18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.
23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Saviour. 24 Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church - 30 for we are members of His body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the Church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In 1976, when Jimmy Carter was running for the American presidency, he gave a controversial interview to Playboy magazine. What made it controversial is the fact that Jimmy Carter is a committed Christian, so there were many Church leaders who opposed his decision to grant that particular magazine an interview. He was asked the usual questions on his political views and policies, but the interviewer also probed him on issues of faith. One question was, “Have you ever committed adultery?” Carter gave an answer which was mocked by many at the time, but his answer went straight to the heart of the of the seventh commandment and Jesus’ teaching on it when he replied, “Only in my heart.”
Of the so-called “thou shalt not” commandments I have to confess that this is the one I have been most challenged by while preparing this series on the Ten Commandments for a number of reasons. Firstly, because if we are all as honest as Jimmy Carter was, we would all have to admit that we’re guilty of transgressing the seventh commandment.
But what has challenged me more is the fact that many folk in our Church family are widowed, and there are also some whose marriages have ended in divorce. So a sermon on family and marriage will no doubt stir up all kinds of emotions, from profound sadness for some to regrets and even bitterness and anger for others. My prayer in preparation for today has been that God would calm our hearts. Remember that the purpose of God’s Law is for Him to reveal to us how He wants us to live our lives. When His law says, “Thou shalt not,” our response should be “Then what shalt we do?”
God is a God of relationships. We looked at this in some detail a couple of weeks ago in the 4th commandment – honour your father and your mother. There is no perfect family, and there is no perfect marriage because sin taints every relationship we have, but this does not change the fact that God wants our families and our marriages in particular to reflect His perfect love and grace.
So whether you are married or not, you are still connected to people that God has brought into your life through your family. You may be single or living alone, but this doesn’t mean that God’s plan for families no longer applies. No matter where you are in life you still have family.
Marriage is the oldest human institution we have. It was a gift given to us in the very beginning, and God wants marriages to be strong. He wants them to last long. He wants them to be a reflection of His relationship with His redeemed people. Again, I know this is a sensitive issue for many of us, because some marriages are not or were not as strong as God intended them to be. My intention today is to not be critical of anyone and their own situation, but rather to try and get into what God intends for our families, and that we would be encouraged in our own family lives and marriages.
Jesus is the essential foundation upon which a strong marriage should be built.
Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.” This verse teaches us the truth that every endeavour in life must be based on a relationship with God, and this is especially true when it comes to our marriages. If they are to be strong, if they are to glorify God, if they are to be a blessing to us and others, they must be built on the bedrock of a strong and serious relationship with Jesus Christ.
As His love operates in the heart of a husband and a wife, the married couple is better able to love one another. I always tell couples who are about to be married that when God is central in their marriage, their love for each other can deepen over time. When you’re about to get married it’s all champagne and roses, and it is hard then to understand that it can get even better, but God does do that, as so many can testify to.
The point is that Christian marriage is God’s idea. It is His gift to us, and when we include Him in our marriages He brings a divine dimension and fulfillment to marriage. When both the husband and the wife are in a vital, growing relationship with God, they can pray together. They can worship together. They can discuss the things of God together. Their mutual relationship with God moves their own relationship beyond the physical into the spiritual.
Sadly, many marriages, including the marriages of Christians do fail. Each marriage is unique, as are its challenges and difficulties. But for those who have been or are in difficult situations, we must remember that the grace of God is available to all.
Some marriages are saved and others aren’t, and for those who carry the burden of coming out of a failed marriage, please understand that divorce is not the mortal sin. The Bible does say that God hates divorce. But He hates all sin equally. He hates everything that opposes His will for His people, but there are times and circumstances where divorce is the only real option that is left open. In Matthew 19 Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees on the subject of divorce. “They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven't you read,’ He replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.’” (Matthew 19:3-8)
Jesus makes it very clear that divorce is not what God wants, but due to the hardness of our hearts (in other words, due to human sin), divorce is allowed. And again – His grace reaches into all situations, including broken marriages.
Love is almost certainly one of the pillars of a strong marriage relationship. Unfortunately the gospel according to Hollywood has changed so much about our understanding of love. Movies and television shows usually depict love as nothing more than sexual desire, and sexual relationships outside of marriage are often encouraged and promoted as something exciting. The world’s warped view on love and marriage is one of the greatest threats to Christian marriage, which is why we need God to be part of our marriages. He not only deepens love within marriage but He protects it too.
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is writing about Christian love within the Church, but we can certainly apply his definition of love to the love a husband and wife should have for each other.
In verses 4-7 he writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” If we learned to apply these principles in our families and especially in our marriages, the power of God would transform our homes.
I know that our second Scripture reading from Ephesians 5 challenges many people. Those verses have been among the most loved and hated of the New Testament. They are also among the most misinterpreted and misunderstood. Some husbands hang these verses over the heads of their wives and demand that they fall down before them in obedience. Some women read these verses and feel that they make the wife inferior to the husband. Neither interpretation is correct.
The problem is that we look at the word submission as a negative quality. That’s our first mistake. Those of you who have done the Truth Project will remember that the question is asked, “When Jesus submitted Himself to the authority of the Father, was this a negative thing? No – when Jesus submitted to the Father, it was a thing of glory.” We need to change our understanding of what it means to submit, because God’s understanding of the word submit and our understanding are often poles apart, and this has led to much heartache and pain in marriages.
His intention is not to establish the husband as some kind of dictator in the home. Nor is He relegating the wife to a place of servitude. The word “submit” means “to arrange under”. It has nothing to do with control or subservience. The truly spiritual wife recognises God’s order in the home. She understands that it is a reflection of God’s order in the Church. Jesus is the head of the Church and we are to submit willingly and joyfully to His headship. The husband has been given the responsibility of leading the home and the godly wife follows the husband’s leadership willingly and joyfully. The husband is not to demand submission from his wife. If the husband loves and respects his wife as the Bible teaches, then his wife would recognise his place in the home without being told to. The natural order God has established in the home will follow naturally. Women are not subservient to men. They are equals, even in the home.
One of the biggest myths about marriage is that we should practice the principles of give and take in our marriages. It’s the so-called 50/50 principle. That just doesn’t work. True, Biblical marriage is 100/100. It is as we give of ourselves completely that we find fulfilment.
It’s the same as our relationship with God through Jesus. If we willingly submit to the Lordship of the Jesus in our lives because we know He loves us, and when we understand that He gave Himself to save us sacrificially, willingly, lovingly and unconditionally, it is then that our relationship with Him will grow. It’s not about doing what God wants so that I can get something from Him in return. No – we simply learn to respond to His love by submitting to Him.
The same is true in the home. When the husband loves His wife sacrificially, willingly, lovingly and unconditionally, she will respond by loving him sacrificially, willingly, lovingly and unconditionally.
When we don’t do these things, in a very real sense we are betraying each other, and this is at the heart of the 7th commandment. Adultery is much more than sex outside of marriage. Any time that we look outside of our marriages for anything we should be giving to and receiving from each other, we are flirting with the sin of adultery.
And this same principle applies to our relationship with God.
The very first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” When we do put other gods before Him, we’re committing spiritual adultery. When we allow our own desires and wants to betray our relationship with God we become adulterers. This is how James puts it in chapter 4: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
Humble yourselves before the Lord. That’s the answer to keeping our relationship with Him pure, and it is also the key to guarding the integrity of our marriages.
Ephesians 5:22 says that wives are to submit to their husbands, but the words of verse 21 say, “Submit to each other out of reverence for Christ.”
Of course, adultery in marriage includes sexual infidelity. Faithfulness in marriage speaks of the bond that exists between the husband and the wife. It is a bond that can only exist between two people. There is no room in the marriage relationship for a third party. It is never acceptable for a man or a woman to have a sexual or emotional relationship with anyone else. Our relationship with our spouse is to be one of absolute faithfulness, both physically and emotionally. Adultery is a sin regardless of the form it takes, but remember the grace of God.
It is not my place to throw stones and be critical of those who have committed adultery, because as Jimmy Carter (and more importantly Jesus!) have shown us, we’re all guilty. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-28 pierces the heart: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
As I said at the outset, I know that the subject of marriage and adultery is a really difficult one for many different reasons. Some of us have experienced that pain and all the heartache that goes with it. The family can and should be such a blessing to us, but as we well know, it doesn’t always work out that way.
For those of you who are widowed, I can’t say I know how you feel, because I don’t. But remember that we are still connected to our families. We are all able to give wise counsel and advice when appropriate, and of course, we can all pray for the marriages of those we love. We need God’s blessings in and protection over our families like never before. It is the first and most precious interpersonal gift that God has given us, and we need to treasure it and guard it jealously.
In conclusion, I want to tell you a true story which happened many years ago.
A young couple were in love and decided to get married. When they were working out who to invite to the wedding, one of them suggested, “What would you think about inviting Jesus? Let’s add Him to the list and send Him a formal invitation to be a part of our marriage.”
So they did. They invited Jesus, and He came. You can read about it in John chapter 2. When Jesus attends a wedding, you never know what will happen. If He can turn water into the finest wine, just think what He can do in our marriages and our families.
Jesus wants to attend our weddings, be part of our marriages and live in our homes. He wants to transform ordinary relationships into Godly relationships.
A Christian marriage has the presence of Jesus Christ in it. A Christian marriage fills the home, making the relationships spiritual and special. And that makes all the difference.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Genesis 2:18-25
Marriage is the very first institution God gave us, and it has always been important to Him.
Why does God place such a high value on marriage?
Read Ephesians 5:22-33
There is no doubt that these words are among the most misunderstood and misinterpreted passages in the entire Bible.
Why is this?
What do you think God really intended by using the word “submit” here? (See also Ephesians 5:21, a verse which is sometimes conveniently ignored!)
Adultery is the subject of the 7th Commandment, but when we read it in the context of the whole Law of God, it is clear that He is talking not only of physical, but spiritual adultery too.
Read the 1st Commandment in Exodus 20:3.
In which ways do we commit adultery against God?
Close by praying for Christian marriages.
Pray also for those who have been widowed or have been through the pain of divorce.
Ask that the Lord would show His grace and peace, and bring healing where it is needed.
Next week: “You shall not steal.”