Americans have lost their way on right and wrong. According to a recent poll by Gallup, about half or more of all Americans believe that abortion, homosexuality and sex outside of marriage are not sinful.
Even in early Christianity, there was confusion over marriage. Marriage was said to have stemmed from a concession to human weakness. But a closer look at Scripture tells a different story.
1. The Biblical Basis for Marriage
In Genesis 1, God was creating and declaring everything He made to be good. In Genesis 2, we see the first thing that wasn’t good: verse 18 says it isn’t good for man to be alone. God brought all the animals to Adam for him to name, but no suitable helper was found for him. So God created woman (2:20-24).
Biblical theology talks about the four states of man: created, fallen, redeemed and glorified. And in creation we see God’s plan for marriage through these four states (2:20-24).
- Marriage is rooted in our inadequacy. This isn’t to suggest that single people aren’t fully human. We all, however, are made to desire another. In verses 19-20, God prepares Adam for Eve by exhausting other possibilities. He doesn’t just give man the woman straight away. God is teaching Adam to trust Him and teach the man the value of the woman. Humans are no mere animals, but being made in the image of God sets us apart.
- Marriage is of God’s design. Verse 21 especially shows this by the way God makes the woman … while Adam was sleeping. It was all God’s work, making it clear she is in no way inferior to man, she, too, was divinely created.
- Marriage is a relationship of companionship. Man was alone and needed a suitable helper. The woman was taken from his side to show she is a suitable companion. She wasn’t taken from his head to rule over him or his feet to be trampled under him.
- Marriage is a relationship of attraction. Gen. 2:23 reveals to us the only pre-Fall statement of man. Adam is clearly excited here. “At last! A suitable helper!”
- Marriage is a relationship of authority. Hierarchy isn’t the result of the curse; authority is inherent in the world’s design before the Fall (Gen. 3). Adam named her woman before the Fall. The man being created first implied authority. After the first sin, in Genesis 3:9, God calls out to the man — implying his responsibility in the situation.
- Marriage is a particular union. God calls man and woman to be together; it is the first and most basic of all institutions. There is covenant language of being united. Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be isolated; it is a part of marriage. God’s design isn’t Adam with another man. It is the union of one man with one woman where they become interdependent and complementary to each other.
- Marriage is a public covenant. Note the official language in verse 22 — God brought and presented her to man as a kind of marriage ceremony. Verse 24 shows a change in priorities from parents to spouse. A new family is established. God didn’t put a parent and a child in the garden. He is emphasizing the importance of this relationship.
- Marriage is a lifelong relationship. It is intended to be permanent (Mal. 2). Jesus references Genesis 2 in exhorting us not to divorce.
Effects of the Fall on Marriage
After the Fall, the marriage relationship became distorted. Strife was caused by a desire for dominance, and Adam and Eve being alienated from God. Adam acted for us (Romans 5:19), making God our enemy. The whole context for marriage has been changed by sin.
Marriage’s continuation is part of God’s kindness to us. Marriage is under assault in this sinful world. We are taught to be ashamed of this need and told it is just a social contract. The world devalues spouses, seeks lust that is impossible to fulfill, abuses or abdicates authority, and engages in homosexuality and polygamy.
Marriage is publicly trivialized. Man’s law pronounces divorces that God doesn’t recognize.
Yet, marriage survives! It is necessary for a nation’s survival; it is society’s infrastructure.
Marriage and Redemption
Marriage predates sin — it is part of God’s good gift in creation. It is in the context of marriage that we’re most our own gender yet displaying unity in diversity.
Perpetual adolescence is part of the spiritual battle in our culture. Christians see the need for marriage because we recognize our incompleteness. It’s not just for propagation of a family. It is about relationship. God delights to give us what we delight in.
2. Roles in Marriage
Husbands – Serve the Lord as is written in Joshua 24:15: “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The best way to love is by leading well. We should lay down our own comforts, preferences and even our lives (Ephesians 5). Love your wife like Christ loved the church.
Men read love as “don’t upset her.” This is a self-serving definition. Love is to risk upsetting; it’s an inevitable part of a loving leadership. Observe and lead in your wife’s relationship with the church. Lead in the way that Christ leads and cares for the church.
Do you know what your wife likes? Make her an object of your intent investigation. When giving advice, tell her how much you love her.
Wives, correct your husbands in a loving way if they are doing wrong. Husbands, love with a self-sacrifice. Resolve to grow in humility, be more sensitive, be a better communicator, and to love better.
Husbands, do you feel like a failure in this? The Gospel is for failures like us — man, woman, and child.
Wives — What’s so astounding about marriage isn’t the similarities between a husband and wife but the real unity amid a beautiful array of differences. In the teaching of the New Testament, wives are addressed first. Biblically, being a Christian wife means having a love for God and a love for others, obedience to God’s Word, helping her husband, being industrious, teaching younger women, loving her husband and children, being self-controlled. Ephesians 5:22 adds that a wife is to “submit” to her husband.
Also, notice that Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:15, 1 Peter 3:1 and 5 all stress submission. Christians know all about submission. We are to submit to Christ, the governing authorities, leaders at church, parents, etc.
Submitting doesn’t imply being of lesser value. Christ submitted to the Father. Submission doesn’t imply inequality, but different roles. Submission does not mean that one is not to express thoughts or is to follow a husband into sin.
1 Peter 3 gives Old Testament examples of how wives are to love, honor, respect and encourage husbands.
Here are more ideas: Give yourself to reading and knowing God’s Word better. Read Proverbs, a chapter a day, and apply it to your marriage. Pray God would make you an easier person to lead. Encourage your children to honor their dad. Speak well of him to them.
What if your husband is a non-Christian? In 1 Peter 3, wives are told to submit to back up their evangelistic words. Wives, do you feel like a failure in this? The Gospel is for failures like us — man, woman, and child.
3. Theological Reflections
Why does the Bible teach this about marriage? The Lord reflects Himself in marriage. Christ is proclaimed through marriage. Marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church. Marriage is a picture of the Gospel.
Hosea is written in the context of marriage and depicts the theme of unfaithfulness and reconciliation. Genesis 2 is a foretaste of what we see at the end of Revelation 21, “the bride dressed for her husband.” Amen! Come Lord Jesus!