Marriage, More Than A Piece Of Paper

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” —Hebrews 13:4 NASB

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

Marriage is the oldest of human institutions. It dates back to the garden of Eden, man’s first home, and was created expressly for man by God. Marriage was not man’s idea, but God’s. Contrary to what many people think, marriage was instituted by God for His glory and for man’s enjoyment and blessing. No piece of paper was involved in that beginning long ago; in fact, the first marriage was absolutely simple, consecrated by God Himself.

God shows us in His Word that human marriage, wonderful in itself, is a picture of something far more magnificent. God planned long before He created mankind, or even the earth on which we live, that human marriage was to picture the marriage of the Church to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This marriage will soon take place in heaven. Although the Church was a mystery hidden by God and thus nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament, some pictures foreshadowing this glorious marriage are already given us there.

When we look at Ephesians 5:22-33 and other passages in the New Testament we see what marriage means to God. Therefore, we can well understand that He promises to judge anyone who deliberately spoils or abuses this depiction of His glorious purpose which He has also lovingly designed for man’s pleasure and benefit. Both fornication and adultery are deliberate acts involving the will of two individuals. God differentiates these sins from rape – the forcible sexual violation of one person by another. God’s Word does not, however, recognize any “accidental” commission of these sins! By contrast, God makes a distinction between murder and manslaughter in His Word. He provided cities of refuge in Israel for those who accidentally, or unintentionally, killed someone else; while for murderers there was no such provision made. Seven times in Numbers 35, God commands that the murderer must be put to death.

The model God gives to us to exemplify His ideal of marriage, as we have already noted in Ephesians 5, is that of Christ and the Church: “Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her” (v.25 KJV). He is the Head of the Church and the Savior of the Body. He sanctifies, cleanses, nourishes and cherishes her – loves her as His own body. One day He will present her to Himself in glorious, splendid, spotless beauty. What a wonderful example He gives in this way to husbands, who themselves are exhorted to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. The Church in turn is subject to Christ and respects Him, a subjection and respect that are not forced on her but that comes from the depths of her heart. This is the example for wives who are to be subject to their own husbands in everything as to the Lord.

Marriage, in this way, is a relationship built to the utmost degree upon giving. It is not based on getting – but oh, how much each one gains by this wholehearted, unreserved giving. Christ gave Himself; He gave His life. In fact, He, God the Son, the Lord of Glory, stooped to become Man in order to be able to give His life. The Church is to be His eternal Consort,* whom God (looking back to the picture given us in Genesis 2) designed to be a help perfectly suited for her husband. Being made by God as a product of the Son’s death, she submits to Him with full respect in everything as a part of Him. Such is God’s ideal for marriage.

Only A Piece Of Paper?
Marriage is certainly more than a piece of paper! What is this expression, “a piece of paper,” all about? Sad to say, more and more people today are rejecting what God tells us about marriage. Many people in today’s world think there is nothing wrong with a man and a woman simply living together without being married. Some give reasons why they prefer this “free lifestyle” to the bonds taken on in a legal marriage. They ask why two people who love each other should have to go through the formality of getting legally married. Many feel that without the legal constraints of being married they are not tied down to only one person, or they are free to move on when they are no longer in love or it no longer suits them to live together. Just how is it that a piece of paper called a “marriage certificate” or a “marriage license” makes a marriage legitimate? “Isn’t love the main thing?” they ask. What connection does love have with a piece of paper?

The piece of paper itself is not the important thing, but what it stands for is absolutely vital. God has established marriage as a relationship whereby a man and a woman are united together before God and man, as husband and wife. In creation, God had made the woman out of the rib He had taken from the man, whom He had caused to fall into a deep sleep, and had brought her to Adam. Scripture then immediately says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:24-25 NKJV). From this point on the woman is referred to either as “the woman,” “Adam’s wife,” or “Eve” after Adam gave her that name. She was not his “girlfriend,” “significant other,” “mistress,” “concubine,” “fiancée,” or “roommate.” No, she was his wife!

A wife in Scripture is a woman in a definite relationship to a particular man. This man has left father and mother; thus he is no longer under their authority. He has left them to be joined to his wife in a profound new relationship that is referred to by several expressions that involve both the sexual union and the intimacy that goes beyond physical union: “knowing her,” “becoming one flesh.” In fact, the expression used of being naked and not ashamed indicates the liberty of complete openness, without any reserve between husband and wife. In marriage, “yours” and “mine” fade into the background while “ours” shines out bright and clear.

We do not find any reference in Scripture to a wedding ceremony, but weddings in God’s Word are usually associated with feasts — sometimes, as in Samson’s case, lasting for several days. Thus, a wedding was a definite event, normally a joyful one, that marked a public change in the status of the two individuals involved. These two – always a man and a woman – thereby became husband and wife.

While custom in today’s world usually places the emphasis on the bride, this was not so in weddings recorded in the Bible. There the emphasis is normally on the bridegroom, for the bridegroom pictures Christ. In the account of the first wedding in the garden of Eden, God created the woman for the man to be his helpmate.

That first marriage was respected throughout the Bible. This was true even of wicked men beginning with Cain and his descendant Lamech in Genesis 4. Incidentally, this Lamech is the first polygamist mentioned in God’s Word. In time other perversions have also damaged the marriage relationship that God began in purity and simplicity. Godly men in Scripture, sad to say, also are often seen involved in polygamy although they honored the institution of marriage. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is always viewed as sin in God’s Word. Sleeping around and prostitution are always wrong, for sex was not given to mankind as a toy with which to play.

Sex within marriage is not only for procreation, but it is pleasurable and is commended in Proverbs 5:15-20 to the young man who has just been warned against the immoral woman. Other passages show us that sex within marriage is a fantastic gift from God, giving the married couple the ability to express their love and appreciation for each other in a physical way. This gift of God gives pleasure even when misused. However, God calls such misuse “fornication,” or when married persons are involved, “adultery”; and He absolutely condemns both of these sins.

Marriage is definitely more than a piece of paper. Why insist on that piece of paper then? God has appointed authorities in this world for our good. Before He did so, when man had no government but simply had his conscience to guide him, his wickedness increased until God intervened with the judgment of the flood. The Book of Judges gives us examples of the dreadful things that happened in Israel when there was no king, and every man did what was right in his own eyes. In the increasingly lawless world we live in, immorality is blatantly out in the open and is being promoted and protected, even called “right.” Yet for the good of society, governments are still recognizing and, to a certain extent, protecting the institution of marriage. We Christians are told in Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 and elsewhere to obey the laws that governments make and to pay the fees they demand. A license to marry is one of these. A marriage ceremony is another. These “pieces of paper” are a part of what governments require as they function under God to protect and promote marriage. They help to keep man’s passions in check and under control. We Christians should pay the fees they demand and obey their requirements as they act within the framework of the authority God has committed to them. In doing so we are obeying God’s Word.

Yes, marriage is more than a piece of paper – much more! But that piece of paper the government requires is an integral part of marriage in our countries, for it makes a marriage legal and openly recognized as being the bond that binds a man and a woman together while on earth. Marriages may be made in heaven, but heaven tells us to submit to the authorities it has established for man’s good on earth. We do this in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ who has told us to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.

* A “consort” is a “spouse, especially of a reigning monarch,” according to

Marriage: It Is More Than A Piece Of Paper!

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!

God’s Care: Lessons From The Eagle

By Alfred Bouter

The eagle is a large bird of prey with a massive hooked bill and long broad wings, known for its keen sight and powerful soaring flight.1 It may have the status of “king” among birds, much like the lion on land. Eagles are powerful, having striking features that God has used to describe some of His actions in delivering His people Israel from Pharaoh’s bondage in Egypt. “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Ex. 19:4 ESV). He led them out of their servitude and brought them to absolute safety, resembling the eagle who builds its nests very high in the mountains to keep its young out of the reach of foes (Job 39:27). The LORD fed, guided and protected them, as Moses wrote, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him” (Dt. 32:11-12).

However, Moses predicted that Israel would become disobedient, and God would discipline them by delivering them to a strange nation, which would act like an eagle swooping on its prey (Dt. 28:49; Job 9:26). God will act in a similar way with all nations because He controls everything, even though all are fully responsible and accountable to Him (please read carefully Acts 17:24-31). Moses compared God’s care of His people when leading them through the wilderness with a man who carries his son (Dt. 1:31). Paul summed up this protection and treatment by saying that God nourished them, implying the idea of a mother taking care of her baby (Acts 13:18). Others link this verb with a slightly different reading, that God “put up with them,” which would highlight their resistance during the wilderness journey (see Dt. 8). What a contrast with the Lord Jesus who always obeyed!

Nonetheless, God did take care of them – something that He does for us all, whether we see and appreciate it or not. David praised God for His care by saying that He “satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps. 103:5). From observation we know that the eagle parent at some point in the upbringing throws its young out of the nest to teach it to use its wings, and swoops underneath to catch and carry it back on high. Perhaps we may link this point with Isaiah 40:31: “ … shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary.” This verse describes how God re-energizes the believer who puts his trust in Him, even in old age (Ps. 92:12-14).

Ezekiel described very remarkable visions in which he saw amazing creatures, each with the faces of an eagle, a man, lion and ox (Ezek. 1:10) or an angelic being called a “cherub” (10:14). These details are associated with God’s unfathomable greatness, acting in judgment according to His wisdom and power (Ezek. 1:10, 10:14; see Jer. 4:13, 48:40). Revelation describes these created beings, calling them “living beings,” as being intimately linked with God’s supreme power, wisdom and control (Rev. 4:6-9, see Jer. 49:16,22; Lam. 4:19).2 For sure, all these things are “too wonderful” (Prov. 30:18), or beyond our grasp. Nevertheless, they describe God’s wisdom, control, power and loving care of His creation, as displayed in His providence and righteous judgment. These details have been written and communicated to us that we may bring honor and glory to God, now and forever.

Let us worship Him who was manifested, or seen, in the flesh, and for whom the wise men came all the way from Babylon to Jerusalem. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16 NKJV).

1. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition.
2. Mentioned 20 times in Revelation (4:6-9, 5:6,8,11,14, 6:1,3,5-7, 7:11, 14:3, 15:7, 19:4).

Stretched Beliefs

By Paul Alberts

How often do we hear comments that fail to take into account the true value of something? There are many things in this world about which people battle for what they think is right, even though their expressed views are often based on nothing more than selfish pride or opinion. By contrast, those who base their position on an accurate interpretation of Scripture have a firm foundation for their convictions. The Lord Jesus is “the truth” (Jn. 14:6 NKJV) – there is no other. We should ask ourselves individually, “Are the principles I hold right before Him?”

Like a piece of clothing that has been stretched out, over time we can too easily lose the biblical accuracy in our beliefs. This may happen by going beyond what the Bible says about a matter, or we might compromise regarding scriptural instruction and fall short of what is right. Changes either way need to be corrected, for the consequences can be quite significant. Good or bad, our positions on matters will affect others. More importantly, will our Lord be honored and glorified by the views we hold and express that are outside of the teaching found in the Word of God? Of course not.

But how can we be confident of the accuracy of a view we hold? First, we must read, study and meditate on His Word. This is not a once in a lifetime activity, but a daily privilege to spend time in the Lord’s presence, learning as Mary did at His feet (Lk. 10:39; Acts 17:11). Second, prayer must accompany our desire to learn from Him (Mk. 10:10). Third, we need to realize that the Holy Spirit will teach us truth (Jn. 14:26) free of error – something that is not true of even the best Bible schools. Fourth, it is not possible to be seeking our own way at the same time as we are trying to learn what is right before God (Lk. 10:29). Finally, sin and its associated partners will prevent us, by grieving the Holy Spirit, from seeing the truth of Scripture (Eph. 4:30-31); they must be confessed (1 Jn. 1:9).

As the Word of God is presented in the articles this month, let us be ready to receive what He would open to us for our blessing and that of those near and dear to us – all to His glory.

Magazine February 2018


Emphasis: Stretched Beliefs -Paul Alberts
Worship: God’s Care: Lessons From The Eagle -Alfred Bouter
Feature: Marriage, It Is More Than A Piece Of Paper! -David Anderson
Feature: Marriage, Just A Piece Of Paper? -Emmanuel V. John
Feature: Marriage, More Than A Piece Of Paper -Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
Issues: Races, Racial Prejudice And God’s Plan In All This -Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
Series: Sign Gifts -Albert Blok
Discover: Discover Questions -Alan Groth
Uplook: A Few Challenges From The Story Of Nicodemus -Curt Darling
Serving: Thoughts As To Shepherding
Overview: 1 Corinthians -Leslie M. Grant
YouAsked: Do people become angels when they die? -Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
Response: Responses
GoodNews: The Virus Of All Viruses -Jefferson Alleyne
Full Magazine PDF: Magazine PDF