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ACTS 18:1-3

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
January 11, 2009

This morning we’re going to be looking at marriage.

Do you remember the Dick Van Dyke show?  That dates a few of us?  Here’s the scene.  Laura has been home all day.  None of the repairmen have shown up.  The washing machine is clogged up.  The garbage disposal is clogged up.  Her son Ritchie is clogged up.  He’s been home all day - sick and into everything.  Laura is tired and a mess.  She’s been waiting patiently for Rob to come home - waiting patiently with dinner on the table for over an hour.

Finally, Rob comes home.  His boss - Allen - wanted a complete rewrite of the script so  he’s had to work late.  His co-writers - Buddy came in early - Sally left early.  He’s lost his wallet.  He got a ticket for J-walking.  He’s getting a cold sore.  Someplace along the way he grabbed a cheese sandwich for dinner.  Now - a hour late - Rob collapses through the door into this home where all Laura wants is a little understanding.

Watch this and see if any of it sounds familiar. 

(DVD: The Dick Van Dyke Show

Have you been there? 

There are some here who - as we speak of Godly 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.  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.

We need to acknowledge together that marriage is a difficult topic which we need to approach with great sensitivity.  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.  Because there’s a little Rob and a Laura in each of us.    

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 - the challenge and commitment of marriage.  We want to seek God’s healing and we want seek the best that He has for us.

There’s another reason why this topic is so close to my heart.  Over the last 20 plus years of ministry - most couples that have asked me to officiate at their weddings have fit a pattern.  In talking to other pastors - most couples that come to them to be married also fit this pattern.  Now, please hear me.  I’m generalizing with this.  Not all couples - but most.  And you’d be wrong to start trying to match this scenario with couples here.  So don’t go there.

Here’s the pattern.  Somehow a couple meets.  They 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 - Target - Big Lots - arrange for the place to get married - and at some point they realize that they need a pastor do the wedding.  I get phone calls from couples who want to do the “rent-a-pastor” thing. 

Which makes pre-marital counseling very interesting - very “after the fact” - like damage control.

Of the different things we talk about in pre-marital counseling there’s one question I ask each couple - and with the exception of only a handful - with very few exceptions - 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 - just as individuals single and before God thinking about their own relationship with God and His direction in their lives - 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 - see if you agree: 
“What is God’s purpose for your marriage?”

A while back I asked someone here that question, “
What do you think God’s purpose is for your marriage?”  This person went and did research on the internet.  Came back with answers and a chart.  Impressive.

Want to take guess at the answers this person came up?

Tied for #3 on the list - God’s purpose for marriage:  Lifetime Commitment and Companionship.

Tied for #2:  A Place Where Sex Is Okay and Having Children.  Which are kind of related.  One thing leading to another.

#1 Godly purpose for marriage:  To Demonstrate Who God Is.

Would you agree with that?  Biblically speaking - that answer is pretty consistent with what the Bible teaches as God’s purpose for marriage - to demonstrate who God is.

Marriage demonstrates the covenant - commitment - relationship of God and His people - even new life in Jesus Christ.  The whole reality of a man assuming sacrificial headship in the marriage follows the example of Jesus on the cross.  The wife’s honoring of her husband demonstrates the response of the church to Jesus.

Marriage demonstrates God’s love poured out through a husband and wife.  Marriage demonstrates what God can do through two people who are individually and corporately surrendered to Him.

Thinking through the reality of that answer in a way that we can grab on to for ourselves - what God may want to do in and through our marriages - whether we are married - might be married - or maybe know someone who is - to think through God’s purpose for marriage - I’d like to state that answer this way:  
The purpose of marriage is to glorify God.

Try that with me,
“The purpose of marriage is to glorify God.”

To glorify God is to testify with our lives of Who He is.  It is the first of the two great purposes for why we exist - to glorify God - and to enjoy Him forever.  Marriage should testify of God - demonstrate Who He is to the world.

That takes marriage to a whole different level.  Doesn’t it?  Ever think about marriage that way?

In order to explore this from a
“what does that look like” practical “how do we do that” perspective I’d like to have you turn together with me to Acts 18 - starting at verse 1.

We’re going to look at Aquila and Priscilla - who are married - imagine that - to consider Aquila and Priscilla as an example to us of what a God glorifying - Godly marriage - looks like.  We’re going to read this passage together to get it fresh in our minds.  It’ll be on the overheard so we’ll all have the same translation.

Acts 18 - starting at verse 1.  Let’s read this out loud together: 
After these things 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.

In 18:1 - “he” is who?  the Apostle Paul.  Paul comes to Corinth and finds Aquila and Priscilla - this Godly married couple. 

Do you remember “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? 
“Man is the head of the home.  But the woman is the - what? neck.  And she can turn the head - where? any way she wants.”  With Aquila and Priscilla - there’s none of that one-upmanship deception and competition - lack of real communication.

In Scripture Aquila and Priscilla are
always mentioned together - never separately.  Never is one placed on a higher pedestal.  Together they serve the same Lord - the same Savior - Jesus Christ.  All they accomplished together was the result of that partnership - the unity of purpose in their marriage - to glorify God - to demonstrate Him to others.

three examples - here in these three verses - of how their marriage glorified God.  Three examples for us consider for ourselves.

The first example comes from 
Their Business.  Say that with me, “Their business.”

Aquila and Priscilla
were Jews who were originally from Asia Minor - from Pontus - a region just west of Armenia.  Pontus was one of the locations mentioned at Pentecost.  Later they’d moved to Rome.  Then through and an edict of Claudius against the Jews they’d been driven from their home in Rome.  Now they’re living in Corinth - a city about 45 miles west of Athens.

In Corinth they owned
a small tentmaking business - making tents of goat’s hair sewn together with thread.  We read that Paul was of the same trade - a tentmaker - working together with Aquila and Priscilla - while he ministered in Corinth.

magine - Paul and Aquila, and Priscilla sitting together - and as they plied their needles, fashioning or repairing tents - they shared their lives and faith.  Wouldn't you like to have that kind of time with Paul?  Imagine the kinds of discussions about theology and how a person lives out their faith in Jesus - what it was like to encounter Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Mind boggling discussions.

Anyone who came into that shop
would have been drawn into that discussion - would’ve heard 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. 

First example?  “business”  Second:  
Their Home.  Say that with me, “Their home.”

The Church of Corinth met and worshipped in the home of Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3-5).  Think about that.  Let that sink in.  The commitment and openness that involves.

Imagine if we did church at your house.  

Next Sunday - 8:00 a.m. in the morning - while you’re still in your fuzzy pink bunny slippers - the worship team starts setting all this stuff up in your living room and then rehearses.  Your TV is commandeered for the overheads.  At 9:30 there’s worship.  Every stick of furniture you’ve got has got someone planted on it.  The nursery is going on in the family room.  Children’s worship is in a bedroom.

At 10:45 coffee’s happening in the kitchen.  People are wandering around dropping food on your carpet.  Perfect strangers are using your good towels in the bathroom.

At 11:15 the bedrooms are Sunday School classes.  Then at 4:30
“We’re ba-aack” for Middle School youth group - or Sunday Night Live.  At 6:30 Senior High Youth Group happens.  Wednesday night there’s a million kids running all over the house for AWANA.

And us showing up at your house isn’t just about us doing church.  We’re bringing our guests and friends.  Anyone who wants just shows up.  Those who needed to spend the night would stay over.  You’re providing the room and board.  Your house is the center of the Christian community in Corinth.  That kind of excitement goes on 24/7/365.

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.  Their home - every part of their lives was open - to be used for God’s glory. 

First example?  Business.  Second?  Home.  Third example:  
Their Ministry.  Try that with me, “Their ministry.”

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 wasn’t in error.  It was just incomplete.

It was Aquila and Priscilla
- who were living in Ephesus at the time - it was Priscilla and Aquila 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 Apollos 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 Priscilla and Aquila. (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).  Joined him in his ministry there.  During the great riots in Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla risked their own lives to save Paul’s life.  Paul’s ministry would have been a tad shorter if he’d been martyred in Ephesus.  It was this Godly couple that God used to keep Paul alive.

they followed Paul to Rome and joined him in ministry there. (Romans 16:3-5)  Only God knows how many people have been saved spiritually because of Aquila and Priscilla.  

Church tradition tells us that o
n 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.

Is marriage a contract?  A domestic partnership?  A civil union?  A consentual relationship?  Is marriage between a man and a woman - a couple of women or a couple of men - or more?  Is marriage just between humans?

30 states have constitutional amendments banning same sex marriages.  2 states have had their State Supreme Courts legalize homosexual marriage.

In 2000 - over 61% of California voters passed Prop. 22 - banning same sex marriage.  In May of last year - the California Supreme Court - by a 4 to 3 vote - ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as other Californians.  In November the majority of Californians voted for Prop. 8 - which our Attorney General Jerry Brown has said is invalid.  The California Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments about its validity.

Lisa Miller - in the December 15th edition of Newsweek - writing in support of homosexual marriage - Lisa Miller writes,
A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism.  The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.” (1)

In other words, defining marriage is easy if you toss out the Bible.

Let’s be clear - we’re not trying to bash anyone here.  Or poke our fingers in righteous indignation at people.  The point is this:  
We live in a society where there’s major confusion as to what marriage is. 

If we’re going to follow the example of Priscilla and Aquila - if we’re going to have marriages which glorify God - which demonstrate Him to the world - then we must be clear on what marriage is.

What I’m about to say isn’t my philosophy or definition of marriage.  That really wouldn’t be all that helpful.  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.  I want to encourage you to take the time - not now - later - to read through those passages.

What we need to see is the instruction of God’s word.  
What God says is a marriage that glorifies Him.

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:  sex outside of marriage - pseudo-sex like pornography - 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 - demonstrating to the world the greatness of His love.

When we look at the example of Priscilla and Aquila that’s the kind of marriage we see.

Priscilla and Aquila are not a couple of people who’re living out a civil union shaped by the philosophy of the day - do what feels good - its all about me - define it as you go - don’t bother me with what God says - rationalization of marriage. 
Priscilla and Aquila are a married couple who have subjected their lives and marriage to what God commands - what God directs - for God’s purposes - regardless of what the culture around them is saying.

Let me put this very practically

any marriages fail after a very short period of time - 1 or 2 years.  Often that 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.  Wed 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.

t 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’s 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 committees or the Board - giving financially to the church - all these things are important.  But, they’re not the example 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.

How many of us would be willing to move to another city to serve God?
  Not just move because we want a better or different house - or because it makes some kind of economic sense to us.  But - like Aquila and Priscilla - to move because God calls us to serve Him.

Or what about owning
a different type of car so that the church could use it to transport youth or shut-ins?  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?  How many of us would be willing to open our home to an evangelist to live in - for 18 months?  Or to open our homes - and 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 out-of-the-box thinking.  But, 
when a Christian couple makes decisions with the primary consideration of how their decisions will affect their ability to serve God - to glorify God - they’re going to have an enduring partnership which will demonstrate God to the world.

Sometime today - if you’re married or thinking about it - before you get wrapped up in all the stuff that crowds our lives and shapes our expectations of marriage - ask yourselves the question - ask God:  
How can our marriage glorify God?
  It may take a lifetime of marriage - and prayerfully asking - to fully understand the answer to the question.  But, how awesome - to look back after 40 or 50 plus years of that adventure and to see how God used your lives together to glorify Him.


1.  Newsweek, 12.15.08  Lisa Miller, “Our Mutual Joy”

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.