Many people assume that because Jesus had little to say on marriage during His ministry on earth that He was open to the flexibility of this institution including the acceptance of same sex marriage. But is this true?
While Jesus said little about marriage, what He did say is packed with such depth of insight that only Jesus could unfold so much in so few words. We need not consider what He said about the issue of divorce and remarriage. The substance of what Jesus said on marriage can be ascertained from His positive affirmation of the institution in Matthew 19:4-6. These 3 verses contain 50 words Jesus spoke on the subject. From these 50 words (in the Greek text) we discover 8 truths about marriage.
“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” (vs. 4)
- Marriage is Heterosexual
Jesus goes to the beginning – to the creation itself to substantiate the divine design for marriage. He quotes from Genesis 1 to say God made humanity male and female. If God had designed marriage between people of the same sex then why would Jesus lay the foundation for marriage by making an appeal to this fundamental distinction in genders? The institution of marriage is rooted in the way God created human beings right from the very start. He did not create a suitable marriage partner for Adam by creating another male. He made a female. Some say Jesus never condemned homosexuality. The fact is, He did something better. He pointed to the blueprint.
- Marriage is Complementary
Because God made male and female, he made marriage to be a complementary union. Marriage is not about sameness between partners. What makes marriage exciting and causes it to flourish is in the diversity that exists between male and female, between masculinity and femininity. Men and women complement one another in every way – physically, sexually, psychologically, and even spiritually. But because men and women are each created in God’s image, even though they are different and fulfill different roles, they stand on equal ground before their Creator.
- Marriage is Monogamous
When God made Adam and Eve, He made only one of each. He did not make a plurality of females to be joined to Adam. God did not design marriage to be polygamous. Now of course as soon as sin entered the world so did non-monogamous marriages. Polygamy proliferated in Biblical times, even among God’s people. But Jesus indicates it was never meant to be that way. Even though we don’t generally practice polygamy today, people frequently violate monogamous marriage by joining themselves to others as if they were married. The culture of hooking up in our society today has virtually replaced monogamy with something that just as well be polygamy.
“And said, ‘A Man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (vs. 5-6a)
- Marriage is Exclusive
When a man gets married he is called to leave his parents and be joined to his wife. This means that a new partnership in matrimony grows out of a previous partnership in matrimony. Notice the previous partnership involved a male and a female. This indicates the exclusive nature of marriage. Marriage is the most important human relationship God ever made and that explains why it is also the first relationship He made. No other relationship should be allowed to interfere with the marriage relationship – neither parents nor children nor outside interlopers. Marriage requires absolute fidelity.
- Marriage is Mutual
When a man and a woman leave their parents to join in matrimony they are making a voluntary commitment to one another. Fidelity and mutuality go together. Marriage is not about one’s self. It is not about meeting personal needs. It is not about setting conditions upon the marriage partner. “I will love you, if you do this and that.” Marriage is an unconditional covenant bond not a contract.
Our society views marriage like a contract. In a contract two parties have certain obligations for a particular period of time. If at any time one of the parties violates the terms of the contract and neglects their obligations then the contract is terminated and the other party is free to walk away. Contracts are conditional.
Marriage as the Bible describes it is covenantal and that means it is unconditional. When two people come together in marriage, they are vowing to serve one another, to lift up the well-being of the other as their first priority. This means exercising steadfast love and grace because people are sinners. Contract marriages depend on the ability not to sin if they are to work. Biblical marriages are designed to operate on grace because it recognizes that sin is real and it can never be avoided in one’s spouse.
- Marriage is Intimate
When a man and a woman are joined together Christ says they become “one flesh.” Many think this refers simply to the consummation of marriage in sexual union. That is true and it is one of the wonderful and exclusive gifts that God grants married people. Nothing destroys marriage more when a sexual union is established outside the bonds of marriage. It is a gift that people have repeatedly trashed and trivialized to point that it no longer reflects the intimacy it was designed to enhance.
But the fact is, the exclusive sexual union in marriage is the result of a deeper kinship that marriage is designed to create. God purposed spouses to be soulmates. He designed a man and a woman to be so drawn to one another that an indissoluble bond of trust and confidence is developed between one another. This soulish union brings the joy of sex to a place of deeper intimacy than just physical. But it also shows that when sexual infidelity takes place, that oneness is utterly shattered and sometimes irreparably.
“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (vs. 6b)
- Marriage is Permanent
Marriage was designed to be permanent. In Malachi 2:16, God says with all the authority and power invested in His being as the Lord of this universe: “I hate divorce.” There is nothing more tragic in God’s eyes then when two married sinners cannot extend grace and forgiveness toward one another and they break the marriage covenant they vowed to uphold. Certainly sin wreaks havoc in marriages and the Bible makes some exceptions for believers in which divorce as a last resort is justified. But even in those exceptions, the first thought should always be grace and reconciliation. When Christ betrothed the Church as His beloved bride His promise is to extend His devotion to her for all eternity. His grace rescued us from our own rebellion and even when we stumble badly as God’s children, he forgives and restores us to fellowship with Himself. This same undeserving grace should be extended towards spouses when they violate God’s design for marriage.
- Marriage is Sacred
When two people get married we say it is a relationship sanctioned and honored by the government, our family and friends and of course the two people getting married. But marriage is not merely a civil bond that generates only human approval. It is something that God Himself approves and sanctions. In fact, it is a bond that He Himself oversees.
When you got married did you ever think that it was not the minister who married you? It wasn’t the justice of the peace. Rather it was God Himself that joined you and put His stamp of approval upon your marriage. When you make your vows of marriage you are saying,
God, I offer this marriage to You so that You might be honored and glorified. Should I do anything to mar my marriage vows I stand accountable to You, because You are the one who joined me to my spouse. I answer to You for how I conduct myself in this marriage and I pray You will infuse me with all Your grace and power to love and cherish my spouse no matter what transpires that seeks to constrain me from doing so.
When these essential features of marriage embodied in the infallible words of Jesus are upheld then marriages abide by God’s design. Only when people listen to the voice of Christ will marriage experience a long needed revival in our day. Only then will married couples experience deep satisfaction and joy. Then perhaps we might see marriage flourish again, and in turn society will flourish.