By Donnie V. Rader
Is marriage important? How you answer that question has everything to do with how you approach marriage, commitment to it and even di- vorce. In that marriage is a divine institution, it goes without saying that it is important. Another obvious fact is that the world’s view of marriage continues to decline.
The Sunday Tennessean (June 6, 1999) had an article on the front page entitled, “Importance of marriage declines.” The article stated:
Divorce has become so common in Tennessee that almost two-thirds of all new marriages involve either a divorced bride or groom, and 38% of weddings are between two divorced persons, a new study shows.
The report released by the conservative Tennessee Family Institute, is based on marriage data from the past 20 years.
Research analyst Roger Abramson, who wrote the report, said the numbers reflect a societal shift toward placing less importance on the institution of marriage.
“The institution of marriage generally is in a weaker state now than it was (20 years ago) because people don’t view marriage as the commitment they once did,” Abramson said. “We now have a state with a significant group of people where families are torn apart for no other reason than they just want to.”
. . . But information from the National Center for Health Statistics has for years been used to predict that about half of new marriages will end in divorce.
Tennessee’s divorce rate of 6.3 per 1,000 people is the eighth-highest rate in the country, according to an NCHS study, and state statistics show a growing number of Tennesseans are getting married for their fifth and sixth time.
The attitudes reflected in these studies affect God’s people too. We live in a world that shapes and molds the weaker ones to be like it (Rom. 12:1-3). Thus, it behooves us to teach continually about the importance of marriage.
Marriage Was Created By God
Marriage is not a creation of mankind, but of God him- self. In the very beginning God saw that it was not good that man should be alone and he thus said, “I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18). So, God created Eve from his rib and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24). This principle, stated in the garden, was quoted by Paul (Eph. 5:31) and Jesus himself (Matt. 19:4-6) when teaching on marriage.
This institution, called marriage, was planned and de- signed by God. Being the author of it, God set the laws that are to govern this relationship (Gen. 2:24; Rom. 7:2-3).
The Purpose of Marriage
The importance of marriage is clearly seen when we understand why God created it. What is the purpose of marriage?
1. Companionship. When God saw that it was not good that man should be alone, he made a wife for him (Gen. 2:18-24).
2. Legitimately bearing children. It is possible to have children without the honor of marriage. However, to do so involves sin. When God created marriage in the beginning he said, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply . . .’” (Gen. 1:27-28).
Paul said, “Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14).
3. For sexual relations — to avoid fornication. Lest man behave as an animal and seek to fulfill his desire with any who would be willing, he designed marriage for the lawful sexual union. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own hus- band. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (1 Cor. 7:2-4).
The same apostle wrote to the Hebrews saying, “Mar- riage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
Marriage Is Not Important If . . .
There are several ways that one may not honor marriage as God intended. Marriage is not important if . . .
1. There is sex before marriage. Premarital sex is not uncommon. Earlier in this decade the Tennessean reported that 63% of today’s teenagers see nothing morally wrong with sexual relations before marriage. That’s scary! That means that 63% of the people our teenagers associate with see nothing wrong with sex before marriage.
The Hebrew writer said that the marriage bed (sexual relations in marriage) is undefiled. However, the fornica- tor (pre-marital) and the adulterer (extra-marital) God will condemn (Heb. 13:4). Those who commit fornication, not only violate an emphatic prohibition, but have no respect for marriage.
2. Adultery is committed. When a married person goes outside the realm of marriage for sexual relations, his mar- riage is not important to him at all. We have already noted that Hebrews 13:4 says God will condemn such a person. Jesus taught that this unfaithful act gives the innocent party the right to put his mate away and remarry another (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).
3. One divorces without a scriptural right. When asked if a man could divorce his wife without a cause, Jesus re- sponded with four reasons why the answer was “no” (Matt. 19:3-6). Paul taught the same in 1 Corinthians 7:10-13. Jesus gave only one scriptural cause for divorce: fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). When a person divorces for any other cause, they do not honor marriage or God’s law.
4. One remarries without a scriptural right. Jesus said, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, com- mitteth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). The only one who has a right to remarry (in the case of divorce) is one who has put his mate away for the cause of fornication. All others commit adultery when they remarry.
The strictness of God’s law tells us that he views mar- riage as important. If his law would allow divorce for any cause, or remarriage in any divorce, it would indicate a lesser view of marriage. The very article we cited above suggests that frivolous divorce and remarriage is a sign that marriage is not important.
5. You are not the mate you ought to be. It is not only those who commit fornication or divorce who view mar- riage unimportant. Those who stay together and are never unfaithful to their mate could be guilty too. Those who do not work at making their marriage the best it can be, do not think marriage is important. If it is, they would change!
Husbands who view marriage as important seek to love their wives as themselves (Eph. 5:22-28), be understanding, honor their wives and treat them as the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). Wives who think marriage is important strive to love their husbands (Tit. 2:5), be submissive (1 Pet. 3:1-6), and have reverence for their husbands (Eph. 5:33).
We know marriage is important to God. We know that marriage is not important to the world. How do you view marriage?