Four Truths About Complementarian Marriage
Every pastor wants the marriages in his church to be healthy. Here are four biblical truths pastors should teach with respect to marriage, manhood, and womanhood, not just for the sake of marriage, but for the sake of the gospel.
1. Manhood and Womanhood Uniquely Display God’s Glory
God created the universe for his glory, including both men and women. And he gets more glory because he created each for its part. We were not created as androgynous beings. Instead, God created us male and female, in his image, to display physical and functional complementarity. This is what it means to glorify God!
Men and women are physically and biologically different. Both are created equal in the image of God, but we’re not the same. Physical complementarity can be seen through the possibility of a one-flesh union in marriage. A man and a woman literally physically fit together.
Functional complementarity is more controversial these days. In short, God has designed man as the leader. God gave Adam the moral teaching (Gen. 2:17) as well as the authority to name the animals and even his wife. He made Eve to be his helper, fit for him (Gen. 2: 18, 20). Both the leader and the helper image God in unique ways, because both reflect aspects of his character, and his relational nature.
There is equality but difference, unity but plurality—a physical and functional complementarity. We need to declare the equality and delineate the difference and celebrate both, because together they display God’s glory more fully. Pastors, teach this to your churches.
2. Manhood and Womanhood in Marriage Displays the Gospel
Men and women are also uniquely designed to display the glory of God in the gospel through marriage. God creates marriage (Gen. 2:18-25) and Paul tells us that when we embrace biblical headship and submission, we help to illustrate the gospel (Eph 5:22-33).
Christ does not submit to the church, but loves her as he lays his life down for her. And the church submits to Christ. Paul therefore commands husbands and wives to reflect this same ordering, and just as the roles of Christ and church cannot be reversed, the roles of husband and wife cannot be reversed. They exist due to divine design.
Erasing the differences between men and women in marriage blurs the gospel picture. And same-sex marriage destroys the picture. Pastors, teach your church to celebrate the divine design by teaching them to embrace the pattern for the sake of the gospel.
3. Marriage Conforms us to Christ
As husbands and wives together pursue this gospel picture of Christ and the church, they personally pursue Christlikeness.
Christ is head of the church, and Christ submits to the Father’s will. So husbands become more like Christ as they lovingly lead, and wives become more like Christ as they submit in the way Christ submitted to the Father. As each fulfills their roles, they encourage one another.
Pastors, remind husbands and wives that God has given them to each other, with both sets of strengths and weaknesses, precisely designed to conform one another to Christ. Wives are helpmates fit for their husbands, perfectly suitable for them alone and designed to help them conform to Christ. Husbands, too, are equipped to lead and so help conform their wives to Christ.
Since the Fall, sin has polluted our hearts and behaviors, and none of this happens easily, and certainly not perfectly. So what’s required? Mercy! As we have received, so must we give. Forgive more. Exercise patience more. We always start by taking the log out of our own eye first.
Husbands should ask whether their wives are more Christ-like after 5, 10, 20, or 30 years into your marriage because of their leadership.
Wives should ask whether their husbands are growing as Christ-like leaders because of their respect and encouragement.
4. Manhood, Womanhood, and Marriage Serve the Gospel’s Spread
Further, we must resist and decry moral hypocrisy in the church. We might be outraged at homosexual marriage all the while going soft on other kinds of sexual immorality. Do we preach about divorce? Do we call people to repent from watching pornography? Do we pray publicly against sex trafficking? God calls the church to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). If there’s no holiness in the church, then there will be no power to display and proclaim biblical sexuality in the culture and serve the spread of the gospel.
We are Christ’s ambassadors. We live for a great purpose. The body was created and redeemed for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13 cf. Ro.12:1). It is not for self-gratification but for God-glorification.
This means pastors must equip the saints for the work of ministry to one another and to a watching world.
Biblical masculinity, femininity and marriage glorify God and display the gospel, which means it is true and good. And we are called to proclaim and display this truth and goodness to the world, that it may commend the gospel and compel others to praise God. That’s why Jesus calls Christians to be salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). We show the world we are disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35). The Christian faith and life is not private because the gospel is not a private affair.
Many Christians have begun floating downstream with the culture on same-sex marriage and male-female roles because their pastors have not been bold enough to oppose the culture. Pastors must equip the saints. They need to find their voice. Men too often sin by their silence, just as the silence of Adam was at the root of the fall.
Our present cultural contest over men, women, marriage, and sexuality presents the church with a mission moment that will define us. Contests reveal what you believe and what you love. Will we choose cultural relevance and the approval of man over gospel relevance and the approval of God?
Christians must speak out of love for God and love for people. Everyone needs the gospel. We are all sinners before God. How can those who have been forgiven much not speak for the sake of souls? So we risk being disliked, even hated, all for the sake of him who bled for us and redeemed masculinity and femininity.