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11.4 Christian Marriage

We will begin this section by considering the position of those who are single at the point of baptism. We have discussed in Study 5.3 the need to marry only baptized believers. There are a few passages, coupled with the examples of Jesus, Paul and others, which encourage those who are single to at least consider the option of remaining single so as to totally commit themselves to the Lord's work (1 Cor. 7:7-9, 32-38 cp. 2 Tim. 2:4; Matt. 19:11,12,29; Ecc. 9:9). "But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned" (1 Cor. 7:28). Many of the apostles were married (1 Cor. 9:5), and marriage as God intended is designed to bring many physical and spiritual benefits. "Marriage is honourable in all, and (the use of) the bed undefiled" (Heb. 13:4). "It is not good should be alone", unless he can manage a high level of commitment to spiritual things, and therefore God instituted marriage (Gen. 2:18-24). Therefore, "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord...a prudent wife is from the Lord" (Prov. 18:22; 19:14)

We are given a balanced summary of the position in 1 Cor. 7:1,2: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (cp. v 9).

The implication of these verses is that indulgence of sexual desires outside marriage is fornication. Warnings against fornication (sex between unmarried people), adultery (sex where one or both parties are already married to other partners) and any form of immorality are frequent throughout the New Testament; almost every letter contains them. The following are but some of these: Acts 15:20; Rom. 1:;29; 1 Cor. 6:9-18; 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7; 1 Peter 4:3; Rev. 2:21.

In the light of all this repeated emphasis, to fly in the face of God's clearly expressed will is serious indeed. Paul frequently spelt this out: "Adultery, fornication...and such like: of the which I tell you before (the judgment seat), as I have also told you in time past, that they which do (continually) such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God" (Gal.5:19,21), therefore "Flee fornication (cp. 2 Tim. 2:22). Every sin that a man doeth is without the body, but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18).

Biblically, marriage is comprised of at least three elements:-

1.  Some form of marriage ceremony, however simple. The record of Boaz marrying Ruth in Ruth 3:9-4:13 shows that marriage is not a relationship which is just drifted into; there must be a specific moment when one becomes fully married. Christ is likened to the bridegroom and the believers to the bride, whom he will 'marry' at his second coming. There will be "the marriage supper of the Lamb" to celebrate this (Rev. 19:7-9). The relationship between husband and wife typifies that between Christ and the believers (Eph. 5:25-30); as there will be a definite point of marriage between us, so there should be a wedding between believers which begins their marriage, typifying the union of Christ and ourselves at the judgment seat.

2.  God's marriage to Israel involved entering into a mutual spiritual covenant of faithfulness to each other (Ez. 16:8), and this should also feature in the marriage of believers.

3.  Sexual intercourse is necessary to consummate the marriage (Deut. 21:13; Gen. 24:67; 29:21; 1 Kings 11:2). Because of this, 1 Cor. 6:15,16 explains why intercourse outside of marriage is so wrong. Intercourse signifies, in physical terms, how God has joined a wedded couple together (Gen. 2:24). To be joined as "one flesh" in a temporary relationship is therefore an abuse of the bodies God has given us. He has designed them in order to be able to consummate in physical terms what He has joined together in marriage.

Those who are baptized, whilst their partner is not, should in no way leave them (1 Cor. 7:13-15), but rather make every effort to love them, and thus show by their manner of life that they have a genuine belief in the true God, rather than just having changed religions. 1 Peter 3:1-6 encourages those in this position that doing this can, in itself, be a means of converting the unbelieving partner.

"A man (shall) leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). This striving for unity between man and wife in as many ways as possible is analogous to our continuous effort for unity with Christ. This striving is against ourselves rather than against Christ or our partner. The more we succeed in this, the happier and more fulfilling our relationship will be.

However, we are living in a real world of sin and failure, of inability to fully rise up to the supreme standards of holiness which are set us in the Bible, and in the example of the love of God and of Christ.

Believers must be prepared to accept that sometimes this standard will not be attained both in their own lives and in those of other believers. Husbands and wives may argue and lose that unity of mind which they should have; it may be physically impossible to consummate the marriage; a man may have several wives, taken before his baptism, if living in a society where polygamy is allowed. In this case he should remain with the wives, but not take any more. The apostle Paul, a masterful blend of human sympathy and staunch adherence to Divine principles, therefore advised that separation was possible in extreme cases of incompatibility: "Let not the wife depart from her husband: but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried" (1 Cor. 7:10-11).

This stating of an ideal standard, but willingness to accept a lower standard as long as it does not flout a basic Divine principle (e.g. that adultery is wrong), is quite a common feature of Scripture. Paul's advice in 1 Cor. 7:10-11 is akin to 1 Cor. 7:27,28: "...Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife (i.e. remain single). But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned". Christ's words are painfully plain:

"From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then (Jesus emphasizes) they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (by divorce)...whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery" (Mark 10:6-12).

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||