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!