According to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics, not only have marriage rates hit an all-time low as of 2018, the most recently recorded year, but studies have shown that adults in the United States are increasingly postponing marriage. This study also indicates that a record number of youth and young adults are projected to forgo marriage altogether.[1]

I remember when marriage wasn’t just a trend, but something to be honored and cherished. Today, the biblical view of marriage — once considered the bedrock foundation for society — is now just one option of many. One could even argue that marriage is just an accessory to a relationship that you change when you get tired or bored. Starter marriages, marriages that last less than five years, are very popular, as are same sex marriages in a culture that embraces whatever two or more consenting adults want to do.

How many times have you heard it said that God is love and therefore, God would never want to deprive two or more consenting adults (regardless of sex) of a relationship? So long as they love each other, they should be able to do or be with whoever they want.

In all this confusion, it begs the question — who came up with the idea of marriage and why does it matter anyway?

God did. He came up with the idea of marriage and it could be different than what you might think.

Because God created us and the idea of marriage, he wants to set healthy expectations and boundaries for us. We can see how God’s creation and sustaining interest of marriage is demonstrated throughout the Bible. Marriage is given not only for our enjoyment but to teach fundamental truths about the life we live now and the life yet to come. The Bible begins and ends with marriage.

Genesis 1:27 tells us God created us in his image and noticed Adam was alone and gave him Eve (2:18, 21-22). After Adam sees Eve he says, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (2:23). The very next verse God establishes marriage and declares they will be united and “become one flesh” (2:24).

The true significance of what God established by giving us marriage is found in the last book of the Bible with what is called the marriage feast or the “wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7-10). Marriage on earth points to Jesus, the head of the church (Ephesians 1:21-22), who is eagerly awaiting a time when he’ll return to earth to claim his bride (believers) and join us to himself with eternal faithfulness and righteousness. We’ll never wonder or desire anything but to be in an exclusive, committed relationship with God.

In addition to Genesis and Revelation, there are 64 other books in the Bible, representing over 4,000 years of life between the beginning and the end of the Bible. God has a lot to teach us about marriage, divorce, children and the general family structure!

Here are a few observations about marriage from Genesis to Revelation.

Using the word “wife,” Genesis 2:20-24 makes it clear that God defines marriage between one woman and one man for life (See Article 7 of “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church” for our stance of marriage). The two, living and working together in mutual submission, respect, love and to serve each other sacrificially. While woman came from man, man isn’t to dominate and abuse her. The fact that the woman came from Adam’s side indicates her equal dignity with Adam.

Marriage is valued in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20). The fifth commandment establishes the human-to-human relationship (honor your father and mother) which is a product of marriage.  The seventh commandment forbids committing adultery (which is sex with anyone besides your spouse) and the 10th commandment specifically forbids the coveting of your neighbor’s wife. All three commandments demonstrate the importance of living in a civil society.

God is the one who joins man and woman together for life. When the religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) asked Jesus what he thought about divorce (Matthew 19:3-6), he affirms God’s original design of marriage (Genesis 1:27; 2:24) by telling them, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6).

The Family Research Council states that marriage “is the foundational relationship for all of society. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is simultaneously a close and a closed husband-wife relationship.”[2] Out of this committed relationship children are created.

Marriage is God’s primary choice of a metaphor to describe his love for the church. The Greek word for church is ekklēsia, coming from the root words’ meaning “to call out.” Therefore, the church is formed of the called-out ones — all people from all tribes, tongues and nations who have been born again (John 3:16). In the Old Testament, God didn’t establish a relationship with Israel by a contract but chose to do so through a covenant. He frequently described Israel’s wandering heart and unfaithfulness as prostitution, committing adultery (Ezekiel 16:27-31; Jeremiah 2:23-5:19; Isaiah 1:21; Hosea 2:2-7).

The New Testament uses the husband-and-wife relationship to depict Christ and his love for the church. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 teaches this by quoting Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,” and expounding upon it, “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (5:31-32).

I believe God still cares about marriage and so should we. Therefore, we must hold fast to the biblical stance of marriage. Marriage is not only practical and beneficial to us now, but theologically, marriage is the foretaste, a shadow, of what is waiting for us in heaven — God.

Devon Smith is the district superintendent of the Tri-State District of The Wesleyan Church.

 

Questions for reflection and conversation

  • God is the creator of marriage and desires to set healthy expectation and boundaries for us. Marriage is given not only for our own enjoyment but to teach us fundamental truths about the life we live now and the life yet to come. What are some biblical truths about marriage that we identify in God’s Word?
  • In the book of Revelation, the true significance of what God established by giving us marriage is identified as the “wedding supper of the Lamb.” How is this understood in Jesus’ relationship with the church?
  • In Genesis 2:20-24 how does God define the covenant of marriage?
  • The Family Research Council states that marriage “is the foundational relationship for all of society. All other relationships stem from the father-mother relationship.” In what ways can you identify changes in society that coincide with the breakdown of the family? What are some ways that you feel marriages could be strengthened and restored?

 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” used by the permission of Wesleyan Publishing House: Fishers, Indiana.

[1] Curtin, Sally C. and Sutton, Paul D. (2020). Marriage Rates in the United States, 1900–2018. National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/marriage_rate_2018/marriage_rate_2018.htm#print.

[2] Fagan, Pat (n.d.) Natural Marriage. 164 Reasons to Marry. Family Research Council. Retrieved from https://www.frc.org/marriwebsite/162-reasons-to-marry.