Sermon: Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage: The Foundations Of Marriage (Part 2): Genesis 2:24-25

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 2:24-25

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24–25, ESV)

New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:12–16

“To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:12–16, ESV)


Brothers and sisters, in this sermon series within a series on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage we will eventually address topics such as entering into marriage, having a successful marriage, challenges in marriage, as well as the topic of divorce and remarriage, but today we are still addressing foundational matters. We are answering the question, “what is marriage?” Or, better yet, “what do we learn about the marriage relationship when we look to the pages of Holy Scripture?” 

I have three foundational observations to make. What is marriage? One, marriage is a covenant. Two, marriage is for the glory of God. And three, marriage is for the good of humanity.

Marriage Is A Covenant

It should be remembered that the first of these three observations was presented last week. What is marriage? Marriage is, first of all, a covenant. 

Remember the definition that was provided. Marriage is “a lifelong covenant of companionship between a man and a woman that has been established under God and before the community” (Newheiser, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, 6).

Marriage is a covenant. More specifically, marriage it is a covenant made between one man and one woman. It is a covenant made under God. It is a covenant is made before others. The marriage covenant authorizes sexual intimacy. And the marriage covenant is to last until death. All of this was presented in the previous sermon.But before we move on from this foundational point I would like to tease it out a bit more. 

I pray that you would comprehend how important it is to view marriage as a covenant. In marriage a man makes a promise before God and witnesses to be faithful to a woman. And the woman also makes a promise before God and witnesses to be faithful to a man. This they promise to do until separated by death. What a solemn thing it is to make such a promise. What a serious thing it is to enter into such a covenant. Truly, there is no other relationship on planet earth like the relationship that exists between husband and wife. Two individuals who were were at one time interlay unrelated are joined together by God as one flesh as they enter into this covenantal bond. The marriage covenant is the glue that holds the marriage relationship together. A husband and wife are to stick together though thick and thin, and for what reason? Because they made a promise to one another before God and before witnesses that they would. 

While I was growing up I remember being taught that divorce is not an option. I’m grateful to have been taught that lesson for, generally speaking, it is true – divorce is not an option.

I say “generally speaking” because there are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Divorce, as we will see later in this series, is an option in the case of adultery or abandonment (and I think it is right to see abuse as a form of abandonment – more on that later). If a spouse is sexually unfaithful then the other is permitted (but not required) to divorce them. If a spouse abandons the marriage then the other is permitted to divorce. But these two biblical grounds for divorce are exceptions to the general rule that divorce is not an option.

Think of the impact that these principles will have upon a marriage if they are believed and adopted. If a couple views marriage as being a lifelong covenant of companionship, and, connected to that, if a couple decides from the start that divorce is not an option for them, then that couple will have set their marriage relationship down upon a fairly firm foundation. 

More needs to be said, of course. For our highest goal is not simply to remain married to the end. No, more than that we wish to thrive in our marriages to the glory of God. But here is a firm foundation upon which to stand. Marriage is a livelong covenant of companionship. Divorce is not an option.    

Therefore, when we experience difficulties in the marriage relationship divorce should not even be on our minds. Certainly the treat of it should never be on our lips. Never should a husband or wife threaten divorce. 

As I said earlier the scriptures do permit divorce in two situations – when a spouse has committed adultery or in the case of abandonment (abuse being a form of abandonment). In these difficult situations  the spouse that has been sinned against is indeed free (not required) to divorce.  But think of it, even in these extreme instances divorce, though it be permitted, does not need to be threatened. The one who has been sinned against needs to make a decision with the help of godly counsel as to if they will divorce or remain, but he or she does not need to threaten divorce. Never should the threat of divorce be used as a weapon – as a way to gain the upper hand in an argument.

I’m afraid that many do have divorce on the mind and even upon their lips, not in the extreme cases of adultery and abandonment, but even when facing the ordinary and common struggles of marriage. 

Brothers and sisters, I hope that you would agree that this is ungodly behavior. If God created marriage to be a lifelong covenant of companionship, and if God has given only two instances in which divorce is permitted, then it is wrong for us to have divorce on our minds, in our hearts, and proceeding from our lips as a threat when the relationship is difficult and tumultuous. To ponder or threaten divorce when there are no grounds for it is to disobey God’s word on the matter.

Because marriage is a lifelong covenant of companionship ordinarily divorce is not an option. A husband and wife are to sick like glue to one another even if there are many factors and forces at work to pull them apart. And this is particularly true for the Christian. While it is true for all humanity that marriage is a lifelong covenant of companionship, the Christian should definitely know it this and live accordingly. And I would also argue that it is particularly possible for the Christian to live accordingly given our worldview. It is our worldview that makes it possible for us to stay through thick and thin. The Christian believes that there is a God to whom we must give an account. We believe that this God is our heavenly Father. He is faithful to his people and is willing and able to sustain his people. We believe that our God is able to change lives. How do you know, therefore, if your conduct will not lead to the salvation of your husband or wife? How do you know if your conduct will not lead to the sanctification of your husband or wife? The world is quick to leave, in part, because they do not have a biblical worldview. With God there is hope. And this hope enables us to persevere in the midst of difficulty. 

Marriage Is For The Glory of God

Secondly, marriage is for the glory of God.

What is marriage? Marriage is, first of all, a covenant. Secondly, marriage is for the glory of God. 

In just a moment I will make the point that marriage is for our good. Indeed, marriage is good. It is, in fact, very good. There is much to say about the goodness of marriage for the man and woman who enter into this union. But before we talk about how good marriage is for us, we must emphasize that marriage is for God’s glory. This is the proper order of things. What is the benefit of marriage? First, it is for the glory of God, and after that it is for our good. I’m afraid that we tend to have this backwards, though. We tend to enter into marriage for our enjoyment, and the idea that it is for God’s glory remains a distant afterthought. The truth is that the institution of marriage in general, and our marriage relationships in particular, are, above all else, for the glory of God. 

In fact the one who is mature in Christ understands that everything is for the glory of God. Everything that was made by God was made so that the glory of God might be manifest. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world… (Psalm 19:1–4, ESV). Everything that we think, say and do is to be for the glory of God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV). Certainly, marriage is to bring glory to God.  

The institution of marriage itself is for the glory of God. It functions as a picture of God’s relationship to his people. Just as God entered into a covenantal relationship with his people at the beginning of time, so too the first man and woman were joined together in one flesh union by way of covenant. This was true in the beginning and in the garden prior to man’s fall into sin. And it remained true even after man’s fall into sin. God graciously provided a way for sinners to approach him. This was accomplished by way of the Covenant of Grace which was promised shortly after the fall and would be ratified in Christ’s blood. Marriage, therefore, functions as picture of God’s covenantal relationship with his people, particularly the union that exists between Christ and the church, God’s redeemed bride. 

This is the clear teaching of the New Testament. Paul, after discussing the marriage relationship in general, and the particular role of the husband and wife who are joined together in one flesh union, says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32, ESV). In other words the one flesh union enjoyed by the husband and wife in the marriage bond is mysterious and really it is about – it pertains to and is a picture of – Christ’s union with the church. The covenant of marriage is itself an analogy of God’s covenantal union with his people brought about though the Redeemer. The institution of marriage is itself for the glory of God. It is a picture of God’s covenantal faithfulness to man. 

And certainly we bring glory to God when our particular marriages are as they should be. 

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant when we are faithful to one another just as God is faithful. 

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant when we act selflessly towards one another just as God in Christ was selfless, laying down his life for his bride, the church. 

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant when we are kind, tender and compassionate to one another just as God is kind, tender and compassionate towards his children. 

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant when we are gracious towards one another just as God is gracious to us in Christ Jesus. 

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant when we love one another just as Christ loves us.

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant when we truly forgive one another just as God has forgiven all our sins in Christ Jesus.

We bring glory to God in the marriage covenant we are united together as close companions as a reflection of our union with the Father through the Son and by the Spirit.  

The institution of marriage was itself designed to function as a picture of the covenantal union which exists between God and his people, but do you see that this institution is terribly marred by sin when the husband and wife live, not according to the design and will of God, but according to the wisdom and will of fallen man. The marriage relationship fails to give glory to God when approach it wrongly and live sinfully within it. 

Brothers and sisters, will you bring glory to God’s name through your marriage, or will you bring shame to his name? I would urge to stop settling for a mediocre, or worse yet, sinful marriage, and to strive for a marriage in which God is glorified. Be faithful to your spouse in thought, word and deed. Selflessly serve one another as God in Christ has served us – lay down your life for the good of the other. Be kind, tender and compassionate towards one another. Speak kind words. Be gentle. See to understand the other. Extend mercy and grace. Forgive from the heart. Cultivate closeness, intimacy, friendship. Love one as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Stop settling for mediocre marriages and strive for one that is Christlike. Strive for a marriage that brings glory to God. 

As you strive for a marriage that is God honoring you will find that the world, your sinful flesh and the evil one himself will fight against you all along the way, but in Christ we have the victory. 

Marriage Is For The Good of Humanity

Thirdly, and lastly, we must confess that marriage is for the good of humanity. 

Much has been said in this sermon about the difficulty of marriage. Marriage can be difficult. It is important for us to teach that it is a covenant and that divorce is not an option so that we might persevere in the face of difficulties. Many do enter into the marriage relationship naively assuming that it will be happily ever after for them. This is a terrible mistake, and so we must warn that marriage will be challenging. When two sinful human beings are joined together in one flesh union there are bound to be challenges. 

But may this never obscure the fact that the marriage is really, really good. It is possible to have a great marriage in Christ Jesus. It is possible to mature in marriage to the degree that the relationship can be called “wonderful”. Again, or goal as Christians should not be to endure to the end so that we might say, “at least I was faithful!” Instead we should be striving after a good and godly marriage, one that is truly pleasant and satisfying.

I wonder if our marriage relationships do not remain mediocre because we have convinced ourselves that a good marriage or great marriage is not possible. 

The same is true regarding personal holiness. I wonder if we do not plateau in our walk with Christ because we have convinced ourselves that a good or great walk with Christ is impossible. Perfection is something we should not expect, but it is something we should strive after. It is true that Christian life will be characterized by ups and downs, but let us always strive after holiness, brothers and sisters.

Have you said to yourself, “this is just the way that I am, I cannot change”? Never should a Christian believe such a thing. Christ is able to change you from the heart. Are you impatient and rude? Are you short tempered? Are you self absorbed? And prone to bitterness? Are you a bad communicator? Never should the Christian say, “this is just the way that I am.” Instead, the Christian should pursue holiness – the Christian should expect to be sanctified by the word and Spirit. 

The same principle applies to the marriage relationship. Though it is true that marriage is sometimes difficult. Though it is true that a good marriage requires work. The Christian should expect to have a marriage that is good and even great. With Christ it is possible, my friends. 

Marriage is a covenant. It is for the glory of God. And it is for the good of humanity.

In what ways is the marriage relationship good?

First of all, in the marriage relationship a husband and wife are able to enjoy companionship. 

What a blessing it is to have someone to walk through life with. 

Remember that Eve was created by God to be a helper for Adam. She was not created to be his superior, nor was she created to be his slave. Instead she was designed to be a helper fit for him. 

When I say that a husband and wife are to enjoy companionship I mean that they ought to be relationally close and intimate. They should communicate with one another. A husband and wife should be good friends. 

Brothers and sisters, if companionship or friendship is lacking in your marriage, it can be cultivated. And how can friendship be cultivated in the marriage relationship? By being kind, caring, thoughtful and considerate towards one another.

Secondly, the marriage relationship is good for humanity in that it is good for society. 

The family is the building block of society. When families are healthy, the society is healthy. When the family breaks down, society begins to break down. God’s design is that children be raised in healthy families under the authority of a husband and wife, mother and father. 

It is possible, no doubt, for a single mother or a single father to do a wonderful job at raising their children alone. But here we are addressing God’s design, or the ideal. If the situation is less than is ideal, then a single mother or father would be wise to lean upon others for assistance in raising children. But here I am setting forth the ideal. 

Brothers and sisters, cultivating healthy marriages is very beneficial to society. 

Thirdly, and somewhat connected to the previous concept, the marriage relationship is good in that it is good for the advancement of the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is advanced in this world when husband and wives, mothers and fathers, raise their children in the Lord. I know that in some traditions Christians are urged to be active within the church, serving within various ministries. May I suggest to you that the most important work of all for a husband and wife, mother and father, is the work that is done within the home. Brothers and sisters, do not allow yourselves to become so busy with activities, either in the church or in the community, that you neglect investing into your children particularly when in comes to spiritual things. This is especially important for fathers to hear in our day and age. Slow down, men, and pour into your children. Drop the hobbies, cut back on work, even pull back on service within the church if you must so that you might further God’s kingdom by proclaiming the gospel to your children and raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

Fourthly, the marriage relationship is good in that it contributes the sanctification and holiness of the husband and wife. 

Please hear me, friends. One of the reasons that God has blessed you with your spouse is so that God might use your spouse to bring about your sanctification. What is sanctification? “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (Baptist Catechism Q: 38). And I am saying that one of the primary means that God uses to sanctify his people is the marriage relationship.

At the heart of our sin is pride and self-centeredness. If we lived life all alone a great deal of our pride and self-self-centeredness would go unnoticed and unchecked. But you have probably noticed that it is through our contact with others that our pride and self-self-centeredness becomes evident. 

Friends, there is no closer relationship on earth than the one that exists between husband and wife – the two have become one flesh. If there is pride and self-self-centeredness in the heart it will quickly become evident in the marriage relationship. 

Here is another reason why threatening divorce is sinful. It short-circuits the sanctification process. Imagine the heat being turned up in the marriage – imagine the flames of the refiners fire growing more intense. And then imagine that one or both have the habit of jumping out of the kiln before the work of refinement is done.

Brothers and sisters, do not be surprised when God uses your marriage to refine you spiritually. When conflict arises within the marriage do not double down on your pride and selfishness, not recognize it for what it is, confess it as sin, walk humbly before your God and live for the good others, particularly your spouse.  This is one of the reasons the marriage relationship is good for us given our sinful condition – it will used by God to advance our sanctification.   


Friends, I have three questions to ask you by way of conclusion. 

One, seeing that marriage is a livelong covenant of companionship, are you truly committed to your spouse?  Are you devoted the marriage? Are you “all in” from the heart? Our marriages will be terribly unstable and tumultuous if we waver in our commitment to one another in the heart. Hopefully you meant what you said on your wedding day when you uttered the words, “I take you to be my wedded spouse, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful spouse in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live.” If there was uncertainty in the heart then, or if their is uncertainty in the heart now, it is not too late to fix it. We can, even now, turn from the sin of unfaithfulness in the heart and grow in our resolve. Truly, the one who doubts in the heart will be tossed around like the waves of the sea, and the marriage itself will remain unstable. Are their grounds for divorce? Indeed there are! But let us put that issue to side for a moment and say the more general thing: husbands and wives, marriage is for life! It is a lifelong covenant of companionship.”

Two, seeing that marriage is for the glory God I ask, does your marriage glorify his name? When people look at your marriage (and this includes your children) do they see God’s love, compassion, tenderness, mercy and faithfulness on display? Do they see Christ’s self-less and self-sacrificing love for his church, and the churches reciprocal love for the Savior on display? Or do they see the way of the world? Brothers and sisters, let us do all things for the glory of God. Let us strive for marriages that bring honor to our great King. 

Three, seeing that marriages are for our good, are you pursuing a great marriage in Christ Jesus? Or have you grown content with one that is mediocre? Another way to say this is to ask, are your pursuing holiness in Christ Jesus? Are you pursuing holiness as an individual and in the marriage. 

Ephesians 4:17-32 is one of my favorite passages to use in marriage counseling. Though it does not mention the marriage relationship (Paul turns to marriage in Ephesians 5) it is deeply practical for husbands and wives.  Listen to Paul’s words, and you hear them, think of the marriage relationship. “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:17–32, ESV)

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