The Marriage Vows

 

 

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The Marriage Vows

Dr Alex Tang

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:2-4

Sermon Statement

The power in the marriage vow is covenant companionship and commitment

 

Introduction

Alarming in statistics in Malaysia that divorce among non-Muslims rose 167% from 2009 to 2010. Sobering statistics and serves as a warning to the church.

Wedding rings remind me of the Lord of the Rings.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

 

--- J.R.R. Tolkien's epigraph to The Lord of The Rings.

 

The Rings of Power were the masterwork of the elven-smiths of Eregion headed by Celebrimbor who was descended from Fëanor. Encouraged and assisted by Sauron, who could at that time still assume a fair appearance and came to Eregion under an assumed name, the Seven and the Nine were made with his assistance. The Three were made by Celebrimbor alone. In secret, Sauron forged the One Ring in the fires of Orodruin, seeking to bring all the rings and their wearers under his sway. The elves sensed his intention and hid the Three, not using them until after the One Ring had been lost in the Gladden Fields. The Seven and the Nine seemed to favor their bearers, but in time brought them to ruin. Men under Sauron's command as the Nazgul, dwarves, harder to dominate, overmastered by their greed for precious things. (http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Rings_of_Power)

 

Three Rings for marriage foundations under the sky,
Seven for principles of marriage carved in stone,
Nine for the Holy Spirit fruit that marriage underlie,
One for the marriage vows on the wedding throne
In the Land of Marriage where blissfulness lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to guide them,
One Ring to bring them all and in matrimony bind them.

In the Land of Marriage where blissfulness lie.

 

Here the ring of power is the marriage vows. This ring controls:

Three rings of marriage foundations

Seven principles for marriage

Involvement of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit

 

The Three Rings of Foundation of a Marriage

The foundations for a marriage is given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:2-4

    2    But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.

      3    The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

      4    The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. [1]

 

1.      Marital Partnership (Equal)

The parallelism in verses 2 and 3 is remarkable and demonstrates Paul’s interest in and concern for marriage.

Verse 2

 

Verse 3

 

let each man have his own wife

 

let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife

 

each woman have her own husband

 

similarly the wife to her husband

 

 

2.      Marital Surrender (Duty)

Although the next verse fails to match the rhythm of the preceding two verses, it has its own internal balance:

Verse 4

 

The wife does not have

 

The husband does not have

 

authority over her own body

 

authority over his own body

 

but her husband has

 

but his wife has

 

 

With keen insight into the intimacies of married life, Paul declares that both husband and wife should fulfill their conjugal duties toward each other. He stresses the equality of male and female in respect to marital union: “Let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife and similarly the wife to her husband.” Further, he stresses that the husband should not demand from his wife but rather fulfill his marital obligations to her; comparably the wife should extend to her husband that which she owes him.

With the words fulfill and duty, Paul denotes the payment of a debt that each one owes the other. “Marriage without sex is not only unnatural, but it is expressly forbidden.”12 He issues no command on asceticism within the bonds of marriage. Paul discourages those well-meaning but misguided Corinthian Christians who were of the opinion that married couples should abstain from sexual intercourse (see v. 5).

 

3.      Marital Paradox (Authority)

Verse 4 reveals that Paul has an even deeper understanding of married life than he expressed in the preceding verse (v. 3). He states that the wife has no over authority over her own body, but that the husband has this power; and vice versa, the husband has no power over his own body, but his wife has this authority. John Albert Bengel correctly calls this verse “an elegant paradox.”

Elsewhere Paul teaches that the husband is the head of the wife (11:3; Eph. 5:23). But here he plainly declares that in respect to the sexuality of husband and wife, there is complete equality. Each partner has authority over the body of his or her spouse, and both submit themselves to one another. Thus they experience complete mutuality.[2]

 

The Seven Rings of Principles in a Marriage

  1. Marriage is instituted by God, not man.
  2. Marriage is not about children
  3. Marriage is not for the perfect
  4. Marriage reflects Christ and the Church
  5. Marriage is a calling
  6. Marriage is not an emotion
  7. Marriage is high maintenance

 

  1. Marriage is instituted by God, not man.

God made people male and female (v. 4; Gen. 1:27). In marriage He joins them together in an inseparable bond. This bond is a higher calling than the parent-child relationship, for a man is to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife in a one-flesh relationship (Gen. 2:24). Therefore what God has joined together, men ought not separate.

GE 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (NIV)

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (KJV)

In the Bible, the basic unit of society is marriage. It is the first human institution formalised by God as a basic building block of society. In the church it is also a basic building block. Any attack on marriage is an attack on society. Gibbons writing in The Fall of the Roman Empire,  noted that all the great ancient civilization started their decline with the loss of integrity in marriage amongst its people. With disintegration of marriage comes immorality and disorder.

  1. Marriage is not about children

From the way, most of us talk about our marriages, it is to produce children. Even though God does give us the mandate to be fruitful and multiple, marriage is not about children. Marriage is about a relationship between two persons- a man and a woman. Children are a gift to this relationship. Somehow when children come, they become the centre of the marriage until the marriage is all about them and the husband and the wife part fade to the background.

Guys, notice when your wife stopped calling you darling and started calling you daddy? The shift of emphasis is subtle but there. You are not longer the focus of her affection. You are somebody's daddy and that somebody has taken your place as the focus of her affection. Most marriages are so revolved around their children that when their children leaves home, the husband and wife find that they are practically stranger to each other. Who is this stranger with a familiar face? They have sacrifice all for their children.

Children are not part of the marriage deal. This means those marriages without children are also blessed by the Lord. Couples without children should not feel they have a raw deal. Your marriage is still part of God's plan.

  1. Marriage is not for the perfect

No it is not. It is a imperfect partnership for two imperfect people.

  1. Marriage reflects Christ and the Church

God uses human marriage to show the marriage between His Son, Jesus Christ (the bridegroom) and the Church (the bride).

Ephesians 5:25-27

 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Marriage is about a covenant commitment to love one another, even when at times we are not lovable. The Church is not always a beautiful, clean and radiant bride. Sometimes, she is dirty, smelly and unkempt. Yes Jesus loved her all the same. He died for her. So in a marriage there will be good times and bad times. In the good times let us enjoy it. In the bad times, let us hang on to our marriage vows and our commitments.

  1. Marriage is a calling

This does not mean all people are to be married. There are some among us who are called to be single. God has called these individual to a single life so that they can serve Him better. A single life does not mean a lonely life.

John Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) remained celibate his entire life. He said, "The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those He calls." (Albert Hsu, Singles at the Crossroads. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997. p. 178.)

  1. Marriage is not an emotion

Marriage is not about the romantic love we see on television, movies and romantic novels. These are more of infatuation and lust rather than love.

  1. Marriage is high maintenance
    • Keep the 'fire of love' alive

Remembering birthdays, anniversaries; doing each other a favor; having a date; do something together special every month; holding hands; compliment one another; basic courtesy; saying 'I love you'.

    • Do not take each other for granted

There is a very strong tendency to take one another for granted in a marriage, especially in our busy lifestyle, with so many demands on our time and energy- work, children, ministry, golf, hobbies etc.

    • Communication

Married couples must continue to communicate. Not just talk about the children. Some couples find that aside from their children, they have nothing to talk about. Find other common areas of interest. Learn to listen.

    • Conflict resolution

Couples must learn to resolve their conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable as two human beings learn to be one. Conflicts must be resolved properly or it will lead to more problems later on. Unresolved conflict has a tendency to accumulate until one day it explodes in a spectacular fashion or it leads to emotional divorce. Emotion divorce occurs when the couple drifts apart until there is nothing between them but dead space.

    • Build up one another

Help one another to grow and develop to their potential and as persons. Do not stiffer the growth of a spouse.

 The Seven Facets of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit

    GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The foundations (equality, duty, authority) will not stand and the principles in a marriage will not work without the fruit of the Holy Spirit being involved.

 

The Ring of Power: The Marriage Vows

The marriage vows is a covenant. Marriage is for covenant companionship. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. It is a covenant relationship which means it is a contract of commitment to each other and to no others. Why did God create marriage? Because God said it is not good for man to be alone and He created a helpmate for him. Man is body, spirit and soul. Woman is body, spirit and soul. Marriage is the process where two become one - one flesh. In a metaphysical sense, there is a merging of the body, spirit and soul. One merged, one cannot separate without some damage. It is a lifelong commitment.

The power of the marriage vows come from covenant companionship and commitment.

Wedding Vow Sample 1

I, ________, take thee ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold,
from this day forward, for better – for worse, for richer – for poorer,
in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,
and thereto I pledge thee my faith.

Wedding Vow Sample 2

I, _____, ask you, _____, to be my husband/wife as my friend and my love.
On this day I affirm the relationship we have enjoyed, looking to the future
to deepen and strengthen it. I will be yours in plenty and in want, in
sickness and in health, in failure and in triumph. Together we will dream,
will stumble but restore each other, we will share all things,
serving each other and our fellow humanity. I will cherish and respect you,
comfort and encourage you, be open with you, and stay with you as long as
we shall Live, freed and bound by our Love.

Wedding Vow Sample 3

"_________, wilt thou have this woman/man to be thy wedded wife/husband to live together after God’s ordinance in the Holy Estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her/him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her/him, so long as ye both shall live? ("I will")

(Repeat) "I, ________, take thee ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better – for worse, for richer – for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, and thereto I pledge thee my faith."

(Rings) "In token and pledge of the vow between us made, with this ring I thee wed; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

(Rings) "Receive this ring as a token of wedded love and faith."

 

Covenant Companionship

This is a social and spiritual contract for two people to come together to become one.

Commitment

This is a decision to commit to the covenant companionship despite all odds.

 

Concluding Thoughts

The institution of marriage is under attack today. Those who are struggling in their marriage should take courage in the Lord and renew their commitment to covenant companionship. It is often not easy but the needful is to hang on and keep praying that the Lord will intervene and make the necessary changes.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

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|posted 21 August 2011|


 

[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (1 Co 7:2–4). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 18: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. New Testament Commentary (211–213). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

               

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