August 22, 2017

A Biblical Perspective of Marriage

Dave Pennington

In a day when the definition of marriage is debated, one has to determine what constitutes a marriage. Can a marriage occur between two women or two men? Is it really necessary for people to marry? Why can’t they just live together? What is a marriage anyway?

If someone asked a group of people to share their opinions regarding the subject of marriage, he would likely receive almost as many opinions as the number of people he asks. People primarily base their opinions upon their experiences or feelings. This article, however, seeks to discern what the Bible teaches regarding the subject of marriage. Not everyone will agree with its teachings. But no human has the authority to alter its teachings. Mankind can only receive or reject what God teaches in the Bible.

Origin of Marriage

The first recorded marriage occurred between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. After creating man, God concluded it was not good for Adam to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So He made from man a woman (Gen. 2:21-23). He brought Adam and Eve together, and they became “one flesh” (Gen. 2:23-24). Notice God brought Adam, a male, and Eve, a female, together. In doing so, the Lord revealed His plan for mankind. Obviously, He could have created another male for Adam. However, He did not do so. He chose to create a woman to be a helpmate to Adam. Eve became Adam’s completer. Neil T. Anderson and Charles Mylander write, “The woman is honored by the acknowledgement that the man is incomplete without her. In humility, the woman acknowledges that she was made for man. In humility, the man acknowledges that he is incomplete without the woman. Both share an equal dignity, honor and worth because of their created purpose; both share a common humility and honor before God and each other. Each is necessary for the completion of the other. Both absolutely need God, and both necessarily need each other. They are created to live in an interdependent relationship with each other, and a mutually dependent relationship with God” (The Christ Centered Marriage, p. 25).

Definition of Marriage

How one defines marriage has become increasingly important in today’s culture, primarily because there are those in today’s culture who seek to alter what constitutes a marriage. Within the last year, numerous women desiring to “marry” women and men desiring to “marry” men have said their vows to each other, declaring to the world that they are “married.” Because of the aggressiveness of the homosexual community, there may be a day in America when such “marriages” are nationally recognized. But one must ask himself, will God ever recognize such “marriages”? Not according to the Bible. Asimple, honest evaluation of the Bible clearly reveals that God defines a marriage as the uniting of one man with one woman. Marriage is actually a covenant with God and to each other to give oneself without reserve to his or her spouse. No where in the Bible does God allow or encourage a woman to marry another woman or a man to marry another man. In fact, one finds numerous passages where such behavior is condemned. For example, one classic passage in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans describes homosexual passion as that which is unnatural and the result of mankind’s rejection of God (Rom. 1:27). The Bible also addresses the subject of fornication. While the term “fornication” is a broad term that prohibits a number of sexual sins, it certainly prohibits men and women living together without being married. First Thessalonians 4:3 reads, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” The Bible also prohibits adultery. Although adultery has become an acceptable sin in today’s culture, the Word of God is very clear about God’s disapproval of such wickedness. Hebrews 13:4 reads, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Unfortunately, mankind chooses to reject God’s revelation about marriage. Some in society seek to rid themselves of God’s constraints and force today’s culture to accept their sinful desires as a societal normative. Sadly, such individuals label those who seek to follow God’s divine plan for marriage as divisive, unloving, bigoted, and even hateful. Yet, to reject God’s Word is to violate His very character or nature. He is “holy,” and He desires for all who call upon His name to be “holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). How should God’s people respond to the emphasis of their contemporary culture? Should they accept the “marriage” of two males or two females? Should they accept fornication and adultery as a cultural normative? Not if they seek to please God. The immoral homosexual and heterosexual communities must understand that believers do not make the “rules,” they simply obey them. The immoral community’s animosity towards those who reject homosexual “marriages” or adulterous relationships is misdirected. It should be aimed at God. After all, He makes the “rules.”

Believers who disagree with society’s immorality, however, should have compassion toward those who seek to find happiness in relationships that displease God. After all, such happiness is illusive. The only hope for any man or woman is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and obedience to God’s divine revelation, the Bible.

Permanence of Marriage

From the beginning, God’s intentions were for one man to marry one woman for life. Their marriage forms a human picture of Christ’s relationship with His church (Eph. 5:32). Mankind has distorted this picture through divorce. While there are times when spouses are unfaithful and even abusive, most divorces occur because people are selfish and unforgiving. Difficulties develop between a husband and a wife, and one if not both members of the marriage choose to sever their marital relationship in divorce. In fact, many people in today’s culture have been married multiple times. Sadly, divorce rates have skyrocketed among the saved and unsaved alike. People often enter into new marital relationships without ever truly resolving past difficulties. No wonder their new marriages often end up in a divorce court. There is little forgiveness, and reconciliation is rarely even considered.

Insights on Marriage

Throughout the Bible God provides numerous insights for developing a “one-flesh” relationship. One of the most important insights concerns the need for a husband and a wife to leave their parental ties in order to form a new marital unit (Gen. 2:24). It is not coincidental that the Lord provides this insight in connection with the first marriage. Interestingly, neither Adam nor Eve had parents. Yet, in anticipation of future concerns, God gives very specific instruction regarding the need for couples to “leave and cleave.” Upon marriage, the focus of the man and the woman must shift from their personal family to their new marital unit. Their focus must be upon each other, even when children enter the home. Marriage is a lifelong commitment to each other. Nothing should create a breach between a husband and his wife.

A second major insight involves the role God gives to each marriage partner. For example, God has declared man as the “head” of his home (Eph. 5:23). Headship never included unchecked authority or dictatorial power. Every man has numerous authorities: civil, religious, and divine. However, someone has to direct the family. God has chosen for man to do so. Sadly, many men fail to fulfill this important responsibility in their homes. Some men focus upon indulging their children and wives rather than leading them in the ways of the Lord. In contrast, God has given a wife the role of supporting her husband’s leadership. Her support includes having input into marital or family decisions. In fact, a wise husband will greatly involve his wife in decisions regularly. Remember, she is his completer. She brings a perspective to their relationship that he will often overlook. They are a team, but each team member has a specific role.

A third insight concerns responsibilities. A husband has responsibility to love, protect, and provide for his wife. His love is to be sacrificial (Eph. 5:25, 28). He is to unselfishly give himself to his wife. He is to protect her. Such protection includes physical, emotional, and spiritual protection. Certainly, this does not mean she is inept or incapable of caring for herself. However, when God provides a husband for a woman she should rejoice in God’s protective design. Such protection should not be rejected or resented. She should rejoice in the care God provides for her through marriage. A husband should also provide for his wife and family. Such provision has become more difficult in today’s society. Many wives work outside the home to meet the financial demands of life. A husband is wise to realize that women who work outside the home really have two “jobs.” Managing a home is really a “fulltime” job that can be easily overlooked. In contrast, God has given some specific responsibilities to the wife. God asks her to support and respect her husband. Supporting him includes the place of honor she gives him in her life and their home. She is to exercise respect towards her husband, even though at times he may not deserve such respect.

God has a perspective on marriage that He clearly communicates in the Bible. Cultures may change, opinions may vary, but individuals who honestly research what God’s Word teaches regarding marriage will come away with a clear understanding of God’s ways. The real issue in today’s culture does not center in understanding what God teaches about marriage. It centers in man’s willingness to obey God’s teachings. With today’s culture constantly bombarding them with unbiblical thinking and practices, pastors need to commit themselves afresh to study and teach God’s perspective on marriage.


Dr. Dave Pennington is the pastor of Community Baptist Church in South Bend, Indiana.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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