Marriage is undeniably scrutinized and is usually a common topic of debate. Its history bears several philosophical, theological, and secular roots. Marriage is vastly viewed, and many place a superficial value on its meaning entirely, while others recognize its sacredness and rightfully identify it as a gift from God. Marriage is often misunderstood, and when removed from its original birth place, the Scriptures, it can be constructed into something it was never created to be. Cultural views, beliefs, understandings, and experiences greatly impact how marriage is reverenced. Marriage is quickly losing its divine nature in today’s world, which dejectedly parallels its future destiny. Will marriage become a secular ritual and completely lose its sacred roots? As believers, our mission should encompass the protection of this holy union. Not only should we inform the world of its significance, but we should likewise model it in the way it was originally fashioned by Christ.
History of Marriage in the Church
It is important to understand that marriage was never something created by humankind, but rather it is something that was simply redefined in an attempt to solve the inherent problem of reconciling secular and carnal sexual relations with the holy and sanctified state of unity. Marriage was breathed by God Himself. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper that is just right for him.” So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and He brought her to the man. “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called woman, because she was taken from man!” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
In the early church and early cultures, marriage was taken very seriously. When a man and a woman joined together in unity, it was expected that the holy matrimony included, ‘until death do us part’. Forbidding divorce, Pope Gregory concluded: If they say that marriage ought to be dissolved for the sake of religion, it should be understood that even if human law allows this, the divine law nevertheless forbids it, for the Truth itself says; “What God has joined, man may not separate” [Matt. 19:6]; and it also says: “A man cannot divorce his wife, except on the ground of fornication” [Matt. 19:9]. Who would contradict the heavenly legislator?
Historically, marriage was recognized as a partnership and aside from fornication, divorce was forbidden. The understanding that marriage is part of the original creation was well received by the celestial world. The secular nation was responsible for the ruling over humanistic law, but Christ was given the authority over divine law. Additionally, rebellion against this holy union was intolerable, and consequences were rightly permitted. Though marriage has repeatedly endured false accusations, it has maintained its overall seraphic value within the church. However, as time progresses and culture changes, it is accurate to wonder if this fundamental depiction of marriage will persevere.
Modern marriage is adversely influenced by culture, and society’s inclusive idea of this blessed gift is completely contrary to its originally intended purpose. Unmistakably, the definitive line that distinguishes this consecrated act appears obsolete. Cohabitation, sex outside of marriage, common law marriage, homosexual marriage, and children born out of wedlock are very common practices in today’s world. Media, television, radio, movies, music, and advertisements, wrongly expose the world to this way of life, which is naturally much more acceptable and understood. Unfortunately, this negatively impacts the meaning of marriage and falsely identifies its innovative purpose. The Word of God should be the definitive law that defines this holy act; however, the altering and constructing of profane law will certainly persist as an ever-changing culture perpetuates.
Marriage has certainly lost its original significance, and this is often due to ignorance. If someone is not taught the fundamental value of this special coalition, his or her view can become dramatically skewed. It is unnatural to follow the Word of God, but very natural to oppose its leading. As ambassadors for Christ, awareness of how we represent the living God and our usage of discernment, regarding false teachings that conflict with the Word of our Father, is vital. Paul encourages us to avoid captivity through hallow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. If believers do not refute culture’s opposing views regarding marriage, we run the risk of completely misleading future generations.
A Theological overview of Marriage
Marriage is a lost art that is frequently misunderstood. Marriage was created as a holy union between a man and a woman with God as the centerpiece. Wives are then called to submit to their husbands as he is submitted unto Christ (Eph. 5:22-24). The word, ‘submit’, has been completely altered in today’s society, and many women feel this eliminates their voice or places them in an inferior position; however, this is entirely false. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the origin of the word, ‘sub’, can be translated to, ‘step in’, ‘cover’, and/or ‘relieve’. The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him (Gen. 2:18).” ‘Sub’ can also translate to the word, ‘under’. Therefore, if a wife submits herself to her husband as he is already submitted unto the King of Kings, she is coming alongside of him and together they are thriving in unity for a much greater mission under Christ. This is partially why Paul stresses the importance of equally yoked marriages. “Do not be yoked together with nonbelievers,” he writes, “for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? What fellowship can light have with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?” Marriage is a partnership, and if both individuals are not running the same race, the team will greatly suffer.
Furthermore, each marriage should have a foundation of love and respect, and this should closely mirror our relationship with Christ. Because God provides a love that will never fully be understood, we not only adore Him in return, but additionally, we value how we respond to His Lordship. Similarly, wives depict their respect toward their husbands by giving them the ability to lead, and a husband’s lead represents his love and protection towards his wife.
This concept of true marriage can be a challenging one to grasp, especially if it is not taught. The real challenge occurs when society depicts the exact opposite of what the Word of God portrays; however, realize that the best teacher is the Holy Spirit. Strive to not only preach and clarify what God originally intended, but to also illustrate this valuable model through a personal marriage.
Princess, realize that love cannot be awaken until the timing is right, and that compromising God’s timing for your own is never wise (Song. 2:7). I strongly encourage you, Special one, to never remove a jewel from your crown in an attempt to make it easier for just any man to carry. Whomever God is crafting especially for you will recognize your beauty, and true love and respect will never go unnoticed (Prov. 18:22). God knows the desires of your heart, Princess, but never desire those things more than you desire God (Ps. 37:4). Recognize that God is the true love you have always been searching for, and any additional relationship should simply add to what God already completes. True marriage is a beautiful design meant to honor Christ, and each marriage should be ordained by the One destined to represent the centerpiece.
Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/ (accessed June 1, 2017).
Merriam Webster. 2017. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sub (Accessed June 2, 2017).
Reynolds, Philip Lyndon. Marriage in the Western Church. The Christianization of Marriage During the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods. New York: Leiden, 1994.