The Christian Family – No. 5: The Threefold Purpose of Marriage


Psalm 127 Ephesians 5:31, 33


The home roots in marriage, which according to the Bible is the unique life-long union between one man and one woman recognized as such by both God and men.

Usually, and that not alone in legal circles, it is described as a “contract.” Many especially in our world regard it the product of man’s social evolution. In an altogether different way the Roman church insists that it is a “sacrament” which is properly administered only by the “true” church. Such views, each in their own way, do violence to what God has said. Previously we noted that marriage is rooted in creation, has been explained by God himself, is deeply affected by the presence of sin, and can be restored to its original intent only by God’s grace. Such an approach requires the recognition of the Biblical view of the relation between nature (creation) and grace (God’s redemptive work for all of life in Christ). Non-Christian marriages, to be sure, are valid also in God’s sight. Yet the high purpose of marriage is not attained by those entering “this holy estate” apart from faith in the God of our salvation. What is a truly Christian marriage? Wherein does it differ from the marriages of non-Christians? In this light we should consider the triple purpose for which marriage has been instituted and is maintained by God. Read carefully the “Form for the Solemnization of Marriage.” Remember that this is an official document of the church, stating its interpretation and application of the basic Biblical teachings on this point.



1–The propagation of the human race

Ordinarily those entering marriage should expect and desire children. Many times the Bible emphasizes this as a unique blessing. Why? Some have criticized the order stated in the “Form” as giving too much prominence to this aspect To the minds of many, apparently, this is quite secondary and even incidental. What does Genesis 1:28 have to say on this? Does this hold today with an exploding population? Do husband and wife have the right to determine (in so far as this is possible) how many children they shall have? Are there legitimate reasons for limiting the number of children? Are six children too many in this day of rising living costs? eight? ten?

Some couples remain childless. Usually this is a very painful experience. Such does not mean that these marriages are without purpose. They are in a sense, however, less than complete. Discuss the spiritual struggles of such a couple. How may they best be helped? Is adoption to be recommended then? Should believing couples seek to adopt, if possible, only children born in covenant with God?

Show how the modem attitude towards having children differs from that which is often described in the Old Testament. How would you explain this difference?

2–The furt herance of God’s kingdom

For the believer all of life—not the least marriage and family life—should aim at the advancement of God’s cause and kingdom. Hereby God perpetuates his covenant with the sons of men. What is meant by the “covenant”? In what other way does God maintain his covenant among men?

Precisely in their capacities and callings as husband and as wife the marriage partners are to advance God’s rule. Here they are to reflect the power of God’s grace and thus witness to his marvelous grace in Christ. In what sense are Christian families a witness to Christ? Would you say such a witness is of equal value to that of, e.g., a minister, missionary, teacher, etc., in their vocations? Show how the truly Christian family fosters cooperativeness, concern for others, thrift, orderliness, etc.

3–The mutual enrichment of husbands and wives

God himself said that it is not good for man to be alone. Why not? In what respect is also this a reflection of man’s creation in the image of God? Does this mean that everyone should marry at some time or other? Note what Christ has said about this (Matt. 19:16). Discuss the meaning of this text. What is required here is loving companionship between husband and wife, an unstinted giving of each to the other. Although this comes to unique expression in marital relations (because of man’s constitutional nature as body-soul unity), these relations are degraded when not prompted by self-giving love which manifests itself in all facets of married life. Show how today’s life with its incessant demands makes such full giving difficult. Should husband and wife always like to be with each other? May they keep secrets from each other? Do you think there are many completely happy marriages? How can husband and wife best enrich each other’s lives?

For believers such companionship comes to clearest expression when all of life is consciously and conSistently (in so far as possible in this present life) lived together before God’s face. They are to be of help to each other especially in their mutual relation to God. In what specific ways can each help the other to “grow up in all things into him, even Christ, who is the head?” Why do you suppose it is easier to talk (and argue, perhaps!) about money, friends, vacations, etc., than about Christ in marriage? May these ever be separated in our minds? In the light of all the above would you say that anyone of these purposes is more basic and significant than the other two? Explain your position.