(Be sure to read “OUR BELIEFS ABOUT GOD & HIS WORD” to learn the biblical truths we use as our foundation.)
the biblical truth about marriage
The following biblical truths about marriage provide the foundation for all our writing, teaching, and testimony.
- God created marriage. He defined marriage from the beginning of Creation itself. In the first book of the Bible we see that God intends marriage to be a sacred union between one man and one woman.
“So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” – Genesis 2:20-25
This has been God’s plan from the beginning, and it is confirmed throughout the Bible. Jesus Himself confirmed it in the New Testament:
“’Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate’” – Matthew 19:4-6
Marriage is to be between one man and one woman–not to between two men or two women. Nor is it to be between anyone else. Scripture goes to great lengths to make this point clear.
Closely related to this are the definitions in God’s Word about sexual sin.
Beginning with the Mosaic Law—the Law God gave to Moses for His people—it is clear what God considers sexual sin. All the laws about sexual relations can be found in Leviticus 18. They are, quite frankly, difficult to read. But they show how seriously God sees sexual sin and how important the marriage relationship is to Him, His people, His Church, and the world.
Here are a few scriptures concerning sexual sin:
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them, “I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.”’” – Leviticus 18:1-5
“Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.” – Leviticus 18:20
“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” – Leviticus 18:22
“Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 18:29-30
In the New Testament, Paul describes people who deny God’s truth and the sins that result from this denial. He says: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27).
Paul encourages Timothy—his young disciple and fellow minister–to remain true to God’s truth, no matter what society determines. He writes: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me” (1 Timothy 1:8-11, emphasis mine).
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4
Looking at all of the scriptures combined, it is clear that marriage is only to be between one man and one woman.
- Marriage is to be a permanent union.
According to God, marriage is to be a permanent union between one man and one woman.
Divorce is not to be an option, except in very rare and specific circumstances. It is not to be taken lightly, as it is so often today. Marriage, according to God, is to be permanent—only to be ended by the death of one of the spouses.
Jesus was tested by the Pharisees about divorce. He was asked why there was teaching about divorce in the Mosaic Law if God didn’t allow divorce. Jesus taught about divorce with His reply in Matthew 19:8-9: “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’”
But even in the case of adultery, divorce is not required. Forgiveness and reconciliation are always God’s preference and will always please Him.
- God teaches us in His Word that sex is a beautiful gift between a husband and wife. Between any other two people, it is a sin. God created sex to bring a man and a woman as close together as possible in the context of the union of marriage, where they are committed to each other and to Him. Therefore, a husband and wife should enjoy sexual relations with each other as frequently as they desire.
“Each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – 1 Corinthians 7:2-5
We must honor God by honoring our marriage and our bodies as we treat them the way He instructs us.
“The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unit them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” – 1 Corinthians 6:13-20
- God has several purposes for marriage.
We tend to think God created marriage for our happiness. And we will often be happy in marriage when God is at its center and in control of us. He certainly desires us to have happiness in our marriage. But that is not the first and foremost goal.
God’s Word gives several key purposes for marriage:
♦ The greatest goal of marriage is to glorify God and His Son Jesus.
This should be the goal of everything in our lives, our marriage included. Our lives and marriage should demonstrate to the world His love for us, so that He can draw others to Himself.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” – 2 Corinthians 5:9
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:11
“Wives, submit to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:22-33 (emphasis mine)
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” – John 3:14-15 (Jesus speaking)
♦ Another goal of marriage is our sanctification—to make us more like Christ.
◊ As two believers, God brings a husband and wife together to become even more like Him. We cannot live together in marriage as God intends without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and without the fruit of His Spirit characterizing our lives more and more.
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3
“May God, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
◊ If a believer is married to an unbeliever, the believer is to be used by God to bring the unbelieving spouse to faith in Christ, and then he or she can be sanctified.
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” – 1 Peter 3:1-2
As long as the unbelieving spouse is willing, the believing spouse should remain married and seek to be God’s instrument to see the unbelieving spouse come to Christ and be sanctified.
“To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her husband.” – 1 Corinthians 7:12-14
◊ If you are not yet married, do not marry an unbeliever.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
♦ A third goal for marriage is to have children and to raise them so that they will serve the Lord.
From Creation, God intended children to be born from the love of a husband and wife for one another and to be raised to continue living and teaching His truth into the future.
We see this in the account of God creating the world:
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” – Genesis 1:27-28
Children should only be conceived between a man and a woman who have committed themselves to God and each other in marriage.
There are many reasons, of course, that a husband and wife may not have children. It is God, in His sovereignty and wisdom, who determines when and if a couple will have children.
“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” – Psalm 127:3
Children should be raised according to God’s Word, so that they can grow up to serve Him.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4
- God also made clearly defined roles for husband and wives in His Word.
Just as God provides clearly defined roles for us in His church, in our work places, and for our civic responsibilities, He does so for our family life as well, including our marriages. These roles are designed to bring order to our lives for good, not to define any person or gender as superior to any other.
♦ God is always the head over every marriage, as He is over us and everything in our lives.
God is good and only wants what is best for us. We can trust Him and follow the truths in His Word to live out our lives and the roles we play in our marriages. Therefore, we can live in those roles without fear or jealousy.
♦ The husband’s role in the marriage is to lead and to love his wife.
The husband has been given the head role in the marriage. This in no way means he is to rule over his wife like a dictator, but as one who wants what is best for his wife. He is to put her needs ahead of his own, because Jesus is the husband’s example and that is how Jesus leads us.
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” – Ephesians 5:23
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” – Ephesians 5:25
◊ The husband is to lead using God’s Word to guide him and to lead him and his wife as a couple.
“…to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” – Ephesians 5:26
◊ The husband is to lead by serving his wife, as Christ became a servant to save us.
“After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean…. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’” – John 13:5-10, 12-17
◊ The wise husband is to lead by recognizing his wife’s God-given gifts and by encouraging her to use them for God, their marriage, and their family.
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” – 1 Peter 3:7
◊ The husband is responsible for the spiritual and physical needs of his wife and family. There is no problem with a wife working outside the home, or even older children doing so to help support the family. But spouses should pray and agree on this together. The husband is still ultimately responsible for this.
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8
♦ The wife’s role in the marriage is to love her husband, in at least three ways.
◊ The wife is to willingly submit to her husband and allow him to lead.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:22
◊ The wife is to respect her husband, including in the way she treats him and talks to him.
“The wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33
◊ The wife is to look after the needs of the home.
This does not mean the husband cannot help in this. He can, and should, as a sign of his love for his wife. This is especially true if the couple has decided she should work outside the home.
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” – Titus 2:3-5
These are some of the key truths God’s Word teaches about marriage. As we wrote at the beginning, this is certainly not an all-inclusive list, but it is a good place to begin. And this should give a good understanding of the basis for our teaching.
We pray these truths will whet your appetite to study God’s Word together for a greater understanding of His truths that lead us to the blessed marriage the Lord desires for us.
Header photo by Stain_Marylight via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.