Monogamy

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“Monogamy in the widest sense of the term is that understanding and organization of marriage which defines the married state as consisting of one man and one woman at any given time. Christians and many other peoples add to this the understanding that the one man and one woman enter into the married state intending and promising a life-long union of mutual trust, service, and love. It is a Christian conviction that marriage so understood is the true understanding of marriage which corresponds to the intention of the Creator and which alone will meet the needs of human society” (John H. Rogers Jr., Wycliffe Dictionary of Christian Ethics, p. 430).
Monogamy was taught by Jesus Christ
Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees gives an unequivocal answer to the question, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Jesus stated, “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” (Matt. 19:4-6). Jesus referred to Genesis 2:24. He firmly establishes God’s creative order and design for marriage between one man and one woman for a life-long union (see also Romans 7:1-3). Later, in Matthew 19:9, Jesus would give one ground for divorce, i.e. fornication. But, He firmly establishes the definition of marriage as monogamy.
Monogamy was taught by the Apostle Paul
In Ephesians 5:23-33, Paul writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compares the relationship between Christ and the church using the analogy of marriage. The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church (v. 23). The church is subject unto Christ even as wives are subject unto their own husbands (v. 24). Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Husbands are to love their wives with the same intensity and willingness to sacrifice. The Lord nourishes and cherishes the church. Husbands are to nourish and cherish their wives as they would their own bodies. The church is one with Christ. Husbands and wives share a special oneness (v. 31). Monogamy is the only marriage arrangement that fits this analogy.
The Challenge to Monogamy
Whenever a group or nation of people reject the authority of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture concerning God’s marriage law, they pervert the sanctity of marriage and introduce forms which God never intended. Some of these forms of marriage that violate God’s authority are: homosexual marriages, polygamous marriages, polyamory (an arrangement in which three or more persons of either sex agree to share one another’s lives, including sexual relationships of various kinds, and bigamy. By destroying the God-ordained design of marriage, these other forms of marriage introduce corruption, instability, peril to children, poverty and liscentiousness. The challenges to monogamy must be resisted for these reasons.
Monogamy is Still the Norm
For most people in this modern world, monogamy is still the norm. This is a testimony to the influence of the authority of Scripture. N.T. Wright argues for monogamy in his book, Scripture and the Authority of God. He does so on the basis that in Jesus Christ, God is working to bring about a new creation. He states, “And within that renewal, the renewal of monogamy, and the invitation to celebrate life-long marriage not only in itself but also as one of the clearest signpost to the creator’s intention for the whole world, stands out clear and sharp” (pp. 194-195). Monogamy stands as a sign of God’s redemption of mankind. Aberrant forms of marriage must give way to God’s design for marriage and the home. God’s authority must be respected and heeded by all people in order to enjoy the fullness of the blessings Christ brings to the world. Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). Redemption involves transformation to a new life guided by the Lord Jesus Christ. All who call Him, Lord, are obligated to obey His commands (Luke 6:46). Monogamy is one of His commands!

The Problem of Polygamy

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The practice of polygamy is ancient.  The first polygamist in the Bible is Lamech (Gen. 4:19).  Lamech took two wives: Adah and Zillah.  Lamech was a descendent of Cain.  Cain, you will recall, was the first murderer recorded in the Bible.  This family exhibits disobedience to God in various ways.  Polygamy is one of them.  Polygamy is the marriage of one man to two or more women at the same time.  This is a form of fornication  and is condemned by God.  Polygamy developed historically not because God approved it or authorized it, but because of the sinful dominance of women by men who were stronger and more powerful.  This is why polyandry (a woman married to more than one man at the same time) is almost never heard of.
Did God approve of polygamy in the Old Testament?  Some argue that God approved of polygamy in the Old Testament because men such as Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon seem to go uncensored even though they had more than one wife. Consider the following information.
1.  In Gen. 2:18-25, God made one woman as a help meet (suitable) for the man.  The two became one flesh.  Jesus appeals to this creative design in Matthew 19:1-9 and shows that it was always God’s divine intent for marriage to be between one man and one woman for life.  This clearly defines marriage as a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman (both of whom are scripturally qualified to marry).  This definition of marriage is indisputable.
2.  Romans 7:1-3.  Paul states that if a woman married another man while her husband lived, she would be called an adulteress.  The result of this arrangement would be called bigamy.  If bigamy is condemned by God, so would polygamy.  Bigamy and polygamy are forms of fornication.
3.  I Cor. 7:2.  “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own (emphatic) wife, and let every woman have her own (emphatic) husband.”  Marriage is restricted to one man and one woman.
4.  Abraham and Sarah ran ahead of God in the matter of Hagar, the Egyptian.  Their lack of faith in God only complicated matters (Gen. 16:1-2).  God did not approve of their lack of faith in Him which resulted in the birth of Ishmael by Hagar and Abraham.  Abraham stumbled in his faith on more than one occasion.  God divinely intervened when Abraham lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech (Gen. 12:14-20 and Gen. 20 respectively).  Does God approve of lying?  No, no more than He does of bigamy or polygamy.
5.  David and Solomon.  David and Solomon multiplied to themselves wives in direct disobedience to God’s command.  In Deut. 17:17, Moses writes, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away:…”  Moses spoke of the restrictions God placed upon the king of Israel.  God did not approve of the polygamy of these kings.  They violated God’s original marriage law (Gen. 2; Matt. 19).
6.  Monogamy is taught in the Bible by precept (I Cor. 7:2; I Tim. 3:2, Matt. 19:3-4; and Rom. 7:1-3).  Monogamy is taught in the Bible by precedent (Gen. 2:24; Gen. 1:27–God gave Adam only one wife).  Polygamy was never established by God for any people by precept or by precedent.
7.  Polygamy would violate most marriage vows.  It would violate the law of love between a man and his wife.  It is not possible for a man to love two women equally at the same time.  It is the nature of marital love to be exclusive to one spouse.
8.  Monogamy is taught by the figure of the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:23-32).  God is a jealous God and will not permit rivals (II Cor. 11:2).
9.  Every polygamist in the Bible suffered for his sins.  This includes David and Solomon.  David had rivalry, jealousy, and hatred in his own family and his family was torn apart by these sinful forces.  Solomon’s wives led him into idolatry and apostasy.  I Chron. 14:3. II Kings 11:4-10).
Some Excerpts from John L. Edwards’ book, An In Depth Study of Marriage & Divorce need to be considered in light of the aforementioned Biblical truths.
1.  Edwards affirms that polygamy is never spoken of as adultery, but marriage (p. 82).
2.  “If polygamy is marriage in scripture, it seems that God would not want to break a polygamist marriage anymore than he would want to break up a monogamist marriage” (p. 84).
3.  “However, it is also certain that God condoned polygamy as a marriage relationship.   If God changed his mind about this, he has never revealed it to us” (p. 83).
4.  “The only scriptures in the Bible that could be construed to teach that polygamy is adultery are the scriptures where Jesus spoke about marriage and divorce.  In this case, the present indicative of the Greek would have to be continuous action and apply to the relationship of the second wife.  We have disproved that theory in this book.  There is not a single scripture that teaches that polygamy is adultery” (p. 84).
5.  “On the other hand, polygamous marriages are recognized as an honorable relationship throughout the Bible” (p. 86).
6.  “It is important that we teach people to keep their vows when they come into the church, so long as those vows are not evil within themselves” (p. 86).
7.  “It is important that we understand these principles when dealing with societies that practice polygamy, so that we can be consistent in our teaching about keeping vows that we have made” (p. 86).
Edwards teaches that polygamy is acceptable to God.  He further states that we would have no right to tell a polygamist that he must separate from any of his wives.  Basically, he endorses polygamy.  The reason that he does this is to be consistent (point 7 above) in keeping the vows we have made in marriage.  Edwards changes the meaning of “adultery” in Matthew 19:9 to “covenant breaking.”  He changes the function of the present indicative in Matthew 19:9 by changing the kind of action represented by the present tense to an aoristic present (denoting point action) from a progressive present (the ordinary use of the present tense denoting continuous action in present time).  These changes are made (one of defintion and another of grammar)  in order to make adultery a one-time act (the act of covenant breaking or divorcing).  The adultery committed is the act of putting away denoted by the realtive clause.  The result of these changes is that a person who has divorced for any reason can now remarry after repenting of the act of covenant breaking and continue in a new marriage relationship without sin.  When Edwards makes these changes, he is forced to endorse polygamy in order to be consistent.
Problems with this interpretation of Matthew 19:9.
1.  The primary meaning of the word adultery is in reference to a sexual sin not a sin of putting away or divorcing.  The primary meaning of a word is to be used in giving the sense of a passage of scripture unless there is some compelling reason to go to a secondary sense or some other definition.
2.  “Committeth adultery” is a present active indicative verb form.  The present active indicative is the common form of the present tense and refers to continuous action in present time.  Why would Jesus use a rare and uncommon form of the present tense in Matthew 19:9?  It is evident by the reaction of  His disciples that He did not because they understood what He had said as a difficult saying to receive.  Not difficult to understand, but difficult to apply.
3.  The relative clause, “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another” describes action that is antecedent (comes before) to the action of the main verb, committeth adultery.  It is not simultaneous with the action of the main verb as Edwards makes it to be.
4.  Edwards’ manipulation of the definition of adultery, changes in the Greek grammar in Matthew 19:9,  and attempt to make the adultery a one-time event are wrong.
Any doctrine that implies a false doctrine is itself a false doctrine!  Edwards’ doctrine regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage implies that polygamy is permitted by God.  This is false and must be rejected.
The use of Edwards’ arguments concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage forces one to endorse polygamy in order to be consistent.  How many churches with their elderships have accepted Edwards’ teaching without considering that they must now endorse polygamy?

Thoughts on Marriage

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     Marriage–The Promise
     “The playwright Thornton Wilder said it well: I didn’t marry you because you were perfect.  I didn’t marry you even because I loved you.  I married you because you gave me a promise.  That promise made up for your faults.  And the promise I gave you made up for mine.  Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage.  And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them–it was that promise.”  (Ravi Zacharias, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah, p. 45).  Many are afraid of commitment.  They believe that they can have a lasting relationship without it.  This is not true.  In marriage, we take a sacred vow and make a promise “to have and to hold” “until death do us part.”  We must keep that promise.  Jesus said, “Wherefore they are  no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let  not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6).  Keeping the “lock” in wedlock depends upon meeting the responsibility of a commitment to another person made in a sacred promise.
     Marriage–The Service of Love
     “If the first thing about committing the will is that it is a death to yourself, what comes to life is a disposition that seeks to serve.  The one who serves does so with kindness and gentleness.  This is something we almost never think of anymore, that we are called to the service of love.  We are so prone to lay claim to our rights that we bury the demand that calls us to serve.  Our love story shows us in a simple act the beauty of service that has at its heart a kind spirit.” (Zacharias, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah, p. 49).
     Marriage–Lovingkindness
     The Hebrew word translated “lovingkindness” is hesed.  It is the covenantal term for God’s love.  Hesed is the unmerited and generous favor of God.  It is a love that is gentle and always reaching out to the object of that love.  Old Testament scholar Daniel Block describes hesed as “that quality that moves a person to act for the benefit of another without respect to the advantage that it might bring to the one who expresses it…(This) quality is expressed fundamentally in action rather than word or emotion” (Zacharias, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah, p. 51).
     Marriage-Sense of Humor

     Love is like an onion–
     You taste it with delight,
     But when it’s gone you wonder
     Whatever made you bite.
     Love is a funny thing, just like a lizard,
     It curls up ’round your heart and then jumps into your gizzard.’
     Love is swell, it’s so enticing,
     It’s orange gel, it’s strawberry icing,
     It’s chocolate mousse, it’s roasted goose,
     It’s ham on rye, it’s banana pie.
     Love’s all good things without a question;
     In other words, it’s indigestion.
            (Zacharias, I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah, p. 10)