"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth ..."
Course #32 - Marriage
Marriage is an agreement entered into before witnesses and usually registered by state officials, whereby one man and one woman agree to live together. This means that everyone knows their intentions and the marriage should form a sound basis for bringing up children who can feel secure as part of a family.
Christian marriage is that and much more. The promises made before witnesses are also made in the presence of God, and they are lasting promises.
The divine ideal is that one husband and wife should live together always.
Husband and wife
God made the first woman, Eve, out of Adam's side (Genesis 2:21-24). He could have made her out of the dust of the ground, just like Adam, but he wanted to teach Adam, as well as us, that man and woman belong together and are to live together as though they were "one flesh" (v 24). This is the foundation of a happy Christian marriage - husband and wife who live to help, strengthen, and enjoy one another, in the daily awareness of the presence of God.
Although God made man and woman to live together, this is not compulsory - some people do not need or want the company and support of a husband or wife. Paul advised the brethren and sisters in Corinth that they should only marry if they felt that they needed to (I Corinthians 7).
When two children of God are married before God it is for life. Jesus said, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder".
Sex outside marriage
God created sex, and gave it to us as a gift to enjoy and to enable the world to be populated. However, He is quite clear that it should not be practised outside marriage. The Bible condemns all misuses of sex. Sex before marriage and adultery, prostitution, homosexuality and incest are all specifically condemned. The proper and only place for sex is within marriage. The Bible says:
"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders÷will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9,10) NIV.
(However, Paul does make it clear that repentance and baptism leads to the washing away of these sins, see verse 11).
Choice of husband or wife
The Bible makes it quite clear that - Believers should marry believers.
Since husband and wife are to live together as spiritual partners (the apostle Peter calls them "heirs together of the grace of life" - (I Peter 3:7), they must share the same faith, and same understanding about what the Bible teaches. A believer who marries an unbeliever will find difficulty and conflict in the marriage. So it is no wonder that Paul says:
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (II Corinthians 6:14)
and in respect of a widow:
"The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord" (I Corinthians 7:39)
But what if someone who comes to believe in God is already married to a partner who does not share their beliefs? Should they separate, or should they stay with their unbelieving partner?
This was a common problem in the first century. As the gospel was preached and people came to hear and believe in it, they were baptized into Christ's name. However, sometimes their families remained unbelievers and there was division within the family.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians who wondered what to do about this situation and told them:
"And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." (I Corinthians 7:13-15)
So wherever possible, the believer should not seek to change the situation, but try to show by example how wonderful the peace of God is.
Other similar problems may arise due to the circumstances of life before baptism, and these can be very complex, with many scriptural principles involved. The right course of action depends on the particular circumstance.
A sound marriage
A devout, caring Christian husband and wife are a great blessing, both to each other and to those with whom they worship God. For the husband, the pattern of family life is always set by the Lord Jesus Christ. His was a very high standard of love and care for all those he met in life. Yet, writing to Ephesians, the apostle Paul explained that husbands are to behave in the family just as Christ behaved towards his followers:
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:23-25)
Jesus' example was as one who serves (Luke 22:27), and he considered the needs of others more important than his own (Matthew 14: 14). Jesus took a firm positive lead, and the husband following Jesus' example would lead the family in worship and instruction, family prayers and daily Bible reading.
The husband should regard himself and be regarded as the head of the family, responsible for their lives before God, and he should think of his home as the church in miniature.
For the wife, their responsibilities complement those of the husband. She is equally important in the spiritual direction of the household, particularly in teaching the ways of God to the children.
The apostle Paul instructed Titus to:
"Teach the young women to be wise, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, pure, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2: 4, 5)
The book of Proverbs describes a good wife in chapter 31. She is one that her husband can trust absolutely, who "will do him good and not evil all the days of his life" (verse 12). She is a hard worker for herself and her family, she is kind and understanding, and she is one "that feareth the Lord" (verse 30).
The Divine ideal in Christian marriage is for two believers to live together to the glory of God.
Chapters to read: Ephesians 5, Proverbs 31:10-31, I Timothy 3; Colossians 3:12-25
A good verse to memorise: Matthew 19:5,6
"And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
If you have questions or comments about this lesson, please feel free to e-mail us with them.