THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

PART ONE: THE CREATION FACTOR

The first part of our studies on what the Bible teaches about marriage goes right back to Genesis 1 and 2 – to the world as God created it, before the fall. Here we see life as it was meant to be, without corruption, without damage, without alienation, without fear, without guilt. Here we see the only 'normal' and 'natural' human beings (apart from Jesus Christ). From this original, virginal world, unraped by sin and degradation, we can learn God's perspective on the high calling and responsibility of the marriage relationship.

 

STUDY ONE: VALUE AND DIGNITY: GENESIS 1:26,27

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

INTRODUCTION

Until the middle of the twentieth century most Australians lived with a consciousness that God was there, and, whether they lived by them or not, most people acknowledged that there was such a thing as absolute standards of right and wrong, and experienced some degree of guilt or conscience when they flaunted those standards. The laws of our nation were grounded in the standards set in the Bible.

In stark contrast, from the 1960's onwards, our society has increasingly embraced ideas which originated in the godless mindset of secular humanism and evolutionism: [ See Additional Note #1]

That there is no personal, absolute God.

  • That because there is no god, there are no absolute moral standards which are valid for all people, in all places, at all times. There is no such thing as absolute 'right' and absolute 'wrong'.
  • That, consequently, concepts of 'right' and 'wrong' are seen as social and cultural standards, relative and variable as what is accepted as okay within a society changes.
  • That the laws of the nation should constantly change to bring them in line with what is commonly accepted as the social 'norm'.
Discuss possible connections between the rejection of the existence of God, with its associated rejection of absolute right and wrong, and increasing incidence and 'normality' of the following.

Marriage breakdown

 

 

 

 

Sex outside of marriage

 

 

 

Homosexual acts

 

 

 

Sexual abuse [over 15% of Australian women report being sexually abused as adults]

 

 

 

This rejection of God and of absolute moral standards has seriously undermined society's perception and expectations of sexuality and marriage, and our perception and expectations of legitimate attitudes to and treatment of other people, including marriage partners. It is essential for Christians to return to Biblical foundations, and to build their understanding of sexuality and marriage on those foundations.

A. THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN

The fact of creation by God gives value and purpose to everything, including human life.

Read these verses. Study what these verses teach, and discuss the high value they put on all human beings, which includes your marriage partner.

Acts 17:25,28

 

 

Romans 11:36

 

 

1 Corinthians 8:6

 

 

Colossians 1:16,17

 

 

Hebrews 1:3

 

 

These verses teach us that we are:

A.1 Created by God

  • Our marriage partner has his/her life and breath from God's hand [Acts 17:25]
  • Our marriage partner originates from God [Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6]
  • Our marriage partner was created by Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:16]

A.2 Sustained by God

  • Our marriage partner's existence at this very moment depends on God [Acts 17:28]
  • Our marriage partner's existence at this very moment is 'through' God [Romans 11:36]
  • Our marriage partner's existence at this very moment is 'through' Jesus Christ [1 Cor. 8:6]
  • Our marriage partner's existence at this very moment is sustained by Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3]

A.3 Created for God

  • God's goal and purpose for our marriage partner is God-centred [Romans 11:36]
  • God's purpose for our marriage partner's life is God himself [1 Corinthians 8:6]
  • Our marriage partner was created for Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:16]

This fact of creation by God for God gives to our marriage partner [and ourselves] an extreme value. This person with whom we have chosen to share our lives and ourselves is the possession of the almighty God. This person, with whom we live in marriage, is sustained in life by the word of Jesus Christ. And this person, our marriage partner, was created, not for us to use and abuse according to our mood and our purposes, but for God and for his purpose. Our marriage partner is not our possession, our property, our slave, or our toy: he/she is God's possession and God's property by virtue of creation.

PERSONAL CHECK POINT : In response to these facts list five points in which you need to change your attitude, words or actions towards your marriage partner, and five ways in which you can by own your life-change, help your marriage partner to live his/her life for God.

Things I need to change in the way I think, speak and act towards God's creation [my marriage partner].

Things I can do in my life that will help my marriage partner live for God and his purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B. THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN

When God created human beings he gave them a specific identity which distinguished them from everything else he created.

Read Genesis 1:26,27. Write out the three ways this specific identity is expressed in these verses.

This identity, this being created 'in the image of God', gives to human beings a unique value and a unique responsibility. It gives to human beings a significance, a dignity and a role which nothing else can achieve or fulfil, and puts a heavy boundary around the way we view and treat one another. This fact of creation in the image of God is vitally important in our understanding of what the Bible teaches about marriage.

B.1 The human being was created with the ability, role and responsibility to reflect the being and nature of God

Creation in the image of God, means that the human creature, distinct from all other creatures, was created with the capacity for godliness [= 'God-like-ness'].The human person, our marriage partner, was created with the ability, the role and the responsibility, not to be God, but to express the likeness, the reflection, the qualities, of the nature of God.

This identity as God's image-bearers gives an awesome dignity to the human being, and holds each one of us accountable to God for the way we treat our fellow human beings. He does not allow us to treat his image-bearers with contempt or disrespect.

Read the verses below. Discuss their significance for our attitudes to and treatment of our marriage partners. [Note that in the Matthew passages Jesus looks behind murder to the emotions and attitudes which give birth to murder, including these also under the judgement of Genesis 9:6.]

Genesis 9:6

 

 

 

Matthew 5:22a

 

 

 

Matthew 5:22b

 

 

 

Matthew 5:22c

 

 

 

B.2 Creation in the image of God identifies humans as moral and spiritual beings

Secular humanism and evolutionism teach that what you see is what you get – that life is no more than the material, physical stuff that we can feel and see, and that the satisfaction of our material and physical [including sexual] needs is all there is to life. Morals are of value only in the service of these needs for the individual or for society. Death is the end.

In what ways do the following express the belief that humans are no more than physical beings?

Domestic violence

 

 

The sex industry [prostitution, table dancing, sex shops]

 

 

Pornography

 

 

Multiple sexual partners

 

 

The image of God factor elevates the concept of 'human' beyond this physical, material agenda and into a moral and spiritual dimension where there is a capacity and responsibility for personal communion and eternality. Thus, in our relationship with our marriage partner [and with any human being] we are relating to someone who is far more than flesh and blood and body parts; we are relating to someone whose God-given distinguishing essence is spiritual, someone to whom God has given moral capacity, and someone whom God intended, together with us, for spiritual communion with each other and with himself. In other words, God created us persons.

When we view our marriage partner solely or predominantly as a sex object or when we view and assess our marriage relationship solely or predominantly in terms of sexual fulfilment or satisfaction we are embracing the godless, materialistic mindset of the world and ignoring that aspect of the human being which is the most significant in God's eyes, and which he counts the most significant in our interpersonal responsibilities.

We are not just body: we are also soul and spirit - we are persons. This deep fact gives a mysterious and awesome significance to our marriage partner: this person was created accountable to the Lord God Almighty, and this person was created for communion/communication with God, the high and holy One, who inhabits eternity. The very nature of this person by virtue of creation in the image of God forbids me to treat this person merely as a physical body, as mere physical substance.

Discuss and list the implications of this point for your relationship with your marriage partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B.3 Creation in the image of God assumes a relationship of dependence on God

Yet an image has no significance in and of itself. It is dependent for its existence and its glory on the existence and the glory of that which it images or reflects. For example:

  • If there never had been an emperor called Julius Caesar, a marble statue called 'Julius Caesar' would have little or no significance.
  • If a mirror is held with its back towards your face, it will never reflect your beauty or good looks; it fulfils its role only when in a face to face relationship with you.

Thus, the human being was created in an uninhibited, positive, face-to-face relationship with God. Only in such a relationship with God can the image of God be expressed by the human being. Only in this relationship of dependence on God can the human being maximize his/her God-given potential as human.

What does this teach us about marriage?

  • That I, as a person created in the image of God, can only be truly and fully human as I live in positive, face-to-face relationship with God, dependent on him for my being, my significcance and my glory. I will not seek my significance and my glory, or the meaning of my life, from my marriage partner, for that would be to put him/her in the place of God, a role that it would be impossible for him/her to fulfil.

 

  • That I will recognize that my mariage partner is a person created in the image of God, a person whose significance and glory come not him/herself, or from me, but from God alone, and who will find his/her fulfilment as a human being in God alone; so I will not presume to usurp or demand the place of God in his/her life.
 Discuss and list perceptions and expectations in marriage relationships that ignore and abuse this dependence on God that is essential for human fulfilment.                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 HOMEWORK TASK: During the week:

1. Review the implications of creation an dthe image of God for your marriage.

2. Commit to applying the concepts of value and dignity of the human being to the way you think, speak and act towards your marriage partner.

3. Discuss with your marriage partner ways in which you have each either usurped the place of God or put the other in the place of God. Discuss ways in which you can change this expectation of the other.