Honoring God through the Marriage Covenant

Linda-&-I-4b.gif

This past Thursday was our 38th wedding anniversary and, since August 5, I have asked myself a few times how seriously have I taken my marriage covenant with my wife over this past year (see my post from last year “Celebrating 37 Years of Our Marriage Covenant“) as well as the years of our marriage. As I ponder my own earnestness in relationship to my marital obligations, Malachi 2:10-16 has much to say about this subject. More specifically with this post, I would like to make two observations from v. 14 about the seriousness of the covenant relationship between a husband and wife.

This verse in Malachi explains the reason why God did not accept the worship of the Jewish community in Malachi’s day, as well as its significance for us since the marriage covenant is a creation ordinance: “Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her, though she was your marriage partner and your wife by covenant” (HCSB).

First, breaking the covenant relationship is a challenge to God’s authority. Since God stands as a witness to and enforcer of this covenant relationship, it is not a mere human contract, but one that includes a heavenly dimension. God confirms and acknowledges the wedding. It has a heavenly confirmation by the eternal, self-existent, sovereign God! To break faith with one’s partner is to defy the Almighty.

Second, the marriage partner is described in two ways in this text. She is “the wife of your youth” (in the OT, a contracted marriage while one was under the authority of their parents) and “your marriage partner and your wife by covenant.” Both these expressions point to the intimate relationship of the marriage covenant. To break this bond is to deny the most intimate of all earthly relationships. Even more than this, violating this marital bond is to be unfaithful to God. And this has eternal ramifications!

In contrast to the call of our culture that promotes sexual freedom outside of marriage between a man and a woman, God calls his redeemed people to live antithetically to our society. May God give us the faith to be loyal to our God by following his biblical mandate for marriage.

Technorati Tags:

Celebrating 37 Years of Our Marriage Covenant

Bob-&-Linda.jpg

My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary two days ago. We took a mini-vacation over this past week end and it gave me some time to reflect concisely on what it means to marry in Christ.

First, marriage involves a covenant relationship that is divinely sanctioned and legally recognized by society. From a biblical perspective, marriage was established in the Garden of Eden, as Genesis 2 teaches. As such, it is a creation ordinance that transcends both Old and New Testaments. When my wife and I married, we entered into a covenant relationship that is divinely instituted. If we synthesize a number of biblical texts, such as Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 2:17 and Malachi 2:14, we left father and mother and were united in the marriage covenant.

Second, Christian marriage is not just a divinely-instituted relationship between two people of the opposite gender, but one that is in Christ. When Linda and I were married 37 years ago, we married in Christ. We began a marriage relationship that has Christ as the Lord who writes the rules and governs the marriage. However, even for two Christians, marriage is hard because the marriage covenant still involves two people who are marred by their depravity. As I look back at the early part of our marriage, I began marriage with a certain level of sinful naiveness about the solemnity of the marriage covenant. As sinners in a Christian marriage, we should not be surprised at our own sin or the sin of our spouse. As believers, we candidly confess our sins to God and to our spouses. Only God knows how many times that I have confessed my own sin to God and my wife. Because marriage is in Christ, we have hope of persevering in marriage. Thank God for his grace in marriage for if he leaves us to ourselves, we would ruin a marriage. Even in marriage, it is all of grace.

Third, I thank God for the many years that God has given my wife and I to serve him together. It has been great to see God’s sanctifying work in our marriage. Though we have experienced ups-and-downs in 37 years of marriage, I can see that in the midst of the good, bad and ugly of life God has been at work. As I ponder the significance of 37 years of marriage, I am thankful for God’s grace in Christ for our marital relationship for “it is from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

Technorati Tags:
,

Preparing for Malachi 2:10-16

BrokenWeddingRings.jpg

I am teaching an English Bible class on Haggai and Malachi. In preparing to cover Malachi 2:10–16 tomorrow, I checked out Dr. David Instone-Brewers website (in October of 2007, I did couple of introductory posts on this subject, go here and here). While I have used a number of books on marriage and divorce, I have used with profit a couple of his books: Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context and Divorce And Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities. Though there are many complexities on the subject of biblical marriage and divorce that results in disagreements among informed believers, Dr. Instone-Brewer, Senior Research Fellow at Tyndale House, Cambridge, UK, is an expert in Rabbinics and New Testament. So he has much to contribute on this subject. One interesting feature on Dr. Instone-Brewer’s website is his reference to a series of short video presentations on this subject. To watch these, go to the Playmobible.

Technorati Tags:

Divorce and Remarriage Update

In follow-up to my post on October 22, “Divorce and Remarriage,” I wanted to call your attention to David Instone-Brewer’s blog where he provides a response to a number of criticisms related to his CT article on October 5. To follow his responses, you need to follow each of the posts addressed on the left hand side of the page. For example, one of his posts is entitled “Jesus silent about other grounds.” To read this post, you simply need to click on it and you are next taken to his discussion. To read his response to John Piper’s view of divorce, click the post “John Piper on Divorce” and you are then taken to this post. Since God fearing people have reflected different interpretative slants on divorce and remarriage over many years of Jewish and Christian history, I appreciated the charitable spirit in which Instone-Brewer articulated his differences with the position that Piper holds. David Instone-Brewer’s responses are engaging and you will profit by reading them.

Divorce and Remarriage

I have been following with intrigue three recent articles on divorce and remarriage. Initially on October 5, 2007, Christianity Today posted an article by David Instone-Brewer, “What God Has Joined.” This CT article is a condensation of two earlier books that Instone-Brewer had written: Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible and Divorce and Remarriage in the Church. To this article, John Piper wrote a strong response in disagreement with Instone-Brewer, “Tragically Widening the Grounds of Legitimate Divorce.” Piper’s disagreement with the position that Instone-Brewer supports is also reflected in three chapters of an earlier book, What Jesus Demands of the World (you should also note Instone-Brewer’s response to Piper’s criticisms, “More from David Instone-Brewer on Divorce“). To thicken the plot, Andreas Köstenberger responded to both articles by challenging both Instone-Brewer’s and Piper’s interpretation of Matthew 19:9, “Clarifying the NT Teaching on Divorce.” Like Instone-Brewer and Piper, Köstenberger also wrote a previous book dealing with this subject, God, Marriage, and Family.

Because this is such a significant issue in our culture, I would suggest that you read these works. And, while you are reading these, you should also add an earlier article by Joe M. Sprinkle, “Old Testament Perspective on Divorce and Remarriage,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (December 1997): 529–50. While Sprinkle was doing his research for this article, Gordon P. Hugenberger wrote what is IMNSHO a definitive work on Malachi 2:10-16: Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi. In many heated debates that I have heard over the years about God’s opposition to all divorce, the use of God’s hatred of divorce in Malachi 2:16 is the coup de grâce in some of these exchanges. Whatever else Hugenberger demonstrates, he cogently argues that Malachi 2:16 ESV cannot be used as the coup de grâce on all divorce. While the point of this post is not to solve all the biblical issues with marriage, divorce and remarriage, the point is to challenge you to study these issues. We are called to preach the gospel of Christ to a fallen world, comprised of all types of sinners many of whom have experienced the negative impact of fractured families, and to edify a church made up of regenerated sinners, with a growing number who have experienced the unfortunate ramifications associated with divorce. We must synthesize what the whole counsel of God has to say on the subjects of marriage, divorce, and remarriage and then be able to biblically proclaim what God has to say on these subjects. May God help us to be biblically informed and effectively teach his biblical truth on these subjects.