This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:32.
One could make a strong Bible argument that God has made the family the cornerstone of society. As society respects and honors God's exemplary family, God blesses society, and as society repudiates God's family values, society becomes its own curse. Considering the clear rip in the present fabric of our society, we need to examine the Bible pattern of the family, the foundation of which is the husband-wife relationship, to correct our course. Perhaps God will grant us a renewed vision of a God-fearing productive culture by which to inspire the church of the next generation. The alarming divorce rate, the commonly accepted notion of living together without the benefit of marriage, the deep strain between men and women in the social and professional world, and the frightening perversion in the area of intimacy between men and women, all cry out for examination and prayerful consideration.
This series will focus on the Bible model of marriage and the husband-wife relationship. If you see some thoughts that are a bit different; if your thinking is challenged to take another look at God's marriage laws, whether you agree altogether or not, I have accomplished a worthwhile purpose. While we may boast that the church is in, but not of, the world, we cannot deny that the church and its members are definitely affected by the world in which we live.
The most comprehensive marriage manual to be found in print today, size notwithstanding, is the New Testament, Ephesians 5:1-33. The fact that God used his version of marriage as a symbol of eternal and spiritual truth should tell us that he considers the marriage relationship in a very special light. In few subjects as distinctly as in marriage do we face the clear truth that the Bible is altogether a contemporary, relevant book, full of valuable truth for the Christian of the Twentieth Century, or any other century. In the New Testament as the Jews considered the teachings of Jesus on this subject, they thought out loud that perhaps the moral responsibility of marriage was more than they were willing to accept.
His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. -- Matthew 19:10.
In many marriage ceremonies the very idea that the marriage vow is taken for life is now altered to legitimize the vacillating emotions of man's carnal nature. "So long as you both shall love," has replaced "So long as you both shall live." As traditional Jewish writings of the New Testament era document a casual irresponsible opinion of marriage, so our society has taken the same view. Divorce, then as now, was considered nothing more than a neutral eraser applied to the chalkboard of life to eliminate a relationship that no longer held any desire or challenge to its participants. It was considered no more or less immoral than changing jobs or moving to a new city.
Is there a moral issue related to the marriage vow? To divorce? To the maintenance of a legitimate attitude toward marriage? What is the biblical teaching on the relationship that should exist between a husband and a wife? Does the Bible say anything about polygamy? Infidelity? Divorce and remarriage? Many of these issues will be considered here, for the Bible has much to say about them all, and many more. What about the controversial issue of surrogate parenting, straight from today's headlines? Did you ever think about Sarah and Hagar? The controversy is no less divisive now than then. Is the wife just a "Pretty thing" to hang uselessly on her husband's arm, or has God established a clear-cut defined responsibility for the woman?
Several centuries before Christ, a wise man named Solomon wrote of certain things that were too wonderful for him, things too mysterious to understand or explain. One of those things was "The way of a man with a maid." The beautiful beginnings of love should do more than simply live up to their expectations; they should exceed them wonderfully! Sadly, that is frequently the opposite of the more normal experience. Why? Could it be that the relationship that began freely and lovingly from the heart somehow ended in stereotypes of what people expected, instead of what God had graciously planted in the heart? How often, even in those marriages that survive, do we hear the parties confessing with sad dismay, "The honeymoon is over." Did God end it? Does he build you up for such a painful let down? Never! Then what happened? In this series we will certainly not cover all the possible detours that can bring a marriage to grief and a dead end, but as we examine the Bible example of marriage and the foundational truths of the relationship between husbands and wives, we may just find a nugget here and there to help restore the warm, fulfilling spirit of marriage that God breathed into it with his marvelous design and instruction.
Yes, this is a great mystery. We cannot understand how two people can forsake their families who bore them, cleave to one another, and become one flesh. Can we grasp some portion of God's grace loving us when we were unlovely, sacrificing himself for us when we were undeserving, and caring for us until with loving kindness he drew us to his bosom and hid us from the storms of life, or carried us through them? Can we grasp that God loves us, not how or why, but is there some deeply imbedded conviction, however mysterious, that God really does love us? If we can take hold of this spiritual truth at all, then we have unearthed the bedrock, the Divine foundation, for God's style of marriage. May he renew that holy vision in our minds daily!
Preface - Of Husbands and Wives
Chapter 2 - The Theology of Marriage