Premaritial Sex, living together, moment when "marriage" is a union

(Kim O.) #1

I’m very passionate about sexual purity. And particularly with millennials. I’m wondering if you knew a 30 year old, who was living with her boyfriend/finance, but was stating to be a committed believer, involved in her church how you would approach the topic?

I believe sex inside marriage is clear in scripture. So how does one rationalize living together.?
I also wonder what would be a good response to " God knows my heart, we are committed before Him".

I believe that marriage is before God, each other and the church.And that clear rites of passages in many areas of life are important to seal the deal.


(SeanO) #2

@Koberheu Good question. In terms of how to approach the person who is living this lifestyle, one approach would be to go through a study with them on the meaning of marriage. Tim Keller’s book and videos below are great resources on this topic. That way, instead of confronting them directly and risking offending them to the point that they do not want to discuss it, you invite them to see the fullness and beauty of marriage and to choose, of their own volition and with the aid of God’s Spirit, to live a holy life until such a time as they decide to marry.

Also, it is important to remember that people may already feel shame about what they have done, but Christ has set us free from shame! We do not want to heap condemnation on people, but to set them free from slavery to sin and shame. So there may be a certain element of shame involved and I think that means we should approach this type of situation with great compassion and grace. None of us deserve God’s love and mercy, but in Christ he sets us free from all shame - all of it - when we come to Him with humble and contrite hearts.

Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Psalms 51:17 - My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

I think the first step in answering the question of why living together is desctructive is to address a few key questions:

1 - What is sex intended for? What is its function?
2 - What are the consequences of using sex wrongly?

In our culture we think sex is nothing more than a survival mechanism developed by nature that happens to give us enjoyment and that definition leads to the conclusion that sex is ultimately meaningless and we can use it as we will. But the Bible says that God gave sex - or ‘two becoming one flesh’ - so that a man could be bound to his wife - it is a commitment apparatus - the sign of a covenant. It is two people saying to each other ‘I give you my whole self - I give you all of me’. That is why God calls Israel his wife in the Old Testament - because marriage is supposed to be a giving of our entire selves to another person.

With the Biblical definition, sex outside marriage is like saying to someone ‘I want to use you for pleasure but I am withholding myself - I refuse to commit - I will not make a covenant’. We are taking something meant to be sacred and making it common - we are cheapening something meant to be precious.

Here are some quotes and resources from Tim Keller:

Sex in marriage is like saying - “I’m giving you my body as a token of how I’ve given you my life…It is like covenant glue…a covenant renewal ceremony”

“Sex outside marriage is taking and not giving…a consumer good…you damage its ability to be a commitment apparatus”

You might also find my response on this thread helpful:

The Lord bless you with wisdom and discernment as you prayerfully consider the best course of action in this situation.

(Jamie Hobbs) #3

Just to throw another perspective in, and I preface this by saying I don’t agree with the concept. I was told by a coworker that she and her husband are considering getting divorced due to the financial benefits they’d have if they were single, while still living as if they were married. The justification was “Legal marriage isn’t as important as spiritual marriage. We’d still be devoted to each other and still be married in God’s eyes.”

How do you respond to someone who claims marriage under God apart from man’s law?

(SeanO) #4

@Jamie_Hobbs For what reasons do you not agree with their plan? A few questions come to mind and I do not have the answers:

1 - Is it honoring the governing authorities to lie about marital status for financial gain? Is this even the right question?
2 - Does this action give either spouse a sense that the marriage is less ‘weighty’? Does it give someone an easy out if things are difficult?
3 - Are there deeper underlying issues behind this decision that need to be worked through? Like an iceberg, sometimes we only see the tiny bit of what is on the surface when a lot is going on underneath that needs to be dealt with…

(Jamie Hobbs) #5

To the best of my knowledge:

It isn’t lying to the governing authorities as they really would be getting divorced legally. The government doesn’t care of legally single people live together, which is what this would be from a purely legalistic perspective, as long as they aren’t claiming a legal status that doesn’t apply. To your second question, this probably isn’t the right question.

As well as I know this individual, I don’t think this idea has anything to do with making an easier way out of the spiritual union, only the legal one. In fact, she is quite committed to her husband and family, just not the current government system. In my mind, it’s purely a money thing.

Again, it’s all about the money. She spent time showing me on paper how much more money they’d have as a household if they went through with this plan.

To your initial question of why I don’t agree with this idea personally, it simply seems dishonest. I understand the concept of being under God’s law, not man’s law, but I think it’s being taken out of context here. There are problems with the current US laws, sure. I imagine others in this forum from other countries could share similar stories of unfair laws in their own lands. But rebelling against the law in this manner doesn’t seem a reflection of Christ to me. If it was a moral problem where the law of a land is in opposition to God’s Word, that’s one thing. Looking for a way to circumvent a system for financial gain, even a “broken” or “subpar” system, just doesn’t seem the Christian way.

What do others think?

(Sandy) #6

Hi @Koberheu. This lady may or may not understand God’s will in her situation. She speaks of God knowing her heart - so perhaps she does, and may be in a situation where the guy is opposed to marriage. What of him? Is he also in church when she says “we” are committed before God? Why do I ask? I think this is a case for ‘speaking truth in love’ and would agree with @SeanO on opening the bible together for that, so it’s not you speaking…but God. However, I think this would need be based on a loving ‘relationship’ developed with her/them first that the interactions feel safe and coming from a place of her/their best interest/s…which of course, is always God’s desire for us…and prayerfully she/they can see that.
Best to you!

@Jamie_Hobbs I find always, just as above, how well we know (or not) the person is key to our responses and how we proceed. I might say since marriage is from God, then the legal bindings on it must also be followed since we are to submit to governing authorities over us. Rom 13. God’s law is over all…so we remain legally (man’s) correct as long as there’s no violation against God. I might also pray with them to see and understand this, to stay married and trust God for their finances. At the core of this is, I think, might be the ‘trust’ factor…and that hinges on their level of relationship with God!

Thanks for letting me chime in. :slight_smile:

(Renee Yetter) #7

Interesting questions and responses. As for living together before marriage, we have known couples, professing Christians included, who have done so. A few years ago a friend who is a pastor presided over the marriage of his daughter, who had been sort of living with her fiance. What I loved about the ceremony is that, aside from fulfilling a legal obligation, he required them to commit to one another in what was a true covenant marriage. For him this meant commitments that were emotional, bodily, legal, and to God, and done publicly in the presence of witnesses. These meet the requirement described in Scripture. I am confident that, until they had done so in front of their friends and family, they were not married in his view (and I agree). He had no doubt urged them to not have relations until after marriage. At the beginning he asked them to reaffirm these commitments in front of everyone, which they had discussed previously, and declared that he would not proceed until they had. I think you can make sound arguments from Scripture that these are necessary, and that covenant marriage does not exist without them.

The legally divorced but still married does not seem honest to me either. While it may not matter to the government whether they are legally divorced but remaining married/committed spiritually and living together for financial benefit, it seems clear to me the spirit of the law is violated by doing so. Also, it seems to me the public witness of maintaining all aspects of a covenant marriage, as described above, is an important part of representing the Gospel and the elements of obedience it requires. Not a very comprehensive answer on my part but those are quick thoughts.

(Jimmy Sellers) #8

I am going to give you the pew view. If by becoming more committed and involved in her church you mean that she is involved in the church ministries, choir, teaching, etc, I think this is a church leadership issue. I have seem in my years similiar situtation that had to be addressed from a church leadership position meaning that the person was ask to resign from any and all ministries until they corrected their behavior. This was not done publicly nor we’re they removed from the fellowship just the ministry service with in the church.
On a personal note I would continue to encourage and mentor your friend as in my life I have strayed from the path, not in martial fidelity but in other sinful behaviours. Please understand that this not intended to be harsh but done in love.

(Jimmy Sellers) #9

I know this is a little off topic but what tax advantage is there in filing as single verus married? Just curious.

(Jamie Hobbs) #10

It was a combination of both filing single with a dependent (they have two kids) to maximize the dependent clause in the new tax law, and leveraging the healthcare law at both of their companies where they wouldn’t have to pay for a spouse or a “family”, only a single child, which is a substantially lower premium. It was fairly complicated, but the math makes sense. Part of me understands the concept of maximizing your money while not breaking the law, as that’s what is happening here. Some people get paid to find loopholes in the country’s tax system and exploit them to save their clients money. But there’s an inherent deception involved here that doesn’t sit well with me. It seems to set a precedent that the law of the land doesn’t really matter, and that’s not what the Bible tells me.

(Jolene Laughlin) #11

I’m very curious about this topic as well. I was raised with very strict standards in this regard, but have been noticing that, increasingly, the churches seem to be turning a blind eye to it. Several people I know from a Christian setting appear to be living with significant others, and although it is not flaunted, it is not hidden either. It became a topic much closer to home in our family last year when my stepson moved in with his girlfriend prior to their wedding. They are now married, but lived together for about 8 months before the ceremony. When pressed to explain my disapproval and discomfort with the situation, I found that there is actually a lot of fluidity in the Bible about sexual relationships, and found it somewhat hard to defend my position.

For instance - most of the prominent men in the OT, of not all, had multiple wives and concubines, as well as female slaves who bore them children (presumably without any say so in the matter) - and this is never decisively condemned by God, though there are sometimes negative consequences that seem to stem from these actions. Then there is the law that a deceased man’s brother would marry his brother’s wife and have sex with her to give his dead brother an heir - how is that not a betrayal of one’s own wife? The law that required a man to marry a woman that he’d raped; the fact that very little is said about Judah hiring a prostitute (who was in fact, his daughter-in-law, and the situation and context indicate to me that he was known to utilize prostitutes - why else would it occur to her to do this?); the implication in Esther that each of the girls who was selected to replace Vashti was required to sleep with the king before he actually decided which would be chosen as his wife/queen; the implication that men who had multiple wives in the NT could join and be part of the church with all of their wives and families, without considering the second and third wives to be adulterous relationships. I’ve also often wondered if the pharaoh who took Sarah, thinking she was Abraham’s sister, actually slept with her? The implication is there, but the Bible is not clear about that either. And I realized a while ago that when Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem together, she was still his “espoused wife,” not his “wife.” I know that they were not having sexual relations prior to being married, but it gives the appearance that they were living together at the time of Christ’s birth, and I’m sure it appeared that way to the people around them at the time. In general, the Bible seems to be a lot more permissive when it comes to sex than the Christians and the culture I was raised around. I’ve been pondering this and trying to work out a more robust explanation for that position for a while now.

So, besides the verse saying that in marriage, the bed is undefiled, is there anywhere that it specifically says that premarital sex with the person that one betrothed to is fornication/sexual immorality, or is this an assumption or tradition that came down from the victorian/puritan tradition, and not so much straight from the Bible? When the Bible does discuss fornication, the meaning of it is often equated with adultery and incest, or being seduced by a promiscuous woman, which has the connotation of harlotry and multiple, uncommitted partners, not exclusive, monogamous relationships.

(Kathleen) #12

Hello, @Jolene_Laughlin! Thanks for your honest thoughts and questions on this thread, esp. with regards to your own personal situation with you stepson. That’s a tough spot to be in, and my heart goes out to you! I just wanted to engage with a couple of things you mentioned…

The first thing I wanted to say is that Scripture (esp. much of the Old Testament) is often just a record. That is, stories are oftentimes recorded without moral judgement being explicitly declared. If a human action is recorded in the Bible, that doesn’t necessarily mean that God is giving his approval…even if He doesn’t explicitly state his disapproval.

I think the majority of the stories you mentioned in your post fall into this category. In the ones you referenced, the actions of the men (and sometimes women) are blatantly in violation of the Law, and, like you also mentioned, the consequences of those actions are usually negative. I’m failing to think of a single man in the Bible who was by any means ‘blessed’ by having multiple wives. We may be given little insight into the shame that Judah must have experienced, but we are told that he repented of his action, which indicates he knew what he did was wrong. Pharaoh even calls Abraham out for not telling him that Sarah was his wife!

As for Esther, I am not a Hebrew scholar (maybe @SeanO can help?), but the text doesn’t seem to necessitate that ‘winning favour’ meant she had sex with the king or even ‘all who saw her’ for that matter…esp. as she is mentioned as being a part of the ‘virgins’.

Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

As for Mary and Joseph, they may have actually already been married when they went to Bethlehem. Matthew writes…

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (1:19-25)

And the NT one you mentioned about men with multiple wives being allowed to join the church, can you actually remind me where that happens? At any rate, I imagine that the polygamy happened prior to conversion, and the unjust and unloving thing to do from there would be to ask him to cut loose his second and third wives… i.e. destroy a family structure that revolved around him taking care of and providing for his family. However, Paul does stipulate in 1 Tim, that an overseer (not necessarily a member) be the husband of ‘one wife’.

Then to your questions. First…

To the second part, I (and many others) would say we can trace it back not just hundreds of years, but all the way back to creation…to the first marriage covenant. (‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.’)

To your first part, I would say that adultery (which, of course, is forbidden in the 10 Commandments) is generally defined as sexual intimacy/relationship outside of a marriage covenant.

So I suppose your philosophical question then is, ‘Isn’t an engagement basically the same thing as a marriage covenant?’. What does it actually look like to enter into a marriage? A betrothal generally (at least in our current western culture) tends to be a statement of intention, whilst the covenant of marriage is ceremonial. It is something entered into before God and other witnesses. It is commonly held that to be betrothed to someone is not the same as being married. At least not in the eyes of the law, as one can back out of an engagement without having to go through the legal process of divorce. However, that does not mean that there is anything magical about the marriage ceremony. God doesn’t explicitly state what we are to do to enter into this covenant. We do have our tradition, but is it really necessary? That might be a discussion for another day, and I’d be interested to have it with everyone.

However, when trying to determine whether or not a certain action is ‘sin’, we must go to where Jesus went: to the heart. He wasn’t necessarily concerned with people’s actions as much as He was concerned with the heart behind the action. So one of the even deeper questions we could ask is…Why is there a driving ‘need’ to have sex at this point in time (or even to live like you’re married) in the first place? There can be a whole range of answers to this question. Is it just lust? Is it a desire to please or be pleased? Is it a fear that there will be some sort of ‘incompatibility’? Is it a fear that people will think you’re weird if you don’t do it this way? Is it just the most financially wise thing to do? …Once it can be determined why someone thinks/feels this is the best way, then the moral conclusions can be fleshed out.

I’ve just written a lot (really sorry), and it may not all be clear, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have the time. I pray God brings us more light through these discussions! :slight_smile:

(SeanO) #13

@Jolene_Laughlin Thank you for sharing your struggle. I think @KMac has made some excellent points. While I cannot speak to the Hebrew in Esther, I can make some more general observations that I hope will be helpful. Here are some thoughts that can helpfully help us move towards a Biblical understanding of sexuality:

  • God established the marriage covenant in Genesis - a man must ‘leave his father and mother’ and go unto his wife in order to ‘become one flesh’. The order here is clear - the covenant of marriage and the leaving of one’s own house - the ‘I’m all in’ commitment’ - comes before sex
  • Although we see lots of polygamy in the OT, it never has good results. The wives fight with each other over who gets babies/time with the husband and the men end up worshiping idols or being led astray from God.
  • In the OT, God compares His relationship with Israel to a marriage and says that He is a jealous husband. He will not allow any other gods into the relationship. I think this is a strong cue that a husband ought to be jealous for his one wife and that any other marital situation is unBiblical. Otherwise how could God have so constantly used the image of Himself as husband and Israel as wife???
  • we cannot have two masters - we will hate the one and love the other or love the one and despise the other - we cannot serve God and sex. If we refuse to practice self-control in order to honor God’s ways, then sex is our master and not God.
  • there is no sex in Heaven - sex is not central to our identity as human beings
  • Jesus commands us not even to lust in our hearts - but is not premarital sex most often rooted in raw desire? Desire without commitment - sex without strings - and is this not lust?
  • Jesus commands us to love others as we would love ourselves - but sex without commitment is a self-oriented relationship. It is fundamentally about us getting what we desire without having to sacrifice our lives.
  • One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. A lack of self-control is a sign that we are not walking closely with the Lord.
  • Paul commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church - to give up their very lives for them - this is not possible except in a lifelong committed relationship

I think one of the best approaches to answering the question of premarital sex and the Bible is not to try to find a Bible verse and say ‘aha! I found it - this verse proves my point’. Rather, it is to ask more fundamental question about God’s character and who we are called to be as followers of God. For example:

  • God is clear that we are to love others more than ourselves - does premarital sex align with this mandate? Who am I really looking out for here?
  • God says a husband should die for his wife just like He did for the Church and in the OT God says He is jealous for His wife, Israel - does premarital sex show that kind of self-sacrificial love and zeal for my partner?
  • God is clear in Genesis that a man should leave his own comfort behind to be joined to his wife - that it is commitment - all in - does premarital sex align with that kind of commitment?

Those are just a few questions you can ask. The list could go on.

We are slaves to what we obey - sex replacing God is not good

I think my answer to this question below will help you understand why any sexual relationship outside of Biblical bounds is destructive. We are slaves to whatever we obey - if our sexual drive controls us, it is our master. But Christ must be our master! We are His - bought with His blood. We cannot have two masters.

Article on Polygamy in OT

This article from focus on the family did a fairly good job of summarizing why behavior in the OT that is described is not the behavior that ought to be practiced.

"You’re correct, of course, to point out that several of the Old Testament patriarchs and kings had a number of wives. What you have failed to notice is that the Bible never really condones this practice. It simply describes it as part of the lifestyle of a typical ancient Middle-eastern chieftain. The Israelites probably picked up the custom of polygamy from their pagan neighbors.

If you study these biblical instances of polygamy in detail, you’ll discover that none of them is portrayed in a positive light. In every case, the practice of keeping multiple wives results in problems for the king or patriarch in question. In some cases those problems are very serious indeed. If you doubt this, take a closer look at the lives of Abraham, Jacob, and David. Solomon is the best known and most extreme example of this principle. In the end, it was his many wives who led him into idolatry and destroyed his faith in the Lord."

Are those thoughts helpful? Feel free to push back. The Lord bless you as you come to grips with this topic and may the Lord Jesus grant you wisdom and clarity.

(Jolene Laughlin) #15

Hi @KMac, thank you for your thoughtful reply. These points do give me some things to think about. I have heard many times that although polygamy was permitted, it was not necessarily approved of by God. It just seems odd that so many of the main characters lived that way without it being condemned as adulterous, when in other situations, God immediately addressed sins, even hidden ones, with things like failure in battle until the sin was found and rooted out, or in some cases, the ground opening to swallow them up. I know that sometimes, God’s rebuke or punishment came years after the fact, even on subsequent generations, and might not become obvious to the reader for several chapters, or even books. Who knows how long Eli’s sons sat outside the temple taking advantage of women before God took their lives? God’s reasoning is not always readily apparent, that’s for sure.

As far as Esther goes, this is the passage that indicates to me that all of the women gathered for the king’s selection were forced to at least be available to him sexually before he chose one as his queen:

Esther 2:12 Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. 13 Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.

From this, it seems quite obvious that they were made sexually available to him, whether he chose to sleep with them or not, and afterward, they were not released to go back home and have a normal life, but were relegated to the role of concubine. Granted, he was not a Jewish king and was not attempting to live by any Hebrew moral code. It’s just always stood out to me that the Bible records this very practically and without any judgment or condemnation regarding his actions. I also know that Esther in unique in that it was written in a time and place where the author was not free to even speak God’s name, so there’s that as well.

It has, of course, also been pointed out that the first marriage covenant was between one man and one woman, and there was never any directive that there could be more than two in a marriage covenant. But there is also what appears to be widespread acceptance of the practice of polygamy. I do find, in Leviticus 20, where sexual relationships are discussed, a direct ban against marrying a woman and her mother vs. 14 “If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.” But never anything against marrying two unrelated women.

It is also interesting that while it is “wickedness” for a brother to marry or lie with his brother’s wife, Deuteronomy 25 mandates that a brother marry his dead brother’s wife to carry on his brother’s line: 5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. 7 But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’

In re-reading that passage, I realized that nothing is said about whether or not the living brother is already married, so perhaps the intention was that only an unmarried brother was obligated to marry his brother’s wife, though I seem to remember reading some stories in which married brothers also did so.

Kind of along the same lines, I saw a blog post a while back written by a man who claimed to be a pastor, but who accepted the practice of polygamy and polyamory in his church since in his view “God is polyamorous.” He used the concept of the Trinity, as well as the fact that God loves and is in a relationship with all Christians (his “bride” is a multitude of people, not one person), to justify and promote his views. Though rather abhorrent to consider, his comments were challenging and thought provoking.

I will also say that it has been comforting to notice that Job, whose heart was righteous before God, only had one wife, and as far as we know, Noah also only had one wife, at least at the time of the flood. So it does seem that polygamy became a widespread practice after human beings had scattered and pagan nations had formed.

One other point that I find curious, if not faintly disturbing, is that whenever divorce and adultery are discussed (I’m thinking primarily of the NT here), the teaching is that if a man divorces his wife for any reason other than sexual immorality, she should remain unmarried, otherwise she is committing adultery. (I believe it says that he - the first husband - has caused her to commit adultery.) But nothing is said about men who marry multiple wives committing adultery…when, realistically, it’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?

Sometimes it seems like there is a pretty significant double standard when it comes to men and sex and women and sex, partly, I’m sure, as a reflection of the practices and standards of the time in which it was written. One teacher I had, when questioned about this, mentioned something to the effect of “Chastity in women was particularly important because they bear the children. If the women were not chaste, the lineage and heritage of the offspring was at stake.” Which is a rather practical way of looking at it, but hard to see as fair when considering that God says he looks at the intentions of the heart.

But at the end of the day, I do agree that it ultimately comes back to the heart and the motive - as well as respecting other people as children of the King, and not seeing them as sex objects or a body. That is the crux of the issue, and is, I suppose, what bothers me the most about my personal situation and why I began looking for Biblical “proof” in the first place.

Since other people in the local Christian community, some that are older and have held positions of authority in some of the local churches, make light of premarital sex - or appear to, I have come across as unnecessarily prudish about the matter. My husband, who was raised as a sort of “nominal” Christian and did not truly come to know the Lord personally until adulthood, did not see it as a big deal, especially once they were engaged. No one else in our church addressed it at all, even though it wasn’t particularly hidden. And while my stepson (along with a few others in our church) is extremely harsh and judgmental toward anyone who is homosexual, has gender issues, or admitted SSA, he obviously did not hold himself to the same high standards of sexual purity when it came to his own convenience. It seems like the height of hypocrisy to me, and perhaps my heart has not been right, either, in my attempts to conclusively prove that he is just as much in the wrong. :flushed: It has made me examine my beliefs more closely though.

(Sven Janssens) #16

This is amazing. Thank you so much for all of this.

A couple of years ago I sent out letters and mails to different pastors, teachers, preachers with a question: What is marriage? Is there something mentioned in the Bible on what rituals to go through?
Except for one, all others (well known teachers, preachers and other) kept talking about how to stay pure before marriage.
You can imagine that didn’t give me any answers at all.

This is a wonderful thread with lot’s of points and angles to think about. I’m so grateful.

I believe that ones you become one, you become married.
That is why the Bible tells us that when you have sex with a woman, you have to take her as your wife.

The importance of covenant and promises have been set aside in our times and made place for “what feels good” and “how does it profit me” attitude.
Sex has become a toy to play with, while it is the consuming of the union, the covenant, the remembrance of the promise made between two people.

Just think about the sharing of two souls, becoming one flesh.
I does not have anything to do with legal marriage or any rituals, but the promise before God.

Can we submit and obey a government that makes the breaking of marriages easier than ever? A signature, that is it.
But what about our lives before God? How do we justify our lives and our broken promises before God? How do we teach our children the importance and the value of a covenant - a promise signed by blood?

We have been given a government and we should obey withing the boundaries of God’s will, but the true value is before God.

I am going through all of these replies and really enjoy the input given here. I might reconsider my core ideas.

(Kim O.) #17

Excellent thank you!

(SeanO) #18

@Koberheu Sure thing. Hope the resources were helpful :slight_smile:

(Jolene Laughlin) #19

Thanks, as always, for the input, Sean. Some of these I responded to briefly in my response to @KMac. When it comes to God and Israel, it is interesting because, even though God looks at the country as a single entity, it is made up of individuals. There is also the correlation to the church - the bride being considered a single entity, but made up of millions of individuals. We don’t know how that works - it is one of those topics that God understands from his perspective that we don’t. But there is still a bit of unease in this response, because when polygamy was practiced in the OT, it was always the men who had multiple wives. Women (who admittedly could not initiate marriage so these would have been sexual relationships outside of a marriage covenant) who had multiple partners were adulteresses or harlots. The husband, if she were married, could be jealous and have her put to death. However, the same did not apply both ways. Men could engage is sexual liaisons with women other than their wives, but as long as it was cloaked in respectability (performed in the context of a marriage ceremony or contract with a concubine), the wives had no recourse. Women whose husbands married multiple women could not have him put to death…

So, one could ask if polygamy, practiced in a patriarchal fashion, does reflect the relationship between God and the church (or Israel, in the OT), where the “woman” cannot worship other gods, but the God can have multiple partners? And as I mentioned in one of my responses earlier, there is a man claiming to be a pastor who is allowing people involved in polyamorous relationships to join his church based on this. It was kind of startling to read. I’m not advocating this at all - I find it repugnant, in fact. But these are scenarios and questions that I’ve run into and haven’t found great answers for.

These are very helpful and really get to the heart of the matter. And in reality, it comes back to the concept of legalism, or following laws for the sake of following laws, vs. having a heart oriented toward God - which you point out later as well.

As far as the Focus on the Family article - I find it especially interesting because I just finished Jay Adams’ book Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible. He did not specifically address polygamy in the OT in any depth, but he did address it briefly, as well as a variety of other misconceptions that have been pretty prevalent in the Christian circles I’ve been exposed to. A few of the things he mentions are as follows:

“Thirdly, marriage is not what [many] have thought - an institution designed to propagate the human race. While God has ordained that procreation must be carried on as one duty in marriage, and only within marriage, procreation is not the fundamental feature of marriage.”

(I include this because I have heard this concept mentioned many times, and this belief has a lot of difficult ramifications for couples dealing with infertility.)

"Fourthly, it is important to understand that marriage must not be equated with sexual relations. A sexual union is not (as some who study the Bible carelessly think) to be equated with the marriage union. Marriage is a union that implies sexual union as a central obligation and pleasure (1 Cor. 7:3-5), it is true, but sexual union does not necessarily imply marriage. Marriage is different from, bigger than, and inclusive of sexual union (just as it is inclusive of the obligation to propagate the race), but the two are not the same. If marriage and sexual union were one and the same, the Bible could not speak about illicit sexual intercourse; instead (in referring to fornication) it would talk about informal marriage. Adultery would no longer be adultery, but informal bigamy (or polygamy). But the Bible does speak of sexual sin outside of marriage and doesn’t give the slightest credence to the notion that adultery is bigamy … Marriage authorizes sexual relations. The honeymoon union is proper and holy only because the young couple is already married. And adultery, later on, while exerting tremendous strains on the marriage, does not dissolve it. Sexual relations per se do not make a marriage and do not break a marriage (P 5-6).

Interestingly, he also argues that divorce is a sin, and like all other sins, can be forgiven. He also argues the exact opposite of what the article from Focus on the Family states:

P 80 “Plainly, the concept of remarriage not only was entertained by the New Testament Church, but very favorably entertained. In light of that fact it would seem strange for Paul to forbid the church to appoint someone as an elder or deacon who is a remarried man. Yet that is exactly what some teach. This error arises from an incorrect interpretation that has been placed on the words “the husband of only one wife,” which occur in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6. … There was a perfectly good Greek word that Paul might have used (gameo) to indicate that one could never remarry (even after the death of his spouse) and hold office in the church if that is what he had wanted to say. The the phrase would ahve read: “married (gameo) only once.” That would have been clear. But he did not use gameo; indeed, he was not talking about how often one was married. Rather, Paul consistently used the unusual construction “the husband of only one wife.” He was concerned not about how many times a man had been married, but about how many wives he had! The phrase “the husband of only one wife,” strictly speaking, permits only one interpretation: a prospective elder or deacon (because he must be an example in all this - including his marriage practices) may not be a polygamist. … The OT permitted polygamy, but it was never the ideal. … but in the NT, while a polygamous convert was allowed to enter the body without putting away his wives (on the principle stated and reiterated in 1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24), he could not become an officer. The life of an officer must be exemplary and God wanted the example of monogamous marriage held before the church.” P 80-81

He goes on to discuss polygamy in NT times.

One does have to be aware, when reading his writing in context, that he strongly adheres to belief that divorce is Biblical only when a marriage between a believer and unbeliever is dissolved at the wish of the unbeliever, or when a marriage is dissolved between two believers and adultery has occurred. In his view, any other reason divorce is the result of sin, and the sin should be addressed by the church, and whichever party is in the wrong must repent and ask for forgiveness and be reconciled. If the offending party does not do this, the church then exercises church discipline until repentance and reconciliation take place or the offending party is excommunicated and and the believer is freed from the marriage to an unbeliever. So he is not advocating for “serial monogamy” as the FOF article calls it.

In any case, it was a very intriguing read and worth taking the time. I was disappointed that he doesn’t lay out specifics regarding the definitions of sexual immorality, but there were a lot of interesting things to consider. One of the things he brings out is that marriage was created by God to solve the problem of loneliness, in fact, he calls it the Covenant of Companionship and emphasizes that this is why communication between spouses is so important. I have never heard that taught before. For some reason, it made me look at marriage in a different light.

(SeanO) #20

@Jolene_Laughlin Thank you for your reply. I think I must disagree strongly with whoever you read that justified polygamy using the fact that Israel and the Church were composed of many individuals. That is a perversion of the text and a hermeneutic that pushes analogies too far rather than understanding the reason Scripture used them. When the Bible compares God to our Father, it does not mean that he literally married our mother - it is an analogy. When the Bible says Israel is the Bride of Christ, it means Israel is in a covenant with God - it has literally nothing to do with many people in one entity - this is blatant misinterpretation.

Furthermore, we can see that when the apostle Paul describes the Church as a body, he does not compare it to nation (which has many people) or a family - but to a single body - with an eye, a head and a foot. Taking this further - and ignoring the difficulties of interpreting the passage otherwise - it is clear that the husband is the head of his wife - singular. This gives no room for polygamy.

Again, in Hosea, Hosea is told to take one wife - who happened to be a harlot - not a whole harem. This is very significant, because it ties together the idea of Israel as God’s bride with a man who has a single wife. So there is plenty of evidence in Scripture to support the fact that God’s devotion to Israel and the Church points to monogamy.

Ephesians 5:23 - For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

I Corinthians 12 - Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Is that helpful? I really think this is an extremely important point - that God’s love for His bride points directly to monogamy; especially coupled with the Genesis account. It was Adam and Eve - not Adam and Eve and a harem. The Lord Jesus grant you clarity and wisdom on this matter.

(Jolene Laughlin) #21

Yes, this is extremely helpful, @SeanO. Thank you for breaking this argument down and pointing out the consistencies throughout Scripture that indicate monogamy. I don’t even know how I stumbled across the article, or where it was, but it was very disturbing, especially given the fact that the man who wrote it was a “pastor.” And it’s one of those things that I read and was appalled by, but didn’t really bring out into the light to examine closely. (And as I’ve mentioned before, I much appreciate this forum because I can ask questions that would never be permissible in a church setting. So - thanks! :slight_smile:)