God, Marriage and Children

Bible Book: Mark  10 : 1-16
Subject: Family; Marriage; Home; Husbands; Wives; Children
Series: Fixing the Family

Sermon Series - Fixing the Family - 4 of 6

Mark 10:1–16

For the last three weeks, we've been talking about "Fixing the Family". Now there are a lot of ways to tackle that problem. Some say the answer is found in therapy and psychologists. Others, for families to just spend more time together. Still others believe the answer to be in making more money or providing a better living environment.

I saw one ad in the wanted column of a newspaper down in Florida that said, "Wanted to buy: playpen, cradle, high chair; also two single beds.”

We've been discovering, the best chance we have of fixing the family is returning to Biblical principles and practices.

So far we've learned that God's home operates on the principles of righteousness and justice, mercy and truth. That means Biblical principles are unchanging principles. They aren't dependent on evolving ethics or social standards.

God doesn't change; His word is established forever in Heaven, and therefore, His principles are on target in any setting in any time.

Equally enduring is His mercy and truth. In fact, Jesus is the epitome of grace and truth and when righteousness and justice are balanced with grace and truth, our homes and relationships will be well on the way to providing the home environment the Lord desires.

Now, if our homes will provide that kind of God-centered atmosphere, there is a great need for us to take seriously the need to walk with God. And as we've been learning from the book of Ephesians, many of us need to take seriously that responsibility. We are to walk worthy of our calling. Husbands and dads carry the primary weight of that responsibility in the home, but no one is exempt from doing their part.

As a matter of fact, you can't do anything about anybody else. Just do your part to fix the family of which you are a part. Learn to walk with God, treat people right, get along with others and enjoy the life God wants you to have.

To do that we must discipline ourselves to speak words that edify and encourage. And we need to be sensitive to the Spirit of God and His presence in our homes so that we can be like Christ.

Now, with that in mind, I want us to think about the significance of having a God-centered and God-honoring family today by digging a little deeper into the book of Ephesians. Notice what we read in

Ephesians 5:22 - 6:4

Sometimes I think we convince ourselves that it really doesn't matter how we live or what we do. After all, God is gracious and forgiving, and we can just do whatever we want with no consequences.

And as we learned from President Bill Clinton, the modern response is to just say, "It's none of your business what I do in my personal life."

You have your standards, and I have mine, but you have no right to impose them on anyone else. But God has every right to get involved in how we live our lives. After all, every person is His creation and owes their very life and dependence to Him.

And beyond that, those of us who are Christians are bought with the precious blood of His Son and we belong to Him. Therefore, we have no right to do whatever it is we want to do without any regard for anyone or anything else.

And that is especially true of our relationship with God. Our behavior reflects on Him. Therefore, He has a greater goal in mind for our families than just making us happy or satisfying our needs and desires. He wants to use us and our homes to tell the world about Himself.

And to that end, Paul writes to the Ephesians to say, "Here is what is expected of husbands, wives and children."

Husbands are to love their wives in the same way Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.

Wives are to respond to that love by recognizing the God-given roles of leadership and submission and they are to submit to their husbands in the same way they submit to the Lord.

And by the way, please notice God is not asking you to do anything that He doesn't ask Jesus to do. You do realize that, right? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:3, "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."

If you've got a problem recognizing and submitting to God-given authority and headship, then it may be because you think you're better than Jesus Christ Himself.

God has provided these patterns of authority for a reason and it is to illustrate Himself and His love relationship for the church. That's why husbands, rather than being instructed to rule and reign by terror and threat, are commanded to love their wives just like Christ loves the church.

We are to discipline our children, but we do it, not in a way to provoke them to anger and resentment and bitterness, but in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Why? Because that's how God treats us. He loves us in the way He wants us to love our wives. Through His Son, He responds to that love with respect and submission. As our Heavenly Father, He instructs and disciplines us so we will be more like Christ. And just as Christ was obedient to His Father, he expects children to honor and obey their parents.

And when that is happening in our family, the world is provided a beautiful picture of life in God's family and that picture is central to our faith. In fact, that's really what this text in Ephesians 5 is all about. Notice

verse 32

That's Paul's way of saying this teaching is really not about marriage, but about the church.

It helps with the family, and that's what he says in verse 33. This teaching will help your family be what God designed it to be, but I'm teaching you about the church and its relationship to God. And it think that is obvious when you study the text.

But I'm intrigued by verse 31. Why, in this study of the New Testament relationship between Christ and the church that is illustrated by men and women loving and submitting, does Paul, all of a sudden, insert this Old Testament reference from Genesis into the discussion?

I think Jesus helps us understand why Paul does that with what he said in

Mark 10:1-16

Notice in particular, verses 6-8. It's interesting to me that Paul, when he talks about the illustration of how Jesus loves the church and Jesus, when he teaches about divorce, both go back to the same scripture passage in Genesis. So how do they connect?

The passage I read to you from Mark 10, there are two main points that emerge and they are directly connected to what we've been studying in Ephesians 5 and 6. The first one is regarding marriage.

1. Marriage is a work of God and gets its meaning from God.

One of the things that is very often overlooked or ignored when we talk about marriage is that its primary significance is to portray the covenant love that exists between Christ and his Church.

Notice how this unfolds in the text. In verse 2 some Pharisees came to Jesus to test him about his views of marriage and the law. In particular, they ask if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. He puts the question back to them in verse 3 to draw out a point about Moses' teaching on divorce.

They say in verse 4 that Moses permitted divorce if a man would not be cavalier about it but would write a certificate of divorce. To which Jesus responds with words that seem to imply that something greater than Moses is here, and changes are in the offing.

He says in verse 5, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment." In other words, the law that you use to justify your divorce and remarriage, testifies, not to the desire of God's heart, but to the hardness of your own. God has tolerated and regulated the hardness of your heart in his law.

Then Jesus calls for a new standard of faithfulness by pointing back to the original design of God. Notice

verse 6

Jesus is quoting Genesis 1:27. And what Jesus does is trace the meaning of marriage back to the very first design of God in creation by taking us back to a time before the law existed.

And Jesus makes sure we understand that that design is limited to a relationship between a male and a female. I guess that's a little too complicated for liberal judges in America to understand! But it's a very simple design - one man and one woman united in holy matrimony for life until death interrupts that relationship. And Jesus is saying to these Jews: This is the basis of marriage. God's design is seen in His creation of one man and one woman. And when you insert divorce into the equation, you are interfering in God's action and God's design. That's what's at stake. Marriage is not man's idea. It is God's idea.

Therefore, the issue of divorce and remarriage is not primarily about the way God regulated the hardness of hearts by the law; it is mainly about the meaning of marriage that was designed by God in creation.

Then in verses 7 and 8, Jesus quotes the same verse Paul uses in Ephesians It's found in Genesis 2:24 and Jesus quotes it to make the explicit connection between God's creation of male and female on the one hand, and marriage on the other hand.

(Mark 10:7-8) Listen to what He says, beginning in verse 7. So to put it all together, the leaving of father and mother and the cleaving to each other to form a new family unit is God's idea and it finds its deepest roots in the way He created and designed humans as male and female.

Then he gives one of the most important and powerful declarations and commands in the Bible - verse 9 - The declaration is that marriage is the work of God.

Notice, He's talking about "what God has joined together . . ." The union of marriage is something that God does. It is not just a human decision or a human tradition. And by the way, that is true even for people who don't believe in God. Marriage is something God does, not just man.

We see the design of God in Genesis 1:27, and we see the description of God in Genesis 2:24, but beyond that, God put it into action the day you got married.

Therefore, marriage is the work of God and gets its meaning from God, and His chosen illustration of the meaning is every human marriages, which is exactly what Paul was saying in Ephesians 5.

No wonder Jesus ends his answer to the Pharisees that way He does -

verse 9.

The joining is God's; therefore, the separating is to be God's. But nobody likes that conclusion. They don't like it now and they didn't like it then -

Verse 10.

When the disciples and Jesus are alone in the house, they want to ask the question again. Is it lawful to divorce and remarry? So Jesus answers them in the next couple of verses by first of all, addressing a man who is thinking about leaving his wife to marry another woman (Verse 11)

Then, in verse 12, He turns it around and focuses on the woman who is thinking about leaving her husband for another man.

So what's the point of these two verses? Why does Jesus say this? Why does He deal with the question from these two different angles?

Well, first of all, he is reinforcing the fact that marriage can only be between a man and woman and He gives both scenarios. There are no other possibilities. A man can only divorce a woman and a woman can only divorce a man because those are the only possibilities when it comes to dissolving a marriage.

But He is also twice answering the question of divorce in the same way. Divorce your spouse, and you commit adultery. So doesn't he know that in His audience and in this audience today there are people who are divorced and remarried? Parents of people who are divorced and remarried? Children of people who are divorced and remarried? Doesn't he know this will hurt?

I think He does know that, and I think He cares about that. There are very few things that hurt more than the break-up of a marriage. It is far more painful than the death of a spouse and does much more damage to all concerned. Jesus knows that.

But unlike our day, where not hurting feelings is the essence of love, Jesus thinks the essence of love is helping people to live in sync with reality, namely, God. After all, the foundation of His throne is righteousness and justice.

And sometimes, that hurts. But we also remember, mercy and truth go before Him. God is always accompanied by His love. And what He does is always meant for our good, if we will believe him.

And it seems to me the aim of Jesus in this instance is prevention, not destruction. He is talking to those who can still turn back. And he is saying: marriage is God's idea; He designed it, He described it, and He does it. It is one of the deepest realities in the world. Deeper than any of us knows.

What God joins together, He joins deeply together - deeper than feelings, deeper than promises, deeper than sex, deeper than friendship. "One flesh" is a deep, deep mystery.

That is exactly what Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:32. And he says it is an image of Christ and the church. The union of husband and wife in marriage is like the union of God and his people. It is an ocean of deep, deep unseen wonders. And it's a shame that so many people today treat it like a backyard swimming pool for taking a dip whenever and for as long as we feel like it.

Jesus says: God joined this. And because of that, the charge of adultery and the issue of divorce is far deeper and more profound than we think. Marriage is an image of the covenant commitment between Christ and the church for whom he died.

Therefore, to walk away from marriage for another relationship is not just about marriage, but about Christ, and about God. What God has joined together in man and woman, in Christ and church, is not ours to separate. God will never separate Christ and his church and our marriages are to be living testimonies to that fact.

The least we can do as believers is let your marriage tell the truth about God's love for humanity. Don't lie to the world about the covenant between Christ and the Church. God joined this. Don't separate it - even an image of it.

And I think it is important to say also that if you have walked away from a marriage and you are now in another marriage, I don't think this means you are to end your marriage. Repent if you should. But start where you are to honor the vows you have made and, whatever the cost may be, fulfill your calling to live out the rock-solid relationship of Christ and his Church.

That's point one: marriage is a work of God and gets its meaning from God. And its meaning is mainly the portrayal of the covenant love between Christ and his Church.

Here's the second point:

2. Children are a work of God and get their meaning from God.

verses 13-16

I don't believe it is coincidental that a story about children follows a teaching on marriage. There's a connection. Now notice what Jesus says: He says the way into the kingdom of God is seen in the way children are dependent.

Did you ever wonder why churches invest so much in children? Why do we stress the home as being crucial for their health and wholeness? Why do we have so many programs for kids? Why do we have camps and Bible school and Sunday School and RAs and GAs?

Why should the children not be hindered, but rather brought to him for his blessing? Why not just ignore them or hinder them or discourage them? Why should we help them and minister to them? Well the answer that Jesus gives is rather surprising. His answer is found in verse 14b.

His answer is that they stand for something; they represent something. Don't hinder them, "because to such as these, belongs the kingdom of God."

And by the way, properly understood, He did not say, "Don't hinder them because they belong to the kingdom."

He said, "Don't hinder them because the kingdom belongs to them. That is a critical difference. The instruction Jesus gives is to not hinder them, but instead to lead them, encourage them, help them get to Jesus because they represent the kind of people who will inherit the kingdom.

Notice the phrase in verse 14 is "for of such, is the kingdom of heaven. So, who is Jesus talking about? Who are the "such" of verse 14? The next verse gives the answer - verse 15.

People who receive the kingdom, those who bring themselves under the wise and gracious rule of God over their lives just as a child receives the provision and guidance it needs, will enter the kingdom and live with Christ forever. And those who don't receive it as a little child won't.

Therefore, don't hinder children from coming to Jesus for blessing. Instead, help them because to such as these, people who receive the kingdom in a childlike way, to these the kingdom belongs.

Have you ever wondered why God designed the world so that the human race multiplies by having babies that take years to become adults? Why did God ordain that there be children?

Why didn't God design the human race so that we multiply like earthworms: one adult splits to become another adult? He could have done it that way or any number of ways. Why did God ordain that there be children and not just adults?

It is because children stand for something. They point to something. They represent something. They signify something bigger than themselves. They stand for the kind of dependence and helplessness and need and insufficiency and faith that is required of adults to enter the kingdom of God.

To "such as these" (verse 14) belongs the kingdom. That's the meaning of their unique existence. They point the way to salvation.

So just as marriage is a work of God and gets its meaning from God, namely, to display the covenant love between Christ and his Church, so also children a work of God and get their meaning from God, namely, to display by their dependence the way into the kingdom of God. Such as these enter the kingdom.

So what's the connection between the two? Think about it like this. What we read in verse 9 about not divorcing is one of the ways we can obey verse 15 and citizenship in the kingdom.

Follow the thought. Verse 15 says that we should receive the kingdom like a child. Well, in verse 9 the King comes to us and says: The design of my kingdom is that marriages not be broken.

When we become a Christian, God is asking, "Will you receive my kingship and care and protection as your Sovereign? Will you have me as your king in marriage? Will you submit to my design for your life or will you reject my kingship and plan and design your own life?

Will you be a child toward me and depend on me and trust me and obey me? For those who say yes and become a child of God, two wonderful things happen:

First, through their humility and dependence and faith, they demonstrate the way to heaven. In fact, every obedient child that honors his father and mother as God commands is a testimony to the plan of salvation.

Children, whether earthly children of human parents or spiritual children of God, exist to point people to heaven through their childlike dependence on the grace of God.

And second,

They preserve and honor the God-designed haven of marriage where, generation after generation, children are brought to Jesus for blessing.

Therefore, Jesus says, "don't separate what God has joined." Tough it out, talk it out, pray it out, fast it out, cry it out, wait it out, and when you are at the end of your resources, remember, like a child, like a helpless, insufficient, needy, trusting child, receive the kingdom. Receive the King's help. But don't break it up.

He comes to us all this morning and says, "I am an all-providing, all-loving King. If you will receive my kingly design for your marriage (even if you must do it by yourself), I will be there to help you.

With man it is impossible, but that's why you come as a child. And remember, with God all things are possible, thus the command not to put asunder what God has joined.

When Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, a reporter asked them, “To what do you attribute your fifty years of successful married life?”

“The formula,” said Mr. Ford, “is the same formula I have always used in making cars—just stick to one model.”

That's good advice! And the model we need to stick to is the one given to us by the Lord! Amen? Amen!

Let's pray.