In this messed up country that we live in, people have confused the topic of marriage to the point where no one seems to know what marriage even means! Just look at some of the definitions that people give for marriage:
- It’s a man and a woman who commit in a civil ceremony to live together and share last names until they decide they don’t want to anymore.
- It’s two people (gender doesn’t matter) who commit in a legally-binding civil ceremony to live together until they decide they don’t want to anymore.
- It’s a man and however many women he wants, joined in religiously-binding ceremonies to live together as man and wives until death.
- And of course, there are variations on each of these.
Some are already pushing for marriage to animals, marriage with multiple men and women all joined in one blob of a family unit, and who knows what else!
Though the people here on planet earth might be confused, God isn’t. God knows exactly what marriage is, and what it isn’t. And if we bother to look at the Bible, we can have the same knowledge.
This is the first in a series on marriage, and deals with the question of “What is required for God to approve or recognize a marriage?”
A God-Ordained Marriage Requires a Man and a Woman.
In the beginning, God created a male and a female (Genesis 1:27-28). Adam and Eve were the first married couple. In fact, if you go through the entire Old Testament, you will never—not once—see an instance of a man being married to another man or a woman being married to another woman. In the Old Testament, marriage is ALWAYS, 100% of the time, when a man is married to a woman.
But let’s go to the New Testament and see what Jesus has to say about it.
I want you to look carefully at just how many times Jesus shows what He thinks about marriage in Matthew 19:4-9.
- And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [MALE AND FEMALE, did you catch that?]
- and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife [A MAN SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE—male and female]
- and they two shall be one flesh [Which two? A man and his wife—not a man and his husband or a woman and her wife, but a man and his wife]
- Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh [Who is the “they”? A man and a woman! Only a man and his wife are authorized by God to be one flesh].
- What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder [God only joins male and female, the only marriage recognized by God is a man and his wife].
- And I say unto you, Whoever shall put away his wife [HIS wife. Not HER wife, but HIS wife. Again, only a male and female!], except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away does commit adultery.
Six times in those few verses, Jesus makes it clear that the only marriage recognized by God is between a man and a woman.
Therefore, in order to have a God-ordained marriage, there must first be a man and a woman—and ONLY a man and a woman. Not two males. Not two females. Not one human and one animal.
A God-Ordained Marriage Requires Eligibility.
Some people are not eligible to be married, and thus any marriage involving these people is not ordained (approved) by God.
Children are not eligible to be married. One of the commands given to the first married couple was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:27). This absolutely rules out anyone who is not old enough to bear children. It is noteworthy that every instance of marriage in the Bible uses the term man (as in, adult male) and woman (as in adult female). Of course, when someone becomes an adult can be debated, but there can be no doubt that a 10-year old is not eligible to be married.
Mentally incapable people are not eligible to be married. The Bible commands that husbands “love” their wives, as in make a conscious decision to put the wife’s needs above his own (Colossians 3:19). The Bible commands wives to reverence their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Some people are mentally handicapped to the point that they are incapable of following God’s commands for marriage. If it is physically impossible for the person to follow God’s marriage laws, then that person is not eligible to be in a God-ordained marriage.
Already-married people are not eligible to be married again. If someone is already in a marriage, they cannot get married to someone else as well. I know what you’re thinking. “But what about polygamy in the Old Testament?” Yes, God tolerated it, but it was not His plan. After all, Jesus said that from the beginning, it was “they TWO shall become one flesh,” and that the husband should cling to his WIFE (singular). Under the New Testament, the Bible is clear—each woman shall have her own husband (singular), and each man shall have his own wife (singular)—I Corinthians 7:2. Polygamy is a violation of the New Testament and is not authorized by God.
When someone who is married is widowed—that is, when that person’s spouse dies—that person is indeed eligible to marry again (I Corinthians 7:1).
Those who have divorced for a reason other than fornication are not eligible to be married. Jesus said, “Whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). And we all know that adultery is something condemned by God (Galatians 5:19-21). That means that unless a person got a divorce because his spouse was cheating on him, he is not eligible to be married to anyone else. The only divorced people who are eligible to be married are: (1) Those who divorced their spouse because they were being cheated on (Matthew 19:9). Or (2) those who wish to marry the one that they had been married to in the first place (I Corinthians 7:11).
Some Things that are NOT a Pre-Requisite for a God-Ordained Marriage.
Being in love. While it’s not a bad thing to really enjoy the company of the person you want to marry, it’s not a requirement for a God-ordained marriage. In many cultures, the marriages are arranged by the parents. I can imagine that most of the younger people find that idea repulsive. But guess what, it’s biblical!
I Corinthians 7:36-38, NASB – But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.
According to the Bible, whether or not a girl gets married (and to whom) is up to her father. That’s why we have the custom of the man asking the father for permission to marry the daughter. That’s why, in a wedding ceremony, the preacher asks, “who gives this girl to be married?” You’d better keep that in mind before you decide to announce to your parents that you’re getting married.
A man named Doka Obadiah, from Kenya, told me that his friends picked out a girl they thought he’d like, and then he went to the father and bought her for the hefty price of a cow and four bushels of corn. There was no “being in love” first. No dating first. Just an agreement between the man and the father, and a commitment to be the husband God wants him to be. And they are happily married and working in God’s kingdom there in Kenya.
Dating. It sounds strange to Americans, but dating isn’t required in order to get married. In fact, dating is never once mentioned in the Bible.
Physical attraction. Just like the whole “being in love” thing, it’s nice to have a physical attraction to the person you’re going to marry, but the Bible nowhere makes that a requirement.
Marriage is a wonderful thing, created by God. But it has been abused and misused and twisted by people who don’t respect His word. God has created specific parameters for who can be married, and if we have any desire whatsoever to go to heaven, we will stay within them.
God didn’t create these rules arbitrarily. No, in fact, these rules are there for our own well-being. If everyone just stuck with God’s rules on marriage, the divorce rate would fall to zero, and people would have happy marriages.