How it should be contracted
MARRIAGE: HOW IT SHOULD BE CONTRACTED
I. Marriage is Commended by God
Solomon boldly states: "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and
obtaineth favour of the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22). Though our Lord Jesus states
that there are some eunuchs (Matthew 19:12), most folks will undoubtedly
marry. God approves of marriage rightly entered (I Corinthians 7:2, 28, 39; II
Even in adverse circumstances, such as the Jewish captivity in Babylon,
God commanded His people through a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to marry
(Jeremiah 29:6). He gave as his reasoning that He wanted them to increase in
captivity. The ideas of Planned Parenthood notwithstanding, God believes that
married parents should not only have enough children to replace themselves
(two children), but that they should ordinarily have enough for the nation to
increase in number. This is in keeping with God's unchanged creation
ordinance, "Be fruitful, and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). See especially Psalm
127:3-5 for the Divine perspective on begetting children. I doubt that the
counselors at Planned Parenthood Centers consult this Psalm for their guidance!
Though many voices are heard to say, "I can't bear to bring a child into
such a world of problems", it is interesting to note that God commands
marriage and begetting under the most severe of human conditions: abject
slavery (Jeremiah 29:6).
II. Marriage is an Important Basis for Other Successful
In his letter to Timothy, Paul enunciates a principle to which we all would do
well to listen: "We cannot succeed in extra-family responsibilities, if we have
not first succeeded in that family" (I Timothy 3:4, 5, 12).
I am confident many modern women would have a problem with Paul's
letters to his sons in the faith concerning the normal and appropriate goals a
woman ought to have (I Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:4, 5). Marriage, bearing
children, and guiding the house are still lofty and noble goals for a young
woman; calling on them to prepare in practical ways for these duties: learning to
cook, sew, care for children, etc.
Those women whose goals are careers, love affairs, business, and freedom
from what they call household "drudgery" are seeking fulfillment at the
temporal flesh-pots of Egypt.
III. Marriage is the Only Moral Sexual Outlet
The writer to the Hebrews declares the marriage bed to be undefiled and
honorable, whereas, sexual activity outside of the life-long marriage covenant is
a sin worthy of God's judgment (Hebrews 13:4). Solomon colorfully adds to this
picture of a happy, regular physical relationship in Proverbs 5:15-23. Paul
encouraged marriage as a sinless and even holy sexual outlet for those burning
with physical desire (I Corinthians 7:1-9).
A careful reading of these passages reveals that sexual activity permitted
by God is never a solitary and self-centered means of gratifying one's desire,
but is instead primarily designed to meet the needs of the other partner (see
especially I Corinthians 7:3-5). It is as the Lord Jesus said, "It is more blessed
to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). This design clearly and implicitly
prohibits the use of extra-marital sex (adultery, fornication), sodomite sex and
IV. Marriage Choices are Prescribed and Limited
Abraham, Isaac and other Old Testament personalities seeking to please
God, were careful to narrowly limit potential marriage candidates to a relatively
small group: from among God's people. Paul prescribes the same rule for New
Testament believers (I Corinthians 7:39), and then later explains the reasons
why: (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1). A careful observance of this principle could
eliminate most from those with whom a believer lives, and may mean a rigorous
far-reaching search for the right candidate (as in the case of finding Rebekah).
Not only must the potential candidate be genuinely and obviously from
among God's family, they must also be free of any other marriage vow.
Specifically, a person whose spouse is still alive, though "legally" divorced by
civil statute, is not a Biblical candidate for remarriage unless and until their prior
spouse is deceased. To marry such a person, the Bible declares, is to commit
the sin of adultery (Romans 7:2, 3; I Corinthians 7:39). As Paul so clearly
explains: death of a spouse is the only lawful way for a marriage to end with the
blessing of God and this alone frees the surviving spouse to remarry another.
Obviously, people will, because of the hardness of their hearts, divorce
their spouses no matter what God says (Matthew 19:8). However, those hard-
hearted people should then be prepared to accept the only three lawful
alternatives they have left: reconciliation with their spouse, celibacy with no
remarriage, or remarriage to another only after their spouse dies (I Corinthians
7:11; Romans 7:2, 3).
Because marriage is boldly and clearly presented in the Bible as a life-long
commitment, it obviously is a union that should not be entered into on the basis
of romantic sentiment, careless thinking, or careless desire. To put it another
way, "love" is a lousy basis for marriage! As hoary-headed married couples
with decades of marriage together would tell you, love is learned primarily after
marriage. They would testify of how genuine Bible love was learned, and that it
grew as their years together passed.
For an interesting Biblical illustration of this principle, see Genesis 24:67.
In this context, Abraham's faithful servant has just returned from his successful
sojourn in Mesopotamia, where he convinced Rebekah to return with him to be
the Bride of Isaac. Isaac and Rebekah had never met or even had opportunity to
"fall in love" prior to their marriage, they simply trusted the providence of God
in the wise counsel of their respective families.
Notice the progression of thought: 1. "she became his wife"; 2. "and he
loved her". Please note that Isaac loved Rebekah after they were married. He
then found out what Bible love for a spouse really meant. Any hoary- headed wife
or husband who has spent several generations with his or her spouse would tell
us the same fact; love came later.
It is a rare, if not non-existent, young person who is wholly and completely
prepared to consider this vital decision free from flesh, romance, desire and
sentiment. Whereas Hollywood, movie magazines, and most of society would
have us believe good marriages are based on modern romance; decades of
disastrous divorce statistics made up from the shattered homes and lives of its
unwitting disciples are the awful evidence of its utter failure.
Scripture presents an alternative to modern romance in the formulation of
V. Marriage is to be Contracted With the Guidance of Parents or Parent- Figures
For a parent to possibly take the initiative in arranging marriage for his son
or daughter would seem old-fashioned in the extreme to most. To some it would
seem laughable, out-of-touch, or even cruel. But I would suggest that the
arrangement of marriage by parents' guidance is God's best for those willing to
obey this scriptural and logical principle.
May I suggest that the Father of our faith, Abraham, would have been
horrified to even think of his son, Isaac, indulging in what most Christian and
pagan young people consider a vital part of their lives: modern dating.
Conversely, even the most "spiritual" contemporary Christian young person
would be horrified to think of not having a single date before marriage as Isaac
did. Moreover, when one considers that Isaac was probably at least 40 before
he married (Jacob was probably well past social security age when he married);
this would throw most young people into laughter of unbelief or despair if they
thought the principle would be applied to them!
MODERN DATINGModern dating is characterized primarily by emotion, flesh, and desire,
with some logic and morality, depending on the spirituality and maturity of those
involved. This highly emotional, erratic and sentimental system has been made
almost a cultural norm, it has been around so long. Despite its utter failure in
producing Godly marriages (those that are produced are done so by an
admixture of scriptural principle woven into the process by hearts seeking to
please God; it is not due to the system of dating); the dating system enjoys
tremendous popularity among pagans and believers alike. I see no signs
whatsoever that this romantic system of dating is declining. On the contrary, it
is strengthening and is characterized increasingly by fleshly values of the
world. It is heading often toward an outright "barnyard morality" where bestial
desire and selfish interest predominate.
OLD TESTAMENT SAINTSThe reason Isaac and Jacob were not driving their camels up and down the
sandy boulevards of Palestine to see who they could "pick up" was because
such a thing would have been unthinkable to them and their families. Nor would
they have been concerned about whom to ask out for the weekend or for the big
events at their school or church. The approach the Old Testament Saints (and
maybe the New Testament) had toward dating was: don't!
Believe it or not, God's people in that day believed that Mom and Dad (and
especially Dad) should be involved in helping to arrange marriages. This was a
responsibility undertaken very seriously by level-headed believers.
For example, Abraham was still waiting and looking for a suitable wife for
Isaac when he thought he himself would die (Genesis 24:1-4). Sarah had
already died at age 127 without seeing her son married. Isaac was finally
presented with his bride and married Rebekah at age 40 (Genesis 25:20). They
enjoyed a blessed marriage together.
There did not seem to be a normative age for the Old Testament believer at
marriage, but was apparently decided by the individual parents as they
assessed the maturity and need of their child. Some married early as some
verses show: Proverbs 2:17; 5:18; Isaiah 62:5.
Scriptures give evidence that marriages contracted with the guidance of
parents were not only normative, but were God-ordained. In Deuteronomy 7:3,
God prohibits parents from arranging marriages for their children with pagans.
That parents had the right and responsibility to have a part in arranging
marriages was not in dispute and is implicit in the verse.
Later in Israel's history during the captivity, God again indirectly validates
that parents are to have a part in the arranging of marriages, "...take wives
for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands..." (Jeremiah 29:6).
Judah took a wife for his firstborn son (Genesis 38:6). Isaac forbade Jacob
to marry pagans and prescribed limits on whom he could marry (Genesis 28:1,
2). The New Testament also validates this principle in Corinthians 7:36-38.
There Paul stresses that a father makes the choice about his daughter being
married or not.
MODERN DATING PORTRAYED IN THE BIBLEScriptures also present a typical picture of how many young people enter
marriage today. Samson, a judge in Israel, was a Nazarite, and supposedly
devoted to God; however, his life was sadly lacking in key spiritual areas. His
life presents for us an Old Testament picture of modern dating and romance
In seeking a wife, Samson, like many youth of today, had no carefully
thought out set of rules, principles and guidelines that would fence in his
emotions. God's law and equity was evidently not given its due in his marriage
plans. Samson "saw" something he liked in the outward pagan beauty of a
young woman in Timnath (Judges 14:1, 2). Rather than looking for character,
spiritual life, similarity of purpose, goals, and commitment to God in this girl,
Samson "saw" a way to gratify his carnal desire. Whether or not the two
families were compatible did not seem to be a decisive factor.
His desires, being in full control of his life at this point, compelled him to
"legalize" the gratification of his lust, and he sought to marry the girl (Judges
14:2). Although Samson's parents reminded him of God's laws and principles
concerning marriage, he did not care for principle, once desire had taken
control (verse 3).
Once principle is denied and conscience seared and suppressed, we are
capable of continued and deeper sin. Samson had allowed his fleshly desire to
reject God's law in the matter of whom he would seek to marry; it is not
surprising then to see another sad step backwards for this man of God.
On his way to consummate this unholy marriage, Samson (who was now
seemingly allowing his flesh to control other areas of his life) defiled himself as a
Jew, by not only touching the dead body of a lion, but eating some honey that
wild bees had deposited there (Judges 14:8, 9). Jews were not to purposely
touch dead bodies since they would be defiled and, therefore, unclean. This
was especially true of Nazarites! The life and career of Samson is a sad
commentary on how carnal desire robs a believer of power, testimony and even
Many Christian youth are repeating Samson's sin today in how they
arrange marriage. Like Samson, many seem oblivious to Scripture principle and
God's law in seeking a spouse. In fact, most seem to be enthusiastically caught
up in Samson's way of doing things: letting the flesh control and predominate.
Notice that even in his carnal state, Samson recognized his parents were
the ones who needed to authorize and guide his marriage (Judges 14:2).
Because he short-circuited God's ways, refused his parents' counsel and took
matters in his own hands, Samson paid the rest of his life for his sin. The desire
that seemed so pleasurable proved to be a blight on his soul. Once lust is
gratified, then what? . . . sorrow and great misery, knowing God's best has
Another typical personality in Scripture portraying so much of what is
called romance today is Esau. Esau is the picture of the soul, living according to
his belly (his desires), living on a very low spiritual plane in a bestial way
(Hebrews 12:16). Esau determined to gratify his lust also, and chose for himself
what he thought would make him happy (Genesis 26:34, 35).
His pagan, Godless wives (he even became a polygamist in his lust) were a
burden and grief to Isaac and Rebekah. These girls were so contrary to
Godliness that Rebekah grew weary of her life (Genesis 27:46).
Young people must remember that in contracting a marriage, two families
are being joined together, not just two people. Esau's selfish, lustful choice of
wives may have given him pleasure temporarily, but it forever destroyed the
peace of his family and the relationship he once enjoyed with his parents.
Incidentally, Esau never found repentance after that because he was in an awful
spiritual state (Hebrews 12:17).
PRACTICAL AND SPIRITUAL BENEFITSSome would ask a legitimate question: Why should a father be involved in
picking a spouse for his child? Let me suggest possibilities:
- This type of marriage arrangement is a blessed copy of what the Heavenly
Father did for his son (Adam) in the garden. There, God provided a wife
for Adam who was specifically chosen to complement him, meet his
needs, and who would best help to serve God.
- The blessing of parents is vital to the destiny of a child and his children
(cf Jacob vs Esau). Many parents have bravely stood at the wedding of a
son or daughter with broken, grieving hearts because they could not
enthusiastically bless that marriage. May I suggest that that marriage will
never be what it could have been without their enthusiastic blessing.Parents have the advantage of a blessing called the "wisdom of years."
- Marriage is a spiritual picture of Christ and the [local] Church (Ephesians 5:31,
32). The Father is busily preparing a bride right now for his Son
(Ephesians 5:27). Is it not possible God wants earthly fathers involved in
seeking a spotless and pure bride for their sons?
- It is practically wise for parents to help make the choice. It would be a
very rare young person who would seek character, conviction, principle,
compatibility, similarity of goals and purpose, etc. in a potential spouse.
Young men characteristically look at externals and use carnal reasoning
in looking over the field of possible choices. Young women, well aware of
the externals boys are looking at, emphasize the externals in their lives:
figure, walk, dress (or lack of it), make-up, wrong character, etc.:
whatever will attract his eye and not his spirit or Scripture-enlightened
They have gained this wisdom through experiencing life for at least 20 years
longer than their children. They are older, wiser, and most will be far more
objective and level-headed than their child in choosing a marriage partner. They
will look for: Is she a servant? Can she cook, clean, sew, guide a house, care
for children? What are her goals? Is her family compatible with ours? Will she
submit to a husband? What is her relationship to God?, etc.
We already know girls dress and act the way they do to attract boys. Do you
suppose if they knew a boy's parents were going to help make the marriage
choices, that they may act and dress differently? There are many highly
educated, pretty girls in the world who would be poor wives and mothers. They
are visibly impressive, but inwardly empty of Godly character and not prepared
to be domestic.
Even the perfect marriage (Adam and Eve), had problems, but may I
suggest that if Adam had made the choice of his wife, there would have been far
greater problems! If loving, wise, parents help choose the spouse, this is no
guarantee of a perfect marriage, but will be far more likely to succeed than if the
children boycott the input of parents, and pick their own based on romantic
VI. Practical Advantages of Parent-Guided Marriages
Young people are under tremendous social pressure today to have "boy
friends" and "girl friends." Their peer groups look down on, ridicule, and
intimidate in other ways those hapless youngsters who do not (for one reason or
another) get on the romantic boy-girl merry-go-round of dating and social
relationships. A youngster not involved in this frantic, fleshly game of emotions
is tempted to think of himself as being a misfit and potentially develop a very low
What a relief from this tremendous peer pressure to conform, if a set of
parents very early in that child's life explains that no "dating" will be allowed
at all. Most of the pressure and responsibility for discerning a life- partner is
where it rightfully belongs, on the shoulders of Mom and Dad! All the energy
that would have been used trying to fit into the romantic merry-go-round of boy-
girl relationships can be used in developing character, principle and practical
knowledge of how to be a successful spouse and parent.
There would be far less problems of marriage of divorcees, and a host of
other practical marriage problems if parents were guiding the choices, instead
of starry-eyed, desire-oriented youngsters.
How many married people today, laboring to overcome sinful choices in
their marriages, are asking the question, "I wonder how it would have been for
me if I would have done it God's way?" Many modern Samsons and Esaus are
paying the price of their rebellious, fleshly choices in their problematic unions,
whereas few Isaacs are enjoying the security and peace of a God-ordained home
in which the spouse was chosen by parents' guidance.
Young person, your emotions and your heart will deceive you (Jeremiah
17:9): You must diligently make preparation for the second most important
decision in your life (salvation being of primary importance), or your feelings
will predominate. Tell your parents you want and need them to guide this choice
for you, to give you careful assistance in the matter.
If your parents are unable or unwilling to assume this vital responsibility for
you, seek help from your father-figure, or spiritual leader. There is nothing
wrong whatsoever for you, in the absence of input from your natural father, to
ask your Godly Pastor and church officers to give you help in this matter of
choosing a spouse. They can function as an older brother on your behalf.
We are so far removed from Scripture principle in this matter of contracting
marriage, that the Bible plan seems ludicrous to most young people. If you
disagree with your parents guiding the choice of your spouse, as the Bible
declares ought to be done, you may take comfort in the fact that you are in the
vast majority. But you are also wrong!
You may date around, have your own way, choose your spouse for
yourself, if you wish, but this is not God's best for you. I pray that you may be
one of the select few who would be willing to obey God, even in this matter of
choosing a life partner. You see, to seek guidance on this decision from your
parents is to actually trust God to guide you. This is an act of faith that most will
not do. Moreover, many parents will not readily do this; we are so far removed
from God's ways, it will seem unnatural to them.
What will you do?
by Ronald E. Williams, Director
508 School St., Winona Lake, IN 46590
Reprints may be obtained from above address
[Christian Helps Ministry (USA)] [Christian Home Bible Course]