Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” The task seems daunting given the landscape of today’s culture, which has intentionally embraced marital and familial anarchy in efforts to redefine marriage. But, the God-given definition of marriage—first encountered in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”—is unmistakably communicated throughout Scripture.
God established marriage as a covenant, not a contract (Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:16-17). It is important to understand the difference between these two. Three important differences exist:
A covenant is based on trust between parties. A contract is based on distrust.
A covenant is based on unlimited responsibility. A contract is based on limited liability.
A covenant cannot be broken if new circumstances occur. A contract can be voided by mutual consent.
Therefore, the marriage covenant between a man and a woman is a comprehensive and permanent commitment. The covenant of marriage was ordained by God to provide believers with a picture of Christ’s love and relationship to His church (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 21:2, 9).
Marriage, further defined, is a heterosexual, monogamous, and conjugal relationship. In shorthand, marriage is one man united to one woman for life. So, why would the inspired author command Christians to honor marriage among themselves and promote it “to be held in honor among all” (society)?
Here are two foundational reasons (and there are more) why biblical marriage should be honored:
First, marriage is not simply a church ordinance. Marriage is a creation mandate. It is a divine decree foundational and necessary for human flourishing. Loving God means keeping His commandments, and loving our neighbors means being an instrument of redeeming grace, which in this case means promoting marriage as a divine blessing of public policy for humanity. Foundationally, marriage is a blessing to humanity, and its primary purpose is to reveal God’s redemptive covenantal relationship with His people.
Second, marriage is to be promoted “to all” because God designed and implemented it, and He designed it for all of humanity. Marriage is intentionally used in Scripture as a metaphor for God’s unbreakable covenant of grace with His people. Note how the Bible describes Christ as “the bridegroom” and His church (those whom He has saved) as His “bride.” Foundationally, marriage is a blessing to humanity, and its primary purpose is to reveal God’s redemptive covenantal relationship with His people.
Two thousand years ago, the Son of God “left His Father” to “cleave to His bride” by purchasing her with His redeeming atonement at the cross. He purposed to dwell with His bride by His Spirit now, and then with His glorified presence in the new heavens and earth. He has covenantally saved His bride to lead her as a servant through “the washing of the Word” and to love her as a joint heir of the grace of life through His Word and by His Holy Spirit while preparing a place for her. Then, He will return to bring her to Himself for all eternity.
Therefore, marriage is to be “held in honor among all” as a blessing to humanity, a continual witness of Christ’s covenantal relationship with His bride, and a glorious testimony of the power of the gospel for Christian marriages “in the Lord,” demonstrating “God’s grace is greater than all of our sins.”
Christ’s church’s responsibility is to defend and promote the public policy of marriage as defined by God and do so winsomely—contending without being contentious and defending without being defensive—through demonstrating the blessing of marriages for the Lord and in the Lord.