I will begin with this true-life story.
My lecturer told us the sordid confession of a certain pastor when I was in the Seminary. This popular Nigerian man of God who was greatly endowed with the gift of healing was invited to speak at a Healing Revival in California in the United States of America. He was specifically chosen for his record-breaking miracles. The story goes that everywhere this man went, unbelievable accounts of healing and outstanding miracles trailed him. So the organizers spent a huge amount of money and embarked on extensive advertising, paid dearly to bring this man on board, and put him in the coziest hotel. They wanted the best, they planned for the best and they expected the best. After all, the best was what the man always gave. It was a 7-day prayer meeting and the event was well-attended. The first day, nothing spectacular happened. The second day, no miracle or healing account was recorded despite the effort of this man of God to move in the realm of the spirit. Same for the third day. The organizers were beginning to get fretful, agitated. On the night of the fourth day when this servant of God got to his hotel room, unable to fathom what was happening, he knelt down and cried to God in the bitterness of his soul. Thirty minutes into his prayers of anguish, he heard the voice of God loud and clear. 6 days before the scheduled event, he had a heated argument with his wife that quickly snowballed into a conflict, then into a malice. He had left the shores of his country without resolving the conflict. In that revelation, God told him he the Lord was not in the Revival. God asked him to go back home first and put his home in order.
Here we find God unwilling to move because of one minute part of the society that was in jeopardy. We find God placing the wellness of his servant’s marriage and home over and above the needs of the hundreds of people that were yearning for a miracle.
IF THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE IS THAT IMPORTANT TO GOD, IT SHOULD BE IMPORTANT TO US TOO.
Improbable as it may seem, we can no longer assume that people in our culture understand what the proper definition of marriage is, especially within the context of the negative impact of same-sex marriage activists on our society.
The Bible makes it clear, right from the Book of Genesis, that marriage, and the family are not human conventions based merely on a temporary consensus and time-honored tradition. Instead, Scripture teaches that family was God’s idea and that marriage is a divine, not merely human, institution, a covenant and not merely a contract.
BUT WHAT IS A COVENANT? In essence, a covenant, in the biblical parlance, is a contract between two parties that is established before God as a witness, a contract whose permanence is ultimately safeguarded by none other than God himself. In this sense, marriage is a covenant: it is entered into by the husband and the wife before God as a witness. Because it is ultimately God who has joined the marriage partners together, the husband and the wife vow to each other abiding loyalty and fidelity “till death do us part.” Rightly understood, therefore, a marriage entered into before God involves three persons: a husband, a wife, and God. For this reason, it is not self-interest, human advantage, or an unfettered commitment to personal freedom that governs the marriage relationship, but the husband and wife’s joint commitment to conduct their marriage based on God’s design and sovereign plan. The implication of this truth is significant indeed, for this means that humans are not free to renegotiate or redefine marriage and the family in any way they choose but that they are called to preserve and respect what has been divinely instituted. This is in keeping with Jesus’ words, uttered when his contemporaries asked him about the permissibility of divorce: “What therefore God has joined together let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
For this reason, marriage is far more than a human social contract; it is a divinely instituted covenant. Although divorce is sought and granted much too easily in our society, the Bible tells us that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 Compare Jude 1:6)
WHAT THEN IS THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF MARRIAGE?
Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God and normally consummated by sexual intercourse. God’s plan for the marriage covenant involves at least the following five vital principles:
(1) The permanence of marriage: Marriage is intended to be permanent since it was established by God (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). Marriage represents a serious commitment that should not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. It involves a solemn promise or pledge, not merely to one’s marriage partner, but before God.
(2) The sacredness of marriage: Marriage is not merely a human agreement between two consenting individuals (a “civil union”); it is a relationship before and under God (Genesis 2:22).
(3) The intimacy of marriage: Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships, uniting a man and a woman in a “one-flesh” union (Genesis 2:23 -25). Marriage involves “leaving” one’s family of origin and “being united” to one’s spouse, which signifies the establishment of a new family unit distinct from the two originating families. While “one flesh” suggests sexual intercourse and normally procreation, at its very heart the concept entails the establishment of a new kinship relationship between two previously unrelated individuals (and families) by the most intimate of human bonds.
(4) The mutuality of marriage: Marriage is a relationship of free self-giving of one human being to another (Ephesians 5:25-30). The marriage partners are to be first and foremost concerned about the wellbeing of the other person and to be committed to each other in steadfast love and devotion. This involves the need for forgiveness and restoration of the relationship in the case of sin. Mutuality, (which I will discuss later) however, does not mean sameness in roles.
(5) The exclusiveness of marriage: Marriage is not only permanent, sacred, intimate, and mutual; it is also exclusive (Genesis 2:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5). This means that no other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between a husband and a wife. For this reason, Jesus treated sexual immorality of a married person, including even a husband’s lustful thoughts, with utmost seriousness (Matthew 5:28; 19:9). For the same reason, premarital sex is also illegitimate, since it violates the exclusive claims of one’s future spouse.
Marriage is God’s idea, and as a divine institution, it is not open to human renegotiation or revision. As we have seen, the Bible clearly teaches that God instituted marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, a lifelong union of two partners created in God’s image to govern and manage the earth for him. In keeping with his wonderful design, the Creator will normally bless a married couple with children, and it is his good plan that a family made up of a father, a mother, and several children witness to his glory and goodness in a world that has rejected the Creator’s plan and has fashioned a variety of human substitutes to fill the void that can properly be filled only by God himself.
Perhaps the greatest fallacy concerning marriage is that no marriage is perfect. The devil has taught the world to tell that tale to successive generations. It is a lie from the pit of hell and surprisingly believers, too, have also bought into that lie. I have consistently refuted that to my children and have declared to them, in words and in deeds, that my own marriage is perfect; a fact they can see with their own eyes.
It is not too difficult to see why people easily believe Satan’s lie concerning marriage; marriage is always a union of two people and two imperfect people coming together cannot produce a perfect marriage. For many Christians also, believing that there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage is as easy as opening the Bible.
I immediately see two problems in this line of reasoning.
1. I did say earlier that marriage is a covenant between three people; the husband, the wife, and the Originator –
God. In stating that no marriage is perfect because it is a union of two imperfect people, we are conveniently leaving God out of the equation.
Yes, we have two imperfect people but we have a perfect God, whose perfection is greater than the two other imperfections. Let’s look at it this way, the Bible says in Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” If marriage is the earliest institution of God, one of his many works, then we take it that marriage was designed to be perfect since his works are perfect. And since God is an all-knowing God and knows well our capacities, he will not give us a perfect institution and demand that we keep it that way (Genesis 2:14) knowing that we cannot sustain that perfection.
Secondly, marriage is a gift from God and the Bible says every gift that comes from God is perfect.
James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
The point is this connection is this. God did not create imperfect beings. He created us perfect, in his image. Satan came into the Garden of Eden, brought imperfection and distorted the image of God in us. 1 John 3:8 says The very reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. So Christ came and through his works of atonement, we are restored back to the image of the living God and we receive righteousness for our souls. In much the same way, we did not receive an imperfect gift from God. God handed marriage down in the Garden of Eden, roundly perfected. Marriage is a perfect gift. It was designed to be perfect and meant to be enjoyed in perfection. Because God knew we had the capacity to enjoy it in perfection. Then Satan came. The corruption of the world vicariously affected the sanctity of marriage. Then Jesus came, again, to destroy the works of Satan. The power we lost to sustain a perfect marriage, we have regained in Christ.
It is amazing how we follow God but seem to agree with Satan at every turn. Satan says a perfect marriage is not possible. We agree. Jesus says it is. We doubt. When Jesus answered the Pharisees concerning marriage and divorce he said in Matthew 19:8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning, it was not so.” That means from the beginning it was perfect.
A. Moses made a concession.
B. The reason: man’s hard, sinful hearts.
C. Divorce was never willed and was not the purpose of
Note three important facts.
A) God’s will for marriage was permanence. Divorce was permitted under Moses, but it was not the will of God. It was short of God’s will and God’s purpose.
B) The cause for divorce is said to be the hardness of heart – a very serious indictment.
C) The union of marriage is not brought about by a natural law but by God. Marriage is not a law of nature, inherent within man. It is not something that operates by nature, that just happens because two people agree to live together and sign a civil contract.
Jesus says if we have faith we can move mountains. The fact is that Jesus here used a hyperbolic language to drive home his point. His exaggerations serve to emphasize the necessity of faith if we must connect to the source of power. Some Christians have taken this literally to mean that with faith we can tell a mountain to remove and be cast into the sea; an almost impossible thing to do. To me, this in itself is wonderful faith. Now, if we have brought ourselves to this enviable position in faith, then why do still lack the faith to believe that a perfect marriage is possible (a simpler thing to do that telling a mountain to move).
A true union or marriage that is joined together by God is a blessing, a gift of God. It is brought about because a couple is obedient to God. They live in and for each other under God (acknowledging God in all things), just as he says to live (“cleaving”). Therefore, God blesses them by joining them together in the most binding spiritual union. It bears repeating: marriage is not a natural law; it is not a law of nature; it is a spiritual law that operates only if each spouse walks in the Spirit.
Honestly, I don’t see how a good Christian family, one that lines up with biblical principles and one in which each member understands and fulfills his or her God-given role will not have a perfect marriage. He is God. He created us. He is an all-knowing God. If he deems we have the capacity to build an enduring and a perfect marriage, then we do!
2. Another problem I see in this line of reasoning is the use of the word “Perfect.
The dictionary defines the word “perfect as;
(a) entirely without fault or defect
(b) satisfying all requirements
(c) corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept
It uses such other words to describe it – ideal, modest, faultless, flawless, quintessential, consummate and unsurpassable.
But because marriage is not the creation of man, but of God, it will be prudent of us to refer to God’s own vocabulary, his own definition of the word “perfect” in order to have a good understanding of how the mind of God works. Let’s take a look at the Scriptures…
“Therefore you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). At first glance, this is a difficult passage. It seems to be calling us to do or be what seems impossible. “Nobody is perfect,” is what we say.
It is true that all people commit sin. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That is why Jesus died for all men to give them the opportunity to have their sin removed (Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:14). It is also why the gospel needs to be preached “to every creature” (Mark 16:16). Even after one obeys the gospel, he still commits sin and needs forgiveness (1 John 1:7–10).
If Matthew 5:48 is telling us that we must live sinlessly perfect lives or that we must be as perfect as God, then we obviously have some real problems.
When we seek to determine the meaning of any Biblical text, especially one that seems difficult to understand, we must remember, when it comes to Scripture, whatever God’s word says on any subject is right (Psa. 119:128).
In the study of the difficult text before us, we must answer three questions. First: Can the word “perfect” have several meanings in the Bible? Second: What is the context of this verse? Third: Are there other verses in the Bible which will help us understand this one?
To get a clearer perspective, we should lay aside the Webster’s definition and take a deeper look at the original Greek root words in this verse and then we will have a much clearer understanding of what “perfect” really means.
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word perfect in this verse was derived from the Greek term “teleios.”
Teleios is defined this way:
(a) complete in all its parts,
(b) full grown, of full age,
(c) especially of the completeness of Christian character.
Going even further, Greek philosophers used the word “teleios” (which is translated “perfect”) in regards to something being in it’s intended function.
Redefine it in your mind. What if being “perfect” really means being complete, full grown, and in my intended place? What if Jesus was not asking for sinless perfection after all?
The word “perfect,” in the Bible, therefore can and does mean “complete” or “finished.” Jesus was made “perfect” through suffering (Heb. 2:10; 5:8–9). He completed or fulfilled God’s plan for Him as our Savior by suffering for us.
“Perfect” can also have the meaning of “mature” or “grown up.” In Philippians 3:15, the apostle Paul speaks to “as many as being perfect” (KJV). The NKJV translates this phrase “as many as are mature.”
The Context of Matthew 5:48 is this: Jesus contrasts His teaching with that of the Old Law (Matt. 5:38–39). He shows us what our attitude is to be toward those who want to make life hard for us by forcing us or hatefully treating us (Matt. 5:40–44).
He teaches us to love our “enemies” (Matt. 5:44), not an easy thing to do. We are to do this so “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:45a). God acts with concern and love for all men. If we act like our heavenly Father, we will act with positive goodwill toward evil and good men alike. If we only love those who love us but do not love our enemies, we are really no better than evil men for even evil people are capable of loving those who love them (Matt. 5:46).
When Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), He was saying, “Let your love be complete as God’s love.” God loves all people, even evil ones. This is how we can be as “perfect” as God. Our love for our fellow-man needs to grow and mature — including loving our enemies. If we do not love our enemies, we are not acting as sons of God ought to act.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). In this passage, the apostle Paul holds forth the Father as one we are to imitate. By again taking note of the context in which this passage is found, we can see that His example is in the realm of attitudes toward our fellow-man. The verses immediately preceding this text say: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31–32).
This passage plainly teaches that our attitudes toward other people must be the same as those of our Father in heaven. If not, we have no right to claim to be His children.
We must heed the command of our Savior given in Matthew 5:48 to “be perfect” just as our heavenly Father is perfect. We must be careful, though, not to apply this command to areas in which Jesus never intended for it to be applied.
He was speaking of the love that is to characterize those who are children of God. That love is to be complete, extending even to those who are your enemies, who hate you and spitefully use you. In this, as in all other things, we must strive to be as both Father and Son
I have reproduced the principles set forth in the Bible regarding marriages hereunder:
1 Peter 3:1-7 (NIV)
1 Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,
2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands,
6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
7 Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Colossians 3:1-19 (NIV)
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
1 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
* A PERFECT MARRIAGE is one that lines up with biblical principles as outlined in 1 Peter 3:1-7, Colossians 3: 1-19,
1 Timothy 3: 1-5 above and one in which each partner understands and fulfills his or her God-given role.
* A PERFECT MARRIAGE is one in which the partners love each other deeply, to the exclusivity of all others, and embrace the kind of uniqueness expressed in Gen 2:24.
* A PERFECT MARRIAGE is one in which the couples are reluctant to engage in activities that separate them.
* A PERFECT MARRIAGE is not necessarily one in which the partners have never done a wrong thing or one in which an argument never came up but one in which the partners obey God’s primeval injunction in Ephesians 4:26-27;
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Couples who would, in reverence to God, quickly clear any misunderstanding that may exist “before the setting of the sun” (literally an eight-hour period), never allowing a little misunderstanding to snowball into a quarrel or a malice. Couples who are consistently maturing in the Lord and consistently growing in their love for each other and in their Christian character.
Why did God outline those principles? He did so that his children might have perfect marriages. Did he believe we would be able to live by them when he instituted those principles? Yes, he did. The Bible says he knows our frame (Psalm 103:14), our capacities. If God believed we could live by those principles that would perfect our marriages and we actually do live by them, then we have perfect marriages. Pure and simple! Within the context of the Bible, therefore, a PERFECT MARRIAGE is one that is guided by biblical principles and one that is as good a marriage as any marriage can possibly be.
There is no further perfection to seek outside of the Word of God.
We have discussed only one of the many fallacies. MEET ME IN PART 2 FOR A DISCUSSION OF THE OTHER FALLACIES AND A GREATER REVELATION OF GOD’S WORD.
Written By PASTOR TAYO
[The writer naturally assumes the biblical principle of a marriage which is a union between a man and a woman and every consideration shall proceed from that standpoint.]