Print

THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

#1 Our attitude to Scripture affects our attitude to sexual issues:

Francis Schaeffer: 'And we can say the Bible is without mistake and still destroy it if we bend the Scripture by our lives to fit this culture instead of judging the culture by the Scripture. The no-fault divorce laws in many of our states are not really based upon humanitarianism, or kindness. They are based on the view that there is no right and wrong. And thus, all is relative, which means that society and the individual acts on what seems to them to give happiness for them at the moment. ... We must say no to the attack upon Scripture which comes from our being infiltrated in our lives by the current worldview of no fault in moral issues. ... The world of our day has no fixed values and standards, and therefore what people conceive as their personal or society's happiness covers everything. We are not in that position. We have the inerrant Scripture. Looking to Christ for strength against tremendous pressure because our whole culture is against us at this point, we must reject the infiltration in theology and in life equally. We both must affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and then live under it in our personal lives and in society.

'God's Word will never pass away, but looking back to the Old Testament and since the time of Christ, with tears we must say that because of lack of fortitude and faithfulness on the part of God's people, God's Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment, rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, may our children and grandchildren not say that that can be said about us.' [A Christian View of the Church: The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century pp107ff.]

Schaeffer also comments on modern attitudes to the Bible: 'the Bible is made to say only that which echoes the surrounding culture at our moment of history. The Bible is bent to the culture instead of the Bible judging our society and culture.' [A Christian View of the Church: The Great Evangelical Disaster, p340.]

#2 Women thought by some to be less than human:

Plato suggested that the worst fate would be reincarnation as a woman.

Aristotle 'regarded a female as “a kind of mutilated male”. He wrote: “Females are imperfect males, accidentally produced by the father's inadequacy or by the malign influence of a moist south wind.”' In Generation of Animals' quoted by John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today p255.

William Barclay describes the view of women expressed by the Jewish Talmud: 'In the Jewish form of morning prayer ... a Jewish man every morning gave thanks that God had not made him “a Gentile, a slave or a woman” ... In Jewish law a woman was not a person, but a thing. She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely in her husband's possession to do with as he willed.' Ephesians, Daily Study Bible, pp199ff, quoted by John Stott.

Ghandi: 'A Hindu husband regards himself as lord and master of his wife, who must ever dance attendance upon him.' Ghandi: An Autobiography, quote by John Stott, p259.

The Koran: 'Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other ... As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.' The Koran, Penguin, 1956, pp 360f, quoted by John Stott.

When Genesis 2 was translated for the Folopa people of Papua New Guinea life changed dramatically for women. They were accorded more esteem and dignity, and the roles and conditions of their lives began to change as the men realized that the women were indeed human after all. [Chapter Five in 'In Search of the Source' by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore].

#3 Unity of man and woman:

Some teachers state that man and woman together make up what is 'human'. Consider this statement: ' “God created man male and female”. This implies that the idea of man is incomplete, if either the male or the female be considered by itself, in isolation from the other. The two together constitute the human species. A solitary male or female individual would not be the species man, nor include it, nor propagate it. ... The angels being sexless are not a race or species of creatures. They were created one by one, as distinct and separate individuals.' Shedd: Dogmatic Theology, Volume II p4. In line with this thinking, Adam and Eve, in the marriage union, are 'one flesh' – the one 'blood' of Acts 17:26 (KJV) from which all nations of the earth are made.

#4 Leadership and equality:

[a] Schaeffer: 'The Bible does not teach the inequality of men and women. Each person, man or woman, stands equally before God as a person created in his image, and at the same time as a sinner in need of salvation. And because of this, each person, whether male or female, has at the same time both an infinite equality of worth before God and one another, and a total equality of need for Christ as Saviour. But at the same time, this equality is not an equality of monolithic uniformity or “sameness” between men and women. It is an equality which preserves the fundamental differences between the sexes and which allows for the realization and fulfilment of these differences; but at the same time, it affirms everything that men and women have in common – as both being created in the image of God, and as complementary expressions of his image. Thus we must affirm two things simultaneously: because men and women are both created in the image of God there is a common equality which has enormous implications for all of life; and because men and women are both created with distinctions as complementary expressions of the image of God, this has enormous implications for all of life – in the family, in the church, and in the society as a whole. And in this wonderful complementarity there is an enormous range of diversity. But at the same time, this is not freedom without form. The Bible gives enormous freedom to men and women, but it is freedom within the bounds of biblical truth and within the bounds of what it means to be complementary expressions of the image of God. ' 'A Christian View of the Church: The Great Evangelical Disaster' p396.

[b] Commenting on 1 Timothy 2:13 (Adam's prior creation), 1 Corinthians 11:8 (the mode of Eve's creation) and 1 Corinthians 11:9 (the purpose of Eve's creation), John Stott, stating that 'woman was made after man, out of man and for man', refers to three points made by Dr James B. Hurley in Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective: [a] 'By right or primogeniture “the firstborn inherited command of resources and the responsibility of leadership”, [b] when Eve was taken out of Adam and brought to him, he named her “woman”, and “the power to assign ... a name was connected with control”, and [c] she was made for him neither as an afterthought, nor as a plaything, but as his companion and fellow worker, to share with him “in the service of God and in the custodial ruling of the earth” ' . Quoted by John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today, pp267f.

[c] Leadership in the original creation: Adam's responsibility of leadership is not mentioned in Genesis 1and 2. However it is clear from Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, and to a lesser extent, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, that, although it was Eve who ate the fruit first, it is Adam, not Eve, who is held responsible and accountable for sin and death entering the world. The man, not the woman, nor the two as a married unit, is the representative head of the human race.

[d] An opposing view: Some Bible teachers deny the equality of women. E.J Young maintains 'In the temptation and fall ... she abandoned this subordinate role and sought to assume a position of leadership. Thus she raised herself above the man, emancipating herself from him, and in addition she led him into sin.' p126 Genesis 3.

[But this interpretation of the events of Genesis 3, would be difficult to prove; God in fact, rebuked Adam for listening to his wife (Gen 3:17); he did not rebuke Eve for any supposed attempt to usurp Adam's leadership role; Young quotes no Scriptures to prove his point, nor do Calvin and Keil-Delitzsch who also hold Young's view.] Young states further: 'Emancipation of women is an illusion; ... She is not the equal of the man; only before God is she equal.' (p128).

[e] The concept of male leadership also includes responsibility for wife and family: the following Scriptures present the man as the head of the family who is responsible and accountable to God for what happens in and to the family, including the wife:

Genesis 6:8,18: where because of Noah's faith his whole family is saved.

Numbers 30:1-16: where the husband [or father] is seen as responsible for any vows made to God by the wife [or daughter], even to being able to annul the vow if he disagrees with it.

However, male leadership did not negate female equality and responsibility. These Scriptures show that the wives had the right of legal appeal [Deuteronomy 25:5-10]; were included in covenant agreements [Deuteronomy 29:9-15; Nehemiah 10:28ff]; were addressed by divine messengers [Judges 13:3ff]; and were included in the Lord's message of assurance [2 Chronicles 20:13ff].

[f] Genesis 2 clearly refers to the woman as 'a helper' suitable for the man. The Creation Factor has thus built into woman the nature of a 'helper'. In the sinful world this 'helper' nature is frequently corrupted into 'interfering' and 'trying to control'. Nor does the male, as a sinner, always appreciate 'help'. In the sinful world this 'co-worker' and 'complementarity' becomes a threat and potentially destructive to the marriage relationship. In addition, man, the sinner, frequently sees his wife as a subordinate slave rather than an equal helper.

# 5 Impacts of the Sin Factor:

The essential value and dignity of the human being remains unchanged: these are retained by virtue of creation. However, because of the Sin Factor human beings frequently fail to treat one another (and themselves) with value and dignity. The image of God continues to give significance to human beings over and above the rest of creation (the prohibition of murder in Genesis 9:6 is grounded on the image of God). However, as long as we are in rebellion against God we will not image his character, we will not reflect his likeness. The equality and unity which we saw in Genesis 1 and 2, are also essentially retained, but because of the Sin Factor their practical recognition in daily life has been destroyed and replaced by rivalry and division. The mutual interdependence that existed in Genesis 1 and 2 has been replaced by a grasping for personal independence, or by a mutually destructive dependence of one partner on the other.

# 6 Genesis 3:16:

If we take into consideration the fact that this verse is written in Hebrew poetry, in which parallel thoughts are expressed in pairs of lines, the last explanation mentioned, is possibly the most accurate. That this 'your desire will be for your husband' is talking about the same thing as 'he will rule over you.' The preposition 'for' [NIV] translates a Hebrew particle which refers to motion towards, but is also used to mean almost anything – 'with', 'against', 'from', 'under', 'unto', etc.

# 7 'Adultery' and 'fornication':

Generally 'adultery' is used to refer to sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his/her marriage partner. The word 'fornication' covers all kinds of sexual sins, including the above definition of adultery. The word is actually 'pornea' – from which our word 'pornography' is derived. While 'adultery' is used about 50/50 in the Old and New Testaments, 'fornication' ['sexual immorality' in NIV] is used in the OT only 4 times, against 32 times in the NT. [We can add to the OT use of 'adultery' the many references to Israel as 'adulterous' in leaving God and aligning herself with idols.] New Testament uses of 'adultery' are in Romans 2:22; 13:9; Galatians 5:19; James 2:11; 2Peter 2:14; Revelation 2:20-22. New Testament uses of 'fornication' are in Acts 15:20,29; 21:25; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7; Revelation 2:14,20,21; 9:21.

#8 Intercourse during menstruation:

There are two alternate reasons for this prohibition:

  1. That it is simply a ritual cleanliness issue, and therefore irrelevant for anyone other than Israelites committed to obeying ritual cleanliness laws in order to keep themselves ritually clean and qualified for worship [see Leviticus 15:19-24]. A similar prohibition of sexual intercourse was in place for 66 days after childbirth [Leviticus 12:1-8].
  2. That there could be an as yet unresearched medical issue involved, and that this prohibition is here for the protection of the health of the woman. [Note that many of the ritual cleanliness laws in Leviticus have their counterparts in modern hygiene principles; in the light of this fact it would be unwise to totally discard this possible reason for this prohibition.]

The fact that this law is included in the list of prohibited sexual relationships suggests that more than ritual cleanness is involved.

#9 A comment on homosexual acts:

If we believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, authentic word of God, absolute for all people, all times, all places, we will embrace the Bible's view that homosexual acts are sins [Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:27; 1Corinthians 6:9-11]. We will not magnify these acts so that they are seen to be worse than others sins; we simply say they are sins, just like stealing, heterosexual adultery, murder, lack of love, rage and so on are sins. To call homosexual acts 'sin' is certainly not discriminatory against the people who practise homosexual acts, because the Bible identifies every one of us as sinners who sin.

If, alternatively, we consider the Bible is a fallible, relative, non-authoritative collection of human writings through which God [if he exists at all] might or might not speak, we will easily put aside the Biblical perception of sin and standards as obsolete relics of the past with little or no relevance to a multi-cultural world that has come of age. We will not view homosexual acts as sin.

Until recent times homosexual acts were generally understood to be moral sins – acts contrary to God's laws, and resulting from personal human choices. More recently, the impact of secular humanism has been to de-moralize our choices: 'sin' has become for many a redundant and meaningless term, because the concept of absolute moral standards has been removed from our society. 'Right' and 'wrong' have little or no meaning. Neither homosexual acts, nor any other previously 'wrong' acts, are 'sin', when viewed from this perspective

But in addition, there is strong propaganda promoting the perception that people who engage in homosexual acts are 'homosexual', that is, there is something apartfrom their actions that distinguishes them from 'heterosexuals' – either by genetics, hormones, or neurologically. It is popularly believed that 'homosexual' people are 'born that way', so it is neither their choice nor changeable. The hard evidence however indicates the contrary. Science has not proved that any of the slight differences discernable between 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' people are the cause rather than the effect of the homosexual lifestyle. In fact the majority people identifying as 'homosexual' have both engaged in and enjoyed heterosexual attractions and relationships.

God is portrayed in the Bible as omniscient: therefore he knows the truth about homosexuality. God is also portrayed as identifying homosexual acts as sins which, like all other sins, incur his judgement if not forgiven. Assuming the inerrancy of the Bible, it is obvious that homosexuals are not 'born that way', for the just and righteous God portrayed in the Bible does not stand in judgement on something for which there is no personal responsibility. Homosexual acts are the result of personal choice – a choice to act contrary not only to God's moral laws, but also contrary to the laws of procreation which God has embedded in our very natures.

Once we admit that to engage in homosexual acts is a sin we are immediately identifying the potential and possibility of repentance [read Matthew 11:23-24], forgiveness and renewal. This position is a position of hope – something impossible for those who hold that the 'homosexual' is 'born that way'.

Thus, as with any sin and any sinner, the Christian response to this issue must always be to reach out to the sinner with the Gospel command to repent, the Gospel offer of forgiveness through Christ, and the Gospel promise of reconciliation with God and renewal. It is to say: I also am a sinner, and I have found this way of pardon, this way of peace.

#10 Slave Wives and Polygamy in the Bible:

The fact that slave wives, concubines and polygamy are reported in the Bible [Genesis 4:19,23; 26:34; 28:9; 29:28; 36:2; Judges 8:30; 1 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Kings 11:3-8; 2 Chronicles 11:18-21; 13:21] and that some men used and approved by God [for example, Abraham, David, Solomon] were involved, does not endorse or validate these practices. Indeed the Bible also reports the short and long term trouble that resulted from these practices. For the protection and well-being of the women, God gave Moses laws to ensure just treatment was given to women in these situations [See Exodus 21:2-11; Deuteronomy 17:17; 21:15-17].

#11 The meaning of 'righteousness':

The Greek words translated just, justify, justification, righteous, righteousness all come from the one root: dikiaoo – which refers to legal acquittal. This 'righteousness' [or 'justification'] is the gift of God, credited to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Scripture passages focusing on this free gift of legal acquittal are Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-5:11; Galatians 2:15-3:25; Philippians 3:1-11. You will find in depth teaching on 'righteousness' in the Studies on Romans and Words of Salvation on www.godswordforyou.com.

#12 Biblical images of forgiveness: To study the different Biblical images of forgiveness go to www.godswordforyou.com/wordsofsalvation . There is also much about forgiveness in the Studies on the Lord's Prayer on the same website.

#13 Fulfilling the law of Christ:

This does not imply that mistakes or sins should not be mentioned or discussed. Rather if the attitude commanded in Galatians 6:1-3 is embraced and expressed [along with the grace and 'in-Christ' mindsets] it will free up marriage partners to talk easily with each other about their faults and failures. Each partner will know that the other will not put them down, condemn or reject them, but will continue to love, accept and forgive them in the same way, and for the same reason that God loves, accepts and forgives them. Knowing that one's partner is committed to the mindset of grace releases one from the need to promote, defend, preserve and justify oneself.

#14 The question of submission:

1 Peter 2:11-3:7 is a similar passage. In 2:11-12 Peter says: 'Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.' He then goes on to spell out the implications of this instruction in various situations:

Like the Ephesians passage this neither authorises nor commands male domination and female servility. Peter, very much aware of the pagan world looking on and observing the behaviour of Christians, calls Christians to express their knowledge of Jesus Christ in their relationships in such a way that God will be glorified.

Colossians 3:18,19 parallels the Ephesians 5 passage. It teaches that submission 'is fitting in the Lord' and requires husbands to 'not be harsh' with their wives, in this way summarizing the lengthier passage in Ephesians.

#15 On the permanence of the marriage union:

'Marriage is not to be understood as a casual union, subject to the whims and desires of the lordly male. It is a close and binding union, the closest of unions known on this earth. It must accordingly be treated with respect and even reverence. Jesus draws an inference from this. Because marriage is what it is, because God has created the union, let man not put apart those whom God has joined. Jesus ... was calling on his hearers to take seriously the scripture that they professed to respect. If they did this they would realize that marriage was a much more binding relationship than they were making it. The typical attitude of the people of his day had reduced a God-given unity to a causal union, dissolvable at the whim of the male. This was not what Scripture meant when it spoke of what God did at the creation.' Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St Matthew, p482. Eerdmans, 1992.

#16 On God 'permitting' divorce:

Cranfield commenting on Mark 10:5: 'In this and the following verses Jesus is not setting the commandment of God against that of Moses, nor is he brushing aside the scripture. Rather, he is bringing out the real meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1. A distinction has to be made between that which sets forth the absolute will of God, and those provisions which take account of men's actual sinfulness and are designed to limit and control its consequences. .. Deut. 24:1 is a divine provision to deal with situations brought about by men's sklerokardia (hard-heartedness) and to protect from its worst effects those who would suffer as a result of it. ... Human conduct which falls short of the absolute command of God is sin and stands under the divine judgement. The provisions which God's mercy has designed for the limitation of the consequences of man's sin must not be interpreted as divine approval for sinning. When our sinfulness traps us in a position in which all the choices still open to us are evil, we are to choose that which is least evil, asking for God's forgiveness and comforted by it, but not pretending that the evil is good.' Pp 320f The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel according to St Mark. Cambridge, 1966.

#17 On remarriage after divorce:

'For a husband to divorce his wife and marry another woman means that he commits adultery; his second marriage violates the creation ordinance and thus is no marriage. Jesus leaves his hearers in no doubt but that marriage is meant to be for life and that contemporary Jewish discussions about when a divorce is properly carried out and when it is invalid are wide of the mark. Such discussions proceed from a view that marriage is a human device that may easily be set aside. But when we realize that it is God's will for people, marriage must be seen in another light. ... Jesus ... is laying down in strong terms the permanent nature of the marriage tie in the face of a society where a marriage could be dissolved at any time a husband chose to write out a few lines containing the necessary formula, sign it before witnesses, and hand it to his wife. Jesus is saying that this is no way to treat a divine ordinance.' Leon Morris: The Gospel According to Matthew, p483,484.

#18 On 1 Corinthians 7:15:

Having discussed the meaning of the Greek for 'is not bound' Brent Hercheville, of West Palm Beach Church of Christ, Florida, comments: 'So we must ask, what is Paul referring to in regards to the believer not being, was not, and never has been enslaved, so that the divorce is accepted by God? I believe that there is only one logical conclusion. In verses 13-14 Paul has told the believer that God's laws demand that he or she stay married to the unbeliever. The marriage is not to be put asunder. Everything is to be done to keep the marriage intact and for the unbeliever to not depart (for who knows whether in time you will be able to save your spouse— verse 16). However, the believing spouse is not obligated to renounce their faith, sacrifice their convictions in Christ, and continue to keep the obligations of marriage (to a partner) who demands such. Therefore a believer is not, was not, and never has been enslaved to any laws that would demand a believer to give up or sacrifice their faith in God.'

[From an on-line study on www.westpalmbeachchurchofchrist.com/bible_studies/divorce_remarriage.html ]

Hercheville states forcefully that the 'is not bound' is not about whether or not a believer is bound to the remarriage prohibitions, but about being not so bound to the marriage that, if the unbeliever can't stand being married to a believer, the believer feels he/she should give up their faith for the sake of the maintaining the marriage bond.

#19 Belonging to one another:

There is another perspective and priority embedded in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5: that husband and wife belong to each other. Thus in the sexual relationship the most important thing is not me and my sexual needs and satisfaction but my partner's sexual needs and satisfaction. So Paul states that we should not deprive each other.

#20 On marriage to unbelievers:

The Old Testament is very strong on the wrongness of marriage to unbelievers. The evidence includes: Genesis 24:3,37; 28:1,6; Exodus 34:15-16; Judges 3:6; 1 Kings 11:1-10; 16:29-33; Ezra 10:2,10-14,17; Nehemiah 13:23-29. The reason given is that unbelieving wives will drag their husbands into idolatry.

#21 On 1 Corinthians 7:29:

We cannot understand this verse to mean that men should permanently abstain from sexual relationships with their wives, as Paul has expressly forbidden that in verses 3-5, except for a brief mutually agreeable time for prayer. There are Old Testament precedents for temporary 'separation' where matters involving the purpose of God were involved: Moses left his wife and children in Midian when he went to Egypt on the dangerous mission God had given him {Exodus 18]; the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to leave their wives and families east of the Jordan, when they were commanded to help their brother Israelites take possession of the land of Canaan [Deuteronomy 3:19; Joshua 1:12-18]. Refraining from sexual intercourse was also commanded on an occasion of extreme spiritual significance, in order to maintain ritual cleanness [Exodus 19:15].

#22 On 1 Corinthians 7:36:

There is difference of opinion about the meaning of this verse. The more common opinions are:

  1. it is about a father and his virgin daughter, whom he has up to the present kept from marriage.
  2. it is about a man betrothed to marry a virgin, but they have not married yet, having agreed not to for the kingdom's sake.
  3. it is about a married couple who for the kingdom's sake have chosen to remain celibate.
  4. it is about men and their own virginity.

The study notes are written in respect to the second of these understandings.

#23 The transcendent grace of God:

Because we are under the rule of grace and not the rule of law, and because of the sovereign power of God, God is able to, and does, take the lives of those that have sinned against him, and even the results of their sin, and weaves them into his grand and glorious purpose. Thus we find:

These examples testify to the grace and purposes of our sovereign God reigning in the lives and circumstances of those who have unwittingly or deliberately acted in disobedience to his commands. They do not validate the disobedience in any way. But they do give us hope in the presence of our sin and its results.

God's grace transcends our sin and our situation. No matter what our sin, no matter what undesirable situation it has resulted in, God can and will still use us in that situation. God can and will still be glorified in that situation. God can and will use for his glory children born through our sin. Whatever our situation, whatever the sin that caused it, let us trust in his transcendent grace and commit to glorifying him by the way we live in that situation.