|A GODLY MARRIAGE
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 28, 2003
This morning our topic is marriage - Godly marriage. As we begin we need to acknowledge together that this is a difficult topic which we need to approach with great sensitivity. There are some here - as there are in any group like this - there are some who long to be married and are not - and that’s a struggle for them. There are some here who - as we speak of marriage - will be reminded of pain and brokenness and loss. There are some who are now in the midst of marriages that are very difficult. Some who - as we discuss the nature of Godly marriage - know that that ideal is not theirs - yet.
So we need to be sensitive. Our goal is not to cast stones or to add guilt or shame - to add burdens and to discourage. We need to be a community that lives within God’s grace and mercy - that encourages and understands those who struggle.
That’s why its important for us to look at what God says about marriage - to seek understanding of what marriage can be. Because we don’t want to just acknowledge suffering and struggle. We want to seek God’s healing and the best that He has for us.
There’s another reason why this topic is so close to my heart. Over the last 17 years of ministry - most couples that have asked me to officiate at their weddings have fit a pattern. I’m generalizing with this. Not all couples - but most. Somehow they meet each other - go out a few times - fall in lust - get into bed together - maybe even live together - decide to get married - announce their engagement to their families - arrange for a reception hall - set a date for the wedding - get on a bridal registry - arrange for the place to get married - and at some point realize that they’d like to have a pastor do the wedding.
Which makes pre-marital counseling very interesting - very “after the fact.” Of the different things we talk about in pre-marital counseling there’s one question I ask each couple - and with the exception of 3 couples - not one couple has had an answer to this question. Most haven’t even thought about the question.
Through counseling of couples about to get married and couples that are married and couples that are no longer couples - I’ve had the opportunity - for better or for worse - to see some of the good - the bad - and the ugly of marriage. I am convinced that if couples - especially before they even think about getting married - maybe even before they start to date - if couples could prayerfully seek together God’s answer to this question most of the major problems in marriage would not exist.
Here’s the question: “What is God’s purpose for your marriage?” It may take a lifetime of marriage to fully understand the answer to that question. But, to ask the question together - to consider it - to pray about it - is to humbly open ourselves - together - to what marriage is and the potential of what God desires to do in us and through us in marriage. Those of you that are married - or thinking about it - some time today ask each other that question, “What is God’s purpose for our marriage?”
As a means of helping with the answer to that question - helping us to see what God may want to do in our marriages I’d like to share with you one truth about marriage - that is that Marriage is a partnership - the purpose of which is to glorify God.
Please turn with me to Acts 18:1-3. We’re going to look at Aquila and Priscilla - who are a married couple - to consider them as an example to us of what Godly marriage looks like.
Acts 18:1: After these things he - that is the Apostle Paul - he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew name Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.
Do you remember “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? “Man is the head of the home. But the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” There’s none of that one-upmanship deception and competition here.
Paul comes to Corinth and finds Aquila - Aquila and Priscilla. In Scripture Aquila and Priscilla are always mentioned together - never separately. Never is one placed on higher pedestal. Three times they’re introduced as Aquila and Priscilla. Three times as Priscilla and Aquila. Together they serve the same Lord - the same Savior - Jesus Christ. All they accomplished together was the result of that partnership - that unity of spirit and purpose.
3 examples for us - what they accomplished together for God’s glory.
The first example comes from their business.
Aquila and Priscilla were Jews from Asia Minor - Pontus. Through and an edict of Claudius against the Jews they’d been driven from their home in Rome - where they’d been living. Now they’re living in Corinth.
In Corinth they owned a small tentmaking business - making tents of goat's hair sewn together with thread. Often we hear that "Paul was a tentmaker, while he ministered in Corinth." It was in Aquila and Priscilla’s shop that Paul worked.
Imagine - when they weren’t preaching and teaching - Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla sitting together - and as they plied their needles, fashioning or repairing tents - they shared their lives and faith. Anyone who came into that shop would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ - would see the reality of the Gospel demonstrated in their relationship together - their love for each other - and in the way they dealt with their customers - with honesty and integrity. They were in the tent business for the glory of God.
The second example comes from their home.
In Romans we learnt that the Church of Corinth met and worshipped in their home (Romans 16:3-5). Think about that for a minute - what that involves - the commitment and openness.
Imagine if all of us showed up at your house every Sunday morning at 8:00 for the worship team to practice - at 9:30 for worship - at 11:00 for Sunday School. Then we came back at 5:00 for youth group. And we brought guests and friends and anyone who wanted to come would just show up. Those who needed to spend the night would stay over. You’re providing the room and board. And that kind of occupancy went on all week long - week in and week out.
We know that for the 18 months that Paul stayed in Corinth he lived with Aquila and Priscilla. Its not hard to imagine that visiting believers found their door always open. They’d opened up their home - and every part of their home lives - to be used for God's glory.
The third example comes from their ministry together.
Remember Apollos? Apollos is the one who Paul refers to when he says, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Apollos came to Ephesus from Alexandria. He was well educated - cultured - a powerful orator. But, with all his brilliance and eloquence, when Apollos first came to Ephesus he only knew part of the Gospel - the first part - the teaching of John the Baptist. What he was preaching was not in error. It was just incomplete.
It was Aquila and Priscilla - who were living in Ephesus at the time - it was Aquila and Priscilla who took Apollos aside and shared with him the larger truth of redemption - the reality of salvation through Jesus Christ - crucified and alive. The result was Apollos' powerful ministry - so dynamic that some - later when he moved to Corinth - some gave him higher regard than Paul and Peter. All that Apollos became he owed - under God - to the quiet instruction - the discipleship - of Aquila and Priscilla. (Acts 18:24-28)
Aquila and Priscilla had a tremendous part in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. When Paul left Corinth for Ephesus - they went with him (Acts 18:18,19; 20:34; 2 Timothy 4:19). There they joined him in his ministry. During the great riots in Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla risked their own lives to save Paul's life. Later, they followed Paul to Rome and joined him in ministry there. (Romans 16:3-5)
Where would the ministry of Apollos have been - what would the ministry of Paul have been like - a lot shorter if he’d been martyred in Ephesus - only God knows how many were saved spiritually - how significant was the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla.
Church tradition tells us that on July 8, 66, Aquila and Priscilla - still in love with each other and still in love with Jesus Christ - their marriage strong and still bringing glory to God - they were led beyond the walls of Ephesus and beheaded.
Marriage is a partnership - the purpose of which is to glorify God.
Today there’s a movement which seeks to add to the United States Constitution an amendment stating that "Marriage in the United Sates shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” Lambda - a legal organization dedicated to end discrimination based on sexual orientation - Lambda is promoting their own Marriage Resolution calling for the government to “not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry.” Since 1998, February 12th has been set aside by some as the so-called National Freedom to Marry Day - a day calling for the ending of discrimination in marriage. (1)
We live in a world where there’s confusion as to what marriage is. Are we talking about same-sex marriages, open marriages, bi-costal marriages, domestic partnerships, arranged marriages, common-law marriages?
We need to be clear on what marriage is. On the back side of your Sermon Notes you’ll see a number of Scripture passages that are the basis for what I’m about to share. (2) I want to encourage you to take the time - not now - later - to read through those passages. What I’m about to say isn’t my philosophy or definition of marriage. That wouldn’t really be all that helpful. What we need to see is the instruction of God’s word.
In Genesis - when God brings Adam and Eve together - God gives us an example of what He intends marriage to be. In the Bible, God describes marriage as an exclusive relationship between a man and a women - two unique complete parts of the image of God - one male and one female - brought together into one union - ideally - for life.
In the Bible, God condemns any behavior that will distort - damage - or destroy what He intends for marriage - fornication - adultery - homosexuality - divorce. Behavior which our society is increasingly telling us is a part of marriage. God condemns them because they’re a threat - a danger to what marriage is - the quality and permanence of marriage - the freedom of the couple to know God’s blessings - their ability to glorify God through their marriage.
In the Bible, God says that a marriage which brings glory to Him - testifies of who He is - is a partnership - between those who know God - those who have a personal saving relationship through Jesus Christ. When we know Jesus Christ - the priority of our individual lives and of our marriage is to serve God - glorifying - testifying of Him - and not ourselves. When we know "first hand" God's love given through Jesus Christ, we can begin to express the reality - the qualities - and characteristics of His love to our spouses. All of which glorifies God - testifying of His great love.
When we look at the example of Aquila and Priscilla that’s the kind of marriage we see.
Let me put this very practically.
Many marriages fail after a very short period of time - 1 or 2 years. Often this means divorce. Or some marriages just endure. But in reality the bond - the glue - of the marriage has long since evaporated. Sound familiar?
Too often when a couple is married 35 or so years they finally call it quits - separate - divorce. Have you seen this happen? It seems strange. We’d think that a couple married over 30 years would at least be able to know how to survive anything which threatens their union.
Often the coming apart - for the newly weds - and the senior weds - the marriage is coming apart for exactly the same reason.
At around 35 years of marriage some dramatic changes take place in a home - children grow up - go away to school - they leave - the house suddenly becomes really big and really empty. Often, when a couple gets to this stage of life, if the only purpose for the marriage has become raising children there will be a major problem. Put simply - NO KIDS - NO PURPOSE - NO MARRIAGE.
Put any other temporal purpose for marriage into the equation - sex, companionship, co-dependency - whatever.... When the purpose is taken away the marriage is in trouble. The one purpose for marriage which cannot be diminished by the changing circumstances of our lives is that of a Christian couple which is focused on the priority of glorifying God.
Bringing our kids to Sunday School - being here on Sunday morning, serving on boards and committees - giving financially to the church - all these things are important. But, these are not the example which is given to us in the Bible. The Biblical example of a marriage which endures - which is a partnership - which is powerful in its impact in the lives of others - is the marriage which is 100% shaped, focused, and consumed by the purpose of glorifying God.
Often we think that marriage and work are separate - not really a part of our service for God. At best we might give money to the church as a response for God's blessing our work. Or, we might open our home up for a Bible study. But, when we see the examples in the Bible - Christian marriage is so much more. How many of us really experience a marriage which is 100% given over to serving God?
How many of us would be willing to move to another city to serve God? To own a different type of car so that the church could use it to transport youth our shut-ins? To be willing to open our home to an evangelist to live in - for 18 months? To spend our time together serving God - witnessing, teaching, discipling? To change jobs or make the primary focus of our job - to win people to Christ? To open our homes and our lives to our neighbors - with the goal of being a part of their lives - of creating opportunities to share the Gospel with them?
That’s radical. But, when a Christian couple makes decisions with the primary consideration of how their decision will affect their ability to serve God they’re going to have a strong partnership which will glorify God.
(Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Matthew 1:25; Acts 15:22-29; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 7:1,2;
Ephesians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:4)
Some suggestions for the development of a life-long-lasting partnership:
He is you know!
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.