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Why Marry: Theological Foundations

Premarital Texts Index
Date: JAN-1999
Source: Premise - Vol. VI, No. 1
Posted: JUL-04-01

by David W. Hall

Recently, we attended a wedding, and it was a strong reminder of something very important both to Christians and to society. Although some people believe that marriage is part of nature and established by common law, I take slight exception to that idea. Hereís what I mean. It was clear to me that this wedding bore the tincture of holiness; this was not merely another civic ceremony.

Sure there is some part of this that is evidenced by nature. However, marriage as we know it is a distinctively and radically Christian institution.

1. It is decidedly Christological in thrust. Cf. Eph. 5

I want to share parts of two superb studies with you today; and also look at Scripture--as I deviate from my normal sermonic form.

2. Godís intention for marriage: From Gen. 2

Following Godís creation, Adam is alone, and designated to categorize/name the animals. As they pass before Adam, he names them, and in the process also realizes that he is alone as a member of a unique species. There is no one like him in skeletal structure, in skin, in upright posture, with linguistic ability, or with the mental capability to categorize. God, who had planned all along to create females, then declares that the time has come with: "It is not good for man to be alone."

God then puts Adam to sleep and creates Eve from his rib. That, of course, has never since been duplicated and it is miraculous in its very nature. Upon awaking, Adam views Eve for the first time. He is amazed at her beauty and similarity to him. He exclaims, "Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called Eve." He now realizes that God has made a helper that matches his form and nature. God, at this early pre-social stage, is both Creator and Provider.

Then follows in Gen. 2:24-25, the words that are repeated in the NT: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.

That verse describes three God-defined, constituent parts of marriage. First, it involves a leaving from the childís home. We have a continuing obligation to honor our fathers and mothers, but after marriage things are different. For a young man or a young woman, marriage symbolizes that he/she loves and depends on the spouse more than the parents. Now if a person has been reared in a good home, that is a powerful compliment to another person. To love a young man better than the dad who has nurtured and provided and taught and guided a girl for [25-35] years is a high compliment that can only come after much proving, and after character has been thoroughly tested. Conversely, for a young man to find a woman who is an improvement over mom, a woman who is strong, kind, spiritual, and faithful is a true find. To leave our father and mother is not to ignore them; it is merely the normal plan of God, but it signifies a large and irreversible change in lifestyle.

Second, the marriage means that the two spouses will turn toward one another, and cling to one another. This refers to emotional mutual dependence, and it indicates that a couple shares values, has common goals, enjoys a friendship, and desires to be together. Best friends cling to one another. Some romantic relationships donít inspire that. A good friendship does.

The third aspect is a physical union. They become one flesh, and are capable of reproduction. All of this is Godís plan.

God has designed marriage with, at least, these three goals in mind. To some degree, we can already answer the "Why question" for marriage as follows:

Why Marry? Because God plans it to be the center of nurture which gradually displaces parental nurture. It is to be the stable center for friendship and confidentiality, and it is the place for sexuality and propagation of our children. All the while, it also contains a picture of Christ and his relationship to the church.

But there is another passage I also want you to consider, cf. Malachi 2: To produce a godly seed. This passage located at the last flurry of the OT is often overlooked but is very important. The context is this: It is about 440 BC. The Greek dominance is just beginning. Famous Greek philosophers and historians are about to be introduced to the worldís stage. The Jewish civilization has peaked, and following the return from Babylon, Israel will fight internal apostasy and external oppression the rest of her days.

Of the twin evils, the most threatening one was deterioration from within. There were several aspects that haunted Israel. One was idolatry; every time her morality collapsed there was a flirtation with idolatry or false religion. Coincidence for a thousand years? Hardly.

Israel also tried to cheat God by offering poor sacrifices for worship. She avoided serving him and giving as she should. The Book of Malachi also reveals that she presumptively thought that she was immune from Godís judgment because of her heritage. She presumed a favored standing with God, even while she was immoral and irreligious. She also had a high divorce rate. Some people wrongly think--mainly due to shocking facts--that a high divorce rate is new. Unfortunately, that temptation has been around for a long time--always with mammoth personal and societal consequence.

In the 2nd chapter of Malachi, the Lord speaking through his prophet rebukes the Israelites for coming to church, crying and wailing, complaining that God no longer seems to answer their prayers. The problem was that they came to the altar, without repentance, and wanted blessing. It wonít work to act as if God doesnít know your interior life. To come to church with weeping, while also studiously clinging to sin begs for Godís rebuke.

Then, with all the amazement of a child who does not get its way, Israel asks, How in the world could God not give us what we want? How could this happen to us, the favored few? God answers in v. 14 with this: "It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (2:14)

Then Malachi poses a question: "Has not the Lord made them one?"--a clear reference back to Genesis 2 and the unchanging divine purpose for marriage. He continues: "In flesh and spirit they are his. And why [made] one? Because he was seeking a godly offspring." That is another reason why marriage exists: So that believers will be united and raise godly offspring. God has entrusted to the home, the privilege of bearing and raising the next generation of believers.

The remedy: "So guard yourself in spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." We are to protect our inner life, and resist that sin that tempts us, and keep faith with our spouses.

God has ordained a special role for the believing family. Part of its calling is to raise godly offspring.


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