Category: (1) What does the Bible say about marriage?


Does the Bible address polyamory/swinging?

An open marriage is generally defined as a marriage in which one or both spouses are allowed by the other spouse to have sex with other people. The two primary types of open marriages are polyamory and swinging. Polyamory is when the extra-marital affairs purportedly involve emotional love. Swinging is when the extra-marital affairs only involve recreational/casual sex.

No, the Bible nowhere explicitly addresses polyamory, swinging, or the idea of an open marriage. The idea that one spouse should consent to the other spouse having sex with other people is absolutely foreign to the Bible. The Bible speaks of sex within marriage as pure (Hebrews 13:4). The Bible speaks of sex outside of marriage as immoral and adulterous (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18; 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

The question is sometimes raised as to whether a polyamorous relationship should be considered adultery if the other spouse allows, approves, or even participates in it. The answer is an unequivocal yes! God is the one who defines what marriage is and what adultery is. God, in His Word, has declared sex outside of marriage to be adultery (Exodus 20:14). A spouse’s giving permission to sin does not overrule God’s Law. We do not have the authority to create exceptions to what God has declared to be sinful.

Aside from the biblical declarations that they are sin, polyamorous relationships cannot fulfill what the Bible says a marriage is to be. A married couple cannot be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) if multiple “fleshes” are involved. A married couple cannot fully love one another if that love is divided among other people. There cannot be true intimacy if what is supposed to be intimate is shared with others. Polyamory is not marriage. In no sense is a marriage supposed to be open to sexual activity outside of the marriage.

Polyamory is, in reality, “poly-lust-ory.” There is nothing loving about it. This perversion of marriage is confirmation that “every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually,” and that, without God, “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” (see Genesis 6:5 and Judges 21:25).

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing gay marriage. Across the Atlantic, in mid-July 2013, the Queen of England signed into law “The Marriage Bill,” which allows same-sex couples to marry legally. Around the world, at least fifteen other nations have legalized marriage between same-sex partners. Obviously, the societal definition of marriage is changing. But is it the right of a government to redefine marriage, or has the definition of marriage already been set by a higher authority?

In Genesis chapter 2, God declares it is not good for Adam (the first man) to live alone. All the animals are there, but none of them are a suitable partner for Adam. God, therefore, in a special act of creation, makes a woman. Just a few verses later, the woman is called “his wife” (Genesis 2:25). Eden was the scene of the first marriage, ordained by God Himself. The author of Genesis then records the standard by which all future marriages are defined: “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This passage of Scripture gives several points for understanding God’s design for marriage. First, marriage involves a man and a woman. The Hebrew word for “wife” is gender-specific; it cannot mean anything other than “a woman.” There is no passage in Scripture that mentions a marriage involving anything other than a man and a woman. It is impossible for a family to form or human reproduction to take place asexually. Since God ordained sex to only take place between a married couple, it follows that God’s design is for the family unit to be formed when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship and have children.

The second principle from Genesis 2 about God’s design for marriage is that marriage is intended to last for a lifetime. Verse 24 says the two become “one flesh.” Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and so she was literally one flesh with Adam. Her very substance was formed from Adam instead of from the ground. Every marriage thereafter is intended to reflect the unity shared by Adam and Eve. Because their bond was “in the flesh,” they were together forever. There was no escape clause written into the first marriage that allowed for the two to separate. That is to say that God designed marriage for life. When a man and a woman make a commitment to marry, they “become one flesh,” and that is why they say, “Till death do us part.”

A third principle from this passage about God’s design for marriage is monogamy. The Hebrew words for “man” and “wife” are singular and do not allow for multiple wives. Even though some people in Scripture did have multiple wives, it is clear from the creation account that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman. Jesus emphasized this principle when He appealed to the Genesis account to counter the idea of easy divorce (Matthew 19:4—6).

It should come as no surprise that the world desires to change what God has instituted. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). Though the world is attempting to provide their own definitions for what they call “marriage,” the Bible still stands. The clear definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.

A covenant marriage is an alternative marriage license. The laws covering covenant marriage vary from state to state. Covenant marriage differs from a standard marriage contract in that the covenant partners are required to attend pre-marital counseling and would have to wait two years before a divorce can be filed. In addition, a covenant marriage license could not be absolved with a “no fault” cause. The conditions for divorce would be abuse, adultery, long term separation, or a felony conviction. Again, the laws for covenant marriages vary because they are legislated by the states.

Covenant marriage legislation supporters believe that this type of marriage would decrease the divorce rate; thus, the family unit would once again be a strong foundation for our society. Proponents claim a marriage that discourages easy divorces would hold the individuals more accountable to their partners and lead to fewer broken homes.

Opponents of covenant marriage contend it is based on religion and therefore is a violation of separation of church and state. Furthermore, there have been reports from people in covenant marriages that it was almost impossible to get a divorce because they could not prove grounds with evidence of abuse or adultery.

While the legislation for covenant marriage was originally to decrease divorce rates, the word “covenant” is a word used to describe a contract made not only with man, but with God. From a biblical perspective, marriage is a union of man and woman before God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). This is true of any marriage, whether or not the marriage certificate mentions it. The Bible says that divorce is sin unless there is adultery (Matthew 5:32) or an unbelieving spouse leaves the believing spouse (1 Corinthians 7:10-15).

Society’s definition of marriage and divorce is not the cause for the high divorce rate. That is caused by people rejecting the truth of Scripture and choosing to follow their own way rather than follow God. A law most likely won’t change how people value marriage. We value what God values when our hearts are changed and this only occurs when we place our trust in God so we are in agreement with Him (Hebrews 4:12).

Preparing oneself for marriage biblically is the same as preparing for any life endeavor. There is a principle that should govern all aspects of our lives as born-again believers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This is not a flippant command. It is the centerpiece of our lives as believers. It is choosing to focus upon God and upon His Word with our whole heart so that our soul and our mind are occupied with the things that will please Him.

The relationship we have with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is what puts all other relationships into perspective. The marriage relationship is based upon the model of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Every aspect of our lives is governed by our commitment as believers to live according to the commandments and precepts of the Lord. Our obedience to God and to His Word equips us to fulfill our God-given roles in marriage and in the world. And the role of every born-again believer is to glorify God in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31).

In order to prepare yourself for marriage, to walk worthy of your calling in Christ Jesus, and to become intimate with God through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), focus upon obedience in all things. There is no easy plan to learn to walk in obedience to God. It is a choice we must make every day to put aside worldly viewpoints and follow God instead. Walking worthy of Christ is to submit ourselves in humility to the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis. That is the preparation every believer needs to be ready for the great gift we call marriage.

A person who is spiritually mature and walking with God is more prepared for marriage than anyone else. Marriage demands commitment, passion, humility, love, and respect. These traits are most evident in a person who has an intimate relationship with God. As you prepare yourself for marriage, focus on allowing God to shape you and mold you into the man or woman He wants you to be (Romans 12:1-2). If you submit yourself to Him, He will enable you to be ready for marriage when that wonderful day arrives.

Although males and females are equal in relationship to Christ, the Scriptures give specific roles to each in marriage. The husband is to assume leadership in the home (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23). This leadership should not be dictatorial, condescending, or patronizing to the wife, but should be in accordance with the example of Christ leading the church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Christ loved the church (His people) with compassion, mercy, forgiveness, respect, and selflessness. In this same way husbands are to love their wives.

Wives are to submit to the authority of their husbands. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). Although women should submit to their husbands, the Bible also tells men several times how they are supposed to treat their wives. The husband is not to take on the role of the dictator, but should show respect for his wife and her opinions. In fact, Ephesians 5:28-29 exhorts men to love their wives in the same way that they love their own bodies, feeding and caring for them. A man’s love for his wife should be the same as Christ’s love for His body, the church.

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Colossians 3:18-19). “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). From these verses we see that love and respect characterize the roles of both husbands and wives. If these are present, then authority, headship, love, and submission will be no problem for either partner.

In regard to the division of responsibilities in the home, the Bible instructs husbands to provide for their families. This means he works and makes enough money to sufficiently provide all the necessities of life for his wife and children. To fail to do so has definite spiritual consequences. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). So, a man who makes no effort to provide for his family cannot rightly call himself a Christian. This does not mean that the wife cannot assist in supporting the family—Proverbs 31 demonstrates that a godly wife may surely do so—but providing for the family is not primarily her responsibility; it is her husband’s. While a husband should help with the children and with household chores (thereby fulfilling his duty to love his wife), Proverbs 31 also makes it clear that the home is to be the woman’s primary area of influence and responsibility. Even if she must stay up late and rise up early, her family is well cared for. This is not an easy lifestyle for many women—especially in affluent Western nations. However, far too many women are stressed out and stretched to the breaking point. To prevent such stress, both husband and wife should prayerfully reorder their priorities and follow the Bible’s instructions on their roles.

Conflicts regarding the division of labor in a marriage are bound to occur, but if both partners are submitted to Christ, these conflicts will be minimal. If a couple finds arguments over this issue are frequent and vehement, or if arguments seem to characterize the marriage, the problem is a spiritual one. In such an instance, the partners should recommit themselves to prayer and submission to Christ first, then to one another in an attitude of love and respect.

The creation of marriage is recorded in Genesis 2:23-24: “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” God created man and then made woman to complement him. Marriage is God’s “fix” for the fact that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

The word “helper” used to describe Eve in Genesis 2:20 means “to surround, to protect or aid, help.” Eve was created to be alongside Adam as his “other half,” to be his aid and his helper. A man and woman, when married, become “one flesh.” This oneness is manifested most fully in the physical union of sexual intimacy. The New Testament adds a warning regarding this oneness. “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).

There are several epistles written by the apostle Paul that refer to marriage and how believers are to operate within the marriage relationship. One such passage is 1 Corinthians chapter 7, and another is Ephesians 5:22-33. When studied together, these two passages provide biblical principles that form a framework for a God-pleasing marriage relationship.

The Ephesians passage is especially profound in reference to a successful biblical marriage. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:22-23). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31).

When a believing husband and wife institute God’s principles, a biblical marriage results. A biblically based marriage is one that is in balance, with Christ as the head of the man and the wife together. The biblical concept of marriage is a oneness between two individuals that pictures the oneness of Christ with His church.

The Apostle Paul says that the wife is “bound” to her husband as long as he lives (Romans 7:2). The principle here is that either the husband or wife has to die before the marriage bond is broken. This is God’s command, but in our modern society marriage ends in divorce over 51 percent of the time. That means that over half of the couples who make the vow “Till death do us part” break that vow.

What can the married couple do to ensure that their marriage will last? The first and most important issue is one of obedience to God and His Word. This is a principle that should be in force before the marriage. God says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3). For the born-again believer, this means not beginning a close relationship with anyone who is not also a believer. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). If this one principle were followed, it would save a lot of heartache and suffering later in marriages.

Another principle that would protect the longevity of a marriage is that the husband should obey God and love, honor, and protect his wife as he would his own body (Ephesians 5:25-31). The corresponding principle is that the wife should obey God and submit to her own husband “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). The marriage between a man and a woman is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. Christ gave Himself for the church and He loves, honors, and protects her as His “bride” (Revelation 19:7-9).

When God brought Eve to Adam in the first marriage, she was made from his “flesh and bone” (Genesis 2:21) and they became “one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). Becoming one flesh means more than just a physical union. It means a meeting of the mind and soul to form one unit. This relationship goes far beyond sensual or emotional attraction and into the realm of spiritual “oneness” that can only be found as both partners surrender to God and each other. This relationship is not centered on “me and my” but on “us and our.” This is one of the secrets to a lasting marriage. Making a marriage last until death is something both partners have to make a priority. Solidifying one’s vertical relationship with God goes a long way toward ensuring that the horizontal relationship between a husband and wife is a lasting, and therefore God-honoring, one.

The right time for marriage is different for each person and unique to each situation. Maturity levels and life experiences are varying factors; some people are ready for marriage at 18, and some are never prepared for it. As the U.S. divorce rate exceeds 50 percent, it is obvious that much of our society does not view marriage as an everlasting commitment. However, this is the world’s view, which will usually contradict God’s (1 Corinthians 3:18).
A strong foundation is imperative for a successful marriage and should be settled before one even begins to date or court a potential life mate. Our Christian walk should include much more than just attending church on Sundays and being involved in Bible study. We must have a personal relationship with God that comes only through trusting in and obeying Jesus Christ. We must educate ourselves about marriage, seeking God’s view on it, before diving in. A person must know what the Bible says about love, commitment, sexual relations, the role of a husband and wife, and His expectations of us before committing to marriage. Having at least one Christian married couple as a role model is also important. An older couple can answer questions about what goes into a successful marriage, how to create intimacy (beyond the physical), how faith is invaluable, etc.
A prospective married couple also needs to make sure that they know each other well. They should know each other’s views on marriage, finances, in-laws, child-rearing, discipline, duties of a husband and wife, whether only one of them or both will be working outside the home, and the level of the other person’s spiritual maturity. Many people get married taking their partner’s word for it that they are a Christian, only to find out later that it was merely lip service. Every couple considering marriage should go through counseling with a Christian marriage counselor or pastor. In fact, many pastors will not perform weddings unless they have met several times with the couple in a counseling setting.
Marriage is not only a commitment, but a covenant with God. It is the promise to remain with that other person for the remainder of your life, no matter whether your spouse is rich, poor, healthy, sick, overweight, underweight, or boring. A Christian marriage should endure through every circumstance, including fighting, anger, devastation, disaster, depression, bitterness, addiction, and loneliness. Marriage should never be entered into with the idea that divorce is an option—not even as the last straw. The Bible tells us that through God all things are possible (Luke 18:27), and this certainly includes marriage. If a couple makes the decision at the beginning to stay committed and to put God first, divorce will not be the inevitable solution to a miserable situation.
It is important to remember that God wants to give us the desires of our heart, but that is only possible if our desires match His. People often get married because it just “feels right.” In the early stages of dating, and even of marriage, you see the other person coming, and you get butterflies in your stomach. Romance is at its peak, and you know the feeling of being “in love.” Many expect that this feeling will remain forever. The reality is that it does not. The result can be disappointment and even divorce as those feelings fade, but those in successful marriages know that the excitement of being with the other person does not have to end. Instead, the butterflies give way to a deeper love, a stronger commitment, a more solid foundation, and an unbreakable security.
The Bible is clear that love does not rely on feelings. This is evident when we are told to love our enemies (Luke 6:35). True love is possible only when we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, cultivating the fruit of our salvation (Galatians 5:22-23). It is a decision we make on a daily basis to die to ourselves and our selfishness, and to let God shine through us. Paul tells us how to love others in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” When we are ready to love another person as 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes, that is the right time for marriage.