The Bible gives us clear directions for marriage. It should be between one man and one woman, without homosexuality, bestiality, or adultery. God considers marriage to be a scared covenant that should be taken seriously and that should last until death parts the couple, with very few exceptions. Married couples should treat one another with kindness, patience, love, and respect. Marriage is not a Biblical requirement, but it will be blessed by the Lord if the couple puts Him first in the marriage.
To begin, a godly marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman. There should not be two of the same sex, nor other creations besides humans. Genesis 2:20-23 helps us understand these concepts by explaining how, in naming all the animals, Adam was not able to find anything suitable enough to be a help mate. This tells us that animals do not provide the kind of intimacy man needs. Man and woman are the only Creations that are made in God’s image and therefore, the only ones that are right for each other. They both have the capacity to love, think, and reason, unlike other Creations. However, God did not create Eve exactly like Adam, which tells us that man needs a helper and companion that complements him, rather than someone identical to him. Man is not meant to be with another man. God’s design is for the two sexes to work together in harmony, with each having specific roles within the marriage.
We can also see from the book of Genesis that men and women are deeply connected in a physical sense because God used one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve. Adam described Eve as “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:24 states “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The physical intimacy that started with woman’s creation is meant to continue in marriage through sexual union. This bond is extremely important to the strength of the marriage. It helps a husband and wife remain true to one another, and helps them remain close spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Due to the sacred nature of the one-flesh union of marriage, the commitment to the spouse then takes precedence over all other human relationships, including parents, siblings, and even children.
The one-flesh union is a special gift given by God to married couples, but it should only be between the two married people. The Ten Commandments state very clearly that sex outside marriage is a sin. (Exodus 20:14) Furthermore, married couples should make a conscious effort to guard themselves from adulterous thoughts as well. Jesus calls lust adultery of the heart in Matthew 5:28. This is because adulterous thoughts can easily lead to adulterous actions. Therefore, married couples need to be very careful with both their thoughts and actions in order to keep their marriage pure and long-lasting.
Marriage is intended to last until death parts the couple, according to 1 Corinthians 7:39, which says “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” This verse gives insight into what a widowed spouse is permitted to do after the death of a spouse. He or she may choose to stay single in order to devote his or her life to the Lord, or this person may instead choose to remarry. Both choices are acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. However, if someone chooses to remarry, it should be to another believer because God tells us not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14) This is because there cannot be a fellowship between light and darkness. When an unbeliever and a believer marry, their purposes in life are not the same and it creates many problems in the marriage, including disagreements in how to raise children.
Since the death of a spouse is the only intended way for a marriage to end, this means divorce is considered a sin. Jesus speaks very passionately against divorce in Matthew 19:2-9, calling it adultery when a spouse marries another person while the original spouse is still alive. This doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t forgive those who divorce, just as he forgives all other sins when we repent, except for the sin of rejecting the Lord. However, forgiveness is not to be confused with condoning. God takes marriage very seriously and considers it to be a breaking of a sacred covenant when a couple divorces. However, Jesus does discuss one circumstance in which divorce is permitted, which is the act of adultery. This is because it destroys the one-flesh union of marriage. (Matthew 19:9)
Paul addresses another circumstance in which divorce might be permitted in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16. He discusses that when two unbelievers marry, one person sometimes converts to Christianity. In this case, the converted believer should try to remain in the unequally yoked marriage for several reasons. First, the unbeliever is “sanctified” by the believer, which gives hope for his or her future salvation. Second, the believer’s prayers allow God’s protection over the unbeliever. However, 1 Corinthians 7:15 says “if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” Therefore, if the unbeliever decides to separate due to the spouse’s belief in Christ, the believer should let that person leave; the believer has done nothing wrong in this situation. Thus, a second reason divorce may be allowed in a marriage.
A third and final reason someone may be permitted by the Lord to divorce is abuse. Scripture does not explicitly tell us this, but abuse is contrary to the way the Bible describes how married couples should treat one another. Ephesians 5:28-29 calls men to “love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” Spousal abuse absolutely contradicts these directives. A husband or wife who is being abused should leave their unsafe environment and contact authorities immediately.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 provides many other directives for how all people, including married couples, should treat one another. It tells us “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” Godly marriages consist of patience and kindness that only come from the Lord. Married couples should also not be petty or jealous, nor selfish or conceited. They are not to hold grudges against one another and should always encourage one another in the Lord, not allowing unrighteous behavior. Biblical expectations of marriage are high and can only be accomplished through the Lord’s strength.
Scripture also tells couples specifically to avoid nagging one another. Proverbs 19:13 describes the contentions of a wife as a “continual dropping,” being as irritating as a leaky roof. The Bible goes even further to say, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (Proverbs 21:9) and “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” (Proverbs 21:19) Husbands and wives do not need to nag, pick fights, or bicker over petty things—it’s better to sleep on the roof or in the wilderness than in a house with a spouse like that!
Just as Scripture gives instructions for how to treat one another, it also explains spousal roles within the marriage. According to Ephesians 5:22-24, wives are called to “submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” The word “submit” can often be controversial in modern society, but Paul is speaking in this verse about women choosing to let their husbands lead when it comes to decisions for the marriage and family. Submission should be voluntary and never forced. Wives should do it because Jesus asks them to, not because their husbands demand it. When wives willingly submit to their husbands, they are being obedient to Christ. Submission does not imply that the wife is the lesser partner in the marriage, but just that she has a different role than the husband. Wives should accept and respect their husband’s leadership decisions in the same way that the church submits to Christ, trusting that those decisions are good and holy. (Ephesians 5:33)
However, this does not mean that the wife’s submission should be taken advantage of or misused. A husband has a responsibility to lead his wife in a way that honors her and leads her down a godly path. Ephesians 5:25-27 states “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Husbands have the high calling of loving their wives as Christ loves the church. Since Jesus laid down even his own life for the church, this means the husband should also love in a self-sacrificing way. He should consider his own needs and desires as secondary to what his wife and family need. He should also base the needs of his wife and family according to what Scripture says that they need, not what he thinks. When a husband upholds this lofty calling, submission on the part of the wife becomes natural. She is eager to follow her husband’s leadership and respect his decisions because he is following God’s direction and example of love rather than his own.
When we take a closer look at marriage from a Biblical perspective, we can clearly see that it is a challenging task. Therefore, it is important to note that marriage is not a Biblical requirement. The apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:1-8 that some people, like himself, are satisfied without marriage because God has blessed them with the gift of celibacy. This is an acceptable way to live and pleases the Lord because these people devote themselves wholly to Him. (Matthew 19:10-12) Nevertheless, marriage also pleases the Lord and is a good thing. Most people have sexual desires that need to be satisfied, or they will be very tempted to give into the sin of sexual immorality. For these people, marriage is a good and necessary way to help them refrain from sin. God designed the one-flesh union of marriage to provide mutual satisfaction and delight to the couple, so it is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged for a married couple to frequently satisfy one another. Their sexual union is not a sin, but a thing to be celebrated. Married couples should not abstain from it but make it an integral part of their marriage. The only time a couple should be deprived of one another is if they mutually agree that they want to be celibate for a short time in order to devote themselves fully to the Lord through prayer. Otherwise, they should not test their self-control when it comes to sexual desires. Satisfying one another will help them honor God. (1 Corinthians 7:1-8)