Marriage Marriage Today

The Bible is the inspired word of God and it was given to guide us in our lives today. Our first task is ‘exegesis’, which is where we ask what God’s Word meant back then in the culture and time in which it was given. There are considerable cultural gaps between us and world of the Bible that need to be bridged. Our next task is ‘hermeneutics’ which is where we ask what God’s Word means today in our time and culture, which is very different to the context in which it was first given. Unless this is done properly, we can misuse the Scriptures by ignoring matters of cultural context (e.g. forcing women to wear hats in church based on 1 Cor.11).

Today we no longer have household codes, we do not have slaves, and we would not group wives, children and slaves together as philosophers did in the ancient world. Unfortunately, we still live in a culture that is still somewhat patriarchal, even in the church world, where suppression and even abuse of women frequently occurs. Like Jesus, the Christian church needs to champion the value and dignity of women everywhere. There is no doubt that the trajectory of the Scriptures is toward women finding full freedom in Christ as equal heirs of the grace of life with men. Just as we applaud the abolition of slavery, so we should seek justice for women.

So what does this mean for marriage? It is important for us to realise that no Scriptural text represents all that is to be said on any given topic, including marriage. There is an important principle of ‘first mention’ that needs to be considered. Jesus regularly talked about the way things were ‘in the beginning’ as God initially intended (e.g. Matt.19:4, 8). A full study of God’s intention for marriage from the beginning shows that God desired marriage to be an equal and mutual partnership between the husband and the wife (Gen.2:18). Men and women were both created in the image of God and they were both given a dominion mandate and a reproduction mandate (Gen.1:26-28). God’s original intention was that men and women work together in harmony in a partnership of interdependency, taking their rightful place as joint-heirs and co-rulers of creation. Before sin entered there was no hierarchy, no domination and no control in human relationships, including marriage. These damaging relating patterns entered as a result of the fall (see Gen.3:16). Christ comes to redeem us from the curse of sin and to return us to God’s intentions at the beginning.

I believe that a healthy marriage involves a husband and a wife who see each other as equal partners, enjoying life together, making decisions together, and empowering each other to serve based on their unique gifts and abilities. There is mutual love and respect. Marriages of mutual empowerment do not come naturally or automatically because the human tendency is to dominate or manipulate in order to get your own way. Working out an equal partnership takes time, effort and energy. However, the very process of working it through creates character and personal growth. Most importantly, it can be a powerful witness to the watching world.

Part 3 - some discussion questions and some recommended reading

16 thoughts on “Marriage God’s Way (Pt.2)

  1. Celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary soon. The Lord showed me 1 Peter 4:8 early on in my marriage “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love never fails!

  2. Thank you for your excellent words of wisdom on marriage Mark. Agree with you wholeheartedly.
    Agree with you Lil. God’s love never fails! :)Congratulations on reaching your 25th wedding anniversary soon. Well done!

  3. I was wondering about Gen 3:16 because in my NIV translation it says that the woman’s desire will be for her husband and he will control her. But when Mark referred to it in his message he said that the womman’s desire will be to control her husband. I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me because it changes the meaning a bit. Thanks

  4. I was reading from the NLT translation, Ashley. Different translations nuance it a bit differently. The NLT has “… you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you” but it also has a footnote that says “OR and though you will have desire for your husband, he will rule over you.”
    Either way, there is a clear breaking of the partnership relationship we see before the curse.

  5. Mark, in your message at Casey yesterday you made a point of singleness and I thank you for it. I watched my parents marriage collapse in August 2008 after 47 years. God gave you a great word and gave me hope that God does have a future marriage partner for me.
    May God continue to bless you and Nicole.

  6. Mark, Re: “Either way, there is a clear breaking of the partnership relationship we see before the curse”.
    Or rather clearly, a corruption of the ideal model that God set in place before the fall. An ideal model where man and woman are created equally in value, both created in the image of God, but with different roles and functions to play.
    Genesis 2 (the Chapter that zooms in and gives the detail) describes some responsibilities are given only to Adam (ie. naming the animals) and Adam was given the commandment not to eat of the tree of knowledge – this was reiterated in Genesis Chapter 3, after the fall when God judged Adam as this command was given to YOU (ie. Adam).
    The restored model I read about in the scriptures (as described by St Paul in the New Testament) is that of a Husband that is head of his household, as Christ is the Head of the Chucrh.
    This is not an abusive relationship that seeks to keep women in their place – rather a Headship where a Husband would not acquiece, would accept his mandated responsibility and love and lead his family to a point where if necessary would lay down his own life.
    Whilst I agree proper hermenutics and exegesis is required, I think we need to be careful when making conclusions based upon trajectories of scripture to our own cultural mindset.
    Remember if we are a few degrees off course at the beginning of our trajectory – we may well be miles off target at the end of our journey.

  7. Mark,
    With regard to hermenutics and exegesis and applying scriptures to a trajectory – I think that perhaps we need to also do (for want of a better term) ‘reverse hermenutics and exegesis’. That is, we may need to look not at the historical context when interpreting scripture, but also look at the contemporary context when we try to interpret and apply the scriptures with our current mindset.
    As St Paul lived in a time where there was (as you say) patriarchy and other factors at play that influenced his thinking – we are probably at more risk than St Paul of bias when interpreting the scriptures.
    We live in times of agenda’s (eg. feminist movement), apathy, liberal context and ‘modern knowledge’ and ‘scientific’ revelation that can perhaps cloud our own thinking.

  8. Hi Richard (don’t forget to use your real name, Lionfish).
    I’m not sure how you find specific ‘roles’ for men and women before sin entered the world. The Scriptures (Genesis 1-2) paint a clear partnership model, according to my reading.
    With Paul, we have to ask whether his instructions to masters and slaves affirm slavery for all times. We also have to ask whether his instructions to husbands and wives affirm patriarchal leadership for all times. Social structures do change … but the principles of love, respect, and mutual submission are timeless.
    Those are the attributes that make for great relationships, including marriage.

  9. Mark, I totally agree with what you quoted here > love, respect, and mutual submission are timeless. < Amen Although you would have to agree that men and women are wired differently, and have specific God-breathed roles to fulfill, as opposed to man's introduced social structures 🙂 You don't see a man having a baby yet. LOL 🙂 God never intended it to be that way, MMmmm?... but man will test God's boundaries... Won't He? Just like natural children test the boundaries which their parents have set for them, so man tests our Creator's, causing more confusion and chaos in our world.

  10. We must distinguish between God-ordained masculinity / femininity and ‘roles’. Yes, men and women are different and we don’t want to blurr these unique gender differences. Men need to be men and women need to be women.
    When it comes to roles, we need to be more careful. Who says who should cook, or who should clean the house, or who should do the budget, or who should work, or who should make the decisions. Unfortunately, there are many cultural stererotypes that have developed around these issues that are clearly not God-ordained.

  11. Hi again Mark,
    Re: “,,,not sure how you find specific ‘roles’ for men and women before sin entered the world. The Scriptures (Genesis 1-2) paint a clear partnership model, according to my reading”.
    My reading is that God created them Male and Female (Gen 1) – different forms to perform different functions. Male & Female are different in form physiologically, emotionally, socially etc – and created to perform different functions strength, child bearing, nurturing etc – as Marija has pointed out,
    Also in Gen 2 God gave unique roles to Adam eg naming of animals and he gave Adam the command directly not to eat of the tree of knowledge – and then held him accountable for disobedience in Chapter 3.
    Re: “…to masters and slaves affirm slavery for all times”
    Interesting point. St Paul does not condemn nor condone slavery – rather he provides instructions on how to treat one another within this societal structure. The kingdom principle could be applied to employers and employees today – even within the clothing factories of Indonesia abd China.
    I find it difficult, however, to bundle a societal structure such as slavery as a concept for comparative resaoning purposes with the God ordained institutions of marraige and parenting.
    I agree with you that there is no clear delineation between roles such as working, cooking etc.
    Our faith is a faith of liberty and accordingly grants us great lattitude in terms of freedoms to make choices and perform a variety of roles.
    However there are still a few restrictions where are few roles are still to be performed by a certain person. Mothering by virtue of physiological differences is a role given naturally to women. The role of public preacher (as we have discussed on the previous thread) is granted to men … but wait not just any man – there are a few ‘qualified’ men called to perform this function (eg. Husband of one wife etc) – so whilst all men are created equal, and may be partners in the work of the Gospel – only certain qualified men should be in those ‘ordained’ roles.
    Back to Genesis, in the Garden. Our God of great liberty gave Adam and Eve almost total freedom with only one restriction – not to eat of the Tree of knowledge.
    But look waht happens when the crafty serpent cunningly talks to Eve. He stretches and distorts the Truth – causing her to focus on what she is NOT allowed to do … and then casues her perceptions about God’s intention for her life to become distorted (ie. God does not want you to be wise like him).
    Similarly, feminist agenda’s can distort our thinking, focusing on what God may not want us to do! Rather than accepting the great freedoms and liberties he has afforded us in terms of the way that he has created us
    Why does God’s word state that only certain qualified men be ordained, and why is man the head of the house…?
    I cannot answer that – His ways are not our ways!
    Have a great evening!
    Richard the Lionfish
    Ps I hope Nic is still not mad at me! 🙂

  12. Hi Richard
    Not sure how you can really believe that public speaking is only for men married to one wife (Paul and Jesus were single, by the way). When Jesus pours out his Spirit on men and women, and gives spiritual gifts to men and women, I can only assume he wants them to use them. In the NT we see women ministering, prophesying and even leading house churches (which would require speaking). The only time women are restricted is in dysfunctional situations where false teaching is being embraced by women. But let’s not get side-tracked on this topic here, as it has been covered in other posts, and this post is about marriage.
    So on marriage … at least we agree that great marriages are built on love, respect and mutual submission. Once those things are in place, everything else usually sorts itself out.
    By the way, the reason Adam named all the animals (without Eve’s involvement) may be because Eve hadn’t been created yet 🙂
    Thanks Richard

  13. Hi Mark,
    Sorry, I structured my sentence poorly and chose a bad example from a list of many qualifications – I was writing about the qualifications for Leadership conditions as established by St Paul in Timothy and Titus – (must be of good repute, not a lover of wine etc.)
    Of course Jesus and St Paul were single, and St Paul even thought at one point that it was better for a man to be single so as to be devoted to the gospel and so as not to be distrated by the needs of his wife.
    Of course, St Paul realised, (as did Jesus seemingly) that very few people would or could choose a celibate life. I still wonder if later in his years,
    St Paul even saw celebacy as being better than marriage for the devoted followers of Christ …
    Regarding the naming of the animals.
    It has been argued that God could of created Adam and Eve at exactly the same time – but why didn’t he…? This underscores God’s plans and possibly even the significance of the created order (later reffered to by St Paul) and why seems God holds Adam more accountable.
    Mark, I have been thinking about the term ‘partnership’ used by Contemporary Church people.
    Partnership, as it is generically used seems to refer to equality in every aspect.
    But Partnership in practice can mean yoked for a particular purpose – but not equal in share, role, responsibility etc. In Business partners can have different share holdings, different responsibilities, different status, can be active or silent etc, can get different rewards etc.
    St paul referred to Partners in the work of the Gospel – but not all Partners had the same roles, responsibilities or position in the Church.
    Have a great day

  14. I believe (with you Mark) that a healthy (Christian) marriage involves a husband and a wife who see each other as equal co-workers, enjoying and sharing life together, making life decisions together, and empowering each other to serve God based on their unique giftings and abilities. There needs to be mutual love, care and respect with honesty and trust as a key ingredient for any marriage to work out and stay healthy. It’s tough to restore a marriage where trust has been destroyed and honest integrity is lacking. Working out an equal partnership takes time, effort and energy.(In a marriage it helps to be equally yoked, where the two are heading in the same direction 🙂 Hey? It does not take long for the cart to fall apart if the horses are pulling in opposite directions. MMmmm? Yes, the very process of working through any differences or problems that crop up in a marriage creates character and personal growth, but both parties need to be willing to work at it together to work through hard issues/things that crop up 🙂 Communication and listening is vital. It takes two to work at it. Doesn’t it? One horse cannot stand still while the other trys to pull the cart. MMmmm? 🙂 That kind of marriage does not work.
    And yes… Most importantly, a healthy solid marriage can be a powerful Christian witness to the watching world.

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