Apr 28, 2023 New Thoughts on Preaching on Marriage – Words of Grace – April 28, 2023
In sermons, seminars, and small group studies I have taught a lot on marriage over the years. This week, as I studied the passage addressing wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3, I noticed a change in my thinking and some new thoughts on preaching on marriage.
In the past, my focus was on explaining what submission looks like for wives and leadership responsibility means for husbands in a way that showed the goodness of God’s way and made it appealing to all. In other words, I have been trying to get Christians to agree with God’s word about the honorable way to live in marriage.
I plan to continue to do that. I have witnessed firsthand the natural push-back against talk of role distinctions within a relationship of people of equal personhood and standing before God. Christians will always be called to submit to the teaching of the Bible that says these roles are, in fact, true and good.
But my new thoughts on preaching on marriage take me back to realities that are the foundations of the specific instructions to wives and husbands found in 1 Peter 3 (also Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3).
This week, I realized how odd it must sound to people when they hear that Christians formulate their views and take their instructions from something external to them rather than the sense and feelings within them. We receive, listen to, and seek to follow wisdom revealed to us rather than determined within us. When we open the Bible and talk about marriage from it, we affirm that God has spoken on this subject, and that what he said is true and good.
I realized that by preaching on marriage from the Bible, we are affirming marriage as normative, necessary, and good. That doesn’t mean everyone gets married. It means that when two people want to experience the kind of relationship that defines marriage (exclusive, sexual, procreative, family forming) it is in an actual marriage. We affirm that marriage comes with a publicly stated and personally kept commitment. Marriage, as opposed to “partnership”, matters.
I also realized that by teaching on the roles of husbands and wives, we are affirming that marriage consists of a man and a woman. The man and woman live together by taking on unique roles that contribute to the whole. They share a common life. If they are Christians, they are fellow heirs with Christ. And they are uniquely husband and wife.
I am newly aware that the specific instructions to wives and husbands in 1 Peter 3 assume many prior foundational realities that directly challenge the cultural thinking on marriage.
This leads to my final new thought on preaching on marriage. At a time of chaos, pain, instability, and disruption, the order and sanity of God’s ways for marriage can open the minds of disillusioned and exhausted people who have tried another way to live. The idea of eternal truth, external to us, revealed in the Bible, can start to make sense. God often grants repentance and faith to people who have tried other ways and found them to fail.
So, we will hold forth the honorable word on marriage with hopes that it will open minds to the truth that lies beneath it. That truth is also found in the Bible and has a name, Jesus.
See you Sunday,