By David Anderson
God-designed Marriage Is A Permanent Husband-Wife Relationship
For all matters concerning the Christian faith and its practice, the first and foremost question is, “What did the Lord Jesus say and teach about the issue?” When the Pharisees aggressively questioned Him, albeit primarily for His views on divorce, He replied: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mt. 19:3-6 ESV). He said that they – and we – must consider marriage as God instituted it for mankind on the sixth day of creation. The Lord definitely meant from the very creation of Adam and Eve: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (Mk. 10:6). He insisted that this relationship must not be altered in any way or by anyone.
The Lord was saying that our Maker provided family relationships for mankind, and He directed everyone to read about their beginnings (Gen. 1:26-31, 2:18-25, 3:20, 4:1-2). Genesis 1:26 states that God decided by divine council to make man in “Our image, after Our likeness.” Therefore mankind is unique among all of God’s creatures. This transcendental, or superior, nature of human beings manifests itself in many ways. But with respect to marriage, it is expressed in the union of one man and one woman to form the fundamental social unit of mankind: the family. Eve (woman) was designed to be Adam’s (the man’s) companion, a “helper fit for him.” She was to be his counterpart suitable to help him and to make his life complete. God designed woman to be like man, that is partaking of his nature, and formed Eve from part of Adam’s body. Her function was to help, comfort and benefit her husband – to be his soul mate. On the other hand, Adam was designed to love and to care for his wife.
From this initial intimate relationship, family relationships developed by the procreation of children. This was in order to progress human life and populate the earth. From Genesis 2:18-25 we learn that God provided these human relationships, and the love commensurate, or appropriate, with such relationships within the family unit, by the special creation of woman for man. The Lord God recognized that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He blessed Adam by providing Eve. He saw what was necessary for Adam and said, “I will make him a helper fit for him” (v.18). Adam did not, and could not, find a helpmate for himself in the animal kingdom (vv.19-20). So the Lord God built – the literal translation of “made” in verse 22 – Eve from Adam’s side and presented her to him as his wife. Adam found in Eve his perfect counterpart, who was like himself (one of his kind). But she was also his complement, and one upon whom he could joyously display his love.
The final divine comment or command in the creation account about marriage was given by the Holy Spirit through Moses in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Family life was to be maintained from generation to generation by means of the institution of marriage. Families therefore were designed and established by God at man’s creation. It is a fact of history that almost all peoples of all times have practiced family life based upon the permanent marital union of one man with one woman.
No details are given of how a man would find or get himself a wife or of how society would regulate the marriage institution. But Genesis 2:18-22 implies that God would provide each man with his own wife. We do learn from Genesis 1:27 that the intimate relationship of man and wife was based upon their distinctive sexualities of male and female. Thus “one flesh” is the sexual relationship that enabled Adam and Eve, then subsequently all of mankind, to obey the first divine command made to them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (v.28). Such emotional and physical (sexual) intercourse was good, proper, beneficial and healthy to both of them (2:25). However, it was not until after their fall into sin that Adam “knew” (the Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse) Eve; and that they actually produced any children (3:20, 4:1-2).
It is obvious that the final part of Genesis 2:24, “hold fast [cleave] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” cannot mean that marriage is just a piece of paper! Nor can it mean anything other than one man married to one woman for the whole of their life. It cannot mean anything less or anything more. Nothing else can be substituted for it. A permanent monogamy is implicit in this verse.
Marriage Is A Promise Made Before, And With, God
Let’s consider two verses as we progress: “The wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2:14) and “The adulteress … who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God” (Prov. 2:17).
While it is true that marriage is more than a piece of paper, it is necessary to stress that it is a formal commitment by both spouses. Throughout Israel’s history, marriage was viewed as a formal contract. Malachi 2:14, which we just quoted, shows that this contract was made not only between the families of the bride and the bridegroom, but by each spouse before God. Each committed himself or herself to obey God’s original command in Genesis 2:24 and to remain faithful to his or her partner. They committed themselves to each other and to God “by covenant.” In civil law such formalities require witnesses and certification. But the reality is that all verbal commitments made during the marriage ceremony are oaths also heard and witnessed by God, and He regards each and every marriage as a covenant between Himself and the spouses. Nowadays, at least in the western world, there is a legal requirement for the couple to confirm the promises made to each other by their signatures to a marriage certificate. The law requires this record for good civil order and government, but the principal issue remains true: The commitment to each other by husband and wife is a solemn oath before God. Both Genesis 2:24 and Proverbs 2:17 indicate that God requires every married person to act in faithfulness to their word.
Marriage Portrays The Eternal Union Of Christ And His Church
Marriage is also more than a piece of paper because it pictures the reality of the eternal union of Christ and His Church. Ephesians 5:22-32 discloses this amazing and profound mystery, which has been made known to believers of this time period (3:1-6). In 5:31, Paul uses Genesis 2:24 as the proof text for his statements that the Church is the body of Christ (Eph. 5:29-30), and that a husband’s love for his wife must reflect that which Christ has for His Church (vv.25-30). The intimate marriage relationship of man and woman is designed to reflect the fact that Christ and His Church are one body (1:23). This reality will be seen in the future when He comes again to claim her as His bride and marries her in heaven. Currently, the Church is being prepared for that wonderful event (5:26-27).
The steps which the Lord took to get His bride and how He makes her suitable to marry Him are taught in Ephesians 5:25-27. “Christ loved the church” goes back to eternity past – we were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (1:4). He was “the merchant man,” who sought and found the “one pearl of great price,” and who then sold all that he had to be able to buy it (Mt. 13:45-46). The cost was exceedingly great and beyond measure: “the church of God, which He obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Yes, Christ so loved the Church that He willingly offered Himself in sacrifice to God for her (Eph. 5:2).
During this present age, the Church is being built by Christ Himself (Mt. 16:16-19). It is also a betrothal period in which He is actively purifying “her by the washing of water with the word [of God]” (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:26). When the building and cleansing works are complete, He will “present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (v.27). Soon, the Church will be raptured to be with Him forever (1 Th. 4:15-17). As her Bridegroom, He will take her to the wedding place, heaven itself (Rev. 19:1,9; Mt. 25:1-10).
After the wedding and the celebration of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9), the Church will reign alongside Him throughout His millennial kingdom (20:4-6). During His reign, she will be the heavenly administrative city (21:9-22:5). At the end of the kingdom (see 1 Cor. 15:24-28), the Church will go into eternity with her husband to be the object of His love forever (Rev. 21:1-6). The Church is to be Christ’s wife for a thousand years, but His bride for eternity!