BACC STATEMENTS OF POSITION
Approved by the Elder Board on August 17, 2016
The purpose of this Statement of Position is to explain what the Bible says about marriage. To do this, it first addresses what the Bible says about sex, which God designed to only be expressed within marriage. It also defines biblical marriage and addresses what the Bible teaches regarding divorce.
What the Bible says about sex:
The Bible teaches that sex was God’s idea. He made humans “male and female” (Genesis 1:27) and told them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God gave us a way to reproduce that was not only functional, but also deeply pleasurable. Sex is a gift that God gave to us and it demonstrates His goodness to us. The Bible teaches that God created sex to express and deepen the unity between a husband and wife. In Genesis 2, God created Adam first and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). So God created woman using a rib from Adam. The woman perfectly complemented him – she was like him (since she was “taken out of Man” to share his vocation and his very life), but also not like him (since she was woman). This complementarity leads to a profound unity between them when they eventually come together in sexual union. This is why it says in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Thus, a purpose of sex – not just for Adam and Eve but also for all humankind – is to express and deepen the unity between husband and wife. Another purpose of sex is that God created sex for us to reproduce. In Genesis 1, God created humans male and female, and commanded them to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”
The Bible also teaches that God created sex to be expressed only within marriage. Jesus characterizes all sexual activity outside of marriage as evil (Mark 7:20-23). The term translated “sexual immorality” in this passage is porneia. It is an umbrella term for all sexual activity outside of marriage, to include premarital sex, adultery, prostitution and homosexual behavior. Jesus describes all of these behaviors as evil and defiling.
What the Bible says about marriage:
The Bible teaches that marriage is a covenant (or binding promise) designed by God and made by a man and a woman (by birth sex) to be joined together in a monogamous relationship for their entire lives. This definition of marriage is based not only on the Old Testament (see the above passages in Genesis 2), but also the New Testament, which affirms the sexual ethics and marriage pattern established in the Old Testament. Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-6, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” This shows that it is God who produces this union; He designed marriage to knit two people together – one male and one female – physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually; and He designed marriage to last their entire lives.
Further, the Bible teaches that marriage is a picture with a purpose. Christian marriages lived out on earth are to be a glimpse of Christ’s love for His Church. As the world looks at the life of a husband, who loves (agape) his wife just as “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” the onlooker is to see the reality of Jesus. As a woman subjects herself to her husband, the spectators of this world see the love of Christ at work. When both husband and wife live out God’s design for marriage, a lost and dying society is confronted with a picture of the remarkable love of God for them!
Marriage is also the way God designed humans to fulfill God’s commandment to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). From this one-flesh union flows the possibility of new life: for children to result from it. Procreation is not the sole purpose of marriage (and those unable to have children are no less married because of that), but it is clear that procreation is intended to be rooted in marriage.
What the Bible says about divorce:
God hates divorce according to Malachi 2:16, which says: “‘For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD.” From the beginning, divorce was never God’s desire or ideal according to Matthew 19:6, which says: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Nevertheless, we believe that an individual who is divorced prior to conversion can remarry “in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:1-10).
In addition, God makes allowances for divorce, but only on the grounds of (1) porneia (i.e., sexual immorality) or (2) desertion – after all efforts of reconciliation have failed, as described below.
1. Jesus acknowledges one and only one ground for divorce among believers: porneia. As stated previously, the term porneia refers to sexual immorality and is an umbrella term for all sexual activity outside of marriage. For a married partner, porneia refers to intimate sexual involvement with someone other than one’s spouse. Jesus said in Matthew 5:32, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (porneia), makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” And in Matthew 19:9, Jesus says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality (porneia), and marries another woman commits adultery.” So we believe that if a married partner is guilty of sexual immorality and is unwilling to repent and live faithfully with his or her spouse, the innocent party may exercise the right of divorce.
2. We believe when an unbelieving spouse willfully and permanently deserts his or her believing spouse, the believing spouse is permitted biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. Paul addresses this subject in 1 Corinthians 7:12-15, stating that if the unbelieving spouse consents to live together, the believing spouse is not to divorce the unbelieving spouse. Rather, the believing spouse is responsible to strive to hold the marriage together for the sake of the unbelieving spouse and children. The presence of the believing spouse sanctifies the family unto God. Therefore, the believing spouse is not to pursue divorce. However, if the unbelieving spouse willfully and permanently deserts the family, God’s counsel to the believing spouse is to “let him leave” (verse 15). In such cases, “the brother or sister is not under bondage” (verse 15b).
Suggested resource: “The Family Manifesto,” which was published by “Family Life” Ministry and has been posted to BACC’s website.