Christian marriage

Christians typically regard marriage as instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one as wife. Marriage is a legally and socially sanctioned union that is regulated by laws, rules, customs, beliefs, and attitudes that prescribe the rights and duties of the partners and accords status to their offspring (if any).^[1]^ While Christian theology affirms the secular status of marriage, it additionally views it from a moral and religious perspective that transcends all social interests.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous. - Hebrews 13:4

Marriage is honored among Christians and throughout the Bible. However, the Bible does not make it necessary for everyone. Those who have chosen to remain single or who once married but have lost their spouse for some reason are neither incomplete in Christ nor personal failures. There is no suggestion that Jesus was ever married.

Marriage license

In most societies, a marriage license or other legal document must be obtained from a government agency to legalize the marriage. Every state in the U.S. requires a license to legalize a marriage. Specific requirements vary from state to state. Obtaining a marriage license is the responsibility of the bride and groom. Usually, both parties about to marry need to sign the application in person. Following the ceremony, both spouses and the Officiant sign the marriage license and some states require the signature of a witness. The Officiant then files for a certified copy of the marriage license, which is usually called the marriage certificate. The married couple should purchase a certified copy of their marriage certificate to use as legal proof of marriage and name change.^[2]^


Essentially all Protestant denominations hold that marriage is ordained by God for the union between a man and a woman. They see the primary purpose of this union to be to glorify^[3]^ God by demonstrating his love to the world. Other purposes of marriage include intimate companionship, rearing children and mutual support for both husband and wife to fulfill their life callings. Protestants generally approve of birth control and consider marital sexual pleasure to be a gift of God. While condoning divorce only under limited circumstances, most Protestant churches allow for divorce and remarriage.^ [4]^

In their book Two Becoming One: Experiencing the Power of Oneness in Your Marriage,^[5]^ Don and Sally Meredith cite three mandates that God gives for Christian marriage: to reflect, reign, and reproduce. They say these purposes are so important that Satan works hard to keep Christians from accomplishing them.

  • Reflect God’s Image. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground'. So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”^[ Gen. 1:26-27]^ The Merediths find the words “image” and “likeness" significant, understanding them to indicate that God creates “them” as a unit to reflect Him. It takes both a man and woman, in oneness, to truly reflect His image. Spousal relational stress--lack of oneness--actually is dishonoring to God.
  • Reproduce Children in God’s Likeness. "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'?”^[ Gen. 1:28a]^ Married couples who are able to bear children should prayerfully consider the call to reproduce children – in His “likeness.” The Merediths write that couples who are competitive, angry and divided are not fully able to nurture children in God’s image. To teach children the principles of agape love, godly discipline, and good morals, parents must first model those principles. Words are not enough! As parents puts aside their innate selfishness and trust God to meet their needs, petty disagreements fade in comparison to their love for their children. The Christian couple who does not have children can fulfill this purpose by making others disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Reign together. "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'”^[ Gen. 1:28a]^ We are to be stewards of the physical resources entrusted to us and we must do our share in the spiritual realm. A spiritual battle goes on in every heart. Only as couples come together in unity and oneness will the enemy of our souls be defeated. Just as the Godhead represents perfect unity and is a force for God’s will in His universe, the Christian couple is to pray and discern God’s will in all situations.

Roles and responsibilities in marriage

Roles and responsibilities of husband and wives now vary considerably on a continuum between the long-held male dominant/female submission view and a growing shift toward equality (without sameness)^[6]^ of the woman and the man. There is considerable debate among many Christians today whether equality of husband and wife or male headship is the biblically-ordained view, and even if it is biblically-permissible. The divergent opinions fall into two main groups: Complementarians (who call for husband-headship and wife-submission) and Christian Egalitarians (who believe in full partnership equality in which couples can discover and negotiate roles and responsibilities in marriage).^ [7]^


Divorce, the legal dissolution of marriage, is seen from a Christian perspective as less than God's ideal. Specific opinions range from it being considered universally wrong to the reality that it sometimes is inevitable.

Divorce rates among Christian groups

A 2008 study by the Barna Group found that born-again Christians who are not evangelical are just as likely as the average American couple to divorce. Slightly more encouraging is the divorce rate among evangelical Christians – who are defined as meeting the born-again criteria plus other conditions. It was lower (26 percent) than the national average (33 percent). Meanwhile, those associated with a non-Christian faith were more likely to divorce (38 percent), the study showed. Christians, which includes evangelicals, the divorce figure is 32 percent, which is statistically identical to the 33 percent figure among non-born again adults, the research group noted. The study is based on a random sample of 5,017 adults.^[8]^

While a higher proportion of born-again Christians marry (84 percent) compared to the national average (78 percent), recent trends indicate that Americans are growing more comfortable with divorce. George Barna, who directed the study, says, "There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage." Barna adds that "Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility." Barna also noted that "There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."^ [8]^

Jesus on divorce

In the beginning, God instituted marriage as a permanent arrangement.^[ Gen 2:24]^ In Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9, Jesus adds what has been called a "divine postscript" to Genesis 2:24: "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." However, in Matthew 19:9, he puts a qualification on it, "...except for..." and the word he uses is the Greek word porneia, from which the English language word pornography is derived. It is sometimes called the "exception clause" to divorce and is also found in Matthew 5:32.

Porneia is often translated as "unfaithfulness." Many have concluded that if one's spouse commits adultery, the innocent spouse is free to divorce and remarry.^[9]^ However, porneia has a less precise meaning than moichao, the word for adultery. Thus, there may be good reason to suspect that "marital unfaithfulness" is not a good translation. The normal or basic meaning of "porneia" in the New Testament is sexual immorality.^[1Cor 5:1]^ ^[ Acts 15:20]^

It has been claimed that porneia is a matter of the "heart" and is an evil intention not necessarily entailing an evil or immoral action of sex with another person. If so, then staying faithful physically to one person is not a guarantee that sexual sin isn't taking place. In Matthew 5, Jesus extends the definition of adultery beyond the traditional legalistic approach. He teaches:

  • Even looking at another married women lustfully constitutes adultery.
  • Divorcing one's faithful wife (push her out of the home) constitutes adultery and makes her an adulteress.
  • Marrying a divorced woman (having sex with a woman who has left her marriage or has been rejected or forced out by her husband) constitutes adultery.

However, a man is not sinning if his wife (whom he loves, accepts, and cares for) commits adultery of her own volition.^ [10]^

While Reformed, Evangelical points of view usually discourage divorce, they do not expressly prohibit it in general. Some groups will not hire (call) as pastor a divorced person. These same groups are likely to dismiss a pastor who becomes divorced. At the other extreme, in Catholic theology, marriage is a divine institution that can never be broken, even if the husband or wife legally divorce in the civil courts; as long as they are both alive, the Church considers them bound together by God. However, Catholic marriage can be annulled ("declaration of nullity or invalidity") under certain conditions where the church states that a valid marriage, as the Church defines marriage, never existed.^ [11]^


? "marriage." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 01 Nov. 2009 <>. ? Web: 1 Nov 2009 ? Praise, honor ? Rubio, Julie Hanlon. A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family, Paulist Press, 2003. ISBN 0809141183. ? Meredith, Don and Sally. Two Becoming One: Experiencing the Power of Oneness in Your Marriage, Moody Publishers, 1999. ISBN 978-0802434456 ? Steil, Janice M. Marital Equality: Its Relationship to the Well-Being of Husbands and Wives. Sage. 1997. ISBN 0-8039-5251-1 ? {{ 1. if: {{#if: | {{#if: Editor's Bookshelf: Creating Husbands and Fathers |1}}}}

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}} ? ^8.0^ ^8.1^ Audrey Barrick. "Study: Christian Divorce Rate Identical to National Average." The Christian Post." Web: 2 Nov 2009 <> ? Steve Brandt. "The Context of the issue of Divorce and Remarriage." Web: 2 Nov 2009 <> ? Monicque Sharman. The Bible, Sex, and This Generation: How God's Word Applies Today. iUniverse, Inc. 2003. ISBN 978-0595288687 ? "Catholic Marriage and annulments." Web: 2 Nov 2009