The definition of marriage is being discussed a lot these days as people change their views or challenge the traditional definition. So many are wondering, what does the Bible say about what marriage really is?
There are many references to marriage, husbands, wives, and the like in the Bible, but it’s hardly a dictionary or handbook with all the answers step by step. So it’s no wonder many are hazy about what God intends for us to know about what marriage really is. Instead the Bible has hints here and there, which means we must study and pray about what we read to truly gain a knowledge of what it all means.
But there are some moments of clarity about what marriage is in the Bible.
Here are three main points that help us learn the definition of marriage in the Bible.
1. Marriage is Ordained of God
It’s clear that God not only approves of marriage—he hopes all will enter into this holy and sacred institution. He promotes it as it is part of his plan for his children. In Hebrews 13:4 it says, “Marriage is honourable.” It’s clear that God wants us to aspire to holy matrimony.
Then in Matthew 19:5-6 it says, “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Here we see that marriage isn’t just something man made up, but something “God hath joined together.” At the appropriate age, He wants us to leave our parents and marry, becoming “one flesh” which can be interpreted as one entity. In the physical sense this means sexual intercourse, but in the spiritual sense this means loving each other and giving to each other.
2. Marriage is a Covenant
A promise is one thing, but a convent is a promise that also involves God. In the Bible, we learn that marriage is a covenant. In Malachi 2:14, it says, “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” It clearly tells us that marriage is a covenant and that God is involved, in fact God is even a witness of the married couple. Marriage is important to Him, especially in how the spouses treat each other. In this particular set of verses, God is disappointed in how the wife was treated.
In the Bible we also learn that God does not look fondly on the non-marriage arrangement or “living together,” which further proves that marriage itself involves making actually promises. In John 4 we read of the woman at the well and her lack of a current husband, though she is living with a man. In verses 16-18 it says, “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” What Jesus is saying is that living together isn’t the same as marriage; in fact marriage must be the result of a covenant or marriage ceremony.
Jesus even attends a marriage ceremony in John 2:1-2, which further shows the validity of the covenant made at the marriage ceremony. “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.”
3. Marriage is to Help Us Better Ourselves
Why do we have marriage? In the Bible it’s clear that God wants us to take part in marriage so as to better ourselves. In 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 it tells us that our bodies and souls are not our own, but our spouses: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 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.”
So in the marriage union, we are learning to be less selfish, and to have faith and give of ourselves more freely. Later in verse 33 it continues that thought: “But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” Throughout the Bible God has given commandments and instructions on how to live, but being married causes us all to think and feel differently—to think less of ourselves and more for another.