Marriage is God’s Ideal
Ian Jackson, Eastbourne, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
(God’s original purposes in marriage and a guide as to how to find a partner for life)
I was sitting in a coffee shop some time ago and could not help overhearing a voluble conversation between two women. They were speaking together about the problems that one of them was having in her marriage. It appeared that it was in terminal decline. One said to the other, after offering all kinds of patently useless and non-biblical advice, ‘It’s not as if there is a book containing a blueprint for a happy marriage’. I had wanted to become involved in the conversation a long time prior to this but at this point I only just managed to contain myself!
Most people in our modern world would find some of the biblical pattern for marriage to be repugnant and, regrettably, an increasing number of Christians are ignoring it to their cost. However, if the purpose of God revealed in scripture was not only recognized but also acted upon marital joy would be greatly enhanced.
Before the big day
‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord’, Prov. 18. 22.
Marriage must be approached in a spiritual and prayerful manner. This will preclude a believer ‘playing the field’ and acting in any kind of intimate manner with a person other than the one he or she eventually marries. Many marriages carry the shadow of former boyfriends and girlfriends and this often brings feelings of insecurity and inadequacy into the relationship which, above all others, must be built on trust and respect. It must be considered to be the ideal that a believer comes to marriage with no history that will impair that relationship, although it is recognized that this can happen even where the greatest care has been taken. In the preamble to the order of wedding service which I use when officiating at marriages it says about marriage that, ‘It is not therefore to be entered into lightly or inadvisedly, but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God’.
A happy marriage, therefore, begins well before the wedding day. While some men wish that like Adam they could fall asleep, only to wake some time later to find standing at their side the wife God desires them to have, some women might simply wish that their own particular Adam would simply wake up and see them! For Adam and Eve there was no question that they were made for each other and that it was the will of God that they should be in lifelong relationship with each other. It has never been so easy since then but there are certain basic matters that should be borne in mind.
Unequivocally, the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman and that all sexual relationships outside marriage are unlawful in His sight. The first marriage was neither between Adam and Steve nor Madam and Eve: it was between a man and a woman, the woman being designed by God for the man, 1 Cor. 11. 9, to meet all the needs that the man had as being incomplete in himself. In an age when the plain teaching of scripture is being twisted, ignored and derided (sometimes by those who profess the name of Christ) and when the laws of many countries are being changed to accommodate and legitimize that which is against nature, Rom. 1. 26-27, let us remember God’s original pattern.
‘Chastity before marriage and fidelity after it’ is an old maxim that truly represents the teaching of scripture and therefore it still holds good. If, in Israel, marital intimacies were engaged in prior to marriage the man was required to marry the woman or, in the event of her father not giving permission, a dowry was to be paid, Exod. 22. 16. In this we learn that God views such a thing with utmost seriousness and it is a reminder to us that the lax standards of our present society are to be eschewed. I appeal to all young believers to recognize this as being clear scriptural teaching and to arrange their courtship in such a manner that God will be honoured.
There is further unequivocal teaching that a Christian is only free to marry ‘in the Lord’, 1 Cor. 7. 39. This goes beyond the fact that the other person is a Christian: that is covered by the fact that a believer should not be ‘unequally yoked together with unbelievers’, 2 Cor. 6. 14. Beyond this, however, it is vital that marriage be in the Lord in the sense that the union is of the Lord and between two people who own His Lordship in their lives. There must be spiritual compatibility. Convictions on vital matters and ambition in divine things must be shared. It is therefore good if believers seek to marry someone whom they consider to be more spiritual than they are, rather than live in the probably forlorn hope that the other party might change after the union. I need hardly say that it is not that spiritual matters are the only factors which are to be taken into account but whatever attraction a person might have for another as a spouse is sought there must be a strong foundation in shared spiritual values.
One further word under this heading relates to parents. Some marriages have too many people in them! It can be totally disastrous to the marriage of children if it is not recognized that at the same time as the man cleaves unto his wife he also leaves his parents, Gen. 2. 24. The new wife also leaves home for a new sphere of headship. Parents must beware that the marriage of their children is not weakened, albeit unintentionally, by the unwarranted intrusion of in-laws and grandparents.
A later article in this series will deal, DV, with the subject of singleness and it will be then considered that the single life is the will of God for some of His people. This is not some second rate kind of existence. It is better not to marry at all than to marry the wrong person and for some to whom it is given the single life frees from other cares for devotion of time and energy to the work of the Lord, Matt. 19. 12.
The divine pattern for marriage
The divine pattern and purpose for marriage takes us not to Eden but to eternity. In Ephesians chapter 3 verse 11, the Spirit of God, in speaking of the church, refers to ‘the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Though the church began at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 it had been in the mind of God from eternal ages and those who would constitute it were ‘chosen . . . in him before the foundation of the world’, Eph. 1. 4. The church was a secret known only to God. Neither angels nor prophets shared in it and, unknown to anyone else, when Christ went to the cross He went there to secure for Himself the object of His love. ‘Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it’, Eph. 5. 25. This love causes Him to nourish and cherish her and she is willingly and properly in subjection to Him in a relationship that will never end; through all eternity she will share His glory. ‘This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church’, Eph. 5. 32.
And Jesus joys to own
His chosen bride as His;
Flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone,
To share this weight of bliss.
G. V. WIGRAM
In fact, we learn that His church is His complement, ‘the fulness of him that filleth all in all’, Eph. 1. 23. Adam, too, was incomplete in himself. Alone of all the creation he was made in the image of God and found therefore that there was nothing in creation to which he could satisfyingly relate. He made a ‘help’ for Adam, who was ‘meet’ for him, Gen. 2. 18, one ideally suited to him. This does not mean that Eve was created to be Adam’s servant, made for him so that she might obey his every whim: the principles of headship and subjection as clearly taught in scripture never have this in view, nor do they present any thought of inequality between a man and his wife. Rather, she would be his complement, his fullness in a relationship in which she would be loved, nurtured and cherished.
Though Adam was crowned with honour and glory, and had dominion over the works of God’s hands, see Ps. 8. 5-8, it was only in the woman God gave him that the man’s heart could be satisfied. She was suited to him psychologically, domestically, reproductively, inspirationally, lovingly and in all kinds of other ways more or less obvious. She alone was able to share his thoughts, his heart, his home, his desires, his hopes and so close was the relationship that it is stated seven times in scripture that the two became ‘one flesh’ in an intimacy of union which God intended should be for life.
The world system despises such truth; in its earliest days the principles underpinning marriage were cast off, Gen. 4. 19. Many in our modern world are blinded to the whole of God’s purpose regarding marriage by evolutionary and atheistic philosophy and, in fact, look at the divine pattern as being against women and antagonistic to the true happiness and freedom that they deserve. This thinking has been seriously exposed by its results: the murder in the womb of those who should most receive the care of their mothers, the break up of innumerable families, children who are rejected by one or other of their parents or who are the cause (as their parents see it) of further strife and the adoption of children by so-called ‘same sex couples’. Sin always brings in its wake dire consequences but I never yet visited a home where divine principles were being truly observed where there was not an overriding love, peace and contentment. It was God’s mind that children would be born into that kind of home, Gen. 1. 28. In that atmosphere of mutual love and respect children thrive: they are taught both by example and precept that God’s ways are best.
As Adam’s complement she was also to be his companion, see Mal. 2. 14. This is an aspect of marriage which is seriously underrated. A husband is to dwell with his wife ‘according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered’, 1 Pet. 3. 7. There should be no one closer to a man than his wife or to a woman than her husband, whether that person is a near relative or a friend. Marriage causes a shift in all other relationships that wise people will observe. As they dwell together in a prayerful and close relationship so they will be heirs together of life’s grace.
Christ will one day cause His church to stand by His side in resplendence and glory. To all eternity He and she will retain nuptial freshness to each other, our Lord delighting in her and she in Him, compare Revelation 21 verse 9, a millennial scene, with Revelation 21 verse 2, an eternal scene.
God’s intention in marriage is that one man will be joined to one woman for life. It ought to be noted that the relationship is covenantal in its nature, see Mal. 2. 14. For a man to be joined to another while his wife is still living is a seriously immoral act. This covenant aspect of marriage is reinforced by the vows which are generally made before God on the occasion of the wedding. A man once said to me that he thought Christians should have happy funerals and solemn weddings! God will hold us to the mutual vows we make. We cannot conceive that our Lord will deal treacherously with the one He loves and to whom He is bound with eternal ties. Accordingly ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife’, Exod. 20. 17, but ‘rejoice with the wife of thy youth’, Prov. 5. 18.
Marriages are the building blocks of society and spiritual and happy marriages give stability and strength to any assembly. I would appeal to all couples, in a day when all our marriages are under attack from strong and mighty foes, to seek to strengthen your relationship by considering the weighty matters contained in this article in the fear of God. If things are not what they once were they can be restored if there is a preparedness to live and love in the light of God’s word.