Your Question: What does it mean to have a Christian marriage?
A Christian marriage is a marriage which has been instituted and functions according to biblical principles. It is a marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4,5). In a Christian marriage there is no room for multiple wives or husbands. Neither is a ‘marriage’ between two men or women a marriage according to biblical principles. A Christian marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for life.
- A Christian marriage has started with a commitment before God to be faithful to each other. In Malachi 2:14 it says ‘…because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth’. Proverbs 2:17 speaks of the adulteress ‘who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God’. The word covenant here refers to her marriage. This verse shows that marriage is a covenant before God.
- There also needs to be a commitment before other people, so that society can treat the couple as a married couple. In this way the couple can also be held accountable to the promises they made to each other before witnesses. When Jesus talked to the woman at the well in Samaria, he said: ‘For you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.’ (John 4:18). This woman was living together with a man, but he was not her husband because there had never been a public commitment, so Jesus saw them as unmarried.
- It is normally consummated by sexual intercourse (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4,5) (unless disability or other circumstances prevent the couple from having sexual intercourse). Sexual intercourse should only take place within the covenant relationship of a marriage. Sexual relationships outside marriage are adultery and immoral (Hebrews 13:4).
- A Christian marriage portrays the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Christ gave Himself up for the church; likewise, husbands should give themselves up for their wives and love them as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:25-29). And as the church submits to Christ; likewise, wives should submit to their husbands and acknowledge him as the head of the family (verses 22-24). There is no room for selfishness in the Christian marriage. The couple is told to honor each other (1 Peter 3:2,7). The Christian marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. There are to be mutual love, faithfulness and a servant attitude on both sides.
Of course, we live in a fallen world and Christians also often struggle in their marriages. But despite all the difficulties, both partners in a Christian marriage are called to portray Christ in their marriage. This means that they are ready to forgive each other. It means they are willing to be obedient to God and his Word, which tells couples to be faithful to each other even when the going gets tough. It means that the couple strives to honor God in their relationship. God will give us the grace to do so, when we ask him! (Hebrews 4:14-16)