The Second Sunday after the Epiphany| Rev. Rolf Preus| January 14, 2018| Genesis 2:21-24
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
They say that marriage is made in heaven. Christ’s marriage to his bride, the Church, will be celebrated in heaven forever and ever. But what God instituted in the beginning was made on earth for life in this world. God made marriage for this world and this world only. Nobody gets married in heaven – nobody except the Lamb and his bride, the holy Christian Church. The marriage that God established between a man and a woman he established for here and now. It is a part of creation. When God made the woman he took her out of the man and brought her to the man from whom she had been taken. In celebrating his marriage to her, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.”
Marriage is established in creation. It is established by God. God joins a man and a woman together as husband and wife.
God joins them together. The Lord Jesus cited this portion of Genesis when he was teaching the Pharisees that marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman. Jesus argued from Moses’ words, “the two shall become one flesh” to the conclusion, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Since it is God who joins a man and a woman together in marriage, Jesus condemned divorce in no uncertain terms. The Bible gives two grounds for divorce: adultery and malicious desertion. In creation, God make marriage a lifelong bond of one man to one woman. God joins a man and a woman together in a lifelong union.
He joins them together here on earth, not in heaven. He established marriage because he loves us. That doesn’t make marriage a sacrament. Sacraments are means of grace. God gives us grace in the sacraments. Marriage is not a sacrament. It doesn’t bestow grace. It requires grace!
Grace is God forgiving us our sins for Christ’s sake. By forgiving us, God works new desires within us, the desire to please him in all that we do. Grace doesn’t float around up in the air for us to leap up and grab it. It is located. Grace is located in Christ, the bridegroom, and it seen where he lays down his life for his bride, bearing all her sin in his body, and washing her clean by his holy, precious blood. This is how Holy Baptism can wash away sin. By this sacrament, God washes us in the blood of the Lamb, as St. John wrote in Revelation 7:14, “[They] washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” As long as we are living here on earth, we will need to live under the grace of God, under the blood of Jesus, under the forgiveness of sins. Otherwise, we can have no fellowship with God.
We live here on earth. We’re not in heaven yet. Our marriages are made on earth. But earthly marriage is a sign of something far greater. That something greater is how God sanctifies marriage. Listen to what St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5,
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
The words of Moses, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,” apply to married folks, but not just to them, but to Christ and his church.
Christ loves the church. The church submits to Christ. Our generation loves love and hates submission. That’s because they don’t know what love is and they don’t know what submission is. If you don’t know what love is, you cannot know what submission is.
Love is from God. God is love. How can we see God’s love, know it, receive it, rely on it, and keep it? Listen to what St. John says in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” “To be the propitiation” means he sacrificed himself up for us to take away God’s anger. God’s love for us is so great that he chose punish his Son for our sins instead of requiring us to suffer it. St. John goes on to write, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” God turns away his anger against us by having the Son he has loved from eternity to bear it in our stead. That is love. This is how the husband is to love his wife.
Husbands: your wife is God’s gift to you, not because she has no faults or sins or weaknesses. She has them. You need to forgive her, for that is what love does. Your service to her is love. It is humble love. Jesus did not display arrogance when he went to the cross. It was in humility that he died for us. That is the love with which God calls the Christian husband to love his wife. Where? Here on earth where God joins them as husband and wife. Here on earth is where Jesus suffered, died, and rose again. The day to day life we live is lived in communion with when Jesus died for us and rose again. That means, not only does the husband confess that he is forgiven and lives as a righteous man, justified by Christ’s obedience, he also acknowledges his wife to be a holy, spotless, radiant, woman. He sees her as beautiful because that’s what she in her baptism is. She has put on Christ and stands before God as a saint.
Wives: You are to submit to your husband as you submit to the Lord Jesus. It’s not just the godless culture in which we live that recoils at the suggestion of such a thing. It’s your own sinful flesh. By nature, we don’t want to submit to anyone. But if you are to submit to your husband, it is you who will have to do it. He cannot force you to regard his headship as a good thing. Love isn’t coercive. You are the one who must submit herself, not because you love your husband, think he’s smart, and want to please him, but because you love and trust in your Lord Jesus. You show your devotion to Jesus by showing respect to your husband as the head of your home. Children learn from this example.
Jesus honored marriage by attending the wedding at Cana and doing his first miracle at that wedding. The chief benefit of marriage is the family. God blesses us with children. This means that children are a blessing. When God withholds this blessing he is not withholding his love. God is the Author of life. We cannot peer into his mind and learn why he doesn’t always bless marriages with children. When he does, we thank him for them.
Children don’t always appear to be blessings. They are sinners, after all. What husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, need to remember is that they cannot raise their children. We teach. We love. We lead by example. We forgive. We pray. But we cannot make our children into anything. The husband cannot make his wife into something she is not. The wife cannot make her husband into something he is not. We cannot make our children into what they are not. We’re not in charge.
That’s the wonderful thing about a Christian family. We can’t do it. That is, we cannot make it all work out right. We’re not in control. God is. God chooses to bless his children with children. God cares for the children he gives. God cares for his children. They aren’t ours to control.
There are things that husbands and wives can, by the grace of God, do. We can speak kindly and respectfully to each other. Even as Christ treasures his church, the Christian husband treasures his wife. He loves her as his own body. He protects her and nourishes here. Even as the church submits to Christ, the Christian wife submits to her husband as to the head of the body, trusting that God will take care of her as she does so. The way they treat one another is the most powerful teaching their children will receive.
By far the most powerful influence in a Christian home is God’s word. The word we receive as a family in church is the word we teach at home. We talk about it with our children. It is what binds a Christian family together.
Sins against marriage do serious harm. The way to deal with such sins is not to excuse them, but to confess them. God is full of mercy. We must live under God’s grace or we cannot live. At the heart of God’s word is the teaching that God forgives us all our sins freely by his grace, on account of Christ’s obedience and suffering. He has made full satisfaction for our sins. This is why God freely forgives us. He loves us. This love that we have through faith in Christ is the cement that keeps together what God joins together. Amen.