One of the richest blessings that God has ordained from the beginning for the happiness of man is marriage and the covenant home. God created man with a deep need for companionship and friendship. It was not good for him to be alone. God gave to man a great and precious gift, therefore, when He created woman for him.
According to Scripture, man and woman were both created in the image and likeness of God. They were created able to know and to love God and also to love one another. They were in this respect made equal. In chapter 2 of I Corinthians we read that God created woman to be the glory of man. The woman was made able to serve him, to fulfill his deepest needs, and to live with him in fellowship and love in the blessed bond of marriage. So mysteriously intimate is the marriage bond ordained by God that in it a man and woman are no longer two but one flesh. Adam called Eve bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
After God created marriage for the first man and woman, He blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. This command of God was not only for the purpose of bringing forth the human race but also for happy family life and the nurture of children in their home.
This very beautiful and blessed institution and the relationships of marriage and the family were devastated by man’s rebellion against God, which rebellion resulted in the corruption of his nature. There is in fact no relationship among men that is more corrupted by sin, and made more miserable and wretched, than the institution of marriage. The very fact that marriage is in its nature such a blessed and intimate bond makes its tearing apart by the sin and the evil actions of men so bitter and wretched. Contrary to the imagination of those who commit the treachery of it, there is no such thing as a ‘friendly’ divorce. The tragic consequences of the broken lives of children are often so painful that they last a lifetime. Deep-seated bitterness, anger, and confusion are the psychological and spiritual consequences for the children of divorced parents.
God in His great mercy in Christ has redeemed the marriage institution. So highly has God exalted marriage, in this world of sin and misery, that He made it to be a picture of the blessedness of the love and faithfulness of Christ for His church.
The foundation of true happiness in marriage, we must always remember, is the simple and yet very profound truth that all good things come from God. What man or woman does not want to be truly happy? Sinful man imagines that this happiness is possible without God and even in a life of rebellion and enmity against God. He seeks for happiness in the wrong places. He seeks happiness in ever-increasing riches and glory of this world, popular lifestyles, the building of palatial houses, and entertainment that satisfies his sinful lust and pride. He seeks happiness in the abusing of his own body and the body of his neighbor in the practice of sexual immorality. He corrupts and destroys his own marriage and the marriage of his neighbor, and he brings shame and the judgment of God on himself and ruin upon his own house.
When God saves His elect people in Christ and gives them the gift of His Holy Spirit in their hearts and realizes His covenant with them, He makes Christian marriage and the Christian home and family possible. A covenant home is, for the truly Christian man, a haven of rest, a place of peace and safety, a place for happy life and fellowship with those whom he dearly loves in the Lord.
The home of the God-fearing man is intended by God to be the sphere for the spiritual nurture and strengthening and equipping of the covenant children that God gives. There the necessary and loving discipline can be administered to turn children away from the foolishness of sin with which they are born. In the Christian home the truth of God’s Word can be taught to children. Spiritual principles for godly living can be established in their hearts. In the covenant family children are sheltered from many of the evils of this world, but also in this sphere they are equipped and trained for their calling in this ungodly world. In the home they are to be warned and admonished to live antithetically in this ungodly world in the fear of God and in holiness and obedience to the God who saved them.
Divorce and unbiblical remarriage wrecks all that God has made for the peace and happiness of man in marriage. In the world this is popularized by Hollywood and Broadway. But in all of this, man is cursed of God and will ultimately make himself miserable and wretched. Be not deceived. Let God’s people never make watching this lifestyle on TV, on the Internet, or whatever, the source of their entertainment.
By His mercy the Lord delivers us from the great evil of the world, restores His work among us, and enables us to live again in the blessed covenant bond of marriage He has created. What great joy there is in the covenant home and family where the fear of God is and where God’s people by His grace and Spirit know and love His truth. Few earthly joys can compare to this great joy.
It is the calling of the church of Jesus Christ steadfastly to teach the great biblical principles of Christian marriage and family living. It is the calling of the Christian church to maintain the sanctity of marriage and to do everything in its power to preserve the holiness and blessedness and happiness of the Christian home. Every church that compromises the biblical teaching of Christian marriage and tolerates impenitent immorality in her midst will reap the judgment of God and will bring into her very midst the misery and wretchedness of broken homes and the treacherous shattering of lives of men and women and children who are her members.
God has blessed our Protestant Reformed Churches by preserving among us His wonderful and glorious truth of salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ by His sovereign and particular grace alone, as well as the beautiful and wonderful truth of the unconditional covenant of grace, wherein is displayed the everlasting faithfulness and mercy of God to His people. Our marriages and Christian homes must be living pictures of those glorious and blessed truths of God’s covenant. Often we are ridiculed and mocked for what we believe. Some of the most bitter criticism comes even from family and relatives who try to justify their own serious compromises of God’s Word. Let all those who fear and love the Lord be willing to bear this hatred and mockery as suffering for Christ’s sake. Let us stand strong for the good of the marriages and homes of others in the church of God among us. In so doing, by the grace of God, we will be a steadfast testimony of His truth and blessing among us and examples for others to follow. Anyone who has lived among our people and in the sphere of our churches will be able to see among us the reality and great joy of many Christian marriages and covenant families.
I say the above not in boasting or human glorying but in humble praise and thanksgiving to God. Neither do I pretend that there is no evil among us and that we do not have within our sinful natures the potential to destroy the blessing and happiness that God has given us. We are all still woefully imperfect. Our own sins often mar the blessings and joys of the covenant that God in sovereign mercy has given us.
We need urgently to be on guard against the influences of the ungodly philosophy of the world in which we live and the apostasy of the church world that surrounds us. This is not a time for us to be careless and complacent. There are great dangers and threats to our marriages and families in this modern, ungodly world. There is a fierce spiritual warfare going on to gain the hearts and minds of our children and to destroy the peace and unity and happiness of our covenant homes.
Our young people need to remember the great importance of choosing the right partners for marriage. One cannot very well have a truly Christian marriage when one is unequally yoked with an unbeliever, or even when one marries a person who is far from agree ing in the truth of the Word of God that is the basis for Christian marriage. Parents have a great responsibility to supervise their young people in their dating and in the interests they have in persons whom they might later marry. Our young people must not adopt the philosophy of the world, which promotes the idea that seeking a marriage partner is such an absolutely private endeavor that even parents may in no way interfere with, or give counsel and strong warnings regarding this area of life. Young people, do not be offended when your parents do this kind of thing. Know that they are deeply concerned about your future happiness and, even more importantly, about your continuing to live in a truly godly way in this wicked world.
In order to have truly happy Christian marriages, wives need to be always willing to devote themselves to their God-given calling of submitting to and serving their husbands. They must always be mindful of their calling to devote themselves to being the “keepers,” the guardians, of their home. The raising of children requires constant personal sacrifices and devoted service of truly God-fearing mothers. The practice of the godly virtues of meekness and humility and the fear of God must be maintained in the home. The temptations for following the philosophy and lifestyle of the world in behavior and dress and entertainment must be steadfastly resisted. Godly women must be highly esteemed and praised for the extremely important role they play in maintaining what we have received by the grace of God. The truly godly wife and mother has tremendous influence on the real happiness and blessedness of the covenant home.
Happiness in the home must be maintained by husbands and fathers. They must be greatly concerned about the happiness of their wives. They must honor their wives for their God-ordained calling and sacrificial giving for the sake of the home. Fathers and husbands must be responsible leaders in the home. They must put away sinful wrath and anger, through which they can do irreparable damage to the happiness of the home and family. Fathers must be examples of the fear of God and of practicing the great principles of truth and righteousness in every sphere of their lives. They must be prepared to work diligently at their daily occupation to support their wives and families, to provide Christian education for their children, and to support the many kingdom causes in which the church is engaged.
Happiness in the Christian home is maintained through the faithful, diligent training of our God-given children. It is maintained by consistent, firm, and loving discipline of the children. It is maintained when children in the home are corrected when they sin and are instructed day by day in the truth of God’s Word and also positively encouraged in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Loving instruction and discipline in the home will bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness in the lives of children. Sons and daughters who grow up in the fear of the Lord will not only experience great blessing in their own lives, they will also bring great joy and happiness to their godly parents. Instruction in the fear of the Lord will be of greater and more lasting significance than all the time and effort that might be expended in preparing for an earthly career. Such effort has a proper place, of course, in preparing our children for life in this present world, but greater than all is training in the fear of God.
Undergirding all of the above is maintaining the unity of the truth of God in the home and family. This is possible only when the members of the covenant family are also faithful members of the true church of Jesus Christ. There the covenant family will be continually instructed in the truth of God for marriage and the family and thoroughly furnished for a life of good works in every part of their life. Instruction and training in covenant family living and faithfulness in the true church of Jesus Christ are inseparably joined together in the Word of God.