Marriage: Designed for a Purpose
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created day and night. He created the plants and the animals. He then created mankind, both male and female, and He gifted them with marriage (Gen. 1-2). Marriage was God’s idea from the very beginning.
However, thousands of years later, we find ourselves in a very different sin-filled world than the sinless perfection of the Garden of Eden. This fact can cause us to wonder if we are still obligated to follow the original design given to marriage in its perfect beginning.
If the biblical narrative ended at the completion of the creation account, we would be left to answer this question on our own. Thankfully, this is not the case. God has given us the rest of Scripture to reveal to us His original and continued intentions for marriage. Therefore, we ought to defer to Him through His Word to determine the purpose and definition of marriage. On Thursday, we will look at God’s design of the marital roles.
God’s Purpose for Marriage
God has many purposes for marriage. The primary and most overlooked purpose is that God designed marriage to be a temporal metaphor of the eternal reality of the relationship between Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:22-32, Isa. 62:5). In Scripture, the people of God, (also known as “the Church”) are often referred to as the “Bride of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2, Rev. 20:9, Rev. 21:2). At first glance, this can seem strange that God would want to marry us. However, when we zoom out and look at the whole Bible from a bird’s eye view, we can see that the whole Bible is actually one big romantic story about God’s relentless love for His people. It begins in Genesis in the Garden of Eden and finishes in Revelation at the Wedding Feast of Christ, with God and His beloved people together in a perfect love relationship (Gen. 1:26-31; Rev. 19:6-9). As we look more closely at God’s design for marriage and His assigned roles within it, this idea of a heavenly marriage between Christ and His Church becomes clearer and even more breathtaking.
God’s Design of Marriage
Designed for One Man and One Woman
In the garden, God created Adam, and then He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him” (Gen. 2:18). The result of God’s creative and problem-solving work was a woman named Eve. God, in his omnipotence, could have created two identical beings capable of procreating, or even one self-replicating person in lieu of Adam. However, His design for marriage from the very beginning was one man and one equal-yet-anatomically-different woman.
Designed for Life Long Covenant
Jeremiah 33:11 tells us that God loves His people with a faithful, covenantal love that endures forever. We as fallen human beings usually have an inadequate understanding of the magnitude of a covenant. Covenants are stronger commitments than a contract or a promise. They are the strongest commitment that one person can make to another. In Genesis 15:9-10, God “cut a covenant” with Abraham by walking between the pieces of animals that had been cut in half. The purpose of this ritual was to say “may I be cut into pieces like these animals if I do not keep my promise.” To put one’s life on the line in pledge of a promise seems extreme, however this is exactly how God views covenants. God calls us to love our spouses with a corresponding faithful, enduring, covenantal love. When we intentionally love our spouses and remain in our marriages, despite the many trials we encounter along the way, we mirror God’s faithful covenantal love that endures forever.
Designed for Exclusivity
Our relationship with God is one of exclusivity. God has exclusively chosen a people for Himself (Mal. 1:1-5; Eph. 1:1-14). God calls us to worship Him and Him alone in return (Deut. 5:8-10). God is even portrayed in Scripture as a “jealous husband,” when His people go astray and begin worshipping something or someone else (Zech. 8:2, 2 Cor. 11:2). Similarly, our relationship with our spouse should also exhibit fidelity. God feels so strongly about this that He included the command “do not commit adultery” in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:14).
Designed for Romance
Romantic love and sexual desire are not superficial emotion or hormonal dysfunction resulting from the fall. God longs to be with His people in a deep and intimate relationship (Hos. 2:14-21). Revelation 22:17 tells us of the longing that the Church feels toward Christ. We are given these feelings in our marriage relationships to mirror the romance between Christ and His Bride.
These emotions are also given as gifts by God as part of His design to aid us in accomplishing what He has commanded us in marriage. They drive us to draw near to our spouse and become more unified. They also have the potential to bring us satisfaction and happiness.
When endurance, faithfulness, unity, satisfaction, and happiness are all pursued for our own benefit, they are shallow and selfish. However, when we turn our hearts and our minds toward our spouses for the sake of our spouse, out of obedience to God, in hope of others seeing the Gospel in our marriages, we bring God glory. What a motivating thought, to know that God can be given glory when our marriages are happy and thriving!
*Many helpful thoughts for this article came from Ray Ortlund, Jr.’s message, The Minister’s Marriage, at the 2017 For the Church Conference.