A happy marriage is one of the greatest joys life has to offer. In this world, however, there is a great deal of failure surrounding marriage. There need not be, if only people would heed the Author of marriage.
God ordained marriage. To the first man and woman, He commanded, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Entering and fashioning a godly marriage begins with this understanding. God’s earliest definition of marriage is leaving, cleaving and becoming one. Marriage is the point where a man and wife leave the authority of their parents and form a new structure. Marriage establishes a new family, a new life with new responsibilities and new roles.
Appropriately, this moment is celebrated. A wedding is a moving occasion, rich with meaning. In the Philadelphia Church of God, the ceremony we use was composed by the late Herbert W. Armstrong, and it beautifully expresses God’s purpose for marriage and His laws guaranteeing its success.
This ceremony has two basic parts. First, it explains how God ordained marriage and made it binding: He gave Adam a helper, symbolizing the Church being wed to Jesus Christ at His Second Coming (Genesis 2:18; Revelation 19:7); He brought man and woman together to reproduce, picturing the expansion of the God Family (Genesis 1:28); and He made marriage permanent (Mark 10:9, 11-12), illustrating that the Church’s marriage to the Son of God will never end.
Second, the ceremony covers God’s scriptural instruction regarding the roles and responsibilities of husband and wife. This portion of the ceremony is built around Ephesians 5.
Ephesians 5 is the most important chapter in the Bible explaining marriage. It is a gold mine of marriage instruction. Though this passage addresses the roles of husbands and wives, it actually primarily addresses the marriage between Christ and the Church. The reason the laws in this chapter apply to a husband and wife is because physical marriage is a type of Christ’s marriage. Both are governed by the same laws.
It starts with verse 21: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Godly family life is a way of mutual submission in the fear of God. In this passage, the Apostle Paul gets more specific about what submission looks like within each role. He spells out the responsibilities of women and men in a way that reveals much about God’s thinking, His love, His government and His purpose for marriage.
The two marriage roles interlock in an extraordinary way. Each is about service. Each demands 100 percent commitment to the way of give—the way of love! It takes real faith for each spouse to go all the way. It takes faith in God, His law and government to sacrifice your own notions and concepts. The vast majority of people are too selfish to do it. We walk by sight. We want to hold on to our own ideas of the way a relationship should function. But if we are willing to simply obey—to walk by faith and do as God commands—wonders and miracles result.
When a husband and wife each devote themselves to following this formula, they set a God-level dynamic in motion. It creates a profound level of trust, intimacy and interdependence.
God designed these roles and responsibilities to draw us into the world of the God Family! They teach us exquisite, God-level governance and love.
None of us is perfect, but God requires that we strive to become perfect (Matthew 5:48). No marriage is perfect either, but both husband and wife must work toward God’s perfect standard.
The marriage ceremony conducted by God’s Church concludes with the wedding vows. The man vows to cleave to his wife to death, to love her, cherish her, honor her, and provide for her. These five specific promises—cleave, love, cherish, honor, provide—come straight from Scripture. When husbands understand and keep them, marriages take on an awesome spiritual dimension. They flow more and more with God’s love, His Spirit and His blessings.
The bride vows to take her husband for the remainder of her natural life, to submit herself to him as unto the Eternal, to be subject to him in everything, and to deeply respect him. These are completely different promises, but also based wholly on the divinely inspired scriptures detailing a wife’s obligations to her husband.
These beautiful wedding vows, if kept, lead to marital harmony, happiness, stability and longevity. If you remember them and keep them, you will enjoy the rich rewards of a marriage governed and blessed by the Almighty Creator of marriage! He wants your marriage to be great! He created
this magnificent, God-plane relationship, and He wants it to be a rich, joy-filled, deeply satisfying, intimate and altogether loving experience for everyone who enters into it.
To learn more about God’s purpose for marriage, read Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet Why Marriage—Soon Obsolete? To learn more about the God-ordained roles within marriage, read Chapter 5 of Biblical Manhood.