As creations of Almighty God, we were created in his image, from the beginning, and specifically as male and female. Directly following on this creative ordinance was the creation ordinance of marriage. This union is covenantal, and intended for the mutual purposes of lifelong companionship and procreation. It is a complementary union, and universally applicable to all of his image-bearers in intent and extent.
As such, please note the requisite statements made in two Reformed confessions in regard to marriage and sexuality:
The first section affirms monogamy. Gen 2:24 says that two become one. This is explicitly referenced by Christ when he lays out his terms of Biblical marriage in Matthew 19. An elder must, to be an elder, be a husband of one wife, says Paul to Timothy and to Titus.
The second condemns polygamy. Not 3, or 4, or any other number become one. Two. Scriptural descriptions of unlawful practice are not, of course, prescriptive. Regulation of unlawfulness is not condoning that practice, when the reference is to the Jewish theocracy. Additionally, the OT references to polygamy are exclusively negative – with great care shown to outlining and highlighting the negative ramifications for the practitioners and their descendants.
Purpose 1: Companionship – complementarity and procreation.
The “suitable” helper is a correspondent, a complement. One who is equal, but different. The two genders are created as two, and two distinct from the other; they are correlative, in that they have a mutuality inherent to their nature; and they are complementary, because each gender enhances the other, when they are joined as one flesh. The sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Conceiving, bearing, and raising children are a fundamental purpose for marriage. The very term “matrimony” (Lat. matrimonium <mater = ‘mother’) highlights this purpose.
Procreation is not the primary purpose, but it is one of several necessary elements which are the intended purpose of the marital union. We recognize that the curse will always shadow our lives, and that some may be unable to have children. We do, however, also recognize that those who are unable are the exceptions which prove the rule.
Purpose 2: Purity in Joy
Both partners in a marriage share a pure and joyful union wherein they affirm their status as one flesh. This union is a picture of Christ and the church, wherein there is a mutuality expressed – whose intent is to focus eyes on Christ and his church. This cannot be overemphasized. A dysfunctional view of marriage will lead to a dysfunctional view of Christ and his church. A lack of understanding of how fundamental this analogy is will always, without exception, result in surprise and consternation from objectors at our vehemence and unwillingness for compromise on this matter. When they fail to see the centrality that marriage, the family, and the other created orders have for all Christians, and for their relationship to their God, individually and corporately, they will simply fail to grasp the importance that this issue has for Christian faith and practice. It really is that important. As Reformed believers, it is even more obvious how central the covenant of marriage must be to the covenant of grace which it pictures.
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 in the Lord; and therefore such as profess the true religion, should not marry with infidels, or idolaters; neither should such as are godly, be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresy.
By “all sorts”, it is saying that there is no barrier to marriage other than that which the Bible notes. There is no barrier of rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, laity or clergy. Such marriage must only be “in the Lord.” Marriage, as we have already noted, is definitionally between a single man and a single woman; but as this section notes, there is only the added restriction, for Christians, of marrying another Christian. Nothing else qualifies, save the following.
Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity, forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful, by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.
Incest, similarly, is forbidden.
Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.
Note this well. The grounds for a lawful divorce are those under which the guilty party, under OT law, would be subject to death. Note: “as if the offending party were dead”.
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: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.
Notice that we don’t do what is right in our own eyes. It is a matter of heartbreak and solemnity.
We affirm that God created gender, marriage, and sex, and they operate properly only in accordance with his design.
We affirm that gender is binary, biological, and is defined by the creative decree of God.
We affirm that sin defaces this created image, and that departures from that design are endemic to the Fall.
We affirm that all sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin against God and man.
We affirm that marriage is a union of one man with one woman.
We affirm that marriage is the most basic picture of Christ and his church, and should be considered as such.
We affirm that marriage’s central purposes are lifelong companionship, procreation, and purity in joy.
We deny that any same sex relationship is properly called marriage.
We deny the existence of any so-called gender save those of male and female.
We deny that the Bible’s prohibitions of extra-marital sexual activity are culturally specific in nature.
We deny that it is possible or positive to “change” one’s gender.
We deny that identification with one’s sinful behavior as self is intrinsic to the created order.
We deny that descriptions of practices in Scripture necessarily entail prescriptions of those practices.
We deny that any appendage of sinful practice to the label of Christian can or should be considered to be valid.
- Gen 1:26↩
- Matt 19:4-6↩
- Gen 2:18-24↩
- Prov. 2:17; Mal. 2:14↩
- London Baptist Confession of 1689, Chapter XXV.1↩
- Gen 2:24 with Matt. 19:5, 6; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6↩
- Gen. 16:4-6; 29:26; 30:1-3; 1Sam. 1:1-6↩
- Gen. 2:18; Prov. 2:17; Mal. 2:14↩
- Gen. 1:28; Ps. 127:3-5; 128:3, 4↩
- 1 Cor. 7:2, 9↩
- London Baptist Confession of 1689, Chapter XXV.2↩
- 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Tim. 4:3; Heb. 13:4↩
- 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14↩
- London Baptist Confession of 1689, Chapter XXV.3↩
- Lev. 18:6-18; Amos 2:7; Mark 6:18; 1 Cor. 5:1↩
- London Baptist Confession of 1689, Chapter XXV.4↩
- Deut. 22:23-24↩
- Matt. 19:31-32↩
- Matt. 19:9↩
- Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XXIIII.5↩
- Matt. 19:8; 1Cor. 7:15; Matt. 19:6↩
- Ezra 10:3↩
- Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XXIIII.6↩