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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:Marriage: God's Blueprint
Text:LD 41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 7th Commandment (Adultery)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Suggested songs:

Psalm 96:1-2

Hymn 1A

Hymn 7:1,2,7

Psalm 101

Hymn 50

Readings: Genesis 2:18-25, Song of Songs 1, Ephesians 5:22-33

Text: Lord’s Day 41

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

I was in a grocery store some time ago and the bold headline caught my attention:  “Brad promises Angelina’s kids:  I will be your real dad forever.”  And it struck me:  why does something like this get splashed across the headlines of supermarket tabloids?  Surely some of the reason has to do with the breakdown of families.  Just the idea of somebody being a “real dad forever” – it strikes many people as being an unrealistic promise.  We read the headline and we’re inclined to say, “Well, yeah, let’s see if Brad and Angelina are even together in six months.”  So, the headline gets our attention and sparks our cynicism and not just because of the breakdown of families, but more particularly because of the breakdown of marriage.

You know the statistics about marriage in Canada, I’m sure.  The latest news is that divorce rates are actually down, but so are the numbers of people getting married.  But for those who do get married, the stats are pretty grim.  Many couples don’t last beyond 4 or 5 years.  And we didn’t need the introduction of so-called homosexual marriage to endanger the institution.  The godless decadence of our culture has put it at risk for many years already.

The seventh commandment was given by God to protect the good and beautiful institution of marriage.  The commandment forbids the committing of adultery – breaking the bonds of marriage by creating intimacy with others outside the marriage relationship.  The Catechism focusses on unchastity as a part of this.  It’s clear from Scripture that believers (out of love for God and thankfulness to him) maintain purity inside and outside of marriage.  We could say that this forms the negative side of the commandment:  do not compromise your purity by engaging in intimacy outside of the marriage relationship.  The positive side is what we want to mostly look at this afternoon.  The positive side is that, like Scripture says in Hebrews 13:4, marriage is to be held in honour by believers.  God gave marriage to us so that we, by the power of the Spirit, could live faithfully not only in relationship with one another, but also in relationship with him.   So, our theme this afternoon is this:

Marriage:  God’s blueprint for man and woman to live in intimate relationship

We see this blueprint:

  1. Grounded in creation
  2. Vandalized in the fall
  3. Restored and fulfilled in Christ.

1.  We see this blueprint grounded in creation.

A blueprint, of course, is a paper or set of papers that’s meant to guide the building of something.  It’s a detailed plan.  Well, marriage is God’s detailed plan for men and women to live together in the most intimate way possible.  And this plan was first laid out at the beginning of all things. 

In Genesis 2, we read a more detailed account of creation, including the specifics of how and why God created woman.  With almost everything that God created, he could stand back and say that it was good.  But there was one gap.  In Genesis 2:18, God said that it was not good for the man to be alone.  God said that he would create a helper fit for Adam. 

But God doesn’t do this right away.  No, before creating woman, he first creates in Adam a sense of need.  The animals parade in front of Adam and he names them as he sees fit.  But you can be sure that he also noticed that there were two of every kind.  Some of them looked the same – have you ever tried to tell the difference between a male and female squirrel without looking really closely?  But with other animals, it would be clear that there was male and female – think for instance of cardinals, the male and females are easily distinguished.  So, God bringing the animals to Adam served two purposes:  for Adam to name them and so exercise dominion over them, but also for Adam to feel the need for a helper, someone to complement him somewhat the same way that the male cardinal complements the female – but of course in a much deeper way. 

Genesis 2:20 tells us that Adam felt the need:  “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.”  As a result, God created woman out of the man.  God brought Eve to Adam and he rejoiced – this was the first wedding ceremony!  And then verse 24 gives us a lens which brings the picture into focus:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  In other words, the unity expressed in marriage originates with God’s good creation.  This idea of “one flesh” captures the intimacy intended for this relationship – this is not just a reference to the physical or sexual aspect of marriage, there’s also a spiritual unity between the man and the woman.  In every way, Adam and Eve were tied together in a natural and beautiful unity.  Nothing stood in the way of their experiencing deep and meaningful intimacy between themselves and, as a couple, with their Creator. 

We can see in all this the emphatic Scriptural truth that marriage is not a human invention, not a socio-cultural convention.  God took the first man and the first woman and put them together as husband and wife.  One man and one woman together for as long as they both shall live – that was the plan, the blueprint for marriage. 

And in case anyone might miss that truth, the Lord Jesus reaffirmed it in Matthew 19.  Christ reminds the Pharisees that it was God who put the man and woman together in close knit unity.  Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Christ spoke these words in answer to a question about divorce.  And with his answer he showed that marriage is good and natural – it’s grounded in creation, part of God’s plan for humanity.  But divorce is unnatural, divorce belongs to a fallen world.  Divorce only exists as a necessary evil.  In his teaching, the Lord Jesus wanted to be clear that marriage should be held in the highest esteem by his followers. 

We can also see this high view of marriage in what we read from the Song of Songs.  This reading captures the excitement of the intimate relationship that God intends men and women to be in with one another.  This is the kind of relationship where you’re totally caught up in the other person – a relationship encapsulated and fulfilled by marriage.  This is where husband and wife are most fully satisfied and enraptured with one another.  Song of Songs shows us the godly giddiness and delight that a married couple should experience – a man and a woman in a very close, intimate relationship.  It’s a picture of two people living as intimate allies, and so also living in God’s plan.  However, this picture is fragile.  It can be easily vandalized.  Let’s consider how in our second point this afternoon…

2.  The blueprint of marriage was vandalized in the fall.

The fall into sin is familiar to us, I trust.  But how often do we consider what specifically happened to marriage?  Prior to the fall, there was intimacy and unity.  Adam and Eve trusted one another.  But after the fall, intimacy and unity were broken by blame.  Genesis 3:12, “The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Adam didn’t take sole responsibility for what happened.  Instead, first he threw his wife under the bus, he blamed Eve, and then, even more remarkably, he blamed God!  “You put this woman here with me – it’s your fault too!”  Blameshifting and a refusal to take responsibility for wrongs have afflicted marriages ever since.  God’s detailed plan for intimacy and unity between husband and wife was vandalized by Adam and Eve.

And through the ages the vandalism has continued endlessly.  Today, fallen people continue to vandalize God’s blueprint for marriage.  Let’s just mention a few different ways in which that can and does happen.

We can start off quite generally by looking at what the Catechism says in Lord’s Day 41.  It mentions unchastity outside of marriage.  Unchastity refers to sexual impurity.  The Catechism explains the seventh commandment to forbid all sexually impure acts, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may lead us to sexual impurity.  When we talk about outside of marriage, I expect that we’re clear that sex outside of marriage is one way in which God’s blueprint gets vandalized.  But let’s be explicit and blunt for a minute.  There’s this thing among young people in our society, it’s called “hooking up,” very casual sexual behaviour often without any affection or commitment.  Hooking up is against the seventh commandment.  But so is regular sex outside of marriage – even if you’re committed to one another in some vague way or even if you’re committed to getting married later at some point. 

The Catechism also mentions unchastity or sexual impurity inside the marriage relationship.  This can happen when a spouse becomes focussed on selfish wants.  More seriously, it can happen when a spouse becomes abusive sexually.  And of course, unchastity can also take place through outright adultery – breaking the intimacy and unity of the relationship by seeking affection in the arms of another.  And let’s be clear that this does not have to be a physical act.  Facebook and other such things on the Internet can lead to emotional adultery – where a spouse becomes emotionally attached to somebody else through chatting and so on.  Oftentimes, that kind of emotional adultery does lead to physical adultery at some point.  Regardless, the damage is done:  God’s blueprint for marriage gets vandalized when we seek intimacy and unity with someone other than our spouse. 

Of course, there’s also the matter of so-called homosexual marriage.  We don’t have to go very far into this.  We know that God made Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve.  God’s plan is for one man and one woman to live together for as long as they both shall live.  Of course, there may be believers who struggle with homosexual feelings – but that struggle is no longer there when you commit yourself to some kind of covenant with one another.  No, we have to be clear that the whole notion of homosexual marriage is a form of vandalism on God’s plan for marriage. 

Finally, we should be clear about another practice common in the world.  It’s the whole thing of acting as if you’re married when you’re really not.  We’re talking about common-law marriages, but also cohabitation, shacking up.  Let’s be clear about this:  in the light of God’s law, it is not acceptable for unmarried couples to live together as if they are married.  Period.  The general rule is that you live separately before making your marriage vows and only after you’re married do you share the same bed and so on.  Remember:  the seventh commandment speaks about God forbidding whatever may entice us to sexual impurity!  Living together before marriage is, generally speaking, an enticement to impurity.  And so also this practice vandalizes God’s blueprint for marriage. 

All these acts of vandalism have consequences.  It’s always good to be reminded of Proverbs 13:15, “The way of the unfaithful is hard.”  When you vandalize God’s blueprint for marriage, it can be fun for a while, but eventually the chickens come home to roost.  Think of the terrible damage that porn does to marriages – breaking the trust and intimacy between a husband and a wife.  Or think of what happens when couples engage in sexual intimacy before they’re married.  Especially for women, this can have a very negative impact on your married life.  When couples have had pre-marital intimacy, they usually later experience a lack of romance, mutual blame, distrust, guilt, resentment and all kinds of other baggage.  Prevention is the best cure.  Perhaps there are engaged couples in this congregation, or those who are in serious relationships that may lead to engagement and marriage.  I want to say it to you as clearly as possible:  if you want to have a healthy marriage later, now is the time to say “no” to all forms of sexual intimacy.  All forms – not just the one form that might result in pregnancy.   Ultimately, this is about God’s glory in your life – that’s the highest and most important consequence.  How is God being glorified when you disregard and even vandalize his blueprint for your life? 

For those who have sinned in these ways, there is help, healing, and forgiveness in Christ.  In the bulletin, I mention one book that might be helpful for those who’ve had pre-marital intimacy [see bulletin insert below].  This book, by someone who’s been there, points us to Christ as the one who gives healing and hope.  And at this point in the sermon, let’s see how he fulfills and restores the blueprint of marriage. 

3.  The blueprint of marriage is restored and fulfilled in Christ. 

We already heard something of Christ’s teaching on marriage and divorce – how he reaffirmed marriage as something good and beautiful and how divorce is a necessary evil in a broken world.  When the Lord Jesus lived on this earth, he restored a proper view of marriage.  After all, the Pharisees had cheapened it through easy divorce.  It’s well-known that in those days, a Jewish man could divorce his wife for the most frivolous reasons.  All a woman had to do was burn her husband’s supper and she could become the ex.  But Christ taught that divorce is only warranted in cases where unity and intimacy are irreparably broken.  Burning supper does not qualify. 

But more than this, Christ also showed the depth of the seventh commandment and how this commandment guards the closest relationship between human beings.  Just think of what he said in Matthew 5 about looking at another person lustfully – this also breaks the unity and intimacy of marriage.  Adultery is not just about physical acts – it’s about what lives in your heart.  Christ showed that God’s blueprint for marriage is not just about external actions – keeping your hands off others – most importantly, it’s about what lives in your heart.  Adultery inevitably begins with the heart.  When we open ourselves up to others, when we glance a bit too long, when we flirt with those we’re not married to, we’re sending subtle signals that we’re actually on the hunt for a fling.  We reveal what’s living in our hearts with our words and actions, subtle or not.  The best practical advice to avoid this is to always talk about your spouse with others in a positive way.  When others see that you’re satisfied and happy with your spouse, you’re protected from adulterous relationships.  For guys, when a woman starts getting a little bit too close for comfort, if you start praising your wife and kids, that’s the sure way to put the kibosh on any further developments.  The women can keep guys at bay by always making clear that their number one best friend is their husband.  Then we show to others that an affair is the furthest thing from our hearts – we want to live within the framework God has given, that framework which Christ taught us so clearly in his ministry on earth.  He taught a restored view of marriage.

Marriage is also restored by Christ when we consider that marriage is reflective of deeper spiritual realities.  In our reading from Ephesians 5, it’s clear that there’s a connection between the relationship between Christ and the church and our relationships as husbands and wives.  The heavenly marriage is a model of how we should relate to one another in our marriages.  So, just as Christ is faithful to his bride, in the same way spouses ought to be faithful to one another – and that means:  in every way.  Christ is only intimate with his bride – he only has eyes for her, only cares about her.  The church ought to feel the same way about her husband.  And in our marriages, our commitment to one another has to be Christ-like. 

You see, Christ gave himself entirely for the church and that forms our pattern for loving marriages.  The kind of love we see in Christ is entirely self-sacrificial.  Love is about giving, not taking and getting – what I can get out of it, having my needs met.  I heard a song a while back and one of the lines was “The more we take the less we become.”  I thought that has an air of truth to it.  If we turn it around to a positive statement, and if we look at Christ as our model for love, isn’t it true that the the more we give the more we become like Christ?  The seventh commandment relates directly to this.  It forbids selfish abuses of the sexual aspects of our being – those aspects which are to be saved for sharing with a spouse.  In this way, we see that the seventh commandment is restored and fulfilled in Christ – he gave himself entirely for the bride he loves. 

Christ not only restores the blueprint for marriage, he also fulfills it.  Christ’s relationship with his church fills up to the full what a perfect marriage should look like.  Of course, this is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit working in the church and sanctifying her.  And through this work, through this relationship, we can look ahead to eternity.  The time will come when there will be no more marriage.  Marriage between men and women is only for this age.  In the age to come, the only marriage will be between Christ and his people.  In the new world, we will be entirely focussed on Christ, living in intimate relationship with him forever, being completely and utterly satisfied in every way with our Saviour. 

As we reflect on this aspect of marriage, we can see that the fulfillment of the blueprint also speaks to those of us who are not called to the married state.  When God’s will for us is that we’re single, if only for the time being or if permanently, our calling is to focus entirely on Christ.  Sure, we may desire marriage on earth, but ultimately all of us have to realize that marriage is pointing us to relationship with Christ.  And we can have an intimate relationship with Christ without being married – in some ways, it might even be easier, as Paul himself said.  As singles, we have to find our satisfaction, our meaningfulness, with whom it will all ultimately be fulfilled in the age to come:  with Christ. 

It is significant that the Catechism’s first question in this Lord’s Day is about what the seventh commandment teaches us, not about what God requires, like with the other commandments.  You see, the seventh commandment teaches us about how God views our sexuality and how believers will live within his blueprint, his design for our lives.  In that way, the seventh commandment also teaches us about the beauty and depth of marriage – this institution is so important that God gave one of the ten commandments to protect it.  This institution is such an important part of God’s will for us that he gives his Son to teach us more fully about its depth and true significance.  And because of all that, we’re motivated to thankfully and joyfully live according to this blueprint.  And in this way, we experience true intimacy, not only among ourselves as husbands and wives, but also ultimately, for all of us, we experience genuine intimacy with our God.  AMEN. 

Bulletin Insert

Helpful Resource Mentioned in the Afternoon Sermon
Reclaiming Intimacy: Overcoming the Consequences of Premarital Relationships, Heather Jamison (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001).  From the backcover:
Nearly 80% of Americans -- including Christians -- weren't virgins at their wedding.  Our culture says that's no big deal.  Reality is, though, sex outside of marriage results in guilt and resentment.  Even couples who eventually marry start off with a relationship built on weakened trust.  Heather Jamison knows this reality; she lived it.  "I traded my Bible for a boy, my prayers for a party, and my purity for a person."  With her broken marriage now restored and many life lessons learned, Heather offers you the hope she has found.  Her personal story includes a step-by-step model of repentance, forgiveness, and ultimately, the joy of reclaiming intimacy.
Highly recommended!

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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