What does the Bible say about marriage? - Feature Image
Posted On 05/25/2022

What does the Bible say about marriage?


I once officiated a wedding in a beautiful barn.

The whole service I kept hearing a weird pounding sound.

After the ceremony, I realized that high at the top of the barn, behind where I was standing, was a tiny window. A pigeon was trapped on the inside of the barn and was sitting on the window sill, repeatedly smacking its head on the window trying to get out. Blood was splattering all over.

Too often wedding days are full of pomp and circumstance, but marriages feel like a pigeon banging its head on a window.

In Scripture, we see that marriage is always supposed to be a representation of the vulnerability, intimacy, love, commitment, and oneness of God.

Marriage represents the coming together of two people as one.

In Genesis 2, we read: 

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is
united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2|24)

Because marriage represents the character and oneness of God, the best picture of a biblical marriage is Jesus’ vulnerability, intimacy, love, commitment, and oneness with the Church.

Jesus is so united with the Church that he is considered the “head” and we are the “body.” 

In the Old Testament, God explained His covenant with Israel as a marriage vow. As the people of Israel drifted from their relationship with God, he sent prophets to show the people what had become of their relationship using the symbol of marriage (and adultery).

In the New Testament, holiness is connected to marriage covenants.

Marriage is seen as an earthly picture of a heavenly relationship. Husbands and wives are to love each other selflessly, an example of the love of Christ for his Church. In this way, as husbands and wives grow in selfless love for each other, they are becoming sanctified.

Surprising things the Bible says about marriage

God instituted marriage

Scripture teaches that marriage is something God established from the foundation of the world.

Genesis 1|27-28 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

First, God created Adam in His own image. He told him to fill the earth and subdue it. But it wasn’t long before Adam got lonely

Genesis 2|18-23 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.

But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

God formed Eve from Adam’s rib. He also made her in His own image to be a partner with Adam. Because she was taken from Adam, the uniting of husband and wife is symbolic of the two humans becoming one flesh again. In marriage, we are taken from out of our families to be joined together as one.

In Matthew 19|4-5, when Jesus is questioned about the law on divorce, he responds by reinforcing God’s institution of marriage by quoting Genesis 1|27 and 2|24. 

Marriage is supposed to be for life

In Matthew 19|4-6, Jesus quotes Genesis to reinforce the institution of marriage as a spiritual covenant. He then adds, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

After being pressed with questions like, “why did Moses allow divorce?” Jesus says the reason Moses allowed divorce was because of hardened hearts, not because it was God’s will for marriage.

He goes so far as to say: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19|9)

Jesus later talks about how it is better to remain single than to make a marriage commitment you aren’t able to keep for life. 

Marriage is founded on friendship

Scripture is clear on how husbands and wives ought to behave toward each other and the heart behind those relationships.

Through sharing genuine concern for one another, respect, and honor, husband and wife relationships are intended to be examples of deep and committed friendships at their core. Ephesians 5 puts some great language around this and summarizes Paul’s regular instruction to husbands and wives within the church

  • 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
  • 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
  • 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
  • 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband

Ultimately, husbands and wives are to be committed to God first and then each other.

Like friends, the marriage relationship is designed to strengthen each other’s relationship with God through mutual submission, and selfless care for the other’s needs. It is a relationship of deep love.

Many people have 1 Corinthians 13 read at their weddings because it defines love. But if you think about the 1 Corinthians 13 definition of love it represents any deep friendship as much as it speaks specifically to marriage:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Marriage isn’t always God’s will

After Jesus discusses the marriage covenant and why divorce laws are an indication of hardened hearts, his disciples say: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Here Jesus is clearly stating that some people are called to be single. 

Paul also seems to affirm this teaching. In 1 Corinthians 7|1 he writes: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

Later in the chapter, he adds:  I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. (1 Corinthians 7|7-8)

It is clear that Paul gives room for singleness to be a calling. In Paul’s teaching, he seems to think this frees people up to keep their minds focused on God’s will:

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.

But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided.

An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.

But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in the right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

What does the Bible say about sex before marriage? 

The Bible teaches that God designed sex to be enjoyed within the context of a marriage covenant.

Within the marriage covenant, the New Testament writers seem to indicate sex leads to a more complete understanding of holiness, as it gives us insight into the deeper heart of God through intimacy, pleasure, and trust.

Because marital sex is connected to holiness, any sex outside of marriage would be considered “sexual immorality,” which is a broader term but includes adultery.

In Acts 15, the question came up about what Gentiles must do to be included in the church. It was a given that they needed to place their faith in Christ alone and be baptized. The Apostle James then added this:

19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15)

Because the overall governing ethic of the New Testament church was then based on Paul’s teachings on “sexual immorality,” here are some scriptures that speak to what Paul taught. 

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; (1 Thessalonians 4|3-5)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6)

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; (Galatians 5)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3)

In addition, it is unclear who wrote Hebrews, but important to mention this verse:
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13)

Is sex before marriage a sin?

Simply put, sin is anything that goes against God’s design for creation.

God designed sex to be enjoyed within the context of a marriage covenant. Since sex before marriage falls into what scripture would teach as “sexual immorality,” yes it is a sin. 

What does the Bible say about sex in marriage?

As I wrote above, within the marriage covenant, sex leads to a more complete understanding of holiness, as it gives us insight into the deeper heart of God through intimacy, pleasure, and trust.

Sex inside marriage is an act of uniting, and becoming “one flesh.” It is designed to be enjoyable and exclusive. Sex inside marriage ought to be selfless, vulnerable, and mutual.

There are many Scriptures that speak to this.

Here are a few:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2|24-25)

​​You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)

Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? (Proverbs 5|15-20
)

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in the body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Corinthians 6|12-17)

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  (1 Corinthians 7|3-5)

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:13-14)

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, (1 Thessalonians 4|4)

Related reading: What Does the Bible Say About Sex?

What does “two shall become one” mean?

Right before Adam says: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2|23-24) it says:

But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2|20b-22)

The two become “one flesh” begins with Adam becoming “two fleshes.” The woman was taken out of a man in creation. In marriage, man and woman are brought back into a holy unity. The uniting is an instantaneous event. “Becoming one” is a lifelong process.

Uniting is about possessions and legalities. Becoming one is about the union of souls, dreams, hopes for the future, individual goals, strengths, weaknesses, and the very lives of a husband and wife. 

Another reference to “becoming one” uses the illustration of a yoke: 

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6|14

Here, Paul is indicating that Christians should not “become one” with an unbeliever. Since marriage is about holiness and represents the deep love of God, marriage between a believer and a non-believer cannot be a union of two people with that same intention. 

Additional Bible verses about marriage

Ephesians 5|22-33 (on marriage being a pathway to and picture of holiness) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1 Peter 3|1-7 Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Colossians 3|18-19 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

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Photo by Jeremy Wong

About The Author

Misha Hulett

Teaching Pastor

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Misha grew up in southeast Michigan, right outside of Detroit. He went to Eastern Michigan University to be an elementary special education teacher and taught for four years. In 2011, he started attending 2|42 and quickly got involved volunteering in student ministry. He had been involved in churches his entire life, but discovered a call to ministry through volunteering with high school students. In 2013, Misha joined the staff as the high school director in Brighton. As Misha says, "I just want to walk with Jesus and help other people do the same." Misha and his wife, Brittany, love coffee and adventure. They have a 2-year-old son, Wilder, who lights up their world.
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