I recently wrote a paper summarizing issues of marriage, divorce and remarriage. This is an excerpt of the paper that captures the theological meaning of marriage.
Genesis 1-3 is the fountainhead of marital theology. These chapters reveal the Creator’s original marital design, the nature of marriage and the consequences of sin on marriage. Both testaments draw deeply from these theological waters. In particular, Genesis 2:24 has been termed the “paradigmatic statement about marriage for Judaism, Jesus and Paul.” Significantly, two of the most important theological statements on marriage are found in this text: the one flesh principle and the mystery of Christ and the church.
Genesis 2:24 lays down three marital distinctives that contain great theological import: leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. First, leaving equates to forming a new family and “giving up loyalty to one’s father and mother as the closest of human relationships.” Second, cleaving to one’s spouse communicates transference of the “most fundamental of loyalties to one’s spouse.” Marriage creates a new situation where all previous ties must submit to this new devotion. Third, leaving and cleaving culminates in becoming “one flesh” through sexual union. Language used for gluing and welding is employed to describe the permanence of the one flesh relationship.
One Flesh. Jesus draws heavily from Genesis 2:24 to assert the theological significance of marriage. In Matthew 19:4-6, he teaches the math of marriage (cf, Mk 10:6-10). Marriage erases two and creates one. One husband plus one wife equals one flesh. Marriage is an indissoluble oneness created by God that reflects the union, co-inherence and intimacy of the Triune community.
Christ and the Church. Paul also builds his theology of marriage on Genesis 2:24. He asserts that leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh is a profound mystery that ultimately refers to Christ and the church (Eph 5:31-32). Marriage is fundamentally a gospel parable with a theological design. It points to the fierce love of Jesus and the glad loyalty of his bride while anchoring a married couple in the rhythm of forgiveness, reconciliation and gospel grace.
Matt 19:5, Mk 10:6-7, 1 Cor 6:16, 11:3-9, 2 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:13-14.
Klyne Snodgrass, “Divorce and Remarriage,” Covenant Publications (1989), 5.
Craig L. Blomberg, “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3-12,” Trinity Journal, 11:2 (1990), 166.
Blomberg, “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy,” 167.
John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, (Albany: Books for the Ages, 1998), Kindle, Chap. 2, 75.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992), 481.
R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 717.
Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology and Worship (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004), 461-471.
Richard D. Patterson, “Metaphors of Marriage as Expressions of Divine-Human Relations,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, 51:4 (2008), 699-702.