Sunday, June 24, 2012

Marriage Defined

It is no secret that marriages are under attack in our world.  This is not surprising since marriage is a visible picture of Christ and His Church, what better place for the forces of hell to aim their fiery darts.  In response to this our church tries to have at least 2 marriage conferences per year (with hopes of having more).  As such I have been tasked with using several resources and putting together a curriculum for the conference. 

Our very first session is What is Marriage?  In this session we attempt to come together on a theology of marriage.  We begin by defining marriage.  As far as I am aware this definition is original with me.  I would like to share it and then expound on it a bit—hopefully for your benefit.

Marriage is a binding covenant created by God between one man and one woman for our holiness, for our joy, as a picture of the gospel to spread the glory of God.

If I pick this definition apart I can come up with seven individual statements (and these are used as teaching points for the first session).

  1. A Binding Covenant.  Covenant’s are a big deal to God.  Breaking covenants is a big deal to God.  To see how big of a deal covenants are consider Genesis 15.  The Lord walks through a host of animals that are ripped asunder and essentially says, “If I break my covenant let what is done to these animals be done to me”.  Covenants are a big deal.
  2. Created by God.  If humans created marriage then we could make the rules.  But marriage is a binding covenant that is created by God, as such He makes the rules.  God created your marriage, so away with this silly talk of having “married the wrong person”. 
  3. Between one man and one woman.  The two shall become one.  This means breaking away from parents, past relationships, future relationships, and any other lovers.  This also goes against any arguments for homosexuality rightly being called marriage. 
  4. For our holiness.  Marriage is one of the means that God has ordained to sanctify us.  God is not satisfied with us merely having a “good” marriage. God wants to use our marriage to conform us more and more into the image of Christ. God has a rescue plan for your marriage. His goal is not simply to rescue your marriage. His goal is to use your marriage to rescue you.
  5. For our joy.  Our joy increases when we, in holiness, fight for the joy of another.  Marriage can be extremely joyful.  Just read Song of Solomon.  Furthermore, if marriage increases holiness it will also increase our joy in God. 
  6. As a picture of the gospel.  Your marriage reflects Christ and His church.  It was created by God to be a visible picture for everyone to see the love between Christ and His Bride. 
  7. To spread the glory of God.  The purpose of God for humanity is to enjoy His grace and extend His glory.  Marriage is no different.  He uses marriages to rip out of our heart sin and unbelief. He uses marriage to further our joy. But he also uses marriage to create children, and to raise and nurture children in godly homes. 

Your marriage has purpose.  It has meaning.  Don’t give up on your marriage. Don’t stop fighting for your marriage.  Know that God is fighting for your marriage as well.  Have hope in him and keep holding on. 

Enjoy your marriage.  God is using it to display His greatness.  Rejoice that the Lord is using the union of two sinners to display His incomparable greatness and Trinitarian love.  Marriage is sweet.  Savor it.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. 


  1. I hear from some trustworthy sources that Tim Keller's new book on Marriage is really fantastic.

    Of all my reformed, complementarian brothers, I like Keller the most. I'm sure the rumors I hear are true to reality.

  2. Thanks Mike for breaking down that great definition on marriage---I have a wedding coming up in August and I'm going to borrow some of that definition.

    1. Brian,
      Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding! I pray that the Lord blesses your union.

    2. Wait. I just realized that it's not YOUR wedding but a wedding you are officiating. LOL. I still pray that the Lord blesses your marriage---but now I also pray that He blesses the marriage you will be officiating.

  3. Mike, would you apply this definition to non-Christians as well?

    1. Luke,
      Though I think there might be a couple difficulties with saying so, I do believe that I would apply this definition to non-Christians as well.

    2. Thanks, Mike. I think I agree with you that this is the ultimate intention of marriage, whether a person realizes it or not. I have found, though, that some Christians wrongly assume that marriage is a Christian institution when, in fact, it is a human institution. I very much like this definition for a marriage conference through the church. I'd probably want a more general definition for interacting in other domains of society.

    3. Luke,

      I'm taking my cues from Mark 10. Jesus puts marriage before the Law of Moses and even before the Fall. He puts it at the very first union of two people. And says, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate". That is where I get that marriage (Christian or non) is created by God. I'm not sure that if I were leading some sort of marriage conference for unbelievers that I would do anything to change the definition.

  4. Brother, came here via Challies. Thanks for your thought on this crucial topic, in Australia, as well as everywhere else!

    I just wonder whether the procreation of children should be explicit in your definition. I realise children do not issue from every single marriage, but the shape of marriage is inherently oriented around child-bearing. I think we see this in Genesis 1:27-28, which Jesus' words in the Gospels link to Gen 2:24. One might also think of Malachi 2:14 and the godly offspring God is seeking from the one flesh relationship created from the two.

    1. David Murray suggested that same thing. It's in my definition and spelled out in the conference but it may be good to make it more explicit, I agree.

  5. I would also say that children should be included more explicitly in the definition of marriage.

    Here's an interesting blog post on the subject of marriage with respect to the ongoing debate on the definition of marriage:



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