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|“The LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep SILENCE before him.”|
Malachi 2:14 speaks of marriage as a covenant: “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.”What is a marriage covenant? A marriage covenant is a solemn agreement before God between a man and woman to be each other’s loyal and loving companions for life. A covenant has rules. These rules are set by God. If we want a blissful and successful marriage we must play by God’s rules. “Marriage is a covenant consecrated by God” (Calvin). A marriage breaks down when we break the covenant by violating God’s rules.
One fundamental rule is monogamy. When God made for man a woman, He took one rib from Adam to make one Eve; He did not take several to make many. Note the singular, “a woman” (Gen 2:23), and “his wife” (vv 24–25). More importantly is the thought of “one flesh” (v 24)—the physical and spiritual unity between one man and one woman. The “one flesh” concept rules out polygamy as an option. That is why in the New Testament, it is required of a leader in the church to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). This fact is also attested by analogy of Jesus’ relationship to the Church—His Bride. There is but one Bride of Christ—the one true, invisible, universal Church comprising all of God’s elect. That is why when a married person has a sexual relationship with another person other than his lawful spouse, it is adultery. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (the seventh commandment). Yes, in the Old Testament we have many instances of God’s people having many wives. We think of Abraham and his wives Sarah and Hagar, but look at the trouble Abraham brought upon himself and his descendants. The antagonism between the two brothers—Isaac and Ishmael—continues till this day. Having more than one wife at a time is against God’s will and Word.
The clear teaching that a marriage is not to be broken on the grounds of difference of religious faith is followed by one of the great statements of the Scripture on the subject of the family covenant with God. 1 Corinthians 7:14 states, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” The holiness here predicated is a holiness of a covenant relationship. Although Paul does not mention the word covenant, it is clear that he has in mind the principles implied in Genesis 17:7, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
Marriage Is Permanent
Genesis 2:24 reads, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”The word “cleave” here is significant. It is a very strong word of union. For example, it is used in Isaiah 41:7 of soldering together the metal plates of an armour. So a man leaves father and mother, and is “soldered” to his wife. It is a permanent joining together of the man and his wife. This verse was quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:5–6, “What therefore God hath joined (or soldered) together, let not man put asunder.”
Marriage is a life-long commitment. It is “a total commitment and a total sharing of the total person with another person until death.” In a Christian marriage, “the dependence is mutual, the obligation reciprocal, and the dependence on God, absolute.”
At the heart of marriage is companionship, communion, and consummation. God’s blue-print for marriage involves leaving, cleaving, and becoming one flesh. The husband and the wife relationship is the closest, the most intimate of all human relationships, for it is likened to the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:22–33).
Dr William Lyon Phelps wisely said, “The highest happiness on earth is in marriage. Every man who is happily married is a successful man even if he has failed in everything else.” How to get married and stay married? Faith is the key: “Faith makes a home, Faith keeps a family, Faith is the victory” (McIntire).
The God of the Bible is a God of the family. The fact that God is not only our God, but the God of our children, the God of our families, is emphatically taught throughout the Scripture, and should be regarded as a source of comfort to Christian parents in all ages and under all circumstances. God-fearing parents may, in confidence, claim the promise for their children, “I will be their God” (Gen 17:8). It is on this basis that Paul declares that if one parent is a believer, the other members of the family are “sanctified” by the covenant relationship.
These words do not declare that the individuals “sanctified” are all born again. Paul says later in the same context “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (v16). The believer is to continue steadfast in faith, praying for the salvation of the unbelieving member of the family. Romans 11:16 and Hebrews 10:29 are two other passages in which unbelievers are said to be sanctified, because they are in a holy relationship.
God is the God of those who, being born in a covenant family relationship, turn their backs upon Him. Those who, from this holy covenant relationship, reject the grace of God, are worthy of so much more severe punishment. From these references we see that the holy relationship in the family covenant is an extremely sacred matter, a matter which must not be trifled with. This covenant is the spiritual basis for the permanence of Christian marriage.
The key text of Scripture on the subject of the relationship of parents and children is the fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exod 20:12). Throughout the Scriptures there is a strong emphasis upon the parental-filial relationship. Of Abraham, God said, “Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him … For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment” (Gen 18:18–19).
Again the relationship of parents and children is emphasised in connection with the great command in Deuteronomy 6:4–5, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut 6:4–5). These words are immediately added, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut 6:6–7).
The duties of parents to their children include more than mere education. Paul commands, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). A similar teaching is found in Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Do not anger or restrict your children unnecessarily. Grant them the freedom to learn and explore within proper limits and boundaries as long as they do not violate the laws of God.
Note: “The hope of preserving our future is wrapped up entirely in our children” (Carl McIntire).
Educating Our Children
Parents have a responsibility to educate their children in the things of the Lord. Secular education is not enough. Spiritual education is most necessary if we want our children to grow up not only as useful citizens of society but godly servants of the Lord in His kingdom. Where and how can this be done?
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up [or catechise] a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Teaching the Bible to our children is a must. This should be done right from birth. Mothers ought to pray and sing the words of Scripture when feeding, bathing, playing with their baby. Their first words should not only be Papa and Mama but also Jesus.
It is vital that mothers be in the full-time work of bringing up their children in the Lord and in His Word (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). This should be especially so within the first seven years of a child’s life, for it is the time of their spiritual formation. If they are trained well in the Christian way, they shall not stray from the Lord in their youth and adult life when temptations come fast and furious. The roots of faith must sink in deep and strong for them to withstand the relentless onslaughts of youthful lusts.
Children are not only to be taught at home, but also in church. They should be enrolled in the Sunday school not only to study the Bible but also to make good Christian friends that would last a life-time. They should also participate in the worship services from young.
Children ought to be disciplined when they are disobedient. Contrary to modern and godless psychology, the rod is truly an effective tool to inculcate values and virtues in their young hearts and minds (Prov 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13–14, 29:15, 17).
When disciplining our children, it is important to ensure that they understand why they have been disciplined in the light of God’s commandments. Dr Carl McIntire rightly warned, “When you are training children without the knowledge of the Word of God, the floodgates are open, the churches are empty, and the lovers of pleasure take over instead of the lovers of God.” (Extract from Tow & Khoo, Theology for Every Christian, pp188–202)
Last Words for Last Days: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Rev 1:3). Praise the Lord for a blessed Church camp!
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