Christian Churches of God
(Edition 2.0 20001220-20070730)
Marriage is the most important institution in the nation. It is the basis of the nation and reflects on the physical plane our relationship with God and Christ on a spiritual plane. It is so fundamental that the salvation of all humanity is predicated on a correct understanding and implementation of these relationships among the elect as brides of Christ in the nation of Israel.
The Adamic creation
In looking at marriage we first need to go back to the beginning, to the creation of mankind.
Satan had already rebelled against God over this matter. He thought he could do as well, if not better, the job of running the universe (Ezek. 28:1-10).
It appears that he resented the creation of the human species and set out initially to create his own species, e.g. the dinosaurs, the Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon man, etc.
Satan was present in the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve were warned very specifically of the foods they could and could not eat. It should be remembered that in the Bible food can also mean spiritual food, hence we are to be discerning in what we choose to learn. Satan’s message was the food they were warned against eating. He set out from the time of the Adamic creation to destroy the relationship of humans with God.
In creating a wife for Adam, God was setting the scene for a stable environment in which a man and woman can grow together in a loving relationship and provide for their children. One of the earliest lessons for Adam was the naming of each of the creatures that had been made. By showing him his responsibilities towards the creatures and the tending of the garden, Adam was also being taught that he was to take responsibility for the physical and emotional needs of his family.
God, through Christ, gave a set of laws to govern the life of the individual and the society based on His nature and to picture the type of relationship we should have with Him. Thus the family is central to the Law of God. The laws in relation to the family are: the Fifth Commandment, in honouring our parents; the Sixth in the sanctity of life and in enhancing the life of our spouse, our children, the extended family, the society and the nation; the Seventh Commandment where adultery is forbidden; the Eighth Commandment dealing with theft; the Ninth Commandment where false witness is forbidden; and the Tenth Commandment regarding coveting another’s wife, etc.
The family is in fact affected wherever the Law is broken. Central to the family is God.
Establishment of authority
What is a family? The family is the nucleus of the system. It starts with two individuals, father and mother, followed by children; but it is much bigger than that. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon Press 1962, 1980, pp.238f.) states:
Since marriage was patriarchal – ie. father-centred – among the people of the Bible, the family was a community of persons, related by ties of marriage and kinship, and ruled by the authority of the father. The biblical family, especially when marriage was polygamous, was large. It included the father, mother(s), sons, daughters, brothers, sisters (until their marriage,), grandparents, other kinsmen, as well as servants, concubines, and sojourners (aliens). The Israelites were encouraged to have large families, for economic as well as religious reasons. The family grew both by birth and by covenants made with other groups and individuals. The solidarity of the family was maintained by its organisation around the father figure and by application of the principle of retributive justice in terms of corporate (family) responsibility.
It further states that:
The family functioned as a religious community, preserving past traditions and passing them on through instruction and worship. Forces that threatened the integrity and security of the family, such as economic change and the influence of alien cultures and religions, were vigorously opposed by many of the biblical writers. The importance of the family is to be seen in the projection of this concept beyond the boundaries of the family as such. It then refers to Hebrew tribes, the nations of Israel and Judah, foreign nations, and to all Israel, viewed as a community of faith rather than as a nation. In the New Testament it identifies the Christian community as well.
Thus we see that the family extends to kin, and also includes any servants and visitors, clan or tribe, and then to the nation. The health and well-being of the smaller units become reflected in the society as a whole. The family operated under the Laws of God and therefore the nation also (cf. Law and the Fifth Commandment (No. 258)).
The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Inter-Varsity Press, Tyndale House Publishers, 1980, Part I, p. 500) states that:
While at the creation monogamy seemed to have been intended, polygamy (polygyny not polyandry) is found.
That this was not God’s plan is shown by the prophetic representation of Israel as the sole bride of God (Is. 50:1; 54:6-7; 62:4-5; Je. 2:2; Ezk. 15; Ho. 2:4f.).
Let us have a brief look at these terms.
The biblical laws and status of a slave, bondwoman, concubine, etc., were different to those of a free woman. A concubine was a woman who was sold to another. She was sometimes called a paid servant.
Exodus 21:8 shows that where a woman was sold by her father to be a maidservant to another who betrothed her to himself and she did not please him, he could not sell her again to foreigners. Furthermore, if she was bought for his son then he was to treat her as he would a daughter. In verse 10, if he married again he had to give the bondwoman food, clothes and normal marital relations. If he failed to give her one of these she could go free without paying him any compensation.
If a man had sexual relations with a concubine/bondmaid who was betrothed to a husband as in the above situation, she would be whipped for her action but not killed, as she was not free.
Further Scriptures relating to betrothal are found in Deuteronomy 20:7 and 28:30.
The word betrothed used in the New Testament is mnesteuoo (SGD 3423). However, it is only used three times, in Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:27 and Luke 2:5. These Scriptures talk of Mariam being a virgin who is espoused or betrothed to Joseph. Mariam was his wife even though the formal marriage had not yet taken place and had not been consummated.
The word wife is generally translated from either the New Testament gune (SGD 1135) or Old Testament 'ishshah (SHD 802). Both have the same meaning and it is a generic term for female meaning wife, woman, virgin, or a betrothed woman. This word is often translated as wife for a woman who is a virgin and betrothed to someone (see Lk. 2:5; Deut. 20:7, and others). A virgin is a wife when betrothed, as she is bonded to a man. He is from that moment her husband.
Bigamy occurs where a man takes a second wife without the knowledge of the first wife or the second wife. This is against the law of most countries and monogamy is enforced by law in many of those countries.
Polygamy was widespread in Israel and simply means multiple marriages usually within the same family group. David and Solomon both had many wives. Islam allows four wives and early Judaism allowed as many as four and sometimes five wives. The king was allowed up to eighteen wives.
1Timothy 3:2 states that a Bishop of the Church may be the husband of only one wife. The interpretation of that statement is within the Law of God. He may remarry on her death or divorce. The laws of the country are to be upheld in this issue, and, indeed, in looking at the examples of Sarah and Hagar, and of Rachel and Leah, it is clear that it is not always an ideal situation (cf. the paper Rachel and the Law (No. 281)).
There is also the command for a man to ensure that the widow of his brother is married and given a son to continue the inheritance under the levirate law (cf. The Sin of Onan (No. 162)).
While the biblical records provide many examples of polygamous marriages, the Bible also shows that monogamy was the general practice. The Genesis account clearly shows that monogamous marriages were the ideal (Gen. 2:24). Normally, there would be a specific reason for additional wives, such as the need to provide an heir when the wife was barren or had been widowed before a child was conceived. Protection for women would also be a reason. The New Testament also clearly shows that monogamy was the general rule, or at least the encouraged practice among the ministry.
God ordained families as the basis upon which the State is built.
Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (RSV)
(See the paper Law and the Sixth Commandment (No. 259).)
All of us are subject to authority. Many women today resent the biblical injunction to be subject to their husbands. A proper understanding of the role of the family and marriage should dispel any such resentment in the Christian woman.
God created Adam (Gen. 2:7) and set him in the Garden of Eden. He was given responsibility for naming all the life forms as created by God. He was to tend the land and provide food from it. In other words, mankind had authority over and possession of the Earth and its occupants, which also included bird and sea life. This was not a licence to kill and destroy just because we could, but an injunction to preserve, nurture and correctly utilise the Earth and all that is in it. This great responsibility was to be exercised according to the Laws of God, and mankind is answerable to God for the way in which this responsibility is utilised. Adam was taught these laws (see The Doctrine of Original Sin Part I The Garden of Eden (No. 246)).
From the time of the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan has been undermining our relationship with God. We have been inundated with false religions and false systems of government over the centuries.
One of the best ways to destroy a nation is to destroy the family. Over the last few decades marriage has been attacked on a systematic basis. It is no longer a scandal for people to live together outside of marriage. It is no longer a crime to participate in same-sex relationships. Paul called this a doctrine of demons, which would come into vogue in the Last Days (see the paper The Doctrines of Demons of the Last Days (No. 48)).
The aim is to break down society and thus destroy vision and hope and security for the next generation. The attack on the concept of creation also destroys vision and hope. If there is no creation, what purpose is there in life?
The relationship between mankind and God is being destroyed by false education, with the result that we now have multiple religions. Sexual permissiveness not only damages relationships, but also undermines the physical and spiritual health of the nation and the well-being of the next generation.
We are seeing an increase in violence. Domestic arguments escalate into physical violence, causing injuries to wives and children. The increasing divorce rate is violence to both spouse and children.
The exposure to violence through the media sears our consciences. Our children no longer look in horror at killing. They see it on the news, they see it on films, and they play at killing on their computer games. It is a program of desensitisation, and morality and ethics are being undermined.
There is a reduction in the concept of the sanctity of life. Euthanasia has been discussed in great detail in recent years as has cloning, especially for the use of spare body parts. Human sacrifice was common for many years in the past and probably still occurs today. Our public holidays, particularly the American ones, take place on the days of human sacrifice of the pagan systems.
We are also seeing an erosion of the law. There is a relativity to crime; a hierarchy of sin. Some crimes are more ‘acceptable’ than others. The Bible states that to break one Commandment is to break all of them.
We see an acceptance of perversion. The laws are being changed to legalise many perversions. Same-sex marriage is now legal. Adoption of children within these relationships is becoming permissible. All this is designed to destroy the family, making marriage irrelevant; and de facto relationships become transient.
The institution of marriage
Man was not intended to be alone. He was to have a helper (Gen. 2:18).
Genesis 2:18-25 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (RSV)
This was the first marriage and as God was central to that marriage, so too is He central to all marriages.
Marriage is a spiritual union of one flesh. Christ had much to say about it and made a serious injunction to the elect regarding marriage and divorce (see the paper Law and the Seventh Commandment (No. 260)).
Matthew 19:1-12 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" 4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 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'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." 11 But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." (RSV)
2Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Be'lial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (RSV)
Marriage is a Covenant with God
Marriage is not simply a means of procreation. However, given the instruction to go forth and multiply, procreation is obviously an important part of marriage. Procreation outside of marriage is dealt with under the laws forbidding adultery and fornication (see Law and the Seventh Commandment (No. 260)). The Sixth Commandment deals not only with the importance of not killing, but also with the responsibility of actually enhancing life. The lives of children brought up outside of marriage can in many cases be of a lesser quality. So also is the quality of life lessened for children where divorce occurs. It is not just the financial problems faced by children of single parents that are at issue; it is the loss of loved ones and proper role models that really affect their lives.
Christ spoke about a particular domestic relationship in John 4:16-18.
John 4:16-18 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 17 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." (RSV)
Christ clearly sees a difference between marriage and ‘de facto’ relationships and does not recognise ‘de facto’ relationships as marriage.
Marriage appears to be very much a physical matter. There is no marriage after the Second Resurrection (Mat. 22:29-30). However, we need to look at the spiritual aspect of marriage before we look at the physical, because all things have a spiritual aspect – and we must not lose sight of this fact.
Israel is married to God. The Church is married to Messiah, who was the Yahovah-elohim of the Old Testament. All nations are to come into Israel as the future Temple of God under their High Priest, Israel’s elohim (cf. Ps. 45:6-7 and Heb. 1:8-9; and the paper Law and the Seventh Commandment (No. 260)).
All validly baptised adults (from age 20) are part of the Body of Christ. As such they are all brides of Christ (see Trumpets (No. 136) Part II: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb).
Christ did not marry as a man here on Earth because he was already betrothed to the Church, that is, to those who are part of the Body of Christ. Betrothal, as indicated above, is quasi-marriage in that the promise has been made. Understanding this is most important, as our earthly marriages are to reflect this heavenly state.
1Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (RSV)
The woman is a type of the Church and as such must set a good example. The man as a type of Christ must also act accordingly and, as Christ is responsible to God, so man is to Christ, and woman is to man – and all are to God. God ties all this together, being all in all through the Holy Spirit.
Christ as head of man
Christ is the example we have been given. He has provided us with the ‘blueprint’. As the Angel of God, he provided us with a set of laws and ordinances by which to live. These laws provide for our physical health, nourishment, clothing, rest, prevention of and response to illness, and also our dealings with one another. The Bible covers all aspects of our lives and how to live them within the Law. Christ as a man showed us how to live within those laws. He died sinless. He also set the example that he who would be master must also serve (Jn. 13:12-15); and that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn. 15:13). In all things he was obedient to God. This is the critical point: obedience to God.
Man as head of woman
Ephesians 5:24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. (RSV)
The authority of the husband is for the betterment of his wife and family and not for his own self-aggrandisement. She is not his slave, but his helper, his support. See Proverbs 31 below. The wife exercises great authority in her own right, managing her household and her children. She is a type of the Church and as such she is the example by which her family will learn their responsibilities towards God, the family, and society. Read also the paper Proverbs 31 (No. 114).
The husband’s decisions would be made after full discussion with his wife, looking to her for wisdom and counsel. In a normal healthy relationship each decision is usually mutually agreed upon. However, where agreement is not possible the husband makes the final decision in the best interests of the family as a whole. This is not the submissiveness of a slave to a master, but the willing submission by the wife to authority in love.
Paul tells us that wives are to submit to their husbands, but that husbands are to love their wives. Love of God means to serve God and to worship only God. A husband’s love is to serve the needs of his wife and can be compared with the redemptive work of Christ for the Church.
Ephesians 5:21-33 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (RSV)
Husbands need to remember that their wives have special needs. This is especially so during menstrual times and pregnancy. Women go about the usual tasks but their husbands should ensure that they have spiritual and emotional peace during these times. A husband has a responsibility to look after his wife’s health (see the paper Purification and Circumcision (No. 251)).
A husband has significant responsibilities in regard to any vow his wife may utter.
Numbers 30:1-16 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, "This is what the LORD has commanded. 2 When a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. 3 Or when a woman vows a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house, in her youth, 4 and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself, and says nothing to her; then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father expresses disapproval to her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself, shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her, because her father opposed her. 6 And if she is married to a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it, and says nothing to her on the day that he hears; then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he expresses disapproval, then he shall make void her vow which was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips, by which she bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her. 9 But any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her. 10 And if she vowed in her husband's house, or bound herself by a pledge with an oath, 11 and her husband heard of it, and said nothing to her, and did not oppose her; then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband makes them null and void on the day that he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning her pledge of herself, shall not stand: her husband has made them void, and the LORD will forgive her. 13 Any vow and any binding oath to afflict herself, her husband may establish, or her husband may make void. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he establishes all her vows, or all her pledges, that are upon her; he has established them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he heard of them. 15 But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity." 16 These are the statutes which the LORD commanded Moses, as between a man and his wife, and between a father and his daughter, while in her youth, within her father's house. (RSV)
A husband is responsible for the security of his family. This is both a physical and a spiritual requirement. At 2Thessalonians 3:10, Paul states that if anyone does not work, neither should he eat; in which case, neither does his family eat. Working for the family and working in order to assist the Church to preach the Gospel throughout all nations are both part of this injunction: one to provide the physical needs of the family, and the other to provide the spiritual food for both the family and the nation to which we also have a responsibility.
Also, a man who does not provide for his own family is worse than an unbeliever.
1Timothy 5:8 If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (RSV)
A man needs also to develop his relationship with his wife when first married. This is a time to learn to live together in love and harmony.
Deuteronomy 24:5 "When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, to be happy with his wife whom he has taken. (RSV)
When biblical authority is broken, and the underpinning of God’s Law is taken away, the result is what we see today. Marriages flounder, relationships fall apart, children are taken from one or other parent and grandparents lose their grandchildren. The family is torn apart by divorce, as are the nations by the extension of this same deliberate turning away from the Laws of God. The result is war, whether it is within a family, a society or extended to nations.
What the Bible does teach us is that a marriage entered into under God’s Laws is the grounding for sound relationships with healthy, happy children, who will grow into adulthood in a secure environment and able to teach their own children the right way of living, under the Laws of God.
Tragically, all authority is not discharged under God faithfully, and thus we do not have any society currently living under the ideal system as set down for us. Those of us who try to establish the Laws of God in our own lives have been persecuted for thousands of years and will continue to be persecuted until Christ comes. Let that not stop us.
For a marriage to be based on a firm foundation it must therefore be based on a thorough understanding of God’s Laws. Husbands and wives should study together. Ideally the man must be mature and stable, able to support his wife financially, emotionally and spiritually. He must be able to develop and maintain the respect of his wife and he must be sure of his ability to love her. God hates divorce; it is an act of violence to his wife and any children they may have. Adultery is the only grounds for divorce. Adultery is a breach of the Seventh Commandment. Lies, stealing, bearing false witness and coveting a neighbour’s wife, property or other goods will utterly destroy any respect one has for another. By mistreating his wife a man is not love her as a husband should. He is to love her as his own body. Only a sick man beats or abuses himself, therefore there is no place in marriage for such abuse towards his family.
Responsibilities of a wife
1Corinthians 11:11-12 (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.) (RSV)
The woman is the man’s helper, his counterpart, his image. Thus, while ideally there should be similarity in culture and race, it is more important that there is agreement in religious belief. Where there is difference in creed, one can lead the other into idolatry. Idolatry is akin to adultery.
The role of the woman is portrayed in Proverbs 31.
Proverbs 31:10-31 A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (RSV)
She has the trust of her husband, she manages her household, and she can buy and sell, and manage a business. She cares for the needs of her family, the poor and the needy. She is wise and kind. She is not lazy. Her children and her husband praise her. This is a tall order for any woman. Remember, the woman is also a type of the Church. Collectively she can do all these things if she is in obedience to God. As an individual, the woman aims for this ideal and with God and her husband’s help, she will achieve it (cf. also the papers Proverbs 31 (No.114) and Role of the Christian Woman (No. 62)).
Women must not expect to take precedence over their husband’s work. He is to provide for his family, and to undermine his position at work or his pride in his work is to undermine the man himself. It is one of the woman’s roles to uplift and encourage her husband. With her encouragement he can ‘sit in the gates’. This means he can take responsibility in the community and be part of the decision making as a respected member of his community.
A wife must support her husband in all things. Once a decision has been made, it is the responsibility of both to make it work. Where there is no unity between parents, children will suffer. There will be inconsistency in discipline and training.
Loyalty from a wife is most important. In fact, lack of loyalty is bordering on adultery. There have been many incidences where a wife has allowed the ministry to influence her to the extent that she has put their views ahead of those of her husband. These priests and ministers have deliberately encouraged a pseudo-adulterous relationship. This happens when counselling requested from the Church is only provided to the one requesting it. All counselling within a marriage needs to be provided to both, or the problem is not likely to be resolved.
Older women should help and encourage the younger, newly married wives.
Titus 2:3-5 Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited. (RSV)
One of the most important roles of the wife is motherhood. Rearing children is the most important task there is, as they are the future of the nations. If parents do not raise children to be responsible citizens, understanding the Laws of God and being able to live in obedience to them, then they have failed. We cannot take responsibility for the decisions they make as adults, but we must take responsibility for teaching them the Laws of God and thus giving them the opportunity to make right decisions and living godly lives.
This responsibility is also on the education system. They are not taught the Laws of God because the teachers themselves do not understand the Laws of God. Do they keep the Sabbath? Do they teach God’s Holy Days and Feasts? Or do they teach the pagan gods, along with birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Halloween and other such pagan days? (See the papers The Cross: Its Origin and Significance (No. 39); The Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235); The Pinata (No. 276); Birthdays (No. 287)). Our children are not being given the chance they deserve. We must ensure our children know the Commandments of God.
The responsibility to children
Deuteronomy 5:16 "`Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you. (RSV)
The Fifth Commandment is very important. It is not simply talking to young children in relation to their parents. It is also talking to adults in relation to their elderly parents and the elderly in the society. It is talking to all of us in our relationship with our Father in Heaven and with the Church.
As stated previously parents are to teach their children the Laws of God. They are to be consistent in this teaching. Parents need to watch their own behaviour so that their children can respect and honour them. Children are very quick to see double standards and hypocrisy. We can not expect our children to do as we tell them unless we also live by those same standards.
Proverbs 4:1-27 Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight; 2 for I give you good precepts: do not forsake my teaching. 3 When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, 4 he taught me, and said to me, "Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live; 5 do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Get wisdom; get insight. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. 7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. 8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. 9 She will place on your head a fair garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown." 10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. 11 I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. 12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble. 13 Keep hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. 14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men. 15 Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. 16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made some one stumble. 17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. 18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. 19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. 20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. 22 For they are life to him who finds them, and healing to all his flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Take heed to the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (RSV)
Proverbs is full of wise advice, not just for the young but for the older ones too.
It is important that children are taught the meaning of marriage within the context of the Covenant with God. As children they are sanctified in their parents, but on adulthood at 20 years of age they become responsible for their own relationship with God and their potential to be brides of Christ. Parents must equip the children to do this. To deny children the knowledge of God and His Laws is to deny them their chance to be in the First Resurrection. While God can and does intervene according to His will, it remains our responsibility to train our young correctly.
Children brought up by parents who are in disagreement, disobedient to God or divorced, will not develop a right understanding. Children brought up by single parents miss out on the dual role of both father and mother and it is here that the Church should help. Members can be role models for the children of single parents, providing hospitality and friendship. The Church can provide social activities to encourage the development of friendships among the young people. Children should be encouraged to invite these friends home.
Marriage with an unconverted spouse
Many marriages occur prior to being called into the Faith and it often happens that one spouse is called and not the other. This can cause many problems within a marriage. The one called needs to be very patient and caring. The uncalled spouse cannot understand the need to put God first in all things. They find themselves feeling displaced in the affections of their spouse. Husbands send money to the Church that the wife feels is needed more for the family. Wives leave their unconverted husbands, and when necessary their children, at home when attending Feasts and Holy Days. They don’t just take a few hours to go to Church but take a week or more twice a year! How can their spouse understand this? Further problems occur regarding which religious instruction is to be provided to their children.
Paul says at 1Corinthians 7:12-16:
12 To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. 16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? (RSV).
While Paul admits this is not of the Spirit, it is sound advice.
Mark 10:2-12 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." 5 But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.' 7 `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (RSV)
Christ here explains the law concerning divorce.
At 1Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul says:
1Corinthians 7:10-11 To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
Divorce is violence. The Bible gives adultery as the only grounds for divorce. Spiritual adultery is idolatry. In our relationship to God, divorce means death. In our relationship with each other it is the destruction of our lives and the lives of our children. Children may be torn from a loved one, being separated from father or mother, grandparents and other relatives. They often blame themselves.
It is a Commandment of God that neither man nor woman should divorce their partner just because their partner does not believe as they do. The family is sanctified in the marriage and the believer will never know how, or if, their example has an effect on the other members of the family. However, if the unbelieving partner chooses to leave, then divorce is permissible.
Where there is abuse of a spouse or children there is no requirement to live in that situation. The abusive spouse is not acting within his or her responsibilities, and if counselling does not resolve the issue the safety and welfare of the family has to be taken care of. It is then permissible to leave the marriage.
Romans 7:2-3 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. (RSV)
If a man divorces his wife he should not remarry. In the event of her repentance he should take her back and remarry her.
Where the marriage is one of unequal yoking, that is, where one of the partners is not called and chooses to leave the marriage and be divorced, the other is free to marry again.
The unmarried state
Marriage is the ideal relationship between man and woman. Man was not intended to live alone. However, there are many situations where this is not possible. There is no sin in not being married.
Matthew 19:12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." (RSV)
However, there is sin in forbidding marriage.
1Timothy 4:1-3 .Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (RSV)
Paul gave much advice on the issue.
1Corinthians 7:27-40 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. 29 I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away. 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. 36 If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry -- it is no sin. 37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. 38 So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. 39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God. (RSV)
These Scriptures have been much misunderstood. Paul’s opinion here is that one should stay in the state that one was in when called – that is, if married stay married and if single stay single. There is no sin in either. This comment should not be taken to mean that Paul was against marriage or women. At that time he seemed to believe that Christ’s return was imminent and based his opinion on that assumption. He goes on to give sound marriage counselling. Putting the needs of the other first will bond a couple in unity, enabling them to become one flesh.
There are injunctions that prevent inappropriate marriages.
Leviticus 18:1-30 And the LORD said to Moses, 2 "Say to the people of Israel, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall do my ordinances and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances, by doing which a man shall live: I am the LORD. 6 "None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or born abroad. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's near kinswoman. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's near kinswoman. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; she is your brother's nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are your near kinswomen; it is wickedness. 18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is yet alive. 19 "You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 And you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, and defile yourself with her. 21 You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion. 24 "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves; 25 and the land became defiled, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for all of these abominations the men of the land did, who were before you, so that the land became defiled); 28 lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For whoever shall do any of these abominations, the persons that do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs which were practiced before you, and never to defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God." (RSV)
There are further limitations on marriage. The priesthood can only have one wife. This, of course, is the ideal condition of the elect. Leviticus 21:7-15 states that the priesthood may not marry a whore or a divorced woman. As the elect we must look at the implications of this and apply these injunctions to ourselves, as we are to be kings and priests.
Unnatural relationships are also forbidden.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. (RSV)
We see this also in Romans 1:18-32:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; 21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. 29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them. (RSV)
Verse 26 shows that this also applies to lesbian relationships.
Relationships with each other
The demons are trying to undermine the concept of marriage in order to prevent the nations from keeping the Law.
1Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (RSV)
All of us have a responsibility to behave towards all people as if they are family.
1Timothy 5:1-16 Do not rebuke an older man but exhort him as you would a father; treat younger men like brothers, 2 older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity. 3 Honor widows who are real widows. 4 If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 She who is a real widow, and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; 6 whereas she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command this, so that they may be without reproach. 8 If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband; 10 and she must be well attested for her good deeds, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. 11 But refuse to enrol younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, 12 and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from house to house, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households, and give the enemy no occasion to revile us. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are real widows. (RSV)
Marriage is central to society. If we learn to relate to our spouse and teach our children correctly as set out in the Bible, as part of society, we will develop first a group, then a nation, and ultimately a world that will reflect the teaching of Christ. Christianity will take on its true meaning and there will be one Lord and one Faith.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. (RSV)