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.

2Ibid, 22.

3Ibid, 51.

4Confession of Faith: Article XII—Of the Creation.

5Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 49.

Nathan is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan. He wrote this essay for the Protestant Reformed Scholarship.

The minister of the gospel is called to labor in the church of Christ. This calling is an important work because the church is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ. This important work requires a minister to labor diligently in his pastoral duties, and it requires the minister to have a certain love for his congregation. The work of the minister is similar to that of a shepherd and a disciple. The work of the minister is a reflection of the work of the chief shepherd and disciple: Jesus Christ.

The duties of a minister toward his congregation are similar to the duties a shepherd has toward a flock of sheep. The shepherd protects his sheep from roving predators that seek to devour them. The shepherd may even risk his life in order to provide safety for the sheep. The parable of the lost sheep illustrates the extent of a shepherd’s love for his sheep. The shepherd was concerned about the one sheep that had gone astray into the wilderness. He was not content to have ninety-nine sheep in his fold. No, the shepherd left the ninety-nine and searched until the lost sheep was restored. The love that the minister has for the saints should be similar to the love of the shepherd. He labors among the saints of God on account of the love that he holds for the church. The minister also seeks the spiritual welfare of the people of God. When a child of God wanders into the wilderness of sin, the minister labors unceasingly in order to restore the child of God into the church.

The shepherd is also responsible for providing pasture and water for his flock. In John 21:15-17, Jesus commanded Peter: “Feed my sheep.” Here the Lord exhorts every under-shepherd to busy himself in the ministry of the Word (Calvin 291). The minister labors in the study of the Word so that each Sunday he may lead the people of God into the green pastures of His Word. When the believers come into the house of God on Sunday after a week of trekking through the wilderness of the world, they need to be fed and watered. It is the responsibility of the minister, the ambassador of Christ, to seek green pastures and living water for the people of God. The saints desire the living water that flows from the atonement of Christ on His cross. The desired pastures are rich with the doctrines of the Christian religion that provide true comfort to the saints. The saints enjoy this comfort after they hear about the Great Shepherd, who purchased His people not with gold or silver but with His own precious blood.

Preaching the Word is the primary duty of the minister of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel is considered one of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The Heidelberg Catechism answer 84 states:

When it is declared to every believer, that, when they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God, and on the contrary, when it is declared to all unbelievers, and such as do not repent, that they stand exposed to the wrath and judgement of God.

The emphasis the catechism places on the preaching of the Word motivates people to note the seriousness involved with preaching. The preaching serves the purpose of gathering all believers into the body of Christ, but it also serves as a warning to the unbeliever. In order to accomplish this purpose, the minister must preach exegetically and interpret Scripture on its own account. It is through these means that God is glorified in the preaching and the saints are nourished with the Word of God.

The work of the minister is also reflected in the life of a disciple. The disciple is one who follows and takes upon himself the example set forth by his master. The minister must follow the example of the Master who denied Himself even unto death because of His love for His chosen people. The life that Christ portrayed is truly the best example of the life of a disciple. Christ was busy in His earthly ministry preaching and teaching among the people. He then humbly submitted Himself to the will of the Father by suffering and dying on the cross and descending into the torments of hell. He bore all this suffering so that the saints might receive life everlasting. What an inspiration this is for the men who labor in the ministry of the Word and sacraments. The zeal a minister has for his work stems from the work of Christ in his heart, and he is motivated to busy himself in the work of the church. The minister seeks to serve his Master by laboring in the church. The minister denies himself and his own interests and strives for the good of the church.

The work of the minister in the church is a labor of love and obedience to Christ. The minister must realize that Christ called him to labor in the church. This calling places a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of the minister. Since the minister has been called by Christ to serve His church, the minister is held responsible for his labors in the church directly to Christ Himself (DeJong 29). Hebrews 13:17 states: “For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief.” This text motivates the minister to busy himself in the work of the church because he must watch over the very souls of God’s children. What a calling it is then to be a laborer on the walls of Zion!

Should God be pleased to call me as an undershepherd to labor in His fold I must submit to His will. Submission to the will of the Father is what it means to be a disciple of God. Remember the idea of a disciple, one who denies himself and his own interests in order to serve the Master. The idea of discipleship truly involves every child of God, but a minister has a spiritual calling to deny himself and live in servitude to the church. The disciple must also follow the spiritual teachings of the Master in heaven. I believe the Protestant Reformed Churches are blessed with one of the purest manifestations of the truth. The Protestant Reformed Churches preach and teach the whole counsel of God; therefore our churches follow the command of Christ to feed the sheep. The work of the minister reflects the service of Christ after he denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows in the teachings of Christ. Whether God calls me to labor as a minister in His kingdom or not, I pray that whatever I do may be done to the honor and glory of His name. To God alone be the glory and may His name be praised!

Works Cited

Calvin, John. (1949). Commentary of the Gospel According to John. (Vol. 2). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

DeJong, Rev. Peter. (1955). Taking Heed to the Flock. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

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