Marriage and the Local Church
Updated: Sep 21, 2022
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge, Hebrews 13:4.
The Lord has a wonderful plan to prevent fornication. It's called marriage; Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband, 1st Corinthians 7:2. There is a great liberation for women in that verse. No longer does a woman need to endure sharing a husband with a rival wife. Let every woman have her own husband.
This was not a new ruling by Paul the Apostle. As usual, he has taken the Gentiles and explained the scriptures to us. Jesus Christ who among the many things that he was ordained to do, performed the part of that prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:8; I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. Only that prophet, our Lord Jesus Christ had the authority to overrule Moses.
Matthew 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
If the Lord intended men to continue taking more than one wife as the law not only permitted but at times required, then a man taking a second wife after putting away his first one would not be committing adultery. Why would it be adultery for him to have two living wives? David did. Many did. It was the norm. In other passages Jesus Christ made it clear that a divorced woman taking another husband committed adultery. Women were not allowed to have more than one husband in the same manner that a man could have more than one wife.
But, in Matthew 19:9 he extends the definition of adultery to the husband who not only is guilty of causing his wife to commit adultery, but he himself has now committed adultery. Clearly, Jesus Christ has overridden Moses. The Apostle Paul did not make up a new rule when he said, Let every woman have her own husband. He explained the words of Jesus Christ to us.
For those pastors who have inherited one of the grand old fundamental churches of old and boast of being old fashioned, you probably have enough people who want to continue your charade, lock out the realities of the world around you, and pretend that everything is just as it always was. I have no such luxury here.
I have a friend who is dear to me who pastors in a predominantly Mennonite and Amish area of Pennsylvania. There are no TV signals. Cell phone reception is poor and where it exists rarely will allow for data. To visit there is to step back 15 to 20 years in time. His few divorced people maintain a celibate life style and the great work of demeaning sin that has so swept our culture is kept in better abeyance. I rejoice in such pockets of humanity and a pastor who labors among them.
I hear many pastors who claim to labor in such fields, but upon close examination you see that they can only claim such by locking the doors, squatting in a corner while facing the wall, plugging their ears, squinting just right, and using selective memory. What I have to say is for those who labor in reality.
A pastor today must be able to work with truly broken people and families upon whom all of the spiritual plagues of Egypt have fallen. The great mass of people among whom we labor to make them hear of the grace of Jesus Christ are whores and whoremongers. They are fornicators. They are adulterers. I have a niece who teaches school close to Albany, New York. Out of her class of 40 some students, only a couple of them go home to a traditional family consisting of a mother and a father. A man who would seek to carve out a people for Jesus Christ from among such had better know his bible and have an unlimited capacity for understanding and grace.
The bible definition of a whore is an unmarried woman who is sexually active without commitment. (Read Deuteronomy 22:21 for an example.) Whether or not she receives payment does not alter her status. The male equivalent is called a "whoremonger". I am not ashamed to teach that, but neither am I so callous that I am not sensitive to the connotation given if I just sling those words around. It would be like me telling everyone to go take a break so that they can go "piss". Yes, it is a bible word, but please use your head.
After the initial thrill or acceptance by her peers when a young lady rids herself of her virginity, the depression and miseries of that life can be crippling. Young girls no longer speak of losing their virginity. They get rid of it. An old Country song from 30 or 40 years ago said, "it ain't easy being easy". The women that I have had pass through the doors of my church and who have given themselves over to that life have been truly miserable.
It takes a pharmaceutical industry, all of Hollywood, teams of counselors, rock stars, and self delusion to make them feel at all normal. Little did they realize when they first subscribed to opening their feet to some young man, that their self esteem, their sense of well-being, their mental health, and emotional equilibrium would all be sacrificed to this new lifestyle. When I see a young lady with garishly dyed hair, or tattoos, or mutilating piercings, I see a young woman struggling to establish an identity for the person staring back at them from the mirror. I grieve for them.
I am not afraid of them hearing the word "whore". At some point, the law of God needs to penetrate a broken heart. I treat broken sinners who stumble into the house of God as if I was running an emergency room in a hospital. The first rule is, "stabilize the patient". The single mother who has been abandoned for the umpteenth time, the tattooed single lady who struggles with depression and has given up hope of true love, the obese woman who is fodder for a certain element of men who covet their welfare money, and the divorced woman who too easily gives in to her lonely desires, need stabilization. They need a pastor and a church who can give them hope of a better life.
The average pastor doesn't think about it, but his family is a miracle. That is one of the reasons that he is to be a lover of hospitality. It is so good for these broken people to be embraced by such a family. Your failures and victories should be on display. Your triumphs in Christ Jesus should give them hope. Make the bible their friend. Love them just as they are, but show them how to have victory in small things. Your marriage, your walk in Christ Jesus, and the grace of your life need to be on display for hope.
By the time most couples get into the house of God, they have already besmirched themselves with multiple marriages. We treat every marriage as honorable in all, and the bed undefiled regardless of how it came about. At the Black Creek Baptist Church we don't make men who have more than one living woman with whom they have partaken in matrimony into bishops or deacons. That is absolutely the only prohibition. We do not see them as being in sin. They may have been at one time, but they are now saved and ready to serve God. They preach, act as trustees, run ministries and anything else that pleases God.
Then why can't they be bishops or deacons if sin is not the reason? Why can't a woman be a bishop or pastor? Is sin the problem? No, there is a bible prohibition against it that has nothing to do with sin. I can assure you that I have run into problems with men who are on their second or third marriages after having been divorced that are deeper than the average marriage. You say that in your church you ordain men as bishops or deacons who have had multiple women as wives. That is your church. I hope that God blesses you. We will run the Black Creek Baptist church with such light as God gives us.
More than any thing else, I want to see my people find victory in Jesus Christ. Marriage is a great place to find victory but likewise a terrible place to feel defeat. There is healing in the person of Jesus Christ. A pastor who has found that healing and truly yearns for it in his people needs to understand the times in which we live and serve the Lord thus.