Sermon: What Makes a Marriage Christian
Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30
In this week’s lessons, we see that marriage is established by God, and serves to illustrate the relationship of Christ with His Church.
Theme: A Divine Institution
Last week, as I was discussing the subject of “Sex and the Christian Marriage,” I said that a firm grasp of what marriage should and can be under God is the only reliable antidote to the hedonistic philosophy of our age. That is most important. For that reason, I want to return to the subject of Christian marriage today. What is it that makes a marriage Christian? What does it involve? What are God’s purposes in marriage? These questions may only be correctly answered by saying that God is the author of marriage and that He established it as the most important illustration in all of life of how God joins true believers to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and how He does so forever.
The basis of everything that is to be said about Christian marriage lies in the fact that God has established marriage and that it is therefore a divine institution.
I suppose that I perform between half a dozen and a dozen weddings each year, and at each of them I begin by calling attention to the truth that God has instituted marriage, for this truth comes first in the marriage service. The groom, the best man, and I come out, the bride and her bridesmaids advance down the aisle, and when the wedding march stops and the people are seated, I begin with the following: “Dearly beloved, we are assembled here in the presence of God, to join this man and this woman in holy marriage, which is instituted by God, regulated by his commandments, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be held in honor among all men. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.” In the prayer that follows I give thanks to God for the estate of marriage and ask his blessing on the ensuing service.
God has established marriage. That is the point, and it follows from this that marriage must be governed and directed by His rules, especially if it is to result in the happiness and joy that all men acknowledge should belong to it.
Who is it that originally made the race male and female? The answer is God (Gen. 1:27). Who is it that commanded, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28)? God. Who is it who said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help fit for him” (Gen. 2:18)? God. It was God who brought the first bride to the first husband and thus established the first human family (Gen. 2:22). God’s Word declares, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). And in the New Testament Jesus himself reinforced the teaching that marriage is a divine institution (Matt. 19:4-9). It is for this reason that the Church speaks of “holy matrimony,” for while we do not believe, as some do, that marriage is a sacrament of the Church, we do believe that God has established it, that His laws should regulate it, and that it is far from being a merely civil or social arrangement.
A very practical consequence follows upon this. For if it is true that God has established the state of marriage, then we must never make fun of it or of anything connected with the marriage relationship. Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “Bite your tongue before you will ever say, ‘Well, I want you to meet the old ball and chain’ or ‘Here’s the jailer.’” Dr. Walter A. Maier, who produced the most valuable book on marriage that I have ever read, has written, “To speak disdainfully of married life, to invoke upon it sophisticated sarcasm, is to exalt the puny errors of pigmy minds over the eternal truth of heaven–to blaspheme God.”1 Both of them are right. Consequently, neither you nor I should ever joke about marriage.
What evidences do we have in Scripture that marriage is a divine institution?
When a marriage ceremony is only one of a civil nature, what does that show about how marriage is viewed?
Given that marriage is established by God, how have you heard marriage spoken of, or portrayed in the movies or on television, that is contrary to the biblical conception of it?
Application: Are there any areas in your marriage you need to work on? What will you do this week to make your marriage better match how the Bible defines it?
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Christian Marriage.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
1Walter A. Maier, For Better, Not for Worse (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1935), 18.