Now let me welcome you to our meeting this evening. As many of you know, we're looking at the subject of marriage - and the subject is: "Stand By Your Man", or if we want to be politically correct, "Stand By Your Woman" as well! We're looking at the subject of how marriage has changed in our society, and the attacks upon it. We understand that marriage is from the word of God, and God has given it to us. But what is happening, and many of you have maybe wondered about this as you've looked at the television screen, as you've read in the newspapers and the periodicals, the things that are happening within our land and indeed within Parliament, and asked the question: 'Well, what is happening to marriage? How do we understand it today? Is it outdated? Is it something that is relevant to the 21st century that we are now entering into?'.
Let me thank you for coming. If you're a visitor, if you've come along with a friend, or if you've just come on your own - you've maybe seen it in the paper, or had a card through the door - we make you very welcome, and we trust that the Lord blesses you this evening through His word, and will speak to you in a certain way that will change your life. Now, if you're warm - I'm warm up here, but most of you will know that I'm always warm up here - but if you're warm down there you can take your coat off or make yourself comfortable before we read God's word together, before we turn in our Bibles.
We're going to turn to Genesis chapter 2, and we're having two readings upon this subject. It's important with any subject to begin at the beginning - and that's what we're doing with the subject of marriage. We're looking at its origin first of all, from the first book of the Bible - Genesis, which means 'book of beginnings'. You find the beginning of life, you find the beginning of death, the beginning of sin, the beginning of a family, the beginning of childbirth and many things within the book of beginnings. Here we have, in verse 23, the beginning of marriage.
Verse 23: "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed".
Then the book of Ephesians, this time in the New Testament. There are many other verses that we could read on the subject of marriage, but these are two that I want to really home in on this evening. Ephesians chapter 5 this time, Ephesians 5 - now what you must understand before we read these verses is that the book of Ephesians was written to a Christian church. So what is being talked about here, about being in Christ, is for those that are saved, and those that are saved alone. But there is a lesson about what the marriage relationship represents.
Verse 25: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh". Now notice this verse: "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church".
These words may bring back good memories or bad: 'I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that either of you know any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's word doth allow are not joined together by God, neither is there matrimony love'. Is everybody still there? Nobody's running out yet! 'Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her so long as ye both shall live?'.
What do those words mean? They're not the words of Scripture, that's for sure, but they are words that are based upon Scripture. They're the words that are said at a marriage ceremony. In fact, they are called 'vows' - and that means that they're meant to be kept. It's not just empty words, it is something between a man and a woman that is precious. It is supposed to be a bond for life, supposed to be the most ecstatic experience that a human being can know down here on earth - to know mutual love one for another and to be considered, as the word of God and society considers it, to be classed so close together as to be one person.
What does it mean today? Does it mean anything? Is it outdated? Is it old hat? Is it something that we've inherited from a religious state of years gone by? Has it originated within the halls of ivory of religion? Or is there something in marriage? Is it only a certificate, a piece of paper? Is it only formed legally, or religiously, or civilly speaking? Or is there something more in marriage? We read together, and you listened to those words, 'in sickness and in health'. I want to suggest you this evening that, as we look around our nation, as we look around Belfast and perhaps - I don't know the background of any of you here - but perhaps even your individual lives: marriage is in sickness. It is sick! There is a disease among marriage within our nation. There are many symptoms of that disease, and I want to look at just a few of them with you. I want you, as we listen to them - whether you're married or not - to look around you in our nation, in the environment in which we live, and ask yourself: is that true?
There is divorce. In 1995 there were approximately 155,000 divorces in England and Wales. That affected approximately 160,000 boys and girls. That compares to 74,000 divorces in 1971 - double it! Over half, we're told, of all divorces occur before a couple's tenth wedding anniversary. It's predicted that 41% of all marriages in the United Kingdom will end in divorce - almost half. Today divorce is not the vogue, but now what we hear of today is 'second divorces'. People who have been married - a quarter of all the population - who have been married, involved in marriages, with at least one partner who is on their second divorce. There is much research which shows that the experience of divorce can lead to both short-term and long-term effects for the children within it. Divorce.
Then there's adultery. We'll say a little bit more on this, but simply to say this: many of you will know the ten commandments, and what God says about adultery mightn't be very important to you at this moment of time, but I hope at the end of the meeting it will be - and He says, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery'. The writer to the Hebrews, in the New Testament, says: 'Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge'.
Then there's 'cohabitation' - that's the fancy word for living together. There has been a great rise in living together before, or instead of, getting married. In the 1970s 1 in 10 first marriages was preceded by cohabitation, whereas in the early 1990s 7 out of 10 marriages were preceded - people lived together, before they were wed. Over one-third, 34% of births in England and Wales in 1995 were outside of marriage.
Then there's promiscuity - and I believe that in our society today we suffer from the fallout of 'free love' of the Sixties and Seventies - or should I say 'free lust'. The one night stand then has now become a seven-day week for many. You can sleep with a partner, you can leave them that night, forget their name, forget anything about them, never meet them again.
Then, perhaps more prevalent in our day and age than ever it has been, is what the Bible calls 'sodomy' - homosexuality to most. In April of this year the House of Lords defeated the move by our Parliament to lower the homosexual age of consent from the age of 18 to 16. If the Lords defeat it a second time the government, our government, propose to use what is called 'The Parliament Act' to force it through no matter what! You may have heard about, on the news or in the paper, about the repeal of Section 28. That has been attempted in recent days. What Section 28 is is simply this: it prevents all local authorities and government spending public money, your money and mine, in promoting homosexuality as, I quote, 'a pretended family relationship'. Do you know what this means? You better be sure the government's going to make sure that this is pushed through, no matter what the Lords say - because as far as they're concerned the Lords is full of old bishops that know nothing. It will mean this: that your wee boy will be open to be taught a sodomite relationship as acceptable. I don't know whether you've seen the books about how they're going to teach your boys and girls that this is normal.
This is what we live in. This is what the word of God, let me say, has prophesied! But God has declared - and this is one thing we can be sure of, we can't be sure about our politicians, we can't be sure of our environment, we can't even be sure about the church of Jesus Christ, but we can be sure about God's word when He says: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, it is an abomination'. 'For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them'.
That's our society! 'I'm heterosexual, that's OK, I can live and let live. You can live whatever way you want. You can have a partner that you want'. They may not be homosexual in themselves, but the word of God says they have pleasure in them that do it. 'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall enter, inherit, the kingdom of God'. Make no bones about it, homosexuality or sodomy is against all that is God.
Then there's pornography. You don't need to get Sky television or cable any more, you can get it on your own TV at home. But the sad thing of how this has become a disease in marriage is this: that some husbands, and sadly now wives, now find more satisfaction in a glossy computer-enhanced whore in a monthly magazine, or a film, or on the Internet, than in a loving relationship with their husband or wife!
Then there's abuse, violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse - and all of these abuses seem to stem from all sorts of problems, but the root always seems to be hate!
Then there is women's lib, which is a perversion of the biblical roles of a man and a woman within the marriage relationship. A cry of independence from the necessity of a need for men. Germaine Greer - 'The Female Eunuch', she wrote - she stemmed a revolution in feminism within our society, and what has it brought?
Then there's atheism, or agnosticism - 'I don't believe, or I simply don't know'. The outcome of both of those is this: no accountability to anyone but myself, therefore no need for commitment. 'I am only accountable to number one'.
Then there's drunkenness. How many homes have been wrecked by the social perfume of alcohol? You've seen it, you've heard about it. Homes torn asunder, marriages broken, children defiled and abused because of alcohol! Well might the word of God say: 'Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?...At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things'. Many a thing was done in a dark corner in a drunken stupor, and many a man can't even remember what it was.
Then there's career obsession. No time for your spouse or for your child.
Then there's the media, TV, music, the press, advertising - perhaps three or four soaps a day on the television that portray adultery, fornication, sodomy, as an accepted norm for society and for our children!
Then there's medicine. Psychology used to say that homosexuality was a disease of the mind, but now the whole of psychology - and sadly even all medicine - has caved into the political correctness with regards to the modern pagan views of sexuality. If you want to change from a man to a woman, you can get it.
Education, government - it's no longer an advantage with the taxman to be married. It's a good way to discourage people getting married, isn't it? Do you see it? Now, I haven't said too much about the Bible yet - but these are all facts, you can get them, I can send you to government offices and get these facts. This is fact! Marriage is breaking down! Our society is breaking down from all these things: adultery, fornication, cohabitation, promiscuity, sodomy, pornography, abuse - all sorts of iniquities are destroying the marriage relationship.
Do you know something? I believe that everybody here has a conscience - it may be defiled very much by sin, but it's a conscience nevertheless. Statistics tell us that 14, only 14% of people think that marriage is outdated. They know what is right and wrong!
There's a verse I would like us to think about for a moment, it's Revelation 18 verse 5 - you've no need to turn to it, but listen to this - God is looking down in a future day upon our earth, and He says of the earth: 'Her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities'. I believe we could be living in that day. All those sins that I have mentioned are only within the marriage remit, there are many other sins we could talk about that have nothing to do with marriage - and how many millions would there be! God says: 'All of them are reaching Me in heaven because there's so much!'.
There's only one reason for the symptoms of the sickness of marriage - do you know what it is? Three letters that are outdated, they're trampled in the mud, they're laughed at today - in fact some gospel preachers won't even mention it - and it's called 'sin', sin. Sin is the sickness of marriage, and always has been. It's the greatest problem in all the world for everything - and if you were to turn to Genesis 3, we read from Genesis 2, but in Genesis 3 you would find there the origin of sin: that it came right within a marriage relationship!
There were Adam and Eve in the garden, and God said: 'Of all the trees in the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - don't eat of it! For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die'. What did they do? They ate it, and it says one man - by one man - sin entered into the world, and every child that was born after Adam was born in his likeness, he was born in sin and shapen in iniquity - so much so that the word of God says that there is no difference, we are all the same, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We have fallen, and as our planet falls through the light years of space, spiritually speaking this nation, this environment, this planet is dying spiritually. My friend, if you are without Christ, no matter how you feel, no matter how your mind is, if you don't have Him, if you don't know Him, if you don't know salvation you're dead in your sin! Oh, I know sin is laughed at - a wee poem says this:
'I dreamed last night that I had come
To dwell in topsy-turvydom,
Where vice is virtue; virtue, vice.
Where nice is nasty and nasty, nice.
Where right is wrong, wrong is right.
Where white is black and black is white'.
Is that not where you live? Is that not the world in which you reside? God said it many thousands of years ago: 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil' - that turn the commandments, turn God's holiness and righteous laws upside-down to suit themselves, and every man does that which is right in his own eyes! Man calls it an accident, God calls it an abomination. Man calls it a blunder, God calls it blindness. Man calls it a defect, God calls it a disease. Man calls it chance, God calls it a choice. Man calls it an error, God calls it enmity. Man calls it a fascination, God calls it a fatality. Man calls it an infirmity, God calls it iniquity. Man calls it luxury, God calls it leprosy. Man calls it liberty, God calls it lawlessness. Man calls it a trifle, God calls it a tragedy. Man calls it a mistake, God calls it madness. Man calls it weakness, God calls it wilfulness. Sin, sin is the destruction of marriage. In fact, I would go further to say that sin is the destruction of all things!
The late Dr J. Wilbur Chapman used to tell of a Methodist preacher who often spoke on the subject of sin, and he never minced his words about it - but he declared and preached: 'That abominable thing that God hates'. A leader in his congregation came and said: 'Now, Dr so-and-so I don't like the way you're using that word 'sin', because our young people are here, they're hearing you. They'll be more likely to indulge into sin because you're preaching on it, call it something else - an inhibition, or an error, or a mistake, or even a twist in our nature'. He looked at him and he said: 'Well, I understand what you mean' - and the preacher took his hand and opened a drawer in his desk, and lifted out a little bottle. He said: 'This contains a chemical, and you'll see a wee read label that reads 'Poison' - would you like me to change it to medicine?'.
Is that not right? Does that not make sense to you? Should we make something more harmless [looking], and then make it more dangerous? Oh, sin is sin. Can you imagine if I went home - now I don't have gas in the house - but imagine if I went into a caravan or something, and before I went to bed instead of turning the gas off, I blew it out. I'm lying in bed, and all of a sudden we smell this smell of gas - and I get up and I run into the bathroom and open the cabinet and I get the aftershave, and I spray it all over me and all over my wife and all over everything in the whole building - and then I go back to bed! That would be foolishness, would it not? It doesn't deal with the problem, but it would kill us.
That's what sin is like. You can dress it up, you can give it a new name, you can try and pretend it doesn't exist - whether it's in your marriage, whether it's in your heart, whether it's in your life in any conceivable idea I can imagine - wherever it is, if it's there my friend you can't disguise it! Psychologically you can block it out of your mind, you can try to argue with yourself that it doesn't exist, that it's not really a problem, that you've got it under control. You can do all you like about it, but God says - as we have read - that He sees into men's hearts! He sees into yours.
Sin is against all that is God. Sin is the destroyer of marriage. Billy Sunday said, the baseball evangelist, listen to this: 'I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot. I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist. I'll butt it as long as I've got a head. I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. When I am old and fistless and footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go to glory and it goes home to hell!'. Do you know what Satan's plan for marriage is from the beginning? His plan is that it be destroyed. Why is that? Why would Satan want marriage to be destroyed? Answer - because underlying his plan is this: the age-old vehement attack between God and Satan himself. Because marriage is not simply a physical, or sexual, or emotional, or legal, or social thing - but marriage, according to the word of God, is spiritual!
You might say: 'David, you listed a whole lot of sins this evening. Now, I'm not a Christian, but I can assure you that I haven't done anything like what you've been talking about'. Can I say that you've just admitted the greatest sin that a human being can commit? You've said: 'I'm not a Christian'. You might not have committed adultery, you may not be a sodomite - or you never would have a fear of it in the rest of your days on this planet - you may not be involved in pornography, or drunkenness, or anything. You could be as holy as holy can be in this world's eyes, but let me tell you: if you are without Christ those sins, primarily, will not damn you - but the fact that you've rejected Him [will].
Do you understand that? It wouldn't matter that you'd kept the slate squeaky clean from the day that you were born, if you've never trusted Christ, if you've never brought Him into your life, if you've never made Him King and Lord of all that you have - and the sad thing about it is this: that the lower a chair gets, whether it be in sin or whether it be in not trusting Christ, the more comfortable it becomes. You're very comfortable the way you are tonight, aren't you? But you see in any marriage, in any life, there must be a partnership of three. In marriage, for some of you perhaps, two's company and three's a crowd - because three doesn't mean anybody else but God! It's like a triangle, with the man and the woman, and then God at the top - and if you take God away from the top the whole structure, the whole thing falls in.
Is the missing part of your marriage, or your relationship, God? Is it? Jesus Christ, when He was on the earth, said this: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you'. Could the spark that's missing from your marriage be Jesus Christ?
But also, as I finish, marriage represents the relationship of salvation and the Gospel. This is why the devil hates it so much! We read in the book of Ephesians these words: 'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church'. Are you married? Do you know what your marriage relationship represents? Christ and His church! Therefore, he says, you're to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Listen: that's why the devil hates marriage! Because the devil hates the cross, because the cross is what can save marriage, the cross is what can save your life, can save you from your drinking, from your wandering, from all the problems that you have - the cross is what will save you!
The devil wants to go throughout our society - whether it's in the institution of marriage, or the institutions of the church, or government, or whatever in the state that has ever represented or talked about or shown any form of God at all - he wants to go through it all and clean out God out of everything! Does that not make sense? Oh, I believe some of you can see it all too well in society, but you just won't admit it - but you know what the devil wants to get rid of so much is the cross.
Do you remember how Peter came to the Lord Jesus and said: 'Far be it from Thee...' - do you know what he was really saying in our terms? 'Think again! Talking about dying, talking about going to the cross? What are You talking about? You're the Messiah!' - and the devil was in him, because the Lord Jesus turned round to him and said: 'Get thee behind me Satan!'. Do you remember when He was on the cross, and I think it was demons in men that came and said: 'Look at Him! He saved others, Himself He cannot save! Look at Him! If Thou be the Christ come down from the cross and save Thyself!'. The devil did everything to get Him down, do you know why? Because when He was there, He was there for you. He was there bleeding and dying for your marriage. He was there bleeding and dying for your sins, for your problems, for your self-righteous religiosity, whatever it may be - there on the cross He was taking your place, He was taking my place, He was dying standing where I should have stood! He was taking my hell!
Do you know that? Do you know that there's devil worshippers in County Down, and every Friday they fast and they pray for the destruction of Christian marriages? That's how much Satan hates it - because it tells of the love of God in Christ, the love of God for you, that Jesus loves you! That Jesus came from heaven to earth in the form of a man, He suffered everything that you and I suffered - except for sin. He walked to the lonely cross in poverty, without a pillow to lay His head on, without a home to live in - and there He hung between heaven and earth dying for your sin! If me preaching about promiscuity and drunkenness, and all these sorts of sins, doesn't make you weep - that ought to make you weep. My friend, He stood in your place - He stood in your place! God help you if you ever lift your eyes up in hell, in torments, and remember this meeting - I think you'll remember this: that He stood in your place and you rejected Him! I would not like to be in anybody's shoes who rejects Christ and goes to hell. For if they do it, there will be a hell to pay.
I cannot stress this more to you. We've been talking about sin, and when we think of sin we often think of the colour black. I don't know why that is, dirt perhaps. But, you know, the Bible doesn't describe sin as black, it describes sin as scarlet. Painters tell us that scarlet is the most difficult colour to cover over with another colour - you can't do it. You can cover over black with something, but not scarlet - the only way to cover over scarlet is to cover it over with red! God's word says this - my friend, wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever you've done, no matter what you come from or what you do - God says to all here this evening: 'Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord' - listen - 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow'. You see, it's only the blood of Jesus, it's only that blood that was shed there at Calvary's cross out of love for you that can take away those scarlet stains of your sin, and make them pristine white wool.
Mr J. Pierpont-Morgan was one of the biggest ever financiers in the world. Many of his business transactions were big enough to shake the financial equilibrium of the whole planet. But there was one transaction in his life that evidently stood out of supreme importance to him, and he wrote in his diary before he died - listen to this: 'I commit my soul into the hands of my Saviour, full of confidence that having redeemed me and washed me with His most precious blood, He will present me faultless before the Throne of my Heavenly Father'.
Some say that your career is the most important decision in life. Some say that what we've been thinking about this evening, marriage, is the most important decision you will ever make. No! Have you ever made your transaction with God? Have you ever had the blood of Christ applied to your sin to cleanse it? Have you had a day, an hour, a minute in your life's experience where you knelt at the cross and asked God to save you and forgive you? For, my friend, if you haven't you've more than a marriage problem!
Let us pray. We've talked about many things, and perhaps some of these things have pricked your heart. Perhaps God - and it was God, it wasn't me for I don't know most of you - God has put His finger on something in your life, what are you going to do? Are you going to ignore Him again? Are you going to gamble with hell? Are you going to put your arms up, and say: 'Lord, take me. Lord, I have done wrong. My life mightn't seem to be a mess outside, but it is inside. Lord, I need You. Save me, forgive me - I'm sorry'? You can do that now, or you can talk to me on the way out - I'll be here for some time if you want to have a chat, or if you want me to show you better how to trust the Lord, I'm at your disposal. There's some free literature at the back door on the table - for Christians only I must add, or backsliders - if God has spoken to you, why not take a leaflet? If you've trusted the Lord this evening, will you tell us so that we can rejoice with you?
Our Father, we thank Thee for this time, we thank Thee for Thy word and how it has the answer to all of life's problems. But we know that the problem behind all problems is the problem of sin. Lord there are many here with many backgrounds, with many standards of morals - whether in the gutter, or whether perhaps in the heights of morality - yet Lord, if they're without Christ they're without hope. Lord, would You administer grace to them this evening, and save their precious soul? Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Stand By Your Man - Is Marriage Outdated?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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