(j) A Statement on Marriage and Sexuality – The term “marriage” has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of the church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons employed by the church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, should abide by and agree to this Statement of Marriage and Sexuality and conduct themselves accordingly. We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture nor the doctrines of the church. (Gen. 1:27-28, Mt. 19:4-6, Mal. 2:15)
Today we are going to be looking at the topic of Marriage and sexuality. We are going to be focussing on Ephesians 5:25-33.
Now, before I get into this text and what we believe about Marriage and sexuality, let me address why we have this statement in our by-laws.
In the past, I don’t know, 2000 years or so, this type of statement would not be needed to be spelled out in the by-laws of a church. However, we live in a day and time where ideas about sexuality and marriage are not just skewed by the culture around us, they are being skewed by many people within the church as well. Furthermore, there are people who would want to compel us as a church, or me as a minister of the Gospel to endorse and perform marriages that fall outside of the Biblical definition of marriage. So, this statement is primarily in our bylaws as a legal protection from being coerced to do that. Some people have asked, why a statement on sexuality and not one on abortion, or euthanasia? Well, frankly, there may come a day when those statements may be necessary, but that day has not come yet. Also I do want to say that we will be adding a statement that addresses the transgender issue as well in the final draft.
Ok, I know we are all excited to hear this, so lets get into this. now, before we start, I want to ask you to take a moment and write down your definition of marriage…
Now, here is what I want to do today. Today is not about convincing you that homosexuality is wrong. This is not a new statement for our church. We have had it in our by-laws for more than three years. If you are a member here, or have been here long enough to read our current statement of faith, you have read this. Today is about all of us examining our own lives and convictions about marriage and seeing if they line up with what scripture teaches about marriage. Because here is the truth, there are way more heterosexual marriages that aren’t Biblical than homosexual marriages. As a church, what we convey to the world must be what we are striving towards rather than what we are running away from. Let me say this clearly, if we as the church want to portray Good News to the world, we cannot focus on the minimum standard as a definition. The bar for Biblical marriage is WAY higher than one man and one woman. If you truly understand what the Bibe has to say about marriage, it should bring you to a place of humility and not pride. Focussing on the minimum requirements as a definition of marriage can lead to pride, holding out the Biblical meaning of marriage should cause us to fall on our knees and ask the Lord for mercy, not stand on a soapbox and shout at others.
ok, lets read the text and hopefully we can all get to the place of humility that I think God wants us to be in.
First off, a Little background on this text. I have preached through this letter before, so let me just bring you up to speed a little bit on Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Ephesus around 62 AD. He was in Prison in Rome. There are two main themes of this book. The first is that Christ has reconciled all things to himself and to God, and the second is that Christ is uniting a people from every nation tribe and tongue, to himself and His church. He is doing that through the work of the triune God, and this unity is received by grace through faith. He is also encouraging Gods people to live lives that are a fitting tribute of Gratitude to their Lord. He begins the letter with a compelling recounting of the work of Christ for their salvation, and then moves into how they are to walk, in light of the truth he has reminded them of. One thing that is challenging when looking at a text like this that calls people to act a certain way is that when you read the whole letter, the cross is always in view. He even continues to reference it while he is exhorting the people to walk in a particular way.
Lets look at what he tells us to do when it comes to marriage. Now, if I had time, I would have started back in chapter 4, where Paul is encouraging the people to walking Love towards one another, and to live a holy life towards one another. These instructions for marriage flow out of the Gospel first. That our lives must be shaped by the gospel, and that our relationships with others must be shaped by the gospel, and now he moves to how our marriages must be shaped by the gospel.
When it comes to the Bible’s teaching on marriage, there are lots of specific instructions, but they are guided by specific, principles. The big idea of this text is this: Marriage is created by God to be a parable about God, to point the world to God.
- Created by God. v 31-32 As we have seen time and time again through our study of scripture, God created us for community. We are created in the image of God as we saw a few weeks ago, and part of that image is community. There is perfect, community in the trinity. The father, son and Holy spirit have perfect, eternal and profound community with one another. Imagine if you would for a moment, perfect fellowship with someone that lasts from as long as your memory, and goes on till the end of your life. now, for a lot of us, to go back into as far as we can remember, that would be our parents. Or maybe your siblings, but even with either of those, there is probably a time when those relationships were strained. But the trinity has had unbroken, perfect community and fellowship for all of eternity, with the exception of a change in the dynamic while christ was on earth and three hours when the father turned His back on Jesus. So, when you look at Genesis 2:18, when God said for the first time that something was not good, it was because the man was alone. To fully make man in his image was to make a community, a family. And so, God created marriage. Scripture says that God said He will make a helper suitable for him. Paul echoes this when he quotes Genesis 2:24 and says that a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to His wife and the two will become one flesh. Now, as an aside, there are times when people will say that pauls definition of marriage was such because it was culturally unacceptable for homosexual marriage. They will say that he was merely speaking to a cultural norm of the time and telling Christians how to live in that norm. One of the reasons we know that to not be the case in this text is because his reference point is not to the outside culture, it is back to creation. If Paul was saying, do this because thats the current norm, he would have pointed, not to thousands of years in the past, but to present day norms. Instead, He pointed to creation itself as he basis of his teaching on marriage. Whenever we think about the discussion of Marriage and the laws concerning it, we must always remember that the primary laws defining marriage are not the laws of any government. The supreme court does not define marriage, God does.
- To Be a parable about God.
a. About God’s covenant love, creating a people. v. 29 We understand the beauty and power of union with Christ as we become one flesh with each other. When we make a covenant with our spouse, we are reminded of God’s covenant with His people. Jesus calls his church his bride for a reason. He has made a covenant with us that He will fulfill. This is why as Christians we believe that any sexual activity that is outside the bounds of the marriage covenant is sinful and furthermore damaging. It is taking the benefits of the marriage covenant without the commitment.
b. About God’s sacrificial Love through Christ. We understand God’s love for us as we lay down our lives for each other.
c. About God’s power over sin. We understand the power of forgiveness as we walk with one another through that process daily.
- To point the world to God:
a. The first call to a Christian is to give up everything we seek after to find happiness, and find our Joy in Christ. When the world talks about marriage, it is usually about what I want, and how it will make me happy. the call of Christian marriage involves affection towards another person, and happiness to be sure, but to stop there is not a full picture of all that marriage is intended to be.
b. The ability for a man and a woman to have communion where they are laying down their lives for one another, can only truly be sustained through a deep understanding of the Gospel. Forgiving each other, serving each other, and submitting to each other ultimately displays a trust in Christ that can only come from finding all our identity and all our satisfaction in Jesus.
Now, this is where the compassion comes in. If we realize that the standard of marriage isn’t simply getting the genders right, but it is in fact living in a lifelong life-giving, God Glorifying covenant that will require us to be dependent on the gospel to live out, it should compel us to have compassion on all those who fall short of God’s plan for marriage, because if we are honest, we all fall short of God’s plan for marriage.