God’s Design of Marriage
Many Christians are overlooking the deeply troubling reality that the marriage rate among young singles in America is plummeting. Increasingly young adults from all walks of life are choosing to delay marriage, and many are not marrying at all. There are many causes contributing to this singular end. Many young adults are pursuing college and graduate degrees and believe that marriage will slow or destroy their career prospects—so they don’t marry. Others have come from such dysfunctional families that they have lost hope that marriage is a desirable state—so they don’t marry. Sex outside of marriage has become so mainstream that any young person can find someone to sleep with them—so they don’t marry. As a result, countless young people never marry but instead skip from one willing partner to the next. Some are convinced that marriage was nice for their grandparents but is now somehow too binding for modern people—so they don’t marry. Many have rejected God’s will concerning sexuality altogether and have entered into relationships on the LGBTQ spectrum and press the Christian church to bless their relationships through expanding the definition of marriage.
Then there are also many young men and women who earnestly love the Lord, desire to find a godly mate, but don’t know how to rightly bridge the gap between singleness and marriage. In this era of digital isolation and cultural disintegration, I am convinced that many young people simply do not know how to honor Christ and also pursue a mate. I say digital isolation because you cannot build a deep and meaningful relationship with another person by digital media. Meaningful relationships require real personal interaction. I say cultural disintegration because in most areas, especially urban and suburban areas, cultural traditions and connections that used to naturally bring young people together in marriage have vanished. Young adults are all too often sent off to college or out into the world with a hope and a prayer that Johnny will “turn out” or the Sally will find a “good young man.” Unfortunately, too many parents are grossly ignorant about what kind of world their young people are going into, and that without their wise, supportive, and God-designed guidance there is little hope that their young person will wisely navigate their teens and early-twenties.
If young adults are not convinced that marriage is the blessing that God says it is, they will not marry. However, despite the bad press that marriage often receives—and all that I have just said—many young adults still hope to marry. Marriage is indeed a dream that will not die, and yet marriage must not be taken for granted. Young people must be convinced that marriage is a blessed and good state, so they will choose marriage—no matter how the laws read. If young people can be convinced again that marriage will bring about the good future they are hoping for, nothing will hold them back from entering this age-old relationship. The battle is not over statutes, but over hearts and minds. Young generations must be convinced by truth and by living example that marriage is a foundational blessing with no substitute.
Marriage is like any other significant venture; preparation is necessary to avoid failure and too increase the likelihood of success. Marriages that begin upon a solid foundation are stronger, happier, and more durable. When I say begin I mean it—as in, from the very first day, and not gradually putting the pieces together over the first few years. Marriages that begin in weakness, sin, and confusion will either fail quickly, or many years will be spent trying to repair dysfunction and heal brokenness. Marriages that begin in dysfunction and are divided by sin can be healed, but will not enjoy the same fullness of peace, blessing, or love as married couples who come together without such baggage. Everything is better when it is done according to God’s will the first time around.
There was cause for rejoicing when Israel finally had the faith to enter the land of promise, but only after forty years of harsh discipline for their initial lack of faith. How much better would it have been if they had believed God the first time around? The marks of preparedness and the manner of preparing will be discussed later, but it seems that so much has been lost that I must begin this guidebook to meeting and marrying at the very beginning. What is marriage and why is it considered such a good and valuable relationship?
What is Marriage?
Marriage has been with us from creation. In fact, marriage has been around longer than sin. Marriage was designed by God and has no substitute. On the sixth day of creation God chose to create a man. He was given the name Adam (Genesis 1:26-2:25). It is stated clearly that this man was different from the other living creatures in that he was created in the image of God. This means many things, but one thing that should be pointed out is that God is a relational being and for humans to be created in God’s image means that we also are relational beings. Because of this, it became apparent quickly that Adam was alone in the world. He had no similar companion with which to enjoy a relationship. His isolation was not good (Genesis 2:18).
It was not enough for Adam to have a dog, or lots of cats, because there was no animal on earth that could possibly meet his relational needs. Creation was not to be left incomplete or lacking, so God created a woman. She was given the name Eve. It is interesting that in the book of Genesis the author goes out of his way to describe how God created woman to establish a complete relationship that would exist between the sexes. Eve was created equal to Adam in her spiritual nature, worth, standing, and dignity before God, but different in a complementing way to create the possibility for relationship. They were two complementing halves that fit together to create a relational whole. With Eve, Adam was no longer alone. With Adam, Eve was not alone. After the creation of Eve, all creation was declared good and complete—and God rested from His divine work. The Bible goes on to make a statement concerning the intimacy of this first human relationship. It is written that the two became one flesh (Genesis 2:24). This is an allusion to the physical sexual relationship that began between the two, but it is also a statement concerning the enduring unity of the couple. They became as one, in body and relationship.
In body, their sexual relationship soon produced the “oneness” of a child, the literal combination of two people becoming one. On the relational plane, the two also became one in that Adam’s abilities and strengths (created by God as a man) complimented those of Eve (created by God as a woman). Relationally, the man and woman balanced and completed each other such that the two together were better than one in isolation. Their coupling created the first marriage and the designed sexuality of marriage eventually produced children, populating the first family. In this way, marriage is presented in the Bible as both good and God’s intended design for basic human relationship. It is after the entrance of sin and rebellion that destructive, hurtful, and perverse variations on marriage enter the scene. It is after the corruption of all flesh that the bitterness, strife, and emotional pain of polygamy, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, and every other sexual perversion began to destroy the relational design of God. God’s design of marriage cannot be improved upon. It was, and continues to be, perfect in its combination of one biological man and one biological woman designed for such a union.
In Matthew 19 Jesus is questioned by some Pharisees concerning the lawfulness of divorce, but before answering their question, He takes time to reaffirm the created intention and design of marriage. Jesus stated:
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
Jesus is here quoting directly from Genesis 2:24. Jesus is affirming that God originally created two distinct sexes that were intended to be joined together to create a whole. Jesus also continues the “one flesh” concept which affirms the sexual oneness of marriage that is not to be violated. It should also be pointed out that God is the one doing the “joining.” It is God who designed and intended men and women to relate to each other in marriage. This is God’s norm for a complete human relationship. It is before God that the vows of marriage are made, and no person should undermine or work to undo that which God has ordained.
Jesus fully reaffirmed one man / one woman marriage as the enduring will of God. This contrasts with those who often argue that marriage is simply a convention of culture that has no definite form. Those who argue that marriage is a product of culture also argue that culture can change its definition of marriage as it may desire, or simply dump the concept of marriage if it is no longer necessary or desirable. Those who live under the authority of Scripture recognize that God intended marriage to have one enduring form, and yet because of very present sin in the world, God’s original intention has broken down and been perverted in many ways. It is not my intention in this book to extensively define the forces currently working against marriage, but I feel it is necessary to point out at least one very important false idea that indirectly undermines marriage by attempting to uproot the entire notion of God as designer of the world. This idea is the theory of natural evolution.
There are at least three important connections between the acceptance of evolution as the origin of humanity and the eventual decline of marriage. First, those who believe that humans have come into existence through random change and natural selection over time reject the Genesis creation narrative as factual and historical. Those who accept evolution as the origin of humanity cannot also accept the Genesis account as relating historic realities without coming into complete contradiction with themselves. Either humanity and the sexes came about by some form of chance (unguided) transition over time, or humanity and the sexes were designed by God and created according to that design. If there is no design behind humanity in general, then there is also no intention or design behind the relationship of marriage.
Second, those who accept evolution as the origin of humankind must also advocate that marriage has arisen as a convention of culture. If God did not design the relationship of marriage, cultural definition is the only other logical origin. This is the idea that as children were born to couples, cultures over time created rules and traditions to bind the couple together to raise the children. This understanding of the origin of marriage makes marriage a fluid relationship, open to redefinition depending on the needs and beliefs of any given culture. This understanding of marriage dictates that there is no right or intended form of marriage. Marriage is merely what a society deems it to be at any given time. It is argued that since cultural values change over time, we should expect a changing definition of marriage.
Third, if social evolution is accepted, then we should expect one man / one woman marriage to eventually be abandoned for a more advanced form of interpersonal relationship. If social evolutionary thinking is accepted, then one man / one woman marriage is the oldest, and therefore the most primitive, definition of a family relationship. In social evolutionary thinking, old equals primitive, and the primitive will eventually be replaced by more enlightened and advanced social relationships. According to this thinking, it is actually desirable to find a better way for human beings to relate to each other. Rather than attempting to preserve that which was originally perfect, there is an urge to replace that which is defined by evolutionary thinking as the least developed.
For these reasons, the acceptance of evolution as the origin of humanity works directly to undermine the biblical concept of marriage. Those who believe that there is no divine intelligence behind the configuration of human relationships are justified in their conclusion that marriage should be open for redefinition or cancellation. However, those who reject God’s design in the world cannot escape it. Those who reject God’s design of marriage will inevitably find themselves living counter to God’s design for life, and nothing applied counter to its design will work. Any other arrangement devised for basic human relationship, other than one man and one woman joined in lifelong marriage, will erode into dysfunction. This is the ultimate reason why marriage as described in Genesis has endured through every major culture down to this very day.
Oddly enough, many who reject the notion of design in human relationships live according principles of design every day in other areas of life. For instance, a diesel engine will not run on gasoline. If you fill up a diesel engine with gasoline it will destroy the engine—no matter how sincere or worthy your motivation may be. The design of a diesel engine must be altered in order to run on a different type of fuel. In a similar manner, the natures of men and women have been designed to relate together most basically in a one man / one woman marriage relationship. Those who would attempt to redefine that relationship will fail. They will instead destroy interpersonal relationships, and eventually, will destroy society at large which rests upon the foundational relationship of marriage.
Marriage is failing because millions of people in our society, whether from ignorance or rebellion, are rejecting God’s design of marriage as the basic norm of human relationship. We are refusing to live by God’s will on many fronts, and each aspect of disobedience removes another foundation block necessary for a successful marriage, until no foundation remains, and failure is certain. First, there is the widespread refusal to obey God’s commands related to sexual purity. Sexual sin in America has reached the point where younger generations are now intimately involved with each other in just about every way possible except marriage. Also, the corruption of pornography has become so widespread that its stigma is nearly removed and has itself largely become an accepted norm.
On another front men and women too often refuse to take up the differing roles which God has designed for them in marriage as husband or wife. When the husband fails to spiritually lead and provide for his family, and the wife fails to nurture children and create a home, both spouses are going in a direction that God never intended. When a husband or a wife, or both spouses together, are not walking in the direction which God has commanded they will not arrive at the good destination they are hoping for. This is sadly evident in the exhausting pace of homes where both spouses choose to work full-time outside of the home, and the children are shuffled off to daycare—or in some other way not raised in the home. In this difficult situation kids are raised without the necessary love and discipline to properly shape their character. The exhaustion of work combined with the absence of rest and peace in the home leads to conflict, and regularly results in the husband or wife looking elsewhere for relational satisfaction or escape.
When design is abandoned, dysfunction is inevitable. When we refuse to follow God’s will—the instructions—and do everything wrong, we should not be surprised when marriage fails!
Marriage as the Norm
Is marriage an elective relationship that only works for some people—perhaps just the most romantic? No, from Genesis onward the Bible establishes marriage as the norm for all people in all cultures. The norm set forward is that young people will marry when they reach independent adulthood. It was axiomatic in the Old Testament that young people who were of age would marry. In the New Testament, the only God-honoring reason given for singleness is extraordinary single-minded devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). The one who is able to carry on in a single state, and not be overtaken by sin, is understood to have been given an unusual measure of grace for the purpose of unhindered service to God (1 Corinthians 7:7). I will further discuss singleness, but let it suffice for now that singleness among adults should be a chosen state in order to purposely devote oneself to undivided service to Christ.
The Bible has no category or allowance for a large group of unmarried young adults who simply “haven’t found anyone yet.” Why is this? Does God not care about love? Does God expect decisions concerning marriage to be hasty or forced? Does He not want anyone to go to graduate school? The answer to these questions is, no! God, by His Spirit, is the one who teaches us to love, without whom we do not know how to love. And God does not force marriage upon us but has blessed us with marriage as a gift that we often do not recognize. And God has designed marriage to help us achieve a better, more productive, and long-term stable life—not to hold us back. We have simply lost sight of God’s good will. We have replaced it with our own inferior understanding of what is best, which too often does not include marriage.
There are numerous reasons why able-bodied people, not led of the Lord to live lives of singleness for the purpose of devotion, should actively seek the norm of marriage. The first reason has already been outlined. That is, according to God’s design it is not good for people to live alone. Marriage is the primary and most fulfilling of all human relationships. Those who live alone without purpose will miss the relational blessing of a constant companion amidst the difficulties of this life. Two are better than one. The second reason has to do with God’s design of sexuality. God has given all people, and especially men, a desire for sexual relations. This desire is not abnormal or bad and will not go away after one’s youth. It’s a desire that must be governed by self-control in both sexes, but it’s a desire that should naturally press young people toward marriage. Marriage is the right and pure setting for sexual expression. Young adults who unnecessarily delay marriage open themselves to great sexual temptation. God has designed the marriage bed as the right and holy outlet for sexual desire. Within the bounds of marriage, sexual expression is a powerful binding force and expression of love. Outside of marriage sexuality is an expression of lust, selfishness, and has only the power to destroy.
Does God really care what we do sexually? Yes he does. In fact, sexual sin frequently tops the list of forbidden activities in the Bible over and over again. Sexual purity and fidelity are enshrined in the “ten commandments” as one of the basic aspects of God’s moral will, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). In His teaching, Jesus went further connecting the dots to make sure everyone understood that sexually sinful thinking should not be tolerated. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Ruminating on sexually sinful acts is sinful because those thoughts invariably work their way out to corrupt the whole person (Mark 7:20-23). The burning of lust cannot be held within for long.
Paul could not be more clear in his condemnation of sexuality outside of marriage, and in affirming the sinfulness of homosexual sex. Paul also emphasizes that those who come to Christ will bear evidence of the transforming and renewing work of Christ in part by living sexually moral lives in accord with God’s plan for sexuality. Paul writes,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators [those having sex before marriage], nor idolaters, nor adulterers [those disregarding their marriage vows and having sex with someone other than their spouse], nor effeminate [the sexually perverse], nor homosexuals [those entering into sex acts with members of the same sex], nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
This passage has a number of important points. First, Paul is distinguishing the perfection and purity of God from many of the common sins of the world—which continue to be just as common in our day. There are other places where Paul lists common sins, but he covers the bases of sexual sin with this list. Second, Paul lists these sins in an effort to produce a contrasting picture of what godly action does not look like. When a person comes to faith in Christ, by the power of God they will be able to leave behind sexual sin and take up a life of purity and fidelity.
Why is God so serious about sexuality being confined only to marriage? Part of the reason lies in the fact that sexual acts have very far reaching consequences—for good or for evil. Sex involves your whole person, your body and your passions. In this, you are either bending your entire person toward your spouse, in body and passion, within the relationship God has sanctified as holy. Or your body and your passions, your whole person, is in lustful rebellion against God’s will. 1 Thessalonians 4:2-3 states plainly, “For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
Despite what our culture would have you believe, one cannot have “casual sex.” Another aspect of why sex outside of marriage is so powerfully destructive is that it always involves many peripheral sins. Lies that are told to cover one’s tracks. Promises that are broken to God and others. Sometimes even murder, when a child is unexpectedly conceived and the choice is made to abort it. Sexual expression outside of marriage is never safe. Sexual sin is not the discrete personal matter that the world would have us believe it is. Sexual sin is a serious form of rebellion against God’s clearly stated will.
However, sexuality within marriage is both safe and a source of joy and satisfaction. I encourage younger people to embrace appropriately early marriage. By marrying in one’s twenties, adequate time is allowed for preparation of character and situation, but time for excessive sexual temptation is cut short. This is not an original idea. The Bible speaks to the wisdom of the husband who rejoices in the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18). The notion of youthful marriage is commended as a way of wisdom.
A third reason why marriage is established as a norm, is that marriage is the relationship from which God intended children to come. Children also can bring great joy or great hardship depending on the context into which they are born. God designed the sexual relationship between men and women to produce children, but children born outside of marriage are not the same blessings as those born to loving parents. In fact, since 1975 over one million babies per year have been killed (aborted) by those who conceived them because the parent viewed the child as an unwanted byproduct of the pursuit of pleasure. Similar to sexuality itself, the conceiving of children is an issue of immense importance. Those who marry and bear children (or adopt them) live out God’s design of family. On the other hand, family ends with those who remain single. For those who remain single there are no children, and in turn no grandchildren or great grandchildren.
There are many sobering realities here. Those who remain childless often do not realize that they are missing out on the second most satisfying level of relational happiness, which is the joy of relating to one’s children. Those who understand children only as a drag on their financial resources—thereby limiting their affluence—have no concept of what it really means to raise children that love you in return. For me, one of the happiest parts of every workday is when I come through the door and my family welcomes me home.
In summary, God has designed marriage as the antidote for relational loneliness. He has designed sexuality to be expressed only within marriage, and He has designed the sexuality of marriage to produce children resulting in extended family. If marriage is rejected as the norm, the result will be a culture of lonely and isolated people seeking the relational satisfaction that only a marriage can provide, but never finding it elsewhere. In short, the result of rejecting God’s design of marriage will look much like modern day America.
Marriage as it relates to other relationships
Relationships are the best and most satisfying part of life. The greatest, and primary, relationship is the one in which we love and commune with God. We are spiritual beings who only begin to find rest for our souls when we come into relationship with God. It is glorious that in Christ we can pour out our hearts to God. Our relationship to God through Christ is primary to all others because God loved us first. It is by his loving initiative that we have relationships. Love is the genuine foundation of all true and satisfying relationships. Without the love of God born in us by the Holy Spirit, we are not really able to love. All those who reject the love of God ultimately lose the satisfaction of all loving relationships in trade for a self-absorbed life. It is only through being filled with the love of God that we can truly love others and begin establishing a spectrum of satisfying relationships.
Second unto God is the relationship of marriage. Unless gifted by God, it is not good for people to live alone. There is a basic relational need within all people that only a loving godly spouse can meet. For those gifted for single ministry, God supplies through an extra measure of grace the relational needs not supplied by a spouse. This single person leans more upon God, not other people. If a person is not gifted for single ministry, but also has not married, they should actively seek godly marriage because no quantity of other relationships will be able to fill the void left by inappropriate singleness.
I will never be able to fully express the depth of joy or the extent to which Maria (my wife) has been a blessing to me. As we each love God and are filled by his love, we are able to love each other deeply. As our spiritual needs are met by Christ, the great majority of my earthly needs are met by my wife. In her I am encouraged daily and loved in word and in body. She listens to my troubles and speaks truth to me. With her I have experienced life, seen the world, been through sickness and trouble, and rejoiced in times of plenty. We have become inseparable companions. The relationship of God to the individual, and spouse to spouse, infuse life with a purpose and meaning that transcends the shifting circumstances of life. Though one may move many times and change jobs just as often, the happiness of being in right relationship with God and one’s spouse brings lasting satisfaction.
By God’s design, the relationship of marriage produces the third most important relationship—children. As with marriage, no other relationship can substitute for the relationship between parent and child. Husband and wife come together by choice, and by vow bind themselves together for life. However, the birth of a child automatically creates an inseparable bond. Regardless of the function or dysfunction of a family, a parent and child are always emotionally bound together—through good times and bad. Within the design of God, children also complete the relational cycle of life. At first children are fully cared for and receive much. Then children eventually grow to become self-sufficient, and (if raised properly) finally give back and support the parent in later life. The parents give life and nurture in the early years, and the child comforts and cares for the parent in later years and in death. It is a cycle of relational love and sacrifice designed by God. However, if there is no marriage or children this cycle is broken.
The relationship of parent to child has an especially powerful possibility to work sanctification in the life of the parent. This is primarily the case because the highest goal of the Christian parent is that their children become followers of Christ, but this is a goal which the parent cannot personally bring to pass. No parent can make, or force, their child to love God. The parent is forced to pray to God and trust Him in a way he or she never has before. They must trust God to honor their efforts to evangelize and teach their child(ren). As children respond to gospel teaching and character training, the good faithfulness of God is shown to the parents in an amazing way.
Parents who jointly cry out to God for their children will see God’s blessing and have much cause for rejoicing. As children rise up in godliness and bless their parents, their love is ordered beneath that of God and the love of one’s spouse. The love of a child must never be counted as greater than the love of God, or the child will become an idol and the relationship will be corrupted. The love of a child should also not be valued more than the love of one’s spouse, or the husband and wife will be divided from each other in jealousy, and favoritism will develop among the children. However, when husband and wife first love God and then each other, children are loved in their proper place, and joy abounds.
Two Great Decisions
There are two great decisions which every person must make in life. The way in which these choices are made will set the tone for that person’s entire life. The first decision is whether a person will believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Those who reject the salvation of God through Christ will never be free from the bondage of sin and will never be free to live according to God’s will. Those who reject Christ will never be able to enjoy the blessing of marriage to its fullest. So, I urge you, if you do not know Christ as your Savior, do not delay in confessing your sins and believing in Him that you might have new life.
The second most important decision is who a person chooses to marry. One’s life will either greatly benefit from, or be greatly torn down, by making a wise or a poor choice of spouse. Even those who love the Lord will find a life of struggle and unnecessary hardship when a poor marriage choice is made. The choice of a marriage partner should be a matter of great prayer, meticulous preparation, and entered into only with the additional guidance and blessing of parents.
Those who choose Christ and then choose a godly spouse will find themselves on the road to a blessed life. To accept marriage as a path of blessing is a step of faith. It is to believe that the Bible is telling the truth about the nature of the world. For young singles to believe what their Christian parents and what older Christians are telling them is also a step of faith. The reason why so many young people do not choose wisely concerning these two great life-altering decisions is that they lack the faith to believe that the Bible and their Christian elders are telling them the truth. One of the reasons why these decisions are of such great importance is that the goodness of choices made according to God’s design are not fully realized as paths of blessing until years later in life. Those who walk in the ways of the Lord as young people begin to reap tremendous blessing, happiness, and peace at about the same mid-life period of time that those who have rejected God’s commands begin to experience great trial and sadness.
Though certain things are restored by God’s grace to those who come to faith in the middle of their lives, many other consequences of sin cannot be erased. The on-again off-again sexual relationships of one’s youth, wrongly established marriages that resulted in divorce, children born out of wedlock, children killed by abortion, abuse, and abandonment all mount to cause havoc. These actions result in consequences that will never be fully erased in this life.
God is gracious to save and restore any who humble themselves and seek to walk in His ways, but it is better to walk in his ways from early on. The best path, and the path of greatest blessing, is not the path of deep rebellion and dramatic repentance. This may make for a compelling testimony, but the most blessed life is one of steady faithfulness. The best testimony is not one that includes wayward sexuality and lost years, but the testimony of continued faithfulness from one’s youth (1 Timothy 4:12).
I urge you parent, raise your child to love the Lord and raise them with a mindset of marriage. I urge you, young single, reject the ways of the world and hear God’s will concerning marriage. Believe that God is good and walk in His ways. Take a step of faith that will lead to blessing!
 It must be made clear that all references to marriage in this book refer to monogamous heterosexual marriage unless otherwise stated. The author understands one biological man and one biological woman to be the only form of marriage set forward in the Bible as the original intention of God (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12).
 See also 1 Timothy 1:10 and Revelation 22:14-15
 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ** brackets added for clarification **
 Statistic drawn from the National Right to Life main web site (www.nrlc.org). There have been over 60,000,000 legal abortions in the United States since the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
 Some exceptions to this will be discussed later.
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