To some, it may seem God approved of women being treated as second class citizens in biblical times. However, it's good to remember mankind has been evil since the beginning of time, not only recently. Nowhere in the Bible does God condone evil behavior although it's obvious women were treated in all sorts of despicable ways before the Bible was written, during the writing, and after. Evil against women continues to this very day, particularly in Middle Eastern countries. This in no way gives grounds for dismissing what the Bible does say concerning how all people, including women, ought to be treated. In some biblical narratives we see God allowing polygamy, for example, and even making provisions for it, such as laws of inheritance, etc. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). But we must never assume this is God's will for marriage. Because God allows something does not mean He approves. There are many examples in the Bible of God's patience with the sins of His people, how He worked through those issues, and changed hearts the same thing He does today.
It's also important to remember the Bible is not primarily a science, a history, or a rule book for living. Although we find all of those things in the Bible, its main purpose is to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ. It's good to "zoom in" on various issues when we have questions concerning what the Bible says on a particular matter and then have the humility to receive the answers we find, especially when they aren't the answers we hoped for. Many people care what the Bible has to say about the issue of sexual intercourse outside of marriage, but don't understand why fornication is non-biblical. This is because they understand the mystery of God's design for marriage.
"The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and 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,
Because she was taken out of Man.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:22-24).
This text explains that marriage is God's design in creation, and God Himself established this one-flesh union through the intimacy and commitment of sexual relations. This is what makes intercourse "sacred." It is a sacred and unique union because God's purpose for the gift of intercourse is the oneness, the profound intimacy, which it provides to a married couple. As stated above, because many people of all cultures in all times do not heed God's divine purpose for intercourse, is not a valid reason to dismiss the biblical mandate.
Also, it's interesting to notice it was God who decided Adam needed someone else (Genesis 2:18).We can certainly understand why Adam could not find a suitable mate from the animals God shown him (Genesis 2:19-20). But we must ask why did God see fit for Adam to have anyone other than God Himself? There is the obvious answer, to "fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28). However, it doesn't follow that children were the only reason (although certainly one of the reasons) for God instituting marriage. God could have created as many people as He desired in the same way He created Adam. This is indeed a probing question; surely God Himself could have been more than adequate to satisfy any longing for companionship, desire for relationship, or any other physical/spiritual need Adam had. The Bible is clear in encouraging believers to remember God is all sufficient (2 Peter 1:3, Psalm 91, Colossians 2:9-10, Luke 14:26).
This mystery is opened to readers most explicitly by the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians. God instituted marriage (and all it entails) to display Himself. When a husband and wife become "one flesh" it is a "picture," of who Christ is and His relationship with His people. Although this picture (just like a real photograph) doesn't reveal everything, it does give us a better understanding of both marriage and Jesus' relationship with His body of believers (the church).
The Apostle Paul tells his readers that Christ and His followers are made of "one body," Christ is the "head" of the church as the husband is the "head" of the wife (Ephesians 5:23, 30-32). So you see, a marriage, the union of "two becoming one" is how Christians should view their relationship with Christ as themselves and Christ becoming one a deep, abiding, committed, intimate relationship that can never be broken.
Before I offend by saying, "the husband is the head of the wife," allow me to expound. Jesus Himself walked in submission to His Father, just as wives are called to submit to their husbands. However, this text in Ephesians has much to say about how a husband is to treat his wife. "Husband, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). Don't skim over this verse, but remember what Christ did for His church "gave Himself up." He went to a bloody cross for His bride - and died. This is the ultimate picture of how a husband is to treat and love his wife, in spite of all the men who do and have done just the opposite down through the centuries. It would be no hardship for any woman to be more than willing to submit to a husband who treated them with such a love as this. The truth, however, is many husbands do not love their wives as the Bible commands, neither do wives submit. Speaking from a woman's point of view, if wives would focus on how Christ submitted to His Father, and learn it is not a degrading thing, nor does it mean we are less valuable, less important, less intelligent or less of anything but it is a gift of God to be able to offer ourselves completely and submissively without fear to someone who loves us perfectly.
In all of this we can see that through marriage God puts Christ's relationship with His people on display. The two are to become one, in an intimate, committed relationship. The wife (church) is to submit to the authority of the husband (Christ). And the husband (Christ) is to love his wife (church) so much so that he would give his life for her (Ephesians 5:22-31). A loving, committed, marriage is a magnificent picture of the kind of relationship Christ would have with His people, and this is what God intended marriage to be. Sexual intercourse is the unique design of God, given as a way of creating intimacy (one-fleshness) between a husband and a wife. This is why sex outside of marriage is non-biblical and immoral in the sight of God.
Paula Titus is an administrative assistant by day, freelance writer by night. She also writes articles for gotquestions.org and is an avid blogger. With coffee racing through her veins, she eagerly tackles each day, one word at a time. Check out Paula's blog: http://mywritefulplace.blogspot
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