So, it’s February, and Valentine’s Day is around the corner. My wife and I don’t really make much of a big deal of this holiday… it’s more commercial than Biblical; however, given how many online blogs and sermons seem to be taking advantage of the holiday to teach self-help advice on Love and Marriages, I figured I’d weigh in. I’d like to take a look at what the Bible has to say about the Marriage relationship as well as some things that are not found in the Bible. There are many places where we can start this discussion of Marriage, but I think the best place to begin, is in the baseline for relationships. This will be a 2 part series.
It does us no good to discuss Marriage Relationships without first establishing the baseline for relationships. So, for starters, let’s look at what Jesus had to say about how we are to treat each other. I’d like to begin our reading in Matthew 22. To catch us up a bit on the context here, this is after the Triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. We see Jesus cleanse the temple of merchants and money changers, and when the children praise Him as being the son of David, the scribes challenge Jesus for not rebuking the children (because what they were doing was giving Jesus the praise due to the Messiah). They question the authority of Jesus to be speaking in the temple, and He moves on to teaching in parables to very openly declare who He is and of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first parable we find in Matthew 22 actually uses a wedding feast to represent Kingdom of Heaven. I’m starting here because it sets up the later portion we will be examining closely.
Matthew 22 (ESV) 1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” 15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.
So, while the setting of the parable is a wedding feast, this is a picture of the Kingdom of heaven. Those invited who ignored the call represent the Jews in Israel who rejected the Messiah. So then the servants are sent out to the rest who were not originally invited, for the feast was already made ready. This tells of the Gospel going out to the Gentiles. Finally, those who come to the wedding feast, must come dressed for the wedding. Unless they are made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they cannot partake in the wedding feast (See Zechariah 3). Now, the next encounter is an absolutely beautiful lesson on submission to the governments of men, and to God regarding paying taxes. Awesome. But let’s move on to the next parable starting in verse 23.
Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV) 23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
I promise, we are starting at the foundation of relationships first, though we are getting hints at some of what the Bible teaches regarding marriage. Notice here, that marriage is clearly something for us while we are on this Earth… not for the Kingdom of Heaven. Moving on…
Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Okay stop! This is where we want to begin building the foundation for understanding what the Bible teaches about relationships, and upon that foundation we will look further into what the Bible teaches about the Marriage Relationship. Unquestionably, the single, most important relationship setup in the Bible, is that we are to love the Lord Our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind. This is the single greatest commandment, but notice that Jesus was quick to include a second, that we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. Is there a third? No. Jesus stops the list at 2 commandments, and clearly states that upon these 2 commandments rests all the Law and the Prophets. That’s it. Loving our neighbor as ourselves covers every imaginable relationship among mankind… including but not limited to marriage. It has to, because there are no other commandments in the short list, and the first is completely exclusive to God. Okay, but… how do we define who is “my neighbor”? Do we look to the Greek? the Hebrew? the Talmud? Well… let’s first look to how Jesus responded when the same question was asked of Him. Let’s look in Luke 10. Since this is a question asked of Jesus directly, we’ll just jump straight to verse
Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
So then, who is our neighbor? Mankind. The interesting thing about this answer, is that it was phrased in such a way where the Jewish lawyer is being told to emulate a Samaritan to show mercy on his neighbor, and to love similarly. That’s huge. So, that’s how Jesus defined being a neighbor. I want to also take a look at how the Bible defines love, since loving God and our neighbors is the crux of the Law and the Prophets. For this, lets look at what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
This passage is almost always read in the context of marriage, at weddings, anniversaries, etc. But that is not the context of this passage, and I think limiting it to such occasions does the hearer an injustice. This is not some high-standard to aim for in our romantic/marriage relationships, this is a standard of living, of loving God and our neighbors as ourselves. This portion comes almost as an aside, or a reality-check, in a discourse on operating in the Gifts of the Spirit. The Church at Corinth had apparently gotten carried away to the point of losing sight of the very purpose of the Holy Spirit and His gifts to the Church. That is how we get to verses 1-3, where Paul is saying that you might be fully operating in tongues, prophetic power, knowledge and faith, and still miss the mark. Remember that Jesus didn’t base the Law and the Prophets on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, He based them on 2 commandments of love. And that is reaffirmed by Paul in verse 13. This isn’t simply how we are to love our spouse, this is how we are to love.
In closing, we will look at the first part of Ephesians 5 which will bring this post to a close, and pave the way for the next post as move into some of the specific things the Bible has to say about the Marriage Relationship. It is paramount, that we do not lose sight of the baseline for Christian behavior, and love for our neighbor. Because there is absolutely no room for abuse or mistreatment of any, not even strangers or so-called enemies. Nothing we discuss within the Marriage relationship justifies mistreatment, because mistreatment of our enemies isn’t even permitted.
Ephesians 5:1-21 (ESV) 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
So then, there we have our foundation for Christian relationships. We are to love our neighbor (friends and foreigners alike) as ourselves at the 1 Cor 13 level. Within the body of Christ, we are to walk in love, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Baseline approach to relationships. Not just marriage, not even dating or courtship… baseline. And anything short of this is sin. Thank God for His ever abounding Grace, for without the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are surely dead in our trespasses and sins. Apart from Him, we don’t have a chance at keeping the Law and the Prophets even if they are condensed to 2 commandments!
May the Lord bless and keep you,