Intro: to fairly judge the institution of marriage, we must go far beyond its status at this particular time.
Questions that would give some good answers:
What was its origin?
What part has it played through history?
How does it work within a society?
Is there another way for that work to be done?
We must, unfortunately, say that many voices in America today are trying to get rid of marriage altogether.
Who can we ask these questions and know that they speak the truth?
I suggest that we must go to the one who started it: God Himself. From the beginning, in the very heart of the mind of God, marriage was the most intimate coming together of one man and one woman. It was based on mutual love and faithfulness. It was a lifelong working together.
Sex was the outward act of the one-ness of two people in marriage. It also brought children and thereby a family. Sex took place only in marriage and was not considered separate.
Unfortunately, today, sex outside of marriage is more common than marriages that last. And we have seen the result in broken families, a great deal of pain and heartache, hardships, loneliness, insecurity.
Marriage has been here since the beginning. In Genesis 2:18. God revealed to Adam his need for a wife. He created woman for man as "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." They were to love and cherish each other. They were to enjoy and show this the highest expression of mutual affection, the closest human communion. God uses marriage to express the depths of His love for us.
Marriage is also a solemn vow entered into freely by one man and one woman, in which they promise their love and faithfulness to each other, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in good times and in bad, as long as they both shall live.
Marriage is also the relationship which produces children and nourishes, teaches, and trains them until they can go out on their own. It is the place children are supposed to learn about real love, by seeing how their parents love them and each other. If they see the great blessing of such deep and long-lasting love, they are more likely to seek that also in their lives.
Children who do not see this in their homes have so very little to go on in forming their own relationships.
This love of giving and thinking about the other person first is God's way of demonstrating His own love for us in sending Jesus, His Son, to die for our sins.
Within this relationship the children are also to learn a respect for authority as the parents try to teach right from wrong and how to act responsibly.
Jesus said in Mark 10:2-12 -
2 ¶ And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
3 And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
4 And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
8 and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
10 ¶ And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
11 And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Paul said in I Corinthians 7:1-11 -
1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.
7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
8 ¶ I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.
10 ¶ And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11 but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
Paul also advises a Christian not to marry a non-Christian because of the problem it would cause.
Marriage was from the beginning a divine institution - the most perfect relationship between a man and woman. Also it was the perfect way for children to be raised.
If we turn from God's ideal and look at marriage through history we must notice immediately that because of sin, God's ideal was rarely attempted. Men used marriage according to their own desires - sometimes having many wives, or divorcing by merely dismissing the wife. When marriage and the family were stable, the society was strong. When marriage was no longer respected and the family broken up - the society also was breaking up.
You may ask how or why that happened. One other character must be mentioned - that is the great deceiver, satan. He has taken every good thing created by God and tried to destroy it.
In the U.S. today, possibly as well as more than other countries, marriage is but a shadow of what it is supposed to be. Adultery is an exciting adventure. Divorce is easy, and no longer abnormal. Each person decides under what conditions they will marry and stay married - and no one has the right to interfere. The family is being destroyed at the same time.
Children grow up seeing each parent out for themselves. They see selfishness, and quarreling. They see one leaving the other. They see affairs. What will they expect of marriage when they grow up? Will they know about unselfish love - a working together in good or bad circumstances - will they understand about the joys of giving without expecting anything in return - about putting responsibility above your own desires?
We are told that there are alternatives to marriage - shacking up, playing around, pre-marital sex. Pre-marital sex robs a person's future marriage of its sacred blessing. It is also robbery - for a man is taking something that is not his. The girl is still under the protection and authority of her parents - who have a right to give their daughter to one they trust to marry and take care of her.
It is so easy to go along with the ways of the world - but you must face it, either here and now or when you stand before God. You must choose whom you will serve - yourself and your own pleasure - or the higher calling of doing it God's way.
Strangely enough, only in God's way can you find contentment and happiness. If you choose it God's way and try - know this - you will fail - there will be times of difficulty - arguments, problems.
One thought you must keep - it is more important to stay married than to be right - or to get your own way every time. Each give 100% - keep no records, and forgive every time you are asked to. Faith in Jesus as your Saviour makes it possible to succeed. Without Him, trying to do it by your own power is impossible. Love your spouse as Jesus loves you. God will bless you.
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. View more lessons at his Bible Study Lessons page.