“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). Marriage was instituted by God. The Lord Jesus indictated that marriage was divinely ordained when He said, “He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female.” Marriage is a provision of God for every generation since the time of Adam. Matthew Henry in commenting on Genesis 2:22, said, “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to top him; not out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, near his heart to be loved.” We can say that marriage is heavenly in origin for the first marriage was performed by God Himself in the uniting of Adam and Eve.
Marriage always indicates that a vow has been taken before a third party. The record of the first marriage implies that God performed a simple ceremony: “God … brought her unto the man… and blessed them, and called their name Adam … (Gen. 2:22 and 5:2). Adam respond to this with the words: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God, ever thoughtful of His people, took advantage of this occasion to further instruct Adam, and all men, by saying at that first marriage, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” Obviously, God had other generations in mind for Adam had no father or mother to leave. Later, Adam acknowledges Eve as a gift from the Lord for he said, “The woman whom Thou gayest to be with me…(Gen. 3:12). Until God brought her to Adam and blessed them, and then gave them the same name, Eve was not his wife. Such custom has obtained ever since. Similarly, the sanctity of marriage is acknowledged by governments today, and is protected by laws.
God forbids physical union before marriage vows are taken. “Let marriage be had in honour among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4, A.S.V.). One of the greatest contributions Christian men and women can make toward a happy marriage is their chastity.
Marriage as planned by God was monogamous. God created only one woman for Adam. Fidelity to one partner is expected in marriage. The vows read in the usual ceremony declare that “forsaking all others” each must cleave to the other alone. The Lord Jesus said, “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” He taught that marriage must not be considered lightly, for it must be accepted as indissoluble except in death.
The “forsaking all others” should be understood by the parents: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:5. Gen. 2:24. Mark 10:7. Eph. 5:31). This in no wise teaches that adult children, upon being married bear no more responsibility toward their parents. In Matthew 15:4-6, the Lord Jesus teaches that sons should provide for their parents’ needs. It is the experience of many that when affection for a wife or husband has matured and expanded their capacity for devotion, they love and appreciate their parents more. Notwithstanding, one’s relationship to his partner in life must take precedence over his natural loyalties to his parents.
The marriage ceremony asserts that the couple are to remain together “for richer, for poorer.” Judge Landis of Denver once said that many marriages fail because of financial problems. The woman has a perfect right to know the income of the man she intends to marry. She can hardly be expected to live within the limits of his income if she does not know these. Pretence as to income or earning ability must eventually lead to disillusionment. To be perfectly candid at this point is the only honest procedure and will contribute to future happiness. Occasionally, after marriage a young husband looses the ability to earn a living. Troubles unpredicted may occur. The marriage pledge remains inviolate throughout all these changes. It is under such unimagined trials that one must seek grace from God to maintain the attitude of the heart true and fixed, and to maintain the affections as warm and constant as formerly. To chafe under circumstances is to destroy one’s inward peace and to sour one’s disposition.
It must ever be remembered that the marriage pledge is as binding in sickness as it is in health. The marriage vow, in the promise, “In sickness and in health,” anticipates these human experiences, and provides for the stability of the home in sickness and sorrow.
There is much more than the union of two bodies in a marriage. It is very sad when nothing more than physical union is expected. Christians who marry, and in some degree non-Christians, are spiritually united to each other. Dr. M. H. Frank, M.D., Ph.D., says, “No marriage is worthy of that name unless it is based on mutual love and unstanding. Love is the “holy grail” of marriage, the altar on which two souls meet; the precious jewel around which cluster all that is noble, inspiring and uplifting in the souls of the partners; the heart, encompassing all cares and delights, all joys and sorrows that agitate this human relationship. If this jewel becomes clouded by whatever cause, the marriage ceases to exist as an ideal and beautiful effusion of souls and continues merely on the merits of its legal and formal side. Love is not merely the instinctive desire of physical union, which has for its object the propagation of the species; it belongs to the mind as well as the body; it elevates, innervates, and purifies every sentiment, every feeling, and in its highest and purest form is a divine institution.”
In the Bible God uses the marriage union of human beings to portray the love of Christ to the Church and the unity of the Church with Christ. This exalts marriage to a very high plane; we should, therefore, think of marriage as the union of kindred spirits.
The Christian Family
Marriage, because it is a deep spiritual experience, has a direct influence on one’s future activities and associations with the people of God. For this reason, as well as for others, one should ascertain the will of the Lord in the matter. H. Ernest Mar-son said: “Your marriage will either lead to qualification or disqualification for service in the Church. Marriage is the divine provision for a life of fellowship, of holy fellowship in prayer, and praise, and service for God… When husband and wife are workers together with Him, then the one compliments the other, and together there is a more complete service for their Lord.”
Where God is given His rightful place in the lives of a newly married couple, the marriage will not be based upon human emotions. Emotions, like all things human, are subject to change without notice. Where God is truly acknowledged and where God is honoured, one can say the marriage is founded on the Word of God, in the wisdom of God, and by the power of God. Such marriages do not end in the divorce courts.
There must be daily fellowship with God as well as with each other in Christiain marriage. The daily waiting upon the Lord together, the frequent praying together in regard to difficulties, assures the continuance of wisdom, love, and patience. The home should be the centre for Bible reading. Prayer complimented by godly behaviour makes the home a hallowed retreat from the cares and frustrations of the world.
C. H. Spurgeon said that the tranquility and pleasure of the family were greatly increased by the use of matrimonial arithmetic. By sharing their disappointments, sorrows, and griefs, a husband and wife divided their trials by two; and by sharing their joys and successes, they multiplied them by two. There is a rare wisdom in this advice.
A marriage that is in accord with the Word of God places the husband as head of the home. The wife is taught by Scripture to be subject to her husband, and the husband is to love his wife (1 Cor. 11:3, 8, 9. Eph. 5:22). Both husband and wife must recognize this God-given authority in the home. Where a spiritual husband is acknowledged as head of the house, the wife enjoys the security and protection every normal Christian woman seeks. The husband who loves the Lord Jesus, his wife, and his children will temper his divinely delegated authority with love and consideration. He will not provoke those whom the Lord has entrusted to his care (Col. 3:21).
It is not the intention of the Lord that every believer marry. Some indeed may find that it is the will of God that they remain single (1 Cor. 7:8). In a family there are cares and problems which are constantly arising; when one is married these claim attention. Work for God is often more speedily performed by persons who are unfettered in any way by family responsibilities. In this respect, each person must ascertain the plan of God for his life.