—Its Spiritual Aspect
This is the second article in a series of five on Christian marriage. This series contains material used in marriage counselling classes at Toronto, Canada.
The brethren engaged in this work are: Lawrence Elder M.D., Greenwood assembly, active in a varied work among assemblies. Dr. H. E. Kay, Eglinton assembly, prime mover in Bethany Lodge. Fraser MacKenzie, Leaside assembly, Directors of Boys’ Camp at Mini-Yo-We. Derek Parke, Greenwood assembly, Manager of Mutual fund company, Financial Counsellor. Angus Henderson, Elder in Bendale assembly, Christian business man.
Christians in this age are in danger of being influenced more and more by the culture in which they live. The grave possibility in this is that they begin to accept the cultural norm as the standard of acceptable behaviour rather than judging behaviour by the light of Divine Revelation. We need to be concerned more about biblical principles than about social customs, and this is true in every aspect of our lives. Marriage is just one of the areas affected by this social and cultural influence. We might well ask, what are God’s principles governing this relationship?
Marriage An Institution
First, we must understand that marriage is an institution of God; it was not invented by man. Consequently, it has not evolved from the trial and error experience of by-gone generations. God has left on record how He brought this institution into existence: “The Lord said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him … Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:18-24). If, therefore, this is God’s intention for man, His creature, He has every right to establish the principles to govern it. Look, then, not for the approval or sanction of men, but look for the truth of God relative to marriage.
What were God’s purposes in marriage? First, God saw man’s aloneness and decided to give him a companion. In Genesis 2:18 we read that God said, It is not good for man to be alone. His decision was based upon the need of man for help, encouragement, and fellowship in this life. He made the woman for the man, an help meet (suitable) for him. In one sense, therefore, man is incomplete until he is married, and woman does not find complete fulfilment outside of this relationship. God made us just that way. Companionship, then, is God’s first purpose in matrimony.
A second purpose mentioned by God concerning marriage is procreation: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The family unit is a God-given provision for the care, comfort, instruction and shelter of children. Man is not to leave his young helpless, as frequently is the case in the animal kingdom. The primary place for teaching children is not in the church but in the home. Children are to be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). The responsibility of bringing children into the world is a serious one. This is God’s intention, but it also is His intention that the children be raised in a congenial atmosphere, and that they be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. To accomplish this young couples should establish family worship; they should develop studies together early in their married lives.
Another divine principle is that marriage be an institution before the family. and within the community of Christ and His Church. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:31-32).
Moreover, the Apostle said, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and He is the Saviour of the Body” (Eph. 5:23). Marriage, therefore, is to be a monument to the work of Christ and the headship of Christ. When the marriage of a Christian couple fails, it is a poor testimony and an embarrassment to the gospel.
From this last purpose the Lord teaches the principles which should govern the relationship of a husband to his wife, Christ’s relationship to His Church gives us the key: first, the Church is called His body; then, He is called her head. This reminds us of that expression used repeatedly in Scripture, “One flesh,” which intimates the true bond of matrimony. The Lord Jesus said relative to this bond: “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). Perhaps, if Christians took this obligation more seriously, they would be more careful in selecting a companion for life.
The Model Relationship
Furthermore, this relationship of Christ to His Church shows the role that each partner in marriage is to play. For the wife, the proper attitude is one of submission: “As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Eph. 5:24). Woman by nature is dependent; only as she yields in submission to her own husband does she truly fulfil the original holy plan. Can anyone imagine the Church as not being concerned about doing the will of Christ? This does not mean, however, that the husband is to be dictatorial. The attitude of the husband is to be one of love. He is to love his wife “even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph 5:25). The example of Christ demonstrates that true love is sacrificial. Wives would have no problems in submitting to one who loved them in this sacrificial way. Christian marriage is seen in its most spiritual and most noble aspects when the gracious submission of the wife is the ready response to the sacrificial love of the husband.
Young married couples should counsel together, reach necessary decisions together, remembering that the husband is responsible before God for the life, conduct and testimony of the family.
Young couples must confront themselves with the fact that this intimate relationship is based upon mutual love, and they must realize that this relationship demands total commitment on the part of each. It would be well if each tested his love by the divine standard: “Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth: beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).