (Prov. 5:22).
ii. But it’s never just a private matter. One person’s behavior toward marriage will touch the lives of other people: “For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge” (Prov. 6:34).
iii. And, obviously, anything that does so much to our own life and to the lives of others will have consequences in our relationship with the LORD: “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths” (Prov. 5:21).
1. We have a responsibility to both the divine and the human aspects of marriage.
a. We are to hold up the divine model clearly and courageously. There is a sanctity about marriage that comes from what it is: the creation of a God who wants us to be able to treat each other as he would within a relationship which is based on promise and maintained by loyal love.
b. But we’re also to deal gently with the human part of it. Because of what marriage is, there is no relationship where people need more mercy, guidance, and godly care than this one.
2. In Soul-Healing Love, Beverly and Tom Rodgers wrote, “The greatest need of the human soul is to love and to be loved.”
a. God has addressed that need through his Son. We have been loved unimaginably. We can love faithfully.
That’s why a trusting, obedient response to the gospel is basic to every other relationship of life.