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marriage

June 19, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I offered a series of bullet points on the subject of death. I guess it’s no less strange to equate bullet points with marriage. Nevertheless, according to the Bible, marriage is…

…Instituted by God, Uniting One Man and One Woman

Matthew 19:4-6 – “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24]? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

…A Portrait of Christ and His Bride, the Church

Ephesians 5:31-32 - “ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24]. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

…To Be Honored

Hebrews 13:4 – “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

…A Source of Trouble, Divided Interests, and Anxiety

1 Corinthians 7:28, 33-34 – “But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. … But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”

…Not Every Person’s Calling

1 Corinthians 7:7-8 – “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.”

…Meant to Be Permanent in This Life

Mark 10:11-12 – “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (cf. Luke 16:18; Matthew 19:8-9; Romans 7:2-3)

…Impermanent in Eternity

Matthew 22:30 – “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (cf. Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35-36)

…Fulfilled In Christ’s Return

Revelation 19:6-9 –

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

‘Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure’—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

June 16, 2012

There is a lot of talk about what complementarianism actually looks like as it works itself out in marriage. There are endless caricatures that make it little better than slavery, but Wayne Grudem shows something very different as he offers a very helpful glimpse into the inner workings of his own marriage. He leads in love

Wayne Grudem: Someone might say, “Well, okay, fine. There’s a leadership role for Adam, and I guess that means husbands should have a leadership role in their marriage of some sort. But how does it work? How does it work in practice?”

In our own marriage, Margaret and I talk frequently and at length about many decisions. I can tell you that I wouldn’t be here tonight unless Margaret and I had talked about this and asked the Lord about it, and she had given blessing to it, and said, “Yes, I think that’s right.” Sometimes we make large decisions such as buying a house or a car, and sometimes they are small decisions like where we should go for a walk together. I often defer to Margaret’s wishes, and she often defers to mine because we love each other.

In almost every case, each of us has some wisdom and insight that the other does not have. Usually, we reach agreement on the decisions that we make. Very seldom will I do something that she doesn’t think is wise—I didn’t say never. She prays; she trusts God; she loves God. She is sensitive to God’s leading and direction, but in every decision, whether it large or small and whether we have reached agreement or not, the responsibility to make the decision still rests with me.

Now, I am not talking about every decision they make individually. Margaret controls a much larger portion of our budget than I do because all the things having to do with the household and food and clothing and house expenses and everything … she writes the checks and pays the bills. I take care of buying books and some things about the car. I have appointments during the day with students. She doesn’t get involved in that. She has her own appointments. She has her own calendar. I don’t get involved in trying to micromanage all of that. We have distinct areas of responsibility. I am not talking about those things. I don’t get involved in those things unless she asks my counsel.

But in every decision that we make that affects us together or affects our family, the responsibility to make the decision rests with me. If there is genuine male headship, I believe there is a quiet acknowledgement that the focus of the decision making process is the husband, not the wife. Even though there will often be much discussion and there should be mutual respect and consideration of each other, ultimately the responsibility to make the decision rests with the husband. And so, in our marriage the responsibility to make the decision rests with me.

This is not because I am a wiser or more gifted leader. It is because I am the husband. God has given me that responsibility. It is very good. It brings peace and joy to our marriage, and both Margaret and I are thankful for it. Now, I need to add very quickly, men, this does not mean that a husband has the right to be a selfish leader.

Just about three years ago, maybe four years ago now, we started the decision making process. Margaret had been in an auto accident in Chicago. As part of the aftermath of that accident, she was experiencing some chronic pain that was aggravated by cold and humidity, and Chicago is cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Chicago was not a good place for that. Some friends said to us, “We have a second house in Mesa, Arizona, if you would ever like to go there and just use it as a vacation place, we would like you to do that.”

So we did. We visited Arizona. Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix. Margaret felt better. It was hot, and it was dry. And so I said, “Wow, Margaret I would love to move here, but I am only trained to do one thing; I can teach at a seminary and that is it. There aren’t any seminaries here.” The next day Margaret was looking in the yellow pages—literally. She said, “Wayne, there’s something here called Phoenix Seminary.” One thing led to another and God was at work in that seminary, and it was starting to grow.

Then we went through a decision making process. When we were in the middle of that decision making process, on the very day that we were focusing on that, I came in my normal custom of reading through a section of scripture each day, I came to a Ephesians 5:28, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”

I thought if I would move to take a job in another city for the sake of my body, if I were experiencing the pain that Margaret had, and husbands should love their wives as their own bodies—then shouldn’t I move? Shouldn’t I be willing to move for Margaret’s sake? That was really why we moved to Phoenix.

I just say that by way of illustration, husbands, headship doesn’t mean selfishness. It means being willing to give of yourself for your wife and care for her as well. God has brought … I think that was obedience to Him and God has brought blessing. But there are dangers, there are dangers of distortion in male headship and female submission to or support of that headship.

There are dangers of distortion in one direction or another. There are errors of passivity and errors of aggressiveness. I put this on a chart of husband and wife. In the middle is the biblical ideal for a husband as loving, humble headship. That’s the ideal. For a wife the ideal is joyful, intelligent submission to that headship. Intelligent, that means she is contributing her wisdom and her counsel to the decision making process.

On the right side of the chart there are errors of aggressiveness. A husband can be a tyrant. “Everybody serve me.” He’s selfish; he’s harsh, and he’s abusive. That’s an error of aggressiveness. Or a wife can be a usurper, resisting and rebelling against and being hostile toward her husband’s leadership time and again and challenging for it. When a tyrant is married to a usurper there is conflict all the time.

But there are opposite errors. There are errors of passivity. A husband can be entirely passive. He comes home from work; he clicks on the TV; he plops down in his chair, and he wants everyone to wait on him. The children are disobedient; he does nothing. He’s entirely passive. There is a hostile neighbor that needs to be dealt with and addressed, but his wife is dealing with the conflict all by herself. He is a wimp. That’s an error of passivity.

There is an error of passivity on the wife’s part. Day after day, month after month, year after year in their marriage, “Yes dear, whatever you say … yes dear, whatever you say.” She doesn’t contribute at all to the decision making process. She has no preferences, no desires. She’s a doormat. That is an error as well. That’s not the biblical pattern.

If a tyrant gets married to a doormat you get all sorts of abuse, and it’s dehumanizing for both of them, but particularly for the wife. If you get a wimp married to a usurper, well, he follows her around all day long, six steps behind just doing what she takes the leadership in. If you get a wimp married to a doormat, everything runs like the energizer bunny running out of batteries, finally. It just all goes downhill and everything goes wrong in the family. There’s nobody taking responsibility. The biblical ideal is loving, humble headship and joyful, intelligent submission.

Now, you have personalities and backgrounds that predispose you to make mistakes on one side or the other of this chart. For those of you, you could think perhaps about marriages you know or relationships you know. You can see people making errors in both sides of this, but those are distortions. Those are distortions of the biblical pattern.

January 25, 2012

Over the past two days I have been writing about Ephesians 5 and the great mystery of marriage—that in some way marriage is a portrait, a reflection, of the relationship of Christ to his church. In the first article I introduced this metaphor and in the second I spoke about how the wife completes her part of the picture.

Paul now speaks to husbands and here is what he says (in Ephesians 5:25:32): Husbands, you make your marriage an accurate portrait of the real marriage when you give up your life to your wife. You have the unique task of displaying the gospel in your willing, joyful, loving leadership of your wife. In this relationship that is meant to be a portrait of the relationship of Christ to the church, the husband is called to be an accurate portrait of Christ. Husbands, you are to be toward your wife as Christ is toward his church. That is a little bit abstract so let’s see how it takes shape by asking three questions: What, how and why?

What?

What is a husband to do to? Husband, love your wife and give yourself up for her. Notice that Paul does not exactly parallel what he has said to wives. He does not immediately command you to be the head of your wife. He has told your wife to submit to your leadership, but he doesn’t begin by saying, “Husbands, lead!” Instead, he tells you to be filled with love for your wife. You are to lead in love, to give yourself up. This is not love as we may think of it in our culture—love as an emotion or love as something that is purely physical. True love is an act of will. It requires action. You are not commanded to be romantically warm and fuzzy with your wife, though hopefully you have that too, but you are told to act in love toward her. 

The model for your love is Christ’s love for his people. How did Christ love his people? How much did he love his bride? He loved in action, not just in words or feelings. He gave himself up for her. He gave up his life. Christ gave himself up, he did not get given up. He was active and deliberate. Christ may still have shown love for us if he went to the cross kicking and screaming and protesting his innocence and begging to be let go. But how much more is his love displayed in his willing sacrifice, in going to the cross of his own volition. You display your love for your wife when you willingly, joyfully give yourself up for her.

January 24, 2012

Yesterday I began a short series called A Picture-Perfect Marriage. This is my attempt to study what Paul says about the marriage relationship being a picture, a portrait of Christ and the church. Having laid that foundation, I now want to look at how the wife fulfills her part of that portrait.

Here is what Paul says to wives: You make your marriage an accurate portrait of the real marriage when you willingly submit to your husband’s leadership. You have the unique task of displaying the gospel in your willing submission to your husband. Here is the text I am drawing on:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

In this relationship that serves as a portrait of Christ and the church, it is the wife who is called to be an accurate portrait of the church—at least an accurate portrait of what the church is called to be. Wives, this is your calling from God. It is your duty and your privilege. As you relate to your husband, you are to be toward him as the church is toward Christ. That is a little bit abstract so let’s see how it takes shape by asking three questions: What, how and why?

What?

First, the what question: What are you to do to complete your part in this portrait? The answer is, You are to submit to your own husband in everything.

Paul says, “Wives, submit to your own husband.” Let’s not miss your own. A woman is not to submit to every man, as some people may teach, but to her own husband. The Lord has determined that there should be a leadership structure within marriage but this does not mean that women are to submit to men in general. The head of the church is Christ and the church is to submit to him; the head of a wife is her husband and she is to submit to him.

She is to to submit in everything. That is an intimidating statement and we need to deal with that word everything. We need to be careful that we don’t make it mean more than it says. If you want to be ridiculous you could say that I could now order my wife to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and she would have to obey me. But of course we know that a wife is to submit to a higher authority before a lesser one. The whole idea of a hierarchy of authority is that there are levels of authority; if a lesser authority tells you to disobey a higher authority, your submission needs to be to the higher authority. So let’s not make in everything more than it says.

Yet let’s not make it mean less than it says either. It is an all-encompassing phrase which means that you really are to obey your husband in everything that isn’t directly contradictory to what a higher authority says. You are not free to follow his leadership or ignore it as you see fit. Really, the only time you are to refuse to follow your husband’s leadership is when you can come to him with your Bible and say, “Here is where God says that I may not submit to you.” You don’t have to believe in what he says and you don’t have to like what he says, but you do have to follow him. This will not always be easy and yet the Lord calls you to submit to his leadership. This is the role God has given you—a role in which you can beautifully display the gospel. You aren’t submitting to your husband for your own happiness or peace, but to be that display, that portrait.

How?

So that is the what question: you are to submit to your own husband in everything. But how? How is a wife to submit?

January 23, 2012

This morning I am going to begin just a short series of articles on marriage. Having read several books on marriage in the past few months, I found myself really intrigued by what Paul says about the topic in his letter to the Ephesians. I’ve since had the opportunity to study it and wanted to share what I’ve learned along the way.

I am going to cheat a little bit at the start of this series by going to the end of the story before the beginning. There are a couple of members of my family who do this if they are reading a tense or scary novel—they will flip to the end, figure out how things conclude, and then go back and read the middle. Once they know that everything works out well, they can go back and read the rest without getting too wound up. I am going to do that here because any discussion of biblical marriage involves some scary words and ideas like submission and headship and leadership. This makes it very tense for a lot of us, so we’re going to go to the end of the story and see that it all turns out okay. Then we’ll go back to the rest of it.

Here is where we will begin:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31,32).

As he comes to the end of his teaching on marriage, Paul springs a giant surprise. He says that marriage is a mystery, that there is a hidden meaning in it and that until now this meaning has been hidden. The surprise is that marriage is a type or a picture or a display. Marriage is meant to be a portrait of something else. To show this he goes to the Old Testament, to the very first marriage of the very first man and woman. Let me give you some context.

The Mystery

God had created Adam and then allowed Adam to live by himself for a time so he could come to this understanding that in all of creation there was not a helper that was suitable to him. All the animals God had created paraded in front of Adam. Adam gave them names but saw that they were all very different from him. It’s not that he was lonely and pining away, but that God had him see that there was nothing or no one who was equal to him, no one who could help him carry out his God-given mandate. Adam had received his mandate from God, that he was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. But he knew that he could only do that with the help of something or someone that was like him.

Then God said, “It is not good for this man to be alone.” He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and he took one of his ribs and he fashioned a woman from it. He presented this woman to Adam in the first-ever wedding ceremony and the man immediately broke into a song of praise. Now he saw his helper, the one who would complement him and complete him and he sang out:

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.

And then we read these words: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Now here, thousands of years later in this letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul returns to these words and says this: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Just like that, Paul gives a whole new meaning to marriage, a whole new purpose. He says that for all this time the joining of husband and wife in marriage has actually been a mystery, that it has been pointing to something else, something greater. Only now after the death and resurrection of Jesus are we able to see what it has been pointing to. The mystery is that the marriage relationship is a portrait of the relationship of Christ to his church. This relationship is the ultimate marriage, the real marriage.

December 22, 2011

I was at a wedding recently and was introduced to this hymn (which also works well as a poem) written by John Berridge. Berridge was a preacher, a revivalist and a hymnwriter who wrote several hundred songs. Indelible Grace has a helpful biography of the man. I quite enjoyed his hymn “Since Jesus Freely Did Appear” and thought I’d share it with you.

Since Jesus freely did appear
To grace a marriage feast,
O Lord, we ask thy presence here
To make a wedding guest.

Upon the bridal pair look down,
Who now have plighted hands,
Their union with thy favor crown,
And bless the nuptial bands.

With gifts of grace their hearts endow,
Of all rich dowries best!
Their substance bless, and peace bestow,
To sweeten all the rest.

In purest love their souls unite,
That they with christian care,
May make domestic burdens light,
But taking each their share.

True helpers may they prove indeed,
In pray’r, and faith, and hope;
And see with joy a Godly seed
To build their household up.

An Isaac and Rebecca, give
A pattern chaste and kind;
So may this married couple live
And die in friendship joined.

On every soul assembled here,
O make thy face to shine,
Thy goodness more our hearts can cheer,
Than richest food or wine.

September 21, 2011

A little while ago Stephen Altrogge wrote a small article he titled So You Think You’ve Married the Wrong Person and today I would like to add one thing to the discussion. Stephen’s article addresses an always-pertinent topic. It is a topic that is applicable to married folk who may one day wake up and wonder, Did I marry the wrong person? In fact, I think most married people wonder that at one time or another. It may not be a question filled with true angst and regret, but one that may persist at the back of their mind.

At such times you can find great comfort in this simple reality: I guarantee that you have married the wrong person. We all marry the wrong person. Perhaps I should say it like this: we all marry the “wrong” person. We all marry a person who sins against us, who sometimes exasperates us by helping us worship our idols and at other times irritates us by smashing them to pieces. We all marry a person who has stinky breath and physical blemishes and bad moods. We all marry a person who is apparently incompatible with us on all kinds of levels. To quote Stephen, “The husband is neat, the wife is messy. The wife is talkative, the husband is quiet. The husband is always on time, the wife lives more in the moment. The wife is social, the husband is a homebody.”

The differences can go far deeper than that. The differences may extend from the marriage bed to the church sanctuary, from the way we make love to the way we worship, and everywhere in between. 

Stephen turns to Paul David Tripp who offers some valuable and biblical counsel:

September 19, 2011

I’m pretty sure I can still remember the day my friend John fell in love. A young woman named Danielle showed up at our church and John was utterly captivated. Over time he worked up the nerve to ask her out and for a while they dated, seeing if there was that spark between them—that spark that cannot easily be described or defined, but that somehow binds two hearts together. But before too long it was clear that things just weren’t working out. John and I had many tough conversations, as he did with his other friends, and the consistent counsel was, “John, it’s time to let go.” We knew of his love for Danielle, and his desire to be with her, but it seemed that it just wasn’t meant to be. Out of love and out of respect for them both we all suggested that he release his heart’s hold on her.

Two days ago I had the great honor of marrying John and Danielle. This was the first wedding I’ve ever officiated and it was truly one of the experiences of a lifetime to be able to stand before their friends and family, the people who love them and have prayed for them for so long, and to be able to proclaim them man and wife.

John is a dear friend and one who has taught me so much. He has taught me how to love kids better—how to relate to children about serious topics; John had an amazing ministry to the children of our church. He has taught me about the importance of prayer and the importance of praying together as friends. And through his pursuit of a bride he has modelled something else, something that has blessed me deeply.

For their wedding text I preached the first few verses of Revelation 21, that great future vision of a New Jerusalem coming down from heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That city—not a city of streets and buildings, but a city of people—is presented to Jesus Christ as his bride.

January 19, 2011

On November 11 I bookmarked 2 blog articles. Bookmarks usually last about 24 hours before they get a) archived b) used in A La Carte or c) erased. But these ones are still sitting there. Several times I have gone back to read the articles and each time I’ve wanted to think about them a little bit more. There is nothing in them that is earthshaking to me. And yet the way they are phrased has given me a lot of food for thought (just ask Aileen if you doubt me).

The first article I read was by Amy Scott and it was titled simply “Be You.” In her article she references another, one titled “Just Whose Wife Am I Anyway?” They both deal with a common them: submission. In particular, they deal with the biblical command that a wife submit to her husband. Those are fighting words in many parts of the Christian world, not to mention outside of the Christian world. I won’t allow that to distract me here.

Both women write about their own struggles with what submission really looks like in a godly marriage. And as I read their thoughts, here is what struck me: We spend a lot of time talking in general about how men and women complement one another—generic men and generic women. This complementarity is obvious from a physical standpoint, but also from many others. But I wonder if we spend far too little time talking about how this husband and this wife complement one another. When we move beyond the generalities of gender roles, we find that the specifics may look very, very different from one couple to another. Within the Bible’s general guidelines, there are many ways to work out the details. Amy puts it like this:

My own husband would knock me silly (…figuratively) if I called him yesterday from the flooring store to solve and negotiate the huge issue that came up. He trusts me. He knows I am capable, and we are a team. (On the flip side, many husbands feel very respected to have their opinion asked about how to handle disasters.) We found a rhythm that works for us.

Greg has one Patriarchal rule for me. He will not let me use a paintbrush under any circumstances in our house. But I am OK with this.

December 11, 2010

With a friend I’ve been reading through R. Kent Hughes’ book Disciplines of a Godly Man. This week we read the section titled “Relationships.” This section is comprised of 4 chapters and offered all kinds of good food for thought. I wanted to point out just one brief excerpt that kicked me in the gut. It comes in a section discussing “The Discipline of Marriage.” Here is what he says:

Men, we are called to a divinely appointed self-love: to love our wives as our own bodies, to care for them as Christ does the Church. Loving our wives’ bodies as our own demands a triple incarnation: physical, emotional, and social. We are to devote the same energy, time, and creativity to our wives as to ourselves. We are to cherish our constant souls. Envy the woman who is loved like this. Even more, envy the man who loves like this—for he is like Christ.

Men, what a challenge Ephesians 5 presents us—sacrificial love (love is like death!), sanctifying love (love that elevates), and self-love (loving your wife as much as you love your own body). If this calls for anything, it calls for some holy sweat. As Walter Trobisch said, “Marriage is not an achievement which is finished. It is a dynamic process between two people, a relation which is constantly being changed, which grows or dies.”

We are to devote the same energy, time, and creativity to our wives as to ourselves. That one line convinced and convicted. And that was just one line in a long book.

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