What is Christian Marriage?
A Study Guide
“Ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.” - John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
I. Companions in Eden: The First Man & Woman
What God created, He said everything was good, until he looked at the situation with Adam without a mate, and then God said “this is not good.” And so God stepped in and created for man a woman that he might have a companion for life. In fact, after the creation of Eve, with Adam and she in the garden together, God said “This is very, very, good.
II. Sin & The Battle of the Sexes
The Battle of the sexes began . . . when Satan, through the instrument of a serpent deceived Even and then Adam, and tragically the whole world was plunged into sin. Effects of the Fall: A woman will now try to either usurp the authority of her husband or she will acquiesce, and in many ways, act like a wall-flower and be run over. The man, on the other hand, will either be domineering, or he will abdicate his responsibility of leadership that God has given him. Fortunately, through Jesus Christ all of that can be redeemed, and the broken relationship can be put back together again.
God has ordained three institutions: He ordained the home. He ordained government. He ordained the Church. [It’s] not by accident that the first thing God ordained was the home. [As part of that,] He ordained marriage. He gave it to us as a wonderful gift to be enjoyed. The Bible has a lot to say about how we can have a good, healthy, blessed marriage.
Passages on Marriage on the OT: Genesis 1 and 2. God [even] dedicates an entire book to the subject of marriage and, in particular, intimacy within marriage. We call that book the Song of Solomon.
Passages on Marriage in the NT: Jesus blessed marriage, He participated in a wedding . . . that’s recorded in John, Chapter 2. He tells us . . . in Matthew’s Gospel that divorce is not something that God plans. God is a good God who wants to see us have good relationships, and so God intended for a man and a woman to come together in the covenant of marriage and His design was that that would last for a lifetime.
IV. Central Question: [Yet] there is so much divorce, so much heart-ache; so much brokenness. How is it possible that someone could actually enjoy a good marriage?
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:21-33 gives us what we could call a job description both for the man and also for the woman. You could actually boil it down into 2 propositions.
Marriage job descriptions: For a woman, who is a believer, who has Jesus Christ in her life, she is first of all to submit to her husband, and then secondly, she is to blessed her husband by respecting him and admiring him. On the other hand a man is called by God to love his wife, and he’s also called by God to . . . work very hard at knowing and understanding his wife.
V. Women & Submission: A Closer Look
Submission in no way implies inferiority. The Bible teaches that our God is 1(one), yet our God is 3 (three) persons. Yet to provide salvation for all of humanity, God the Son who is equal to God the Father, willingly submits to His Father. or the purpose of saving us from our sins.
So He [Jesus] is equal in His essence, but He is submissive in His assignment for the for the purpose of saving men and women from their sins. Ladies, your ultimate role model for how you submt in the relationship of marriage is how Jesus submits to His Father.
In 1 Peter 3 . . . we’re told there if you have a saved woman and she is married to an unsaved man, if [she] wants to win that husband to Christ, then submit. The Bible actually says [she] can win Him to Christ without a word by her gentle and quiet spirit. A woman can bless her husband in marriage through her submission, but also she can bless him by admiring him or admiring him. It speaks to his heart. It feeds his soul. It builds him up. A man needs to know that there’s someone in his corner who is his biggest cheerleader and his biggest fan.
VI. Men & Loving/Knowing: A Closer Look
A man, on the other hand, is called by God to both love his wife and to know his wife. [The Apostle] Paul grounds his understanding of marriage in the atonement.
Loving a Wife: Husbands, if you want to know how to rightly love your wives, then you look at the cross. Realize what Jesus did for you. Realize there how much Jesus loves you, and in the same way . . . love that woman sacrificially. Be willing to put your life on the line for this woman that God has brought into your life. Real love is not so much an emotion, as it is a decision. It’s an act of your will . . . “I love her even when she is not lovely.” Jesus loved you when he died on the cross when you weren’t lovely. In the same way, a husband is to love his wife in an unconditional kind of way.
Knowing/Understanding a Wife: The Bible also says that a man is to bless wife his by knowing her and understanding her. Now, that’s quite a challenge. Women are very different from men. Women are far more complex, and so a man is really called to a lifetime assignment of studying her, of growing to know her, and getting better at understanding her.
VII. The Bottom Line
If a man is loving his wife and knowing his wife; if a woman is both submitting to her husband and respecting her husband, you find a marriage that is a joy, a delight, and a blessing. Secondly, you find a marriage that will probably last and go the distance.
Genesis 1 & 2, John 2:1-11; Matthew 9:1-12; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 3: 1-7; John 14:9; John 14:28
Recommended Further Reading:
God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, by Andreas Kostenberger and David Jones
Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God, by C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney
Creation & Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage, by Christopher C. Roberts
Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs
This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, by John Piper
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, by Timothy and Kathy Keller