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“I Take You…” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 30, 2022 4:00 am

“I Take You…” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 30, 2022 4:00 am

Relationships seem to be increasingly trivialized. It’s easy to be confused about what marriage is—and isn’t. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines four common views of marriage and explains why they fall short of God’s covenantal standard.



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We live in a culture where the significance of the marriage relationship has become increasingly trivialized, and that makes it easy for us to become confused about what marriage truly is and what it isn't. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks at four common views of marriage and explains why all of them fall short of God's standard. I invite you to turn again once again with me to the last book of the Old Testament, to Malachi. And as you're turning there, let's just take a moment and acknowledge our dependence upon God as we study the Bible together. Father, we do not simply out of routine come and bow our heads before you as we open the pages of Holy Scripture. We come because we must, because we need to, because we could distort the Word of God. We could seek to dilute the Word of God.

We could try and rest it to our own destruction. And so we need the Holy Spirit to shine into our minds, to illumine to us the page, to take the voice of a mere man and make it the very voice of God as the Bible is opened for us. Give us attentive minds, open hearts, obedient wills, for Jesus' sake.

Amen. We're going to deal this morning with this matter of the covenant of marriage. As a schoolboy in England, walking to school and home from school, I routinely passed a number of church buildings. One of them had a sign outside of it which identified the minister's name, the times of the service, and then said that the minister was available to do two things. One, to conduct the burial of the dead, and two, to engage in the solemnization of marriage. The solemnization of marriage.

Now, at that time it was about sixteen. And I used to look at that word and say, the solemnization of marriage. There's an interesting word. I think in the back of my mind I said, I don't ever want this guy to do my marriage, because it sounds like it might be dreadfully dull. Couldn't he have a word up there that was a little more appealing, like the celebration of marriage or something like that, but the solemnization of marriage?

Now, you just imagine the guy, and he's just very solemn. And here I stand today to tell you that having lived through the second half of the twentieth century and now being given the privilege of embracing the twenty-first, and seeing the way in which marriage has been both marginalized and trivialized outside and inside the church, I am prepared to raise a flag for the word solemnization. It is a very good word. And indeed, we might argue that the absence of the word in relationship to the conducting of marriage and the engaging in marriage is in part a contributory factor to the manifold confusion and chaos which exists both outside the framework of the church and, sadly, also within it. Such confusion is not unique to our era. Were it so, we would not be able to read church history and find that it was littered with the challenges that men and women face in this regard. Certainly, here we find ourselves hundreds of years before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Malachi the prophet is calling his generation to account for an absence of faithfulness. They're faithless people. They have broken faith, verse 10, with one another. They have broken faith by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. In other words, instead of staying true to Yahweh, instead of staying true to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob, they have determined that in intermarriage they will introduce some form of delusion, whereby they are no longer focused as they should be. And, you will see, that they have also manifested their faithlessness by breaking faith with their marriage partners. Now, it should be very clear to you that these individuals had not given up on religious observance. But what they discovered was that their coming before God was not being responded to in the way that they had hoped—that somehow or another, despite all of their tears and all of their protestations, that God did not seem to be satisfied with the worship they were bringing and with the sacrifices that they were offering.

And so they asked the question, why? Why is it that when we come to worship, it's just not there? Why is it that I do not have a sense of the immediate presence of God?

Why is it? Well, of course, the answer is, your sins have created a barrier between you and your God. And so the answer is given by the prophet Malachi. You ask, why, verse 14?

Let me tell you why, he says. It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth. God stands, as it were, presides over your marriage. He sees you, he sees her. Or he sees her, and he sees him. And he recognizes that all is not well.

Though she is your partner, you have broken faith with her, you have disestablished your marriage covenant. Now I say to you again, this is not a unique twenty-first-century phenomenon. This is hundreds of years before Christ. The people in Malachi's day would have been completely latching on to much of the contemporary lyricism that fills the airwaves of our radio stations.

For example, people from Malachi's day, if they had listened to the lyrics of Paul Simon—arguably one of the better lyricists of the end of the twentieth century, in popular terms at least—as he writes about making a journey down to Memphis, Tennessee, with the child of his first marriage, and as he reflects on the disintegration of his relationship with his wife, and then as he writes, she comes back to tell me she's gone. That is actually… Those are two fabulous lines, are they not, for a start? She comes back to tell me she's gone. As if I didn't know. As if I didn't know my own bed.

As if I didn't know the way she brushes her hair from her forehead. And I said, Losing love is like a window in your heart. Everybody sees you're blown apart.

Everybody sees the wind blow. Oh, I'm going to Graceland. Now, I haven't had a chance to ask Paul Simon.

It's one of my hopes and dreams. But I've got a sneaking suspicion that given his Judaistic background, given his grasp of things, he recognizes that in singing about Graceland, he knows that in the confusion and chaos of disintegrated relationships, the journey that needs to be taken is a journey to the land of grace. Wherever grace and mercy is to be found, he says, I need to go to Graceland.

And of course, it fits, you see, with the whole idea of Elvis and so on. Now, having said all of that by way of introduction—it's a kind of long introduction, but don't worry, because it gets shorter from here—it's imperative that we need to define our terms. What is a covenant? What is a covenant? I bet if I gave you a sheet of paper, we couldn't come up with half a dozen decent descriptions of a covenant.

Even the attorneys would be hard-pressed. When you go to the dictionary, this is what it says—that a covenant is a mutual agreement between two or more people to do or refrain from doing certain things. A mutual agreement between two or more people to do or refrain from doing certain things. Therefore, in a marriage covenant, a man and a woman commit themselves to each other for life, and on the basis of solemn vows, they become one. They don't become one and then make vows. They make vows. And as a result of this contractual, covenantal relationship that is established, they become one with each other—intellectually, emotionally, physically, sociologically, and so on.

They are completely interwoven with one another. And it is in that context that all of the benefits of marriage are to be enjoyed. That is why to isolate from that context, for example, the physical expressions of sexual union, is to make a monstrosity of the whole event. Because it is built within the framework of the covenant commitment of people, men and women, to one another. And that's why we say when we conduct marriage ceremonies.

And, you know, it gets very quiet. I always am amazed and thrilled to hear just how quiet it is when I say to the couple, we're gathered here in the presence of God and before this congregation to join together this man and woman in marriage. Marriage is a special and unique relationship, commended in the Bible as honorable in all and set apart as sacred, signifying the wonderful spiritual union between Christ and the church. Therefore, it is not to be entered upon lightly or carelessly, but thoughtfully, with reverence for God, with due consideration of the purposes for which it was established by God. It was established by God for the health of human society, which can be strong and happy only where the marriage bond is held in order. It was established for the continuance of family life, that children, as God intended, who are gifts from the Lord, should be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And it was established for the comfort and strength that husband and wife ought to give to one another. And then the minister says, If therefore anyone can show any just cause why these two may not be lawfully joined together in marriage, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace. And then I require and charge you both that if either of you know any reason why you may not be lawfully joined together in marriage, you do now declare it. Do you know how many young couples ask me to take these two questions out of my marriage ceremony?

We don't want those questions, they said. It sounds so solemn. It sounds so awesome. It sounds so final. It sounds so daunting. Yes! Yes!

What do you want to do? Sign on the back of a cornflakes box and run off into the night? It's a covenant. It is a covenant. And you need to go back and read your own church history.

I didn't take time this morning, but you have to count to about the fourteenth century before you find this terminology being used. You actually have to get to the book of Malachi before you get covenant being applied to marriage. There's some question about Proverbs chapter 2, but I think that's the larger issue of covenant. But by the time of Calvin, he is making it very, very clear about what is taking place in a marriage.

He says it is not, as Roman Catholicism was teaching, a sacramental institution of the church, but rather a covenantal association of the entire community. In other words, you getting married is not just your little deal. It's all of our deal. It's everybody's deal. Because if you make a hash of it, it affects us. It affects our street. It affects our family. It affects our neighborhood.

It affects our town. We don't live to ourselves and die to ourselves, and we don't get married to ourselves. Now, when you think about that, it is dramatic, and it is so counterculture to our day. Marital parties in Calvin's day swore their betrothals and dispousals before each other and God, rendering all marriages tri-party agreements, with God as a third-party witness, participant, and judge. The couple's parents, as God's lieutenants for their children, gave their consent to the union. Two witnesses, as God's priests to their peers, served as witnesses to the marriage. And the minister, holding God's spiritual power of the Word, blessed the couple and admonished them in their spiritual duties. The magistrate, holding God's temporal power of the sword, registered the couple and protected them in their person and property, and each of these parties was considered essential to the legitimacy of the marriage, for they each represented a different dimension of God's involvement in the covenant. To omit any such party was, in effect, to omit God from the marriage covenant. Now, if you don't get it by defining it in those terms, let me help you to get it by defining it antithetically. In other words, let's say what marriage isn't. Let's look at, very quickly, at four unbiblical alternative views of marriage. You don't have to go scouring around for these. They'll jump up and hit you. You'll hear them in the mall.

You'll meet them in the mirror. Instead of seeing marriage as a covenant, a tri-party arrangement where God is witness to what is said, couples see marriage as simply a convention to be adopted. A convention to be adopted. In other words, it's not a creation ordinance. You see, marriage comes before a society is established.

You understand that, don't you? God creates and establishes marriage before society is structured. It predates the notion that we need a village. Adam and Eve didn't need a village.

They needed God and they needed each other, and you don't need a village either. But young couples come to it and say, You know, marriage has no divine sanction. It has no divine mandate. We're not sure where it came from. Apparently, somebody in the past thought it would be a good idea if a man and a woman spent some time together and created babies. In other words, it is not a divine creation ordinance. It is a humanly devised experiment.

So if young people grow up believing that marriage is just a humanly devised experiment, of course they grow up with a conviction that it doesn't matter if the experiment fails, and they can walk away from it at any time. They can turn the lights off in the laboratory, and they can go home. After all, it was a human experiment. It didn't work. And let me go and try another laboratory. Let me try another experiment.

Why? Because they view it not in terms of the divine covenant that it is, but they view it in terms of a convention that they simply adopt, or that marriage becomes a consequence to be absorbed. Because they have taken the law of God and upturned it and engaged in a one-flesh union to begin with, they have then feeling the pressure of society, such as it still remains, determined that they will, quote, get married in order to legalize their mating habits. So marriage simply becomes a legalized form of sexual exploration. That is not marriage. Physical union is a constituent part of marriage, but physical union by itself is not marriage. Physical union does not create a marriage, nor does physical adultery dissolve a marriage necessarily.

Because the marriage is something far more comprehensive than that which is expressed in that consuming element. You talk about young people today. They say, Well, we just did it eventually. You know, my grandmother was coming from Idaho, and she hates the fact that I live with Bill, and so, you know, whatever, doesn't matter. Doesn't matter. Oh, it's a piece of paper from the city hall, to quote Jonny Mitchell on the album Blue.

A convention to be adopted, a consequence to be absorbed, or a convenience simply to be arranged. A kind of annual renewable contract, the same way you reproduce your driver's license. Go get a new picture taken. Go get a new license. You're good for another three years.

See you around. And if possible, put into it a free agency clause, so that every two or three years you get the chance to split, you know, without any kind of liability at all. You got a prenuptial agreement?

Why? Because you haven't got a covenant. If you've got a covenant, you don't need a prenuptial agreement. If you've got a prenuptial agreement, you ought to go home, find it, and burn it. But you see, if you regard marriage as a convention, as a consequence, as a convenience, then, of course, you're going to have to surround it by all kinds of mechanisms in order to safeguard yourself in case he or she doesn't meet your expectations. And consequently, when you put all this together, you realize why many people regard marriage as simply a cage to be avoided. It's just a cage to be avoided.

I'm not going to get in that cage. 1976, which is a long time ago now—this is from my files—when marriage is just a cage. Jill Tweedy, forty years old at that time, writing for the Guardian newspaper, writes her very liberated expression of why she regards the notion of a covenantal contract of marriage as being something just completely passé. She says, in my view, the divorce rate is going up for one obvious reason. The kind of marriage we are expected to support simply doesn't suit us anymore.

It falls apart because it has become a sort of anti-life structure, a cage. The expectation that we should live together in a monogamous relationship throughout all of our days goes, she says, against our deepest nature, stunting our growth, making demands upon us that require distorted lives to fulfill. So she concludes, outside the bonds of Christian marriage, we will, I hope, learn for the first time what love is all about. No, we won't. You may find out what lust is all about, but you won't find what love is all about. You may find out what abject selfishness is all about, but you won't find out what the nature of self-giving love is about. Planning on getting married? What are you paying attention to?

Planning on running out? On what basis? In an article that I can't even quote from, because it is so heinous, when a fellow called Mark Goldblatt, who is a teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University of New York, he describes on the twentieth anniversary of MTV the total filth that we have exported to a hundred and seventy nations of the world, thereby allowing the world to look on and say, America must be a great place when they can do all that stuff. This is what he says, In 1993, MTV tackled religion with its hour-long report on the seven deadly sins. Sneering celebrities and pimply-faced fans chimed in on the subject said, viewer Tanya, sin is kind of like that rod that people beat you over the head with.

But don't tell me how to live my life unless you've walked in my shoes. That sentiment was echoed by rapper Ice-T. Quotes, I don't think anyone else can pass judgment on anyone and tell them they're sinning.

Ice-T also suggested that not feeling good about yourself was the biggest sin of all. You see, this is the worldview of people. This is the idea of freedom. Freedom is being able to completely please myself. It has got nothing to do with the moral awareness of the unenforceable oughtness of society. It is simply, I can do what I like.

That's freedom. And as soon as that is then embraced as freedom, then the notions that we're now dealing with here in terms of a covenantal relationship with God, they're completely passé. It is so significant that we understand that God intends for marriage to be a unique, sacred, lifelong commitment, not a convention or a consequence or a convenience or a cage. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. We've been learning about marriage relationships in our series, We Too Are One. This is a study you can own along with other teaching from Alistair on Christian relationships. This collection of series comes on a USB we've titled it, God's Design for Life Together. You'll find it online at truthforlife.org slash store. This is the last day we're going to be offering a book titled Gospel-Shaped Marriage, Grace for Sinners to Love Like Saints.

This is a book that will help you get a better understanding of how God equips two sinners to create a healthy, loving marriage. You can request your copy when you give a donation to Truth for Life today. Just click the image on our app or visit the website at truthforlife.org slash donate.

Are you planning to travel this summer? If you are, be sure to take Truth for Life along with you. If you haven't already downloaded the Truth for Life mobile app to your phone, that's a great way to stay connected to Truth for Life wherever you are, whenever you choose. Not only are you able to listen to the daily program at your convenience, you're also able to read the daily devotional and the blog articles. You can search Alistair's complete sermon library.

There is even an ESV Bible in the app. You can download it for free when you search for Truth for Life in your app store. And if you don't have a smartphone, you can still listen to Truth for Life on a local radio station while you're on vacation. To find the time and station call letters where Truth for Life can be heard, visit truthforlife.org slash station finder. Key in the zip code or the city name, even a local landmark, and you'll be shown a list of radio stations that broadcast Truth for Life. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Be sure to join us tomorrow when we'll find out why the vows we make on our wedding day are far more important than the strong feelings we may share together. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-28 17:56:29 / 2023-03-28 18:05:28 / 9

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