Saturday, October 18, 2014

Shining the Light of Christ in Marriage.

 If we were to give a visible expression of the love of Christ and the Good News of the Gospel, we need to look no further than the covenant of marriage. Marriage exhibits selfless vows of one man and one woman to become one flesh. Marriage represents many aspects of the Christian faith including origin, social structure, and family structure. Yet, by far, the marriage covenant is a perfect example of God’s love for His creation. Marriage is always a representation of Christ’s love for His bride, the church. Just as Christ entered into covenant with us, marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman that can only end in death.

 The Gospel is God reconciling Himself to mankind with the life, death and resurrection of His only begotten Son. The Gospel is Good News because it is a gift. We don’t deserve it, yet God in His love for us, gave it to us. Marriage was God’s gift as well. It was not good for man to be alone so God provided him with a suitable helpmeet. 

 Just as God reconciled to us through Christ, He also becomes very much a part of a marriage covenant. Thus, we can consider that God enters into the marriage covenant and is much a part of the marriage as the one flesh bond. If this is true, then it serves both the man and woman to know and love Christ even more than their love for their spouse. This love for Christ is a product of their love for their spouse simply because Christ resides in both hearts of each spouse.
This is how we must view marriage.

Yet, this is not how the world views marriage. Divorce rates are skyrocketing. Marriage has become a “convenience” instead of a committed death till we part vow. Marriage vows mean very little if the right circumstances are in place to end a marriage. Incompatibility, financial strains, abuse, and falling out of love are the reasons many marriages end today. Infidelity and abandonment are also prevalent for reasons to divorce, yet are these the only conditions that most churches will allow for divorce?

 Not hardly…many churches have included abuse as a valid reason to divorce, yet there is no scripture to support this idea. The only scripture that supports the idea that “sexual immorality” and abandonment is grounds for divorce, is scripture taken out of context. Also, if marriage is compatible with the Gospel, where does that leave divorce?   Even if “sexual immorality” and abandonment validate the necessity or the approval to divorce, is remarriage an option? Most importantly, how would or could the Gospel present itself in a marriage where one spouse commits adultery or abandons a spouse? 

We need to look at what specific verse or verses pertain solely to marriage. The two verses that stand out in particular is what Paul had to say to the church in Corinth. 

 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.(1 Cor 7:10,11)

There is a wealth of scripture in these two verses because Paul is taking everything he knows of what the Lord taught on marriage and setting the conditions to those who are married in Christ. The first passage starts with a commandment. Paul is basically saying that the Lord Jesus Christ calls marriage a one flesh covenant that no man may break. In other words, divorce is not an option, and if divorce is your option, these are your conditions.  

 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:

A wife is not to leave her husband. This could read like this, “A wife who made a vow before a God (who is the author and officiate of ALL marriages) to her husband, must not divorce her husband, period.”  Why? Well since God enters into covenant with marriage, it is best to rest in Him when things go wrong. 

For instance, a husband starts to become abusive. Abuse in marriage is more common than anyone will acknowledge and is often overlooked in the church. This should not be. The moment your husband lays one hand on you is the moment he also struck God. Do not think for one moment that a sin of abuse will not come with consequences. The body of Christ has ways to handle those who sin against us. Church discipline is the first step. (Matthew 18:15-17) If the abuse ends and there is genuine repentance, there is forgiveness and reconciliation. This is very much an example of the Gospel. God requires repentance from an abusive spouse.  

If abuse does not end immediately and church discipline fails, then the civil laws against assault and battery must be put into effect. Swift punishment for an impenitent abuser shows the greatest love because it requires judgment for the consequences of sin. However, even in this time of chastising, there needs to be love toward the prodigal spouse. This requires a heart of Christ by praying for and giving words of affirmation of covenant love that through repentance comes forgiveness, and through forgiveness comes reconciliation. Shining a light in this situation will show many the love of Christ.

But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband…

A prodigal spouse must know that a marriage does not end because of his or her sin. Thus, the believing spouse remains in covenant as a witness of Christ’s kindness in that while we were still sinners, He died for us. This is not to say that these may be very difficult times, yet these are the times when we need Christ the most. These are reasons why God is the major officiator of the covenant. God will stand in the gap should a spouse abandon the vow they made to you. God never breaks His vow. However, the one who breaks a vow will answer to God. These are the times when our witness of agape love for a spouse who doesn’t deserve love, will shine the light of Christ. No one will deny the reconciling power of the Gospel displayed by a woman who remained in the Lord, even when her spouse did not. This will also allow God to work in the heart of a prodigal. 

Singleness in the Lord is where we need to be even before we make a vow to someone else in marriage. If our love for the Lord does not exceed our love for our spouse, then marriage is not the option for anyone. Marriage requires selflessness, just as Christ gave of Himself for our salvation. If we are not prepared BEFORE we enter marriage, then we will have trouble. What happens is that many people marry someone without ever considering the purpose of marriage in the first place. Marriage, as in singleness, is designed to make us holy. 

The difference between singleness and marriage is that marriage equals two flesh that become one in holiness in Christ, where singleness only requires holiness of self in Christ. If both do not conform to God’s design for marriage, first singleness in Christ, and then holiness in one flesh, the marriage is headed for trouble. Since God officiates marriage, both will be held accountable to their part should the marriage fail. If one conforms to God’s design for marriage, then the holiness they have in singleness remains in spirit with Christ for the spouse he or she married. Thus, when a prodigal spouse leaves, the spouse in Christ already has a strong foundation to stand on. This is why it is very important that marriage be taken very seriously, because God takes marriage very seriously. God hates divorce.   

…and let not the husband put away his wife.

God requires that a man is not to divorce his wife, period. These are not my words, these are the Lord’s words. There is no option for a husband to divorce. None. If you notice, that if a husband divorces his wife, the wife is commanded to remain single or reconcile. If a wife must remain single IF she is divorced then we can say that this scripture says a man is guilty of causing her to commit adultery if she remarries.  

Yes, remarriage is adultery. Remarriage after divorcing a living spouse is adultery regardless if you are the husband who divorces and remarries, or if you are the wife who divorces and remarries. If you divorce and remarry, and you cause your spouse to remarry, you are also accountable for causing them to commit adultery. Also, any single man or woman who marries a divorced person commits adultery. 

Why? Why would God not permit divorce if our spouse committed adultery against us or abandoned us? This is a common question. Yet, this question exposes the heart of the one who asks it. This question tends to ignore the vow we made to our spouse and focuses on the vow our spouse made to us. Are we really responsible for the actions of our spouse, or is the adulterous spouse responsible for his or her actions against the covenant?  We are responsible for our vow we made to our spouse while under the officiator of marriage, who is the Lord. Thus, any spouse who acts in opposition towards the spouse that they vowed to enter into a one flesh covenant, will answer to God. The Lord lays out clear teaching on how a spouse must react in this case. 

A man is not divorce his wife if she commits adultery. He must enact church discipline (Matthew 18:15-27) so that she will repent. If she repents, he must forgive her. If she does not repent, her options are limited if she decides to enact a civil divorce. Remember, only death ends a marriage, thus a divorce enables her to remain in her sin. A divorce also gives her the ONLY option to remain single and/or reconcile the marriage (Woe to any “church” who grants this impenitent woman a “remarriage”). This requires genuine repentance on her part. If she does not repent, she remains in sin and is in judgment. 

The husband is not to ever believe that her divorce ends the marriage. Divorce is man’s idea, and not Gods. Marriage in the New Testament is the way marriage was from the beginning. (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) Woe to those who teach contrary to what God says that no man may separate. A husband is commanded to remain in covenant until death. 

Paul concludes his teaching on marriage with these words.

1 Cor 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

A marriage in the Lord includes the following…A single man and single woman, never married. A single man or woman never married, and a widow/widower, and a widow may marry a widower. These are the only marriages in the Lord. Any marriage that includes a divorced person with a living covenant spouse is adultery. Thus, this is an unlawful marriage and God does not recognize the vows regardless if these vows were performed in a church by an ordained minister. In fact, any minister or clergy that “performs” an adulterous remarriage is responsible for blessing adultery. This is a serious problem in the church that very few will recognize. I personally continue to pray that eyes and ears will open to the truth. 

Divorce exposes the true intent of a heart. Divorce is never compatible to the Gospel because there is no faith in God that He is the officiator of marriage. Without faith it is impossible to please God, without faith, it is impossible to believe the Gospel. Divorce also exposes the fact that a person will not forgive even if the prodigal spouse should one day repent. Reconciliation is the true attribute of those who are in Christ. This may require one spouse to sacrificially remain in singleness so that a prodigal spouse repent. That sacrifice is not in vain because the Lord Jesus Christ is our advocate. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, who while we were sinners, reconciled us back to the Father.

I beseech you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to remain in Him even in the direst of circumstances of marriage. Marriage is a gift, but it comes with the knowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ stands alongside you in this gift. He will never leave or forsake you. He will shine His glory through you in the darkest hour. He will remain your rock and mighty fortress, even when all hope seems lost. The witness you show when a prodigal walks away is the witness of a man or woman in Christ. There is no greater gift then to receive the Gospel, believe the Gospel, and witness the Gospel, to a world in desperate need of a Savior.  

2 Cor 4:6,7 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

In Christ’s love,

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