Evidently the subject of marriage has been too often neglected, judging from the disintegration of so many marriages. So many have experienced tragedy in marriage that the very subject and study of it may be offensive to some. Certainly it is not the aim and purpose to discourage those who have made mistakes regarding their marriage. We usually find that those who have suffered bad marriages would prefer others avoid making the same mistakes they have made. Because there is so much controversy on the subject of marriage any preacher approaches the study with caution and prayer. Because so many seem determined to do whatever they want to do regardless of what God teaches it makes the study all the more difficult. We must leave out personal opinions but stick closely to that which is revealed regarding the institution of marriage.
Our text is Genesis 2:18-24. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
First, we learn that marriage is a divine institution just as the church is a divine institution. It has come into being from the mind of God. It was brought into existence by God for the benefit of mankind. It is regrettable that so many people have taken so lightly the divine origin and divine instruction regarding marriage. This has contributed to the many difficulties and failures that have been experienced.
It is the work of the church to proclaim God’s truth regarding marriage. There is much cause for concern seeing the moral decline in our society and our children growing up into a society where respect for marriage is lessened plus the fact that the divorce rate has reached epidemic proportions. Many marriages that do not end in divorce are not happy ones. Thousands of babies are born each year where father and mother are not married to each other. This disregard of moral purity and God’s arrangement for the home is a threat to the very continuation of our nation and the liberty that we enjoy. Nations, like people, reap what they sow. Even the church is experiencing more and more divorce. Some have surrendered God’s standards to accommodate what is taking place in the world and are condoning marriages that do not have approval according to Scripture. Because marriage failures have become so frequent, the tendency is to find some way around the strictness of God’s law.
But if we will pay any attention to history we will see that marriage and the home have been and still are the primary bulwark of strength to any nation. From the homes come those who run the government, teachers, religious leaders and workers. The home, more than any other institution, sets the moral climate for the society. When the home is degenerate, what can be expected for the rest? If we will consider such nations as Israel, Judah, Greece, and Rome we will see that disrespect for the home has led to the collapse of the system altogether.
What We Can Do
There is not very much any one individual may be able to do to stem the destructive tide of marital failure. But each can make his or her own personal contribution by making sure his, or her, own marriage is proper. We all need to learn and abide by God’s own will regarding the laws, duties, privileges and all other matters pertaining to marriage. The most productive effort is probably in the area of preventing problems by having the right kind of marriage rather than correcting problems already existing. This is because so many people are dead set to do as they see fit. If they are united with one unlawfully and unscripturally, few will terminate that adulterous situation. But if we can teach and persuade the unmarried before they get into an unscriptural marriage to build correctly, the problem can be lessened.
Marriage is For Life
The rule of God is, as we can see from our text, that God intends for a man and woman who come together as husband and wife to live together in that relationship until they are separated by death. Matt. 19:3-6, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 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.” This is God’s law under Christ, which is Gods law from the beginning. Forsaking all others, mates are to cleave to each other. Once married, stay married. This concept of trying it a while, and if it does not work then divorce, is of the devil. This idea has been glamorized into social acceptability through movies, television, the many marriages of prominent people and the abandonment of respect for God’s word.
There are but two causes for terminating marriage. Let us hasten to add here that gaining some kind of legal termination does not mean that God accepts what the courts decree. As Christians, we can never allow God’s will to be set aside by the lesser authority of the laws of the land. Courts will allow divorces for almost any, every, even no cause. But God does not recognize such perversion of His institution. Death terminates the marriage. Romans 7:3, “So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Let us emphasize that death is the only honorable way for a marriage to end. The other way that God allows involves sin.
Grounds for Divorce
God will allow divorce on the grounds of adultery. Matt. 19:7-9, “They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” God does not simply accept divorce. It must be for the reason specified. In the event of fornication, there is always the avenue of forgiveness. But God does not demand nor expect one to continue to live with a mate who is unfaithful to the marriage vows.
A man and his wife may be separated, but if so, there are two alternatives open to them. They may either be reconciled, or remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7:11). The Biblical teaching is, when you marry, stay married.
Privileges and Duties
Marriage brings privileges and duties to those involved. Ephesians. 5:22-25, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Here are general instructions to both husbands and wives. Wives are to be subject to husbands. Husbands are to love their wives. When we consider the relationship that is to exist between Christ and the church then we will see what God wants in marriage.
Mates have physical duties to each other. One of the purposes of marriage is the satisfaction of the sexual desires of the body. 1 Cor. 7:1-5, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me, 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. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence, and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
Possibly something that needs emphasis is that the sexual union of husband and wife is God-ordained, pure, holy and honorable. Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” That which is sacred and holy in marriage is base and immoral outside of marriage. There is nothing vulgar, unclean or immoral in the sexual union of mates in marriage. But all such relations before marriage or outside of marriage is sinful before God. That there is widespread disregard of the sanctity of marriage is so blatant and obvious. Everywhere one turns he sees presented to him situations calling for immorality, sexual union outside of marriage, adultery, fornication and unfaithfulness to partners. This has become the norm in modern entertainment. While it is wrong to teach your children that physical satisfaction of the sex drive is evil and impure, it is also wrong not to teach them that God has provided for that but only in marriage. All of this cheap talk about liberties, new morality, etc., is nothing but sexual bondage in sin and the same old immorality that has damned humanity through the ages.
The husband and wife ought to cooperate in every phase of marriage. This includes financial matters, social affairs, the rearing of children, making decisions that affect one another and the family. They are in a partnership, two working as one. No longer are matters to be considered on the basis of me, my, and mine on the one hand, and you and yours on the other. In marriage it is we, us, ours. There must be that togetherness.
Marry in the Lord
Let us also urge that Christians marry Christians. Sometimes the question is asked, “Is it wrong for a Christian to marry one who is not a Christian?” According to everything that experience shows one of the major causes of marital strife is the failure to agree religiously. There is absolutely no question but the Christian places great handicaps on his or her soul by marrying a non-Christian. Not only do they jeopardize their own souls, but those of children that may be born into that marriage. While it is true that God recognizes marriages between people who are not Christians, and between people one of whom is a Christian and the other who is not, this does not mean God is pleased with that relationship. How can there be the supremacy of Christ in a home when one of the mates do not even respect Christ as the Savior, and has not obeyed His gospel? The chances of success, happiness and spiritual contentment are hindered immeasurably when a Christian acts unwisely by marrying a non-Christian. So many who do this are led into apostasy because of the influence of the non-Christian mate that gradually erodes their faith and confidence in Christ.
Some are heard to contend how things worked out so well for them. And this is true. Many have been converted because they married a Christian even though it was a mixed marriage. If that be the case with anyone, let them be grateful that both are now united in Christ. But what of the encouragement given to others who married outside the church and now have left the church?
We ought never encourage people to marry someone in order to convert them. And how can the Christian really impress their faith on the non-Christian when, as is so often the case, the matter of religion is hardly considered in making the marriage? While it may not be a sin in every case, although in some instances it would surely be, it can be said without any doubt that it is unwise, dangerous, and against what God prefers.
Causes of Failure
As we think of the causes of marital failure, high on the list is the strife over finances, suspicion and jealousy, the refusal to have children, being so selfishly interested in one’s own interests to the neglect of the other and immaturity. All these things go to break up the home.
As the person contemplates marriage, one of the first concerns should be, “Can I help this person go to heaven? Can this person help me go to heaven? Are we on a relatively similar social, racial, economic and educational level?” There must be compatibility. If that is lacking, there will be contention and strife. Broad differences will provoke tensions.
The subject of marriage is so broad and encompassing that it is impossible to do more than just touch the various areas of concern, each of which deserves detailed study. But if we could only get people to give more thought and study with a greater respect to God’s design and purpose in marriage we would all profit and our homes would be more stable.
The happiest, most successful marriage is that between two Christians who establish a home where Christ reigns supreme, rearing children to be Christians, living and loving as God has intended. God, who made the human family, knows better than anyone else what is required to make the human family happy and complete. If we would only listen to God!
1. Are there evidences that proper teaching on marriage has been neglected?
2. What kind of institution is marriage?
3. What difference does this make in our understanding and disposition of it?
4. How can you, as one individual, do something positive about the marriage crisis?
5. What is God’s intent for the duration of marriage?
6. What are the two causes for terminating a marriage?
7. What is the single cause for divorce that God allows?
8. Do you agree with the duties and privileges of marriage stated in this lesson?
9. What are some of the causes for marital failure?
10. What is meant by “marry in the Lord?”