Marriage Matters to God
Who would have ever dreamed a few years ago that marriage would be the object of so much public debate? Does it ever leave you wondering if marriage is really that big of a deal? Is it really worth all the time and energy currently spent on the subject? When all is said and done, does one’s personal view of marriage really matter? Perhaps you have heard these questions and dozens like them in recent days. Regardless of how one might answer them, we can be certain of this: marriage matters to God. If God’s written Word is to be trusted, there is really no other conclusion
Evidence that Marriage Matters to God
How do we know that marriage really matters to God? Consider the following: (1) Marriage was created as the very first social institution. In other words, it was on the scene long before there was government, organized religion, educational institutions, business, or any other social institution. Further, marriage was the only institution that occurred before sin. God’s intention – yes, even before the Fall – was that his people would live in a marital union. (2) God begins all of his major acts with a wedding. The creation of the human race began with the garden wedding of Adam and Eve. Jesus’ ministry began at the small village wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1). Heaven will begin with the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). God must be very fond of weddings because every time He has a big idea it gets started with a wedding. What prominence the institution holds.
Those two reasons alone are enough to convince me that marriage is high on God’s priority list. But there’s more. (3) The Bible boldly and explicitly declares the value of marriage. The writer of Hebrews (13:4) states that “marriage should be honored by all.” Such a statement doesn’t leave much doubt regarding the significance God places on this sacred union. (4) Marriage words are repeated extensively throughout the pages of scripture. Have you ever stopped to notice how often words like marriage, wedding, wife, husband, bride, bridegroom, or betroth appear in the Bible? These words occur over 750 times, scattered throughout 47 books (71%) of the Bible. If repetition is a way to get one’s attention, then God demands ours when it comes to marriage.
(5) The marriage message is consistently presented by numerous speakers over numerous centuries. Three major Bible voices – Moses (Gen. 2:24), Jesus (Matt. 19:5), and Paul (Eph. 5:31) – all refer to marriage in the very same way when they note: “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 consistency is all the more remarkable when one recognizes that the speakers’ lives were separated by some 1,500 years. Apparently God wanted this message heard by all generations. All scripture joins to proclaim that marriage is incredibly important to God. He uses a variety of ways to emphasize this point.
There is still at least one other piece of evidence to support the claim that marriage has great value in the eyes of God. (6) Jesus affirmed marriage in the strongest terms possible. In Matthew 19 some Pharisees approached Jesus with a question regarding divorce. As only He could do, Jesus immediately turned their attention away from the issue of divorce and placed the spotlight fully on marriage. Jesus was so concerned that these religious leaders understood marriage that he affirmed six central teachings – not related to the Pharisees’ original question, but related to God’s plan for marriage (Matt. 19:4-6). Those affirmations are as follows:
1. Marriage was designed by the Creator.
2. Marriage requires a male and a female.
3. Marriage is intended to be monogamous.
4. Marriage was made for permanence (i.e., “one flesh”).
5. Marriage needs protecting (i.e., “let man not separate”).
6. Marriage honors the original pattern of creation.
These affirmations were intended to be timeless, universal, and health-producing. Jesus did not indicate special conditions or circumstances when these affirmations might be abandoned. Rather, he presented them as the divine design that would foster optimal relational health among all people, everywhere, at any time.
Affirmations and Authority under Attack
Despite this clear teaching and emphasis in God’s holy Word regarding marriage, our culture increasingly fails to honor the institution today. Make no mistake about it, relentless contemporary attacks on marriage ultimately reject one or more of the affirmations spoken by Jesus. Let me illustrate. Redefinitions and reformulations of marriage deny the idea that a Sovereign Creator designed marriage. Same-sex, or even polygamous, marriages become acceptable if we discard the notion that a male-female, monogamous relationship is the intended pattern. Divorce loses its sting if fuzzy feelings of love are given priority over lifelong permanence. The media’s mocking and ridiculing of marriage are harmless entertainment if we see no need to honor and protect this sacred institution. Even silent pastors and religious leaders are off the hook if we no longer need be concerned about the original pattern of marriage established at the time of creation. In other words, what is happening today in regards to marriage – redefinitions, same-sex marriages, the possibility of polygamy, casual attitudes toward divorce, distorted media portrayals, and the relative silence of the church – can all be traced to rejecting what Jesus so strongly affirmed about marriage. At its root, then, the problem of marriage is really none other than the age-old problem of authority. It should not surprise us that those who ignore the authority of God’s Word will likewise soon ignore the Son of God’s teaching on marriage.
Why Marriage Matters to God
So far we have explored Biblical evidence that marriage matters to God, and noted how today’s marriage decline is directly tied to abandoning God’s Word – particularly the clear affirmations and authority of Jesus. But why does marriage matter so much to God? Isn’t any relationship marked by mutual kindness, respect, happiness, and emotional support good enough? Why does God seem so singularly protective of marriage?
In addition to the fact that God created marriage, there are at least five compelling reasons that marriage matters to God. First, God’s image is best reflected in the union of a male and female (Gen. 1:27). The attributes of both man and woman, when combined, reveal a more complete picture of God than does either alone. Second, marriage depicts the kind of relationship covenant that God desires with us (Hosea 1-3; Eph. 5:32). His persistent pursuit and unconditional love are best displayed in this sacred union. There is almost a sense in which marriage is evangelistic, as love gets stirred to woo, win, and keep another person for a lifetime. Third, marriage offers a practical, or utilitarian, advantage that is found nowhere else. The context of Genesis 2 indicates that a “suitable helper” (vv. 18, 20) is minimally an individual with whom one can reproduce, find encouragement to obey God, and form an industrious team. Marriage is designed to ensure that a man and woman work together on these practical benefits and commitments. Fourth, children are best socialized by a married mother and father. Procreation is not the only contribution parents make to their children. Scripture repeatedly highlights the need to properly socialize and educate children (e.g., Deut. 6:6-7; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4), and the context is consistently in a home with married parents. Fifth, and finally, marriage is one of God’s primary tools for developing mature and holy people (Eph. 5:25-27). Nothing has the potential of marriage when it comes to helping us grow and refining us to be more like Christ. The intimacy and vulnerability of the union provide daily opportunity for growth. Marriage matters to God because it is one of His primary tools for reflecting His image, revealing His evangelistic passion, providing His people with utilitarian partners, raising the next generation, and making us holy people. Any move to trivialize, eliminate or deny this divine design is an insult to God and a betrayal of personal intelligence.
Yes, marriage really is a big deal. Scripture is clear on that point. The question we face at the outset of the 21st century is how big of a deal it will be to us (a subject I plan to talk about more next month.) The church has an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate that it will not bend to cultural pressure and political correctness on issues that violate scripture. Jesus’ words continue to ring true across the centuries: “[W]hat God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). These words apply not only to individual marriages, but to the institution as a whole. Humans have no business taking apart and reconstructing what God has designed and built. May God’s creative plan for this sacred institution remain our standard. Anything that matters so much to God ought to matter to us as well.
Article first appeared on the Epworth Pulpit website: http://www.epworthpulpit.com/center-faith-culture/marriage-matters-god