- What Obligations Do Marriage Partners Have To Each Other?
- What Does The Bible Say About Divorce and Remarriage?
- What Should I Say To Two Believers Who Divorced, Remarried, and Are Now Aware Of What The Bible Says About Divorce?
- Should A Christian Marry An Unbeliever?
- Is Cruelty Grounds For Divorce?
- What Is The Difference Between Adultery and Fornication?
- Does The Bible Allow Sex For Pleasure?
What Obligations Do Marriage Partners Have To Each Other?
The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, laid down some very good guidelines for husbands and wives. To the men he said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). To the women he said, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). That kind of relationship brings about a lack of tension in marriage.
The husband should be willing to sacrifice himself for the wife’s good. If he loves her enough that he is willing to give himself for her, even as Jesus did for the church, then the wife will be willing to submit to his leadership. She will know that he is always looking out for her good and always willing to put her interests ahead of his.
By the same token, a wife has the ability to make her husband the head of the household by urging him to take his proper role as priest in the home. She should encourage him to seek God, to find out what God is telling the family to do. She can build her husband up and, by being willing to submit, give him a sense of responsibility so that he will assume his proper role.
The one who always insists on “rights” will destroy the marriage relationship. If the husband says to the wife, “You must obey me because the Bible says so,” he is going to alienate her. At the same time, the wife who refuses to submit to the husband and fights him all the time will make him apprehensive about following the Lord. He will start thinking, What if I get a message from God? All I am going to get is opposition from my wife, so I might as well just follow my own desires and let her follow hers. Such attitudes will pull couples apart, whereas God’s standards should draw them together.
The husband who departs from God’s laws, and insists that his wife do the same thing, has lost his mandate of authority. God did not give the husband a mandate to break His law, to abuse his wife, to become involved in bizarre sex practices, or to lead his wife into stealing or lying or cheating or drunkenness. But as long as the husband is following the mandate of the Lord, the wife should submit to his leadership, even though she may disagree with it.
God’s standard is true, yet in many marriages, the wife is more able than her husband. Regretfully, a woman with great abilities sometimes marries a man who does not have much ability. This wife must resist the temptation to dominate her husband. Her husband will sometimes make decisions that the wife feels are wrong. She must either gently persuade her husband that he is wrong, or else pray that God will change her husband’s mind. A woman has voluntarily surrendered a portion of her autonomy to her husband when she marries. She must trust God that His way will work out. However, a husband who wants his wife to deny God, to engage in group sex, or to commit an act that is obviously against God’s law has lost his authority. The wife’s first allegiance is to Jesus Christ and she must follow Him. She cannot submit to what is unlawful or unnatural.
It is important to remember that husbands and wives are partners. Someone has rightly pointed out that woman was taken from the side of man, not from his head or foot. She is not to dominate her husband, nor is she to be supine and let him walk over her as if she were a doormat. A husband and wife are to be partners in life and are to share a living relationship that acknowledges that the man is the head of the family as long as he is submitted to Christ.
In summary, a person must dedicate the totality of his being to a self-giving love for God. Every aspect of his nature must focus on loving God. To illustrate, a person would break the great commandment if his spirit was partially centered on making money to the exclusion of God; or his mind was centered on high fashion, pride, or revenue; or his body was centered on gluttony, alcohol, or nicotine. God demands every bit of all of us!
This is why no human being can satisfy the demands of God merely by going to church or observing external religious ceremonies. No one can say, “I am a good person.” In fact, keeping God’s commandments is impossible unless you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled the great commandment perfectly, and He is the only human being ever to do so. Through His blood and His Spirit within us, we can live in a way that pleases God. On our own it is impossible.
What Does The Bible Say About Divorce and Remarriage?
The Bible is explicit about divorce and remarriage. In the Old Testament, Moses permitted a man to obtain a divorce on just about any grounds (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Later on, in the New Testament, when Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied that Moses gave permission to divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. He said that in the beginning it was not this way. Jesus continued, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
Before God, marriage is a lifetime relationship that should never be severed by human action. In the book of Malachi, God says that He hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16). God’s perfect will is the preservation of society and future generations by the preservation of marriages. God will give anyone great help in sustaining a marriage relationship or in the reconciliation of estranged marriage partners. In extreme cases, there are only two grounds for divorce and remarriage.
When adultery has taken place, a divorce can be obtained, because adultery has already severed the marriage relationship and divorce is a formal acknowledgment of what has already taken place.
The apostle Paul added to the teachings of Jesus what is called the “Pauline privilege.” According to this concept, Paul taught that if an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, the believer is not bound to the marriage relationship, but is free to remarry (see I Corinthians 7:15). And some people recognize such a thing as a “constructive desertion,” which would be when a husband so brutalizes his wife that it is impossible to live with him any longer; or when a wife has so harassed or brutalized her husband that it becomes impossible for him to stay with her. When that happens, whether or not the person actually moves out, the situation is the equivalent of desertion, and divorce and remarriage are permissible.
Except for these reasons, there is no justification given in the Bible for divorce. No grounds exist for divorce on the basis of incompatibility, lack of love, or differing career goals. Frankly, it seems impossible that two born-again Christians who are dedicated to serving Jesus Christ can find any grounds for divorce.
Obviously, when a person who does not have biblical grounds for divorce remarries, he or she is technically committing adultery. For an elaboration, read my answer to the next question.
What Should I Say To Two Believers Who Divorced, Remarried, and Are Now Aware Of What The Bible Says About Divorce?
Divorce is rampant in the United States, and it is rampant among Christians and non-Christians alike. There are some instances where people have married not once or twice, but three, four, five, or six times. They have had a succession of mates, a succession of children, and a succession of problems.
God is on the side of people. He loves people, and He understands what has happened in such situations. But it is impossible for me to say that this conduct is all right. A minister of God must teach what is in the Bible; yet the teaching must be tempered with the biblical understanding of God’s love. It is very difficult to make hard and fast rules.
Does one, for example, tell a three-times-divorced man to go back to his previous mate? What if the previous mate is now remarried? Is it right to ask the remarried couple to make a second divorce and break up a second home? The basic rule is that divorce and remarriage are not permitted, except for adultery or desertion, and that is the rule the church should stick to. Young people should be made aware that marriage is for life–for keeps–and not something to be entered into and then gotten out of whenever one feels like it.
However, given the appalling state of marriage in the modern world, I feel that the church should use its power of “binding and loosing” (see Matthew 16:19) to provide guidance in the way of forgiveness to divorced and remarried couples who have received Jesus Christ after their divorce. In other words, the church should (and I personally would) say that what happened in your past life is covered by the blood of Christ. Enjoy your present marriage and live in it to the glory of God without recrimination. However, for Christians who have divorced (after being born again) for reasons other than adultery or desertion, I believe they should either be reconciled to their Christian mates or remain unmarried.
Finally, in these complex personal matters I recommend prayer, study of the Bible, and that you counsel with a wise and godly pastor in your own community.
Should A Christian Marry An Unbeliever?
Absolutely not. The Bible says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers … What accord has Christ with Belial” (II Corinthians 6:14-15)? Billy Graham put it very succinctly a few years ago when he said that if you take an unbeliever for a mate you also get the devil for your father-in-law. Much heartache results when Christians marry unbelievers. Some Christians go ahead and marry unbelievers, thinking that they can convert them after marriage. But if God has really chosen that man or woman for you, He is perfectly capable of bringing that person to Himself before the marriage. If He does not do it, it is a good enough sign that this marriage is not what He wants for you. Christians need to learn to wait on the Lord, to wait for what is right. Anything short of that can prove to be a dreadful mistake.
Is Cruelty Grounds For Divorce?
It depends. I do not think mental cruelty is grounds for divorce if mental cruelty concerns the way a mate twists the toothpaste tube or hangs stockings in the bathroom. That type of mental cruelty has been defined in so many different contexts it has no meaning.
However, I do think physical brutality and abuse, and mental abuse of a nature that endangers the person’s mind or body, are clearly grounds for divorce. The Pauline privilege (see I Corinthians 7:15), which I mentioned earlier, permits divorce on the grounds of desertion by an unbelieving spouse. For mental cruelty to be grounds for divorce, it must involve conduct which makes it impossible to live with the spouse without endangering oneself.
The sort of cruelty I have in mind would not spring from a criticism of a souffle’ or a brother-in-law. Minor irritations need loving attention, but should not be allowed to rupture a holy relationship.
Obviously, a couple composed of two born-again Christians does not fall under the Pauline privilege. Divorce and remarriage for any reason are truly unthinkable for two people who sincerely love God and are trying to serve Him.
What Is The Difference Between Adultery and Fornication?
Sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not his or her mate is adultery.
The Ten Commandments contain the prohibition against adultery: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The reason is simple: Marriage is the foundation of society, and with it comes the responsibility of child rearing. Casual sex outside marriage not only imperils marriage but also destroys the paternal or maternal feeling for the children of the marriage, and blurs the lines of inheritance and family, clan and tribal relationships.
Fornication is sex between two unmarried people. The apostle Paul said this is a sin against the body. He commands Christians to flee fornication as a sin against self and God, for the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (see I Corinthians 6:18-19). Paul says that if a believer takes his body and joins it to a harlot (or someone who is immoral), he is joining Jesus Christ to that person (see I Corinthians 6:15-16).
It is very important to understand that neither fornicators nor adulterers will enter the kingdom of heaven (see I Corinthians 6:9-10). In today’s world, the term fornication is rarely used and immorality between unmarried people is commonly accepted as a lifestyle. But immorality, however commonplace, is a sin that will keep millions of people out of heaven, unless they repent.
Does The Bible Allow Sex For Pleasure?
There are some religious people who feel that the only reason for sex is reproduction. Others believe that there are higher reasons for sex: The ultimate joining together of a man and woman–the joining together of two spirits; the joining together of two minds; and the joining together of two bodies. In the Old Testament the term for sexual intercourse was “to know” (a husband or wife). The most intimate knowledge of marriage partners comes about through these three joinings in a Christian marriage. This is why Christians can have a much more stimulating sex life than non-Christians. Non-Christians cannot join together in the spirit. They lack that extra dimension.
The Bible says that marriage partners should offer their bodies to each other in marriage and should not deny each other except for a short season for fasting (see I Corinthians 7:5). God made men and women sexual beings. He made our nervous systems capable of receiving pleasure from the sex act. Sex in marriage is good and holy and ordained of God.