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Putting the Holy Back in Marriage
Genesis 1:26-31
The Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity, October 24, 2021
Rev. Carl D. Roth, Grace Lutheran Church, Elgin, Texas
© 2021 Rev. Carl D. Roth and Grace Lutheran Church, Elgin, Texas

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is from Genesis chapter one and also I am going to quote the hymn, TLH 167 stanza 4, O Darkest Woe.

Lo, stained with blood,
The Lamb of God,
The Bridegroom, lies before thee,
Pouring out His life that He
May to life restore thee. (TLH 167:4)

Again, that is hymn 167.

Well, unless you are an ostrich, it is obvious that the culture in which we live has perverted God's institution of holy marriage. I'll start with the easy pickings, so-called "same-sex marriage." We can all agree that this idea is outright rebellion against God's design, right? If you were accidentally to walk into a building and see everyone dressed up like they were at a wedding, and there were two men dressed in tuxedos standing at the front facing each other with hands interlocked, and the officiant were to say, "If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be wed, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace," then you would shout out at the top of our lungs, "I know a reason—two dudes can't get married! By definition marriage is between one man and one woman!" That's what you'd do, right?

It should be that simple, but given how quickly ideas about marriage have shifted in our country, I'm not even sure the majority of Christians are fully convinced about God's definition of marriage. This is especially true among younger generations. The relentless propaganda from the entertainment industry and mainstream media has succeeded at changing countless minds about the nature of marriage, and where it has not convinced people, it has confused them and planted seeds of doubt. I often lament how children are bombarded with false doctrine and fuzzy thinking on TV and in school and from their peers, yet the Church gets at most an hour or two each week and a couple years of Confirmation instruction to instill God's Truth. This means that teaching and prayer in the home is more important than ever. If parents aren't vigilant to constantly reinforce the teaching of God's Word at home, then it should not surprise us that the sinful world's attitudes sway impressionable children.

But let's not just stop with the low-hanging fruit of "same-sex marriage," which is easy to identify as madness. What else is wrong with our society's ideas about marriage and so many people's treatment of marriage? What about all the other sins against marriage that God's Word condemns? This is where we must squirm a bit; we must examine our own thoughts, words, and deeds concerning marriage and sexuality.

How have we done at speaking out against divorce for reasons other than adultery or abandonment; against defiling the marriage bed through fornication; against cohabitation without the solemn vow to remain husband and wife till death parts them; against the hookup culture, which invites people to act like animals rather than dignified creatures made in the image of God, with purpose for their bodies; against pornography, which pollutes minds and profanes God's gift of sexuality; against crude joking that ridicules the precious roles God has given to men and women within marriage? How well have we who are married modeled the Biblical picture of marriage to our own families, by husband and wife loving and honoring one another? How well have we who are single lived chaste and decent lives in everything we say and do? How well has our congregation upheld God's teachings on marriage and sexuality by disciplining those who sin publicly against the Sixth Commandment? How well have we fought against and spoken out against these and so many other sins that treat marriage and sexuality as if they were unholy and profane rather than good gifts of God? If we answer these questions honestly, we learn that simply opposing same-sex marriage does not make us righteous. None of us is righteous before God, no, not one. Of many and various sins we must repent and put the holy back in the way we think about and treat marriage.

To do this, we need to go back to what our gracious Lord's original design for marriage was. In the Garden of Eden, God laid out His plans for marriage and family before sin and unbelief corrupted His perfect creation. Most people start in Genesis 2 when they discuss God's design for marriage, but it always strikes me when I go back and read Genesis that when God inspired Moses to write Genesis, He put Genesis 1 before Genesis 2. In Genesis 1, we get God's high-level plan for marriage, and in Genesis 2 we get a closeup of the first marriage and more detail on how it will work.

Genesis 1: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." This is the Holy Trinity talking here, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost discussing the creation of Mankind in their righteous and holy image. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." …And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."

Here God shows us the unique dignity He bestows on Mankind, that we were created in His image and likeness. While we share so much in common with the animals, God makes Mankind the highest of His creatures on earth by imparting His righteousness and holiness on us. And then look at the first purpose for marriage given in Scripture, which is specifically described as God's blessing: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." God's design for marriage—and notice that it is between male and female, since God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve—God's design for marriage involves procreation, multiplication, filling the earth, and ruling over the creation. In other words, anyone whose idea of marriage does not involve childbearing and the upbringing of children in holiness and righteousness has already rejected God's first stated purpose for marriage! (Of course, because of sin, not every marriage is going to necessarily be blessed with children, but that makes the couple no less married.)

Genesis 2 gives us ground level details of how the Genesis 1 account went down. "Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."…So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."

The Triune God is not a lonely, solitary figure like the false god of the Muslims, Allah. The True God is Three Persons in One Divine Being, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Persons are not alone in the sense of being apart from one another, but are united in perfect love. And when they created Mankind, they saw fit to bless the man with a perfectly complementary helper of his bone and flesh, the woman taken out of his side, so that he would not be alone. And in marriage the man and the woman come together in a one flesh union that creates family, more "not being alone," but rather being fruitful and multiplying.

So far, everything's perfect. But then what happens? In Genesis 3, we learn that Adam and Eve plunge into sin and unbelief. They are not content with the life God has given, but they want to be like God, knowing good and evil, so they defy His will and eat of the forbidden fruit. And this unbelief then leads to sin, death, and woe being placed upon Mankind from then on. While marriage was designed perfectly, sin would mar this blessing. "To the woman God said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Before the Fall, procreation would have been a joyful, pain-free delight, but now it would be a blessing marred by sin and sometimes even death. And for the woman, before the Fall, the role of being Helper would have been a source of happiness, but now because of sin there will be a longing for the man's headship, and he will be tempted to use his headship as a tyrant rather than as a loving servant who lays down his life for his wife. And along with that, family life will involve a struggle to make ends meet because of the curse placed upon the ground because of Adam. And then the punishment upon all Mankind for sin: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." The death of father, mother, son, and daughter would be a bitter part of family life from then on. And along with temporal death, there also is the wages of sin, eternal damnation in hell.

But this leaves us in a quandary. If sin and unbelief destroyed the holiness and righteousness that God placed upon us when He created us in His image, if sin and unbelief have corrupted not only human nature but also our experience of marriage and family, if sin and unbelief mean that we deserve nothing but God's wrath and condemnation in hell, then how do we put the "holy" back into marriage? We can't, but God does.

I left out an essential passage when I was reviewing Genesis, that is, 3:15. There God curses the devil and promises that the Seed or Offspring of the woman would come to crush Satan underfoot. That is the first Gospel promise recorded in Scripture, and it actually points to God's ultimate plan for marriage. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul quotes Genesis 2: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." When you read that quotation, you assume that Paul is just talking about everyday marriage, right? But then Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit says, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." What? You mean to tell me that Genesis 2 is about Christ and the Church? Exactly!

If we want to put the "holy" back in marriage, we have to stop thinking humanistically, like the world does, as if man were the measure of all things, as if we get to define reality. Instead, we have to start thinking theologically, that is, recognizing we are creatures who receive all good gifts from the Triune God. And if we listen to His Word, we learn that the paradigm for marriage between male and female is the One between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Holy Christian Church.

St. Paul wrote, Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV) "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." The only-begotten Son of God left His Father in heaven order to come down and be born of His human mother Mary, in order to redeem us lost and condemned sinners and give us a new birth as children in God's eternal household.

He left Father to come down to be our Savior, and at the cross, He also left His mother behind so that He could take a Bride. At the cross, Jesus says to Mary that she now is to be cared for by the Apostle John, and then He laid down His life in death in order to give life to His Bride, the Church. The first Adam slept while God fashioned Eve from the rib taken from his side, and the New Adam, Jesus Christ, falls asleep in death after suffering for the sin of the world, and water and blood pour forth from His pierced side. From this sacramental water and blood, and by the proclamation of His death for the sin of the world, now God fashions a Helper suited for His Son, the Holy Christian Church, which is the mother that conceives and bears children of God for His eternal household in heaven.

This is where the "holy" is put into marriage, as Paul says in Ephesians 5, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."

Through Holy Baptism, Jesus makes His Bride holy, and if you have been made members of His Body, of His Bride, the Church, then you are holy, forgiven, without blemish, saved!

One of the most beloved passages in the New Testament has echoes of Holy Matrimony. On the night when He was betrayed, Jesus said to His Church, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." (John 14)

The marriage custom in Jesus' day was that the Groom would prepare the wedding chamber in advance, and then take his bride there once they were married. This passage shows us that the Bible is all about marriage, from the beginning, to the middle to the end. Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for you, His Bride. And Revelation 21 uses marital imagery to show us what Jesus has in store for us, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

If we want to put the holy back in marriage today, then we must fix our eyes on Jesus, our Bridegroom, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Marriage between male and female is to be a mirror of The Marriage between Christ and His Bride the Church. We know from our Epistle reading (Ephesians 6:10-17) that Satan loves to destroy everything, so He is going to tirelessly work to break that mirror. The Word of God and prayer are our weapons in the fight. Jesus Christ crucified and risen for His Bride is The Holy Marriage.

Lo, stained with blood,
The Lamb of God,
The Bridegroom, lies before thee,
Pouring out His life that He
May to life restore thee. (TLH 167:4)

Repent and believe the Gospel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

 


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