Most people learn about marriage from an illegitimate source. They learn about marriage from the television, their friends, or the home that they grew up in. If you grew up in a functioning home, then that would be fine. But many did not, so the home—along with the media and friends—often merge together to form a distorted perspective on the covenant of marriage.
Without a divine frame of reference, we will stray from God’s formula for a healthy, productive relationship. What is this divine frame of reference? God, as far back as in the garden of Eden, gave us His perspective through the very first marriage.
One of the rules of studying the Bible is called the Law of First Mention. The Law of First Mention simply states that if you want to see what God says about a matter, look at the first time He brings it up. You do this because the first time He brings it up will typically tell you how He thinks about it. Everything else will build on that first time. While it may add to it or expand it, it doesn’t cancel out His first mention unless He says that it does at a later point.
Marriage starts off in the book of Genesis. Before there was sin, there was marriage. Marriage was put in a sinless environment created by God. It was put there for a purpose.
Looking at the book of Genesis in chapter one, we read that God has been very active creating many different things. He has created the heavens and the earth in such a way that they are functional, vibrant, and pulsating with life.
On the fifth day, God formed the creatures that would live upon the earth. Then on the sixth day, He came to the paramount of His creation purposes—the creation of mankind.
Let’s look at a few verses in Genesis chapter one. We read,
Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on theearth. (Genesis 1:26–28)
Notice that in verse 26, we read that, “God said . . .”
In verse 27, we see that, “God created . . .”
And in verse 28, we find that, “God blessed . . .” God said it. God created it. Then, God blessed it. Don’t lose sight of that because it demonstrates that the issuance of the marriage covenant comes directly from God. That is an integral point to remember, as you will see later on.
The first thing God said was that mankind will be made in “Our image according to Our likeness; and let them rule . . .” Be careful not to skim over that too quickly because what we have just read is a staggering statement. It is a statement that stretches beyond comprehension, yet it is often so easily missed.
Here we have God creating man, male and female, and after doing so, He gives them a common goal. He says your common goal is to exercise dominion over the world in which I have placed you.
God says that mankind will mirror His image on earth, but then He says that there will be more than that for them. He is going to “let them rule.” He is going to let humanity exercise dominion and authority.
What we see in verse 26 is God delegating to mankind the full responsibility for managing His earthly creation. God decides to indirectly control the affairs of earth by letting mankind exercise direct dominion. He has placed an agent on earth to serve as His representative to carry out in history His desires from eternity.
Not only does God proffer the delegation to rule, He also grants the freedom to rule, the responsibility to rule, and the right to rule on His behalf as owner. But what He does not do, please notice, is force man to rule. He says, “Let them rule.” He does not say He is going to make them rule.
What that means is that you can have a happy marriage or a miserable marriage depending on whether your rule is reflecting His image. God isn’t going to make you rule. He isn’t going to make you have a happy marriage. He sets up the fundamentals of a covenant, and gives you the option of utilizing them.
Oftentimes, the well-being of the home is determined by whether the man is reflecting God’s image in his role, or the woman is reflecting Him in her role. Once that mirror gets broken, the reflection that is supposed to happen in the relationship gets broken with it. Virtually every time there is a marital breakdown, it is because one or both parties are functioning outside of the covenantal fundamental of transcendence. They are functioning with a broken mirror.
Excerpted from the booklet Marriage Matters (Moody Publishers, Tony Evans, 2010)