Marriage Matters, Sermon 4, Children

Marriage Matters Series Sermon 4
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church 
June 26, 2011
Ephesians 6:1-4

[Read text and pray before releasing the kids for Youth Church]
Ephesians 6:1-4

During this Marriage Matters series we have examined from Scripture that Marriage Matters first and foremost because at its best it displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church through the union of a husband and a wife. In other words, marriage was designed by God most deeply and most importantly, to display the way Christ loves His church and the way the church was designed to love and follow Christ. This is the most important thing for all husbands and wives to understand about why Marriage Matters.

One of the key passages each week has been Ephesians 5:23-25

“23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Don’t be so familiar with this that it doesn’t strike you as amazing. Where in the world do people talk about marriage this way?

You won’t hear this type language about marriage any more from many of your friends, or at the movies, or on TV. You won’t hear it from our government leaders, and few celebrities place that type of honor on marriage any longer.  But this is what the Bible says...:

  • Verse 23,  “... as Christ is the head of the church..."
  • Verse 24,  “... as the church submits to Christ...”
  • Verse 25,  “... as Christ loved the church...”

What Matters most about Marriage?  What is the most important meaning of marriage? It is found in the words:  “as Christ . . . as the church . . . as Christ.” The ultimate meaning of marriage is not in marriage itself. It is not in the husband and not in the wife and its not even in the children, as many would like to assume. The ultimate meaning of marriage is in these words from God’s word: as Christ,” as the church,” as Christ.”

We are not the point in marriage.  You and I are not what really matters in marriage;  it is that we should point to Christ and His love for us.

Marriage Matters so much because it points to something magnificent, the love that Christ has for us, the church. And the love that binds this man and woman in marriage is a magnificent love because it portrays something more magnificent —  “as Christ loved the church” and “as the church submits to Christ.” The greatness of marriage is not in itself. The greatness of marriage, at its best, as it was designed, always displays something unspeakably greater, the love that Christ has for the church and our commitment to Him.

When we understand that,  stop being so selfish in our marriages, and look to submit to each other out of respect for Christ, we will then truly begin to be blessed in our marriages.

Another reason that marriage matters is for making babies . . . followers of Jesus.

There is a double meaning that I hope will help you remember the point. Marriage is for making children . . . into followers of Jesus. Literally, having babies is a very important part of God’s design for marriage, but it is not the most important.  Let me be clear on this.  Having children of your own in a marriage is not the main meaning of marriage!

It is a biblical one, it is a painful one, and in today’s world it is a costly one. But when we add the words “followers of Jesus,” it begins to be eternal in nature.  “Marriage is for making children followers of Jesus."   Here, the focus shifts. The purpose of marriage is not merely to add more bodies to the planet, the point is to increase the number of followers of Jesus on the planet.  We are not looking for numbers, we are looking to fill the world with worshipers of God and lovers of Jesus.  Growing lovers of Jesus is the point of having babies. 

Babies are important; worshipers of the Lord are more important.  Too many people make babies and never really count the cost to care for them properly.  Too many people make babies but never consider leading them to Jesus.  Lets not even begin to talk about what happens to those children that never learn love, trust, and follow Jesus.

Those married couples who cannot have children of their own because of issues of infertility can still aim to make children followers of Jesus.  The goal of making babies it good, but the goal of making babies followers of Jesus is better.

God’s purpose in making marriage the place to have children was never merely to fill the earth with people, but to fill the earth with worshipers of the true God. One way for a marriage to fill the earth with worshipers of the true God is to procreate and bring the children up in the Lord. But that’s not the only way. When the focus of marriage becomes, “Make children followers of Jesus,” what matters in marriage in relation to children is not mainly, “Make them,” but, “Make them disciples of Jesus.”

I would like to unpack this in three ways this morning.

Marriage and Children, Three Considerations

The Plan and Design
First, I want us to see that God’s original plan in creation was for men and women to marry and have children. Having children is God’s will.

The Plan offers Choice, it is Optional
Second, I want us to see that in this fallen world we live in, not only is marrying not an absolute calling on all people, but producing children in marriage is not an absolute calling on all husbands and wives. It is still normal, good and a glorious calling for God but it is not absolutely required of all marriages.

The Purpose of the Plan
Thirdly, we will focus on what Ephesians 6:1-4 says about marriage and the means for making children into followers of Jesus.

1.  First, Having Children is of God’s Will, and the meaning of marriage normally includes, by God’s design, giving birth to children and raising them in Christ.

Genesis 1:26-28

Genesis 9:1 When the flood is over and there are 8 people left living “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”

This was God’s original design. Marriage is the place for making children and filling ‘the earth with the knowledge of the Lord the way the waters cover the sea,’ (Habakkuk 2:14). It has never ceased to be a good thing.

Psalm 127:4-5

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate”

In the New Testament, no one is more positive about children than Jesus himself.  Jesus is a true man and we see Him protecting the Children that are being pushed away in Mark 10,

Mark 10:13-16

“They were bringing children to him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

So from beginning to end, the Bible puts a huge value on having and raising and blessing children! It is a magnificent calling!  If you have been called to invest your life in raising Godly children, be affirmed!  It is a magnificent calling.  This is one of the reasons that Marriage Matters so much.   God designed marriage between a husband and a wife to bear and raise children for His glory.

2. But I want everyone to know Having Children Is Not Ultimate or absolute for all marriages.  While the meaning of marriage normally includes giving birth to children, this is not an absolute.

In this fallen, sinful age, in desperate need of knowing Jesus as the savior, nature by itself does not dictate when or whether any of us have children of our own. The decision about whether to conceive children is not ultimately a decision about what is natural, but it is about what will magnify the Lord.

What I mean is that in today’s world there are more important things concerning children than just having them.  I believe there is a correlation between the singleness question and the children question.  Let me explain it this way.

God said in Genesis 2:18,

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

So it sounds, at first, like marriage is always the way to go.

In 1 Corinthians 7:7, The unmarried Paul said:

‘I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind. . . .’

And 1 Corinthians 7:26 he said:

 ‘I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain they are.’

So there are different gifts and different callings. Marriage is not absolute.

So it is with couples having their own kids. In the beginning, God said to mankind, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” That’s normal. That’s good. But it’s not absolute during this time any more than marriage is absolute during this time.

What is absolute is to pursue spiritual children, not just ‘natural’ children. Marriage is not absolutely for making children. But it is absolutely for making children followers of Jesus.

Turn with me to Mark 10:29-30

29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Here, Jesus shifts the absolute from having children biologically to having hundreds of children through the family of Christ and through spiritual influence.

It might include adoption. It might include foster care. It might include making your home a place for children’s back yard Bible Studies. It might include hospitality in a neighborhood where your home is every kid’s favorite place. It might include working in the nursery at church, or your extra investment with your nieces and nephews, or deciding to work a week of camp, or teach a Sunday School class.

The point is: Marriage is not absolutely for making children; but it is absolutely for making children followers of Jesus one way or the other, directly or indirectly.

Romans 9:8, Paul said,

“It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”

In other words, in God’s kingdom, bringing “children of the flesh” into being is not what matters the most, but seeking to bring into being “children of God” is really what matters and giving marriages true meaning.

1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul says,

“Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

This is the most important family in the Christian life, and this is the main way we have children, not by natural birth, but by supernatural birth. For many marriages they go together. But not for all. 

To live forever everyone must be born again, not of flesh, but of the Spirit of the living God. 
Paul is saying,

‘I am your spiritual father because of the seed of God that I planted in your through preaching and teaching.’

 Praise be to God for those parents of children who help birth life eternal through Jesus, not just life here on this earth.

Romans 16:13 speaks of this matter plainly,

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.”

Here is motherhood extending out beyond the ‘son of  birth’ to the ‘son of love and Godly care.’  So, I conclude that among Christians, mothering and fathering by procreation is natural and good and even glorious when Christ is in it. But it is not necessary.  Aiming to bring spiritual children into being is needed. Marriage is for making children. Yes. But not absolutely. Marriage is absolutely for making children followers of Jesus.

Let’s now focus on God’s calling on marriage to be a place for making children followers of Jesus.  As Christians and as a part of the church in Herscher, IL in the year 2011 we must begin to focus more and more on Making our Marriages a Place for Making followers of Jesus out of our kids.

Here’s the text again: Ephesians 6:1-4

Lets examine some key concepts in marriage for turning babies into followers of Jesus.

1.  First of all, both mother and father are called to this ‘together.’  Both are mentioned as the special object of the child’s honor. 

Eph 6:1

Children, obey your parents (mother and father) in the Lord.”

You can hear this truth in

Proverbs 6:20-21:

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck.”

And you recall that Paul reminded Timothy to hold fast to what his mother and grandmother had taught him as a child (2 Timothy 1:5).

So both mother and father bear responsibility in this marriage to bring the children up in the Lord.  It is important that mother and father be united in this effort. It is not always possible because sometimes one spouse is not a believer or one spouse is gone, and then you do the best you can with God’s help.

But God’s design is a united front. Both have one goal: This child is to grow up in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” — grounded and shaped by the Lord, aiming to honor the Lord. God does not design that we be divided on this. The children need one united front coming from mom and dad. Don’t confuse the children. Work through your differences of what to teach, and how and when to discipline, and then stand united before the children. Don’t let the children manipulate you against each other.  Stay united in front of the children.  (Fathers,  don’t say, 'I wouldn’t have done that.')

Ephesians 6:4

2.  Yet, we fathers have a leading responsibility in bringing the children up in the areas of discipline and instruction of the Lord.   Notice that verse 1 says, “Children obey your parents.” Both. Not only father or only mother, but ‘parents.’

But when the focus shifts from the duty of children to the duty of parents, the father is mentioned, not the mother.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 

Fathers have a leading responsibility in bringing up the children in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.

3.  Which leads to the third observation. The most fundamental task of a mother and father is to show God to the children. Children know their parents before they know God. This is a huge responsibility and should cause every parent to be desperate for God-like transformation.

Pray that you become more like Jesus.  Ask Him daily to transform you into the parent you need to be.

Children are absorbing from dad his strength and leadership and protection and justice and love; and they are absorbing from mother her care and nurture and warmth and intimacy and justice and love and, of course, all these overlap.  If we are Godly parents they will have seen a glimpse of His love before they know God.

If you have young children, pray that this is happening.   Before your child knows anything about God they can become aware of what He is like. Will the child be able to recognize God for who he really is in his authority and love and justice because mom and dad have together shown the child what God is like?  The chief task of parenting is to know God for who he is in his many attributes and then to live in such a way with our children that we help them see and know God through us.. And, of course, that will involve directing them always to the perfect portrait of God in the Bible.

Parents, our lives and our marriage will matter most, not when we just make babies, but when the babies that the Lord places in our care are being Pointed to Christ and the Church.

We are the Model for Our Children to See God

So, what turns out to matter more than many other things in marriage is displaying the covenant love between Christ and the church.  Good marriages make good places for children to grow up and see the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love.

May the Lord give us a united focus on what really matters in marriage: Husbands and wives loving like Christ and the church, and the children seeing it, and by God’s grace, loving what they see.