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What Is Marriage?

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It appears that in recent years, the concept or meaning of marriage has changed. The marriage rate has declined, and more and more couples are living together without being married. And the divorce rate continues to be in large numbers. So, what’s marriage all about, anyway?


We can go back many centuries and read about the beginning or invention of marriage in a book called the Bible. There we can go back to the book of Genesis and read what God did.


“Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18-24

It is obvious from this passage that God intended for man and woman to be joined together as companions and helpmates. Note what Adam Clarke’s Commentary says about “one flesh:” “And they shall be one flesh.” These words may be understood in a twofold sense.  1. These two shall be one flesh, shall be considered as one body, having no separate or independent rights, privileges, cares, concerns, &c., each being equally interested in all things that concern the marriage state.  2. These two shall be to produce one flesh; from their union a posterity shall spring, as exactly resembling themselves as they do each other.  Our Lord quotes these words, Mt 19:5, with some variation from this text: They TWAIN shall be one flesh.”


Evidently God put sexual desire in mankind for at least two purposes. (1) It is intended to bring pleasure to man and wife, and (2) it is obviously intended to bring children into the world. The phrase “one flesh” is quoted by Christ in Matthew 19:5, and by Paul in Ephesians 5:31.


And it is obvious that God intended for this relationship to be a permanent commitment so long as they should live. Notice Christ’s words in Matthew 5:31-32: “It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”


In this marriage relationship, God has given leadership to the husband. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:22-25)


But this is not a “master-slave” relationship, but one that is built on love and concern for one another. Note how husbands are to treat their wives. “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)


If a woman submits to her husband’s leadership, and the husband shows his wife honor and is willing to make sacrifices for her, as Christ did for the church, then the marriage relationship should thrive.


Now, this marriage relationship God has given, is not only good for man and woman, but it is also good for society. As we look about in our nation, we are seeing the results of what happens when God’s plan for us is not respected. When I bought my automobile, the “Owner’s Manual” came with it. That book gives me instructions as to how to get good service and long life out of my investment. But if I ignore the information about oil changes, transmission service, etc., what can I expect? I’m going to have problems and the car probably won’t last very long.


And the same goes with marriage’s “Owner’s Manual,” the Bible. As my car’s manufacturer knows more about my car than I do, so our “manufacturer,” God, knows more about his creation and what’s good for us than we do. Therefore, it only makes good sense to follow the manuals, whether for the car or for marriage. 

One source I have read says that the divorce rate in the United States is around 50%. Some say the divorce rate is decreasing. We might say that is good, except for the fact that a reason for the decrease may be because so many are living together outside of marriage. Thus, when they “split up,” they don’t have to go to court and get a divorce. 

As we consider our nation, the United States, today, who can disagree that we are on a steep downward trend? Crime and violence are increasing, the murder rate in some cities is increasing in great numbers, living together outside of marriage is wide-spread, and this contributes to the vast number of abortions which number about 1,000,000 a year. 

In a recent year, some 1,500,000 babies were born out of wedlock. So, combining this with abortions, we have some 2,500,000 babies conceived each year in violation of God’s design. And what do the unwed birth’s produce? In many cases, the child is raised by a single mom, and there is no male presence to provide an example and guidance for the child. The boys don’t have a role model to show them what a real man is about, and the girls don’t have a male to give them affection and love. Many boys grow up to be criminals, and many girls become sexually promiscuous because they don’t have love from their fathers. 

One of our granddaughters, Rosie Stinson, works with the Papillion Center, an organization that works with troubled young people. At a dinner sponsored by this group, many sad figures were made known concerning children. Some 25% suffer from some sexual abuse, 16% suffer from some other sort of trauma, 25% contemplate suicide, and there is a 25% increase in anxiety and depression in recent years. So, as Biblical values of marriage decrease, problems increase.


Since my car maker knows how to get the best service out of my car, so our maker, God, knows how we can get the best out of his creation—man, woman, marriage, family, etc. Common sense tells us that things will go well if we follow the “Owner’s Manual. 

Jefferson David Tant 

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