“We need to save the institution of Marriage!” “Attacks abound everywhere, we need a marriage amendment to the constitution!” Or so say so many Christians and moral family members throughout the country. Contrary to popular opinion, we do not need to save the institution of marriage, nor have an amendment to the constitution. Marriage is not an institution, nor is the constitution written to control people, rather it is to control the government.
An institution is something that has been set up and established. Marriage is usually considered an institution because it is believed that God instituted the first marriage with Adam and Eve. It is true that God created Eve for Adam as a life companion, but the language of the Bible never uses such expressions as an institution. Institutions are created by men, not God. God creates biology. Universities, governments, corporations, religions and such are institutions. And marriage as an institution is just as much a man made establishment. If your marriage is based upon the institution, then the strength of your marriage is weak and easily dissolved. Just like salvation, if a man can persuade someone to become a Christian, then another man can dissuade that person to leave Christianity. Couples who enter marriage thinking it is just a contract between two people can just as easily break that contract.
Institutional marriage is based upon the legal system of a marriage license. A marriage license is not a biblical mandate, but governmental. Before the Civil War, no one had a marriage license. The issuing of a license for marriage began when inter-racial unions were sought by Whites and Indians, or Whites and Blacks. In that time, such unions were considered illegal, therefore special permission had to be obtained from the government. The government decided that this was a great way to keep public records of marriages, so encouraged the clergy to require getting a license before performing the ceremonies. What the clergy did not realize is that a license is permission to do something that is other wise illegal. It has never been illegal for an an adult man to marry an adult woman. In almost every state of the Union, common law marriage (without a license) is recognized as a legal union. Therefore, the law logically concludes that a couple licensed by the state who need no permission are declaring themselves incompetent and are asking for the state to control their marriage. And if the state controls the marriage, then they also control the fruit of the marriage, that is, the children and the children belong to the state. This is why Child Protection Services and Educational institutions believe they have authority over the children.
What does the Bible require for marriage?
Biblical marriage is a vow made between a man and a woman before the Lord. The Bible passage on vows is found in Numbers chapter 30. Notice that a man can make the vow, but the woman, if still under the parent’s care, needs the father’s permission (Num 30:9 says a woman divorced or widowed can speak for herself). Without that permission the vow will not stand before the Lord.
2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
3 “When a young woman still living in her father’s house makes a vow to the LORD or obligates herself by a pledge
4 and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand.
5 But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her. (NIV)
When a woman is married, the responsibility transfers to the husband.
10 “If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath
11 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand.
12 But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the LORD will release her.
13 Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself.
14 But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them.
15 If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he is responsible for her guilt.” (NIV)
Therefore a lawful marriage before God is a vow made between a man and a woman with the father’s consent. And by type, the Father’s consent is the will of God Himself, each partner knowing that the Lord wants them to marry each other. If a couple wants a legal marriage, too, then all that is needed is for witnesses to sign a notarized statement confirming their hearing of the vows. That document can be sent to public records. But a license from the government is completely unnecessary.
The Marriage Organism
Marriage in the Bible is spoken more in organic terms then institutional terms. What did Adam say when he first saw Eve?
23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Gen 2:22-24 NIV)
Marriage is an organic union of two people. The joining of the two is not a metaphor, but a genuine joining of human spirits with one another. When two spirits are joined together a new creation is made. This is what is said about the Spirit of Christ joining our human spirits.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17 NIV)
The new creation in Christ is mortal man joined to immortal God. The new creation in marriage is the joining of two human spirits into a new entity called the married couple. God does not hate divorce (Mal. 2:16) because it causes all kinds of hurt and pain for everyone, including the children. Those things are true and reason enough to hate divorce, but God hates divorce because it is death to the new creation called the married couple who are biologically one being. The only break up of marriage God intends is death.
1 Do you not know, brothers– for I am speaking to men who know the law– that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. (NIV)
Laws from God are part of the physical and biological laws of nature. The law of marriage is a biological law of nature. It applies to all marriages whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist. All who marry become one flesh.
The Simple Church
When a Christian couple marry, then a triune creation is made with Christ as the head of the man and woman. This is the first compound unit of the church. The church is not an institution, either, but an organism. The organism of the church begins in the marriage. The law of marriage is the law of God that unites God with mankind. Consider what Paul says to the Ephesians.
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–
30 for we are members of his body.
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
32 This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church. (NIV)
Verse 28 and 29 state that the wife is the body of the husband, just as the church is the body of Christ. Any harm done to the wife is harm done to the husband. Men who do not understand this, and verbally abuse their wives are committing verbal suicide. Likewise, the care of Christ for His church is the care for His own self. Jesus would never harm Himself.
Men and women are different on purpose. It is the Lord’s intention that the differences become compliments that make up the new creature called the married couple. Apart from sinful behavior and characteristics, it is not the purpose of marriage to change the other person. (And it is not the job of spouses to change the sinful behavior of one another, but rather that is the Lord’s job.) The goal is to mold the two lives together so that the strengths of one partner becomes the other partner’s strength where they are weak as well.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. NIV)
Verse 12 adds that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. This is understood by many as a reference to God, or Christ, in a marriage who is the head of the house.
The Trinity functions in this manner. The Father is the source of life to the Godhead. The Son is the expression of the Father. The Spirit is the expression of the Father through the Son. We were made in God’s image the same way. Our human spirit is the source of our life. The soul is the expression of our spirits. And our bodies are the expression of our spirits through our souls. The simple church of the married couple functions the same way.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (NIV)
Christ is the source of marital life and strength. The husband expresses the life and strength of Christ in the marriage. The wife expresses the life of Christ through her husband. Between the husband and wife, Christ is expressed as a new creature in marriage. It is the goal of marriage for Christ to be expressed through both spouses as one flesh. This comes by listening to the Lord together in prayer and walking in agreement according to the Lord’s will. This expression of Christ is further expanded in the raising of children. And the family becomes a new creature where Christ is expressed through all its members. The family, then, is the organic unit of the true Body of Christ.
Christ is expressed differently in every marriage and family. Each marriage and family shows a unique side of Christ. God is an infinite being who needs the variety of people to fully express his life. So when families gather with other families in Christ, a fuller expression of Christ is revealed.
It is time to stop thinking of marriage, family and the church as institutions. They are not. They are biological organisms. Vows are not to be made lightly. Marriage is not a contract or convenient arrangement for two people. When a vow of marriage is made, a new organic entity has been born. The law of marriage is the means of God joining Himself to us mortals. God does not change who we are as people, only the sinful nature is changed. Likewise, we don’t try to change our spouses. Instead we mold ourselves together to make a stronger being for Christ to express Himself through. A strong marriage and family joined to another strong marriage and family makes a fuller expression of Christ’s life in the church. The government neither creates, nor controls marriage and family. Every foolish attempt to undermine marriage will fail, for marriage is the substance of reality. The contrived arrangements made today will disintegrate and fade away when real crisis comes. People naturally fall back to God given order.