September 13th–19th marks marriage week in Australia, 2020. In a day when many people are no longer sure about what a marriage is, it seemed a good idea to put down not just what the Bible says marriage is, but why it exists at all.
Marriage sets forth the need for wholeness. Mankind was separated at creation into male and female. To be reunited in marriage was to be made visibly whole. This is the meaning of the one-flesh relationship depicted in intimacy.
It sets forth the coming together of two complementary halves to make one beautiful whole. It establishes the goal of the gospel and writes it into human life. That heaven and earth be united through Christ (Revelation 21:2-3). That we may be one with God, just as God is one (John 17:21).
Second, marriage establishes the primacy of the family. In ancient Israel, a young man was given a full year away from civic duties (such as warfare) so that he could properly care for his new wife and establish a home.
In making this provision, God was indicating the importance of the family. Because family is man’s first social concern, it took precedence over other social obligations.
Third, marriage fulfils the responsibilities attendant on pro-creation.
In nature, procreation is the ordinary outcome of a union between male and female. And so, marriage has arisen in almost every culture throughout history as the institution by which men and women fulfil the responsibilities that come with procreation.
This doesn’t mean that all marriage can, should or will produce children. But, unlike other forms of relationships which try to mimic marriage but are ultimately fruitless, marriage does establish the possibility of fruitfulness in principle.
Historically, cultures that have rejected marriage as the long-term framework for male and female relationships have found themselves rejecting a relentless rule of nature, and for that reason, such societies have crumbled and do not survive. This is because the relationship that marriage creates is grounded in, and sets forth, God’s intended relationship for Himself with humanity.
God does not date his people. He isn’t testing the waters for love. Nor does he shack up with his bride without first establishing a covenant. Dating plays a dangerous and destructive game in which both parties seek to enjoy the blessings of marriage, to the exclusion of all others, without having to make any promises.
Marriage is to be honoured, celebrated and enjoyed. But, given the high value God places on marriage, it is also to be guarded.
For this reason, Christ came into the world and died. To unite Himself to one woman. And for this reason, Jesus laid down His life and rose again. That He might forever live to guard, guide and govern His bride into all joy. That He might present her beautiful, whole, washed, well-fed, content and pure before a watching world.
Marriage won’t, in and of itself, make you whole. But it points to man’s desire for wholeness, a desire that is ultimately satisfied when we are united to God through Jesus.