was instituted by God at creation; it is not a man-made convention.
When we read what the Bible has to say about marriage, we are
reading a marriage instruction manual written by the designer.
On the sixth day of creation, God created a man. He recognized
that it was not good for the man to be alone, so he formed
woman as a suitable companion for the man. This was the first
marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). From the beginning, God ordained
marriage as a unique partnership between a man and his wife.
1. How was the woman formed?
2. Why did God choose to form the woman this way?
3. How did the man respond to his new companion?
4. What pattern was established for all future marriages?
Leaving father and mother
The first step in God’s design for marriage involves leaving
father and mother and coming together to begin a new family. The newly married couple are responsible for their own
decisions. However, parents can provide valuable advice and
encouragement to couples as they adjust to their new roles.
• Is it wrong to leave home before marriage?
• Is it wrong for a newly married couple to live with parents?
Jesus explained that marriage is a life-long commitment made
before God: • Is a de facto
. . . the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer
two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let
man not separate. (Mark 10:8-9)
In God’s design, marriage is a contract-it is a commitment
that is not to be made lightly, and not to be broken.
Becoming one flesh
God’s design for marriage involves the partners becoming
flesh”. The partners retain their own individual identities
personalities, yet a new joint identity is created.
In God’s design, the partners are spiritually one: they
each other to grow in faith and works in God’s service.
reminds husbands and wives that they are “heirs”
the gracious gift of life”. 1 Peter 3:7
In God’s design, the partners are emotionally one because
they trust each other completely. They are comfortable in
expressing their innermost thoughts to each other. Each one
is the other’s closest friend.
God also designed that husband and wife should be physically
one. Paul writes,
The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also
husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not
belong to him alone but also to his wife.
(1 Corinthians 7:4)
God designed sexual intercourse as a way for husbands and
wives to express their love for each other in an intimate physical
way. This level of physical closeness is only appropriate
when the partners have first made a commitment to each other
before God, and are spiritually and emotionally one. See Chapter 20. Sexual
Submitting to each other
God’s formula for happiness in marriage involves husbands
and wives submitting to each other. Paul writes,
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Submission means each partner shows self-sacrifice by putting
the needs of the other party before their own needs. Both
partners are deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of
each other. When they discuss issues together, they focus on
what is the best outcome for the partnership. This is in stark
contrast to the common attitude of today, where husband and
wife pull in opposite directions trying to get their own way
often as they can.
The husband’s role
Men and women share equal status before God in regard to
salvation. Paul writes,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor
female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
However, God designed different roles for the husband and
wife so that they would complement each other and work well
together as a team. The husband has a leadership role.
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the
head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. .
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:23,25)
As the head, the husband is responsible for all decisions that
the family makes (although, in practice, he may delegate the
decision making in many areas to his wife). He is responsible
for the spiritual direction of the family. Husbands are to follow
the loving and self-sacrificing leadership style of Christ.
Husbands are also required to be considerate with their wives,
respect them and not be harsh with them. 1 Peter 3:7; Colossians
The wife’s role
In the beginning, God designed the woman as a “suitable
helper” for the man. Genesis 2:18 The wife provides strength, support
and companionship. Malachi 2:14 They are described as spiritual “partners” and “fellow heirs of the grace of life”. 1 Peter 3:7 This shows
that, in marriage, a wife and a husband are to work together in spiritually helpful
The role of the wife also includes recognizing her husband’s
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
. . . and the wife must respect her husband.
God intends that man and woman “be fruitful and increase
number”. Genesis 1:28 The husband and wife should both be committed
serving him and to raising godly children. Is it always God’s will for a married couple to
have children? Should a married couple choose not to have children? Malachi writes about
the role of husband and wife as parents:
Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they
are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly
offspring. (Malachi 2:15)
Throughout the scriptures, parents are urged to train, teach
and instruct their children in God’s ways. God told the
to keep his commandments in their hearts and minds,
and then teach these commandments to their children.
Teach them to your children, talking about them when you
sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you
lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:19)
The Proverbs speak of the importance of a parent’s guidance
Does this guarantee a well-trained child will choose to serve God?
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old
he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
The apostle Paul urges fathers to take responsibility for educating
their children about God’s ways.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring
them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Marrying an unbeliever
In Old Testament times, the Israelites were not permitted to
choose a marriage partner from the neighbouring nations:
Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters
to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they
will turn your sons away from following me to serve other
gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will
quickly destroy you. (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
God warned that marriages to people from the surrounding
nations would result in the nation of Israel turning away from
him. The New Testament teaching about marriage also shows
that God requires believers to marry only those who “belong to the Lord”. Marriage to a person who “belongs to the Lord” involves selecting a marriage partner who has the same faith and has committed his or her life to God through baptism. 1 Corinithians 7:39;
2 Corinithians 6:14-17 See “Developing close friendships” in chapter 63.
God makes it clear that he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Jesus also said “what God has joined together, let man not separate”
(Mark 10:9). So divorce is not something a believer should ever consider. In fact, Jesus said that divorce followed by remarriage is adultery: See also “Further investigation” question 3.
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery. (Mark 10:11-12)
God’s view of marriage:
|Genesis 2:18-24; Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14-15.
Instructions for marriage:
|Deuteronomy 24:5; Proverbs 5:15-19; Ecclesiastes 9:9; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 3:5-7.
|Deuteronomy 7:3-6; Ezra 10:7-17,44; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
|Deuteronomy 11:19; Proverbs 22:6; Malachi 2:15; Ephesians 6:4.
|Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Jeremiah 3:1,8; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 1:18-19; 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-15,39.
Are you contemplating marriage?
Ask yourself these questions:
• Have we committed our lives to God and do we share the same faith?
• Do we understand God’s design for marriage and the husband/wife roles?
• Do we understand each other’s values?
• Are we aware of each other’s expectations?
• Are we intellectually compatible?
• Are we physically attracted to each other?
• Would I be better off remaining single?
design for marriage involves husband and wife:
1. sharing the same faith;
2. leaving their parents to form a new family unit;
3. making a commitment to each other for life;
4. being joined together as one;
5. submitting to one another;
6. having different roles;
7. raising godly children.
1. What advantages would there be in marrying a person
who followed God’s design for marriage?
2. Why does God still expect wives to submit to their husbands
3. What difficulties could arise for someone who marries out
of the faith?
1. What instances can you find of polygamy in Old Testa- Polygamy:
more than one wife ment times. Why did God allow this?
2. What does the Bible teach about marriage in God’s kingdom?
3. Read Matthew 19:3-9. Did Jesus allow for divorce and
remarriage in some circumstances?
• Choosing to love by Olive Dawes, (published by the Australian
Christadelphian Committee, 1996). A guide for
engaged and young married couples.
• Man and woman: a study of biblical roles by Michael
Lewis, (published by the Testimony, 1992).
• Preparing for marriage by H.P. Mansfield, (published
Logos Publications, undated (approx 1980)). A series of
articles for those about to embark on the adventure of
• Reformation, by Harry Whittaker (published by Biblia,
1985). Chapter 32 covers “Marriage out of the Faith”.
61. Roles for men and women