Cross Words: A theology of marriage

By Isaiah Pauley - Cross Words

A girl in a white dress walks down the aisle. Beautiful music plays in the background. A man, beaming with excitement, awaits her on the other side. The congregation stands, and the ceremony begins. Before long, the two newlyweds walk into a world of new opportunities and adventures.

Marriage is God’s idea. The foundation for marriage is clearly expressed in the first book of the Bible. It reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24 ESV).

In his commentary, Victor P. Hamilton further explains two words in the text which signify the magnitude of marriage. The verb used for ‘leave’ in Genesis 2:24 can be compared to Israel’s rejection of Yahweh. On the other hand, the verb used for ‘hold fast’ represents the work involved in keeping a covenant. Hamilton comments, “Thus, to leave father and mother and cling to one’s wife means to sever one loyalty and commence another. Already Scripture has sounded the note that marriage is a covenant rather than an ad-hoc, makeshift arrangement.”

A marriage covenant is made between a man and his wife. This echoes the creation of man in the first chapter of Genesis. The Bible reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (v. 27 ESV). Any ‘marriage’ contrary to this biblical definition is, therefore, no marriage at all.

Not only does the Bible explain the institution of marriage, but it also explains the implementation of this most sacred union between husband and wife. What exactly does a Christian marriage look like?

The Bible says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (2:18 ESV).

One can only imagine Adam’s excitement as Eve approaches him. Listen to what he says: “… ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’” (2:23 ESV). It is here where humanity must recognize the gift of marriage as granted by the grace of God. However, what does the Bible mean by ‘helper?’ (v. 18 ESV). Is this to say that women are inferior to men? Absolutely not!

By no means does God’s designation of Eve as ‘helper’ decrease her value in marriage. Tim Keller expands on this when he writes, “When God sees Adam alone, a male without a female, God says it is ‘not good.’ It is the first thing in the universe that God finds imperfect. Adam is the physical source of Eve, and he is given the responsibility of naming her. Both of these elements in the narrative lay the basis for later New Testament statements about a husband’s ‘headship.’ However, despite giving authority to the man, the woman is not described in the expected way—as an inferior.”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Eph. 5:22-24 ESV).

This verse makes a great deal of people uncomfortable. But the Bible is not calling men superior to women. Nor is it presenting submission as a type of slave/master relationship. Instead, the implementation of marriage is that husband and wife serve one another in selfless love.

In other words, the biblical way of implementing marriage, though difficult to interpret from a secular perspective, is actually a beautiful image of sacrificial love—both for the husband and wife. F.F. Bruce writes, “Christ’s love for the church is a self-sacrificing love, and the same, it is implied, should be true of husbands’ love for their wives.”

In Ephesians 5, one begins to understand the glorious metaphor of marriage. The glorious representation of marriage in Christ is central to understanding what marriage is. At the end of the day, a theology of marriage asserts that a husband and wife grow closer to Christ through their love for one another.

The institution and implementation of a God-centered marriage is to represent God’s work of bringing His people to Himself one glorious day.

In a world with such a dim and disappointing view of marriage, the Christian theology of marriage must be embraced and celebrated again. May all Christian marriages be an unrivaled expression of God’s love for humanity until the day when the perfect Husband comes for His spotless bride.

By Isaiah Pauley

Cross Words

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.