Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of I Corinthians. Last week, we looked at I Corinthians 7 and saw what the Bible says about celibacy. Paul said that celibacy is good. There is nothing wrong with it. You can spend your whole life as a single person, never marry and your life is not wasted, if that is what God is calling you to do and he does call some people to do that. It is not a Catholic doctrine, it is a biblical doctrine. Jesus said, “The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19:12). Some people in the Bible were single (John the Baptist, Jesus, Jeremiah). There are some advantages to being single.
I have been married for twenty-three years. Today, I want to look at what the Bible says about marriage and a few myths that people have about marriage. I have to warn you that some of the material will be of an adult nature but this small group is used to that. I want to look at what the Bible says about marriage. On each point, you will see that our culture says something very different.
Biblical Doctrine of Marriage
1. Marriage is a Relationship that was INSTITUTED BY GOD.
What do I mean? I mean that God was the one who started it. It was His idea. Marriage is not just a human institution. It was not started by man. That is very significant for several reasons.
- It is OLD.
It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Marriage is older than the practice of wearing clothes. It goes back even BEFORE the Fall of Man. How do we know this? The word marriage is not found in Genesis 1 or 2. We know this from Genesis 2:25. When did they get married? There was no formal marriage ceremony like we have today. God brought the two together and married them Himself.
- It is GOOD.
If it came from God, it must be good. Everything God does is good. Paul said that celibacy is good (“It is good not to touch a woman”). The Bible also teaches that marriage is good (Genesis 2:18). God called it good. Marriage is good in a lot of ways that most people are unaware of. Did you know that married men and women live longer than those who are single, divorce or widowed? Married people live longer than single people and have a lower mortality rate. Smoking cigarettes cuts seven years off your life. Heart disease cuts about six years off of your life.
Being unmarried cuts about ten years off a man’s life. Married people in general are healthier. They are less likely to develop all sorts of health problems. Married people make more money than those who are not married. The poverty rate is higher for people who are not married. It is not only good for people emotionally (don’t get lonely), it is good for you physically and financially. They have a better standard of living. The Bible says, “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
So marriage is good. Everything God did in Genesis one displayed his goodness to man. God created a planet for people to live in and the world her created was perfect. God did not give Adam a dump to live in. He gave him a perfect world. There was no sin. At the end of each day of creation, Genesis says, “and it was good”. Man was created on day six. If God would have created man on day one, he would have drowned. There was no dry land yet. He waits for day six and creates man.
Adam was sinless and living in a perfect world but there was something missing in his life. If you lived in the greatest place in the world, had the best job in the world and ate the best food on the planet but were the only on earth, you would be miserable. To be completely alone on the planet sounds like a Twilight Zone episode. That was Adam’s situation. He had no one to talk to and no one to spend any time with.
This was another sign of God’s goodness to man. Adam didn’t ask God for a wife. God knew Adam’s needs even before he asked. Jesus says that he knows our needs before we ask as well (Matthew 6:8). God not only knew what Adam needed before he did but He created Eve to solve the problem and then brought the two together, making the first marriage in human history. God created marriage to make people happy, not to make them miserable. He created marriage, because He is good.
- We should not OPPOSE it.
In NT times, some false teaches prohibited marriage (I Timothy 4:1-3). It is one thing to choose to be single, it is another thing to outlaw marriage. That is the mark of a religious cult (Shakers). You say, “Well the Shakers lived in the 1700s, no one would try to do that today.” Did you know in 2005 some feminists in Sweden called for the abolition of marriage? They are led by a woman named Tiiny Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a lesbian. She says “men are animals” and marriage is about ownership, so she wants to abolish it.
Problem? God was the one who started it and statements that marriage should be outlawed do not come from God but from Satan. It is a doctrine of demons. That is what Satan wants. If he cannot outlaw marriage, he will try to devalue it. The institution of marriage is under assault in our day. According to a recent poll, forty percent of Americans say that it is becoming obsolete.
- We cannot CHANGE it.
If marriage was created by man, then people could change and alter it any time they want and in 2001 the Netherlands did just that (Gay Marriage). If it was started by God, He is the only one who can change it. We have God’s definition of marriage in Genesis 2:24.
2. Marriage is a MONOGAMOUS Relationship
What is monogamy? It sounds like a piece of wood. Monogamy is marriage to only one person at a time. Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. Notice, it says, “and be united with his WIFE”, not “with his wives”. Paul said the same thing in I Corinthians 7:1-2. “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband (ESV).
If you notice, Paul did not say, “Because of sexual immorality, let every man have TEN wives”. Monogamy is the only kind of marriage that is legal in the US but polygamy is common in some Muslim countries. Islam teaches that a man can have up to four wives if he wants.
Is Polygamy a Sin?
That raises this question, Is polygamy a sin? Critics make two points. They give two arguments for polygamy. They say that many people in the Bible had many wives. Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon all had multiple wives. In fact, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. They also argue that the Bible never condemns it.
Are these arguments valid? Skeptics do not know the basics of how to interpret the Bible. They commit a few fallacies.
Man started polygamy. God was the one who created marriage. He started it in the Garden of Eden. God gave Adam one wife, not ten and he lived in a perfect world. The first person to have more than one was Lamech (Genesis 4:19). Lamech was the son of Cain, the one who killed Abel. He was a very wicked man and many since then have followed his practice but it is very clear that monogamy was God’s design for marriage from creation. It is very clear from Genesis that this was God’s ideal.
History is not normative. Not everything recorded in the Bible is approved by the Bible. The Bible records many bad things that people have done, even some believers, but it does not PROMOTE these sinful acts. The Bible gives us a true history. It what happened. It records the rape of Dinah. It records King David committing adultery and murder. It records Noah getting drunk. It records Lot committing incest. It records Samson visiting prostitutes. The historical parts of the Bible record what happened, not necessarily what should have happened.
The critics assume that something is sinful only if it is directly condemned in Scripture. Sometimes we can use clear biblical principles. There is no verse in the Bible that says, “You shall not smoke pot”. There is no verse in the Bible that says that pornography is sinful. The Bible doesn’t say a word about pornography but it has a lot to say about lust. What about abortion. There is no verse in the Bible that says abortion is wrong. There are plenty of verses on the sanctity of life and verses against shedding innocent blood and other verses on protecting the helpless. The Bible condemns polygamy indirectly, not directly. In fact it is clear from I Kings that Solomon’s wives led to his downfall.
3. Marriage is Heterosexual Relationship
It is a relationship that God originally designed for a man and a woman, not two women or two men. We all know that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. There is good reason for that. If the first two humans were homosexual, the whole race would have died out. Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. Notice, it does not say, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his husband”. I am not going to say anything more about this because we already spent two weeks this year looking at what the Bible says about homosexuality.
4. Marriage is a Permanent Relationship
God designed marriage to last for life. He intended marriage to be permanent. Marriage is for life. Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be UNITED to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” The word “united” in the NIV means to stick together like glue. It has the idea of something permanent, not something temporary. The Modern Hebrew word for “glue” comes from this word. What are the implications of this principle? I would like to give you two (one for married couples and one for singles).
- If you are married, don’t get divorced, because marriage is for life.
The Bible says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). God doesn’t just say, “I don’t recommend divorce. It’s not the best plan for your life”. The Bible says that He HATES divorce. Jesus said, “what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:6) and that is a commandment. Paul says the same thing in I Corinthians 7:39a (“A woman MUST stay with her husband as long as he lives” – NCV). He gives two different case studies: the case of two Christians who are married (7:10-11) and the case of a mixed marriage of a believer and an unbeliever (7:10-16). In neither case does Paul recommend divorce. The US has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. About 50% of marriages in America end in divorce.
- If you are single, don’t rush into marriage.
Who you marry is one of the most important decisions you will make. The rest of your life will be affected by this decision. You should take your time to make that decision. You don’t want to marry someone and then say, “I didn’t know he was like this”. As the saying goes, “Love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener”. Make sure you know the person very well. Make sure that it is God’s will. Make sure the person is really saved, not just whether he is religious or goes to church. I Corinthians 7:39 says, “A wife should stay married to her husband UNTIL HE DIES. Then she is free to marry again, but ONLY to a man who is a follower of the Lord”. The GNB reads, “but only if he is a Christian”.
The Bible says not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (cf. II Corinthians 6:14-16). A yoke is a bar of wood that goes over two animals. Marriage is a yoke relationship. Married couples are joined for life. Believers should not be yoked with unbelievers. Paul says, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” You are mismatched. If you are a believer and your spouse is an unbeliever, you can’t relate to your spouse about the most important thing in your life (no fellowship, no communion). The Bible doesn’t prohibit interracial marriages. It does prohibit interfaith marriages. You can marry someone who is white, black, yellow or green but what a Christian should not do is to marry a non-Christian.
5. Marriage is a Sexual Relationship
Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become ONE FLESH.” Marriage involves people becoming “one flesh”, What does that mean? That is a clear reference to sex. The act of marriage is the act of two becoming one flesh. In 1 Cor 6.16 Paul clearly sees sexual union when he says that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her and quotes Gen 2.24 in support for this. What are the lessons here?
- God is the one who created sex.
God is pro-sex. It was not created by the adult film industry. It wasn’t created by Hollywood. God created it Many of the church fathers believed that sex didn’t take place until after the Fall, because the first time it is mentioned is in Genesis 4:1 (Adam knew his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain). Valid argument? That is an argument from silence. Genesis doesn’t mention Adam and Eve having sex before this point. Therefore, they did not have sex before Genesis 4:1. It doesn’t say it was the first time that he knew his wife. He just says it was the first time that he knew his wife that she got pregnant. Here’s why that whole idea is simply ridiculous.
- God physically designed their bodies to have sex.
He created Adam and Eve with sex organs. He created them as sexual beings.
- God commanded man to have sex BEFORE the Fall.
God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” in Genesis 1:28. One of the first commands that God gave was to reproduce and you can’t do that unless you have sex.
- He created Adam and Eve and put them in the garden without any clothes on.
To believe the Church Fathers, you have to believe that Adam lived in a paradise with a beautiful woman, who happened to be completely naked but they did not have sex, even though they were married and even though God commanded them to do it.
- God says that Adam and Eve were to be the pattern for other husband and wives (2:24).
- He created sex but He created it FOR MARRIAGE ONLY.
Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto HIS WIFE: and THEY shall be one flesh.” Who is to be one flesh here? A man and his wife. Notice also the order. A man is to leave his father and mother and then to cleave, not cleave to someone (become one) and then leave your parents. Notice also it says a man is to cleave to his WIFE, not his live-in-sin girl friend.
- Sex is marriage is not just allowed, it is COMMANDED.
Paul says this in I Corinthians 7:3-5. Paul gives a little marriage counseling here. He says some radical things here. The body of the husband belongs to the wife and the body of the wife belongs to the husband. There is complete equality here. Paul was not the male chauvinist pig as the critics claim. It is the job of the wife to meet the sexual needs of the husband and the job of the husband to meet the sexual needs of the wife. Paul says that if you do not do this, you are stealing from your spouse. You are robbing them.
Today, we have sexless marriages. We have people who are married but sleep in different bedrooms. According to the statistics, about fifteen or twenty percent of marriages in America are sexless. That was never God’s intention for marriage. That problem can be solved but usually takes marriage counseling. Sexless marriages are not problems in themselves but are symptoms of a bigger problem. Most sexual problems are caused by marriage problems, not the other way around. As James Dobson put it, ‘Marriage conflicts in bed are usually caused by marriage conflicts out of bed”
Myths About Marriage
1) It is God’s will for everyone to be married.
Marriage is for everyone. We refuted this one last week.
2) Marriage is easy.
Just because it is good, does not mean it is easy. It takes hard work.
3) Your spouse will meet all of your needs.
Most wives think this. For a husband to meet ALL of her wives’ needs, he would have to be God. That is why many wives need girl friends. I don’t need to bond emotionally with a bunch of guys. As my wife says, “Men are simple creatures”.
4) Marriage will solve all of your problems.
It will solve some problems. It also creates some others.
5) Marriage will make you happy.
If you are unhappy before you are married, you will be unhappy after you are married, though they may experience a brief emotional bounce during their honeymoon.
6) My spouse will know all of my needs.
“If he really loved me, he would know how I feel”. Just because you are married does not mean that you are mind reader.