Text: Genesis 2:18-25
Title: The Christian Family Pt. 1: What Is Marriage For?
Date: February 5th, 2023
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington
18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Father thank you for the gift of marriage. Thank you for giving us this institution, this covenant, to be a picture of Christ’s love for the church. Make our marriages to be a beautiful testimony to what your love for us looks like, in Jesus name, Amen.
This morning we begin a new sermon series on The Christian Family, we’ll spend a number of weeks looking at what the Bible has to say about what a Christian family looks like, and we begin this morning with the question, “What is marriage for?”
- What is marriage for? Why do people get married?
- If you were to survey America on this question (which has been done), the dominant reasons that Americans give for getting married are (in this order): love, lifelong commitment, companionship, children, and financial benefits. Those are the primary reasons why Americans get married.
- And if we were to compare those reasons with the reasons the Bible gives, we would see that we are not terribly far from the kingdom, but our priorities are a bit out of order. People marry for love, people marry for lifelong commitment, but why should people get married?
- How would the Bible answer this question, “What is marriage for?”
- There are two historic documents I want to draw from that helpfully summarize the whole Bible’s teaching on this subject, and I want to read you both of them.
- The first is from the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which says:
- Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness. (WCF 24.2)
- So to translate to modern English, Marriage was ordained for 3 reasons:
- 1) Mutual help of husband and wife.
- 2) The bearing and raising of legitimate children, and specifically godly children.
- 3) The prevention of fornication/sexual sin.
- We see something similar in the Book of Common Prayer (1559, mid 16th century), and this contains what is likely the most famous words you will hear at a wedding ceremony, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of his congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony…etc.”
- Well the Book of Common Prayer says these are the three causes for which marriage was ordained:
- “One was the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and praise of God.
- Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication, that such persons as have not the gift of continence might marry and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
- Thirdly, for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity, into the which holy state these two persons present, come now to be joined.”
- So again, to summarize in modern English, Marriage was ordained for 3 reasons:
- 1) Procreation and the raising of godly children.
- 2) The prevention of sexual sin.
- 3) For mutual society, help, and comfort in all circumstances.
- Now you might have noticed that the ordering of these two historic documents is a little different, but the substance is the same. The 3 reasons why God ordained marriage are: For Children, For Help, and For Protection From Sexual Sin.
- Or if you would like a mnemonic to help you remember this” Marriage was ordained for: 1) Children 2) Companionship and 3) Chastity. Those are the three C’s for why God gave us marriage.
- So that is what the best of the Christian tradition has historically taught, and now I want to turn to demonstrating/proving these three reasons from the Bible, and we’ll start by going to Genesis 2, where the first marriage takes place.
The Context of Genesis 2
Now the events of Genesis 2:18-25 (our sermon text) take place when?
Answer: On the sixth day of creation.
- And we know this because in Genesis 1, God is said to create both and woman, and speak to both of them on the sixth day, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth…(and then a few verses later), 31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
- The first 5 days of creation were good, but after Man and Woman are married, God says behold it was very good.
- Now as we are trying to answer from Scripture why God gave us marriage, it is important to understand why the first man was given a wife in the first place. And to figure this out, we need to look closely at Adam’s first day on earth. Because for Adam, his birthday is also his wedding day.
- So if you were to a make a timeline of Adam’s first day on earth, it would like this:
- 1. God forms Adam from the dust of the ground, breathes life into his nostrils and places him in the Garden, and the first task Adam is given is: tend and keep this garden (Gen. 2:15). Adam is a kind of priest and the garden is a kind of temple.
- 2. He is told “You can eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:16-17)
- 3. He goes about the task of naming the animals (cattle, birds, beasts). (Gen. 2:20)
- Questions for the kids: If Adam only named the land animals and birds, then who named the sea creatures, who named Leviathan?
- 4. After naming the animals and not finding a helper suitable to him, God puts him into a deep sleep (Gen. 2:21).
- 5. God takes one of Adam’s ribs and forms the woman. (Gen. 2:21-22)
- 6. God brings the woman to the man (Gen. 2:22)
- 7. Adam names her Woman (isha) and in doing so he takes on a new name as well (ish). (Gen. 2:23)
- Before he was Adam from the adamah (ground) but after getting married and naming the woman isha (fire girl), he is transformed by this process and thus Adam becomes Ish (Gen. 2:24).
- One of the things you’ll notice in the Bible is that people get new names after some kind of death/resurrection experience. For example, the woman is not called Eve until after she gives birth and becomes a mother (birth is a kind of death and resurrection pattern).
- Likewise Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, and Jacob becomes Israel, etc. When God promises and puts us through some kind of death and resurrection we get a new name. For Abraham this was circumcision, for Sarah it was giving birth to Isaac. For Jacob it was wrestling with God.
- And this receiving of a new name is true for all the saints.
- In Revelation 2:17, Jesus says, “To him who overcomes…I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
- When you are baptized into Christ, when you die to the world, Jesus gives you a new name, and one day you will be told what the new name is.
- So the point here in Genesis 2 is that marriage is a kind of death and resurrection that makes you something new. And so the lesson for all who want to get married is that you’re going to have to die. You are going to have to die to your old life to be joined to your spouse and made into someone new.
- God “kills” Adam, puts him to sleep, cuts him open, takes something from him (a rib), and he does so in order to give that rib back to him utterly transformed, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” Marriage transforms you. Marriage redefines who you are.
- If we continue in our timeline of Adam’s first day, he gets married and then God tells both him and his wife together what we call “the dominion mandate:”
- “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28) That is the first task God gives to the first married couple, and it is a task that still applies today.
- Adam was given a task before marriage (dress and keep the garden), and once he is married, husband and wife jointly are commanded to do something they can only do together: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Woman is man’s help meet in this task.
- If we continue in our timeline of Adam’s first day, he gets married and then God tells both him and his wife together what we call “the dominion mandate:”
Now according to Genesis 1-2, what would you say is the first and highest purpose of marriage? If you had to pick one (Children, Companionship, Chastity).
- Well from the perspective of Adam the bachelor, it is help. God says, “it’s not good for man to be alone, therefore, I will make him a helper suitable to him: namely woman.”
- And so when the WCF puts “Mutual Help” as the first in the order of for why God ordained marriage, this is probably the reason. God gave Adam a wife because he needed help. It was not good for him to be alone. So help or companionship is one of the chief purposes for marriage.
- At the same time, we could look at marriage from the perspective of both Man and Woman as they walk down the aisle and out into the world. What does God tell them to do?
- The first command that God gives them after marriage is: procreate! Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. There’s a whole world out there beyond the garden, and I want you to fill it with other image bearers who can help you cultivate and care for creation so that it is transformed from glory to glory.
- So this is what the Book of Common Prayer (probably) has in mind by placing Children first in the order of reasons for marriage.
- Summary: Now it’s not a huge deal which one you put first, but I hope you can see that both Children and Companionship (help) are at the very top for why God gave us marriage. We might call these the twin purposes for marriage as God intended.
- Now remember, this is all taking place in a world without sin. We are talking about marriage in its original, natural, God-ordained form. One man, One woman, for life, together, helping one another and raising children to subdue the earth. If the Fall never happened, that would be where we would stop in answering “What is marriage for?” The answer would simply be Children and Companionship.
- But of course, the Fall does happen, Adam’s sin brings death into this world and now every human being downstream from him, is born broken. Born dead in sin and alienated from the life of God, and thus we find there is a third purpose for marriage that is unique to life in a fallen world, and that is assistance in chastity, or continence. In other words, coping with your sex drive.
- Sinful human nature manifests itself in many ugly ways, and one of them is in man’s struggle to subdue his passions (to rule his sense appetites by the higher faculties of reason, intellect and will). Both men and women desire the good that is sexual pleasure, but after the fall we want it in disordered and unlawful ways.
- And so Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn.” And I take burn there as referring to the passions of the body.
- So after the Fall, marriage takes on this additional purpose: That man and woman will have a lawful place for sexual release that prevents them from uncleanness (fornication, and sin, STD’s), and encourages chastity. The covenant of marriage is meant to create a fence of sexual protection and delight for both husband and wife.
The Impact of Sin on Children & Companionship
Okay. So now we’ve established the three reasons God gave us marriage are: 1) Children, 2) Companionship, and 3) Chastity, but we need to add some more qualifications because sin has affected everything including the Children and Companionship parts. So let us consider these effects.
- In Genesis 3, God curses the ground which makes man’s work more difficult and toilsome.
- And for the woman, he increases her sorrow and pain in childbearing.
- Genesis 3:16 says, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
- So two of the consequences for sinning against God are:
- 1. Having and raising children is going to become super hard. Remember their first son Cain is going to kill Abel.
- 2. Loving and respecting one another in marriage is going to become more difficult because now you both have a selfish sin nature.
- The woman desires her husband in such a way that she does not get what she wants, and so at times will try to usurp his authority. And the man will at times abuse the rule he has and oppress his wife.
- So sin now threatens that one flesh union. Sin is that selfish principle that seeks to rip marriages apart.
- So now all three purposes for marriage are marred by sin.
- 1) Having children is hard.
- 2) Helping one another is hard.
- 3) Remaining chaste and faithful is hard.
- And yet, as hard as marriage can be, marriage is still good. And a good marriage is perhaps the greatest of earthly blessings after the fall.After the fall, God did not divorce Adam and Eve, sin did not destroy their marriage, they still had the same task assigned to them by God, it was just going to be a lot more difficult to do.
- We see this same Dominion Mandate given to Noah’s family after the flood. Genesis 9:1 says, “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”
- And down through the New Testament era we read in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
- The Bible says that marriage even between two unbelievers is an honorable institution. It is what we call a natural good and as an honorable institution it retains these three purposes from God: 1) Children 2) Companionship and 3) Chastity. That is what marriage is for.
- Now I want to spend the rest of our time discussing how these first two purposes apply to us in a distinctly Christian way.
#1 – Children
- Remember that both the WCF and BCP say that children/procreation is a purpose for marriage, but then they add this qualification.
- The WCF says “for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed.”
- And the BCP says, “the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and praise of God.”
- In other words, it is not sufficient nor obedient to God for Christians to just have children. The command we have from God is to raise godly children, Christian children, children who will keep covenant with God all their days. That is the true purpose of marriage, and it is not easy to do, just about every patriarch in the Old Testament failed here.
- Malachi 2 is an oracle against Jews who were breaking their marriage vows, and God says to them, “the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Mal. 2:14-15 ESV)
- Notice that when God confront unfaithful husbands, he tells them that the problems in their marriages are creating ungodly children, and what does God desire from marriage? Godly offspring.
- It does no good to fill the world with little Cains. That is not obedience to the command to be fruitful and multiply when one son kills the other. And in the church today, there are many crooked arrows in the quivers of Christian households, and this should not be so.
- Children know when their parents are out of fellowship. Children can smell and sense hypocrisy in the home. And when there is a lack of love and respect in a marriage, it creates an atmosphere of anxiety, fear, resentment, and bitterness in a child’s heart. Ungodly marriages undermine the faith of children.
- And what does Jesus say about those who make children stumble?
- He says, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6).
- It is grave sin to stumble your children, and the greatest responsibility we have as parents is to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- And so if you want to raise godly children, the number one thing you can do for them is love your wife and honor your husband.Show your children how to be godly, how to confess their sins, how to pray and repent and trust in Christ. Otherwise, you are just teaching them hypocrisy. You are raising children for the enemy rather than children for the Lord.
- In future sermons we will look in greater detail at the duties of husbands and wives, but for now, we should be reminded that if the God-given purpose of marriage is the raising of godly offspring, that has to become the highest priority for us. Failure here is a marriage failure, and God wants us to succeed (more on that in future weeks).
- Second, we see how Husband and Wife are to help one another.
#2 – Companionship
- The WCF calls this the mutual help of husband and wife.
- The BCP calls it, the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
- This is the “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse” part of the marriage vow, and it takes about 5 minutes to forget that this is what you promise to do when you get married.
- We promise to help one another and to endure trials together, no matter what.
- Paul says in Ephesians 5, that when a man loves his wife he is loving himself because the two are one flesh.
- So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. (Eph. 5:28)
- How much should a man love his wife? As much as he loves himself. How much does Christ love the church? Enough to die for her. That is the essence of being a man, of being a husband. To love unto death. To sacrifice your selfish desires for the desires that God has for the both of you: to make your wife holy and without blemish.
- The pattern for Christian husbands and Christian wives, is Christ and the church, this is the great mystery of marriage.
- The husband is head as Christ is head of the body (that is where he learns how to rule).
- The wife is subject, even as the church is subject to Christ (she is to abound and adorn herself with love and good works).
- When husbands and wives embrace these roles and responsibilities that God has assigned to them, we find in one another a true companion, a true friend, a true help meet suitable to us.
- It was not good for Adam to be alone. The Dominion that God calls us to cannot be accomplished without marriage. And how much more in this world of sin and sickness, trouble and death. We need one another. We need marriage. And when we obey God and keep our marriage vows, we are telling the world what Christ’s love for the church looks like. And this is perhaps what we might call the fourth and final purpose for marriage: to preach the gospel.
- Few men are called to be preachers of the Word, not many should be teachers, but all who are married are called to preach with their lives and actions what the gospel is. Wives submitting to their husbands as unto the Lord. Husbands loving their wives like Christ loved the church. Marriage is portrait of the gospel, and so…
- We must not be heretics in our marriages. We must not lie about Christ’s love and faithfulness and the Church’s submission by doing the opposite in our marriages.
- A husband who does not love and cherish his wife, is lying about God.
- And a wife who does not honor and submit to her husband in the Lord, is lying about the Lord of the Church.
- We must not be heretics in our marriages.
- Marriage is hard, but marriage is good. And marriage is meant to tell the world the greatest love story there ever was. And so are you telling that story truly as a husband, as a wife?
- If not, then repent, turn to Christ, learn from Him. You are a member of his body, you are his bride, and He delights to wash you clean, to give you a new name, to resurrect dead marriages that have grown cold and bitter and sexless.
- Christ is the one who is making all things new, and that can be true of your marriage. His mercies are new every morning.
What is marriage for? Marriage is for Godly Children, True Companionship, and Chastity. And when we order our marriages towards these God-given ends, we tell the world what God is like. God is love, God is faithful, and in Christ, God has become one with us. This is the union that marriage testifies to, and so may God help us to proclaim this truth.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.