Many of the cultural norms regarding marriage are under assault today. As a result, it’s important to reflect on how Biblical marriage is defined and described. United States marriage trends published from Pew Research (February, 2019) found that individuals are staying single longer (median ages of 30 and 28 for men, women respectively), divorce rates have increased with older Americans (tripled with those aged 65+), cohabiting is up to about 18 million (about half are under 35 but over 50 is rising quickly), and support for same-sex marriage continues to rise.
The Bible is clear on certain characteristics and parameters about marriage (e.g “Biblical marriage”). With the understanding that the Bible is the Word of God, defining “Biblical marriage” is the same as knowing what God thinks about marriage.
HowScriptureanswers "What is Biblical marriage?"
Biblical marriage is a man and woman being joined together as “one flesh” – established at Creation1, reiterated by God through His prophet Malachi2, and repeated by Jesus4 and Paul6,8. God enters into the marriage covenant2,4 – likened to Christ and the church5,6 – which can only be annulled through adultery3,8 or death7,8. The couple is an independent unit/family1, where the husband is head over the wife5 while loving and cherishing her2,4 as Christ does the church6.
After creating the world and everything in it, God creates man and from the man (his rib) creates woman. Seeing this “helper fit for him” (vs 15), man calls her “Woman, because she was taken out of man” (23).
How does it apply here?
Man and woman were created by God for each other and become “one flesh” in marriage.
And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, Why does he not? Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.
A second thing you do is cry and complain because He no longer accepts your offering of worship. You ask, “Why not?” It’s because He has seen you forsake your wife, even though you were joined to her by promise. Didn’t that make you one, joined together with the Spirit? God’s interest was for Godly offspring. Therefore, take care to not be unfaithful to your wife. The man that divorces her rather love her covers himself with violence, says the Lord. Therefore, I tell you again, take care not to be unfaithful.
Malachi’s prophecy to those that returned from Babylonian/Persian captivity around 450 BC. God, through Malachi, responds to the post-captive priests with a series of “But you say” statements, to which God responds in condemnation summed up in 2:8-9, “But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
How does it apply here?
Malachi confirms the ‘oneness’ of marriage from Genesis1 but also introduces the ‘covenant’ between not only man and woman, but also God. Marriage is a contract between the man, woman, and God.
It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
It is practiced that anyone divorcing his wife should give her a certificate of divorce in order that she may remarry. But I say, divorcing your wife except for sexual immorality causes her and her spouse to commit adultery.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause? He answered, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
Pharisees came and asked Him [Jesus] if it is lawful to divorce for any reason. Jesus asked them if they had not read about God creating male and female with instructions to leave their father and mother, holding fast to his wife and become one flesh? So Jesus concluded they are no longer two but one flesh and that what God had joined together, man should not separate.
Jesus is teaching publically in parables, moving from Galilee to Judea beyond the Jordan (vs 1). After this exhange with the Pharisees, they ask Jesus why Moses permitted divorce (vs 7). Jesus replies it was due to their hardness of heart and that God had never intended for that.
How does it apply here?
Jesus carries the marriage law forward from Creation1; God joins man and woman in marriage, making one flesh that man can’t separate.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Wives should submit to their husbands as they submit to God, since the husband is the head over the wife as Christ is head over the church, His body, and is the Savior of it. Therefore, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in all things to their husbands.
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus giving encouragement and instruction. In this immediate context, Paul is instructing on household relationships. He speaks specifically to wives (vss 22-24, 33), to husbands (vss 25-33, 6:4), to children (6:1-3), and finally to the master-servant relationship (6:5-9). Furthermore, all of these relationships are likened to Christ and His church throughout.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
Similarly, husbands should love their wives as themselves, since whoever loves himself loves his wife. For nobody ever neglects his own body, but nourishes it and cares for it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therfore, a man shall leave father and mother and hold securely to his wife – the two becoming one flesh.
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus giving encouragement and instruction. In this immediate context, Paul is instructing on household relationships. He speaks specifically to wives (vss 22-24, 33), to husbands (vss 25-33, 6:4), to children (6:1-3), and finally to the master-servant relationship (6:5-9).
How does it apply here?
Husbands are to care for and cherish their wives as Christ does His church. Paul concludes with the same truth from Creation1 – that the two become “one flesh” in marriage.
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