What Does "Holy Matrimony" Mean and Why Does the Church Use This Phrase for Marriage? 

What Does "Holy Matrimony" Mean and Why Does the Church Use This Phrase for Marriage? 

What Does "Holy Matrimony" Mean and Why Does the Church Use This Phrase for Marriage? 

The vision of the wedding and all its glamour often overclouds the weight of “til death do us part.” Yet, if we search the Bible we see that marriage is not to be taken lightly. Marriage is more than just two people agreeing to live together in God’s eyes; it’s a holy covenant.

For many, marriage is seen as one of the most important milestones a person can experience. The act of saying, “I do” is something that many spend their life dreaming of. In some ways, there is a fantasized ideal around marriage. The vision of the wedding and all its glamour often overclouds the weight of “til death do us part.” Yet, if we search the Bible we see that marriage is not to be taken lightly. Marriage is more than just two people agreeing to live together in God’s eyes; it’s a holy covenant.

What Does "Holy Matrimony" Mean?

Holy matrimony is defined as the act of being married. At surface value, it would appear there is very little difference between the phrase holy matrimony and marriage. However, a closer look at the phrase holy matrimony reminds us of the gravity of two becoming one in God’s eyes. The union between one man and woman goes back to the Garden of Eden. 

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, NKJV)

Holy is defined as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion.” God himself is describes as holy. This word denotes His perfection, divinity, and the sacredness of who He is. To be holy is to be set apart and honored with high esteem. 

The origin of the word matrimony is a bit more intriguing. The word matrimony comes from Latin word matrimonium. The root matr- means the Latin “mother" and -mony means ‘the act of becoming. In other words, the act of a woman becoming a mother is the literal definition of matrimony. Another definition is found in the old French term, matrimoignie, which means to lock together or be obligated. This is where we get the phrase “wedlock.” 

In other words, holy matrimony is not just the act of agreeing to be together. Holy matrimony is a sacred act of togetherness, honored by God, and created as a lifelong obligation to one another. For example, within the Roman Catholic church, the act of being married is seen as a sacrament not to be taken lightly. According to the Catholic church, agreeing to marriage signifies that the two individuals are at least 18, willing to agree to being faithful, and open to the idea of having children. This act of matrimony is seen as irrevocable. Although some don’t ascribe the various traditions of Catholicism, their commitment to ensuring couples understand the severity of marriage is one that we can all learn from.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Why Do Christians Use "Holy Matrimony" to Describe Marriage?

In most Christian wedding ceremonies, the phrase “Holy Matrimony” is still used. The officiant will likely say this phrase as a reminder that marriage is a sacred act. The goal is not that each partner come together to make each other happy. Instead, the act of holy matrimony is sacrificial in nature and is a partnership. The key is a holy matrimony recognizes that “The Holy One” has to become the center of the relationship. Choosing to keep the Lord first reminds us that marriage was created by God and designed by Him for His glory, not just our own fulfillment. 

John Piper, author of This Momentary Marriage, describes the importance of a Christ-centered relationship in this way: “Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to his redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display.”

In other words, as we go from dating to married, a holy matrimony should be a reflection of God’s unconditional love towards His people. Thus saying the words, “until death do us part” is a sacred promise to reflect God’s heart of grace, mercy, and care towards the other person. In fact, it’s no mistake that the Lord continuously refers to His relationship with His people in terms of the marital relationship. Over and over, we see the Lord express how He gives himself in a sense of service and with a willingness to even give His life for His bride, the Church. When we enter holy matrimony, the Lord asks the same of us. In this way, marriage become more than just a union of two people; it becomes an act of worship unto the Lord. 

“For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called." (Isaiah 54:5)

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her." (Ephesians 5:25)

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Is Holy Matrimony Different from "Marriage"? 

For many centuries, and even to this day, many see marriage as just a legal contract. Unfortunately, seeing marriage as “just a sheet of paper” has diminished our understanding of the Lord’s view of marriage. Many will remain in a relationship that resembles marriage in every way, but will never be official in the eyes of the law. Others may get married ceremoniously but never see it as a bond that should be held with high esteem. 

If we’re honest, in our modern society, the marital union has become about finding someone who can make you happy and help to improve your overall life status. Hundreds of dating apps are created around being connected with the person who will be the perfect fit for your lifestyle and desires. However, a holy matrimony takes the concept of serving one another and the Lord as the most important aspect.

We see a clear example of the difference between holy matrimony and marriage when it comes to the economic outcomes of marriage. Marriage comes with the benefits of building credit together, insurance discounts, tax cuts, better mortgage rates and more. To this day, some cultures still arrange marriages as an opportunity to advance in wealth, status, and to maintain their cultural identity. The economic benefits of the marital contract are simply undeniable. This only reinforces the focus of “what can the other person do for me?” Although there is an element of wanting to be fiscally responsible before getting married, holy matrimony is not selfish by nature and seeking to gain. Instead, the focus is on building a home that honors God. When both people are committed to doing so, it can be expected that the Lord will bring the finances and the love and grace needed to sustain the couple for years to come.

“Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically,” says John Piper in This Momentary Marriage, “it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children. Being united to Christ by faith is a greater source of marital success than perfect sex and double-income prosperity.”

What Does Matrimony Mean in God's Eyes? 

When we look at marriage through the lens of the Bible, we come to a different conclusion than the modern worldview. Though there are many conflicting ideas about marriage and what constitutes a union blessed by God, the biblical definition includes the following aspects.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

1. God created marriage.

When studying the Bible, the Theory of the First Mention is a foundational principle. It is believed that by discovering the first mention we can learn God’s heart on the matter. When it comes to marriage, it must be established that marriage was God’s idea. Recognizing Adam’s need for companionship, Eve is created to be one who can come alongside Him in the garden (Genesis 1:28). He gave the command for them to become one, have dominion over all the animals, and be fruitful. Thus, whenever considering marriage, we can see a clear outline for marriage.

2. Marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Though many no longer hold this view, the initial design of marriage was intended for man and woman. In a practical sense, this allowed for the procreation of mankind. Additionally, we observe Jesus expressing a similar sentiment: 

He said to them, “Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.’” (Matthew 19:4-5

One who seeks to discover God’s design for marriage will be unable to find a Scripture that will reflect God agreeing with same-sex relationships. Instead, the framework of marriage in the New Testament remains one that reflects God’s original design.

3. Marriage requires solidarity.

Solidarity in marriage is essential. Relationships outside of the marital bond is coined under the term adultery in the Bible. The commands to not commit adultery are numerous. Being unfaithful is so serious in God’s eyes, He states that it can be a reason for divorce (Matthew 5:32). Not only is there tremendous heartbreak associated with infidelity, it dishonors the vows spoken at the altar. 

4. Sex is designed for marriage.

Intimacy is reserved for marriage. The sexual relationship between a husband and wife is made for procreation and physical enjoyment. This intimacy is one that the Lord says shouldn’t be withheld but willingly given as the two have become one. In fact, the only time we see sexual acts withheld is if the couple agrees to do so for a time of prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). This time of togetherness strengthens the bond between the couple and safeguards us from being tempted by the enemy.

Overall, all Christian marriages should seek to make the Lord the priority of their relationships. This focus on honoring Him while serving the other person is what changes marriage from a contractual relationship to holy matrimony. With God’s grace and intentional action taken by each person, holy matrimony can be one that lasts for a lifetime. 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." (Proverbs 3:3-4)

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ (Genesis 1:27-28)

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her." (Ephesians 5:25)

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life.  Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.