Nathan is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan. He wrote this essay for the Protestant Reformed Scholarship.
The institution of marriage and the family structure have come under heated debate in religious and political circles. Various churches degrade marriage by the allowance of divorce and remarriage and their support of the changing roles of men and women in marriage. Politicians also seek to redefine marriage through the promotion of homosexual relations. These influences on the institution of marriage desecrate the sanctity and meaning of a true, biblical marriage. It is imperative that Christians follow the guidelines of proper marriage as they are recorded in Holy Scripture. Fathers, mothers, and children are called by Christ to faithfully abide in their respective roles in both marriage and the family life. Through their adherence to the principles of God’s Word, Christians provide a witness of a proper family structure to the wicked world which seeks to pervert the basic foundation of a family. As a future minister D.V., I will set forth the principles of marriage and family life to His people and help them to apply this doctrine positively to their lives.
The marriage of a man and woman has been the basic foundation of society from the very beginning. Genesis 2:18 states, “The Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” God created pairs of all the animals so that they were complete in their natural design. Adam viewed the perfect order of the other animals in their male and female relationships, and he realized his incompleteness.1 God purposely directed Adam to recognize this incompleteness because that prepared Adam for the newly created female, Eve. Adam learned that the woman was an essential part of his life and “necessary for his own completion.”2 The man and the woman complemented each other from the very beginning. Thus, God in His perfect wisdom created the institution of marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.
A faithful pastor must set forth the doctrinal principle of a biblical marriage, but this also needs to be applied to the everyday lives of his congregation’s members. The pastor reminds the husbands to be faithful to their wives and honor them for they are the essence of their completion. This means that the men must be careful not to experiment with pornography or sexual chat rooms on the Internet. When a man participates in such a sin, he forfeits the relationship with his wife and stains the sanctity of it. The men must be warned of the present-day evils and the dire consequences for these sins. Although women also suffer from the sins that plague the men, they need to focus on their special role within the home. Society influences many women to engage in employment outside the home. A pastor cautions the women to forsake the pressures of the world and focus their attention to the rearing of covenant children. These admonitions present difficulty for the pastor for the influence of the world upon the church is powerful. He must stand fast in the Word but also actively promote healthy marriages of his members. He performs this by eagerly counseling the young adults who desire marriage and encouraging couples of all ages to walk as disciples of Christ within their marriages. Husbands and wives must model their behavior and calling in marriage after the chief Shepherd who forsook his own interests for the sake of His people. What a powerful illustration for the people of God to follow! Jesus Christ gave up his place at the right hand of God in the glory of glories to come into the world and deliver his people. The children of God must follow this example and forsake themselves in order to build up their spouse.
God’s people need to understand the God-ordained principle of marriage and the individual roles for the man and the woman inside that marriage so that the principle may be applied to their lives. The role of the male is described in Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” Therefore, the man must assume headship over his wife and children just as Christ rules over the Church. The husband must rule in a kind manner and “dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heir together of the grace of life” (I Peter 3:7). The woman is commanded to submit herself to the authority of her husband for the Lord’s sake. She lovingly respects her husband and dutifully performs the menial tasks of keeping a family because she desires to serve the Lord through her role in a God-ordained marriage. The women need to be of a sound mind for this allows them to reflect on the role of the church in its relationship to Christ.3 The Church must sacrifice itself to maintain the faithful witness of Jesus Christ, so the woman in a marriage must apply this example of sacrifice into her own life. It is important for women to remember the relationship between Christ and His Church because it may be the only thought which keeps them going from day to day. Husbands may lose respect for their hard work and children may disregard the dignity of the mother, thus, women need to hear and understand their important roles in a marriage. The minister encourages the men and women about their important roles within God’s covenant family and reminds them that all these ordinances are God-ordained for the benefit of His Church.
These are difficult guidelines for Christians to follow in this wicked day and age. The feminist movement encourages women to forsake their husbands and families by seeking careers outside the home. The men are tempted to treat their wives as mere objects of sexual pleasure or unnecessary parts of their lives. The people of God need to submit to these biblical marriage guidelines because “[He] gave unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator. He doth also uphold and govern them to the end that man (and woman) may serve his God.4 Since God has ordained the institution, Christian men and women desire to serve Him through their humble submission to His will.
The institution of marriage is being undermined today by the wickedness that abounds in the present day and age. Many churches no longer maintain a particular stand against the sin of divorce and remarriage. The minister of the gospel needs to defend the sacred institution of marriage by teaching the church about the evils of divorce and remarriage. The words of our Lord in Matthew 5 must be proclaimed and maintained. The minister also promotes the institution of marriage by taking a stand against homosexuality. Politicians and various members of society have not heeded to a most basic lesson of God’s Word that one man is meant for one woman. Society uses an equality argument to justify homosexual lifestyles rather than turning to the Word of God. These people may twist the political principles for alternative lifestyles but the Bible teaches a different view concerning these people who “change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Romans 1:26). The Word states that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, neither fornicators, nor abusers of themselves with mankind” (I Cor. 6:9). These words of Scripture cut to the heart of the issue and teach God’s people of the seriousness of this sin so that they will not fall into the sinful habit of condoning such an immoral sin.
Children are also an important part of the family structure for they are the “fruit of the womb and happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Ps 127:5). Parents ought to view their children as blessings from God for they are a part of the covenant mercies that God bestows upon His people. The role of children in the family plays an important part in the promotion of a biblical family structure. Children must serve the Lord in their lives by honoring and obeying their parents. They do well to heed to the instruction of Lord’s Day 49: “Grant that we may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey they will, that so everyone may perform the duties of his station and calling [in life].”5 When children follow the requirements of God’s Word, a biblical family structure is promoted and God is praised.
Christians provide a witness of a proper marriage and a sound family to the world when they follow the principles in God’s Word. Faithful preachers will lead their congregations in these truths and help their people to glorify God in their roles of husbands, wives, and children. Through the instruction of a sound pastor, the children of God condemn the worldly influences of remarriage after divorce and homosexuality because they are violations of the sacred Word. A caring minister will also actively help his people infuse these principles into their lives. The children of God who strive to honor God in their respective family roles will receive a blessed reward of inner peace. Psalm 128 declares that “blessed is every one that feareth the Lord, that walketh in His ways.” God’s beloved people will “see their children’s children, and peace upon Israel.” These blessings of the covenant motivate a pastor to work hard for God’s glory and make God’s people content with their roles as husbands, wives, and children within the kingdom of God.
1Engelsma, David. Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church. (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Assoc., 1974), 21.
4Confession of Faith: Article XII—Of the Creation.
5Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 49.