Despite what many modern secularists and theorists would have you believe regarding marriage and its recent re-definition(s), God’s Word is unmovable in its assertion of what constitutes a biblical marriage. Indeed, the Scriptures contain the only true, indefatigable definition of the marriage relationship, a definition which does not change. The biblical definition of marriage affirms marriage to be the joining together of one man and one woman in covenantal union. (Gn 2:24; Mk 10:7–8; 1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31) When God saw Adam alone and without a partner in his likeness, God fashioned a “help meet” for Adam out of Adam’s side, accentuating the complementary roles with which God instills in the genders from their very creation. (Gn 2:18–24) The man and woman longing to unite themselves in marriage must see that the very design, desire, and destiny for marriage is not what the culture propagates, rather, it is given and ordained by God himself.
Marriage is God’s idea. We cannot redefine or revise it. Neither can we let the whims of an amorphous culture dictate how to approach and understand what God has created. Marriage is not merely a contract between two individuals that can be glibly breached. It is a covenant between two sinners who are surrendering themselves to each other and to God himself. The husband and wife in covenantal marriage unite themselves not just in body but in being. (Gn 2:24; Mk 10:8) This union knits them so closely that they cannot be separated. (Job 41:15–17) Marriage, writes John Walter Lea, is a “sacred and mysterious ordinance of God, whereby two persons are indissolubly bound together until death.”1 “They are united together,” writes Augustus J. Thébaud, “as the God-man is united with the Church.”2
The church is, therefore, bound by Scripture to uphold the beauty and blessedness of marriage. The marriage ceremony is not primarily a beautiful time for the newly united husband and wife to come together formally and publicly, it is also a blessed time for the church to be confronted with the most explicit picture of Jesus Christ’s love for sinners. “Christian marriages today,” writes Kent Hughes, “are to be a window through which the church and the world glimpse the mystery of Christ and the church.”3 The husband and wife are joined together so as to serve one another, and the world, as representatives and extensions of the eternal covenant of God with man, which was made from before the foundation of the world. (Jer 31:31–34; Eph 1:3–6) “The true marriage covenant,” continues Lea, “is the earthly analogue of the covenant between God and humanity, and enshrines in a wonderful but most practical manner the image of the mutual obligations of that marvelous grace.”4 Marriages are the quintessential platform to bring untold glory to the gospel of God.
John Walter Lea, “The Sanctity of Marriage,” Studies in Modern Problems, edited by Orby Shipley (London: King & Co., 1874), 3:4.
Augustus J. Thébaud, The Church and the Moral World: Considerations on the Holiness of the Church (New York: Benziger Bros., 1881), 418.
R. Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, edited by Douglas Sean O’Donnell (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 129.