What Is Marriage?
Below is a collection of quotes that have been written by different people defining what they believe marriage to be. They came from a variety of different books, web site and magazine articles that we’ve collected throughout the years. We pray you will find them to be insightful:
Marriage is a sacred covenant designed and blessed by God. In marriage, God joins two persons into one (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8). Originally, marriage (and family) was created by God to reflect His image in humanity. Because of humanity’s fall into sin, marriage (and family) exists to magnify the worth, excellence, and glory of God in restoring His image in humanity through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In short, human marriage exists to preach the gospel of God (1 Timothy 1:11). God intends every human marriage to re-present the divine marriage of God to the new, redeemed humanity (the Church, Christ’s bride —see Ephesians 5:22-32; Revelation 19:7-10 and Revelation 21:9-27) through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Edited from an article featured on Familylife.com titled: Overview: The Christian Marriage Covenant)
The most widely accepted ideas of “what the Bible says” about marriage all agree upon one important point: marriage is a covenant of lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, not a contract which is subject to early termination. Certainly marriage involves contractual aspects such as compromise, bargaining, and many meetings of the minds over time, consideration, terms and conditions. But it involves much more.
It does not have a fixed period of time like most contracts. It is for life. It is not based solely on mutuality, but instead involves the agreement to sacrifice, persevere in love, remain steadfast in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, sharing the good and the bad, the joys and the pains.
Marriage as a covenant, therefore, should not be seen as a contract that can be broken or set aside simply upon the mutual consent of spouses or upon the consent of one spouse because of irreconcilable differences or a breakdown in the relationship that leaves one or both feeling hopeless.
This is so because not only are two spouses involved and often times children as well, but God is at the center of Christian and Jewish marriages. (From an article featured on Familylife.com titled: What is Covenant Marriage)
Marriage is a model of Christ and the church. There are at least three reasons:
- This lifts marriage out of the sordid sitcom images and gives it the magnificent meaning God meant it to have;
- This gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by grace alone; and
- This shows that the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both defined by Christ’s self-denying work on the cross so that their pride and slavishness are canceled. (Pastor John Piper)
For more of an explanation, please click onto the following links to either listen to or read 3 separate sermons:
The following is wording for the “Oneness Covenant” —distributed by Family Life Today Familylife.com, which defines what they believe to be what God asks of us as we marry. This Covenant Contract is signed by the husband and wife and witnesses. It says:
“In consideration of God’s purposes for marriage as set forth below, we hereby agree to the following commitment:
• Whereas, our holy union is a state of fellowship that can be maintained only by mutual submission to the control and power of the Holy Spirit by faith;
• Our holy union is a trinity: husband, wife, and Jesus Christ;
• Our holy union affects God’s reputation;
• Our holy union is an acceptable offering to God, performed on our part by the exercising of faith in Him;
• God uses our holy union as a strategic battle formation in His spiritual warfare with the prince of this world, Satan, and his fallen angels;
• God has established our holy union for His purposes; that is to:
— Mirror His image — Mutually complete one another — Multiply a godly heritage
• God has outlined a blueprint for accomplishing oneness in our holy union; that is to:
— Receive one another as God’s personal provision
— Establish a new independent unit as a couple
— Establish an inseparable bond of commitment to one another
— Establish personal sexual intimacy with one another
— Establish complete transparency by good communication with one another
— Establish appropriate role responsibilities
Now, therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned couple, in light of the above truths, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead and with the intent of allowing God to make our marriage all He wants it to be, do hereby reaffirm our vows of holy matrimony to love, honor, and establish oneness whether in sickness or in health, in poverty or in wealth, until death do us part. Amen.
Legally, marriage is a contract with certain rights and responsibilities. But we must distinguish between legal marriage and covenant marriage. In a legal marriage, if one party does not live up to the contract, then legal actions force them to do so or to end the marriage with an equitable settlement. A society could not exist without laws regulating marriage relationships, so in this sense, marriage is a contract. For a Christian, however, marriage is more; it is a covenant.
Contracts are important —The problem arises when we come to view our marriage only as a contract or a series of contracts. When this happens, we have become totally secular in our thinking and have abandoned the biblical view of marriage. The Bible views marriage ultimately as a covenant although contracts may be an important part of carrying out our covenant.
Contract Characteristics: There are five general characteristics of contracts.
1. Contracts are most often made for a limited period of time.
2. Contracts most often deal with specific actions.
3. Contracts are based on an “If… Then…” mentality.
4. Contracts are motivated by the desire to get something we want.
5. Contracts are sometimes unspoken and implicit.
While marriage is a legal contract to be honored, and informal contracts within marriage often help us effectively use our differing skills to our mutual benefit, Christian marriage is much more than a contract. This “much more” is to be discovered in the word covenant.
Why the term covenant marriage? Because it most clearly denotes the uniqueness of Christian marriage. Covenant is a biblical term. God is a covenant-making God.
(The following are some scriptures that deal with covenants in Scripture: Genesis 6:18; Genesis 17:3-8; Exodus 19:3-6; 2 Samuel 7:12-29; Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 37; Hosea 2; Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Galatians 3:15; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Samuel 18:1-3; Ruth 1:16-17; Proverbs 2:16-7; Ezekiel 16:8; Malachi 2:14- 16; Matthew 19:4-9.)
A covenant, like a contract, is an agreement made between two or more persons, but the nature of the agreement is quite different. 5 characteristics of a covenant relationship:
1. Covenants are initiated for the benefit of the other person.
2. In covenant relationships, people make unconditional promises.
3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love.
4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent.
5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness.
“Marriage is a God-planned creation, individually patterned and woven together to bring happiness and warmth to men and women —and joy and glory to the Creator.” (Shirley Cook from The Marriage Puzzle)
Did you catch those two words: planned and patterned? Planned: The dictionary says a plan is a “detailed method for the accomplishment of an object; a proposed project or goal.”
Patterned: is “an ideal worthy of imitation —a model; a sample.” Plans and patterns are so necessary. But we come to God, the all-important ingredient of marriage. He is the permanent glue that bonds the pieces of the picture puzzle together. After all, marriage is God’s idea from the beginning, all the way through the middle, right to the end. (Shirley Cook from The Marriage Puzzle )
A common definition of marriage: “It is two people seeking a peaceful co-existence together with the hope of obtaining a measure of personal happiness.” This is what people think marriage is —which is a “need-centered” approach to marriage.
A more Biblical definition: Marriage is a man and a woman on a life-long journey together towards God. Marriage is about change —it’s about changing you and also changing your spouse. The purpose of marriage is that God wants to change all of us through it. And what helps us to change is when we begin to see that the hills and the valleys of the problems we live through together reveal the deeper character in our own hearts.
It’s important, from the very beginning, to understand the whole idea of marriage —that it’s not about making us feel good. That’s not why God brought us together. It’s not so you could have your needs met (although needs are met in marriage) but the primary purpose is to change us —to make us more into the image of Christ.
It is in the struggle that makes the journey of living a married life rich. It causes us to cling more deeply to the God who created us and to have the courage to move in ways that makes us very vulnerable. And yet they’re also the ways we were made to bless our spouse as we live our lives displaying the character and values of Christ.” (Pastor Scott Engelman)
In conclusion, we’d like to share with you something we personally wrote on the subject of marriage a while ago. It tells of our passion and mission to help marriages put the heart of Christ back into marriage. In it we reiterate some of the points that were made above but it also makes some additional points that we think are important on this subject.
It talks about the difference between “Covenant Marriages” which seems to be the way that God intended for marriage to be all about in the first place and “Contract Marriages” which is what we’re seeing marriage reduced to more and more in our world today. We pray you will find it to be helpful:
COVENANT MARRIAGES vs. CONTRACT MARRIAGES:
It is our passion to help couples work on their marriages so they are loving and healthy, as God intends for them to be. We personally feel God has given us the ministry of inspiring other couples to reveal and reflect the love of Christ within marriage —and with that foundation established, reaching out with the mission of drawing others closer to God because of the love witnessed through our covenantal, Christ-honoring marriages.
We also feel God has given us the message to those who are married that whatever is past is past —particularly if divorce is a part of your past. That’s between you and the Lord. But with the information that we’re giving you, it’s our prayer that “from this day forward,” you’ll work to make the marriage you’re in, a lifetime commitment,‘Till death parts you.”
Our passion to help other couples goes beyond just erasing the “D” word (divorce) from our thoughts, verbiage, and actions —although that’s a great 1st step. Jay Kessler once said, “The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.” Once you decide that divorce isn’t an even an option, you start finding different (and hopefully, healthier) alternatives to solving the problems you’re facing. It is our mission to help couples commit themselves to go beyond the “Contract Marriages” of today —to instead live out “Covenant Marriages” which is at the heart of God.
Throughout the Bible, marriage is referred to as a living picture, a living example displayed through those who are married of Christ’s love for the church. Christ is the bridegroom (just as the man who marries is to be a living example of the bridegroom), and the church (His people), are the bride of Christ (just as women who marry are to be living examples of the bride of Christ).
Jesus Christ takes very good care of His bride —to the point that He sacrificed His life for her. He also showed us through His example, through His actions, and through His words that He left for us in the Bible, how to love each other in the way He does and we should. As a result God’s loving nature is supposed to show the world by how we treat each other how wonderfully different His love is than theirs so they will want to know His love better and eventually want to come to faith in Jesus Christ. When we enter into marriage we become models of God’s love to each other for the world to see and want to know more about.
The bridegroom (displayed by married men) is to respond to his bride just as Christ does for His church. He is to sacrificially love her in his words and his actions. Christ is then given high visibility and honor and has the opportunity to display His loving nature through this man by how he treats his wife so that others will want to know God more personally. (The husband is to be faithful even if his bride is not. That shows forth the character of Christ in giving unconditional love. It’s an awesome responsibility.) The Holy Spirit is available, when called upon, to teach the man how to do this in his everyday life.
The bride (displayed by married women) is to show her respectful ways to God’s loving faithfulness through how she interacts with her husband (the bridegroom) to such an extent that others who don’t know Christ are drawn to the type of love that pours forth from her. Her faithfulness is to stay true despite the husband’s actions. That is also the nature and character of God. And that is part of being in a covenant relationship with God and your marriage partner. You are faithful no matter what —just as God is faithful! The Holy Spirit is also available, when called upon, to teach the woman how to do this in her everyday life.
It’s got to break the heart of God by the awful way we’re treating each other as He watches us distorting the picture of marriage which He has displayed for all to read about throughout the Bible. Think about it, when we, as His living examples of covenantal love, divorce each other, what does this say to the world of God’s promises to the Church of His love, faithfulness and devotion for them?
And what example, what message are we giving out to others of the “transforming power” that God can perform in our lives and marriages, when we, ourselves, don’t even utilize that power? It’s a sad testimony, that marriages today, are so weak and unhealthy, not to mention all the divorcing that’s going on!
We’ve personally known so many people who have expressed a disinterest in knowing Christ because of the nasty ways Christians treat each other and those around them by living unfaithful, dishonest, and dishonoring lives. If we, as people who claim to know Jesus Christ in a personal way can’t act extraordinarily loving and gracious towards each other, what makes others who don’t know Christ think He will change their lives for the better in any way? What will attract them to know Christ in a personal way?
How we pray more people will wake up to this fact and turn their lives around to the glory of God and help others to also do the same!
Recently, we heard of a young couple that had a Covenant contract written out before their wedding ceremony. They signed it during the ceremony and then had each guest also sign it before leaving the church.
The guests, by signing this contract, pledged to pray for this couple and keep them accountable to live in accordance to how a covenant marriage should be modeled. They pledged to make sure that this couple would never break this covenant. What a beautiful and yet practical way to start out a marriage —having God along with others help this newlywed couple forever keep the vows they made to each other.
We need to plug into the help that God can give us in our lives and recognize that our marriages are a mission field-pointing others to the saving, and abiding love of God through Jesus Christ. Does your marriage reflect the message that God will want for the world to read? If not, put your energies into making sure that your marriage points others to Christ’s abiding power.
We need to see marriage as a “one flesh” lifestyle. Legally, marriage is being treated as a contract with certain rights and responsibilities. In a Contract Marriage, if one of the partners doesn’t live up to their end of the contract, then re-negotiations are in order. If an amicable agreement isn’t reached, then the marriage is allowed to end with an “equitable settlement.” So a Contract Marriage is essentially, “You do your part and I’ll do mine,” or else!
A “Covenant Marriage” is more than a Contract Marriage. It goes beyond that. It’s, “I’ll do my part —regardless of whether you do yours or not.” “It’s putting the other person first. It assumes a mutual response on the other person’s part, but it’s not conditioned upon the other person’s behavior.”
“In a Covenant Marriage, each spouse is committed to the other’s well-being. If both of them keep the covenant, then BOTH of them will be the benefactors, but the motivation and the attitude isn’t one of self-gratification but rather, giving oneself for the well-being of the other” (Dr Gary Chapman).
A Covenant Marriage is one of teamwork. It commits to “find the best solution to any problem at hand.” Each person is committed to the vow they made to their spouse, (even if their spouse doesn’t live up to their vow), but also are committed to the vow they made to God. They view their actions with their spouse as though everything they do for them is, “as unto the Lord.”
It’s being committed to the vow we made to God; to love and honor the spouse God has given us. We need to know that when we break our vow to our spouse, we’re breaking our vow to God! It’s also realizing that how we treat each other in our marriage, is a witness to everyone we come in contact with what the love of God is all about.
Whether you like it or not, you’re witnessing to your children as you live your married lives in front of them. If you’re Believers, you have all the more responsibility in modeling a loving Christian marriage to them. Do you want them to treat their spouse in the same manner that you treat yours? Do you realize by the everyday choice you make that you’re modeling a Christian marriage, a Christian lifestyle to everyone you come in contact with? Your marriage is on display for others to observe God through.
You witness in many ways. How you treat each other when you’re in public (and in private) is a way of “communicating the gospel without words.” Your marriage is a witness of your love for God and how you honor what He’s told us to keep sacred. Your marriage is a witness of how God can empower and transform those who are His. It is a mission field-pointing others to the saving and abiding love of God through Jesus Christ.
We have a lot of choices to make in our marriages to help them to grow in healthy ways. Our prayer is that you’ll “choose” your spouse everyday, in every way, with your hearts, your minds, and your actions. Remember when you first began to love each other. Remember the strong love and commitment that drew you closer to each other than any other human commitment you’d ever had. And then choose to work that love into practical actions every day with the guidance of the Holy Spirit from this day forward so nothing can divide you.
This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.