Sunday, June 21, 2009
The first sermon in this series asked the question “What is Marriage?” We defined marriage as: “a life-long covenant established by God between one man and one woman that makes two different people one in flesh and spirit and purpose while at the same time making both individually more completely and wholly themselves as they openly and freely bear their souls bodies hearts and minds to God and one another”. We put that definition together from Genesis 1 and 2 and then I gave seven general observations about the nature of marriage to help fill that definition out.
This morning we ask the why question: Why did God establish marriage?” Think for a moment about the fruit of this first marriage between Adam and Eve. It is because of the first marriage that other marriages took place. Families were formed through marriage and then bands of families or clans were gathered into groups and tribes and then peoples and nations. Human social structure, our fallen social structure, rests on the family unit and in particular on the marriage covenant that was established before the fall. Marriage was the first human institution or government and it is the foundation of every other human institution. A divinely established covenant lies at the foundation of even the most secular societies.
This helps me understand why there exists in some places such contempt for marriage especially among people who seek to create a purely secular society. Marriage mocks the idea that you can create a purely secular society, because no matter how you put the pieces together societies rest on the coming together of one man and one woman to make babies and form families—a structure created by God.
That marriage lies at the core of human society still does not tell us much about the purpose of marriage. What has God set it at the core of human society to do? That question may sound esoteric and theoretical and not very relevant at all but if we can find the answer to that question, I think we will also reap some very practical fruit. If we know why God has established marriage, we'll also come away with a better sense of how to do marriage—the way married people are called to live out their married lives. And unmarried people, as we said last week, will gain greater insight into God's character and nature and purposes.
To answer the “why” question, we are going to have to do a little flipping around. First I'd like you to put bookmarks in two passages. Genesis 1:27 and John 1:1. Both texts should be familiar to us. We were in Genesis 1:27 last week and we've been in John 1:1 many times.
Let's start in John. One of the reasons we go to John 1:1 so frequently is that it is the clearest biblical revelations of the Personal distinctions within God—God is one and there is no other (Dt 6:4) and yet, within the Godhead there is more than one personality or Person. This fact is important to our task so lets spend some time establishing it. John 1:1
“In the beginning was”. Very important first three words. They take us beyond the beginning of the cosmos—before the beginning of time and space—before anything that was created was created, the entity John is about to introduce, already “was” already existed. And what is that thing?
It is “the Word”. The Logos. There are many things we could say about what the word “Logos” means and get totally off the marriage track but we won't do that so let's move on. The Word, whatever the word is, exists before anything that was created which means that it is not a creature. The Word simply is. But the word is not alone.
“The word was with God.” There were two entities existing before the beginning; the Word and God. Two. We know that there are two entities because they are with each other. They are together at the same time, before the beginning, and in the same place. “The Word was with God”.
But the text goes on: “and the Word was God.” The two entities are also, in some way, both two and one at the same time. The Word is both with God and is God.
Now if you'll just glance down to verse 14 you will see that this same Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and if you read the Gospel of John and the other three Gospels you will find that Jesus Christ, the Word, God, continues to be with God, calling him Father, while at the same time claiming divinity for himself.
The Gospels, especially the Gospel of John, provide infinitely valuable insight into the way the Father and the Son, two Persons and One God interrelate. Turn to John 17:24. This is part of Jesus' “High Priestly Prayer”, his prayer to his Father for the church, his people, the night before he died. In verse 24, he prays:
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
The Father loves the Son eternally, “before the creation of the world”. Before anything “was” the Father was loving the Son—pouring himself out in self-giving love for Him. Likewise, if the Gospel accounts of their temporal relationship reveals the eternal relationship between Father and Son, then we can also say that the Son pours himself out in love and and obedience to the Father eternally. He empties himself. He gives himself wholly to his Father's will serving and pleasing him with all his might, and in the incarnation, to his last breath. And the Father raises the Son to life, brings him glory, bestows on him not only the entire cosmos—but a kingdom, a people, a body, a bride to glorify him for the rest of time—all that the Father has, he gives to the Son.
The gospels and epistles together reveal a mutual self-giving, outpouring love and glorification between Father and Son and Spirit that exists between Father and Son and Spirit and that has always existed from before the creation of the cosmos. And in Jesus Christ that love was made manifest to us so that we can see from the Gospels what John means when he says in his first epistle that “God is Love”. He does not mean that there is this amorphous feeling out there and when you feel this amorphous feeling you are feeling God. No. Agape—self giving love is only possible when there is another, someone else to agape. But how could God be agape before the beginning, before there was a humankind, unless the other he most loves is within himself. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally pouring out love toward one another, eternally agape-ing one another. All three Persons, coequal, co-eternal, One God.
Now turn to Genesis 1:27,
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Last week, if you were here, I told you that the “man” God created in his own image is not a singe “male” but “humankind”. The word “man” singular refers in Hebrew to humanity in general. God created “humankind”, humanity, human beings, in his own image and we spoke about what it means to be created in God's image, not physical image, but qualitative image. We are like God in that we can think, reason, communicate, love contemplate time, we are self-conscious and have a sense of what is good and what is not. In all those ways humankind is created in the image of God. So God creates man, humankind, in his own image—again a single unity, but within that single unity created in God's image—there are two distinct and different kinds, male and female, who are equally human and yet not one but two. There is one kind of being, a human being, but within that one being there are two distinct types.
No reflection is perfect, no analogy is perfect, but most theologians see this oneness and plurality in Genesis 1:27 and say, God created one humankind, and made this one humankind, both male and female, as a reflection of his own being—he is One in being and three in person. Humankind is one in essence in nature and yet two. The pattern of John 1:1 is very very similar to Genesis 1:27. We are told in Genesis 1:27 that human beings are created in the image of God. God, I think, has given his creation a living picture of the Trinity in making Humankind both male and female. One humanity in two types reflects, reveals, glorifies One God in Three persons.
And when God brings the very first female to the very first male in the context of a mutual, complementary, permanent, loving covenant relationship—that vision; that revelation is made complete. The distinct persons are joined together in a life-long, permanent love relationship. God created male and female to point to his essence as Trinity. Then established marriage to provide a living picture of what life is like within the Godhead. Adam and Eve were to pour themselves out for one another, give themselves wholly to one another, cling to one another, to agape one another, to empty themselves, to be naked, unguarded, before one another and in so doing bring the glory of God and the love of God to bear on the world—to be living images of God's nature and the nature of his love
That is why God created marriage and that was and is what every marriage is supposed to do, lay bear the character, and being of God and reveal his love to the world. Think about that. God put a picture of himself at the very foundation of human society, human civilization. At the very core, in the bond of marriage, we see God's face and God's love. So even as the world pulls away from God it may twist and mar and seek to redefine but it cannot escape the picture of his love.
On an individual level I find this convicting. By our mutual outpouring, selfless giving to one another, Anne and I's marriage, your marriage, every marriage is designed and intended to be a living picture of the love between Father Son and Holy Spirit. What happens when it is not? We falsify the picture. This is why God hates divorce. Divorce breaks the image. It tells a lie about God's own nature. Father and Son and Spirit are eternally One God. But I think we can tell that lie even while maintaining the same street address when we speak and act toward each other in ways that are dishonoring, mean, self-seeking. This is not only hurtful to the one we have been given to in marriage, it tells the world a lie about the nature and character of God.
At the same time—apart from the conviction that this realization brings—what a wonderful mission we've been given—a mission that pervades every moment of our lives together. This is brass tacks earthy stuff. The way you act toward your spouse in every day trivial little matters has meaning. With every word and action you preach. You say something about God. Our task is to preach the truth.