It is increasingly common to hear people claim that marriage is a human construct originating from Mesopotamia. However, the Bible teaches that marriage originates much earlier, that it was designed by God, right at the beginning as part of creation.
When some Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce (bearing in mind there must be marriage to be divorce); Jesus explained, not only that divorce was not part of God’s design for marriage, but also what God’s design is.
Jesus said God designed marriage at the beginning of creation, when He first created humans as male and female (Mark 10:6). At that time, even before the first people had parents, God’s design was that “a man will leave his mother and father and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:7-9; Matt 19:5-6). Marriage then, is the one-flesh union of a man and woman, designed by God at the beginning, for the first man and woman, and their descendants.
Looking at the creation account in Genesis, gives us more insight into God’s intention. But to understand this, we first need to recognise that God is a triune God. He is one God, yet subsisting of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God and equally God, yet each is also distinct and has a different role. They are not interchangeable, because they are different, yet they are one God.
The Bible records an interesting conversation between the three persons of the Godhead at creation, “Let us make humankind in our image” (Gen 1:26). And so, “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
Since each person of the Godhead is fully God, yet also distinct and different, and since humans are created in His image; it makes sense that God created humans male and female, both fully human, yet also distinct and different. And in the same way that the three persons of the Godhead are equal, so too are both genders completely equal in value and personhood, with neither being superior (Gal 3:28). But in the same way that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct and different, with separate roles; so too are men and women distinct and different, with separate roles. While men and women share some similar qualities that make them human and compatible, they also have some unique qualities that the other gender does not have.
It is clear, even to a three-year-old child, that at a minimum, there are obvious biological, physiological, and psychological differences between males and females. This is not a uniquely Christian perspective, just look at the all-time best-selling nonfiction book, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’.
Because men and women are both created in God’s image, yet are different, there are then, certain ways in which women reflect God’s image, in a way that men do not. And likewise, there are certain ways in which men reflect God’s image, in a way that women do not. In their similarities they reflect God’s image in the same way, and in their differences, they reflect God’s image in unique ways.
This means that if there were no females on the earth, but only males, God would not be fully imaged in the way He intended. Likewise, if there were no males, but only females, God would again not be imaged as He intended. God’s creation intention for humanity then, involves both male and female, for neither on their own completely reflects His intended image.
Then to further image God’s tri-unity, God’s creation design, is for a man and woman to be united together in a marriage covenant, where the two become one-flesh. They are no longer two, but one-flesh, joined together by God himself, for life (Matt 19:5-6). The marriage union of two distinct persons into one-flesh, reflects that God is one God, subsisting of three distinct persons. And because the persons of the Godhead are distinct – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not Father, Father, and Father – only the complimentary relationship of man and woman image this. The mirror relationship of woman and woman, or man and man do not.
Furthermore, a woman who uniquely images God in certain ways that a man does not, and a man who uniquely images God in ways that a woman does not; come together so that each beautifully compliments the other, creating a one-flesh union that now does fully and completely reflect God’s image as He intended. While neither man nor woman on their own, fully reflect the image God intended, their one-flesh union does. So, God’s design for marriage involves, two people of opposite genders, forming a one-flesh union that fully reflects God’s intended image. Homosexual relationships cannot do this.
The order of creation also reveals God’s intention. It is not arbitrary that God created man first – God does nothing arbitrarily. While He always intended to create humankind male and female, He made man first. God then put the man in the garden, where he saw all the other creatures had a suitable mate, except him. Here the man realises what God has already stated, that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). In fact, it was never intended that man be alone, and to make this abundantly obvious, and to ensure man wouldn’t overlook this point, God gave the man a taste of aloneness, so that he understood his need, and would appreciate how perfectly suited the woman would be for him. Then God made woman. It is important to recognise that God’s solution to the aloneness of man (which was not good), is woman. The solution was not to give the man a male companion, or the ability to reproduce on his own. Woman is the perfectly complimentary, intended design of God for the man, and vice versa.
Another aspect of God’s design for marriage, seen in creation, is procreation. Immediately after God creates the first people, He blesses them and gives them this instruction, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). God’s creation intention then, is for His image bearing people, to increase in number and fill the earth, so that the whole earth is filled with His image.
As we know, God has only made procreation possible through the union of a man and woman. God did not make it possible for individuals; nor did He make it possible for people of the same gender. God’s design for procreation, and the raising of children, is for it to happen in the committed, monogamous, lifelong, covenant, one-flesh union of marriage.
There is more that can be said about God’s design for marriage, especially its illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32), but this is beyond the scope of this blog. Also, no argument has been made for or against the validity of homosexual relationships, which in Australia, have all the same rights and benefits as heterosexual relationships. The argument made here, is simply that homosexual relationships do not meet the qualifications of God’s intended design for marriage, they are something different to marriage.