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Christian Marriage

In Holy Scripture there are clearly defined divine principles which relate to marriage. These principles have been enhanced rather than diminished by the fuller unfolding of divine truth in the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His apostles as outlined in the New Testament writings.

Scripture traces the institution of marriage to the word of God spoken in the garden of Eden: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Gen. 2:18). The divine ideal of completeness for the human race is shown by the fact that having made the woman, the LORD God "brought her unto the man" (Gen. 2:22). That the union was intended to be indissoluble throughout the natural life-span of the man and the woman (cp. Ram. 7:2) is confirmed by the words of the Lord Jesus: "He which made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh ... So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore Gad hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:4-6).

The union of man and wife is described by the Lord Jesus as "what God hath joined together". Thus the original law, established "from the beginning", is the unalterable and age abiding rule which divine righteousness has decreed. Sinful disregard of this law and wilful departure from it have plunged thousands into incalculable suffering and sorrow.

"Christian marriage" is a term which can be applied only when man and wife are "joint heirs of the grace of life" (1 Pet. 3:7). This means that each is a child of God through faith in the Lard Jesus. Implicit in this act of faith is the responsibility to acknowledge the authority of God and the Lordship of His Son Jesus Christ. No disciple of the Lord Jesus, who is seeking to please his Master, would contemplate marriage with an unsaved person. To do so would be an act of disobedience to the clear instruction, "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). In giving this command by the Holy Spirit the

apostle Paul asks with inspired wisdom:

"What fellowship have righteousness and iniquity?" "What communion hath light with darkness?"

"What concord hath Christ with Belial?"

"What portion hath a believer with an unbeliever?"

Although the teaching of 2 Cor. 6:14 undoubtedly extends to other relationships, we are dealing with it here in its relevance to marriage.

"Fellowship"; "communion"; "concord"; "portion"; these words point to those aspects of shared experience which are the focal paints of Christian marriage. "Fellowship" implies partnership, which in the marriage of two Christians can only be realized upon the principles of that righteousness which is essentially true to divine standards. "Communion" - "a having in common", suggests an active participation which results in a common enjoyment. For Christians linked in marriage this finds realization in their joyous unity of purpose which stems from their enlightened understanding of God's will for their lives. "Concord" implies "harmony" - the original Greek word from which it is translated literally means "sounding together". It is a word full of suggestiveness and emphasizes that the whole music of life's experiences find sweetest expression when the claims of Christ are dominant and unchallenged by alien influences.

The measure of obedience of Christian individuals to divinely revealed truth is surely referred to in the added qualification that marriage should be "only in the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:39). This phrase takes us beyond the fact of identity of belief to the principle of unity of obedience to divine truth as it relates to the pattern of Gad-ordained testimony unfolded in the New Testament. For two Christians to marry who are at variance on such important truth would scarcely answer the qualification "only in the Lord". The claims of Christian discipleship are strengthened rather than weakened when the scriptural ideal is realized in Christian marriage.

As Christian disciples, husband and wife will reject so-called modern thought, no matter how "enlightened" it may claim to be, when it challenges the clear teaching of the Sacred Writings which call for their pure and faithful adherence to the marriage bond (see Heb. 13:4). In the light of scriptural revelation they will see that their marriage is symbolic of the mystical union of Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:31,32) and as such repudiates the popular view that it is merely a social contract which can be dissolved at will. Christian marriage being symbolic of the union of Christ and His Church also finds a further analogy developed from the fact that as the Church is subject to Christ,

so in the divine order comes the instruction, "Wives be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:22). Thus it is shown that the subjection of the wife to the husband is "as unto the Lord". The Lord has established this order in their relationship. In His purpose and under His authority the husband is to rule his household well (see 1 Tim. 3: 4,12). A wife's subjection to her husband should therefore result from her own recognition of what has been divinely determined and is "as is fitting in the Lord" (Col. 3:18), reflecting her own love for her husband (Tit. 2:4,5). Peter also stresses the value of obedience to this command as an influence to win husbands "who obey not the word" who may be gained by the behaviour ("manner of life", RVM) of their wives (1 Pet. 3:1).

In the understanding these scriptures give her, the godly woman will not regard her subjection as servile and degrading but her positive contribution to the well-being of the home in which she is bath wife to her husband and mother to her family. Prov. 31:10-31 portrays such a virtuous woman, depicting the godly influence she has within her divinely appointed sphere. As such she is of inestimable worth, "her price is far above rubies" (v.10) and she earns the esteem of her husband and of her children (v.28). How poor, how infinitely poor, this world would have been and would be, without the influence of such godly women who recognize the place in marriage and in the home that God has appointed for them!

The teaching of the word of God concerning the role of a husband in Christian marriage focuses upon a supreme standard: "Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25). The word agape, here translated love, always represents love at its highest; self-giving love, pure in its motive, patient, kind (see 1 Car. 13:4,5). That a husband should love his wife would be generally accepted as essentially important. The measure of that love, however, in Christian marriage is the love of Christ in its full and total expression in the sacrifice of Himself at Calvary. The love of Christ is self-emptying love (Phil. 2:7); it caused Him not to save Himself (Mark 15:30,31). Nowhere in all God's universe has love been more fully revealed than when Christ gave Himself for His Church. In the fulfilment of the divine arrangement that "the head of the woman is the man" (1 Car. 11:3) and in the context of this truth as related to husband and wife (Eph. 5:23), the man's authority is to be exercised in the power of a love which mirrors the sacrificial love of Christ. This love will be demonstrated in the care of the husband for his wife both spiritually and materially. He will recognize that failure to provide "for his own" is God-dishonouring and brings

disgrace upon his personal testimony as a Christian (see 1 Tim. 5:8). He will gladly respond to his wife's inquiry as she seeks spiritual understanding by his help (see 1 Cor. 14:35). Such a relationship must assume that they will together share the reading of God's word and meditation upon the truth it contains.

In addition the godly man will obey the command of 1 Pet. 3:7, which bids husbands, "dwell with your wives according to knowledge". The word knowledge denotes "knowledge especially of spiritual truth", the implication being that this will be according to the standards of the word of God. This same scripture demands that the wife should be honoured as being the weaker vessel "to the end that your prayers be not hindered". As well as the fact that obedience to the divine commands will result in unhindered prayers, the logical deduction from the apostle Peter's statement is that Christian marriage assumes that husband and wife will pray together.

Amidst the moral wreckage that exists in present-day society, where marriage is made to appear a flimsy structure easily destroyed, the lofty Christian ideal must be held in undeviating obedience by all who are faithful to the word of God and its call to them to be separate from all that is evil (1 Thess. 4:3-5). Happy are they who consistently maintain this standard in the relationship of Christian marriage for they will know the spiritual harmony of God-fearing lives fully enriched by the blessing of the Lord (Psa. 128).

JOINT-HEIRS

"How are these conjungal partners to think of one another in their home-life, day by day? With all possible practicality of considerateness, with all cordial devotion of human affection, with a recollected attention to one another which will regulate their intercourse of word and conduct far more minutely than the longest code of rules could do. Most true: but that is not the whole of the matter. This attention, affection, watchful consideration, this mutual loyalty and love, is to be perfectly human; but also, if it is as it should be for Christians, it is to be inspired by what is perfectly divine. The two persons are genuine man and woman, in an entirely human home-life; but their entire humanity is entirely joined to the Lord and their Head, in that mighty union which is His Body, the true Church, has with Him, and which every member of it has with Him, and through Him with all the others. They are each and both in Christ. They can never therefore think quite truly or fully of one another apart from that wonderful position and condition. The life of holy matrimony is raised to its ideal, to its truth, by the profound and special relation to it of that very mystery of the Eternal Purpose, the relation of the glorified Lord to the Company of His saints."

(Moule, on Ephesians)