THE SANCTITY OF CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
Presented to Professor Ann Kerlin
Luther Rice Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Course
CO 620 Biblical Counseling in Marriage and Family
Justin Z. DuBose
The institution of marriage in the Bible has been present from the beginning. In the opening chapters of the opening book of the Bible, we see God say that it is not good for man to be alone. From this fact comes Eve – the helpmate God created for Adam. We see Adam and Eve have a family in the opening chapters of the Bible. Multiple times throughout the Old Testament this idea of marriage and its sanctity in the eyes of God are present.
King Solomon, most remembered for his wisdom, has much to say about marriage and its value in the eyes and mind of God. In the fifth chapter of Proverbs, he writes, “may you be ever captivated by her love”. This highlights the idea that marriage is to be a loving relationship – far beyond one man and one woman simply cohabitating together - which is supported in the New Testament. Proverbs 18 has a very revealing statement about marriage. Here we find that “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord”. Not only is marriage instituted by the Lord, but it is also “good”. This word transliterated as “good” is the Hebrew word “טוֹב”, which is the same word used in the creation of the world when God declared that what He created was “good”. This supports the idea that marriage is “excellent”, as Strong’s defines this word. Marriage is not simply an institution, rather it is an institution of extreme value to the Lord and to man. The ancient Israelites thought so highly of marriage that they actually codified that newlyweds were to devote one year to each other. In Deuteronomy 24 we read from the Hebrew law that, “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married”. Indeed, the institution of marriage has very sacred roots in the eyes and mind of God. The New Testament simply builds upon this theology, going into great depth in some places about the sanctity of marriage.
Matthew 19 says to us that marriage is actually a spiritual unification that occurs in the eyes and mind of God. “"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." The marital union of two people actually unifies them as one being in the eyes and mind of God. This is how powerfully and seriously God views the marriage bed. Hebrews 13 tells us that marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.
The apostle Paul actually provides us with the most extensive writing on the subject of marriage. This seems almost ironic given the fact that Paul himself was never married. When you think about all the men in the Bible who were married and prolific writers – Moses, David, Solomon, etc. – that could have written about marriage, Paul seems like a rather unusual choice for extensive writing on the subject.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul extensively talks about marriage in chapter five. In what is perhaps the most important dialogue in the entire corpus of Scripture on the topic, Paul addresses the relationship between husband and wife. If this relationship is so “good” and sacred, as we have established, how is the relationship to function in the practical world? Paul essentially says that wives are to submit to, or respect, their husbands, and husbands are to love their wives. The apostle Paul goes most in-depth in addressing the role of husbands and wives in marriage, and specifically the issue of male headship.
In our modern day, contemporary society, gender issues are at the forefront of the smorgasbord of hot button topics which typically polarize people. As soon as the phrase “male headship” is uttered, you can often see visible disgust, or at least confusion, on numerous faces. Is this not an archaic terminology for the uneducated and unrefined? The Bible would suggest not.
In the military, there exists a term called “nesting”. The idea behind this word is that an operation order ought to be properly “nested” with the mission and objectives of higher commands. This keeps everything in the chain of command, from the very top all the down, properly aligned with the mission. When Ephesians 5 is examined closely, you see that this idea of male headship is properly nested within submission to Christ. In verse 24, we see that this idea is nested within submission of the Body of Christ to Jesus Himself. Steven Tracy addresses this idea of nesting male headship in the relationship of the church to the Triune God. He says, “The Trinity teaches us that headship and submission are founded within an intimate love relationship among equals, not coercive domination by a superior.”  When we look to the relationship of first, the Trinitarian persons and, second, to the relationship of the church to Christ, we see a true picture of male headship. Of the relationship of the church to Christ, Paul writes that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”. The implication here is a sacrificial love – a demonstration of love through sacrifice for the other partner.
What about the issue of female submission? Males are to act toward their wives in a loving manner, but wives are simply to submit? We need to look a bit closer at what Paul has to say about female submission. Jason Hall writes on the topic of female submission. Notice this concept of “nesting” at work here in his definition. Jason puts female submission within the larger context of submission to Christ and love for one another. “The submission of Christians to God is not one of domination or involuntary enslavement, and a wife’s submission to her husband is also not one of domination or involuntary enslavement. The proper motivation for any act of submission in the Christian faith is ‘reverence for Christ’”.  The more we examine this idea of submission and headship in the Christian marriage, the more this idea of nesting comes up. If God views marriage as “good” – as a created, sacred institution that is “good” – then there must be confusion on our part about marriage that must be reconciled to what God created marriage to be. If he who receives a wife receives favor from the Lord, then Christian marriage must be a good thing for both husband and wife. If, in Deuteronomy, a man and wife were to spend the first year together, loving one another, then male headship must not be an abusive, aggressive role. Christian marriage is a beautiful and sacred institution, if one understands the Triune God who created it and gave it to us.
Tracy, Steven. “1 Corinthians 11:3: A Corrective To Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 08:1 (2003)
Hall, Jason. “Marriage As It Was Meant To Be Seen: Headship, Submission, and the Gospel” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 15:1 (2010)
 Tracy, Steven. “1 Corinthians 11:3: A Corrective To Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 08:1 (2003), 18.
 Hall, Jason. “Marriage As It Was Meant To Be Seen: Headship, Submission, and the Gospel” Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 15:1 (2010), 14.
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