What is marriage, really? Is it a purely man-made rite, or did God invent it? Is marriage obsolete? Should the raise children? Has the church forgotten the holy responsibilities of marriage? I am convinced that God has much at stake in every single marriage relationship. He has not left us without witness, as it were, but has in fact indelibly stamped an image of Himself on marriage. Let's explore this, starting with what I believe are the three important truths Bout marriage.
Invention and Gift of God
First, marriage was designed by God, not by man. God's Word, the Bible, tells us how this came to be. We find the origin of marriage in the book of origins, Genesis, in almost the first chapter.
"So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.' For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." Genesis 2:21-25
Straight away we see that God officiated over the first marriage. He made the first match, gave away the first bride, was the first "best man," and was (and still is) the first (and I dare say the most important) witness to the marriage vows. In short, God invented marriage. It was His idea. It is important to remember this. Because although the state has assumed the authoritative role over marriage today, marriage is not merely a civil ordinance. It is the invention and gift of God Himself. This is the first and most significant fact about marriage because all else springs from it.
Given Only to Man
The second great truth about marriage is that this wonderful gift was given only to man. No other created beings marry. Nor do they have anything like marriage. Not angels, and not animals. Let's talk about animals for a moment. People take their animals pretty seriously today. I believe that the anthropomorphism that has been prevalent in movies and books for the past couple of generations is an attempt to desensitize man to his sinful condition. Look at the really loopy things Hollywood has animals doing in movies, and you are looking at things we would be appalled of in people. We laugh at it, and that is the first step to being conditioned to accept it as normal. Animals, we must remember, in spite of all this drivel, are amoral, spiritless beings incapable of responding to their creator in any way other than instinct, that pre-programmed instruction set that God has given them to rule their lives. Sentient beings they of course are, of course, and we are admonished in Scripture to care about their welfare. However, reasoning moral agents animals are not.
"But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed." II Peter 2:12
"...and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." Romans 1:23
Marriage is not for them. Marriage is a uniquely human institution. No angels, no animals. No one but man. Why? Ask yourselves that question. It's an important question. Why did God give it to man, and only to man? Here's another, related question: Why even among men is marriage only for this earthly existence? Contrary to Mormon doctrine, once you're dead, you're no longer married
"Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her [a]husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law [b]concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man." Romans 7:1-3.
"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." Matthew 22:30.
Marriage does not extend beyond the grave Scripture tells us. It ends when we leave this earth. Oh, our saved spouses will be in heaven, but if we're there also, we won't be married to them. For that matter, why don't angels enjoy marriage? The answer to this basic question is important. It speaks to the core purpose of this institution we call marriage, and brings us to the third great truth of marriage.
All About God
The third truth about marriage is that it was given by God solely to man because it was and is all about God. Now, don't read that too quickly. Think about it. At the center of the marriage institution is God's revelation of Himself to man. We'll develop this a bit in subsequent articles. Because of this, no animal could benefit from marriage. No animal has a spirit that needs redemption. And what about people in heaven? As for believers now in heaven, they are no longer here to demonstrate the gospel by their marriages. Their race is run. That is why Christ said there is no marriage in heaven. There are no unbelievers in heaven to whom must be witnessed the gospel in the institution of marriage. Marriage is no less than a figure, a representation, a model, of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church, Scripture affirms. Oh, what a thing! A mystery, Paul called it. An incredible truth almost beyond our understanding. Should we grasp this truth, and I pray we shall at least touch it, it might change our marriages.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.". Ephesians 5:31-32
These three great facts about marriage -- that it is God's invention, that marriage is uniquely given by God to man, and that its design is to communicate Himself -- put into perspective the absolutely holy thing that is marriage. Let us prayerfully acknowledge and meditate on these things.