The Genesis of Marriage – Part 3: An Earthly Illustration of His Love

Last week we discussed how God created us with a need for companionship. And we saw how marriage meets that need. But we were created with an even greater need–the need for a relationship with God. This week we will see how marriage illustrates to the world the relationship God wants to have with us.

Early in Genesis, we find one of God’s purposes for creating marriage. That purpose is to be His representative here on earth. We are told in Genesis 1:27: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Adam and Eve were created in God’s image.

The Hebrew word that is translated “image” in this passage is “selem.” It means likeness. In Hebrew, it literally means a shadow, which is the outline or representation of the original.

It is very much like what we read about Jesus. We are told in Colossians 1:15: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (bold mine). The word translated “image” is from the Greek word “eikon.”

The word “eikon” also means “representation” or “statue.” God tells us in Exodus 20:4: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (bold mine). Instead God sent His Son with whom He is One as His “exact representation.”

We read about this in Hebrews 1:3: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (bold mine).

The Greek word translated “exact representation” in this passage is “charakter.” It can also mean “statue” or “representation.” It was used, for example, to indicate the image of an emperor stamped on a coin.

The minds of the Jewish-influenced New Testament writers would not have been referring to Jesus’ appearance. They would have instead been thinking of the function of something or someone.  Therefore, this passage is not implying that Jesus is like an actual physical picture of God. But rather, Jesus functions as God would because He and God are One. Jesus states this clearly in John 10:30: “‘I and the Father are one.’” When we observe Jesus acting in the New Testament, He is acting exactly as God would act.

Thus through these Hebrew words in Genesis, we can see how God created humankind to represent Him to the rest of His creation. We are to function as He would. Our goals, purposes, thoughts (etc.) should be the same as His.

It is our responsibility to live our lives as representatives of God. We are to act in the same manner as He would. The world sees through this what His original intent was, and still is, for us and all of His creation.

When people see us as Christians it should be as if they were seeing God at work. The difference between us and Jesus is that when they saw Jesus act and speak, they were seeing God act and speak. But they can also see God in and through us because, as Christians, we have Him living in us through the Holy Spirit.

This is why we are told throughout the New Testament to be Christ-like. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  He also wrote in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

John wrote in 1 John 2:6: “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:21: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” The message is clear that we must always be growing to be more like Christ so we can be an example of Him to the people around us.

Our lives therefore become a witness to others of what a relationship with Jesus looks like. And God will use this to draw people to Jesus. It is why He tells us in 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

This should be true for us as individuals, but it should also be true of our marriage. There are hurting people and marriages all around us. They should be able to observe the difference that Jesus makes in our lives and marriages so that they will want to know why.

Paul concludes addressing marriage in Ephesians 5 by quoting Genesis 2:24 in verse 31: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” He then adds in Ephesians 5:32: “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Thus God’s Word tells us He designed marriage to be an earthly picture of the spiritual relationship God intends between Christ–the bridegroom–and the Church–His bride.

All of us who have accepted His gift of salvation through faith in Jesus are part of the Church. Our marriage relationship, therefore, should be a picture of the relationship God desires with us, who make up His Church.

Evidence of this relationship is seen through our marriage in several ways.

God says we become “one flesh” when we are married. He says we become one with Him when we make Jesus our Savior and Lord. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:16-17: For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”

God also tells us that wives are to illustrate our relationship to Christ. We read in Ephesians 5:22-23: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 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.”

The way a husband relates to his wife is supposed to demonstrate how God relates to us. We find in Ephesians 5:25-26: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (bold mine).

Finally, God told Adam and Eve another purpose of their marriage in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” This certainly refers to having children and raising them to love the Lord (see Proverbs 22:6). But it also has spiritual implications.

Jesus gave similar instructions to His followers just before His resurrection in Matthew 28:19-20: “‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

This is His Church’s mission. This should also be the mission of every married couple. It is why God created us and why He brings us together.

So we can see that God created marriage for a much greater purpose than we tend to think about. He designed marriage to meet our need for companionship, but beyond that, to provide an illustration of the relationship that He desires with us. When this is true of our marriage, we bring glory to Him, and in doing so we can also be His instruments to bring others to God through faith in Jesus.

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♦  Read this week’s teaching together. What has God taught you through it, individually and as a couple?

♦  We have learned in this week’s teaching that our marriages are God doing in one man and one woman what He is always trying to do in the whole world. That is why it is so important we work to develop a Christ-honoring relationship with each other. We’re working on a portrait of Christ and the church, and the world is looking on. God’s glory is at stake. Therefore, ask yourselves these questions to see how you’re doing:

     ◊  Are you growing deeper in your relationship with God?

     ◊  Are you growing deeper in your relationship with your spouse?

     ◊  Is your marriage growing in such a way that it reflects Christ and the Church to others?

If you cannot honestly answer “yes” to these questions, take it as a warning that you are not in line with God’s design for marriage. Marriage requires attention and work. Take immediate action to get it on target. With God’s help and your commitment, you can have a marriage that both honors Him and brings both of you joy.

♦   Conclude your time together in prayer. Ask God to show you ways He wants you to use your gifts and abilities to serve Him by serving others individually and together.

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Next week we will learn one more lesson from Adam and Eve and the first marriage as we see how sin has brought complications to God’s original plan for marriage.

Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

Other posts in THE GENESIS OF MARRIAGE series:

Part 1: In the Beginning…
Part 2: God Created It for Companionship
Part 4: Corrupted by Sin
Part 5: Seek and Follow God Together
Part 6: Always Remain Faithful
Part 7: A Love that Grows

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Luis Tosta on Unsplash (CC0), cropped/text added.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.