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Eastside Community Church Of God In Christ

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason
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Founder of the Church Of God In Christ
1866-1961

 

"THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST"

THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST is a Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in which the word of God is preached, ordinances are administered and the doctrine of sanctification or holiness is emphasized, as being essential to the salvation of mankind.

Our Church is commonly known as being Holiness or Pentecostal in nature because of the importance ascribed to the events which occurred on the Day of Pentecost, the 50th day after the Passover, or Easter as being necessary for all believers in Christ Jesus to experience.

On the Day of Pentecost, the first day of the week, the Lord's Day, Supernatural Manifestations descended in marvelous copiousness and power. The gift of the spirit in the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to clothe those who would wait in Jerusalem with power from on high, was accompanied by three supernatural extraordinary manifestations.

The sudden appearance of the Holy Ghost appealed first to the ear. The disciples heard a "sound" from heaven which rushed with a mighty force into the house and filled it--even as a storm rushes--but there was no wind. It was the sound that filled the house and not a wind, an invisible cause producing audible effects.

Next, the eye was arrested by the appearance of tongues of fire which rested on each of the gathered COMPANY. Finally, there was the impartation of a new strange power to speak in languages they had never learned "as the Spirit gave them Utterance."

Our Church is also considered to be a member of the great Protestant body though it did not directly evolve from the European or English Reformation but had its origin within the General Association to the Baptist Church.

Elder Charles Harrison Mason, who later became the founder and organizer of the Church of God in Christ, was born on the Prior Farm near Memphis, Tennessee. His father and mother, Jerry and Eliza Mason, were members of a Missionary Baptist Church, having been converted during the dark crises of American Slavery.


BISHOP C.H. MASON

One of the most significant figures in the rise and spread of the modern Pentecostal movement, Charles Harrison Mason was born September 8, 1866.  

 

When Mason was just twelve years old, a Yellow Fever epidemic forced his family to leave the Memphis area for Plumerville, Arkansas, where they lived on John Watson’s plantation as tenant farmers.  The epidemic claimed his father’s life in 1879. 

 

In 1880 just before his fourteenth birthday, Mason fell ill with chills and fever.  In a surprising turn of events on the first Sunday in September 1880, he was miraculously healed. 

 

Along with his mother he attended the Mt. Olive Baptist Church near Plumerville where the pastor, Mason’s half-brother, the Reverend I.S. Nelson, baptized him in an atmosphere of praise and thankgiving.  From that point in his life, Mason went throughout the area of southern Arkansas as a lay preacher, giving his testimony and working with souls on the mourners’ bench, especially during the summer camp meetings.

 

Mason was licensed and ordained in 1891 at Preston, Arkansas, but held back from full-time ministry to marry Alice Saxton, the beautiful daughter of his mother’s closest friend.  To his greatest disappointment and distress, his wife bitterly opposed his ministerial plans.  Alice divorced him after 2-years of marriage and later remarried.  Mason refused to marry as long as Mrs. Alice Saxton-Mason lived.

 

Mason’s determination to get an education was a crucial turning point after his divorce.  In November 1893, Mason entered Arkansas Baptist College, founded by Dr. E.C. Morris - pastor of Centennial Baptist Church at Helena, Arkansas, and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.  Mason was deeply disturbed by the criticism that Dr. C.L. Fisher, a top graduate of Morgan Park Seminary (now the University of Chicago Divinity School) had brought to Arkansas Baptist College.  Mason had both hermeneutical and cultural suspicions of the methods, philosophy, and curriculum set forth at the college.  Thus, Mason left the school in January 1894.

 

Mason met with Charles Price Jones in late 1895, the newly elected pastor of the Mt. Helms Baptist Church at Jackson, Mississippi.  They became very close friends.  Jones was a graduate of Arkansas Baptist College and like Mason, Jones had come under the influence of the Holiness movement and in 1894 claimed the experience of sanctification.  

 

From 1896-99, the Holiness conventions, revivals, and periodicals inspired by Mason and Jones split the Baptists and, in a few cases, the Methodist churches, birthing the development of independent “sanctified” or “holiness” congregations and associations.  Mason, Jones, and their colleagues were vehemently opposed and eventually expelled from Baptist churches via the National Baptist Convention. 

 

Mason, while walking along a street in Little Rock, Arkansas, received the revelation of the name, Church Of God In Christ (COGIC) (1 Thess 2:14; 2 Thess 1:1).  Thus in 1897, a major new black denomination was born.  From the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century, most blacks had encountered Christianity under the aegis of Baptist or Methodist churches.  Mason and Jones, however, emphatically changed the religious landscape in the black community as well as broadened the black religious experience.  Through the dynamic preaching of Mason and the prolific writings and hymnology of Jones, Sanctified or Holiness churches sprang up throughout the South and Southwest.

 

He received reports of the Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles in the latter part of 1906.  He traveled to California, and under the ministry of W.J. Seymour, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.  After some five weeks in Los Angeles, Mason returned to municipalities of Memphis and Jackson, eager to share his additional experience of the Lord with his brethren.  However, when he presented his Pentecostal message to the local churches, he and his message were rejected.  After days and nights of intensive debating over the Baptism of the Holy Ghost with initial evidence of speaking in tongues, Mason and Jones separated, and the church split.  Those who agreed with Mason met in September 1907 to legally organize the COGIC.  They elected C.H. Mason as general overseer and appointed D.J. Young, Mason’s constant companion, as editor of the new periodical, The Whole Truth.

 

By ordaining ministers of all races, Mason performed an unusually important service to the early twentieth-century Pentecostal movement.  He appears to have been the only early convert who came from a legally incorporated church body and who could thus ordain persons whose status as clergymen was recognized by civil authorities.  This recognition allowed clergy to perform marriages, to carry out other ministerial functions having legal consequences, and thus entitling them to certain economic advantages such as the right to obtain reduced clergy rates on railroads.  As a result, scores of white ministers’ south ordination at the hand of Mason.  Large numbers obtained credentials carrying the name COGIC. 

 

Bishop Mason personally carried the holiness doctrine far beyond the mid-south.  In 1907, for example, he traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, holding a three-week revival that planted the seed of Pentecost on the east coast.  Thus, when blacks began their migration north during the first World War, Church Of God In Christ evangelists would travel with them, preaching holiness, telling the simple stories of the Bible, and offering religious joy and warmth not found in the established northern churches.

 

There were as many white Church Of God In Christ ministers as there were black ministers in the years of 1909-1914, all carrying Mason’s credentials and incorporation.  Ironically, Mason, who viewed his lifelong task as one of the simple preserving the “spiritual essence” and the “prayer tradition” of the black religious experience, found himself in a unique and pivotal historical position.

 

By 1913 it had become increasingly clear that as Pentecostals moved toward denominationalism, they would follow the segregating practices of American culture.  The color lien that had been washed away in the blood of Jesus at the Azusa Street revival reappeared.

 

On December 20, 1913, elders E.N. Bell and H.A. Goss issued a call to convene a general council of “all Pentecostal saints and Church Of God In Christ followers,” to meet the following April at Hot Springs, Arkansas.  This invitation went only to the white saints. 

 

On the first week of April 1914, Mason traveled to the Hot Springs convention to invoke God’s blessings on the newly formed General Council of the Assemblies of God.  He preached to more than four hundred white Pentecostal preachers.

 

By 1917 Church Of God In Christ congregations were organized in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn.  Evangelists were also at work in Harlem.  In 1935 a storefront church was opened at 137th and Lenox Avenue, placing Bishop Mason’s message before the largest urban black population in America.

 

Despite this new racial separation, Mason maintained a warm fellowship with the white Pentecostals.  He preached in their conventions and maintained a strong fellowship with two prominent white Pentecostal leaders:  A.J. Thomlinson of the Church of God (CG, Cleveland, Tennessee) and J.H. King of the Pentecostal Holiness Church (PHC, Franklin Springs, Georgia).  In 1952, Mason was the elder statesman attending the Pentecostal world Conference at London, England.

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) developed a file on C.H. Mason because of his pacifism and interracialism.  In 1918 some white followers of Mason in Los Angeles were identified as being of German extraction.  Mason was jailed at Lexington, Mississippi, for allegedly preaching against the war, although he sold bonds to help the war efforts.  William B. Holt, one of the white brethren targeted by the FBI for suspicion, was a lawyer and former Nazarene preacher.  He traveled to Lexington to post a two-thousand dollar cash bond for Mason’s release.

 

A reference from the 1918 FBI report reveals Mason’s historical perspectives.  After quoting from one of Masons’ tracts, it comments:  “It is clear that Mason and his followers felt it to be of far reaching significance that one of the great religious movements of the twentieth century was founded by a member of the African race.”

 

Later scholars have echoed the same conclusion as the FBI report.  Dr. Gayraud Wilmore, a most careful and respected scholar, says, “This movement, begun by C.H. Mason and W.J. Seymour at the turn of the century, has been one of the most powerful expressions of Black religion in the world”. 

 

Wilmore’s assessment is supported by Yale historian supported by Yale historian Sidney Ahlstrom, who observed that the lives of W.J. Seymour and C.H. Mason personified a process by which black piety exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history.

 

Mason led the Church Of God In Christ until his death in 1961.  Under his leadership the church experienced phenomenal growth.  Thousands of Mason’s followers, migrating from south to north and southwest to far west, carried his teachings and evangelistic spirit to virtually every major city in America.  Upon his death in 1961, the Church Of God In Christ, which had begun in a gin house in Lexington, Mississippi, claimed some 5,500 congregations and 482,679 members.  At least ten other church bodies owed their origins to Mason’s church. 

 

Since his death the Church Of God In Christ has continued its rapid growth.  Mason stamped his personality on his church far more emphatically than any other Holiness leader.  He lived to see the Church Of God In Christ become a major denomination and one of the largest Pentecostal bodies in the world.  Bishop Mason died at age ninety-five in Harper’s Hospital, Detroit, Michigan, on November 17, 1961.  His remains are entombed in the Mason Temple, headquarters of the Church Of God In Christ at Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Worldwide, there are thousands of congregations of Church Of God In Christ, totaling several million members.  There are small congregations, consisting of just a few members – and large ones made up of several thousand members, like West Angeles Church Of God In Christ, characterized as a multi-cultural church with more than 15,000 members. 

 

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason encouraged interracial cooperation, like West Angeles Church, as early as the 1900’s.  Mason was jailed more than once for preaching on the streets with a white minister.  The FBI created a file on him during World War I because of his personal view and interracial cooperation.

 

The Church Of God In Christ has grown rapidly.  Growth in the Church Of God In Christ is also credited to many of its leaders since the death of Bishop Mason in 1961.  In the early sixties, Bishop O.T. Jones, Sr. served as Senior Bishop.  In 1968 Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr. was elected the Presiding Bishop.  He was followed by Bishop L.H. ford in 1989.  Contributions of these leaders are legendary in every respect.  They earned this respect by doing, not being, and that is a big difference!

 

 

 

 

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WHAT WE BELIEVE

Church Doctrine

 

The Greek translation for the word “doctrine” is didaskaleia.  It means “teaching.”  Probably, this word indicates Christian doctrine, which is binding on the Christian community as faith’s divinely communicated content.

 

The Pentecostal-holiness doctrine is based on the Bible.  What is the purpose of the Bible? Of course, salvation is the first purpose (2 Timothy 3:15).  The doctrine also includes holy living.  The word is profitable for teaching (doctrine), conviction (reproof), setting right (correction), and discipline (instruction).  It enables a child of God to become a man or woman of God, matured in the things of the Lord.

 

True preaching or teaching is the explanation and application of Bible doctrine.  Anything else is just religious speechmaking.  The following pages contain doctrinal guidelines concerning the Church Of God In Christ.  All the information may not be covered during new member orientation.  The information may also be used as a self-study guide.

 

The Scriptures are profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) for doctrine (what is right), for reproof (what is not right), for correction (how to get right), and for instruction in righteousness (how to stay right).  The student who studies the Bible and applies what he learns will grow in holiness and avoid many pitfalls in this world.

 

 

The Word of God

 

The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration through holy men of God who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  In this Word, God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation.  The Holy Scriptures are the standards of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.

 

Authorship of the Scriptures:  The Bible’s authority for faith and practice rises from its origin.  Its writers viewed the Bible as distinct from other literature.  They referred to it as “Holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2), “sacred writing” (2 Timothy 3:15, RSV), and the “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2, Hebrews 5:12).

 

The uniqueness of the Scriptures is based on their origin and source.  The Bible writers claimed they did not originate their messages, but received them from divine sources.  It was through divine revelation that they were able “to see” the truths they passed on (Isaiah 1:1; Amos 1:1; Micah 1:1; Habbakuk 1:1; Jeremiah 38:21).

 

The New Testament recognized the role of the Holy Spirit in the production of the Old Testament.  Jesus said that David was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Mark 12:36).  Paul believed that the Holy Spirit spoke “through Isaiah” (Acts 28:25).  Peter revealed that the Holy Spirit guided all the prophets, not just a few (I Peter 1:10, 11; 2 Peter 1:21).  At times the writer faded completely into the background, and only the real author—the Holy Spirit—was acknowledged:  “The Holy Spirit says” … (Hebrews 3:7 RSV) “By this the Holy Spirit indicates” (Hebrews 9:8 RSV).

 

Inspiration of the Scriptures:  “All Scriptures,” Paul says, “is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Greek word theopneustos, translated as “inspiration,” literally means “God-breathed.”  God “breathed” truth into men’s minds.  They, in turn, expressed it in the words found in the Scriptures.  Inspiration therefore, is the process through which God communicates His eternal truth.

 

 

The Trinity

 

The one true God has revealed himself in three personalities:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Scripture attests both to the oneness of God and to His revelation in three persons.  Romans 1:7 speaks of God as Father.  Hebrews 1:3 speaks of God’s redemptive purpose accomplished through the Son.  Finally, Acts 5:32 indicates that God works through the Spirit.

 

These are just a few of the references that could be summoned to support the doctrine of the Trinity.  Others might include the baptismal formula given by Jesus (Matthew 28:19) or some of Paul’s writings, such as 2 Corinthians 13:14.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity requires delicate balance to be understood properly.  For example, without the manifestation of Jesus, neither the Father nor the Spirit would be properly understood.  Also, without the invisible Father, the incarnate Son would have no purpose; neither would the Spirit have motive.  Finally, without the Spirit, the Father and the Son would lose effectiveness in the world today.  Therefore, in truth, God in One and is inseparable.  When we worship, may we keep these facts in mind.

 

Although fierce Trinitarian debates have raged in the past, the doctrine of the Trinity is the one area in which Christians are most united.  Conversely, one could say that the doctrine of the Trinity is where cult groups most often deviate from Christian belief.

 

 

Salvation and Baptism in the Holy Ghost

 

All persons need salvation to restore their relationship with God.  Persons are separated/alienated from God because of their sin.  Sin has affected all persons, but there is nothing one can do to overcome it or to merit salvation.  An important teaching here is that persons are hopeless until they realize their need for redemption.

 

Salvation is a process with three stages.  The first stage is repentance and salvation.  In essence, this is the experience of new birth Jesus referred to in his conversation with Nicodemus (St. John 3).  The new birth occurs when a person realizes his sinfulness, repents of his sin, and accepts Jesus Christ as Savior.  According to Romans 10:9-10, the person must trust Christ as Savior, and publicly confess Christ has the initial requirement of salvation.  When a person has met this requirement, he is a born-again child of God.

 

The next state of salvation is Christian sanctity, or the second blessing of the Holy Spirit.  This stage involves the responsibility of the converted person to live a Christian life.  God’s standard is a life of holiness (Leviticus 19:2).  In the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the evidence of a holy life were often seen to be a person’s ability to give up the habits of alcohol and tobacco.  If God expects a life of holiness from the Christian, it follows that he provides the power for such living through the Holy Spirit.

 

The third and crowning step in the process of salvation is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is considered the third blessing of the Spirit and is evidenced by speaking in tongues.  Pentecostals look to such passages as Acts 2:1, 4; 10:44-48; and 19:1-6 as a basis for their belief in the doctrine of tongues.  They contend that these passages, and also others, indicate that the anointing of the Spirit occurs after both the new birth and the experience of sanctification.

 

The pattern of receiving the baptism of the Spirit is the same as they experienced in the New Testament church.  First, the believer must yean for a deeper experience with God.  Next, the Book of Acts records two ways by which the Spirit comes upon persons.  At Samaria, Damacus, and Ephesus, persons experienced the baptism of the Spirit when the apostles laid hands on them.  In Jerusalem and Caesarea, the Holy Spirit fell upon worshipers during a worship service.

 

The baptism of the Spirit, however, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.  Early leaders in the Pentecostal movement were often heard to say that believers should always seek the giver of the gift of tongues and not merely the gift itself.  The fact that many persons have gone from this experience into error or fanaticism does not deter Pentecostals from teaching the validity of the gift.  When properly understood, the baptism of the Spirit enables the believer to be an effective witness for Christ.  Spirit baptism gives a person the nature of a witness.  This means that the person is completely motivated by the will of God.  In addition, this experience is considered to bring a depth of joy and spirituality otherwise unattainable.

 

 

Water Baptism

 

Water Baptism is a vital part of the salvation experience, but a person is not saved through water baptism.  Jesus commissioned the disciples to baptize new converts (Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16); therefore, water baptism is a sacred ordinance to be obeyed.

 

In line with biblical authority, Church Of God In Christ teaches that the only biblical mode of water baptism is by immersion, and we practice this symbolic ordinance accordingly.  Persons are baptized with the Trinitarian formula (in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost).

 

The Church Of God In Christ does not practice infant baptism since believers’ baptism is taught.  In addition, we do not feel that the child has willfully entered into sin, nor do we find scriptural basis for infant baptism.  However, we do believe in and practice the dedication of infants to God.  This practice is seen to be in keeping with Jesus’ treatment of and statements about children (Mark 10:14-16).

 

 

The Lord’s Supper and Foot Washing

 

The Church Of God In Christ accepts the Lord’s Supper as a command of Christ to be obeyed.  The Supper is taken in remembrance of Christ’s death and sacrifice on the cross.  The elements are considered symbolic of the spilled blood and broken body of Christ.

 

The Lord’s Supper is also a time for individual examination.  A service of dedication before the Supper may be observed to emphasize the need for commitment to Christ’s commands.  Observance of the Supper varies among churches.  Sometimes the practice of foot-washing accompanies the observance of the Supper.  This ancient practice is also an ordinance or command of Christ that symbolizes Christian humility.

 

 

Stewardship

 

We are God’s stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resource.  We are responsible to Him for their proper use.  We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellowmen, and by returning tithes and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church.  Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and covetousness.  The steward rejoices in the blessing that come to others because of his faithfulness.

 

What is stewardship?  Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit … and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).  At a high cost, we were purchased and redeemed.  We belong to God.  But such was mere reclaiming, for He made us;  we have belonged to Him from the beginning because “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1).  The Scriptures clearly state that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).  In its larger dimensions, stewardship “involves the wise and unselfish use of life.”  Life can be divided into four basic areas, each a gift from God.  He gave us a body, abilities, time and material possessions.  In addition, we must care for the world around us, over which we were given dominion.

 

 

Marriage and the Family

 

Stewardship of the Body:  God’s people are stewards of themselves.  We are to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind (Luke 10:27).  Christians are privileged and develop their physical and mental powers to the best of their ability and opportunities.  In doing so, they bring honor to God and can prove a greater blessing to others.

 

Stewardship of Abilities:  Each person has special aptitudes.  One may be talented in the musical realm, another in manual trades such as sewing or auto mechanics.  Some may make friends easily and mingle well with others, while others may naturally tend toward solitary pursuits.  We ought to cultivate the gifts the Holy Spirit gives each of us in order to multiply these gifts (Matthew 25).  Good stewards use their gifts liberally to bring fuller benefit to their Master.

 

Stewardship of Time:  As faithful stewards, we glorify God by a wise use of time. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for me, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23, 24, NIV).  The Bible admonishes us not to behave “as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16).  Like Jesus, we must be our Father’s business (Luke 2:49).  Because time is God’s gift, each moment is precious.  It is given to form character for eternal life.  Faithful stewardship of our time means using it to get to know our Lord, to help our fellowmen, and to share the gospel.

 

Stewardship of Material Possessions:  God gave us first parents the responsibility of subduing the earth, governing the animal kingdom, and caring for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28, 2:15).  All this was theirs not only to enjoy, but to manage.

 

To remind us that He is the source of every blessing, God began a system of tithes and offerings.

 

1.  Tithes.  One tenth of all material things we get belongs to God.  Scripture tells us that the tithe is “holy to the Lord,” symbolizing God’s ownership of everything (Leviticus 27:30, 32; Malachi 3:8-10).  It is to be returned to Him as his own.

 

2.  Offerings.  Grateful Christians cannot limit their contributions to the church to tithe.  In Israel the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was built from “free will offerings” — offerings given from willing hearts (Exodus 36:2-7; I Chronicles 29:14).  Special offerings covered the maintenance expenses of these places of worship (Exodus 30:12-16; II Kings 12:4, 5; II Chronicles 24:4-13; Nehemia 10:32, 33).  The Israelites probably contributed as much as one-fourth to one-third of their income to religious and charitable purposes.  Did such heavy contributions lead to poverty?  On the contrary, God promised to bless them in their faithfulness (Malachi 3:10-12).

 

 

Marriage and the Family

 

Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship.  For the Christian, a marriage commitment is to God, as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between partners who share a common faith.  Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect love, sanctity, closeness, and  permanence of the relationship between Christ and His Church.  Regarding divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.  Although some family relationships may fall short of ideal marriage partners, who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ, loving unity may still be achieved through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church.

 

The home is a primary setting for the restoration of the image of God in men and women.  Within the family, father, mother, and the children can express themselves fully, meeting each other’s needs for belonging, love and intimacy.  Here, identity is established and feelings of personal worth is developed.  The home is also the place where, by God’s grace, the principles of real Christianity are put into practice, and its values transmitted from one generation to the next.

 

The family can be a place of great happiness.  It can also be the scene of terrible hurt.  Harmonious family life demonstrates the principles of Christianity truly lived out, revealing the character of God.  In forming the first family, Jesus established the basic social unity for humanity, giving them a sense of belonging and providing them with an opportunity to develop as well-rounded persons in service to God and others.

 

MARRIAGE:  From the diversity of male and female, God brought order and oneness.  That first Friday, He performed the first marriage, joining these two, the epitome of His image, to make them one.  Marriage has been the foundation of the family and society itself, ever since its inception.  Scripture describes marriage as a decisive act of both detachment and attachment:  One shall “leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

 

1. Leaving.  Vital to the marriage relationship is a leaving behind of the former primary relationships.  The marriage relationship is to supersede that of the parent and child.  In this sense, “leaving” one’s parents for a single relationship allows one to “cleave” to another.  Without this process, there is no firm foundation for marriage.

 

2. Cleaving.  The Hebrew term translated “cleave” comes from a word that means “to stick to, to fasten, to join, to hold onto.”  As a noun, it can even be used for brazing and soldering (Isaiah 14:7).  The closeness and strength of this bond illustrate the nature of the bond of marriage.  Any attempt to break up this union would injure individuals bound this closely together.  That this human bond is a close one is also emphasized by the fact that the same word, “cleave” is used to convey the bond between God and His people: “Him shall thou serve, and to Him shall thou cleave, and swear by His name” (Deuteronomy 10:20).

 

3. Covenanting.  In Scripture this pledge, this promise by which married couples are bound together, is spoken of as a “covenant,” a term used for the most solemn and binding agreement known in God’s Word (Malachi 2:14, Proverb 2:16, 17).  The relationship between husband and wife is to be patterned after God’s everlasting covenant with His people, the Church (Ephesians 5:21-33).  Their commitment to each other is to take on the faithfulness and endurance that characterize God’s covenant (Psalm 89:34, Lamentations 3:23).

 

4. Becoming one flesh.  The leaving and covenanting to cleave results in a union that is a mystery.  In the full sense of oneness, the married couple walks together, stands together, and shares a deep intimacy.  At the outset, this oneness refers to the physical union of marriage.  But beyond that, it also refers to the intimate bond of mind and emotions that undergirds the physical side of the relationship.