Honoring God in Gray Areas

John MacArthur: Honoring God in Gray Areas

If the issue you are wondering about is not specifically addressed in the Bible, then it’s helpful to ask these questions from 1 Corinthians to help you in deciding what to do. Asking these questions (and others like them) will help you make a wise decision based on sound biblical principles.

JP: Worthwhile read. Main points below:

  1. Will it benefit me spiritually?
  2. Will it put me in bondage?
  3. Will it defile God’s temple?
  4. Will it cause others to stumble?
  5. Will it help the cause of evangelism?
  6. Will it violate my conscience?
  7. Will it bring glory to God?
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“the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church”

Marriage and the Glory of God

JP: A very good read about marriage.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony; which is an honorable state, instituted by God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.”

That familiar language from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, recited thousands of times each week in various forms, presents a vision of marriage as a deeply Christian institution–even a necessary portrait of the love that unites Christ and His church. As marriage signifies this “mystical union,” it points to an understanding that takes us far beyond the relationship of the husband and wife. Do most Christians have even the slightest understanding of this?

It is bad enough that the secular world has discounted marriage into a quasi-legal contract that, like other voluntary contracts, can be made or broken at will. The greater tragedy is the failure of Christians to take marriage seriously. According to the Bible, marriage is not only designed by the Creator as an arena for human happiness and the continuation of the human race–it is also the arena of God’s glory, where the delights and disciplines of marriage point to the purpose for which human beings were made.

Marriage is about our happiness, our holiness, and our wholeness–but it is supremely about the glory of God. When marriage is entered into rightly, when marriage vows are kept with purity, when all the goods of marriage are enjoyed in their proper place–God is glorified.

Scriptural Marriage Axioms

  1. Marriage is divinely instituted and ordained.
    1. Genesis 2:21-25
    2. Matthew 19:4-6
    3. Ephesians 5:22-33
  2. The Scriptures are the final source and authority for the institution of marriage
    1. Not “how one’s parents’ marriage worked”
    2. Not to be directed by popular culture
    3. Not according to one’s own will or perception
    4. The above being true, those who enter a marriage covenant need to search the Scriptures for marriage truth
  3. Marriage is subject to counterfeits and perversions
    1. Cohabitation (the “significant other” syndrome)
    2. Multiple spouses (polygamy, polyandry, polygyny)
    3. Divorce
    4. Adultery
    5. Same sex “marriages”
    6. Chattel marriage
    7. Constrained (arranged and forced) marriage
    8. Forbidden (“forbidding to marry”, (1 Timothy 4:3))
    9. “Economic” reasons:
      • 2 can live cheaper together than apart
      • “for money”
    10. Fraud: eg marrying for citizenship
  4. Marriage is not the ultimate relationship or experience
    1. Often those who are married (and especially the newly married) encourage others to seek marriage!
    2. Marriage will not bring joy to the joyless
    3. Marriage will not satisfy the unfulfilled
    4. True joy and meaning is derived from a relationship with Christ. And for this there is no substitute.
    5. Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q1)Question: What is the chief end of man?Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
  5. Marriage is a gift (as is singleness) and is optional
    1. 1 Corinthians 7:7, “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.”
    2. Matthew 19:12, “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.””
    3. John Stott: “The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those He calls.” (Albert Hsu, Singles at the Crossroads. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997. p. 178.)
  6. Marriage is limiting
    1. I Corinthians 7:32-34, “32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.”
    2. Consider how the 1st missionaries were generally bands of single (or at least without a spouse) men! (Cf 1 Corinthians 9:5, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?”)
  7. Marriage is beneficial
    1. Eve a “helper” fit for Adam (Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”” (also vs 20)
    2. Protects (from immorality):
      • 1 Corinthians 7:2, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband”
      • 1 Corinthians 7:9, “but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion”
    3. Enables ministry (Cf qualifications for Pastors / Deacons)
    4. Even in a saved / unsaved marriage relationship, marriage is a blessing: (1 Corinthians 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.”
    5. Children are a blessing and God’s intent is that they would be born in-wedlock!
  8. A believer is only to marry another believer:
    1. “only in the Lord”, (1 Corinthians 7:39)
    2. 2 Corinthains 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
  9. Marriage is symbolic:
    1. Ephesians 5:23,24,32: “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. … 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church”
    2. Revelation 19:7-9, “7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’”
  10. There are gender specific roles in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
    1. Men and women are equal:
      • Both made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28 )
      • Eve created from Adam’s side (rib) (Genesis 2:20-22 )
    2. Wives: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything”
    3. Husbands: “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,”
  11. Marriage is permanent (for a lifetime)
    1. Matthew 19:4-6, “And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.””
    2. Romans 7:2, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.”
    3. 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
  12. Marriage is temporary (“til death do us part”)
    1. Mark 12:25, “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven”
    2. Romans 7:2, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.”
    3. 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
  13. Marriage is voluntary (not by constraint)
    1. One is advised to be very careful about entering into a marriage relationship!
    2. Being prayerful, seeking the Lord’s leading and submitting to His constraints and directives.
  14. Marriage is intimate & sexual
    1. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”
    2. A godly marriage is fulfilling and fun. It is based in biblical love and respect, not based on infatuation. A good marriage is romantic, playful, intimate, and sexual.
  15. Marriage is the only relationship in which sexuality should be experienced / expressed: Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge”
  16. Marriage is procreative
    1. Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward”
    2. Cf. in OT where barrenness was considered a curse and children a blessing (1 Samuel and many other examples)
  17. Marriage is exclusive
    1. Genesis 2:24 (KJV): “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
    2. Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7 (cited by the Lord!)
  18. A godly marriage glorifies God (and a marriage that is not Scripturally founded dishonors Him). Albert Mohler Jr: “Marriage is about our happiness, our holiness, and our wholeness–but it is supremely about the glory of God. When marriage is entered into rightly, when marriage vows are kept with purity, when all the goods of marriage are enjoyed in their proper place–God is glorified. “