20th Sunday After Pentecost October 14, 2012
Genesis 2:18-24 / Ephesians 5:15-33
798 (TLH alt. 39), The Earth and All Creation (see below), 467(1,4,6-7), 51
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
In Christ Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, dear fellow-redeemed:
Based on the Scripture readings which we have read, the hymns we have sung, and perhaps a preview of the sermon text and theme, there is really no question that today we are turning the light of God’s Word onto the subject of marriage. At this point there could be two groups among us who would be tempted to say: “This is not for me. I’m going to ‘check out.’ I’ll resume with everyone else after the sermon.”
The first group is those for whom marriage is simply not a direct or imminent factor right now. Maybe your marriage is past. Maybe marriage for you is too far in the future, or perhaps not seemingly in your future at all. But even if God’s gift of marriage to you is already complete, or it is well into the future, or He does not give you that gift at all—whatever the circumstance might be—I assure you that there are reasons for everyone of us—married, unmarried, single, engaged, whatever our state—reasons for everyone of us to be keenly aware of what God says about marriage. You’ll see why as we go forward this morning.
There is no question and no secret that today’s biblical look at marriage comes with the backdrop of the conversations about marriage in our world and the decisions that will be made on the ballot in Minnesota this year. So the second group of people who may be tempted to “check out” might include you if you’re feeling a little burned out about the public conversation concerning marriage and how it plays out in the public square. If you fall into this category, I also encourage you to stay with us and hear what God has to say.
In fact, here’s what we all need to do. Imagine a big “pause button.” That giant pause button is to pause all the voices out in the world on this particular topic, to pause all the debate and all the frustration, all the implications if this or that happens. OK? Push that giant pause button…Good! Now, all those other voices, ideas, circumstances are turned off. We are ready to listen unencumbered to what God’s Word says about marriage. That is most important. So for right now, it doesn’t matter what Democrats say or what Republicans say. It doesn’t matter what sign is in my neighbor’s yard or what sign is in my yard. It doesn’t matter what my co-worker thinks, or where our country is headed. You are in God’s house and the pause button is pushed. Listen to the hymn writer: “God is in His temple, and all within keep silent…humbly kneel in deepest reverence” (TLH 4:1). Or better still, God’s own words through the prophet Isaiah: “Hear the Word of the Lord, you who tremble at His Word” (Isaiah 66:5).
Enjoy the next number of minutes with the pause button pushed, and simply listen to your Lord. As we do so, we will find that the most important truth in all of the discussions concerning marriage—whether pre-marriage, or addressing difficulties within marriage, or about marriage in general—all of these discussions have one, clear, most important truth, and that is “Marriage belongs to God.” It is I. His Design, II. His Purpose, and III. His Blessing.
The context of today’s text is the Pharisees trying to find fault with Jesus and bringing up the issue of divorce. It is interesting that so often it is the Jesus’ enemies attempts to trap Him in His teaching is what provides a clear presentation of God’s truth to us.
We read in verse 3, ”The Pharisees also came to Jesus, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’” Jesus goes into the detail of answering their question in the verses following the text, but notice (and this is very instructive for us) where He goes first. When asked a question about marriage and divorce the very first place Jesus goes is to Creation and the beginning of marriage.
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning..’” [v.4] Jesus took the Pharisees and all others who were listening back to the beginning and God’s creation of all things. The questions about marriage find their answer in the origin of marriage. Answers are found in this truth: “He made them at the beginning.”
Marriage is not a new invention. Marriage is not man-made. You can’t trace back into the history of people and find a place when human beings created the concept of marriage and began it. Marriage was made by God during the very first week of this universe’s existence. God, the Creator of all things, created marriage on day 6 of this earth’s existence. There is where our understanding of marriage and our solutions for marriage issues begin to be found. Anyone who denies the Creator God and what He accomplished in six days with the power of His Word, will struggle with a proper understanding of marriage. The essence of marriage and everything about it is tied up in the fact that God made it at the beginning. If I disallow God and do not believe that He made anything, then I’m not going to believe that He made marriage either and I will struggle with a proper understanding of it.
Marriage is part of God’s creation, just like any other of the amazing parts of His creation—majestic mountains, the intricacies of the human body (eye, ear or other parts), the vastness of the universe—these are the kind of things that we normally think of when we hear: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Just as surely as the mountain, the eye, the ear, and the universe declare God’s glory, so too does marriage. Marriage is a creation of God just as much of those other things, so if all of those other things declare God’s glory and point to a magnificent Creator, so too does marriage. Yet, all of Creation including marriage is tainted by sin. Nonetheless, the way that God created it testifies to who He is—His wisdom, His power, His glory, and all that He is for us.
Marriage belongs to God by virtue of His creation. This is one of the ways in which marriage is important whether you are married or not. Whether you have that gift of marriage right now in your life or not, it is still part of God’s creation. Just like all of the other amazing parts of God’s creation—majestic mountains, intricate systems of eyes and ears, the vastness of the universe—these are all tings we think of when we hear “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). But God also created marriage and it too is a glorious part of what He made. Marriage is another thing in the lost list of things by which we can see the wisdom and glory of God. Marriage belongs to God by virtue of creation.
“He who made them at the beginning made them male and female.’” Jesus is quoting from Genesis chapter 2 (the Old Testament reading). In Genesis we hear how God brought all of the animals to Adam so that he could name them. However, there was a bigger purpose than just naming the animals. The bigger reason was so that Adam would see and understand that there was no comparable counter-part to him. Adam went through the whole animal kingdom, and he found no one who was his counter-part—the second part of his matched set. He saw and male and female of every animal and every bird, but no female version of himself. God did this before creating Eve to point out to Adam and impress upon him the tremendous gift he was about to receive.
For our purposes in understanding marriage, this also points out, first of all, that we human beings are set apart from the animal kingdom by creation, not always by behavior, but by creation. Man and woman were created in the image of God, male and female. Just as Adam looked at the animal kingdom and saw a male and female counterpart, so too, when God created Eve and brought her to Adam, he knew that this was “female-man”—this is woman, this is the partner in my matched set.
God created male and female—two different genders. There are differences in strength, there are differences in the way that men and women approach things. This goes beyond individual personality differences, there are distinct gender differences. God created male and female uniquely for each other, physically as well as emotionally, so that marriage is male and female together as a counterpart one-to-another.
God created marriage—male and female—and from them God also created the family. God’s design is to take the unique features of male and unique features of female and join them together to produce a stronger whole, and they together would then provide for the unique needs of their children. Even secular studies, completely apart from God’s Word, demonstrate that where a father is absent, there are deficiencies that show up in a child and his behavior. It is the same thing if a mother is absent. Each gender brings something different to a child and to the marriage and to the home. Marriage belongs to God, it is His design and His design includes male and female.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.” [vv.5-6] God’s design for marriage is that it be a very intimate relationship. The physical relationship of marriage is certainly part of this. The sexual relationship is something God designed and desires to take place only within marriage. It is God’s wedding gift to the couple.
But beyond that physical relationship which God has designed for man and woman in marriage, there is an intimate emotional and personal relationship that is found only in that bond. It is that “togetherness,” that promise of a lifetime: “I am joined to you as husband or wife.” This is one of the areas in which misunderstandings of marriage are so common. So often from a worldly perspective, marriage is just a way to have a physical relationship within a legal and approved relationship…and that’s all there is to it; but if that is all there is to marriage, then that marriage is empty.
Inside marriage as it’s designed by God, the physical relationship is part of it, but there is so much more! By design marriage involves two genders—male and female. By design, marriage is not just being “friends.” You can have a close friend, but it is just not the same as when you’re married and you have that tightness of a marriage—that intensity of emotion and relationship. In marriage, God says, literally, the two are “glued together tight.” Male and female are joined together and become one flesh.
In the New Testament reading we also heard of God’s design for the roles within marriage. We don’t have time to go into any detail concerning these God-appointed roles, but as you heard in the reading, God designed the love of a husband for his wife to show itself in a sacrificial way—loving her as Christ loved the Church. He designed the love of a wife for her husband to show itself in a submissive way—following the husband as the God-appointed leader in that home (cf. Ephesians 5:22ff).
God’s design created marriage, defined who was part of that marriage, defined what marriage looked like, and He even defined how husbands and wives are to behave toward each other inside that marriage. But there’s more! In God’s description of marriage roles by His design, God uses marriage as an illustration of His relationship with us. In Scripture Jesus is portrayed as the Bridegroom to us, His bride. We are invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb in the eternity in Heaven.
So, as we see marriage by God’s design, we are not just looking at an earthly affair, we are not just looking at an intimacy between a man and a woman, we are looking at a picture of the most blessed thing we can know. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church. How did He love us? He loved us enough to lay down His life for us, sinners though we be, frustrating though we are. Jesus laid down His life; His love is so great. Wives lovingly submit to your husband as to the Lord.
Marriage by God’s design illustrates our relationship with Christ and thus we have another reason to uphold what God says about marriage whether we ourselves are married or not. Whether single or widowed or married, marriage is still a picture of Christ and the Church and one to be upheld and honored greatly.
Marriage belongs to God. It is His design from beginning to end; and it is designed by God to end only with death. “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” [v.6] The duration of marriage is meant to be a lifetime, ending only when God ends the time of grace for either husband or wife.
Jesus’ words against separation apply to the specific man and woman in any given marriage, but they also apply to the whole marriage picture. God designed all of the parts of marriage. His will is that marriage by His design be kept whole and intact. For that reason, one of the 10 Commandments protects marriage: “Do not commit adultery.” In other words, God gave a specific command to protect His design—no tinkering, no revisions, no 2.0 versions—what God designed and put into place is what He does not want pulled apart, revised, changed, or otherwise set aside. God protects it with His almighty Law: “Thou shalt not!” Thou shalt not touch it. Thou shalt not change it. Thou shalt not adulterate it by your behavior, your viewpoint, or anything else. That’s how serious God is. The writer to the Hebrews declares that marriage is honorable among all—married, or unmarried (Hebrews 13:4). Whatever the circumstance, marriage is honorable as designed by God and upheld by His Law.
The design of marriage is God’s and His alone. Therefore marriage is His. It belongs to Him and the purpose is also His.
Going back to Genesis, God’s statement before creating Eve was, “It is not good that man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18). God created Eve to provide a female counterpart, a companion, a teammate for Adam.
Later, God gave Adam and Eve the command to be “fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). After the flood God repeated that command so as to replenish the earth and repopulate it (Genesis 9:1). Another purpose of marriage is to bear offspring and populate the land—something that can only be done with male and female by God’s design.
God’s designed purpose for marriage is companionship and to provide children, but not just any children. We read in Malachi that God “seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). God’s purpose is not just to biologically produce children, but to have children and know that they are souls given to parents by their Creator to raise and to nurture, to instruct, to bring up in the truth of God’s Word. Scripture highlights this purpose and its importance throughout Scripture. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV). Any number of passages in the book of Proverbs and elsewhere in Scripture urge parents to discipline their children, show them what is correct and true, leading them in God’s will, and to the message of salvation in His Gospel.
God’s purpose of companionship for man and woman and His purpose of godly offspring become the building blocks of a family. From families a community is created, and so the threads of families are woven into the tapestry of society across the earth. Keep in mind that God’s will for us is that we be lights in the world and salt in the earth (cf. Matthew 5:13ff).
These building blocks are what enable us to better serve our Savior. Individuals can be lights and salt in the earth. Individuals testify of their Savior, but in a family nucleus there is an added confidence. Similarly, in Christian congregations, individuals and families united in Christ provide mutual support, encouragement, and edification. What a truly amazing thing to know that when you are facing all of the troubles and temptations of this world that you have a family in Christ to go to, with whom to cry, by whom to be built up, corrected, nurtured. All of the blessings that we have as a Christian fellowship of believers finds its beginning—its building blocks and essence—in a Christian home. Such homes are good for the world and are part of God’s purpose for marriage.
Marriage is God’s design. Marriage has God’s purpose, and marriage is blessed by God too.
Consider Old Testament Samson. He went out on his own and chose his own bride, foolishly so; and what follows next in Samson’s life is tragic and sad. Samson did not seek the Lord’s blessing in his marriage, he sought his own sinful gratification.
Not every Christian marriage has the same blessings. Not every marriage that is truly begun with God’s direction and blessing ends happily because it still consists of two sinners. Those failures in marriage, those unhappy endings come about because of sin. Everything is tainted by sin. Everything is touched by sin, and eventually wears out and dies because of the effect of sin; but God’s blessing is sure.
It is possible for someone to pursue marriage apart from God and His Word and still have an outwardly happy and acceptable marriage for many years. But any marriage without Christ and without the direction of God’s Word, can never live up to its full potential. It is missing something. As good as a marriage can be, even absent of God’s Word, it has the potential for so much more. Marriage belongs to God and He blesses it richly. The Psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain…” (Psalm 127:1). “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord” (Psalm 128:1-4). There is blessing to be had, fully and clearly from our Savior God.
God designed marriage with His purpose and He desires to bless it. All of this comes down to viewing marriage either through God’s eyes and a Christian view or see it as the world sees it.
Martin Luther had this to say: “This is a true definition of marriage. ‘Marriage is the God-appointed and legitimate union of man and woman in the hope of having children, or at least for the purpose of avoiding fornication and sin, and living to the glory of God. The ultimate purpose is to obey God, to find aid and counsel against sin. To call upon God to seek love and educate children to the glory of God, to live with one’s wife in the fear of God and to bear the cross. But if there are no children nevertheless to live with one’s wife in contentment and to avoid all lewdness with others.” [What Luther Says, CPH, #2761]
Now are you ready to hit that pause button again and let everything come flooding back in. Wait! Not yet. You can hit the button again when you leave God’s house and go back out into the world, but we do want to spend a minute or two on what happens when you hit that button.
It is wonderful to come and hear God’s Word and for a while to forget the nonsense and filth of the world. However, eventually we need to go back into the world.
Whether regarding marriage or any other topic, concern, or question, it is important to hit the pause button, stop listening to everyone else, and listen solely to God and His Word. Then and only then will you be equipped to give an answer for the hope that is within you (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Then and only then will you be able to respond to those voices of the world, whether near or far. Only then will you be able to let your light shine in testimony to your Savior.
Marriage is under fire in a lot of ways and it’s not just on the Minnesota ballot. Marriage is under fire in general. Marriage is under fire in personal lives where the marriage bonds may be strained. All of this—whether personal issues at home or the broader spectrum questions—can be condensed down to a misunderstanding of marriage and to whom it belongs.
Luther also said: “Let [the world] say whatever it please. Whatever God has created and wants is bound to be a mockery to it…to be married and to understand married life are two different matters. He who is married but does not understand married life can never live in it without displeasure, trouble, and misery. He must complain and slander, as the heathen and unreasoning blind people do. But he who understands it finds in it delight, love, and joy without ceasing, as Solomon says: ‘Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing’ (Proverbs 18:22). These are the people who understand, who firmly believe that God has instituted marriage and joined man and woman together.” [WLS 2765]
Understanding marriage begins with God and His Word. If you have a fear of marriage because of the statistics, or if marriage is disregarded as being unimportant…these fears and disregard come from not understanding what marriage really is.
Do you have marriage trouble at home? That comes a misunderstanding of marriage, or at least a misapplication of His will concerning marriage.
Concerning the marriage issues of our day, and there are many, I’ll answer one quickly and easily. There really is no such thing as same-sex marriage and there can’t be. The Creator of marriage made them male and female. There can be a lot of things that are called marriage, but just calling it marriage doesn’t make it so. Just because I call my rusty old bicycle a “Corvette,” doesn’t make it so. God is the One who created marriage. He defines it. He blesses it.
Now, when you do hit the pause button again and let it all come flooding in, and you do need to do that; we dare not pretend that we don’t live in the world. We don’t want to hide the light of God’s Word under a basket. When you hit that pause button again you are equipped by God to answer what God says about marriage. You are equipped to determine a direction, to determine your course of conversation and action because you know to whom marriage belongs. You know what God designed. You know the purpose and how God blesses marriage. In that knowledge there is light for your path and a way to declare your Savior.
Are you single, engaged, already married, widowed, divorced? Are you excited by the opportunity to discuss marriage publicly, or afraid, or burned out? Regardless of what group in which you are, marriage is for each one of us a glorious creation of God. It belongs to God. It is protected by God, and is an illustration of salvation that has been given to sinners. Marriage is an opportunity to glorify God with how we view it, how we talk about it, and how we live it. May God so enable us to do all to His glory! Amen.
The earth and all creation were only five days old
when dawned that sixth great morning with wonders yet untold.
The cattle, beasts, and creatures came forth at God’s command
in order and perfection `to populate the land.
One creature yet to come forth, creation’s crowning gem—
two souls in God’s own image—male, female, He made them.
From out of earth God formed man and breathed into that clay.
A living, breathing Adam arose where dust once lay.
To Adam God brought creatures and birds both great and small.
For Adam there was no match, not one among them all.
Uniquely God had made him, unique would be his bride.
A woman built by God’s hand with part of Adam’s side.
In Eden God created two individual lives
then He created marriage: one husband and one wife.
The two from that day forward were one joined by the Lord,
a union for a lifetime, blessed by His own sure Word.
Our Savior’s headship o’er us is never burdensome.
We gladly serve our Savior who has salvation won.
Just as Christ is the Leader by all His Church adored,
so wives submit to husbands as if unto the Lord.
Christ’s love for us, His people, is our example true:
Each husband love your own wife just as Christ has loved you.
He did not serve His own need, but gave for you His life.
So, nourish, cherish, treasure God’s gift to you—your wife!
The start of marriage—Eden, the model—Calvary.
Lord, look upon Your children and bless our families.
Give grace to every household, cast sin from out our homes,
and bring us all to Your Home, dear Lord, when Jesus comes. Amen.
Tune: Ewing [TLH 448]
Textual Basis: Genesis 1,2 / Ephesians 5:22-33
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