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A Biblical Catechism on Sex and Marriage: Christian, Non-Christian, and Sinful Marriages

[This post continues a series of posts entitled 'A Biblical Catechism on Sex and Marriage'.  The intention is to provide basic material for further instruction by a trusted teacher of God's Word in a church that is committed to Biblical authority.  The Church’s mission is to invite all people to live under God’s righteous rule.]

Question 5. What is marriage?


Answer: Marriage is the permanent, ‘one flesh’ union of a male and a female.

[Previous Comment 1: Marriage is a ‘one flesh’ union....]

Comment 2: Christians should not attend weddings between persons who enter into sin by marrying.  This includes adulterous, incestuous, same-sex ‘marriages’ and any other such union.  Christians should not acknowledge such ‘marriages’ as marriages. They should not bless such unions.  There can be no celebration with those committing themselves to sinful unions.

Timothy 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.

Matthew 5:32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Leviticus 18:6 None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to uncover nakedness: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.

Comment 3: In the case of someone professing Christian faith but entering into a sinful ‘marriage,’ the church does well to testify to the persons that they are sinning and that there is no celebration in this sin at all.  The church should, as a task of its pastoral responsibility to sinners and saints alike, bring its judgement on any persons claiming to be Christians who sin in such ways.  In the case of non-Christians, the church does well to witness faith in God the creator by making it known that God created male and female to marry and be fruitful and multiply.   Non-Christian, heterosexual marriages may be attended, but not if they involve religious participation.  As a fulfillment of the creation mandate, they are true marriages even if not Christian.  Someone may come to faith and not his or her spouse; in such cases, the marriage is still valid.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-  10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler- not even to eat with such a one.  12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  13 God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."

1 Corinthians 7:12-17 To the rest I say -- I and not the Lord -- that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.  13 And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.  14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you.  16 Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.  17 However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.

1 Peter 3:1-2 Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct,  2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you…

Comment 4: A Christian should only marry someone ‘in the Lord’—another believer.  Christian marriage, ‘Holy Matrimony,’ is a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church and the Church’s submission to Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord.

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.  24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word,  27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind -- yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.  28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church,  30 because we are members of his body.  31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.  33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.