Genesis 2:18-24 18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam 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. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Introduction Today I want to talk to you about an institution that is under attack. I am talking about the institution of the home and more specifically about the marriage relationship between one man and one woman. In this time together, I want us to take a look at the sanctity of marriage and God’s purpose for it. My objective today is in no way intended to be critical of those who don’t have perfect marital relationships. In reality, if we were to all be honest, there are probably none of us who have achieved that anyway. What we are going to be looking at is God’s ideal as it is found in Scripture. Though we all may fall woefully short of God’s ideal for marriage, we should nevertheless be striving toward it. Many godly people have experienced the pain of a broken marriage, possibly for reasons beyond their control. If you fall in that category this morning, it is not my intention to add to your pain. There are many people who are doing an extraordinary job of single parenting, and should be applauded for their courageous efforts. Understand also that it is not my intention to alienate those of you who are not married. The Scriptures are very clear that there is a season for singleness, and in some cases, God has gifted individuals with the ability to be single for His purposes. So what is my objective? It is simply to encourage you about God’s purpose and design for marriage and why we, must strive to uphold His ideal for this foundational and divine institution. I. THE DECLINE OF MARRIAGE. Rutgers sociologists Dr. David Popenoe and Dr. Barbara Defoe Whitehead recently released a report on marriage titled, “The State of Our Unions — The Social Health of Marriage in America.” Here is how they summarize their findings: “Key social indicators suggest a substantial weakening of the institution of marriage. Americans have become less likely to marry. When they do marry, their marriages are less happy. And married couples face a high likelihood of divorce. Over the past four decades, marriage has declined as the first living together experience for couples and as a status of parenthood. Unmarried cohabitation and unwed births have grown enormously, and so has the percentage of children who grow up in fragile families.” A. The Statistics. Here are some statistics from the Rutgers Study: 1. The number of cohabiting couples has increased 865 percent since 1960, a number that recently topped the 4 million mark. 2. The percentage of children living in single-parent families has risen from 9 percent in 1960 to 28 percent in 1998. Thirty-five percent of children under 18 years old now live apart from their biological fathers. 3. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 40 percent of first-time mothers, ages 15-29, are not married. B. The People Behind The Statistics. Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family recently wrote: “Behind these numbers are millions of hurting people — husbands, wives and children for whom everything stable and predictable has shattered. They represent the pain of loving wives who committed themselves wholly and unreservedly to men who later rejected them for other lovers. They speak of husbands who are struggling to raise their kids alone because their wives decided they didn’t want to be mothers anymore. And, of course, they reflect the pain of children who cry themselves to sleep at night because they can hear their parents at each other’s throats.” C. The Make-Up Of The Statistics. The thing that is alarming is that the numbers are virtually the same for those claiming to be born-again and those who are non-Christians. The Barna Research Group released a poll showing that among those identified as born-again Christians, 27% have previously been divorced, compared to 24% among adults who are not born again. II. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MARRIAGE? One more quote from the Rutgers study gets to the heart of the problem. Their research shows that: “As an institution, marriage has lost much of its legal, religious and social meaning and authority. It has dwindled to a couples relationship, mainly designed for the sexual and emotional gratification of each adult.” A. This statement reveals two things: 1. The primary goal in relationships has become personal gratification. When people evaluate a relationship, the first thing they often ask is, “What’s in it for me? Will all of my needs be met?” If the relationship they are currently in no longer meets their personal needs, they move on to one that will. 2. Sexual and emotional gratification, which in the past was culturally reserved for married couples, is now available in abundance outside of marriage. As a result, marriage is seen as superfluous. Marriage is no longer viewed as sacred or even special. It is merely another way for people to “couple,” a way of being sexually and emotionally gratified, having no more moral or social significance than two people living together. If that’s all there is to marriage, then why bother? B. And indeed, more and more people are not bothering with it. 1. Many people have come to the conclusion: “What’s the point of marriage? If I can have a decent relationship, isn’t that all that matters? What difference does it make whether I’ve signed a sheet of paper and gone through a ceremony?” 2. A number of people in the liberal media and academia are arguing that it’s time we drop the idea of marriage all together. In a recent national news article, one psychologist argued that marriage has become outdated. She said, “It’s unrealistic to expect couples to balance modern work demands and desires for personal happiness against a life-long mandate to be faithful lovers, diligent parents and tireless helpmates.” 3. Thanks to Hollywood characters who have purposely chosen and celebrate the “virtues” of single motherhood, married motherhood is no longer viewed as the ideal environment for raising children. III. WHY MARRIAGE? That is the question of the day. Why should we hang on to and protect the institution of marriage? Why is it important for a man and a woman to covenant together in matrimony? For the answer, we have to go back to the beginning and discover what God’s “point” is with marriage. A. Read Genesis 2:18-25. Esp. verse 24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Also, read Matthew 19: 4. And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 1. God’s purpose for marriage is for male/female companionship. From God’s perspective, everything was good except for Adam’s being alone. Adam’s loneliness was more than not having others around. His “alone-ness” was a result of having no one around that was suitable for him. There was no one to complement him, and by that we mean everything from biological to complex psychological and spiritual complementation. He was a sole piece of a puzzle, designed for another piece where none existed. After seeing Eve, the female, Adam understood this profound truth. He realized God made male for female, “this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”–in essence, one being. 2. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s idea. In this passage we discover that husband and wife in marriage is the very first institution that God created. It is the primary institution of the society God created. 3. God designed marriage between a man and a woman to be the first system of interdependent human relationships. 4. God designed the husband and wife relationship as the primary relationship of the family. B. It is this “oneness” that is the primary purpose in marriage. Pursuing God’s design for marriage is essential in fulfilling God’s purposes for mankind. 1. God’s design for marriage is for a man and a woman, in all their masculine and feminine differences, to come together and become “one.” Not just “one flesh” in the sense of the physical, sexual union, but more than that: Intimate oneness. 2. Married individuals are not carbon copies of each other, but two people who are both being transformed into the image of Christ. The more each individual is transformed into the image of Christ, the more they move toward oneness. God’s design is that by moving toward oneness with your spouse, you learn to love, you mature, and you develop as a human in a way that no other relationship is capable of producing. Put simply, marriage makes us more like God wants us to be. 3. This “oneness” is a profoundly unique thing that is strengthened by years of shared experiences, trials, triumphs, challenges, and victories. It’s why I can start a sentence and my wife can finish it. And vice-versa. It’s her knowing what’s wrong without my speaking a word. It’s two lives becoming one. It takes time, effort, sweat and tenacity. But the rewards are like none other on earth. IV. WHAT IS GOD’S PURPOSE IN “TWO” BECOMING “ONE?” A. To Mirror God’s Image. Genesis 1:26-27. In many ways, marriage mirrors the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the very core of the nature of the Trinity is relationship. Each member of the Trinity complements the other two perfectly, and as the Godhead they are “one.” Yet, each plays a unique role in the Divine plan of the universe. It should be the same with husband and wife. Each plays a unique role in God’s plan for the family, yet they are to be “one flesh.” Their “oneness” reflects the character and unity of God. B. To Mutually Complete One Another (Mutual Interdependence). Geesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:11 To mutually complete one another means to create something together that does not exist apart. This presupposes that men and women are essentially not the same thing, and a male needs a female (and vice-versa) to be complete. Although it has been fashionable at times to think there are no real differences between men and women, volumes of research and common sense prove otherwise. They are equal in worth but different in design, and God made them that way for a purpose — to complement and complete one another. Only in the union of a man and a woman can each be mutually complemented in the way God has designed us, physically, psychologically and spiritually. C. To Illustrate The Relationship Between Christ And The Church. Ephesians 5:25-33. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. As a husband and wife serve one another, love each other unconditionally, put the other’s needs before their own, and lay down their lives for one another, they illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church. Just as Christ loves and laid down His life for the (eternal) church, so a husband is to lead his family by laying down his life for his wife and children. He leads by serving. And just as the Church loves and serves Christ, so a wife is to graciously submit to her husband’s headship. D. To Multiply A Godly Legacy. Genesis 1:28a Marriage provides the context for having and rearing children. Neither women nor men are made emotionally, spiritually or physically to raise children by themselves. God created family in such a way that it is the primary learning environment for children. It serves as a “small society” where children learn to love, to relate and, by watching mom and dad, to understand and appreciate their spiritual, emotional and sexual identity. Only in the union of man and a woman can a godly legacy be fruitfully multiplied. 1. The evidence that children do better in homes with their two married, biological parents is so overwhelming, it caused David Popenoe, professor of sociology at Rutgers University to state: “In three decades of work as a social scientist, I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: On the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable … If our prevailing views on family structure hinged solely on scholarly evidence, the current debate would never have arisen in the first place.” 2. Karl Zinsmeister, a leading researcher on the family and the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute says, “There is a mountain of scientific evidence showing that when families disintegrate, children often end up with intellectual, physical, and emotional scars that persist for life … We talk about the drug crisis, the education crisis, and the problem of teen pregnancy and juvenile crime. But all these ills trace back predominantly to one source: broken families.” E. To Serve As A Foundation For A Healthy Society. While there are many courageous single moms and dads and others in less than ideal family settings who are accomplishing the task, God created marriage as the basic building block upon which to construct a society. The special and sacred bond shared between husband and wife provides for strong families which, in turn, provide for stable, healthy social structures. Only in the unique union of a man and a woman can the foundation for a healthy society be built. Historians tell us that every civilization that strays from the union of a man and a woman in marriage will eventually collapse. Conclusion If we strive to recapture and uphold God’s ideal for the relationship between a man and a woman, the significance cannot be overstated. Individuals will thrive. People long to be completed, but without marriage many will pursue that longing in ways that destroy them spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and in some cases, physically. Children will thrive. The scientific research clearly confirms that children fare better when a mom and a dad are in the home. Without a stable home, children will live in peril. We have examples all around us of what happens to kids when parents are not around to invest in them. They too, will suffer spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically. Society will thrive. Historians remind us that when marriage is held up as the social ideal, societies flourish. Without strong, committed, stable unions that serve as the primary building block of social structure, the rest of society will be weakened and eventually crumble. God will be glorified. The primary purpose of marriage is to glorify God. It is His design for man and woman. It has been His created purpose from the beginning of time, His way of illustrating His love. Marriage brings glory to God. It is critical that we honor this divine institution for what it is: God’s purpose for His created order.