WHAT IS MARRIAGE? Capturing a Godly vision.
PROLOGUE This is the second installment of a series on the Gospel and Same Sex Marriage. Please be patient to engage on issues that will arise in later posts. I will delete all comments not relevant to this specific post or comments that do not show respect for people. These posts are directed toward believers in Jesus and thus speak from that perspective. If you are not yet a believer in Jesus, prayerfully, this post may give you a greater understanding (even if not agreement) with the depth and vision of 'marriage' as taught in the scriptures (and yes we as believers clearly fail in so many ways, that is why we need Jesus). This vision is grand, and in so many ways something we fail at all too often, yet it is close to our hearts because it reflects not only the relationship of two people but rather God himself and his relationship toward his people. I think this is one reason we can come over strong, and ignorantly defiant in social conversation. We have a very different vision of marriage (that we are often guilty of not truly believing ourselves). If you have been hurt by my careless words or others, I apologise. I also pray that the vision of marriage in scripture may inspire you. Though you may decide to disagree, I pray you will get atleast a little peak into the 'weight' and 'immensity' marriage holds for the believer in Jesus serious about outliving a life that reflects God's character and will. If you have just come across this post please read my first post on 'The Gospel and Same Sex marriage' as its foundational assertions underpin many elements that arise here and in later posts. JOSH WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
God, as sovereign ruler and designer over all creation (Rev 21:6, Col 1:16, Rom 11:33, Jer 32:17) has the sole right to absolutely define a relationship he creates.
Marriage is a covenant rooted clearly in creation mandate itself found firstly in Genesis.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable (ezer kenegdo) for him.’” Gen 2:18
“But for Adam no suitable helper (ezer) was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh” (Genesis 2:20 – 21)
Eve is described in the English text as a ‘helper’ comparable, suitable or ‘fit’ for him. This term is in no way denoting a ‘lesser’ position, God himself is described as such (Psalm 10:14, 70:5, Deuteronomy 33:29). The idea particularly encapsulated in the Hebrew is that of mutuality, the same and complementary.
Some have tried to imply that it simply is talking of Eve being ‘human’ but such is intellectual dishonesty when the text very clearly shows…
“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Gen 2:20b – 22)
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman”, for she was taken out of man.’ 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen 2:23 - 24)
The very existence and reason for marriage finds it origins in God’s creative mandate. Marriage, using the language of Genesis is when ‘a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’.
Jesus himself then defines marriage upon this text and understanding when he says… “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” 5 and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Matt 19:4 - 6a)
1. Marriage is the coming together of man and woman, to become one flesh.
This is reflected in union before God, community and in its consummation in sexual union. This exclusive mutuality is reflected on every level of the person’s being from sexual union, to responsibility and a level of attachment that even excludes ‘father and mother’.
Though humanity in its fallen nature would corrupt marriage there is no room in scripture to change God’s definition.
2. Marriage reflects the divine nature of God Marriage is a central part of reflecting the image of God. Though, we as individuals contain the image of God (Gen 1:26 – 27), the marriage relationship expresses the creative nature of God in a way no individual can. Those created in his image are told
“Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth…” (Gen 1:28b)
The very Trinitarian nature of God is, in a limited way expressed in this absolute unity (becoming one flesh) with mutuality yet difference.
This is important because 'marriage' is not a way for a man or a woman to 'trap one another, to 'subjugate one another' but rather it is the context in which "Husbands, (should) love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). Just in case you missed that, the measure of love a husband must show is the same as Jesus giving up his glory and going to death on a cross (1 John 4:10, Phil 1:5 - 11). There is no room for selfishness within a Godly vision of marriage. The love and honour a husband shows toward his wife is so important to God that scripture tells us that if he does not, God will not hear his prayer (1 Peter 3:7) 1 Peter 3:7, in talking to husbands says that wives are "...heirs with you of the gracious gift of life". God's vision of marriage is a context in which, husband and wife join in "the gracious gift of life" only known in Christ. 3. Marriage reflects God’s relationship with his people
God himself defines his relationship with his people Israel in terms of the marriage relationship, husband and wife. (Is 54:5-6, Jer 31:32, Ezek 16:8-14 ; Hosea 2:14-20 )
This is also seen in Christ’s relationship with the Church, who “gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25b) See also Eph 5:21-33, 2 Cor 11:2-3, Rev 19:7-9 ).
The heart break that people find in a broken marriage is understood and reflected in God’s relationship with an unfaithful people ( Num 25:1-4 ; Judges 2:17, Jer 3:20, Ezek 16:15-59) at one point culminating in God ‘divorcing’ Israel (Isa 50:1, Jer 3:8, Hosea 2:2) yet the marriage is restored (Isaiah 54, 62:4-5, Ezek 16:53-63 ; Hosea 2:14-3:1 ).
Though the issue of divorce is outside the primary purview of this blog series, for those that are reading and have gone through the pain of divorce, of unfaithfulness, know God as husband understands your pain, the feelings of betrayal. The destruction of a marriage matters so deeply because it is the tearing of one flesh.
4. Marriage is exclusive
Marriage is about ‘one flesh’, not two or three, this is made clear in Genesis and in Jesus’ affirmation of this creation mandate. Historically, though people within scripture participated in ‘polygamous’ marriage in contradiction to God’s will, its recorded occurrence in scripture in no way affirms it, rather, recognises it as part of the broken rebellion of humanity. Kings were clearly taught they were not to be polygamous (Deut 17:17) yet they are our primary examples of such.
Of course, it is this inflated sense of self and power that leads to rebellion against God’s desire and design. We also see it in a number of other occurrences but in each it is connected to the breakdown of the kingdom or chaos caused by it (2 Sam 13, 1 Kings 2, 1 Kings 11:1 – 3).
It is this reality within ‘one flesh’ that negates any other redefinition whether toward polygamy, adultery, so named ‘open marriages’ or otherwise. The seriousness of marriage in the ‘civil religious’ nation of Israel is reflected in the consequences of not honouring it (Lev 20:1 – 19).
Though the severity of the punishment can shock some in our age, and the punishment is not applicable in our context (as the context being the civil religious nation of Israel) it adds weight to the desire and design of God around marriage. 5. Marriage is the context for sexual intimacy Sexual intimacy is encouraged as central to marriage. For the sake of a little positive shock and embarrassment for some, it is a little unusual at times but you will no doubt get the gist.
“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from
your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets
your streams of water in the public squares. 17 Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be
blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer – may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
Why embrace the bosom of a
(Prov 5:15 – 20)
Like fire creates warmth for a house in its rightful place, so too sexual intimacy in its rightful place is part of warmth, excitement and bond in marriage. Taken out of its place, it can burn the house down.
It should go without saying that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is never affirmed in scripture rather it always falls under sexual immorality (1 Cor 7:2) and is a form of adultery (Ex 20:14). Some have tried to make arguments about the seeming lack of negative statement against pre-martial sex yet this is birthed from ignorance. The purpose of sex is largely given in the positive. Jesus’ own definition of marriage gives the purpose of sex (becoming one was very clear in that context). Sex was purposed as the physical bond expressing the deeper covenant bond of marriage.
Paul also makes it clear that sex is not some casual recreational experience or something to take lightly (1 Cor 6:16). “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure…” (Heb 13:4)
Sex is for marriage as marriage is for sex, whether married or single, believers are to “avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thes 4:3b, Also see 1 Thes 4:3 – 7)
6. Marriage is permanent
The permanence of marriage is firstly expressed in Gen 2:24 talking of ‘cleaving’ and becoming ‘one flesh’. There is nothing temporary, passing or casual about this relationship, it is not even simply about ‘love’ but rather an enduring faithful commitment created by God.
Though there are some differences among Christians regarding ‘clauses’ that may allow the dissolution of marriage, as covenant it is always intended to be lifelong. We should never live according to ‘get out clauses’.
God’s desire has never been for divorce rather Jesus himself tells the Pharisees the intent of marriage is permanent and has been such “from the beginning” (Matt 19:8b).
“…they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.’” Matt 19:6
7. Marriage is for God’s glory
Unfortunately, marriage, in every area of society including the Church has become about self-satisfaction. Unfortunately, it has become, for many, an idol.
Marriage can easily become a relationship centred on one another, on Children or even on the gaining of material comfort. When we elevate a good thing above its stature, it becomes an idol.
Everything is to bring God glory (Is 43:6 – 7) and marriage, in particular, as a reflection of God’s relationship with his people, as a reflection of the image of God, as a reflection of God’s creative nature must be focused as a vehicle that declares and demonstrates the nature of the king and his kingdom.
8. Marriage is for procreation
Whilst many factors in a broken world may mean an inability to have Children, the scriptures are clear that procreation is a central component of marriage (Gen 1:28). God’s perfect design for Children is one in which the environment is defined by a God centred marriage. Children are a blessing, the “…fruit of the womb” (Ps 127:3 – 5).
Our society has made them at times an inconvenience or commodity to fulfil personal desire but even the children themselves as part of marriage exist to reflect the image of God. Unfortunately, it is true that abusive contexts exist but such does not in any sense negate God’s intent. We should never aim for anything less than God’s best.
Christians are always idealist's living in a broken world, waiting for and working towards the perfected one. Hear my heart in this, this in no way negates the amazing job single parents do in raising their children apart from abusive spouses. Every single parent I know, knows more than anyone else the difficulty in doing so.
There is no excuse as a believer in ‘intentionally’ creating ‘motherless’ or ‘fatherless’ environments (something I know no single mother or father I have ever met has desired but have been 'forced into')
Children are designed by God for a family in which mother and father nurture, care and protect their children. In cases, where circumstance ‘causes’ this I pray the Church as family can supplement as best as possible.
10 . Sin and Marriage
Godly marriages cannot exist outside of a wholehearted intent to reflect the Gospel. When two people enter this covenant, two imperfect sinners enter a relationship that is called to reflect the nature of a perfect God.
Outside of God’s grace it feels like a recipe for disaster, it can become one of control, law and divisiveness. Yet, when we lay down our excuses, lay aside our sin (in Christ) to love and serve God together, even in our weakness God is sufficient.
Some cite the sinfulness of people or even the ‘grace of God’ to try and negate the vision of God for marriage but our sinful inability never negates God’s perfection or our need to obey God’s will (Rom 6:15).
The only worthy response to God’s love for us in Christ, in his example to us as husband to his people, to his word and will is obedience (Philippians 1:27, Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:9 – 14, John 14:15).
In light of all of this, if you are in a relationship that is heading toward marriage and is not unified in the outcome of glorifying God then back up.
11. What about ‘singleness’?
There are only two recognised ‘states’ of Godly relationship in scripture. Marriage and single. In either case we are to use our present place functionally as a grace filled opportunity to glorify God (1 Cor 7:7. 32 - 36).
Redefining Marriage Theologically In Matthew 19 Jesus addresses the Pharisees who claimed all sort of self-serving justifications for divorce, Jesus’ response “Therefore WHAT GOD HAS joined together, let no one separate.’” (emphasis mine)
These Pharisees wanted to redefine the nature of marriage to suit their own purposes. Here is the direct reality of the word of God, WHAT GOD HAS defined, what God has joined, no person has the right to redefine.
Marriage, for the Christian is not a legal institution, it is not simply a cultural phenomenon rather it is defined by God as a creation mandate that will only end in the new creation. It was instituted by God in Genesis, recognised by his people through the millenia, affirmed by Jesus and will only end at the resurrection when “…people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:30)
In the coming posts I will address the place of believers ‘in the world’ but living according to the edict and authority of a ‘different kingdom’ (John 18:36).
How do we relate to human authority? When should we ‘rebel’? When should be seek to directly influence and when should we allow the world to simply operate according to it’s core value’s? I will also explain within this ‘what’ position I presently take in regard to the changing of the present marriage definition within legislation and ‘why’.
PREVIOUS & FOUNDATIONAL - THE GOSPEL & SAME SEX MARRIAGE So far we have covered the nature of the Gospel in which we understand God is sovereign and fully able to define and rule according to his perfect knowledge, position and will. In such we also saw the the result of sin upon humanity, it’s thorough extant as it affects everything in creation including our ourselves as body, soul and spirit. We also recognised that though we are still broken in many ways there is no excuse for sinning because we are saved by grace. Rather, as a worthy response to Christ’ love we obey.