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Question What is marriage?

Answer Marriage is a life-long commitment between one man and one woman who are joined together as one flesh. They are equal before God, yet they have different roles according to His design.

Scripture Mark 10:6-7 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.’

Explanation Marriage? Yes. While some might not think it needs to be included in a section on what the Bible teaches about humans, I do. Why? Well, very practically, marriage is so much a part of normal, everyday, generation-after-generation human life.1 In fact, we have generations of humans because of marriage. Meaning, marriage has been important to the existence of all humanity ever since Adam and Eve. But even more, according to what the Bible says, marriage is to be held in honor by every human.2 Meaning, God thinks marriage is important and will even judge those who mistreat it. So, among the truths that we could look at related to being human, the truth about marriage is not insignificant. But, what is marriage?

Marriage is… Before we go any further in answering our question above, I want to start with the most significant truth about marriage. That is, everything that marriage is (and is supposed to be), is because of God. Put another way, it is something—it’s not just an idea. And, it is a creation of God—it’s not just something we’ve come up with. God created marriage when He created all things. He planned it and He planned it to go along with His plans for humans. He also planned for how it should be handled by humans. This is where our verse above is helpful. What did God do in the beginning? Along with everything else God made, He ‘made them (humans) male and female’ (Mark 10:6). Why did God make the first two humans male and female? The ‘therefore’ in our verse above helps us understand the reason He made us the way He did—so that a man would ‘leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife’ (Mark 10:7). In other words, God made humans male and female so that they could be husbands and wives. As husbands and wives, they would then be able to have and raise kids, who would then eventually be husbands and wives, too. 

Marriage is a life-long commitment between one man and one woman. A commitment is something someone chooses to do and promises to do. This is what marriage is. It is a commitment between two people—a man commits to be a woman’s husband, and a woman commits to be that man’s wife. The Bible uses another word that describes the sort of commitment that marriage is—it is a covenant.3 A covenant is a promise. Not just any promise, but a very serious promise. A promise that someone makes with someone else to fulfill the promise no matter what, and to be held personally responsible if they break the promise (see for example, Jer. 34:18). Marriage is supposed to be this sort of commitment—a commitment that a husband and wife both make to be each other’s spouse. They promise to treat each other as their spouse and not to treat anyone else as their spouse as long as they both live. Though it won’t last forever (see Luke 20:34-36), marriage is supposed to be a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.4 Though because of sin it sometimes ends before death (see Matthew 19:8-9), marriage is supposed to only end when either the husband or wife dies.5 A few verses after our verse above, Jesus says, ‘what therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mark 10:9). The commitment of marriage is supposed to be inseparable—that is, not separated by any human.

A husband and wife are joined together as one flesh. Did you catch what else Jesus says in Mark 10:9? God is the one who joins a husband and wife together. In fact, in verse 8, Jesus also says that when a man and woman get married, they ‘become one flesh,’ they are ‘no longer two but one flesh’ (Mark 10:8). This means that the marriage relationship is designed by God to be the closest relationship between two people, and that a husband and wife should be closest to each other than they are to anyone else. Put another way, a husband is one with his wife—he is not one with another man, or his parents, or his kids, or any of the animals. And, the same goes for his wife—she is only one with him, and no one else. Now, there’s a part of this truth that is hard to understand. For example, how can two people be ‘one flesh’? But, there’s also another part of this truth that is both understandable and reassuring. Because he’s one with his wife, a husband should treat his wife as he would treat himself.6 And, it’s also through being one with each other that a husband and wife have kids (see Malachi 2:15).

A husband and wife are equal before God yet have different roles according to His design. Man and woman—husband and wife—are different, which we’ll look at in a moment. But, whatever their differences are, the Bible is clear that before God they are equal. What do I mean by equal? Man is no more human than woman. Woman is no more valuable than man. Why? They are both equally human. Meaning, both of them are made in the image of God. And, both of them have been given dominion over creation. They are also both interdependent—man depends on woman, and woman depends on man.7 That they are equal before God can be further seen in relation to salvation (which we’ll look at more fully, soon). That is, both man and woman need salvation. At the same time, salvation is available to both. And, once saved, both man and woman are given the same salvation benefits.8 But, man and woman are also different. Afterall, God ‘made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). He must have done so on purpose, right? Exactly! He made them different to be different and to function differently in the world. That is, God made the man as a male in his physical characteristics in order to do what He wanted him to do as a male in his role, especially in relation to woman. And, what is man’s role? In short, God made the man to lead in working and keeping.9 Similarly, God made the woman as a female in her physical characteristics in order to do what He wanted her to do as a female in her role, especially in relation to man. And, what is woman’s role? In short, He made the woman to help and glorify man in working and keeping.10

This is what the Bible teaches about humans.


1 Luke 2034 And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

2 Hebrews 13Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

3 Malachi 214 But you say, "Why does he not?" Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

4 Matthew 19He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

5 1 Corinthians 739 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

6 Ephesians 528 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

7 1 Corinthians 1111 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

8 Galatians 3: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

9 1 Corinthians 11But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

10 1 Corinthians 11: For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.