What is Marriage?

As of this month, I have been married to my wonderful wife, Jessica, for a year and a half. If there is anything that I have learned thus far in marriage, it’s that I fall far short as a husband, that I have much, much to learn regarding marriage. So in writing a series on marriage, I definitely do not mean to claim some sort of expertise on marriage. Nevertheless, as I share my thoughts and experiences through these posts, my hope is that I would be able to encourage and inform my brothers and sisters, single or married.

 

God’s Definition of Marriage: Genesis 1-2

To talk about marriage, we must first define it. In order to arrive at a comprehensive, biblical definition, we will take a look at a series of passages from the Bible and let them tell us what exactly marriage is. In this post, we will consider the first two chapters of the Bible.

In the creation narrative found in Genesis 1 and 2, each and every element created by God was deemed good. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:3-4 ESV) “God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together to called Seas. And God saw that is was good.” (v. 10) “And God saw that it was good.” (v. 12, 18, 21, and 25) Then, when He created Adam, He saw that “it was very good.” (v. 30)

However, God declared it not good when He saw that Adam was alone. “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV) This is significant because it was the first time that God declared an aspect of His creation to be less than perfect. This does not mean that God had made a mistake; rather, in His infinite wisdom, God chose to create Adam first, such that he would see his need for a companion and demonstrate His perfect design in a more telling fashion. As God brought to Adam all the different animals to examine their suitability as helpers, Adam soon realized that no animal was found to be apt. So when God finally created Eve and presented her to Adam, he declared, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” (Genesis 2:23 ESV) Adam took one look at Eve and knew that she was the most perfect helper and companion for him.

God’s solution to the problem of man’s aloneness was to create a suitable helper for him. And thus, marriage was instituted: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (v.24) Marriage between Adam and Eve here is described as a one-flesh union – in other words, they figuratively have become one body, one person.

So what does the Genesis account tell us about marriage? Rather than attempting to give a one-sentence definition of marriage (which proves to be very difficult), we will outline three glorious truths that we see in Genesis 1-2 about marriage:

 

Marriage was instituted by God. Marriage is not a man-made social contract or institution. God Himself created it. This means that we can look to His Word for principles and guidance regarding marriage rather than rely on our own perceived needs, wants, or other human experience to define what marriage ought to be. Through Scripture, God has revealed to us all that we need to know in order to have a God-glorifying marriage.

When our society today talks about marriage, it often appeals to one or both of the spouses’ wants and needs in order to define marriage. What God has to say about marriage is increasingly considered irrelevant on issues such as divorce and same-sex couples, especially for nonbelievers but even for an increasing number of believers. In the midst of difficulties, it is especially essential for believing couples to look to Scripture for guidance and obey His gracious design in marriage.

 

Marriage is a companionship. As Pastor Chris preached during a recent Sunday service, Marriage is primarily a companionship. Each component of God’s creation was declared to be good, until He saw that it was not good that Adam was alone. God’s purpose for creating Eve, as shown in Genesis 2, is so that Adam would have a companion (and, implicitly, so that Adam would be a companion to Eve as well). It is natural for a man or a woman to desire to be married. It is therefore good for men and women to seek to be married and to pursue marriage.

However, it is important to note that there is an exception to this. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul describes the ability to remain single as a gift and discusses the advantages of being single rather than bound to a spouse. He even declares that “he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (v. 38) than he who marries. Most of us, if not already married, will find a spouse at some point in our lives; however, there are those whom God has called to a lifetime of singleness, whose lives will be dedicated to serve the Lord in ways that married people are unable to do.

Another important addition to this point is that while God has provided marriage as a solution to man’s problem of aloneness, it is unbiblical and sinful to view and treat marriage as a solution to one’s problem of discontentment. If you are discontent as a single person, you will never find contentment and satisfaction in marriage or in your spouse. We are called to find satisfaction and joy in the Lord alone. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26 ESV) If we approach marriage or even a dating relationship with the mindset that such a relationship will finally satisfy our lonely and discontent hearts, we will soon find ourselves disappointed. And by looking to marriage for satisfaction, we are committing idolatry in our hearts against God. On the other hand, in our time of singleness, we are to be devoted to the glory of God and find our satisfaction in it, just as we should in our time of marriage. The season of singleness is not just an interim period before marriage; we are called to love God and pursue His glory fully, whether we are single or married.

 

Marriage is a one-flesh union between a man and a woman. This is a metaphor for the level of physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy that marriage entails. The relationship between a husband and a wife is the closest and deepest relationship that can ever exist between two people. This is both a reality as well as a calling. It is a reality in that when a man and a woman exchange their marital vows and rings, they enter into the covenant of marriage that cannot be ended by anything but death. The union between a man and a woman in marriage is a spiritual reality that cannot be broken by human acts – even divorce. This is why Christ says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11b-12 ESV) A man and a woman remain married in God’s eyes even if they choose to separate. (We will explore the topic of divorce further in a future post) This is why the marriage union is referred to as becoming one flesh – beyond the physical act of sex, there exists a greater spiritual reality that God views a husband and wife as a unit that can only be broken by the death of a spouse.

This one-flesh union is not only a reality that we cannot change, but also a calling. In marriage, we are called to know, pursue, love, serve, and care for our spouse more than any other person in our lives. We can see this from considering various passages from Scripture on marriage, but especially Ephesians 5:22-33. This passage contains a series of commands (directed toward wives and husbands) to relate to and love one’s spouse in a unique way. Both the husband and the wife are called to love each other in such a way that uniquely displays the Gospel. The physical aspect of this calling is the most obvious: sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed exclusively within the covenant of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). However, the calling goes beyond the physical and also encompasses the emotional and the spiritual. A husband’s capacity to care for and love someone ought to be directed mainly (though not solely) toward his wife, and vice versa. This does not mean that a married couple should avoid building any level of closeness with others; however, there should be a level of emotional connection that a married person enjoys exclusively with his spouse. A married man ought to be watchful that the level of emotional and spiritual intimacy that he builds with those other than his wife (especially with other women) does not threaten or thwart his relationship with his wife. The same goes for a married woman.

I know of a brother who refused to pray alone with his girlfriend at the time because he viewed the act of a man and a woman praying together so intimate and special that he wanted to reserve it for marriage. Although I do not completely agree with that particular conclusion for myself (Jess and I prayed together while dating), I wholeheartedly respect the way he sought to live out his convictions regarding marriage. He knew that the intimacy he would one day be called to share with his future wife was to be different from the one he had with his girlfriend. Even as a single man, he sought to respect his future wife by putting a certain spiritual distance between himself and his girlfriend. This is a good example of how a brother sought to obey what we are all called to do, whether married or single: to respect and love our (future) spouse by being watchful of the level of intimacy and closeness that we build with those who are not our spouse.

I have a group of brothers whom I meet up with on a regular basis. I love these men, and they have been a great source of encouragement, correction, accountability, and affirmation. However, as close and comfortable as I am to them, I know that I am not called to develop a relationship with them that is more intimate or closer than my relationship with my wife. This does not mean that I make excuses not to care for my brothers and sisters in the church, but I will always seek to care for and love my wife in ways that I never could another sister or a brother. She is my one-flesh partner in life, the “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23 ESV)

God in Our Family

Once every month for about four months so far, the men at Redeemer’s Grace Church have been coming together to hear one another preach through 2 Timothy. Click here to read Joon Park’s faithful exposition of 2 Timothy 1:8-12. After the message, a devotional will be shared as a means of mutual encouragement. So far we’ve covered God as our first priority, God in our personal lives and God in our finances. All of these are meant to highlight the fact that our commitment to God is first and foremost. This must be true in every situation and every relationship that we have. In every aspect of our lives, God must be our first priority. Here are couple verses that remind us of this truth.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

-Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

-Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)

My topic of choice is God in Our Family. I believe that one of the most important ministries I have is to my nonbelieving family and I want to share that with you. And I will be honest. My ministry to my nonbelieving family members has been one filled with discontent, bitterness, and at times even anger. Yet through it all, I am still continually reminded of God’s grace. I am reminded that His desire is for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). In the times when I feel discontent, I find comfort in 2 Timothy 2:13 which reminds us that although we are faithless, God remains faithful, first to His character and then to us.

My desire to share this comes out of my own personal testimony. Unlike some, I was not born into a family where God was a priority. God was the furthest thing from my mind up until I started attending church, albeit irregularly, around the beginning of high school. Since making that salvation decision during my freshman year of college, it has been a constant struggle trying to maintain a good witness with my family. And at times I’ve even found myself being discontent because my family did not seem to be a part of those chosen for the kingdom. This post is not a “how to”; you may have expected sections on witnessing to different family members. I did not do that for a variety of reasons:

  • The first is that such a rigid formula cannot be applied to every single situation. There are so many other themes that go beyond any specific relationship.
  • The second reason is that I share this not just to those with nonbelieving family but also as a means to encourage those with believing family members as well. My hope is that I can encourage all, no matter their family background, to remain faithful to the gospel message. To be salt and to be light at all times. To always be seeking to share the truth of the gospel, even to those that have already heard it or Lord willing believe in it.
  • The third and main reason is that our ministries to nonbelieving family need to be more about God and the gospel than about individual family relationships. It is about how God created the family unit and how it was meant to be a good thing.

Our families are a blessing and at times a burden. The statement that “there is no drama like family drama” is a most definite truth. Have you ever wondered why this is so? Christian author Randy Newman says this: “God’s design for the family is so important, so profound, and so powerful that the devil points his most potent weapons at this most crucial target.” God created the family unit as a beautiful thing and the devil knows this. He employs a whole host of devices to destroy the family. Have you ever heard of the term “dysfunctional family”? Just the usage of that term reveals the success the evil one has had in the deprecation of the family! Since when are families meant to just be merely “functional”? Those words are more befitting machines than the living breathing family created in God’s image. Family then is something to be treated with reverence because it is divinely ordained and not some culturally constructed idea that needs to be tolerated and functional. In fact, thinking upon the family even more, we can see that it is rooted in the Trinitarian relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit. Even those titles display the importance of the family to God! Why else would He call himself titles that are related to the family? Here we arrive at two truths about the family. Family is both relational and selfless. We see this because the relationship between all three persons of the Trinity is those two things. Relational in that all three persons seem to interact with one another such as when all things were created (notice the “us” and the “our” in Genesis 1:26). And selfless in that all three persons seem to be focused on glorifying each other and this is revealed throughout the Gospel of John (John 17:1, John 16:13-14, John 8:49).

So let me reiterate this important point. Our evangelism to our families, no matter how unsuccessful in our eyes, have more to do with God and the power of the gospel than with us and our efforts. And lastly I want to convey a theme of hope. Hope is something we need to have in our current age of cynicism and pragmatism. For in our hope we reveal a faith in God and His promises. We do not know who has been chosen by God, but our duty lies not in the knowing but in the going and the preaching.

Living with the Desire to Worship God

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect… Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

(Romans 12:1-2, 9-13 ESV)

It is not a coincidence that Paul’s exhortation on Christian living, to love God and love as Christ loved us, follows his call for us to present ours bodies as a living sacrifice. We are worshippers created to live our lives as God commanded. Since the Fall however, every person has replaced God with themselves in self-worship, living in sin, trying to fulfill unceasing desire that can only be satisfied in Him. Our lives before salvation were just reenactments of what transpired in the Garden of Eden as we looked to ourselves for meeting our needs. Now, in Christ, we can abandon our perpetual worship of creation to worship the Father, but pursuing our sanctification is never easy.

I bet most of us are looking forward to reenacting Christ’s love for the Church in this present life, I am talking about marriage of course, but it is just one of many good gifts God can choose to bless us with, and it is just one of many desires we can have. What it means to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice is to surrender our desires to His will. When the choice comes down to worshipping God or worshipping ourselves we choose God, and sometimes our devotion is put to the test.

Will I act above reproach when the time comes? Is my life governed by fear of losing what God has given me, even perhaps what I falsely believe I have earned?

The Christian life is a reflection of one’s relationship with the Father. In those moments when we stand before the master of the universe with desires unmet, when idolatry’s temptation vies against obedience, we should be quick to set our hearts on God. We know our Lord is sovereign and loving, that He wills the course of unfolding history, and that all that has happened and will happen is to His glory. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28). What should stand at the foremost of our thoughts is that we are the recipients of God’s undeserved love and grace. God bought us out of our slavery to sin, and now He asks that we choose to serve Him, to live as if our lives were not our own, because God does not want mere service but hearts that love Him entirely.

If we can see Christ’s love in what he has done for us, we would keep his commandments and we would love one another as Christ loved us. Our love for God must be genuine for its outpouring towards others to be genuine. In Matthew 22:30-40, Christ says the entirety of the Old Testaments built on our duty to love God foremost and to love our neighbors. To further qualify Leviticus 19:18, Christ gave the command to love fellow believers as Christ loved us. But how did Christ love us?

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

(Philippians 2: 5-8 ESV)

Christ’s love for us was done in obedience to God, so when we love as Christ loved us it should be in obedience to God as our worship to Him. Our devotion to the Father is made manifest when we love one another. Even when a brother or sister does not deserve it; even if the world has convinced us they are not worthy of our affection, we are to love them in brotherly affection, because when we deserved death for our sins, Christ died for us in our place. By loving others like Christ loved us, as that Christ-like love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13; as it is shown throughout the gospels; as Paul gives examples in Philippians 2 of four men, including Jesus Christ himself, of selfless love, God demonstrates his power to change the hearts of lost sinners, and it shows that we can cast aside our little gods and give our devotion to God in action.

In God’s eyes, one does not deserve to be loved based on their merits. God chooses to love us even when we fail to honor Him. When we start loving people because of what they are capable of doing instead of who God sees them to be, we will slip back into our self-worshipping ways, and that misplaced worship is not only sinful it is harmful to our spiritual wellbeing. This kind of idolatry will devalue people into being emotion receptacles and dispensers. We will incessantly endeavor to please others so we can get our fulfillment out of them, and we will extract that fulfillment by any means that does not offend our arbitrary standards. That is what Paul is talking about when he says to “let love be genuine.” True love is devoid of selfish intention.

It is true that God created us to give Him glory; it is true that God has prepared us for good works; and it is true that He loves each and every one of us. No matter where we find ourselves God is due our worship. There is always the command to love God with utmost devotion, and there is always the command to love his children as Christ loved us. Obey His commands. Worship the Lord.

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