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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[14. Getting Married?]
This is the 14. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."
by Frank L. Preuss
What has the Bible to say about marriage and about getting married?
Let us look at the subject "getting married." There is the difference between "getting married" and "marriage." There are passages in the Bible that explain what the duties are in a marriage. What the duties of the husband are and what the duties of the wife are. In Ephesians 5:25 and 1 Peter 3:7 we find for example what a husband has to do in a marriage, how he has to treat his wife and in Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:1 are the guidelines for wives.
But these verses apply to people who are already married and we now want to rather look at people who are not yet married but consider to get married and want to know what God's word has to say about the subject, because they also want to do the will of their father in this respect. There is a chapter in the Bible that specifically deals with this subject. It is the seven's chapter in the first letter to the Corinthians.
Paul writes there in the first verse: "Now for the matters you wrote about." So the Corinthians had the same questions that we have and Paul gave them his reply in his letter and it is the guideline we have today.
So let us have a look at what is said about the subject of getting married. I now will quote the first two verses from 1 Corinthians chapter 7: "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." Marriage is here therefore not recommended but it is also definitely not forbidden, because to forbid people to marry is considered as something bad in 1 Timothy 4:3. So Paul tells us here in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 what is good for man: not to marry. Then in the second verse he tells us why people should get married. So we have a situation where firstly the best choice is recommended and then a second choice and the reason for this second choice. So it is up to each one to decide what he or she wants. But Paul also says clearly what the better choice is: not to marry. He says it is good for a man not to marry. So if a man wants to have it good in his life then he should not get married, it will be the better choice. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. Because of this problem of immorality, it can be advisable to get married. But a man will be better off not to marry. So he has a choice. So a man has to decide if he wants to have the better life or if he sees that he has problems with not being married and not having a wife which fulfils her marital duty to her husband. If he thinks that not being married may cause him to live an immoral life, then it is advisable for him to get married.
So let us read the next 4 verses (1 Corinthians 7:3-6): "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment."
So here we also have some advice for people who are married. But this is written here so that people who are not married, but who consider to get married, know what their duties are when they get married. A married person has to fulfil his marital duty. He is not free any more to do what he wants. When a man is not married then he is free and does not have to fulfil a marital duty to a wife. If for example he wants to spend his time after work to be busy with the things of God and help other people, then he can do so and does not have to spend his time with his wife, children, household duties and similar things. The same applies to a woman. When a woman is not married then she is free and does not have to fulfil her marital duty to her husband. If for example she wants to spend her time after work, or may be also before work, to be busy with getting to know God better and study his word and meditate about it, then she can do so and does not have to use her time with bringing up children, being there for her husband and doing cooking, washing and cleaning.
But when a woman is married she is not free any more, she cannot say I want to take part in the marital duties or I don't. She has not got that choice any more. She lost that freedom of hers. She has to fulfil her marital duties. She cannot back away from that. She is not any more in control of her body. Her body does not belong to her alone any more but also to her husband.
So a person who is not married has to know and has to consider what a married life means. So a person who gets married loses this sole ownership of his body and has to share it with his marriage partner. This is an important consideration a man and a woman have to make.
And this becomes even more important when we have to realize that there is no way out of marriage by means of a divorce. "Let not a husband put away his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:11) and "Seek not to be loosed" (1 Corinthians 7:27).
So a man or a woman has to really be aware of the implications of marriage and what restrictions it brings with it. And that is what Paul writes here about. Once you have made that step and got married, you can't get out of it. Your body is not yours any more; you have to fulfil your marital duty.
So if you get married because of a lack of self-control then you will have disadvantages in your life. Paul points out these disadvantages to people who think about getting married or who think about not to get married and then he writes (1 Corinthians 7:7): "For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." Paul wishes that all men were as he is: not married. Paul was not married and therefore he was not bound to a wife. He could do what he wanted, he could concentrate completely on serving God and he did not have to consider his marital duties and that his body did not belong to him alone. Paul could withdraw completely for a long time and just spend time with the Lord and get revelations from Him what this new covenant of His was all about so that he could put all this to paper and so preserve it for us today. Paul probably spent years alone with God and he could do this, because he did not have these duties of a married man. And then he spent years full of activity and travelling to bring the good news to the world. He could do what he wanted to do because he was not married. It is the better way of life. But men are different. Paul had this gift. But there are other men who do not have this gift, but they have other gifts and therefore we cannot tell them to not get married. We have to leave that decision to each one himself. We can only point out the implications and then leave it to the individual to make his choice.
In verse 1 Paul says that it is good for a man not to marry. He speaks of a man, not of a woman. But now in verse 8 he repeats his advice, but he does not restrict his advice to just men, he includes all unmarried persons (1 Corinthians 7:8): "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I." So not to get married is something good for you. We should really not speak lightly of this advice, but consider it seriously. It is not just a good advice, it is God's word and when the Bible tells us that something is good then we should accept it as good and reconsider our wish to get married and realize that our wish to get married may be a move from a good situation into a situation that is not so good. We also may be good advised to think about it, why we think that it is good for us to get married. May be it is the influence of the world that tells that if we don't get married then we do not really live a full life and we miss something. May be we have here an area where we really have to renew our mind, renew it in accordance with the word of God and by doing so, save ourselves a lot of problems. At least we have to come to the conclusion that the Bible gives us a guideline to rather stay unmarried than to marry - that it is a possibility not to marry and that this possibility is even a choice that is better.
If we deal with young people we should definitely point out this view the Bible gives us about marriage and show young people that this alternative is clearly written in the word of God. They do not have to marry. They can stay unmarried. To stay unmarried is the way the Bible prefers it. And we have to show them the view of the Bible: not to be married is better than to be married and that this view of the Bible is backed up by good reasons and that this view is quite contrary to what the world thinks of marriage. So if someone becomes a Christian then his view regarding marriage should change to that view that the Bible shows us. His aim in life should change as well. His aim should not be any more to get married but to live a life dedicated to the Lord and serve him and enjoy life very much better than the unbelievers do.
And now we come to people to whom Paul recommends to get married (1 Corinthians 7:9): "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." So here we have again a recommendation for the choice that is better. In this case it is better to get married. It is the case of a person that cannot control himself. He should rather get married. A person that burns with passion should marry. It is better for him to marry. And for a person who does not have this problem it is better not to marry.
So when we give advice to young people regarding getting married then we have to let them themselves decide in what category they think they are. They should know if self-control is a problem with them or not. If they have serious problems with self-control then they should rather consider marrying, but if that is not a problem, then they can choose the better way: of staying unmarried.
But to gain self-control is a thing every Christians should aim for and with the help of Christ we can achieve this and become overcomers. But we also cannot condemn someone who does not achieve this level of victorious living and look down upon him. As Paul said: One has this gift, another has that. So we should be very careful and not look down on someone who thinks he has not got this self-control and who therefore decides to marry.
So before we pray for a right marriage partner we should first study what God has to say about getting married. A good prayer should be a prayer that is the will of God. And in this chapter seven of first Corinthians we can study what the will of God is regarding getting married. So it is our duty to first find out the will of God before we pray for something and we should not be quick with people who come to us and ask us to agree with them in prayer that God will send them the right partner or that God will show them if a certain person is the right partner for them. They should rather then pray that God will show them what the true situation is. And they should honestly search themselves if they really cannot overcome their lack of self-control or if it is just a weakness that they do not really want to conquer. They should also check if it is not just a case of not believing that they can overcome their shortcoming.
So when we consider the question if people should get married or not then we have really a case where we first have to find out what the will of God is. And this is made very easy for us, because we have a detailed teaching about it in the Bible. So our first duty is to study the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians.
Verses 10 to 16 deal with married people and in verse 17 Paul comes back to principles that apply to both married and unmarried persons: "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lordís freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christís servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." These are the verses 17 to 24 in 1 Corinthians 7.
If someone becomes a Christian and he is unmarried then he should remain unmarried. Paul repeats this a couple of times in these verses: A person should remain in the situation he found himself when he was called by God.
And Paul says that if a slave can gain his freedom then he should do so. And then he says that we should not become slaves of men. We should be free. And marriage does not make us free, it does not make us freer, it makes us less free. When Paul spoke in the beginning of this chapter 7 of the fact that a husband's body does not any more belong to him alone and that he therefore has less freedom as he had before he got married then he repeats this here by saying and directing us to become more free and not less. When I get married then I become a slave of men because my body does not any more belong to me alone but to my spouse as well. I become a slave when I get married. We have here therefore a command to remain in the situation where we were when we became Christians.
And it seems that this command was obeyed by the Christians we know from the Bible, because there we do not find any account where a Christian got married. We know of Christians that were married. Peter the apostle was married. We know that because he had a mother-in-law who got healed by Jesus. And we know of the married couple Aquila and Priscilla, but both these couples became married before they became Christians, before the event of the cross in Peter's case and before their conversion in the case of Aquila and Priscilla. In any case there is no indication in the Bible that these two couples got married after them becoming Christians. And this is also the case with the third couple, Ananias and Saphira. So there is no report in the Bible that Christians got married. They obeyed the teachings of the apostles and did what was good for them.
So the Bible advises to remain as we are and that also applies to the status of being unmarried. We see this from the next verses (1 Corinthians 7:25-28): "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned." Here it is spelled out clearly: Do not look for a spouse when you are unmarried. Here is the will of God for someone who wants to know the will of God, because he wants to pray the right way and wants to pray only for something that also God wants for him.
But it is also pointed out that it is not a sin to get married. So we must never forbid marriage. A person that marries does not sin. We simply point to the better way. And why is it better? The answer is in the second part of verse 28: "Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you." So married life means trouble. Actually it says there "many" troubles. If you want to get married then you will face many troubles and the Bible want to spare you this. The Bible wants you to have a better life than a married life. The Bible gives you good advice here, don't discard it.
Let us read on: "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." These are the verses 29 to 35 from the seventh chapter of first Corinthians.
Paul talks here of the fact that the time is short. Our life is not long. We have to make up our mind if we really want to live a life with the Lord or if we want to be divided in this and want to live partly a worldly life. It is a call to live a life undivided for the things of God. We should put aside the worldly things. We should just do the worldly things that are necessary but not more. And our real aim in life should be that we may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
When married then we should not live as if we were married. We should not mourn. When we have somebody to mourn about, then we should not really get into mourning. If something happens that would make a person happy then we should not dwell on it. We should get away from living like the world lives. Our interest should be directed towards His kingdom and not towards this world - this world that is temporal - that is passing away. A Christian should get more and more out of the things of the world. He should loose all his ties to the world. The things of the world should not interest him.
He should be free from the cares of the world. And that is why the first care of this world that is here mentioned is marriage. He should be free of this care, because it is a care that takes quite a lot of space in the life of a person: a married person is concerned about many things.
"But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better." These are the verses 36 to 38 in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 and here again it is shown that the decision is ours. We can make our own decision. If we decide to marry, then we do not sin. It is repeated here.
But it is also repeated what the better way is. The word "better" is again used here. As an example Paul uses here the case where a man is engaged and he now studies the advice the Bible has to give regarding getting married and who comes to the conclusion that it is better for him not to get married despite the fact that he is already engaged and who therefore decides not to get married. Such a man does even better. So even in such a case where an engagement exists it is better not to marry.
Also repeated here is the circumstance of self-control - to have power over one's own will. In 1 Corinthians 7:9 it was said that if they cannot control themselves, they should marry or with other words that marriage is only for people who cannot control themselves and here this is expressed in other words: "But has power over his own will."
Before this something else is written: "Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity." This indicates that the whole question is also a matter of meditation, of renewing one's mind, of a process that will take its time, of a process that requires settlement and settlement again means that we have to sort out things in our mind. But a beginning with this process is made by going to the word of God and by studying what it has to say about the matter.
So a detailed study of first Corinthians chapter seven is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to know the will of God regarding getting married. First of all he has to know that there is information regarding this subject in the Bible, even a whole chapter with many details. Then he has to read this information. And then he has to come back to this again and again in order to really absorb the different aspects of this whole subject. He again and again has to check his different thinking directions with these detailed guidelines of the word of God. And of course he has to make a basic decision in his life if he really wants to make the word of God his final authority in his life or if he just wants to use the word of God when it suits him and when he likes it. So a person will only come to a point in his life where he really lives the better life when he checks every decision he is going to make in his life against the will of God - when he always first searches for similar situations in the Bible. This attitude to compare every opinion and every action with its compatibility with God's word is it what will make a Christian an overcomer. Every action we do and every opinion we utter will be observed by others and our testimony will be weakened by everything that is worldly and therefore by everything that is not done and spoken under the guidance of our Lord. The things we do in which we are not guided by Jesus may be condemned as unworthy by the observers and a slur may be cast upon His followers and upon His family.
So let us do everything under His guidance and everything according to His will. And His will is in the Bible. And this we have to study.
So let us look at the last two verses of the seven's chapter of the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians: "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God."
Here we get a command whom we are allowed to marry: He must belong to the Lord. We cannot marry a person that is not a Christian. And by being a Christian I mean a real Christian, not somebody who is considered a Christian by the world and by being a Christian means to them that he is not a Moslem or not a Hindu or not an adherent to the Jewish religion. No, he must belong to the Lord. He must be a real follower of Jesus.
This command is in line with another scripture that we find in 2 Corinthians 6:14. It reads: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Why shouldn't we be yoked together with unbelievers? The reasons are given in the following sentences: "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
We therefore cannot get married to an unbeliever. That is completely out of question. We can only marry someone who belongs to the Lord. But in this last verse - in 1 Corinthians 7:40 - Paul again comes back to the one thing he has repeated so many times: the better choice is to stay as you are - unmarried. If the woman whose husband dies stays unmarried, then she will be happier if she stays as she is.
The Bible even uses the word "happy" here in this case. So if someone wants to be happy then the way to happiness is shown here. The way to real happiness is a life with Jesus - our first love. Nothing will compare to this. Only a person who really has developed a close relationship with Jesus and practices the presence of God in his life will find, and have, true happiness. So that is the direction we have to go: to abandon the thinking towards marriage and start thinking towards how to develop a closer relationship to Jesus. Start working toward a life that is completely guided by the Lord - where Jesus is the centre of your thinking.
This is the end of "Getting Married?"
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