By the grace of God, we have repented of our discontent and want to be teachable. We want to hear the word of truth in truth, and make applications according to the Spirit and not according to the letter. And we want to apply whatever we learn to ourselves first, and not to our spouse first.
And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth (Mal. 2:15).
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:20-23)
Malachi tells husbands that they must take heed to their spirits so that they do not deal treacherously with the wife of their youth, their wife by covenant. God made husband and wife, not for a seed, but for a godly seed. And so the oneness between husband and wife must be preserved (2:15).
In His great prayer of John 17, the Lord Jesus is praying for oneness among all believers. Oneness between husband and wife is just one application of this, but it is an important application. First, Jesus prayed for this result, and this means that such a result between believing husband and wife is the will of God (v. 20). Jesus wants believers to be one in the same way that the Father and Son are one, and He wants us to be one by means of participation in their unity (v. 21). The result is a powerful statement of the gospel (v. 21). The glory that the Father gave the Son, the Son has given to believers, so that they might be one (v. 22). Christ is in us, and the Father is in Christ, with the result that we are “made perfect“ in one (v. 23). Again, the world knows from this that the Father sent the Son into the world. And the world also knows that the Father loves believers just as He loves the Son (v. 23).
Indicatives and Imperatives:
The pattern of godliness in Scripture is to build imperatives on the foundation of indicatives. God in His word says this is so. We hear, and believe, and therefore are enabled to reckon in our lives the truth that this is so. We hear, in order to be able to do, by faith alone. Only faith hears this rightly. “You have died to sin in Christ. Therefore, die to sin.“ This is gospel. “Die to sin, and you will therefore die in Christ to sin.“ This false gospel. The gospel is all about what God has done, and what we must therefore do. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13). Work out what God works in, and nothing else.
What God is Not Working In:
Too many Christians read this as saying that God is working in “nice” things, and that therefore we are to work out “nice” things. But this is superficial moralism. We are not told to work out what we think would be pleasant for God to have worked in, had we been consulted. We are told to work out our salvation, for God is working in us to will and to do for His good pleasure. This transcends the nature of a spiritual backrub.
What God is Working In:
We should remember that these truths are for all believers, and not just for married couples. But given what Scripture teaches us about marriage, the gospel, and oneness, we know that all these general truths can be manifested in marriage first, and in a heightened way. Where do we showcase this? Where is it manifested most clearly? Clearly in marriage, as will be made even more evident when we talk about the Incarnation.
God is “working in“ Trinitarian realities. He is working in Himself. He is our salvation, and He is triune. So what does this mean in marriage? Please remember, again, that this message is not telling you what you ought to be working in. This is what God is doing in you, whether you ever heard a sermon like this or not. I am urging you to stop fighting it, and exhorting you to gladly embrace what God is doing anyway. He is doing it. Just come along quietly. Work it out.
We are to understand what God is already doing, and then to live accordingly. In the married state, we are to indwell one another, as the Father indwells the Son, and the Son the Father (v. 21). We are to bring the world to faith this way. There are few apologetic tools as potent as Christian marriage. Husbands are to bestow glory on their wives, and wives are to render glory to their husbands (v. 22). Why exchange glory? In order to be one. And as the Father loves the Son, and has loved us, so husbands and wives love one another (v. 23). We will pursue this further in a subsequent message, but this is Trinitarian imitation—but never from a distance.