The Gospel we preach is potent because it restores in Christ what was ruined in Adam. Throughout Scripture, high and lofty theological discourses are often followed by “now husbands.…” Or “teach these things to you children.” This sets doctrine in the midst of community; and marriage is the fundamental building block of community. Modern redefinitions of marriage are like a contractor substituting concrete for silly putty. We currently live in a culture that’s trying to build skyscrapers this way. So faithful Christians, in living out the Gospel glories of Christ winning His bride, must labor to cultivate & maintain godly marriages.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.Genesis 2:24
Made for Community
The creation narrative ends with a wedding. Our text describes how all subsequent marriages are to occur: the tie between father & son is left (not ended) in order for the son to be bound fast unto his wife. As an aside, one aspect that we will delve into in later messages is the authority that rests particularly in the father. Maybe you’ve heard this called “patriarchy”. But it is of note that the son is to leave the father; this is not the centralization of patriarchal authority it is decentralized patriarchy.
The community of parents is forsaken in order to enter into the sweeter community of marriage. And from this communion of husband and wife an increase of community. Community is not decreased by marriage, it is increased, sweetened, and heightened. The motion is from community, to greater community, the sort of community that can set the solitary in homes (Ps. 68:6).
But this text also clues us in to what happens in this cleaving. The man & his wife are made one. This all follows from God revealing to Adam his task of dressing and keeping the garden (Gen. 2:15-17). Although Adam is created similar to the beasts, there’s no companion for him amongst them (Gen. 2:18-20). It is not good for man to be alone.
Amidst the good of God’s creation, we find that the one thing “not good” was Adam’s incompleteness. Man was not made for isolation, but for communion; communion with God, and then communion with neighbor. Thus, a single man eager to pursue marriage isn’t being ungodly, but he is pursuing the Love God, Love Neighbor paradigm which Scripture sets forth as a life of true holiness.
Jesus’ teaching (Cf. Mt. 19:4-6) on this verse makes explicit what is inferred in Genesis: the union created marriage is something God does. God joins the man and woman together into one. God does this so that man can be aided in what he’s called to do. In other words, marriage is not, as some might paint it, as being merely the only lawful way for a young man to fulfill sexual desires. Rather, there is a far larger mission which is to be accomplished, and this one-flesh union is a force-multiplier. The point here, is that young men need help.
Before Choosing a Bride
From this we can glean a few instructive lessons for young men who would honor God in wooing & winning a bride. Young men must recognize that they were made for an aim. They were made for a mission. God gave unto man the task of protecting and providing. Boys & young men should be taught what their strength is for: not taking, but creating.
The Scriptures give us a helpful description of what a young man should be aiming for and spending his strength on. In other words, if a young man desires to honor the Lord, he is not left to guess at where he should be headed. Young men should be strong––the inverse of this truth is that a young man, weak in will & body is a shame (Pro. 20:29). Young men should be sober minded; men of gravity (Tit. 2:6). Young men should be noted for strength & overcoming the devil (1 Jn. 2:14-15). Lastly, and most importantly, young men should be mindful that their youth will fail, but waiting upon God will be an eternal fountain of strength (Is. 40:30-31).
This last point is of utmost importance. A man who looks to himself to be filled, will soon find himself empty. Amos warned Israel that as they would not hear and heed God’s word, the curse would land upon them in the form of fainting young men and maids (Amos 8:13, Cf. Is. 51:20).
You’re a contingent being. Even the strength of young men isn’t enough to save them. It will fade. It will falter. It will fail. But in the Lord is an unwearying supply of strength. A new birth, a renovation brought about the work of the Spirit, is the only way to truly live. In other words, the word to young men is the word to us all, rest in the power of Christ alone. Having this frame of mind, for all of life, is the only way for a young man to keep his way pure (Ps. 119:9). This is poignantly true in regards to pursuing marriage.
Finding a Wife
A young man desiring to find a wife is a good thing, but this goodness is not automatic. Better to live in the Australian outback, than with a brawling wife. But of course, a godly wife has a price far above rubies. A bachelor should think of himself as a treasure hunter, not a museum curator. As such, he must bear a few things in mind.
Contrary to the modern sentiment, romance isn’t a hobby. In the last decade or two, a seismic shift has taken place. Dating was an expected recreational activity of young people. Find a boyfriend/girlfriend, for as long as it suited your fancy. However, this was understood to be a temporary arrangement. You need to play the field in order to know what you like. Or so the “thinking” went. It’s been observed that this was divorce training, and that certainly hits near the mark.
Tragically, that removal of responsibility triggered an avalanche of sexual irresponsibility. We live in a moment where young men are increasingly withdrawing from even pursuing young women, while women are increasingly throwing themselves at the “top 20%” of men. The average young man has been incentivized into a neutered existence. The average young woman has been incentivized into an unchaste existence. This arrangement will be the ruin of our nation unless we repent and return to the ways of the Lord.
Christian young men should take to heart the wisdom of Solomon. Throughout the book of Proverbs the summons is for the son to recognize and flee from the seductive woman, and to pursue and cling to the virtuous woman. This comes back to my earlier point that young men should cultivate gravitas. A man without this Spirit-born gravity will be easily thrown out of orbit by every insta-babe that shows up on his feed. By contrast, a man who can say with David, “I shall not be moved”, will be the sort of man which lovely women of virtue will want to orbit.
Scripture, then, gives a broad category of two types of women: Lady Wisdom & Lady Folly. Or, to put this in NT terms: converted & unconverted. That narrows the pool. While the OT patriarchs selected brides for their sons from the extended family––and there is a certain wisdom that can be gleaned (i.e. start the search nearby)––we shouldn’t forget that provision was made for how a man might lawfully marry a foreign women (Deu. 21:10-14). There were a few more hoops to jump through, but it wasn’t unachievable. That said, wisdom would call for seeking a bride by starting close to home, and working outward from there. But only in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39).
Finding a wife isn’t a matter of getting someone to scratch an itch. You don’t get the girl by simping, but by a life of Christ-like sacrifice. This means action, not passivity. Christ did not exemplify to us the life of “letting things happen to him.” He did it all on purpose, by design. The strength of a man is meant to be spent, it isn’t designed to be coddled. Young men, this means that in your search for a wife, you must learn to have your desires harnessed by the Spirit of God, and governed by honor for father & mother (both yours & hers). And don’t be passive, you’re meant to bleed, to sweat, to break lions’ jaws.
Rooted in Christ
But all of this is vanity if it is not rooted in Christ. The mystery of marriage is that while it brings a husband and wife to the heights of earthly joys, it isn’t an eternal arrangement. Marriage is bounded by earthly life (only death ought to end a marriage). Nevertheless, it is a parable of eternity. Young men are called upon to model their lives in conformity to Christ, the Church’s bridegroom. And this means learning to live so as to die. This means a life of sacrifice, selfless leadership, courage, all built on the faith which God gives by grace (Cf. 2 Pt. 1:5).
Charge & Benediction
The call for young men is to overcome dragons by being men of godly strength. Aimless men are easy marks for the devil’s seduction. So young men, and those tasked with raising young men, fix your eyes on Christ, by faith imitate His life of finding the glory of the crown, through the self-denial of the cross.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessings of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon, and remain with you always. Amen.