Confessing Our Faith In the Culture – Chapter 26

Of Marriage

A. What is marriage?

  1. a creation ordinance of God Gen 2:24

  2. a covenant of companionship” Gen 2:18

    1. a public and formal sworn promise by a man and a woman to teach other which brings them into a marriage union intended to provide them with a multi-dimensional life companionship” Sam Waldron

    2. constituted by the making of the covenant

      1. promise publicly certified

        1. by swearing an oath

        2. by exchanging tangible signs or symbols

Marriage is, to use Jay Adams’ helpful phrase, ‘a covenant of companionship’. That is to say, it is a public and formal sworn promise by a man and a woman to teach other which brings them into a marriage union intended to provide them with a multi-dimensional life companionship. This definition of marriage contains a reference to the governing purpose and constituting activity of marriage. The governing purpose of marriage is to provide a man and a woman with one another’s companionship (Gen. 2:18, 24; Prov. 2:17; Mal. 2:14). These texts reveal that this intimate companionship is to be sexual, vocational, verbal and emotional. The constituting activity of marriage is commitment to and the making of the marriage covenant (Gen. 2:24; Prov. 2:17; Mal 2:14; Ezek. 16:8). A covenant is not merely a promise – it is a promise or commitment publicly and formally certified by the swearing of an oath. The public and formal character of such covenants is indicated by their frequently being accompanied in the Bible by the presence of witnesses and the exchanging of tangible signs or symbols. Waldron

B. What is the purpose of marriage?

  1. mutual help for husband and wife Gen 2:18

  2. procreation Gen 1:28

  3. prevent immorality 1 Cor. 7:2, 9

  4. model the church to the world Eph. 5:21-33

C. When can it be dissolved?

  1. when the covenant has been broken

    1. by adultery Matt. 1:18-19; 5:31-32; 19:9

    2. by abandonment 1 Cor. 7:15

      VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.
      WCF, Chapter XXIV

  2. NOTE: It is not mandatory to exercise the right to a divorce even though to do so in either of these cases would not constitute sin.

The essential nature of divorce must be understood in the light of the identity of marriage outlined above. Since marriage is not constituted by sexual relations, divorce is not constituted by adultery (Matt. 1:18-19). Since marriage is constituted by the formal covenant of marriage, divorce must be carried out by a formal bill of divorce (Deut. 24:1-4; Jer. 3:8; Isa. 50:1). Since marriage has for its purpose companionship, divorce repudiates that companionship (Deut. 24:2; Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8).

The proper grounds of divorce are two and two only. Since marriage is a covenant of companionship, the only proper grounds for divorce are those which absolutely contradict its identity as such. According to the Bible only desertion and adultery provide grounds for divorce. Desertion is the absolute negation of a covenant of companionship. It, therefore, provides the right to a divorce (1 Cor. 7:15). Adultery is the absolute violation of the supreme privilege and sacred heart of the marriage covenant (Gen. 2:24). For this reason it also gives the right of divorce to the injured party (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9). The right to a divorce need not be exercised. It may be very imprudent to exercise such a right. Yet it is not sin for the injured party to exercise that right. Waldron, Commentary

D. What does the Bible teach about gender?

  1. distinctive equality

    1. equality

      1. image bearers Gen. 1:27

      2. one in Christ Galatians 3:28

      3. equally share in God’s grace 1 Peter 3:7

        [T]he Bible is quite clear that men and women are equally God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:27) and therefore equal before God and in relationship with one another, and also that they are fellow-heirs in the Christian life, equal in their spiritual standing before God (1 Peter 3:7; Galatians 3:28). The Bible is also clear that men and women, who are equal with respect to creation and redemption and therefore share many things in common, are called to different and equally important roles in marriage and the church. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Piper & Grudem

    2. distinctiveness

      1. in role Gen. 3:15-19; Eph. 5:23-24

      2. in relationship 1 Cor. 11:7-9

      3. in ministry Tit. 2:1-8

It is God Himself (as we shall see later) who has determined distinctive roles for men and women in order that thereby they may fulfill the creation mandate that He has given to mankind (cf. Genesis 1:28; 3:15-19). God has called men to serve as leaders in marriage and the church, and women to submit themselves willingly to that leadership, as they labor together in their distinctive roles (Ephesians 5:23-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:12; 3:1-13). In defining how men and women are to relate to one another in fulfilling their respective roles, God has called men to exercise a headship that is loving, gentle, and considerate (e.g., Ephesians 5:25ff.; 1 Peter 3:7), and He has called women to submit to that headship in a willing, gentle, and respectful way (e.g., Ephesians 5:24, 33; 1 Peter 3:1-2). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Piper & Grudem

When the Bible teaches that men and women fulfill different roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, it bases this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 (especially vv. 8-9, 14); Ephesians 5:21-33 (especially vv. 31-32); and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (especially vv. 13-14). In the Bible, differentiated roles for men and women are never traced back to the fall of man and woman into sin. Rather, the foundation of this differentiation is traced back to the way things were in Eden before sin warped our relationships. Differentiated roles were corrupted, not created, by the fall. They were created by God.

E. Why is a proper understanding of gender roles necessary?

  1. for marriage

    Instructions to husbands and wives in the New Testament always focus first on wives and their responsibility to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1ff.). Both Peter and Paul reaffirm the role relationship God established by creation before they deal with how men and women should conduct themselves in that relationship. The divinely instituted form must come first, before one talks about how to live within it. This is a permanently significant lesson. Furthermore, Paul always addresses those under authority before those in authority: wives before husbands, children before parents, servants before masters (Ephesians 5:22- 6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Piper & Grudem

    1. see Danvers Statement Rationale

    2. If the family is the basic building block of society, every structural flaw found there tends to be magnified in the culture.

    3. In order for the family to “reproduce” properly, gender roles and personal identity must be rightly understood.

    4. How to cultivate and maintain proper roles in all areas of culture begins with practice in the home.

  2. for the culture

    At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.

    At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships. Piper & Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

    1. What do we look for in a leader?

    2. Who do our “boys” risk their lives to defend?

    3. What kind character/what sort of roles are encouraged or promoted by public policy?

    4. How do we treat one another?

The pagan overturning of who God is as Creator and Ruler (Rom 1:18-22) results in the overturning of that image of dominion in human beings who then proceed, in profoundly dehumanizing ways, to worship the things over which God intended that they exercise dominion. Paul states clearly, “They exchanged the glory of the [image of] the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:23), with a clear reference to Gen 1:26, cited above. Today we understand more and more what Paul is saying. For many opinion makers, we are no longer mankind or even humankind. We are “earthkind,” just one among many other animal species, bowing before the ineluctable [impossible to avoid] progress of evolving Mother Nature.

According to Paul in Rom 1:18-22, the pagan overturning/exchanging of who God is as creator and ruler results in the overturning/exchanging of who we are as human beings (as Rom 1:26 explicitly states)-namely, bearers of the divine image-specifically expressed in sexual difference: “they… exchanged natural [heterosexual/creational] relations for those [homosexual] that are contrary to nature.”

Paganism is not attacking us about our positions on the millennium or baptism. It is attacking the very notion of both the person of God and the image of God in human beings, a special creation, made as either male or female. Pagans today are attacking not the superficial but the foundational notions of our faith. Peter Jones, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Vol. 12 No. 2

See Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood chart, pg.62-63; entire book available in PDF format here.

Additional helpful resources:

Online book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood here.
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Fall 2007 Issue:



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