Dan Trathen DMin, PhD Clinical Psychologist & Certified Business & Life Coach

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God’s Design for Marriage

By Daniel W. Trathen, D. Min. Ph. D.

There are many stories as to how Valentine’s Day began. For many of us it is a day dedicated to cards, gifts, and flowers. It is a celebrated holiday designed to show our partners that we are “worthy” of each other and we display our worthiness by giving gifts which symbolize romantic love. In Early Medieval times, St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated in person by the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius was impressed by St.Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. This is clearly dedicated love toward God. In a sense, “unto death do us part.” Christian marriage is much more than a reminder of affection on a holiday. It is “an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.” How does this happen? How can two different people experience a common oneness? The scripture teaches us the process. It is much more than transient happiness, although the outcome is happiness and joy. It a daily process of mutually submitting ourselves to God, giving ourselves to our partner, times of forgiveness, rededication, and renewal. It is letting nothing steal our marital joy. In this months article I highlight what I find missing in today’s marriages-following the Master’s design.

Christian Marriage is a relationship whereby both partners seek to follow God’s design for their partnership. When God designed marriage, He planned it to be a nourishing, enriching and growth-producing relationship as well as a vital provision in His plan for individuals to grow in sanctification and become conformed to the image of His Son. It is viewed as a covenant of spiritual unity where the spirits of both partners are joined before God and with God into a “three-fold cord” providing direction and meaning in the bond of love (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12; Ephesians 5: 31, 32).

Spiritual joining is based on a covenant, promise or agreement. Covenants are designed to bring about permanent union between God and His people, between believers as well as between a husband and wife. The relationship between God and Abraham was begun and maintained through such a covenant (Genesis 15: 9-11, 17, 18). The relationship between Christ and His church is based on a covenant (Luke 22: 20) and the relationship between a Christian husband and wife is also founded and sustained on a covenant (Malachi 2: 14).

Christian marriage is also viewed as being honorable (Proverbs 31: 10, 12; Hebrews 13: 4) and maintains three purposes. First, God intends that marriage provide a lasting companionship for the mutual enrichment, happiness and blessing of each partner (Genesis 2: 20-24). The second purpose is for the enjoyment of one another through sexual relations as well as for the bearing of children (Genesis 2: 24; Hebrews 13: 4; I Corinthians 7: 2-5, 9). The third purpose is for child rearing and the adequate management of the family (Genesis 1: 27, 28; Psalm 127, 128; Proverbs 22: 6).

Inherent within these purposes are three principles that characterize the Christian view of marriage. First is that God intended marriage to be monogamous (Genesis 2: 24; I Timothy 2: 12;). Secondly, that Christian marriage be a relationship in which fidelity for life is pledged by each spouse (Exodus 20: 14; Matthew 5: 27, 28). It is a commitment to place the others good above self-interest. Thirdly, a Christian marriage is to be permanent and involve commitment (Matthew 19: 3-9; I Corinthians 7: 10-15), “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Mark 10: 9).

The foundation of Christian Marriage begins with God’s creation of mankind. Since God made us in His image (Genesis 1: 26) it stands to reason that He would also be concerned with meeting all our needs. He created man (Genesis 1: 26) and created woman (Genesis 1:27), blessing them both as He said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1: 28). God created woman because he saw man’s loneliness and need for help (Genesis 2: 18). It was this great need for companionship which God saw and answered through the principle of “oneness” or “one-flesh”, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2: 24).

This “one-flesh” principle is evident from the accounts of creation when God observed Adam’s incomplete condition and replied, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a helpmeet,” (Genesis 2: 18) thereby setting forth marriage as a means for a man and a women to attain completeness. “Help” in Hebrew means to run to the aid of those crying for help or to aid by surrounding and guiding.

Biblical teaching on marriage is epitomized by Genesis 2: 24. Its importance and authority is the foundation of the theology of marriage, which is also characterized through the New Testament teachings of Jesus (Matthew 19: 5) and Paul (Ephesians 5: 31).

There are three distinct relationship phases to these verses. The first is leaving home, the second is a commitment to ones marriage partner and the third is “cleaving” or the process of nurturing and bonding the relationship. The key phrase is “one-flesh” which is an idiom implying blood kinship as well as a spiritual, emotional, psychological and sexual union between husband and wife. In marriage they were considered to be one, not only in sexual unity (Hebrews 13: 4; I Corinthians 7: 2-5, 9), but also in and through an enduring companionship (Matthew 19: 3-9; I Corinthians 7: 10-15) made possible through a permanent commitment (Mark 10:9). The “one-flesh” union requires that both the husband and wife must first become differentiated from their respective families of origin and bond with each other with more importance placed on the marriage partner throughout the lifelong process of cleaving.

Other Scripture verses that relate to marriage are Ruth 1; 16, 17; Proverbs 12: 4; 14; 1; 19: 14; 31; Ecclesiastes 9: 9; II Corinthians 7: 2-5, 9, 10; Ephesians 5: 21-33; Colossians 3: 18-21; Titus 2: 3-5 and I Peter 3: 1-17. As we can see, Christian marriage is not all about us; rather it is about God creating His design in us and for us to cooperate with His plan. He is the “way maker”, but we need to follow the “way.” Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

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