And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
BIBLICAL ORDER IN MARRIAGE: THE TWO BECOMING ONE FLESH
Recently I presented a paper in my DMin class on what the Bible teaches about order in the marriage partnership. This paper sought to define terms, exposit pertinent scriptures, and provide practical application. It also sought to make the reader aware of how some well intended Christian teachers have complicated the issue. Thus, in a hopes that what I have found and written will benefit you,I am presenting this paper over the next several posts. Should you have questions or comments, you may send them to Perseveringpastor@gmail.com.
It is no longer news that the divorce rate, even among Christian marriages, is indicating failure at an alarming rate.[i] Because of this, it can be assumed, that marriages which have not experienced divorce operate at times under much stress. Few marriages could be considered as being in marital bliss, even among professing Christians. This paper will attempt to look to the biblical order of marriage, pertaining to the rolls of husband and wife. By fulfilling biblical order countless couples could be helped to experience a putting off of strife and putting on the harmony of being united as one flesh. It is believed that biblical marriages can find a joyful accord that glorifies God despite the influences of the world.
Key terms and scriptural elements involved
When we look at marriage within the Bible we need to understand the biblical use of key terms and elemental dynamics as taught in scripture. Understanding these terms and the context in which they are applied will help us with practical application and doctrine today.
Cleaving is one of the most used concepts in marriage ceremonies. It truly gives us insight as to God’s original intention for marriage. God created Adam and Eve unique. This is seen in the biblical descriptions of creation in Genesis chapter 2. Only they were “created in God’s own image,” and proclaimed to be very good. The plants and animals, stars and light were all created by God through speaking. Adam was formed however by God’s hand out of the dust of the earth. Eve was formed by God performing the very first surgery. She was created for the purpose of being a suitable helper for Adam, and as a co-regent. Thus God had brought the two together for the purpose of glorifying Him. In this unity there would be praise unto God. This is considered a “creation ordinance.”
A creation ordinance is; “an appeal to some facet of creation before the fall to support a NT speaker’s or writer’s perspective as equally appropriate in this new age.”[ii] Though God created them male and female, they are complementary not competitive. In the redemption of the world Christ looks to reconcile human relationships. “Human relationship should increasingly reflect God’s original intentions in creation, irrespective of later OT concessions to fallen, human nature.”[iii]
The idea of one flesh is a picture of God’s intention. It carries the idea of intimacy. When Adam and Eve were without sin they could be naked and unashamed. This is apparently part of the one flesh union. Because they had never sinned there was no reason nor opportunity to criticize each other. They were in harmony without comparisons or self-entitlements. Truly this bliss was unhindered, even by the physical.
Through the action of cleaving, the married couple will grow more and more as one flesh. In the progression of daily loving one another, they should seek to become more of one mind. The Greek word sarx is used to describe the physical flesh; yet used in the context of Matthew 19:15, it more reasonably refers to one heart or even possibly spirit. This is evidenced by the account of Matthew 19:15 that; “God is the one who joins marriages together. Humans therefore have no right to separate what God has united.”[iv]
Perhaps the most controversial and misapplied parameter of biblical marriage would be the doctrine of submission. The idea of submission seems to be tied to the respect a wife is to give her husband. Submission is implied right before the illustration of the order of the home. This is by no means a pecking order of superiority, for any such notion is counterbalanced by the love a husband is commanded to provide his wife. She is to be cherished, and sanctified by the husband in a manner of gentleness, not force.
The idea of submission is such that the wife is pictured alongside the husband, following his lead. He in turn is leading in paths of righteousness. This is seen in the Christ and church examples of the New Testament.
A closely related term that needs to be addressed is the respect a wife owes her husband. Throughout the Bible, God demonstrates order over chaos. The respect a wife gives her husband is a reflection of the place a couple gives to God in the home. God has ordained that we respect the authorities that He has placed in position; Romans 13:1, 1 Timothy 2:12.
The idea of covenantal marriage stems from the doctrine of the church being the bride of Christ. We can see the similarities in Ephesians 5 where Paul clearly relates he is talking of the church when he uses marriage terms. As God joins a couple together in what we call “holy matrimony,” we imply in the marriage vows of the Christian that; “a sacred bond between husband and wife before God as witness,” is being created.[v] Malachi 2:14 gives testimony to these implications. “Covenantal language (that is, terms that convey the concept of covenant) in the foundational Genesis narrative may include the reference to the “one-flesh” union between husband and wife in Genesis 2:24.”[vi]
Because a marriage in Christian circumstances is to be considered a covenant, we can better understand God’s command to not be unequally yoked, for believers not to marry an unbeliever, and why several Old Testament passages warned about the people of God mixing with the pagans. The covenant idea is not to be compared in totality with the covenant God makes with man. However, the similarities are strong enough that a picture is created in marriage of Christ’s love for His Bride. The book of Hosea is a clear representation of God’s grace and endurance amidst an adulterous people. The term “adultery” itself gives indications as to breaking covenant. God often describes His people who rebel and worship other gods as being adulterous. This imagery provides serious implications and illustrations for married couples to persevere and forgive.
The idea of covenant implies a sacredness and permanence to the marriage. Scripture indicates that as long as the two are living they are in a relationship that should not be broken.[vii] Covenantal marriage also directly implies a high value on exclusivity in the union. Language such as “What God has joined let no man separate,” “I hate divorce,” “Two becoming one flesh;” all emphasize with strong language that marriage before God is to reflect His exclusivity to His own. Thus, Christian marriages are a covenant lived out before the world to display the character of God. Because it is also “holy matrimony,” following the character and creation of God we see that it is between one man and one woman, neither a homosexual nor a bigamous union. Many scriptures warn against such beliefs. (1 Timothy 1:10, 3, and Titus 1:6, 1 Cor 6:9) It is true that complex marriages did exist in the scriptures, but they were never said to be condoned by God.
The intimacy of marriage gives the ultimate cohesion of relationships. By God’s design the man and woman create a symbiotic union in order to please God through the raising of offspring for His glory. Children see the outward oneness of the mom and dad; this is a first step in their education of who God is.
[i] Stanton, Glenn T. “Fact Checker: Divorce Rate Among Christians”. The Gospel Coalition. (Sept 25, 2012) thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/25/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/(
[ii] Beale, G. K. and Carson, D. A, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 2007. p59.
[iii] Ibid. p59.
[iv] Ibid p59.
[v] Kostenberger, Andreas J., God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundations. Wheaton, Crossway, 2004. p73.
[vi] Ibid. p75.
[vii] Luke 20:35 indicates that in Heaven persons are not given in marriage, and death has translated the marriage to another status.