God Defines and Defends Marriage

Here in America, prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, marriage had been defined as the union of one man and one woman. America did not create that definition; nor did any country or individual craft that definition. Secular anthropologists and sociologists attempt to explain the phenomenon of marriage by arguing that it is an artificial social convention that has developed over time. In other words, marriage is merely a byproduct of evolution. They would argue that 25,000 years ago there was no marriage, but at some point, through evolution and the development of societal convention and norms, this institution called “marriage” was established and fine-tuned until it finally became monogamous between one man and one woman.

Is that really how marriage came to be? Is it merely an artificial social convention and the byproduct of evolution? Is marriage essentially a western, white, Republican, Christian thing that we invented?

Scripture is clear. The answer is, no. So, let’s look directly at what the Bible has to say about this issue.

God Created Marriage
Where did marriage come from? The answer is simple: God created marriage. This truth is basic, but it is something we cannot afford to overlook or take for granted. In Genesis 1, God creates everything in six days. God created everything out of nothing in six literal days. The Hebrew text is clear: this is not figurative language. The grammar, syntax, and the time references in the text indicate that Moses is referring to actual, historical events.

Throughout the Genesis narrative, Moses repeats the phrase “and it was so” after a series of creative events (see Gen 1:7, 9, 11, 15). Moses also repeats the phrase “And there was evening, and there was morning,” at the end of each creation day (see Gen 1:5; 1:8; 1:13; 1:19; 1:23). This is important Hebrew phraseology. The theological interpretation of these terms is “that’s the way it really happened.” So five times God says in Genesis 1 “that is the way it really happened,” and five times we are told that these events occurred over actual days. 

On the sixth day, at the culmination of creation, God creates humankind. “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Why the plural pronouns? God is talking amongst Himself. We learn from New Testament revelation that this is the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (see Matt 28:19). God had chosen to make humans as persons: social, moral, religious, spiritual beings. That is what is involved in being created in God’s image.

Then, in verse 27: “So God created man in His own image.” How did God create man in his own image? The text explains: “In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

We learn from this Genesis narrative that one man and one woman together fully reflect the image of God by virtue of the attributes He has given us. That is the general reference to how God created humanity—one man and one woman. Then He created and instituted marriage. We can see how God specifically created the first two people and how He created the first wedding and the institution of marriage itself in Genesis 2:18-24.

Prior to this first marriage, we see that Adam was by himself. But it wasn’t good for him to be alone because God never intended to just have one man. Why? Among other reasons, because he could not perpetuate the race by himself. When Adam died, nobody would be left!

So God would make that perfect complement to Adam the man. Adam fell asleep and God literally took one of his ribs, closed up the flesh in that place, and with that rib fashioned the first woman (Gen 2:21-22). Does that sound impossible? Well, God does miracles that seem impossible from a human perspective. Then God awakes Adam to bring this beautiful, flawless, sinless first woman to him, and Adam’s response is one of delight: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:23). God created the first marriage. God officiated the first marriage. And the first marriage was between one man and one woman.

God Defines Marriage
The definition of marriage needs to be addressed today because the vote that was taken among the United States Supreme Court Justices the week of June 26th, 2015 was a redefinition of marriage. Five justices—fallen, depraved, finite humans—have no business redefining things that God has instituted and defined. Marriage as an institution came before the creation of the church, and before the creation of the nation of Israel—it is the foundation of every- thing. That’s why this is such an important issue.

After He created marriage, God defined marriage. This is evident in Genesis 2:24. God created marriage and performed the wedding, but He defined it as well. The precedent will go on. This first wedding and the nature of its participants shall always be God’s pattern.

God lays out the very definition of marriage in verse 24. The text begins, “For this reason (or cause).” In other words, what you have seen occur today in this marriage between one man and one woman shall always be the pattern. This marriage is the standard; this marriage is the precedent; this reality is to remain unchanged; the nature of this union will be binding and universal for all of humanity.

This passage is cited several times in the New Testament by Jesus, indicating that what was instituted and defined in Genesis is still the way God intends it to be. About 4,000 years after the first marriage, Jesus specifically taught on this passage from Genesis, declaring that the definition of marriage involves one man and one woman for life (e.g., Matt 19:4-6; Mark 10:1-8). Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 when he tells us that marriage was a mandate given to the Church (see Eph 5:22-33). In other words, in God’s eyes, marriage hasn’t changed. It’s been the same for 6,000 years. Try as we might, man cannot usurp, undermine, or change the definition of marriage God established in Genesis.

Let’s go back to verse 24: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife.” Here we have singular man and singular woman. The man is to cleave to his wife so that they might come together as a married couple and as a new entity. They become an independent entity separate from their previous families, and they become one flesh. That is God’s decree, and that is what He desires. “And the man and his wife were both naked and they were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). This is the way it should be in a marriage relationship as it is blessed by God. God defined what marriage is. He declared that marriage is one man and one woman together in a lifetime covenant before God. That is the first part of God’s definition of marriage.

The second part of the definition can be found in Ephesians 5:22-33, where Paul, through the Holy Spirit, gives the directive to Christian husbands and wives regarding their roles in marriage.

In this passage, Paul first instructs wives to submit to their husbands. This submission is in terms of function and role, not in terms of inferiority or incompetency. Remember, both the man and the woman are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26). The husband is the leader and the woman is called to follow her husband’s leadership and to respect her husband. When a woman submits to her husband’s leadership, she will be a godly wife, a good wife, a blessed wife, and a fulfilled wife. And a woman who fulfills her role and submits to her husband will be a great blessing to him.

Paul goes on to exhort the husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). The main imperative here is love. When the husband loves his wife, she will gladly submit to his leadership. When both the husband and the wife fulfill their roles, there is reciprocal blessing between them. A woman whose husband loves her will gladly follow his leadership. A man whose wife respects him and submits to his leadership will find it easier to lead and love his wife. As you can see, there is beautiful harmony in a Spirit-filled, Christ-centered marriage.

Paul then goes on to explain all the benefits of keeping these commandments. At the very end of the passage, he makes it clear that he is actually talking about Christ and His body, the Church. What Paul is unveiling to the Church is that the definition of marriage as God originally gave it—one man and one woman—is to be a living parable throughout human history of a greater spiritual reality; namely, Christ’s relationship with His Church. Someday, in the future, there will be one last ultimate wedding (Rev 19:9). Despite their futile attempts, the Supreme Court justices cannot ultimately change God’s definition of marriage, because the greatest marriage of all is still yet to come: the heavenly marriage of Jesus and His Bride.

If you are a Christian, you will be there at this final, royal wedding as a participant because you will be part of Christ’s bride, the corporate Church. It is going to be a beautiful and glorious event. It is going to be a perfect wedding. And it is going to be a wedding that you’re not all worried and uptight about and thinking about all that could go wrong, because you are not the one in control—God is. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Christ is preparing His wedding even now, which is a breathtaking reality.

God Defends Marriage
These are comforting truths. If you are a believer, you might have felt as though you had been punched in the gut on June 26th, 2015 when five rogue human judges tampered with God’s holy institution of marriage. Maybe you haven’t even recovered yet, over a year and a half later. The greatest institution in all of humanity has been undermined, from a human perspective. What do we do now? Well, we don’t panic. God knows what happened. God knew it was going to happen. Marriage is His institution. He is in control of it. He is sovereign; He’s all-powerful; He’s all knowing. He has a plan and it won’t be thwarted.

Not only is marriage His creation; it’s one of His most precious creations. That’s sobering to think about, because God is a righteous God, a holy God, and a jealous God, according to Scripture. God is jealous for that which is His own and that which is sacred to Himself. You don’t tamper with marriage and get away with it. If you do that, you are literally striking at the very heart of God Almighty. God defends marriage. He’s been defending it for 6,000 years now, and He’s not going to stop. He was not blindsided or surprised by what happened two summers ago.