Sooner or later it is going to happen—you are going to be challenged to act on your convictions about what marriage is. It may be an invitation to your lesbian cousin’s wedding. It may come to the surface when your children ask why the two men living across the street walk around the neighborhood holding hands. It may even hit as close to home as your prodigal son announcing his engagement to the boyfriend he has been seeing while away at college. How do you know where to draw the line when it comes to defining marriage? How do you engage this topic with conviction and compassion? As the foundational book of the Bible, Genesis gives us the starting point for these types of discussions.
While no rented tuxedoes or church bells marked the occasion, God performed the first wedding ceremony on the very day He created the first man and woman. It took place on Day Six of the Creation Week, after God had nearly completed His creative acts. Earlier, out of nothing, He had supernaturally created the earth with all of its marvelous life forms and the awe-inspiring planets, stars, and galaxies. Now, in a special and intimate way, God did something even more incredible. He took the dust of the earth and formed Adam, the first man, giving him life with His own breath (Genesis 2:7).
God then placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and brought many of the different kinds of animals to him so he could name them. But God had an ulterior motive—He was planning to make a helper for Adam. As Adam named the creatures, he likely noticed that there were male and female representatives of each of the kinds but there was no “helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18–20). That was about to change.
God caused Adam to enter a deep sleep, and He took one of his ribs and fashioned it into the first woman. Adam awakened to a glorious sight, as God presented Eve to him. Just as Adam had seen the animals in their complementary pairs, now he saw a helper suitable and complementary to himself.
Notice the intimate language in this passage, not only in God’s creation of the first man and woman, but also the immediate connection between Adam and his wife. Hear Adam’s poetic expression of joy in receiving this gift from God:
This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man. (Genesis 2:23)
As Moses records this account for
us, he makes an immediate connection
to the nature of marriage: “
shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and they shall
become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). From
the very first day humans were present
on Earth, God intended that marriage
would join one man (the “husband,”
Genesis 3:6) and one woman (the
“wife,” Genesis 3:17) for life.
A Helpful Resource . . .
What Did You Expect?
by Paul David Tripp
Unlike other marriage books that only diagnose horizontal problems, What Did You Expect? fights a much deeper war over the worship of our heart. It’s only when we worship God as Creator, Sovereign, and Savior that we will ever love as we should.
Can Moses Define Marriage for All Time?
In our modern progressive scientific era, most people dismiss the words of Bronze Age shepherds like Moses, who lived 3500 years ago. What relevance do they have in defining marriage today, given all that we’ve learned?
But the Bible is not simply Bronze Age musings. It is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. And God used that particular shepherd not only to lead the Israelites out of Egypt but also to write this inspired passage. Because God is our Creator, He claims the authority to define marriage, and He does not give us the right to question His righteous wisdom (Isaiah 29:15–16, 64:8–9).
Jesus Christ confirmed this. When Jewish scholars questioned Him about divorce, He made it clear that the plain language of Genesis is the absolute basis for defining marriage. As the Word of God in the flesh, Jesus referenced His original act of creation and institution of marriage, recorded in Scripture.
In His conversation with the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 19:1–9 and Mark 10:1–12, Jesus quotes from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 to affirm that He always intended marriage to be one man with one woman for life. If this was the view of the Son of God made flesh, then denying it puts us in rebellion against God. Jesus looked to Genesis to explain the foundation for His created design for marriage. To honor our Creator, so should we.
Doesn’t Polygamy in the Bible Contradict Its Definition of Marriage?
Polygamy poses another challenge to the biblical definition of marriage. That’s understandable—the Bible records several important men in the Messiah’s line who had multiple wives. Doesn’t that imply God doesn’t put a lot of weight on Genesis’ definition of marriage between one man and one woman?
We cannot forget that after Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, Scripture depicts a world that was cursed and broken as a result of the Fall. In the first recorded instance of polygamy, in Genesis 4, Lamech brags about his rebellion against God—far from a justification of the practice. Likewise, Abraham took Hagar because he and Sarah doubted that God would fulfill His promise through their covenant marriage.
Beginning with Moses, God strictly forbade Israel’s leaders from “multiplying wives” (Deuteronomy 17:17)—a command Solomon and David both violated. While the Bible records these acts, it does not condone David’s polygamy any more than it does his adultery. Both brought about negative consequences from God’s hand. From the beginning, God’s ideal of marriage is one man for one woman for life.
Can the Culture Redefine Marriage?
Western culture has fought relentlessly to redefine marriage. The push to include couples of the same sex attempts to make God’s union of “bride” and “groom” obsolete. “Spouse” now fills both blanks on the marriage certificate. Homosexual activists and their allies have swayed the culture with the humanistic argument that any two people who love one another should be able to get married. In other words, they think everyone should be able to do what is right in his own eyes.
But what is the foundation for this definition of marriage? If “love” is the standard, then why should we forbid one man and three women from marrying? Or two men and two women? Parent and child? Without a standard, who is to say any one of these groups is not a legitimate marriage?
Regardless of what any culture affirms or court declares, the Creator God of the universe is the final authority. Jesus Christ has unequivocally spoken—marriage is not based on “love” but on God’s original design. Gay “marriage” is no marriage at all. A husband will always be a man; and a wife, a woman. Further, we should not seek to distort God’s plan for marriage by multiplying spouses, but affirm the one-flesh union of a man and a woman.
Human arrogance and sinful passions have no right to stand in judgment over God’s words given to us through Moses and confirmed by Jesus Christ—the Word of God in flesh (John 1:14). God has defined marriage, and no court on earth can overrule His formula.
What Happens to Those Who Deny God’s Definition of Marriage?
God intended marriage to be a good part of His created order—even after the Fall. He ordained roles within marriage, not just for man to procreate but for God to communicate His nature and relationship with us. Paul talks of the mysterious analogy between marriage and the church. Just as Jesus Christ is head of the church and cherishes it, so the husband is head of the wife, and he is to nourish and cherish her as his own body (Ephesians 5:22–33). The complementary one-flesh union of male and female reflects God’s design and brings honor and glory to Him.
The complementary one-flesh union of male and female reflects God’s design and brings honor and glory to Him.
Rebellion against God’s design for marriage invites God’s wrath against sin. As people exchange the truth of God for a lie, God gives them over to serve their immoral desires and ultimately to receive the penalty of death they deserve (Romans 1:18–32). But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Followers of Jesus Christ, who embodied grace and truth (John 1:14), have the hope that hopeless rebels need. God gives us the privilege to proclaim and live out His glorious plan for marriage. As we speak that truth with the grace found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ, God can turn rebels from death to fulfilled life with our Creator.