Sermon: What Makes a Marriage Christian
Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30
In this week’s lessons, we see that marriage is established by God, and serves to illustrate the relationship of Christ with His Church.
Theme: Body with Body
Moreover, the fact that God has established marriage means that you and I are to get our ideas about it, not from the books we may read or from the movies, but from God Himself and from the Bible. I suppose that over the years I have read perhaps ten or twenty books about marriage and sexual problems, and the general impression I have had from the non-Christian books (and sometimes from the Christian ones) is that marriage is primarily a matter of sexual compatibility and adjustment. This is part of the truth, of course. But at best it is one-sided, and by itself it is only slightly less misleading than the marriages in movies, where marriage is either a farce or else the institutionalization of romantic love. Neither of these is right. And what the Bible teaches about marriage is quite different.
For instance, as far back as in the early pages of Genesis we read that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and “they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). What does this mean? Well, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this refers only to a sexual union, for the Bible uses the word “flesh” in a far broader sense than the meanings we give to it. The word means the person as a whole. Thus, the union in a certain sense makes one person of those who were two persons before. C. S. Lewis has argued that marriage results in something a bit like a two-part mechanism—like a lock and key or a violin and its bow. I would much rather call it a single organism in which the relationship of a wife to a husband or a husband to a wife is like that of the hand to the head of a person, or the heart to the mind.
Another way of saying the same thing is to point out that man is a trinity as God is a Trinity. Man has a body, soul, and spirit. And the union of one man with one woman in marriage must be a union on each of those three levels if marriage is to be what God intended it to be and the union is to be lasting.
It must be a union of body with body, first of all, which is to say there must be a valid sexual relationship. This is important. For this reason, all of the branches of the Christian Church have acknowledged that a marriage has not actually taken place until the sexual union is consummated. If it does not take place or cannot take place, then the marriage can be annulled as invalid. I always tell couples that this is a vital aspect of the marriage relationship. According to the Bible, neither the man nor the woman is to defraud the other of the sexual experience. And the quickest way for the marriage to end up in trouble is for the wife to have a headache every night and go to sleep early to avoid the sex act or for the husband to lose interest in his wife romantically and to spend his nights elsewhere or with the boys. Sex must be a regular expression of the relationship.
On the other hand, if the relationship is based upon nothing but sex—in other words, if it is a marriage of body with body alone and not of soul with soul and spirit with spirit—then the marriage is weak and inadequate and it is headed for the divorce courts. Many are, for when the glamour wears off, as it always does if there is nothing more to sustain it, the relationship is finished. And there is either total indifference, a divorce, or adultery. This is the result of a marriage that is based purely on physical attraction.
What does the Bible mean when it speaks of the husband and wife becoming “one flesh”?
What are the consequences when there is no sexual relationship in the marriage?
What are the consequences when a physical relationship is the only foundation of a marriage?
Reflection: List some common reasons from today’s society for divorce. How could divorces for these reasons be avoided if the Bible’s teaching about marriage had been followed?