Jesus’ Teaching on Marriage
About the Guest
What really happens when you say "I do"? Pastor Alistair Begg tells what the Bible teaches about what is really going on during a marriage ceremony. Alistair explains how a couple is now purposefully, wonderfully, gloriously, intimately, dutifully, legally, personally, unconditionally, and affectionately "stuck" to each other.
Alistair BeggAlistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975. Following graduation from The London School of Theology, he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church. In 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio. He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life. The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church. He and hi...more
Pastor Alistair Begg tells what the Bible teaches about what is really going on during a marriage ceremony.
Jesus’ Teaching on Marriage
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There’s a lot about being married that a lot of us didn’t stop and think much about before we said, “I do.” We’ll hear Alistair Begg reflect on that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I don’t know how smart it is to start out Valentine’s week—this Sunday is Valentine’s Day—talking about being stuck in marriage.
Dennis: Reminding people that they’ve made a covenant—not a bad idea actually.
Bob: There’s a sense in which love really has a deeper understanding when we do understand that there’s a commitment at the base of it all; right?
Dennis: Well, love ultimately is a commitment. It is a commitment to seek the best interest of the object of that love. That’s how marriage starts. We think we know how to love when we first get started; but looking back on it—now, 43-and- a-half years ago—I gotta say I wasn’t even in kindergarten. [Laughter] I was taking my first baby steps of learning how to love. Hopefully, that love has grown over the years. It’s been because of great teaching and equipping by men like Alistair Begg, who we’re going to hear on today’s broadcast.
Bob: Back in October, we had the opportunity y'aching and equiping lly that love ise first get started, but looking back on it, now 43 1/2 1111111111to be with Alistair and with others at a special one-day event that was held in Lynchburg, Virginia. We had probably a thousand people with us there, but we had several thousand people joining with us in more than 200 locations all across the country for a one-day marriage intensive. We started it off with the message we’re going to hear today from Alistair Begg.
Dennis: Allister is pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio. I’ve never been there; have you?
Bob: Never been to Parkside.
Dennis: I wonder if it’s filled with folks from Scotland and Ireland. [Laughter]
Bob: I think it’s mostly Ohioans.
Dennis: I think they love his accent, and I do too. He’s a great friend. I took some pictures and did some tweets when we were together at I Still Do®, back last fall. Alistair is just a great man, a great preacher, and a kindred spirit man when it comes to the Bible and also the truth of the gospel—of helping people understand that they’re separated from God and that only a—by faith relationship with Jesus Christ can bring them into a right relationship with God.
For those who want to hear how they’re stuck, we’re going to play that little series, where Alistair very eloquently stated how we are permanently, indelibly—understandably, I don’t remember what it was Bob; but I wrote it down as he was saying it—I was in the audience. It was a great reminder that “Yes, we did make a covenant and we are stuck!”
[Previously Recorded Message]
Alistair: [Mark 10:1-9] “Jesus then left the place and went into the region of Judea across the Jordon. Again, crowds of people came to Him. As was his custom, He taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ ‘What did Moses command you?’ He replied.
“They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ ‘It was because of your hearts that were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied ‘For at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife; and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. Therefore, what God has put together, let not man separate.’”
I woke up this morning, thinking about an elderly friend of mine, who’s now living in heaven. His name was T.S. Mooney. He died in his 80s—he never married. He, on one occasion, answered my question when I said to him—he was in his 70s by this time—“Why have you never married, T.S.? He said “Well, in my case, the desirable has always been unattainable, and the attainable has been undesirable.” [Laughter] He then followed that up by saying,” I would rather go through life wanting what I don’t have than having what I don’t want,”—which, of course, would not have endeared him to most of the ladies in the choir.
Do you recognize these words? [Quotes from My Old Man©] That’s Joni Mitchell—1970. The idea that you would have to have some kind of legal commitment to one another as being a constituent part of marriage just seemed taboo, coming out of the 60s and into the 70s.
Fourteen years after Joni, we had the dancing girl, Tina Turner. From the perspective of romantic passion, this marriage license was regarded as unnecessary—probably unhelpful—because it introduced duty where there should only be delight. It introduced a framework where people thought there should only be freedom. But then Tina took it up a notch when she wrote [Quotes from What’s Love Got to Do with It©—1993]. How old-fashioned is that idea? And then she sang [Quotes from What’s Love Got to Do with It].
Fast forward 24 years—now, we’re in 2008. The movie, Hooking Up, dramatizes the hook-up culture—described, lived, and understood as a culture that accepts and encourages casual sexual encounters, which focus on physical pleasure without necessarily including emotional bonding or long-term commitment.
This is the culture in which you and I live our lives. And it is out of that environment we have stepped in this morning to say to one another, “What does it really mean to say, ‘I take you’?”
The underlying narrative of our culture in relationship to this is one of selfism. It reveals itself in its statements like, “Only I can determine what is right and wrong for me,” or “I must be free to be myself and live how I wish without hurting anyone.” So there is, arguably, nowhere that the contrast between a Christian worldview and contemporary culture is more clearly seen than in the arena of marriage itself.
Listen to how the writer of Hebrews [13:4] speaks so clearly concerning this very institution: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.” Well, that doesn’t sound very nice;ch lo actually
about being stuck in marriage
now stuck, you can'111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 does it? It doesn’t sound very politically correct. It’s not a very cozy kind of thing; is it? Who was it written to? It was written to the church—it was written to people who were gathering on a Sunday, or on a time in the week, and they were professing to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Some of you go to church—you may believe, in your head; but you may be unconvere followers of jesus christ.turtment.ich makes my pulse react. that na meted. You may have the train tracks very clear in front of you, but no power in the engine.
Now, this is addressed to those who are professing faith. Therefore, it is vitally important that all of us understand just how clear and how uncompromising the Bible’s view of human sexuality, and particularly the covenant of marriage, actually is.
Now I read it from the Gospel of Mark—to begin, when Jesus was confronted by these questions about the nature of marriage, He reminded his opponents of God’s plan and pattern from the beginning. Essentially, what Jesus did was quote the Bible to these people—Jesus spoke concerning God’s pattern, from the very start. He is quoting there from the book of Genesis—the very beginning of the Bible, where the instruction of God to Adam is really, really clear.
It’s really clear, not just for Adam, because think about it—“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother…”—well, neither Adam nor Eve had a regular physical father and mother.
Therefore, it’s not some anachronistic notion; but rather, as the progenitor of the entire human race, Adam needed to know how this thing was going to shape up. And so, the instruction is clear—it’s clear concerning gender / a man and a woman—and it’s clear concerning number / there was just one Adam and just one Eve, and they were for each other. In other words, at the very beginning of creation, you have heterosexual monogamy—that is God’s plan for marriage. Anything other than that is a deviation from God’s plan.
Now, when you think about these truths, they’re all embodied in a marriage ceremony. I have now, for 40 years, enjoyed the privilege of having a ringside seat or, if you like, a ringside stance I suppose, watching couples of various shapes, sizes, ages, and intelligence quotients being married to one another. I always begin in the same way: “We are gathered here in the presence of God—in the presence of God and before this congregation.” We begin by announcing the nature of the institution to which this couple is about to commit themselves.
If you’re here, and you’re married today, then you know that you went through something along these lines. Listen to what we say about marriage as people come: “Marriage is a special and unique relationship appointed by God, commanded in the Bible as honorable, and all signifying the wonderful spiritual union between Christ and His church. It is, therefore, not to be entered into lightly or carelessly, but thoughtfully, with reverence for God, with due consideration of the purposes for which it was established by God.”
If people are saying, “Well, I wonder what they are,”—we then continue and say: “It was established for the companionship, help, and encouragement that husband and wife ought to give to each other. It was established for the continuance of family life as God intended so that children, who are gifts from the Lord, should be carefully brought up and trained to love and obey God. It was established for the well-being of human society, which can be strong and happy only where the marriage bond is held in honor.”
Now, it seems to me that when I began 40 years ago, those words had a ring to them—they were straightforward and clear. But to state them now, at this point in the 21st century, here in America, is probably to find oneself on the wrong side of political correctness—“…only where the marriage bond is held in honor,”—what marriage bond? The marriage bond of monogamous heterosexual relationships, where premarital sex is excluded by the command of God, and extramarital sex is excluded by the hand of God. All of this is grounded in the fact that, in that marriage bond, the husband and wife looked each other in the eye, before God, and said; “I take you,” / “I take you.” That’s what lies at the very foundation of the covenant of marriage.
When the questions are posed—questions of intent, as they call them, here in America—they go like this: “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, to live together according to God’s ordinance, in the special estate of marriage? Do you promise to love her and to comfort her, and to keep her for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until you die?” Then there’s that pause. [Laughter] Then he goes [falsetto voice], “I do.”
Now, at this point, the couple is not looking at each other—at least, they shouldn’t be—they’re supposed to be looking at me. I’m the fellow that’s doing the wedding; okay? “I’ll tell you when you can look at each other. Right now, look at me,” because I’m asking you questions, and you’re answering these questions; but you’re answers are before God. I’m just asking the question: “Do you?” / “Do you? “
When you say, “I do,” you have made an affirmation—you have essentially made a covenant on the vertical plain. You’ve gathered before God, before the congregation, everyone in the room, and all in the community now know that something radical has taken place here in these moments: “I do. I will do this. I promise to do this.”
Then, you can say to the couple, “As a seal to the vows you’re now about to make, will you give each other your right hands?” Then they have to listen to me, look at each other, and speak loudly enough so that the congregation can hear what they’re promising to do. You see, what the Bible says about these things is so amazingly strong. In the Old Testament, a man is told that this woman—Malachi 2—is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. What is striking about both the questions and the vows is that there’s nothing about feeling in them.
If you ask the person to go ask the fella, “How do you feel?”—I recall an evening on a Friday, years ago now, as the rehearsal had ended. l, i ethat there'artner the wife of your marriage covenant. and radical haI was standing there with the bride-to-be and the groom. I said to the girl—I said, “Are you nervous?” and she said, “Yes!” And the groom said, “I’d be nervous if I was getting married to me,” w said to the girl, I said, “a a111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111hich I thought was wonderfully honest on his part.
If you ask the couple in the morning, “How do you feel about this?” one of them might say, “I feel like running,” another might say: “I feel like bursting into tears,” “I feel funny,” “I feel queasy,” “I feel sick,” “I don’t know!”; but you never ask any of that stuff because it’s not about that! If you’re tempted to write your own vows or you are encouraging your children to write their own vows, I suggest to you: “Don’t do it. I don’t want to hear you stand up there, going, ‘Oh the first time ever I saw your face, I felt the earth move in my head.’” [Laughter] I couldn’t care less! We’re trying to get you married right now.
Now, let me ask you: “Are you prepared to make this vow?” Now, what are you going to say? This is where you’re going to say: “I, Alistair, do take you, Susan, to be my lawful wedded wife 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, till death us do part according to Gods holy law. In the presence of God I make this vow.”
Having been declared, then, husband and wife, the couple is now stuck—stuck! You can’t go out the way you came in—[Laughter] —you just can’t. It’s all about that piece of paper from the city hall—not that it keeps us tied and true—but this is not the same as shacking up / this is not the same as an experimentation in sexual values—this is marriage. This is saying, “Yes, I am purposefully, wonderfully, gloriously, intimately, dutifully, legally, personally, durably, unconditionally, affectionately, stuck with you.” [Laughter]
You say, “Well, stuck is not very good,” but stuck is in the Bible: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave [emphasis added] to his wife.” That word actually means “get stuck to.” Well, of course, the guy’s said, “I want to get outta here as fast as I can so I can start this ‘stuck to’ stuff.” That’s why it is so important that the interweaving, which follows upon the cleaving, is within the framework of God’s plan.
Bob: Well we’ve been listening to Part One of a message from Alistair Begg on “Being Stuck in Your Marriage.”
Dennis: If you’re trying to write it down, like I was when I was listening to Alistair speak, we’re going to save you some time. You can go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got it there for you just to remind you that you’re stuck—you made a commitment / you made a covenant. Some of you, as a result, have made some children. You know what? They’re looking to you to explain what that kind of stuck-like-looking love is, and what it looks like over a lifetime.
Bob: There can be, and is, a blessing in being stuck together. That’s why God cleaves us together to bless us, not to curse us.
Dennis: The order in Genesis, Chapter 2, is very clear: leave, cleave, and receive. In order to receive the oneness that God has for you, as it ends that chapter, it says, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed.” In order to experience that kind of transparency and oneness, you have to leave—you have to leave mother and father, emotionally, physically, and financially. Then, you have to cleave to one another—declare a new loyalty / declare a new commitment.
Some of the couples listening to us, right now, Bob, some of the struggles in their marriage are coming about because they have not fully cleaved. They have not declared their loyalty, first and foremost, to their spouse. Yes, they may be hanging on to their parents; but they may have not declared that loyalty to the person they’re married to.
Bob: They may be looking for the escape hatch. Once you’ve said, “I do,”—
Dennis: —you burned the bridges, just like he said. You can’t go out the way you came in. He ran by that—but “How did you come in to the wedding ceremony?”—as individuals. “How did you go out?” Well, hopefully, arm in arm, with smiles on your faces—it’s that picture of two people saying: “We’re no longer going to be individuals and live our lives for ourselves. We are going to covenant together, as a couple.”
Bob: —“and become—
Bob: That’s right. I mentioned that this message was originally part of a one-day event called I Still Do, which is still available for churches that would like to host a video event. You can host this in your local church. You can hear from Alistair Begg, Alex Kendrick, Crawford and Karen Loritts, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, and others. It’s a great one-day event.
If you’d like to find out how you can host this event in your church or in your community, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for information about I Still Do. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
We also have information on Alistair’s book on marriage called Lasting Love. It’s available on our FamilyLife Today Resource Center—you can order a copy from our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for a copy of the book, Lasting Love. We’ll make arrangements to get it sent to you.
While we’re on this subject of being stuck in marriage, we want to congratulate a couple who have been stuck together now for 13 years today—John and Riley Royse, who are FamilyLife Today listeners who live in the Dallas area—listen to FamilyLife Today on KWRD—celebrating their 13th anniversary today.
We’re all about anniversaries, here at FamilyLife.
We’re celebrating our 40th anniversary as a ministry this year. Our anniversary is really more about your anniversary because the reason we exist is to help more couples celebrate more anniversaries every year. So “Congratulations!” to the Royses on their anniversary today.
“Thanks,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible—those of you who support this ministry financially, and particularly, those of you who are Legacy Partners. We are praying that, this month, God would raise up 20 families in every state, where FamilyLife Today is heard, to be brand-new Legacy Partners. We’re asking you to consider being one of those 20 families in your state. So: “Would you think about becoming a monthly supporter of this ministry by becoming a Legacy Partner?” You can find out more when you go to FamilyLife Today.com and click the button that says “DONATE”; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’m curious about becoming a Legacy Partner.” We’ll explain what it’s all about when you give us a call. Again, 1-800-FL-TODAY; or find us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
By the way, this is national marriage week. We have, online, a quiz that you can take that will help diagnose how you’re doing in your marital communication. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and take the quiz. Got lots of stuff happening this week—we’ll keep you posted throughout the week.
I hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to hear Part Two of Alistair Begg’s message about commitment in marriage. f you who make familylifetoday possible. those D, celebrating their thirteenth ann
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. See you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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