26 Aug Gospel-Centered Marriage
In the past year, my church (Faith Church in Milford, OH), implemented a gospel-centered liturgy in our worship services.
It’s based on the narrative of the Bible:
Each of these elements have a portion in our worship services on any given Sunday.
What does that have to do with marriage?
Interestingly, for the past 15+ years I have often used the same format when teaching the Intimate Marriage Workshop (IMW) at my church.
Over the course of the 9 week workshop, we discuss:
- God’s Original Design for Marriage;
- The Effect of the Fall on Marriage;
- Having a Redemptive Marriage.
Because the 4th element (often called Restoration or Consummation) actually refers to the eternal state (i.e. heaven), I remind my audience that according to Jesus there is no marriage in heaven (Mark 12:25). As I tell my wife Susie, we need to make the most of our marriage now because there’s no marriage in heaven! She responds that she would at least like to live next door to me in eternity. I take comfort in that idea. 🙂
It’s my conviction that to make the most of our married life now, we need to have a “gospel-centered marriage.” What does that look like?
God’s Original Design for Marriage
It begins with understanding God’s original design for marriage. In Jesus’ teaching on marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), he quotes from Genesis 2:24.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that he who created them in the beginning made them male and female, 5 and he also said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (CSB)
Jesus went back to the creation account and affirmed that God’s original design for marriage was for it to be monogamous, heterosexual, intimate and permanent. The institution of marriage was God’s idea, for he created it!
In the creation account (Genesis 2:23), upon first meeting his bride Eve, Adam responded with ecstatic poetry:
23 And the man said: This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man. (CSB)
I believe that in creating us in His image, He hardwired into humanity an innate longing for meaning and purpose, and an innate longing for intimacy with a spouse.
Do you recall those feelings of excitement you had for your spouse in the early days of your relationship? What are the fond memories you have of how you met, got together, and began to date?
Recently, my wife Susie and I celebrated our 40th anniversary. A few weeks earlier, we had the opportunity to go back to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I was raised and see the house I grew up in, and go to the nearby Convention Grill (a hamburger joint) we often went to when we were dating. We even went to Lake Harriet where I found the park bench on which I kissed her for the first time! 🙂 I was grateful, after all these years, to be able to “rejoice in the wife of (my) youth” (Prov. 5:18).
Of course, it probably wasn’t long before you began to experience difficulties and challenges in your relationship. That was true for us. That leads to the second point of the gospel liturgy:
The Effect of the Fall on Marriage
Those who are familiar with Genesis chapter 3 in the Bible know the story of how Adam and Eve sinned in the garden.
6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (CSB)
After this we read: 9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” (CSB)
We read in the verses that follow that this original sin adversely affected each of them individually as well as their relationship with each other (see Genesis 3:16-19).
16 He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children with painful effort. Your desire will be for your husband,yet he will rule over you. 17 And he said to the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.” (CSB)
It also affected the entire human race as illustrated by the next story in Genesis 4 where their son Cain killed his brother Abel. The whole rest of the Bible gives testimony of how sin has affected all of humanity, as does human history. Listen to the news, and you’ll see that it’s still true today.
In future blog posts, I will give more specifics about the effect of the Fall on marriages. I know sin has affected me personally and it has affected my marriage. I look back on past conflicts I have had with my wife and can see my own selfishness and sin. To this day, I have regrets about this.
How about you? Can you see how your own sin has affected your marriage and your relationship with your children? Your ability to acknowledge your own sin leads us to the third point of the gospel liturgy:
Having a Redemptive Marriage
The Bible teaches the story of our redemption in Christ. We read in 1 Peter 1:18-19:
For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb. (CSB)
All those who place their faith in Christ to forgive them of their sins have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ which was shed on the Cross.
When a husband and wife have done this together, they then have the opportunity to experience a “redemptive marriage.” And that leads to having a “Gospel-Centered” marriage. In future blog posts, I will give more specifics on what a redemptive marriage looks like.
In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul connects the good news of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross with the husband and wife relationship. He calls this a “mystery” of how the husband-wife relationship can reflect the beauty of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
Just as in my church we are reminded of the gospel liturgy in our services on Sunday, so also we can be reminded in our marriages of this same sequence.
- God brought you and your spouse together. What was his original design for you in doing so? Do you have fond memories of those early days?
- Over the years since, your marriage has been affected by sin and struggle. Have you acknowledged your own brokenness and sin?
- All of us are in need of forgiveness and redemption. Have you experienced this redemption in Christ personally and in your marriage?
- This redemption leads to restoration. Are you able to look forward to the future as a couple with anticipation and joy?
This is what it means to have a Gospel-Centered Marriage. How about you? Would you like to have a Gospel-Centered Marriage?