Currently, there are many misconceptions of what marriage “is” circulating throughout our culture, confused and mistaken beliefs that try to change the meaning and significance of this holy union. Sadly, it’s drifting further and further away from God’s original design.
Yet Ephesians 5:31 explains the beauty and simplicity of God’s design for marriage, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Because our culture is at work redefining, deconstructing, and redesigning God’s marital plan with varying ideas, it’s more important than ever to look at what marriage isn’t.
Below are seven things marriage isn’t, helping couples navigate through the muddled definitions and chart a clear course towards establishing a biblical marriage in today’s world:
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1. Marriage Isn't Two Independent People
Online dating services promote independent singles looking for love, where participants are compelled to make themselves look as less needy as possible, so as not to scare off any potential romantic interests.
Independence in our culture translates to self-reliance not dependent on needing anyone else’s help or advice, including God or a spouse. It also brings an attitude of seeing someone who does need support as being weak, which can leave a husband or wife feeling all alone in a marriage with no one to turn to for help.
But God called it “not good” for a man to be alone and recognized his need for an appropriate helper (Genesis 2:18). And sadly, two independent people often end up parting and going their separate ways.
God’s plan calls singles together to become one flesh in their purpose and goals in life, people who need other people, and people willing to be dependent on Him to lead and guide them in life (Mark 10:8).
Ephesians 5 discusses how important respect, love, and submission are to a marriage, which is why a couple who comes into marriage dependent on God and His Word, rather than themselves, are starting off on a firm foundation.
2. Marriage Isn’t Increasing Household Revenue and Prestige
There’s a troubling trend in our culture, one where singles are looking for a man or woman who can bring a large income or a celebrity-type image into marriage. Rather than looking for godly characteristics and integrity, individuals are looking for a financially successful or public-figure spouse, a person who will significantly increase their household income and prestige. Marriage has become a quest to be the next power couple.
Sadly, even some Christians are caught up in this worldly criteria when looking for a spouse rather than seeking a person with godly qualities, a husband or wife with whom they can grow and mature in the Lord, along with raising godly children.
The value of inward qualities is being devalued and overlooked by a focus on outward accomplishments and appearances. But Proverbs 31:10 describes the priceless worth of a woman with godly characteristics “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”
Likewise, Ephesians 5:25 explains what makes for a godly husband, describing how sacrificial love ranks high above the amount of bacon he brings home. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
3. Marriage Isn't Finding Happiness
So often singles believe the key to finding happiness lies in getting married. But making our happiness dependent on another person is sure to set us up for unhappiness with our spouse, in marriage, and overall in life.
If we’re not happy before marriage, we most likely won’t be happy in it. The Apostle Paul gives the key to being happy, saying he has learned to be content regardless of his circumstances. “I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need” (Philippians 4:12).
Plus God has a deeper purpose in marriage than mere happiness. Within this sacred union, godly characteristics go through a refining process, developing and maturing over a lifetime together. Proverbs 27:17 explains, how “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
In marriage, true spiritual growth is cultivated from the inside out, including a joy that doesn’t fade or go away even during life's toughest moments. Galatians 5:22,23 describes where true joy comes from, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
4. Marriage Isn’t Connecting with a Soul Mate
The world proposes that we find our “soul mate” in life, setting many singles off on a life-long quest to find their one-and-only soul mate. But the truth is, God is the only one who can truly be our soul mate.
Genesis 2:7 describes how God created our souls, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being [soul].”
Sadly, looking for the elusive “soul mate” causes many singles to overlook or pass over godly possibilities for marriage. It also causes some husbands and wives to leave their current spouses, thinking they made a mistake and missed connecting with a one-and-only soul mate.
But Ezekiel 18:4 explains how every soul belongs to God. So who better than the One who created our souls, and died to save our souls from destruction, to be the One who fulfills this role in our lives?
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5. Marriage Isn't Completing Each Other
Although popular culture urges us to find a spouse who will complete us in life, God didn’t intend a marriage relationship to take His place in our lives. He is the only One able to complete us and meet all our needs (Colossians 2:10).
Even if a spouse tries their hardest to complete their husband or wife, it just isn’t possible. As a couple, we can encourage, uplift, support, and be present for each other, but we don’t have what it takes to complete another person.
Expecting a spouse to give us what only God can give us is sure to bring disappointment and failure in a marriage. Unfortunately, many individuals who don't realize this end up disillusioned in marriage, thinking the other person really let them down, expecting them to complete something within them that their spouse doesn’t have the power to accomplish.
God’s plan for wholeness involves a husband and wife looking to Him as the Perfect One, the One who fulfills their heart’s desires and meets all their needs. He takes two imperfect individuals who recognize their dependence and need for Him and makes them whole, complete in Him.
6. Marriage Isn’t Reliant on Our Own Strength
Being married isn’t about our own ability to hold our relationship together but relying on God to keep us as one. Colossians 1:17 explains how “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
God didn’t ever intend for us to rely on our own strength in marriage because frankly, it won’t ever be enough. But God gives us strength when we turn to and rely on Him to strengthen us. Philippians 4:13 explains, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
When the challenges, disappointments, and failures in marriage occur, we are to look to God to hold us together and give us His strength. As 1Timothy 6:12 encourages, even in marriage we are to “Fight the good fight of faith.”
7. Marriage Isn't Any Two People Who Want to Be Married
As much as society tries to convince us that marriage can be whatever they decide it is, it is a covenant designed and initiated by God on His terms. Anything outside God’s design is not marriage because calling something that isn’t “is" doesn’t make it so before Him.
God created marriage in a very specific way, to be carried out between one man and one woman, and for very practical reasons. His design is for the wife to be a helper to the man. Genesis 2:18 describes how "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'”
Genesis 2:21-22 describes the process God used in making Adam’s helper, taking from within Adam a part of himself to create woman. “So the Lord caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken of out of the man, and He brought her to man.”
In forming woman from man, God's intentions were for the two to be reunited as one in marriage. His exact design is a coming back together of two who were once one.
Likewise, man recognized instantly in looking at the woman that he was seeing a part of himself in her. “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24).
Because marriage is God’s very specific and exclusive blueprint, any form of physical and spiritual union outside His pattern is not marriage but rather a deeply flawed attempt to create a counterfeit of God’s beautiful design.
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Originally published Thursday, 09 June 2022.