Therefore, people of all cultures and religions--including those who lack faith in God, Christ, or the Bible--are capable of participating in the institution of marriage. However, we who are Christians believe that the fullest understanding of God's will for marriage can be derived from a careful examination of scriptural teachings. It is incumbent upon the church to educate both itself and the larger culture regarding the full breadth and depth of God's intentions for marriage.
Today, marriage and the family are regularly viewed as social conventions that can be entered into and severed by the marital partners at will. As long as a given marriage relationship meets the needs of both individuals involved and is considered advantageous by both sides, the marriage is worth sustaining.
If one or both partners decide that they will be better off by breaking up the marriage and entering into a new, better marital union, nothing can legitimately keep them from pursuing their self-interest, self-realization, and self-fulfillment. To be sure, there is talk about the cost of divorce and the toll exerted on the children caught up in the marital separation of their parents, but even such a toll is considered to be worth paying in order to safeguard the most cherished principles of our independent-minded, freedom-worshipping, individual rights-exalting culture.
If one or both marriage partners want to get out of the marriage, nothing should hold them back, or else the culture's supreme values--individual choice and libertarian freedom--are not given their due. By contrast, the Bible makes clear that, at the root, marriage and the family are not human conventions based merely on a temporary consensus and time-honored tradition. Instead, Scripture teaches that family was God's idea and that marriage is a divine, not merely human, institution.
The implication of this truth is significant indeed, for this means that humans are not free to renegotiate or redefine marriage and the family in any way they choose but that they are called to preserve and respect what has been divinely instituted. This is in keeping with Jesus' words, uttered when his contemporaries asked him about the permissibility of divorce: "What therefore God has joined together let not man separate" Matthew For this reason, marriage is far more than a human social contract; it is a divinely instituted covenant.
But what is a "covenant"? In essence, a covenant is a contract between two parties that is established before God as a witness, a contract whose permanence is ultimately safeguarded by none other than God himself. In this sense, marriage is a covenant: it is entered into by the husband and the wife before God as a witness. Because it is ultimately God who has joined the marriage partners together, the husband and the wife vow to each other abiding loyalty and fidelity "till death do us part.
For this reason, it is not self-interest, human advantage, or an unfettered commitment to personal freedom that governs the marriage relationship, but the husband and wife's joint commitment to conduct their marriage based on God's design and sovereign plan. Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God and normally consummated by sexual intercourse. God's plan for the marriage covenant involves at least the following five vital principles:.
Marriage represents a serious commitment that should not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. It involves a solemn promise or pledge, not merely to one's marriage partner, but before God. Divorce is not permitted except in a very limited number of biblically prescribed circumstances see Divorce below.
Hence, a "same-sex marriage" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Since Scripture universally condemns homosexual relationships see further under Homosexuality below God will never sanction a marital bond between two members of the same sex. Marriage involves "leaving" one's family of origin and "being united" to one's spouse, which signifies the establishment of a new family unit distinct from the two originating families. While "one flesh" suggests sexual intercourse and normally procreation, at its very heart the concept entails the establishment of a new kinship relationship between two previously unrelated individuals and families by the most intimate of human bonds.
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The marriage partners are to be first and foremost concerned about the wellbeing of the other person and to be committed to each other in steadfast love and devotion. This involves the need for forgiveness and restoration of the relationship in the case of sin. Mutuality, however, does not mean sameness in role. Scripture is clear that wives are to submit to their husbands and to serve as their "suitable helpers," while husbands are to bear the ultimate responsibility for the marriage before God Ephesians ; Colossians ; see also Genesis , This means that no other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife.
For this reason, Jesus treated sexual immorality of a married person, including even a husband's lustful thoughts, with utmost seriousness Matthew ; For the same reason, premarital sex is also illegitimate, since it violates the exclusive claims of one's future spouse. As the Song of Solomon makes clear, only in the secure context of an exclusive marital bond can free and complete giving of oneself in marriage take place. Knowing the divine ideal for marriage, and aware that marriage and the family are divine institutions, we are now able to move from God's creation of man and woman and his institution of marriage to the Fall of humanity and its negative consequences on the marriage relationship.
As a study of biblical history shows, humanity's rebellion against the Creator's purposes led to at least the following six negative consequences: 1 polygamy; 2 divorce; 3 adultery; 4 homosexuality; 5 sterility; and 6 gender role confusion. The first shortcoming, polygamy --more specifically, polygyny, marrying multiple wives--violates God's instituted pattern of marital monogamy. While it was certainly within God's prerogative and power to make more than one wife for the man, God only made Eve.
Yet within six generations after the fall of humanity, barely after Adam had died, Lamech took two wives Genesis However, not only did polygamous marriage fall short of God's original design, it regularly resulted in disruptive favoritism, jealousy between competing wives, and decline into idolatry.
The second compromise of God's ideal for marriage was divorce , which disrupted the permanence of marriage. While divorce became so common that it had to be regulated in the Mosaic code Deuteronomy , the Bible makes clear that God hates divorce Malachi Divorce is also used repeatedly as an analogy for spiritual apostasy Isaiah ; Jeremiah A third shortcoming was adultery , the breaking of one's marriage vows. The Decalogue stipulates explicitly, "You shall not commit adultery" Exodus ; Deuteronomy An egregious case of adultery was David's sin with Bathsheba 2 Samuel In cases such as these, the principle of marital fidelity to one's marriage partner was compromised.
The Book of Proverbs calls adultery both foolish and dangerous e. Proverbs ; ; ; ; In the Old Testament, adultery is frequently used as an analogy to depict the spiritual unfaithfulness of God's people Israel Jeremiah ; Ezekiel , 38; Hosea Homosexuality , fourth, marks another falling away from God's creation purposes in that it violates the divine will for marriage to be between one man and one woman.
As Genesis stipulates, "A man [masculine] shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife [feminine], and the two shall become one flesh. Since homosexuality involves same-sex intercourse that cannot lead to procreation, it is unnatural and cannot logically entail the possibility of marriage. A fifth shortcoming of God's ideal for marriage is sterility , which falls short of the fertility desired by the Creator.
Fertility is implicit in the biblical reference to the "one flesh" union. At times, lack of fertility is said in the Old Testament to be the result of personal sin Genesis ; 2 Samuel , while on other occasions sterility is presented as a simple fact of fallen nature Genesis ; ; ; 1 Samuel However, God is often shown to answer prayers for fertility offered by his people in faith e. Gender role confusion is a sixth and final result of humanity's rebellion against the Creator. Where God's design for man and woman to be distinct yet complementary partners in procreation and stewardship of God's earth is diluted, people will inexorably be confused about what it means to be masculine or feminine, and the lines between the two sexes made by God will increasingly be blurred.
Despite the above-mentioned ways in which God's original design for marriage and the family was compromised, however, the Bible in the Old Testament continues to extol the virtues of the excellent wife Proverbs and to celebrate the beauty of sex in marriage Song of Solomon.
What is the biblical purpose of sex?
The New Testament teaches that the restoration of God's original design for marriage in Christ is part of God's realignment of all things under Christ's authority and lordship. In the book of Ephesians, we read that it is God's purpose "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" Ephesians , NIV.
Thus marriage is not an end in itself but part of God's end-time restoration of all things in the person of Jesus Christ. Part of this restoration is that all evil powers are brought under control and are submitted to the supreme authority of Christ Ephesians Later on in the same letter, Paul addresses the subject of marriage in general, and marital roles in particular, within the larger context of believers needing to be filled with the Holy Spirit Ephesians What is the biblical pattern for marriage? This is best seen in a close study of the pre-eminent passage on marital roles in the New Testament, Ephesians In this passage, instructions are given to both husbands and wives in form of a "house table," which features commands given first to the person under authority followed by instructions for the person in a position of authority.
In keeping with this pattern, the passage addresses first wives, then husbands Ephesians ; first children, then parents Ephesians ; and first slaves, and then masters Ephesians ; similar "house tables" are also found in Colossians and 1 Peter Wives, for their part, are called to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord.
God's Purpose for Sex and Marriage | United Church of God
As the church submits to Christ, so wives should to their husbands in everything Ephesians Husbands, in turn, are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. They are to provide for their wives both physically and spiritually and to cherish them as God's special provision for them Ephesians As Christian husbands and wives live out these marital roles, God's original creation design for marriage will be fulfilled once again: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" Ephesians , citing Genesis But these noble ideals are here gravely misapplied.
When society systematically denies the difference between male and female in law and custom, our fundamental dignity is diminished, the image of God within us is obscured, unreality becomes legally established, and those who refuse to conform are regarded as irrational bigots. But children are a gift, not a right. Forgetting this adds powerful pressure for the expansion of radical forms of reproductive technology—such as sperm and egg donation along with surrogacy, which involves contracting with a woman for the carrying of a pregnancy for intended parents. Freedom itself is severely compromised when our speech about the difference and complementarity of male and female must be policed, and any dissent from the new orthodoxies assiduously suppressed.
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It is increasingly difficult to affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman without being ruled outside the boundaries of reasonable public conversation. And once opposition to same-sex marriage is judged to be discriminatory, no institution that declines to substitute unreality for reality will remain unaffected. Some individuals are already being censured and others have lost their jobs because of their public commitment to marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
As Christians, we must state, unambiguously, that same-sex marriage contradicts the Gospel.
As we have noted, Holy Scripture teaches that marriage, as ordered by God, is a mysterious sign of the union of Christ and the Church. This sign is dependent on the profound complementarity of male and female. A conception of marriage that allows for same-sex unions denies this element of difference, rendering it unable to signify the mystical union of Christ and his Church.
Moreover, we share the widespread and proper desire of Christians today to repent of injustices against those who experience same-sex attraction, and to discern more effective ways for all single people to participate in the life of the Church. However, faithful Christian witness cannot accommodate itself to same-sex marriage. It disregards the created order, threatens the common good, and distorts the Gospel. This marital union is intended to be permanent and is fully consummated in consensual sexual intercourse open to procreation. In affirming this we do not dispute the evident fact of hormonal and chromosomal irregularities, nor of different sexual attractions and desires.
As Christians, however, we must insist that our sexual desires, orientations, and proclivities do not provide a basis for redefining marriage. As is the case in all aspects of human life, our inclinations, desires, and actions must be judged by the Word of God Rom. We must also reject the contemporary presumption—which is widespread and even influences our churches in many ways—that human fulfillment requires the satisfaction of sexual desire.
Thus, with two thousand years of Christian tradition, we affirm that the integral development of the human person is possible without sexual intimacy. Freely choosing celibacy or living the single life in faithfulness to Christ offers a unique kind of service to the Church and the world. Throughout history and across all cultures, marriage has been understood to be the union of male and female and is organized around the procreative potential of that union.
Rituals and forms of marriage are extraordinarily diverse, and conditions for dissolution vary widely. But across all cultures marriage seeks to establish a permanent bond that promotes marital fidelity, not least for the raising of children. The truth about marriage, accessible to all and ennobled by revelation, is being systematically dismantled and dismissed as hoary prejudice. How and why such a cultural and legal revolution has taken place so quickly is for historians and sociologists to explain.
Our task is different. We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages. Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law. If the truth about marriage can be displaced by social and political pressure operating through the law, other truths can be set aside as well.
The same exaltation of false freedom used to justify abortion—the liberty to redefine the very nature of the human person—is now at work in the revolution of same-sex marriage. When the autonomous will of man dictates morality—and even reality—life will be defined for the benefit of the powerful and at the expense of the weak, the order of creation will be violated, and the Gospel itself will eventually be declared an enemy of society. We thus face a difficult and dangerous situation. A society that identifies the two parties in marriage as Spouse 1 and Spouse 2 has lost sight of a deep truth of human nature.
We must do everything in our power to distinguish this falsification of marriage from its true form as the lifelong union of a man and a woman. In some contexts, consistent testimony to the truth about marriage may require clergy to refuse to serve as officers of the state by signing marriage licenses.