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.

Questions about Marriage: What Are the Biblical Solutions for Solving Marriage Problems?

 

Marriage is the most intimate relationship two human beings can experience, second only to a relationship with God. Marriage brings out the best and the worst in most people, as two separate individuals struggle to live as “one flesh” (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:8). At the root of most marriage problems is selfishness. When one or both partners choose to live as though his or her needs deserve top consideration, conflict results.

There are specific verses that address behavior of both husbands and wives. Some of those are 1 Peter 3:1–8, Colossians 3:18–19, and Titus 2:3–5. Although not addressing marriage directly, Philippians 2:3–13 is an excellent recipe for resolving marriage problems. This passage tells us to adopt the attitude Christ demonstrated when He set aside His rights and privileges as the Son of God and come to earth as a humble servant. Verses 3 and 4 say, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When that exhortation is applied to marriage, almost any obstacle can be overcome.

Certainly, seeking counsel from a pastor or Christian marriage counselor is a biblical thing to do (Proverbs 19:20). Getting counseling is an excellent way to clear misconceptions about marriage roles, to see a situation from another viewpoint, and to distinguish between God’s standards and those of the world.

Ephesians 5:21–33 gives specific instructions for both husbands and wives. A husband is to love his wife “as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her” (verse 25). Such self-sacrificing love creates an atmosphere in which a wife can more easily submit to her husband’s leadership. When a husband is committed to demonstrating love for his wife, and a wife is committed to graciously allowing her husband to lead, the marriage will work.

It is also wise to pay close attention to the verses just before the specific marriage instructions. Verses 18–21 say, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Notice all the commands that precede the marriage instruction. All Christians are to

* refuse to get drunk * be filled with the Spirit * encourage each other * sing hymns and songs of praise * have an attitude of continual worship * live in a spirit of gratitude * submit graciously to each other

We miss vital truth when we skip straight to the marriage instruction without applying the practical guidelines in the preceding verses. When each spouse applies those truths to his or her personal life and strives to make his or her relationship with the Lord the primary focus, marriage problems take a back seat. When two committed Christians purpose to seek God’s heart and follow His will no matter what, there is no problem that they cannot work through.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Marriage: Why Does God Hate Divorce?

 

Malachi 2:16 is the oft-quoted passage that tells how God feels about divorce. “ ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel.” But this passage says much more than that. If we back up to verse 13, we read, “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

We learn several things from this passage. First, God does not listen to the pleas for blessing from those who have broken the covenant of marriage. First Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (emphasis added). There is a direct correlation between the way a man treats his wife and the effectiveness of his prayers.

God clearly explains His reasons for esteeming marriage so highly. He says it was He who “made them one” (Malachi 2:15). Marriage was God’s idea. If He designed it, then He gets to define it. Any deviation from His design is abhorrent to Him. Marriage is not a contract; it is a covenant. Divorce destroys the whole concept of covenant that is so important to God.

In the Bible, God often provides illustrations to teach spiritual realities. When Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar, it was a picture of the day, hundreds of years later, that the Lord God would offer His only Son on that same mountain (Genesis 22:9; Romans 8:32). When God required blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin, He was painting a picture of the perfect sacrifice He Himself would make on the cross (Hebrews 10:10).

Marriage is a picture of the covenant God has with His people (Hebrews 9:15). A covenant is an unbreakable commitment, and God wants us to understand how serious it is. When we divorce someone with whom we made a covenant, it makes a mockery of the God-created concept of covenant relationship. The Church (those individuals who have received Jesus as Savior and Lord) is presented in Scripture as the “Bride of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7–9). We, as His people, are “married” to Him through a covenant that He established. A similar illustration is used in Isaiah 54:5 of God and Israel.

When God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, He created it as a picture of the greatest unity human beings can know (Genesis 2:24). He wanted us to understand the unity we can have with Him through redemption (1 Corinthians 6:17). When a husband or wife chooses to violate that covenant of marriage, it mars the picture of God’s covenant with us.

Malachi 2:15 gives us another reason that God hates divorce. He says He is “seeking godly offspring.” God’s design for the family was that one man and one woman commit themselves to each other for life and rear children to understand the concept of covenant as well. Children reared in a healthy, two-parent home have a far greater likelihood of establishing successful marriages themselves.

When Jesus was asked why the Law permitted divorce, He responded that God had only allowed it “because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). God never intended divorce to be a part of human experience, and it grieves Him when we harden our hearts and break a covenant that He created.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Marriage: What Does the Bible Say about Being a Christian Husband?

 

The Bible says enough about being a Christian husband that a book could be written about it all. In fact, a number of books have been written about it. This article gives a brief overview.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, the Bible’s first book, record the story of creation, including the creation and marriage of the first couple, Adam and Eve. The roles of husband and father are interwoven. God created man and woman as sexual persons for a number of purposes. One is to give us the joy of perpetuating the race, of populating the earth with generations of people who bear God’s name and reflect His image. See Genesis 1:27–28 and 2:20–25, along with Deuteronomy 6:1–9 and Ephesians 6:4. Family—Christian family—is at the heart of God’s plan for mankind and is the very foundation of human society. Therefore, in most cases a Christian husband’s role affects his fatherhood, just as his role as a Christian father affects his role as a husband.

The clearest picture of a Christian husband is presented in Ephesians 5:15–33. This is the heart of the apostle Paul’s application of what it means to be in Christ, that is, to be in right relationship with God. Paul’s instructions to the Christian wife, beginning in verse 23, explain that she is to recognize in her husband the kind of leader that Christ is to His beloved church. Two sentences later (verse 25) Paul says the same thing directly to the Christian husband. So, the Christian’s model for husbandly conduct is Jesus Christ Himself. In other words, God expects Christian husbands to love their wives sacrificially, fully, and unconditionally, the same way our Savior loves us.

The Christian husband is expected to be willing to give everything, including his life-blood, if necessary, for the benefit and welfare of his wife. God’s plan is that the husband and wife become one (Mark 10:8), so what the husband has belongs to the wife. There is no selfishness in love (1 Corinthians 13:5); there is only giving. The Christian husband’s feeling for his wife goes beyond infatuation, romance, or sexual desire. The relationship is based on true love—the God-reflecting, God-given spirit of sacrifice. The Christian husband is more interested in his wife’s welfare than his own. He promotes her spiritual well-being as a fellow-heir of eternal life (1 Peter 3:7). He doesn’t ask what he can get from her, but thinks of what he can be and do for her.

Ephesians 5 describes how a loving Christian husband is the instrument of Christ’s love for his wife, and is at the same time a model of Christ’s love for His church. What an honor that is! And what a responsibility. Only by submitting to the living strength of Jesus Christ can any man fulfill such a challenge. That is why he must rely on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and out of reverence for Christ submit to the service of his wife (verse 21 and the rest of the passage).[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Marriage: What Was Betrothal in Biblical Times?

 

“Biblical times” covers a broad section of history’s timeline, since Bible history spans several thousand years and a number of cultures. Through those years and in those cultures, betrothal traditions varied. However, some elements of betrothal were consistent throughout.

“Engagements” in Bible times, like those in modern-day Western countries, were heterosexual relationships preliminary to marriage. Then, as now, the engagement period gave the bride time to prepare for her new role, to gather personal belongings, to adjust relationships with parents, siblings, and friends, and in some cases to become better acquainted with her fiancé. The groom used the engagement period for similar matters, including completing the house in which he would raise his family.

Arranged marriages were common in Bible times, and it was possible that the bride and groom might not even know each other until they met at the wedding ceremony. If the parents arranged the marriage while the bride, the groom, or both were too young for marriage, a much longer betrothal would ensue. What seems strange to modern Westerners is that neither sexual attraction nor love was considered a necessary prelude to engagement or marriage. Parents who arranged a marriage for their children assumed that love and affection would grow out of the intimate acquaintance and sexual bonding that naturally takes place in a marriage. This mindset helps explain why Ephesians 5:25–33 commands Christian husbands to love their wives and Christian wives to respect their husbands. Such love and respect grew after the wedding and was not necessarily required beforehand.

In modern Western culture, there is a clear distinction between betrothal/engagement and marriage. In the cultures of Bible times, the distinction was much less definitive. Betrothal in most eras of Bible history involved two families in a formal contract, and that contract was as binding as marriage itself. Betrothal then was more of a business transaction between two families than a personal, romantic choice. Dowry or bride price agreements were included, so that a broken engagement required repayment of the dowry. After betrothal, all that remained were three matters: the wedding celebration, the bride’s move into the groom’s house, and the consummation of the marriage.

The best-known example of betrothal is that of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and her fiancé, Joseph. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, and before he understood the miraculous nature of the conception, he thought that Mary had violated her betrothal, which was as binding as a marriage contract. At first, Joseph believed that his only recourse was to divorce her, or “put her away.” Matthew records the account: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18–19). Matthew says that Mary was “pledged to be married,” but he also calls Joseph “her husband.” The fact that a “divorce” was required to break the betrothal shows that their premarital contract was legally binding. If, even during the betrothal period, Mary had been sexually intimate with someone other than Joseph, she would have been guilty of adultery.[1]

 

 

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

Questions about Marriage: Why Is Marital Infidelity so Destructive?

 

Marital infidelity, or unfaithfulness, occurs when a partner in a marriage goes outside the marriage to engage in a sexual relationship with someone else. Many surveys reveal that close to 90 percent of Americans, Christian or not, believe marital infidelity to be wrong. However, statistically speaking, between 30 and 50 percent of Americans will cheat on their spouses. There are a number of reasons for adultery, but the majority of cases occur because of a need to be emotionally connected. Human beings have a deep need to be wanted, needed and understood. Ideally, this need is met in a marital relationship. However, if it is not, a spouse may look to connect emotionally (and physically) elsewhere.

God designed sex to be enjoyed within a committed marital relationship; to remove sex from that context is to pervert its use and severely limit its enjoyment. Sexual contact involves a level of intimacy not possible in any other human relationship. When God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage, He established the “one flesh” relationship. Genesis 2:24 tells us that a man should leave his family, join to his wife and become “one flesh” with her. This idea is carried through the New Testament as well; we see it in Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7. Paul elaborates on the “one flesh” idea in 1 Corinthians 6:12–20. He says that when a man has sex with a prostitute, they have become “one body” (verse 16). It’s clear that there is something special about the sexual relationship; it is not simply a biological function.

Two people becoming “one flesh” involves more than just physical intimacy. During sex, there is a sharing of emotions as well as bodies. The Old Testament euphemism for sexual intercourse had to do with “knowing” one another—a significant word. During sex, the most intimate of human encounters, a person can be said to truly “know” someone else. The level of trust required for this makes one extremely vulnerable, and this is one reason why sex should be limited to the marital relationship. Marriage allows for vulnerability without fear; each spouse is protected by the other’s commitment and the stability inherent in a covenantal relationship. To violate that trust is devastating to the individual and to the marriage. It is the betrayal of a confidence, the breaking of a vow, the shattering of security, and the severing of a union.

Reports say that 60–75 percent of couples who have experienced a betrayal stay together. However, this does not mean that these relationships are healed or that the trust and commitment have been regained. In many cases, a couple stays together after infidelity not because they’re happy together but because they’re afraid of the alternative. However, there are other couples who commit to the hard work of dealing with the problem, identifying weaknesses, and correcting mistakes. Such couples have an excellent chance not only of staying together but of coming through the process with a strong, happy, fulfilling marriage.

It is important to remember that marital infidelity, like all sins, can be forgiven. The adulterer or adulteress is not beyond the reach of God’s grace (Isaiah 59:1). As the sinner repents and God forgives, the betrayed partner is also obliged to forgive. Jesus said that if we do not forgive the sins of others, our own sins will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:15). To “forgive and forget” is not instinctive, and it’s not easy. The road to restoration will be long and painful. But God’s grace is always sufficient.[1]


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

Questions about Marriage: If a Man Has Multiple Wives and Becomes a Christian, What Is He Supposed to Do?

 

Since polygamy is frowned upon in most societies, this is not a question too many people think about. But there are still numerous places in the world where polygamy is accepted. Many Muslim countries allow polygamy. For a man to have multiple wives is somewhat common in several African nations. Even in the United States, there are some communities which endorse polygamy. However, virtually all Bible scholars agree that polygamy is not for Christians (see Why did God allow polygamy / bigamy in the Bible?). What, then, should a polygamist do if he places his faith in Jesus Christ and becomes a Christian?

Most people immediately give an answer like “He should divorce all of his wives but one.” While that seems to be an ethical solution, the situation is usually not quite that simple. For example, which wife does he keep? His first wife? His last wife? His favorite wife? The wife that has borne him the most children? And what about the wives he divorces? How do they provide for themselves? In most cultures that allow polygamy, a previously married woman has very little opportunity to provide for herself and even fewer possibilities of finding a new husband. And what happens to the children of these wives? The situation is often very complicated. There is rarely a simple solution.

We do not believe polygamy is something God approves of in this era. However, the Bible nowhere explicitly gives a “thou shalt not marry multiple wives” command. In the New Testament, a polygamist is ineligible for church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6), but polygamy itself is not forbidden. Polygamy was not God’s original intent (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:22–33), but it was also something He allowed (see the examples of Jacob, David, and Solomon). The closest the Bible comes to forbidding polygamy is Deuteronomy 17:17, which is properly understood as God’s command against a king of Israel taking many wives. It cannot be understood as a command that no man can ever take more than one wife.

So, if a man has multiple wives and becomes a Christian, what is he supposed to do? If polygamy is illegal where he lives, he should do whatever is necessary to submit to the law (Romans 13:1–7), while still providing for his wives and children. If polygamy is legal, but he is convicted that it is wrong, he should divorce all but one wife, but, again, he must not neglect providing for all of them and their children. They are his responsibility. If polygamy is legal and he has no conviction against it, he can remain married to each of his wives, treating each one with love, dignity, and respect. A man who makes this decision would be barred from church leadership, but it cannot be said that he is in explicit violation of any command in Scripture.[1]

 


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

Questions about Marriage: How Should a Christian Wedding Be Different from a Non-christian Wedding?

 

The primary difference between a Christian wedding and non-Christian wedding is Christ. Christians who marry are making a commitment to Christ, as well as to each other, and that commitment should be obvious to everyone who attends the wedding. In a non-Christian wedding, the couple—particularly the bride—is usually the focal point. In a Christian wedding, Christ is the focal point.

A Christian couple who truly want to glorify Christ through their wedding can start with the early preparations, beginning with biblical premarital counseling with their pastor. Premarital counseling based upon sound biblical principles outlines the roles of the husband and wife as they relate to each other and to their prospective children (Ephesians 5:22–6:4; Colossians 3:18–21). The wedding affirms before God and friends and family that the couple’s desire is to live according to God’s plan for the family.

The wedding ceremony should also be a reflection of the couple’s dedication to the glory of Jesus Christ. Every part of the service, from the music to the vows to the message delivered by the officiator, should reflect that commitment. Music should be reverent and Christ-honoring, not worldly or flippant. Vows should be taken with the couple’s full understanding that the words they speak to one another constitute a lifetime commitment and with the knowledge that what they promise to one another, they are promising to God. The message delivered by the pastor should reflect these truths and commitment.

A Christian couple should choose their attendants carefully and with their commitment to Christ in mind. Bridesmaids and groomsmen aren’t simply there to dress up the ceremony. Their presence testifies to their agreement with, and their promise to support, the commitment of the couple to honor Christ in their marriage. Along that line, the bridal gown and bridesmaids’ dresses should be modest and appropriate for standing before God. There is no room for low-cut, revealing clothing in a Christ-honoring ceremony.

If there is a reception, it should be equally Christ-honoring. Although non-Christian family members are often present at Christian weddings and receptions, serving alcohol at a Christian reception sends the wrong message to the unbelievers, a message that says there really is very little difference between those who profess Christ as Lord and those who do not. Even if the believers who plan the wedding see nothing wrong with alcohol and partake of it with a clear conscience, other Christians may be offended by the presence of alcohol, and we are not to use our liberty to cause anyone to stumble.

A couple whose wedding is Christ-honoring will remember the beauty and seriousness of the wedding for a lifetime and will find it a wonderful way to begin their life together.[1]


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