Monday, November 14, 2011

What is Marriage?

What is Marriage All About?

In a nutshell, the purpose of marriage is to reflect who God is in human relationships and to depict the gospel in action. This spiritual aspect of marriage transcends what appears merely to be a couple falling in love, reciting vows and signing a piece of paper. To really understand the definition of marriage, one would need to refer to Genesis, the book of beginnings in the Bible, to discover the Creator's original intent.

What is Marriage All About?

photos by Dianne Smith & Earl McHugh
Marriage is not a human invention but a divinely inspired plan to help people understand some complex spiritual truths. First of all, Genesis 1:27 says mankind is created, male and female, in the image of the Triune God, who is comprised of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons unified in one. So how is the Trinity reflected in human beings, specifically through the institution of marriage?

The three roles in the family unit, that of husband, wife and children, reflect the roles within the Godhead. I Corinthians 11:3 says, "the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." Like the Heavenly Father, the husband has authority, and like the Son who submits to the Father's will, wives are admonished to submit to their husbands (Philippians 2:5-8, KJV). When children are born, they are the fruit of the marriage and reflect the role of the Holy Spirit as He follows through with the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:9).

The marriage union is a bond made of the strongest glue, sealed by a solemn vow and a covenant for life. Both partners are to leave their parents and "cleave" to each other. Their relationship takes precedence over all others, and no one should divide it asunder (Matt. 16:6). It will only end by the death of one of the spouses because, according to Jesus (Mark 12:24-25), there is no marriage in heaven since everyone will be like the angels. Divorce is also specifically rebuked by Him, justified only when there has been adultery.
Ephesians chapter five is the most comprehensive passage in the Bible concerning marriage, beginning with the opening statement, "submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God (v. 21)." The husband is the leader in the couple and the wife is to defer to his position of authority. She must respect her man, but he is then commanded to love her as he loves his own body. "He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it (v. 28-29)."

Other texts regarding marriage (I Cor. 7:1-2, 8-9) indicate singlehood is possibly a preferred state to marriage. Because married persons are rightly concerned with the needs of their spouses, they are distracted from giving their undivided attention to the Lord. However, to prevent immorality, Paul says, "Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." Most people do eventually marry despite the New Testament's high regard for remaining single.

Christ's Relationship to the Church

The other purpose of marriage is to glorify God by demonstrating the gospel, as seen through the way spouses treat one another. Thus marriage is a vehicle for people to learn the profound love of Jesus Christ, who paid the most expensive bride price ever by dying on the cross for her sins. His free gift of salvation was very costly, and is an example for all husbands to follow. No wife deserves such a price, but the groom unselfishly paid it anyway. Jesus is every husband's role model, showing how to sacrificially serve his wife, not because she is worthy, but because of agape love. "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32)," wrote Paul about this spiritual aspect of marriage.

Contrary to contemporary thought, the primary purpose of marriage is not romance, worshipping a partner or even personal happiness. Of course, a healthy marriage would involve sex, romantic love and physical attraction, but relationships will still have their highs and lows. Romance and happy feelings are wonderful but fleeting, and cannot always be depended on. When one partner becomes unhappy, it is not a loophole for throwing away a spouse, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the gospel. Choose your love, but once the wedding is over, love your choice.

Every culture provides rules and mores for marriage, but those based on mere human understanding will be flawed. When individuals assume the transient values and belief systems of their day, especially when it involves something as critical as the definition of marriage, they will surely be disappointed with the results. A car owner wouldn't consider filling the gas tank with tomato juice or driving his tires over nails. He knows the car is a machine and what it needs to function properly, and doing anything contrary to its design will ruin the automobile. Even so, marriage is designed to work optimally when Christ is at its center. When a husband and wife reenact the gospel through their behavior with one another, their union is a blessing to themselves and to all who are watching from the sidelines.

Read more:


Kwon, Ryan. (November 6, 2011). Marriage - Reenactment of the Gospel. In Sermons. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from

Holy Bible. Authorized King James Version. Ed. C.I. Scofield. New Scofield Reference Edition. New York: Oxford UP, 1967.

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