Marriage According to the Bible
At a time when confusion abounds in our culture surrounding sexuality, and society tells us that the meaning of marriage and even one's gender is malleable, we need a dose of sanity. Isaiah 40:8 says, "the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." The audacious Supreme Court ruling cast aside ancient and divine wisdom for a new and novel idea concerning marriage. Just as the grass withers, one day this Supreme Court ruling along with the judges themselves will wither, but God's word will remain. If God, by his word, has engineered marriage, we have no business re-engineering it. Therefore God's word will always be relevant. God has spoken and still speaks about marriage, has definitively assigned a definition to it, and he doesn't need our help in coming up with more creative arrangements.
The most foundational passages in the bible on marriage are found in the first pages of scripture. Here we see God’s marital pattern for all of human history; not just God’s ideal prior to the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, but to this day and until the end of the world. We know this because Jesus appealed to Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 while addressing questions regarding divorce and God’s purpose for marriage in Matthew 19. Likewise, the apostle Paul does the same in Ephesians 5 in his paramount address on marriage.
Without a doubt, heterosexuals have done much damage to the ideal for marriage and Christian heterosexuals at that! From no fault divorces to adultery to just plain crummy marriages, we have fallen well below what this gift is meant to bestow. But this is not a good reason for further degrading marriage by institutionalizing same sex unions. Rather, we need to repent and go back to the ancient wisdom established by God.
In the first pages of the bible, here is what we see:
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 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."
Then after God had taken a rib out of Adam to create Eve, God presented the woman to the man.
23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
It is worth noting that after each stage of creation, God looked at what he made and saw that, “it was good.” However, after creating man and woman in his own image, God saw what he made and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).
So, things were good on days one through five. Once man and woman were added to the mix, all that he had made was very good. So what is it about marriage that makes God’s good creation very good? I’ll mention six things.
1. Marriage is a covenantal union
Covenant means a contract or a pledge or guarantee or promise. In Genesis 2:22, God presents Eve to Adam., after which we hear the words often uttered at a wedding, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” These are profound words and these are radical words. The ties of a man to the prior generations of his family were strong. But the marriage covenant requires a man to leave his parents in order to form a more intimate and stronger union. These are words of covenant and commitment. And God does not take our marriage commitments lightly. Jesus, after quoting Genesis 2:24, adds the words, “What therefore God has brought together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6). God brings a man and woman together and once we enter into this marriage covenant, we have no right to break it. Therefore marriage is a covenantal union before God between one man and one woman.
2. Marriage is a union where two become one
Marriage unites two people in such a fashion that they become one. God takes two selfish “me’s” and brings them together into one unified “us”. This means, there is now one life, one reputation, on bed, one budget, one family, one trial, and one mission. This becoming one is consummated in sexual intimacy between the husband and a wife. Paul, exhorting the people of Corinth to run away from sexual immortality says, Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:16)
3. Marriage is a union for procreating and raising future generations
The first command given to Adam and Eve was, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The command, “Be fruitful and multiply” means, have babies. Of course, there are circumstances where a husband and wife are unable to have children, but the clear implication is that one of God’s purposes for marriage is procreation. Would anyone in their right mind argue that they had a mom and dad create them? Furthermore, procreation logically leads to mothering and fathering children. Kids need a mom and dad who are committed to each other as well as them. As Maggie Gallagher has bluntly stated, “sex makes babies, society needs babies, and babies need a father as well as a mother.”
4. Marriage is a complementary and heterosexual union
Adam was alone in the garden naming animals and working the ground when God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). Apparently in God’s mind, a woman was the perfect helper for Adam; perfectly fit or suited for him. So marriage is complementary and heterosexual. Hetero means different, homo means the same. God designed the different but complementary to be joined together in marriage. God prefers unity in variety. He chose to bring two unlikes together to complement each other.
5. Marriage is a monogamous union
Marriage is an exclusive relationship between two people. God brought Adam one woman, signaling God’s pattern and God’s desire for a single and exclusive union between one man and one woman with the words, “they shall become one flesh.” Jesus, addressing the issue of divorce in Matthew 19 gets even more specific when he says, “the two shall become one flesh.” In other words the “they” in Genesis 2:24 does not mean three or four people (or more), but two. The bible gives many examples of men with several wives, but Jesus clearly rejects that! Jesus narrows the exclusivity of marriage to one man and one woman for life.
6. Marriage is a symbolic union
Marriage is truly a gift to creation, but it ultimately points to an infinitely more glorious reality. Paul shows us this in Ephesians 5:30-32:
30 we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
God’s highest intention in marriage is that it would be a living drama of the intimacy and unity of Christ and the church. A man and woman coming together in a covenantal commitment is emblematic of the sacrificial love of Christ for his bride, the church and the respect, submission, and admiration of the church for her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
So earlier in Ephesians 5 when Paul says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” he is pointing to God’s path for joy and flourishing within a marriage for sure. More importantly, he is showing us how marriage is meant to be a sign pointing to something bigger, namely the union of Christ and the church.
Much more could be said, but let’s end with this: Marriage is to be honored among all (Hebrews 13:4). Whether you are married or not, honor marriage by holding up the truth about it and celebrating the God who has given it. And let’s work with all God’s might to strengthen marriages in our midst in order that marriage may beautfully portray the gospel of Jesus Christ among us.