Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25
In this portion of our study, we’ll continue looking at Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18-25 to focus on a third, important purpose for marriage. I’ll begin by reading Genesis 1:26-28.
A Third PURPOSE for Marriage is,
Notice with me that IMMEDIATELY following the creation of man and woman God BLESSED them! In the Old Testament the concept of God’s blessing [barak] is very important. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states “To bless, means to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity (that’s fertility), longevity, etc.” In reading through the Hebrew Scriptures, you’ll notice the connection of God’s blessing and the fruitfulness of the womb. The contrasting word is qalal and means “to esteem very lightly, or to curse.” As you may recall, in the Old Testament, one of the effects of a curse was to be barren or childless.
Look at the first provision of the blessing God gave to Adam and Eve. It was also a command, the command of procreation. “Be fruitful and multiply…” This command of multiplication after one’s kind was also given to the plant and animal life. But there is a major difference with the command of multiplication given to mankind.
As we’ve noted repeatedly in this study, mankind is the only part of creation made in God’s image and likeness. Therefore, the purpose of procreation among human beings is more than simply the propagation of the species. It gives human beings the opportunity and privilege of partnering with God in the creation of other human beings made in His likeness! God’s goal is that the earth would eventually be filled with those who will worship and praise Him. Clearly, procreation is a third major purpose of the marriage relationship. In God’s plan, children are not incidental to marriage; they are an essential part of it. Did you hear me? I said, “In God’s plan, children are not incidental to marriage; they are an essential part of it.”
Unfortunately, many contemporary Christians are rejecting both this blessing and command. An increasing number of professing Christians marry with a commitment to purposeful childlessness. This is exactly opposite of God’s design and intention for both marriage and family. From my observation and study, is usually embraced for selfish purposes. What many do not understand is that you cannot violate God’s principles with impunity! In other words, when people choose to ignore or violate the principles of Scripture, their choices set in motion a series of consequences that will bear undesirable fruit in their lives.
God’s blessing and command was “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion…” Some would say this command was only for early earth dwellers because today our world is overpopulated. But with a little serious research, the myth of overpopulation is easily dispelled. In a list of reasons why people of the world are hungry or starving, the World Food Program, an agency of the United Nations, makes no mention of overpopulation. It simply is a bogus claim by globalists who have an agenda to dominate those whom they consider inferior.
As I mentioned earlier, the blessing and command of procreation is more than simply the propagation of the species. God designed procreation as the result of marital intimacy. After God spoke into existence each part of the creation, he stated that what He had done was good. However, following the creation of Adam, God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone…” So, He put Adam to sleep, took some flesh from his side and built a woman.
When Adam awoke from his surgery, he identified the woman as an integral part of himself. He understood, probably by divine revelation, that this union would facilitate a new family relationship as husband and wife became “one flesh.” Our understanding of “one flesh” is further illuminated by the biblical euphemism for sexual relations first stated in Genesis 4:1; “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived…” Cain’s conception was the logical outcome of Adam and Eve knowing each other in the sexual relationship.
However, we understand that being “one flesh” and “knowing” one’s spouse is not limited to the sphere of our sexuality. These terms also encompass the other parts of our being, the spirit, and the soul. In His wisdom, God designed the marriage relationship, so it involves our total being. According to the record in Genesis chapter one, it is to be monogamous, permanent, and without shame. Allow me one brief digression here. Secular research confirms what the Bible teaches. Married couples who are committed and faithful to their partners find more fulfillment and satisfaction in the physical part of their relationship than those who simply engage in sexual activity without marital commitment.
As I said a few moments ago, Cain’s conception was the logical outcome of Adam and Eve’s sexual relationship. From this established point near the beginning of time up until the mid-20th century, sexual relations between man and woman always carried the potential of a new life! That was, until the introduction of the combined oral contraceptive pill in the United States in May of 1960. Since then, the Pill has led to a revolution in human sexuality with far-reaching effects on marriage, the family, the church, and society.
The introduction and use of the birth-control pill is relevant to our discussion of procreation as one of the primary purposes of marriage. While ancient peoples did attempt various forms of birth-control, this was the first time in human history that a highly reliable form of pregnancy prevention was made available to the general population. By its use, God’s creation design can be thwarted – but not, as I noted earlier, without consequences.
It is certainly no surprise that an unbelieving world should readily embrace such an invention as the Pill. What is surprising is how quickly, and without serious and extensive discussion, many church denominations and individual Christ-followers embraced this anti-life development. In so doing, they effectively exalted human control over what for millennia had been God’s domain – the creation of life. To be fair, Roman Catholicism took a strong stand against contraception and officially still does. However, most people in the pew pretty much fit in with the practices of the wider culture.
As a follower of Christ, I desire to bring every area of my life into conformity to God’s Word. Even as I study and understand that one of God’s primary purposes for marriage is procreation, I find among many professing Christians a resistance to thoughtful study and application of the Word in this area of life. In premarital counseling, if the use of birth-control is mentioned, it is in the context of how, and what method, rather than whether it is biblically sanctioned. One time, in talking with an older person about a biblical basis for contraception, I was asked, “Don’t you think God wants us to use common sense in this area of life?”
My answer was, “What does common sense have to do with it?” If I followed common sense, I wouldn’t be a Christian! Human reasoning doesn’t lead us to Christ; it leads us away from Him. Common sense says, “If someone hits you, hit him back hard enough to make sure he won’t be able to do it again.” Conforming my life to Christ means turning the other cheek, and that’s painful. Common sense doesn’t lead a person to leave a secure, well-paying secular job to join a ministry that is solely funded by the generosity of God’s people. So, let’s admit that the words, “common sense,” are likely used here as a smokescreen for our selfishness.
Our emphasis in modern culture on the rights of the individual leads us to the mistaken belief that I am the one who is in control of my own destiny. But as Christians, we are slaves of Christ and are duty-bound to follow His ways given to us in the Scriptures. My observation is this; the prevailing view of many Christians mirrors that of the world. That is, my enjoyment is the highest goal in life. Therefore, sexual intimacy is primarily about pleasure, not procreation. And while the pleasure we receive from sexual intimacy is a wonderful gift from God, it isn’t the primary purpose. When we confuse God’s design with man’s desire we lose not only the greatest gift of children, but also the greatest pleasure and intimacy God intends for us to enjoy.
Let me assure you that this discussion is not about the number of children you have. Biblical families of antiquity and today vary greatly. I can find no chapter and verse for “Thou shalt have X number of children.” Some had few, some had many. The issue really is – who decides? As a slave of Christ do I have the right to decide how many children I have or is that His prerogative? Do I yield control of every area of my life to Him or just a select few? Jesus said that being His disciple is predicated on my willingness to lay down everything for Him. That includes my marriage and family.
Now it’s likely that someone will raise the question, “What about couples who are unable to have children, either because they marry when they’re past child-bearing age or because of some physical limitation? Are they not fulfilling God’s purpose for their marriage?” My answer to those questions is, “These couples have not CHOSEN [of their own free will] to make their marriages infertile. They are not deliberately trying to frustrate the procreative significance of their sexual faculties.” The failure of their marriage to embody the full procreative purpose of God does not reside in their WILL, but rather in external circumstances beyond their control.
Up until recent times, large families were celebrated as the blessing of the Lord. Today, they are often looked upon with incredulity and even scorn. It was only the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, brought on by the advent of effective forms of contraception that allowed women to forego childbearing and enter the workforce in large numbers. This led to greater earning power for each couple but also prevented children from experiencing all the benefits God designed for their family relationships. It also led to the rise in marital unfaithfulness!
Unfaithfulness is one of the unintended consequences of an unscriptural view of procreation. Separation of sexuality from reproduction breeds irresponsibility, especially in men! Research shows that children add stability to the marriage relationship. That’s no mystery. People who are making loving, sacrificial, mutual investments in the same person are quite likely to become best friends. In the case of husband and wife, the recipients of the investment are their children. Their shared commitment to provide for, care for, and train their children for responsible adulthood reinforces the bonds of their own relationship and makes them best friends. In other words, procreation helps insure permanence. Through the years, my wife has become my best friend and I am fully committed to her as long as we’re both living!
The Scriptures refer to children as “blessings, treasures, heirlooms, an heritage, vigorous plants, arrows in a full quiver,” and so on. In the Scriptures, children, as a general class of people, are always spoken of in a positive light. So great is their value that Jesus said that it would be better for those who offend children to have a millstone hung around their necks and to be drowned in the depths of the sea! Many parent/child relationships I observe today seem as if the parents would delight in doing the millstone routine to their own children! Many couples see children as a bother, an unnecessary irritation in an already difficult life. Children raised in homes where those attitudes prevail will surely sense and resent the rejection of their parents.
It almost goes without saying that another purpose of procreation is to continue and increase the family of God, the church. The entire scope of the Scriptures reinforces this reality. The biblical emphasis on the current generation teaching the rising generation is clearly seen throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Our faith in God is to be multi-generational. One of the sad realities of our day is that many young people who attend church as children are leaving the church as young adults. While this exodus is the result of many factors, a primary one is the acceptance of an unscriptural view of the family by professing Christians.
As I close this portion of our study on God’s Purposes for Marriage, I want to touch on several things. First, you have NOT heard me say that the use of contraception is a sin. But I do say it is long past time that we have a frank and open discussion on this subject based on what God’s Word says, not what our contemporary culture practices. To discover God’s purposes for marriage and them implement them in practical ways can only strengthen the marriage bond. To understand how the purpose of procreation informs and impacts other aspects of marriage is a worthwhile and largely overlooked field of study. I am encouraged by couples and families I know who seek the Lord for His direction on these issues.
Obviously, I haven’t tried to be exhaustive in our study. My goal is to raise awareness of the issues so that you will take the initiative to search out what God’s Word says. I don’t want to make you a spoon-fed Christian; I want you to become a mature, self-feeding follower of Christ! In fact, I would be interested in your feedback. My only requirements are that you speak the truth in love and that you substantiate your position from the Scriptures.
God’s blessing and command to Adam and Eve was to “fill the earth.” The last time I checked, the earth was still not full, nor had God retracted that blessing and command. So, there is much for us yet to seek out and learn! In our next visit together, I will conclude this study by showing the way the primary purposes of marriage are connected and how they impact each other. I hope you can join me then.