The Spirit Filled Marriage 1: The Spirit Filled Foundation for Marriage
- What Spirit filled is not
- How to be Spirit filled
How can sinners make a marriage work? We can make cars that can reach 0-100 in 3 seconds but our flesh cannot produce pure compassion. We can produce a perfect image in a photograph but we cannot of ourselves produce the image of Christ in us. Here are some American statistics which are often representative of the western world situation. ‘In a little more than three decades, the marriage rate (defined as the number of married adults per thousand) has declined by a third; the divorce rate has more than tripled; the percentage of children living with single parents has more than doubled, with a third of children now living without their biological fathers; the number of unmarried couple households has increased seven-fold; and the number of births to unwed mothers has quintupled.’ Even as Christians who cannot offer the perfect prayer or the perfect act of obedience untainted in some way by sin, how do we make a marriage work? How can we who cannot even keep ourselves out of sin how can we keep our marriages afloat?
The world’s answer to this problem of marriage is to call marriage a redundant and failed institution that should be replaced. Some have decided to keep it but to overhaul it altogether. Tara Parker-Pope a NY Times columnist writes about the ‘me’ marriage.
‘The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counter-intuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first? Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.’ She talks about how a marriage committed to individual ‘self-expansion’ is what will make people commit to a marriage. In other words, you will be committed to marriage as long as you are getting something out of it. Seeing marriage as something for the glory of God, for the purpose of holiness, the stability of society and the making of children has been replaced as marriage for ‘me’.
The trouble with this definition is that when you have two people with their selfish desires as the grounds upon which their marriages proceed you have a perfect recipe for disaster. James 4:1 tells us, ‘What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.’ Our selfishness contrary to the ‘me’ marriage is not the secret ingredient for happiness but the guaranteed ingredient for disaster. How then do sinners succeed at marriage?
Paul gives us God’s solution for the feebleness of our flesh in Ephesians 5:18-21. These verses are bridging verses in the context. They continue to explain how we are to walk wisely in these evil days, a thought begun in v15. However, they are also the foundation for the next section which talks about marriage, parenting and work in 5:22-6:9. Paul lays out for us a number of key foundational stones for marriage in v18-21. He points us to the Spirit filled foundation, the church filled foundation, the gratitude filled foundation, the submission filled foundation and the reverence filled foundation. Then he looks at the roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives. Today we will be considering the necessity of the Spirit as a foundation for marriage to help us overcome the natural sinfulness that ordinarily scuttles our marriages. We want to look at what Spirit filled is not, and how we are to be filled.