Pentecost 20b

Preached: October 14, 2012

Honor God's Gift of Marriage
Genesis 2:18-24

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit instructs our hearts is Genesis 2

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Marriage is under attack. And I'm not just talking about the growing push to recognize same-sex relationships as if they were marriage. Marriage is under attack. In fact, over our lifetimes we've witnessed an accelerating decay of marriage in our American culture.

Satan knows what he's doing. Marriage is the beginning of family. And the family is the basic building block for society, and it's the nursery for bringing up the next generation to know our Lord Jesus in faith. When he chips away at marriage, he fractures family destabilizing society and weakening the church.

A. God established marriage according to his design

God gave marriage as a wonderful gift. You just heard that in the First Lesson, which is also the sermon text. On the sixth day of creation, the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Unlike any of the animals, mankind was created in the image of God. Then God brought the animals to Adam for him to name. And as he named them, he saw that each had its mate, male and female. And yet none of these would be a fitting companion for him. None of these could be his helpmeet, that is, a helper suitable to him, with whom he could carry out God's command to be fruitful and multiply. You see, God did not impose a wife on Adam but brought him to realize how perfectly she would fit into God's plan for him.

And so later on that same day, the Lord God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of his ribs and fashioned woman out of it. Adam recognizes her as God's wonderful gift, a helper suitable for him unlike any of the animals. “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23 NIV84). And we are told, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NIV84). God's gift of marriage establishes a new family.

B. Marriage is attacked by the world and our own sinfulness

Marriage is under attack. In what ways have you seen marriage attacked in our country? We've mentioned the attempt to legalize same-sex relationships as if they were marriage. God clearly established marriage as one man and one woman, or as the cliche goes: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

But heterosexuals have done much more damage to marriage than homosexuals have. How many broken marriages scar the landscape of our country? What breaks a marriage? Adultery and malicious desertion, certainly do. But how often aren't marriages broken because husband and wife claim to no longer love each or to have irreconcilable differences or they just want to go their own ways in life? Many no longer consider marriage a lifelong union but just a temporary arrangement. Yet Jesus quotes these words from Genesis about a man leaving his father and mother and being united to his wife so that they become one flesh. Then he says, “They are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6 NIV84). God hates divorce because there is always sin involved. Either the sin of adultery or malicious desertion has already destroyed the marriage before the divorce is legally recognized or else the divorce itself is sinful, destroying the lifelong union God intended.

In fact, divorce has become so rampant that some decide not to get married, at least not at first. Why not just live together as sexual partners? That's another attack on God's gift of marriage. It's becoming so prevalent that some may no longer see it as wrong, even though it used to be called “living in sin.” How many children are raised in single parent homes, not because of the death of the spouse, but because marriage has been despised in one of these ways?

Any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is an attack against it. This is where the selfish use of birth control has led many to think that sex is just another recreational activity. Yes, the sexual union is a gift from God. He gives this gift to bless married couples with children and with a closeness and intimacy that transcends other human relationships. But this is God's gift for marriage alone. “The two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NIV84). Sex is not a gift to be used just because you like someone. It's not a gift to be used on your own. Any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage, whether premarital sex or adultery or whatever else, attacks marriage. Sex is God's gift for marriage alone, only between a husband and his wife.

And this brings us to another rapidly growing attack against marriage: pornography. You don't even have to suffer the embarrassment of buying a dirty magazine at the store anymore. You can find it all over the Internet channeled right into the privacy of your own home. Pornography betrays the intimacy of husband and wife. Whether you're married or unmarried, it perverts your whole expectation of what marriage and sexual intimacy is all about. It makes you long for the impossible. It feeds that roaming eye. It's addictive, leading you to neglect the flesh and blood partner the Lord has given you or will give you one day. Once hooked it can be more difficult to break than an alcohol or drug addiction. And even if it doesn't lead you to technically break your legal marriage vows, remember what Jesus said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NIV84).

And how often do we dishonor marriage from the inside? Notice that God had specific roles for man and woman from the beginning. The woman was created for man to be his suitable helper. The man, from whose body the woman was taken, was to care for her and love her as his own body. As the loving head, he was to do what was best for his wife. Just look at what happens in Genesis 3 when Adam failed to care for his wife spiritual need as she was tempted by Satan.

When we, as husbands, fail to love our wife as our own bodies, when we place our own pleasures before her, when an inconsiderate word or our own negligence harms her, or when we neglect the physical or the spiritual welfare of the family, we have dishonored marriage, neglecting our God-given role as husband. Or when you, as wives, do not trust your husband as the loving head, when you fail to be that helper whom God created you to be, when you resent his role over your, you have dishonored marriage. How much guilt there is to go around!

And we haven't even mentioned how our words towards others can attack marriage. When we complain about our spouse or join in those jokes that belittle marriage, we lead others to think that marriage is a bad deal. Or how often have we failed to stand up and defend what God has said about marriage, so that our silence lets the unbelieving world define marriage as it sees fit? How much guilt we all share in failing to honor God's gift of marriage!

C. Your Bridegroom has given you his wedding gown. Remain faithful to him

So before we point out how some in our society are trying to redefine marriage, bring your own sins against marriage to your heavenly Father. Confess them as the filth they are. It's so tempting for me to try to diminish my sin by saying, “At least I didn't go this far ...” however far that might be. Confess your sin for the filth that it is. For no matter how filthy or grievous, you have a Savior who's greater. When we try to diminish our sinfulness, we just diminish the glorify his work, don't we?

Now watch those hands of his, the hands of Jesus. The Father created all things through the Son, Jesus Christ. See Jesus' hands forming the man out of the dust, fashioning Eve out Adam's rib, knitting you together in your mother's womb. Now see those hands pierced by nails, blood dripping down. God's Son, your Maker, died for you. He took away your sins, even your sins against marriage, no matter how grievous they may be. See, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, your sins and mine.

He has taken you, dear Christian, as his bride. Though we were spiritually adulterous, serving self as our god, whoring around in all sorts of sins, Jesus has washed you clean in the water and word of Baptism. He has dressed you in the wedding gown of his righteousness, pure and white. He presents you to the Father as his bride, blameless, beautifully adorned. Jesus is the groom; his church is his bride, who adore him as our Savior.

Why would we go back to that life of spiritual adultery? Be faithful to your husband, your Lord Jesus Christ. Be devoted to him, who gave his life for you and now reigns over all as your risen Lord and Savior. Honor, serve, and obey him. For what joy is ours right now to live under the undeserved favor, kindness, and grace of our dear bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ! What greater joy awaits at the heavenly wedding banquet for you and me who remain faithful. Come to the wedding feast.

D. Uphold marriage by carrying out your god-given roles as Christian, citizen, and family member

Now until that day how can we honor, serve, and obey our dear bridegroom, Jesus Christ? One way is too honor God's gift of marriage. How do we do that? Consider our callings in life, the roles God has given you as Christian, as citizen, and as family member.

As a Christian, honor God's gift of marriage by clinging to his Word. Even as the world tries to dismiss the Bible as if it were out-dated fables, cling to the Word. For the Bible is God's Word, God's truth, which does not change. Cling to his word to uphold marriage and to resist sinning against it. If one of the sins against marriage has caught you and can't break away, come to me, your pastor, so that together we can find strength in your Savior's promise of forgiveness which he speaks to your repentant heart through me. In your Savior's promises, find the power to honor marriage. For his promises bring the courage to stand up for his truth, the determination to resist sinning, and the patience to endure the world's insults. What a miracle of strength his promises work in us! So go to his Word and Sacraments, for they bring you his promises.

Next as a citizen, honor God's gift of marriage by speaking positively about the blessings of marriage, such as children and companionship. Don't go with the flow of society. Rather be salt and light. And when as a citizen you exercise your right to vote, let your choices at the ballot box seek to uphold God's principles. At times the choice may be fairly clear; at other times it may seem to be picking the lesser of two evils. Yet doing nothing is a choice as well, and often the least productive choice. The Lord has blessed us with privileges and rights as citizens of our country. Use them to glorify your God and to honor his gift of marriage.

And finally honor God's gift of marriage as you carry out the role God has given you in the family, the station he has place you in. Are you a husband? Love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Love her as your own body. For the woman was taken out of man, fashioned from his rib. Are you father? Bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Are you a wife? Submit to your husband as your head, even as the church submits to Christ. Are you a child? Honor your father and mother and obey them in the Lord. For as we faithfully live out God's plan for marriage, it brings blessings not only to our own family but also to our society and country and church. Others will see what God's gift of marriage is all about. For our actions often speak much louder than our words.

Yes, marriage is under attack and has been since the fall into sin. But you, dear Christian, have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who has taken you to be his bride. Remain faithful to him, and honor God's gift of marriage.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313