What is Marriage, anyway?

Maggie & James wedding photo by Sean McGrath

Maggie & James wedding photo by Sean McGrath

One problem with discussions of “marriage” today is that people can’t agree on what that word means, usually because they disagree with God’s idea of what Marriage is. There are those who promote all kinds of relationships as being equivalent to marriage. Why? Probably because they want the tax and insurance benefits of civil marriage without a real marriage, or because they wish to mock God and his people. Or maybe it is a vain attempt to get rid of the guilt associated with those forms of sin that are destroy true marriage.

I believe that the Holy Bible is a totally relevant book that reveals God’s plan for mankind, so I’ll start looking there.

“Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.”—Genesis 1:24

This again you do: you cover Yahweh’s altar with tears, with weeping, and with sighing, because he doesn’t regard the offering any more, neither receives it with good will at your hand. Yet you say, ‘Why?’ Because Yahweh has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion, and the wife of your covenant. Did he not make you one, although he had the residue of the Spirit? Why one? He sought godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce”, says Yahweh, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with violence!” says Yahweh of Armies. “Therefore pay attention to your spirit, that you don’t be unfaithful.”—Malachi 2:13-16

“Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’ So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.”—Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. He who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”—Jesus in Luke 16:18

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled; but God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.—Hebrews 13:4

Now concerning the things about which you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband give his wife the affection owed her,* and likewise also the wife her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife. Don’t deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment. Yet I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. But if they don’t have self-control, let them marry. For it’s better to marry than to burn. But to the married I command—not I, but the Lord—that the wife not leave her husband (but if she departs, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband not leave his wife.
But to the rest I—not the Lord—say, if any brother has an unbelieving wife, and she is content to live with him, let him not leave her. The woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he is content to live with her, let her not leave her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbeliever departs, let there be separation. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us in peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has distributed to each man, as God has called each, so let him walk. So I command in all the assemblies.—1 Corinthians 7:1-17
There is more in the Holy Bible, but this should help you start to see that:
  • Marriage is between a man and a woman.
  • Marriage is instituted by God, and it is He who joins the couple together.
  • Marriage is a life-long covenant.
  • Marriage is a place to conceive and nurture godly children.
  • Marriage is the only proper context for sexual unions.
  • Marriage is not something to be entered into lightly, and certainly not something to terminate at will.
  • Marriage involves love, respect, and commitment.

So what does government have to do with God’s definition of marriage? I have read the Holy Bible cover-to-cover many times, and I can’t find any link, there. That is just a legal and cultural aspect of marriage that varies from place to place and time to time. God’s definition of marriage remains. No human legislature, court, or vote can change it.


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