Over the next two days I am going to post a wholly inadequate two part series on holiness in marriage. Today I will address some basics about marriage and holiness, and tomorrow I will address the roles of the husband, the wife, and the couple in marriage. These posts are adapted from my seminar on holiness in marriage at the 2016 Grace Advance Mid Atlantic Equipping Conference. The audio from all of the conference sessions is available here.
Marriage – The Basics
Marriage Is God Ordained
Marriage is the oldest human institution, predating the fall of man, and was explicitly ordained by God.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” – Genesis 2:18
While certainly effected by the fall, marriage as an institution predates the fall. It was part of the world that God called very Good, and in fact remedied a situation that God saw as “not good.”
Marriage is not an interpersonal economic relationship or a social construct, but part of the created order.
Marriage Is God Defined
Because God ordained and established marriage, He alone has the authority to define it. Although our courts, and in some cases legislatures, created a new institution in which same-sex couple are extended the legal rights and responsibilities historically reserved for heterosexual couples, that is not marriage. It is an entirely new human institution, with no historical precedence, then has been mislabeled “same-sex marriage.”
God defined marriage in Genesis 2:24.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24
Jesus reaffirmed this definition in Matthew 19:3-9 (cf Mark 10:6-9).
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”- Matthew 19:4-6
The Purpose of Marriage Is God Ordained
The primary purpose of marriage is not for the benefit of the husband and wife or for procreation [although part of the purpose of the marriage is companionship (Gen 2:18) and it is the God ordained means God has ordained to populate and administrate the earth (Gen 1:28)] the primary purpose of marriage is to serve as a living illustration of the gospel, the relationship between Christ and His church.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:31-3
God, therefore, ordained and defined the marriage institution to illustrate the gospel. In light of this, holiness and sanctification are of supreme importance in marriage. Although God conforms us to the image of Christ in our entire life. Our growing sanctification should be reflected in all of our relationships and endeavors, because of the unique function of marriage in God’s plan. Therefore urgently approach holiness in marriage.
Holiness – A Way of Life
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
“You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”
This is not just an Old Testament command or concept, writing to Christians, who he calls “elect exiles” Peter applies this same standard to Christians, and explains why it applies to Christians.
1 Peter 1:13-21
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and agave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
The extent to which a person’s life reflects the teaching of Scripture and the example of Christ. It is the practical outworking of having a renewed mind that thinks critically about what is pleasing to the Lord (Romans 12:2).
Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgement-hating what He hates-loving what He loves-and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man. – J.C. Ryle
God calls all believers to live holy, and practical holiness means actions and attitudes are to reflect Scripture’s teaching. Therefore, the standard for holiness in marriage are the commands of Scripture for marriage; the roles and responsibilities of the husband, the wife and the couple as described in scripture.