Covenant, Marriage and Men
Last 40 years marriage has seen a dramatic, steady decline in our country and culture. It is clear that there are few things more broken in our day than manhood and womanhood, particularly in relation to marriage and the price of this brokenness is impossible to quantify. We need living wisdom today for our marriages and our men.
The primary theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom. Wisdom is the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life. This wisdom does not merely find its source in having the right information or even doing the right thing. It’s not less than than, but it is much more. The wisdom of Proverbs finds its source in the “fear of the Lord” (1:7). Fear in the Bible does not refer to being scared, but being overwhelmed. To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed and controlled by the greatness, beauty and love of God. The premise of Proverbs, and the Bible, is that we are primarily controlled by our controlling fear – whatever that is. Wisdom is found when God becomes our controlling fear. We’re in a portion of our study through the book of Proverbs where we are dealing with relationships. Last week we took a look at “friendship”. Over the next several weeks we’re going to look at various family relationships: Husbands, Wives, Children.
Last 40 years marriage has seen a dramatic, steady decline. Today, divorce rate is 2x what it was in 1960. In 1970 89% births were to married couples. Today that number has dropped to 60%. 72% married (1960) and recent headlines were made when it was discovered that number is now only 50%. Many think they only have two options when it comes to relationships: single and lonely or married and bored (w/ little statistical chance of making it) Many, therefore, aim for middle: cohabitation. 1960 no one cohab; today 50+% prior. Over the last 10 years we’ve seen the rise of the “Starter marriage” which is 5 years or less w/out kids because, after all, “You know that you’ll outgrow it and need an upgrade.” It is clear that there are few things more broken in our day than manhood and womanhood, particularly in relation to marriage.
The price of this brokenness is impossible to quantify.
This is going to be a challenging word today. Hang with me. Give the Bible the benefit of doubt. Follow the argument. From the outset it is important to highlight that it is possible for two Christians to marry and have an unbiblical marriage that does not reflect scriptures teaching. You may find yourself saying, “Well, I don’t think that men and women, or gender or family or marriage should be this way.” OK, but did you come to conclusion b/c you were wrestling w/ the biblical text or b/c that’s how you want it to be?
Pr 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.
Groundwork: Proverbs much to say re: marriage, but to understand have to understand idea of covenant. This idea is inferred throughout Proverbs but it is easy to miss. We must talk about covenant (especially w/in marraige) if we are to understand anything else the book says abour marriage.
Pr 2:16-17 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.
Mal 2:14 the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?
(1)What is “covenant”? (2)What is significant about covenant of marriage? (3)Husbands role w/in covenant?
#1 WHAT IS A COVENANT?
Covenants everywhere in Bible. Horizontal covenants between friends (1 Sam 18:3; 20:16). Vertical covenants between God and individuals/people groups (Gen 17:2; Ex 19:5).
A vertical covenant is an unchangeable, one-sided, agreement between God and man that defines conditions of relationship.
Our God is a covenantal God. He defines our relationhsip with him. He initiates. He sets the terms. The heart of our covenant with him is “I will be your God and you will be my people” God relates to us covenantly in order to instruct us how life works best and make promises about how he will act toward us – i.e. forgives our sin, becomes our God, become his children by faith in Jesus Christ.
Opposite? Contract: time bound + conditional. If a contract is broken, the relationship is broken. They are two different things. Our covenant with God, by faith in Christ, does not work that way. A covenant is unending and unbroken.
Also, every covenant within the Bible always had a covenantal head: Person over covenant. Everyone else associated with that person was implicated in promises + blessings + consequences of that covenant. Ex. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David (covenant heads, everyone under them is implicated)
Adamic covenant (“covenant of works”)
Adam was the head of human race in covenant relationship w/ God, but violated terms of covenant and, in turn, introduced sin into humanity.
Hos 6:7 “Like Adam they transgressed the covenant…”
Rom 5:12-21 When Adam sinned, whole race fell.
Q: “How is it my fault if Adam sinned?” He’s our covenant head. We’re implicated. Don’t need to do anything to be sinners, we just are. Adam is the head of the Adamic covenant. He is our head. He voted for us and we affirm his vote every day by sinning.
Jesus’ covenant (or, “covenant of grace”)
The human race fell in Adam, but in Jesus the whole race is redeemed. Romans calls Jesus the Second Adam.
Rom 5:19 by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous…
In other words, everything that was lost in Adam is regained in Jesus. Sin is removed and our relationship with God is restored. How could that be? Jesus is our new covenant head. Covenant of love, grace, mercy, justification, adoption. Good news. By faith in Christ, he becomes our covenant head and we are therefore implicated in all the blessings of that covenant.
Every one of us is under one of these two covenants: Adamic covenant or Jesus’ covenant. “Well, I don’t want to be” You have no choice. Either in Adam or you’re in Jesus.
“OK, what does this have to do with marriage?” So glad you asked. Everything.
#2 WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THE COVENANT OFMARRIAGE?
Marriage is the most unique, most deeply covenantal relationship possible between two human beings. Why? Because it has both vertical and horizontal aspects to it. To break faith w/ spouse is also to break faith w/ God. This is why the first question was important. We can only understand the covenant of marriage in light Jesus’ covenant. The covenant of marriage is not a stand alone, autonomous covenant. Look at what the Apostle Paul said about it…
Eph 5:30 (cf Gen 2:24) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that is refers to Christ and the church.
Mystery? Paul is NOT saying it is too complex or obscure to understand. Mystery here refers to the hidden purpose of God now made known. What is that purpose? Marriage points to the relationship of Jesus and church. That is the deepest meaning of marriage. The original is Jesus’ relationship w/ his people. The copy is human marriage between husband and wife. In other words, the covenant of marriage is meant to be living drama of covenant between Jesus and the church. Marriage is nothing but the gospel living, breathing and walking around.
READ Eph 5:22-25. What’s going on here? Look carefully at what Paul is doing:
- Husbands are compared to Christ; Wives compared to church.
- Husbands compared to the head; Wives compared to the body.
- Husbands commanded to love as Christ loved; Wives commanded submit as church submits to Christ.
This is critical to understanding God’s purposes in marriage and our roles within marriage. Not that these roels are not arbitrarily assigned. The roles are not reversible any more than Jesus and the church can reverse roles.
“But, how could this be? Marriage is in such a bad place today.”
When sin entered world, ruined harmony of marriage, TWISTED man’s sacrifical, loving, protecting, humble leadership. The result? Husbands now tend to either be hostile domination/abuse or lazy indifference/apathy.
Sin also TWISTED woman’s intelligent, happy, creative submission. The result? Wives now tend to be compliant doormats or defiant of authority.
Do not miss this. Sin didn’t create headship ad submission; it ruined and distorted them. Sin made these beautiful things, ugly and destructive. But, here’s the good news (!), God in Christ is fixing the world and putting everything back under its appropriate head, back in order. How is he doing that in marriage? In two ways, one for wives and one for husbands:
God now calls Christian wives to let your broken submission be redeemed by modeling it after the church.
God now calls Christian husbands to let your broken headship be redeemed by modeling is after Jesus.
Headship is NOT the right to control, abuse or neglect. In fact, it is just the opposite! Being the head doesn’t merely mean that you’re the boss, it means you’re ultimately responsible. As the covenantal head, the husband has the responsibility to love, lead, protect and provide for your wives and families like Christ.
Submission NOT fear-filled cowering. Why? Because that is not way church submits to Jesus. The submission of church is free, wiling, glad, confident, joy-filled and trusting.
Some working definitions:
Headship: God’s call to a husband to take primary responsibility sacrificially love, protect and provide for his wife and family as Christ does the church.
Submission: God’s call to a wife to gladly, freely, respect, support and assist husband’s leadership as the church does to Christ. Submission is not another word for subjection, subordination or subjugation. We must take the idea of submission, remove wrong ideas, disinfect of false meanings, and re-brand in light of Bible.
#3 WHAT IS THE HUSBANDS ROLE WITHIN THECOVENANT?
Just as Jesus is the head of the church, the husband is the head of the marriage covenant. (Eph 5:23) Every covenant has a head. The husband is the head of marriage covenant. That means that everyone underneath him is implicated.
Does it say that men should be heads of their families? No. They are – for good or ill. Not if. He is. “Well, my dad wasn’t around…he didn’t influence…” Yes he did. His absence dominates becase he’s the head. The question is not if you’re a head, but what kind of head are you? Single: what kind of head are you becoming? Ultimately, we can’t argue about whether or not husbands should be head of their home. Biblically, you have nothing. Let’s look at three aspects of headship and get really practical:
(vs23) FIRST: As head, husband bears primary responsibility of his wife/family.
Headship is ultimately about responsibility. Look at vs24 “Wives submit to husbands in everything.” Husbands, if your wife is to submit to you in everything, what does that mean you’re accountable for? Everything. Ex. in the garden, God goes after Adam. Adam must give first account to God. If something is going wrong with your marriage, you’re responsible. Doesn’t matter whose fault is. Children disrespectful/disobedient + family not meaningly connected to church + complaining about wife. Does not mean the woman has no responsibility, just that the man bears a unique and primary one. One of greatest problems in XN church today is husbands not encouraged to think this way. (Ware, 141)
(vs25-27) SECOND: As head, husband bears primary responsibility tosacrificially protect wife/family.
What does this mean practically? It means you must be willing to do anything and everything up to and including dying for your bride – just like Jesus did for the church. Let’s look at some objections:
Obj#1: “Well, you don’t know my wife!” Well, she’s no tougher than the church. You can’t say “Well, God made woman. She’s defective. I’ll let him sort this out.” That’s thinking like Adam. You can’t tell your wife, “Well, you really need to get it together. You really need to fix that.” A Christian man should never say that to his wife; never. Jesus never says “My bride messed up. Get it together!” What does he do? He walks in and says “I got this. I’ll take responsibility tho not my fault” That’s what Christian headship looks like.
Obj#2: “I want out. Not working out. I fell out of love.” A Christian man should never say something like that. She’s your covenant wife. You married her. You can’t trade her in. Biblically, love is not merely a feeling, but action. Marriage is not only a statement of current love but promise of future love.
Obj#3: Some times I’ll hear wives saying, “Well, it’s not fair that the men get to be the head.” Look, most husbands would happily trade you if they could – and many often try by abdicating their responsiblities.
Includes, physical protection.
Includes, spiritual protection. Praying, knowing, leading and shepherding your family. Lead the repenter of your home. Everyone reconciled by end of day. Even if not your fault.
Does not mean wives never repent, just that husbands take the lead.
Men: You get your wife to grow by loving her, forgiving her, pouring yourself out for her, dying for her. Open Bible. Pray for her. Be patient. Invest in her. Love her until she’s lovely – like Jesus does for us. More you know your Bible and are gripped by the gospel and share that w/ your wife = more she will respect you. We don’t want tough women, we want sacrificial, strong, loving men. Who created feminism? Foolish men who were abusing their headship and the women rightfully responded (albeit an overcorrection). We are not talking about chauvinists or cowards, but husbands who are like Christ.
(vs29) THIRD: As head, husband bears the primary responsibility tosacrificially provide for his wife
Love as own bodies. One flesh. Husband who loves wife is loving himself. Jesus has bound up his joy in his bride. Husbands your joy is wrapped up in the flourishing of your wife.
Includes, physical provision. Food on table. Bills paid.
Does not mean wife can’t help, but husband should feel primary weight.
Includes, spiritual provision. Husband is the spiritual leader.
If you’re wife has a question, she should go to you. If you don’t know, you find out. If you’re wife needs prayer, she should go to you. To give spiritual food, you must have it and know where to find it. A man must go hard after God b/c you can only lead if you are growing.If you are being fed you will want to feed your wife and family. Don’t know what to do? Talk to someone. You don’t have to have all the answers. Leadership does not assume superior knowledge, but initiative.
Includes, emotional provision. Do you know your wife? Compliment her? Surprise her? Write notes/texts? Date her?
Do you carve out time to just listen to her? Do you nourish and cherish her? Does she know that you put her above everything and everyone else?
Men: You are called by God to bear primary responsibility, to provide and protect your wives and families.I have never met a wife who is sorry that she is married to such a man. Make her glad she’s a woman and your wife. Work to give her a life that she looks back on and says “I’ve had a wonderful life.” Notice her. Listen. Compliment. Help. Ask her questions. Stop making excuses and do something. Your leadership is for her help and her transformation.Repent to your wife for ways you have failed to love her. When is that last time you did that? Ask your wife what she needs from you. Better lead, provide and protect? Get some men in your life that will get in your grill regarding how you’re loving and leading your wife.
But, “My wife isn’t lovely”. Then, love her until she is.
Men: Go to school. Get a job. Get a theology. Get a church. Put life together. If your wife is not respecting you? Who’s fault is that? Take some responsibility. We’re not talking about a 50/50 deal here where her life is over there and your life over here and you just happen to sleep in the same home. That’s roommates, not covenant.
Husband is the head. We want to see different men. We want to see our grandkids and great-grandkids worshiping God and further down road than we are. Want to see wives loved and happy, radiant. Want to see the gospel walking around this place – in covenant marriages.
Married women: Don’t demand this from your husband. That’s placing yourself as head over him. Pray for him. Draw him out. Express your desires for him w/out ultimatums.
Single men: What kind of man do you need to be? Where do you need to start leading yourself?
Single women: What kind of man are you willing to entrust responsibility of your future marriage/family to? You want a man who is going to love you as Christ loved His bride. If he is supposed to love you as Christ loved the church and doesn’t love the church. Not a good sign.
Broken marriages: What do you need to do to right the ship? Move? New job? Whatever it takes.