Question: "What is God's design for marriage?"
Answer: Marriage has been a hot topic lately, and there is much confusion surrounding the issue. Is there a design for marriage, and, if so, who has the right to change the design? Can we redefine what marriage is if the old definitions are too restrictive? At the heart of our questioning is a clash of worldviews.
It seems that Christians who take the Bible as God’s final word on the subject of marriage are the only ones who are not confused. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He has stated plainly that marriage is His idea. He defined it in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:24). Jesus reiterated God’s design for marriage in the New Testament (Mark 10:6–8).
After God created the first man, Adam, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him” (Genesis 2:18). So God’s first objective in creating marriage was to provide companionship. He did not make another man for Adam so that he could experience brotherly affection. He created a woman from the man’s own body and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:21–22). With the woman, Adam could experience a deeper kind of intimacy than he could with a man. God created male and female bodies and souls to complement each other in such a way that they become “one flesh” in marriage (Genesis 2:24).
God’s design for marriage is that it be a unique union between a man and a woman in a covenant for life. God’s design includes sex, the consummation of that union, which is to be experienced only between a married couple. Any sexual expression outside the marriage covenant is sin. The sexual union was designed, in part, to bring forth children (Genesis 1:28), who are to be raised in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). By designating specific roles for husband, wife, and children, God instituted the family. With the husband bearing the responsibility for the family’s well-being and the wife acting as his helper, the family can thrive (Ephesians 5:21–33).
God’s design for marriage is that it be a picture of His union with those He calls His own. Throughout the Old Testament, God used imagery related to marriage to explain His love and commitment toward Israel. When the nation of Israel rebelled against Him, God expressed the sorrow and jealousy of a man who has a cheating wife. “Like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,” the Lord says in Jeremiah 3:20. In the New Testament, marriage is used as an illustration of Christ and His relationship with His Bride, the Church. Paul writes, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Corinthians 11:2; cf. Ephesians 5:31–32). So God’s design for marriage is that it be an unbreakable covenant such as God has made with His people.
When God designed marriage, He pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He still pronounces it “good” when we follow His design. All perversions of His design, including divorce, sexual promiscuity, and homosexual activity, destroy families and therefore weaken society. God is the designer of marriage and the only One qualified to give us instructions about how to use His gift. We do well when we decide to follow His design for marriage.