Posts Tagged ‘distinctives of Christian marriage’

We are finishing up our series of basic teaching on what Christian marriage is.

As I have told you several times, Christian marriage is not necessarily the same as other ideas of marriage in the world we live in. There are many different understandings today, both secular and religious. Now if you are up on your news, you know that same-sex marriage is now legal in PA, and in many other places. So this is just one example of this.

Given all this, I have labored to lay out for you biblical teaching to ground us in our understanding of what marriage is. And today we will be looking at six key distinctives of a Christian understanding of marriage, that are often in tension with the world’s point of view.

Now, I do not think that it is our job as Christians to force our beliefs on others. That isn’t how the kingdom of God works. No, it is our job to be a city on a hill; a light to the world. It is our job to live out a Christian vision of marriage and then invite others to choose this for themselves. Let’s look at our six distinctives that are a part of this vision.

1. We believe that marriage is the place for sex.

Christian teaching is certainly in disagreement with much of society around us on this one! Scripture forbids any non-marital sex,whether it be:

  • prostitution – 1 Corinthians 6:15, 18
  • premarital sex, which is likened to prostitution – Deuteronomy 22:20-21; Leviticus 19:20-22; 1 Corinthians 7:2-3, 8-9
  • living together, which is another form of premarital sex – John 4:16-19; 1 Corinthians 7:8-9
  • or adultery, which is sex outside of your marriage – Exodus 20:14 (see also Proverbs 5:15-18)

As we have seen, in Christian thought the very purpose of sex is marital. It is to merge every part of two people into one, it is to bond them to each other like glue (Genesis 2:24) and it is to bring forth children (Genesis 1:28).

Speaking of children leads us to our second distinctive –

2. We believe that marriage is the place for having and raising children to be Christians

God says this about marriage in Malachi 2:15 – “and what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” One of the reasons God joins together bride and groom is so that they can have and raise godly children. As Paul teaches in Ephesians 6:4 – we are to “bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

So having and parenting kids is not just about having kids, or raising them to be good people by some societal or worldly standard. It is about raising our children in such a way that they will hopefully one day choose to walk in God’s ways for themselves.

3. We believe that Christian marriage is between a man and a woman,who are not too closely related

Genesis 2:18-25, our key text in this series, gives us three creation boundaries:

a) animals are not fit partners for the man, so this is excluded.

b) The woman was made as a fit partner for the man, not another man so that you have two men or even two women. There was originally one person and then God made the woman out of the man. There is separation and differentiation. Sexual union, then, is the bringing together of the two differentiated parts to make, once again, a “one flesh” union. And this can only happen between a woman and a man, who correspond to each other in this way. (see the teaching on a one flesh union.)

c) One is to leave father and mother to find a spouse which excludes close relatives or incest. And in Jewish thought if you found out later you married someone who was too closely related, the marriage was considered to have never existed. (David Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, p. 158).

These three creation boundaries are treated together in Leviticus 18, not because they are equivalent, but because they are all a breach of God’s creation boundaries.

Jesus accepted these creation boundaries when he spoke of marriage in Mark 10:6-8, quoting Genesis 2. And he saw these, not just as a description of what happened in one particular case way back when (descriptive), but as normative for all time (prescriptive). The first marriage teaches us what God’s will is for humanity in the area of sex and marriage.

4. We believe that Christian marriage is between one man and one woman

It is true that polygamy (or more correctly polygyny – one man and more than one wife) is assumed in the Old Testament. But Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10:11 excludes this as an option. For if he forbids remarriage after an invalid divorce, because you are still one flesh with your spouse, then this also logically forbids polygamy. You can’t marry another spouse because this too would transgress your one flesh union with your first spouse.

Also in Mark 10 Jesus highlights that there are only two people involved in the first marriage.

  • He quotes Genesis 1:27 – “God made them male and female,” that is to say, two people.
  • He uses a different version than the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:24, one that has the phrase “the two shall become one flesh,” instead of simply “they,” emphasizing just two people. (The ESV misses this in its translation).
  • And he repeats this again in Mark 10:8 – “they are no longer two . . .”

He is making the point that “in the beginning” (Mark 10:6), which reveals God’s will to us concerning marriage, there was no polygamy. 

5. We believe that Christian marriage is between two Christians

Scripture teaches that we are only to marry fellow Christians. Paul tells the widow who is considering remarrying, “She is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” – 1 Corinthians 7:39, that is to another believer.

Paul also says in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” Although he isn’t just talking about marriage here, this teaching does cover the marriage relationship.

It’s not just that there is a spiritual incompatibility, that can hinder our living for God (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). If you think about it, how can you work together to raise godly children, as Malachi 2:15 talks about, if you marry an unbeliever?

But also consider this. Christian marriage is classified differently than a mixed marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul address those who became a Christian, but their spouse did not. And two things stand out:

1) He uses different terminology for mixed marriages. Paul writes “to the married” – v. 10, in reference to Christians who are married to each other. But in the case of mixed marriages he just says, “to the rest” in v. 12. Yes, they are married, he speaks of husbands and wives, but there is a difference in his mind.

2) Paul doesn’t apply Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce to mixed marriages. The latter do not fall under the saying of Jesus, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9). And in fact, a divorce can take place here, even if there is no sexual immorality.

Different rules apply because mixed marriages are categorized differently.

6. We believe that Christian marriage is for life

We live in a time when there is low commitment in marriage relationships. Despite often lofty marriage vows, it is understood that if you can’t get along, or fall out of love, divorce is always there for you as an option. Marriage is a merely legal, human matter, not also a covenant before God.

From a Christian point of view the marriage covenant can only be ended by:

  • death – Romans 7:1-3 (This is also taught by implication in Mark 12:18-27).
  • or sexual immorality – Matthew 19:9, since this breaks the one flesh union, as well as the covenant vows.

Short of this our marriage to our spouse is to be just like the commitment of God to us, his bride. We are to display the same covenant love toward each other, as God does toward us. 

So these are six distinctives; six differences between a Christian understanding and the ideas of other groups. May we be empowered by the grace of God to live out these beliefs so that we are a light to all of God’s way of being married.

William Higgins

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