Of course that which makes a marriage uniquely Christian is the pledged allegiance of both the Christian Husband and the Christian Wife to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Here we have two people who have been set apart for salvation from eternity, and who have been declared righteous in Christ in God’s court. They have been united to Christ by the Spirit’s work and now they enter into marriage. Very well then, it is quite obvious that that which will make the marriage Christian is their bowing to the Lordship of their King and Savior in their marriage.
This concern about the Lordship of Jesus Christ begins even before marriage in the courting process and manifests itself first in the careful attention of each that they are marrying someone who is suitable for them.
This is what God said in Genesis
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now, it stands to reason that this woman who was to be suitable for Adam found an Adam that in turn was suitable for her. This is just to say that Adam and Eve were a fit. They were quite literally made for each other.
First of course they were a fit in the sense that they understood that they were God’s creatures and were beholden to Him. In our language today we might say that they shared a common faith. No marriage should be entered into where man and wife do not share a common understanding of their shared Christian faith. Indeed Scripture forbids it for Christians when it forbids unequal yoking.
But the correspondence, — or suitability if you prefer — between our first parents of course only began with Adam and Eve’s common faith — a common faith that found each of them trusting in God at each turn.
But beyond this common faith were other commonalities. They were yoked in other ways. After all this was a woman who was, in Adam’s own words, “Bone of my Bone, and Flesh of my Flesh.” Adam and Eve mirrored one another. I suspect that Adam and Eve corresponded to each other in the way that they looked and in their mannerisms, in their likes and dislikes. They not only shared a faith and a bed but they shared common delights, common palates, common speech patterns, and common characteristics.
Rudyard Kipling caught something of what I am getting at in terms of the need for commonalities in uniquely Christian marriage that is never less than a common faith but is always more than a common faith when he wrote,
The Stranger within my gate,
He may be true or kind,
But he does not talk my talk–
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
But not the soul behind.
Dr. Clarence Macartney, a well known Reformed Minister from my Grandparent’s generation put this time-tested concept, if also time-worn idea, in a sermon he preached on Marriage and family life. Macartney preached,
“Love imagines that it can overleap the barriers of race and blood and religion, and in the enthusiasm and ecstasy of choice these obstacles appear insignificant. But the facts of experience are against such an idea. Mixed marriages are rarely happy. Observation and experiences demonstrate that the marriage of a Gentile and Jew, a Protestant and a Catholic, an American and a Foreigner has less chance of a happy result than a marriage where the man and woman are of the same race and religion….”
I know that Anthony and Rachel share the kind of commonalities that the Lordship of Christ anticipates for a uniquely Christian marriage. They are not strangers to one another in terms of suitability. They share a common understanding of their common faith. They share a worldview. They come from similar family cultures and backgrounds and they share a people group. They are suitable for each other.
II.) When it comes to a uniquely Christian marriage not only is the Lordship of Christ pursued in the issue of the suitableness of each for one another but it is also pursued in each of them submitting to God’s Law.
Remember we are speaking here of a Christian marriage and in a Christian marriage you have two people who have had wrought within them the desire to look to the interest of the other. You have two people, who, when they say they “love” each other they understand that love is an empty concept unless if is defined by God’s law. Anthony must not love Rachel in ways that are inconsistent w/ God’s revealed word and Rachel must not love Anthony by defining what love is by her own law word. In order for their marriage to be Christian each must love in ways consistent with God’s revealed law-word.
Of course you already know that never was a word more cheapened in our culture than the word “love.” We have sentimentalized it, we have coarsened it, we have invoked it in order to cover the most hateful of actions. And the reason for this is that “love” has no stable meaning because each man loves as is right in his own eyes. This is not so in a Christian marriage that takes the Lordship of Christ into account. A Christian marriage understands that “love” is regulated and finds it’s meaning in God’s law being applied. Jesus Himself draws our attention to the same point when He told his disciples, “If you love me keep my commandments.”
The fact that marriages fail so often can be accounted both by the fact that two people married who did not correspond to one another to begin with and by the fact that both people in the marriage are seeking to regulate the marriage according to their own self-governing law word. In short, marriages fail because one if not both partners are seeking to be God in the relationship. It can get pretty ugly when the Gods go to war.
When both husband and wife submit to a royal law of love that is defined and regulated by God’s Law-Word then the conflict of the wills have a boundary in order to limit them.
So, a uniquely Christian marriage finds God’s revealed law-word governing their marriage and their homes. Anthony shows his love to Rachel by serving her much as Christ served the Church in the washing of his disciples’ feet. He serves her by leading, protecting, providing, and by nurturing her in her undoubted catholic Christian faith. Rachel shows her love to Anthony by submitting to him, by being a complement to him, and as Christ always delighted to do the will of His Father so Rachel will delight in doing the will of her husband who will lay down his life for her.
III.) The Lordship of Jesus Christ is expressed in uniquely Christian marriages by the teleology or goal of the Marriage.
Theologians will tell you that part of what constitutes man as the “image of God” is the fact that he was charged with having dominion over God’s creation. He was to be a ruling steward over creation for God as King.
When God gave Eve to Adam that giving was in the context of Adam’s dominion work. The giving of Eve to Adam was for the purpose of aiding and assisting Adam in his work of dominion.
In the Christian understanding nothing has happened since Adam was created to exercise dominion and since Eve was created from Adam to be a help-meet in that dominion taking that has rescinded the idea that the ultimate goal of marriage is a Husband and Wife co-operating, under God’s regency and Law-Word, in exercising godly dominion. The Husband and Wife, together as man and wife, are to reconstruct all they put their hands too in a Christ honoring direction. Even the having and rearing of children is to be unto the end of being able to more readily exercise dominion to the glory of God.
And clearly we live in times that desperately need humble Christian dominion taking. Clearly we live in times where we should pray that God will raise up a host of Christian marriages that understand the charge to begin dominion taking first by reconstructing marriage and family again along Biblical lines.
You see, the ordaining of marriages is not about our creature comforts. When God joins suitable Redeemed men and women together, as under His law word, they are commissioned to the end of going on quest to reconstruct all of the un-real reality around us so as to be consonant to God’s Kingdom reality. And if the sound of dominion lands to roughly upon your ears look at what I am speaking of as Christian marriages contributing to the healing of a broken world with the medicine of God’s Word.
If we were to put this in terms of a epic adventure novel, Christian Marriage is an adventure where the husband is a Knight of the Lord Christ’s round table protecting his wife and family by taking dominion over the serpent dragon who would seek to destroy Christ’s authority and Kingdom at every turn. The wife is no helpless damsel in distress but she is helping the husband to better able to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and the advance of His Kingdom.
And so a uniquely Christian marriage looks to the Lordship of Christ in these three areas
II.) Governance by God’s Law