The Institution of Marriage
By Reed Benson
Marriage is the fountainhead from which an ordered society springs. As recent decades witness the dissolution of marriage, so it can be observed that the fabric of society is weakened to an equal degree. While technology leaps forward as if it possesses supra-human inertia of its own, our social structures are steadily regressing. The most basic of social institutions, marriage, in its diseased condition, can be fingered as the primary culprit. Marriage as an institution will only be strengthened by re-orienting it in accordance to the Bible. The divine pattern of marriage is found in the second chapter of Genesis. No better example of the marital condition can be cited. The reader is now encouraged to carefully read Genesis 2:18-25.
God instituted marriage as the means by which certain objectives will be reached. One of the objectives of marriage is to complete the man. Scripture reads: "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Why would God say this? Was Adam made imperfectly? Truly, Adam was formed exactly as God intended and nothing was forgotten. Yet Adam was incomplete. Something needed to be added to his existence. An automobile is engineered and built perfectly, yet it will not reach its full potential without the wheels. The engine may purr like a kitten, the radio sound splendid, and the air conditioner cool very nicely, but it will never maximize its potential without the wheels. Similarly, Adam was created perfectly, yet incomplete to maximize his potential. In response to Adam being alone, God provided the solution: "I will make him and help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18). God intentionally did not form Eve until Adam realized that something was missing from his existence. It will be observed that immediately after God declared his decision to make a help meet, He first brought the animals to Adam. While Adam devised the names, he also noticed he was not discovering any creature to be his counterpart: "But for Adam was not found an help meet for him" (Genesis 2:20). How grateful Adam must have been when he later awoke from his sleep to discover such a lovely creature nearby!
Both the man and the woman bring their own unique attributes to a marriage. They are meant to complement each other while filling the void of loneliness in both. Separate talents and modes of thinking broaden the assets of the marriage. The man, however, as governor in the marriage, has primacy. He is to exercise his calling in subduing the earth and bringing it under dominion. In this work, the woman is ordained to be the helpmeet. The man is the master and the woman makes it possible for him to better accomplish his goals. Paul writes: "For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The woman was brought forth to complete the man, not the reverse. That is not to say that the woman was already complete, but completing the woman by herself gains little, for the dominion mandate was not given to her. The wheels complete the car, that it might travel. The car does not complete the wheels.
There are those who will object at this paint, suggesting that we are complete in Christ and therefore, an unmarried man should not view his dominion work as lacking in any way. While the phrase "complete in Christ" does not appear in Scripture, Colossians 2:10 reads: "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." Some will therefore argue this passage means all our needs are fulfilled in Christ, thus nothing else is necessary to complete a manís dominion work. Such an interpretation of this verse sounds reasonable and appeals to the masculine image of being self-sufficient and not needing anyone. This passage, however, does not say any such thing. The use of proper biblical hermeneutics will reveal its context. When the entire chapter is carefully studied, it will be seen that this has reference to being completed in terms of oneís justification and standing before God. Christís blood atonement is all that is necessary. No other works will assist in obtaining eternal life. But do not apply this verse in a general sense to all aspects of our earthly life. It has a very specific and focused truth that becomes falsehood when generalized. Obtaining a helpmeet will not aid in gaining salvation, yet it may make a vast difference in a manís ability to subdue the earth in godly dominion. God made the kind of man who needed a wife. Adamís physical and emotional needs were known to God. Eve was made because she was needed: she would fulfill his natural longings and dovetail into Adamís natural and normal life.
How does a woman complete the man and aid in dominion? She offers much value that just keeping the house, tending the children, and other such duties. While these are important roles she fills and are not to be denigrated, her presence at his side runs much deeper. A wife adds insight to her husbandís world view-even if he does not consult her opinions. Just as an unbelieving husband can be won through the chaste conversation of the wife (1 Peter 3:1-2), so does interaction between a husband and wife concerning the routine aspects of everyday life have a net positive effect on his thinking. Even more important is the fact that a man must grow in responsibility due to the unique pressures that come with marriage. This additional pressure calls for sacrifice and ongoing devotion to a wife. It greatly enlarges his vision and distills his thought process.
Women also have needs that can only be rightly completed within the context of marriage. The God-given inward drive toward nurturing is extremely strong in females. They were designed to cherish and nurture infants and very young children. It is nor uncommon for unmarried adult women to shift their nurturing instinct to a pet. Small furry animals that are suitable for cuddling and pampering are frequently owned and loved by women who have never borne children. Some women go to great lengths in dressing and caring for their pet, just as they would a baby. This is not necessarily wrong, but it points to the innate need for women to nurture a helpless creature, which God intended to be an infant.
A second and exceptionally important objective of marriage is the procreation of children. A marriage does not cease if it be childless, nor would it automatically be termed a failure. Yet the manís exercise of dominion is clearly limited if godly seed are not reared to carry on his lifeís work. Scripture declares: "And God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 2:28). Turning wilderness into civilization requires the work of a multitude, and thus children are essential. Children also play a central role in the exercising of political dominion. It has been proven from history that the rise of Rome to the point where it controlled the entire Mediterranean world was primarily due to one simple fact: Rome had a rapidly expanding population of landowning farmers that could be transformed into hardy, loyal soldiers. If a battle were lost, another sturdy army could be quickly raised. As a point of illustration, Rome had no less than four armies wipe out in consecutive battles against Macedonia, once the homeland of Alexander the Great. Yet, the Macedonians lost the war when their army was defeated in the fifth battle simply because their birthrate did not allow any reserve troops to be raised. The world is now witnessing the Israelite race in full retreat across the globe: Australia is being swallowed up by the Asiatics, large sections of Europe is enveloped by Africans, Arabs, and Turks, and the southwest United States is being engulfed by the Mexicans. All of this and more, simply because procreation has become despised.
Relative to the purpose of obtaining children, the concept of "one flesh" has obvious implications. The Bible states: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:26). While the "one flesh" concept has many applications in the husband/wife relationship, it cannot be missed that this is tangibly fulfilled in the offspring of the marriage union.
Yet another objective of marriage is to relieve concupiscence. Concupiscence in the general sense can be defined as an unlawful or irregular desire of sexual pleasure. Both the man and the woman were created to have certain physical drives that are natural, normal, and even righteous in the context of marriage. For the vast majority of men, these drives ultimately find an outlet. Permanent suppression of these physical needs of the man often lead to concupiscence. An unwholesome thought life is frequently the first consequence of the male who has over-extended his single years. Unfortunately, it is often not the only consequence, however. Other, more serious problems have been connected to males who have been celibate many years. It is no surprise that God declared: "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). Thus, men and women should marry as a means to maintain a pure life. Paul writes: "to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (1 Corinthians 7:2). The physical desire, which is natural and proper, ought to result in marriage and consummation thereof at the proper time in life. Again in the same chapter Paul states: "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn" (1 Corinthians 7:9). Too many view themselves as the exception--until they finally marry that is. Martin Luther, the great reformer, had such a change of thinking. When the monasteries were being emptied in Saxony, he took a firm lead in finding suitable mates for all young monks and nuns under his charge. Although rather youthful himself, he believed he was meant for a celibate life. It was only after great pressure from his colleagues that ha married a high-spirited young nun that refused to marry all other suitors. In his married state Luther went on to become a powerful advocate of marriage and a harsh critic of the celibate life.
Few issues of our time are as urgent as the strengthening of marriages. All the institutions of Western Christian cultures rest on this shaky foundation. If marriage is no longer considered a necessity and a normal state to which all aspire, then truly there is little hope for our people. Let us return to the divine pattern of marriage as a vital step in restoring order to our disintegrating social structure.