What is a marriage according to God’s Word?
God has created all mankind with the ability to thrive and enjoy life, married or not! But for those of us who have chosen marriage, isn’t the prospect of a happy life together what motivates us to enter a marriage relationship and promise to love and cherish one another, “until death do us part?”
As Christians we will at the same time realize that, in order for a marriage to succeed and truly be a happy union, we do well to look to the Bible for some facts and vital guidelines that will help us on our way.
A happy and fulfilling relationship
It’s very clear that from the beginning, God intended the marriage union to be blessed, fulfilling and happy. First, He created man in His own image: able to love, communicate and create, and placed him in a beautiful garden where all the desires of a pure human heart could be met. But, God’s amazing work of creation was not complete until He made a woman. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” Genesis 2:18. A helper, a companion, his equal, someone to share his deepest thoughts and return his unfailing love! When God led the woman to Adam, his joy was complete as he declared, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:23.
Following this declaration, we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. Jesus Himself repeats this verse in Matthew 19:5, and adds, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6. The apostle Paul again refers to the same verse, explaining that the marriage union is a picture of the “great mystery,” Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)
A fantastic antidote to a very real problem
We can’t really miss the point that God views marriage as a sacred and highly exalted relationship! That is what He intended it to be from the beginning. He also from the beginning gave mankind laws that would guarantee happiness as long as His laws were obeyed. Sadly, however, one act of disobedience changed everything, and sin entered God’s good creation. If we are honest, we will quickly admit that it is still sin that destroys relationships, disrupts the harmony of marriage, and causes love to grow cold.
Most people realize that we are born as egotistical, self-centered creatures, with an amazing capacity to look out for ourselves and for our own pleasure. This is a poor recipe for a happy marriage! Jesus offers us a fantastic antidote to this sickness in Luke 9:23. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’”
Not just two hearts, but two wills
To understand this better, we need to understand what it means to “deny ourselves” and “take up our cross.” We can deny ourselves things easily enough. If someone wants to lose weight, for example, they can deny themselves the luxury of sweets and unhealthy goodies. But what Jesus talks about is clearly something much deeper than this.
“Denying ourselves” has to do with our own will—our desires, wishes and demands that stem from our self-centered nature as humans. As a result of the Fall, our own will is almost always contrary to God’s will. In a marriage relationship, we will soon discover that not only have two hearts and lives come together, but also two distinct personalities, each with his and her own will!
Jesus also had a human will, but He said, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42. Jesus chose to deny His will in order to do God’s will. In Hebrews 10:9 He says, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” Jesus came to do the will of God in His human body, and it cost Him His own will. He is our example in everything, so we too can deny our own will and do God’s will instead. This will result in a happy relationship and an increasingly good marriage.
Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins. But during His life, He took up His cross—meaning, the sin He bore in His human nature was not allowed to live. This is what Paul refers to as “the dying of the Lord Jesus” in 2 Corinthians 4:10. Jesus invites us to follow Him on this way where sin can be overcome in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we accept His invitation and follow in His footsteps, His life will also be manifest in our bodies, to the increasing benefit and blessing of those around us, including our spouse!
We can enrich one another’s lives!
It is such good news that God has not changed His mind about marriage, in spite of the sin that came into the world through the first couple! His heart yearns for it to succeed for us, and His love has provided us with laws which, if we keep them, will set us free from our human nature so that we can learn to love one another as He loves us. Human nature is a contrary commodity! It takes so little for a slight misunderstanding, a habit that we don’t like, a thoughtless word, or a critical look to bring a cloud over our relationships. Human nature is so easily offended!
But, thankfully, we have God’s Word and laws to help us. If we follow, for example, the words of Colossians 3:12-14, we have good hope for a happy and fulfilling relationship the way God intended it to be. “Therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” This does not mean that we will always agree or hold the same viewpoint on every matter. God has created us as individuals with different personalities and ways of thinking. But we can encourage one another according to God’s laws of humility, kindness, and mercy. In this way we can enrich one another’s lives and be the true helpmeets for one another that God intended us to be.
A relationship of mutual trust and faithfulness
The Bible says that marriage is honorable among all. (Hebrews 13:4) He means it to be an honorable relationship for both parties. There is no place in God’s heart or plan for mankind for oppression, either on the part of the man or the woman, regardless of what culture or background we come from.
In Proverbs 18:22 we read, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” God blessed the marriage relationship from the beginning (Genesis 1:27-28), and He clearly intended it to be one of mutual trust in and faithfulness to one another. As companions on the way of life, husband and wife can work together as a team, and learn to love one another more and more, so they can grow together in everything that is good. If this is our experience, then we can truthfully say we have a happy marriage, knowing at the same time that what is good can always be better!
And if we are not quite there yet, we have no reason to give up hope. We can have full confidence in God that we can get there! God still loves to create and if we search out and follow His good laws and commandments, He will create new life within us. Then, also in our marriage relationship, we will become a new creation in Christ. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
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You might also be interested in our theme page about Overcoming sin.