Twin Truths Held Together

Text: Ephesians 5:21-25

In understanding what the Bible says about marriage two realities must be held together; one drawn from Genesis chapter 1, the other from Genesis chapter 2. Failure to grasp these twin truths results in severe consequences. Learning them, can be a strong foundation for a working, God honoring, harmonious relationship.

How to Love Your Spouse

love01(Excerpt from What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp)

How to Love your Spouse by the Grace of God by Paul David Tripp

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.

What does this look like in a marriage?

Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of your husband or wife without impatience or anger.
Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward your spouse, while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
Love is being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding, and being more committed to unity and love than you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
Love means being willing, when confronted by your spouse, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to your husband or wife is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
Love is being a good student of your spouse, looking for his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support him as he carries it, or encourage him along the way.
Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face as a couple, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when it is requested.
Love is recognizing the high value of trust in a marriage and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack your spouse’s character or assault his or her intelligence.
Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive in any way in order to co-opt your spouse into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
Love is being unwilling to ask your spouse to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of his or hers.
Love is the willingness to have less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be and to do as a husband or a wife.
Love is a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love in your marriage.
Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat your spouse with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when he or she doesn’t seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
Love is the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your marriage without asking anything in return or using your sacrifices to place your spouse in your debt.
Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your marriage, hurt your husband or wife, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
Love is daily admitting to yourself, your spouse, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace.
Love is a specific commitment of the heart to a specific person that causes you to give yourself to a specific lifestyle of care that requires you to be willing to make sacrifices that have that person’s good in view.
This realization should give you pause and then spur you to action: it is impossible for any of us to love as has been described. The bar is simply too high. The requirements are simply too great. None of us has what it takes to reach this standard. This description of love in action has left me humbled and grieved. It has faced me once again with my tendency to name as love things that are not love. It has forced me to admit how self-focused and self-absorbed I actually am. It has reminded me that when it comes to love, I am not an expert. No, I am poor, weak, and needy.

Jesus died not only so that we would have forgiveness for not loving as we should, but also so that we would have the desire, wisdom, and power to love as we should.

Jesus suffered in love so that in your struggle to love you would never, ever be alone. As you give yourself to love, he showers you with his love, so that you would never be without what you need to love.

Christian Marriage – The Basis

sproul-r-c-Article – The Basis of a Christian Marriage by R.C. Sproul (original source I attended an interesting wedding. I was especially struck by the creativity of the ceremony. The bride and the groom had brainstormed with the pastor in order to insert new and exciting elements into the service, and I enjoyed those elements. However, in the middle of the ceremony, they included portions of the traditional, classic wedding ceremony. When I began to hear the words from the traditional ceremony, my attention perked up and I was moved. I remember thinking, “There is no way to improve on this because the words are so beautiful and meaningful.” A great deal of thought and care had been put into those old, familiar words.

Today, of course, many young people not only are saying no to the traditional wedding ceremony, they are rejecting the concept of marriage itself. More and more young people are coming from broken homes, and as a result, they have a fear and suspicion about the value of marriage. So we see couples living together rather than marrying for fear that the cost of that commitment may be too much. They fear it may make them too vulnerable. This means that one of the most stable and, as we once thought, permanent traditions of our culture is being challenged.

One of the things I like most about the traditional wedding ceremony is that it includes an explanation as to why there is such a thing as marriage. We are told in that ceremony that marriage is ordained and instituted by God—that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.

We see this in the earliest chapters of the Old Testament, where we find the creation account. We find that God creates in stages, beginning with the light (Gen. 1:3) and capping the process with the creation of man (v. 27). At every stage, He utters a benediction, a “good word.” God repeatedly looks at what He has made and says, “That’s good” (vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

But then God notices something that provokes not a benediction but what we call a malediction, that is, a “bad word.” What was this thing that God saw in His creation that He judged to be “not good”? We find it in Genesis 2:18, where God declares, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” That prompts Him to create Eve and bring her to Adam. God instituted marriage, and He did it, in the first instance, as an answer to human loneliness. For this reason, God inspired Moses to write, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24).

But while I like and appreciate the words of the traditional wedding ceremony, I believe the form of the ceremony is even more important. This is because the traditional ceremony involves the making of a covenant. The whole idea of covenant is deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches that our very redemption is based on a covenant. Much could be said here about the character of the biblical covenants, but one vital facet is that none of them is a private matter. Every covenant is undertaken in the presence of witnesses. This is why we invite guests to our weddings. It is so they will witness our vows—and hold us accountable to keep them. It is one thing for a man to whisper expressions of love to a woman when no one will hear, but it is quite another thing for him to stand up in a church, in front of parents, friends, ecclesiastical or civil authorities, and God Himself, and there make promises to love and cherish her. Wedding vows are sacred promises made in the presence of witnesses who will remember them.

I believe marriage is the most precious of all human institutions. It’s also the most dangerous. Into our marriages we pour our greatest and deepest expectations. We put our emotions on the line. There we can achieve the greatest happiness, but we also can experience the greatest disappointment, the most frustration, and the most pain. With that much at stake, we need something more solemn than a casual promise.

Even with formal wedding ceremonies, even with the involvement of authority structures, roughly fifty percent of marriages fail. Sadly, among the men and women who stay together as husband and wife, many would not marry the same spouse again, but they stay together for various reasons. Something has been lost regarding the sacred and holy character of the marriage covenant. In order to strengthen the institution of marriage, we might want to consider strengthening the wedding ceremony, with a clear, biblical reminder that marriage is instituted by God and forged in His sight.

An Excellent Wife

lawson3The Blessing of an Excellent Wife by Steven Lawson (original source for better or for worse. She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it. What kind of wife encourages her husband’s spiritual growth? Proverbs 31:10–31 provides a profile of the wife who is worthy of her husband’s trust. Such a wife is the embodiment of true wisdom from God, causing the husband to confide in her with complete trust.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). Such a good wife is hard to find. The word excellent (hayil) can mean “strength, capability, valor, or dignity.” This woman exemplifies each of these qualities, having great competence, noble character, and a strong commitment to God and her family. Only the Lord can provide such an excellent woman: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). This virtuous woman is a priceless gift from God.

Is it any wonder that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (v. 11)? The husband has faith in her because “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life” (v. 12). She brings her many strengths into their marriage, each one uniquely suited to complement his weaknesses. Her gifts immediately become his gains, and she provides much that causes him to trust her?

Her Service

First, this extraordinary wife tirelessly serves him. Not sitting by idly, she actively “seeks wool and flax,” then extends a “willing hand” (v. 13) to spin thread and make material. She is “like a merchant ship” (v. 14), launching out to find the best fabric, at the best price, in order to make the best clothes. This selfless wife “rises while it is yet night” (v. 15) to prepare food for her family. An excellent manager, she oversees “her maidens” as they serve alongside her in the household. Continue reading

Dishes by the Sink

1 Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way…”

Here’s a very interesting and informative article on how men and women see things differently. (Warning – use of bad language)

The Clash of the Worldviews

Matt 19:1-6

In light of the Supreme Court ruling this week, here is a clarion call to Biblical faithfulness, knowing we pay a very high price for doing so.

The Biblical Grounds for Divorce

rick_phillipsDr. Rick Phillips is the Bible teacher of the God’s Living Word broadcast, S.C., having served previously as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Coral Springs/Margate, Florida, and as minister of preaching at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, a master of business administration degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and a master of divinity degree at Westminster Theological Seminary. Prior to entering the ministry, he commanded tank units as an officer in the U.S. Army and later served as an assistant professor of leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He writes:

We are having a great PCRT in Grand Rapids this weekend. Our speakers Iain Duguid, David Garner, and David Murray have been terrific on our theme of Holiness and Honor: A Reformed View of Marriage and Sex. We also had an insightful Q&A session. Unfortunately, it was way too short to get to even a majority of the questions. Therefore, I promised to tackle them here on Ref21 in the upcoming days. So here goes with the first question for the PCRT Q&A leftovers:

“David Murray mentioned that marriage is honored when it is only ended on biblical grounds, which are adultery and desertion. Will you explain this?”

Dr. Murray is setting forth the standard Reformed view of biblical divorce in keeping with the Scriptures. Two key texts are involved. The first comes from Jesus in Matthew 19. First, Jesus stated the principle, saying that a married couple “are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt. 19:6). The question was then raised to him about divorce and Jesus answered: “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9).

Notice that here we have an exception to the rule that prohibits divorce among Christians. I have heard pastors say that Christians may not divorce, with no exceptions. Here is a good rule, however: when Jesus himself uses the word “except,” then there is an exception! Here, the exception is adultery. The Greek word is porneia, and it is rightly understood to refer to sexual infidelity in violation of the marriage bond. Any other divorce is wrongful and a Christian who divorces without this ground, Jesus says, commits the sin of adultery.

There is a second situation, however, that is cited by God’s Word as a ground for divorce. The apostle addresses this in 1 Corinthians 7:15. He writes that “if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved.” The word “enslaved” means “bound” to the marriage. A person who is “loosed” from marriage on biblical grounds not only may divorce but may also remarry in the church. Here, the ground is abandonment. I.e. a spouse leaves the marriage and refuses to be reconciled. Notice that Paul says that it must be an unbeliever. It may be someone who professed faith in Christ but who revealed by his or her breaking of the marital bond that he or she is not a believer, in which case such a covenant-breaker will generally be excommunicated from a godly church. Thus the abandoned spouse is free to divorce and remarry.

A few notes are significant about abandonment as a ground of divorce. In his address, Dr. Murray stressed that it must be “irremedial abandonment.” By this, I presume that he meant that the one spouse has rejected all attempts at reconciliation or even has physically absented himself or herself from the marriage in such a way that he cannot be found. The point is that we do not declare abandonment simply when one member of the marriage moves out or goes to spend at night at his parents. It is final abandonment, leaving the abandoned spouse with no recourse but to end the marriage.

Second, abandonment is widely used today in cases of severe abuse. It may be the case that a spouse has not physically left the marriage but is so physically or emotionally abusive that the principle of marriage has been abandoned. In this, such a person will have rejected the authority of the church in seeking repentance, resulting in excommunication. Different churches hold different views and practices about abuse. In my view, severe abuse may constitute abandonment, but this principle should be practiced with great care and reluctance. An angry blow-up does not constitute abandonment of the marriage via abuse. It must be a protracted and seriously harmful situation from which one member of the marriage must be protected via church discipline.

These, then, are two biblical grounds of the divorce, which churches acknowledge from Scripture and practice with great care, sadness, and even reluctance. It is, however, the teaching of the Word of God and therefore these two grounds for divorce obligate our belief and practice.

How can I tell if repentance is genuine?

Sproul JrDr. R. C. Sproul, Jr., in an article entitled “How can I tell if someone has truly repented of grievous sin?” writes:

The Fruit of True Repentance

There is one tell-tale fruit, but it may take a long time for it to happen. And even then you likely won’t see it. But here’s the fruit nonetheless — if the sinner ends up in heaven, you will know they had truly repented. If not, they likely had not. I understand the desire to know the sincerity of another’s repentance. I’ve been in countless pastoral situations wherein it seemed like the answer to that one question — is this person truly repentant — determined the answer to every other question about what should be done. Trouble is, God has not been pleased to give us the means to peer into the souls of others.

An Example

So what do we do? Consider the case of adultery, perhaps the most common grievous sin we face. Suppose I am unfaithful to my wife. Suppose I claim to be repentant. What ought she to do? The Bible says that she is free to divorce me, but is not required to do so. Many times her decision is bound up in this question — is he repentant? But that’s not really the question. If I am repentant, her duty is to forgive me. But her duty is not to remain married to me. If I am feigning repentance, and she decides to stay with me, but later determines my repentance isn’t sincere, even if I so confess, she is not free to divorce me. That’s why my counsel in these circumstances is to encourage thinking through this question — would you, knowing what you now know, marry this person? If not, forgive and divorce. If so, forgive and stay together. But you don’t need to know if the repentance is sincere.

Evidence of True Repentance

One parenthetical thought. I consider it good evidence, though not compelling proof, that a person is sincere in their repentance if they repent before their offense is known, and if they repent of what would otherwise never be known. Such doesn’t mean, on the other hand, that only this kind of repentance is sincere. David was busted by Nathan before he came to repentance. But I doubt anyone would doubt his sincerity after reading Psalm 51.

Time Will Tell?

The hope that time will tell is elusive. The unrepentant can appear repentant for a long time. The repentant, on the other hand, sin all the time, making it all too easy to doubt their repentance. In the end, therefore, all we are left to do is to exercise our best judgment, and I would argue, to practice a judgment of charity. Perhaps the best indicator I know of is this — is the sinner owning their sin, and standing ready to do whatever is necessary to make right, as much as is possible what they have done. Which is to say, the repentant are those who repent. Can the unrepentant fake this? Yes, but usually they do not.

Forgiveness

We cannot go through our lives afraid that we might forgive the unrepentant. We ought to go through our lives afraid we have failed to forgive the repentant. With the former we may allow ourselves to be wrong, with the latter we are wronging others.