Sunday, January 24, 2010

Word of the Week for January 24, 2010

Marriage and God’s Image

Forbidden-fruitImage by ideacreamanuelaPps via Flickr
The first institution God made for His people was the institution of marriage. We are told in Genesis 1:27 that the image of God resides in the marriage of a man and a woman as God created them, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

From the time Adam and Eve fell into sin their marriage was under assault. God’s image in them was perverted. Before they fell into sin, God’s Word in Genesis 2:23–24 says: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

As soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin they were separated from God, and there was now a wall of shame, not only between Adam and Eve, but also between them and God. Genesis 3:6–8 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

From the time Adam and Eve fell into sin, marriage and the family were beset with countless troubles. Satan, people, the world itself is set against the very idea of God’s design, that the marriage of a man and woman reflects the image of God. Indeed, Satan and the world hate the image of God and will do anything to hide it, mar it, or pervert it—to change marriage into something it was not made to be.

Think of all the harm that comes upon humanity simply because people wish to have the physical pleasure God gave to husband and wife without committing themselves to anything.

What are the consequences?

Millions of fatherless or motherless children need foster homes, orphaned not by disease or death, but out of selfishness.

Millions of infants are murdered before they see the light of the sun because their parents want the pleasures God gave to marriage; but these parents despise the people conceived through this union.

Fornication is widespread. Sex has become casual in the media and in the community; and with this casual sex come diseases and abandoned children. Fornication is encouraged even among minors and euphemistically called “innocent” love, while teen pregnancy rates increase, abortions by teens increase, and the parents of these teen-agers raise their grand-children.

Incest between parents and children and between siblings is on the increase.

Pornography is available every minute of the day through every media available in the home; children are exposed to it over and over again every day. Adults and children both dress in clothing that, twenty years ago, would have been considered appropriate attire only for prostitutes.

Rape has become nearly commonplace, even the rape of children; pedophile organizations like “The North American Man/Boy Love Association” or NAMBLA are placing political pressure to legalize the sodomy of children by adults. Just as their predecessors worked to legalize sodomy. “The men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” (Romans 1:27) The same holds for women who have abandoned heterosexual marriage.

Adultery and divorce are commonplace today where they were rare and scandalous just 40 years ago. Children are torn from parents by the selfishness of those parents. They blame themselves. The National Institute of Mental Health has done surveys over the years which show that children of divorced parents and children of promiscuous single parents have a suicide rate that is 400% higher than children in homes where the mother and father are married.

As the acceptability of promiscuity has increased even the elderly have very little trouble shacking up together as long as the pastor doesn’t find out. Then they blame their friends and the pastor for interfering. As if it is not they themselves who should be ashamed!

This pattern of rejecting the divine institution of marriage has happened many times throughout history. Whether in ancient times, or as it is taking place now in our own country and churches, the Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 1, describes how societies that reject God’s image direct themselves to another kind of hope and another kind of change, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” (vs 22–25).

In just 50 years, one generation, we have gone from a society that holds marriage as the center of our future and honors it as God’s institution, to a society that publicly attacks heterosexual marriage at every level.

Marriage is between a man a woman, and God, AND the rest of society. It is a public vow. That is why weddings are done publicly. At the wedding ceremony the community gathered there is agreeing that the man and woman being united in wedlock will be honored and protected by the community. The marriage license is the state’s promise to honor and protect this union between a man and a woman.

The holy estate of marriage is even being attacked by many of the mainstream churches today. The largest Protestant denominations in our country teach that it is perfectly acceptable for the pastor or priest to be actively engaged in fornication or adultery. They teach that as long as a male pastor or teacher is committing fornication or adultery with another male, or a female pastor or teacher is committing fornication or adultery with another female—that somehow this makes the adultery and fornication acceptable to God.

Some readers can remember back to the ‘50s and ‘60s when some denominations began ignoring God’s Word about Closed Communion. Any who held on to that ancient and Biblical practice were called “unloving” and “intolerant.” But it is right there in the practice of Open Communion that the intimate relationship between Christ and His Church is violated, as we shall see below.

One by one more doctrines from God’s Word were put aside. Creation became a poetic myth as the mainstream churches accepted evolution. It became popular to deny the miracle of Christ’s virgin birth. Through the sexual revolution many of the large denominations gave up on condemning fornication and adultery, instead they allowed these people to eat and drink God’s judgement against themselves (I Cor. 11:27–29). Again, “Love” was the so-called reason. These denominations wanted to give people a false “love” and not to tell them what God’s Word says.

That’s like a physician being afraid to tell the patient a diagnosis of cancer. It might hurt his patient’s feelings, the patient might get mad and be scared. The churches reasoned in their own dark way that it is somehow more loving to not tell people about their sin, that way they won’t feel as bad or get mad at the pastors. And so through the decades the churches became sicker and sicker because they refuse to acknowledge or hear the diagnosis of sin. The diagnosis is the same as in the days of Jeremiah the prophet, “ Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not: Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 5:21–22)

Throughout many passages in Scripture God’s Word specifically limits the pastoral ministry to males because the pastors represent Christ as Bridegroom to His bride, the congregation. In the past 30 years mainstream Christian churches have set aside these passages. They claim that these passages were culturally conditioned, and that it is unloving and intolerant of people to follow God’s Word on this matter.

Many small congregations protested, but they were assigned women pastors anyway.

If those congregations had been told at that time that within another 20 years that the same arguments would be used to promote homosexual and lesbian adulterers as pastors those congregations would have never believed the prophecy.

The reason they would not have believed it is that they had already been gradually abandoning God’s Word as the standard of truth; and they no longer thought of themselves as sinners, vulnerable to every sin described in Scripture. As Paul described above, professing to be wise, they became fools, and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature, rather than the Creator.

So now many congregations in our area are disturbed by this further departure from God’s Word. Even in our area there are some pastors who have said that labeling as sin homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbianism, and transgenderism is unloving and intolerant.

But the purpose for which God established marriage between one man and one woman is to demonstrate how He loves his people, the Church. Before the fall into sin this relationship was immediate and apparent. Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence and love of God directly every day. But they violated that relationship with God. They thought that God’s explicit Word was not as important as their desire and intentions to be more like Him.

In their desire to become something better, more like God, they went against God’s Word and distorted His image in them.

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses marriage as the demonstration of His relationship to a fallen church. He says that leaving His Word and following other ways is the same as adultery. See especially Ezekiel, chapters 16 and 23. These are too long to quote here. But we see God saying the same thing in the first chapter of Hosea, the second verse, “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD.”

Throughout the Gospels the Son of God, Jesus Christ, refers to Himself as the Bridegroom. He refers to the Church as His bride. Read the Gospels. Look at the number of parables in which He uses the wedding as an example. He teaches over and over that He is the Bridegroom of all who believe the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in His name.

Those who do not acknowledge their sin cannot be believers. For Christ came to forgive sinners. He said very plainly in Luke 5:31–32, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

In Christ’s preaching the wedding feast is always described as the end of the world, when He shall return and call His people home. He is the Groom because He gave His life to the church and took the sin, guilt, shame, and punishment that the world deserves. He made us His own.

He shares with us the intimacy of His own body and blood in the Lord’s Supper to forgive our sins, unite us together as one body, and to unite us with Himself. The Lord’s Supper is the center of our marital relationship with Christ while we live here in this sinful world. Open Communion violates the Supper, the congregation, and our relationship with Christ just like adultery violates a marriage—whether that adultery is heterosexual or homosexual.

Men who want to become husbands have heard the following exhortation from Scripture since the first century, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. (Ephesians 5:25–28)

Husbands are to love their wives in such a way as to be willing to give their own lives to prevent their wives from falling into sin! And we all fail. Not only do we fail at that, but we lie, we leer, we lust, and we put our own desires ahead of our wives’ salvation.

That is where the relationship Christ has with us as our Bridegroom is so important. Where we fail, He succeeded. Where we as husband and wife are not able on our own to endure the hardships that afflict our marriages, Christ did endure.

We don’t pray to a distant God who can’t understand our situation. The Son of God came into this world to become one of us; to live with us; to fulfill the Law of God we could not. The Son of God came as one of us to suffer the abuse, mockery and punishment that we as sinners would dish out upon Him. He came to put up with us at our worst and most adulterous natures. Most of all, He came to bear every single sin, the guilt for each sin, the shame, and the wrath of God the Father upon our sin.

Oh yes, we have a God and Savior who knows us. He knows us intimately. He is our Bridegroom. He knows every thing that we go through and every sinful thought, word, and deed we have. He knows us better than a husband can know his bride. And he cares for us intimately and deeply. We bear this special relationship to Him. The Church is His bride, won by His blood. A intimate relationship consummated with His bride in the Lord’s Supper.

This is what God’s original institution of marriage between a man and a woman was designed to teach us, to show us—the eternity for which it prepares us.

No doubt there may be some readers who will view this article as “unloving” and “intolerant;” even as “sexist” and “homophobic.” May God lead all such to repentance and eternal salvation. Those who reject these teachings of God’s Word are by that very fact rejecting Christ’s salvation from those sins. Any who stand firm in such rejection of God’s Word will face a Christless eternity.

May God lead us all to repent of our sins, to acknowledge and uphold His Word in every teaching, to learn true true love means acknowledging our sin, leading others to acknowledge sin, to honor marriage as God has instituted it, and to find forgiveness in the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

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