Saturday, August 10, 2019

Marriage, A Foretaste of Heaven

The love of a husband and a wife is the force that holds society together. ~ St. John Chrysostom 

Can you define marriage?

It's a task that in the secular, modern West is becoming ever trickier.  For years, everyone agreed that marriage was the union of a man and a woman for life. Enter no-fault divorce laws, and marriage became a union between two people as long as that union suited the couple (and many began writing their own vows) and lasting as long as convenienced them.    In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in every U.S. state.  In 2023, we are beginning to see some recognition for polyamorous relationships (polyamory is the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships, with the consent of all the people involved) and such arrangements as "living apart together", spouses living in separate households. 

So clearly, we are not all on the same page when it comes to what marriage is.

Fortunately for Christians,  the Bible has plenty to say about marriage and how marriages ought to be structured and work.

According to the word of God, marriage is the union between a man and a woman and it turns out that it was God's idea from the very beginning   But to understand the purpose and definition of this unique relationship, we have to take a look at the purpose and definition of man and woman, getting to the very heart of philosophy .  What are we here for and what are we supposed to be doing?  The book of Genesis in the Bible answers these questions.

Man, in the Beginning
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
The Creation of Adam, Michaelangelo Buanorroti

It turns out that marriage was God's idea.  Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives an account in the book of Genesis right at the beginning of the Torah.  Here he tells how the Lord God made the universe, the earth and everything in it, including man, in six days, called it all very good, and then rested on the seventh day.  

Adam, the first man, was literally "formed" from the dust of the earth on the sixth day, the same day as all the land-creeping mammals.  However, Adam was given his own identity and authority separate from the beasts and vegetation.  Unlike the animals, Adam was made after the image and likeness of God:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.... And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  Genesis 1:26-28     
In a real sense, Adam was given his own realm and a mandate to replenish it, order it, and take dominion over it.

In another passage, God literally gives man his own garden, to work and to keep.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Gen. 2:15
 So again we see the idea of taking possession of, authority over, ordering, governing, and making productive the earth. 

God also gives Adam a command:  he must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In this we see that Adam has authority, but he is also subject to God;  he is sovereign but not a tyrant. He must reign under the reign of God:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Gen.2:15-17  
The extent of Adam's rule depended on his obedience to the Lord God.  He is not to rule for his own selfish desires but to glorify God and fulfill His purposes in Creation.  But it turns out that Adam did eventually disobey God's clear instructions by eating from the forbidden tree and in so doing brought on himself a great obstacle to dominion: rebellion, sin and, ultimately, death.

Man defined:  He is made in the image of God, God-like, but made from the earth and so animal-like, too.

Man's purpose: Man is given sovereignty over the earth, subject to the Creator God.  He is given a mandate from God to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth, to bring it to order, to govern it, as well as to work the garden and keep it (Genesis 1:26-28, 2: 15-17).

Woman, in the Beginning

"Adam and Eve", Gustav Klimpt

After creating the world and everything in it in six days, and saying that it is all very good, the Lord God turned to the man and saw that something was not good. Man was alone.
 Adam had named and classified all of the animals and was surrounded by the animals, yet none of them were "fit" or suitable to be the kind of helper he needed to fulfill his mandate from God. 

But the Lord God had a solution and He set about building a woman:  

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. Gen. 2:18-20 

 Instead of forming the woman out of the dust of the earth, as were the animals and Adam, too, God built her from a part of Adam's side: 

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;  she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."Gen. 2:21-23

 When Adam was presented with his new companion he identified their relationship:  she was taken out of his own body, and so he willingly accepted her as part of himself: This is something taken out of me!  He recognized their oneness.  This giving of himself, literally, to create a bride is a foreshadowing of the future Messiah giving of himself to bring about the Church, His bride.  John Calvin explains the parallels:
He [Adam] lost, therefore, one of his ribs; but, instead of it, a far richer reward was granted him, since he obtained a faithful associate of life; for he now saw himself, who had before been imperfect, rendered complete in his wife.  And in this we see a true resemblance of our union with the Son of God; for he became weak that he might have members of his body endued with strength. Source
Adam recognized that this new creation, the woman, was like him, but different.  And as if to memorialize the origin of this amazing creature, Adam, gave his wife his own name:  "Ishah", or woman, wife, female, is a feminine variation of "Ish", or man.  She belongs to him in the most intimate way, and because of this, he also belongs to her.  Like Adam, who exists to glorify God, Eve exists to help her husband in his task and in so doing gives herself to him and to God. Together they glorify God in their self-giving. 

Woman defined:  She is taken from the man, made after the image of God, but different from man.

Eve's purpose:  She is made to  be Adam's "help meet" and companion. (Genesis 2: 18-20)

Marriage, in the Beginning:  one man, one woman, one flesh, one mission
Former GI Ernest Kreiling and his bride overlooking valley where he fought during WWII. April 1947 (Tony Linck)

Adam has his companion and is given instructions on this new and unique relationship with his bride:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Gen. 2:15
The Holy Spirit describes here the bond between a man and his wife as the strongest on earth, stronger even than the natural bond between parent and child. The command to "leave" father and mother and "hold fast" and becoming "one flesh" also illustrates that the man and his wife are to form a new social unit, their own household,  separate from their parents' households.  Their oneness will be extended as they fill the house with children, each child representing his parents' union, one person literally created from two.

Christ referred back to this passage in Genesis when the Jews asked Him about divorce, "Is it permissible to divorce a wife for any cause?"  Jesus answered by going back to the beginning and used the original marriage as his template:

"Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." Matt. 19:4-6 *
Christ went on to say that divorce had been permitted by Moses because of the "hardness" of their hearts.  But in the beginning, divorce was not part of the plan: 
Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you:  whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.   Matt. 19:3-9
Definition of marriage:
Marriage is a permanent bond between one man and one woman that enables them to fulfill man's creation mandate and glorify God.  

Purpose of marriage:
Man and woman are joined together in order provide one another companionship, to bring forth children, establish households, govern and steward the earth.  

And since God authored marriage, it makes sense that we are to look to him for the principles of marriage, which we will be discussing in future posts.

"The Kiss", Gustav Klimpt
Marriage in its original design is a blessing to both men and women. If we study the order given by our Creator and Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, walk in love with one another, we will enjoy sweet harmony and friendship in our marriages.  The husband looks up to his Maker in reverence and the woman is a faithful and suitable helper to him.  Together they build peaceful and productive families, homes, churches and communities that bring flourishing to the earth and glorify God. 

As love grows in you, beauty grows, too. For love is the beauty of the soul.” 
~St. Augustine of Hippo

These last few verses illustrate the destructive effects of divorce, as well as polygamy. Both are corruptions of the original design of marriage. The two shall become one and form an unbreakable bond... not the three, four, five or six shall become one.  Polygamy, like divorce, was not the original design.

Thank you for stopping by!  

May the Lord bless you and make you to be a blessing.


Amy Laurie

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