Sanctified Marriage: Part 6

This is part of a series on patriarchy, headship, authority, and submission. See this index.

This series on sanctification in marriage began its life in response to an ongoing topical discussion of marital sanctification at the Sigma Frame blog. Recently, after posting “16 Bible Passages for Teaching Wives and Daughters about Male-Female Roles and Marriage“, a discussion immediately ensued about the distinction between contractual, covenantal, and sacramental marriage.

In Part 1 of the series I described biblical marital sanctification:

Sanctification is making something sacred or holy. Strongs defines it as “to make holy, consecrate, sanctify”, all synonyms for the same thing. Sanctification is making holy, pure, and without blemish: an offering or sacrifice to God. The very purpose of sacrifice is sanctification. Hebrews 10:10 says we are sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus’ body. As Ephesians 5 notes, the way to sanctify one’s wife or family must be through love and sacrifice to God.

It is in this way that Ephesians 5:25-27 is accomplished:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

But this is not the teaching of the Roman Catholic church regarding the sacrament of marriage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1131 teaches that the sacraments of the church are ritual means of grace performed by men:

“The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.” — CCC#1131

The CCC#1129 confirms that this is savific grace:

The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament.

Now, let’s look at CCC#1213:

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.””

This ties everything together. In the view of Roman Catholicism, the sacrament of baptism into Roman Catholicism is required to unlock the other sacraments, including the sacrament of marriage and any sanctification therein. Not only does it view a human ritual as a means of grace, but it asserts that baptism itself is a salvific regenerative process through “the water in the word”. The connection with Ephesians is plain:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Roman Catholicism derives the meaning of regeneration from rebirth described in John 3:1-12, which it believes refers to baptism (baptism is never mentioned). Indeed, it is the basis of regeneration by water for the Roman Catholic priesthood. And so, in the Roman Catholic frame, a husband sanctifying his wife—within the sacrament of marriage under the sacrament of baptism—is engaging in a regenerative process of salvation. To the Roman Catholic, a husband is baptizing his wife in the Word.

Likely unknowingly, it is within this frame that Jack, owner of the Sigma Frame blog, has pushed a regenerative form of sanctification in marriage, as seen in a variety of his posts and comments:

“I have identified certain elements [..] but how these factors interact to produce attraction and sanctification is still unclear.”


I am somewhat dissatisfied with this discussion, because I was hoping to see more discussion of redemption instead of attraction and SMP dynamics.

In Roman Catholicism, salvation is a state of grace that begins with baptism and is continually refreshed by a sacramental system of individual sanctifying works. Without those works, grace (salvation) is lost. But Christianity says otherwise:

Acts 4:12 (REV)
“And in no one else is there salvation, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved.”

In Christianity, marital sanctification cannot be produced by the husband because sanctification only comes from Christ. In arguing for a regenerative sanctification through “the water of the word”, Jack is implicitly making the case for Roman Catholicism while simultaneously rejecting the biblical meaning of sanctification. He (and others like him) fundamentally misunderstand what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5…

(P1) “Sanctification of one’s wife may be indirectly effected through personal acts of love and sacrifice.”

…and not the claim that…

(P2) “to sanctify one’s wife one must regenerate—produce in, baptize—her through the presentation of the water of the Word of God.”

It is this claim that leads to the false idea that a husband’s authority is important to sanctification. Throughout the series I have emphasized through various arguments for how this is not the case. A husband does not have the responsibility or ability to save his wife. Only Christ can redeem and sanctify through the power of the Word of God. Husbands cannot regenerate their wives, but they can present the Word of God by their words and deeds, symbols of Christ’s sanctifying sacrifice. Submission, service, sacrifice, and love—imitations of Christ—are the keys to attempting to bring about sanctification through a wife’s faith in Christ, not his authority or regenerative acts.

When one rejects the key premise that baptism—and not salvation by faith—is the saving washing of the word, the entire Roman Catholic edifice collapses, and so also regenerative marital sanctification. Indeed, as we see in Acts 10, the Holy Spirit—not liquid water—was poured out in response to the uncircumcised hearers’ faith in the Word.[1]

Ephesians 1:13 (REV)
…when you heard the message of truth—the good news of your salvation—and when you believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy spirit…

Only after they were saved and sealed were they baptized with water. In Christianity, neither circumcision nor baptism by water (outward symbols) bring about salvation, rather the circumcision of the heart and the baptism by the Spirit (inward acts) take place in the saving faith in Christ.


  • Kauffman & Zins, “A Gospel Contrary, First Edition.” p.151-158,249-261


[1] The same is true of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4. Jesus spoke of the water of the Word when he said:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never ever thirst, but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to life in the age to come.”


  1. Pingback: Why is the Sacrament of Marriage Important?

  2. Pingback: Brides are Subject to Vetting | Σ Frame

  3. Pingback: The Eucharist, Part 40: Conclusion

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