SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE
Our culture has witnessed a steady dissolution of the biblical view of marriage, evidenced in a rise in the practice of cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, marital unfaithfulness and divorce. Even the very definition of marriage is being debated by our society. More than ever before, we must look to the scriptures to understand God’s design for marriage.
A. The Biblical Teaching
God’s plan for marriage1 is an exclusive, life-long covenant2 between a man and a woman,3 establishing a mutually supportive relationship4 that reflects God’s love for His Church.5 Marriage provides the framework for relational intimacy,6 sexual fulfillment,7 and raising children.8 (The following discusses each part of the statement.)
1. “God’s plan for marriage…” Marriage is a spiritual union created by God and legally recognized by the state. Couples who desire success in their marriage must seek to follow God’s design for marriage, developing a union that is emotionally, physically and spiritually fulfilling.
- Husbands and wives will encounter many challenges that will test their marriage (1 Cor 7:28). Therefore, it is wise for couples to seek guidance from the Lord, from mature believers and from professional counselors.
- While God has a plan for marriage, he does not plan that all be married (Mt 19:12; 1 Cor 7:8,25-28,32-35). The single person who is fully devoted to the Lord and the work of the kingdom is commended. Those who forbid marriage are to be guarded against as false teachers (1 Tim 4:1-3).
2. “… is an exclusive, life-long covenant…” Marriage is entered into through a public or private ceremony where the relationship is ratified by a recognized legal authority.
- Marriage is an earthly relationship that is meant to last until the couple is separated by death (Mt 19:6; 22:30; 1 Cor 7:39).
- Divorce is hated by God (Mal 2:16) and is caused by and/or results in much pain and dysfunction in families. Divorce is permissible, thought not preferred, in certain instances, namely sexual immorality (Mt 19:9) and desertion (1 Cor 7:15)
as well as abuse and addiction. Divorce is not an unforgivable sin, and those who have been restored following a divorce should not be prohibited from remarriage and service, (including potential leadership roles), in the church.
3. “…between a man and a woman…” Marriage is designed by God to be the union of a single man and a single woman (1 Cor. 7:2). The Bible forbids homosexuality (Rom 1:24-27) and with it the union of two men or two women. We do not believe the Bible affirms same-sex or polygamous unions, and therefore the church should not.
4. “…establishing a mutually supportive relationship…” In marriage, both husband and wife seek to help their partner grow to full spiritual maturity. The husband is charged to serve and sacrifice for his wife (Eph 5:28-30). The wife is to follow the husband’s leadership in the family. The relationship is based on love and respect, with both husband and wife submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). Although men and women differ in their God-given roles, they possess equal worth before God (Gal. 3:28).
5. “…that reflects God’s love for His church.” The marriage relationship is symbolic of the deep devotion God possesses for his People (Eph 5:25-27). In the book of Revelation, the church is pictured as the bride whom Christ returns to escort away to heaven (Rev 19:6-9).
6. “Marriage provides the framework for relational intimacy…” God said that it was not good for man to be alone, and so created woman to be his companion (Gen 2:18). In marriage, a couple can become soul-mates.
- God’s best is for both husband and wife to be believers. The Scriptures caution believers being united with unbelievers for the fact they do not share a common faith (2 Cor 6:14).
7. “…sexual fulfillment…” In marriage, a man and woman are united, becoming “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). God’s plan is for sexual expression to take place in the security of the marriage relationship (Heb 13:4). The gift of sex is to be reserved solely for one’s spouse. Sexual activity before or outside the marriage is immoral. The willingness to wait until marriage is a sign of self-control and respect (1 Thes 4:3-8). While the Bible does not address couples living together before marriage, the practice is unwise:
- Living together ought to follow the commitment of marriage. Cohabitation puts unhealthy pressure on the couple to commit sin by engaging in sex before marriage (1 Cor 7:1-2, 8-9).
- Living together tarnishes the witness of believers who should desire to live above reproach in the eyes of others (Eph 5:3).
8. “… and raising children.” Adam and Eve were charged to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28). Children are a gift from God (Ps 127:3) and mature best in a home where both father and mother take an active role in their development.
- Due to physical or emotional reasons, not every couple should raise children.
- Parents have an obligation to provide sensitive instruction and training in godliness for their children (Eph 6:4).
- When the husband-wife relationship is given priority, couples are able to fulfill their role as parents more effectively.
- Sometimes a parent must raise children alone. While this is not the ideal situation, God can minister through that parent to help the children mature.
1. As a church, we will teach the Biblical plan for marriage and support legislation that protects the sanctity of marriage. We will not sanction same-sex marriage or allow the church facility to be used for the purpose of endorsing same-sex marriages.
2. We will share information from this statement with couples in teaching and pre-marital/marriage counseling with the hope of establishing and rebuilding stronger marriages.
3. Since a person’s relationship with God takes precedence over all other relationships and determines the health of those relationships, we will seek to disciple people.
4. Before divorce is considered, every measure will be taken to restore the marriage, including marriage training, marriage counseling and possibly separation for the purpose of prayer and restoration. If the relationship does end in divorce, the church will try to mediate and minimize the negative effects of the divorce.
5. The church will seek to provide encouragement and counsel for divorced people, single parents and their children, spouses of unbelievers and those dealing with same-sex attraction.
[Updated and Approved: March 22, 2016]