July’s weekly posts present a biblical view of marriage. The first post considered the Hebrew Scriptures. The second addressed what Jesus has said about marriage as recorded in the Gospels. This third draws on some of the writings of the Apostle Paul. The fourth looks at marriage as a metaphor in the final book of the Holy Bible, the Revelation to John. Of necessity each post draws on only a small selection of biblical material; the reader is invited to read more deeply in order to perceive what God requires of his people in respect of the institution of marriage in society today.
First Epistle of Paul to Timothy 3: 1-2, 12 (NIV)
1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer (bishop), he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach …
12 A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.
Epistle of Paul to Titus 1: 6 (NIV)
6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
There is no departure from Jesus’ teachings on marriage in the letters written by the Apostle Paul. In his pastoral letters to Timothy and to Titus, when he encouraged them in their leadership roles, he clearly upheld the monogamous nature of marriage. In other letters he addressed the sins of sexual immorality (Galatians 5: 19), adultery (1 Corinthians 6: 9) and disobedience to the laws limiting marriage (1 Corinthians 5: 1, “A man has his father’s wife”).
Also in writing to the church in Corinth, Paul emphasised the implications of divorce:
“But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7: 2) and
“To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7: 10-11).
There is another dimension to Paul’s writings on marriage. He used marriage metaphorically to describe a divine relationship:
“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5: 31, 32). Paul introduced this “mystery” by way of a command,
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”, the Lord’s purpose being “to present her to himself as a radiant church” (as a bride) (Ephesians 5: 25, 26).
He spoke also of this image to the Corinthians as he wrote,
“I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Corinthians 11: 2).
The Apostle Paul held God’s institution of marriage in high regard indeed!
They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, “Do not do as they do,” and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do.
16 They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God … (2 Kings 17: 15b-16a)