[This post continues a series of posts entitled 'A Biblical Catechism on Sex and Marriage'. The intention is to provide basic material for further instruction by a trusted teacher of God's Word in a church that is committed to Biblical authority. The Church’s mission is to invite all people to live under God’s righteous rule.]
Question 6. What are the purposes of marriage?
Answer: The purposes of marriage are procreational, familial, relational, and to satisfy sexual appetite.
Comment 1: Marriage is, firstly, intended for procreation. Christians celebrate marriage as a calling in fulfillment of the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1.27-28). This rules out sexual relationships that are unnatural or that are not favourable for raising offspring for one reason or another:
…bestiality, which is sex between a human and an animal
…pre-marital sex (‘fornication’) is sex between two humans without the commitment to the
permanency of a relationship, marriage, or family
…sex with someone in another relationship: a person in another marriage (adultery), a person in
the same family (incest), or a person in close kinship
…sex with someone of the same gender (homosexuality)
Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them [the male and female that he created]. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Genesis 2:20-23 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
1 Timothy 2:15 Yet she [Eve, woman] will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
1 Timothy 5:14-15 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan.
Comment 2: The procreational purpose of marriage does not rule out marriages between a male and a female that do not result in producing children, as long as the relationship is potentially procreational (i.e., a marriage between a male and a female; the appropriate ‘use’ of genitals in a male and female relationship ('biological fit')—Romans 1.26-27). Scripture speaks of a number of marriages that were unproductive without divine healing. The barren woman, like the widow and poor, is to be treated well and not wronged. The procreational purpose of marriage helps to define marriage as (1) between a male and a female and (2) a relationship that welcomes children should the marriage be so blessed. Some believers choose not to use birth control for this reason, although there is no mandate against its use (except, of course, when birth control is abortive rather than preventative) in a marriage between a man and a woman. Any use of sex for pleasure outside a marital relationship that (potentially) welcomes offspring, however, is wrong, as is indicated in the prohibitions of having sex when a woman is menstruating and of putting unwanted offspring to death.
Genesis 11:30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Genesis 25:21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
Genesis 29:31 Then the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
Luke 1:7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. [Cf. v. 36.]
Job 24:21 "They wrong the barren childless woman, and do no good to the widow.
Psalm 113:7-9 He [God] raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, 8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. 9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!
Leviticus 18:19 "You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. [While this may include a prohibition against impurity, as in Leviticus 15, here and in Leviticus 20.18 it also appears to be a prohibition against a forbidden relationship, i.e., outside of marriage using a form of birth control. Ezekiel 22.10 speaks of this activity as a violation of women.]
Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. [In a passage addressing sexual immorality, this prohibition against child sacrifice appears to include a prohibition against destroying unwanted offspring. The assumption might be made that this would include a prohibition against abortion just as much as putting children that have been born to death.]