THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (6) – THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE (1)
During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “The Christian marriage (1)”. Her main scriptures are taken from the Books of Romans and Ephesians. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16, 17). “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:22-33)
THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE – INTRODUCTION
From the earliest days of the Christian faith, Christians have honored the institution of marriage, also called ‘holy matrimony’. They regard it as a divinely blessed, lifelong, monogamous union, between a man and a woman. “Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God, intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture” (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer). The Christian marriage is a unique form of marriage. It is different than any other form of marriage. What makes it different? Godly marriage is a covenant done between two believers in Christ, a man and a woman, in the presence of God. They agree to live together as husband and wife, faithful to one another, in sickness and in health, in riches or poverty, until death separates them. They agree to be ruled by the Word of God. They put God in the center of their lives and of their marriage. They promise to train their children in the way of the Lord. Each one has its own role to play, according to the Bible. The husband Leads and Loves. The wife Submits and Helps. All things are done to give glory to God! The Gospel says: Christ died and rose again to marry me! The Christian marriage is ‘a mystery’ (Eph 5:32). It is a dramatic visual parable representing Christ and the Church. The husband represents our Lord, Jesus Christ who loves His Bride, the Church. He dies to redeem His Bride. The wife represents the Church, who submits to her husband, as unto the Lord Jesus Christ. The unbelievers know nothing of this romantic eternal display of love. A goldy marriage preaches the Gospel of Christ. It is a form of evangelism! The word ‘mystery’ means something strange, unknown, difficult the explained, a secret, a truth that can be known only thru the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, the Holy Spirit. The marriage is a mystery as the relationship between Christ and the church is mystery. It is a spiritual ‘puzzle’. Mystery creates wonder. It is the crushing of olives that produces oil. It is the breaking of grapes that produces wine. The world calls it ‘romance’. But it is more than that. A marriage can backslide. The mystery producing wonder is quenched. Money cannot buy mystery. That marriage needs revival. And restoration. That delicate work is found only at the Cross. Oh, Lord, we need more godly, spiritually mature marriages! May we never lose our wonder…
DANGERS – DIVORCES – WARNINGS
The marriage institution and the family are under serious attacks. Because of the intimate union between a husband and his wife, marriage can be a little heaven or a little hell on earth. Choose heaven! Choose life! Choose revival! The rate of divorce is increasing. Children are more rebellious. The devil has a plan to destroy marriages and families. We need to be wise and understand the will of God for our families. Wisdom means application of knowledge. We need to know the truth as it is in the Bible. Once the family is destroyed, the society is destroyed. The reason why the devil hates godly marriages is because there is power in agreement when you pray together. This is what our Lord said: “I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mt 18:19, 29). The married couple, praying in the unity of the Spirit, is the best example of two ‘gathered together in My Name’.
Why so many marriages end in divorce? Most couples are not properly prepared for marriage. The preparation is done by the parents, their families, and the church. It is the duty of the people who desire to get married, to study the institution of marriage and prepare for it. But most people are not patient enough to prepare themselves for marriage. Life now is faster than ever. Things change quickly. Because of that, men tend to throw away ‘old’ things, to buy new ones. This attitude applies to both material things and to relationships. Married people quarrel and soon, they decide to divorce, throwing away their marriage. They assume that they will quickly find new partners. Sex before marriage reduces the chances of a successful marriage. Fornication is a point of contact for the devil who tells the people that sex is just for fun, with no consequences. That is a lie! Fornication damages both the body and the spirit. It makes the people see the other as objects and not as human beings made in the image of God. There is also an infatuation with romantic love as seen in the movies. Falling in love is a wonderful experience but it is not enough to sustain a godly marriage. It creates a deceptive perception. The lovers tend to avoid the truth and live in a world of their own. They create a fantasy space where they dream about their passion. Sexual lust is called ‘love’. But once that ‘love’ gets cooler, the same people hate each other with the same passion. Place your love on the altar of God, to be purified by His fire. The earlier the better!
Marriage between believers has a spiritual foundation. God invented marriage! The spiritual realm affects the natural realm. If the husband or the wife backslides, it will surely affect their marriage. These are some dangers concerning the marriage of believers: They start to take God for granted. They continue to be religious, but God is not in the center of their lives or their marriage. They think of Jesus only as Their Provider. They forget that He is the Head of the Church, their King and their Lord. They become overfamiliar with God, and they lose the fear of God. They minimize sin. Their joy of salvation and of their marriage is lost. Like in the wedding of Cana, the first round of wine ‘is finished’ (Jn 2:1-10). The sweet wine is now replaced with the water of survival. Life becomes boring. In the marriage, this backsliding manifests as routine without excitement. The wife thinks of her husband only as the one who brings the money. She takes him for granted. She loses her respect for him. Her prayers for him have no depth and no passion. The husband seems distant. He only brings the money, but his heart is far from her. He only loves the children. He sees his wife as the mother of his children and not as his life partner. He becomes secretive and she does not care. This is the sad picture of a marriage that is backsliding. What is the solution? They need to go to the Cross, to see Jesus! He alone can change water into wine! The couple needs to repent, confess their sins against God and one another. God will grant them a new beginning in their spiritual lives and marriage!
The key to success in your Christian life and in your marriage is to be saturated with God’s Word and to be filled with the Holy Spirit! These are twin commands: “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph 5:18-21) and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16).
The Holy Spirit works with God’s Word! The more you absorb the Word of God, the greater the possibility to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The effect of these ‘fillings’ is seen in your personal lives and in your relationships. Your marriages, your relationship with your children, with your staff and other people, will improve dramatically. The unbelievers cannot have a successful marriage or a peaceful family. Being filled with the Holy Spirit manifests itself as a joyful heart who praises God and encourages others. This man is humble, submitting to others because he fears God. Have you tried to quarrel with a Spirit filled man? You cannot win against him! Why? Because he always gives thanks to God for everything. Submission to one another is the Law of the Kingdom of God. This attitude glorifies Christ, the Humble King! This submission applies not only to the wife towards her husband. Al the members of the family must practice it. It is a practical form of worshipping Christ! This submission expresses the idea of humility. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. He says we should do the same (Jn 13:12-17). After five years of marriage, quarrels should cease. This victory is possible only if the couple has learned to be humble like their Lord and submit to one another.
1-THE HUSBAND – LEAD AND LOVE LIKE THE LORD!
When God created marriage, it also created specific roles for the husband and the wife. Many Christians are ignorant of their roles to play in marriage. Ignorance of their roles always ends in crisis. This is God’s Word: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). In Christ, we are all saved in the same way, by Grace and by Faith. The scripture above shows our individual worth. As children of God are all equal in Christ. But in the realm of marriage, there are specific roles that the spouses need to fulfill. “The husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph 5:23, 24). As you can see, God instituted that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the Church! The husband is the head of the wife, her loving leader. He represents Christ to her. A bully is not a leader. He is a tyrant, an oppressor. That is not Biblical. The husband is not only a leader but a loving leader. He is spiritual, wise, firm, and gentle at the same time. Some men try to force their wives into submission using physical force or verbal abuse. They think that submission is obedience to all their wishes. It never works that way. The husband needs to draw strength from the Holy Spirit to love and to lead. The wives are very sensitive to the attitude of their husbands. They submit for the sake of Christ and not for the sake of fear. They know when the husband is ‘in flesh’ and desires submission just because it feels good to be the boss of the home. In that case, the wife may resist to submit. Lesson: dear husbands, the way your wife behaves to you is a mirror of your relationship to God. If you say that she is stubborn, it means that you are stubborn towards the Lord. Remember the principle of ‘first things first’. Repent and reconcile with your Lord and He will change your wife to become the woman of your dreams! There is no greater joy for a wife to know that her husband is drawing closer to God, and he uses the strength of the Holy Spirit to lead and to love her. She immediately submits gladly. Force never works in marriage! The Holy Spirit is the key and the power for both leadership and submission.
HOW AND WHY TO LOVE?
Why is the husband commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the church? One reason is this: emotionally, the women desire love more than the men. As light and water is needed for a plant to grow, so the woman needs love to live. A man endures the absence of love much easier than the woman. He becomes absorbed in his business and compensates the lack of love with making more money. But to his wife, lack of love is like sickness. The love of her children and of her friends, even success in making money, all these are still not enough. Her heart cries silently even if she pretends that she does not care. The Bride in Song of Solomon lost her Bridegroom. Running alone on the streets, in the night, she weeps and tells her friends: “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am lovesick!” (SS 5:8). It is hard for men to understand this pain. But it is a real pain. God knows and God cares. The husband should know, and the husband should care…
How can a man love a woman? Many books are written about this subject. Singers have sung with tears in their eyes. I can only add some things that I gathered as a pastor, as I cancel married people. It is my experience, one of the hidden sources of conflict, is that men do not try enough to understand the weakness of their wives when they desire love. They see this desire for love as childish. They usually know that something is wrong when God blocks their prayers. Then they repent and try to be more sensitive to the emotional needs of their wives. “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7). The husband is to ‘give honor’ to the wife because she is ‘the weaker vessel’. The word ‘honor’ means to praise her, to feel proud of her, to admire her, at home and in public. God created her ‘the weaker vessel’. She is not just weaker in the body, but she is more sensitive, delicate like a crystal chandelier. Her beauty is fragile. Her wisdom is deeper. It can be lost ‘underground’ is the husband does not dig for is like for a treasure. The weakness of the wife manifests in her potential to be wonderful. But she needs much help for her to fulfill destiny. It is the privilege of the husband not only ‘to find a wife and receive favor’, but to help her find herself and her voice in this world. There is great reward promised to a godly husband. There is hindrance to prayers if the husband treats his wife only as an object. His prayers will be interrupted, arrested, and detained by the Holy Spirit. Lord Jesus, please help us all!
If you want a good happy marriage, you need to mature in your understating of your wife’s strength and weakness. Ignoring your wife’s needs will always end in conflict. My advice is that the husband opens a file called “My wife – how to love her better”. Study your wife as you studied for exams in school. Success is never an accident. Successful people study and prepare themselves long before the battle. When the opportunity for victory comes, they are ready to take it. Husband, you love a challenge! Make your marriage a success! The gain is greater than the sacrifice! You can do it!
PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR THE HUSBANDS
Dear brother husband, let me be practical… let me make it as easy for you as I can… Look unto Jesus and imitate Him! Love is the best way! Lead like Jesus! Be like Jesus!
*Be truly spiritual. Lead your family thru your testimony as a man of God. You can deceive others thru a fake spirituality. You cannot deceive your wife and children at home because they now ‘the real you’. Study the Word! Pray! Be faithful with the ‘family altar’. Be active in serving God in your local church! There is no substitute for this! “Be holy because God is holy” (1Pet 1:16). Be like Jesus! God will reward you!
*Be hard working! A lazy man is counted as an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). A lazy man does not deserve respect from his wife! Jesus always worked! Be like Him! Our Lord said: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (Jn 5:17). Do not worship your work! On Sunday, you rest your body and your mind from the regular work, and you go to church to serve God! ‘Keep the Sabbath holy!’ (Ex 20:8-11)
*Be generous! “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (PV 11:25). “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2Cor 9:6). God is the most generous Person (Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32). Generosity towards your wife will bring the blessings of God! Dear husband, material and spiritual harvest shall be your portion. Your wife will respond happily and become free with you! A stingy husband is a bad husband. The love of money has destroyed many marriages! Most husbands remember to give gifts to their wife only on special occasions (for Christmas, or birthdays…). They wait for their wives ‘to beg’ for money. They do not realize that the wife appreciates little gifts ‘in between’, that come spontaneously. Husband, do you travel for your business? Do not come back without a little gift that tells your wife you did not forget her in the heat of your monetary transactions.
*Touch your wife! Do not be shy! Let your love for her be seen, be felt! The women appreciate unexpected tender touches from their husbands. These are to be done in private, at home, and also in public. These ‘touches’ are seals of love, golden moments that melt the hardest of hearts. Be like Jesus! When our Lord touched others, power left him to heal them. By the touch of the Master’s hands, blind eyes were opened, and the sick were healed! God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and put words in his mouth (Jer 1:9, 10)! Touching your wife releases the supernatural into your marriage and propels her into ministry. She will be your greatest human helper! Husbands, please take notes!
*Sacrifice for your wife! Fear not! Humble yourself! You can never lose loving your wife with agape love! “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). A proof of love is for the husband to sacrifice something for the sake of the wife. Christ loved the Church and died for her. The husband must love the wife sacrificially. For example: if both of you want to watch something on the TV… the husband likes action movies, and the wife likes romantic movies. It is true that she submits to her husband. That is why the action movies are the regular movies in that home. But from time to time, the husband should just watch a romantic movie with his wife. She will appreciate that sacrifice! In the women’s world, that is a sign of love! Trust me!
*Honor your wife always, especially in public! Never embarrass her in public, or among your relatives. Public rebuke wounds deeply!
Be patient with her. Notice her mistakes but never correct her in front of others. Wait until you go home, and both of you are alone. This is extremely important advice. Be careful with your words. They hurt! Control your tongue! Never ‘snap’ at your wife! Never mock her in public, not even jokingly. Listen to this wonderful husband talking about his wife in public: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all” (PV 31:28, 29). There is a true saying: “Treat your wife like a queen and she will behave like a queen”. Mocking your wife for her weight, of for her attitude, in public, is a sign of disrespect and wounds her deeply. Jesus was always gentle with the weak, the children and the women. This was especially in a society where women were discriminated and treated as animals. The power of a husband to make or break his wife is great! Husbands, use your power to make a wonderful wife out of the woman you married! It is your responsibility and privilege from God! Jesus was always gentle and tender with women in public! Be like Him!
*Encourage your wife to be a woman of God! Pray for her! The husband is the leader. He should not be a faultfinder. He should make allowance for her weaknesses and her mistakes. He should gently encourage her to improve. The wife is not a slave. Do not treat her like a slave! Correct her and teach her with firm but gentle words, and always by example. Hypocrisy in marriage is poison. Do not compare your wife with your mother, your sisters, or some movie stars. Your wife is your lost and found ‘rib’. She is part of you! She completes you! She is not an outsider! Be a loving and good listener. Let her talk. Let her express her ideas and dreams. Let her dream freely in your presence. Find ways to encourage her to fulfill her destiny. “Love does not harm his neighbor” (Rom 13:10). Love is patient and kind, never rude. “Love never fails!” (1 Cor 13:8). Love your wife until she sees Christ in your eyes, she feels the touch of the Savior thru your hands, and she hears the sound of many waters thru your voice. Love her until you forget the need for her to submit to you. Let her submission be an overflow of your love for her! Love is creative and never fails! Your love will ignite in her the respect and submission you have desired. I know that successful marriage is a long and hard road… But there is no other. Fast and Pray! Lead and Love! There is always a Cross before a Crown! Dear husbands, I know that you can do it! I trust Christ in you!
My husband, Pastor Richmond Sisan Leigh, and I were married for 47 years before he went to heaven. We married as unbelievers. Later, we both got saved. We rededicated our marriage to God. It became a sacrifice of love on the altar of Him who died to save us. The fire of God fell and changed our relationship into a ministry. Many couples have been blessed by our marriage. It became a source of inspiration, wisdom, strength, and joy for both of us and for our children, especially in the last twenty years. I testify that my husband helped me know Christ better. He was a truly spiritual man, with an apostolic prophetic anointing. I gladly submitted to his leadership. He loved God, His people, and to serve God in His House. He was a hardworking man. He was never lazy! He was generous with his time and gifts towards me. He will gently touch my hand or my back, in public, when I least expect it. This is not easy in Nigeria where men are not free to show their affection towards their wives. But he did it! He was never ashamed of me. Even when I put on weight (I used to be slim) or made mistakes ignorant of the culture of Nigeria. He will correct me with love. He will think of me, and he will say so. He will write little notes of love and give them to me. He has never insulted or rebuked in front of others. Not even in front of our children. If we have misunderstandings, we always discussed these things late at night when the children are sleeping. We discussed freely. He tells me what I did wrong. I also tell him my feelings. Our open communication was a blessed gift from God that helped us greatly to have a successful marriage! Until today, our children or relatives are ignorant of our personal challenges we had as a couple over the years. He encouraged me to fulfill my calling as a pastor. Even when I get discouraged, he will tell me “Lia, be strong and courageous! You are a woman of God! God is with you!” These words brought so much strength and joy! They sank deep into my soul! I can still hear the sound of his voice… That is why I am strong! That is why the worship continues… My husband is in heaven now. But his testimony is still alive…
CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
The home is the best place to show the truth about yourselves. You can pretend to strangers but not to your spouse at home. The husband is to be like Christ in his relationship to the Church. This is the doctrine of the mystical union of the believer and Christ. Christ is the husband of the church! “My brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Rom 7:4). Christ is the Husband to each believer! The Church is the Bride of Christ! He loved us when we were still sinners. Not because we are beautiful, but by His Grace, He wants to make the Church beautiful! His plan is to wash her by His Word, to sanctify her by His Spirit; to be a Bride ‘without spot or wrinkle” (Eph 5:27) fit for Himself. To change a sinner into a saint requires the ultimate price. It was paid with the Blood of the Bridegroom. Jesus gave Himself for His Bride. There was no other way to save her except to die for her. He is concerned about her. He sees her potential with His eyes of love! Christ is proud of His Church. He wants her to be perfect. He is not satisfied until she becomes perfect, a beautiful and glorious church! He wants to bring her to Himself. He wants to show her off to all. Christ will see the travail of His soul and He shall be satisfied! “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:6-8). What a story! What an amazing love! Worship the Lord!!!