Knox and Leah

Sharing Options

We live in a generation that has lost all ability to define anything important. Those who cannot answer the question what is a woman? or what is a man? are certainly not in a position to define something like marriage. Not only can they not define this central human institution, but they are also not in a position to define boy, or girl, or human, or human rights, or family, or household, or anything else that makes it possible to live life on a human scale.

But it is not enough to point out that they cannot define what they are all about. We are Christians who accept the Scriptures as light in a dark world, and it is our responsibility to define these terms in the light of God’s revelation to us. It is not enough to know that their answers are wrong answers, or answers that they just leave blank. You can’t fight something with nothing, and because Christians are followers of the Word, we are therefore the people of words. This means that we are among those who love definitions, and truth, and precision, and careful thought.

When Jesus teaches on the subject of divorce, He famously says this. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Man has no authority to separate what God has joined together. We are summoned, therefore, to consider the necessary elements that make us such a divine joining.

According to the Scriptures, there are two elements that constitute a biblically-recognized marriage. Those elements are a lawful covenant, publicly recognized, and a sexual consummation.

Let us consider the covenant first. A covenant is a solemn bond, sovereignly administered, with attendant blessings and curses. It is much more than a simple agreement or contract. This difference is found in that phrase sovereignly administered, or, in the passage from Matthew 19, the phrase what God has joined together. If two men make a business deal, it is the sort of arrangement that they—by mutual agreement—could decide to tear up. But this is not the case with a marriage because in a covenant, God is one of the parties. He is the one doing the “joining together.”

And Scripture does describe marriages in covenantal terms. The faithless husbands in Malachi are denounced by the prophet for their treachery. Treachery against whom? Against “thy companion and the wife of thy covenant” (Mal. 2:14). And the immoral woman in Prov. 2:17 is guilty of what? She has forgotten “the covenant of her God.”

This means that when a man and woman stand before God and the assembled witnesses, and they take the wedding vows, they are stating the terms of a covenant. It is far more than just an agreement. It is a solemn bond, sovereignly administered, sealed with oaths. It is a covenant.

This brings us to the second element. It is a covenant that surrounds and defines a bonded sexual relationship. This is what the Lord Jesus was emphasizing when He pointed to statement of Genesis that a “man will leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife and the they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). With the one flesh union, the covenant vows are consummated, ratified, and sealed.

When the covenant is missing, there is no marriage—just a hook up. We see this in 1 Corinthians where the apostle Paul says that a man becomes one flesh with a prostitute . . . but it is not a marriage (1 Cor. 6:16). And when the consummation is missing, there is no marriage either, because the terms outlined by the vows have not been sealed. It is like a last will and testament that somebody forgot to sign.

What does this mean? It means that because we know what marriage is, we know what the image of God is. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). Because we know the image of God, we understand how the gospel is God’s solution to our sin and rebellion—the gospel is all about the restoration of the image of God in man, the restoration of righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). And it is quite striking that in the next chapter, the apostle points to Christian marriage as a profound mystery, one that embodies the fullness of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33). Because we know what marriage is, we can know what the gospel is.

Knox, my charge to you is this. As you have grown up, you have had the blessing and privilege of seeing many men around you living out the role assigned to them by God, which is the role of a sacrificial patriarch. You are the head of your wife, and this means that you are to imitate Christ, not to mention those men you have known who have gone before you in this imitation of Christ. That means you have been given the privilege of dying. However good our circumstances, we live in a fallen world, and it is always easy to be selfish. Die to that. But God in His grace sees to it that marriage also contains the fullness of the gospel. When men die this way, there is consistently a resurrection. He who loves his wife loves himself, the apostle says.

Leah, here is my charge to you. You are a graceful Christian woman, dedicated, pious, and lovely. You are called to be the crown of your husband, but not a clunky or awkward crown. As we have gotten to know you, we have seen that you are truly even-keeled, and full of good sense. Knox is a man of high talent and ability, and you were hand fashioned by God to be just the ballast he needs. But ballast is quite a different thing than obstruction. Because of the weight of responsibility that your companionship and presence brings, we expect that Knox will be able to do far more than he ever dreamt of before.

May God bless the two of you.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.