Sunday, February 21, 2010

Genesis 2:18-25 - The Sanctity of Marriage

Opening thought: Trial has ended in United States District Court in San Francisco for Perry v. Schwarzenegger. We are now waiting for closing arguments next month. Have you heard of it? That case could change all of our lives, our society, and millennia of Western culture. Let me explain.

Homosexual marriage advocates are challenging in federal court the constitutionality of Prop. 8, which passed in November 2008 when more than 7 million Californians voted 52% in favor of the constitutional amendment which defines marriage as between only a man and a woman.
After its passage, many lawsuits were filed challenging the validity of the measure and in May, 2009, the California Supreme Court held that Prop 8 was indeed lawfully enacted. Three days prior to that ruling, however, a group with independent access to funding filed suit in US District Court, Northern Division on behalf of two same-sex couples in what is the Perry v Schwarzenegger case. This case holds national significance for the future of marriage. The stakes in the Perry case are enormous: a ruling to overturn Prop 8 could nullify the marriage laws in 45 states and imperil the federal Defense of Marriage Act. [1]

God established three institutions for society: family, church, and government. All three of them are based on marriage. The foundation of society is marriage. No healthy marriages, no healthy families. No healthy marriages, no healthy churches. No healthy marriages, no healthy governments.

In 2006, the Witherspoon Institute published a scholarly defense of traditional marriage. In it, they named four threats to marriage and society: divorce, illegitimacy (non-marital child-bearing), cohabitation, and same-sex marriage.

Divorce: 45% of new marriages now end in divorce. “Children from broken homes are significantly more likely to divorce as adults, to experience marital problems, to suffer from mental illness and delinquency, to drop out of high school, to have poor relationships with one or both parents, and to have difficulty committing themselves to a relationship. Divorce is also associated with poverty, depression, substance abuse, and poor health among adults. More broadly, widespread divorce poisons the larger culture of marriage, insofar as it sows distrust, insecurity, and a low-commitment mentality among married and unmarried adults. For all these reasons, divorce threatens marriage, hurts children, and has had dire consequences for the nation as a whole.”

Illegitimacy: “children raised in single-parent families without the benefit of a married mother and father are two to three times more likely to experience serious negative life outcomes such as imprisonment, depression, teenage pregnancy, and high school failure, compared to children from intact, married families. Women who bear children outside of marriage are significantly more likely to experience poverty, to drop out of high school, and to have difficulty finding a good marriage partner, even when compared to women from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Men who father children outside of marriage are significantly more likely to experience educational failure, to earn less, and to have difficulty finding a good marriage partner, even after controlling for socioeconomic factors.”
Cohabitation: “Adults in cohabiting unions face higher rates of domestic violence, sexual infidelity, and instability, compared to couples in marital unions. Children reared by cohabiting couples are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, to be suspended from school, and to cheat in school, compared to children reared by a married mother and father. Children cohabiting with an unrelated adult male face dramatically higher risks of sexual or physical abuse, compared to children in intact, married families. For instance, one Missouri study found that preschool children living in households with unrelated adults (typically a mother’s boyfriend) were nearly 50 times more likely to be killed than were children living with both biological parents.

Same-Sex Marriage: There has not yet been time for any long-term studies of the affects of same-sex marriage on children. But there are some things we do know. Institution of same-sex marriage would further undercut the idea that procreation is intrinsically connected to marriage. It would undermine the idea that children need both a mother and a father, further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they beget. Finally, same-sex marriage would likely corrode marital norms of sexual fidelity, since gay marriage advocates and gay couples tend to downplay the importance of sexual fidelity in their definition of marriage. Surveys of men entering same-sex civil unions in Vermont indicate that 50 percent of them do not value sexual fidelity, and rates of sexual promiscuity are high among gay men.
It gets worse. Judith Stacey, professor of sociology at New York University and a leading advocate of gay marriage, hopes that same-sex marriage will promote a “pluralist expansion of the meaning, practice, and politics of family life in the United States” where “perhaps some might dare to question the dyadic limitations of Western marriage and seek some of the benefits of extended family life through small group marriages…”
Same-sex marriage has taken hold in societies or regions with low rates of marriage and/or fertility. For instance, Belgium, Canada, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, and Spain all have fertility rates well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. These are societies in which child-centered marriage has ceased to be the organizing principle of adult life. Seen in this light, same-sex marriage is both a consequence of and further stimulus to the abolition of marriage as the preferred vehicle for ordering sex, procreation, and childrearing in the West. While there are surely many unknowns, what we do know suggests that embracing same-sex marriage would further weaken marriage itself at the very moment when it needs to be most strengthened.

I hope I haven’t lost you, because we are at an important juncture. The big question is, what does the Bible say about marriage? Let’s turn to the foundational passage on marriage in the Bible in the book of Genesis.

Read:  Genesis 2:18-25

Contextual Notes: Marriage is far more than a cultural institution or an arrangement that society worked out for a man and a woman to meet their needs for companionship. Marriage was established by the Creator as the building block of society, government, and culture. The marriage relationship provides the stable basis from which all other human relationships develop.

In the Witherspoon Institute’s defense of marriage was a list of ten principles regarding marriage and the public good.
TEN PRINCIPLES ON MARRIAGE AND THE PUBLIC GOOD
1. Marriage is a personal union, intended for the whole of life, of husband and wife.
2. Marriage is a profound human good, elevating and perfecting our social and sexual nature.
3. Ordinarily, both men and women who marry are better off as a result.
4. Marriage protects and promotes the well-being of children.
5. Marriage sustains civil society and promotes the common good.
6. Marriage is a wealth-creating institution, increasing human and social capital.
7. When marriage weakens, the equality gap widens, as children suffer from the disadvantages of growing up in homes without committed mothers and fathers.
8. A functioning marriage culture serves to protect political liberty and foster limited government.
9. The laws that govern marriage matter significantly.
10. “Civil marriage” and “religious marriage” cannot be rigidly or completely divided from one another.

Key Truth: Moses wrote Genesis 2:18-25 to teach believers that marriage is a covenant setting apart a man and woman for companionship, intimacy, and openness.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the sanctity of marriage.

Sermon Points:
  1. God designed marriage for companionship (Genesis 2:18-23)
  2. God designed marriage for closeness (Genesis 2:24)
  3. God designed marriage for openness (Genesis 2:25)
Exposition:   Note well,

1.   GOD DESIGNED MARRIAGE FOR COMPANIONSHIP (Gen 2:18-23).

a.   In naming these animals, Adam found that each kind of animal had two sexes, but that he was alone. True partnership is not based on sexual instinct, despite what they teach in biology class and on cable TV. We are more than the product of our nerve endings, hormones, and firing synapses. God is a Trinity – by nature a social being. Man (and woman), being in the image of God, is the same. Verses 18 is for men and women!

b.   Suitable helper: (Gen. 2:18, 20) (Hebrew implies the fitting into a unity in which each helps the other equally.) Helper here does not mean servant. In identifying the woman as a helper, Moses was actually elevating the role and worth of a woman by calling her by the same name used by God of himself (Psalm 30:10; 54:4). Adam needed Eve.

c.   She was taken from the man’s side –
                     i.    Not the man’s head – where she would have corporate authority over him.
                    ii.    Not the man’s feet – where he would have abusive, physical authority over her.
                  iii.    Not the man’s loins – as a child, where he would have moral authority over her
                  iv.    But from his side, -- as a companion and friend, close to his heart – the most intimate link in all creation, to be one flesh; to consider the other the very part of his/her being, the wife to be the help her husband needs, the husband to help his wife live to her potential.

d.   As a model for us, Adam and Eve were actually one flesh, the goal of every marriage. Ish and Issha. The model of Adam, in contrast to 3:16, is that the man should subordinate his interests to those of his wife (v. 24).

e.   Tertullian (A.D. 200) – “How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are in very truth, ‘two in one flesh’; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations.”[2]

f.    This ideal union ordained by the Creator cannot exist in polygamous relationships between a man and several women or a woman and several men. Nor can there be perfect complementarity and intimacy in a homosexual relationship between two men or two women. That is why God condemns all sexual relationships outside the gracious boundary of marriage between one man and one woman
                     i.    Romans 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:8-10

g.   APPLICATION: Not that you are not complete if you are single, but God brings men and women together to make them stronger and more effective than if they remained single. So let me ask those of you who are married: How is the companionship? Is your spouse still your best friend? Do you spend significant discretionary time apart when you could be together? When is the last time you prayed together? How often do you encourage your spouse? Have you expressed to your spouse your gratefulness for walking with you so faithfully through those dark times together? Do others see you as two who barely tolerate each other? Or never see you together? Or perhaps listen to you engage in a regular dose of husband or wife-bashing? Or do people see you two as companions? Soul mates? Lovers? Best friends?

2.   GOD DESIGNED MARRIAGE FOR CLOSENESS (Gen 2:24).

  1. Marriage is more than having a partner like oneself. It involves becoming one flesh, an original unity, with complete sharing, with no boundaries between them. They will be one flesh all their lives, as Jesus confirmed in Matthew 19:6: “6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

  1. The emphasis on leaving and cleaving does not mean that God does not have a place for the extended family. God condemns the rejection or neglect of parents (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 27:16; 1 Timothy 5:4).
  1. God commands married couples to multiply a Godly legacy (Genesis 1:28). He commands us to create a Godly legacy through having children. Having children is not an option. It is a command.
                     i.    Psalm 127:3-5: 3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
                    ii.    Psalm 78:5-7: 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God  and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
                  iii.    Deuteronomy 6:6-7: 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
                  iv.    Witherspoon Institute: “Marriage is by its nature sexual. It gives a unique unitive and procreative meaning to the sexual drive, distinguishing marriage from other close bonds. The emotional, spiritual, and psychological closeness of a married couple is realized in the unique biological unity that occurs between a man and a woman united as husband and wife. In procreation, marital love finds its highest realization and expression. In the family, children find the safety, security, and support they need to reach their full potential, grounded in a public, prior commitment of mother and father to become one family together.”

d.   APPLICATION: Let me ask you about your marriage. Are you close? Or have you drifted from each other? Are you making an effort to be close? Intimacy is about more than sex. Are you being intimate at the heart level? Are your hearts close? Couples, are you building a Godly legacy in your family? Are you teaching your children and grandchildren about the Lord? Are you making it normal to talk about the Lord around the table? Do you sit down and eat as a family around the table?

e.   You couples who are not able to have children yourselves, you still have an obligation to build a Godly legacy. What are you doing about it? Are you looking into adoption? Are you willing to adopt a baby or a child who needs a Christian home in whom you can instill a Godly legacy and do your part to redeem our culture and society?

f.    Husbands and wives, if you are able to have children, are you trying? If it weren’t for Latinos in this country, Americans would not be having enough children to replace ourselves. As it is, we are barely making the 2.1 replacement levels necessary to preserve our society and culture. American evangelicals have bought into the secular lie, the Planned Parenthood, evolutionary lies that we should “plan” our families, as if God were not sovereign. We listen to our doctors who advise us to use birth control, birth control that makes the womb a toxic environment for a fertilized egg, and while we condemn abortion as sin, we are killing our own babies in our own wombs out of a false idea of ‘being responsible.’ And all the time, we are also committing the sin of playing God with our bodies and in our marriages and refusing to birth a Godly legacy.

3.   GOD DESIGNED MARRIAGE FOR OPENNESS (Gen 2:25)

a.   Complete openness to the other is a secret of marriage. The Creator left the couple naked in the beginning (2:25). You need to be completely naked with your spouse, and I am not just talking about your clothes. I’m talking about your heart. I’m talking about complete openness.
b.   Illustration: A pastor friend once told me, as a friendly piece of marital advice, that sometimes in marriage you just have to lie to your wife to keep things peaceful. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Lies have no place in a marriage. Honest openness is a secret to the success of a marriage.

  1. APPLICATION: Complete openness means there are no secrets you won’t tell your spouse about yourself. Complete openness means you don’t hide information. Complete openness means you are honest and fully disclose all your dealings with the opposite sex. Complete openness means there are no “his money” and “her money,” but it is all “our money.” Complete openness is the secret of marriage and trust. Complete openness is a great bulwark and safety net for your marriage.  
Invitation:
Today you may find yourself floundering in your marriage. You need to pray for it. Why not come forward and seek the Lord’s face with your spouse concerning your marriage? You may have a great marriage, and you want to come forward to this altar and thank the Lord for the great gift he has given you in your spouse. Come and pray today.
        You may realize today that you need to have some honest openness with your Lord. You don’t have a relationship with him and you are lost. Come forward and come to me and let me lead you to Christ today. You may need to join this church today. This altar is open. Whatever is going on in your heart, this altar is here for prayer and ministry today. Won’t you come?

Sources:
David Boehl, et. al., Preparing for Marriage.
F.F. Bruce, The International Bible Commentary, 117.
Africa Bible Commentary, Genesis 2.
Dennis Rainey, Ministering to 21st Century Families, chap. 3.

[1] http://protectmarriage.com/trial
[2] Tertullian, Ad Uxorem, 17.