In order to take an appropriate look at the family, we must have a home base, or starting point, which we consider authoritative. As Christians, our primary authority for all matters of faith and practice is the Bible, so we must let Scripture inform our views and beliefs. With this in mind, and as we look at the family over the next few weeks, we must ask ourselves two primary questions:
1. What does the Bible say about the structure and function of the family?
2. Are we going to accept and submit to what the Bible says?
These two questions address the real issue. The issue is not what we want the family to be or what we think should be fair or what the culture believes should be the case. The issue is the conversation of what Scripture says and how we respond.
Marriage is What?
Early on in Scripture we have the record of the first marriage—Adam and Eve. After the creation of Eve for Adam and Adam’s response of exuberant acceptance, we read these words:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
There are four elements in this statement of marriage that we need to see in order to understand the foundation of marriage as the foundation of the family.
1. It contains a man and a woman.
A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife.
This is God’s designed definition for marriage: one man and one woman in a covenant with one another. Because it has been designed this way, any change, by definition, is not marriage. Two men cannot be married because one is not a woman. Two women cannot be married because one is not a man. It takes a man and a woman to make a marriage.
2. It is built upon the covenant of two becoming one.
A man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
When this story was taking place, there were no other people—no other men, no other women. We might see a covenant in this context as unnecessary. Wouldn’t they be fine just existing together in a relationship by default? Not exactly—God is a covenant God. He establishes the marital covenant by saying that a man should leave his parents’ household and be joined to his wife and that they should become one flesh. In this we see that God makes marriage a beautiful covenant that paints what we understand later to be the picture of Christ and His bride, the Church.
3. It is a haven for the enjoyment of God’s gift of sex.
And they shall become one flesh.
The marital covenant is not about keeping anyone from pleasure. It’s about maximizing the enjoyment of pleasure. God created sex, and he created it to be experienced within the covenant of marriage. Only there can it be enjoyed to the fullest as two become one with no shame, no guilt, no remorse, and no feelings of being used or abused. When experienced within marriage, it is beautiful and right and thoroughly enjoyable.
4. It should give rise to other marriages and families.
A man shall leave his father and his mother.
This is interesting—this verse is given before there were any children or other generations on the earth, and yet it mentions a father and mother. Adam and Eve were not the children of an earthly father and mother, which leads us to understand that this is clearly a prescriptive mandate for how marriage should look. There is the marriage of a man and woman. They have a child. That child leaves them and goes to marry a spouse, and the filling of the earth continues.