THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

PART THREE: THE INCARNATION FACTOR

The incarnation, that amazing, incredible event in which the eternal God came to this earth as a human being, has its central purpose focused in [1] God's final self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, and [2] the substitutionary death of Christ for the sinner, through which eternal salvation is obtained. In addition to these two primary foci the incarnation is significant and instructive in a wide range of other issues, including issues relating to the marriage relationship. It is at these additional significances of the incarnation that we will look at in this section of our studies.

STUDY SIX: THREE SIGNIFICANT AFFIRMATIONS

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

'Incarnation' refers to the event that is recorded in the Gospels: that the Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. This study is not a study on the incarnation, but a study of the implications of the fact of the incarnation for our perceptions and expectations of marriage.

A. THE FACT OF THE INCARNATION

Write out the sections of these verses that affirm the incarnation

John 1:14

 

 

Philippians 2:6-8

 

 

 

Colossians 1:19

 

 

 

 

Colossians 2:9

 

 

 

1 Timothy 3:16

 

 

 

Hebrews 2:14-17

 

 

 

As 1 Timothy 3:16 comments, this is a massive mystery: that God became a man. As with other topics relevant to our study on marriage, it is not our purpose to delve into this topic, but rather from this topic to gain insight and understanding about marriage. Our question here is: what does the incarnation teach us about marriage? The answers are important because, as we will see, the Incarnation Factor, affirming the perspective of the Creation Factor, will protect us [1] from rejecting or being ashamed of, our physical sexuality, [2] from developing a repulsion or aversion to sexual matters because of the gross degradation and distortions of sex in our society, and [3] from feeling threatened or uncomfortable with our particular male or female role.

B. AFFIRMATION OF THE HUMAN BODY

B.1 The human body of Jesus Christ was a normal male human body

  • He was a 'son' of Mary, not an indefinable sexless being [Matthew 1:21-25]
  • He was circumcised on the eighth day [Luke 2:21]
  • Herod, seeking to kill Jesus, thought he would make sure by killing all the infant boys in Bethlehem [Matthew 3:16]
  • In keeping with the requirements for sacrifice [and Christ was to be the ultimate sacrifice] nothing deformed or imperfect could be offered as a sacrifice [Exodus 12:5 etc]
  • To qualify as our substitute and our high priest Jesus had to be of the same kind as us [Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16].

All of this teaches us that our bodies are not in themselves sinful or insignificant. In the incarnation of Jesus Christ the human body was the dwelling place of God, and became the vehicle of God's redemption.

B.2 Jesus Christ neither pampered or punished his body

Through the centuries humans have embraced a variety of twisted ideas about the human body, but Jesus Christ, the perfect human, evidenced no such imbalance. Consider:

Discuss the information in the first two columns. Discuss and list similar attitudes to the human body that are held by some people today ...
This ism ...
Believes ...
How this is expressed today ...

Gnosticism 

 

 

 

Spirit is good, matter is evil. 

 

 

 

 

A line of Gnosticism believed that only spirit was eternal, therefore, since 'matter' was temporary it did not matter what you did with your body.

 

Asceticism

The body is evil, therefore 'its appetites should be curbed and its impulses be disregarded and suppressed.'

[Tenney, New Testament Survey]

 

Neo-Platonism

 

 

The body is evil – salvation consists in totally eliminating all bodily desires, and moving out of the realm of the body into the realm of the spirit.

 

Epicureanism

There is no purpose or design in life therefore pleasure is the highest good. Therefore one should choose whatever gives the most sustained satisfaction and the least pain.

 

Hedonism

Pleasure is the ultimate good. If something feels good or makes you feel good, it is right.

 

 

Eroticism

Focus on sexual desire or excitement as the primary 'good' or meaning/purpose of life.

 

 

In Christ we find neither this extreme rejection of the body, nor this extreme, licentious focus on bodily desires. He, the Holy One, lived comfortably in his human body, leaving us a precedent to follow. It is not our human body that is sinful or evil: it is the wrong attitudes we have to our body and its physical desires, and the sinful things we choose to do in and with our bodies that are evil.

Important Note: When the New Testament writers refer to the 'flesh' [usually wrongly translated 'sinful nature' by the NIV] in contrast to the 'spirit', they are not writing from the perspective of Gnosticism or Neo-Platonism which view all physical matter as intrinsically evil. Rather they are speaking of the mindset that relates to God on the basis of what-one-is-in-oneself in contrast to what-one-is-in-Christ. That is, they teach that Christians should never relate to God on the basis of any righteousness of their own, but always, ever, and only on the basis of the righteousness of Christ. We relate to God – not kata sarka – according to flesh, according to what we are in ourselves, but kata pneuma – according to the Spirit, according to what we are in Christ.

C. AFFIRMATION OF MARRIAGE

Throughout his ministry Jesus Christ used marriage as an object lesson in his parables and teaching. In doing so he affirmed the validity and dignity of the marriage relationship.

Discuss the following Scriptures. Identify the symbolism used. Discuss how this gives value and dignity to marriage, and how this should impact our view of marriage.

Scripture

This ...

Symbolizes this ..

How this should impact our view of marriage

Mat 9:15

 

Bridegroom

 

 

Matt 22:1-14

 

Wedding banquet

 

The king's son

 

The guests

 

 

 

Mat 25:1-13

Bridegroom

 

Wedding banquet

 

 

 

Now do the same for these Scriptures, also from the NT, but not the direct words of Jesus

John 3:29-30

Bride

 

Bridegroom

 

 

Rev 21:2,9

Bride

 

Husband

 

 

 

In using marriage as a picture of the relationship between himself and his church Jesus Christ honours the whole concept of marriage, and reveals a high view of marriage, a view that is far more than a sexual union. From the above Scriptures we see marriage portrayed as

  • A cause for celebration
  • A cause for joy and anticipation
  • A publicly acknowledged and affirmed institution

In addition to the above Scriptures, there is of course, Ephesians 5:22ff, which also refers to the marriage relationship as a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church. Indeed, we can also put it around the other way, as we will see in depth later: that the relationship between Christ and his church teaches us much about the marriage relationship.

Thus Jesus Christ affirms that the marriage relationship is, and has always been, a lived-out-in-life prophetic picture depicting the deep relationship between God and his people. As the Old Testament clearly portrayed, so wrong is unfaithfulness in the marriage relationship that it is used to vividly depict idolatrous unfaithfulness to God.

For extra study: Read these Old Testament passages. What can we learn from the parallel drawn here between faithfulness in marriage and faithfulness to God, and between idolatry and adultery and prostitution? And what do they teach us about God's high view of marriage?

Jeremiah

2:20-3:14

 

 

Ezekiel 16:1-63

 

 

 

Ezekiel 23:1-49

 

 

 

Hosea 1:1-3:5

 

 

 

Additional texts:

Jeremiah 3:20; 5:7,8; 1 Chronicles 21:11. References in Revelation use the sexual term 'fornication' to refer to the godlessness/idolatry of churches and nations in following false teaching or false religious ideologies: 2:14,20-22; 14:8; 17:2-5; 18:3,9; 19:2.

 D. AFFIRMATION OF INTERFERENCE IN THE EFFECTS OF THE CURSE

Another significant impact of the incarnation is this: that Jesus Christ in his earthly life deliberately interfered with and intervened in the effects of the curse of Genesis 3, in fact, that is what he came to do. This interference and intervention stands in stark contrast to the attitudes of

  • Fatalism – which perceives sickness, accidents, poverty, etc as the 'will of God', and does not encourage interference or intervention; and
  • Karma – the law of cause and effect by which every thought, word and action produces an inevitable outworking in a future life. One's conduct in a past life has caused the conditions and circumstances of one's present life. Interference or intervention in this effect will necessitate its outworking all over again in another life, because each person must suffer his own karma.

But Jesus pro-actively confronted and reversed the effects of the curse:

  • He healed the sick and suffering
  • He raised the dead
  • He forgave sin
  • He broke the power of Satan's bondage
  • He liberated people from the heavy burdens of rules and regulations imposed by men
  • He gave people the gift of eternal life.

[His death and resurrection, by which he undid the ultimate impact of the curse, will feature in the Part 4 of these studies.]

And he tells us 'follow me', 'learn from me'.

What does this mean in the marriage situation? In what way and to what extent does this confrontation and reversal of the Genesis 3 curse by Jesus Christ in his human life authorise us to actively work against and undo the effects of that curse in our marriages? When we study 'The Redemption Factor' we will look at the huge significance of the cross for our marriages, but here let us consider:

In the light of Jesus' interference in the effects of the curse, discuss and comment on the rightness or wrongness of the following:

Contraception used to limit the number of children in a marriage

 

Techniques and programs aimed at reducing child-birth pain

 

Parenting programs aimed at reducing the stress of child-rearing.

 

Emancipation of women

 

 

 

Marriage counselling

 

 

 

Labour saving devices and strategies in the work place

 

The curse states: this is how life from Genesis 3 onwards will be.

The incarnation states (among other things): it's okay to do something to relieve the impact of the curse. It's okay to interfere. It's okay to intervene.

In fact, we are expected to act with compassion towards each other as we see in the other the suffering caused by our corporate choice in Genesis 3 and by the sum total of our sinful choices ever since [Micah 6:8; Matthew 25:31-46]. We are expected to not leave our neighbour lying on the road in his suffering [Luke 10:25-37]. How much more should we act with compassion towards our closest neighbour, our marriage partner, when we see him/her suffering the impact of Genesis 3, and move to interfere, to intervene, to liberate him/her from that pain, from that distress?

In what way can you ease the burden of the curse for your marriage partner in:

Her pain in child-birth

 

 

Her stress in child-rearing

 

Your ruling over her

 

 

Her unsatisfied longings

 

 

His role of having to rule

 

 

His painful toil

 

 

The frustration of his daily work

 

The ever-present threat of encroaching weakness and death.

 

HOMEWORK TASK : As you live with your marriage partner this week:
  1. Watch out for wrong attitudes to your body, particularly your sexuality.
  2. Watch out for wrong attitudes to marriage.
  3. Watch out for fatalistic or karmic attitudes to the results of the curse in your relationship.
  4. Repent of these attitudes, and ask the Lord's help to follow Jesus in each aspect.