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The Bible and Marriage Part 6
Conclusions from the Evidence
We have seen that the Bible, from the beginning in Genesis 2, views marriage as an institution created by God for His glory and the good of mankind. It is not good for man to be alone. We were created to live in community, and marriage is the foundation of that community.
In the first ceremony, which God Himself presided over, the Lord created Eve from the rib of Adam and brought her to him. Adam, when he saw her, said: "This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken from man." Then it is announced: "Therefore, shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:22-24).
I. A Formal Ceremony Needed
The evidence is clear that throughout the biblical record, since this first wedding, that there has been some form of formal ceremony done in order for a couple to be declared husband and wife. It is also clear that having sex and living together, outside of the bonds of marriage is considered sin in the sight of God (I Corinthians 6:18-20; I Corinthians 7:1,2; John 4: 16-20).
However, in saying all of that we must also acknowledge that there is no pattern of wedding vows that the Bible says must be completed in order for a couple to be married. God has left the specifics up to the the individuals vowing as long as the vows are in accordance with Scripture.
The type of ceremony that we use here in America came out of the Church of England in the 16th century, from the Book of Common Prayer. The root of the vows, however, is tied to what the Scriptures deem to be necessary to make the relationship what God would have it to be. They relate to the leaving and cleaving aspects found in Genesis, and to the mutual respect that is to be in the married relationship. They also, are in alliance with the protectorship and saviour roles that the husband plays according to Ephesians 5. They refer to the nourishing and cherishing as well as the submission the wife is to bring, and to the overall permanence of marriage.
II. Principles to Be Followed
Though there isn't a formal ceremony that is commanded, there are some principles which we can glean from the Bible that should be followed for a marriage. The first is the governmental principle. As long as the requirements are reasonable and not against the Bible, a couple should seek any formal governmental recognition available. The governments that are set up have been ordained of God and we need to obey those regulations that aren't against His will (Romans 13:1-7).
Secondly, a couple should follow whatever, cultural and familial practices that are typically employed to recognize them as husband and wife. All of the weddings in Scripture followed the patterns of the culture of their time. Of course, once again, these practices should not go against what the Bible says to be right and wrong. If God has declared something sinful, then that should not be used.
Finally, if possible, the couple should consummate the marriage. In this way they are fulfilling the physical aspect of the one flesh principle given in Genesis. As we have stated earlier, if for some reason that isn't possible right away, the couple is still married in the sight of God and should remain faithful to one another until that time when the union is consummated. But it should not be put off any longer than necessary. Otherwise, it could lead to temptation and immorality (I Corinthians 7:5).
We have covered a lot of ground in these articles but I hope that this look at biblical marriage was helpful for both those who are contemplating that major step, and for those who have been married a while. Marriage is a sacred institution, and we must never take it lightly. Those who do will ultimately suffer the consequences associated with breaking God's laws. Indeed, if you look at the statistics, our society is already suffering many of those consequences. But those who live within the boundaries that God has placed, will find in marriage, one of the closest and most fulfilling relationships that a person can have on this earth this side of heaven. It won't be perfect, for there are two imperfect people involved. But it will bring the companionship each person needs, and the relationship will help each participant become more like Jesus Christ by learning to unconditionally love each other as He loves us. That, above all, may be the greatest benefit of the one flesh relationship that we call married life.