Chapter 1

Marriage ©

  GOD's Concept of Marriage 
  Marriage Customs and Practices 
    The Cohesiveness of Marriage 
  The Corruption of Marriage 

So that we may properly apply the word of truth regarding sexual ethics, it is essential to understand the concept of marriage.  An incorrect perception of marriage will assuredly result in a fruitless interpretation and application of Scripture pertinent to sexual ethics.  A dictionary defines it as follows;

marriage  1a:  the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife b:  the mutual relation of husband and wife: WEDLOCK  c:  the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family ...  . 1

The Scriptural definition of marriage is very similar.

Marriage is a lifelong voluntary union (cp. Rom 7:1-4; I Cor 7:39) between a man and a woman carrying with it certain rights and duties (responsibilities).

A marriage is created when a man chooses to be the husband of a woman and a woman chooses to be the wife of a man.  This wholehearted decision ideally constitutes a lifelong commitment for both parties.  As a result, the commitment carries with it the rights and duties of husband and wife and the latent rights and duties as parents.  No marriage ceremony or legal document alters this principle or accounts for its establishment.  The marriage "contract" is established when a commitment is made between a man and a woman before God.  God is the witness, and it is He who serves as "justice of the peace," for He is the one who authored the idea of marriage (cp. Gen 2:18 with Matt 19:6).  God made the helpmate for man and through His actions, He set the precedent of marriage (Gen 2:18, 21-24).

The deliberate decision to marry originates within the heart and mind of a man and woman.  However, if the commitment is abandoned in the heart, the marriage is broken (cp. Matt 5:28) and a divorce could result.  For example, God's commitment to the children of Israel was to protect and provide for them.  Theirs was to put God first by worshiping and serving Him (Kings 8:44-51, Jer 3:6-15).  When Israel broke their covenant with God, He "divorced" them.  They lost His protection and were turned over to their enemies.

Sexual intercourse is an integral part of a marriage.  It is the most intimate external expression of a couple's love for each other.  It is unique in this aspect, for God condones no other intimate sexual relationship.  The fusion of the husband and wife must continue inwardly (self-affirmation of the commitment) and also outwardly (e.g., sexual faithfulness, emotional support, encouragement) in order for a marriage to endure.

A sexual relationship should come into fruition only when a man and woman are united in the decision and commitment of marriage.  A marital commitment must exist for a sexual relationship to be justifiable with God.

- God's Concept of Marriage -

Gen 2:18  And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet [a helper suitable for him as his counterpart] for him.

At this point in creation, the man Adam is the only one of his kind.  He has no other human being with whom he can have fellowship, for Eve has not yet been made.  The LORD GOD supplied man with a suitable helper; someone who would be the counterpart and fulfillment of the man; woman.

Gen 2:21-24  And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  (22) And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  (23) And Adam 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.  (24) Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be [Hebrew, future tense = "become"] one flesh.

This is the first occurrence in the Scriptures of the word "wife".  Adam uses it in response to what God had done in uniting him with the woman.   This is the inception of marriage as instituted by God.

Gen 4:1  And Adam knew [Hebrew yoda: to know or become acquainted with sexually; hence, a euphemism for sexual intercourse] Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

One principal item in a marriage, besides companionship and sexual intercourse, is the production of offspring (excluding, however, those married women who were barren; see Gen 11:30).  That pattern continues throughout the Bible (Gen 4:17,18ff, 25; 6:1, 2; 9:1).

- Marriage Customs and Practices -

Many customs and practices related to marriage evolved over time.  The marriage document or marriage deed (specifically within the Jewish culture) was entered at the time of the betrothal.  The betrothal was a legal bond that could not be severed unless the respective spouse died or was issued a bill of divorcement.  Today's equivalent would be the marriage license.  There was an exchange of gifts, which introduced the idea of the Mohar or dowry (Gen 24:53, 29:18; Jud 1:15; I Kings 9:16).  This consisted of such things as jewelry, servants, land and clothing, which were primarily given to the father of the bride or her family.  These customs and practices are not essential for a marriage.  They are nothing more than embellishments.  It is available for a couple to be legally married according to civil and religious laws without becoming one flesh.

The concept of annulment (a non-Scriptural topic) must be reviewed in light of present practices.  An annulment is a recognition by the religious or legal community of the dissolution of a marriage.  An annulment declares the marriage invalid in that the couple were never committed to each other as husband and wife.

Divorce results when a couple deliberately chooses to sever the marriage contract by breaking their commitment to each other to live as a married couple.  The idea of divorce will be developed later.  With respect to societal law, all marriages require a marriage license, and any dissolution requires a judgement of annulment or divorce.

The varying customs and practices did fluctuate and in many instances have changed today.  However, many similarities remain.  The marriage license and the wedding ceremony, performed by a justice of the peace or a representative of a religious organization, are a stipulation by our society signifying recognition and witness that two individuals are married.  The minister or one presiding at a marriage ceremony only officiates or witnesses the marriage and does not marry the couple.  A man and woman marry each other.

- The Cohesiveness of Marriage -

The foundation of a marriage is the lifelong commitment made by deliberate decision between a man and woman to love each other.  When we speak of love in relation to marriage, three types appear in Scripture.

The first is the Hebrew 'ohab (similar to the Gk. eros in Pro 7:18), which can refer to love as a sexual yearning or desire.  It is an instinctual love that results from the libido.  The physical attraction of one sex for the other is a manifestation of the Hebrew 'ohab, and stems from the Godly design of human nature.  The usage of this type of love can be seen in Gen 29:20, 21; Song of Solomon 8:6, 7 and Jud 16:4, 15.

The second is the Greek phileo, which refers to love as a natural inclination arising spontaneously or without reason. 2  Phileo is the emotional element between a man and woman that may lead to the contemplation of marriage or the marriage itself.  Often it is spoken of as brotherly love, as in the love that exists between family members (e.g., Matt 10:37).

The third type of love is the Greek agapao, which refers to the love that results from the will or decision of the individual. 3  It is the direction of a self-denying will.  It is neither spontaneous nor involuntary and only exists because the one manifesting it chooses to do so.   This type of love must be brought into the relationship of marriage as well as other relationships.  Agapao is the fullest possible form of love expressed in the Greek New Testament and is used of GOD's love for man (John 3:16; I John 4:11).  It is the love that we manifest toward our enemies (Matt 5:44) and the love that we are exhorted to manifest toward fellow Christians (I John 4:19-21).  The Scriptures direct us to manifest this love in deeds and not just words (I John 3:18).

Love within a marriage commitment would, and should, involve all three, but agapao is the glue within the marriage relationship.  Adam acknowledged the relevance of agapao within the marriage when he stated in Gen 2:24 "Therefore shall a man...cleave [to adhere or stick to; a voluntary act] unto his wife; and they shall be [become] one flesh."  Agapao perfects the marriage (Col 3:14).  The word "perfectness" (Gk. teleiotes) means, "that which has reached its full and intended end". 4  We do not suggest that perfectness means a marriage in which there are no problems but without such perfectness, the commitment made as marriage might not be sustained.  The full and intended end is for the husband and wife to become "one flesh" (Gen 2:24, Matt 19:5, Eph 5:31).  The "one flesh" is such that each spouse takes care of and nourishes the other as he or she would their own body.

Eph 5: 28, 29, 33  So ought men to love [agapao] their wives as their own bodies.  He that loveth [agapao] his wife loveth [agapao] himself.  (29) For no man ever yet hateth his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  (33) Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love [agapao] his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Without a proper understanding of (agapao) love and its relationship to the commitment of a marriage, many couples will never reach the perfectness that God intended.  They might dissolve their marriage rather than bind it together.  A husband or wife must choose to love (agapao) even when circumstances may try to influence them otherwise.  Moffatt's translation of I Cor 13:4-8a provides a summary of what agapao represents to a marriage and the types of deeds evidenced by that love are given.

Love is very patient, very kind.  Love knows no jealousy; love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient.  Love never disappears.

The cohesiveness of a marital relationship is dependent upon forgiveness, which Jesus addresses in Matt 19:7, 8.

Matt 19:7, 8  They [the Pharisees] say unto him [Jesus], Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her [the wife] away?  (8) He [Jesus] saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

For one not to forgive their spouse because of a hardened heart, and in turn divorce them would suggest that (agapao) love is lacking within their relationship.  The quality of forgiveness is one vital aspect of growing in agapao love (I Pet 4:8).

I Cor 7:2, 3  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.   (3) Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The rendering of "due benevolence" (normal sexual relationship as a natural right -- NIV) within a marriage is a responsibility of the two involved and should only occur after every man has his own wife and every woman her own husband.  It brings completeness into their relationship.  The concept of due benevolence will be developed later on.

Couples who state marriage vows to each other should realize that they have pledged a solemn oath in the presence of GOD to maintain the commitment they have made to each other.  In that light, there are probably many couples who would think twice before proceeding.

Eccl 5:2, 4, 5  Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.  (4) When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it [do not delay in fulfilling it - NIV]; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.  (5) Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, then that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

- The Corruption of Marriage -

The corruption of marriage begins with the corruption of the relationship.  In order to understand the concept of a relationship between a man and a woman and how it becomes corrupted, we must travel back to the time and place when that relationship was first established.  The time and place is Genesis 2.

Gen 2:18  And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

GOD desired that man should enter into a relationship.  HE took a cell from Adam's body and made a woman who would be a "help meet" or as Rotherham translates, "helper as his counterpart."  This was HIS solution to Adam's being "alone" and the subsequent foundation for what we would come to call the relationship.  The LORD GOD brought the woman unto the man.  It was HIS provision for man and we shall see that it would constitute a unique concept that was not to be violated.

In response to what the LORD GOD had done, Adam stated a truth that has continued to echo down through the ages.

Gen 2:23  And Adam 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.

Indeed this reality reflects upon the truth that the woman was taken from man and within the confines of the relationship, she shall return to him to become one flesh again.

Gen 2:24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

"Therefore" signifies a conclusion.  Because of the realization of verse 23, the man would depart from the relationship of parent and child to establish the new relationship - that between a man and a woman.

The word "cleave" means to adhere or be fastened to.  Upon entering into the relationship with a woman, the man would be united with "his wife."  This uniting and adhering would imply that they would remain and maintain that status of husband and wife.  In so doing, they would be "one flesh."   GOD's purpose and design was for the man and woman to be inseparable (Cp. Matt 19:6; Mark 10:9).  The wheel appears to turn full circle.   Because the woman was taken from the man's flesh, she is to unite with him as "his wife" restoring "one flesh."  This is the very heart of what GOD has established as the relationship between a man and a woman.

There are four truths that serve as the foundation upon which the relationship between a man and a woman are established.  These are:

1.  Woman was made for man as a helper or supporter (animals were not chosen). (Gen 2:20-22)
2.  GOD brought the woman unto the man and this prefigured a relationship between one man and one woman. (Gen 2:22; Mal 2:14,15; Matt 19:4; Mark 10:6)
3.  The man was to be joined with and therefore maintain the woman as his wife. (Gen 2:23, 24; Matt 19:5; Mark 10:7; Eph 5:31)
4.  They were to be inseparable as ONE FLESH. (Gen 2:23, 24; Matt 19:5; Mark 10:8; Eph 5:31)

GOD has set the standard for a marital relationship and falling short of that standard has produced its corruption.  There is an important observation that can be made when one examines the occurrence of sin in the book of Genesis.  The Hebrew word chata is translated sin and means to miss the mark (Jud. 20:16).  Its first usage in this manner is in relation to sexual behavior.

Gen 13:13  But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners [Hebrew chata] before the LORD exceedingly.

Genesis 18:20  And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin [Hebrew chata] is very grievous;

These first two occurrences of "sin" in the Bible deal with Sodom and Gomorrah.  The sexual behavior within those cities constituted "sin" or missing the mark as described by the LORD.  What was the mark?

Gen 20:6, 9  And God said unto him [Abimelech] in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning [Hebrew chata] against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her [have a sexual relationship with Sarah]….   (9) Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin [Hebrew chata]?  thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.

In this next occurrence, we see Abraham and his wife Sarah were staying briefly in Gerar.  Because Abraham allowed Abimelech to believe Sarah was his sister, Abimelech felt free to take Sarah as his wife.  Abimelech, as indicated in verse 6, did not know that Abraham and Sarah were husband and wife.  GOD knew this and so he intervened and prevented Abimelech from "sinning" or missing the mark.  Note that this "sinning" was in the context of a sexual relationship and that was the mark Ablimelech was missing.  Notice that should Abilemech have had a sexual relationship with Sarah, he would have been "sinning against" GOD (vs 6).

Gen 39:9  There is none greater in this house than I [Joseph]; neither hath he [Potiphar] kept back any thing from me but thee [Potiphar's wife], because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin [Hebrew chata] against God?

The wife of Joseph's master is attempting to entice him into a sexual relationship.  Joseph acknowledges that she is Potiphar's wife and then confesses such an act to be "sin" or missing the mark.  What was the mark that Joseph was concerned about missing?

The mark is described in Genesis 2.  The mark is the four truths that serve as the foundation upon which the relationship is established between a man and a woman.  To miss the mark or "sin" is to violate any of those truths that establish this foundation.

Sexual intimacy lies at the very center of the relationship between a man and a woman.  Indeed, it is the most private and personal activity in which either could participate.  No other relationship contains this revealing aspect.  It is unique in its purpose and design.

All sexual relationships outside of the marriage of a man and woman will violate one or more of the four truths outlined in Genesis 2.  For example: sex with more than one person violates the third truth; sex with another's spouse violates the fourth truth; sex with another of the same sex violates the second truth; polygamy violates the second truth divorce violates the third and fourth truths and; bestiality violates the first truth.

I Cor 6:15-20  Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.  (16) What? know ye not that he which is joined ["cleave" as in Gen 2:24] to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  (17) But he that is joined ["cleave"] unto the Lord is one spirit.  (18) Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without [Gk. ektos] the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against [Gk. eis] his own body.  (19) What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body….

Paul in this portion of 1st Corinthians is addressing the fornication that was occurring among the Corinthian believers.  He speaks about a male - female sexual relationship in the context of Genesis 2.  However; in this instance, rather than cleaving and keeping a wife the men were cleaving to prostitutes.  There is no oneness to a relationship with a prostitute as she is not his wife according to Genesis 2; rather, she belongs to many men.

The reality is that in Corinth, men were cleaving to prostitutes instead of a woman in the relationship of marriage.  This cleaving, according to Genesis 2, resulted in the man and a prostitute becoming one flesh.  The basis for one flesh was provided in Genesis 2 when Adam and Eve were joined together in the relationship of marriage as prescribed by GOD.  A sexual relationship is essential in the establishment of this one flesh.  The only way for this one flesh to spoil is by participating in a sexual relationship outside of the boundaries of a marriage.

Paul then urges them to "flee fornication."  Why?

I Cor 6:18  Flee fornication. Every [other] sin that a man doeth is without [Gk. ektos] the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against [Gk. eis] his own body.

He says that every other sin a man does is ektos, directed out of the body.  On the other hand, fornication causes one to miss the mark eis, all the way to and reaching his own body.  The one distinguishing feature that contrasts fornication with every other sin is the direction toward which the mark is missed.  How is fornication sinning toward one's own body?

The answer lies back in Genesis 2.  Fornication causes sin toward the body because the woman was taken out of the body of man to become one flesh with him.  Fornication violates that concept as established by GOD.  The whole wheel was designed to turn full circle in the relationship between a man and a woman.

One man, one woman and one flesh; this is for life.  Indeed, the only thing that dissolves or disintegrates the flesh is death.  One flesh was the purpose as the CREATOR gave it.  Not one man with many women in a lifetime or one woman with many men in a lifetime.  As the woman was taken from the man's flesh, so would she return to him to become one flesh with him in the relationship.  The flesh which was once under his complete control as part of his being (Gen 2:22) would return to him; independent of him yet willingly becoming one flesh with him as his counterpart, his best supporter and most capable helper.

Because of the corruption of this concept, aberrations developed.  As a consequence, God instituted laws to preserve order and to protect women in general (Ex 21:7-11; Deut 21:10-17).  Charles H. Welch, on page 71 of his book Dispensational Truth, states;

True marriage is one of the few gleams of paradise that have come through to this blighted earth.  The home life is a divine object lesson of God's ultimate purpose.  The marriage of the Lamb, we read, takes place at the end of the ages; it is no wonder then that Satan has ever sought to destroy the sacredness of the marriage bond.  Polygamy, adultery, and uncleanness have ever accompanied the 'doctrines of demons.'

Sin and its introduction into creation (see Gen 3) began to leave its mark upon the relationship between a man and a woman.  As time passed, many deviations developed that were contrary to GOD's original purpose and design for a man and woman and sexuality in general.  Such examples would include; polygamy (multiple wives - Gen 4:19; II Sam 5:13ff; I Kings 11:13), concubinage (a hybrid of polygamy; cp. Gen 2:23, 24 and Mark 10:6, 7; see also Gen 16:1-4a, 22:24, 25:6, 30:1-5, 9, 10, 32:22; Jud 8:31, 20:4; II Sam 3:7; Esther 2:14), homosexuality (Gen 19:5) and incest (Gen 19:30-36).

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