What Does God Say about Marriage?
Marriage is not an invention of man. God instituted marriage. According to Gods plan, man and woman together form the unit of humanity. A man or a woman alone is only part of an entirety.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him (Genesis 2:18).
Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said:
This is now bone of my boneTherefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24)
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.
This text contains several beautiful statements.
Adam received his wife as a gift from God. In a sense it is still true that a man receives his wife from God. Solomon says:
Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
But a prudent wife is from the Lord (Proverbs 19:14).
We also see that marriage is good. Solomon says in another place:
He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favour from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22).
We also see how strong the marriage bond is, so strong that they are no longer two but are melted together as one flesh.
This bond is so strong that God intended for it to be broken only by death. As long as they live they are to be one together. They may not separate. Jesus quoted this passage when He was asked about marriage:
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. They said to Him, Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away? He said to them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9).
In this passage in Genesis we also see how dependent man and woman are on each other. They need each other. Paul says:
Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman; but all things are from God (1 Corinthians 11:11,12).
Marriage is an institution of God and is a continuation of His work of creation. Sexual desires are God-given. We should view our manliness or womanliness as a gift from God which we receive with thankfulness and strive to keep holy and pure in accordance with His instructions.
To preserve the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of man, God has established certain laws regarding sexual activities. Before we discuss these we must be sure we understand how a marriage comes into being.
First we will discuss some wrong definitions of marriage. Then we will give the definition we find in the Bible.
Marriage is not a sacrament, as is taught in some churches. In the Scriptures, marriage is an institution in society that is of divine origin. It is governed by the laws of God and by the regulations of the society in which one lives to the extent that they do not conflict with the laws of God. A marriage may take place in a church building, and it is certainly in order for Christians to pray and ask Gods blessing on a marriage. But a marriage is not in and of itself a religious ceremony.
Nor is marriage a private agreement between a man and a women. This idea is often used as an excuse for unchastity before marriage. The argument is made: Although we have not been officially married, we have agreed between ourselves to be married, so actually we are already married. This idea is contrary to the Scriptures. In the Bible a marriage always takes place according to certain norms of society and always involves other people who serve as witnesses. A marriage is an occurrence before God and before man. A Christian is obligated to abide by the laws of the society in which he lives to the extent that they do not conflict with the laws of God. Paul says:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgement on themselves (Romans 13:1,2).
The laws of God and of society are for the purpose of protecting the parties involved and society in general. Thus a marriage is more than a private agreement between a man and a woman.
What constitutes a marriage? In the Scriptures we find various forms of marriages at different times and in different societies, but certain elements are always present.
Examples of marriage formalities: In early times, for example, the groom went to the house of the parents of his bride. There was a marriage feast. Then he took his bride home with him. In the time of Christ the marriage formalities were very complicated. First, the man had to pay a certain sum of money to the parents of the girl. Then there was a period of one years betrothal. During that year the two were already bound to one another by legal contract but they were not allowed to live as husband and wife until the actual marriage ceremony. It consisted of a great feast that sometimes lasted several days.
Whatever the form, however, the marriage was always a formal occurence at a certain time involving a contract between a man and a woman with other people as witnesses. Only after the requirements were fulfilled were they married.
What is required, according to Scriptures, to preserve the sanctity of marriage?
First, men and women are to remain virgin until marriage. All sexual relations outside of marriage are forbidden by God and are referred to as fornication, a sin which had the death penalty under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant one can be forgiven and purified by the blood of Christ. It is a sin, however, which is extremely damaging to those concerned, to society and to marriage as an institution.
After marriage one is to have sexual relations only with the marriage partner. Sexual relations with any other is adultery, which also earned the death penalty under the Old Covenant. We read in Hebrews 13:4 that God wants marriage to be preserved from the damage caused by these two sins:
Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Hebrews 13:4).
From this text we see once more that marriage is pure and holy. Fornication and adultery damage marriage, however, and God will hold those who engage in such practices responsible on the day of judgement.
The marriage contract includes sexual responsibilities. Paul says:
Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
The wife is to submit to the authority of her husband and the husband is to love his wife as his own body:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33).
This does not mean that a man may misuse his authority, because if he loves his wife he will sacrifice for her as Christ did for the church. It does mean, however, that he is the head of the family. As head he also bears the first responsibility. He can provide the needed leadership only if his wife respects and submits to his authority.
Gods regulations relative to marriage are strict. This is because He values marriage highly for the well-being of man. Gods laws and regulations are for the happiness of man in time and eternity. Let us follow the word of God in this matter. Marriage is a gift of God. He will help us to have a good marriage if we obey His word and if we pray for His blessings, help and guidance in our lives.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers. Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in the Old Paths Archive