Marriage is an important institution and a prominent aspect of life for most people: how much of life is consumed with searching for a suitable husband or wife, spending time in a relationship weighing whether to get married, experiencing marriage, and, for some, coming to terms with the end of a marriage due to death or divorce? We do well to consider what the Scriptures teach regarding marriage.
Marriage is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). When God made Adam, He observed that it was not good for man to be alone, and thus He created Eve, declaring that the two should become one flesh (Genesis 2:18-24). Since men and women are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and God is one in relational unity, One in Three Persons, sharing love within Himself (John 17:20-23), it naturally follows that men and women seek to share life with others in relationship, especially the deep, intimate relationship between a husband and wife (Matthew 19:4-6). God described His relationship with Israel in terms of husband and wife; Paul speaks of the relationship between a husband and wife as a means of understanding the relationship between Christ and the church (Isaiah 50:1, Hosea 1:1-3:5, Ephesians 5:22-33). These metaphors work for a reason: the intimacy which should exist between husband and wife is a physical shadow of the spiritual reality of the intimacy between man and God. Marriage, therefore, is part of the order of God’s good creation, and ought to be held in honor and a means by which we can come to a better understanding of our relationship with God.
Marriage involves difficulties (1 Corinthians 7:28). As humans are not perfect but have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), so marriages do not involve perfect people. One of the curses of the Fall involves competition and difficulties in the marriage relationship (cf. Genesis 3:16), and this is apparent in the conflicts which take place as a man and a woman seek to truly become one in their marriage. This is why Paul warns Christians about the difficulties that can come from marriage (1 Corinthians 7:27-34). Marriage demands seeking the best interest of the spouse and the relationship over one’s own desires, which demands compromise and sacrifice, if it will last and be a blessing. The difficulties of marriage often lead to great distress and pain and all who consider marriage or participate in a marriage should recognize that it comes with difficulties.
Marriage is intended to be a life-long covenant established by God (Malachi 2:14-15, Matthew 19:6). A covenant is a sacred agreement and trust between two parties featuring terrible consequences if violated. God demonstrates throughout the Scriptures that covenants are not to be taken lightly: He considered Israel as spiritual adulterers and adulteresses when they served idols because they acted faithlessly toward Him, and as a consequence the people were killed or exiled from their land (Ezekiel 16:1-63). Under the Law of Moses, the penalty for adultery, the violation of the marriage covenant, was execution by stoning (Leviticus 20:10). Since marriage is a covenant, we need to take it seriously (Malachi 2:14-15). Jesus said it succinctly: “what God has joined man is not to separate” (Matthew 19:6). God brings a man and a woman together in the covenant relationship of marriage, and only the death of one or both spouses should end that covenant (cf. Romans 7:1-4). Men and women who are married or who are considering marriage must look to marry for life, not thinking of divorce as an “escape route,” just as we are to commit ourselves to the Lord for eternity, knowing that separation from God in Christ leads to terrible consequences (cf. Romans 12:1, Hebrews 10:26-31). God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16): all divorce is either sin or the direct consequence of the sin of sexually deviant behavior (Matthew 19:9). To separate from a spouse and to be joined to another is adultery, and unrepentant adultery leads to eternal death (Matthew 19:9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Revelation 21:8).
Through marriage we can find blessings, love, and peace by reflecting God’s purposes or we can find misery and pain in a sin-broken relationship. If we marry, let us seek to reflect the Lord Jesus in our marriages for His glory and praise!
Ethan R. Longhenry