Jani: Hello, everyone! Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund. My dear husband, Ray Ortlund is with me today. Heidi couldn’t be with us. We are here at home, working together, and Ray has agreed to leave his study and come down and help me with this podcast. Thank you, darling.
Ray: I’m so glad to be with you and with all our friends.
Jani: I really appreciate it and I know our listeners will as well.
Note on our Current Series
Well, darling, you may not know this, but in our podcast series…of course you listen to every podcast, don’t you?
Ray: Oh, of course!
Jani: In our series, we’ve been going through the 10 Commandments, and we’re just about to start the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Before we do that, I’d like to have some podcasts on marriage, what it is, what the Bible teaches us about marriage. Also, speaking directly to wives, I want to do some speaking on how to befriend your husband. So we’re going to have two or three podcasts about marriage before we enter into a study of that commandment.
Question: “What does the Bible Teach about Marriage?”
Today, what I would really like you to do, darling, is help us see what the Bible teaches us about marriage. How does the Bible paint the picture of a godly marriage? Why did God create marriage in the first place anyhow? And how do we enter into that?
Ray: OK. Yeah, a godly marriage is just a human marriage. It’s a romantic marriage. It’s a fun marriage. Not that every moment is like a “zippity-doo-da” moment because that’s not life, but it’s really glorious.
Marriage is not a democracy
Marriage is not like democracy. I think democracy is a great idea. But democracy emerged from human social evolution along the way. I think it came from ancient Greece, the Politics of Athens, fourth and fifth century—a great idea, but marriage is not just another human social arrangement. Marriage came down from above. Marriage was not created by us or invented by us. We did not think it up, God brought it down. It is a gift, not an invention.
It is a gift, not an invention
So we have to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden for crying out loud. In Genesis 2—before there’s any evil in the world, before there’s any heartache, death, pain, all of this trauma that we’ve been living with for so long—in the garden of Eden, in a perfect world, God gave us marriage. God defined it and he helped us understand it. So there was Adam in the Garden of Eden in a perfect world and God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”
Jani: I like that, something not good in a perfect garden.
Marriage is Defined in Genesis 2:24
Ray: I know it just doesn’t make any sense at all. So God provides a remedy for the “not goodness” that he noticed. And the remedy is Eve for Adam. God brought them together. He’s sort of like the “Father of the Bride.” He brings her to Adam and it’s love at first sight. He is just absolutely slain by this precious young lady who is now his wife. God gives her to him.
And then the Bible explains what’s going on there in the Garden of Eden, and what’s going on is marriage. Then, the Bible says in Genesis 2:24,
“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”Genesis 2:24
Now, it’s not true that what some people say, “There are so many different kinds of marital arrangements in the Bible. The Bible’s not clear about what marriage is.” And it is true as the Bible says Solomon had 700 wives, for example, and Solomon, in that respect, was not wise. The Bible records historic facts—like polygamy with Solomon—but the Bible does not approve of that or endorse that.
Two words: “One flesh”
We know what the Bible teaches about marriage, not just what it records about marriage but what it teaches and affirms about marriage, because in the beginning it says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother…” (i.e. here’s the right way to go about it) “…and hold fast to his wife”, not wives (this is singular), “…and they shall become one flesh.” Now there in two words, honey, is the the biblical definition of marriage
Jani: Tease that out for us.
Ray: Yes, “one flesh” and there’s no other relationship like that. A healthy friendship has boundaries, but the whole point of marriage is that it is a very healthy friendship. But what’s unique is one flesh.
When we got married, we were not thinking, “I really want to get married to you, but I’m going to curtain off certain areas of my life and you have no access there.” Healthy friendships have boundaries. In marriage, uniquely, we so let our guard down that we erase the boundaries and you have total access to me. So that’s one flesh.
Now the word “flesh” is simply biblical code language for “life in this mortal world.” So, we’re not going to be married in heaven. But “as long as we both shall live…till death us do part,” we are one flesh. So, we have one bank account. We have one story together, we have one suffering, one adventure, one reputation, one family, one bed. Now everything is shared. We share everything. I’m open with the totality of my life in my reality, and I let you enter in the way I let no one else enter in. That is marriage, that mutual “giving grace” and receiving grace constantly; it’s that complete, unguarded trust and openness–that is unique to marriage. And what we do on our wedding day is we committed to that formally, we took a vow saying, yeah, this is how we’re going to roll from now on and we’re happy to do so, one flesh. That’s biblical marriage.
Jani: Oh, that’s so good. I was thinking of another one: “one name.” The wife takes on the husband’s name. And I like, just as a woman and as your wife, I like that it wasn’t good for Adam until he had a wife.
Ray: And I felt that. I experienced that. I was more alone and more isolated and more lonely than I even realized. I didn’t know how not good it was until after I got married.
“But what about Those who are single?”
Now of course, some people are called to live as single people.
Ray: That is not not good. That is very good, very noble, very honorable, whatever God’s will is for my life, whatever God’s will is for your life is good. But God’s will for me was to get married and my radar was on alert looking for you before I even realized that’s what I was doing. The reason for that was God said, for me as Ray, “It is not good for Ray to be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him.” So I’m very thankful for you because you’re not just somebody I met, you’re someone God sent. I’m very grateful for that. So one flesh, there we are.
Jani: Thank you. That’s really helpful, and thank you for those words to our single listeners as well.
Ray: Where would the world be without the magnificant, wholehearted, all-in single people that have invested in the greatest cause on the face of the earth, the cause of Christ. We’re so indebted to them. That’s just not my calling.
“Does the New testament Say Anything about Genesis 2:24?”
Jani: Well, let’s bring it back now to marriage and I wonder, are there any other passages you could highlight for us?
Ray: Sure. Interestingly enough, honey, three times in the New Testament, the New Testament writers quote Genesis 2:24, because they looked at the Old Testament and it’s teaching on marriage, and they were not thinking, “Yeah, that’s what it says, but we don’t believe that anymore. You know, we’ve moved on.” No, they looked at Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The New Testament authors looked at that and they said, “Well, yeah, that’s that’s what we believe. That’s the definition of marriage.”
Three times in the New Testament, that verse in the Old Testament is quoted, and we get an added insight in each of these three New Testament passages.
#1 – Matthew 19:6: Jesus Explains It
For example, the first one is from Jesus Himself, in Matthew, chapter 19, toward the beginning of the chapter, and the Pharisees come to him and ask him a question about divorce. So the topic of conversation is marriage in the world TODAY—not in the Garden of Eden, marriage in the world today—troubled marriages, even broken marriages, and what do we do about divorce?
So they come to Jesus and ask Him and He quotes Genesis 2:24 as if that was just the obvious go to passage, because it is. And and here’s what he says after he quotes Genesis 2:24,
“Therefore, what God has joined together let not man separate.”Matthew 19:6
Jani: Remind us, this is Matthew 19?
Ray: Yes, Matthew 19:6. So, Genesis 2:24 says, “They shall become one flesh” and Jesus looks at that word “become” and his very active mind asks, “How do they become one flesh?” And he helps us understand how: “Therefore what God has joined together…”
So here’s the amazing thing. Number one, and I always like to say this in premarital counseling, I say to the soon to be bride and groom,
“Okay, guys, you guys are gonna have a wonderful wedding day. It’s going to be a high and holy moment. But in America today, weddings can be a little bit overdone. The families and friends can pressure you without even realizing. But listen,” I say to them, “You’re not performing for an audience on your wedding day in that ceremony. There are going to be only 3 important people in the room, and I’m not one of them. I’m going to be the pastor. But the three important people in the room at your wedding are going to be the bride, the groom, and God.”
Jani: That’s so good.
Ray: And God will be joining you together as you’re standing there taking your vows. God will be there sealing it and making it real. And “what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
So, the amazing thing to me about that, honey, is that God is as present in a marriage today as he was in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. We’re not getting our marriages 19th hand. Our marriage, Jani, and every marriage among our listeners is as glorious and miraculous and God-blessed, as was the perfect marriage of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Jani: Oh, honey, that gives me such hope. It fills me with joy. “That’s my marriage?” Oh, thank you for that.
Ray: Each marriage has tremendous dignity. We don’t feel amazing as we look at ourselves, and that’s why that’s there in Matthew 19.
Jani: We need it.
Ray: Yeah, Jesus is saying, “You and your marriage are more amazing than you realize. So let me tell you about the amazing.”
#2 – 1 Corinthians 6:15: Paul Quotes It
The second time the New Testament quotes Genesis 2:24 is in 1 Corinthians 6:15. The apostle Paul quotes it. He’s talking about sexual ethics, sexual norms. And what he’s doing is he’s saying that sexual behavior belongs within marriage only. And he quotes Genesis 2:24 in saying something that is just breathtakingly astounding to us. He says,
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”
In other words, don’t you guys realize your bodies are the limbs of Christ, the organs of Christ. Christ dwells in you not just in your soul. Christ dwells in your body. And you are living extensions of Christ in the world today. So these legs of mine are one way Jesus walks the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. And this right hand of mine is how Jesus shakes hands and makes friends with people in Nashville, Tennessee.
First Corinthians 6 is so daring. I never would have had the courage to say this, it never would have occurred to me. When he says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” he’s talking about our sexuality. Our sexuality is indwelt by Christ, inhabited by Christ. The argument for a high sexual ethic is not, “Your body is so icky and so low, don’t get involved in that.” It’s the opposite. The biblical argument is, “Your body is so dignified; your body is now sacred space.” So, sexual expression belongs within the sacred space of Christian marriage. So the biblical argument for a very high and careful sexual ethic is the glory of Christ in our bodies, including our sexuality.
Jani: Isn’t that wonderful?
Ray: It’s amazing.
Jani: It’s a more positive view, rather than, “Don’t do this, the Bible won’t let you do that. It’s just a killjoy!” It’s a beautiful picture of Christ in me, therefore, this is how I can live that out.
Ray: So we want to steward our sexuality in a way that is consistent with the presence of Christ in our sexuality, and therefore in marriage.
Jani: Isn’t it wonderful? He enters in.
Ray: Oh gosh. I never would have had that thought.
Jani: No, it’s almost, I don’t know, a little scary to think, but wonderful!
#3 – Ephesians 5:32: It reveals a Profound Mystery!
Ray: The third time the New Testament quotes Genesis 2:24 is Ephesians 5 in the famous passage there where the apostle Paul teaches us about marriage. And what I love about this passage is that he’s teaching first-generation Christians who don’t have Christian dads and moms. They don’t have Christian grandparents, they don’t have Christian mentors. So he doesn’t say to them, “Go learn from your Christian Dad and Mom, and you know, these intergenerational traditions that you have of historic godliness coming down to you.”
Instead, he paints the picture of marriage by looking at the gospel. And he says, “Look at the gospel and you’ll know how to be a husband and how to be a wife.” And then, after he quotes Genesis 2:24, he says, “This mystery”—i.e. “marriage”, our marriage, Jani, your marriage, Listener—
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”Ephesians 5:32
So, our marriage, honey, refers to Christ and the church. Our marriage paints the picture of Christ and the church. Our marriage is a prophetic whisper of Christ and the church. Our marriage incarnates and embodies and paints the picture of the gospel. Our marriage is meant to make the eternal romance more real to people and visible to people so that people who never go to church, never hear the preaching of the gospel, neighbors, colleagues and friends can see the gospel in our marriage.
So this mystery is profound. Again, it’s it’s kind of like Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 6 in that, Paul pulls the curtain back and shows us the hidden glory of God in our marriage. You and I have been married now for almost 49 years. In the course of those years, I’ve introduced you to people as my wife, “Here, I’d like you to meet my wife Jani.” And no one even once has ever said, “You guys are married?” Marriage is common, but it is not cheap. It is a profound mystery in the sense that it reveals something we never could have known on our own, namely, that human romance bespeaks divine romance.
There is a reason people have this euphoric, crazy experience of temporary insanity called “falling in love.” The reason people have that experience is that it is a little indicator, just a hint, of the love of God for sinners in this world and the eternal romance we will have in the renewed universe—the new heavens and the new earth, which will serve as the honeymoon suite for all of us with our Savior groom in eternity. That is a profound mystery.
NO One (In Christ) is Missing out on a thing
Jani: It is, it is. And that also can speak hope into the lives of those who are single, and wonder if they might remain single until they see Jesus. They will not miss out on the ultimate marriage.
Ray: No one is missing out. No one in Christ on missing is missing out on a darn thing.
Jani: It might feel like it here on earth but we want to tell you, you’re not missing out.
Ray: No one is getting a second rate experience in Christ, there is nothing in Christ second rate. He just doesn’t trade in that, ever, with anyone.
Jani: This has been so helpful. Thank you, darling. Thank you for joining us. We pray that this might help restore your soul, dear listener, as you think about the profound mystery of marriage.