God Speaks About Divorce and Remarriage, Fornication, and Living Together Before Marriage

God Speaks about Divorce and Remarriage

(This article by David Myer appeared in the BRF Witness 25 years ago.
It was then and now, given an editorial overhaul by Harold Martin.)
Divorce and remarriage is so readily accepted in most of our churches today, that we have almost completely lost sight of God’s view on the topic. The teaching of the Word of God on the matter of divorce and remarriage must be clearly presented so that young people will be more discerning in choosing a mate, and so that married couples will strive more diligently to make the adjustments needed in order to save their marriages.

The major article in this study guide examines and responds to the loopholes which many who read the Bible are using to try and justify divorce and remarriage in our day. BRF believes that marriage is binding “as long as both shall live,” that the marriage bond must not be severed (Mark 10:10-12), and that a man and a woman who are joined in marriage, are intimately combined so as to be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

It is our conviction that Christians must work much harder at trying to reconcile estranged and divorced partners who continue to be in conflict. Reconciliation takes time and effort. We must consider some steps to take, even in situations where reconciliation seems impossible. Below are some approaches that may help victims of divorce in our local churches.

1) Make certain that the 1 Timothy 3 standards are applied for leadership in the church. The minister and deacon are to be “the husband of one wife.” Whatever else may be implied by the instruction, surely it rules out divorce and polygamy.
2) Intentionally devote some of your time to help save marriages. Sometimes psychologists and Christian counselors offer advice that tends to break up homes. They imply that the way to mend a marriage is to end it. We must commit ourselves to biblical standards and be prepared to graciously support such standards when counseling with others.

3) Pray for healing and reconciliation among the original partners. Ask the God who instituted marriage in the first place, to bring healing to the broken relationship. No matter how bad the situation, God can use various means (including special crises) to cause persons to think seriously about their duties in life.

4) Encourage persons who are victims of divorce to get involved in spiritual service rather than to focus on finding another mate. Plan a program which involves those who have suffered divorce to participate in a ministry of visiting the sick, helping the handicapped, writing letters to missionaries, especially those serving in other countries, and befriending persons who seem to be neglected. To those persons who are involved in a marriage breakup, consider seriously the following suggestions:

Present yourself anew to God (Romans 12:1).
Seek reconciliation with your mate (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
Seek to please your partner (1 Corinthians 7:33-34).
Forgive and ask forgiveness (Matthew 6:12).

The important thing is to heal rather than wound, to restore rather than to retaliate, to show the love of Christ rather than demonstrate hostility. As a people who believe strongly in peace, these principles should be given priority in family life as well as in relations between nations. We may not be able to control the foreign policy of the U.S. government, but we can let the Spirit of God transform our selfish personal attitudes so that we display genuine love for our imperfect marriage partners!
–Harold S Martin

Examining Loopholes for the Remarriage of Divorced Persons
In our day the marriage covenant could almost be classified as an endangered species. Each year, it seems that a divorce is easier to obtain than it was the year be-fore. We never know when we will find out about another couple who is getting a divorce. Most persons have someone involved in a divorce/remarriage situation in their own immediate families. Surely it is important that the church speaks clearly on what the Bible has to say about divorce and remarriage. We must decide where we stand on the New Testament passages which deal with the subject because there is much diversity of thought.

Divorces in Jesus’ day could be obtained very easily. The Pharisees came to Jesus and asked whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason, and He answered them (recorded in Matthew 19:5) by going back to Genesis and quoting from Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife and the two shall be-come one flesh.” That is God’s ideal for marriage. That is God’s original plan. Readers will note that in God’s intent there is no room for ending the marriage.

Today many more marriages are ending in divorce. What has happened? Has God’s standard for marriage changed? One reason for the change in attitude toward the permanence of marriage is related to the fact that churches have let down the standards concerning the divorce and remarriage teaching. As we engage in evangelism today, we get into some very difficult situations. Attempts are sometimes made to see if there is a way to re-interpret the Scriptures so that there are some “loopholes” that would allow the remarriage of divorced persons (when original partners are still living). Many in the church have tried to get around this issue by saying that you just cannot expect a young divorced husband or wife to go through the rest of their lives without a marriage partner. And so the search continues for loopholes that allow for the remarriage of divorced persons.
We want to examine some of the loopholes that have been presented in recent years in an attempt to justify the remarriage of divorced persons.

Matthew 5:32 says, “Whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9 repeats the same exception. The exception clause (“whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery”), is understood by many to mean that divorce and remarriage is okay if sexual unfaithfulness (“fornication”/KJV) has happened on the part of one of the married partners.

Before we get too deeply into the meaning of the words, it is important that we notice to whom the book of Matthew was especially written. Mark’s account was written primarily to the Romans, and the exception clause is omitted. The book of Luke was written to the Greeks, and the exception clause is omitted. Matthew was written primarily to the Jews in New Testament times, and the exception clause is included. Most likely Matthew had the Jewish wedding custom in mind.

In Jewish practice, when a young man wanted to marry a girl, he traveled to the home of the prospective bride and established a covenant of betrothal—and then returned to his father’s house for a period of about twelve months. In Jewish circles, the betrothed bride and groom were called “husband” and “wife” even though there was still no physical union between them. The marriage ceremony (and physical union) only occurred after the twelve-month period of separation. If the young man discovered that his prospective bride had been unfaithful during the period of betrothal, he could break the covenant with a paper of divorcement. The reverse situation would also be a cause for divorce. And so the exception clause found at two places in Matthew is believed to refer not to a marriage divorce, but to a betrothal divorce.

The exception clause was not included in Mark and Luke because Greek and Roman marriage customs did not recognize the betrothal provision. Thus it was not necessary for Mark and Luke in their Gospel accounts to even mention the exception. We noted above that the exception clause is used twice in Matthew (5:32 and 19:9). The major point to note in Matthew 19:9 is that grammatically the exception clause can only apply to the divorce of one’s married partner, not to the remarriage to another person. Sexual immorality does not provide an exception which allows a divorced married partner to remarry—as long as the first marriage spouse is still living. Jesus says that the person who remarries when a former partner is still living—commits adultery. The exception does not apply to remarriage. We tend to concentrate on the exception clause when reading the Matthew texts (5:32 and 19:9). Jesus was not emphasizing the exception, but was stressing the fact that remarriage after divorce was committing adultery.
The question in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is this: Does the exception clause permit remarriage, or does it only provide for legal separation? The only interpretation that harmonizes with the overall teaching of the New Testament on the subject is that while sexual immorality is a sufficient cause for divorce, it is not a legitimate reason for remarriage.

What Jesus is saying is not that divorce and remarriage are okay if sexual unfaithfulness has developed after marriage-–but that engagement can be broken if sexual unfaithfulness has occurred during the betrothal period. This is the provision that Joseph was going to use when he discovered that Mary was expecting a child (See Matthew 1:18-20). Jesus, in this first (so called) loophole, is not making room for divorce and remarriage after the marriage has been consummated (if there has been sexual unfaithfulness), but the exception is a provision for the breaking of an engagement (if sexual immorality has occurred before the marriage was secured).

The Bible in essence says that when remarriage oc-curs (while the original partner is still living)—adultery results. That conclusion has historically been accepted by most serious Bible students. Adultery is identified in every passage where the remarriage of divorced persons is mentioned. But the important question is this: Does adultery take place in the act of becoming remarried, or does it exist in the state of being remarried? If adultery is just the act of remarriage, then a couple who is remarried can go to the Lord, confess that sin, and be forgiven, and go on living together, and not be guilty of adultery until such a time when they split up again, and go to the Lord again and confess that sin, and be free again. If adultery is merely a single act, then that is how the process can work. The act can be forgiven like any other sin can be forgiven.

We note that the term “commits adultery” is in the present tense, which in Greek nearly always denotes a continuous action. Romans 7:2-3 clearly uses the continuous action tense when it says, “she shall be called an adulteress.” Furthermore, we are told why the remarriage of divorced persons is adultery. It is adultery because the first marriage is still binding.
People talk in our day about “ending” marriages. You cannot do that. The Bible says (in Romans 7:2) that the wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. It is not divorce, but death, that ends marriages. The only thing that divorce does to a marriage is to make adultery legal in the eyes of the human government. The Bible view is that as long as a former marriage partner is living, the original marriage union is secure in God’s eyes—and that is a state of marriage.

When one of the married partners separates from the other and joins himself to someone else, that does not free him from the state of the marriage that he is in currently. Rather, it enters him into a new state of adultery. Just as the act of becoming married, leads one into the state of matrimony, so the act of becoming re-married leads into the state of an adulterous relationship. Romans 7:2-3 supports that fact. Paul is not speaking there specifically to the point of divorce and remarriage, but he’s using an illustration about our relationship to the Mosaic Law. Nevertheless—the truth about divorce and remarriage is clear. The adulterous relationship resulting from a second marriage (when the first partner still lives), is an on-going intimate relationship, and thus is not a one-time act of adultery but is a continuing state of adultery.

What about the situation where a young man or woman has married and divorced and married again (maybe as often as three or four times)–-and then they come to know the Lord as Savior? The argument is that we cannot hold those actions against them, because they entered the second marriage relationship when they were non-Christians. The argument continues by saying that surely God forgives all such wrong actions.

Mark 10:6-9 indicates that marriage is a divine institution which was ordained by God from the beginning; it is not merely a New Testament Christian institution. Mark 10:6-9 says, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus says that marriage is binding, and it has been that way from the time of creation. Lasting marriage relationships did not begin just since the advent of the Christian era.

One term which helps clarify the all-inclusive nature of God’s marriage laws, is the word “whoever” (whosoever/KJV). The word “whoever” is used seven times in the New Testament when referring to marriage, divorce, and adultery. It is used frequently in the New Testament in reference to salvation, and whenever it is used, it always means “all inclusive, anyone, everyone.” (Note the use of the word in John 3:16). It does not matter if one is from Asia, Europe, the islands of the sea, or a small American village–whoever meets the conditions of salvation—shall not perish. It is all inclusive.

Some quote from 1 Corinthians 7:17, 20, 24 and say that the Bible tells a person to remain in the same condition in which he was when he was first saved. In the mind of some Bible readers, this becomes a loophole for justifying the remarriage of divorced persons who remarried while they were still unsaved. Believers need to look at the setting in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul is talking about two things—circumcision and servanthood. Paul is not talking about sin and wrong living. He is not saying, “if you are a murderer, just continue being a murderer.” He is not saying, “If you are a liar, you may keep on lying.” He doesn’t say, “If you were a fornicator, keep on in your immorality; that’s okay.” Proverbs 28:13 makes it clear that God expects His people to turn away from sinful living.

Marriage is binding on all—whether Christian or non-Christian. Hebrews 13:4 states that fact. It is important to notice that neither Mark nor John recognized Herod’s second marriage as valid. Mark 6:17 describes the woman whom Herod married, as “his brother Philip’s wife.” That is whose wife she was, even though Herod had married her (Mark 6:18)! She wasn’t Herod’s wife! Herod was living with her in adultery. She was Philip’s wife! God does not recognize the second marriage—because the first marriage continues to be binding until death. That is an eternal principle settled in the eternal counsels of God. Marriage is not just a Christian institution; it is a broad general institution, and therefore it is binding whether an individual was married when he/she was 14 in the ghettos of New York City, or united in marriage at age 25 in a typical Brethren wedding ceremony. From God’s point of view, all marriages are binding, including marriages that occurred before persons were followers of Christ. To break that marriage vow is viewed as sin. The vow can be broken only by death.

First of all, it is doubtful that there ever is “a totally innocent party” in a marriage conflict. Usually each person in the marriage relationship had some part to play in the conflict, and was not absolutely and totally innocent. To say that a person in conflict with another is totally innocent is a pretty big statement. Perhaps there are some exceptions to the general rule, and so we should look at how the Bible would deal with the conflict if someone is indeed completely innocent.
What about the person who has experienced marriage failure, and seems totally innocent of any wrongdoing in the conflict that led to the divorce? Is it proper for that so-called “innocent” person to remarry?

The latter part of Matthew 19:9 records the words of Jesus–“whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Jesus does not say why the woman was divorced. Perhaps she didn’t cook right, or maybe she ran off with another man, or she may have combed her hair in a way that displeased her husband. God says that the marital relationship is so sacred that there are no exceptions—even if one of the parties is innocent. First Corinthians 7:10 says that we need to keep the marriage in-tact, because in marriage, we are involved in a covenant relationship, and we are to keep our part of the covenant even if the other party breaks his/her vow. Even if there is such a thing as “an innocent party” in a marriage conflict, there still seems to be no right to re-marry.

Some quote from 1 Corinthians 7:15 and conclude that the Bible says in certain situations an individual “is not under bondage.” They say that if you are married to an unbeliever, and the unbeliever departs, you are free from the bondage of marriage—as free as if you had never been married. But the teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is that if the unbelieving partner departs, and doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, let him/her go. You are not bound to keep on following, serving, and hounding the partner. Let him/her go. God has called us to peace. To interpret the passage any other way would contradict other verses in the same chapter. First Corinthians 7:11, for example, says “Let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.” There is something binding about the first marriage. The married person is always to let the door open for reconciliation. Only death terminates a marriage. Therefore the word “bondage” (1 Corinthians 7:15) does not mean that one is free from the bond of marriage, when serious conflict arises.

There is an example in the Bible of how to experience God’s blessing when tangled marriage situations are present. In the book of Ezra, there is an example of a voluntary separation of partners who were wrongly married. True, the wrongly married persons may have seemed happy together. They had a family and home (Ezra 10:44). Yet the solution to separate was what the Children of Israel were told to do, if they had been involved in sinful marital relationships. There were probably some young men and women in the camp who were deeply in love with each other, yet the Lord’s disciples must be reminded that “the way of the transgressor is hard.” Sometimes there is no easy way out of difficult situations.
In 1 Corinthians 7:11, the Lord gives a permissive will related to marriage: “But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.” God does allow married partners to separate if the relationship be-tween them becomes too strained. When separation occurs, however, there are only two options—to remain unmarried, or to become reconciled to the married partner.

Some say that it is too much to ask a person to go through life without enjoying the blessings of marriage and becoming the parents of children. But the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:8 that singleness is a good choice to make. He gives reasons in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. God calls some people to remain eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. We should exalt this position as an option for our young people. God has a real blessing in store for those who choose that direction. Isaiah 56:4-5 informs us that God holds a special place in His heart for those people who are willing to forego some of the otherwise acceptable pleasures of this life for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

Surely, if God has special blessings and grace for those who choose a life of singleness for the kingdom of heaven’s sake—there will be sufficient grace for those who have had unfortunate marriages, and are determined to go through life without remarrying.

We are always on shaky ground if we begin to seek ways to ignore what the Word of God teaches on divorce and remarriage. There are at least eight relevant Scripture portions that need to be studied. See Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:14-16; Romans 7:2-4; 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Matthew 19:3-8, Mark 10:1-12, and Luke 16:18. These passages give overwhelming evidence for the permanency of God’s institution of marriage.

Jesus plainly says that taking the step of divorce does not dissolve the marriage union as death does, for if it did, it would be unnecessary to say, “Whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32b). It is unthinkable that the God who teaches us to forgive seventy-times-seven times (with-out limit), would then teach that we may divorce our wives and put them away if we can’t get along with them.

And concerning remarriage—the Bible in a number of places says that death dissolves a marriage, and then it is not a sin to remarry (1 Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2). But God’s Word gives no license for anyone to remarry as long as he or she has a former living companion. The real solution for those who are already divorced and remarried, is the voluntary separation of the married partners, like the Children of Israel did during the revival under Ezra’s preaching (Ezra 10:3).
Marriage is a serious step. The vows are witnessed on earth and they are recorded in Heaven. The Bible teaches that marriage is a lifetime contract, never to be broken, except by death. The Bible teaching on this topic needs to be clearly presented so that young people will be more careful in choosing a mate, and so that married couples will strive harder to make the adjustments needed to save their marriages.

Proper Christian living involves the elimination of the past sins of the old unsaved life, and the development of an upright character within the new life. Sexual morality is one of the areas that must be carefully guarded.
(Colossians 3:5) “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
“Fornication” speaks primarily of sexual relationships outside the bonds of marriage. The distinction between fornication and adultery is that adultery involves married persons, while fornication involves those who are not married. The Greek word “porneia” often broadens out to include a wider scope of sexually immoral activities than pre-marital or extra-marital sex. A survey reported in U.S. News & World Report announced that ten percent of all young girls in America lose their virginity before the age of thirteen, and that by tenth grade, one out of six high school students has had four or more sexual partners.

God’s standard for sexual conduct is chastity before marriage and loyalty after marriage. God has given His blessing to the sexual relationship only within the family situation of marriage—where children that are born will most likely get the tender care that they so much need.

Continuing in the sins mentioned in Colossians 3:5 will lead to judgment, and will call forth the God’s wrath. His wrath is not irresponsible anger, but a fixed attitude of displeasure with sin. God does not take sin lightly, and neither should we! The Bible speaks about God’s displeasure with violations of biblical standards of sexual purity.
(1 Thessalonians 4:3-8/NLT)
“God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body, and live in holiness and honor—not in lustful passion as the pagans do, in their ignorance of God and his ways….God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules, but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you”
In Colossians 3:5, the Apostle Paul names some sins of the flesh that are related to sexual impurity—sins of deed, thought, and desire. The phrase “put to death” (or “mortify,” KJV) is a figurative expression which means that when we discover evil practices cropping up in our members, we must put our foot on them and trample them to death. The tense of the verb translated “put to death” indicates a decisive but continuous action. Victory involves the deliberate act of decisively saying “no” when temptations come our way.

We live in a culture that accepts conduct contrary to the standards given in the Bible. Youth, during courtship, need to remember that true love can thrive without hugging, holding, and squeezing. To live victoriously there must be a purpose of heart. A life truly devoted to God must begin with a previous determination to do right (Daniel 1:8). Those who are already fornicating, should repent of the sin, confess the wrong conduct and face the future with the freedom of a forgiven person (1 John 1:9).

God’s plan for sexuality is that a sexual relationship should take place only between a man and a woman in marriage—which is to be monogamous, socially visible, non-incestuous, heterosexual, and permanent. The principle named in Genesis 2:24 is clearly endorsed by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 19:4-5. –Harold S. Martin

The moral slide in our culture is seen in many ways, one of which is related to the number of people who are living together without the commitment of marriage. We live in a self-centered and pleasure-oriented society. Bible standards related to righteousness and morality are falling by the wayside. More and more couples are living together apart from the marriage bond. The trend is very alarming. The flippant attitudes of some who “shack up together” are startling.
There is no effort in our day for many couples to even bother trying to conceal their unmarried status. They rent apartments, check in at motels, purchase houses (with their different names signed on the contracts), and visit their parents (expecting to be accepted and given the use of the guest bedroom). Since their idea is that they will live together if they “love” each other, and will stop living together if they stop “loving” each other—they prefer not to complicate the arrangement with a marriage commitment. Many pastors and churches have given approval to the “new morality.” The end-result is the proliferation of all kinds of strange living arrangements. The mindset of a permanent marriage is not in their immediate plans.

A letter written by a young woman (addressed to one of her college teachers), says she is considering a live-in relationship with a man similar to her in age, and states the issues very well. She writes:

My boyfriend and I are contemplating living together for one or two years before getting married. We are intelligent, moral, law-abiding citizens. We love each other deeply. We want to live together, work together—to share, to trust, and to love one another. We want to test marriage before moving blindly into it. We do not have financial means for marriage; and if we decide marriage isn’t for us, we will just separate and avoid the heavy expense of divorce. Of what value is a piece of paper—the so-called marriage license anyway? We are religious people, church members, and do not see any moral problems. Most broad-minded people think this will be the standard life-style for the future. Some people, who refuse to accept social change, including our parents, object to our plans. Why?

Because of the kind of thinking described in the letter above, cohabitation is more and more made to seem normal and is becoming a substitute for marriage. Yet most sources indicate that nearly half of all cohabiting couples break up before the wedding, and those live-in couples who do marry are fifty percent more likely to divorce than those who did not live-in together. In addition, those who lived-in before marriage are more likely to be unfaithful to their marriage vows, and generally experience more domestic violence than those who did not cohabit earlier.

Many people believe it is wrong to even question the morality and value of living together before marriage. It is becoming more and more acceptable in the society, for young men and women to “try it out” before committing themselves to a life-long relationship. What are the moral implications involved in “live-in” relationships?

Living together really is not a good preparation for marriage. One secular book on marriage states that couples who lived together before marriage have significantly lower marital satisfaction than those who did not cohabit before the wedding. It is important to note that during the same time period in which living together before marriage has become acceptable, the rate of divorce has skyrocketed. Living together apparently has not really helped to cement relationships.

There are a number of social reasons for the rising practice of pre-marital cohabitation:

–1) A general breakdown of personal morality
–2) The changing sexual values in society
–3) An extended adolescence and later marriages
–4) The availability of more effective methods of contraception
–5) Tax laws which sometimes make marriage a disadvantage financially

The primary factor, however, is related to the general human rebellion against God’s laws. Committed Christians believe that sharing bed, breakfast, and bills [apart from a valid marriage bond] is a violation of the will of God. And so—to the hundreds who are asking, “What’s wrong with living together before marriage?”—we offer the following paragraphs as a Christian response.

Fornication is defined narrowly as “sexual intercourse between unmarried persons,” but sometimes it broadens to include all forms of sexual immorality. It is a sin which God will judge. The Bible says that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners—will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
And in another place, God’s Word says that marriage is to be held in honor by all, and the marriage bed is to be kept undefiled—for God will judge fornicators and adulterers (Hebrews 13:4). It is a very sobering thought that God through the inspired Bible writer says, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (see Romans 14:12).

Any deviation from this model is a violation of God’s law with some serious consequences. Jesus speaks of a woman who was living with a man who was not her husband (John 4:17-18) as a case of unmarried cohabitation. When the woman said, “I have no husband,” Jesus responded with the words, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband.’” When Jesus spoke of her private life, she quickly changed the subject. Jesus did not regard cohabitation and marriage as being equivalent in meaning.

The lesson of history is that any civilization that turns from the commandments of God, and lavishly devotes itself to carnal pleasure, cannot long endure.

Because of this principle, Christians cannot do exactly as they please. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 speaks clearly about what that means. We are to know that our bodies are dwelling places of the Holy Spirit who lives within, and that we are not our own, for we were bought with a price—and in light of that truth, believers are to glorify God in their bodies. Biblical sanctification includes abstaining from sexual immorality, and living lives that are marked by sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Love without commitment is not really true love at all, but rather, it is a form of lust. A serious and binding marriage alone provides the security from the fear of being used, and seduced, and then abandoned.

Why is marriage so important? Why do we need to receive the church’s blessing and be registered by the state? Why do we encourage couples to save the sexual relationship for marriage? The response: In order for a relationship between a man and woman to continue over the years, both partners must give each other their word completely. That is one of the reasons for a public wed-ding. Both need the support of the community.

Walter Trobisch in his little book entitled, I Married You, describes the three aspects of a normal marriage: 1) The legal or public ceremony. 2) The personal act of consent and commitment. 3) The physical sexual union. (The sex act alone does not constitute marriage, for if that were true, there would be no such thing as fornication, because as soon as individuals engaged in the act, they would be married.)

Marriage is a public vow which makes the commitment more difficult to break. We treat marriage as a public contract, so that we will frequently be reminded of our duties. During our darker days, and in times of temptation, we need reminders of the importance of our obligation to love and cherish and nurture our chosen spouse with genuine care, even when times are difficult.
Out of fear of losing her boyfriend, a young girl may decide to give in and have sex with him. In the end, she often loses him anyway—and then she feels used and humiliated. Many teenage youth fall into the trap of “sex or else we break up.” The boy says, “If you loved me, you would become intimate with me.” But when the girl gives in and consents to having sex, she often ends up getting dumped and is badly hurt.

Some of the many consequences of cohabitation and fornication—are misplaced trust, unplanned pregnancy, venereal disease, and the very negative Christian witness which the cohabiting lifestyle presents to the world. The few moments of ecstasy experienced in an illicit affair, will be greatly outweighed by the hours of remorse that come from disobeying God.

Sex outside of marriage always does some kind of damage. It leaves some people grieving because they can no longer claim virginity. Others carry dark secrets about things they did in the past. Some are afraid of getting pregnant, or getting a venereal disease, including AIDS.

Another consequence of cohabitation is the greater likelihood of divorce if the couple later decides to marry. The National Survey of Families and Households found that couples who cohabit before marriage are 50 percent more likely to divorce. The same survey also found that unmarried couples living together are twice as likely to be unhappy later on in their relationship, than are those who are duly married. One writer says that cohabitation is not preparation for marriage; instead, it is training for divorce. One study found that “cohabiting couples show higher levels of aggression, than either those who are in a dating relationship, or those who are a married couple” (Time magazine, September 5, 1988).

People who move in before making a marriage commitment are people who have not learned to practice delayed gratification. They want the benefits of a solid relationship before investing the time and effort to build a solid relationship. Later, when the road gets rocky, these folks won’t invest the time and effort to sustain the relationship either. One writer says, “Having sex too soon, and moving in without commitment, are the behaviors of basically immature, let-me-feel-good-now people.”

Those who urge a period of unmarried cohabitation in order to test the sincerity and durability of their love, often overlook a common characteristic of human nature. It is the sense of being bound that helps love to become stabilized. The couple that is firmly committed to the principle of lifelong togetherness, has a much greater chance of experiencing a genuine lasting relationship, than the couple who regards their domestic habitation as being subject to termination.

God’s original command in creation was that male and female should “cleave” (“cling”) to one another in covenantal partnership, that is, in marriage (Genesis 2:24). A man shall leave father and mother, and become united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The real objection to living together before marriage is based upon the biblical teaching that sexual activity outside of marriage is an offense against God’s law. We are told in Ephesians 5:3 that there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality among God’s people.

The Bible has no direct and specific teaching on what should be involved in a marriage ceremony, nor does it give lots of detail about how the ceremony should be conducted to make it a valid transaction. However, marriage has always been a public event. It is logical to note that there has always been a specific point at which persons were recognized as being married.

The Bible has specific regulations about the sins of adultery and fornication. It is assumed that the community will know who is married and who is not married. Marriage is not a private affair. It takes place within the community. And the Christian is a member of a special community—the body of Christ. Our entire life (including our role in marriage) is lived out as a member of this special community. In the wedding ceremony, the couple makes pledges in the presence of family, friends, the church, the state, and God. When this commitment has been expressed—then the man and woman are ready for physical consummation. This pattern is in harmony with the teaching found in God’s Word.

A public marriage ceremony demonstrates that we are to take seriously our responsibility to a larger society—including our friends, family, neighbors, and fellow Christians. We do not live to ourselves. We live as members of a community whose approval is important, whose love is desired, and whose reputation is esteemed. A marriage which occurs under God, before an audience, and ratified by the laws of the state—is a strong statement of intention. It says that the couple intends to worship God, to contribute to the welfare of the community, and to put the commitment to persevere in the marriage on public record.

The marriage bond bestows meaning upon the couple’s sexual activity as expressed in the phrase “one flesh.” It highlights the complete interchange of the two selves, as in the bride’s delightful statement in the Song of Solomon, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16). Marriage confirms the mutual commitment and bonding of a man and woman by specifying and guarding certain expectations and responsibilities. In cohabitation, by way of contrast, there is mutual exploitation within the possibility of potential flight. And that does not tend to promote strong and lasting relationships.

A Hallmark Card says, “I can’t promise you forever, but I can promise you today.” This is one of the newest love cards for the current generation—no commitment—just warm “fuzzy” feelings. And then when the mood changes and the fuzzies are gone—the earlier “love” and “respect” begin to fade. Living together before marriage is not an effective way to test the compatibility of potential marriage partners.

Living together without marriage usually does more emotional harm than good. Total commitment is what makes a lasting and good marriage. And yet—commitment is what cohabiting couples are purposely avoiding. Couples that mate before they are mates, tend to rely on sexual intimacy to keep them together. Strong human relationships require more than that. Couples who share the same roof before the public marriage ceremony often build a shaky foundation for their life together.

Our local churches need to call for a renewed commitment to chastity and to the sacredness of sex within marriage. Kevin Ray, a Disciples of Christ minister, in the Disciple Renewal Newsletter, says: “There is a powerful movement today to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture regarding human sexuality. This problem is pervasive. In our society, living together outside of marriage is now acceptable. Divorce is viewed as an easy alternative to the struggle of making a marriage work. Children are being taught in our public schools that sexual activity is acceptable as long as it is done ‘safely.’ Homosexual behavior is being promoted as normal human sexual expression. The perversion of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality threatens to undermine society and is bringing great division to the church of Jesus Christ. On the issue of human sexuality, more and more people are abandoning the God-given standard, and are therefore in danger of incurring God’s wrath. This is a point where the church must be called to faithfulness.”
Those who have embraced a false philosophy about marriage, which says that one needs to “try it before you buy it”—will hopefully rethink their wrong view, repent of their violation of biblical principles—and set out to take God’s laws seriously by breaking off wrong involvements.

The church needs to reach out to those who are suffering the devastating effects of venereal diseases, and make their days as pain-free as possible by offering the peace which Christ brings to those who embrace Him—but we must also teach abstinence from sexual encounters outside of the true and honorable marriage bond.

Faithful Christians must repudiate the new morality, and believers are to faithfully uph old and live by the biblical standards of sexual morality. –Harold S. Martin
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Come explore God’s Word with us!. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:17”


Captivity… Dreams… Rulers… Fire… Lions… Prayers… Kingdoms. From a dedicated youth to a faithful sage, Daniel’s life stands as an example to follow.  Yet beyond his personal life, God gifted Daniel with a message of future events.  Though difficult to grasp, these events would shape the world for the coming Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ as King.


Luke presents a warmly personal and historically accurate account of Jesus as “the Son of Man.” This course will survey the Third Gospel, with emphasis on the unique events, miracles, and parables of Jesus found in it.


This class will provide a broad overview of general church history. We will then focus on the Anabaptist and Pietist movements, especially as they relate to the formation and development of the Brethren groups. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.


This course is intended to lay down a measure in a world where truth is slippery and often subject to interpretation. Where “Christian Values” become a political slogan, and “good people” are our allies despite their faulty core beliefs. Where Facebook “friends” post memes about the power of God, despite a lifestyle that is anything but Godly. In the process we often fight among ourselves, doing Satan’s work for him. The purpose of this course is to lay the measure of Jesus Christ against the cults, religions, and worship in our contemporary world.


While Protestant translations of the Bible contain 66 books, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize additional canonical books as well.  Where did these books, collectively known as the Apocrypha, come from and why aren’t they part of our Bible?  How reliable are they, and what value is there in studying them?


The goal of this class is to acquire a firm grasp of the teachings and themes of these two general epistles. Peter covers topics from salvation and suffering to spiritual deception and the return of Christ. These letters are packed with warnings and encouragements for Christian living.


A detailed study of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the “I Am” metaphors in John’s gospel. Why did Jesus describe himself in these terms? How do they relate to each other? We will look at spiritual and practical applications to further our Christian growth.


Have you ever been visited by someone who said they wanted to study the Bible with you so that you might discover the truth together?  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have much in common with evangelical Christians, and they seem to be well versed in the scriptures.  But what do they really believe and how can we effectively witness to those who have been ensnared by this false religion?


While we may consider Hosea as one of the minor prophets, his message vividly illustrates the major doctrine in all Scriptures.  The theme of God’s unconditional love is magnified and extended beyond those deserving it.  God expresses tender words towards His erring people inviting them to turn from sin to reconciliation with Him.


This course will look at basic principles and polity of leading the local church. We will examine the balance between upholding a spiritually focused organism of ministry and cultivating proper order for effective organization. Practical applications will be emphasized. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.


The Brethren Bible Institute believes in the discipline of the whole person (spirit, soul, and body). We will aim to train students not only about how to study the Bible in a systematic way (2 Timothy 2:15), but also how to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). God calls Christians to the highest of character when He commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), and holiness requires discipline.

Indulgence in the use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, drugs, profanity, and gambling are forbidden at BBI. Objectionable literature will be prohibited. Students are asked not to use the college pool during the Institute. Each student must be thoughtful, and respect the rights of others at all times, especially during study and rest periods.

A friendly social group intermingling of students between class periods, and at general school activities is encouraged. Each student should enjoy the friendship of the entire group. At all times, highest standards of social conduct between men and women must be maintained. This means that all forms of unbecoming behavior and unseemly familiarities will be forbidden.

Personal appearance and grooming tell much about one's character. Students are expected to be dressed in good taste. In an attempt to maintain Scriptural expressions of simplicity, modesty, and nonconformity, the following regulations shall be observed while attending BBI.

MEN should be neatly attired and groomed at all times. Fashion extremes and the wearing of jewelry should be avoided on campus. The hair should not fall over the shirt-collar when standing, nor should it cover the ears.

WOMEN should wear skirts cut full enough and of sufficient length to at least come to the knees when standing and sitting. Form-fitting, transparent, low-neckline, or sleeveless clothing will not be acceptable. Slacks and culottes are permitted only for recreation and then only when worn under a skirt of sufficient length. Wearing jewelry should be avoided on campus. Long hair for women is encouraged and all Church of the Brethren girls (and others with like convictions) shall be veiled on campus.

The Institute reserves the right to dismiss any student whose attitude and behavior is not in harmony with the ideals of the School, or whose presence undermines the general welfare of the School, even if there is no specific breach of conduct.

The Brethren Bible Institute is intended to provide sound Bible teaching and wholesome Christian fellowship for all who desire it. The Bible School Committee worked hard and long at the task of arriving at standards, which will be pleasing to the Lord. It is not always easy to know just where the line should be drawn and we do not claim perfection. No doubt certain standards seem too strict for some and too loose for others. If you are one who does not share all these convictions, we hope you will agree to adjust to them for the School period, for the sake of those who do. We are confident that the blessings received will far outweigh any sacrifice you may have to make. If you have a special problem or question, please write to us about it. To be accepted as a student at BBI, you will need to sign a statement indicating that you will cooperate with the standards of the School.