One of the hot-button issues in our culture is marriage. It’s not so much that our culture is generally in favor of marriage, but rather the conversation is, for those who desire to marry, who is legally able to marry. Are we really asking this question? Yes, this is where our culture is and the conversation, in whisper form, started in the late 60’s. Imagine that! But to effectively, logically and truthfully answer this question, a better question needs to precede the who can marry question. That better question is – What is marriage? This is the foundation that must be laid before we build upon it. The what is gives way to the who can. Perhaps an even better is question is why marriage? Why does marriage exist?
Where did marriage come from? This is a worthy question to consider. The answer to this question shapes our view of marriage. If we think marriage was birthed in the minds of man, we’ll give way to the subjective definitions and functions of marriage. If this view is correct, marriage is a matter of private interpretation and is essentially undefinable and unreliable. The other alternative is marriage was created by God, and by His very nature, marriage is objective and has an unchanging definition and purpose.
But before we talk further about marriage, we must talk about the origin of people. God created humanity.
Genesis 1:26-27 says,
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 2:7 says,
…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Clearly, God created man (collective term for humanity) and he created a distinction within humanity – male and female. Not only did He create distinction between them, but we are created in the image of God. In matters of essence and worth, there is no inferiority, but equality. Males and females both equally image God. In matters of roles, God created distinction. Males and females, by design, have God ordained roles in marriage.
Genesis 2:18-25 says,
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit forhim.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formedevery beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he madeinto a woman and brought her 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.
Here we see the origin of marriage, its design, its “players” and their roles. Taking a closer look at this passage reveals very key issues that our culture needs to understand. Let’s peer into this passage.
- Verse 18 tells us that marriage was God’s idea.
- Verse 18 also tells us that Adam had a job and needed help.
- Verse 18 also tells us what the chief role a wife is to play – a helper. She is needed to complement her husband for God’s given assignment for humanity – to be fruitful and multiply (have offspring) and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it. (Genesis 1:28)
- Verses 19-20 tell us that the animal kingdom is insufficient to be man’s helper. That rules out bestiality.
- Verses 21-22 tell us that God caused Adam to enter a deep sleep and He fashioned woman, not another man, from Adam’s rib and presented her to Adam. That rules out homosexuality.
- Verse 23 tells us of Adam’s excitement in seeing this woman.
- Verse 24 tells us that a man shall hold fast to his wife, not wives, and they shall become one flesh. That rules out polygamy.
- Verse 25 “naked and not ashamed” means there was a great deal of transparency and trust.
Now, looking back at Genesis 1, verse 28 says,
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.”
God created woman for man for a very specific reason – to help him subdue the earth and have dominion. As we know, their initial dwelling place was the Garden of Eden, but this command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it obviously implies their work would extend beyond the borders of the Garden of Eden. Therefore, we see the necessity to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The offspring of Adam and Eve were also image bearers called to take part in subduing and having dominion over the earth. This in turn means that through humanity, God’s image bearers, God’s glory would fill the whole earth. That was the intention of the creation of man, marriage and bearing children – that God would be glorified in a very unique way through His image bearers as they function as His representatives on the earth.
However, Genesis 3 comes. Sin is introduced in humanity and distorts God’s image in humanity and distorts man and woman’s roles and functions. This is why we have such distortions of marriage now, including the attempt to redefine it. Instead of men leading, protecting and providing, they are passive, irresponsible “boys” or tyrants. Instead of women joyfully complementing their husbands by being helpful, submissive (not mousy) and respectful, women are “wearing the pants” emasculating their husbands or allowing themselves to be sinfully dominated. Instead of one man being faithfully married to one woman, man wants many women and vice versa. Instead of one man marrying one woman, men desire marriage with other men and women desire marriage with other women. Sin is the reason why our culture is trying to re-define marriage and even distort human sexuality. At the core, it’s rebellion against God. But, thankfully, all is not lost. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to provide redemption for man from sin and with that comes the redemption of marriage.
In the New Testament, Ephesians 5:31, the Apostle Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 calling marriage a profound mystery pointing to Christ and the church. Christians are said to be in union with Christ by faith and the indwelling Holy Spirit and Paul takes that “union” or “one flesh” language from Genesis 2:24 and applies it in Ephesians. To sum up what the Scriptures ultimately say about marriage – it is a God ordained covenantal institution between one man and one woman designed to point to or image the covenantal relationship between Christ and the church. As Christ gave His life as a ransom for the church, so a husband is to sacrificially love his wife for her growth in godliness. As the church joyfully submits to Christ as He leads us, so a wife joyfully submits to her husband as he leads her. As Christ intimately loves His church, physical intimacy between a husband and wife is a picture of that. Therefore, human marriage is ultimately a picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the glorious reality of marriage!
So marriage is not ultimate. Did you get that? Human marriage is not ultimate! It’s merely a shadow pointing to a far greater reality. That reality is the marriage of Christ and the church in the new heavens and the new earth, where human marriage doesn’t exist. (Matthew 22:30) There is no need for shadows, when the substance is present. God is ultimate!
“Marriage is not about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way He relates to His people. It’s about showing in real life the glory of the gospel.” – (John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, p.26)
We understand that this truth is not accepted by most people. We understand that this may sound totally foreign, given our culture’s misunderstanding of marriage. I have to believe that even people who desire to marry, but don’t believe in God’s purpose of marriage, esteem marriage as something special. Think about it. One can experience some of the benefits of marriage (i.e. finances, physical intimacy, shared lives, etc.) without being officially married. So why get married? What is it that makes people want to publicly and officially declare their commitment to one another?
My fiance and I are convinced that God’s word is true and our desire is that our marriage would put the glory of God’s gospel on display. I love my bride-to-be and she loves me and by God’s grace, the way that we grow in our committed faithful love of each other, we’ll give some people a glimpse of Christ’s committed faithful love for His bride – the church.
That’s why marriage.
*Here are a couple of books we recommend that have greatly benefitted us.
- This Momentary Marriage by John Piper (free download)
- Love that Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by Gary and Betsy Ricucci