Towards the end of Jesus’ life, his enemies were looking for an excuse to arrest and execute him. At one point, they asked him about divorce.
Listen to what Jesus answered them: (Matthew 19)
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
He refers to the beginning, before sin and shame entered the world. God didn’t change his standard when men fell. He still expects us to live as we were created to live.
He answers a modern problem with reminding us of the very beginning. He gives the account of God’s creation of Adam.
God is one, and yet God exists eternally in three persons, and the persons of the trinity love one another, as Jesus taught us. And men and women were created to enter into the fellowship of love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
But it wasn’t good for man to be alone. So God brought a woman – flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of Adam’s bone. They also were joined together in love, to image God’s perfect love to one another, to their children, and to the whole world.
But then they fell. They worshiped and served themselves, and became subject to the bondage of the devil, and hatred, reviling, murder and lust became the norm.
As the Heidelberg Catechism says, now we are prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor – and nowhere is this more apparent than in marriage. Where love was supposed to reign, hatred and bitterness entered. Where love and service were to rule, dominion and subjugation took over.
For the heart of every man is this: “I will be as god, knowing good and evil.”
And when two people come together, both saying in their hearts “I will be as god” only abuse, chaos, enmity and strife can result.
This is what Jesus warned us of. Don’t tear apart what God has joined together.
The standard for marriage is not marriage as it is now, according to Jesus, but marriage as God created it, before it was twisted and defiled by sin.
In the beginning, God told man to be fruitful and multiply and spread the kingdom of God throughout the whole world. But instead, man became a slave to the kingdom of the devil.
And so we are really talking about two kingdoms.
In one kingdom, the currency is power and control, lust, dominion, hatred – gaining the upper hand, winning at all cost.
This is what controlled the world before Jesus came to set up HIS kingdom. The few who were powerful crushed and enslaved everyone else. Husbands crushed and enslaved their wives. But from the beginning, it was not so. And Jesus came to restore to us the kingdom of God.
This is the very reason that He came into the world – to take away our sins. He came to deliver us from the bondage of the devil, to establish a new kingdom. And in the kingdom of God the currency is love, peace, joy, service, mutual respect, cherishing one another, learning to take the lower seat –
Jesus Himself is our example.
The conquering king came to defeat the greatest enemy the world can ever know. He came, though, not as a typical earthly general, but as a baby in a manger, he lived a life of poverty and homelessness, and was beaten, condemned, and executed – not just as a criminal, but as the lowest of the low, as the scum and off-scouring of the world. He took the form of a slave, the foreskin of the world.
If you had seen him, you also would have despised him. You would have built walls to keep him out. “He’s not our kind of people.”
But in his moment of sinking to the lowest depth of powerlessness and weakness, when he died on that cross – something happened – the head of the serpent was crushed, the devil was cast out of heaven, and the war was finished. The devil received the death blow, for Jesus on the cross was not a victim; rather he was the victor. He was the conquering hero.
He was despised and rejected in our place, that we might be loved and accepted by God.
He was bruised for our iniquity and wounded for our transgressions, that we might be acceptable, without blemish and without spot before God and once again walk with our Maker.
And that day will come in perfection, when He will restore what WE threw away.
At the resurrection, the kingdom of God was inaugurated. Even now, Jesus is plundering the kingdom of the devil. Even now he is conquering and to conquer. And – here is the amazing thing – he has invited us to take part in his conquest!
He has united us to himself by the Holy Spirit and has promised us that the day will come when we also will crush the head of the serpent.
But now we still live between the two worlds– the world of the flesh and our sinful lusts, and the world of perfection when we have finally put off this body of sin.
We still are prone to use the currency of the kingdom of the devil – we still automatically think that our help and safety will come from power and control, domination and lust, conquest, winning at any cost.
But these things will never advance the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God comes only one way – the way that it did with our conquering king – through suffering, weakness, service, love – and humility.
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.1
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phi 2:3-11 KJV)
Our example is Christ, who won the victory not by domination and control, but by love and service. In obedience to God he suffered and died, and the serpent’s head was crushed. And now he calls us to that same obedience. Don’t exalt yourself. Remember what Christ has done for you.
Anything other than that will tear apart what God has joined together.
So Jesus says to us that God joined us together, which is a wonderful thing; but it includes a warning. Don’t tear apart what God joined.
Which kingdom will you serve? One promises the easy way – but will end up in death and hell. Which kingdom will be served in your home? Hatred and strife? Or love and service?
By faith in Jesus Christ we belong to Him. Your marriage will be as strong as your faith in Christ. Every failure in marriage is a failure of faith.
But by faith, by trusting in his promises and looking to his hand alone for every good thing, he will guard and keep your soul.
You never have to settle for normal. Normal is bad. The saddest thing to me is when people say, “How’s your marriage?”
And the answer is “normal. We have a normal marriage.”
That’s not a goal! Strive for redeemed marriage.
But this can only be done by faith in Christ, who has redeemed us from the bondage of the devil.
In a few moments you will both vow to love one another. How does one do this when our default setting is hatred? Only through the gospel – learning to love the Lord Jesus.
Only when you learn to love the Lord Jesus can you learn to love each other. I know that is perhaps shocking – but it is nonetheless true. Unbelievers can fall in love, they can be attracted, they can even love how someone makes them feel – but they cannot truly love a person until they learn how to love Jesus.
Joe, you can love how Rachel makes you feel. You can love what you think she is like. But you cannot love HER until you learn how to love the Lord Jesus.
Rachel, you can love how Joe makes you feel inside. You can love what you think HE is like. But you cannot love Joe until you learn how to love the Lord Jesus.
Things aren’t the same as they were when they were created because now sin and shame are in the world, and those ugly things will start to creep in. And if you haven’t learned to love the Lord Jesus, you will find yourself saying – “That woman that YOU gave me…!”
But the more you love Jesus, the more you will love each other. The more you won’t fear knowing one another, and actually being known. Because you know that nothing can take you from the love of God, you don’t have to be afraid anymore.
God has given each of you a tremendous gift and you are now entering a new era of warfare. Remember, that in this life we are at war – we are crushing the head of the serpent. And now, instead of going at it alone, you are two warriors, joined together by God as one flesh. Two conquering heroes united as one. Do battle together.
What does that mean? Learn to love Jesus. And when you do, you will learn to take the lower place, you will learn to serve one another. You will learn more and more to die to yourselves.
A warrior ready to die is undefeatable. Take up your crosses and strike the blow on the kingdom of the devil!
And do not neglect the church. This is where Christ’s warriors are equipped. This is where you learn to love the Lord Jesus.
Count yourself as dead in Christ daily – that you might live in service to God and to one another as he has commanded. This is how to keep the vow. It isn’t drudgery; it isn’t hard work. It isn’t difficult. Jesus said, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Learn to love him, and then you will love each other, for God has joined you together, and called it very good. Instead of tearing what God calls good apart, put on your combat boots together, and crush the serpent’s head together.