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God ordained marriage and family to be the foundation of human society and all subsequent societal institutions. Marriage is the gift of the exclusive union of one man and one woman—which, in God’s eternal plan, is meant to reflect the loving relationship between Christ and His church. God purposed that the institution of marriage would serve as a means of companionship, reproduction, the preservation of the Christian religion, sexual intimacy, and sexual purity. Scripture teaches that God hates divorce (the breach of the marital covenant); however, God allows divorce under certain biblically defined circumstances. Out of the marriage relationship, God has brought about human society and has illustrated delegated authority by means of the family. The relationship between parents and children is one of both authority and affection—for the intentional nurturing and equipping of future generations.


Marriage is a divinely instituted relationship within the bounds of human society, rather than a social contract of human origin. The institution of marriage was an initial act of God upon the creation of Adam (Gen. 2:18–24). The union that occurs in marriage is reflected in Adam’s declaration regarding Eve in Genesis 2:23. The Apostle Paul explained that this reflects the further mystery of the mystical union that believers have with the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:22–32). In turn, the relationship believers sustain to the Savior gives shape to spousal roles in the context of Christian marriage. A husband, as the God-ordained leader in his home, is to love and serve his wife as Christ loved and served the church. A Christian wife, in turn, respects and submits to her husband—even as the church respects and submits to Christ. Although all marriages are frustrated by sin and the fall, husbands and wives may be strengthened and enabled to grow in carrying out their respective roles by God’s grace in the gospel.

The Bible teaches that marriage is an honorable and central expectation of humanity. Therefore, it ought not be unlawfully delayed. While marriage, in general, is a common-grace institution for the further propagation of the human race, Christian marriage is built on the distinct essentials of the Christian faith. As the Westminster Confession of Faith rightly notes: “It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord” (24.3). This is in accord with the Apostolic instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14. Although not everyone will get married, and indeed some have the call of lifelong singleness and the gift of celibacy for specific service to the Lord, marriage is still to be honored by all.

Believers are to marry “in the Lord” for the mutual spiritual edification of both parties, as well as for the propagation of godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). God has ordained that one of the ways that the church and the truth of Christianity continues from generation to generation is through Christian families, wherein Christian parents raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Although Scripture teaches that a Christian should marry only another Christian, the marriage of a believer and an unbeliever is still a binding marital contract. The covenantal promises of God are also not abolished when a believer is married to an unbeliever. God has determined to set apart the children of believers for His covenantal purposes (1 Cor. 7:14).

Marriage was intended by God to be an indissoluble union. However, on account of sin there are certain times when a person is permitted to divorce his or her spouse. Throughout church history, various ecclesiastical bodies have differed on questions and opinions about the legitimacy of divorce and remarriage. The Roman Catholic Church has long considered marriage to be a sacrament of the church; therefore, it officially forbids divorce. Additionally, Roman Catholicism does not permit one party to remarry if the spouse from a former marriage is alive. For Rome, the only exception is recognition of an official annulment—an ecclesiastically sanctioned declaration that a marriage was not legitimate from its inception. By way of contrast, the majority of Protestant and Reformed churches have taught that Scripture recognizes the legitimacy of divorce on two grounds: adultery and desertion. As the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “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” (24.6).

Many Protestant churches have agreed that such things as continual emotional and physical abuse are included in the biblical definition of desertion. However, the ecclesiastical leadership of a local congregation must exercise great wisdom and caution when addressing issues of abuse. Though it may not be the result, the restoration and reconciliation of husbands and wives ought to be of utmost interest to church leadership in all such proceedings. In the main, the Protestant Reformed tradition has affirmed that a divorced believer is free to remarry, provided that he or she was not the offending party in the divorce (Matt. 5:31–32; 19:9; Rom. 7:2–3). As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains, “In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead” (24.5). Parties to a divorce are not equally at fault in all or even most cases. The church should always seek to protect the innocent party in a divorce while calling the guilty party to repentance.

In the parenting relationship, Christian fathers and mothers—as two complementary parties—are to be mutually committed to the God-appointed commission of evangelizing, discipling, and training their Christian children. Christian fathers and mothers fulfill distinct yet harmonizing roles in the parenting relationship. God calls Christian fathers to lovingly exhort, discipline, and instruct their children in the Word of God, yet without provoking them to anger (Prov. 12:7–10; 1 Thess. 2:11; Eph. 6:4). Christian mothers are to tenderly nurture their children. While reinforcing the instruction of the father, they are called to teach their children the things of God as well (Prov. 1:8; 31:1–9; 1 Thess. 2:7). Christian fathers and mothers are to create a strong and loving environment in which their children may grow spiritually through a diligent use of God’s appointed means of grace (Deut. 6:4–9). As a boy, Jesus submitted to His earthly parents and to the teaching of Scripture (Luke 2:51).

God commands children to honor, respect, and obey their fathers and mothers (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1–3). The respect that children are to show their parents is meant to train them to respect other societal authorities and ultimately to respect God Himself. The authority of parents over their children is pedagogical and probationary. When children reach adult maturity, they are still called to revere, love, care for, and respect their parents; however, their relationship to their parents moves from dependency to independency. When a man and woman are joined in marriage, a transition occurs from the temporary relation they sustain to their parents to one of mutual love, responsibility, care, and service.


Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

Even though we are still sinners, as husbands and wives living in His wonderful paradigm for marriage we still have the high standard of His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit transforming us from the inside out. Such marriages will be salt and light in this decaying and dark culture. Your godly home and marriage (where the man as husband and the woman as wife become one flesh physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) will become a lighthouse that pierces the darkness and becomes a guiding beacon to the masses lost on the sea of twisted gender orientations and identities, meaningless and sinful sexual encounters, and marriages whose only goal is materialistic ascendency.

John P. Sartelle Sr.

What God Has Joined Together

Tabletalk magazine

The issue of divorce can be measured objectively by simply examining the statistics of marriages and dissolutions of marriages that are accomplished legally. . . . The threat to the family unit is ultimately a manifestation of the fallenness of our human nature. Sin violates family unity. Sin is the force by which families are broken. And sinners have no power within themselves to repair that which is broken. The broken home seems to suffer a fate similar to Humpty Dumpty. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were not able to repair the fracture that this poor mythical egg experienced.

R.C. Sproul


Tabletalk magazine

Your family is your child’s most foundational social community. Family life will flourish in homes where people not only talk but also listen. What builds unity in marriage and loyalty in children? A husband who listens, who delights in understanding, builds a marriage. A wife who hears and can even reframe her husband’s words in her own words builds a marriage. Couples who are skillful at asking questions that draw out the heart’s deep waters build a marriage. . . . Listening spouses model effective communication skills and biblical relationships for watching children.

Tedd Tripp

Listening at Home

Tabletalk magazine