Love Unconditionally to Keep the Marriage Covenant

I heard about a woman who was diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Her doctor told her she cannot bear a baby. When her boyfriend, who was a pastor, heard about it, he left her. She was devastated.

Today, she has four children and still living. Her ex-boyfriend, the pastor, is now dead.

Is that what love is? You love her only for what you can get from her? You love her for her usefulness? What if she becomes useless to you?

But that is the point of marriage. The point of marriage is to love each other unconditionally, so as to keep the covenant.

The time will come when he no longer arouses you. The time will come when she no longer attracts you. The time will come when he or she offends you. But then you will love each other, not because she serves your needs, but because you love her unconditionally, so as to keep the covenant.

Let me close by sharing with you these profound words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote this marriage sermon for his niece and her husband in a prison cell in 1943 in Nazi Germany.

In a word, live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.[1]

Let us pray.

[1] Lutheran Weddings, “A wedding sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Cited January 8, 2013. Online:


Marriage is a Covenant, and Not Just a Piece of Paper

Therefore, God’s Word says, a man shall “leave” his parents and “cleave” to his wife and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24). I’d like to emphasize that the words, “leave,” and “cleave,” are words used in the context of the covenant with the LORD. When Israel leaves the LORD, she is unfaithful to her covenant with Yahweh. When she clings to the LORD, she is faithful to her covenant (Deut. 28:20; Hos. 4:10). Marriage, then, as God has willed it, is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman.[1]

Now this covenant relationship is to be indissoluble. It is to be permanent and binding. It is to be indissoluble, unbreakable, and indestructible. God shall make it so. Jesus confirms the unbreakability of marriage by saying, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Therefore, marriage is not about keeping in love. It is keeping the covenant. Your duty, Dandin, and your duty April, is to keep the covenant. That is what God commands you to do.

Now when you “leave” your parents and “cling” to your wife or husband, it means that all other loyalties are superseded. All other loyalties take second priority. Your marriage takes priority over other loyalties—whether it is loyalty to your parents, your family, or your friends.

Dandin, your priority is your wife, not your mother or father. April, your priority is your husband, not your friends and family. That is how you keep the covenant.

Today, selfishness and adultery are destroying marriages. Flee from all appearance of evil. Marriage means that you will no longer look at other women. You will only look at one woman. That is how you keep the covenant.

[1] Matthews, Genesis, 222.

God Has Given You to Each Other

Third, God has given you to each other. Last three verses in Gen. 2:22- 24,

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Just a while ago, April’s father, Felix, was holding his daughter down the aisle. Then he gave her away to the groom. It was only last Sunday that Felix had his blood pressure shoot up. I’m not sure why his blood pressure went up. I think it is because of one of two things. Either it was because he was tired driving or because his daughter will soon get married. (I remember my father-in-law had a stroke a few months before his daughter married me.)

Note what God the Matchmaker did in the first marriage. God brought Eve to the man.

How did Adam react? He was ecstatic. How do I know? It’s in the Hebrew words, zō˒t happa˓am, which means, “this at last!” Adam was saying excitedly, “At last, here is one of my own kind. Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

Dandin and April, God knows exactly what you need. You need each other. Because you need each other, God gives you each other.

God Has Made You Different From Each Other

God made you for each other. But God has also made you different from each other. Gen. 2:21-22 tells us, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman.” (ESV)

Notice that the woman is a totally different creation. Adam was created from the ground. But Eve is created from the flesh of Adam. Adam is a man. But Eve is a woman.

And what is a woman? A woman is more beautiful than a man. A woman has beautiful eyes, a beautiful mouth, a beautiful body.

For many years now, I’ve been wondering why a woman walks with a sway. Men do not walk with a sway. No matter how some gay men would like to walk like a woman, they just couldn’t copy it exactly. Only a woman can walk like a woman. That is how God made them.

Martin Luther thought that Adam was stronger than a lion. Adam’s eyesight was sharper than an eagle’s. His knowledge far exceeded the brains of all the animals in the garden.

How about Eve? Luther rightly thought that Eve must have been as strong as Adam. Eve must have been as fast as Adam. Eve must have been as knowledgeable as Adam.

But she is different from Adam. She excelled Adam in beauty and grace.[1]

Dandin, there is one thing that I have learned in my 23 years of marriage. After 23 years of marriage, I have learned that my wife’s favorite word is, “shopping.”

You cannot change your wife to be the kind of person you want her to be. You just cannot put your wife or husband in a box.

Now if you cannot change her, she also cannot change you. So what do you do to her? Allow her to be herself. Love her. Accept her. Enjoy her. Forgive her. Let her grow with you. Let her grow apart from you. Hold her. Hug her. Tell her how much you love her. Then you will have heaven on earth together.

[1] James Boice, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 109.

The Wife As “Helper” of the Husband

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18, ESV)

Some men have misunderstood the word, “helper.” They have treated their wives as, literally, helpers. However, that is not what the word means in the context of Genesis 2. In the context of Genesis 2, Eve, the helper, does not act as a servant or maid to Adam. Adam did not treat her like the animals that worked for him.

Rather, Eve is a helper to Adam, in the sense that she is the answer to the loneliness of Adam. Adam’s loneliness is not good. Then God created Eve. Eve, then, fills up the vacuum of Adam’s loneliness. In other words, Eve will help Adam, in that she will complete what is lacking in Adam.[1]

Dandin, remember this—April will complete what is lacking in you.

Now God said that he will make “a helper fit for him.” This helper of Adam shall be “suitable for him.” The Hebrew construction, keneged, literally reads, “like what is in front of him” (BDB) or “as that which corresponds to him.” (TWOT). Thus, Eve is “fit” or “suitable” for Adam, in the sense that Eve shall correspond to Adam.

The woman shall be like him, corresponding to him. She shall be equal to Adam bodily. Yet her bodily features shall correspond to him. She shall be equal as a person to Adam. She shall bear the same image of God of Adam.

Dandin, April shall correspond to you. She does not only complete you. She corresponds to you. She bares the image of God. She is equal to you. She matches you.

Gary Bruland tells of the report of Robert and Jeanette Lauer in the journal, Psychology Today. They write about long-term satisfaction in marriage. They say that couples in lasting marriages know each other. They like each other. They are best friends. They talk to each other. They do things together.[2]

Dandin and April, you are made equally for each other. Know each other. Like each other. Share life together. Do things together. Become the best of friends. That’s what God wants you to do.

[1] Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26 (NAC; ed. E. Ray Clendenen; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 214.

[2] Lauer, Jeanette and Lauer, Robert. “Marriages Made to Last,” Psychology Today, 19(6), 24; in Bruland, “Marriage,” Online:

God the Matchmaker: A Wedding Sermon

I delivered this message during the wedding of a beautiful couple–Dandin and April, last Jan. 8, 2012, at Amara, Liloan, Cebu.

marriageThere is a wedding invitation ad that read – “Marriages are made in heaven. But we make the invitations here.” Yet in the book of Genesis, the first marriage was made on earth. What makes the marriage of Adam and Eve, heavenly, however, is that their earthly marriage was made by the God of heaven. What makes your earthly marriage, heavenly, therefore, is that the God of heaven establishes your marriage.

God is the original Matchmaker. In Genesis 2, we discover three acts of God in your marriage.[1] First, God has made you for each other. Gen. 2:18 tells us, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (ESV)

April, during our premarital counseling, you said, “he’s the one.” In Cebuano, you said, “Sya na gyud.” I like those words. They are words of certainty.

Well, God has made you for each other. God said that it is not good for a man to be alone. In the Hebrew, it is emphatic. The words, “not good,” are at the beginning of the sentence. “Not good” is a lonely man, God said.

So God makes a plan of action, saying, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” Note the first role of God in marriage. He provides a helper.

Dandin, God has made April for you.

[1] Gary Bruland, “Marriage: Friends and Lovers (Genesis 2:18-24),” Preaching. Cited January 7, 2013. Online:

A Short Wedding Sermon for a Long Happy Married Life

I shared this message, with some minor corrections, on the wedding day of Bruce and Bing Ceniza, last May 21, 2012, at the beautiful beachfront of Costabella Resort, Mactan, Cebu.

Bruce and Bing, it seemed like yesterday when the two of you met each other. Now, you are going to be joined together in this divine mystery called marriage.

I’d like to tell you that marriage is an action word. You have to act on it. You have to work on it for the rest of your lives.

I’d like to share with you three acts of marriage based on the Word of God.

First, Marriage is Giving Sacrificial Love.

In Eph. 5:25, Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church.” He then explained how Christ showed this love. Paul said that Christ “gave himself for” the church. He sacrificed himself on the cross.

This love therefore is a self-sacrificial love. It is a self-sacrificial love that is rooted on the cross. Love then is a self-giving love patterned after the cross.

Paul does not define love as a rush of romantic hormones. Instead, love here is the self-sacrifice of yourself for your beloved. It is a decision to nail your selfishness to the cross, so to speak, while giving your love to the one you love. It is a decision to give up your selfishness for the sake of the one you love. This is the kind of love that you should love each other.

Notice that love here is not conditional or situational. You should love each other, not because he or she gives you pleasure, but because you want to give yourself up to each other. I’ve been reading about a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. She does not recognize her husband. She can give no romance, no sex, no laughter, no tears, and no companionship to her husband.

But that is the point of marriage. The point of marriage is not to love each other because each is useful to the other. The point of marriage is to love each other with self-sacrificial love unconditionally.

When I got married, I was dreaming about a woman who would massage me when I get home. I wanted a woman who will cook good food for me. I wanted a woman who would be “carinyosa” to me. Until now, I’m still dreaming.

But I still love the woman I married.

The time may come when he no longer excites you, when her manners offend you, when she is not the person of your dreams. But then you will love each other, not because she is useful to you, but because you want to sacrifice yourself for her.

Love is giving yourself up for each other. That is how Christ loved the church. And that is how you should love each other.

Second, Marriage is Keeping Covenant.

In Eph. 5:31, Paul quotes Gen. 2:24, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Then he interprets it in v. 32, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” In the marriage of Christ and the church, Christ is spiritually united with the church as His bride and body.

But what kind of relationship is the union of Christ and the church? It is a covenant relationship. It is a covenant relationship sealed with blood—His own blood. Christ said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk. 22:20).

That is what Paul is saying in Eph. 5:32. Marriage is based on that covenant relationship between Christ and the church. It is a covenant sealed in blood.

This means that the marriage covenant is unbreakable, as John Piper points out. As Christ’s covenant with the church is unbreakable, so is the marriage covenant also unbreakable.

Marriage, therefore, is keeping covenant, to use Piper’s words. Marriage is not just about keeping the fire of love burning. It is about keeping covenant.

Therefore, when the day comes when you will fight each other, and it will come, remember that your marriage is keeping covenant. Bruce, when you look at another woman, remember that marriage is keeping covenant. Bing, when you look at another man, remember that marriage is keeping covenant. When the day comes when he is not as exciting as he used to be, or she is not as sexy as she used to be, remember, marriage is about keeping covenant.

Never allow anyone or anything to break that covenant. Your purpose in marriage is to keep the covenant.

Third, and last, Marriage is Seeking Your Happiness in Her Happiness.

Eph. 5:26-27, Paul said that Christ gave Himself for the church, so that He can sanctify her and present her spotless. In other words, Christ sought His satisfaction in the sanctification of His bride, the church. He was most satisfied in the spotlessness of His beloved. Practically speaking, you should seek your joy in the joy of your beloved.

Bruce, you will find your happiness when Bing is happiest. So find your happiness by trying to make her happy! The problem with so many marriages today is that the husband seeks his own happiness, but he does not seek it in the happiness of his wife. The wife seeks her own happiness, but not in the happiness of her husband. But love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved.

Yet the key to seeking her happiness is the sacrifice of your selfishness. When you sacrifice your selfishness, you will seek her happiness. When you seek her happiness, you will be happy. You will be most happy when your beloved is most happy.

I share your joy on your special day today. Wedding days are always joyful days. God has made it so.

Beloved, let us all rejoice, then, as we join this loving couple on their day of marriage.