Paul begins with marriage, the foundation of the home. Marriage was instituted by God in the very beginning. We read in Genesis 1 and 2 how God created all things in six days and rested from His work on the seventh. At the end of each day we read: “And God saw that it was good.” However, after God created the man on the sixth day, He declared something was “not good.”
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Gen. 2:18)
God Himself declared that man needed a “helper,” someone comparable to him. As all of the animals that God had created were brought before Adam for him to name, none of them was found to be suitable or comparable to him. None of the animals could be the helper that Adam needed (Genesis 2:19-20). So God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, took one of his ribs, fashioned the woman from the rib, and then brought her to Adam. It reminds us of modern day wedding ceremonies where the bride’s father escorts her down the aisle and presents her to the groom. In this first wedding, God presented the bride to Adam.
When Adam first saw the woman, he knew that she was the one, the one who was comparable to him, and yet wonderfully different. Adam cried out, no doubt in great joy:
“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23)
This wonderful person was very special to Adam because she was part of him, “bone of my bones” and “flesh of my flesh.” What a beautiful first marriage! Not as formal as our modern day ceremonies, but filled with just as much joy and gladness for both Adam and Eve.
Following Adam’s exclamation, we find these words:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:24-25)
God’s statement that “a man shall leave his father and mother” indicates that the institution of marriage was for all mankind. These instructions clearly weren’t limited to Adam and Eve, seeing they had no earthly father and mother.
Genesis 2:24 sets forth God’s description for what makes a good marriage: leaving father and mother, being joined as husband and wife, and becoming one flesh. When a man is to be married, he is to leave his father and mother. Before a man is married his most important relationship and his strongest bond is with his parents, but after he is married this is no longer the case. This does not mean that he breaks all ties with his parents, but his relationship with them must change. He can still have a loving and close relationship with his parents, but it is no longer the most important one in his life.
When a man marries, he is to be “joined to his wife.” The word “joined” means to be glued or cemented together so strongly that, if you tried to separate the two, both would be damaged or broken. From the very word that God used here, it is clear that God intended marriage to be “till death do us part.” God never intended for marriages to end in divorce. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6).
When a man and woman are “joined” as husband and wife, they “become one flesh.” While this does refer to the sexual union of husband and wife, it seems to indicate more. Marriage is to be an intimate relationship, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. What a beautiful design by our Creator to meet the needs of both men and women. Most of us need this kind of intimacy with another human being. God, in His infinite wisdom, provided for this need from the very beginning when He instituted marriage.
If marriage is such a wonderful institution, why do so many marriages, including Christian marriages, end in divorce? Because marriage can only be successful and honoring to the Lord when both the husband and wife recognize and follow the guidelines that God laid down regarding their respective roles and responsibilities in the marriage relationship.
Having examined marriage, the foundation of the home, which God instituted “in the beginning,” we turn our attention to specific members of the family and their primary responsibilities, beginning with wives.