The Purpose of Marriage

Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15

What’s the purpose of marriage? To find happiness? To stay in love? To have kids? These objectives are used a lot by people today, in fact almost every time. But are they the scriptural reasons for marriage? I used to have a very stubborn opinion on this. But it was plain and simple scripture, not commentaries or theologians, that changed my mind. Let’s go over happiness, love, and kids to see if these reasons hold up as a suitable purpose for marriage. In the end, we’ll see that God is far more direct and freeing about this than ever before.

Happiness

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. – Song of Solomon 2:3

Happiness is certainly one of the many products of marriage. But it’s a result of marriage, not what marriage revolves around. In the absence of happiness, what holds the Christian marriage together? If happiness was the purpose of marriage, God would have never returned to Israel all the times he was angry:

So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. – 2 Kings 17:18

But something always caused God to bring Israel back:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. – Hosea 2:14-15

Happiness does not keep a marriage together, nor is it the purpose of marriage. So then what was keeping God committed to his marriage with Israel? Was it love?

Love

Love, like happiness, is another product of marriage. But is the purpose of marriage to be in love? To stay in love? Was it love that made God continue to forgive Israel?

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 7:7-8

So was it love that kept God faithful? Was love the purpose of God’s marriage to Israel? Love is a powerful thing, but make no mistake, love is a product of something particular that you shouldn’t miss from the passage above:

It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors

God swore an oath. It wasn’t just because he loved Israel, because Israel did not always love God back, but because he made a covenant. So is the purpose of marriage to fulfill a covenant? Now we’re getting somewhere. It was the covenant that kept God faithful when Israel disobeyed. God chose to love Israel, and made a covenant with them, that even when the happiness is gone, and when we don’t love him, he will still keep his covenant.

Now this may be compelling, but is it the purpose for marriage? A covenant is what keeps a Christian marriage together, even in the absence of love and happiness. So did God marry Israel for the sake of wanting to make a covenant one day? Is that the real reason? No. God is infinitely more intentional than that.

Kids

Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. – Malachi 2:15

God is seeking Godly offspring. It’s as simple as that. Marriage, symbolically, represents Christ’s relationship with the Church. But the purpose for God’s marriage to Israel was to produce one special Godly offspring:

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,‘ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,‘ meaning one person, who is Christ.” – Galatians 3:16

But surely, this is a controversial thing to say, especially in this day and age! A marriage must produce offspring? Godly offspring?

So if I have one child, I’m good to go? What about the married couples who don’t want kids? Or those who adopt? Or the barren?

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. – Romans 9:6-8

What does this mean? It means stop focusing on the physical aspects of this marital purpose. Even God doesn’t look at that. There are possibilities far beyond the legalist doctrine of “at least one child, or else you’re condemned!” God has never been this limiting. Let’s quickly run through the common concerns, to make this simple:

What if I can’t have kids?

“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. – Isaiah 54:1

You can have Godly offspring, through close, spiritual relationships with those around you.

What if I only adopt?

To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. – Galatians 4:5-7

Be assured, the children you adopt are your children, and you can have Godly offspring.

What if my spouse and I don’t want kids?

The answer to this concern is a simple question: what is your priority as a married couple? Is it what you both want? Or is it what God wants. And we know what God wants: Godly offspring.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28

Practice hospitality and foster spiritual relationships with those around you, and God may very well soon push you in the direction of having physical children, or adopting, and you’ll be well equipped for it. But don’t think you know better than God.

What if my offspring, spiritual or physical, aren’t Godly?

Know that God seeks Godly offspring. He also wants us to be Godly ambassadors for Christ. Both of these things repeatedly do not happen all over the world. But this is the promise of Jesus, that we are made Godly, reborn in him. If your children reject God, humble yourself and know that you’re not the one who can ultimately save them.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:10

Conclusion

What is the purpose of marriage? What does God seek from our marriages? Godly offspring. And how is this done? By keeping our marital covenant, and having spiritual and physical children.

God seeks Godly offspring from our marriages; and if our offspring, spiritual or physical, turn away from God, we need to remain obedient and let God work in them on his own time. God wants Godly offspring from your marriage, but even more than that, he wants YOU:

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” – John 21:22

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