The Bible gives overwhelming support for the institution of marriage as the union of a man and woman.
From Genesis 1-3 through Song of Solomon to the teachings of Christ in the Gospels to the dominant metaphor in Revelation, we see the centrality of marriage wrapped up in the lives and development of the human race.
Marriage was one of three relationships that formed a chain in God’s design for human growth. It was the cement that was to hold human society together. The first relationship was between God and the individual. That was to a sacred place of fellowship, community and obedience. Then, man and woman were to be share that relationship with each other, respecting, cherishing, loving, and submitting to each other. It was designed to reinforce experiences of divine love, and was often associated with covenant, using similar concepts as the covenant between God and human. It was not designed to be at odds with the divine covenant, but often has become that (as we note later).
Marriage would mimic the better love and thus reinforce the relationship of God to the individual. Then the love between husband and wife would then flow out, as streams of love to others, either manifested most intimately in the birth and nurturing of children—with its physical, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive experiences of love—or in service to others, which was equally valuable and illustrative of divine love, or preferably both thus reinforcing divine love and marital love throughout the world.
Christians have much to celebrate in this honorable and noble design of God. God was three in one, sharing with humans the highest level of relationship. God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—equal in authority but not function had humbled themselves to design the human race with a similar structure, union, and dynamic of growth. Separate, equal, but interdependent.
Two passages especially reinforce the powerful engine in this human design.
First, we have the classic one often cited at marriages:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:4-9, NIV)
Here is laid out the human truth of the engine of human development and success. Yes, it is a truth that can apply to many types of relationships—siblings, work teams, even interorganizational collaborations between international conglomerates. However, it was the intimate marriage relationship that would work this out in the most effective ways and once worked out there, it would grow other areas.
So marriage was to be a dynamic engine of change for the whole human society, first melding two into one and then from that generating the engine for creating children and service.
I have found Hebrews 2 to be a powerful reminder of the pattern God had for us. Hebrews 2: 5-8 states:
“He has NOT put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying:
“What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do NOT yet see all things put under him.” (Bold and underline added for emphasis)
Here we have a statement of an inspired author’s understanding of God’s design of humans juxtaposed to that of Angels. This text indicates humans seemed to be created lower than the angels. It appears we were purposely designed weaker as an individual organism than the angels. Most of us, waking up with our pains and forgetting where our car keys are and asking for God and the angels to help us, have no problem understanding ourselves as less than our angelic guardians, who we can’t see but we accept by faith.
We can see why they are “loftier” creatures than us.
But what is a mystery here, is that our destiny is tied to actually being in a capacity of supervision or at least authority with the angels. This passage suggests God purposely set humans on a track to accomplish more but started them out less.
That raises a huge issue of disparity. We were created less but with a bigger end payout. And this was a design—a flaw built into humans—even before sin ever showed up.
We see that flaw in the statement—it is not good that man should be alone—Not Good, flaw built-in from the start. But a flaw with a noble purpose. It was to build interdependence and interdependence would create amazing results.
A paradoxical truth—we are weaker than angels, but with so much more potential. It seems almost sacrilegious to say this. But I don’t think the angels mind. They know God and they know how He works (at least the good ones do, we will get to the evil ones later).
This juxtaposition—the reality of a lower start and a higher ending—creates in the mind a mental graph. On the left side, the line of development starts low. On the right hand side it never ends but keeps growing. It’s the development chart, the growth chart, mimicked in both our physical development as well as our intellectual and spiritual development.
And what was to be the engine of that growth….communion and fellowship, first of all with God and then with husband and wife and then with children or others. Humans were to be a wildly social creature, and while embedded in relationship, always developing.
But the human condition doesn’t seem to show this truth very well. That is because of the Fall. Clearly this passage focuses on Jesus—as the Man-God—who makes the bridge and shows what God intended in the great design of the human race. He was both God—showing us the relationships with the Father—and he was with us, a human, not good in being alone, seeking community with us, and sadly finding very little.
In Jesus, gets fulfilled God’s dream for man.
But it doesn’t just end with Him. That He gives to us—hopefully first in our marriages and homes, but if not, at the very least in our churches.
But His goal was to give it everywhere.
In one way, this is a substitutionary statement. We see Jesus. Yes, He did it for us. Praise God. Way to go Jesus. You triumphed. You cultivated every relationships that was willing to relate to you. That is how relationships work. We didn’t know that. We thank you for giving that to us, for we are credited to us.
But it is also given to us as clinical reality. He does this FOR us (substitution), but also IN us (clinical). His life becomes our life. We not only claim His work, but in a glorious way, He works in us to bring about that community—first with Him, then His father and the Holy Spirit and then to those around us, extending the kingdom of love in our world of darkness. This is why the cross redeems marriage as well.
His full experience of relationship He GIVES to us. It becomes imputed, imparted, and implanted in us. He fulfills the vision He had since He originally created us.
And his top focus: marriage. You can’t miss it in the Old Testament or New.
Some wonder why can’t sibling and church relationships be enough for this development. Why am I focused on “Male and female” marriages?
Yes, by all means all relationships can grow this, but the male and female deep connection in marriage had the interdependence and covenant mapped deeply into their fabric. This was to be the most intimate and dynamic of engines of growth. We were not only created weak, but then cut in half so to speak. It was, once again, a divine plan for building something more unique and amazing than angels would experience. By lowering us, we were created to inter-depend and in that interdependence create a community of relationships that would actually make us stronger. “It is not good for man to be alone” is primarily about sex and gender differences and it is about weakness. But oddly, that was also the calling card of the human race. Together we were to be a human society doing more together than even divinely powerful angels could do along. And the core of that human society was to be the male-female relationships.
Our point: Building into humans a deep capacity for shared learning created a different dynamic than angels had and marriage was the deep center of God’s vision for the human race. We could only meet our destiny in community and most specifically, or ideally, or through the best original design, was that this would be inside the institution and covenant of marriage.
The close lessons of differences in unity, security and vulnerability, trust and risk, would profoundly lead to different outcomes. Submitting one to another was to start with us and God, extend to marriages and transform the human society into a witness of God’s great design.
Wow, it sure didn’t end up that way.
Satan sneaking into the relationships between Adam and God, and then Adam and Eve and destroying both bonds set us on the downward spiral of distrust. That snake. That horrible liar and murderer. He purposely made our lives miserable, and we went along with it. Shame on us. Doubly shame on Him.
Which gets me to why Satan hates marriage between man and wife. If He loved God, He would love what God has done in the creation of humans because it has God’s character written all over it. Diversity in unity, the authority of covenant, the need for mutual submission and the unending potential for growth. How many planets did he make that he wanted humans to fill their babies with?
This is amazing condescending love that He would give the human creation a special design like He had in the trinity. He gave us two in one. Here was to be the engine of mutual submission, generous service to each other, loving communion, the potential for unlimited development as the mind of the other grows your own mind. It seems too beautiful to be true but in reality it is so true it is beautiful.
Satan hates that design. He claimed God was holding back, not giving, and in our creation God gave the ultimate evidence of WHO He is and HOW He relates to His creation. The development of the human race shows God’s character in humbling himself and emptying himself and this humbling and emptying gets showcased every time we humans live this principle, in our homes and then beyond.
This engine of love would lead to phenomenal development which is why, in projection of God’s great vision, those who experience human development from lower than low to communion with God and each other, would be well-qualified in His estimate to be able to judge angels (Hebrews 2; 1 Cor 6:3) and be a special witness (Isaiah 43:10).
In sharing Himself with humans—created in His image—He had designed in the human a wonderful story of His own character of love. In marriage and eventually in the home was to be showcased the perfect evidence of WHO He is and HOW He loves those He created.
The good angels look on and cry with great joy. They see played out three major evidences. First, having Christ’s work on the cross they seen the mutual submission in their Trinity. What better revelation of WHO God is then in their work together. But more, second, their work together for their shared creation. They actually give themselves—literally—to save their creation. The angels seem them hovered over us wayward humans.
But even more, in the very dynamic of humanness, God has built in the engine of evidence—of His mutual submission and of His pouring out Himself for creation. In the love between husband and wife and laboring for others is that shown.
But some angels who wouldn’t accept this revelation of God hate humans because they hate Christ. And the institutions designed to nurture this loving spirit of God in our relationships—Sabbath, marriage, children and family—Satan takes special aim at.
The warfare gets played out the most vividly in Gethsemane and Golgotha where God shows “their” mutual sacrifice for each other and their children, but also gets played everyday by followers of Christ who show that mutual submission, when available, in the marriage and home, but later in work and life.
This is why Christian marriages are central—not only to the work of Christian followership (Jesus calls you to take care of those closest to us) but also to society at large.
It is the seedbed for growing mutual submission which leads to dynamic growth. It then gets extended to community and work.
“Let US make MANKIND in OUR image” (Gen 1: 26).
The great controversy between Christ and Satan is extended in a special way to those who are made in His likeness. So, it is understandable why he would target two institutions that most nurturing relationships—the Sabbath, which directs us to God and each other in a most profound and organized and practical way (one day every seven), and Marriage, where the tensions of male and female get drawn into love and breed a profound new development.
And if God’s opinion is not clear on the value of marriage, in what I shared here, let’s get more to the point with Malachi 2:14-16:
It sizzles with focus:
“The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
In his book and DVD Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas helps us see the seriousness of this passage. He uses the illustration of how a parent might feel about someone talking bad about that them. It would hurt but not much. However, if you really want to anger a parent, speak poorly of their son or daughter. He notes that if a bully is picking on his child, or someone is tormenting his child, he would go into protector mode. If you are speaking of a spouse in a bad way, or abusing them, or hurting them, see God as your father in law and you as picking on their child. It will help you grasp the seriousness God holds toward marriage.
The point about “Not one has done so” and “remnant of the Spirit” is more difficult to unwind until one sees v 15 in other versions of scripture.
KJV “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one?”
1599 Geneva Bible: “And did not he make one? yet had he abundance of spirit: and wherefore one? because he sought a godly seed: therefore keep yourselves in your spirit, and let none trespass against the wife of his youth.”
It is in the two covenants that human development gets the support it needs for love—first, God to us, and then between husband and wife. Expect Satan to target both.