The Bible and Marriage Part 1
The Need: To Return to God's View of Marriage
Today it is becoming the norm for couples to live together before marriage. According to U S A Today, unmarried couples living together made up 12% of the U.S. population in 2010. That is a 25% increase in the past 10 years and amounts to 7.9 million couples. If we look at how many people have cohabited with a member of the opposite sex at least at some point in their adult lives, the numbers are startling as well. In 1985 around 20% of women had lived together with a partner before marriage. In just 10 years, by 1995 that figure had doubled to 40%. And the figure continues to increase to this day. Clearly, living together has become just another alternative to marriage, or a stage leading up to it.
Add to that the fact that since 2005, the majority of households in America have not been headed by a married couple. There are nearly 51 million households being headed by unmarried Americans. Clearly marriage in America is in trouble. And it is another indication that American culture in general is in trouble. Because marriage, throughout human history has been the basis of human society. And if the family is destroyed, then eventually a nation will collapse.
I. The Biblical Basis for Marriage
The Bible has something to say to us about this subject. And it is my desire in this short series to give the biblical perspective on marriage. If we hope to survive we need to heed what Scripture has to say about this most basic of institutions. In it we will look at several things including whether or not living together equals marriage and just what constitutes marriage in the Bible. In other words, when does God consider a couple as married? But, to begin, let us look at the very first wedding ceremony which was performed by God Himself. It took place in Genesis 2. The Lord said: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him" (2:18). So the Lord brought all of the animals before Adam for him to name them. This only served to demonstrate that a suitable person, who was like Adam, was not yet created.
God had said earlier that all that He had made was very good (1:31). But in seeing the state of man He said that something wasn't quite right. In some way Adam was incomplete without Eve. Man was created to be a relational being and so needed a companion, a helper. The Hebrew word used here for helper is not of a servant but someone who in some way is greater. It is a term the Hebrew Bible uses for God when He is called our helper. Eve fulfilled a need in Adam that no one else could fulfill. She was greater than his aloneness. She also was the companion needed to complete the task he was assigned to fill, multiply and take dominion over the earth. Adam was inadequate to do it on his own. But with Eve's help, they could complete the mandates of God.
II. The First Ceremony
Scripture teaches that God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and He took a rib from his side and formed Eve. Then God brought her before Adam who was overjoyed at seeing this perfect speciman of womanhood. He exclaims:
"This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man."
And Scripture continues to tell us:
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."
In this the marriage relationship was established as the first and primary human institution. Though the responsibility to honor one's parents was still there, the man's primary responsibility was now his wife. He left the parental home and established a new home. The word translated "joined" here is used for a permanent indissoluble union, so that divorce was not an option. The term "one flesh" speaks of a complete unity of parts which constitutes a whole. Thus the marital union was complete and whole with these two people that God had joined. Implied here is also sexual completeness as well. One man and one woman come together to reproduce. The results of this one flesh union brings forth children who are bearers of God's image like Adam and Eve. They also would fill, multiply and take dominion over creation.
Without sin in the world, Adam and Eve were unashamedly naked before each other. This was both a physical nakedness and a complete openness before each other and God. They had nothing to hide and found complete gratification in the joy of their union and in their service to the Lord.
Just from a general overview of the first marriage, it isn't hard to see that we have strayed far from the biblical model. There is much more to talk about, but for now let us resolve to get back to marriage as God originally intended it. This is a wonderful institution begun by God Himself for the good of mankind and for the Lord's glory. We are all created in God's image. As His image bearers, it is our job to spread His glory to all the earth. As a man and woman come together in marriage, they are doing their part to fulfill that cultural mandate. And we must get back to this biblical view of marriage if we hope to achieve our purpose on this earth, and if we ever hope to survive as a society.