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James 1:12 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 33 secs

Problems and Solutions in Christian Marriage

 

At the end of James 1:12 there is a reference to the fact that the crown of joy goes to those who love God. So we began to study the whole topic of personal love for God the Father as motivation in the adult spiritual life, motivation to pursue spiritual maturity. And to get into that get into whole subject of personal love for God remember that we are building a fortress through the study of God's Word. And as we take it in, as well learn it, assimilate it and make it a part of our thinking under the filling of the Holy Spirit, as it becomes EPIGNOSIS [e)pignwsij] doctrine in our souls, we start off with the entrance to this fortress. The entry way is through 1 John 1:9, the first of the stress-busters. There are ten stress-busters in all: Confession, the filling of the Holy Spirit, the faith-rest drill, grace orientation, doctrinal orientation, then a personal sense of our eternal destiny. These are the basics, and we get these basics under our belts and begin to operate on them, then we begin to move into more advanced stress-busters, more advanced spiritual skills. A personal sense of eternal destiny means that you begin to live in light of eternity. Then comes what is called the love triplex, three stress-busters: a personal love for God, impersonal love or unconditional love for all mankind, occupation with Christ. Once these are mastered, then we get into the tenth area which is inner happiness. So if we are going to face the tests of doctrine in our souls, the tests of life, and have maximum inner happiness in our souls, then we have to master these others skills. We see how James weaves these into everything he says in this opening chapter. The love triplex—personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind, occupation with Christ—is fundamental to handling any kind of test that involves people.

 

In Genesis 1:26, 27 we saw that God created the human race with two exes, male and female. Not only did they possess male and female bodies but God designed the immaterial part known as the soul to reflect the different roles. There is a male soul and a female soul and there are specific distinctions between them. When people try to say that men and women are just interchangeable, that just because they are human beings one can perform the same as the other (though that may be true in some areas) ultimately there are distinctions, and if they overlook those distinctions the result is going to be tragedy both in marriage and  socially, as well as personally. There will never be real happiness if you are trying to function in a way that God has not designed your soul for.

 

The male is given primary responsibility in the garden of Eden to guard and take care of it—Genesis 2:15. He possesses the image of God as does the female, he is the ruler of creation as God's personal representative. So he has various tasks to perform, to cultivate the garden as well as naming the animals and other responsibilities. None of these responsibilities are burdensome or frustrating in the perfect environment of the garden. Divine institution #1 is individual responsibility.

 

The man has been given responsibilities, and then God created the woman to be his assistant or helper—Genesis 2:20. The woman is fully equal to man in terms of her humanity, one is not less than the other. One of the greatest lies and greatest distractions that has been promoted in our culture in the past 30 years comes from the women's lib movement, and it basically says that subordination of role destroys equality. Now we have a great problem with understanding equality in this country. You can either have quality or you can have freedom but you can't have both. Man-made societies and man-made institutions can never establish equality. When we come to this idea that subordination of roles destroys equality we have to understand that that has serious theological implications. What they are saying is that any time you come along and say that the man is the leader in the home and the woman is the responder you are automatically saying that the woman is not equal to man. Look at the doctrine of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They have the same essence, they are co-eternal, and therefore they are co-equal. The Son is sent by the Father. Jesus said: "I can't do anything unless the Father gives it to me." He has a role that is completely subordinate to God the Father, yet He is completely equal. So the idea within the Trinity is that subordination of role has nothing to do with equality of person. If you buy anything in the women's lib movement you are buying into this underlying assumption, and if you believe that then you cannot believe in the Trinity, you cannot believe in salvation, and you cannot believe in Christ being who He claimed to be and doing what He claimed to do. They are inconsistent. That is why when you get into certain concepts in modern sociology and modern psychology the underlying assumptions contradict basic principles that are covered in the Scripture. So the idea that subordination of roles destroys equality is completely false.

 

God created the woman and He made her soul different and he designed her to be the assistant and/or helper to the man in achieving his God-ordained goals and tasks. Therefore in the ideal state of the garden of Eden the wife's role is designed by God to assist the man to achieve God's will for his life. They are a team. One is the leader and the other is designed to be the assistant or helper.

 

Man's union in marriage before the fall was a unity that was primarily a soul union and secondarily a physical union. Sex was designed for recreation in the garden as a celebration of the soul rapport of the marriage. Soul rapport first, then physical rapport; procreation was only a secondary feature as far as sex was concerned. Genesis 2:24 NASB "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to [cleave] his wife; and they shall become one flesh."  "Cleave" translates the Hebrew word dabaq. If we want to understand clearly what that word means then let's hear what the Holy Spirit has to say about it. In Ephesians 5:31 there is a quote from this verse. So how does the Holy Spirit have that translated in the Greek? The word in the Greek is PROSKOLLAW [proskollaw] and it means sexual intercourse. It is very clear, yet no translator seems to have the nerve and really come right out and translate it the way the Bible says it. Sex was therefore in the garden before sin and has nothing to do with sin. These first points we have covered all have to do with man in the garden before the fall. In other words, that is the standard. You always go back to the standard, you never deal with post-fall situations because they are affected by sin.

 

One of the things that is happening in the Christian way of life is you are being sanctified. Stage one: salvation is justification; Stage two salvation is sanctification. Stage one you are saved from the penalty of sin; stage two, you are saved from the power of sin. That means through the sanctifying effect of the Word of God. Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them in truth, they word is truth." Through the sanctifying power of the Word of God, # 1, and the Holy Spirit, # 2, you are reversing the effects of the fall in your life. Part of what is happening in sanctification is we are reversing the dynamic effect of the fall in our life to a certain degree. That applies to marriage as well.

 

The fall and the consequent curse had a devastating impact on the man and the woman, and how men and women would relate to each other in the divinely ordained role. The woman is told that she is now going to have pain in childbirth, and the implication there is that there would have been childbirth before but now there will be pain and suffering. The desire would be for the husband, and we have seen that that is not sexual desire, it is a desire to control, to usurp authority and to run the household. The man, on the other hand, is told that the ground is cursed because of him. That means his sphere of responsibility is now going to be characterized by frustration, disappointment, toil, pain, and by resistance. So he is constantly going to be struggling to fulfil his God-ordained mission. In reaction the male (a general principle, to one degree or another it applies to every woman) generally has a tendency to avoid his God-given responsibilities, especially if fields where he feels less competent. When faced with frustration and disappointment it is easier for the male to function in an arena where there is not the daily characteristics of frustration. So we see that what happens here is the woman wants to assume responsibility in areas where she has not been given responsibility, and the man wants to dump responsibility, but he also wants to be the one in control so you have this push-pull between a kind of tyrannical concept on the one hand and a total anarchy within the home on the other hand.

 

There is only one solution to this problem, and it is Bible doctrine. In the church age we have a unique situation because we are given new instructions and new mandates, and of course, we have the power of God the Holy Spirit to apply the Word of God, and under His control and through spiritual growth we can actually see these consequences reverse within the marriage. That is what is meant by having a Christian marriage. We have to understand the dynamics of what we are struggling against in terms of the curse, but then we have to apply the Scriptures to that as we go forward.

 

The divine solution to the curse is provided at the cross through the unique spiritual life of the believer and the ten stress-busters. So the divine solution to the curse begins at salvation and then continues as we learn to live the spiritual life and apply the ten stress-busters to every problem we face, including every marriage problem that we face.

 

The divine solution to the problems of marriage are going to be found in understanding all the dynamics in the love triplex. Personal love for God is the motivation; in personal love for all mankind is the foundation; occupation with Christ is the goal.

 

Every marriage faces a number of distractions which can destroy and eliminate the romance between the husband and wife, and by romance is not meant emotional giddiness, a sentimentality. It means that true, deep personal love that exists between a husband and a wife. Distractions involve work, a career, kids, hobbies, all kinds of different things. Any detail of life can be blown out of proportion and become a distraction to a marriage and become a source of problems. Impersonal love and personal love are designed to get us past those distractions. The Bible uses one word to describe this kind of live; it is AGAPE [a)gaph]. It has two facets. The foundation is impersonal love for all mankind which is based not simply on the character of the person who is loving but it is based on the character and the model and example of God's love for mankind through Jesus Christ. We are to forgive one another just as God forgave us in Christ Jesus; that is the model. The model is undeserved, unmerited favour; what we constantly call grace. If we don't understand grace then we are going to have difficulty in any kind of marriage, and frankly, difficulty in any kind of relationship. Ultimately we have to operate on principles of grace whenever we deal with another sinner, and when we are married no matter how much we are in love with the person sitting across the table they have a lousy sin nature, and that has to be dealt with under the dynamics of the spiritual life, just as yours does.

 

The aggressive or initiating side of love is comparable to the kind of love that the man should have for his wife. The responding love describes characteristics that should dominate the love that the wife has for her husband. The husband's love is initiating, it take the initiative, it looks for solutions. It is aggressive, constantly seeking new ways to demonstrates its love for it object. It is characterized by humility. Genuine humility and teachability are foundational to grace orientation. Without grace orientation there can be no impersonal love. You must have impersonal love to have success in any marriage. Humility. There is intensity, there is focus, there is a goal, a desire to pursue the object of love, not just long enough, as in the case of many people, to pursue the object of love until they get them down the aisle. And now that that goal has been achieved we are going to switch to a different goal. That is not what we see here. This is a love that pursues to the point of marriage and then continues to pursue to the point of death; it never stops pursuing the object. There is an intensity there, a steadfast loyalty. It is exclusive, completely loyal to the wife. There is consecration, which has to do with being set apart, there is no other object of affection for the husband, and then a dedication to her and to lead from the framework of Christian leadership. In terms of the wife's love, a responding love, it is emphasized as respect in Ephesians 5:33, and she shows deference to her husband. She shows respect, she never contradicts him or puts him in an embarrassing situation in public or with other people. There is admiration, respect, honor, esteem, holding him up above all others, and consideration.

 

The key to developing this is that both the husband and the wife make Bible doctrine the highest priority in their life. It is not just giving it lip service. It means they realize that if they don't learn doctrine they cannot grow spiritually and it will not benefit their marriage. So they are going to arrange to manage their schedule in such a way that they are always going to be able to make it in learning the Word of God and have consistency in taking it in.

 

When we look at Ephesians 5 we have some very interesting mandates, starting with the husband. In verse 25 we are told "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…" This involves two aspects. First of all, impersonal love was present on the cross: "For God so loved the world." God cannot have personal love and there is no affinity or attractiveness for someone who is a sinner. Impersonal love is based solely on His character, who and what He is, and what Christ did no the cross; it has nothing to do with the sinner who is completely obnoxious to God. The sinner is repulsive to God; God hates sin; He cannot have personal love for a sinner who is unregenerate. But in impersonal love He can act in the best possible interest of the creature, which is what He did. In John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 we see the emphasis on impersonal love. But here in Ephesians 5:25 the analogy is related to Christ and the church. Christ's love is directed toward the church in preparing a bride for Himself. So the analogy has to do with the husband and it is not sim ply impersonal love but it involves a kind of personal love and devotion that Christ had in relation to the church. This is amplified in the next mention of the mandate in verse 28: "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself." The man who loves his wife loves his own body. Why? General principle: he who loves his own wife loves himself. You become one with your wife. To do anything derogatory toward her, to do anything disrespectful toward her is self-destructive. It is not just hurting her, it is destroying the man's own soul. [29] "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it." He is to nourish his wife and cherish her—nourish her spiritually and cherish her, just as Christ also does the church, and that is personal love that Christ has for the church. Why is it personal love? Because at the moment of salvation we received the imputed righteousness of Christ. There is affinity between the perfect righteousness of Christ of God and the perfect righteousness that the believer now possesses, so God can love the believer personally. This is where it clearly shifts to personal love. [33] "Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must {see to it} that she respects her husband." This is not an option, this is a mandate.

 

How did Christ love the church? It entailed sacrifice. We see this in Philippians chapter two in the Kenosis passage. Right there we see characteristics such as humility, sacrifice and being a servant, or what characterizes Christ's love for the church. That is what should characterize the love of a husband for his wife. We learn from that passage that the path to glorification for Jesus Christ was through service, humility, and sacrifice. The path for glorification of the husband is through a) genuine humility: you have to listen to your wife. Wives, listening doesn't mean he agrees with you. He can listen and disagree with you; he can listen and not do what you want him to do. But listening means that he pays attention, he understands, and he does not demean your opinion; b) the path to glorification is the husband will elevate the importance of his wife, the object of his love, just as Christ elevated the church's needs above His own needs. He was willing to limit the use of His eternal attributes and become obedient to the point of death in order to take care of the object of His love, the church. For the husband this means he regards the wife's wishes, desires, and opinions often as more important than his own. The path to glorification for the husband is making her interests you priority, her priorities your priority. Remember above all that in order to accomplish the task Jesus took on the form of a servant. Mark 10:43, 45. The priority is to have a successful marriage.

 

Hebrews 12:2 NASB "fixing our eyes on Jesus [Occupation with Christ], the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." The goal at the cross was to pay the penalty for sin. Christ endured incredible undeserved suffering, putting our interests ahead of His interests, in order to accomplish the tasks. This means that husbands many times must get involved in things they don't wish to in order to accomplish the goal. Once again, the goal is the successful marriage that glorifies God. That takes precedence above success in your job, in athletics, success in whatever distraction you have in your life. It takes two to make a successful marriage. 

 

One of the problems that has entered into a lot of superficial thought on Christian marriage over the last few years has been the idea that because the husband is the leader of the home, if anything goes wrong in the marriage it is automatically his fault. That denies the fact that the wife has her own volition. She has to respond both to God, in terms of divine mandates that are listed in the Scriptures, as well as to her husband. The wife can either react or respond. When she reacts the sin nature is in control and this is just going to lead to further problems. Id she responds then she is going to operate on the mandates that are given in the Scripture. True spiritual leadership in the home might even produce a hostile reaction in the wife if she is negative to doctrine, but that doesn't justify giving up. Christ doesn't give up on us when we are negative to Him, and remember the model is always Christ and His relationship to us, not what other people do—friends, family or someone down the street. The issue is how Christ dealt with you in the midst of your sins. This entails assuming responsibility as a godly husband to accomplish the task of spiritual leadership in the home. 

 

The doctrine of the dance

 

This comparison is not talking about the modern form of dancing where two people get out on the dance floor and start gyrating, each doing whatever they want to do, doing their own thing. For many young people that is all they know of dancing, and unfortunately that is how most marriages are. Two people decide to live together and they just get in the same house and gyrate and do their own thing, regardless of what the other person is doing. That is not what we refer to when talking about dancing, rather the kind of dancing that has rules, the kind of dancing where the man leads and the woman follows, and where there are specific steps and specific responses—ballroom dancing.

 

1)  Dancing involves teamwork. There are clearly defined rules and roles for each of the team. When the rules are followed and each person fulfils his role the result is a fluid movement of grace and beauty. Think of what you see in ice dancing at the Olympics. When one or the other messes up or tries to fulfil the role of the other the result is catastrophe. The rules are such as the man leads and the woman has to follow. Christian marriage has clearly defined rules and roles. The husband is the leader, the authority; the woman is the responder and should submit to the leadership of her husband. The passages that discuss this are in Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter 3:1-7. Teamwork is a relationship between two individuals (for the sake of this study) that is characterized by mutual cooperation in defined areas of responsibility and leadership directed to the achievement of a specified common goal.

2)  You can't work together without a common goal. If one is going one way and the other going the other way, they can't dance together. Similarly, two believers cannot achieve a Christian marriage if they do not have the same goals. Amos 3:3 KJV "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" How can two people accomplish anything in life together unless they are agreed as to what the goal is and how to achieve the goal? The same is true about Christian marriage. Unfortunately, you can't pursue a Christian marriage if the husband's priority is work or a profession and he doesn't care about spiritual things and the wife's goal is to have a Christian marriage. Neither can it work the other way. But if both the husband and the wife want a Christian marriage then they have a mediator for every problem and every difficulty, and that is the Word of God. The goal of marriage between two believers it to produce a union of two lives which brings glory to God and is a testimony of divine grace before the human race and before angels in the angelic conflict. This can only be accomplished when both the husband and the wife have as their personal goal the glorification of God. You can't be better in marriage than you are as an individual, and if your goal as an individual isn't right then your goal can't be right in a marriage. Unfortunately in many marriages people just don't agree on the same goal and so there is constantly going to be friction. When the common goal is a successful Christian marriage then whenever conflict erupts the final determiner is what is best for the marriage to glorify God.

3)  Like any team dancing has specifically designed roles for the key participants. In dancing the male is the leader and the woman is the follower. That means that the man initiates, plans and directs the movements of the woman. The woman is the follower; she has the harder job. She has to do everything the man does, only backwards. She never knows what is coming. The man is to be a planner, a thinker. In Christian marriage the husband is the leader, the one who is the final authority and the one who God will hold accountable for the spiritual welfare of the family. Then the most superficial form of fulfilling that role is for the man to just get up and make sure the family gets to church on Sunday morning. His role involves teaching the children, praying together—praying with your wife, praying with your kids, setting priorities, and making sure that everyone gets to Bible class on time, every time. It involves leadership through setting the example. In Christian marriage the wife is the responder. First she needs to be responding to God, and second to her husband. If she puts her husband first in this instead of God then she will be setting herself up for continual cycles of reaction and then responding and she will be on an emotional yoyo that will drive her crazy in a short time. She has to put the Lord first so that she can build her respect and love for her husband on the principle of impersonal love. The standard is always what Christ did for us and how God demonstrated His love for us.

4)  In the dance the leader and follower positions are not related to the skill level of the dancers. If the man is not very skilful then the woman has to respond to his level and not try to back-lead him to a move he is not capable of. If the male leading has superior dance skills and knows more than the lady then he doesn't try to force her to do things that she doesn't know. The leader and follower positions are not related to skill levels. That means, ladies, you may be a lot better leader, a lot smarter, may have a higher IQ, and you may be more spiritually mature than your husband. That never gives you the right or the justification to take the reins in your hand. It doesn't have anything to do with skill levels, it has to do with the fact that you have a certain kind of soul and he has a certain kind of soul, and if you start operating like the man you are going to frustrate yourself immensely and destroy any potential happiness in your life. 

5)  In dancing each person has specific footwork that must be learned and practiced in order to develop grace and fluid movement. You must learn and practice. It is thinking, thinking, thinking. You have to be constantly aware of where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there if you are the man; and if you are the woman you have to constantly try to figure out how he is going to get you there and how he is going to get out of this mess that he just got you into. The same is true for Christian marriage. Each person has specific tasks and roles which they must learn and develop. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. The husband needs to deal with his wife in grace and she needs to deal with him in grace because it is going to take years to develop that cohesion that comes together; it only happens with time. It takes effort, it takes hours of Bible class to learn spiritual maturity, and along the way you are going to make a thousand mistakes—and so is your partner. That's why you have to have grace. Each partner must have as part of their attitude a desire based on humility and teachability, not arrogance, to help the other person improve. Nobody else ever sees you the way your spouse sees you.

6)  In dancing the male through good leads can make his partner look graceful and keep her from making mistakes. However, if his leads are too strong she is overpowered and the woman will look very stiff and awkward, and she has no idea what is going on if she is being forced one way or the other and he will destroy all grace, make her extremely uncomfortable, and perhaps even create a certain amount of physical pain. Furthermore, in dancing if the male exercises too strong a lead he will destroy and prevent her from exerting her own style and grace under his leadership. On the other hand, if his leads are too weak the woman will not know how to respond to him and will be in a frustrated position of always trying to guess how to follow—where is he going? Why is he doing it this way? She doesn't know which way to go and will often trip and stumble on the dance floor. The same is true of Christian marriage. The man who leads too strong in a tyrant and a bully and has no concept of grace, impersonal love, or humility. On the other hand, the man who weakly leads is going to be run over by his wife because somebody has to make the decisions. He is going to be nagged, manipulated, and be made miserable in his life.

7)  The male as the leader plans and initiates the various moves and he always has to be thinking ahead. He must maintain control on the dance floor because the woman cannot see where they are going. In terms of Christian leadership what that means is the man is the leader and planner. It doesn't mean that he does it without communicating to her. There has to be communication. He is the one who is responsible for directing the family spiritually.

8)  In the dance the leader must learn and study his partner to know how to lead her effectively. In Christian marriage the husband needs to study his wife so that he can learn to lead her effectively. That is part of aggressive personal love. The priority for the Christian husband is to continually study his wife so that he can be a successful leader. The highest goal in Christian marriage is to be successful and your success in Christian marriage is ten thousand times more important than any other arena of success in your life. That is what is going to count for eternity, it has angelic conflict implications.

9)  The man must learn to listen to his partner in dancing. She is the only one who knows whether his lead is strong or weak. She is the only one who knows anything about what you are doing on that dance floor. It doesn't matter how good the man thinks he is, what matters is how good she thinks he is. The same thing is true in Christian marriage.

10)  The woman must learn to communicate to the man without challenging his tender male ego! A lot of men have trouble in this area, but if they are not operating on the arrogance, if they are a believer and have humility and teachability, then they should be able to listen with objectivity. That only comes from learning doctrine. The more doctrine you learn the more objective you should be about yourself. Instead of operating on subjectivity and reacting to something your wife says you can stop and be objective and weigh it because the issue isn't arrogance, the issue is developing a Christian marriage that brings honor and glory to God in eternity.

11)  The woman must learn to let the man lead in dancing. Nothing is more frustrating in dancing for a man than to constantly fight a woman who is trying to back-lead a dance. The same is true in marriage. The Christian wife must learn to let the husband lead. That means she has to let him learn by making mistakes. Those mistakes may be painful for the wife but he will never learn to lead without falling on his face. Most husbands learn to be good husbands through on-the-job training. There is no place else for them to learn. That means she has to be vulnerable.

12)  In dancing the woman is often unaware of where the man is going and of his plans and she must constantly be ready to respond and shift according to his leads. This means she must develop and incredible amount of flexibility. As the responder in Christian marriage the wife also must be flexible in relation to the husbands leadership. When she becomes self-absorbed and arrogance takes over then she becomes inflexible and the result is a breakdown in the marriage and to still go into reaction instead of responding to the husband's leadership.

13)  The woman must continue to follow the best she can no matter how faulty the man's leadership. The woman's testimony in Christian marriage is not dependent upon the male but in her fulfilling her role responsibilities before God to the best of her ability.

14)  Trouble starts when they quit thinking and start emoting. They start taking things for granted and thinking things are just going to happen on their own. They won't. We live in the cosmic system; we live with a sinner. We have to constantly think and work on it spiritually. The moment we stop thinking we put everything in danger.

15)  Success is based ultimately on consistency and application of doctrine. Many mistakes are made along the way but as long as the goal is kept in focus by both the husband and the wife every problem can be overcome. Never stop working on the basics and never forget the goal: glorifying God through a Christian marriage.

16)  As the two work together over time mutual respect and admiration develops, confidence increases, and soul rapport increases, which leads to an increase in physical rapport; and the blessings are phenomenal both in time and in eternity.