Christian Marriage - Some notes
Marriage possesses the unique feature of being an institution established by God from the very beginning of human history. God's authority is, therefore, behind the prominent place it occupies in man's social life. The first marriage was ordained in the Garden of Eden for the increase of Adam's comfort and the consummation of his bliss.
Another aspect of the marriage tie may now be considered. As a relationship established by God in the original circumstances of man's creation, it possesses a pure and holy character. It is obvious, however, that in Eden there were necessarily no human witnesses to the first marriage contract. But with the multiplication of the human species, there arose the necessity that each matrimonial alliance should have a propriety in the eyes of men generally, and should receive public confirmation and approval.
From the days of Noah, God set up among men forms of government for the maintenance of civil order and social well-being. The “powers that be” in the community are ordained of God, and their regulations are to be recognised and obeyed by the Christian (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13, 14). It is seemly, therefore, that Christian marriage should conform to the requirements of the law of the land. Indeed, it is expressly enjoined upon the believer to “be subject to the higher powers,” and to submit “to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake.” Where this is done in the case of marriage, the act of union is formally and legally recognised, and its validity established in the eyes of all men.
The ceremony of marriage required by civil laws to bestow a wedded status upon the persons concerned is altogether distinct from the spiritual union of husband and wife which results from the exercise of God's own will and guidance upon the hearts of the same two persons. The latter is the most serious and yet the most happy side of the undertaking. For this reason, the married couple, realising the solemn nature of the initial step they have taken in the united life to which they have committed themselves, seek the fellowship and prayers of the assembly of God on their behalf. Thereby, they openly confess that in their new relationship, their joint desire is to receive divine help that they may walk together in the fear of the Lord, in obedience to His word, and in the furtherance of the glory of His name.
Another feature of pious marriage life made prominent in this passage is that matrimonial union involves the establishment of a new household. The apostle says, “Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh” (ver. 31). By entrance into the marriage relationship, two parental homes are vacated, and a new Christian home set up by the married pair.
The advantages and far-reaching influence of a truly pious dwelling-place cannot easily be over-rated. As a national feature, home life is not cultivated on scriptural lines now to the degree that it was formerly. Families thoroughly united in the bonds of piety and walking together in the fear of the Lord are not found so frequently as they should be.
It is a striking testimony to the value in the divine estimation of the home that in the scriptural history of man, family life is given precedence to national life. A great part of the Book of Genesis is devoted to the record of family life set apart in the world as a witness for the living and true God against the corrupting influence of idolatry; while national history begins in the Book of Exodus.
This form of effective witness for God is sorely needed today. And it devolves upon the newly-married couple to organize a home which shall in its primary purpose be entirely controlled by the will of the Lord. Under such management, the home will become a centre from which the light of God's truth will shine upon the darkness and ungodliness of the surrounding world. Its occupants will be recognized as the servants of Christ.
A home is not to be confused with a house. An architect plans the house, but love and order construct the home. It is important that in the new Christian home an agreed policy between husband and wife should predominate; “and they two shall be one flesh.” Particularly in things God-ward concerted action should prevail. The former spiritual habits and activities hitherto practised by each need not cease, only they may now be prayerfully pursued with the enhanced energy that concord and consultation supply to Christian service. The two happy persons will unite as they never could before in “labour for and with the Lord.” And the former effect for good and blessing will not diminish, but will rather be increased by the intimate wedded union of two hearts devoted to the Lord.
The shepherd in our Lord's parable sought in solitary places for the sheep which was lost, and his success in finding it was a joy to him. But in the loneliness of the wilderness this joy was restricted. He wanted some hearts to share his joy. And “when he comes home”, he called his friends together, saying, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost”.
Home is the sphere of joy, especially of private and personal joy. The joys of married life are more than doubled in intensity just because they are shared by the two who have become one, and who are now everything to one another. Small matters bring great joys in the intimacies of home life, in which strangers may not meddle.
The daily offering of praise and thanksgiving to God, no longer strictly personal to each, has fresh fervour to which each contributes from a grateful heart. The joint prayers of husband and wife are the more powerful in their intercession, seeing they are offered from the hearts of those whom God has joined together. These devotional exercises carry with them their own peculiar and almost inexpressible joys, which are all the sweeter to the taste because they are shared together in the new home.
In service to the Lord each is strengthened by the other, and what otherwise might be lacking in either is supplied. New forms of service become possible through joint desires and efforts. When an Apollos needed instruction in the things of the Lord, the house of Aquila and Priscilla was opened to receive him; and the husband and wife united in expounding the way of God to him more perfectly (Acts 18:24-28).
They agreed to use the convenience of their house for the spiritual benefit of one who, though not lacking in zeal and ability, was immature in the faith. And the pious pair had the joy of finding that the hospitality and the Christian atmosphere of their home was turned to good account in the after-life of Apollos. The newly-married might well seek to emulate the home service of Aquila, of Gaius, and of Lydia, as recorded in the New Testament. It will be a new form of service for them, and is well within their reach.
New homes are so bright and fresh and joyous that it may seem churlish to suggest that some day sorrow will be an uninvited visitor. But it must be so. Tribulation of some sort is inevitable in every household; but if the Lord is there, the inmates will have His peace. Dark thunder-clouds may steal across the bright blue above, but the believer knows that the sun still shines in the heavens, and that the rainbow is in the rain.
Moreover, in married life there are two hearts to bear one sorrow, and each striving to take the greater share of grief and loss. The strong man shields his partner from the impending stroke, and the loving wife hides in her bosom many a pang lest her dear man should have still more to bear. But sharing is better than concealment. Men and women are made strong in hours of sorrow by sympathy; and there is no sympathy so choice and so effective as that which dwells in the Christian home-life.
(From an Address)