There are a lot of sermons about marriage. There are a lot of books about marriage. There are, however, not a lot of sermons or books about the theology of marriage. There has been a lot said and written about how to have a better marriage. But, there’s not a lot said or written about why marriage exists. Sure there are plenty of books and sermons that go back to Genesis 2 and talk about the fact that it was “not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). But they rarely talk about why the man needed a woman.
Some argue that the man needed a companion. Yet, better translation of the word often translated as companion is helper or partner. The sense is in working to accomplish something together not merely company. Besides, there are plenty of people that find companionship in a dog. Jen finds great companionship in our cat. I recently took up keeping saltwater fish as a hobby. I find my community of five little fish quite companionable. Yes, there may be something wrong with me there, but the point remains. Why did God create marriage? Was woman necessary so that man would not be lonely. I don’t think so. The man could have found any number of animals to keep him company. Moreover, he experienced the presence of God in a more direct way than anyone else ever has except Jesus. But Jesus is both God and man so I think he gets disqualified from the conversation. Anyway, why did God create marriage?
Perhaps it was for procreation. After all, didn’t God say, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!” (Genesis 1:28). Yes! Let’s look at that for a minute though. While Genesis 1:28 occurs before Genesis 2:18, the events of Genesis 2:18 occur before the events of 1:28 chronologically. God gives the vocation in 1:28 to both humans. Genesis 2 provides more detail describing what God did at the end of Genesis 1. It’s kind of like an inset on a map giving more detail on the roads in a city. Also, Jesus did not give infertility as a legitimate reason to end a marriage. Jesus gave only infidelity as a reason for divorce (Matthew 5:31-32 and parallels). If procreation was the reason for marriage then infertility would certainly be a reason for divorce. No, procreation while intended to occur only within the family unit formed by marriage is not the reason for marriage.
To understand the reason for marriage, we need to go back to the reason God created humanity to begin with. Genesis tells us why humanity was created:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”
God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.Genesis 1:26-27
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it.Genessis 2:15
God created humanity to be his representatives on earth. He made people in his image to rule and care for his creation. That was the vocation of the first married couple. As a couple they were to rule and care for the earth on God’s behalf. That is the purpose of marriage. The intent of the first marriage was for two people to work together to represent the triune God on earth and nurture it to be the beautiful life-giving world it was created to be.
Of course, we know the first couple rejected their vocation. In choosing to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they chose to rule the world on their own behalf rather than be God’s representatives. Thus sin entered the world and all the ugliness and injustice that followed. Through all of that, the purpose of marriage remains. The intent of marriage is to help us fulfill the vocation that God gave us from the beginning. Marriage exists so that we can represent God on earth ruling and caring for it on his behalf.
To fulfill our God-given vocation we must be holy. As God said to Israel he also says to us, “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” A thriving marriage is a marriage in which two people in mutual love and service challenge and encourage one another to be holy, thus being the people God created them to be. Two people, striving towards God and holiness supporting each other, find that they are more fit to fulfill their role in the church and God’s kingdom because they are more fit to fulfill the purpose for which humanity was created.
The purpose of marriage is to lead two people towards holiness. The purpose of your marriage is to make you holy.