Title: “Covenant Faithfulness and God’s Very Good Idea for Marriage: The Four Objectives of Marriage” (Part II)
Date: Sunday, December 9, 2018
Text: Matthew 19:1-6 and Other Selected Texts
1Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 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’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
This morning , I would like to teach about God’s idea about marriage associating with faithfulness and sexual purity in marriage. I will also discuss the central objectives of (the Christian) marriage according to the Bible.
What is Marriage?
- Oxford Dictionary: “The legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman)”
- Psychology Today: “Marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is increasingly cut short by divorce. Over the course of a relationship that can last as many as seven or eight decades, a lot happens. Personalities change, bodies age, and romantic love waxes and wanes. And no marriage is free of conflict. What enables a couple to endure is how they handle that conflict. So how do you manage the problems that inevitably arise? And how can you keep the spark alive?
- “Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God and normally consummated by sexual intercourse.” By Andreas Köstenberger, “The Bible’s Teaching on Marriage and Family”
“A Brief Note on the Ethics of (Christian) Sex and Purposes of the (Christian) Marriage”
In the Christian tradition, the Christian marriage is a binding covenant between the husband (the male gender) and the wife (the female gender); the underlying goal of the Christian marriage is to contribute to human flourishing and to showcase the goodness and glory of God in the world. Throughout the centuries, Christian thinkers have suggested four central purposes of the Christian marriage: procreation, sexual fulfillment, companionship, and spiritual connection. In this sermon, I will discuss the four objectives of the Christian marriage.
Within this mindset, the Christian couple defines marriage as an institution through which God has graciously gifted them with both the opportunity and access to bring children into the world; with the divine help, the Christian husband and the Christian wife ought to populate the earth through their offspring because they believe that God has designed marriage as the only union in which children must be conceived. Consequently, procreation as an important function of marriage is construed as an act of obedience to God, and to the husband and the wife, procreation is a (their) sacred duty. To bear, love, nurture, and teach the children of marriage fulfills the divine command of procreation; second, sexual intimacy between the husband and the wife should contribute to this mutual and consensual goal of marriage.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So, guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.
So, I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.
On the other hand, I would suggest that the Christian couple who is unable to bear children because of some medical reasons is not disobeying God nor are the husband and the wife not satisfying this purpose of marriage. As both would find it necessary and meaningful to their union, they can contribute to that purpose through adoption or committed child sponsorship.
The married couple who is unable to conceive children is not a failure to the church and society nor do the husband and the wife bring disappointments to God. While childbearing has been construed as a divine gift to parents in the Christian tradition, it does not imply that childlessness is a mark of divine disfavor or curse upon the couple that can’t biologically produce children.
Second, the Christian marriage as a permanent covenant facilitates human flourishing through covenantal faithfulness, mutual love and respect, mutual support, interpersonality, and reciprocity, between the husband and the wife. Marriage, as defined as a social community, graciously facilitates mutual growth in the social realm, establishes psychological connection and solidarity, sustains mental stability, and fuels meaning to the shared life of marriage, between the wife and the husband.
What does the word “companionship” mean”?
Definition of companion
Synonyms for companion
Genesis 2:18-20 says,
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him (emphasis added).
Companionship as a secondary purpose of marriage becomes more meaningful and constructive in the union if it is actively nourished through the act of friendship, service, and hospitality. Companionship means more than physical presence, proximity; it anticipates the joined couple to share the married life together, to equally experience all of its benefits, and to anticipate all of its future potentials and possibilities.
- Proverbs 2:16-18
16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden[a] woman,
from the adulteress[b] with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
18 for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed; [c]
Marriage as companionship necessitates that the husband becomes a servant to his wife, and the wife as the beneficiary to all his kindness, care, and generosity. In the same way, when the wife pursues her husband comparatively or returns the same favors to him, the husband will not feel that he’s been taken for granted.
In a nutshell, we should construe companionship as an opportunity for the married couple to plan to spend quality time together, to invest sacrificially in each other’s future and growth, and to create life meaning as one unified body. All should be understood as a life-in-process and a union of many complex (series of) phases and dimensions.
Marriage will not be a productive event without the practice of companionship as presence, proximity, service, and (time) investment.
14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[b] And what was the one God[c] seeking?[d] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[e] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.
Deuteronomy 24:5, “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife[a] whom he has taken
Companionship as comfort: Genesis 24:67
Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So, Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
- Sexual Fulfillment
Third, the Christian tradition maintains the idea that God created sex to be used and enjoyed only within the boundary and union of marriage. This same tradition also upholds that sexual intimacy outside of the marital vows undermines both the divine purpose and the sacredness of sex. Comparatively, throughout the centuries, Christian thinkers and clergy have consented that not only marital sex between the husband (the biological male gender) and the wife (the biological female gender) is morally, theologically, and biblically justified, they have also believed that both marital sex between the same genders (between two males and/or between two females) and sex between two unmarried people, what they have labelled “fornication,” are unethical, unbiblical, and untheological. They rejected such forms of sexual intimacy as a violation of the divine intent for man and woman.
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
- While many Christian churches and clergy in America and other countries today have blessed same-gender sexual intimacy (sexual acts between homosexuals, lesbians, transgenders, etc.) and legally perform same-sex marriages, this is a drastic departure from historic Christian belief and practice about marriage and sex. Ancient Christianity bluntly rejected the modern understanding of (same sex) marriage and homosexual relations on reasonable and acceptable grounds including cultural practices and traditions, moral principles, biblical exegesis, and theological interpretation.How is then sexual fulfillment construed as one of the purposes of marriage? To put it simply, in what ways precisely is the covenant of the heterosexual marriage presented as a solution to sexual desires and cravings between the husband and the wife? Toward this end, I would like to offer the following three suggestions:
- The idea that marriage provides sexual fulfillment, not necessarily sexual satisfaction, to the married couple is an affirmation of the divine design for sexual intimacy to be practiced within the confinement of marriage. When married couples express their love to each other through sexual intercourse, they’re practically actualizing God’s “revealed will” and his very (desiring) intent for sex and marriage. (To say this differently, through the doctrine of divine providence, God has so purposefully ordained marital sex.) Through consensual sexual activity and performance, both the husband and the wife are submitting themselves to God and effecting the divine resolution for human relationships and the divine ordering structure for sexual exchanges between both sexes and genders.
When a man and a woman fail to live sexually within and according to God’s decree for sexual practices, they are reordering and/or disordering the structure for sex and equally they are deconstructing the organization of life and human interactions. In this matter, humans become the sovereign of the universe; God’s laws regulating sexual ethics and relations become subservient to human control and will.
- Sexual fulfillment in marriage leads to the idea of marriage as God’s designated and only “sacred space” for sexual interplays and practices. The notion of sacred space renders other spaces, (in the non-marital zones”) inappropriate, questionable, and profane. The reciprocity between marriage and sex can be explained in this way: (a) marriage as a “sacred zone” confers upon sex itself both respect and dignity, in the same way it brings value and honor to those (both the husband and the wife) engage in this activity, and (b) the Christian sex as a relational activity, exercise, and playful event makes the married space delightful, distinctive, and wanted.
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. …
- When I say that practical sex also fulfills the goal of marriage, I am making connection between desire, bodily anatomy, and pragmatism. (Desire: the strong human feeling and emotion linked to the human mind; Bodily anatomy: this refers to the most intimate parts of the male and female body such as the male penis and the female vagina and breasts, or any human anatomy that can be used to achieve sexual pleasure; and Pragmatism: by this term, I am alluding to sex not as idea, but sex as a human practice: the doing or making of sex between two individuals (the wife and the husband))
- As each physical part of the human body is so ordered by God to carry out its singular and proper function (i.e. the human eyes provide sight or vision to the body, the mouth for speech and food, the hands for touch, the feet for walk), the “sexual bodily parts” (i.e. penis, vagina, breasts, and the mouth, as it is also used, for example, for oral sex) become functional when they are used adequately to participate in such a pleasurable activity, between the two sexes: the husband and the wife. In other words, the aforementioned physical parts of the male and female body contribute to the sexual fulfillment and sexual gratification shared by the husband and the wife, as these sexual anatomies accomplish the divine intent God has so purposed them.
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love
- Spiritual Connection
The Christian marriage is not only a social institution, it has a deep spiritual dimension. It is a place wherein the husband and the wife grow together in various dimensions: socially, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. Specifically, the Christian marriage provides a safe zone for the Christian couple to experience God together, grow in godliness, and advance in Christian piety and sanctification. God created marriage so that the husband and wife can undergo holiness translating into practical sexual purity and godly living. The Christian husband has a duty to help his wife to know and love God in a more intimate way; in the same way, it is a responsibility for the Christian wife to encourage her husband to grow in love, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is also the responsibility of the Christian husband and the Christian wife to raise a godly heritage and children who will honor and praise God. Through the Christian marriage, God spills his holiness into the married life, so both the husband and the wife could be imitators of Jesus Christ.
- “A true marriage is love (Ephesians 5:25).
- It is sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:25).
- It is a love for another person that is just as great as one’s love for oneself (Ephesians 5:28,33). It is a love that cherishes (Ephesians 5:29)
- A true marriage is a union (Ephesians 5:30)
- It is so completely and spiritually wrought that two persons become one as one body and as one flesh (Ephesians 5:30-31
- A true marriage is a mystery (Ephesians 5:32)
- It is a spiritual fact that has to be revealed by God if it is to be experienced by couples (Ephesians 5:32)”
1 Corinthians 7:11-16
11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[a] to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
“Oneness in Marriage”
- “The covenant between husband, wife, and God creates oneness.
- God designed marriage to reveal His glory.
- Marriage symbolizes relationship between Christ and Church:
- God is glorified when couples express their love for each other.
- Physical union is an act of spiritual worship and obedience.”
1 Corinthians 11:3, But I would have you
know, that the head
of every man is
Christ; and the head
of the woman is the
man; and the head of
Christ is God.”
The order: God, Christ, Man, and Woman
1 Peter 3:7
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered
- Warnings Against adultery in Scripture and how to avoid sexual infidelity in marriage
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
1 Thessalonians 4:4-5
4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[a] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
“The Bible’s Teaching on Marriage and Family”
What Is Marriage?
Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God and normally consummated by sexual intercourse. God’s plan for the marriage covenant involves at least the following five vital principles:
(1) The permanence of marriage: Marriage is intended to be permanent, since it was established by God (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). Marriage represents a serious commitment that should not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. It involves a solemn promise or pledge, not merely to one’s marriage partner, but before God. Divorce is not permitted except in a very limited number of biblically prescribed circumstances (see Divorce below).
(2) The sacredness of marriage: Marriage is not merely a human agreement between two consenting individuals (a “civil union”); it is a relationship before and under God (Genesis 2:22). Hence, a “same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Since Scripture universally condemns homosexual relationships (see further under Homosexuality below) God will never sanction a marital bond between two members of the same sex.
(3) The intimacy of marriage: Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships, uniting a man and a woman in a “one-flesh” union (Genesis 2:23 -25). Marriage involves “leaving” one’s family of origin and “being united” to one’s spouse, which signifies the establishment of a new family unit distinct from the two originating families. While “one flesh” suggests sexual intercourse and normally procreation, at its very heart the concept entails the establishment of a new kinship relationship between two previously unrelated individuals (and families) by the most intimate of human bonds.
(4) The mutuality of marriage: Marriage is a relationship of free self-giving of one human being to another (Ephesians 5:25-30). The marriage partners are to be first and foremost concerned about the wellbeing of the other person and to be committed to each other in steadfast love and devotion. This involves the need for forgiveness and restoration of the relationship in the case of sin. Mutuality, however, does not mean sameness in role. Scripture is clear that wives are to submit to their husbands and to serve as their “suitable helpers,” while husbands are to bear the ultimate responsibility for the marriage before God (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; see also Genesis 2:18, 20).
(5) The exclusiveness of marriage: Marriage is not only permanent, sacred, intimate, and mutual; it is also exclusive (Genesis 2:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). This means that no other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife. For this reason, Jesus treated sexual immorality of a married person, including even a husband’s lustful thoughts, with utmost seriousness (Matthew 5:28; 19:9). For the same reason, premarital sex is also illegitimate, since it violates the exclusive claims of one’s future spouse. As the Song of Solomon makes clear, only in the secure context of an exclusive marital bond can free and complete giving of oneself in marriage take place.
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