One day, during the course of His normal ministry, Jesus was confronted and asked a question by the Pharisees. “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matthew 19:3). They were trying to reel Him into debate. Either way Jesus answered the question, He would put Himself at odds with someone. Yet, our Lord did answer. “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). The religious leaders in Jesus’ day taught that God permitted no-fault divorce so long as the man gave the woman a legal certificate (V.3). When Jesus was asked what His position was on the matter, He directed them to Genesis 2:24. Jesus didn’t get into the rabbinical debates. He didn’t even try to interpret Deuteronomy 24:1-4 which is where they derived their incorrect doctrine on divorce. Jesus went directly to God’s original design for marriage. From this passage we learn 5 things about God’s design for marriage.
- Marriage is God’s creation, no man’s. Marriage is not a human construct. It is a divine institution. Man does not have the right or authority to re-define marriage as he sees fit. God set the rules, standards and functions for marriage in the beginning.
- Marriage is between one man and one woman. Again, marriage is God’s design, and He only permits a man and woman to enter into this union. The state can make all the laws they want, but the only marriage that God recognizes is the monogamous union between one man and one woman.
- Marriage is a life-long commitment. Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” According to Scripture, marriage was ordained of God to be between one man and one woman for life. God never intended for divorce. I remember when I asked my Father in-law for permission to marry his daughter. We were fishing in Brown County on a dock next to a pond. I said, “Larry, how would you feel if I asked Sherrie to marry me?” Though he won’t admit it, he said, “Well, you know Joy and I really like you.” He also said, “Just make sure that you’re absolutely certain this is what you want to do. You only want to get married once. I told my daughters I’d pay for their wedding one time.” What he was saying is what Scripture teaches. Marriage is a lifelong commitment in the eyes of God.
- Marriage unites two into one. The Bible says, “the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.” The two are no longer separate entities but one in the eyes of God.
- Marriage is the context for human flourishing. Marriage is the bedrock for society and the context for human flourishing. Genesis 1:28- “And God said to [the newly married couple], “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” God brought the man and woman together in the sanctity of marriage and in doing so he created an institution in which human beings bear fruit for God.
These are God’s standards and designs for marriage. When we follow God’s plans, we honor Him and flourish ourselves. But, when we redefine marriage, human beings suffer and that’s exactly what we see in our culture today. We’ve broken God’s law and shattered His designs. We need to return to biblical principles to honor the Lord and see our people bear fruit for God.