God Defines and Defends Marriage

by Cliff McManis

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 says that it is time to create humankind. God says, “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.

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 reflects 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 instituted and created 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.

In this passage we first 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 is going to make that perfect complement to Adam the man, and that’s exactly what happened. 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 wakes 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, because the vote that 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 church, and before the nation of Israel—it is the foundation of everything. That’s why this is such an important issue.

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

He lays out the very definition of it in verse 24: “For this reason (or cause)”—what you have seen happen today; one man and woman before God for life as one—“this shall always be.” This is the standard; this is the precedent; this is to remain unchanged; this will be binding and universal for all of humanity.

This passage is repeated 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). Marriage was the mandate given to the church as well, quoted by the apostle Paul (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.

Genesis 2:24: “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 a new entity. They become an independent entity separate from all their family, and they shall 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). That is the way it should be in a marriage relationship as it is blessed by God. God defined what marriage is. He said it is one man and one woman together before God as a covenant for life. That is Part A 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 because women are inferior before God. 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.

Then 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 and explains 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 very definition of marriage as God 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’s going to be one last ultimate wedding (Revelation 19:9). The Supreme Court justices have not ultimately undermined God’s definition of marriage, because the greatest marriage of all is still yet to come.

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 in control—God is. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Christ is preparing His wedding even now, which is a glorious 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. 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. 

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