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THEOLOGY > Man > Marriage: Two Become One > Nature of Marriage 


The “nature” of something is the essence of it; that is, it is what the something is fundamentally. When the topic is marriage, then the nature or essence of marriage is delineated by the Scriptures. It is not the culture nor the musings of man that establishes the character of marriage; as has been stated in other articles the institution of marriage is Theistic and creational. So marriage must be defined and described in terms of God and His creative work.

From the teaching of the Christian Scriptures, seven characteristics of marriage will be given.

Marriage is between a man and a woman; therefore, marriage is a heterosexual union. It must be understood that it is God who determines the nature of marriage, not man—this point is not considered foundational by those who define marriage by other relationships. But this is the most essential point in the discussion; marriage must be defined by God before it is practiced by man.

God, in the work of Creation, revealed by His deeds that marriage would be between a man and a woman, for He made Adam and Eve. He made a man, and then, for the man, He made a woman. And then He placed them together. Any attempt to change this relationship in marriage is a denial of the model established at the time of Creation by God, and is also a denial of God who established the model. It is in this sense that marriage is Theistic and theological, and not societal. The nature of marriage is related to God not man.

Jesus states: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female . . . For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Matt. 19:4-5; statement is a quote from Gen. 2:24 and is quoted by Paul in Eph. 5:31).  Jesus is merely restating and reinforcing the situation revealed by God at the time of creation: marriage is about a man and a woman.

Marriage is between “one” man and “one” woman, which indicates that marriage is a monogamous relationship. For the one man, Adam, there was the one woman, Eve. Again, it is the action of God at the time of Creation that is definitive; He did not create the potential for multiple mates. Two men were not created for one woman; nor were two women created for one man. God made two individuals—male and female—and intended for the two to become one.

There is no Biblical justification for the taking of many wives as is characteristic of some pagan cultures and even of some religious systems. The fact that the Scriptures report multiple wives, even for some of the godly, does not validate the practice; it is rather a deviation from and a deterioration of the creational model. God only made two, one man and one woman, and united them in Eden, thus establishing the proper pattern.

Marriage indicates a change in loyalty for the husband and the wife; “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Gen. 2:24). What is true for the man is also true for the woman: they both leave their childhood families for the purpose of forming another family. Their devotion then is to the new relationship that has been formed.

Though parents are not forsaken, the new allegiance of a husband and wife is to each other. Note that there is a “leaving” and a “joining”; in the departure and in the new relationship there must be a change in allegiance. It is not that the old devotion to family is denied; it is rather that a new devotion is established and given priority.

Marriage is a union that is established by God, for it is He who joins the two together. Jesus states: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). The societal regulations that govern the union are merely the horizontal expressions, and often in a very flawed manner, of that which is essentially a vertical phenomenon. In marriage it is God that “joins” the two, not man; thus the joining of any man and woman is reflective of the original joining of Adam and Eve by God, and is also reflective of God’s continuing purpose for men and women.

This means that it is God who has determined that a man and a woman come together for the intention of fulfilling a part of their created purpose. Therefore, marriage is Theistic in the sense that God ordained it, but also in the sense that marriage is the ongoing fulfillment of God’s plan for male and female.

When man separates or negates this union he is attempting to undo what God has done, or to reorient the creational model away from its intended purpose (see: Question of Divorce). Man is not to modify the nature of the union, nor the manner of the union; in fact, he cannot, for both are of God.

Marriage is a union that establishes a unity out of individuality. Jesus states: “So then they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matt. 19:6). The two become one. And in the becoming one, each person loses something of his or her separate individuality, or, better understood, the individualities of each to a degree become merged, or become one. The union of the flesh is an expression of the more profound union of the lives, a union that is a total union, one involving the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual, as well as the physical.

his oneness eliminates bigamy and polygamy, for how can a male or female become “one” with more than one, especially in the sense of the unity that has just been expressed.

In marriage neither partner is to deprive the other.

Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (I Cor. 7:2-5).

Sexual enjoyment is part of marriage; it is normal and is not to be denied. Only for brief periods due to spiritual activities and with mutual consent should a couple refrain from that which is natural. Then the husband and wife are to “come together again”; to fail to do so is to be tempted by Satan.

Each partner is to render the “affection” due the other; neither is to withhold his or her body from the mate. Plainly, Paul affirms that the wife’s body belongs to the husband, and that the body of the husband belongs to the wife—neither is to deprive the other. Each is to seek to please and to satisfy the spouse (see: Purpose of Marriage).

Marriage is to be for life and only comes to an end at death: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes” (I Cor. 7:39). Liberty for remarriage is valid only after the death of the spouse; this is the clear teaching of the Scriptures.

Therefore, in most Christian ceremonies, and in some non-Christian ceremonies, the statement is made: “till death do us part.” This is an expression and a commitment at the beginning of the marriage to the proposition that the marriage is to endure and to continue even until death. This component of the modern ceremony is a reflection of the influence of the Christian tradition. It is the abiding influence of Biblical Theism even where that Theism is denied in other areas.

Return to: Marriage: Two Become One; Next Article: Purpose of Marriage

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