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God's Design...(The Role of the Husband)

Written by: MacArthur Jr., John    Posted on: 04/01/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California, by John MacArthur Jr.  It was transcribed from the tape, GTY-43, titled "God's Design for a Successful Marriage" (Side 2) "The Role of the Husband."  A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55- GRACE.

I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the original tape was made.  Please note that at times sentence structure may appear to vary from accepted English conventions.  This is due primarily to the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in placing the correct punctuation in the article.

It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription to strengthen and encourage the true Church of Jesus Christ.                                         Tony Capoccia



                  God's Design for a Successful Marriage                           (The Role of the Husband)                               Copyright 1979                                     by                           John F. MacArthur, Jr.                             All rights reserved.

This morning we continue our study of the Book of Ephesians, a study that has gone on now for many months, and we are in the fifth chapter, and so I invite you to look with me at that chapter. 

The great General Montgomery said to his very young troops one day these profound words, "Gentlemen, don't even think about marriage until you have mastered the art of warfare."  Some of you are saying, "I can relate to that!" 

Why is marriage such a potentiated warfare?  Why does it seem to be so tough to have a really meaningful relationship with somebody?  You know, life is about relationships--isn't it?  And the most needful relationship is that one that occurs between a man and a woman in a marriage, and yet the fulfillment of it is so elusive.  Having a meaningful, lasting relationship with somebody that gets better, and that gets richer, and more fulfilling, is just very, very, rare.  In fact, we look at marriage, and whenever we see marriage portrayed it's usually a fighting, unfaithful, discontented, bitter kind of wrangling thing that ends up in separation, divorce, and so forth.

Well, there is a reason for this.  There is a reason that marriage is diffi cult.  There is a reason that people in our world cannot make meaningful relationships.  For the most part, it is hard for them to make meaningful relationships at any level, but when it comes into a marital situation it becomes all the more difficult.  And the reason is very clear: I want us to go back to where we ended last time, the first three chapters of Genesis, and I want to show you why marriage is such a difficult  thing.  I admit it--it is difficult. 

Let's look back at Genesis 2:18-25, and get a good sight on God's design for marriage, and then we will see why this thing became so warped and perverted and has caused the marriage relationship so much pain.  Now, in the Book of Genesis we have the story of the creation, God's creation of man being the summation of creation.  We find, as we come to 2:18, that man has already been created but God is not done yet,

              And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man               should be alone.  I will make him an help fit for him               (or better "a suitable helper.").  And out of the ground               the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every               fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what               he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every               living creature, that was the name thereof.  And Adam               gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air,               and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was               not found a suitable helper.

Now, you notice in that, that from the very beginning, God designed someone to be in charge, and someone to help.  Someone to be, as it were, "authority," and someone to be "submission." Someone to be the leader and someone to be the follower.  Someone to take care of the provision and some one to be provided for.  And from the very beginning the man had the role of the headship, and the woman had the role of the one for whom that headship was provided.  The man was the one who protected, provided, preserved, and cared for the woman who was "a fitting," or "suitable helper" for him.  "The LORD God (then desiring to give this to man, verse 21), caused a deep sleep (a divine anesthetic) to fall on Adam, and he slept: then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."

Now, God then provides this suitable helper; the one to aid Adam as he rules for God in the pure and undefiled world of creation.  Adam meets his wife in verse 23, and Adam's comment is this,

              This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she               shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.                Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother,               and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one               flesh.  And they were both naked, the man and his wife,               and were not ashamed.

Now, here is a marvelously perfect relationship.  Adam had no problem accept ing her, even though he had just met her.  Since there was no sin, there was no selfishness.  There was no criteria on which to negatively evaluate her because there was no such thought, and so instantly he says, "She is in every sense one with me: bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh."  "And they too," says God, "Shall be one flesh."  And they were naked, and man and wife and there was no shame.  Why?  Because there was no such thing as an evil thought; there was no such thing as  a perverse sexual attitude, and so their nakedness was absolutely innocent.  It was absolutely beautiful.  It was as wondrous as the uniqueness of the relationship in and of itself.

So, that's God's design: an incredible union.  Yes, there is a leader, and yes, there is one who follows the lead.  Yes, there is one who has oversight and responsibility, and yes, there is one who is under that responsibility.  But at the same time, all of that is so beautifully blended in oneness, that you really don't see that.  You see, "bone of my bone; flesh of my flesh; taken out of me to be one flesh with me."  There is this glorious oneness in the union.  The woman's submissiveness is willing and beautiful; the man's provision is willing and beautiful, so there is no animosity, there is no struggle, there is no fighting, there is nothing but a perfectly glorious union.

Backing up to chapter 1, verse 27, again we read a briefer account which was introducing the broader one of chapter 2, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."  Now to show you the unity, "God blessed them, and God said  unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food."  And when God was done with all this wonderful thing, verse 31, He said, "Behold, it was very good."

Now listen, when God gave Adam a helper in chapter 2, the union was so won derful and so blessed, and so bound together in love that when you go back to chapter 1, it's described as "them" being fruitful and multiplying, "them" filling the earth, "them" subduing it, and "them" having dominion.  There is a co-regency here.  It doesn't deny the man's place and the woman's place; it just simply shows that it can exist in such an incredible oneness, such an undefiled manner, that there is nothing really seen but how they work togeth er--"they two" literally becoming one flesh.

Now, God's design for marriage is very simple:

1.  To Propagate Children

It was to propagate children.  We find that, don't we, right here where it says, "be fruitful and multiply." 

2.  To Eliminate Solitude

It was basically to eliminate solitude.  Genesis 2:8, "It is not good for man to be alone."

3.  To Have Physical Fulfillment

It was for his [and hers] physical fulfillment.  1 Corinthians, chapter 7 says that God has designed each man to have his own wife in order to fulfill physical desire.

4.  To Have Joy.

God designed marriage just to be a situation where you could have joy--pure joy.  Just the fun and the thrill of being married, and the thrill of having a sexual physical relationship.  In fact, Hebrews 13 says, "Let the bed be undefiled."  In other words, God has provided this, and the Bible lifts up the wonder and the virtue of that physical relationship.  Genesis 26:6-9 shows Jacob, and it says that "Jacob was sporting with his wife."  That's the first sport we find anything about in the Bible!  We just want you to know that that is in God's design, part of the wonder and beauty of this "two becoming one flesh."

So God made this beautiful relationship where woman, who was to be the help er, was wonderfully supportive to man; man who was to be the head, was won derfully loving to woman.  Her submission was willing, his love was wonder fully dominating and so the union was beautiful.  But something awful hap pened in chapter 3.  We don't know how the solicitation to evil ever entered into Eve's mind, but we don't believe that it could be internal because she was pure on the inside--it came externally, as best as we can know.  The serpent approaches Eve, and the serpent attacks in a very vulnerable way--he by-passes the headship of man--he goes right to the one who is by nature the follower, one who is by nature the weaker vessel, as it were.  He approaches woman, rather than man, because he feels he'll have a better audience.  He begins to track her down to the place where he provides for her an enticement to do the one thing God told them not to do: "Eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." 

Of course, you remember, that she did eat (verse 6, at the end), she took the fruit "and did eat, and gave unto her husband."  Of course, right here, immediately in the fall is the reversal of the role--the woman has usurped the leadership, and the man has fallen to be a follower.  The twisting of God's whole design occurred at the moment of temptation, and from then on that was the defiling of marriage.  If you want to know why marriage is tough, its because there has been since that act, a flipping of the roles; a failure to recognize the way God has designed it.  And God, as it were, put that in concrete, when He gave the curse in chapter 3. 

Let's go to chapter 3 and watch.  Verse 14, God talks about the curse that comes because of this sin, "And the LORD God said unto the serpent, 'Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life."  So even the animal was cursed, even the snake itself.  Then He goes behind the snake to Satan, who was in that snake, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between  thy seed (that is the evil spawnings of Satan) and her seed (and of course that has in mind ulti mately Christ); He shall bruise thy head, and you'll only be able to bruise His heel."

The curse on the snake: crawl in the dirt The curse on Satan: ultimately your head is to be crushed by Christ

Then He turns to the woman in verse 16, and the curse comes there, "To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow in thy conception."  The wonderful reality of bearing children, the glorious anticipation and joy, and hope, of having that child will be somewhat mitigated by the pain and anguish that it is going to cause when that child is born. 

Additionally, "Thy desire shall be to control thy husband, but he shall rule over thee."  And here we find something completely reversed: man is going to now rule over woman.  Woman in going to now seek to rule over man.  We went into that text in detail last time to show you that's what it is saying.  Here you find (people listen), the most basic things in human life are cursed: child-bearing and marriage, having children and living together.

Then one other area, "To the man Adam he said, Because you have hearkened to the voice of your wife, and eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake."  It's even going to be tough to get food.  "In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."  And one other thing God said to them, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely . . . ."  What?  "Die!" 

Pain in childbirth, problem in the home, difficulty in getting food, and death, are all a result of the sin in the garden.  And when Adam sinned, his death and his sin passed on all men, says Romans, chapter 5, for in Adam we all died, and in Adam we all sinned.  The race itself was cursed. 

Now, you look at human society today and nobody will deny the pain of child birth, and nobody will deny that there are weeds growing in the ground, and nobody will deny that it is difficult for an individual to earn a living and to provide for his family: he must labor and he must work.  But, people don't seem to want to admit that the reason there is conflict in marriage is be cause there is a total reversal of roles that came about in the sin in the beginning and God sort of put it in cement, and the whole human race is cursed to have to try to make a family when a woman will seek to usurp the lead, and the man will rule despotically.  If you want to know why we have Women's Lib movements, it's because  the curse has kept that particular depraved reality in existence in the human history.  In other words, women will seek to rule.  And the reason we have  oppression from men, and the reason men seek to rule over women is because it is the curse of sin that causes that.

Yes, there is chauvinism, no question about it.  The world is full of male chauvinists, they have been around all throughout human history, and that's part of the curse of sin.  And yes there are women who seek to usurp--that's the curse of sin, we know that, and we don't advocate either one, both are simply manifestations of depravity, manifestations of fallenness, manifesta tions of the curse. 

So beloved, you see, there are two things needful if you are going to have a marriage that works:

1.  A woman has got to go back to that place of that beautiful submission she knew before the "fall," and a man has got to go back to the place where his commitment is simply, in love, to take that woman as if she were one with him, and render to her every single thing that he would do for himself.  In other words, we need to go back again where women are characterized by sub mission and men are characterized by sacrificial love, just like it was before the "fall."  Do you want to know why we have got problems in marriage?  Because we have got a cursed marriage to start with.  We are dealing with two sinful people, and depravity will manifest itself in the woman by seeking to overrule the man, and the man by crushing the woman without love--and we have that in our society today. 

Husbands don't love their wives: they didn't in Jesus' time; they didn't in the Book of Genesis after the "fall."  It is not natural--it's unnatural.  It's natural to love yourself, if we are talking about what is human nature.  It's natural to be self-consumed, self-preoccupied, self-absorbed, and as long as you are like that, you can't give yourself in love to somebody else.  And men in our society today are no different than they have been in the past: they suppress women; they crush women down; they make them into nothing but sex objects, and the women have been abused.  There is no question about that in my mind: men fulfill their part of the curse too.  We see a stream of filthy proliferation of pornography, magazines, and dirty movies, and all of that stuff which make women into something like an animal, of which there is no other function than to fulfill the sexual prowess of the man.  That's wrong!  That makes the woman into something far less than God ever intended her to be. 

Yes, men have oppressed women--there is no question about it, and women have sought to override the bounds of their God-given design.  But listen people--we can't expect anything different.  Why?  Because that's the legacy of sin, and all we are saying to the world today, all that this pulpit is ever saying, and all that is ever coming out of the Bible is this: Look, it doesn't have to be that way!  You don't have to have women's rights movements which go beyond the bounds.  You don't have to have macho-male chauvinism which goes way beyond the bounds!  You can  have a right relationship where a woman is lifted up and exalted and allowed to be all that God had ever in tended her to be, and where a man knows how it is that he is to invest his life to provide for and to love that woman, so there is a marvelous co- regency in life that fulfills every need of the human heart--that's all we are saying.  Anybody who doesn't want that doesn't want something that's awful good.

So you have got a problem in marriage from the beginning.  Do you know why it is tough to make your marriage work?  Because it's cursed--that's why. 

Now, if that isn't bad enough, Satan starts taking shots at marriage too!  So you add to the basic curse in the human nature, you add what Satan does and you are going to have problems.  Look what Satan does immediately; look at Genesis with me: as soon as sin enters the world, Satan begins to attack marriage.  He is going to force marriage to dissolve.  He is going to crush it as best he can, because he knows that it is the only hope of right human relations.  He is going to devastate the world  by destroying relationships at their most important level in the home.  Immediately, you come to chapter four and what happens?  Verse 23, "Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah "(he had wives from A to Z).  Lamech, what are you doing with two wives?  Genesis 3: the "fall," Genesis 4: polygamy!  Immediately the prosti tution of the divine standard "They two shall be one flesh."  That's always been God's standard; immediately he [Satan] introduces polygamy. 

Now, that's not enough; we go to chapter 9 and Satan is still at it trying to corrupt the wonderful union of marriage.  In chapter 9, verse 20, "Noah began to be a farmer, planted a vineyard, drank the wine, became drunk and was uncovered within his tent."  Now, we don't know specifically what he was doing in there, but he was naked in there, "Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father," and the implications is that he really looked at it for a while.  "And then he went and told his two brothers outside."  And here we have introduced for the first time, evil sexual thoughts, and words. 

You know, we said that before the "fall," "Adam and Eve were naked and they were not ashamed."  Why?  Because there were no evil thoughts; there could be no perversion of anything.  But immediately after they had fallen in sin, what was the first thing that they ran out and did?  They ran out and found something to cover themselves up because they were naked and they were ashamed.  Why?  Because immediately when sin entered, evil thoughts became a reality--perversion became a possibility, and here we find it.

Now, I don't know what went on, but I know that Shem and Japheth knew better than to do what Ham did, they took a garment and laid it on their shoulders; and they went in backwards so they wouldn't even see their father, and in backwards stance, covered the nakedness of their father.  And they never saw their  father's nakedness.  In the next text it says that and because of that God cursed Ham and He blessed Shem and Japheth.

Satan introduces polygamy in chapter 4, and evil, sexual thoughts in chapter 9.  In chapter 16 he introduces adultery.  God says to Abraham, "Abraham, you are going to have a child; you are going to have a son, and that son is going to be the beginning of the prodigy of a race of people, through whom will come the great deliverer of the world."  God gives this promise to Abraham (at this time called Abram) who doesn't have a son.  And he says to Sarah, "We can't have any children.  Sarah, What are we going to do?" And Sarah says, in 16:2,

            Behold now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing: I             pray thee, go in to my maid; it may be that I may obtain             children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of             Sarah.  And Sarah Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the             Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of             Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.              And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when             she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised             in her eyes.

This is adultery!  Sexual relationship with someone outside your marriage.  Another way to destroy a marriage.  It wasn't long after this that you come to the 19th chapter of Genesis and you meet homosexuality.  Satan has already introduced polygamy, evil sexual thoughts, dirty words (the words that Ham no doubt spoke to his brothers), adultery, and now homosexuality.  In chapter 19, two angels, in the appearance of  a man, came to visit Lot.  Verse 4, "The men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young"  They said, unto Lot (in verse 5) 'Where are the men who came unto thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them."  And the word "know" is loaded with meaning: it means to have a sexual relation ship with them.  And Lot said, "do not so wickedly (in verse 7)."  And the angels  actually went out and struck them blind, and all that did was to make it harder for them to find the door.  They kept beating on the door even though they were blind, and God finally sent fire and brimstone, and de stroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now listen, it is tough enough to make a marriage work with a curse; you add to that appeal of polygamy, the appeal of evil sexual thoughts and words, adultery, homosexuality, and it's getting tougher all the time. 

Go to chapter 34.  In chapter 34 of the Book of Genesis, Satan isn't through and another thing introduces itself into human life and this is fornication--sexual relationships apart from marriage.  "And Dinah the daugh ter of Leah, whom she bore unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her."  Here you have fornication and you also have rape--very possibly.  Now  notice how Satan is just corrupting the human stream in a rapid fire succession.  We aren't even out of the first Book of the Bible; we got polygamy, evil sex thoughts, evil sexual words, adultery, homosexuality, fornication, and very possibly rape.

Go to chapter 38 and you find incest--sexual relationship within a family.  Verse 13, to make a long story short, "It was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father-in-law goes up to Timnath to shear his sheep.  And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place."  And that's the way prostitutes did--this is not only incest--it is prostitution as well.  And she sat there waiting for him to come.  Verse 15,

        When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot, because         she had covered her face.  He turned unto her by the way, and         said, Come, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he         knew not that she was his daughter-in-law.) And she said,         What wilt thou give me, (in other words, she had a price)?          He said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said,         Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?  And he said,         What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and         thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.

To show you how really bad off he was, "he gave them to her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him."  Prostitution, solicitation, harlotry, and incest, all in one situation.  And in verse 24 it says, "Tamar played the prostitute."

In chapter 39, you find Joseph in Potiphar's house, and you find an illustra tion of evil seduction.  We will stop right there.  That's about as much as my mind can handle.  Now, listen to me people, do you want to know why mar riage is tough?  Do you want to know why there are so many divorces, so many miserable people, so many unhappy relationships?  Because to start with, the whole sin thing that started in the garden was the woman taking the place of the man, in acting independently with Satan, and the man falling submissively to the woman in sin.  God locked that thing into chains, as it were, and since that time the woman always, by her sinful nature desires to rule a man, and the man tends to despotically dominate the woman.  Add to that the im pulses of polygamy, evil thoughts, evil words, adultery, homosexuality, fornication, rape, unequal yokes (such as in the case of Dinah and Shechem again), incest, prostitution, seduction, and you've got trouble trying to make a marriage.

If that isn't bad enough, then live in a society that extols all of that stuff as virtuous, because that's what our society does.  You find somebody who is a virgin, or somebody who is totally committed to their wife, and they become the object of humor in this society.  To our society,  polygamy, and evil thoughts and words, and rotten filthy language. . . .it's getting now so on  television you can hardly stand to turn the thing on.  Adultery, homosex uality, fornication, unequal yokes, incest, prostitution--that's stuff for comedy shows, that's the stuff we are all supposed to buy.  Now, you tell me this: it would be tough enough to try to make a marriage work under the curse if you believed that it was right to do it God's way, but imagine what it's like to make a marriage work when you are cursed to start with and then everything your society tells you is, "God's way is wrong and this is the way to really live it up!"  And people it is tough living the godly life in this evil generation.  It's tough living in the midst of a perverse nation and getting your act together in your home--believe me!  The only people who do it, are the people who:

1.  Know the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1-3).

2.  Are filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Apart from that you have no more hope of making your marriage work than Ponce de Leon did of finding the "Fountain of  Youth" or anybody else does in finding the "Pot of Gold" at the end of a rainbow--it'll never happen.  Our society denies the reality and throws the fantasy in front of us.  And I really believe that this is Satan's primary attack, because at the heart of all meaningful human relationships is that marriage.  If you can't make that work, [then] everything else is miserable--everything!  The curse hit us at the base of our most needed relationship: "It's not good for man to be alone!"  Man desperately needs a helper; man desperately needs someone with whom he can fulfill his deep drives and needs physically; man needs somebody who can be his friend.  And so Satan smashes man at the very core of his greatest need, and it's impossible for him to even work

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