When Gospel-Loving Churches Undermine Marriage

When sociologists chronicle how the West redefined marriage, they will cite many factors, including progressive social pressure, willing media, and liberal theology. But thoughtful evangelicals shouldn’t only point the finger at the outside world.

church-weddingEven among gospel-preaching congregations, we’ve contributed to the steady erosion of a once-strong institution. And I’m not primarily talking about divorce or the wink-and-nod treatment for cohabitation. Here are three practical but powerful messages we’ve sent to our young people, the outside world, and to ourselves about how we really think about marriage.

1. Marriage is important, but not as important as immediate stability.

As a pastor, I can’t tell you how often I saw fear in the eyes of parents with children in college. But they didn’t fear that their good Christian kid would shipwreck his faith in the secular university or that their daughter would get pregnant. 

No, quite often these Christian parents feared that their son or daughter would find a suitable mate, settle down, and get married, while still in college. I once had a nice Christian mom tell me, “I tell my son, every week, ‘Don’t you go off and get married now. You’ve got to at least finish graduate school.'”

To be sure, some young men and women just aren’t ready to tie the knot. As the father of three daughters, I will make sure the suitors who come to my door (and they will come to my door or they will not be suitors) are mature, spiritually and emotionally. I want to know my daughter isn’t marrying a slacker who will live in my basement until he’s 35, having mastered every level of Angry Birds.

However, sometimes we treat marriage while young as a plague to be avoided at all costs. We’re telling our children, in effect, “All that stuff we say all the time about marriage, it’s important. But pay no mind. Really smart people put off marriage until it’s convenient.” If our kids listen to this kind of advice, we rob them of this blessed, sanctifying tool in the hands of God. These rhythms of life, these cycles of repentance and forgiveness, make them more like Christ.

Yes, some couples should wait. But no one enters marriage perfect or even ready. More often than not we should encourage young couples to get married and watch the inevitable grit and grace of marital intimacy weave a gospel story.

2. Marriage is important, but not as important as our church activities.

Several years ago I attended a wedding at a church in one of the most concentrated areas of the Bible Belt, where traditional marriage still polls well. This couple had come to the altar after a life transformed by God’s grace. Their story was one of brokenness, beauty, and redemption in Christ. But you’d think this event was a major disruption to the church calendar.

The bride and groom paid handsomely for use of the hall—and that’s what this venue felt like on the big day, a rented hall. This wedding might as well have been celebrated in a sterile city hall building. And I’m not just talking about the lack of Christian symbols in the décor, but the stunning lack of interest, on the part of the church, to celebrate this wedding. To be fair, this megachurch probably couldn’t give every single wedding the type of fanfare that family and friends want.

But on this day, the wedding seemed like a nuisance, a speed bump in the highway of the church’s important weekend activities. The wedding party had a hard time finding help getting in the facility, finding the right rooms, and figuring out the sound system. The pastor, to his credit, was kind and helpful and had shepherded this new couple toward this day. But the couple heard a not-so-subtle, contradictory message: ”Yes, we are happy you are getting married, but don’t do anything to ruin our really awesome big idea we are doing on Sunday so we can draw people into our church so they can hear the gospel.”

Few things demonstrate the gospel like weddings! Christian weddings aren’t merely secular ceremonies. Each one celebrates God’s loving, intentional design for the people he has pursued, rescued, and appointed as future kings and queens of the universe. The intimate union of man and woman before God helps us peer into another world. It’s a signpost for another kingdom, a city whose builder and maker is God.

Weddings shouldn’t be incidental occasions in the life of God’s covenant community. They prompt celebration and worship. The church should gather around this new couple and bear them up by their presence, by their prayers, and by their generous giving.

3. Marriage is either the utopia at the end of your dreams or your worst nightmare.

More than one social commentator has suggested that long before the gay-rights movement, evangelicals undermined marriage by modeling in real life the opposite of what they preached. The problem isn’t just no-fault divorce. Sadly, many lifeless marriages resemble business partnerships more than intimate union. No wonder many young people seem so disinterested in marriage. They’ve never seen marriage modeled well in real life. The intimacy, spark, and love evaporates just when the kids start paying attention. Avoiding the seeming hassle of marriage, young people check out all together.

In correcting this problem we can swing wildly in the opposite direction. We sometimes present marriage as something more than it was meant to be. Hoping to cultivate healthy sexuality, we sell marriage as utopia, the ultimate destination for hopes and dreams and good sex. We set ourselves up for disappointment. Even the most vibrant Christian marriage only offers a foretaste of a far better gift, Christ himself.

Marriage is neither the nightmare some portray it to be, nor is it heaven. Instead, it’s a temporary theater where Christ is sanctifying us and working out his glory. Let’s not preach the gospel from the pulpit but deny it in our attitude toward marriage.

  • http://listentograce@blogspot.com Meredith

    I really appreciate #1. My husband and I married when I was still in college- he was 24 and had just finished pilot training in the Air Force; I had just turned 22 and was working on my degree in English. We’ve now been married 2 years and 2 months- I finished school a year after we married. While there were certainly challenges that came with being newlyweds and me still in school, they certainly weren’t insurmountable! I look back and remember my husband helping me with some of my papers, consoling and encouraging me when I was discouraged, and repeatedly assuring me of his support for me and pride in me as I worked hard to finish school even while learning how to run a household. I wouldn’t have traded the love he displayed for me or the ways we grew during that first year of our marriage for any kind of freedom as a single girl in a “normal” college experience!

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornelll

    These are great discussion points and they reinforce how important it is to have the right vision of marriage. We will not teach well about marriage if we do not understand God’s plan and purpose for it. And we will not do well in marriage without a shared vision based on God’s plan. As with Jesus, when questioned about divorce, he first insisted on reviewing the divine plan for marriage (Matthew 19).

    Some time ago, the gospel coalition posted a study I offered titled, “A closer look at Marriage.” (If interested, check it out here, http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/a-closer-look-at-marriage/

  • Sarah

    I really appreciate #3. Both my husband and I had unrealistic expectations of what marriage would be like – all these wonderful things Christians told us made us think it would be a “utopia,” as you called it. For my husband especially, who was significantly older than I was and had saved himself for marriage, he nearly a crisis of faith when we faced years of sexual issues. Everyone had told him that sex would be best and fabulous for those who waited for marriage. And yet he found out is was basically a lie, as we had a horrible sex life and friends of his who’d had pre-marital sex had great sex lives. Why does that church perpetuate this idea that everything will come together perfectly as long as the couple loves Jesus and saves sex for marriage? It is soooo much harder than that and so much more complex. As you said, “it’s a temporary theater where Christ is sanctifying us and working out his glory.” If we could keep that attitude toward our marriage (rather than selfishly hoping it will completely fulfill us and satisfy us), all our marriages would be so much better and our faith in Christ so much stronger.

    • Prime

      Are you saying pre-marital sex is better than sex after marriage? Because regardless of what sex is like after marriage, the future outcome must be better than people who do before marriage. Regardless how good the sex was. To be honest the way you say it makes it sound like you’re encouraging sex before marriage is better than sex after marriage,fortification.

      • Sam

        I think her point was that we promise so much to Christian singles telling them that just wait and it will be AWESOME. Somehow it’s communicated that if you wait, you will by-pass all the issues unsaved people have. Doing things God’s way is always better in the end, but it does not mean that there aren’t frustrations, issues, and challenges along the way. We need to be realistic with singles. Be pure, be holy because that is what God has called us to do not because it’s going to bring us the fairytale romance of our dreams.

        • Sara

          Yes, thanks Sam, that is basically what I was intending. No, I would NEVER encourage anyone to have pre-marital sex, as it is obviously against what God wants and it also carries many potential consequences. BUT just because a couple waits until marriage is absolutely no guarantee that their sex life will be fabulous or even so-so, and it has often been presented by the church that it will be. Although virgins, both are still sinners and both have fallen bodies which may have physical problems they were unaware about.

          And, honestly, Prime, I’m not sure if you are married and/or have had sex before, but we know many couples who have incredible sex lives with very little issues who had pre-marital sex. So, I would disagree with you that “regardless of what sex is like after marriage, the future outcome must be better than people who do before marriage.” For us it was certainly not the case (we have improved a lot, but still have FAR to go). We have to be honest about this, so we don’t set up other young Christians into thinking everything will be perfect as long as they stay virgins. YES, YES, please stay a virgin until marriage because God commands it, but don’t expect it to mean that your sex life will just fall together perfectly.

          • Melody

            Yes. Also, not everyone gets married. So if you’re waiting just because it’s going to make your hypothetical future marriage better, that’s going to stop being compelling around age 28 or so. We need to be honest about the reasons to not have sex outside of marriage instead of trying to bribe or scare people into good behavior.

  • Andrea

    I often have mixed feelings about #1, and I guess it boils down to economics: who’s paying for the college education? I tend to think that getting married means (among many other things) that you can support yourselves as a couple. Yet, I know of couples who’ve married in college whose parents continued to pay for their college education. Personally, I find that a little contradictory. If the married couple can take on the debt, then go for it. But if not and the parents are funding the education, then I think waiting a couple years isn’t a bad thing.

    The other concern I have about #1 deals more with the woman in the marriage. I also know women who’ve gotten married in college and then didn’t finish their degree. Sometimes the reason is that the cost is too high for the couple to handle, so the woman bows out to allow the man to continue his education. Sometimes the birth of a child occurs, which may decrease the ability for the mother to finish her education. I think that issue is a big consideration when thinking about marrying while in the middle of undergraduate education.

    I don’t want my children to think that education is the be-all-and-end-all, or that education is ultimate security, or that it trumps marriage, but neither do I want to minimize its importance.

    • Sam

      “I don’t want my children to think that education is the be-all-and-end-all, or that education is ultimate security, or that it trumps marriage, but neither do I want to minimize its importance.”

      I think that is his point. We have made education, career, success an idol and all else must fall to the wayside. This is not balanced. Neither is marriage being the end all be all. As with everything in life, we should submit to what God leads us into.

      I am 41 and never married. A lot of the teaching regarding singleness has left me like in the story of the Good Samaritan “bleeding and dying on the Jericho road”. Religious people with well meaning, pat, churchy answers have given me advice that have left me lonely, frustrated, and alienated. I was so scared of missing God that I let life pass me by, not just in marriage, but in a lot of other things. We should live our lives and let God lead us, not put all these rules about how, when, and where major life events are supposed to take place.

    • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

      I agree, Andrea. People often underestimate the cost of education and the debt it incurs. One can speak idealistically about marriage, but the fact is in our culture both weddings and college costs gobs of money, and marrying before graduation greatly increases the odds that both spouses will fail to achieve their degree.

      It’s not about convenience. If you look at the penalties college students face for failing to pay their loan debts on time, that’s a major concern. And college is such a huge investment for parents that getting no degree in the end means that a lot of money has been flushed away without improving their child’s employment options. And in most families, that means that the parents will be burdened with supporting the new couple to help pay their debt off. There’s no harm in saving the wedding until after they graduate, and in fact it makes a lot of sense to do it that way.

      • Sam

        Weddings only cost a lot of money if you so choose. That may be an issue of wanting more than is realistic and living outside of your means. And it’s true that delaying marriage a year or two until your graduate isn’t a bad idea, but then it’s “get a job, get a promotion, buy a house, save some money, go on the mission field, sow your oats”. Our society continually tells you that there is something more you need to do before you tie yourself down.

        • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

          The average wedding costs between $25,000-28,000. That’s not a misprint. And cutting corners is almost impossible.

          • http://listentograce.blogspot.com Meredith

            Perhaps that’s what the average wedding costs, but it’s absolutely false that it’s impossible to cut corners. Our wedding was $10,000 max, divided among myself and my husband, his parents, and my parents. There were all kinds of corners we were able to cut to keep costs down. We didn’t go into debt, not even carrying a balance on a credit card, and we had a beautiful wedding with 125 guests.

            • http://www.christianvagabond.com Christian Vagabond

              I probably overstated it when I said that cutting corners is impossible, but your answer (and others here) confirms my point. You cut corners and still spent $10,000. That’s fine if you’re out of college and have jobs to pay it off. But remember the article encouraged young people to get married while they were still in college. So you’re talking about adding $10,000 to a new couple’s college debt, and they still won’t have their degrees yet.

          • AndyM

            We need to look at what is expected of a wedding day if that is the average. One day costing a deposit on a house is ridiculous. Our wedding also cost close to $10k with 100 guests photography and videography.

          • Sam

            It’s not impossible if you decide what is really important. Does fiscal responsibility (something God commands) trump my need to princess/prince for day? Does my future economic standing trump my need to buy a $5000 dress and have an open bar? My aunt and uncle got married using the church’s Christmas decorations and a dress my grandmother made with their honor attendants standing up in their Sunday clothes because my uncle got drafted and was about to ship out. That was 48 years ago. It’s ridiculous to say that you have to have a $25k wedding. You can go to the courthouse and be just as married.

          • Larua

            Our wedding was at my parents’ church with approximately 300 people in attendance. It cost my parents less than $3000 for the entire event, including the invitations, my dress, all four bridesmaids dresses and all five tuxes for my husband and his groomsmen, all food and drink, the photographer and videographer, and all the decorations and floral arrangements. I still get compliments on the decorations and the cake.

            Spending $25,000 on a wedding is absolutely nonsensical. We need to stop letting Pinterest dictate what is expected of a sacred event.

            • Laura

              And of course I misspell my own name. Lovely.

        • Andrew John

          $25,000? Get out of here! We got married in a stunningly beautiful place with 70 guests for ~ $1.5K. No cake, which befuddled my mum some but she got over that soon enough. Of course my bride chose to wear a worn-once $2K dress she found on Craigslist for $200 (but they let her have it for $100 when they found out we met on the mission field like they had). She did that off her own bat with no encouragement from me as the dress was bought before I proposed – which still amuses me :) We spent more on our honeymoon (still only $2K) which was a week in the Virgin Islands and 5 days in Maine. Sure God provided in neat ways that only He could but we’re no more special than anyone reading this. We bathed it in prayer and watched God work things cooler than we’d have hoped for. Anyway, people still talk of our wedding fondly because it was true to “us” and our relationship with God and each other. We tried to please significant others as far as we were able to but some decisions offended folk at first. But by the time the wedding rolled around they were behind it. It was a ton of fun and we have nothing but good memories of the day. God even arranged the circumstances (on the day, during the wedding breakfast after the ceremony) so that I was able to ride off with my bride on a big Harley cruiser at the “departure” – something that had always been a dream of mine but I’d had no way of making happen since we were getting married out of her state and out of my country. But God knew my desire and gave me such a wonderful gift. What a great Father! But then; the wedding was as much, if not more, a testimony about how great and good He is than it was about us. Delight in Him and seek His honor with all your heart as you pray over your plans and see what He may do.
          *Disclaimer – He might not turn up if your heart is set on having things turn out exactly as you’ve decided though. Hold everything in an open hand. He gives and takes away and He can make a way when it looks bleak. I’ve had to learn patience, which hasn’t been easy but it’s a total blessing.

    • Tom

      In our case, we’ve been married for almost 2 years now with 2 kids, and twins coming. I already had a BS degree in Bible Exposition, but because of our combined loan debt, I decided to go for a second BS degree in Accounting. In this case, our debt was a motivator to get more education, rather than simply try to compete in the job market with almost nothing.

      Our reasoning is that without this education, paying off our debt will take exponentially longer than with it. Of course in the process we have to add more debt, but with trust in God that he will use and bless us through the means of this new knowledge.

    • Toni Cook

      I agree totally with your statement: “I tend to think that getting married means (among many other things) that you can support yourselves as a couple.”
      We encouraged our son to wait until after graduation to marry, mainly due to financial difficulties it would present. Life is challenging enough without complicating it if it’s not necessary.
      He’s getting married in 5 days, to his girlfriend of 4+ years (they met in their freshman year of college), and they have remained celibate in the interim. I believe they will have a stronger marriage for their decisions.

  • Melody

    Number three doesn’t totally make sense to me. I can’t speak for young men, but almost all of the young ladies I’ve known really, really wanted to be married.

    I mean, I guess we all bought the utopia idea, but it’s also true that most ladies I know expect marriage to be really hard work, to the point that many of them put up with behavior they shouldn’t because they keep getting told that men are incapable of understanding feelings or being responsible in any way.

    I think a bigger problem has been the anti-dating propaganda. Don’t flirt with anyone you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with! Truly godly people only ever love one person so make sure you date the right one!

    It’s too much pressure. It’s too impossible.

    • Tom

      “Don’t flirt with anyone you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with!”

      I’m sure those who say it only mean it as a precautionary statement, as many repetitious and shallow relationships can be painful emotionally as time drags on.

    • Sam

      I agree about the anti-dating propaganda doing the church a disservice. I think, however, it’s part of what is feeding the issues stated in the article, particularly #3. Marriage is held up as some super-holy, special club that God will magically bring your mate for “when you’re ready” or as the second choice of people not holy enough for single service. We make it all too hard instead of letting people, I don’t know, hear from God and obey Him about their own lives.

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  • Susan

    I think I’m either in a different sub-cultural setting, or so far “out of it” that things look different to me. I feel for the 41-year-old single who commented above. I didn’t have the opportunity to get married until into my 30s, and I haven’t seen much evidence of pressure within the church to *not* get married. The article brings up some good discussion points, though.

  • JohnM

    I cannot agree with any of this. When I first noticed the article I thought I might, but after reviewing each of the above points I think they may actually recommend attitudes and choices that accomplish the opposite of what is intended here.

    1. Stability and marriage are friends, not enemies. Why get married in college? Because you can’t wait to have sex? Be honest, that’s the only reason for not waiting, young man (maybe to a lesser extent, young woman), until you’re better set to support a family. Now it is a reason, and not a bad one. We tend to overstate the value of romance and understate the value of practical considerations. Earlier generations understood these things better. In any case, rather than asking why a couple should not get married in college maybe we ought to ask why they should.

    2. “Marriage is important, but not as important as our church activities.” I thought this one was going someplace else than it did. It seems like turned out to be a promotion of big formal weddings. Maybe, not the intent I’ll grant. But, “Each one celebrates God’s loving, intentional design…”? No each one does not. Some church weddings don’t. Some don’t even involve Christians. Some celebrate a faux fairy tail romance concept of love. They are not inherently bad, but they are not inherently necessary for Christians either. The last things Christians should want to emphasize with regards to marriage are externals and romanticized notions.

    3. I think we may have gotten to the point where many young people wouldn’t recognize “marriage modeled well in real life” if they saw one. We’ve fed them to many false, once again overly romanticized, expectations about what it’s supposed to look like. Worse yet, within the church we tend to baptize those expectations, which magnifies the dissatisfaction when they are not met.

    • http://listentograce.blogspot.com Meredith

      Umm, with regards to what you said about #1, what about when Paul says it is better to marry than to burn with passion? If you’ve found the person you want to marry, then extending a relationship for extra months or years just so that you can be out of college before you marry seems like stretching out temptation unnecessarily.

      • JohnM

        Well, let me quote myself: “Now it is a reason, and not a bad one.”

        But if it is the reason then let us be frank about it and not pretend we have other, loftier sounding, reasons.

  • Marissa

    I’m a student in my mid-20s and from where I sit the view is quite different than the one presented here. There is constant pressure to marry. I imagine its unintentional, a fearful reaction to changes in the broader culture. Many Christians talk about marriage as if there is no greater good, no other method of sanctification, no other possible story (especially for a woman) that isn’t a terrible tragedy or even a sin. It’s deeply alienating for many of us young singles even if we agree about marriage theologically. I know there’s a real fear looking at society today that marriage isn’t being valued as it should. Yet, in the church, that doesn’t seem to be the problem. In the churches near me, we can love marriage so much that we end up shaming singles. We imply that God has no use for them, maybe even loves them less than married folks. I don’t believe that singleness is always a tragedy but the isolation and shame forced on the unmarried always is.

    • Sam


      That’s kinda of the point of #3. Some people preach singleness as the ultimate in serving God. To be discontent with your single state is to be discontent with God, rebellious. Singles are held up as (per my pastor last Sunday) “fine china to be set on shelf and looked at, only used on the most special of occasions.” Other preach marriage as the ultimate status making singles feel like weird, awkward third wheels in the household of God. Unfortunately, I’ve been places that I’ve felt like both we preached (now THAT will mess you up). Neither view is balanced (per item #3). Neither view brings comfort to the single’s heart. God uses marrieds. God uses singles. God loves all of us.

      We aren’t lesser because we aren’t married; however, we aren’t more holy or anointed either. We are people trying our best to hear God and serve Him in whatever way He opens the door.

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  • Dave Cody

    What you are saying about undermining marriage is true in many other areas as well. The real issue is that Christians have accepted societies values instead of God’s. What you call “stability” in point # 1, I call materialism. The church’s programs you refer to have become a poor substitute for living a life of piety and self-sacrifice. And hedonism rears its head as we live for the pleasures of this world.

  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/genesis224/ Neil

    “And I’m not primarily talking about divorce or the wink-and-nod treatment for cohabitation.” What?!?!

    The primary example the professing church has sent to the world is that marriage is not a lifetime one-flesh covenant. Divorce and remarriage are so common that many going into marriage believe it is not necessary to stay committed to a vow. If the church would teach the truth about marriage, there would be little or no divorces and “IF” there were divorces, there would no remarriages. None.

    This is a rhetorical question, and some what tongue in cheek(though far from funny): What pastor would ever remarry a divorced person who has a living covenant spouse? (1 Cor 7:10,11; 39)

    In a nut shell, marriage is a one-flesh covenant vow before God. This covenant is ONLY separated by death. Divorce is a hardhearted choice that stands in contrast with the Gospel, and remarriage is a product of divorce with a total self-gratified decision based on a total lack of faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, God calls remarriage adultery, not marriage. (Luke 16:18)

    Yet, we so many people who remarried will claim God blesses their remarriage. How does God bless a remarriage of a hardhearted indivodual that neither forgave or repented to a spouse they vowed into a one-flesh covenant? How can you make a vow to a different person when you could not keep your vow to your first spouse?

    You want to set the example? Repent of your false teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Once a child sees that marriage is the most important decision next to faith in Christ, we would never have to defend the definition of marriage. Instead, we would see marriage as the greatest example of Christ’s love for His church.

    • John

      Neil reminds me of Elihu in the book of job. Calling people to repent who actually are following the Bible. Yes the principle is a life long covenant. But the Bible gives two clear exceptions to the principle (Matt 19:9; 1 Cor 7:15). Yea, I know some folks don’t understand the law of principle and exception, but it would be much better to remain quite than air your ignorance. Telling people they can’t marry when God clearly gives them freedom is demonic (1 Tim 4:3). One is left wondering how Neil views God, who divorced Israel for her adultery (Jer3:7).

      • Neil

        Marriage is a not a principle that we ought to follow. Marriage is a one-flesh covenant from the beginning that was a gift from God. God’s word does not give exceptions to hardheartedness and adultery. Matthew (a gospel written to Jewish Christians) 19:9 in context refers to those Jewish Christians who understood that porneia (the exception clause) during marriage betrothal was the only acceptable reason to put away a wife. 1 Cor 7:12-16 , in context, explains that a believer must remain married to an unequally yoked believer and must not put him or her away since the believer is bound in marriage and the believer snaciftifies the unbeliever(one-flesh bond). Should the unbeliever leave, the believer is no longer enslaved by the unequally yoked bond, but he or she is still bound to the marriage covenant. This certainly corroborates with 1 Cor 7:39 when your exceptions to the principle do not.
        1 Tim 4:3 refers to ‘marriage’, and not “remarriage ’adultery after a hardhearted decision to divorce your spouse. God did divorce Israel, but if you read all of God’s word, you will see that God reconciles and also provides a new covenant Jer 31:31.

        • John

          Yes, marriage is a one flesh covenant and is till death due them part. But Jesus clearly gives one exception to the principle. Your ‘betrothal view’ is not hermeneutically sustainable, and is a classic example of reading into the text. The context is marriage, this the same account that Mark speaks of but is an expansion upon it. Matthew is recording what Jesus actually said. The context has absolutely nothing to do with betrothal but with marriage. Virtually every Jew would have believed that in the case of sexual immorality divorce and remarriage were a given, it was the law in fact. When a spouse begins a one flesh union with another, the first one flesh union is compromised and attached at the core of what marriage is. To live on with multiple one flesh unions would be practical polygamy. That is why it is grounds for divorce.

          Porneia is a very broad word for sexual immorality. It can mean incest (1Cor5:1), homosexuality (Jude 7), bestiality, sex between unmarried people, and marital unfaithfulness. The best lexicons confirm it is a broad word for sexual immorality. You want us to believe we should narrow it down into a context that is foreign to the meaning you want us to adopt. This is a clear hermeneutical blunder and should be rejected. That is not how to interpret the Bible. That is a very odd and minority view, the view I am defending is and has been the majority video since at least the reformation.

          1Cor 7:12-16: 1 Cor 7:15 says some very clear things 1). The believer should not end the marriage 2) but if the unbeliever ends the marriage the believer is not under bondage. This obviously means is free from the marriage covenant – otherwise he is bound. This is the wording divorce certificates in the day used and not bound was free to remarry. Also the context clearly teaches not bound = free to Marry (7:27-28;39). 3) “in such cases” this is clearly exception talk, go and learn that principles can have exceptions. God’s says they are not bound, you say they are – you carry that load.

          • John

            Here is an example how Matthew expands upon Mark: in Mark 8:11-13, Jesus tells us that no sign will be given. But Matthew expands upon this and includes the exception that Jesus obviously gave (Matthew was there). In Matt 12:39, Jesus says, “but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”. You see, like other things in life, exceptions can be introduced. Principles can be stated without exceptions and should be heeded. But, at some point if an exception is given that to should be accepted.

            If a business owner says, ‘no more unexcused absences’. That should be taken seriously. But if at a later point someone asks, ‘what if we have a medical emergency?’. If the boss says, ‘in such cases’ we will overlook discipline. That is an exception to the principle being introduced. This may Not mean a lot to most folks, but for someone who has a medical emergency it will be.

          • https://www.facebook.com/groups/genesis224/ Neil

            I believe the “betrothal view” is sustainable because a betrothal marriage is not consummated until a husband knows his wife. However, the year of betrothal, they are known in the community as “husband” and “wife”. Thus, fornication (porneia) during this year of betrothal is an exception for the husband to not consummate the marriage. Also, Mark (written to Gentiles) has no exception clause and many scholars believe this was written before Matthew’s gospel. Thus, the exception clause is not applicable to a Gentile that is unfamiliar with Jewish customs. Hence Mark ‘s gospel excludes a clause that has no bearing on Jesus calling marriage a one-flesh covenant from the beginning and divorce a hardhearted decision. (Mark 10:5) In addition, some scholors believe the word, “except” was changed by Eramaus, from the word “even”. This would shed a whole other light on the “exception clause.” If God’s word is 99.9 % accurate to the Greek manuscripts, the it would be a consideration to challenge a word, “except” that contradicts Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18.Did you ever read the book of Hosea? Did God command Hosea to divorce Gomer?

            Porneia is refers to fornication in this instance. Lexicons are not the word of God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of the truth hand we act upon our convictions. If Jesus said that any sexual perversion is applicable for a spouse to initiate a divorce, then what about murder? What about a habitual liar, a kleptomaniac, or an arsonist? If porneia fits the fornication definition, then the exception clause would not contradict either Mark or Luke’s account.

            Here is how your (and most evangelicals were taught to believe) view on the “exception clause” plays out in a scenario of a one-flesh covenant between Mary and Joe. Joe has sexual intercourse with Sue and Mary finds out. Mary uses the exception clause as the excuse to initiate a divorce. Her pastor, John, approves of her decision because even after stages of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17), Joe refuses to repent of his adultery. Since Joe refuses to repent, Mary divorces Joe. After five years, Mary believes she can remarry Steve since Joe ran off with Sue. Even though Joe was divorced by Mary, he and Sue seek to remarry in a different state. According to Jesus’ teaching, Joe should never be able to remarry anyone because he is in adultery. However, Joe sets up an appointment to get married by a justice of the peace. Two days before the appointment, Joe comes to salvation in Christ, breaks off his relationship with Sue and seeks to repent to Mary and reconcile his marriage to her. On the SAME day and one hour after Joe repents, Pastor John remarries Mary to Steve.

            What is the outcome of this scenario if Mary believes her marriage ended because Joe would not repent of His adultery? Yet, an hour before she ties the knot with Steve, Joe in his heart, has come to salvation in Jesus Christ…Could this happen? If Jesus says that divorce is hardheartedness, did Mary wait on God to change the heart of Joe? How many spouses will even make their prodigal spouses accountable to church discipline? In addition, how many churches follow up church discipline on a prodigal spouse? Is it possible that regardless of the situation, repentance and forgiveness played out in either spouse could restore a marriage?

            Bound in marriage never changes, only your misconception that “bound” to stay with an unequally yoked spouse would better suit a believer to have peace in their singleness. After all, should not a believing spouse wait on God’s work in an unbeliever who walks away from his or her believing spouse? Would it not also serve to see how an unbeliever sees the reaction of a believer who patiently waits on the Lord for restoration of his or her’s unbelieving spouse’s soul….and then marriage? Did the Father in the prodigal son story (Luke 15:11-32) say…”I guess he got what he wanted…he is not my concern anymore…

            Scripture is clear that the marriage only ends in death. The marriage does not end on someone’s interpretation of believing God’s word provides loopholes to divorce. This is what the Pharisees did…these religious leaders allowed both divorce and remarriage….Jesus says…Mark 10: 6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. 7For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

            Last question…How does a believer that initiates divorce, or believes they are divorced, witness to the restoring power of the Gospel?

            • John

              I will answer your questions and then make a few comments and then give you the last word.

              The gospel should inform how a believer deals with a spouse who has repented of sexual immorality. Forgiveness and reconciliation is the ideal and shows gospel fruits. Also the gospel takes rebels who: Twist God’s Word and think autonomously and brings them to believe and submit to God’s Word. So the believer should be one who, instead of attacking God’s Word and employing ‘Twister’ hermeneutics (Your hermeneutics remind of the game of twister by the way), submits to the teaching of Scripture on these matters.

              I have read the book of Hosea, it is a great book. I have also read the book of Ezra were men were commanded to divorce their wives. Also, I have read were Saul was commanded to kill all the Amalekites as well as their children and livestock. Please don’t tell people if they come across the Amalekites to…

              Your comment about ‘some scholars’ believe the text is corrupt: Yes I am aware of self professed scholars who attack the Bible. But I have never read one Biblical scholar who does this. You are the first person I have ever heard to do this, and your no scholar. I have done quite a bit of preaching and teaching from the book of Matthew and have read many scholarly views of the book and never come across this. I have probably consulted 20 plus ‘Christian’ scholarly commentaries and never have heard this.

              Your trying to construct how a first century Jew would have understood Matt 19:9 is laughable. Nearly every Jew and Gentile would have believed that in the case of sexual immorality divorce and remarriage were a given (it was law, both Roman and Jewish), so you trying to convince us of how a Jew would have understood it is folly.

              You don’t get to decide what words mean. A Bible interpreter needs to see how the word is used in the Bible and also in the day outside of the Bible. Lexicons help us in this discipline. Porneia is a broad word for sexual immorality in both the Bible and outside of it. The lexicons help us to see this. You not the dictionary.

              I will give you a true story of a man I know. He was converted to Christ in his twenties. Upon his conversion his wife thought he turned into a religious fanatic and he was no longer the man he married. She gave him an ultimatum: Go back to the way you were or they would be done. He lovingly said no he could not, he is a new creature and no he would not engage in divorce. Well the papers came and he had to go or go to jail. He sought counsel and decided to leave. He left, she before they were divorce attached herself to an unbelieving man. The man was heart broken, but continued to try and win her back. Eventually the divorce became final.

              She soon married the unbeliever and he stayed pure and did not date or touch a woman for two years. He saw, along with His church that he was free to remarry (Matt 19:9; 1 Cor 7:15), according to Scripture he could never get back with his former wife (Deut 24:1). He met a missionary lady and they got married with the churches support.

              Well they were blessed with four beautiful children and are bringing them up in the fear of the Lord. God has really blessed this man, and it is obvious to others. The man started feeling an intense call to ministry and the church and subsequent church they attended believed he was called to ministry. The church in the town they moved to approached him and asked if he would be willing to serve as a pastor in the church. He was eventually ordained and has a fruitful ministry in a Bible believing church. Yes some may look upon him with disdain, but they did that to Mary; Jesus; Paul; etc.

              Not everyone who gets divorced because they had a hard heart (Jer 3:7).

              Neil, you need to repent of your Bible attacking and twisting.

  • http://wp.me/3gtV3 Bereket Kelile

    As I was thinking about these points I realized that this is all about the nature of marriage. The question is: what is marriage all about?

    It should be the most important relationship with another person we have. It should be about the joy and fulfillment that comes through mutual commitment, and the blessings that such love brings. If we believe that then we should value it more than financial success or even greater convenience.

    I’m a man in my late 20s and what I’ve found is that young women tend to be ambitious and think that they can have it all. Marriage for them isn’t a commitment but a means to their happiness. Starting in their early 30s it seems women go through a major transition in life and expectations. They’re not as happy as they expected and may even have a failed marriage under the belt. They realize at this point that fulfillment will come through the intangibles, relationships with children, friends, loved ones, etc.

    I think this makes for a challenging environment for anyone who has the right ideas about marriage and wants to marry someone who shares their convictions.

  • Dan Mayes

    Great article on marriage. I understand, believe wholeheartedly, and practice what I preach. I’ve raised 6 children, 4 are already happily married. The same subtle attitude that denies marriage in young adults also is denying full quivers. You are barking up the right tree. God bless you and your ministry. Keep up the good work.