Category Archives: Marriage Questions

Questions about Marriage: What Is the Definition of Marriage?

 

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that gives same-sex couples who hold a legal marriage in their state the same federal benefits as married straight couples. In their ruling, the justices overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage as legal. The court claimed that DOMA displaced the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equality for all people. Across the Atlantic, in mid-July 2013, the Queen of England signed into law “The Marriage Bill,” which allows same-sex couples to marry legally. Around the world, at least fifteen other nations have legalized marriage between same-sex partners. Obviously, the definition of marriage is changing. But is it the right of a government to redefine marriage, or has the definition of marriage already been set by a higher authority?

In Genesis chapter 2, God declares it is not good for Adam (the first man) to live alone. All the animals are there, but none of them are a suitable partner for Adam. God, therefore, in a special act of creation, makes a woman. Just a few verses later, the woman is called “his wife” (Genesis 2:25). Eden was the scene of the first marriage, ordained by God Himself. The author of Genesis then records the standard by which all future marriages are defined: “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This passage of Scripture gives several points for understanding God’s design for marriage. First, marriage involves a man and a woman. The Hebrew word for “wife” is gender-specific; it cannot mean anything other than “a woman.” There is no passage in Scripture that mentions a marriage involving anything other than a man and a woman. It is impossible for a family to form or human reproduction to take place asexually. Since God ordained sex to only take place between a married couple, it follows that God’s design is for the family unit to be formed when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship and have children.

The second principle from Genesis 2 about God’s design for marriage is that marriage is intended to last for a lifetime. Verse 24 says the two become “one flesh.” Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and so she was literally one flesh with Adam. Her very substance was formed from Adam instead of from the ground. Every marriage thereafter is intended to reflect the unity shared by Adam and Eve. Because their bond was “in the flesh,” they were together forever. There was no escape clause written into the first marriage that allowed for the two to separate. That is to say that God designed marriage for life. When a man and a woman make a commitment to marry, they “become one flesh,” and that is why they say, “Till death do us part.”

A third principle from this passage about God’s design for marriage is monogamy. The Hebrew words for “man” and “wife” are singular and do not allow for multiple wives. Even though some people in Scripture did have multiple wives, it is clear from the creation account that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman. Jesus emphasized this principle when He appealed to the Genesis account to counter the idea of easy divorce (Matthew 19:4–6).

It should come as no surprise that the world desires to change what God has instituted. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). Though the world is attempting to provide their own definitions for what they call “marriage,” the Bible still stands. The clear definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: Is It Allowable for a Christian to Have a Life Partner without a Civil Marriage?

 

There are several things to consider in this question. First of all, let’s define “Christian.” Many people assume they are Christians simply because they are not affiliated with any other religion. They go to church and agree with most of what the Bible says. However, the Bible defines a Christian as a disciple, or follower, of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). A Christian is someone who has accepted the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the payment for his or her own sin (John 1:12; Acts 16:31). A disciple of Christ has chosen to “deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow” Jesus (Luke 9:23). Therefore, whatever Jesus says to do through His Word, a Christian seeks to do. We do not become Christians by doing good things; but, because we are Christians, we want to obey Jesus in all things (Ephesians 2:8–9; James 2:26). In John 15:14, Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

So a Christian makes life choices based on what glorifies Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:31). Better than asking whether a situation is “allowable” is asking “How will this honor my Lord?” God created marriage, and it is His definition we should use as our foundation. God defines marriage as a lifelong relationship in which a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife. The two become “one flesh,” and the union must not be dissolved by human will (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7–9; Ephesians 5:31). Malachi 2:14 tells us that one reason God hates divorce is that He is present when a couple takes the vows. Biblically, marriage is the joining of a man and a woman in a spiritual and physical covenant for life. That joining is cause for celebration and deserves our respect. A state-issued license does not make a couple married. The covenantal oath before God and witnesses is what binds them.

There is an issue today of senior couples who cohabit without the benefit of a state-issued marriage license because to file a license with the state would mean a decrease in retirement income and Social Security benefits. Some of these couples undergo a religious ceremony in a church and consider themselves married before God. However, a couple seeking a “spiritual marriage” while avoiding a legal marriage is seeking to escape the requirements of the law, and that causes a new set of problems for the Christian (Romans 13:1–7). If a senior couple believes it is God’s will for them to be together, they should marry in accordance with the laws of the land, and trust God for the finances.

There is no scriptural basis for a live-in situation, even when the two involved intend to be monogamous for life. Intentions fail, and the lack of a real marriage commitment makes it easier to part ways. Without marriage, the relationship is sexually immoral and is condemned in Scripture (Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:2). The term “life partner” has a tentative sound and a questionable history. It implies that the relationship is not legally or morally sanctioned and that it may not last. It bypasses the covenant that God created marriage to be. For a Christian couple, such a term would cast immediate suspicion on their reputation and, ultimately on Christ’s reputation. Any Christian couple considering a “life partnership” should ask, “How will our bypassing of traditional marriage glorify the Lord Jesus?”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: When Should a Christian Couple Seek Marriage Counseling?

 

Any couple struggling in their marriage should seek counseling sooner rather than later. Every marriage includes bumps and turns that if not handled correctly can create chasms too wide to bridge. Often, either from pride or shame, a couple does not seek help with issues early enough to save the marriage. They wait until so much damage has been inflicted that the marriage is already dead and the counselor has little to work with. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (ESV). When we face battles too great to wage alone, wise people seek wise counsel.

Recurring issues in a marriage are like road signs warning of danger to come. Some of these road signs are:

  1. Inability to resolve conflict in a healthy way. 2. One partner dominating the relationship so that the needs of the other are not met. 3. Inability to compromise. 4. Either partner stepping outside the marriage to “fix” the problems. 5. Breakdown in communication. 6. Confusion about the roles of each spouse in the marriage. 7. Pornography. 8. Deceit. 9. Disagreement about parenting styles. 10. Addictions.

When a couple recognizes any of these warning signs, it is wise to seek godly counsel. However, not all counsel that presents itself as “Christian” is based on the truth of God’s Word. Friends and family may mean well, but can offer unscriptural solutions that only confuse and make the problem worse. A counselor should be chosen based upon his or her philosophy and adherence to Scripture as the foundation for emotional health. Many horror stories have come from people who sought counsel from those they trusted, only to find “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) who have excused sin and instructed the wronged spouse to “get over it.”

A few questions in the initial interview can eliminate some of those “wolves” before time and money are wasted on them. Couples investigating counselors should consider the following:

  1. Is this counselor affiliated with one of the national organizations for Christian counselors, such as AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors), the NCCA (National Christian Counselors Association), or the NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors)?
  2. Where did the counselor received training or licensing? The likelihood is greater that you will receive biblically based therapy if the counselor has been trained through a Christian counseling program rather than a secular organization or university. A state license does not ensure you will receive better counsel. Excellent scriptural counseling can be found through local pastors, lay counselors, and support groups.
  3. Is this counselor experienced in dealing with the particular issues involved? A few key questions such as, “What is your approach on pornography addiction?” will help you decide whether or not you agree with this counselor’s perspective.
  4. Do you agree with this counselor’s philosophy and/or religious affiliation? There are sects and denominations that carry the banner of “Christian” but may be too far outside a couple’s belief system for them to benefit from counseling. Choosing a counselor from within a couple’s own religious framework may make the counseling more effective.

There is nothing that can promise a perfect outcome, but considering those questions may help narrow the field. God is for marriage; He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). The first step a couple should take is to ask God to guide them to the right counselor. It may take a bit of scouting, but finding a counselor who can bring godly wisdom to a troubled marriage is worth any effort.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: Why Should I Get Married?

 

Our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. We live in a world that says we should get what we want any way we can get it. Marriage is often seen as confinement that may hamper our ability to have what we want when we want it. Every marriage gag involving a ball and chain furthers that attitude. Marriage today is often mocked as an archaic institution that has lost its relevance.

So what is marriage? Has it become outdated? It is important to realize first of all that marriage is not a man-made concept. When God created the first man in His own image (Genesis 2:7), He gave that man everything he needed to be content. Yet, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). So God created a woman from Adam’s side and brought her to the man. The first marriage occurred when God created a woman to complement the needs of the man so that, when joined in covenant, they become one flesh. The idea of “one flesh” implies an unbreakable seal meant to last a lifetime. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He answered, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh … So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5–6). Notice that it is God who joins a man and woman in marriage. In Malachi 2:14, God reminds us that He was “a witness between you and the wife of your youth.” God takes marriage very seriously.

Marriage was the first institution God created. It preceded the establishment of either church or government. Marriage was the first social institution. Human beings are designed to function best when they are connected in healthy ways to others, and God’s plan for marriage is to establish strong families. The Bible contains much instruction for family members in how they should treat each other so that those emotional needs are met (Ephesians 5:21–33; 6:1–4; Colossians 3:18–21; 1 Corinthians 7:2–5, 10–16). God designed marriage as one man and one woman for a lifetime, and any deviation from that plan is a distortion of His intent (Matthew 19:8; Romans 1:26–27).

First Corinthians 7:1–2 gives us the best reason for marrying: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” God designed sex to be enjoyed only within the boundaries of marriage. Any sexual activity outside those boundaries is sin (Galatians 5:19; Colossians 3:5). If a person has a strong sex drive, it is usually a good idea to marry in order to minimize lust and avoid immorality (James 1:13–15). Engaging in sexual activity with someone other than one’s own spouse is sin and leads to heartache and disaster (Proverbs 6:26–29; 1 Corinthians 6:18).

However, there is no command in Scripture that everyone must be married. In fact, the apostle Paul favored singleness as a way to devote more time to serving God (1 Corinthians 7:7–9, 32–35). There are some who do not feel the need to be married, and there is nothing wrong with that. Single people can have fulfilling lives and find emotional support through friends, family, and ministry opportunities. However, our society has begun to equate singleness with sexual immorality, and that is very wrong. Paul’s promotion of singleness was so that a person could devote his or her full attention to the things of Christ. Singleness should never be used as an excuse to live in sexual sin. But if a single person can control his or her passions and live a morally pure life, there is no need to feel pressured to marry (1 Corinthians 7:37).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: What Is a Concubine? Why Did God Allow Men to Have Concubines in the Bible?

 

A concubine is a female who voluntarily enslaves and sells herself to a man primarily for his sexual pleasure. Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.

Although it’s true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubinage, a condemnation can be found implicitly from the beginning of time. According to Genesis 2:21–24, God’s original intent was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that has never changed (Genesis 1:27). As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships (2 Samuel 11:2–4).

The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubinage.

We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival. Most women in ancient times were uneducated and unskilled in a trade. Providing for themselves was very difficult, and they were vulnerable to those who would prey upon them. For many women in dire situations, becoming a concubine was a much more suitable option than prostitution, homelessness, or death. At least a concubine would be provided a home and afforded a certain amount of care.

It appears God allowed the sin of concubinage, in part, to provide for women in need, although it was certainly not an ideal situation. Sin is never ideal. Christians should be reminded that, just because God allows a sin for a time, it does not mean God is pleased with it. Many Bible narratives teach that God can take what some people mean for evil and use it for good (e.g., Genesis 50:20).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.