Marriage as God Ordained It
January 16, 2011 / No. 3550
Dear Radio Friends,
Last week we began a series of messages on the Christian home by looking at Psalm 127:1: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” We noted that God, in the beginning, designed the family and home. To build it, therefore, we must follow His design or blueprint. Not to follow it, but to follow instead our own ideas about marriage and human sexuality and children and discipline and so on, is to ignore God’s law, which leads to inevitable disaster. Can a person disregard the law of gravity without serious suffering? No. And so it is with marriage and the family. There is untold suffering in our world because so many pay no attention to God’s ordinance for marriage and family.
Because of the teaching of evolution, which denies the creation of man by God in the beginning, marriage is viewed simply as a human invention that has worked for awhile in the evolution of man but that we, at present, are evolving beyond the need for marriage and the family. And so, we are told, marriage is not important, marriage can be redefined, or we can get rid of marriage altogether. This attitude of disregard for the Word of God is the cause of so much immorality and suffering in our world—not just suffering for men and women, but children also suffer because of their parents’ folly.
Today I want to speak to you on the subject of marriage as God ordained it, from Genesis 2, where God created the first man and the first woman, gave them to each other, and officiated at the first wedding with these words in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they [two] shall be one flesh.”
These are very important words. They give us God’s blueprint and manual for marriage. If you want to know how something that has been made is supposed to work, you go back to its original design and find out what the manufacturer intended. Here we have God’s intent and will for marriage. The Bible itself refers back to this chapter in this way. When Jesus was asked a question about the legitimacy of divorce, He referred His audience back to the beginning. In Matthew 19 He says, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (vv. 4-6). Jesus is saying that marriage is a permanent, lifelong institution or relationship between one man and one woman because this is the way that God designed it in the beginning.
Another reference back to Genesis 2 is given by Paul in I Timothy 2:13. Speaking of the headship of the man, and of the woman’s role in the church, he says: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Paul went back to the creation ordinance to explain marriage and the relation of man and woman.
And so, to build our homes and now, especially, our marriages, we have to go back to God’s ordinance in Genesis 2. There are five points that I want to put before you today, five ordinances from God for marriage.
The first is this: God’s purpose for marriage is companionship. God brought Adam and Eve together in the beginning to be friends, to enjoy one another’s company, and to share their lives with each other. Marriage, as God ordained it, is beautiful. And it should bring us the greatest joy in our lives. In Genesis 2, we learn that God, on the sixth day of the creation-week, created all the animals, and then that He formed Adam, the first man, from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life so that man became a living soul. Adam was the crowning work of God’s creation. He was given a soul. God put eternity into this creature. He made Adam after His own image, and He made Adam a relational creature, not a tree or a rock or an animal, but a creature that could live and communicate with Him, walking with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
And God made Adam to live in relationship not only with Himself as God, but also with other humans. The richest expression of this is in marriage as God originally created it. To make this clear to Adam and to us, God deliberately delayed the creation of Eve. After God had made Adam, He brought all the animals to Adam so that he could name them. They came in pairs—a male and a female of each. And as Adam was naming them, he realized that he was missing something. Yes, he had a special relationship with his Creator that the other creatures did not have. But there was no creature who was his partner—no one like him. Genesis 2 puts it this way: “But for Adam there was not found an help meet [or suitable] for him” (v. 20). Adam realized that there was something missing, that God had not yet finished His creation work, that there was one more thing that He had yet to make that would complete His design for the created universe. God still had to make the woman. God had to create the friend for Adam. Adam longed for her, especially for her companionship.
The purpose of God in the creation of Eve, and in bringing her to Adam, was the companionship of Adam and Eve with each other in their marriage.
Second, let us note that in marriage as God ordained it, the man is created to be the head and the woman the help. This is so important that I intend to come back to it in the next two messages. But here, let us simply note this: if you believe that God created marriage in the beginning, and that the only way to joy and fulfillment in marriage is to follow God’s ordinance for marriage, then you will recognize the headship of the husband and that the wife was created to be a help to him. This was true and necessary for Adam and Eve. And it is true and necessary for marriage still today.
This does not mean that women are to be regarded as lowly and insignificant and inferior. No. The long history of the belittling and disparaging of women is not biblical. God, in the beginning, said that man was not complete without the woman. There is nothing inherently superior in man. In the beginning God made man and woman both in His image, and spiritually they stand before God on equal footing. The woman must be glorified as a woman, and her place and role as God created it must be honored.
Third, in marriage as God ordained it, a man and woman must leave father and mother. What does that mean? Well, for sure, it does not mean that when you get married you abandon your parents, or even that you have to separate yourself from them geographically. God has created the relationship of parents and children to be a lifelong relationship. This includes the care of aging parents by their adult children. This is a part of the honor that children owe to their parents.
Rather, to leave father and mother means that your relationship to your parents changes radically. It means that you establish an adult relationship with them. You are no longer under their authority in the way that you were as a child and teenager. It means that you are not dependent on your parents in the way that you were when you lived with them. You establish yourself financially. You are not slavishly dependent on their approval and their affection and counsel as before. It even means this: that you do not allow your relationship with them, including perhaps a bad relationship, to come into and affect your marriage.
This can be a problem, especially early in marriage. Entering into marriage brings big changes. And the shock of those changes will sometimes make a new husband or wife want to go back to their parents’ home, or at least they want to replicate the family-life of their childhood in an unhealthy way in their new relationship. The husband will want to change his wife so that she is more like his mother. Or the bride will try to change her husband because she does not like him the way he is, or because he is not the way her parents want him to be.
It should not be that way. Instead, leaving father and mother means that the primary relationship, the one that receives the most of your attention, the one that you work on the most, the one in which you seek to find joy, the one in which you really share yourself and your life, is your marriage. Among all your relationships, you give priority to your marriage. That is what it means to leave father and mother. Yes, you are still concerned about your relationship with your parents, but it is more important to you to be a good husband or wife than to be a good son or daughter. Yes, if you have children, you are concerned to be a good parent. But more important to you is that you be a good husband or wife. Your children don’t need parents who indulge them and neglect each other. But children need parents who are a team, and who show them what love is and how to live in relationships by loving and forgiving one another in their marriage.
And so, if you are married, have you let go of father and mother and made your marriage the primary relationship of your life, above all other relationships? This, I believe, is one of the main causes for the high rates of divorce in our day—that husbands and wives do not give priority to their marriage. Instead, they each have a life of their own—their own family, their own friends, their own career, their own finances; and their marriage is something like two people living together like roommates.
God’s purpose in marriage is companionship. And a sure way to prevent divorce is to pour yourself into the life of your husband or wife.
Leaving father and mother means one more thing. It means this: that parents prepare their children to leave the home. The goal of parents in raising their children should not be to keep them under their wings but to teach them to live themselves in this world. You parents will not always be around for your children. You must not cripple them emotionally by running their lives as they become adults. When they leave home and marry, you must let your son be the head of his home, letting him make decisions for his own family, and letting his wife become his primary advisor as well as his chief friend and responsibility. You should encourage your daughters to become dependent not on you, but on their husbands, so that they seek advice and affection and emotional support and guidance from their own husbands. In Titus 2 Paul says that the older women (and this includes mothers) must teach the younger women to love their husbands and to love their children, that is, to make their own marriage and family the main focus of their lives, to pour themselves into that.
So that is what it means to leave father and mother.
Fourth, in marriage as God ordained it man and woman must cleave to one another. To cleave to something means to cling to it, to hold it very close to you, to protect it with your life. In marriage, a man and woman enter into a covenant commitment with one another. They are, in a sense, glued to each other. Today many people get married with the idea that, if it does not work out, or if it is not fulfilling for me, or if there are too many problems that arise, I’ll simply get a divorce. I’ll hit the “reset” button, and I’ll find somebody else, who is more compatible with me. For them, marriage is a temporary institution of convenience.
But God says that in marriage a man and woman must cleave to one another. As Jesus tells us, that means that marriage is a permanent, lifelong relationship. He says, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Let not the husband or the wife become unglued from the other. This is the biblical view of marriage that saves troubled marriages and that can see a husband and a wife through many difficulties in their marriage. The new bride and groom—all smiles on their wedding day, adoring one another, rejoicing in the gift and the joy of marriage—are not simply caught up in the emotion of the moment. And they do not view marriage simply as a matter of convenience and feeling, but of commitment and obedience. They take their vows that way. When they say, “Till death do us part,” and “so help me God,” they commit themselves to obey God’s ordinance for marriage regardless of what comes—for better or worse; for richer or poorer; in sickness and in health.
Living in marriage is a matter of obedience, of love to God. Divorce, for any other reason than adultery, is disobedience and despising of God and His will for marriage. The obedient, God-loving wife promises that she will be faithful to her husband even if he loses his wealth and becomes a cripple. The obedient, God-loving husband promises to remain committed to his wife and not to pursue any other woman, even when she loses her youthful beauty and appeal and even if she is not as organized or tidy or attractive or satisfying to him as he would wish. In marriage, a man and woman take full responsibility before God to remain committed to each other come what may.
That is what it means that in marriage a husband and wife cleave to one another.
Fifth, in marriage as God ordained it, a man and a woman become one flesh. What does that mean? Well, at its most basic level, it refers to the sexual relationship that God has reserved for marriage. Within marriage, sex is a beautiful, holy, and good thing. It is an integral part of the marriage. Not only does it produce children that resemble both the father and the mother, but it is the highlight of companionship. It is intended by God for pleasure, as a way for a man and a woman to enjoy one another exclusively. It is a good creation of God. But understand, all sexual relations outside of the marriage bond are degrading and sinful. God intends sex for marriage. And that is why one of His Ten Commandments says very plainly: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
But becoming one flesh involves more than the physical relationship of marriage. In fact, if there is not more than this in a marriage, the physical relationship will lose all its meaning. One flesh means that a man and a woman in marriage share everything with one another—their bodies, their possessions, their interests, their abilities, their problems, their failures, their sufferings, their disappointments, their goals, their joys, and their sorrows. As Jesus says, “They are no more two but one flesh.” They become a unit—so that when you think of the one, you cannot help but think of the other. They are an interdependent team. He cannot live without her, and she cannot live without him. He no longer lives for himself but for them. She no longer lives for herself but for their relationship. Each is concerned about the other’s needs as much as he or she is about their own. As Ephesians 5 says, The husband loves his wife as his own flesh.
That does not mean that a husband and wife do not have distinct personalities and preferences. It does not mean, for example, that because I like oatmeal for breakfast my wife must eat it, too, even if it makes her gag. It does not mean that because your husband likes football, or you like shopping, that he has to like what you like and you what he does. No. It is like the human body. There are different parts. But they serve together with one purpose. And they do not intentionally hurt one another. A husband and a wife must not let their personal differences stand in the way of the unity of their marriage. In other words, they must not be selfish in marriage.
And this gets at the greatest problem in all our marriages, does it not? Every marriage involves two sinners. And every sinner is a selfish person. In marriage, I want to be happy. I want my opinions to be followed. I want him or her to cater to me. I want to save face, so I do not want to say I was wrong or I sinner. This is the problem in our marriages. And it shows us that the only way to a happy, fulfilling marriage is the way of repentance and confession. Christian husbands and wives can experience the total oneness of marriage only as they come to Christ—confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness at the cross and then, in that humility, confessing their faults one to another. In marriage, we should pattern ourselves after the selfless love of Jesus Christ. It is only by the power of God’s grace and Holy Spirit and through prayer that we can enjoy the fruits of love, and joy, and peace, and longsuffering, and gentleness, and goodness, and self-control, and meekness—all of which are essential to unity in our marriages.
And so, Christian husbands and wives need to pray together, for the sake of their marriage, that God will bless them with this unity as they seek to follow His ordinance for marriage.
Let us pray.
Father, what a wonderful gift we have in marriage. What a beautiful story there is in the creation of marriage. And what marvelous things for us to learn from the first marriage ceremony. We are sinful. And if we are to live according to Thy ordinance in our marriage, we need Thy grace, especially the grace of repentance and humility. Give us this, we ask, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.