One of the privileges of my position is that I get the opportunity to conduct marriages. Yesterday, once again, I enjoyed that privilege. Two lovely young people, male and female, made the most amazing promises regarding their future together. These promises were made in the context of a service of worship because they wanted to affirm what they were doing before God, and before many witnesses. The fact that these promises were made in such a context makes them more than promises. They are vows, and they are binding for life. It is particularly wonderful that these vows are still taken at marriages in an age when, generally, mutual trust among human beings is at a low ebb; and even more wonderful that some trust one another to the extent that they are willing to articulate such vows before God and before many witnesses.
Some will say, ‘what is the point? marriages no longer last’. It has to be admitted that sadly today many marriages fail. That is a fact. However, that is only one side of the story. The far more amazing fact is that so many marriages succeed, and survive, against all expectations. Why is this the case, and why can we have confidence that this will continue? Because marriage is not a human ‘invention’, but an institution ordained and put in place by God. Why should that make a difference? Because God upholds marriages. He upholds, not only the marriages of those who are believers and RightWithGod, but of those who have not made any commitment to trust God for their salvation, but who acknowledge His existence, and His rule over all things. I believe that He even upholds the marriages of confessed unbelievers, as long as they remain faithful to one another. Why is marriage and its upholding by God, so universal in its availability? It is because marriage was instituted before the fall of man. We read of the institution of marriage in Genesis chapter 2, but the fall does not occur till chapter 3. Marriage is a privilege available to all mankind.
Let us take a look at Genesis 2: 24 which reads: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh”. These words teach us three important things concerning marriage as laid down by God which are crucial to its success.
1. There must be a leaving of father and mother. This does not mean any fall-out, nor does it exclude mutual help and cooperation; but it does mean a definite and accepted separation, as far as that is possible.
2. Husband and wife must cleave to one another. This means an absolutely exclusive relationship, which excludes all others. For any third party to invade that relationship is a most serious disregard for what God has laid down in His Word.
3. Husband and wife must have no inhibitions about being joined together in the physical relationship of marriage, to the extent that they become “one flesh”.
I have no doubt whatsoever that God upholds faithful marriages. The emphasis must be on faithfulness. Once the sin of marital unfaithfulness comes into a marriage, my own observation, and experience in dealing with marriage problems, is that reconciliation is then extremely difficult. My question in such a situation is, ‘has God withdrawn His upholding hand?’
As far as our view of marriage in general is concerned, let us be optimistic, and have confidence that marriages will continue to be entered into and many of these marriages will endure; because God instituted marriage in the first place, and since then He upholds what He has instituted.