What do we Know about Marriage?
© 2021 C. O. Bishop
Genesis 2:22-24; John 2:1-11; John 4:17, 18; Ephesians 5:21-23; 1st Peter 3:1-9; etc.
In light of the fact that we “just happened” to be studying John 2:1-11 (the Marriage feast at Cana) at the same time as Brennan and Addie were getting married, it seems appropriate to talk about Marriage as a concept. But not much is really said about the subject, here, in John 2:1-11.
There are certain passages which are “traditionally” quoted in regard to marriage as a concept, pointing out the fact that it is not only designed by God and ordained by God, and blessed by God, but that it is Holy to God. It is important to Him! I’d like to explore why that is the case: Why is marriage so important to God?
Origin of Marriage
One of the passages frequently cited is the actual origin of marriage, as part of the Creation. It was not a simple “mating” of two members of the “animal kingdom,” as humanists would have us to believe: there was something special that God ordained, here in Genesis 2:22-24. KJV
22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
That passage is cited in virtually every Christian wedding, as evidence that marriage is God-ordained, and blessed by God, etc. But we seldom discuss why it is something special to God.
Examples of Marriages…Good and Bad
We also tend to cite John 2:1-11 as evidence that Jesus honored marriage, and we correctly point out that He performed His first public miracle at a wedding feast.
What about the example cited in John 4:17, 18…”the Woman at the Well?”
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
You see, just “living together” does not constitute marriage. Jesus did not say, “you have had five husbands and you are working on a sixth:” He said, “the one you have now is not your husband.” So, we see that there is a standard for marriage, and apparently it varies wildly across the thousands of different cultures in the World. Some cultures require lots of ceremony: others require a simple statement of intent. Some have laws protecting women, whereby, if you spend the night with them, you are married, like it or not. Some are even more strict…if you lure her away with you, and she goes, you are married, even though you never even got out of sight of the girl’s family!
I remember reading of a missionary’s account of such a situation: A young man was interested in a young lady, and evidently believed she was also interested in him. The young fellow crept through the underbrush of the jungle, to the edge of her family’s garden and beckoned the young girl to follow him: and she did, but before they had escaped into the jungle the girl’s mother spotted them and furiously ran to catch up with them. She raged at them, and beat both of them savagely with her digging tool, but she finally went back to her field alone: they were married! So the standard exists everywhere, but it varies a great deal, in appearance.
A Hidden Purpose for Marriage
The Genesis passage is also quoted by God, in Ephesians 5:21-33, almost as a footnote, as the Apostle Paul gives revelation as to how husbands and wives are to relate to one another:
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
We usually use this passage along with other similar passages, to teach about the marriage relationship. That is a good thing to do, and that is the intentof those verses. But look more closely at what was said, here: Remember that this is God’s Word, not just Paul’s opinion: and He says that the verse He quoted from Genesis demonstrates that marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the Church! We know that; it has been taught many times over. But look at when that pattern was given: it was given before sin entered into the world!
God knew ahead of time that humans would fall into sin, and that Jesus the Messiah would die for the sins of the whole human race, and that those who trusted in Him would enter into a relationship that is unmatched anywhere in the Universe: That the Holy God who created them would actually indwell those who trusted in Him; that they would become one with Him, as a body is One with the Head. And we can see that He was already committed to that relationship before sin became an issue. He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the World.” (Revelation 13:8) And, we knew that! But He was also already committed to being the Bridegroom, long before the Bride existed!
In 1st Peter 3:1-9, we see an amplification of the commands given in Ephesians 5, along with a warning to the husbands that if we ignore this command, it will affect our relationship with God.
1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them 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. 8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
A Two-way Relationship
So, when we choose to respond to one another rightly in marriage, as God teaches, we are demonstrating that Holy relationship between Christ and the Church. Consider the implications of that statement. It goes two ways: it means that the love and respect spoken of here are supposed to be in our relationship with our spouse; but it also gives some insight as to what is available in our relationship with Jesus! It means that, as we learn to walk with Him, there is a partnership being built with Him: one which can actually be enjoyed on a daily basis, and one which we can be excited about, as we work with the Bridegroom, doing His work.
Wives working with their husbands to build a physical house are excited to see it growing into a habitation for the two of them and their family. And usually, they are excited about decorating it, furnishing it, and making it a home, not just a well-built structure. That is why we sometimes refer to such a person as a homemaker…Most men do not naturally think in terms of “making a house a home.” They want it solid, functional, code-compliant, attractive, etc., but they frequently have little imagination beyond that. I do not think I am unusual when I say that, without Ann’s touch, our house would not be nearly so much a “home” as perhaps a “cabin,” or a “hunting lodge,” or something. Possibly even just a “workshop with living quarters attached.” But Ann works constantly to make it a pleasant habitation for us: because of her, and her work, it is a home.
Proverbs 14:1 says that “every wise woman builds her house.” She works to strengthen her household, her home, her family. It goes on to say that a foolish woman “plucks it down with her hands.” She behaves in such a way as to tear down the relationships that make for a secure home environment for all of her family.
Proverbs 31:10-31 describe a woman who is wisely, diligently building up her household. But, if we consider the fact that the Church is compared to the Bride, and that the Marriage relationship is specifically called out as a picture of Christ and the Church, then we can gain some insight as to how the Church is supposed to be carrying on the business of God, here on earth, and pursuing the agenda He has laid out for us.
God says that He is building His Church, and that He involves us in the building process. He says “That which every joint supplieth” is what is strengthening and building up that “Habitation of God” that He has designed us—The Church—to be, for Him.
So, Why is Marriage Holy to God?
Marriage is Holy to God, because it is a living demonstration of the relationship He wants with every believer. So, we need to think about what we are demonstrating: He says we are to Love one another, and that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We see one another as fellow-heirs of the Grace of Life in Him. We love one another with the Agapé Love, in Him. God describes that Love in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth:
Please notice that not one word in this passage has anything to do with “feelings:” this is not about romance; it is not about emotions, or how we feel, at all. Every single descriptor in that passage is an action word: a verb. They are things we can choose to do. That also means they are things we can fail to do. Every moment, we either choose to do them or we fail to do them. And it is a choice, whether a conscious choice, or not.
Ephesians 4:1-3 tells us how to relate to one another, knowing that we are not perfect. It says we are to “Forbear one another in Love.” It says we are to “endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” God created that unity: all we can hope to do is to keep that unity. We are to accept one another as the imperfect humans that we are, looking through the veil of human frailty to see the beauty of the Person of Christ within. God has chosen to set aside our sin, nailing it to the Cross with Jesus. He no longer sees us as sinners, but as His precious saints: holy, and members of His Bride. We need to see one another in that light as well.
Marriage is Permanent, just like our Salvation
Jesus assures us over and over in the Bible that our position in Him is secure forever: His Blood at the Cross has forever made us holy to God. In light of that, your marriage is to be secure for life. Never leave one another, nor even “threaten to leave:” that is a gross denial of Christ.
We may be angry with one another sometimes (hopefully it is quickly resolved, and peace is restored,) but we are never to even imply that we might sever the relationship as a result. That is what our vows are about in marriage. That is why we say, “as long as we both shall live.” Jesus will never abandon his saints. We are never to abandon our loving commitment to one another.
Jesus Himself addressed the permanence of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6.
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Jesus made that pretty clear, didn’t He? But, are there exceptions?
There are passages that seem to make exceptions: Jesus said “Except for the cause of fornication…” Well, there are two different words in Greek, just as there are in English, for premarital sexual sin, and extramarital sexual sin. One is called “fornication” in scripture, the other is called “adultery.”
You see, in their culture, “betrothal,” or “engagement” was such a serious agreement that it required a divorce to break an engagement. (We take engagement pretty lightly by comparison.) Sexual sin during the betrothal period was called fornication, just as it would have been without that engagement. This was the only exception Jesus gave.
This, by the way, is the reason Joseph was about to seek a quiet, secret divorce from Mary, when he found out she was pregnant: He thought she had committed “fornication.” And, he would have been behaving correctly, as Jesus said; but God sent the angel Gabriel to clear up the matter: Mary had not sinned.
Joseph believed God and, by faith, he went ahead with the wedding. (Faith is an obedient response to a revealed truth.) Joseph lived the rest of his life with others believing he had sinned. Mary lived the rest of her life with others thinking she had sinned. Only the two of them knew the real truth.
How you view marriage as a concept will affect how your marriage actually functions. If you (both Husband and wife) see it as God sees it, you will find it a total blessing, as you work together in partnership with the Living Christ. If you do not see it that way, nor choose to live that way (and, yes, it takes two,) then, to whatever degree you vary from His plan and purpose, the marriage will suffer accordingly. The World has long abandoned God’s values, and rejected them wholesale: so, marriages and husband-wife relationships suffer, everywhere in the world.
We are to demonstrate the reality of Christ to the World through our marriages, as well as through our spoken testimony and our overall behavior. This is a key example of what it means when Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have Love one to another.” The love that others can observe in action between you and your spouse is one of the two criteria Jesus gave to the World, by which to judge the church. Love is one, and Unity is the other. How you respond to your husband or wife will proclaim to the world the nature of your relationship with Jesus. Give that some thought!
Lord Jesus, all of us desire to have fruitful lives and peaceful, joyful, loving marriages. Grant us the wisdom to apply Your Word to our lives in such a way as to build that reality in our lives. Make us the men and women You have called us to be, and enable us as Your ambassadors.