Marriage: The Art of Grace Bending
Colossians 3:12-19

Previous in this series of Marriage
Next in this series on Marriage

Audio Version
Click Here

(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Brothers and sisters in Christ

If you have been with us in these past of weeks, you might remember that our first intent was to lift our vision of what marriage to a more biblical vision, our vision of marriage out of the slimy pit of cultural mediocrity to the glorious, magnificent mysterious vision of marriage pictured for us in Scripture.

In doing that we reminded ourselves that marriage is an institution created by God from the very beginning of creation, it was the crowning achievement of creation, the creation of community, as it is the crowning achievement of the new creation - scripture ends with a wedding. Marriage you see is not a human cultural invention, it was made by God who made two to become one, God brought the first bride Eve to her husband as a father, God spoke marriage into existence, God brings two people together - and so we were reminded of Mark 10 where Jesus first quotes from Genesis 2:24,25 But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

We also were reminded that God made this institution called marriage as a display of what he was going to do through his son for the sake of the church - this display would be for his glory - so Paul, after quoting from Genesis 2:24 says "but I am talking about the mystery of Christ and the church.," the incredible truth that God in Christ has come to us in a new covenant in his blood, he died for us so that we might be forgiven, so that we might know he has chosen us, made us holy and loved us. Your marriage is for his glory. Marriage is so incredible, and the incredible is possible because of Christ. It is from him, through him and too him.

Then last Sunday, we looked at the nature of marriage as a place that ought to be safe, safe enough to be naked and without shame. We discovered that that was not because Adam and Eve were perfect, after all they had perfect flawless bodies. We discovered that it was because of the character of the partners in the relationship and the covenant nature of the relationship they had together, both possible because of their covenant relationship with God. The second their relationship with God was severed by falling into disobedience in the garden, that very second they discovered shame, not because their bodies had become imperfect, but because they felt defiled by guilt and their spouse had become untrustworthy so the nature of their covenant relationship together had changed. In response, they covered themselves with wilting fig leaves. God in his actions said, that will not do, so God took the lives of some animals, God clothed them in animal skins. And as we looked at the last theme, we saw Christ, the lamb of God, slain from the creation of the world, (Rev 13:8), Christ was the animal slain, blood spilt so that Adam and Eve could be clothed in a righteousness that comes from God.

And so we closed the served with the exhortation to put on Christ. Those words of exhortation came from Paul’s writings - one of which is Colossians 3:12. As we continue our study of marriage, created and designed by God for the glory of his Son, I invite you to read this, one of Paul’s put on passages. (I am reading from a slightly older translation)...

3:12 Put on (cloth) then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Just a couple of preliminary comments

First, you will notice that we included verses 18 and 19 in our reading. The divisions on content that you see in your bibles were not in the original letters. Among other things, Paul is addressing issues of marriage here, including headship and submission. In our culture, we don’t like those themes, and the very basic reason is that we have lost view of the fact that marriage is about the relationship between Christ and the Church where he is our head and we are his bride, called to submit to his Lordship. Without a biblical vision, headship and submission looks like shear stupidity. And so we will look at the cruciform nature of biblical headship and submission in the future. You see they are a wonderful part of the biblical vision of marriage, but because marriage is about Christ and his covenant with the church, we will discover in the future that headship and submission have taken on a crucified character.

(Slide 6)

Second, and this more important, notice with me how Paul addresses the Colossian Christians - he calls them chosen, holy and loved - these words fit perfectly to describe what it means to be the bride of Christ, adopted into the family of God.

Imani was chosen, now she is part of a new family, special to them, and she is loved. This not her doing, this is the choice that Dave and Juanita are making - the choice to love her, make her their own, yet remembering that before anything, she belongs to God.

Actually these are words that very well describe what we are when we are married to a spouse - we are chosen, holy and loved. In marriage, we choose our partner. Out of the many other fish in the sea, we choose one, and only one, for the rest of our lives, one to hold onto, to entrust ourselves to, to be naked and unashamed with. And that person becomes holy to us. Holy of course means special, set apart. They are the only one for us. Other fish in the sea are no longer available as partners. They are the only one. They deserve our special attention, our highest commitments, our most empassioned faithfulness. And they are loved, not because of their beauty or handsomeness, first of all, but because of our choice to be faithful. loving , giving, caring, affirming and embracing.

Chosen, Holy and Loved not only describes marriage, it actually describes all of us in the new covenant relationship with God because marriage from the very beginning of creation was a display of the relationship between Christ and the church. Paul in all of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 has been picturing this new covenant relationship with Christ. Paul reminds us again and again in his writings that we are chosen. We have a more theological word called election. God chose us. Our relationship with him is not first of all our doing, it is his choice and we choose him because he first chose us. And so scripture uses a variety of images to communicate our relationship with God - we are adopted into the family of God and we are the chosen blood bought bride of Christ, washed clean from our sin, made beautiful by the word of God and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, clothed in his righteousness. We are Holy. We are special to him. We were engraved onto the palms of his hands by piercing nails. There is nowhere we can flee from his careful presence. From the very ends of the earth, when we cry out, he hears us. We are his, holy, special, separated, different - because we belong to him. And we are loved. Oh how we are loved. In describing God’s love for us, scripture uses words like love lavished on us. A dozen roses would not do. God chose a better picture. He gave us his own son. When we are hurting, scripture uses what we might best translate jealous gut wrenching love. And all of these things, not because we are perfect, or beautiful or attractive, all of these because of the character of God, of Christ, who in his Lordship, loved us, and gave his life for us. Peter says it this way...

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

So we discover in these three words the character not only of our relationship with God, we discover the character of marriage - chosen, holy, loved.

Arising out of that relationship with God, being the bride in new covenant with Christ notice the next words, 3 groups of words that describe the clothing that we are to put on in our relationships and especially in our marriage relationships - clothing that reflect the inward condition of our relationship with God, inward conditions that create outward demeanours. You see, marriage is the art of grace bending, taking the graces that God has for us in our relationship with him and bending those same graces toward our spouses...

3:12 Put on (cloth) then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another

Group 1 - Compassion - kindness - the same kind of gut wrenching love that God has for us. This is a profound description of when two become one flesh. This means that our of love and kindness we choose to feel each others pain. To be married is to choose to feel each others pain. So often when marriages start getting into difficulty, the dynamic that happens is that partners become insensitive to each others pain. They start thinking only of how wrong this relationship has become for themselves. It is their own pain that demands attention, and as the relationship decays, it is only their own pain that gets their attention. Notice - even on the cross, Jesus in intense pain focused on ours, a thief beside him who hungered for a kingdom, a mother who needed a son - pains far less than his own. He did this to buy and keep his bride. So to, we are called in marriage, by choice, to put our spouses pain before our own. That is compassion, that is kindness. That’s what takes painful experiences in marriage relationships and turns ashes into beauty, pain into joy, sorrow into dancing. The choice of a biblical vision of marriage is to put the pain of our spouse first.

Group 2 - humility and meekness.

This is the clothing that Christ calls us to put on with one another. Why - because in marriage, like so many other relationship, one of the biggest enemies to a loving harmonious relationship is pride.

Pride asserts - the problem is not me, it’s the other person.
Pride asserts, I don’t have to change, the other person does.
Pride says I would be happier by myself
Pride says I am owed more in this relationship
Pride says I will decide what is right and wrong for you
Pride says I don’t need the help of God or others in my relationship
I could continue the I assertions of pride

Humility and Meekness questions
What have I done to contribute to our relationship problems?
How do I need to change to be better for my spouse?
What more can I give in this relationship?
What does God want for this relationship - what does he think is right and wrong?
Humility cries out to God for help and to others for help in relationship problems.

In every conflict between people, and let me be as blunt as possible, in every conflict, on some level, there is pride, hard at work. Therefore, Paul says, bend the grace that God had for you, who did not count equality with God something to be grasped but took on the form of a servant, even to the point of death - bend that same grace to your spouse, to one another, put on humility and meekness.

Group 3 patience and bearing with one another - literally great endurance.

3:12 Put on (cloth) then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another

For God to love us, took great patience and it takes mega endurance. If you look at your own faithfulness, your own love for God, your own joy in his love for you, and how often you go through your merry week paying little or no attention to God, hardly remembering that you a holy for him, set apart in this world, living like you want to fit in, no different from others, then you get just a glimpse of how patient, enduring God is with us. When we look at our patterns of sin, and how often we again and again have to repent of our patterns of sin, character sins we may call them, then we discover how patient God is toward us, waiting for us to come to true and complete repentance. And Paul calls us to put on this patience, this enduring with one another, Paul calls us to bend this grace of Christ to us, to one another.

We have all known people who have married with the anticipation of changing their spouse, with a hope that he will improve in cleaning up after himself, with the trust that she will become more sensitive to the struggles of our daily job - only to discover that those characteristics just keep on coming back, and coming back, and coming back. You see marriages need grace driven, grace bent patience and endurance to last, because some sins last for a life time. Our spouses will never become perfect, but our choice, like Christ is to love them, and patiently endure their flaws, their sins in our choice to be faithful in our covenant with them. That’s love. That’s a biblical vision of love.

Now I want to close with the rest of verse 13 and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Please notice Paul’s repetition 2 times with the example of Christ in the middle - marriage is about forgiving one another, a Christ glorifying marriage is about forgiving one another, a marriage that is a match made in heaven is about forgiving one another.

You might remember the movie Love Story where the well known, at least to some of us, line comes from "Love means never having to say you’re sorry." What a pile of crap. Saying you’re sorry is part of God’s design for marriage. It is part of humility and meekness to say that we are sorry. And then the most important action of marriage, again and again and again and again is to forgive.

That is what Christ does for you, his church. Dare we pray: "Lord forgive us our sins and if we are especially humble, our many sins." and not forgive one another. This is Paul calling us to grace bending, taking the incredible grace that god has for us and bending it toward one another, forgiving, and forgiving and forgiving.

You see there is a reason why forgiving is the most important action in marriage and hammered home here by Paul - because marriage is a picture of Christ and the church - where the heart of the gospel is blood bought forgiveness for you and me. And there is no greater glory that goes to the Lord when we in our relationships, in our marriages, even though we have many problems, we forgive, and forgive and forgive and forgive. Because that is what Christ did, that is the nature of the relationship between Christ and his bride. Bend that grace toward one another.

3:12 Put on (cloth) then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Back to Sermon Index Page

Let me know if this message was helpful.