Okay, I promised that we would take a look at Genesis to see when God created marriage, so let’s go to it. In Genesis 2, we see a more detailed account of the creation of Man and Woman.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not
good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”…So the
LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took
one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the
rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
And the man said, “This is now bone
of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was
taken out of Man.”
For this cause a man shall leave his
father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one
flesh. And the man and his wife were
both naked and were not ashamed.
I think it’s pretty profound that when Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees regarding divorce for any reason, He pointed them (and us) back to this passage. Why did He do that?
This is, of course, the first marriage. A few observations: first, when God established marriage, there are three parts listed here in the process of marriage. First, the man leaves his parents. Second, he cleaves to his wife. Third, the two become one flesh. We might learn a few things from this about the marrying process, but that’s not our main focus here. I only mention these “steps” because of what we saw previously, in that marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church. Consider how that relationship follows these three “steps” of marriage: Christ left His heavenly Father to pursue a Bride, and having chosen Her (the Church, His own people), He is joined with Her and becomes one with Her spiritually (John 17:22-26, 1 Corinthians 6:17). When we mortal men do this on earth, we are, in a sense, reenacting the spiritual reality of what Christ did for us! How awesome is that?
Another observation is that when God gave marriage to mankind, He did not give it only to His people Israel–rather, He gave it to all mankind. So when Christ points us back to Genesis, we must understand that the marriage issue (including those aspects which qualify a godly or holy marriage) applies to all mankind. If God hates divorce, He hates divorce among all mankind and not among Christians only, because marriage as it was given in the Garden, was given to all humanity.
I’ll mention one last observation before we return to Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 or Mark 10, but this one is especially potent as we progress toward the subject of adultery. In Genesis 2:25, when it talks about this marriage God established between the first Man and Woman, no ceremony is mentioned. We know that God understands (better than we do) the usefulness of tradition or ceremony in helping people remember things we are apt to forget, and the Law had many ceremonies and rituals of all kinds–and yet when God establishes marriage, He does not give a ritual. How, then, is a marriage established?
Forgive me if this seems too bold (and if some disagree, again, I welcome comments), but I believe marriage is established in the act of sex. I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out a few moments more before you move on to your next subscription page (smile). First, know that I’m not discounting the ceremonies we have today–I think these ceremonies can be an excellent means for accountability as the couple makes vows before their church or community; and, best of all, it may cause them to recognise that their marriage is not a matter of the husband and wife only, but involves also the God who made them both! On the other hand, these wedding ceremonies can also be very foolish things, for I have witnessed many young men and women for whom the ceremony overshadowed the actual marriage itself. So caught up in the pomp and glory of the ceremony, they failed to consider the seriousness of the covenant they were making, and some have even failed in the fulfillment of that covenant. So ceremony may be good or bad.
But let me explain from Scripture why I believe that a marriage is established through the sexual relationship of the husband and wife. My first evidence is found in Genesis 24:67, a small verse but a useful one for this topic. That verse says:
Then Isaac brought her [Rebekah] into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
What do you suppose happened in that tent? (smile) To me, it seems fairly clear that no ceremony took place–no one else is named for their involvement in the process of Rebekah becoming Isaac’s wife. No wedding guests here, no party or reception. Not even a preacher helping them with their vows; I think they needed no help, if you know what I mean. The two of them had sex, and in this action she became his wife.
Another Scripture follows this idea. In the Law, God gives very careful explanations for what is to happen when a man sleeps with a woman who is not his wife. Deuteronomy 22 spells out the various scenarios which might happen and how these are to be handled. For example, if a man has sexual relations with a married woman, they are both to be stoned; but if he forces himself upon her, only he is to be stoned. But then in verses 28-29, God commands this:
If a man find a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall [be] his wife because he violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.
How does this command make sense? If the man had sex with a woman who is not his wife, surely he is guilty of adultery, isn’t he? But here the Law shows us something else: in having sex with the virgin who was not engaged or committed to another man, the man has created a marriage relationship with her. She shall be his wife because of the sexual union which has taken place and established that marriage.
Think about this a moment. If a sexual union really establishes a marriage, then what light does this shed on adultery and why God condemns it? Every day there are men and women joining together in a sexual relationship and becoming one flesh, then abandoning that person for another relationship and another union. Every day! And when people come together in a sexual relationship, who is it that joins them together and makes of them “one flesh”? Jesus tells us:
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
When two people have sex, God joins them together and they become one flesh: this is marriage. Jesus points the Pharisees to this reality in order to instruct them about marriage and divorce for just this reason: what God joins together, let man not separate. And two things are crucial to understand from what Jesus here states. First, when He states that they are “no longer” two, but are now one flesh, He literally means “no longer.” This is a permanent condition, as evidenced in the fact that nowhere does Scripture even imply that one flesh may become two again! What God joins together is fixed together and immutable, friends! So then, what does this word “separate” really mean? In fact, the word “separate” (Grk., chorizo) actually means “separate.” It does not mean “unjoining,” “disjoining,” “breaking,” but only two things being moved apart from one another. This begins to make sense when one notes that the phrase often translated as “divorce” in Matthew 19 literally means “send away.”
I propose this: in Matthew 19, the Pharisees ask Jesus if it is acceptable for a man to send his wife away for any reason at all. Jesus points them to Genesis and the original marriage between a husband and wife, then enlightens them to the spiritual reality: that God joins a husband and wife together, and so those whom God has joined together spiritually ought not be separated, or sent away from each other. If a husband sends his wife away, in the eyes of God they are still one flesh–their condition as husband and wife does not change even though he sends her away. Their condition does not change; only their geography changes. This is the spiritual reality of what God joins together. This is why sexual relationships are such a serious issue to our Maker. This is why they ought to be serious to us as well.
There is so much more to say! But this is terribly long already, longer than I meant it to be. Again, what are your thoughts? I am eager for the truth, and if Scripture is shown which points to another truth about sex and marriage than what I’ve shared here, I will be glad for it, and be moved! But one final note, a note which I will surely repeat again and again throughout this discourse–God has mercy enough to cover all our errors, our stumbling and rebellion, so please know that I speak here nothing of condemnation. No one reading this should read it as judgment from David Ritterbush, I beg you! Rather, if as you read this God opens your eyes to something new about marriage and how He intends it for His glory, and if in that truth you feel that heart-tug of remorse that you have not kept the marriage bed pure or have failed to reflect God’s fullness and glory in your own marriage…well then, turn to God and rejoice that He is faithful to all who are His, and that now you know the truth and may rejoice with it, as love compels us to do!
We will talk more, but hold fast to the grace by which you have been saved, and seek the truth in His Word, friends!
clarify, if you wouldn’t mind, are you talking about sex with the understanding and intentional purpose of consumating a relationship, or just any sexual relationship that two people may have? Because you said that you believed that a marriage was established between a husband and wife through the act of sex, but…would it have to purposeful to be binding? I think that’s my question to your proposition.
Why could I never write what I think?It’s a complicated question, one that I am currently involved in trying to answer. Thus far a couple of likely hypotheses have presented themselves. 1. Fear of misspeaking. I don’t like to be wrong, and don’t want to say something that I will have later to recant. It’s safer to withhold judgment until all the evidence comes to light and an informed decision can be made. 2. Questions concerning to what extent communication in any form is really possible. 3. I don’t know what I think. It’s easy to spout of facts or statistics or give a list of hypotheses (see current discussion), but you’ll almost never hear me give an actually personal, subjective opinion. Which leads me to 4, the most likely candidate, a deep-rooted psychological fear of self-disclosure. For reasons I can’t yet discern, I’ve built up a pretty high level of resistance to any form of self expression. At this point I can’t tell which came first, my inability to express an opinion or my unwillingness to accept myself as a personal, subjective being endowed with personal responsibility and freedom of choice. But that’s probably more than you wanted to know…How’s that for amateur psychoanalysis?
To me, this appears to be a sound proposition and a helpful one that should be more widely voiced–this, as well as the larger picture you are seeking to paint regarding the sacred nature of marriage because they do go hand in hand. Ah, I feel as though I have a gazillion thoughts to offer in response, but I think for now I will just enjoy hearing the discussion and pray that we all might play an active role in seeking, proclaiming, and living in accord with God’s heart towards marriage.
PS Happy Easter!
That’s a great question, JennyB (smile). I would love to hear some thoughts on that. Is it a matter of our will which causes God’s working in the sexual relationship? Does He make of the two, one flesh only when we have made some decisions regarding living together/having children together/legally contracting with one another? So far, from the Scriptures I’ve seen, I cannot believe so. From the Deuteronomy passage (which suggests that the man had sex with the woman without any intention of marriage), I am left believing that the person’s intention about marriage does not matter–the sexual act alone is that in which God makes the two into one flesh. He made us male and female (something which we ought to take very seriously and preciously); for this reason…sex is something which we ought also to take seriously and preciously. Here’s another thought. If my own intention to marry the girl were the thing which changed sex into a “one-fleshing” act, then what would be wrong in having sex with girls so long as I did not intend to marry them? There would be no impact from it, and we could walk away completely unaffected. But if every act of sex consummates the two people into one (as Paul essentially states in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16), then all sex is incredibly important and powerful, meaningful and spiritual. This is what I am beginning to believe; or perhaps I’ve always believed it without a full reason for it. There are all kinds of ramifications from this, I’m certain, and I’m sure I haven’t thought of them all, so if any of you would like to share some here, I’m all ears. What do you think, epicuriousone? Any examples from Scripture of plain reason which I’m overlooking or ignoring?
Hmmm…all I know is that it’s on Smalltown Poets’ “Third Verse” CD. Don’t you love the words they combine? Wonderful, tragic. Beautiful, scandalous. They really are poets.I keep meaning to comment on this post, but every time I get here and read it (or some of it) I have so many thoughts floating in my head that I can’t say anything coherent. But I’ve appreciated the food for thought. And I appreciate Jenny’s question, too, because it forced me to think further and gave you a chance to clarify some things. I can’t say that I ever thought about marriage in this light, or at least not to this conclusion. But I’m thinking you’re right. It makes sense, considering how seriously God views sin. And I used to wonder about Issac, myself. What? No wedding? And it’s odd that God didn’t provide for a wedding ceremony in the law. Seems like He would have in view of all the other details He laid out. So…back to your conclusion. Makes me look at promiscuity in a whole new light. I should be a lot more horrified by the careless attitude our generation has.I’m sure I have more thoughts (I’ve been known discuss a subject for hours and this only took me a few minutes to type), but it’s late and I’m too tired to care about grammer and spelling any more, which means it’s time to stop. *smiles* Keep posting. This is great!
One ramification of sexual relationships before marriage–I’ve seen relationships in which the two people are not right for each other (in beliefs and/or the paths they hope to take) but are blind to the truth because they have become one physically. My uncle likes to site the Isaac and Rebecca part, and while I agree that much is skewed with the modern “wedding,” I like to site that going straight to the tent without a ceremony did FIRST involve the two fathers initiating and arranging the marriage!
hmm… so what is your stance on engaged couples living together/having sex before the ceremony?
I like this question…and as I started thinking about it, my mind came around to common-law marriage. Two people living together over a lengthy time, and they are recognised by the community at large as a married couple. Does marriage require a ceremony to be marriage? Of course not. But most cultures (not America alone) have some form of wedding ceremony, and a wedding is certainly a biblical reality as well. My thought is this: the engaged couple should wait until after the wedding ceremony. And this for several reasons. First, engagement in our own culture is not so significant or enduring as betrothal in other cultures (it does not always end in matrimony). This is a cultural reality, not a biblical one. And second, to wait avoids the appearance of evil. In our world, which is so prone to sexual immorality of all kinds, a couple having sex without a wedding ceremony to acknowledge their new relationship before the entire community and world would look likie just another case of premarital sex. Even if they meant for that sex to consummate the marriage, if others are ignorant of the marriage status they will assume you are doing evil. So, in waiting you avoid reproach.Simply put, I would hate for someone to assume that this is any license for evil. Nor should we try to buck the cultural system so much that we appear immoral or unrighteous. Even eloping, which does not typically involve much community involvement, is an acceptable means of declaring the new state of relationship to the community.And lastly, let me say that the wedding banquet (Which Jesus speaks of as a metaphor for the joy of being with Him, and elsewhere) is a wonderful way to mark that new relationship. It is no small thing to pass over from singleness into marriage, and in having a celebration the married couple may be encouraged and given accountability, even as they are by the wedding, in a sense, setting up a memorial always to look back upon as a special change. That can be very, very good.