by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, February 5, 2010
"Education commences at the mother's knee, and every word spoken within hearsay of little children tends toward the formation of character."
Last time, we saw that it is God's involvement that provides the blessings and advantages to the Christian marriage. He makes Himself a party to the marriage covenant, binding the agreement and elevating it spiritually so that it can function as a superior environment for character growth and preparation for the Kingdom of God. With God participating in our marriages, the power is available to make it successful.
However, this does not imply that an individual is a failure if his or her marriage does not work; sometimes the odds are stacked against a person's success. Not every marriage is going to be perfect and work out perfectly—in fact, very few will be absolutely seamless because we are, after all, still human. Yet, a Christian has a clear advantage over others since God's power, gifts, and blessing are there for the asking and use.
Those of us who are married should take this to heart and grab onto this blessing as if it were a lifeline. It is there as a cushion and a help for us in our marriages because, no matter what two people they are and how much they have in common, the couple who makes a vow to share their lives until death parts them are quite different as individuals. They will never agree completely on everything. So, to make the marriage work to its fullest potential, God's blessing and involvement are absolutely necessary.
We have seen that God blesses marriage in the first chapter of Genesis, and it is interesting that as the Book nears its end, in Revelation 19, marriage and His blessing on it once again take center stage. Clearly, the institution of marriage has a far higher purpose than just the physical union of a man and a woman.
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." (Revelation 19:6-9)
Here we have a prophetic portrayal of the ultimate marriage, and God's blessing goes out to those who comprise the wife—the bride—of Jesus Christ. This blessing in Revelation 19:9 gives the blessing in Genesis 1:28 its true context. Our human marriages are types of this greater spiritual marriage. The experiences that we go through during a blessed physical marriage are designed by God to prepare us for our part in the ultimate intimate relationship with our Savior.
Marriage is a representation on the human plane of union between God and man. A similar intimacy exists in both relationships. Just as the sexual bond between a man and woman makes them "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24; see I Corinthians 6:16), a close, spiritual unity between God and a converted human being—which Jesus says is "to know" God in John 17:3 (compare this term to the sexual imagery of Genesis 4:1)—makes them "one spirit." On this, the apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:17, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (see also Ephesians 4:4). Physical marriage, then, can teach us how to be spiritually one with God.
Just as surely as God will bless the union between His Son and the Bride, He will also endue the physical type with the ability to fulfill its purpose—that is, to create unity between marriage partners to prepare them for union with God.
A third purpose of marriage is found in Genesis 1:28: "God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth. . . .'" God provides marriage to produce children, and evidently, He wants many of them! The Catholic Church teaches that the primary reason for marriage is to produce children, but spiritually, it is secondary to God's higher purpose. Certainly, marriage is the only union so authorized and blessed to produce children. This purpose contains all the sexual aspects to marriage relations, as regulated by the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18).
Children produced outside of the marriage union will automatically be burdened by severe disadvantages. Beyond the emotional troubles inherent in illegitimacy, single-parent households are typically poorer than the average and are powerless to improve. The harried single parent is forced to work long hours at his job or several jobs, decreasing the precious time that every parent needs to give to his children. In this situation, children often spend a great deal of time alone and undisciplined, frequently finding themselves in trouble with teachers and administrators, neighbors, and law enforcement. As a result, they often feel unloved, abandoned, and at odds with the world, and many end up repeating the sins of their parents.
Only within marriage and the traditional family can children have the best environment to produce, not just secure, peaceful, useful lives, but also the discipline and character to have the image of God created in them. This does not preclude a child produced outside of marriage from God's calling, although it can make matters more difficult. By the same token, not every child who grows up in a traditional Christian family will answer God's summons to belief and repentance. However, marriage provides the best and the only God-sanctioned relationship for the conception, bearing, and rearing of children. If a child begins his life in the proper environment, he has a head start on reaching both his physical and spiritual potentials.
These purposes of marriage always seem to return to the idea that God is reproducing Himself. The lawful union of man and wife is a vital first step in this process. Once God binds them together and they conceive a child, they bring into being another individual who has the potential to be a member of God's Family. This is the way God intends the process to begin.
Then, after parents train them up in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), they turn them over to God for further development as His children. This is one of the great ironies in all of creation: that God gives often young, immature, inexperienced human parents "first crack" at producing children in His image. He places upon them the tremendous responsibility to mold and shape the next generation into the moldable clay that He can work with to shape righteous sons and daughters for His Kingdom.
Nonetheless, it all begins with marriage, the best environment to turn out the ideal product for God to use in reproducing Himself. In Part Four, we will examine a fourth purpose of the marriage institution.