Foundations - What is marriage?Series: Foundations
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Why do we marry? Have you ever wondered? If we take God out and look from a purely naturalistic perspective, what’s the reason? If you ask a person with a secular perspective why they should get married, what will they say? Often times, it’s about relationship or money.
According to an article on CNBC in 2023, 89% of the world’s population now lives in countries with falling marriage rates. In the U.S., marriage has declined by nearly 60% since the 1970s, while the median age for first marriages has increased for both men and women.
Part of the reasons for this are changes economically, but also a rise in secularism. In fact, according to a 2021 survey, 40% of children were born outside of marriage. The world’s attitude toward marriage has changed and it is impacting on our world. If there is no limit on the sexual relationship, and marriage itself is confining and economically taxing, it’s not surprising that the desire to marry is declining.
Not only is marriage declining, people are trying to redefine the entire institution to have “gay marriages.” But, if you redefine marriage as man and woman, why stop at just two people? That’s what people are doing: Polyamorous relationships are now on the rise as a result. Without the foundation, society is driven by personal opinion and preference.
However, man did not make marriage, God did. We have that account here in Genesis 2:18-25. We’ve been in a series on foundations, and we have been focusing on foundational beliefs like “who is God?", and “what is a human being?”. What we believe about these topics directly impacts our behavior, and it is true about todays question of “what is marriage?" as well.
A Helper Suitable
In our last lesson we pointed out that it was not good that man was alone, the answer to this is marriage. Marriage is the first human relationship and it is the basic building block and foundation all other relationships.
We also noted last time that the woman was designed. She was not made out of the dust like Adam or the other animals. She is taken from the side of man, she is “from man.” She is made in the image of God with an equal status, but a different role in the relationship. She is put forth as the last, and seemingly crown jewel of creation.
As we continue in the Genesis account, the text gives us four statements that speak to how marriage is supposed to work and for what enables a successful marriage.
Leave your Father and Mother
In God’s order, a child comes into the world with a father and mother in an established family, but, as they grow they are to leave that relationship and create their own family. However, this is where marriages can run into lots of problems. There are times where parents are running the relationship from behind the scenes. There are times where the spouses or parents have not fully separated the relationship like it was designed to be. Instead of the husband being the head of the house, it is either his parents or his wife’s parents that are running the show. All of this is a breakdown of what he describes here.
Parents, let your children go. Part of the goal of parenting is to raised your children where they are not dependent on you. Let your children have the autonomy that is needed for a good marriage. Give them your support, but allow them to spread their wings.
Spouses, make the necessary break with your families. The relationship changes in marriage and you have to learn the autonomy of that relationship. The husband is the head of the home. The wife is the helper with an important charge. Take on your roles in the marriage.
Hold fast to his wife
As a man goes from his parents, he goes is toward his wife. Form your new family and enjoy your marriage. I really like Deuteronomy 24:5 for this point. Notice, he is not to go out with the army or be charged with any duty. He is to be free at home for a year and give gladness to his wife. His job is to enjoy his time with his wife. What a wonderful blessing to start a family.
There are some important principles here. Take the first year and focus on your relationship and the foundation. You can’t ever get the first year back. Step back from things like work, school, even ministry in the church for a season. Remember, love is the highest virtue, not money, education, or status. Learn that early in your marriage and build it into your foundation. All those things may come or go, but the relationship is the most important.
They shall become one flesh
This includes the sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 6), but one flesh refers the complete blending together of lives. Often times there is a lack of oneness in a marriage - finances, time together, relationships, interests, etc. God is wanting oneness, a oneness that is first present in God and that is reflected in the marriage between man and woman. There is a diversity and yet deep unity where they function as one unit in every part of their lives.
Marriage it like being woven together. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. The unity allows for a better yield on their labor, a companion to help lift us up and warm us.
Jesus picks up on this idea in (Mark 10:8-9). There is a joining that is done by God as part of this process that is not to be separated. It is for the benefit of each other and that joining makes each stronger and more resilient. That’s why God wants us to have this relationship, and why divorce is such a betrayal of the blessings God had intended for marriage.
In Mark, they had missed the point of marriage and were divorcing their spouses for little things. Malachi 2:13-16 shows God’s attitude toward marriage. God is a witness of our marriage with the goal of a godly seed - the marriage itself and the children.
This is not a contract you’re making like where we may switch services if we have problems with them. Marriage is not about what you’re going to get out of it. It is a covenant relationship that you are faithful to regardless of what you get out of it. God is faithful, he will keep his part, and he expects our faithfulness,. Be faithful to God first, then faithful to your relationship.
Naked and not ashamed
Naked here obviously refers to their physical description, there is a clear giving and receiving of one another with out hiding. But, this nakedness is not to be limited just to the physical side. Couples must be “naked and not ashamed” of their finances, of their faults, of their attitudes, of their goals, of their desires. Marriage is to be a place where you can be completely yourself.
It’s telling that when sin comes into the world, the first thing the man and women is sew fig leaves. They hide their bodies from each other, there is shame that has come in. Marriage can often be tied to shame, a lack of desire to reveal yourself, and a concern the person may not like what they see when it is revealed. Marriage’s goal is not separation but unity, openness, and honesty, a place without fear, exploitation, or shame. The true and genuine you is exposed and loved, not based on emotion per se, but because you care for them. That love that you have for one another will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8, Proverbs 10:12)
Selfishness is the source of every evil (James 4:1). If you both realize that your selfishness is the biggest hurdle you have the opportunity for something special. Set the right expectations. If it is about what you get out of it you will be discontent, unhappy, and likely to divorce.
Our lives and marriages are often full of failings where we sin and make mistakes. The reason God gives these commands is because it is not our “natural” way or our “fleshly desire.” Despite them being unnatural to us, they are ultimately what shows God’s glory and are for our good. We must trust God that he loves us and wants what is best for us.
How Paul applied Genesis 2 to Corinth
In a church that struggled with sexual immorality and women’s roles, it was these verses in Genesis 2 that, in part, gave them the model for sexual integrity (1 Corinthians 6:12-20, 7:1ff), and the answer to the thorny issue of headship and gender roles (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).
Sexual Integrity and Holiness - 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
This body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body - this is a good comment summarizing the mentality present in the creation account of Genesis 1-2, God made the body. The primary goal is God glory and our holiness is part of how that is done. Happiness is part of it but not at the expense of holiness - that’s our primary goal. Marriage is to keep us from sexual temptation. The spouse is to help us become more like God and image Him in the world.
Sexual immorality is a complete violation of these principles. All immorality, including pornography, is about betrayal for self gratification at the expense of the relationship - to God, our spouse and whoever we engage with. The way that we have sex and operate in marriage is part of how we glorify God, and is directly connected to our redemption price paid by Jesus.
This returns us to our temple imagery that we are using this year. We are a temple that belongs to God and our bodies individually are dwelling places of God’s Spirit. Marriage and sexuality are part of us being a dwelling place of God and a signpost for the world that points to the goodness of God and his creation.
Yet, this is this foundational information is what is under attack in our world. The world is intent on destroying marriage that is founded in Genesis. But notice, the answer Paul gives is to go back to what is written and that would have a transforming power in their culture.
Headship and Gender roles - 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Headship is established in this section, everyone has someone over them - even Jesus (v 3). Man is the image and glory of God, and woman is the glory of man. Man did not originate from woman but woman for man. Man was not created for woman but woman for man (v. 7-9). This goes back to the purpose in Genesis and God has ordered the man to lead his family.
There is clearly a structure within the creation, however, no one is independent or superior. Women are not independent from men, not men from women. Woman was from man, but now all men come from woman and all things are from God (v 11-12).
However, this is not a slap or indictment of the roles. Like is with deity, God is the head of Christ, and there is no an inferiority or superiority (v. 3). We are all mutually sharing together for the benefit of each other and the glory of God. Submission and leadership are both critical pieces of God’s design and both are part of how we image his nature.
This is another element that is under attack in our society - who is to lead and who is to follow is being flipped on its head in society. But, while this is true in the world with the redefinition of male and female and the family, it is also happening in churches. Just as in (1 Timothy 2:12-13), people are abandoning the structure God has setup in local churches and the various roles of men and women for something different than what God set up. Now, we must be careful to not put more on God’s word than it says and be restrictive, but there is a danger of going too far.
We need to understand the mutual value and equality of each gender. There are important differences that must be appreciated. God is not set on restricting people, he has designed each part with a specific goal and function within the body that brings him glory. The answer to the attacks of the world again is to rebuild the foundational material from Genesis.
Why did God make marriage? The same reason he made man: For his glory (sharing his goodness and praising him for it) and our good (our enjoyment, pleasure, and benefit). We need to trust the one who made the institution of marriage just like we would trust the manufacturer of an automobile. God know’s why he made marriage and what allows it to function best. These principles help make strong families, strong churches and a strong society.
However, marriage is also a picture of what God is wanting with his people. The bible begins with a marriage and ends with it. It’s appropriate that this is the description of God and his people. The goal of Christ and the church is a great wedding where there is unity, openness, and commitment. This is the foundation of healthy relationships and what God desires with his people. God is set on dwelling with His people and His people dwelling with him forever. Will you accept the invitation and be a part of that great marriage to come (Revelation 22:17)?