God designed marriage, during the act of creation, as one way to help reflect His image and glorify Himself. Although not everyone is called to be married1, for those that are, marriage is a unique calling to a lifelong covenant relationship between one man, one woman, and God2. God recognized it was not good for man to be alone and as a result, He formed the woman from man. God presided over the first marriage, by presenting Eve as the first bride, to her husband Adam3. In the covenant of marriage, God is joining a man to his wife, and they become one flesh4.
Not only are man and woman created in the image of God5, they are both co-heirs of the grace demonstrated through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ6. As a result, they are equal in value in God’s eyes, yet have been uniquely designed to fulfill different roles within a marriage. A husband is called to sacrificially love his wife, as Christ loved the church, sanctifying her in the word and putting her needs above his own. A wife is called to respectfully submit to the servant leadership of her husband, as she ultimately serves the Lord7. As husbands and wives walk in these uniquely created roles, they glorify God and reflect the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church to the world around them8.
We are bombarded with messages every day from our culture about what love is and how we should follow our hearts in relationships, dating, and who we ultimately seek to marry. The emphasis is on compatibility, attraction, and emotion, and if these components are present then a couple is assured that they are made for each other. Unfortunately, just because a couple is free to marry, according to state and local laws, and meets the culture’s standard of being in love, it may not be prudent for them to marry. God’s Word tells us to look beyond emotion and the world’s definition of compatible. Christians are called to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.9” This paints the picture of two animals being yoked together in the context of pulling a load or plowing a field. If a bull and a mule are yoked together, their two different designs and strengths will result in an unbalanced load and difficulty keeping things moving in the right direction. The verse continues on to ask, “what fellowship has the light with darkness?” No matter our beliefs, we all choose to follow something in our lives. As Christians, we devote our lives to following Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. An unbeliever may be a “good” person, but the guiding force in their life is going to be something other than Jesus. Since marriage is a covenant relationship between a man, a woman, and God, it is also not feasible to join in covenant with someone who does not recognize the authority of God to bind the couple together and sustain them in their marriage. As a result of God’s clear instructions in His word, a Christian should not seek to enter into a marriage relationship with someone who is not also a believer. The best way for a couple to explore their biblical compatibility to marry and lay a solid foundation for a lifetime together is by seeking Godly premarital counseling.
Often times, churches work so hard to speak to the calling and ministry of marriage that Christians who are single can begin to wonder if deep down, God wishes everyone was married. Not only that, but how we understand God’s command to Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,10” in the garden also can lead to single Christians wondering if they are somehow disobeying God’s original command as well as lead married Christians to a sense of self-righteousness, though not in a marriage in line with the Gospel. But Jesus is clear that there can be an equal call to God-glorifying singleness in the New Covenant as there is to marriage11. Not only that, but Jesus makes statements to the Sadducees that marriage is an earthly institution that is not necessarily reflected in the post-resurrection Kingdom of God12. In the Garden of Eden, physical reproduction and spiritual reproduction were one in the same. Had Adam and Eve not sinned in the garden, their children would have been born children of God, in an intimate relationship with Him. But under the fall, humans must be born physically and born “again” spiritually13. Therefore, Jesus, “the new Adam,” commands his disciples to be fruitful and multiply by making disciples of those who have been physically born, but not spiritually born again. Under this command, there is plenty of room for single people to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth with people who reflect the full image of God on the earth. In fact, Paul references the reality that the ministry of marriage can actually be a distraction at times to the calling to fill the earth with disciples. And although he believes in the ministry of marriage14 he expresses his joy in being free to make disciples unhindered by the competing ministry of marriage and wishes that everyone could experience that freedom as well15. Marriage is a calling that honors God. Singleness is a calling that honors God. Neither is preferred. Neither is better or worse. Both can spiritually multiply. Both can fill the earth with people who fully reflect the image of God. As such, there is no position in the church that should have marriage as a requirement attached to it, and those living in line with the Gospel should celebrate people called to singleness every bit as much as those called to be married.
The issue of “same-sex marriage” is one of the most emotionally charged and divisive issues facing our country and the Christian church. Too often the Christian church in America has been unloving in its words to the homosexual community. Moreover, heterosexual Christians have often been hypocritical, proclaiming the sanctity of marriage to homosexuals yet simultaneously divorcing their spouses at the same rate as non-believers. For these sins, we in the church must repent and cry out to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we must also affirm that it is not for any person – Christian, non-Christian, straight person, homosexual or any government official – to define what marriage is and who may marry. Since marriage is from God, He alone defines it.
The primary argument made in favor of “homosexual marriage” is that someone should be allowed to marry whomever they say they love. This view actually makes sense if marriage is about us and what we want. But while marriage is for us, it is not primarily about us or what we want. God created marriage for His purposes and throughout Scripture, He imposes boundaries on sex and marriage that run counter to the will of the prevailing culture, be it the Roman Empire of the 1st century or the U.S. in the 21st century16. Because God is the sovereign creator of marriage, it would be the ultimate act of pride for us to redefine what He made17. Therefore, we live in glad submission to what Jesus Christ himself taught about marriage: “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.”18 Clearly, this means that marriage is between a man and a woman in a lifelong, covenantal relationship.
As we engage with the homosexual community on the issue of marriage and other issues, we pray that our Lord will grace us with a spirit of humility as ambassadors of the Gospel through whom God is making His appeal to reconcile a broken world unto himself.
About 60% of married couples live together before they get married. Many people justify their choice to cohabitate based on finances, lifestyle choices, and the view that they are “committed” to one another. But the marriage covenant, not cohabitation, is God’s perfect plan for men and women to physically, emotionally, and spiritually relate to one another.
Marriage is an irrevocable, lifelong promise between a man and a woman and to God that they will “hold fast to” one another19 in dependence on God’s sustaining grace and in spite of the difficulties of the relationship. The marriage covenant symbolizes God’s covenant-keeping relationship with us, that He is faithful to us in spite of what it costs Him20. Cohabitation dishonors God’s plans for man and woman by seeking the transitory benefits of marriage (economic, sexual) apart from its covenantal obligations. This makes the desires of the man and woman the center of the relationship, not God’s glory. Cohabitation also creates an environment of ongoing temptation for (if not actual) adulterous sexual union. This, too, dishonors God and distorts the role of sex from God’s intended purposes.
1 1 Corinthians 7:6-9; 2 Matthew 19:4-6 ; 3 Genesis 2:18-25; 4 Genesis 2:24; 5 Genesis 1:26-27; 6 1 Peter 3:7; 7 Ephesians 5:22-30; 8 Ephesians 5:31-33; 9 2 Corinthians 6:14-16; 10 Genesis 1:28; 11 Matthew 19:11-12; 12 Matthew 22:29-32; 13 John 3:1-15; 14 Ephesians 5:22-33; 15 1 Corinthians 7:28-32; 16 Matthew 19:7-9, 1 Corinthians 6:18; 17 Isaiah 55:8; 18 Matthew 19:4-6; 19 Genesis 2:24, Matthew19:6; 20 Ephesians 5:22-23