Marriage: A Theological Helpmate

Have you ever reflected on how indebted Systematic Theology is to Marriage? Have you considered how many doctrines are improved by the biblical teaching on marriage and the earthly reality of this blessed institution? Moreover, have you thought about how many doctrines would be lacking nuance and passion without the marital imagery employed by Scripture to flesh out these truths? Or finally, have you paused to think about how your own marriage has enhanced your understanding of sin, sanctification, the gospel, and eschatology, or any other biblical or theological truth? I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and here are a few doctrines inspired and improved by marriage:

The Attributes of God are impoverished without marriage–in particular, the love of God. God who is love (1 John 4:18) is most passionately displayed in the passages of Scripture that demonstrate his love for his people as the kind a lover has for his bride (Zeph. 3:17-18). Take away the Song of Songs and a gaping hole is left in the Scriptures to be able to understand the zealous love God has for his treasure–the blood bought bride of Christ. God’s love sings, but without marriage there be no such occassion for songs of love.

Ecclesiology, or the nature of the Church, is emptied without the Bridegroom and the Bride. Remove Ephesians 5:22-33, which speaks of the glories of marriage and the mystery of Christ and the church, and you lose the loftiest description of what the church is to be like. Moreover, without Ephesians 5 the picture of Christ’s faithfulness to wash his bride and make her spotless and radiant is depleted. The tenderness and power of God’s sanctification is portrayed in Christ washing his bride clean (cf. Ezek 16).

The doctrine of Justification is a public declaration of a new legal status. Marriage does the same thing, and provides a wonderful analogy to understand this doctrine. An impoverished woman, who is doted on and loved by a kind suitor, is made in an instant the heir of all his wealth, reputation, and regard. How? Through the pronouncement of vows and the recognition of witnesses. This is just like justification by faith. So it is with justification by faith. We who trust in Christ for our lives and our righteousness find ourselves unified to him as a committed wife, one absolutely dependent on his leadership, and one who gladly exchanges our old name for a new.

This marital analogy also applies to understanding the New Covenant. Surely covenants were made throughout the Bible between males and co-laborers (cf. Jacob and Laban), but all of these covenants were devoid of love. In marriage, covenant faithfulness meets sublime love and tender mercies. In this, marriage serves as a picture of the new covenant with Jesus Christ. Whereas the old covenant could be construed as a workman’s contract, the new covenant is certainly the bond of a husband and a wife.

The converse to faithful marriage–adultery and divorce–also speaks to doctrinal matters. Harmatiology, the doctrine of sin, is improved (if you can or should say such a thing) by the devastating effects that a broken marriages depict. In other words, in divorce and adultery, sin is seen in its baldest form. The wickedness of a man who forsakes the woman he loves, or loved, unveils the wretchedness of humanity, the total depravity of the human condition. Moreover, adultery which breaks the covenant to ones spouse invokes a response of jealousy and rage. This it would seem is the fire necessary to destroy the covenant breaker. In this jealousy, hell is inflamed. God will punish in hell those who have broken covenant with him, those who have run out to adulterate themselves with this world (James 4:4), and have willingly rejected God’s kind offer to renew their vows through repentance and return. Without marriage though, the ravaging effects of sin would not be as clear.

Finally, without marriage, Eschatology would be neutered. The doctrine of last things is filled with joy for so many reasons, but the crown jewel of the coming millenium and the return of Christ is the marriage feast with the lamb. Oh, how I look forward to that day! But without marriage and the joyous occassions of weddings that mark our calendars, we would be less informed about the joy and purpose of two souls joining as one. But with marriage, we understand and are enlightened to the hope of a eschatological marriage that will be forever and without end. The celebrations we experience now in this age when a man and woman join together in holy matrimony are but dim reflections of the cosmic celebration that is coming soon (Rev. 19:6-10).

These are just some of the ways marriage informs our theology. God has given marriage to all humanity for pleasure, procreation, and purity (no particular order), but it seems that he has also given it as a picture for us to see him more clearly. May we with the light of Scripture embrace our spouses and consider the biblical teaching on marriage so that we might better know our Lord.

Lord Jesus, thank you for marriage…For the wife you have given me…For the biblical portrait of marriage…And for the way you have designed it to reveal to us your glory and your goodness. Amen.

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  1. Pingback: Noonday Light: Resources on Marriage | Via Emmaus

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