Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ADVICE TO A SINGLE MAN ABOUT MARRIAGE”

Proposition #1

Tending to eternity is more important than

tending to matters of marriage.


Matthew 6.33

 

Most Christians in the 21st century are premillennialists, which is to say that we believe the Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Advent in power and great glory will occur before the millennium spoken of in the Bible, and that Jesus will actually establish His kingdom on earth and then rule for a thousand years. When a little known Lutheran pastor with poor eyesight endured ill health in the middle of the 1800s to study and then write about the theocratic kingdom, the vast majority of both Christians and pastors did not believe Jesus would first return and then establish His thousand year millennial kingdom. Quite the contrary, they felt the Christian gospel would advance throughout the world and see such success that the kingdom would be ushered in by the advance of the gospel, after which time, and at the end of the millennium, Jesus would return to preside over the earth.

So you can see, prophesy and opinions that were once held about the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the theocratic kingdom, were dramatically different than the views espoused by most of us today. The difference between then and now was in no small part caused by the fruit of that Lutheran pastor’s labors. His name was George N. H. Peters, and his writings were not published until after his death, a work known as The Theocratic Kingdom, a three volume set. In my own opinion, George Peters showed great wisdom in the way he went about presenting his findings in The Theocratic Kingdom. Basing everything he wrote on the Word of God, he proceeded by means of discreet propositions that he would state and then prove from the Bible. When all was said and done, after he had dealt with 206 separate propositions and their proofs, he had all but convinced honest readers and sincere inquirers, leaving us for the most part with the views that are all but universal among churched people today. Allow me to read to you a couple of Peters’ propositions, so you will have some idea of his meticulous and thorough approach: Proposition 1. - The Kingdom of God is a subject of vital importance. Prop. 2. - The establishment of this Kingdom was determined before, and designed or prepared from, the foundation of the world. Prop. 11. - The mysteries of the Kingdom were given to the apostles.” So, you have an idea how he proceeded.

Too often, when we are dealing with complex Biblical or theological issues, too large a bite is taken to chew on, with no real hope of understanding, much less persuading dissenters, of the truth of the matter. George Peters’ approach, however, requiring a great deal more patience, promises a much greater likelihood of success. Therefore, though I have no intention of pursuing the study we begin tonight with anything approaching the meticulousness exhibited by Peters, I do think a series of propositions presented and then substantiated from the Bible can prove immensely profitable, especially when it is related to a practice or a belief that is both thoroughly entrenched and completely wrong.

The Sunday evening series that begins this evening takes the form of “Advice To A Single Man About Marriage.” The reason I speak to single men is because married men are already committed in marriage, and I certainly want no part in either weakening any marriage or suggesting alternatives to faithfulness to a man. The reason I offer advice is because no one can force a man to behave intelligently, to exhibit wisdom, or to act in his own self-interest. Men are not generally disposed to well thought out decisions about truly important things. Some men are very diligent to affairs of business, money, or career, while giving very little thought to their sins, their salvation, or their spouse, though the later three topics are far more important in the long run than the former three. The reasons I direct my comments to men will be very evident as we proceed from week to week, though I can assure you that since men and women are different, God’s proper role for each of them as single adults and as married adults is also different. Surprising to some is the notion that as men and women are certainly different before marriage and during marriage, their roles in the process that leads up to and culminates in marriage is also quite different.

Would anyone deny that single men need as much help as they can get, considering the statistics related to marriage and divorce? Additionally, how many men are themselves the product of broken homes, thereby having no role model in their lives for finding and marrying a wife who will stick with them through thick and thin? What man is so insane that he thinks, after his own mother and father demonstrated their inability to find spouses to establish and maintain an intact marriage, that he could figure out on his own what so many American men have been unable to figure out?

Lest you think that such a series as this has no application whatsoever to you because you are already married, allow me to refute such thoughts, on two grounds: First, those influenced by your example will tend to take the approach to such things that you have taken, just as women who have run men to ground to marry them tend to produce daughters who also run men to ground to marry them. Are you sure that just because you are married you know how to go about finding a good spouse and marrying her? After all, even blind squirrels occasionally find nuts. Maybe, sir, though you are happily married, you are a blind squirrel and not so skilled at finding a wife as you might think.

Therefore, let me suggest to you that you not allow your example be held up as a pattern for others to follow, unless your conduct was in line with Biblical principle. Additionally, you have no right to claim to being a very good Christian who does not actively seek to influence others to live their lives according to Biblical mandate. Thus, while it may be too late for you to benefit from this study (and I am not necessarily granting that except for argument’s sake), it is not too late for you to effectively minister to the needs of others by encouraging them to approach this matter of marriage in the right way, which is to say the Bible way. Besides, what if you are someday widowed? Tragedies happen. Illnesses and accidents occur. If such unforeseen events transpire, how will you proceed to consider a second marriage and to consider a second wife? I think you will find that the issues we will deal with in this series of propositions are timeless, and can be as helpful to a man contemplating marriage following the passing of his beloved wife as any man who has never married.

Before we proceed any farther, may I declare the foundation upon which all my remarks should properly rest? I subscribe to the conviction that the Bible is our only rule of faith and practice, and while it is sometimes helpful to consult the writings of those giants who have gone on before us, and do so because we make no claim to being the only people the Spirit of God illuminates, we consciously bow to the authority of God’s Word alone, and not the writings or traditions of men. Therefore, if a cultural practice or tradition does not interfere or seem at cross purposes to the clear thrust of God’s Word, I see no harm in conforming to tradition or habit. However, if a conflict exists between what the Bible mandates and what seems to be a cultural norm, we are bound to obey God’s Word.

During the course of our consideration of this topic, “Advice To A Single Man About Marriage,” I will from time to time ask for questions or objections. My presumption will be that anyone with questions will be courageous enough to ask them in a public forum (wives, of course, deferring to their husbands when he is present), and that anyone with objections to any interpretations or conclusions I may draw will likewise voice their concerns. That said, let us begin:

 

PROPOSITION #1 - Tending To Eternity Is More Important Than Tending To Matters Of Marriage

 

Which is to say, if a man has two problems to address for his happiness, the one being the salvation of his soul and the other being the finding of a wife, it is the first named problem that a man should address first. Why?

First, because marriage is not forever. I know it does not sound very romantic, but marriage is an arrangement whose duration cannot last longer than the physical lifetimes of the two spouses. Please consider three matters as you weigh the very temporary nature of marriage: First, marriage can be ended by divorce. I am not suggesting marriage should be ended by divorce, only that marriages can end by divorce. That a marriage, any marriage, can potentially end by divorce establishes that marriages are not eternal, are not durable beyond the lifetimes of the marriage partners, and will of necessity someday come to an end. Sadly, about half of all marriages these days end by divorce, and when a divorce has occurred the two people are not, as some people claim, “married in God’s eyes.” Jesus acknowledged as much when He spoke to the woman at the well, in John 4.18, telling her, “For thou hast had five husbands.” That woman had been in five marriages that had ended in divorce. However, that is not all. Marriage is also ended by death. No one denies that when a husband or wife dies, the survivor is no longer married. The survivor is someone who was once married, but who is now widowed. Such was the case with Abraham when Sarah died, who then married a woman named Keturah.[1] The third consideration in connection with marriage not being forever is the Sadducees’ question. Turn to Luke 20.27 and follow along as I read:

 

27     Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,

28     Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

29     There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.

30     And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.

31     And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.

32     Last of all the woman died also.

33     Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.

34     And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:

35     But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:

36     Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

 

If we learn anything from what Jesus said in response to the Sadducees we learn that there is no marriage in the resurrection. Thus, marriage is an institution that is limited to this lifetime.

Next, because marriage has stated goals and objectives. May I point out that the goals of marriage as stated in God’s Word do not involve eternity, but are confined to life in this world? What are the goals of marriage? There are three that I am aware of: The first goal of marriage is reproduction. Who would deny this? This is certainly not the only goal of marriage, but it is profoundly important for people to reproduce. Of course, people do not have to marry in order to reproduce. They can fornicate and rape, but those are terrible sins against God. What God is pleased with in connection with human sexual reproduction is marriage between a man and a woman. God mentioned conception to Eve while she was in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 4.1 records the conception and birth of Cain after Adam and Eve had been ejected from the Garden of Eden. Then, in Genesis 9.1, God told Noah and his sons after the Flood, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Certainly, this command is understood to take place within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. Thus, marriage is supposed to involve making and raising babies. The second goal of marriage is release. Most people are moved by God-given physical needs and desires to engage in sexual activity. God’s will is for all sexual activity to be conduct within the confines of marriage, and for no sexual activity outside marriage or with anyone other than the person of the opposition sex that you are married to be engaged in. Therefore, while it is generally good for people to keep their hands off each other, “. . . to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband,” First Corinthians 7.2. After all, “it is better to marry than to burn.”[2] If marriage is in part a solution to the single person’s burning desire, it would stand to reason that sexual activity is a requisite part of married life. Sure enough, the Apostle Paul forbids abstinence in marriage when he writes, “Defraud ye not one the other,” in First Corinthians 7.5. Thus, if only one partner in marriage has an interest in engaging in sexual activity, it is incumbent upon the other partner to perform the duty of a spouse to protect the partner from undue temptation. The third goal of marriage is resemblance. Ephesians 5.22-33 is a well-known passage in God’s Word that shows the parallel that is drawn between Christ’s relationship with the church and a husband’s relationship with his wife, the marriage being a physical likeness to the spiritual relationship that exists between the Savior and the church. So, what happens in eternity when no more babies are made, when glorified bodies are no longer driven by sexual appetites, and when the culmination of that which marriage approximates occurs? Marriage will be no more. Eternity, however, will continue, and eternal life for those who are in possession of eternal life, will continue.

Third, because marriage requires agreement. Little attention is paid to this matter of agreement by young men whose blood is up, even though huge percentages of people who marry for passion end up divorcing for disagreement. Marriage requires agreement, as we can see for three reasons: First, there is the spiritual principle. Amos 3.3 raises an extremely appropriate rhetorical question, that applies to marriages as much as it applies to other areas of life: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Of course, they cannot. This applies to nations, to cultures, to business partnerships, and to athletic teams, so who would be so foolish as to deny its applicability to marriage? Two people who marry must agree about fundamental and important issues for the marriage to have any hope of surviving. If one is saved and the other is lost the marriage is doomed. What if both are lost when they marry, and then one is saved? Again, the marriage is almost certainly doomed if that unsaved partner does not eventually come to Christ. However, if the two are genuinely converted, then things are quite different. The scriptural warning so appropriate to marriage is found in Second Corinthians 6.14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” This does not apply to marriage partners only, but it certainly does apply to marriage partners as much as business partners. Of course, the reason for Paul’s warning to the Corinthians in this verse is because of the principle we saw in Amos 3.3. The best scriptural example of this matter of spiritual incompatibility is Solomon. You remember that Solomon was the wisest of men. He was also the richest of men. Along with that he was certainly among the most powerful of personalities. Yet, what was the outcome of him marrying women who did not worship his God? First Kings 11.4 declares to us that “his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” Marriage requires agreement, and the only way agreement is guaranteed is if two lost people marry and stay lost, or if two saved people marry. If a Christian marries a lost person or if two lost people marry and one of them comes to Christ, there is no guarantee of agreement because there is no certainty the other spouse will come to Christ.

Therefore, marriage must be secondary to conversion, consecration, and commitment. I say conversion, consecration, and commitment for three reasons: First, the unconverted person has no spiritual discernment. We read First Corinthians 2.14 this morning: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” No matter how smart a lost man thinks he is, he is completely incapable of basing important decisions upon spiritual truths that are withheld from all but those who know Christ. Therefore, though marriage is a temporal institution that will last only so long as both spouses survive, selecting the right spouse does require spiritual discernment that the lost simply do not have. Therefore, coming to Christ must be advised to a lost person before he gives any thoughts to marriage. Next, the newly converted person is unstable. It would take more time that I have to show you the Apostle Paul’s advice in First Corinthians chapter 7 for newly converted people to make no sudden moves concerning marriage, primarily because the new Christian is unstable and uncertain. People who have a low view of Christianity and what happens when conversion takes place simply do not comprehend the radical transformation that occurs when a Hell-bound sinner converts to Jesus Christ. His thinking is turned upside down. His world convulses. Therefore, until the dust is settled and he comes to grips with who he now is and what he now is in Christ, a new convert needs to proceed very slowly to avoid making an error in judgment that will take decades to deal with. Third, recognize that it is the grounded believer who is capable of dealing with the issues related to marriage. By grounded, I refer to that Christian who has acquired some spiritual maturity, that Christian who knows that his life in Christ is supposed to be all about Jesus Christ and not all about himself, and that Christian who has acquired some of the graces that are so crucial to making a marriage work. Turn to Second Peter 1.5 and you will see what I mean:

 

5      And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6      And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7      And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

 

Do you see how late coming love is, found in this verse as “charity”? This is why so many marriages exhibit the great difficulties and strife that breaks so many hearts. It is immaturity that is deficient in a crucial ingredient in marriage, which is love.

 

My first proposition, offered as advice about marriage, is that tending to eternity is more important than tending to matters of marriage. Why so? Marriage is not forever and eternity is forever. Marriage has stated goals and objectives, which are all fulfilled in this life, with no goals and objectives fulfilled in eternity. And marriage requires agreement that, unless both parties who enter into a marriage have already tended to eternal things, threatens to blow a marriage apart.

Why do you think one out of two marriages end in divorce? Why do you think domestic violence is on the rise? It is partly because so many people do not understand that eternal considerations are vastly more important than marriage.

Not that marriage is not very important, but marriage must be kept in its proper place. A man should come to Christ and then go looking for a wife, because if he finds a wife before he comes to Christ he has no idea what will happen to that woman, or to his marriage, especially if she is not a committed and consecrated Christian.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6.33: “. . . seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Tending to eternity is priority one.



[1] Genesis 25.1

[2] 1 Corinthians 7.9



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