Hebrews 13:4 tells us that marriage is to be held in honor among all. Marriage should hold a high place in the minds of the people of God. Where the sanctity of marriage was widely held in our society, that is no longer the case. Wherever one turns, the institution of marriage is being attacked and disparaged. Our IFCA fellowship of churches has sought to be a light for Christ in a dark world while at the same time seeking to reach those that are lost with the truth of the gospel of Christ. We have always been committed to standing firm and reaching out. To do this faithfully in the area of marriage, we need to be committed to what the Scriptures teach so that we can proclaim that truth in a spirit of faithfulness to the Lord with a love for the unregenerate.
The Challenges to Marriage Today
The attacks on the sanctity of marriage are so numerous that this short article can do little more than acknowledge that these issues are a growing concern not only in the culture around us, but many of those the Lord brings our way will be coming from this background. We must be prepared to minister to those who are devastated by these sins.
Cohabitation has become so prevalent that recent statistics show that living together before marriage has risen from 40% in 1980-1984 to 70% in 2010-2014.The National Center for Family & Marriage Research unsurprisingly also found that births to single and cohabiting mothers steadily grew from 21% in 1980-1984 to 41% in 2010-2014.
Divorce has recently been touted as being at a 35 year low. But we can’t be too quick to celebrate because the marriage rate since 2010 has also experienced a forty-five year low.Obviously, fewer marriages lead to fewer divorces. Instead of being encouraging news, we need to realize that this statistic is an illustration of the demise of traditional marriage. With the advent of homosexual civil unions and same-sex marriage, divorce of both heterosexual and homosexual couples each average about 2% per year.
Adultery is an unfortunate universal reality and can be found in every civilization and culture all the way back to the fall of man. With the advent of modern technology the threat has become epidemic. In July 2015, Ashley Madison, a website designed as a “dating site” targeting married people interested in an adulterous relationship, was hacked and exposed the information of millions of its customers.Now adultery is as close as our cell phones and computers.
Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are the most troublesome attacks upon the sanctity of marriage because their proponents have been organized and aggressive in their campaigns to promote and normalize homosexual activity. No longer restricted to gay and lesbian relationships, the LGBTQmovement continues to spread its tentacles around the world into every place of prominence and power, including the Church.
Polyamory and polygamy has grown in popularity in recent years through the promotion of television programs such as HBO’s Big Loveand TLC’s Sister Wiveswith both programs seeking to gain sympathy for the polygamist lifestyles of fundamentalist Mormons as well as influencing the legality of polygamy. Polyamory, which does not require marriage, refers to the similar philosophy that multiple simultaneous relationships of an intimate nature as normal and natural, so long as all parties agree.
Each of these challenges to the sanctity of marriage flout the Word of God regarding marriage by perverting God’s intention and purposes for it. So, what does the Word of God teach us regarding the preservation of His institution of holy matrimony?
Biblically Defining Marriage
In his book entitled The Bible in Government and Society, Christopher Cone observes the vast chasm that exists between believers and unbelievers regarding marriage as God designed it and how they choose to live their lives. Dr. Cone writes, “People who reject that Designer cannot be expected to uphold marriage as it is designed—in fact, the Bible never prescribes how unbelievers should conduct their own marriages. For unbelievers, marriage is little more than a civil union whereby society is ordered and promulgated. Herein is the cause of tension within a society where believer and unbeliever coexist under a common governmental structure. Believers ought to base their ethical understandings on the metaphysical understanding that the Bible is authoritative for every aspect of life (2 Tim 3:16–17). Unbelievers, on the other hand, do not operate from the same metaphysical understanding, and consequently, their ethical prescriptions will often conflict with those given to believers.”
This different “metaphysical understanding” exists because unregenerate men and women have suppressed the truth that God has made known to them and by nature cannot truly understand the Spirit-given Word (Rom 1:18-32; 1Cor 2:6-14). This does not mean that we should not hold unbelievers in society to the Lord’s standard, but that we must uphold the truth (1Tim 3:15) and declare it to the world without fear or shame (2Tim 1:8-14). The sanctity of marriage can be simplified if we focus on three attributes that the Scriptures teach us about God’s righteous standard.
Paul Hemez and Wendy D. Manning, “Thirty Years of Change in Women’s Premarital Cohabitation Experience” National Center for Family and Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University, https://magic.piktochart.com/output/19755947-hemez-manning-30-yrs-change-women-premarital-cohab-fp-17-05; Accessed 3/9/2017.
Huijng Wu, “Trends in Births to single and Cohabiting Mothers, 1980-2014.” https://magic.piktochart.com/output/19730931-wu-trends-births-single-cohabiting-mothers-fp-17-04-png; Accessed 3/9/2017.
Ben Steverman. “Divorce in U.S. Plunges to 35-Year Low” Bloomberg; https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-17/divorce-in-u-s-plunges-to-35-year-low?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWlRRNU1UQTNPRFV5WTJNMiIsInQiOiJISTR1Tjl3WmliMzVabFF4bGZiSnBXdUN4T0NrXC8waXh6ZjNpTzNZb29pdzR3UGZmODBLVU5HelJkQWxRMVhJT1h5cjh0RysrYklMN25iNWVyR0JzWUplM0ZRSjdJVzR6RmtRWWJRQ1RiRDg9In0%253D; Accessed 3/9/2017.
Andrew Gelman. “Same-Sex Divorce Rate Not As Low As It Seemed.” The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/12/15/same-sex-divorce-rate-not-as-low-as-it-seemed/?utm_term=.cec6a8232101; Accessed 3/9/2017.
Charles Riley. “Hackers Threaten to Release Names From Adultery Website.” CNN Tech; http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/20/technology/ashley-madison-hack/; Accessed 3/9/2017.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning. Some have advocated the addition of the letter “A” for “Affirming,” those who may not themselves be homosexual, but affirm and promote homosexual and transgender sexuality.
The Associated Press. “High Court Won’t Hear ‘Sister Wives’ Appeal Over Bigamy Law.” http://woodtv.com/2017/01/23/high-court-wont-hear-sister-wives-appeal-over-bigamy-law/; Accessed 3/9/2017.
Christopher Cone. The Bible in Government and Society, Tyndale Seminary Press, Hurst, TX (2012), pp. 106-7.