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What Did Jesus Say About Marriage?

The Church must faithfully, unashamedly, and boldly stand on what Jesus said about marriage. Our churches need to hear this, the world we live in needs to hear this, and our own marriages will be enriched if we practice it.

In the recent congressional debate over “The Respect of Marriage Act,” one particular congressman stood at the podium, opened his Bible, and asked, “What did Jesus say about gay marriage?” Then he waited in silence as if to say, “Jesus said nothing about gay marriage.” However, our Lord Jesus would have answered him as He answered His critics, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Pastors, if we are ever going to stem the tide of the perversion and destruction of marriage, we need to return to the Biblical instruction of marriage, and we need to start now.

Make no mistake. Jesus did speak about marriage. The most definitive statement on marriage that Jesus ever made was in response to the question concerning divorce, placed to him by the Pharisees, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (Matthew 19:3). Their question was an attempt to trap Him, for they came “testing Him” (19:3). Although Jesus could have used the standard approach to answering religious questions, His answer showed His comprehension of Scripture. From God’s definition of marriage, Our Lord Jesus applied it to that one particular facet of marriage. So what did Jesus say?

Marriage is based in Scripture

His answer is phenomenal. He begins by saying, “Have you not read…?” To answer the question on divorce, He first takes us to the source of all knowledge of marriage, the Holy Scriptures. He refers the Pharisees back to the Bible and begins with two quotations from the first two chapters of Genesis. With these two quotations, He asserts the inspiration, the historicity, and the authority of the book of Genesis. The accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 are not myths, but the very Word of God. Society today is at a loss, as are some in the church, as to the definition of marriage because they reject the basis for marriage as described in the opening chapters of Genesis. Our society looks to the Supreme Court to define marriage, or the declarations of Congress, or even to conclusions of individuals. Our Lord takes us to the Scriptures, the eternal Word of God. Genesis provides the Christian worldview.

“Although Jesus could have used the standard approach to answering religious questions, His answer showed His comprehension of Scripture.”

Marriage is God’s Creation

Jesus also confirms that marriage is God’s creation when He states, “that He who created them from the beginning made them….” God who created the universe also created marriage, and thus marriage is God’s institution. Genesis 1 states the fact, and Genesis 2 shows how. Man did not evolve; man was created by God. Society did not gradually evolve or develop. Those who believe society gradually evolved see marriage as a product of human development and therefore believe they can change it into whatever form society dictates is necessary, acceptable, or preferred.

Like everything else God made in that first week, marriage was not only good, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Secular society sees “Biblical marriage” as something to be tolerated or even abhorred. Christians see marriage as God’s creation, and thus a gift of the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). God created man with marriage in mind. For that reason, marriage is the rule, not the exception for mankind (cp. Matthew 19:10-12; I Corinthians 7:25-40). It is this one truth that Jesus uses to give his answer to the question on divorce: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (19:6). In short, don’t mess with God’s institution and thus incur His wrath (cp. Hebrews 13:4; I Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Although not stated in Matthew 19, the fact that our Lord pointed to Genesis 1 as the basis for marriage, is crucial and intentional. He specifically quotes from Genesis 1:27:  “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him….” This text shows that God made man in His image. Also, in the previous verse God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Man was made to worship God, to love God, to have a relationship with God (Genesis 3:8-9). In addition, in quoting from Genesis 2, our Lord affirms the manner of man’s creation, first the man and then the woman. This is to show that marriage is a means of companionship (2:18-23). God made marriage as a means for man to have fellowship with God and fellowship with the spouse. We echo the sentiments of the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Marriage is between a man and a woman

Man did not evolve; man was created, and God created men and women as sexual beings. Gender distinction was part of God’s plan. God had a purpose for gender. Male and female are the only two that He created and affirmed. Consider the reference to Genesis 2:24 quoted in Matthew 19:5, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.” (Italics added for emphasis). The context of our Lord’s words comes in response to the creative act of fashioning a wife for Adam and to this wonderful act Adam says, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). God stresses the distinction, the uniqueness, and the blessing of gender (cp. I Peter 3:7).

Gender is indeed a blessing. Genesis 1:28 states, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….” Sexuality has many blessings, but one of the main ones is procreation. God made us distinct sexual beings for the purpose of procreation. Man and woman are perfectly matched in every respect for the birthing and rearing of children. It is in the union of the two sexual beings that they become “one flesh” (cp. I Corinthians 6:15-16).

Furthermore, the Scriptures place the perversion of gender and sexuality on mankind’s abandonment of God (Romans 1:18-27). The perversion of gender is not a step up, but a huge step down.

“Man did not evolve; man was created, and God created men and women as sexual beings. Gender distinction was part of God’s plan. God had a purpose for gender.”

Marriage is God’s institution

When our Lord quotes from Genesis 2:24, He affirms the institution of marriage. Roles in marriage and family are not a post-Eden curse. They existed in the creation of marriage. By stating that a man shall leave his father and mother, Scripture implies that a man is under the authority of his parents and in their household. Upon marriage, man is no longer be under their authority, and they would have no say so in the new household. The man and his wife would create a new household with its own roles and authority. This is the institution called marriage and is divinely established for mankind. It is the basis for society, and the New Testament teaching on marriage everywhere affirms the institution of marriage with its God-ordained roles (see Ephesians 5:21-6:4; Colossians 3:18-21; Titus 2:1-5; I Peter 3:1-7). In short, it is not government, or schools, or business, or any other human organized group that defines the family. Marriage and family constitute God’s institution.

Marriage is permanent

Jesus has a word about marriage: it is intended to be a permanent institution. The implication of God taking two people – man and woman – to become one flesh, means that God has joined them together (literally, yoked together). Hence what God has joined together, no one can separate (cp. I Corinthians 7:10-11). Paul emphasizes the oneness in marriage in his teaching and even calls it a great mystery (Ephesians 5:31-32). The relationship between a husband and wife is likened to the relationship between Christ and His Church. The application of the creation of marriage by God is that God determined a man and woman would become husband and wife and would remain so until their death (cp. Romans 7:1-3; I Corinthians 7:39).

The Pharisees raise the exception allowed by Moses (Matthew 19:7) to which the Lord answers, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it has not been this way.” In other words, if you are looking for a loophole you will find it, but God’s original plan was for no divorce. Man’s hardness of heart makes him rebellious to God’s will. In addition, man’s unfaithfulness to his marriage vows and his subsequent immoralities impacts the “one flesh” of marriage (Matthew 19:9).

God has the last word

So what did Jesus say about marriage? In summary, He says that God has the last word. We look to His Word as the only basis for marriage, for the definition of marriage, for the description of marriage, and for its purpose. For marriage to be truly Biblical, it must be according to God’s Word. The Church must faithfully, unashamedly, and boldly stand on what Jesus said about marriage. Our churches need to hear this, the world we live in needs to hear this, and our own marriages will be enriched if we practice it.

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