Oct. 17 Sermon Synopsis — The “Goods” of Marriage

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Links to video & audio of this sermon are available here.

The primary text for this week was the same as Oct. 10 — Genesis 2:18-25. In that sense, this was ‘Part 2’ of the sermon on Genesis 2. This week, we incorporated two related texts: Genesis 1:26-28 (6th day of creation … creation of male & female) and Matthew 19:3-6 (Jesus quoting Genesis 1 & 2).

Although there are many ways to unpack Genesis 2, Drew chose to talk about Augustine’s three “bona” or goods of marriage: are procreation, fidelity, and sacred bond (or sacrament)—all three of which have been continually affirmed by the church throughout the centuries and all three of which can be found in today’s primary text and supplemental texts.

(1) PROCREATION — both the Bible and Christian tradition affirm that the union (two become one) is not an end in and of itself. At the very least, it is also meant for procreation. In the words of Genesis 1, the male and female are immediately commanded to “be fruitful and multiply.” This command is then repeated to Noah & his sons (Gen. 9:1), to Jacob (Gen. 35:11), and again in God’s promises in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. There are a few secondary points worth making

  • And we’re not to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ just so there’s more people around, but rather, so that those children, in the words of Deuteronomy 6, “fear the Lord your God all the days of your life.”
  • Moreover, Christians would affirm that this is one reason why infertility is so painful—it is a painful reminder that the world is not as it should be. One comfort we can take from the Scriptures is that it continually addresses the theme of barrenness. In the lives of Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, and more, we see glimmers of hope by the sheer grace of God.
  • In affirming that marriage is proper place for procreation, we are by default affirming that procreation outside of marriage is not part of God’s design.

(2) FIDELITY — The second “good” of marriage is fidelity and what fidelity entails: exclusivity and permanence. In Genesis 2:24, there are three things that point to fidelity, exclusivity, and permanence. First, they hold fast to one another. it wouldn’t be holding fast if it was holding for only a brief period of time. That’s not fidelity/permanence. Second, it’s hard to hold fast to two people at once. There’s an exclusivity to it. And third, it’s holding fast as one flesh. There’s a permanence to this fidelity whereby the one flesh don’t become two fleshes again.

In Matthew 19, we find Jesus doubling down on these facets of marriage. When he’s asked about divorce, he quotes Genesis 1 & 2, doubles down on holding fast as one flesh, and then adds a supplement: that they should not be separated: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” There are other places where he provides grounds for divorce, including unfaithfulness (i.e., lack of fidelity) by one partner or the other, but he’s pretty strong here on the fidelity thing—exclusivity and permanence.

This is why we exchange the vows we exchange in a wedding:

I, N_____, take you, N_____, 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
as long as we both shall live.
To this covenant I pledge myself,
truly, with all my heart.

(3) SACRED BOND — The third ‘good’ of marriage is the sacredness of the bond. The three goods are all essential properties that distinguish the marital covenant from any other type of relationship between two persons, but none more so than the sacred bond. We believe the God brings two people together and seals them together. Not only do we see God making this thing happen in Genesis 2, but Jesus ratifies that idea in Matthew 19: “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”

There seems to be some mysterious divine action taking place, which is exactly why Augustine thought marriage should be a sacrament. In Augustine’s Latin translation, the word sacramentum was used to translate the Greek word mystērion, or mystery, in Eph. 5:32. In many traditions, including the Catholic tradition, Matrimony is a sacrament. In the sermon, Drew proposed that it’s not much of a stretch at all because we see the various elements of a sacrament in what we believe about a marriage: (1) It’s a covenant that involves the promises of God and our promises in response. (2) It’s a sign that points to something beyond itself—the mystery of Christ and the church. (3) It’s a means of grace in that God actively confers grace both in the wedding and in the marriage.

As has been the case during this sermon series, this sermon then drew out some implications of these three “goods.”

IMPLICATION #1 — It stands in contrast to many models of marriage out there, including one of the most prominent—the soulmate model. The soulmate model of marriage rests on the idea that wedlock is primarily about an intense emotional or romantic connection between two people that should last only as long as that connection remains happy, fulfilling, and life-giving to the self. o The Christian idea of marriage is certainly based on attraction (we tend to be attracted to a helper fit for us and become one flesh with someone we’re attracted to), but otherwise, Christian marriage is so much different than the soulmate idea. It’s about fidelity and as Jackie Hill Perry recently wrote, “Faithfulness to anything is rarely if ever based on a feeling. It is almost always a decision.”

“Faithfulness to anything is rarely if ever based on a feeling. It is almost always a decision.”

Jackie Hill Perry

There’s a lot more in the sermon about this first implication: the contrast with the soulmate model of marriage. Both books I recommended to small groups (this one and this one) speak to this contrast. But, let’s cover the other implications real quick:

IMPLICATION #2 — We must affirm that cohabitation is incompatible with the Christian view of marriage. It disrespects all three goods because it opens the door for procreation outside of marriage, it inherently rejects the permanence of fidelity, and it sidesteps the blessing of God as a sacred bond.

IMPLICATION #3 — We need to be super-careful about divorce. Yes, Paul and Jesus make allowances for divorce. Yet, those allowances are largely in place because we live in a fallen world with flawed people. God’s design is for a sacred bond full of fidelity, exclusivity, and permanence where kids are raised by a couple. Thus, divorce should be rare among Christians. Over the last few centuries in America, the church has swung the pendulum from condemning divorce all the way to treating it as normal. We need to live in the tension: on one hand, we stress God’s design and on the other hand, we hold out grace for the fact that we live in a fallen world.

IMPLICATION #4 — God’s design for marriage could be a great evangelism strategy, and here’s why: People are looking for alternatives to the dead ends they have found. As Russell Moore puts it, the Christian church has the potential to be a home for refugees from the sexual revolution of the 60s. As a result of that sexual revolution, there has been a proliferation of divorce, casual sex, porn, abortion, and much more. This has led to all sorts of disenchantment. People are wondering if there isn’t a better path through relationships and sexuality. In short, they are looking for God’s design, and in that way, we could be the home for the refugees of that phenomenon.

I was prepared to share 3-4 more implications, but had to stop. As it was, the sermon went 40 minutes!

Questions for Further Reflection

Question #1 — As always, a small group should start with simple recall — i.e., take some time to recall what was said in the sermon. Recall what’s in the three texts, recall the three goods of marriage, recall the implications that I drew. This recall is really important because it’s hard to remember all that was said. By recalling together, all the content is then “on the table” for further discussion.

Question #2 — Can you name other ‘goods’ of marriage? … Also, can you name more implications than the ones I named?

Question #3 — One implication of this: If one of the primary “goods” of marriage is procreation, we really need to think through reproductive technology (contraceptives, the pill, vasectomy, IVF, etc). As a Christian, what did you learn about reproductive technology? (i.e., should Christians take the pill? use condoms? take advantage of in vitro fertilization, etc?) What is the theological basis for using these technologies? (The Roman Catholic Church has well-developed theology about these things, but Protestants tend not to)

Question #4 — I suggested that one implication of this is that it could become a great evangelism strategy — i.e., people are looking for and longing for a better picture of how to do relationships and sexuality. … In your own life, who might benefit from this message? Also, get creative for a second, and think about this question: how do you imagine us using this to reach people??

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