God's Plan for Marriage and How Culture Has Missed the Mark

by Darin Smith August 8, 2017

Americans have lost their way on what is considered to be right and wrong. According to a recent poll by Gallup, about half or more of all Americans believe that abortion, homosexuality, and sex outside of marriage aren’t sinful. But the trend isn't new.

Even in early Christianity, there was confusion over what marriage is. Marriage was said to have stemmed from a concession to human weakness. But a closer look at Scripture tells a different story.

1.) The Biblical Basis for Marriage

In Genesis 1, God was creating and declaring everything He made to be good. In Genesis 2, we see the first thing that wasn’t good. Verse 18 says it isn’t good for man to be alone. God brought all the animals to Adam for him to name, but no suitable helper was found for him. So God created woman (2:20-24).

Biblical theology has categories for the four states of man: created, fallen, redeemed and glorified. And in creation we see God’s plan for marriage through these four states (2:20-24).

  • Marriage is intricately tied to our inadequacy. This isn’t to suggest that single people aren’t fully human. We all, however, are made to desire another. In verses 19-20, God prepares Adam for Eve by exhausting other possibilities. He doesn’t just give man the woman straight away. God is teaching Adam to trust Him and is teaching the man the value of the woman. Humans are no mere animals, but being made in the image of God sets us apart.
     
  • Marriage is of God’s design. Verse 21 especially shows this by the way God makes the woman while Adam was sleeping. It was all God’s work, making it clear she’s in no way inferior to man. She, too, was divinely created.
     
  • Marriage is a relationship of companionship. Man was alone and needed a suitable helper. The woman was taken from his side to show she is a suitable companion. She wasn’t taken from his head to rule over him or from his feet to be trampled under him.
     
  • Marriage is a relationship of attraction. Gen. 2:23 reveals to us the only pre-Fall statement from man. Adam is clearly excited here: “At last! A suitable helper!”
     
  • Marriage is a relationship of authority. Hierarchy isn’t the result of the curse; authority is inherent in the world’s design before the Fall (Gen. 3). Adam named her "woman" before the Fall. The man being created first implied authority. After the first sin, recorded in Genesis 3:9, God calls out to the man, implying his responsibility for the situation.
     
  • Marriage is a particular union. God calls man and woman to be together; it is the first and most basic of all institutions. There is covenant language of being united. Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be isolated; it is a part of marriage. God’s design isn’t Adam in a relationship with another man. It is the union of one man with one woman where they become interdependent and complementary to one another.
     
  • Marriage is a public covenant. Note the official language in verse 22 — God brought the woman and presented her to man in a sort of marriage ceremony. Verse 24 shows a change in priorities from parents to spouse. A new family is established. God didn’t put a parent and a child in the garden. He is emphasizing the importance of this relationship.
     
  • Marriage is a lifelong relationship. It is intended to be permanent (Mal. 2). Jesus references Genesis 2 in exhorting us not to divorce.


Effects of the Fall on Marriage​

After the Fall, the marriage relationship became distorted. Strife was caused by a desire for dominance, and Adam and Eve being alienated from God. Adam's disobedience affected us as well (Romans 5:19), making God our enemy. The complete context for marriage has been changed by sin.

The continuation of marriage is part of God’s kindness to us. Marriage is under assault in this sinful world. We are taught to be ashamed of our desire for it and it is sold as a mere social contract. The world devalues spouses, seeks to fulfill lusts that are impossible to fulfill, abuses or abdicates authority, and engages in homosexuality and polygamy.

Marriage is publicly trivialized. Man’s law pronounces divorces that God doesn’t recognize.

And yet, marriage survives! It is necessary for a nation’s survival; it is part of society’s infrastructure.

Marriage and Redemption

Marriage predates sin — it is part of God’s good gift in creation. It is in the context of marriage that we’re most conformed to the disctinctives of our own gender, yet we fully display unity in our diversity.

Perpetual adolescence is part of the spiritual battle in our culture. Christians see the need for marriage because we recognize our deficiency. It’s not just for propagation of a family; it is about relationship. God delights to give us what we delight in.

2.) Roles in Marriage

Husbands – serve the Lord as it is written in Joshua 24:15: “...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The best way to love is by leading well. We should lay down our own comforts, preferences, and even our very lives (Ephesians 5). Love your wife like Christ loved the church.

Men read love as “don’t upset her.” This is a self-serving definition. Love is to risk upsetting; it’s an inevitable part of a loving type of leadership. Lead in the way that Christ leads and cares for the church.

Do you know what your wife likes? Make her an object of your intent investigation. When giving advice, tell her how much you love her.

Wives, correct your husbands in a loving way if they are doing wrongly. Husbands, love with self-sacrifice. Resolve to grow in humility, to be more sensitive, to be a better communicator, and to generally love better.

Husbands, do you feel like a failure in this? The Gospel is for failures like us — man, woman, and child.

Wives — what’s so astounding about marriage isn’t the similarities between a husband and wife, but the real unity amid a beautiful array of differences. In the teaching of the New Testament, wives are addressed first. Biblically, being a Christian wife means having a love for God and a love for others, obedience to God’s Word, helping her husband, being industrious, teaching younger women, loving her husband and children, being self-controlled. Ephesians 5:22 adds that a wife is to “submit” to her husband.

Also, notice that Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:15, 1 Peter 3:1 and 5 all stress submission. Christians know all about submission. We are to submit to Christ, the governing authorities, leaders at church, parents, etc.

Submitting doesn’t imply being of lesser value. Christ submitted to the Father. Submission doesn’t imply inequality, but different roles. Submission does not mean that one is not to express thoughts or is to follow a husband into sin.

1 Peter 3 gives Old Testament examples of how wives are to love, honor, respect and encourage husbands.

Here are more ideas: Give yourself to reading and knowing God’s Word better. Read Proverbs, a chapter a day, and apply it to your marriage. Pray God would make you an easier person to lead.  Encourage your children to honor their dad. Speak well of him to them.

What if your husband is a non-Christian? In 1 Peter 3, wives are told to submit to back up their evangelistic words. Wives, do you feel like a failure in this? The Gospel is for failures like us — man, woman, and child.

Theological Reflections

Why does the Bible teach us about marriage? The Lord reflects Himself in it. Christ is proclaimed through it. Marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church. Marriage is a picture of the Gospel.

Hosea is written in the context of marriage and depicts the theme of unfaithfulness and reconciliation. Genesis 2 is a foretaste of what we see at the end of Revelation 21, “the bride dressed for her husband.” Amen! Come Lord Jesus!