THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE

STUDY FIVE: THE NECESSITY OF LAW IN A FALLEN WORLD

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley

We have seen in Study 3 that knowledge of evil, and evil, entered the world. We have seen in Study Four that God introduced a different order into the world now corrupted by sin. In our choice to reject God's authority and our refusal to live in accordance with his Word, we have chosen a situation in which

[1] We need his law to define and outlaw evil.

Before Genesis 3 there was no need for God to say 'thou shalt not murder' or 'thou shalt not commit adultery'. Murder and adultery, or any other sin simply did not exist. Adam and Eve did not need to be told to love one another, they simply did. In the same way it was not necessary for God to define the husband/wife relationship. The husband 'led' spontaneously; the wife spontaneously 'followed' without having been told that was how it should be. But since Genesis 3, with our experiential 'knowledge of good and evil', we need God's way spelled out. 'Good' now needs to be defined and affirmed. 'Evil' now needs to be defined and prohibited.

[2] God imposes authority over us for our good, irrespective of our choice.

This imposition of law and authority is necessary for the preservation of human life in a destructive sin-sick world; it anticipates the Redemption Factor, keeping us alive for the coming of the Redeemer [Galatians 3:23-25]. God's law, along with God's judgement, is an expression of his grace. Both put a hedge around us to prevent our self-destruction. At the same time as the husband's rule over the wife is his judgement, it is also his provision of protection and preservation for the wife. As we will see later, Christ's self-sacrificing love as Saviour of the Church, is the role-model for the saving, protective responsibility of the husband for the wife.

We will look now at some other expressions of this necessity of law in a fallen world, and how these laws impact the marriage relationship, defining the boundaries of what is 'good' and defining and prohibiting what is 'evil'.

A. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 are a concise statement of our responsibility towards God and towards our neighbours. Within the marriage context they set a boundary around the kind of behaviour that God allows, prohibiting behaviour that will further divide and destroy the relationship:

Discuss the implications for the marriage relationship of the commandments listed below.
Identify which of these prohibited actions and attitudes are corrupting your marriage.
God says 'no' to
Which is intimately related to other banned behaviours:
Evidence of how these banned behaviours are dividing and corrupting my marriage relationship.

Murder

Physical violence [Exodus 21:12-27]

Negligence leading to death or injury [Exodus 21:29-32; Leviticus 19:16b]

Anger, contempt, disrespect [Matt 5:21-22; Eph 4:31]

Hate [1 John 3:15]

Unresolved interpersonal issues [Mat 5:23-26]

 

Adultery

 

See Additional Note #7

 

[See also section C below]

 

Lust (which includes pornography) [Mat 5:27-30]

Fornication: [refs in Note #7]

Lack of self-control [1Thess 4:3-8]

Rejection of godly wisdom

[Prov 2:1-22; 5:1-23; 6:20-29]

 

 

Stealing

 

 

Coveting [see below]

Selfishness [Ephesians 4:28]

Negligence leading to loss of another's property [Ex 22:1-15]

Fraud [Lev 19:13]

 

 

False testimony

 

 

Lying [Ephesians 4:25] [The usual roots of lying are [1] fear or [2] desire to destroy another person, both of which are evidence of the sin factor.]

Deception [Lev19:11;Jer 9:4-6]

Slander [Leviticus 19:16a; Jer 9:4; Eph 4:31]

Perversion of justice: [Exodus 23:1-8]

 

Coveting

 

 

Lack of trust [Matthew 6:19-34]

Envy, jealousy [James 4:1-6]

Grumbling, complaining and discontentment [Ex 16:1-8; Ps 106:25; Phil 2:14; 4:11-15]

Temptation [James 1:13-15]

Our godless mindset [Gal 5:16-21; Eph 4:22; 2 Peter 1:4b; 1 John 2:15-17.

 

B. THE COMMAND TO LOVE OUR 'NEIGHBOUR'

The above commands are summed up by the second greatest commandment: 'Love your neighbour as yourself' [Luke 10:27b; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8]. This commandment, therefore, includes our actions, words and attitudes towards our marriage partner, because he/she is our closest neighbour, with whom, in the original creation, and also in the sin-cursed world, we share the most intimate relationship.

In what contexts does the God command us to love our neighbour? In what areas do we have to be especially careful that we are loving our marriage partner as we love ourselves?

Honestly assess your attitude to your marriage partner in relation to these descriptions of love.
Discuss the difficulty of expressing this kind of love towards your marriage partner.

Loving is the opposite of seeking revenge or bearing a grudge [Leviticus 19:18]

 

 

 

Loving is commanded of us even towards those we call our enemies – those who despise us, and in whose presence we feel threatened [Mt 5:43-48; Lk10:25-37]

 

Love is commanded unprejudiced by poverty or wealth [Leviticus 19:15; James 2:1-9

 

 

 

Love neither derides nor destroys the neighbour with words [Proverbs 11:9, 12; Gal 5:14,15]

 

 

 

Love does no harm to the neighbour [Romans 13:9b-10]

 

 

 

 

Love is committed to please the neighbour , seeks the neighbour's good , and wants to build the neighbour up [Rom 15:2]

 

 

C. PROHIBITIONS REGARDING SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

In relation to sexual intercourse we have seen so far:

  1. Sexual relations within marriage are endorsed by God. In the order of creation God said: 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh' [Genesis 2:24]. Jesus repeated and affirmed this statement as applying to the marriage relationship.
  2. Adultery is forbidden [Exodus 20:14]. ['Adultery' usually refers to sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his/her marriage partner. See Additional Note #7 ]

C.1 Prohibited sexual relationships

In addition to these two foundational perspectives God has given a great list of laws forbidding an extensive list of sexual relationships.

Read the verses below. In the empty columns identify the people we are not to have sexual relations with; use current terminology [e.g. 'half-sister']. In relation to the woman you will have to work out the opposite of the relations forbidden to the man, as most prohibitions are written from the male perspective.
 
Man with his ...
Woman with her ...

Leviticus 18:6

 

 

Leviticus 18:7

 

 

Leviticus 18:8

 

 

Leviticus 18:9

 

 

Leviticus 18:10

 

 

Leviticus 18:11

 

 

Leviticus 18:12

 

 

Leviticus 18:13

 

 

Leviticus 18:14

 

 

Leviticus 18:15

 

 

Leviticus 18:16

 

 

Leviticus 18:17a

 

 

Leviticus 18:17b

 

 

Leviticus 18:18

 

 

Leviticus 18:20

 

 

Many of these are repeated, with decreed punishments, in Leviticus 20.

In addition, the following are also forbidden:

  • Intercourse during menstruation [Leviticus 18:19] [ See Additional Note #8]
  • Homosexual intercourse [Leviticus 18:22] [ See Additional Note #9]
  • Sexual intercourse with animals [Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 18:23]
  • Prostitution [Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 23:17-18]
  • Marriage between a person who belongs to the people of God and a person who worships false gods [Deuteronomy 7:3-4]

C.2 Rules that regulate other sexual practices not part of the creation order

There were also laws in place to regulate other sexual practices that men were engaging in:

  • The seduction of virgins [Exodus 22:16-17]
  • Rape [Deuteronomy 22:23-29]
  • The treatment of slave-wives [Exodus 21:2-11] [ See Additional Note #10]
  • The practice of divorce [Deuteronomy 24:1-4] [ See Study 12]

The existence of these laws regulating these practices does not validate or authorize the practices. They are God's provision of a way of setting a limit around these practices which were not part of the order of creation but had developed in the now sinful world.

These laws and regulations protect the sanctity of marriage, the roles and rights of both marriage partners, and the value and dignity of the human. They also protect us against the physical corruption, degeneration and disease that is part of the sin-factor. [For example, the deterioration of the genetic codes, and the transmission of disease via body fluids.]

[Note: The word 'fornication' is used generally to refer to any sexual relationship or activity other than that between a husband and wife married to each other. It therefore includes, but is not limited to 'adultery'. See Additional Note #7]

D. GOVERNMENT AND LAW

The Bible teaches:

  • Governments exist by the appointment of God [Romans 13:1-2]
  • Governments exist for the good of the people [Romans 13:4a; 1 Timothy 2:1-4]
  • Governments exist to execute God's judgement on earth [Romans 13:2b,4b]
  • We should respect governments as the servants of God [Matthew 22:17-21; Romans 13:5-7]
  • Governments are accountable to God for their wrong actions [Amos Chs 1 & 2]
  • When governments legislate contrary to the standards set by God, Christians ought to obey God rather than men [Acts 4:19]

In our society today some of our laws are increasingly being changed to conform to what is perceived to be accepted as the norm by the majority of the population. Others still reflect, indeed increasingly reflect, the Biblical standards.

Discuss the subjects listed below.

1. In what way do the attitudes of our society and government either support or undermine the Biblical standards concerning each topic?

2. How can we stand against and destroy the power of expressions like 'everybody's doing it' or 'we mustn't discriminate' or 'there's no such thing as right and wrong'?

3. How can we affirm and support the government where it does implement Biblical standards?

Sex before marriage and

de facto relationships

 

 

Divorce

 

 

Domestic violence

 

 

Child abuse

 

 

Homosexual relationships

 

 

Human rights

 

 

HOMEWORK TASK : During the week identify:
  1. Failure to obey any of the five commands listed in 'A' in your relationship with your partner;
  2. Ways in which you have failed to love your partner as yourself;
  3. Ways in which your are tempted or have failed in relation to God's rules about sex;
  4. Ways in which your mindset about acceptable standards of sexual behaviour has been corrupted by the standards of the world and the changes in legislation.

For each of these failures, seek forgiveness from your partner and/or God as appropriate.

Together with your partner plan strategies for putting repentance into action and attitude.