Statement on Marriage

Equip Rock Ministry, recognizing the authority of God's word has carefully considered and adopted the following statement on Marriage.

With a sex-crazed Western culture brazenly challenging the beauty of God's design for physical intimacy, many Christians have lost the significant biblical understanding of marriage.  Wrong or insufficient views of marriage, chastity, and fidelity are eroding our ability to live God-honoring lives.  Rather than learning and embracing the biblical view of sex, Christians are perhaps unknowingly taking their cues from unreliable sources like television, radio, print media and the internet.

God intended marriage to be a lasting, intimate, personal relationship between a man and a woman.  This union is more than a simple agreement to live together.  The Bible teaches that a married couple, "become one flesh."  This suggests a special relationship of mutual companionship (Genesis 2:18), help (Genesis 2:20), and sexuality (Genesis 2:24).

Defining Marriage

Genesis  2:23-24;  Matthew 19:5-6

  •  A man is to leave his mother & father
  •  A man is to cling/cleave to his wife
  •  They are to become ‘one flesh’
  • What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate

Malachi  2:13-16

  • there is a faith-bond, a vow, a covenant
  • God is there as a witness to your marriage vows

2 Corinthians 11:1-3;  Ephesians 5:21-32

  •  Both the man & the woman are expected to come to marriage as virgins

Genesis  2:23-24;  Matthew 19:5-6  Ephesians 5:31-33

  • “one flesh” entails a life-long exclusive clinging of one man to one woman in one life fully shared.

Genesis 2:23-24; Mark 12:25

  • Marriage includes a giver, a given and a receiver

Marriage pictures a christian’s relationship to Christ

  • spiritual/heart union/bonding  Psalm 34:3;   Ephesians 5:31-33

Marriage is an exclusive companionship/friendship romantic union

  • soul/mind union Song of Solomon 1:15-16

Sexual intimacy is the product or expression of the spiritual and soul unions through  physical/body union  1 Corinthians 7:2-3

To break up a marriage is like tearing apart something God has knit together

  • God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).  The Lord Jesus emphasized this when He said, "What God has joined together, let no one separate" Matthew 19:4-6.  Where a couple separates on non-biblical grounds both need to be challenged about their disobedience to God’s expressed purpose.

As God's intention for a marriage is that it be permanent

  • we need to do all in our power to help and encourage couples to stay together, working at the growth and deepening of their relationship.  The promises made in marriage vows usually include the phases "for richer and for poorer, in sickness or in health, till death us do part" or similar commitments which imply a permanent relationship based on the Biblical model for marriage.

The Biblical model for marriage transcends all cultural norms

  • To justify a breakdown in a relationship based on the retrospective argument of "bad choice" or "incompatibility" or “I no longer love her/him” runs contrary to the biblical teaching on marriage.  Jesus reminds us it is because of “hard hearts” that people want to abandon their marriage (Mark 10:5).
  • “It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored covenant she made before God.  For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.  None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.  Thus you will walk in the ways of good man and keep to the paths of the righteous.” (Proverbs 2:16-20).
  • Unfaithfulness need not lead to divorce where there is genuine repentance expressed in tangible ways.  Humility, forgiveness and restoration of the relationship is the Christian’s preferred choice.

What follows are a series of statements on marriage we believe encapsulates biblical teaching

Key Bible passages: 

  • Genesis 1:18; 2:21-25; Mark 10:5; Ephesians 5:1-33; First Corinthians 7:1-40; First Peter 3:1-9
    1. Marriage is intended by God to be an indissoluble union between an adult male and an adult female and is only to be ended when one of the two persons dies.  The Bible only recognises a hetrosexual marriage.  Genesis 1:28;  2:21-25;  Romans 7:1-4 (“Male” and “Female” as defined biologically, not socially or psychologically
    2. God designed marriage for the purposes of companionship (Genesis 2:18), procreation (Genesis 1:27-28) and pleasure (Deuteronomy 24:5).
    3. The Bible indicates that there are a number of common components to weddings:

    • a) The choice of a spouse - Genesis 2:18;  21:22;  24:1-67
    • b) Parents and friends give their blessing. Genesis 24:60;  27:27  Ruth 4:11
    • c) A legally binding covenant is drawn up and a promise of faithfulness is given.  Proverbs 2:17;  Ezekiel 16:8;  Malachi 2:14
    • d) Both the groom and bride are to come to their wedding as virgins.  Leviticus 21:14; Deuteronomy 22:13-23
    • e)There is often an exchange of gifts (Genesis 24:22, 53).  A bride was “given” not “taken.”  There was a “giver”, a “given” and a “receiver”
    • f) There are special wedding clothes.  Psalm 45:13-14;  Ephesians 5:27;  Revelation 19:6-8;  21:1-2
    • g) Frequently there is a procession.  Matthew 25:1-6
    • h) Often there are bridesmaids and friends present to witness the wedding.  Psalm 45:14; John 22:1-11.  The whole community may be involved.  Ruth 4
    • i) Usually there is a wedding feast and festivities.  Genesis 27:27;  John 2:1-11; Revelation 19:6-8, 21:1-2
    • j) A new independent home is established by the newly weds. Genesis 2:23-24

    4. A Christian marriage is to be between two Christians.  A marriage between two non Christians also has God’s blessing.  A Christian is not to marry a non Christian - 2 Corinthians 6:14

    5. Pre-marital sex between a couple intending to marry does not constitute marriage in God’s eyes. The Bible quite clearly sees such action as sin and in certain cases in the Old Testament required the death penalty.  So called “safe sex” outside of  marriage violates God’s law and is sin.  See Exodus 22:16-17;  Deuteronomy 22:13-29

    Sex never creates union.  Marriage is not “sex” nor is “sex” marriage in God’s eyes but they are both inextricably linked  cf Deut 22:28-29.  First Thes 4:4-5   "Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honour, not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance of God and his ways"

    6. Coitus is a normal part of marriage and should only be refrained from for prayer and fasting, by mutual consent, and a defined period of time (1 Corinthians 7:3-4; Hebrews 13:4).  Clearly, procreation is not the sole objective.  The instruction in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 supersedes Old Testament instructions in this area.

    7. Husbands are to be considerate, faithful, courteous, caring, and in tune with their spouse.  Husband and wife are co-equal in God’s eyes.  Any discord is a barrier to their joint prayers.  Husbands are to love their wives as themselves.  This love is modelled by Christ through his sacrificial love for the church.  Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7

    8. Wives are to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord, love their husbands, be self-controlled, kind, busy at home, not given to alcoholic drink, pure so that no-one will malign God’s word.  The way wives are to relate to their husband is modelled by Christ in the way he relates to the church (Titus 2:3-5;  1 Peter 3:1-6;  Ephesians 5:22-24).

    9. Fornication [“pornoi” Gk] denotes the voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried person and one of the opposite gender.  Fornication defiles the person [Mark 7:21], and originates in the heart.  Babylon is portrayed as the mother of fornicators/prostitutes in Revelation 17:5

    10. Hebrews 13:4  The Bible calls a de-facto relationship “fornication” and is a sinful relationship

    11. Mark 7:21-22;  First Corinthians 6:9-11, 18  The Bible calls pre-marital sex “fornication” which includes sex between unmarried persons

    12. Adultery” [moichoi] denotes the cohabitation of a married person with someone other than his/her lawful spouse.  Adultery is explicitly prohibited in the ten commandments  Exodus 20:14.  The penalty for adultery in the OT is death and in the New Testament - exclusion from heaven  1 Corinthians 6:9;  Rev 21:8; 22:15

    13. The Bible calls extra-marital sex “adultery” which is sex between a married person and another person of the opposite gender who is either single or married  Exodus 20:4; Romans 13:9;  1 Thessalonians 4:3

    14. Proverbs describes the ‘contemporary second woman relationships’ as playing with fire burning self.  “Keeping you from the immoral woman and from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.  Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life.  Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?  Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?  So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no-one who touches her will go unpunished.” (Proverbs 6:24-29).  Also, “The woman folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge.  She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by who go straight on their way.  ‘Let all who are simple come in here?’  She says to those who lack judgment ‘stolen water is sweet, food eaten in secret is delicious!  But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”  (Proverbs 9:13-18).

    15. Proverbs advice is to warn men against enticement from tempting adulteress, a faithful wife’s fidelity is taken for granted.  “For a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well.  Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men.”  Proverbs 23:27-28.

    16. Sex outside marriage leads to spiritual and sometimes physical death.  “For the house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.” (Proverbs 2:18); “Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the graves.” (Proverbs 5:5); “Her house is a highway to the grave; leading down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:27); “But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.” (Proverbs 9:18).   All these can be summarized in Proverbs 22:14 that “the mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is under the Lord’s wrath will fall into it.”

    17. The only two biblical grounds for divorce are:

    • (i) Fornication.  Fornication includes all sexual perversions such as homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, incest as well as adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9;   I Corinthians 5:1). In the case of fornication God does not require divorce, only permits it.  It is church policy usually not to encourage divorce.  Rather to work at bringing the one caught in sin to repentance evidenced in tangible ways and then work toward a humble, forgiving reconciliation.  Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:31,32
    • (ii) The second Biblical ground for divorce is the unwillingness of the non-believer to remain married to their spouse, who, since the marriage, has become a Christian (1 Corinthians 7:15).  In such a case the technicality of who actually files for divorce is not the binding issue but rather the unwillingness of the non-believer to remain committed to the marriage vows.

    18. Believers who pursue divorce or separate on non biblical grounds are subject to church discipline because they openly reject the word of God.  Matthew 18:15-17; I Corinthians 5:1-13

    19. If a divorce took place on non biblical grounds both parties should make no attempt at justifying their actions but rather should seek the Lord's forgiveness (1 John1:9).  The grace of God becomes operative at the point of genuine repentance and confession.  Genuine repentance will be marked by a willingness to remain single or be reconciled (I Corinthians7:11).  If a remarriage has taken place the repentant party should remain faithful to their present marriage partner (Deuteronomy24:1-4).

    20. The innocent party of a divorce is free to serve the Lord according to their spiritual gifting.  Forgiveness and the ensuing privilege to serve is the right of every child of God. A demonstrated repentant party of a non-biblical divorce is free to serve the Lord but may be restricted as to what official roles they can fulfill.  The church has a responsibility to uphold the biblical ideal of marriage, especially as exemplified by its leadership. Therefore appointment to any leadership position will be handled individually and on the basis of spiritual maturity, character qualifications and marriage relationship.  1 Timothy 3:1- 13; Titus 1:5-9

    21. Should one partner be experiencing either physical or emotional abuse that becomes intolerable or is dangerous to remain, and where no grounds for divorce exists, that person should seek legal separation for their own protection and that of the children for "God has called us to peace" (I Corinthians7:15).  Legal and/or professional help should be sought in order that the abusive partner’s behaviour is changed.  Only after that is it wise to seek reconciliation.

    See also the Statement on Separation, Divorce, Remarriage.

    Dr Keith Graham