Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, an important case for the future of marriage and religious liberty. For a better understanding of marriage, The Layman Online is re-posting an equipping study on “The Mystery of Marriage,” written by Carmen Fowler LaBerge in May 2010.
The mystery of marriage
By God’s own decree, the Church is the bride of Christ (II Corinthians 11:2). There is a wedding planned and the expectation is that the bride will be presented to the bridegroom pure and undefiled (Revelation 19:7). This mysterious quality distinguishes authentically Christian marriages from every other variety of civil marriage or domestic partnership. It is this “institution” that is commanded to be kept undefiled and held in honor among all (Hebrews 13:4).
The world will decide what it will. The Church has a responsibility to make decisions based on God’s will. The only way to insure that end is to make those decisions based on the revealed will of God found in the Bible. As Presbyterians, we interpret those Scriptures first through the lens of the confessional standard of our Reformed tradition, not by our own earthly desires.
As we approach the issue of marriage, let us be reminded that the Church is in the world to demonstrate the Kingdom of God, not to give people an excuse to live in licentiousness. The Church is in the world to show forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not that her people might all fully express their own personal inclinations. The Church is in the world to make Jesus visible – Jesus who did not abolish the law but perfectly fulfilled it; Jesus who took sin so seriously that He died to forgive it; Jesus who humbled Himself in willing submission to the Father’s will. So, with that in mind, how is distinctively Christian marriage called to make the Gospel visible in the world today?
From beginning (Genesis 2:19-25) to end (Revelation 19:7) the Word of God speaks to the subject at hand. And it was relevant to Jesus. John tells us that Jesus attended a wedding with His mother and disciples, and as an act of extraordinary blessing to the couple, performed His first sign-miracle at their wedding in Cana. Jesus directly addressed the subject of marriage and clearly affirms God’s will for marriage in Matthew 19:1-12. When asked about marriage in relationship to the resurrection, Jesus is quoted in all three of the synoptic gospels as giving such a good answer they dared not ask Him anything else.
This study will seek to prepare believers for conversations within the Church and in the world when the subject is “marriage.” If we are going to call ourselves Christians and enter into the debate on the definition of marriage, then we need to have a true understanding of what God says on the matter.