“You have heard that it was said, ’You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
What purpose did God have in mind when He thought of marriage? God isn’t married. Angels don’t marry. Not even many animal varieties couple for life. Eagles do, but we don’t read any commands of God’s binding them to it. So why us?
God explained his purpose for marriage in the very beginning: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Man alone is incomplete; he needs a companion to complete him (see Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:3-6). So the first purpose of marriage is fellowship, oneness, and wholeness in a love relationship. No surprise since God is love! But that’s not all. As soon as God got the first couple up and running, He gave his first command: have children (see Gen. 1:28). Animals do that too, of course, but with a major difference. Scripture gives a pattern of the home, a network of relationships in which parents are fully responsible for the care of their children. Procreation is in the context of family. Procreation, then, is a second purpose of marriage. But there’s another purpose in marriage that is even more foundational. “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:22-23).
In light of this verse, what purpose of marriage is suggested in these verses? As illustrated in these verses, the marriage relationship is used throughout Scripture to instruct us about God’s desired relationship with people. So this is a purpose of marriage: to help us understand and reflect the relationship God desires to have with his people. God is love, and from the overflow of this love among Father, Son, and Spirit came the creation of a being on the same pattern, designed to love and to be loved as in the divine model.
What do we find are the characteristics of marriage that are revealed by a comparison with the divine-human relationship? You probably list things like love, submission, and faithfulness. The divine-human relationship is eternal, whereas the marriage relationship is not. But the more we learn of one relationship, the more we are able to understand the other.
The holiness of the relationship among the members of the Trinity reflects the purity that is to characterize an earthly marriage. From the beginning God intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman for life.
The man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24 Scripture insists that this one-flesh bond must remain inviolate. The seventh commandment reads, “Do not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14), and the Old Testament emphasizes teaching against adultery second only to teaching against idolatry. In the New Testament both Christ and the apostles emphasized marital fidelity. Paul included sexual sins in every one of his many lists of sins, and in most cases they headed the list and received the greatest emphasis. For example, he wrote in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.”
Jesus not only quoted the seventh commandment but also included sexual desire under this command—as mental adultery: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). The end result of violating this command? Hell (see vv. 29-30)! It seems that Jesus took this commandment pretty seriously. So must we.
Purity, then, from God’s viewpoint, extends beyond physical infidelity. The safeguard of the pure marriage relationship He designed begins in the mind, in the desires of the heart, Jesus said. Can you,…are you… safeguarding your heart?