Knowing the divine ideal for marriage, and aware that marriage and the family are divine institutions, we are now able to move from God’s creation of man and woman and his institution of marriage to the Fall of humanity and its negative consequences on the marriage relationship.
As a study of biblical history shows, humanity’s rebellion against the Creator’s purposes led to at least the following six negative consequences:
- (1) polygamy;
- (2) divorce;
- (3) adultery;
- (4) homosexuality;
- (5) sterility; and
- (6) gender role confusion.
- The first shortcoming, polygamy—more specifically, polygyny, marrying multiple wives—violates God’s instituted pattern of marital monogamy.
- While it was certainly within God’s prerogative and power to make more than one wife for the man, God only made Eve.
- Yet within six generations after the fall of humanity, barely after Adam had died, Lamech took two wives (Genesis 4:19).
- Later, prominent men in Israel’s history such as Abraham, Esau, Jacob, Gideon, Elkanah, David, Solomon, and others engaged in polygamy.
- However, not only did polygamous marriage fall short of God’s original design, it regularly resulted in disruptive favoritism, jealousy between competing wives, and decline into idolatry.
- The second compromise of God’s ideal for marriage was divorce, which disrupted the permanence of marriage.
- While divorce became so common that it had to be regulated in the Mosaic code (Deuteronomy 24:1–4), the Bible makes clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).
- Divorce is also used repeatedly as an analogy for spiritual apostasy (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8).
- A third shortcoming was adultery, the breaking of one’s marriage vows. The Decalogue stipulates explicitly, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18).
- An egregious case of adultery was David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). In cases such as these, the principle of marital fidelity to one’s marriage partner was compromised.
- The Book of Proverbs calls adultery both foolish and dangerous (e.g. Proverbs 2:16–19; 5:3–22; 6:32–33; 7:5–23; 9:13–18). In
- the Old Testament, adultery is frequently used as an analogy to depict the spiritual unfaithfulness of God’s people Israel (Jeremiah 3:8–9; Ezekiel 16:32, 38; Hosea 1:1–3:5).
- Homosexuality, fourth, marks another falling away from God’s creation purposes in that it violates the divine will for marriage to be between one man and one woman.
- As Genesis 2:24 stipulates, “A man [masculine] shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife [feminine], and the two shall become one flesh.”
- Heterosexuality is the only possible arrangement for marriage, as the Creator has commanded and expects married couples to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
- Since homosexuality involves same-sex intercourse that cannot lead to procreation, it is unnatural and cannot logically entail the possibility of marriage.
- The fifth shortcoming of God’s ideal for marriage is sterility, which falls short of the fertility desired by the Creator.
- Fertility is implicit in the biblical reference to the “one flesh” union.
- At times, lack of fertility is said in the Old Testament to be the result of personal sin (Genesis 20:17–18; 2 Samuel 6:23), while on other occasions sterility is presented as a simple fact of (fallen) nature (Genesis 11:30; 25:21; 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:2).
- However, God is often shown to answer prayers for fertility offered by his people in faith (e.g. 1 Samuel 1:9–20).
- Gender role confusion is a sixth and final result of humanity’s rebellion against the Creator.
- Where God’s design for man and woman to be distinct yet complementary partners in procreation and stewardship of God’s earth is diluted, people will inexorably be confused about what it means to be masculine or feminine, and the lines between the two sexes made by God will increasingly be blurred.
The Restoration of God’s Original Design for Marriage and the Family in Christ
- The New Testament teaches that the restoration of God’s original design for marriage in Christ is part of God’s realignment of all things under Christ’s authority and lordship.
- In the book of Ephesians, we read that it is God’s purpose “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10, NIV).
- Thus marriage is not an end in itself but part of God’s end-time restoration of all things in the person of Jesus Christ.
- Part of this restoration is that all evil powers are brought under control and are submitted to the supreme authority of Christ (Ephesians 1:21–22).
- Later on in the same letter, Paul addresses the subject of marriage in general, and marital roles in particular, within the larger context of believers needing to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
The Biblical Pattern for Marriage?
- This is best seen in a close study of the pre-eminent passage on marital roles in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:21–33.
- In this passage, instructions are given to both husbands and wives in form of a “house table,” which features commands given first to the person under authority followed by instructions for the person in a position of authority.
- In keeping with this pattern, the passage addresses first wives, then husbands (Ephesians 5:22–33); first children, then parents (Ephesians 6:1–4); and first slaves, and then masters (Ephesians 6:5–9; similar “house tables” are also found in Colossians 3:18–4:1 and 1 Peter 2:11–3:7).
- Wives, for their part, are called to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord. As the church submits to Christ, so wives should to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:21–24).
- Husbands, in turn, are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. They are to provide for their wives both physically and spiritually and to cherish them as God’s special provision for them (Ephesians 5:25–30).
As Christian husbands and wives live out these marital roles, God’s original creation design for marriage will be fulfilled once again: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31, citing Genesis 2:24).
- As mentioned, this pattern of headship and submission is placed within the larger context of Christ’s headship over all other powers, which Paul addressed at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 1:10, 20–23).
Paul returns to this subject at the end of his epistle where he urges all Christians—including husbands and wives, parents and children—to put on the “whole armor of God” so they can stand against the devil (Ephesians 6:10; for the various pieces in this spiritual “armor,” see Ephesians 6:14–18).
- In this warfare, believers’ struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil supernatural (Ephesians 6:12).
- Armed with truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and God’s word, they will be able to stand firm and resist the devil “in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13).
- The reality of the power of Satan and his forces explains at least in part why there is so much conflict in many marriages and families today.
- It also helps account for the widespread nature of divorce and the massive assault on marriage as an institution in our contemporary culture.