Just Like the Natural World, Man-Woman Marriage Has God’s Fingerprints All Over It!
Marriage is common. It does not appear profound.…Marriage does not astound us. That is why Paul alerts us to the “profound mystery” revealed in a Christian marriage. We need new eyes to discern the glory God has put there. There is a reason why marriage appears in Genesis 2. The context is the creation of the universe, in Genesis 1. I have never seen a creation of a universe. But I have sen many weddings. Marriage may be common to us, but it is why the universe was created, and not for Adam and Eve only, but even more for Christ and his church.
Key point: Marriage is about a great deal more than two people. It’s also about children, and ultimately, it’s about God.
We’ve been considering lessons for the American evangelical church arising from Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees in Matthew 19. Here is our list thus far.
Rembrandt’s depiction of Matthew’s being guided by an angel as he wrote his Gospel
- First, Jesus’ question to the Pharisees— “Have you not read” the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman and the establishment of marriage? —is a question I believe He also would ask church leaders and Christians today. I do not mean we as evangelicals are Pharisees or pharisaical but that we ought to be familiar with the Genesis account and its implications for us in this morally decadent culture. We made this point in this post.
- Second, the fact that Jesus went back to Genesis—wherein are recorded God’s words and actions at the dawn of time—ought to carry great weight with us.
- Third, in creating human beings as male and female, God simultaneously established marriage as the first and most important institution.
- Fourth, When Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” He meant that because God had created human beings male and female, a man shall leave his parents and be joined to his wife in a one-flesh union.
We made the second, third, and fourth points in this post. We move now in this final post in this series to consider four additional truths, all of which underscore the legitimacy of heterosexual marriage. All these insights will help us as we seek to link man-woman marriage to the gospel, and as we work to preserve marriage in the culture for the gospel’s sake.
Only a Heterosexual Union Can Reflect Unity and Diversity Within the Godhead
Fifth, Jesus went on to say, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.” Having quoted Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:5, the Master Teacher underscored the “one-flesh principle” of man-woman marriage in 19:6. A husband and wife are to become one flesh, not just physically, but on many levels, including relationally, socially, financially, and in other ways as well. While a married person’s individuality does not cease, it no longer has independence as its primary focus, but oneness with the marital partner.
We could say a great deal about this, but here we want to emphasize this point: Marital oneness reflects the oneness we see in the triune Godhead. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.” Jesus is God, but He is neither the Father nor the Spirit. In a variety of ways, He is different from each one. Yet there is unity among the Trinity’s Members.
We see evidence of the Trinity even before God made human beings. On the cusp of creating humanity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit discussed the matter.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28).
Within the Godhead, as we have indicated, we see both unity and diversity. Not coincidentally, while both men and women are equal in worth and are equally made in God’s image, men reflect His image in a variety of ways that women typically do not, and vice versa. Let’s put it another way. Men and women are both human, yet they are different (also go here, here, and here); there is unity and diversity among them. These are God’s “fingerprints” on His highest creation! The fact that human beings consist of both males and females represents not only the wide range of ways people showcase God’s image, but also the unity and diversity that coexists within the Godhead.
These truths lead us to an inescapable conclusion. While all people, both males and females, are made in God’s image, the one-flesh nature of man-woman marriage reflects His image in ways no individual man or woman can—and in ways no same-sex couple can, whether the state says they are “married” or not. Here we are in no way equating singleness with same-sex marriage. Rather, we’re upholding man-woman marriage as uniquely able to reflect the broad range of ways God’s image is evident in human beings. This is especially critical for children, whose first impressions about God come from their parents.
The one-flesh nature of man-woman marriage reflects God’s image in ways no individual man or woman can—and in ways that no same-sex couple can, whether the state says they are “married” or not.
Scriptural Context Offers an Additional Insight
Sixth, it is noteworthy that the next encounter Jesus had, as recorded in Matthew and Mark, involved children. Jesus did speak briefly to His disciples about celibacy on the heels of his conversation with the Pharisees (see Matt. 19:11-12 in the parallel passages we just cited), but this teaching readily can be seen as the last portion of His teaching on marriage and divorce, which had been prompted by the Pharisees’ question.
Matthew 19:13 says, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray….” Mark writes in what we now know as Mark 10:13, “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them….” While we need to be careful not to read too much into this, at the same time we need to remember that nothing in Scripture appears coincidentally. Marriage and children are inseparably linked. Children follow marriage, but only man-woman marriage. Yes, children can be born outside of marriage, but God’s ideal is that they come as a result of the sexual oneness their parents have experienced in being married to each other.
There’s something else. What better expression of a one-flesh relationship could their be than a child? This point alone disqualifies same-sex relationships from being described as one-flesh unions.
The disciples rebuked those who brought the children to the Master, “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). Similarly, we read this in Mark’s account.
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).
Luke’s Account Opens the Door to Yet Another Insight
A seventh point—one related to the sixth—arises. Although Matthew and Mark are the two synoptic Gospels that record Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and His teaching about marriage and divorce, all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record Jesus’ blessing the children. We do well to note from Luke’s chronology what happened before and after our Lord welcomed the children and blessed them. Here is the text of Luke 18:9-30.
Items 172-175 in this chart provide a “big picture” summary of the series of events we’re highlighting in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Note that in item 175, “Jesus speaks to the rich young man,” is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here is a biblegateway.com page presenting the texts of all three Gospel accounts.
We should make a brief statement at this point about Gospel chronology. In an article about events in the Gospels that at first seem contradictory, we read, “Taken at face value, the Gospels seem to intend a sequential account of Christ’s life: they progress through his birth, baptism, temptation, ministry, passion, death and then resurrection.” Even so, the article goes on to say, accounts differ over the order of some events. In other words, offering a strict chronology was not the Gospel writers’ primary concern. Yet we still must think of the order in which the events are recorded as having been inspired or God-breathed, since the words themselves are God-breathed and absolutely true.
James Tissot’s depiction of Luke
Both events that “bookend” Jesus’ blessing the children in Luke’s Gospel—
- His relating the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector as well as
- His encounter with the rich young ruler—
more than likely took place close to His encounter with the Pharisees and His teaching on marriage and divorce. Is there a point to be made here? I believe there is.
God hates pride! Either overtly and by implication, Jesus condemned pride in His parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (see Luke 18:9-14), in His blessing of the little children (see Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17), and in His instructions to the rich young man (see Matt. 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30).
How does all of this relate to His teachings on marriage and divorce? (See Matt. 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12).
- First, the Pharisees themselves were full of pride.
- Second, successful marriages require humility (also go here).
- Third, while divorce occurs for a wide variety of reasons, pride is likely present somewhere in every divorce occurring today. Pride had to be a factor in a man’s writing a certificate of divorce, the practice about which the Pharisees asked Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning [when God established marriage] it was not so” (Matt. 19:8, emphasis added).
- Our fourth observation notes the clear link between pride and homosexuality in the modern gay rights movement. Militant homosexual activists have made the word pride practically synonymous with the radical homosexual agenda. This association of pride with overt sin is not coincidental but a natural result of following one’s own way—or the way of the prevailing secular culture—rather than God’s. This is especially true if inclinations and base desires are left unchecked.
This fourth point is heartbreaking beyond words, and we must weep for our homosexual friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members. We also must pray for them and love them unconditionally. Moreover, in loving them, we must seek to tell them the truth about their behavior. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes the path taken by those who reject God and natural law—the principles God has revealed in the natural world. Homosexuality isn’t the only sin of which these people are guilty, but it is impossible to be fair to the biblical text and separate homosexuality from Paul’s description. In English in the New King James Version, what Paul wrote in verses 28-32 forms one long sentence.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Note the use of the words translated proud and boasters in verse 30. Significantly, both Greek words appear together in just one other verse in the New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:2. Paul reversed the order in his letter to Timothy. Here is the entire context of the verse, with the words we’re highlighting printed in bold text.
31 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Pride, therefore, is nothing to be proud of!
Jesus Did Not Misrepresent Himself
Eighth, we must not be naïve. There are those who will point to this passage and say Jesus wasn’t talking about the definition of marriage when He spoke against divorce. It is clear, however, that Jesus appealed to and upheld the age-old definition of marriage to speak against divorce.
As we have seen in this and in previous posts, God didn’t arbitrarily ordain that marriage would be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Instead, in making man and woman in His image, He established marriage. God made every person, whether male or female, in His image; but the world gets to see even more of God’s nature than individual people can reflect. Marriage provides an even clearer picture of God and what He is like. God is unchanging, so we can know divinely designed portraits are not fluid or subject to change. This doesn’t mean people always succeed in presenting the truth about God through the institution of marriage; Jesus Himself acknowledged human failure at this point. It does mean that people and society always benefit when they strive to uphold the ideal.
Marriage also is a portrait of Christ and His bride, the church. God’s Son came from heaven to earth to pursue His bride by living a holy life and then sacrificing Himself on the cross for her. He remains faithful to the end. To suggest that in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 that Jesus’ words affirming marriage somehow leave the door open to redefining it is to totally misunderstand and misrepresent biblical teaching. As important as marriage is, a great deal more is at stake here than marriage, and that’s saying a lot! People’s understanding of the very nature of God is at stake!
To suggest that in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 Jesus’ words affirming marriage somehow leave the door open to redefining it is to totally misunderstand and misrepresent biblical teaching.
The gospel, the primary message of the Bible, is at stake as well. Because marriage is a picture of Christ and His church, it also is a picture of the gospel. If the gospel is worth upholding, marriage is worth upholding. How can we tell ourselves we ought not to risk offending people by talking about marriage when it is so intricately woven into the fabric of the gospel? Don’t we know that the gospel itself is offensive? If we don’t defend marriage in some form or fashion, our inactions betray us. We really don’t care about the gospel.
If we don’t defend marriage in some form or fashion, our inactions betray us. We really don’t care about the gospel.
Where can we begin? Let’s start by talking about the biblical definition of marriage in our churches and passing along to the next generation of Christians a clear understanding of how marriage mirrors—and is to mirror—what God is like, what Christ’s relationship with His church is like, and the gospel itself.
Champion the Truth!
Ninth, Jesus’ “punchline” in His response to the Pharisees is extremely instructive for us. The Master Teacher said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” By way of application for our day, this means that what God has joined together by defining and establishing marriage, man cannot separate by redefining it. While this has happened in the judicial realm in America, and while society now recognizes same-sex marriages as legitimate, the church ought to be a place where God’s authority and Word are understood to be absolutely authoritative and supreme. God’s people need to be informed and confident about the biblical view of marriage so that they aren’t swayed by the politically correct arguments against it. When they are so informed, they will be better able to defend marriage in the culture at large.
International Organization for the Family President Brian Brown warns,
Same-sex “marriage” is a lie, one advanced by radical leftists and their allies in Hollywood and the media. Intrinsically, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It is an institution created at the beginning of time, one that has been recognized by every civilization in human history. But leftists want to redefine reality and tragically succeeded in convincing a narrow majority of the US Supreme Court to go along with their scheme. As we’ve seen in the United States, once the lie of same-sex marriage is imposed on a nation, all the levers of power are exercised to spread the lie throughout society, and it gives rise to other lies, such as the notion that gender can be redefined, that children don’t need a mother and a father, that it is healthy for a child to have many “parents” even if they are all of the same sex, and that reproduction is a human right of people who do not engage in sexual relationships naturally capable of producing children.
Leftists want to redefine reality. Once the lie of same-sex marriage is imposed on a nation, all the levers of power are exercised to spread the lie throughout society, and it gives rise to [a host of] other lies.
The main lie and its subsequent falsehoods are taking hold! It’s time for church leaders who say they believe in the gospel to step up to the plate and lead.
Will you fulfill your responsibility in this worthy effort?
Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1Ray Ortlund, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 99.
top image: Frederic Edwin Church’s painting, Aurora Borealis, 1865