Introduction: Last summer, when I was in Canada, the lead stories in
the newspapers were the forest fires and homosexual marriage. Not
long after I returned, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, a
court I have argued before many times, ruled that homosexuals had a
constitutional right to marry. Right now the U.S. Congress is
wrestling with the issue of defining marriage. What does God say
about marriage? Is He flexible? What is His ideal? What does He
allow? Let’s turn to the Bible and find out!

  1. The Ideal

    1. Read Genesis 2:21-23. Have you ever been amazed at what
      happened while you were sleeping?

      1. Was God making a point when He created the woman out
        of the man?

      2. If you say, yes, what point was that? (If you just
        stop with verse 23, you have two different arguments.
        One is an argument for equality because woman was
        taken from the mid-section of man. The second
        argument is for dependence because woman was derived
        from man. He was the original.)

    2. Read Genesis 2:24. In what way do man and woman become
      “one flesh?” (This refers to procreation. They become one
      flesh in their children.)

      1. What does this say about the relationship between a
        man and his wife? (If you are “one” you do not have a
        debate over who is “superior.”)

  2. The Practical Ideal

    1. Paul generally takes a pounding from a certain segment of
      the church for his writings about the relationship between
      husbands and wives. Let’s read what Peter says in 1 Peter

      1. Is this out-of-date advice?

      2. Is this advice about wearing jewelry? (This advice is
        neither out of date nor about jewelry. Peter says to
        us, “Want to know what really is important when it
        comes to beauty? It is not how much you paid for your
        clothes, your jewelry, or your hairdresser. What is
        important is how you deal with your husband. It is
        your inner spirit which determines your true beauty.)

        1. Husbands, what would you like to live with? A
          well-dressed, mean-spirited wife? Or, a wife who
          is kind and loving?

      1. The last phrase of verse 6 does not seem as if it
        belongs here. What do you think Peter wants us to
        understand about the role of the wife when he says,
        “do not give way to fear?” (Modern feminism might
        argue that Peter is telling women to become door mats
        for their husbands. I don’t think this is what is
        being said. Peter teaches us that an unselfish, kind
        spirit does not mean trembling submission.)

      2. Read 1 Peter 3:13-16. How does this complete the “no
        fear” picture of 1 Peter 3:6? (This is not a “wife-only” bit of advice. Peter is telling Christians that
        being gentle and respectful is how we all should

    1. Read 1 Peter 3:7. How does the advice to husbands differ
      from the advice to wives? (The husband must treat his wife
      with consideration and respect. This is the right spirit
      to have with your wife. There is little doubt that Peter
      is giving husbands the lead role, but he seems to give
      very similar advice to husbands and wives when it comes to
      the right spirit.)

      1. Again, the last phrase of verse 7 seems out of place.
        What do you think Peter means by this? (The Bible
        Knowledge Commentary says this means that husbands
        who do not treat their wives with consideration and
        respect cannot expect to have their prayers

        1. If the Bible Knowledge Commentary is correct in
          its interpretation, how important to God is
          treating our wives with respect and

    2. After looking at these texts, what is the ideal in
      marriage? (One man and one woman who are kind, respectful
      and loving to each other.)

  1. Third Parties

    1. Read Genesis 16:1-2. Is this the kind of spirit for a wife
      that we were discussing before? Unselfish, kind,

    2. Read Genesis 16:3-5. How did the introduction of a third
      party to the marriage work out?

    3. Two generations after that we have Jacob, who in Genesis
      29 is tricked by his father-in-law into marrying Leah, the
      “wrong” daughter. He takes a second wife so that he can
      marry Rachel, the “right” daughter. Obviously, this
      creates problems for Leah. Let’s read how this situation
      works out for the “right” daughter, Rachel. Read Genesis
      30:1-2. How would you say the marriage is going between
      Jacob and Rachel?

      1. What is the source of the problem? (Her sister is
        bearing Jacob children and she is not. It is

    4. Elkanah was another husband who took two wives, Hannah and
      Peninnah. Let’s read how this worked out. Read 1 Samuel
      1:4-5. What do you think about Elkanah’s spirit here? (It
      seems that he is trying to “make up” for Hannah not having
      any children. He has good motives.)

      1. Read 1 Samuel 1:6-7. How did Elkanah’s attempt to
        make things “fair” turn out?

    5. Read 1 Timothy 3:12. Why must deacons have only one wife?
      (As these texts show, when you have more than one spouse
      you run into problems with rivalry. God’s ideal is to have
      one spouse.)

    6. Read Malachi 2:13-14. What is God’s reaction to “breaking
      faith” with your spouse? (You rupture your relationship
      with God.)

    7. Read Malachi 2:15-16. What is God’s reason for being
      unhappy when we “break faith” with our spouse? (God goes
      back to His original plan in Creation: one man and one
      woman become one flesh.)

      1. How important a matter to God is you being faithful
        to the “wife of your youth?” (God says He “hates”

      2. What advice do we see in verse 15 about staying on
        the path of marital fidelity? (God tells us to “guard
        yourself in your spirit.”)

        1. What, as a practical matter, can you do to
          “guard yourself in your spirit?” (Be careful
          about what you do and say when you are around
          others you find sexually attractive. Today, an
          obvious place to put up your “guard” is with
          pornography. Pornography puts you on the road to
          unfaithfulness with your spouse.)

  2. Divorce and Immorality

    1. The text we just read in Malachi links marital
      unfaithfulness with divorce. Let’s read what Jesus teaches
      us about divorce. Read Matthew 19:3-5. Where does Jesus
      start in finding answers about marriage? (He goes back to
      the Creation.)

    2. Read Matthew 19:6. What is Jesus’ conclusion about
      marriage? (That it is for life.)

    3. Read Matthew 19:7-8. Why did Moses allow divorce (see
      Deuteronomy 24:1-4)?

      1. Does this suggest that God is flexible on the

    4. Read Matthew 19:9. Is Jesus flexible on the subject of
      divorce? (Jesus’ only exception to the rule of marriage
      for life is marital unfaithfulness.)

    5. Read Matthew 19:10. Based on the reaction of the
      disciples, how common would you guess divorce was at that
      time? (The disciples decided that it was too risky to get
      married. This suggests divorce was common.)

      1. Are the disciples suggesting that it is better to
        just “sleep around” rather than get married? If you
        just live togther, and not marry, you avoid the
        strict marriage rule? (The New Bible Commentary says
        that when Jesus spoke of “marital unfaithfulness” in
        verse 9, He was speaking both of adultery and
        premarital promiscuity.)

        1. Is the New Bible Commentary correct in including
          premarital promiscuity in the term “marital
          unfaithfulness?” (This makes perfect logical
          sense if you go back to Creation, as Jesus did.
          Marriage is one man and one woman becoming one
          flesh. “One flesh” refers to sex and
          reproduction. If you have become “one flesh”
          with someone else, you have not been faithful to
          your ultimate spouse.)

    6. Read Matthew 19:11-12. What “escape” does Jesus give to
      the one man, one woman, forever rule? Is He also giving a
      “hardness of heart” exception? (Jesus seems to be saying
      that the only way out of His rule of marriage for life is
      not to marry. Jesus says some are born so that they are
      celibate, some are injured by others so they are celibate,
      and others to obey God have decided be celibate to avoid

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Not everyone can
        accept this word … The one who can accept this
        should accept it?” (It seems that Jesus is talking
        about accepting celibacy as an alternative to
        marriage for life. I read several Bible commentaries
        on this and they were generally unclear. I have not
        studied this difficult topic enough to suggest a firm

  3. Homosexuality

    1. Read Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. What is God’s attitude
      towards homosexuality?

    2. Read Romans 1:25-27. What basis does Paul give for
      condemning homosexuality? (Again, we have a link to
      Creation and “natural relations.” This is the same logic
      that Jesus used: If you want to determine what God has in
      mind for marriage, go back to the way God set things up at
      the Creation.)

    3. There is a great deal of debate over whether some
      individuals are born with a homosexual orientation. Read
      Romans 1:24 & 27. There is little doubt that some have
      homosexual desires and “inflamed lust” for those of the
      same sex? Those of you are not homosexuals, do you
      naturally have a desire and lust towards certain sins? (We
      are sinful people. It is common that we have a “natural”
      desire to sin. The question God puts to us is whether we
      will follow our lust for sin or whether we will follow His
      instructions for life?)

    4. Friend, is it your natural desire to commit to God’s “one
      man and one woman become one for life?” (This tells the
      tale for me on the “natural orientation” claim. Our
      natural sinful desires are contrary to God’s rule. The
      question is whether we will determine to follow God’s
      ideal plan. I invite you today to ask God to help you to
      adhere to His original plan for marriage.)

  4. Next week: Friendship.