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Polygamy

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I have a question about a man having more than one wife.  I know that in our culture it is something that is looked upon with disdain, but in other cultures it is an accepted practice.  I don’t want to add anything or take anything away from the Word of God, but how much of this issue is cultural, and how much is biblical? I know that in the Old Testament, God speaks to Adam and Eve and says the two shall become one flesh, but all throughout the Old Testament there are cases of a man having more than one wife. For example, David had many wives, and he was a man after God’s own heart.  If monogamous marriage was a commandment, all those people in the Old Testament sinned by having more than one wife.  I just don’t see God giving a commandment and then just letting man break it. In the New Testament, the qualification for elders is used to show that a man can’t have more than one wife; however, that is specifically for a man who is in that position, and there are qualifications listed that don’t apply to a non-elder Christian (like having believing children).  Also, I am sure there were first century conversions of men who have more than one wife, and if it is a commandment, then they would have had to divorce all but their first wife. I know that because it is viewed as wrong by our culture that, even if we can do it, we shouldn’t have more than one wife.  I also know that a guy would have to be crazy to want to deal with more than one wife and the conflict between the wives.  All I am concerned with is if it is a biblical commandment or a cultural restraint.

Sincerely, Vowing To Learn

Dear Vowing To Learn,

Polygamy is never expressly condemned in the Bible.  It is also never treated as the standard... but as the exception. There are scores of examples of monogamy being God’s preference for man:

  1. Adam & Eve were designed monogamously (Gen. 2:24)
  2. No polygamy existed until 7 generations after Adam (Gen 4:19)
  3. Noah, the last righteous man of his day, had only one wife (Gen 7:13)
  4. Qualification for an elder (Tit 1:6)
  5. Qualification for a deacon (1 Tim 3:12)
  6. Qualification for a worthy widow (1 Tim 5:9)
  7. Every New Testament command for a husband or wife assumes monogamy in the commandments. (Mk 10:12, 1 Cor 7:3, Eph 5:33, etc.)
  8. The comparison of Christ and the church to a husband and wife relies on a monogamous design for marriage (Eph 5:22-23)
  9. God clearly states it as His design for marriage in the New Testament (1 Cor 7:2)

On the same hand, there are multiple examples of the pitfalls of polygamy:

  1. Sarah and Hagar fought (Gen 16:4)
  2. Rachel and Leah fought over Jacob (Gen 29:30-31)
  3. Hannah and Penninah’s rivalry (1 Sam 1:2-6)
  4. Solomon’s idolatrous wives (1 Kings 11:4)

Our problem is that God never specifically condemns these men for their polygamy. It is that silence on this particular issue that gives us the greatest consternation. However, we must remember that silence on a particular issue is not the same as God’s approval of the behavior. Everyone can agree that the Scriptures overwhelmingly approve of and allow monogamy while the evidence for polygamy is suspect at best.

We now enter into the issue of opinion, and anything we say must be left in that realm. My opinion is that if a man had multiple wives before obeying the gospel, he would not be required to divorce any of them. However, once someone becomes a christian, they are commanded by God to only seek out one spouse for a lifetime (1 Cor 7:2).

Broken Promises

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

I made an oath to God before I was a baptized christian and before I knew the importance of keeping a promise to God, I am now a baptized christian but can no longer keep the promise I made to God. Am I sinning if I do not keep that promise?

Sincerely, My Word Is My Bond

Dear My Word Is My Bond,

Rash promises are a sin, but if you can’t keep the promise - you can’t keep it. When we make a promise to God or to man, we are bound by our word (Matt 5:37). Without knowing the promise you made, I can’t tell you exact advice on how to proceed, but I caution that there is a difference between ‘can’t keep a promise’ and ‘would be hard to keep a promise’. Make sure to examine yourself and consider which phrase is really true in your case.

Having said that, some promises simply can’t be kept. Which means we probably shouldn’t have made the promise in the first place. We human beings have a tendency of sticking our feet in our mouths and speaking too quickly. God had an entire trespass offering process in the Old Testament devoted to people who made rash promises (Lev. 5:4-6). When a Jew made a rash vow, he was to admit it, make a trespass offering, and confess his sin before God.

I recommend that you use that as a model. Pray to God, confess your sin to Him (1 John 1:9), and then move forward with a new appreciation of how carefully you should watch what you say and promise (Eccl 5:2).

Abuse At Home

Monday, May 04, 2015

I want to know if a woman can truly be a christian (as she claims) and allow unsavory and evil things to go on in her house for a period of years. She says she has been forgiven for her sins and will not be held accountable for the abuse her husband causes to others in the household. She says there is nothing she can do about it, she has nowhere else to go, and she won't have to answer for putting up with it because it's not her doing it. This has been going on for about 20 years, and she says she is not obligated by God to leave him. Again, she thinks that by doing nothing to stop this, she is not in error. There are others in the house that are suffering from his physical and verbal abuse while she sits idly by, claiming no responsibility in it.

Sincerely, Confused and Trapped

Dear Confused and Trapped,

Does Christ forgive us while we are actively engaged in a sinful lifestyle? No.  Christ forgives sins all the time, but there is a difference between knowingly living in a lifestyle that is contrary to His Word and making honest mistakes while trying to be faithful.   The key is the word 'repent'.  Acts 2:38 says that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  'Repent' means to 'change your mind'.  From what you are telling me, that hasn't happened in either the husband's or the wife's case.  Many abused women stay with their husbands out of fear, but there does come a time where that fear becomes an excuse for enabling a destructive lifestyle. She does have the option of separating from him in a dire circumstance such as abuse (1 Cor 7:11-12). From what details you have provided, the bulk of the blame belongs to him, but there does come a point where we must stand up against sin for the sake of others, if not ourselves (Jas 4:17).  This is all under the assumption that she really is able to do something.

You have no control over whether she acts, but if you are aware that others are being hurt and abused in the home, you must do whatever you can to change the situation. Be careful that you aren’t so busy condemning her for her lack of action that you become paralyzed from acting yourself. Without knowing the specifics, it is impossible to give you exact advice on how to proceed. I recommend finding a counselor in your local area to help you move forward and involve law enforcement when physical abuse is occurring (Rom 13:4).

Does Onan Count?

Friday, May 01, 2015

 

Is masturbation a sin?

Sincerely, Brave Enough To Ask

Dear Brave Enough To Ask,

Self-stimulation is never specifically condemned or even mentioned in the Bible, but that doesn’t make it right.  There is only one example that people often use of masturbation in the Bible (Gen 38:9), but that was not really masturbation.  The example of Onan still doesn’t tell us much about the subject because he was rebuked, not for the act of masturbation, but for having sex with his brother’s wife, and then spilling his seed on the ground in order to avoid raising children up for his brother (which God had commanded him to do).

I think your question demands two separate answers.

The first question would be “What does the Bible say?”, since we are providing Bible answers to Bible questions. The answer to this question is, “The Bible says nothing about it.”

The second question would be, “Are there any other Bible teachings that would make it wrong?”.  Masturbation is the act of stimulating one's self sexually without the use of a partner.  The sexual realm was not designed for the individual, but for two committed lifelong partners (1 Cor 7:4-5).  Many marriages have been ruined because one or the other spouse seeks sexual satisfaction apart from their marital partner.   We should be very wary of any situation where we are attempting to find satisfaction outside of the pattern the Lord has designed.

Furthermore, self-stimulation is almost always connected to mental (i.e. lustful thoughts) and visual (i.e. pornography) fantasizing about the opposite gender.  God is very clear in condemning that sort of behavior (Matt 5:28).

The practical problem that generally evokes this question is with a young man who has been unable to find a godly wife.  His hormones are going wild, which is according to nature.   Now what does such a young man do?  There are two things that must be avoided at all costs.  First, he must not lust after a specific woman because that is specifically forbidden in God’s word.  Secondly, he must avoid pornography at all costs.  This always demands lust for a specific woman.  Pornography has proven to cause all kinds of sexual problems, not only while a person is doing it but also later in life.   Realistically, with those two things in mind, a young man doesn't have much likelihood of masturbating without sinning.  It is the overconfident youth that thinks "others would sin, but not me".

In due time, Lord willing, young men will be blessed with godly wives, and until then self-control is their duty in the eyes of God.

 

Identifying Sin

Monday, April 27, 2015
How can I know if something is a sin?

 

Inquisitively,
Wanting To Be Faithful

Dear Wanting To Be Faithful,

Sin is disobeying what God says.  The very word 'sin' is defined as 'missing the mark'.  God defines what a good life looks like in His Word.  We wouldn't know who we ought to be if He didn't tell us.  We are made in His image (Gen 1:26) and created for His glory (Col 1:16).  We are the creation, and He is the Creator.  Understanding His supreme authority is crucial.  We must realize and accept that we are designed with a purpose and that the Creator understands how to properly guide our lives to fulfill that purpose.

Sin can be doing something that God has condemned (i.e. David sleeping with Bathsheba - 2 Sam 12:13).  Sin can also be failing to do what you ought to (i.e. Jonah refusing to preach to the Ninevites - Jonah 1:3).  We must model our lives after God's commandments and teachings.  Our lives must bear godly fruit (Jhn 15:12, Lk 3:8), and we must flee from wickedness (1 Tim 6:11).  It is our adherence to both the positive and negative commandments of God that shows our friendship with Him (Jhn 15:14).  The Bible is God's roadmap for life; follow it to avoid the pitfalls of sin.

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