Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Nature of Marriage


By B Ward Powers

Marriage is always presented in the Bible as a dynamic experience – something that is happening, rather than just as a legal bond. It is that, of course, and a covenantal relationship (Malachi 2:14). But the focus in the Bible is upon the “togetherness” of marriage.

The marriage relationship is forged by God for companionship, for mutual help, and for the right satisfaction of the sexual nature which he has given to men and women. We can see these three purposes clearly in the picture of Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 2:18-25). The bond of marriage is to be the closest of all human bonds, closer even than that of parent and child – we leave our parents to be joined to a spouse (Genesis 2:24).

Thus the leaders of the early church (apart from Paul and Barnabas) were not only married but were accompanied by these wives in their ministry (1 Corinthians 9:5). Aquila and Priscilla set us an example of joint ministry, to Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-28), and hosting a church in each city where they lived (1 Corinthians 16:19, etc.).

Part of this “togetherness” in Paul’s teaching was the giving of oneself to one’s spouse in the sexual relationship of marriage, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. There are two aspects of this passage which are quite remarkable and which we must not overlook. First of all, the evenhanded way Paul speaks of both the husband and the wife: the sexual nature, and sexual needs, of the wife were normally quite overlooked in the ancient world – this treatment of sex by Paul is unique in the ancient world in showing a recognition of the wife in this way.

Secondly, Paul’s teaching focusses on the relationship aspect of sex, without any reference to its role in procreation. Some Christians seem to think that sex is solely for procreation, and otherwise is best avoided. Not so. Paul writes here of the mutual giving of sexual love, and never even hints at procreation. And the sexual relationship, Paul says, is not to be discontinued except perhaps by agreement for a short period for some specific reason (such as a special season of prayer); and then husband and wife are to resume their normal sex life. The joyful “one-flesh” joining together in sexual union was God’s intention in making us male and female (Genesis 2:24-25).

It is a matter of the greatest regret when God’s plan for human marriage is not being experienced in a particular relationship. What are we to say then? For a detailed consideration of this (and a whole lot more), read “Marriage and Divorce – the New Testament Teaching” by Rev Dr B Ward Powers (Jordan Books), 384 pages, posted for $AUD33, or $US25, or £Stg15.

[Click for "Marriage and Divorce" table of contents, topic list or order info.]
[Click to go to the Ward Powers Home Page.]

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