None of our family relations will be right unless we fear God.
This is the soul of godliness - fearing Him
by DEREK THOMAS OF REFORMED SEMINARY, JACKSON, MS.
In marriage sin and reconciliation operate in its communion, in the
fellowship of the ring. Paul's view of marriage is that the church exists
as the bride of Christ. We love our wives as Christ loved the church.
is a redemptive structure to marriage as the grace of God shapes two
people. One of the spheres in which that glory operates is in the conjugal
relationships of marriage. The relationships of a husband and a wife
reflect the image of God, something that belongs to the very nature of
Trinity itself. The Godhead's fellowship is reflected in our communion
each other. Nowhere is the fellowship of God expressed more intimately
in Christian marriage.
What should a Christian marriage look like? What does Psalm 128 teach
i] Marriage and family are the ideal lifestyle (though we do not bend
singles out of shape). This psalm is about marriage and family and work.
What a blessed life it is! We are drawn by the gifts and glamour of other
lifestyles, but this psalm says that the epitome of blessedness is to
found with your family around you. A cameo portrait is given here and
are being told that it doesn't get any better than that. Unless God gives
us the gift of singleness then this is the ideal life. It is about the
routine of life, marrying, having children and raising them. This is God's
plan from the opening pages of the Bible, and so a man 'knowing' a woman
the only way of having children. That was God's approach. There was desire
and union before the fall. Marriage was seen as necessarily the image
God. God could have created a race of androgynous beings, but he did not.
So Psalm 128 is a wonderful portrait of a blessed life, with wife and
ii] The principle of companionship. Twice the psalmist uses the word
'blessed' in the first verse, and at the end of the psalm. The principle
place where we can strengthen family life is by reintroducing the
centrality of the meal table. Nothing is more important than this.
Happiness is found in companionship, wife, children, talk, laughter and
fun. In Genesis 2:18ff is the account of the creation of the woman. All
animals are brought to man and he calls them different names. He finds
word for them all. Yet there is no helper found suitable for Adam. Eighteen
years ago one of Derek Thomas's elders who worked on the railway all his
life lost his wife. He was a man who prayed so powerfully. "Are you
home tonight?" I said to him after a meeting. "It is just the
place where I
live now," he said. Your wife is your best friend. Eve was from Adam,
him, and yet different from him.
iii] The pattern of male leadership in the home. The perspective in
psalm is from that of the husband and father. It is not a politically
correct and post modern and 21st century perspective. It is about male
leadership. It is, of course, challenging because there are bad moments,
yet the church badly needs leaders in the home and family. Wives especially
want to see this; she is a weaker vessel and we are to treat her with
honour and dignity. Nothing is to hinder your prayers, says Peter, and
you treat your wives like royalty. Within the sphere of our marriages
way we treat our wives will affect our relationship with God. Our
fellowship with Him can never be right if our relationship with our wives
and children are wrong. The devil will gives us success in our pulpits
over our churches but Satan insists on taking our homes, and then we are
iv] The primacy of the fear of God. None of our family relations will
right unless we fear God. This is the soul of godliness - fearing Him.
your marriage is governed by this fear of God it means that you will revere
the eternity of God, and his illimitable knowledge, his authority over
everything in heaven and hell, his providence over every hair on our heads,
his power over the waves and winds, his purity, trustworthiness, justice
that renders all moral accounts on the cross or in hell, his atoning mercy,
his wrath that one day we will give an account to him, his grace that
forgives the penitent and so on. That is fearing God, and blessing comes
the church by marriages like this.
DEREK THOMAS. MARRIAGE TO THE GLORY OF GOD. (2).
2 Samuel 11 contains the history of the fall of David and there is a
certain solemnity to it. Why is Bathsheba so attractive to older men?
Divorce is all too common in our evangelical circles, and in many marriages
the spark and joy has gone. Then one of the spouses meets someone else,
when they get close they are approaching a precipice. Why is Bathsheba
attractive to older men? What a painful question! There must not even
hint of sexual immorality, says Paul. Job had kept a covenant with his
not to look lustfully at a girl. But why is Bathsheba so attractive to
1. It happens because we fail to see that sin rarely 'just happens.'
Adultery does not just happen. The seeds of David's sin had already been
sowed. The desire was there and the only thing that prevented it from
fruition was the lack of opportunity, and that is the most frightening
thing of all. The overruling providence of God has kept us - that is all.
David 'saw' her . . . he 'sent for' her . . . he 'lay with' her. It is
bit like "1066 and All That" in the summary of the Roman invasion
came; he saw; he conquered. James gives us the morphology of sin, how
operates. You conjugate the verb to sin in James 1:14 . . . It begins
the mind. David has lost his head. He has allowed thoughts to grow. He
sight of God in the sight of this very beautiful woman; he lost his mind.
Short term gratification was somehow worth it. Where it would lead to,
David did not think. The seeds of every known sin lie within every one
our hearts. There is a progression to sin. Why was she so attractive to
David? Because he failed to see that sin rarely just happens.
2. We can so easily rationalize sin and make it appear something beautiful.
True repentance begins when you leave your self-deception. "A very
hypocrite ... a miserable half hearted sinner" were the ways that
the English martyr signed off his letters, and he meant those sentiments.
Treat younger women as sisters with absolute purity, Paul tells Timothy.
There is scarcely a word or image in the more famous fashion magazines
has not to do with sex. How narrow and alluring an attitude, and we are
called to live with absolute purity in this impure world. We as ministers
are all committed to utter purity for our daughters, but what of our own
minds? Adultery is like casting Jesus Christ as the title role in an
3. It is a failure to implement spiritual disciplines. Ten years maybe
passed since his coronation and David is not the man he used to be. It
time of war yet he has stayed behind in Jerusalem. It is a time of
neglected duty. David sent Joab to battle and he remained in his bed.
a time of dampened zeal. David tries to get Uriah to sleep with his wife
because Bathsheba is pregnant. It is all such a contrast with the man
God's own heart who has written Psalm 23. How could David do this? He
not the man he used to be. He is backslidden. There are two little
statements that bring us to the essence of it all 12:10 tells us what
happened in David's heart: "you have despised me" says the Lord
He counted his own satisfaction of greater worth than the glory of God.
There is a reflex verse too. Something has happened in God's heart too.
"displeased the Lord" and God's heart is broken. When David
would lose his
son Absolom he would cry "My son, my son," and God is saying,
"My son David
how could you do this against my love and grace?"
1. Sometimes concerning dealing with this sphere of men-women relations
there is a nervousness in the church, yet the people who are frightened
allude to this subject are usually the people who need to hear it. This
the very area of their own temptation and downfall. There is an incident
recorded in John 7 when a women is dragged before Jesus. She has been
caught in adultery, and the men ask. "What do you, Jesus, say we
thought they had him in a cleft stick. But Christ said that the man who
never lusted after a women might think of picking up a stone and casting
at her. They all went away one by one from the oldest of them to the
youngest. Would you have a right to pick up a stone and throw it at her?
Are you perfectly pure in thought and act? What a fearful instrument the
Internet is. It is one of the most intense pastoral problems facing the
church today, the sheer availability of pornography. But those accusers
all left the woman were also leaving the only One who could show the
lavishness of his grace and mercy to them.
2. Proverbs 5:18 exhorts us to rejoice in the wife of your youth. A
is speaking to a son about sexual matters; the older wiser man is telling
the younger to rejoice in his youth. When children leave the home it is
crisis point. My mother said to me on the steps of Alfred Place Aberystwyth
on my wedding day in 1976, turning to me . . . saying, "Never forget
Rosemary is your friend, because when the children are gone she will be
your only best friend." Kierkegaard said of Luther that it is only
important that he did get married. It was not important whom he married
he could have married a doorpost! But how crucially important that a
celibate clergy was ended and Luther took a wife.
DEREK THOMAS: MARRIAGE TO THE GLORY OF GOD 
In a recent book on marriage I came across an account of a divorce between
a dentist and his wife. She had filed because in all the 18 years of their
marriage he had only spoken to her by way of commandments, and he had
given to her two gifts, one of which had been a potato peeler. How
different was Jonathan and Sarah Edwards' marriage. Derek read an extract
from a very moving final letter which Edwards wrote to one of his daughters
mentioning his wife.
"Growing Old Gracefully in Marriage," is the theme of this
The kind of perseverance we display in our Christian lives we need to
in marriage. The Christian life is a long distance race, a marathon. There
are pain barriers - 'walls' - that have to be run through. Consider what
can happen. A couple can be sustained by their interest in their children
while themselves drifting apart. A mid-life crisis is when you bet the
whole store on the first half of your life. A Christian life is rather
long distance race - endurance is essential, persevering to the end.
Intense effort is needed.
It will require self-control over the sins that beset us easily. What
that sin be in the context of marriage? A selfishness about communication.
Men can get into the habit of communicating with their wives through their
children, and after the children have gone to college or moved away there
is a deafening silence in the home. Men can also take their wives for
granted. They are to live with their wives with consideration and in an
understanding way, showing honour to the women as the weaker vessel. That
sin can cling to us, of taking our wives for granted.
The Christian life includes a measure of opposition from the world and
remaining, and that will also focus on our marriages. "The cross
is the way
to victory and death is the way to life, so God has ordained from the
beginning," said John Calvin. Opposition and difficulty is a positively
dangerous experience. Specifically the writer to the Hebrews brings out
this context of these dangers, fainting or losing heart, growing weary
(v.5), drooping hands and weak knees (v.12). This is what lurks in the
background of our entire lives. It is the psychology of what stress,
difficulty and anxiety can do - produce a lethargy or paralysis - a sense
of inescapable hopelessness. People feel trapped, and so there are huge
problems in the co-existence of two people who have become strangers.
Another response is the root of bitterness (v.15) which can cause trouble.
Why does this happen - old people growing bitter? They nurse a belief
life has treated them unfairly, much worse than they deserve. But trials
are designed to cause us to cast ourselves on him, more and more. The
to glory is by the path of difficulty and trial. A bitter response to
trial can make a bitter person. Perhaps your dreams have not come true
you live with that every day, and somehow you have to find the way of
the Christlike thing in those circumstance
3. The Christian life is to be lived looking to Jesus. Familiar territory
again. Christ suffered intensely and in our struggle against sin we have
not suffered to the point of blood. Jesus was the trail-blazer and
perfecter of our faith. This life is but a stepping stone to the world
come. It will do two things to marriage.
Firstly that pattern of Jesus' suffering and looking to the joy and
seated there - that pattern gives us the answer to the question as to
is in control. The answer is the Lord Jesus even in the most difficult
circumstances, when cancer or other fearful diseases come malforming the
beauty of the one you love. The Lord is in control of everything. How
the name of Jesus sounds.
Secondly it provides the pattern of how we are to relate to our wives.
pattern is self-emptying, kenosis, making himself of no reputation for
sake of others - that pattern of incarnation to exultation, of not standing
on one's dignity - that the Son of God was prepared to be born in
Bethlehem. How dare you then stand on your dignity in your relationship
with your wife. "I give myself to you wholly and for ever,"
attitude. When you pout you are putting yourself first. "What is
in it for
me?" is your attitude. To the world you may just be one person, but
person you are the world. Look to Jesus, knowing that union with him in
death and burial means also union with him in his ascension and glory.
is the way to live in our marriages. He is no fool who gives what he cannot
keep to gain what he cannot lose.