Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deuteronomy 6:4
Both of these verses use the word אֶחָד (echad), which means one. But this is not the numeral one, which is denoted by א (aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, like our letter "A"), but it is a coming together of multiple components--a unity of multiples.
It is this word that links, grammatically and biblically, the ideas of the Trinity and marriage together. God's unity is described as "echad" and the concept of unity in marriage is described as "echad."
We find, throughout scripture, that God gives us earthly institutions as projections of heavenly realities. The tabernacle and temple were given in the Old Testament as a projection of the heavenly sanctuary. The Ten Commandments are given as a projection of God's character. The Ark of the Covenant is an earthly projection of God's heavenly throne. In the same way, marriage is given as a projection of God's Trinitarian unity. And if this is the case, then the earthly institution of marriage is supposed to paint a picture of God, and it must be guarded. Unhealthy and unbiblical marriage means a distortion of God's image in marriage and a misrepresentation of Him.
Divorce, adultery, homosexuality, marital tyranny and other sexual and marital failings have the ability to distort the original intent of marriage and sex--which is to teach us something about God. How is this so? Marriage imagery is found throughout the Bible, and in this imagery Christ is the husband and the church is the bride. If we see ourselves, in the church, as Jesus' bride, then the metaphor starts to come to life in very real and relevant ways.
Marriage is supposed to represent a bond that can never be broken between God and His people (What God has joined together, let not man separate. Matthew 19:6), so when divorce happens it distorts that picture. We see divorce and think: Love doesn't last forever, lovers leave each other. Will God leave us? On the contrary, Jesus tells us that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5). If that is the case for Jesus, the best way to represent Him in our marriages is to stay together, and not just unhappily, but full of love and joy and passion for each other. I realize this is an ideal, and do not mean to condemn those who have had been through the unfortunate experience of divorce, but this is how marriage can best reflect the image of God. The members of the Godhead can never be separated, Jesus will never leave us, and we should never leave our spouses.
Adultery follows along similar lines as the explanation for divorce above, but there are many passages in which adultery is related to the spiritual realm. God, multiple times in the Old Testament and the New alike, refers to those who forsake Him, the one true God, as adulterers. The book of Hosea is a story of a man who marries a prostitute to prove a point: God loves us even when we continue to cheat on Him and leave Him for other lovers (religions, gods, beliefs). So the actual act of adultery paints a picture of one who leaves their "first love" (God), and reconciliation from that adultery represents God's forgiveness and selfless love. He loves and forgives us no matter what, even when we cheat on Him. The members of the Trinity will never depart from or cheat on each other, Jesus will never leave us for others, and in order to let our marriages represent Him, we have to guard ourselves from adultery.
Homosexuality might be one of the more complicated ideas in the mix, but the Bible calls it a sin in multiple places (Leviticus 18:22, for example), and there must be a reason that God wants to protect marriage from it. Perhaps one of the best explanations I have come across is the idea that Marriage is a oneness (echad) of multiples, a coming together in light of diversity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal but have different roles. Though we like to focus on the equality these days (and male and female are equal), we sometimes forget that men and women have different roles as well. God gave Adam a helper in the garden (Genesis 2:18) because He knew man was incomplete without woman and woman was created to compliment and help man. So the idea of homosexuality puts the kibosh on this idea. Marriage is between man and woman because each has unique roles to play in a marriage relationship, the Trinity is between three different persons in equality.
Marital tyranny is another, very common form of distortion of the image of God. The Bible tells us that women should submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), and men have run with this as an excuse to have complete control over their wives. But directly following, we find that men are to love their wives enough that they would be willing to give their lives for them (Ephesians 5:25)--and the reason why? Because Christ gave Himself up for the church. The way we treat our spouses, even if we don't get divorced or commit adultery, can paint either a positive or very negative picture of how God loves us. Within the Trinity, there is an eternal love and unselfish support and submission (as we learned in our Sabbath sermon this month), Jesus loves us completely and came to lead as a servant and not as a tyrant, and if we want to reflect our God in marriage, we must treat our spouses in fairness, love, and equality.
So what's the point of all of this? The Bible defines marriage very specifically for a reason: It represents the Trinity and it is used as a metaphor for salvation and our relationship with God. When we start to tamper with what the Bible says about marriage, we start to tamper with the way we reflect God to the world. Sure, men can marry men; sure, divorce and adultery are earthly realities; men and women alike rule over their spouses. But if we get back to what the Bible says about marriage, we get back to a method of showing the world what God is like through our life, our relationships, our marriages.
If we want a healthy picture of God, we have to get back to a healthy, biblical understanding of marriage. And on the other hand, if we want healthy, biblical marriages, we have to study the character of God and come to a full understanding of who it is we serve. The God we serve directly affects the way we are as a Christian and as a spouse.
- Pastor Zachary Payne