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Four Reasons to Persevere In Marriage

covenant-keeping1

This is from a sermon series the Co-Pastors preached at GLBC.  You can listen to all of the marriage sermons here, or to read this sermon – keep reading.

There’s a massive rip tide in culture. It threatens and erodes the moorings of the family. It undermines it’s innocent victims ability to relate properly. It weakens the church. And it blurs the Gospel. This massive rip tide is divorce. It pulls and undercuts and drowns many in our society. And unfortunately many have a casual attitude toward it.

But Scripture teaches that perseverance in marriage is God’s design and God’s best. My hope is that we stand together against this rip tide. That we push against it’s pull, that we lean against the current, that we band our arms together as a congregation and hold on tight against its destructive forces. My prayer is that we will be a rock solid stanchion in the midst of turbulent waters, a firm place for marriages that last for a lifetime – marriages that persevere in every situation. That we not only do this, but we pull others from the surge, others who are within our grasp: emboldened to stand firm in the flood.

So, I hope to help you fix your eyes on a life long marriage, but let me say a few things first.

I recognize that divorce has touched many. There is much pain and sorrow and regret. Many of have witnessed its destructive forces. Some have experienced it first hand and the consequences of walking through it are still at work in your life.

Aren’t we thankful that God gives grace? He gives grace to children who have watched their world crumble before their eyes. He gives grace to parents who wonder how their adult children have completely turned from biblical truth. He gives grace to men and women who have been abandoned by an unbelieving spouse. And He gives grace to the divorced – who repent in humility.

Four Reasons Why You Should Persevere in Marriage

1. God designed marriage and joined you together.

The narrative of the first marriage in Genesis 2:18-25 speaks clearly about the first union and its origins. It was not Adam’s idea; it was not Eve’s plan. It was God’s design. He said that it was not good for the man to be alone. He formed a woman for Adam. He brought Eve to Adam. He took two and made them one.

Perseverance in marriage is all about following God’s design in marriage. When you mess with the design, you mess with God. It would be ridiculous for a college freshmen basketball player to walk into Izzo’s MSU coaching world and attempt to change the way he designs his practices and work outs. Coach Izzo – I think we should do drills this way. Coach Izzo – Are you sure you want to do our pre-game routine like that – In high school we did it like this. Coach Izzo, I’d like to only play at home games and not on the road . . . NO!

We argue against same sex marriage with this same design argument, therefore we should be consistent. God designed that marriage is between one man and one woman. So, in the same way we also should support that marriage is for as long as you both shall live by design. It is inconsistent if we say we are against same sex marriage and then support divorce for any old reason.

Perseverance in marriage is God’s design; to go against it is to go against God.

2. Jesus trumps Moses.

In Mark 10 the Pharisees are working in their standard tricky ways and they ask Jesus “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Moses permitted divorce for hardness of heart, but Jesus always goes beyond what Moses did. Actually Jesus trumps Moses by going to the Genesis narrative. Moses permitted divorce for hard hearts (this was the Pharisees problem), but Jesus says what God says – what God has joined together, let man not separate.

It is a wrong understanding to think that Jesus is permitting divorce for hardness of heart in this text – the Pharisees were looking for an out, and Jesus did not give them an out, rather he confirmed what God had designed and added a key phrase. Jesus goes to the beginning and quotes the two shall become one flesh passage and adds: “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

No human should separate that which the Creator has joined together. If God has joined you together (and He has), then He should be the only one to break the one flesh union. Some say death is the only way a one flesh union is broken. Others say there is one escape clause found in Matthew 19 – and that is for marital unfaithfulness. We can’t get into all that now, but I do think that our next reason for persevering in marriage may bring some light to argue against the escape clause found in Matthew 19.

3. Perseverance in marriage is a test of true faith.

In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Jesus tells the story of the unmerciful servant – the man who was forgiven his huge debt but demanded payment from a fellow servant who owed him lunch money. Word got back to the king and he said:

“’You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

And Jesus said: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Now, when we combine the one flesh union truth with the forgiveness mandate, I think we have a strong argument to say that you should persevere in marriage – even in the most extreme cases. If your spouse sins against you, and they repent then you should forgive.

I am not saying we should turn a blind eye to sin. Sin should be confronted and a spouse should be held accountable. And if (according to Matthew 18) your spouse rejects all attempts of dealing with their sin, it may prove that his or her faith is not genuine. But hopefully these are rare cases.

This is a strong statement: What does it say about the work of the Gospel in a person’s life if he is unwilling to forgive and reconcile with a spouse? I believe that a willingness to reconcile and forgive and work through sin as a couple is a proof of genuine faith. I am not saying this is easy, but it is the right thing to do. A marriage between two believers should not end in divorce if they are practicing biblical repentance and forgiveness. To not persevere in marriage as ones who have been bought through God’s faithfulness – Jesus Christ – is a contradiction of the greatest proportions.

4. Jesus will never leave His bride.*

All throughout the Scriptures God compares His relationship with His chosen ones to the marriage relationship: (Isaiah 54:5ff, Ezekiel 16, Hosea 1-3, Ephesians 5, and Revelation 19:6ff). And in these texts – God is portrayed as a faithful husband, and His covenant relationship is portrayed as permanent – even though His people often turn their back on Him.

Paul in Ephesians 5:31-32 makes this very clear. He writes that the covenant marriage relationship is patterned after God’s covenant faithfulness. Marriage is God’s pointer to the Gospel. A faithful marriage is a pointer to God’s faithfulness. A covenant marriage relationship is a pointer to God’s covenant relationship to His people. Jesus died for His bride, He will never leave her, He will never forsake her, He will always remain faithful.

And when we do not persevere in marriage we muddy up the message of the Gospel. This is why God hates divorce; it represents a lack of faithfulness. It muddies the Gospel to our children. It muddies the Gospel to those who need the Gospel. They watch from a distance as two professing believers choose anti repentance and anti forgiveness. They witness anger, and bitterness and fighting: Potshots and uppercuts and low blows. They watch revenge and retaliation and scratch their head and speculate about the Gospel: If this is how good the Gospel is, then I don’t want it.

But if people see a couple persevere through think and thin. If they see forgiveness, if they see reconciliation, if they see faithfulness, if they see loyal love, then they see the glory of God’s Gospel.

And this is the landing place – the Gospel! We are all in great need of forgiveness. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us can stand in condemnation of others. All of us can rejoice in God’s forgiveness – if we confess He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. So, if you’ve blown it; If you have been unfaithful; if you chose divorce over reconciliation – God forgives those who repent; He gives grace to the humble.

For the sake of the God’s Gospel, let us persevere in our marriages.

*This is Piperian idea (John Piper)

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  1. Anonymous
    December 4, 2008 at 12:50 am

    And if a man beats his wife?
    And if your interpretation is not God’s interpretation at all but only your interpretation?
    What if you’re wrong?

    You can say you cannot be wrong, but what if you’re wrong about that?

    What if a man beats his children?
    What if a woman will not have sex with her husband?

    What if a man is unfaithful to his wife and will not change his ways or give up the other woman or women?

    How do you propose to heal these things if only one person in the marriage wishes to persevere?

    What if you are wrong about same-sex marriage, because your interpretation of God’s holy word is incorrect – and God is quite angry with you for misinterpreting him?

    What if God created gay people to test your allegiance to Him by accepting and loving them as the Lord’s children rather than saying that they are different enough to not fall into the Adam/Eve story in perhaps a subtler way?

    I am not asking these questions to be offensive, or to question your sincerity and beliefs – but merely to ask – how can you be so sure that you understand God’s will, when there are so many on Earth who also love the Lord yet have different interpretations of many of the words and passages of the Scriptures?

    I too wish we could eradicate divorce, and would like to work, in a practical way, to that end.

    It is my experience that people who are certain they are right about things usually accomplish nothing in the real world – though perhaps that is your intent – and my opinion, offend God by their arrogance. We should work together to make this a better world, not polarize it through hatred, contempt and judgment. It’s up to God to judge. Not us. Not ANY of us.

  2. Andrew Ford
    December 4, 2008 at 9:03 am

    To Anonymous:
    You have proposed some good questions, give me a bit of time to think through my answers. Also, please know that it is not necessary to leave comments anonymously – we have no reason to attack – we may disagree on some things, but that does not make you my enemy. I hope you feel comfortable having an open and caring dialog.

  3. February 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    (Mark 10:29 KJV) And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

    Here is a quick Bible study for you folks.. notice above that wife is singular, and Jesus himself does not promise to replace your old wife with a new wife..

    http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/divorce-and-remarriage-in-the-christian-church/

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