I am going to post a 4-part series on the Understanding of Christian Marriage. Each part in the series is dependent on the other parts, so I hope that anyone who reads any one part would go back and read the other parts so the basis for what is being said will be understood.
There are four Dogmas of the Christian church that enlighten and reveal the true nature of marriage and in doing so allow for a Doctrine of Marriage that is uniquely Christian. These four Dogmas are: The Trinity, The Communion of Christ’s Church, The Incarnation, and Creation.
In this first part I want to speak about the Dogma of the Trinity and how it helps in the understanding of Christian marriage. Connected with this discussion will be the Dogma of Creation, for Creation is a result of the communion of the Trinity.
Marriage as an Icon of the Trinity
We must begin where reality begins, with the Dogma of the Trinity. By the Blessed Trinity as revealed by our Lord’s revelation to mankind, we learn that ultimate reality is based in a communion of persons. This communion is such a communion that it makes up the One Being of God, namely the Three Divine Persons in intimate communion with each other. Reality is not based in individualism, apathy, or isolation, but rather in mutual, loving communion.
Now we must understand the unique persons of the Trinity in their relation to one another in order to understand better the nature of human relationships, for human relationships are meant to image the reality of God. The Father is the fountain of all things and as such he gives His love to the Son. The Son receives love from the Father and returns love. Now this communion is a spiritual communion and thus the communication of this love (the communion of Divine Love) happens by the Holy Spirit of Love. The Father and Son commune in love by the Holy Spirit. This communion, as said by the older theologians, is an interpenetration and indwelling of each person of the Trinity in the other. And thus, the communion is one of a mutual indwelling of the three Divine Persons: The Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, and the Spirit in both.
This Divine Communion of Love, because of the nature of love, overflowed to Create. For true love desires to go outside of oneself in order to share love with another. The Love that the Father and Son share is so pure that they desired to share this love (Eph. 1:3¬–6). As such they willed to create a creation that could experience the communion of this love. So the indwelling of the Divine persons resulted in an outpouring of love that brought a creation that would then take part in this communion of Love by the Spirit.
Creation is then an extension of the Communion and Love of the Divine Persons of the Trinity, it is a result of it, and this creation is brought forth with the purpose of sharing in this communion.
When God created he created man and woman, woman coming from the side of man and thus being of his very flesh. The exact wording in Gen. 2:18 is that God was going to find Adam a helper “fit” or “corresponding” to him. This shows us that woman and man are complimentary to one another, for they are of one flesh and are made to be one flesh. By creating a physical creation God created a new type of communion, a physical communion that would compliment and facilitate the spiritual communion between man and woman.
God shows us that he created man and woman in his image. In God’s image, man and woman were going be God’s agents to creation. They would care for and rule over His creation, and they would multiply and bring other men and women into the world who would do the same. The Divine explanation of marriage is given in Gen. 2:24 when God says that when man leaves his mother and father he is to cling to a woman and the two shall become one flesh.
The picture given of this union of man and woman is clearly that they are partaking in the reality of communion as a physical Type of the communion of the Godhead. Mankind is meant to image not only God’s character, but God’s very being by representing the communion of God to creation. This union of marriage is both a spiritual and physical communion as the physical and spiritual elements of man and woman commune together to become the one entity of the family. And just like the Godhead’s communion brought forth creation, so to does man and woman’s communion bring forth new life as they participate with God in creation.
The child is then a manifestation of the love and communion of the man and woman, as well as a testimony to the reality that the man and woman are one flesh. The child then becomes part of this communion of the one entity of the family. The family is a physical and spiritual communion of man and woman which results in the creation of new life that then partakes in the spiritual communion of the man and woman by being brought up in the ways of God. Thus, by the physical union the child is born, and by the spiritual communion the child becomes a son of God.
This original intention and picture of marriage is confirmed to still be valid by Jesus Christ in Matthew 19. There Jesus says that God’s original desire for marriage was for man and woman to become one flesh in marriage, and that this joining of the two was something actually done by God. Since it is God who has brought these two together, no one, not even the husband and wife, are to separate this union.
The only thing that changed after the Fall is that sin has now entered into the relationship of man and woman, causing contention between the two where there was supposed to be perfect harmony, as that harmony that is in the Godhead. So because of sin, God had allowed divorce, says Jesus in that passage of Matthew 19. However, in the New Covenant where mankind has become able to overcome sin by the Spirit, Christ expects of marriage now that it will be able to once again reflect the original design and intention. And therefore, the union of marriage will become a union of love that lasts until death of one of the marriage partners. And so marriage, now in the new covenant, is meant to reflect God’s original intention of imaging the communion of the Godhead, which brings forth new life. And in the New Covenant, divorce is an affront to the union of marriage for no one can separate what God has joined together.
From the reality of the communion and nature of the Godhead, and also from God’s original intention for marriage, and also from Christ’s reiteration and clarification of this original intention, we learn various things about Christian marriage.
1. Christian Marriage is between ONE man and ONE woman. This speaks to the intimacy and uniqueness of the Spirit union of the Father and the Son in the Godhead, which is then brought to the physical realm by the union of the woman and man that makes one flesh.
Polygamy would therefore not be part of God’s design for marriage since it would be similar to having other persons in the Godhead, or even other gods since every marriage would make up a new communion. The picture God gives is of taking one woman from man, and that same woman uniting with man to make one flesh. Polygamy would be a perversion of this design and any new marriage after the first marriage would equate to strange flesh imposing itself upon an already completed union of one flesh, thus threatening the family that has been created and bringing stress, confusion, and deviance, both sexual and spiritual to the family.
2. The Union of Christian Marriage is between MAN and WOMAN. As such Christian marriage does not allow for any form of Homosexual partnership to be considered marriage for it would be a plain perversion to the marital union. Two members of the same sex can never have a physical union as the man and woman can, and thus can not become one flesh. For inherently connected with this physical union is the possibility of procreation, since children are a natural result and a fundamental purpose of the marital union. This is not only understood by the Biblical mandate of the man and woman becoming one flesh but by God’s natural order as seen by the biological differences of man and woman complimenting each other to allow the creation of new life as a result of the physical communion.
a. But added to this is that homosexuality also violates the complimentary aspect of marriage. Woman completes the man since she came from him. Man needs woman for part of his flesh is missing. Woman and man are different and thus need each other to become whole. Two men would still be missing a rib, and two women would be two ribs without the rest of the body, both partnerships being incomplete and in no way constituting a union. The creation of a physical creation entails a physical order that is necessary for the fullness of physical communion that will result in the bringing forth of physical life. And this union can and is only accomplished in a marriage between man and woman.
b. And furthermore, since God is the one who brings together the man and the woman to make a union, the true marital union is initiated not by man but by God. And thus, man may make his own unions, but if they are not those ordained by God they are not true in reality. As such, God would not bring together a man and a man nor a woman and a woman for this was not his original intention for marriage and procreation, and so a homosexual partnership would violate his natural order and Will. And so, any homosexual partnership is merely a human partnership, and has no union of one flesh for it is God that creates this union.
3. Christians believe that the purpose of marriage is for man and woman to commune fully in body and spirit, a communion which naturally results in the bringing forth of children, which is the evidence of the communion of love between the two. And so marriage accomplishes two fundamental things:
a. It is an institution by which the man and woman may grow in communion with God by their communion with one another. Through their relationship of unity they are sanctified to live out the reality of being one flesh by learning how to give and receive love by the giving of each other to the one another like the members of the Godhead give of themselves to each other in mutual and willing love. In marriage the two grow in the Will of God, which Will is their holiness in love.
b. Marriage accomplishes the multiplying of the image of God by bringing forth children, who are the results of the physical communion, and by nourishing and raising children in the spiritual communion of love so that the children will themselves begin their lifelong sanctification unto God. And therefore, marriage is God’s ordained means for children to come into the world and to grow in a communion of love with parents who love Him and one another, for children are a result of the physical communion of the physical union of one flesh.
c. Since children are a natural result of the physical union of the flesh, then sex must always be connected to procreation. Not because sex is done only for procreation, for it is also a legitimate communion between man and woman that must continue on even past the age of bearing children, but rather that sex is always connected with the possibility of bearing children while the natural possibility exists. To disconnect sex from procreation before the natural God-ordained cycle has made procreation impossible is to abuse sex for one’s own end. As long as the man and woman are able to bear children they must understand that their physical union is always connected to the creation of life, and to disconnect this idea from sex by making procreation impossible is a perversion of the sexual relationship for it uses sex not in the way God intended it, as a physical communion of the fleshly union of love that brings forth a creation of love.
4. Christian marriage is a life long union that no one can separate because it is a union created by God. It is a union that only ends at the death of one of the spouses, as is even said at the Christian vows. This shows two things:
a. Christian marriage is done by God and thus for a Christian must be done by an ordained man of God who stands in the stead of God to unite the man and woman, and so it must be done in the church. However, due to man’s ignorance, the lack of witness to the Christian God, or even to his unbelief, marriages done by unbelievers must still be respected as true marriages, since God has honored all marriages from the beginning. Yet, if unbelievers become Christians they ought to be encouraged to renew their vows in the Church, in order to declare their belief in Christian marriage, and also that they may lay a new foundation of meaning in their marriage which has now become Christ-centered and entered into the spiritual communion where there was only a physical one.
b. Christian marriage should not end in divorce, since no man has the power to dissolve this union. Divorce, being a sin itself since it violates the Will of God and his natural order, is not something that Christians can partake in without committing various sins. For divorce would not only show that the sin in the marriage was too great that the communion of love was overcome and broken, but it would also show that both partners were not willing to give of themselves for the other in sacrifice and thus they dropped their crosses and stopped from following Christ. This would be a serious regress in their sanctification and would hurt not only their own soul, but the soul of their spouse and their children for the whole family communion would be perverted. Though, like all sin, it is possible for a Christian to recover from the sin of divorce, it is neither wise nor godly to willfully partake in sin willfully under any circumstance. And thus, divorce is an act that is not Christian and that should be avoided and rejected for the sake of God’s will and design.