This is Part 2 of my article regarding what the Bible says about divorce and marriage. In this article, I will dive deeper into the nature and purpose of marriage.
Marriage: The Sacred Promise Between a Man and a Woman
It is important to understand marriage as a covenant. Marriage is an agreement between and man and woman to cherish and uplift each other no matter the circumstances. This pledge is made between two human parties in front of the Lord.
I have evoked those wedding vows on the day that two became one. There is an indicative in scripture regarding marrying a fellow Christian in the case of remarriage after the death of a spouse.
A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God. – 1 Corinthians 7:39-40
If the Lord’s desire for remarriage is to wed a Christian, then it stands to reason that it is the Lord’s desire for our first marriage to be to a Christian.
The often quoted verse regarding the command to not be yoked with unbelievers has very little to do with marriage. Reading the context reveals that this passage has more to do with avoiding the sin of idolatry:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
As a general principle, this passage in 2 Corinthians 6 can be applied to seeking a spouse for our first marriage or remarriage. Yet what Paul has in mind is a much broader theological principle, in that, harmony and oneness are not possible between the forces of evil and forces of redemption through Christ.
In essence, Paul’s teaching is that an adulterated holiness is non-holiness in God’s eyes. There is an image of severing the relationship we have with the Almighty Lord when intermingling light and darkness.
The last part of the passage evokes a restoration of Eden in us since before the fall the Lord walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Therefore, a biblical view of marriage from this passage demands holiness with God and with our spouse so that nothing unclean damages the marriage.
God’s Purposes for Marriage
1) A model of God’s holy relationship through marriage that communicates His good news and will for humanity. God created marriage for our spiritual edification. We are to glorify God by setting apart marriage as a means of grace in our lives and in the lives of others.
Let us examine key passages that testify to spiritual edification in marriage:
The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. 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. 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 is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. – Genesis 2:18-25
This passage illustrates that it was the Lord who gave away the bride. It was God who created Eve out of Adam’s flesh so that marriage, as design, would be created. The Lord found that it was not ‘good’ for a man to be alone.
God joins the two flesh and makes them one. God performed the very first wedding. Jesus adds to Genesis 2:24: “and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:8-9; Matthew 19:6).
Marriage is more than just a human relationship but something that Lord desires for the pinnacle of his creation: persons. The spiritual nature of the marital relationship reflects the divine relationship we have with God as expressed in Ephesians 5:31-32:
“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
Additionally, the church is pictured as the bride of Christ taking part in the celebratory wedding feast/supper of the Lamb.
The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. – Revelation 22:17
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God” – Revelation 19:9
And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” – Matthew 9:15
2) Procreation, caring, instruction, and training of children. Support for this particular purpose for marriage is found in these passages:
Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. – Psalm 112:1-2
The Lord’s creation of marital oneness is now reproduced through the children so oneness can continue throughout the generations. This means of grace connotes vigor, growth, and prosperity through children. Marital oneness produces a multiplication of blessings.
One can even argue from these verses a spiritual multiplication through children. God’s goal is children that worship him, belong to him, and reflect His holiness to the world.
3) Protection against sexual immorality. Primary passages for this divine purpose for marriage include:
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. – 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 8-9
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.
The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. – Proverbs 5:15-18
Satan’s primary method to divide marriages is it to tempt both partners to not to engage in sexual relations. The sin of not engaging in physical intimacy in marriage has grave consequences which include being tempted to have relations with someone outside the marriage. The withholding of sex in marriage often causes many underlying problems that can remain hidden.
Often, sex in marriage is the first thing to go when compared to oneness in other areas like church attendance together, going for vacations together, being involved in the children’s schooling, etc. Thus, a Counselor can often assess the health of marriage by asking whether a married couple has had sex on a consistent basis.
4) The sharing of spiritual and physical intimacy to deepen the one flesh relationship instituted by the Lord. We have discussed earlier spiritual intimacy with God, a man, and a woman in marriage. God’s commands regarding spiritual intimacy is clear yet often times Christians do not convey the importance of physical intimacy in marriage from a biblical perspective.
Therefore, passages for this fourth purpose of marriage is as follows:
A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?
For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly. – Proverbs 5:19-23
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. – Hebrews 13:4
Awake, north wind, and come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread everywhere. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits. – Song of Solomon 4:16
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.
Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. – 1 Corinthians 7:3-7
Violations of these four divine purposes of marriage can rise to same level of seriousness as adultery or desertion. A more holistic understanding of God’s purpose for marriage from scripture lends support to this view.
Other things the Bible identifies as sin can also rise to serious violations of the covenant of marriage. These include idolatry (drug abuse, materialism, sex addiction), serious neglect by being away from home for long periods of time, and unrepentant engagement in non-biblical practices.
Although one may have biblical reasons that make divorce possible, believers need to strive to keep the spirit of God’s word. The Bible makes it clear we are to do everything possible to keep the sacred bond of marriage intact, and course correct as soon as issues are detected. The couple must strive to work on the marriage as early as possible before the sinfulness goes deep.
Unbiblical relationships affect more than just a marriage but also children, the extended family, community, and greater society. If you are noticing early signs of trouble in your marriage get guidance from a Christian Counselor to regain God’s design for marriage in your lives.
“Forever”, Courtesy of Alvin Mahmudov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Way You Hold Me”, Courtesy of William Stitt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother”, Courtesy of Duangphorn Wiriya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Children in the Field”, Courtesy of Gamze Bozkaya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License