For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
A recent Newsweek article claiming to provide "the religious case for gay marriage" is causing quite the stir. As one who has set his heart on studying God's Word, putting it into practice, and teaching it to others, I am greatly concerned about how the author of the article misconstrues what Scripture teaches concerning marriage. While several of the arguments proposed by the author are typical for those who attempt to justify so-called "same-sex" marriage from a religous standpoint, the opening claim is very interesting. The first point made in the article is that the Bible has a very flippant definition of marriage, referencing Abraham's sleeping with Hagar, the polygamy of the kings, Jesus' singleness and renouncement of earthly attachments, and Paul's elevation of singleness. However, a closer look at God's Word reveals a very clear definition which should not be changed.
God defines marriage early on in His written Word directly after the creation of the woman. Right after man names the new creation "woman" (ishah), God provides the definiton of marriage. Because woman was made to be a counterpart to man as none of the animals provided a good match (Genesis 2:20), He establishes the principle that a man shall leave his parents and form a union with a woman where the two would no longer be viewed as two but as one flesh. A few things to notice concerning this definition. One is that it distinctly says that the union is between a man and a woman. Also, the two genders are singular. It is a union between "one" man and "one" woman. The definition in no way leaves the possibility open for any homosexual union or polygamy.
The fact that several of those recorded in the Bible did not consistently honor and live out this principle in no way invalidates it. Just because the Bible records the polygamy of the Patriarchs and kiings in no way condones these actions. Scripture records Abraham lying concerning his wife Sarah twice, David's murder, and numerous other actions clearly against God's written revealed will. Abraham's relationship with Hagar was clearly a sin. God promised Abraham that He would provide him and Sarah with a son (Genesis 15:4). However, the couple became impatient and upon his wife's suggestion, Abraham slept with Sarah's slave girl in order to have a heir (Genesis 16:2). God then reiterated the covenant with Abraham in chapter 17 and specifically told him that His plan was for the promise to be fulfilled with Sarah (v. 19). Abraham cannot be described to be in the right with the relationship with Hagar as it was due to his impatience of God's timing for Him to bring about His promise. He took matters into his own hands instead of waiting on God. Also, the polygamy of the kings was clearly prohibited by God. Foreseeing the sinfulness of the Israelites and as a part of His divine plan to fulfill the promise He gave to Abraham, God has Moses give instructions on the king and what he should or should not do (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). One of these instructions is not to multiply wives for himself (v. 17). This was a prohibition not upheld by many, if any, of the kings recorded in Scripture and many of them reaped the consequence of their sowing in having so many wives in that there heart was led astray as they had been warned: or else his heart will turn away. None of these examples can be used to define what marriage is because they were all clearly in the wrong.
The definition of marriage did not change in the New Testament at all with the teachings of Jesus and Paul. In fact, Jesus reiterated the same definition of marriage given early on in Genesis when He was confronted by the Pharisees concerning divorce. Upon their question of the legality of divorce, Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and taught that the implication of this principle of the two becoming one flesh was that the union is a permanent earthly one (permanent in the sense as long as both of them are alive). What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Matthew 19:6). The only reason divorce was permitted was due to the hardness of man's heart (v. 8) and this was never God's original intention as Jesus stated; but from the beginning it has not been this way (v. 8). Jesus is never shown to teach anything contrary to this understanding of marriage.
While Paul may appear to elevate singleness, he in no way devalues marriage. He recognizes both as a gift that God gives. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that (I Corinthians 7:7). Singleness is a gift that God has called some to (Matthew 19:10-12) where He uses those so gifted to minister for His glory as marriage is another gift that God has called some to where He uses those so gifted to minister alongside their spouse for His glory. In fact, Paul even teaches the deep and profound truth of the very purpose that God created marriage. In Ephesians 5, he states that earthly marriage is a physical reflection of the union between Christ and the church. After quoting Genesis 2:24, he states, This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Paul sees that the reason that God created earthly marriage with Adam and Eve was to be a visible representation of Christ's marriage with His Church. Earthly marriage follows the divine model where the husband rules as head of the household as Christ reigns as head of His Church (Ephesians 5:23), the wife's subjection mirrors that of the church to Christ (v. 24), and the apostle exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church so much to lay down His life for her in order to purify her (v. 25-26). (Side note: So much more could be said concerning this passage as it contains such rich and deep truths concerning marriage. Unfortunantely, time does not allow me presently to go into a more detailed exposition. If more couples would pay closer attention to their roles God has established them to have in conjunction to the reflection of Christ and the Church, I am sure we would see stronger marriages.) Paul, likewise, does not alter the given definition of marriage in Genesis 2:24. This definition appears to be upheld in the overall teaching of God's Word without any variation. In fact, as has been seen, many point back to it when describing marriage.
Why Does This Matter?
A question some may ask is why does the definition of marriage matter. Well if you are convinced and convicted that the Bible is the objective authoritative Word of God, it matters greatly. (If I did not hold such a conviction such a note would be pointless and a waste of my time.) Concerning unborn life and the abortion issue, John Piper states "Now you don't mess with that. You just don't get in God's face and say, 'Let me at it! I'm going to take it out. I'm going to chop it into pieces.' You don't do that." I believe something similar could be said about marriage. It is something that you don't mess with. You don't get in God's face and change His design for marriage, especially as it is a mirror image of the relationship of Christ with the Church. In fact, the author of Hebrews says Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (13:4).
Seeking to honor and uphold God's gift of marriage,
Soli Deo Gloria!
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.