SUNDAY, JANUARY 11th, 2015
This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Talk about a crucial conversation. We have all kinds of views regarding what marriage actually is these days, even whether it’s important or necessary. Why not discard something that is so old? Isn’t it time to move on, move out and discover what is next to be revealed by our own human brilliance?
As Christ followers, we always need to come back to the word of God to be reminded of God’s changeless truth and we need to be willing to wrestle with the implications in the complex, pluralistic culture in which we live. When it comes to marriage, the carnage is great and the pain is immeasurable so we need to trod carefully (but biblically) as we ponder such an important topic.
Let me outline what I talked about on Sunday, and then I encourage you to wrestle with the many implications of living out God’s truth in 2015. Welcome to the first of a four-part series in Crucial Conversations.
Big Idea: The Glue of Marriage is Covenant.
Yes of course there is love and romance and wonder and heart palpitations but the glue is covenant.
In the Bible we read of “covenant making” in many places. In fact, our Bible is laid out in terms of a covenant, the Old Testament/Covenant and the New Testament/Covenant. There are several examples of covenants being made that include friendship, national and international relationships. These could be called horizontal covenants. Then there are vertical covenants between God and man. This definitely involved the Greater coming into relationship with the lesser; the Creator versus His creation.
The two key words in the Bible for covenant or alliance are the Heb. “berîṯ” and the Greek “diathēkē”:
- “Berîṯ” usually refers to the act or rite of the making of a covenant and also to the standing contract between two partners, like binding yourself together through a legal document
- “Diathēkē” – the root meaning of this Greek word is “to set something out in order”
The essence of covenant is to be found in a particular kind of relationship between persons.
You can see a covenant format in the books of Exodus (known as The Book of Covenant) and Deuteronomy where there are clear expectations laid out in terms of man’s relationship with God. One writer has said “There is no firmer guarantee of legal security, peace or personal loyalty than the covenant” (TDNT, II, p. 115; cf. Amos 1:9).
In the New Testament/Covenant you read of guidelines, and truths that outline the relationship between people and God.
Marriage is also a relationship that involves covenant.
Check out the following texts:
The word “united” in v. 24 is a Hebrew word that literally means “to be glued to something”. Elsewhere in the bible, “unite” means to unite to someone through a covenant, a binding promise or an oath. The word elsewhere is used to describe a covenantal commitment to God (cf. Deut. 10:20). Vows, promises made before men and God were powerful. It wasn’t like saying you will show up for a 4pm meeting then forgetting. Read Deuteronomy 23:21-22; Psalm 15:4; 76:11. The covenant was foundational and binding.
Note that in our text, becoming one flesh took place within the context of covenant. In Jewish culture this text was the foundational understanding of marriage. Safe, healthy, happy sex took place within a marital covenant. To remove sexual union from the context of a covenant was to defile the marriage bed. See Hebrews 4:13
It was not sex that equaled a marriage but covenant that established the binding foundation of that marriage which was expressed through sexual union.
Malachi 2:13 14,15 (see also Proverbs 2:17)
Note again the idea of covenant and what the people were guilty of.
One writer has said, “The covenant made between a husband and a wife is done ‘before God’ and therefore with God as well as the spouse. To break faith with your spouse is to break faith with God at the same time.”
Note what Jesus does in referencing marriage. He goes back to the beginning. Like in Malachi, the people were guilty of devaluing marriage. Jesus reminds them of covenant and its foundational and binding role in a marriage.
Notice that Paul also goes back to the beginning (Genesis) and, like Jesus and Malachi, is raising the bar on the value, foundation and permanence of marriage. But notice another way he elevates marriage - all throughout this text he is paralleling the relationship of a husband and wife to Christ and the church – v.32 and v.25 - What word characterizes Christ’s relationship to the church? Covenant. In other words the marriage covenant is a picture of the gospel.
“Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage, He already had Christ and the church in mind. This is one of God’s great purposes in marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and this redeemed people forever!” (Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.46)
Here are some questions for further discussion:
- What would the sexual practices of our culture say about this order of affairs - covenant and then sexual union? What would the sexual practices of our church say about the order of affairs - covenant and then sexual union?
- Could a child be better off if her parents had thought about commitment/covenant first before sexual union?
- Do we see any chaos, messiness or complexity in our culture and church because of low regard for covenant?
- In light of this teaching on covenant, what do you say to someone who is a Christ follower and who is having sexual relations outside of a covenant?
- Does sexual union equal covenant?
- With this understanding of the power of a covenant what is the basis of annulling a marriage if there has not been sexual union?
- If you are married how does your marriage, being a picture of the Gospel, impact how you treat each other?
Take some time to pray into the issues raised. We need grace and truth as we have these crucial conversations.
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