Has God Established Marriage?

Title: Has God Established Marriage or Has Man?

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pFaq2RT8Xwgldg8gLbCkAnSMFmy8XN0f_eC9gPgLmbb6UoBFlF402-Ovr-WPPLNF7_K9eHebg9_gy8CEfYwGJew/9-14-08didgodestablishmarriage.mp3%5D

Text: Genesis 1 & 2

Date: September 9, 2008

One day I was challenged as a Christian minister and church pastor to prove from the Bible that God has established marriage. Is there any question that God has indeed established the institution of marriage? After all, most marriages are begun in a church at the wedding ceremony. The traditional vows begin with, “We are gathered here today in the presence of God and these witnesses celebrate the joining of these two lives together in holy matrimony. . . .” Is there any doubt that marriage is something established by God? Yet, the question was posed to me by someone who sincerely wanted to know — is marriage an institution established by God or is it something that developed from human culture? When I began to study the matter of marriage in the Bible I soon realized that as far as actual instruction on the meaning, purpose and practical philosophy of marriage, there isn’t much. I was surprised by the fact that most of what we understand about marriage is inference from general truths found in the Bible, but that there was very little actual specific marriage instruction in the Bible. What is in the Bible is foundational for building a proper understanding of marriage, but it only becomes specific when we read and reflect on what the Bible teaches concerning the basic male/female relationship. So I am grateful to the challenge that came to me through the perceptive observations of some very sincere people, because it has caused me to carefully search the scriptures as to what exactly is taught in the Word of God in order to build upon that foundation a fully-developed theology of marriage. The basic foundational teaching on marriage comes from Genesis 1 & 2 of the Old Testament. It is here that God first explains the purpose of man and So let us turn to Genesis in order to lay a foundation for a correct view of marriage. No, we won’t be able to point to chapter and verse to prove every truth that we now accept as the divine and holy institution of marriage, but we will be able to work out these truths from the foundational truths presented in Genesis. For example, Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created the.” This shows the basic equality of man and woman before God. But then another verse, Genesis 2:18, shows the basic differentiation of man and woman, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” So we see there is similarity but also difference between men and women. We also see that they were both made for community not solitary existence — “It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone.” With that foundational truth established, the next issue is: if a man and a woman were not made to be alone, how then should they relate? What kind of community should they form? We see God answering this question in Genesis 2:22-25, “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This in now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were naked and they felt no shame.” No, this description isn’t everything we understand marriage to be, but it is the source from which our understanding of marriage comes from. So let’s unpack these truths and build upon them. As we do, we’ll be able to see that God has indeed established the institution of marriage as we understand the meaning of these truths.

First, marriage is an exclusive union between two individuals. Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Notice the singular noun “man” not plural. The union God sets up and establishes at the beginning between male and female is between two individuals, not a plurality of people. It isn’t that “men” leave fathers and mothers, or that “women” leave their fathers and mothers to enter into a polygamist relationship. It is one man leaving his mother, one, and father, one, and entering into a monogamist relationship called marriage. This important truth establishes important implications for society, even today, especially when traditional marriage is challenged by the perversions of gay partnerships and gay marriages. There is also some rumblings today about the possibility of reinstating allowances for polygamy, since once the traditional monogamist marriage definition is challenged or changed, there is no logical reason why relationships of all types, including plural wives, or even plural husbands, couldn’t be permitted by society. We also see that it was God’s original design from the beginning that there be one man and one woman in the marriage, even though he later permitted polygamy among the patriarchs, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. And among heroes such as David and Solomon. But while God permitted such polygamist marriages, that was not what he established from the beginning in Genesis. Because what God set up and sanctioned was monogamy.

Second, marriage includes a public recognition of the union. Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” A marriage is something entered into publicly, not in secret. A man or woman leaving mother and father implies a public act, a visible, open, community observable act of leaving his or her original family. In many instances it is visible moving from one household location or another different location. I don’t know if you remember that different moves you’ve made over your lifetime, but my experience of moving from one house to another is that it’s usually a pretty visible event. When I moved from Michigan to come here to New York, everyone knew it because you could see the big moving truck parked in the driveway, people bringing thing first into the truck in Michigan, and then upon arrival in New York, you’d observe people bringing things out of the truck. There is no question in anybody’s mind that somebody was moving. Well, that’s the same idea found here in the Bible. A man or woman will leave (the house, literally and figuratively) their father and mother and be united in a new family unit. The public, visible ceremony for this is the wedding. It represents the leaving of father and mother and entering into a new family loyalty — marriage. The point is that it’s public, that God established marriage as a public institution, not just a private, personal matter. The wedding is public. It may not be open to the general public, but it’s public in the sense that everyone knows that the man and woman are leaving father and mother and establishing a new little community or society called marriage.

Three, marriage is a loving, cleaving commitment or covenant. Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” The key clause for this point is “and (the man shall) be united to his wife.” The shall be united in a binding covenant of faithfulness towards each other, which is at the heart of a marriage relationship. There are other women that the man relates with in life, there are many other men the woman relates with in life, but there is only one woman the man forms a faithful covenant with, and there is only one man the woman forms a faithful covenant with called marriage. It is the covenant or sacred agreement that distinguishes marriage from all other relationships. This truth is the foundation upon which all the traditional marriage vows come from. “To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, till death do us part” — these are the words of a sacred covenant. They bind the man and women together in a public ceremony. Yes, these vows can be broken; yes, the couple can dissolve the covenant through sinful actions on the part of one or the other. But there can be no denying that the vows were exchanged or that a covenant was made. “For this reason” — for what reason? For the sake of marriage, for the sake of a holy covenant. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife” — united in what way? In holy matrimony, in a sacred covenant of mutual faithfulness and care, in lifelong loyalty, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, till death do them part.

Four, marriage is a sexual or one-flesh relationship. Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Notice the one-flesh or sexual relationship between the man and woman is supposed to properly come last in the sequence of events that form the marriage relationship. Yet today, most people rush ahead into a sexual relationship before they have established a sacred and public covenant agreement of faithfulness. Most people today violate God’s holy order of marriage, which is probably why so many marriages fail in divorce. Sex is something so close and personal, so intimate and special that it shouldn’t be shared with anyone other than the marriage mate — and only after the sacred vows are exchanged and clarifications and expectations are expressed publicly. To people have it all backwards. They jump into the sexual relationships before a sacred covenant of faithfulness has been established. They form relationships of intimacy which often result in children before there has even been a public acknowledgement or announcement of the relationship. Often there past families ties haven’t been properly transferred to the new relationship, which results and conflicting misunderstandings and confusing expectations. Is it any wonder that divorce results? And of those loose and casual relationships where intimacy is shared but no responsibilities are even acknowledged, is it any wonder that the vast majority of these don’t last?

So in answer to the question, has God established the institution of marriage? The answer is definitely Yes. Is marriage spelled out word-for-word in the Bible and the wedding ceremony outlined chapter and verse? No. But the foundational truths for all that happens in a traditional wedding ceremony and marriage is present in the Bible, and with a little reflection, the principles mentioned translate into concrete practices that resemble what has become known as marriage. There will differences in the specific wedding traditions of different cultures. Marriages will look a little different translated out into different times and places. But the basic principles that God established in the example of Adam and Eve in the beginning apply throughout history. Marriage was established by God as a divine institution from the beginning and ratified by the Lord Jesus in the New Testament with the example of the wedding at Cana found in John 2:1-11. Is marriage a purely human cultural development? No. It is mostly a divine institution established by God from the beginning that has gone through the normal, natural process of historical development. But that in no way takes away from its sacredness.


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