Proof-Texts in Context, Part 11: Marriage and Family

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Proof-Texts in Context, Part 11: Marriage and Family

The eleventh installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #23—Marriage and the Family. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.

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Proverbs 22:6—“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” One of the repeated themes in the early chunk of this chapter is wealth and poverty. In piecing together Solomon’s advice to formulate a bigger picture, my succinct takeaway is that the most worthwhile riches come from trusting God, and doing so will include valuing an upright reputation over material possessions, as well as being generous to the less fortunate, who are just as much His children as the more fortunate are. It makes sense that principles like these are infused into child-rearing.

Malachi 4:5–6—“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers …” Chapter 4 is definitely one of stark contrast. It begins with a somber depiction of apocalyptic upheaval. Those who harbor iniquity will meet a fiery, permanent end. However, there is hope for those who respect the Lord. Though we find the solar spelling, “sun of righteousness” likely refers to the Son of God. Restoration of families is one of the fates of the faithful.

Matthew 19:4–6—“And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female … So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’” A full column could be written regarding the textual proximity of this conversation and Jesus’ preceding parable on forgiveness. With that said, they occurred in two different regions. The Pharisees tried to trap Christ again, but He triumphed as always, declaring unequivocally that God intended marriage to be enduring and perpetual. Divorce was a stubbornness-driven concession. The disciples were stricken by the gravity of nuptial commitment.

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John 2:1–3—“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’” This is the scene where Jesus, in supporting this institution by His attendance, performed His first miracle. In most miracles, we see human and divine efforts combined. In kind, He asked the servants to fill some pots with water. The wine (fresh grape juice) He provided superseded what they had earlier in the celebration, which apparently contradicted the normal order.

1 Corinthians 7:10–11—“But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” Pretty much the entire chapter covers marriage and several issues pertaining to it. There is significant synergy and equitability in Paul’s guidelines. The man and woman must both maintain monogamy and honor the other’s needs, including physical needs. The believing spouses of unbelievers should retain their vows if the latter are cool with it. Staying together, as difficult as it may be, could lead to conversion and benefit any children. The apostle sprinkled recommendations of singlehood throughout the chapter.

Ephesians 5:22, 23, 25—“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The parallelism between husband and wife and Christ and the church is pretty straightforward. The same is true with the corresponding “transactions” or exchanges. Though not explicitly stated, the need for Jesus’ followers to respect Him is obvious, and the expectation is not heavy because He has made Himself exhaustively respectable, especially by demonstrating His sacrificial love. As men enact His example, the love-respect dynamic will be cyclical and symbiotic.

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Hebrews 12:7–8—“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Endurance is one of the load-bearing pillars of the epistle, and some form of the word appears four times in chapter 12 alone. Paul commissioned his readers to imitate the people of faith from the previous chapter, yet recognized that Jesus was the best model of all. He also highlighted some positives that result from parents literally and God figuratively swatting our behinds, then portrayed Esau as a tragic case study of shortsightedness.

Hebrews 13:4—“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Paul had a pattern of concluding his letters with a medley of spiritual counsels. He also prompted the Jewish believers, his direct audience, to welcome strangers, show kindness and empathy to prisoners, be content and not covetous, and mimic the faithfulness of those who introduced them to the gospel. He also reminded them of Christ’s promises to never leave or forsake His people, as well as His constancy.

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In a prior installment, I mentioned the verbal link between Genesis 2:24 and Deuteronomy 6:4. It is reasonable to extrapolate this link from verbal to relational and assert that the oneness between a married man and woman is to echo the oneness between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Zooming out the lens, God intended humanity at large to reflect His image (see Gen. 1:26–27).

The shadow/substance motif is to spill over from matrimony into parenthood. Moms and dads are to cultivate their children as the heavenly Father cultivates each of us. Yes, this involves discipline, correction, and urgency, but even these dimensions are to be bathed in love, compassion, and patience.

It is not a surprise that Satan has made families his primary target, and the crumbling began immediately. At the fall, Adam pointed his finger of blame at his wife. One generation later, Cain pointed his weapon of hatred at his brother. Today, the flustering divorce rate, proliferation of single-parent homes, and, yeah, I’m going to go there, the various manifestations of gender blending and confusion have all but left the Lord’s ideal in shambles.

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Nevertheless, it is the darkest right before the dawn. Christ sealed the victory nearly two millennia ago and will culminate it soon. Through His life, death, burial, and resurrection, He placed the devil on the green mile, ransomed us from sinfulness and annihilation, and warmly welcomed us back into the family of God.

As adopted sons and daughters, we are privileged to have a Brother who stands on our behalf in front of the celestial throne. In the next article, we will investigate Jesus’ priestly ministry and its gospel ramifications.

Click here to read the rest of this series on the Fundamental Beliefs!


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About the author

John Simon

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.