Marriage – An institution?

Wedding Proposal

Marriage is often described as an institution, even a great institution, ordained by God. Poppycock. An institution is somewhere they send you once the straight jacket is on. That statement itself might strike a chord with some, especially the straight jacket bit, as that is how many people view marriage. As soon as they get that ring on your finger, they’ll have you in a straight jacket, you son’s be able to move without permission.

Well I have news, marriage is not an institution, it is a relationship. Admittedly, it not always easy, sometimes it needs working at, often it is quite difficult. But at the end of the day, it is a relationship. It is not a place for control, ego or selfishness, especially if a Christian marriage, it is not even about give and take. It is about give, give and give some more.

But, what does the bible have to say on the subject?

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 7) starts us off well by saying: “A man does well not to marry. and some would agree, but he was not saying it for that reason. He believed that Christ should be central to our being and that marriage might be a diversion. He went on to say in the next few verses 2 But because there is so much immorality, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband. 3 A man should fulfil his duty as a husband, and a woman should fulfil her duty as a wife, and each should satisfy the other’s needs. 4 A wife is not the master of her own body, but her husband is; in the same way a husband is not the master of his own body, but his wife is.” – Men, please take note of the second part of the last verse!

Now there are some interesting statements which show relationship. Firstly, every one should have their own spouse and not someone else’s. But more interesting is the equality that Paul suggests in the following verses, no suggestion of the man lauding it over the woman, or vice versa I might add. Men often seem to cling on to the “head of the household” notion when they talk of marriage. But Paul is not suggesting this. Even in his letter to the Ephesians where there is the much misquoted verses 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. The word “submit” is not there in the original Greek. As for being head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, that too is misread to man’s advantage. We omit the next bit! 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Read and reflect. Love your wife as Christ loved you, and that meant dying for you. Would you lay down your life for your wife? Note however, the favour is not returned, no where does it say wives love your husbands enough to die for them. Later in the same section we get 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Again the emphasis is on the husband doing the running and doing the loving, what do we get in return? Respect!

Christ is God, God is Spirit, in heaven there is no pecking order, God is not in charge of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not the third part of the trinity in rank. God the father is not Colonel in chief and Christ his lieutenant. They are in an equal relationship because there is only one God. Jesus does not have his own agenda, the Spirit does not go and do his or her own thing, they are one and the same and beyond our comprehension. This is how it should be in marriage, the bible says that when a man marries a woman they also become one. Equal partners? No, not at all, a partnership is still made up of more than one, The Trinity is not a partnership. Marriage is not a partnership. It is a however a relationship where each delight in the other person. Expectancy rather than expectations, which is different from expecting something from the other. God does not have any expectations from us, only the excitement of expectancy. Marriage is very much like our relationship with God. We are often told to put God first, above all other things. Well I do not believe that is the way our Father sees it at all. God wants to be at the centre of our lives, not on top of us like a big boss, remote and frightening. He does not want to be the first amongst a list of values, but the centre of everything. It is the same with a marriage. It should be a central facet of our joint existence, not a hierarchical system. Then it will work.

But what if it doesn’t?

Paul says, 10 For married people I have a command which is not my own but the Lord’s: a wife must not leave her husband; 11 but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife.” (Corinthians 7:10,11: see also Matthew 5:32 ; 19:9 ; Mark 10:11 , 12 ; Luke 16:18 .)

Jesus is especially blunt on the subject in Mark Ch10, where he says “He said to them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. 12 In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery.” Now there is a couple of verses and a subject you don’t hear preached on. But that might be a subject for another time……

Remember: 21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Isaiah 9 vs 6 – 7

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. [1]

Only four verses later and a complete change of mood, an earth shattering, life changing announcement, a prophesy which, once fulfilled would turn upside down everything which was religious in the Middle East and spread across the world even until today.

“For unto us a child is born” Not just any baby is spoken of here, this announces the birth of a very special infant, these words of Isaiah announced the birth of the saviour, Jesus Christ. Isaiah of course had no idea who this baby was, would be and would become. He had no inkling of the significance of this prophecy. Isaiah would not find out the implication of this or any of his words until after he had died and met with God face to face. What a shock it must have been to Isaiah when he asked God to whom he referred in these verses. “Hey God, what did you mean by ‘Unto us a son is given’? Whose son you talking about|?” “Well, mine of course” said God. Mind blowing or what.

This child was to change the world in ways Isaiah could not imagine, this child has changed the world in ways we cannot comprehend, this child will continue to change the world in ways no man can envisage.

“And the government shall be upon His shoulders” This is quite a strange phrase for today, what does he mean by government? Thousands of politicians, ministers, local councillors and civil servants sitting on Jesus’ shoulders? No, don’t be silly. What Jesus did take upon his shoulders was his cross, Now Isaiah also said in chapter 22 verse 22, And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open [2]. Now the key of David is the key to the Kingdom, which means that the cross is the key to the Kingdom. So where does government come into it? See also Revelation 3 verse 7, He that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;[3] This is almost identical to what Isaiah said, except this is Jesus talking. He is saying that he cross is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus carried the cross on His shoulders. “What has this to do with government?” I hear you shout. “Get to the point” you cry. Jesus had which or what government on His shoulders? Through His death on the cross, Christ defeated Satan, defeated evil, defeated death itself. Up until that time, Satan and his evil cohorts had reign to govern the world, until that time Satan was undefeated, the prince of this world. Satan’s was the government that Christ bore on his shoulders at Calvary that first Easter. Christ bore all the sin of the world on the cross. Now consider again the cross, think again on the suffering of Christ, the humiliation, pain and grief. Christ should now govern your life, not sin. As Christians, we are crucified dead with Him, buried with Him, resurrected with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places. I’ll explain that one later.

Now for the best bit of this verse. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. When I read this, and I often do, I always put in another “wonderful”, try it out loud, read it slowly, prayerfully savouring every word, and smile when you read it, smile on the inside and smile on the outside. “And His name shall be called wonderful,……….. Wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Now this is a real praise verse, one to be included in your prayers of thanksgiving.

Taking this literally one superlative at a time, the Hebrew word for wonderful is Pala, and Pala means to be marvellous, be wonderful, be surpassing, be extraordinary, to be separate by distinguishing action[4] This is a great description of Jesus as he is the most marvellous and wonderful person we can ever know. He surpasses all others in every way we can possibly imagine, He is extra ordinary in every way and oh so separate from mortal man by all that he has done, a man set apart by God his father to do the will of the father. And yet, still, He was a man, but a man, a wonderful man.

Counsellor. Funny word this, what a way to describe God. Look it up in an English Thesaurus and it gives you therapist, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, analyst, or shrink. The Hebrew lexicon gives: to advise, consult, give counsel, counsel, purpose, devise, plan[5]. Let’s face it, there are not to my knowledge and hymns or songs which go, “My Jesus, my therapist” or “What a shrink we have in Jesus”

But it is true, He is all of these things, “What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins, and grief to bear, What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer”. That is why he is called Counsellor, he is the ultimate psychotherapist, the top Harley Street shrink, the great Citizens Advice Bureau in the sky . Take your troubles to Jesus, tell him all about them, pour out your grief and woes upon him and through the Holy Spirit, answers will come.

Wonderful Counsellor. The first words used to describe this Son have usually been separated in the English Bibles to form two words. But Isaiah himself joins these two terms together in Isaiah 28:29. So probably, as with the other titles, the one word enhances the other—he is a wonder of a counsellor.

The Mighty God, The everlasting Father. Isaiah is talking about Jesus, who is God, mighty God and through the trinity is also the everlasting father and at the same time the Holy Spirit. A difficult concept to imagine, being three different entities whist being one single individual all at the same time. But man is also a triune being, a subject we also cover later as well as the trinity of God.

The Everlasting Father. Fairly self-explanatory. God is everlasting, He always has been. He always will be. But, I hear you cry, I thought this prophesy was all about Jesus, not the Father. Confusion reigns, but this shows up in a couple of other prophecies. In Isaiah 48:15-16 the God is speaking and says, “I, even I, have spoken; Yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper. Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me. The statements of Jesus confirm the fact that the “Son” who is given is also known as the Father. Jesus said, “I am not of this world” (John 8:23), “I came in My Father’s name” (John 5:43), and finally, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). So Jesus is the expressed image of the Father, the Sovereign king-maker. By taking this title, Everlasting Father, the Messiah is to be known as the One who is the sovereign Lord over the ever changing years—he produces and directs eternity. Such a name belongs to a god, not just any divine creature or spiritual being, but to the God.

The Prince of Peace. This last title means that the Messiah will be one who ensures for his people have peace. He will be a prince who brings peace.


[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 . Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA
[2]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 . Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA
[3]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 . Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA
[4]Hebrew Dictionary
[5] Hebrew Dictionary