|Volume 24 Number 7 July 2022
Through my recent studies of God’s Word, I’ve come to a fuller understanding of how God views marriage. Unfortunately, I think the church has failed to understand this concept, at least during my lifetime. Churches are filled with divorce, cohabitation and unlawful marriages. Yet, many, including some elderships, believe this is okay. However, does God believe it is okay? “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4 NKJV).
God created marriage in the very beginning. Now, here is what many miss; from the beginning, marriage was a foreshadow of God’s relationship with man. Adam was put to sleep, his side was opened, and he woke up with a bride (Genesis 2:21-25; 3:12). Sound familiar? Maybe not. Think about how Jesus went to sleep, had His side opened up, and then he woke up to obtain a bride – His church.
The world tells us that marriage should be happy and perfect. God tells us marriage should be holy and complete us in our service to Him. People are so concerned with being happy that they honestly believe it is a commandment from God! If this were the case, the church never would have grown. Think about all that Paul endured for the bride of Christ. He was abused to the point of death and was then later put to death. I don’t think I would be “happy” according to worldly standards going through those difficulties. Based on extra-biblical church history, all but one apostle was murdered for Christ’s bride. This is a beautiful and perfect example of the love we need in our marriages.
While Christians have gotten wrapped up in this idea of being happy, we have neglected what makes our marriages holy. This has created unions between believers and unbelievers wherein they frequently are “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This more often than not causes the believer to abandon the faith for a happy marriage. Further, the pseudo, manmade doctrine of happy marriage has also been the catalyst for many unbiblical divorces. We hear, “God wouldn’t want me to remain married because I’m not happy” or “My spouse doesn’t meet my needs.”
The church also faces the plague of cohabitation. Some churches ignore or fail to address couples who shack up while they decide if they would be good fits in marriage. Usually, the only discipline the church does in these cases is not hosting a shower, but plenty of individuals still give lots of gifts and blessings for these individuals who have never repented of their sins. Lastly, we have unlawful remarriages. Some churches don’t expect a confession of sin for unlawful divorces and also have no issue with subsequent new marriages. Nevertheless, the words of Jesus Christ remain. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). Contrary to contentions otherwise, the apostle Paul did not alter or dismiss our Lord’s directive. “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
If the church actually saw marriage as God does, these would not be issues. The problem is, one learns more about how God views marriage primarily through the lens of the Old Testament, but Christians today refuse to learn from these books because “We are not under the old law.” God unites Himself in marriage with those He has called to be His chosen people. God fully understands what it means to be cheated on. His people were constantly committing spiritual adultery against Him by practicing idolatry.
“Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. Then the Lord said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord. “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” (Jeremiah 3:8-14)
This is why many believe God allows the innocent party to remain when a spouse is unfaithful. God knows and understands that feeling.
Our marriages need to mirror what Christ set forward for us. Husbands are to love their wives to the point that they would die for them (Ephesians 5:25). They should be willing to sacrifice for their wives. Wives should be willing to submit to the will of “their own husbands” (Ephesians 5:24). Even when we do not want to submit, just the same as when Jesus submitted to the will of the Father in the Garden, wives need to submit to their husbands (Colossians 3:18). We must deny ourselves and follow the authority of the husbands we chose (Titus 2:5). This is where many argue that we can leave our husbands if they are unfaithful to God or are not Christians. This is contrary to God’s Word. According to Peter, we are to continue to live our lives pleasing to God and in this set the example for our husbands. This is how we bring them to a faithful relationship with Christ (1 Peter 3:1-6).
Elderships need to ensure that husbands, as wells as teenage and adult men generally – who may become husbands in the future – hear in the classroom and from the pulpit the biblical responsibility – what God expects – of husbands. Likewise, wives, as well as teenage and adult women – who may become wives in the future – need to hear in the classroom and from the pulpit the biblical responsibility – what God expects – of wives. If elders become aware of troubled marriages within the local congregation, they ought to express their concern and offer to convey biblical and helpful teachings about marriage openly for all and privately as needed. “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. …Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
We must stop seeing marriage through the eyes of our culture and see it through the eyes of God! Persons in marriages that are not pleasing to God are lost. Anyone failing to repent of sins, including divorces for unbiblical reasons, remain lost in sin. Church, we need to do better! God has called us to do so.
But If Not
Three young, Hebrew men were brought in before King Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to pay homage to the golden idol that the king had set up on display for all to bow down in worship of it. Consequently, the monarch of Babylon angrily addressed them with the threat of being burnt to death if they dared to resist again. Daniel 3:16-18 gives us their response to that prideful king.
…O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up. (NKJV)
Notice the faith of these Jews in the phrase of verse 18, “but if not.” In the face of imminent death, they not only informed the mighty king of the most powerful empire at the time that the God of Israel could deliver them from the fire, but also, that since their God is All-Powerful and All-Knowing, He may allow their lives on this earth to end in that furnace. Either way, they would not bow down to false gods, and the One, True God would be glorified!
We must ask ourselves if we have faith as displayed by these Israelites. The world is still full of idolatry to which many succumb (Romans 1:18-25; Colossians 3:5). As Christians, we must realize that our allegiance to the True God is being pulled in every way further from Him by the influences of this world. Therefore, we must continually fight against evil, striving every day to keep the faith and encourage our brethren in their walk (Ephesians 6:10-12; Hebrews 10:25; Revelation 14:12).
The Christian life is not an easy one, and certain circumstances in our individual lives may make life even harder to bear. We may pray for and expect certain things in this life: a faithful spouse, healthy children, a good job, etc., but in all reality, we may not be given such blessings. Is our faith such that when loss, hardship and disappointment happen in this life, we trust fully in God and lean on His understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6)?
Knowing that without faith, we cannot please our Lord (Hebrews 11:6), may we resolve to fortify our commitment to Him. May our prayers of petition to our Father include, “But if not, I will praise and glorify You.”