Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

Holy Matrimony Is a Divine Institution

1st September 2020
Audio: 

The classic Anglican liturgy goes back 450 years. It says that matrimony is “an honourable estate, instituted by God in the time of man’s innocency,” which takes us back to the beginning, to Genesis, the first book of the Bible. On Day 6, the climax of creation, it reads:

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27).

Of all God’s creatures, only man is made in the image of God, and this image is unitary and plural, one “mankind” in two sexes. God created him singular and blessed them plural. Many Christians have seen in this image a foreshadowing of the Triune God: one God in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. (Gen 1:28)

It is almost as if God is officiating at the very first wedding, of his son and daughter. In his wedding sermon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, having praised the freedom of couples to choose their destiny, goes on to say: “As God today adds His ‘Yes’ to your ‘Yes’… He creates out of your love something quite new – the holy estate of matrimony.” 

“Matrimony” is a state of life ordained by God and not by us. You may choose your partner, you may arrange the wedding date, which lessons and music to use, but you do not make matrimony. God has already done that!

For Christians the most distinctive word here is not matrimony but holy. To be holy is to be set apart for God’s use. That’s what Christian marriage is about. Theologian Christopher Ash calls it “sex in the service of God.” Marriage is a public institution; holy matrimony is a sacred institution, adorned with God-language. 

Male and female in God’s image is good because they are part of God’s good creation, and God adds a word for them, as he had for all the animals: “He blessed them…” (verse 28). With this blessing, the text concludes: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Perhaps that is why everyone loves a wedding: they sense in it something of the goodness of what God has made, and of God Himself.

Prayer: 

We thank you, heavenly Father, for graciously creating us in your image, male and female, and for ordaining that a man and woman shall be joined as one flesh in the covenant of marriage.

We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the gift and heritage of children and for placing them in homes which may be havens of blessing and peace.

We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the love between fathers and mothers and sons and daughters that binds together the generations and undergirds our country’s social fabric.

We thank you, O Father.

From “A Litany for Marriage” (ACNA)

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