First Sunday of Epiphany 2015
[Note: the audio for this sermon may be found here.]
Beginning today, over the next four Sundays of Epiphany we will be asking questions about the glory of marriage. Today, we ask: What is the foundation of a Christian marriage? And we answer: The Grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Your Story of Grace
How do you tell the story of God’s grace in your life? If someone came up to you and asked, ‘What does it mean to be a Christian?’ – what would you say? So much of how we articulate grace is bound up with how we have experienced grace (1 Cor. 15:10, 1 Tim. 1:12-16). Or another way to put it is this: whether we realize it or not, we tend to extend to others the kind of grace we believe we have received.
The grace of God in Jesus Christ orders our loves. Marriage is momentous. It is near the top of the list of life changing events. But knowing God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is more momentous than getting married. It is more life changing than getting married. In fact, if your identity in Christ is not more fundamental, you will make an idol of something or someone in your marriage. You cannot love your spouse as you ought unless you love Jesus more (Mt. 19:29, Mk. 10:29, Lk. 18:29). For all the change that will and has happened, Jesus remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8).
The grace of God in Jesus Christ gives Christians hope in their marriages. The same grace that brought you all the way to this point is the same grace that will carry through to the end. The basis for confidence for the future is the faithfulness of God in the past. You will not keep covenant to your spouse because you are smart, successful, or superhuman. You will keep your covenant to your spouse because God is faithful to keep His covenant with you. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…” (Heb. 10:23, cf. 1 Thess. 5:24).
Honoring the Image
The grace of God in Jesus Christ teaches us to love the image of God in one another (1 Pet. 3:6). This is the underlying equality being restored by Jesus to humanity – the image of God renewed and glorified (Gal. 3:26-29). This is the basis for loving our enemies, loving our children, and loving our spouses. God has set His love on them, so you must also. In other words, you are brother and sister before you are husband and wife. You are coheirs of the grace of life first; you are submissive disciples of Jesus first. And secondarily you are called to different roles as husband and wife.
Forgiving One Another
The grace of God in Jesus Christ teaches us to love the defaced image of God in one another. How have you been loved by God in Christ? God has been patient with you, merciful to you, kind to you even (and especially) when you have been undeserving (Rom. 5:6-11). The grace of God highlights our sin, humbles us, and gives us sympathy for others. If you have difficulty forgiving your spouse, if you struggle with resentment or bitterness toward your spouse, it is in some measure related to your underestimating the grace of God in your life (cf. 1 Tim. 1:16). How have you been forgiven? How have been received? Go and do likewise. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).
The grace of God in Jesus Christ teaches us that Christian marriage is for mission. In Christ, a man and a woman are brought together not as an end in itself but as one of the strategic means of the Great Commission (1 Cor. 7:17-24). Some are called to singleness for the Mission of God. Some are called to temporary singleness. Many are called to marriage for the Kingdom of God. Jesus sent his first disciples out in pairs, and you should understand your marriage as the same. Your marriage is for mission through your vocation, through your hospitality, for your children, for evangelism.
So ask yourself: how has God’s grace in Jesus Christ been evident in your life personally? Where has the light of God’s favor shone on you? When have you felt its warmth? When has Jesus made Himself known to you?
Whether you are single, engaged, married, divorced, or widowed, the fact is that the grace of God in Jesus Christ is more fundamental, more essential. Your identity must first be found in Christ – in His blood atoning for your sins, in His righteousness become your glorious dress. Only when this is who you are will you be equipped to be who God has called you to be. And if God calls you to marriage, this glory of the grace of God in Jesus Christ will make you shine.