Is the Christian view of marriage truly Biblical or merely traditional? If it is Biblical, is it essential? Must we hold to a traditional view of marriage as Christians?
These are the questions that prompted Adam Copenhaver, pastor of Mabton Grace Brethren Church in Mabton, Wash., to study marriage and compile his notes into a book on the theology of marriage. The book “What Is Christian Marriage?” includes practical applications, a sample church policy, and a sermon Copenhaver preached that sets forth a Christian definition and approach to marriage.
“In my opinion, we need a robust and clear definition of what marriage is according to Scripture, so we can identify the deviations and explain why they fall short of our Biblical standard,” says Copenhaver. “We can no longer assume people appreciate Christian morals, nor can we assume Christians understand and abide by a biblical view of marriage.”
Copenhaver believes marriage is a pressing issue in our world today. Not too long ago, our culture generally agreed with a Christian definition of marriage, but today, if we live out those same values, we find that we are atypical.
“All of us ought to be well-informed regarding what our Bibles say (and don’t say) about marriage so we can discern where and how firmly we ought to stand,” Copenhaver says.
The book has also guided church leaders as they develop church positions and policies for their own congregations. Pastors have used the book to prepare sermons and teaching materials on marriage, and seminary students have found the book helpful as they write papers on the topic.
The book wasn’t intended to be a tool for marriage enrichment, but it did have that impact on Copenhaver as he wrote it.
“The extensive time spent in the biblical text gave me a much more comprehensive view of the Bible’s teaching on marriage,” Copenhaver says. “Prior to this study on marriage, I did not realize the four purposes Scripture assigns to marriage: mutual care, mutual joy, sanctification, and procreation. Many of us know marriage is the proper environment for procreation, but do we realize that marriage also contributes to our discipleship and growth in Christ? And do we work together in our marriages to bring joy to each other?”
Since the purpose of the book is not solely to strengthen believers’ marriages, it is useful for single believers as well.
“One of the points I try to make in the book is that the Church has in some ways made too much of marriage, as if the essence of the Christian faith is about strengthening traditional families, or as if Christian faith can only fully be lived within the context of a traditional family,” says Copenhaver. “In truth, Scripture speaks of the single life as a calling that is in some ways higher than marriage.”
“In short,” says Copenhaver, “the process of producing this book clarified my view of marriage, strengthened my commitment to marriage, and equipped me to stand for marriage.”
Copenhaver isn’t stopping after his book on marriage. He intends to publish more materials that can be used by God to sanctify His Church. He is currently working on a commentary on Colossians and Philemon that should be available by 2019, as well as a book that will offer introductory theology for newer believers.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.