Date: March 30 and April 6, 2014
Study: In His Image: Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Relationships
Teacher: Blaine Hubbard
DEFINITION: Biblical marriage is the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church.
FOUR PASSAGES DEFINING BIBLICAL MARRIAGE:
- Genesis 1:27–28
Men and women are both created in God’s image. They are equal in value and dignity as His special creation. Additionally, men and women have been given unique gender roles that complement each other and allow them to reflect distinct qualities of God’s character.
- Genesis 2:23–24
God created humans as male and female so that there might be a one-flesh sexual union and covenantal cleaving with a view to multiplying the human race, and displaying God’s covenant with his people, and eventually Christ’s covenant with his church.
- Matthew 19:4–6
Remarkably, Jesus picked up on this link between the pre-Fall creation order and marriage as a life-long covenant. In this passage from Matthew, Jesus weaves the two Genesis texts together to show not only the definition of marriage, but also the danger of divorce.
- Ephesians 5:24–32
This text on the meaning of marriage makes the distinction between male and female — husband and wife — covenantally significant as a portrayal of Christ and the church. In other words, from the beginning there has been a mysterious and profound meaning to marriage. It is important to note that Christ and the Church don’t illustrate marriage, marriage illustrates Christ and the Church. Paul refers to it a “mystery”: that God made men and women with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church.
This means that the basic roles of wife and husband are not interchangeable. The husband displays the sacrificial love of Christ’s headship, and the wife displays the submissive role of Christ’s body, the Church. The mystery of marriage is that God had this picture in mind when he created humans as male and female. Therefore, the profoundest reality in the universe underlies marriage as a covenantal union between a man and a woman.
In other words, Christian marriages are built like a triangle.
Displayed this way, biblical marriage involves two types of relationships. The union of a man with a woman in a covenant relationship. This is the horizontal component of marriage. God is at the center of our marriages and he is the one who brings a husband and wife together. This is the vertical component of marriage. A man and woman are to purse God together as they deepen their relationship with each other. The ultimate goal of marriage is to bring glory to God. So the marriage covenant is not just about the two individuals in it; it is supposed to be about God and his greater glory. Because of this, a God-centered marriage is a powerful weapon against Satan.
SIN’S EFFECTS ON MARRIAGE
Obviously, this biblical ideal for marriage rarely occurs in real life. Why is that? Sin damages both the vertical and horizontal aspects of marriage (Genesis 3).
- Sin Corrupts Our Relationship with God (Vertical)
Even though the text does not explicitly state it, we know elsewhere in the Bible (Romans 5:18) that Adam and Eve experienced guilt before God because of their transgression. The knowledge Adam and Eve gained brought guilt and shame into man and woman’s relationship with God. Genuine openness and vulnerability with God was no longer possible, so Adam and Eve hid from him.
Hiding is fundamental to the way sin works. Sin prefers darkness and being away from God rather than being near him and standing in the light (Ephesians 5; 1 John 1). Are there ways you are hiding sin? Unhealthy secrets can kill a marriage. Many times it causes you to hide, pull away, or withdraw from others, including your spouse, but even worse, it causes you to pull away from God. If God is to be the center for all of life, this is the ultimate way for Satan to destroy your marriage. Get you away from God; get you to hide from him; and that will ruin everything, including your marriage. Don’t ever be deceived into thinking that the sin between you and your spouse is only about the two of you. Any sin between the two of you affects your relationship with God. Remember what John says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20).
- Sin Corrupts Our Relationship with Our Spouse (Horizontal)
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in a harmony with one another, in complete openness and vulnerability, trusting and loving each other. After the Fall, their marriage was tainted by a self-centeredness and pride. Adam and Eve did not willingly accept responsibility for the situation when God questioned each of them. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent.
The list of possible sins that could affect your marital relationship is almost ridiculously long — self-centeredness, pride, anger, control, self-sufficiency, self-exaltation, hopelessness, condescension, self-righteousness, etc., etc. As image-bearers, what we are meant to do is reflect back the character of God, but whenever we sin, we lie about who God is.
Step back and look at what has happened here: there has been a catastrophic break down in relationships. Adam and Eve no longer had an all-loving and all-trusting relationship with God, who they were meant to be with. And they no longer had an all-loving and all-trust relationship with each other. It was all gone!
Do you see the connection? Covenant-keeping with God is the foundation for covenant-keeping in marriage. When the relationship with God breaks down, our relationship with our spouse breaks down as well.
So how do we counteract the damaging effects of sin on marriage? Rather than being trapped in the horizontal trenches or stuck in our own life compartments, we need to lift our gaze up to heaven and consider the Lord and Maker of the universe. We must remember the original goals of marriage: to bring glory to God and reflect the relationship between Christ and His Church.
There are four ways that this can be done:
- Start by Asking a Simple Question: “What About God?”
We need to start with this basic question, and then pray that God would reveal Himself to us as we pursue a biblical marriage.
- Trust God and Live a Gospel-Centered Life
- Trust God- The most common way that Christian couples try to fix their marriage is to do exactly that—fix their marriage. The focus on their relationship with one another, what we referred to as staying trapped in the horizontal plane of their marriage. Of course, much of the basic work of marriage (and really any Christian relationship) involves the hard work of working things out with one another. But consider what Solomon says about our trust in God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). As a Christian couple, if your union is the only thing holding you together, then you are no better than a non-Christian couple. Ultimately, a biblical marriage must start with both husband and wife trusting in God first and foremost. In all of our ways in marriage, we lean less on our own understanding, and we must acknowledge God first, and then trust that he (God) will make our paths straight.
- Live a gospel-centered life- The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ came to die on the cross as a substitute for sinners. One of the most important things you can do for your marriage is to take your own sin seriously. Our sinful tendency is to want to spend more time focused on the sins of our spouse, yet the Bible often directs us to look at our own heart first (Luke 6:42). The other thing asked of us is to have faith in Christ. In marriage, our faith is demonstrated in following the words of Christ as best way to live out a marriage.
- Pursue God’s Common Means Of Grace For Your Marriage
You might be waiting for a lightning bolt from the sky, or some other dramatic means to transform your marriage, or you can (as a future husband of wife) pursue God’s common means of grace that he has put all around us. Ask yourself:
- Do my spouse and I go to church regularly?
- Have we committed ourselves to a congregation, and entrusted our marriage to the oversight of elders in a church?
- Have we built up relationships around us to help us and protect our marriage
- Do we spend time regularly in God’s Word together as a couple and individually?
- Love Your Spouse
It seems obvious that to have a good marriage you must love your spouse. We show that we really do love and trust God by demonstrating it in the way we love our spouse. If you call yourself a Christian and yet your love for God doesn’t evidence itself in the way you love your spouse, then John says you are a liar(1 John 4:20). We evidence our faith by the way we live in our marriages (James 2:14-26).
That is a brief look at what a biblical marriage is: a sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church. Even if you aren’t married, you can begin to working toward and preparing yourself for a marriage that brings glory to God as you relate to your spouse.
**Lesson adapted from Lessons 1-3 of the Capital Hill Core Seminar on Marriage**