Marriage, Family, Divorce, and Sexuality:
In all these Summary
Principles, they are not necessarily listed in priority order.
In fact, priorities within families and churches are likely
different. But, consideration should be given to the full
application of all these principles, as a beginning exploration
into each worldview area. The author is interested in feedback
where error, weakness, or omission may occur.
1. Marriage and Family:
The Creation Mandate.
Immediately, during the week of creation on the sixth day, God
commanded man “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and
subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the
birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the
earth” (Genesis 1:28). Through the birth of children within the
commitment of one man and one woman in marriage for life, God
commanded that His Creation Mandate be fulfilled. That mandate
was not abrogated by the Fall of Adam and Eve nor by the Flood,
after which God re-stated it in more detail (Genesis 9:1-10).
Marriage is thus
a covenant with three parties: the husband, the wife, and God.
Currently, on an
average, at least 2.1 children must be born to each family in
order to maintain a population at its current numbers. Thus, “to
be fruitful and multiply,” each family should have at least
three children. Since God’s Kingdom work is primarily through
His people, the argument could be made that Christians should
have “many” children. They are a “heritage” and a great
“blessing” in the Lord (Psalm 127:5). Expansion of families may
occur through the adoption of children. These children should be
given the full rights and responsibilities of “naturally” born
The primary intention
of marriage is not procreation, but companionship and wholeness.
God said, “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man
should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’”
(Genesis 2:18). While the remainder of the creation was “good,”
even “very good,” it was “not good” that neither man nor woman
be alone. In addition, both need a “helper” to complete what the
individual lacks in their own abilities. God intended marriage
for a lifetime. Children are present for only a part of that
time. They are to work to fulfill the Creation Mandate, even
after their children have formed their own families.
2. Marriage and
Family: The Great Commission. God’s primary mode of
evangelism is through the family from generation to generation.
The Bible is clear that saving faith is to be passed from one
generation to the next (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Acts 2:39; Ephesians
6:4). In the Old Testament, explicit responsibilities of the
covenant (land, laws, Levitical priesthood, etc.) were passed in
this way. This continuity and expansion is missing from many
churches in the modern era in their emphasis on the Great
Commission as one of seeking individual converts and treating
their own children, as being “unsaved” until they make their own
profession of faith. In a real sense, this individualistic
emphasis has increased the need for evangelism, as God’s
intended plan of the continuity of families has been minimized
The power of this
intergenerational commission and covenant has been lost.
The Creation (Cultural) Mandate is fragmented and lost each time
the succession of spiritual generation fails. The individualism
of the 19th century evangelism and its virtual
abhorrence of studied theology has crippled the ability of the
Church to advance God’s Kingdom, as a continuation of His
original Mandate. The Church and families must reform their
thinking to this intergenerational plan of God from “The
Beginning.” One concrete goal could be that parents strive to
give their children a more Biblical foundation than they
3. Marriage and
Family: Government. God has ordained government in four
spheres: the conscience of self-government, the family, the
Church, and the State. Another great error of Christians in the
modern era is to think of government as synonymous with the
State. Again, this error has led to social discord, as the other
three spheres of government have been neglected. The husband is
the head of the home, the wife his help-meet, and children are
to obey their parents and be nurtured in the admonition of the
Lord. Wives and children may disobey their husband/father only
when his directives violate clearly Biblical instructions.
4. Marriage is the
norm, not singleness.
Singleness can occur for a variety of reasons: lack of someone
of the opposite sex to offer marriage, death of a spouse,
divorce, or one’s calling (Matthew 19:10-11; I Corinthians 7:7,
32-35 -- see below). Thus, it can be legitimate. However, God’s
overwhelming priority for His Kingdom on earth is the family.
(1) The Creation
Mandate with all its directives is given to the family, for only
within the family are children born legitimately (above). (2)
In both the Old and New Testaments, the family is assumed in
ownership of land and its inheritance, the propagation and
raising of children, and the primary unit of economy and
governance. (3) Young widows are instructed to re-marry, not
remain single (I Timothy 5:14). This admonition would include
those Biblically divorced , as well. (4) Singleness for work in
the Church and the Kingdom is such that a special gift is
required (I Corinthians 7:7).
5. Marriage is for one
man to one woman in unity for life.
The marriage of a man and a woman forms a unique relationship
within mankind. There is a complementarity and completeness of
the two which exceeds what each is individual (Genesis 1:18-25).
These two people, acting and interacting together as they
should, begin to think, act, and feel as one person (“one
flesh”). This unity must be established with priorities that
separate themselves from those families from which each spouse
came (Genesis 2:24). Today, there are often conflicts early
within a marriage because one or more of the spouses gives
priority to one or more member of the family from which he or
Acts of sexual intimacy
between a man and a woman may be expressed only after they are
other acts of sexual expression (pornography, homosexuality,
bestiality, etc.) are biblically proscribed.
The modern concept of
“dating” has no Biblical warrant.
The only Biblical relationships between men and women are as
relatives (both genetically and spiritually) and as husband and
wife (assuming engagement as a prelude to marriage). “Dating”
sets the stage for sexual immorality and severe emotional
trauma. Any idea that “dating” is preparation for marriage is
erroneous and a gross distortion of the concept of marriage.
6. God designed
marriage for the life of the husband or wife
(Romans 7:1-6) with only the two exceptions (following).
7. God allows divorce
for sexual infidelity and desertion by an unbelieving spouse.
While forgiveness with restitution is the norm for offenses, God
does not mandate that the offended spouse accept back the
sexually unfaithful offender (Matthew 19:9). However, the
offended spouse may do so under the application of
forgiveness (Luke 17:1-5).
While we should not
speculate about God’s intentions in His design, from a human
perspective there are conditions that are unique to this
situation. First, sexual immorality brings the possibility of
sexually transmitted diseases that are debilitating and even
fatal for the innocent spouse. Second, the ripping and tearing
of the “one flesh” nature of marriage in sexual infidelity is
the breaking of the most intimate of human relationships. This
former union is not easily restored.
A believing spouse may
allow the unbelieving spouse to leave and divorce him or her (I
Corinthians 7:15). If a believing spouse decides to leave,
however, that believer’s church must become involved to make
every Biblical effort to restore the marriage. If that believing
spouse will not repent, then the church is to follow formal
steps of discipline and excommunicate him or her (Mathew
18:15-20). Once the church has declared this offender an
unbeliever, then the same passage (above) applies as to an
Certainly, I have presented here a summary of principles. There
is much Scripture, counseling, prayer, and possibly church
discipline in actual situations. However, I have summarized the
biblically allowable options. For a more detailed discussion of
these issues, I highly recommend Jay Adams’ Marriage,
Divorce, and Remarriage…. (See References below.)
8. Biblical grounds for
centuries after the Reformation, covenants were made between a
man and woman engaged to be married. Those covenants should be
re-instituted today with sanctions against the party who breaks
the contract. There should be no particular ownership of any
property by either spouse while the marriage lasts. The State’s
only role in marriage is to enforce the sanctions of the
contract, if violated by either party and the church is unable
to settle disputes. The State has no role in setting conditions
for any marriage before the covenant is established. Current
civil law has greatly promoted the breakup of the family in our
times with easy divorce, based on such nebulous concepts as
“no-fault” and “incompatibility.” Divorce should be final: all
contact of the guilty spouse with the children should be cut
off. He or she has divorced himself or herself from the family
by their unrighteous and hardened behavior. This total
separation is not possible today because of the state is not
guided by Biblical principle. (Transported from Civil Government
Is spousal abuse
grounds for divorce?
One has to proceed carefully on this issue. It does seem
justifiable that where a spouse’s life or those of their
children have been threatened and that threat has been acted
upon in some tangible, physical way, the Sixth Commandment to
prevent the taking of life would apply. John Frame has discussed
allowing divorce on the grounds of desertion on page 31 of the
reference below "MarriageDivorcePolicyPCA."
James Jordan also argues
for divorce on the grounds of "serious maltreatment."
(James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of
Exodus 21-23 (Institute for Christian Economics, 1984, page
87. This book may be found online below.)
9. Parents are
responsible for the education of their children, primarily that
which is spiritual.
“Education” has come to be equated with formal education of
primary, secondary, and university levels. However, the most
important directive to parents is the spiritual education of
their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-25; Ephesians 6:1-4).
Tragically, the priorities for Christians are reversed today.
More attention by parents is given to the education of their
children towards “jobs and careers,” rather than “serving the
Living God.” In
this role of spiritual education, the man must lead.
Spiritual education is
unavoidable, as “discipling” is more important than formal
Parents are instructing their children from the time that they
are born by their words and behavior, whether such is intended
as education or not. Essentially, they are “discipling” as
powerful authorities to their children. This “discipling” is far
more influential than their speech, especially in the children’s
early years. Thus, the true “spiritual” commitment of the
parents will be seen by their children and compared to what the
parents espouse verbally. Children have an innate wisdom in the
interpretation of hypocrisy, and they will tell you so!
All Christian parents
should determine early in their children’s lives what their
goals for their education should be.
How many older Christians regret “the years that the locusts
have eaten?” Not too many decades ago, children achieved
Biblical, theological, and classical education by their late
teenage years. The breadth and depth of what children may
achieve should not be underestimated, especially in Biblical and
theological studies. Some Christian schools and home
schoolers are beginning to recognize this potential, but it
needs to be far more widespread and more fully developed than is
current in most places. While the Church may or may not be
directly involved in this education, its leaders should be
encouraging and making opportunities for the achievement of this
level of education.
Wasting time and evil
years that the locusts have eaten” includes wasting time on
studies that are not important to the life of a Christian. While
specific subjects are far beyond our scope here, some examples
may suffice. Why should Christian children study “social
studies” and “abnormal” psychology which are thoroughly pagan in
concept and even evil (“anti-God)? There is a place for the
study of these in contrast to the Biblical worldview, but that
approach is not taught in public schools and many Christian
schools. So, the focus of parents should be as much on “wrong”
studies, as “right” studies.
Parents will know their children quite well, as they observe
them over their childhood and adolescence. They should apply
this knowledge to help their children discover their vocation
and avocations, that is, their “calling(s)” relative to God’s
design for their lives. The Biblical concept is that all moral
occupations should be seen as working towards the fulfillment of
the Kingdom of God, not as just a means of income. (See
Vocation -- Link to same.)
This entire section brings serious question to the children of
Christians being in state schools which today are consciously
anti-Christian and anti-Biblical.
10. The husband is the
head of the home.
The husband is head of the home (Ephesians 5:22-24, 6:4).
However, this headship bears not only authority, but the love,
tenderness, and sacrifice that Jesus manifested for His Church
(Ephesians 5:25-33, 6:4).
This headship is a
criterion for leadership in the Church and the State.
The determination of whether a man is able to lead the Church is
reflected in his proven ability to lead and govern his family (I
Timothy 3:4, 12), as well as his proven spirituality (Exodus
18:21). This criterion should also be a requirement for
leadership in any authoritative position in society and in state
government. While this application is not explicit in Scripture,
it is an inescapable conclusion of Scripture with the role of
the man throughout the Old Testament in the family, the
government of Israel (Exodus 18:13-27), the Levitical
priesthood, and the government of Israel in the Sanhedrin.
Rationally, no people should want someone over them who has
failed in this most important area to those who should be most
dear to him.
This criterion does
have a limit.
There are occasions when evil children come from a Biblical
home. Hardened, recalcitrant children who are older, probably
even “adults” by age, were to be disinherited (see below) and
even stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). And, it cannot be denied
that every child has a sin nature that he will follow or one
that he will “deny” and follow Christ and His Word. Some
children will follow that sin nature in their adult years. But,
while children are in the home, the father should have control
and discipline of them.
11. Marriages are not
to be unequally yoked.
Christians are to marry only Christians (II Corinthians
6:11-18). While this criterion applies primarily to believers,
it is valuable advice to unbelievers, as well. Marriages that
involve different religions are surely to involve conflict.
And, a covenant of marriage is required by God for any child to
be considered legitimate (Genesis 2:24).
12. Consanguinity is
forbidden by God and supported by nature.
God has declared that marriage of close kinship is forbidden
(Leviticus 18:1-18; Mark 6:18). The genetic problems that have
occurred demonstrate that consanguinity is against nature, as
well. This association of law and nature clearly demonstrates
that God’s laws are for the good of mankind, not just
restrictions on his “freedom.”
13. The modern state
violates its God-directed mandate to enhance and protect
marriages and families, and thus, has become an enemy of God and
A. The State
has flagrantly violated the integrity of the home by
forcibly removing children for acts of corporal
discipline, spiritual instruction, circumstantial sexual
abuse, and other allegations that violate the integrity
granted to the family by God Himself. These intrusions
violate a number of principles of Biblical justice, as
well. The only justification for State intrusion into
the home is the substantiated threat to the life of one
or more family members and instances of sexual abuse of
children that can be clearly documented.
B. The State
has failed to enforce judgments against spouses who have
divorced and failed to support their respective spouses
and children financially. The large majority of these
cases of injustice are women.
C. Tax codes
fail to give adequate consideration to the costs of
child-raising in its legal deductions, especially where
both spouses have earned income.
D. The State
has facilitated easy divorce through laws that allow it
for virtually any whim or desire of one spouse.
laws in the name of “health,” violate the integrity of
the family. For example, vaccinations are mandated
solely on the expectation that all children will become
sexually promiscuous (hepatitis B and HPV) or
intra-venous drug addicts (hepatitis B). Any girl,
regardless of age, may be treated by a health care
worker for a sexually transmitted disease, have an
abortion, or receive any form of birth control without
parental knowledge or consent in any of the 50 states.
F. Current laws
make alternatives to public education legally
restrictive and expensive.
G. Current laws
mandate studies in public education that are anti-God,
anti-family, and immoral.
legalization of abortion is the social justification of
murder, the destruction of the life-giving essence of a
mother to her unborn child, and the obliteration of
God’s creating activity (Psalm 139:13-16).
14. Family economics.
Primarily, the husband is to provide for his family (I Timothy
5:8) and the wife is the homemaker (I Timothy 5:10, 14; Titus
2:3-5). However, the wife has great latitude in assisting in
this role and being involved in many endeavors (Proverbs
31:10-31). A modern danger for both spouses is the lure of
“making money” or “career advancement” to the neglect of each
other and their children. Too many excuses and false
justifications are used by one or both for these pursuits.
Social studies actually show that most successful men are good
fathers and husbands.
Children are to provide
for their parents, as needed, later in their lives.
Parents are to make every attempt to provide for themselves in
their latter years and to provide an inheritance for their
children (II Corinthians 2:14). However, such financial planning
is not always successful. Their children are to guarantee that
they are loved and that their needs are met until their deaths
under the provisions of the Fifth Commandment and the Great
Commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself.”
15. Spiritual endeavors
should not encroach on family responsibilities.
The primary spiritual roles of husbands and wives are those for
each other and their children. Ministries, including missionary
activities, may never justify the abrogation or substitution of
these activities over family responsibilities. The attempt to
meet many “spiritual needs” of others has caused worse needs,
including divorce, in the families of those who were the
ministers. The busy, busy local church calendar can be such an
16. Older, spiritually
mature women are to teach younger women
(Titus 2:2-4). This role is one that is not common to the Church
today. There is a great deal for a young woman to learn about
being a wife, mother, and homemaker. She needs help and
instruction. God has commanded that older, spiritual women come
alongside of them in assistance and teaching. Thus, the teaching
of adult women by adult women has a Biblically defined
curriculum. The teaching of women by women does not include
broad, doctrinal teaching which is the responsibility of the
husband (I Corinthians 14:35).
17. Discipline of
first thing to say about discipline is that it has a positive
side, as well as a negative side. The positive side has been
covered under “education” among these principles. The negative,
or corrective side, is what is usually connoted by “discipline.”
The Bible is clear that inflicting pain on children because of
their violations of God’s instructions through parents is more
than warranted, as God demands it. The consequences of not
applying corporal punishment is severe. “To spare the rod” is to
hate one’s children; “to apply the rod is to love them”
(Proverbs 13:24). Certain dimensions of “foolishness” will be
retained in children, if physical punishment is not applied
(Proverbs 22:15). The “rod” is one means by which a child’s soul
is delivered from Hell (Proverbs 23:14). Corporal punishment is
one mean’s of implanting wisdom in a child (Proverbs 29:15).
However, in today’s
climate of political correctness, parents must be careful where
and how they physically punish their children. Children may be
legally taken from a home where such punishment is carried out.
And, it should not need to be said, but physical punishment
should be properly given without severely harming the child and
not as the only form of corrective discipline used. Rewards,
restriction, retribution, and other avenues should be used, as
The ultimate act of
discipline is disinheritance.
There may come a point in the later years of a child’s life when
they become incorrigible, not accepting of any form of
discipline. This application is the same as that of Matthew
18:15-20. In the Old Testament, it was “putting one outside the
camp,” for example, Numbers 5:2-4. The greatest seriousness of
this act is spiritual condemnation, not the physical separation.
This act is disinheritance from the Kingdom and God and
consignment to Hell, that is, spiritual separation from God and
from His people forever. Today, some parents need to disinherit
their children, painful though it may be. They live
unproductive, profligate lives with their parents always bailing
them out (literally and figuratively) and continually providing
for their wants and needs. The continued support by parents is
support of activities that are unproductive, immoral, and
sometimes illegal. It is support of Hell on earth. It is shaking
one’s fist in God’s face, as the provision for such a life is to
support lives and actions that are anti-Christ.
Historical note: The Reformation established freedom of
sexuality in marriage. Most of the church fathers,
including Augustine, Athanasius, Tertullian, Ambrose, Aquinas,
and Gregory the Great, considered sexual expression with any
passion or enjoyment as "evil," "sin," "befoulment," and
"adultery." Consistently, virginity and celibacy were
highly honored. These attitudes became entrenched within
Roman Catholic teaching, writing, and tradition. Even the
Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic response to the
Reformation, upheld celibacy and by implication, its attitudes
towards sexuality within marriage being restricted to the
conception of children.
But, then came the
Puritans. The Puritans were anything but sexual prudes
(as they are often confused with the Victorians who were
dishonestly prudish). The men highly valued their wives
and proclaimed the passion and enjoyment of sexuality within
marriage. Women expected, and sometimes demanded, regular
sexual activity with their husbands. Thomas Hooker wrote:
The man whose heart
is endeared to the woman he loves ... dreams of her in the
night, hath her in his eye and apprehension when he awakes,
museth on her as he sits at the table, walks with her when
he travels ... She lies in his bosom, and his heart trust in
her, which forceth all to confess that the stream of his
affection, like a mighty current, runs with full tide and
After all, this
attitude of sexual pleasure in marriage is only a reflection of
what God intended and what He portrayed in Proverbs 5:18ff and
The Song of Solomon!
[These thoughts and
quotes for this section come from Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans
as They Really Were (Zondervan Academie Books, 1986),
Click on “COR
Documents” in the left hand column, then scroll down to
“The Christian Worldview of the Family”
resource for the role of the local church in
pre-marriage counseling, counseling of intact marriages,
and church discipline in marriages that are in
Adams, Jay E.
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible. Presbyterian
and Reformed Publishing Company, 1980.
The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23.
Institute for Christian Economics, 1984. Found online at
Ray, Bruce. Withhold
Not Correction. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Sutton, Ray. Who
Owns the Family: God or the State? Dominion Press (Blueprint
Series), 1986. Also, available online