Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 17 Number 5 May 2015
Page 16

Questions and Answers

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Bride Price

Louis Rushmore, Editor

I’m brother Nkereuwem Akpan from Nigeria. pls sir i want to know when a man has the right to have sexual relationship with a woman. i met a sister that i love to marry, both families have agreed, i have paid certain marital rites but not all. i have not paid the pride price yet because is a huge amount of money but i would pay later. my father-in-law and the family have agreed that i should go ahead and live with my wife. but my minister says i don't have right over my woman except the pride price is paid. please should i sent her packing since she is not my wife according to my preacher? pls when did marriage starts? it is an urgent issue please!

Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) and His apostles (1 Corinthians 5:9; 6:18; 10:8; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3) condemned fornication. Fornication, which is “illicit sexual intercourse” (Vine’s), appears in lists of additional sins (Matthew 15:10; Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 2 Corinthians 2:21; 1 Timothy 1:10) that also will keep souls out of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:8) and result in them experiencing “eternal fire” (Jude7). The biblical solution to avoid fornication is marriage. “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2 KJV). “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4 NKJV).

Essentially, the first marriage occurred in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve, and it was officiated by God when He gave the woman to the man (Genesis 2:22). This was before the development of human culture and prior to the establishment of manmade laws or governments. Therefore, at that time, the first marriage began based on an agreement and commitment between a man, a woman and God. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Since then, both cultural practices and national laws regarding marriage have come into being. Hence, in the presence of other people, which was not a factor in the first marriage – of Adam and Eve, more than an agreement between a man, a woman and God is necessary to validate a marriage. For a marriage to be valid today, it must be between one man and one woman who are biblically eligible to marry each other. God is still a party to such a union of a man and a woman in matrimony. In addition, though, culture and human law have requirements regarding the validation of marriages. Often, local culture and law are very closely aligned respecting when and how a marriage begins, but sometimes cultural and legal norms for officiating marriage may differ.

The minimum requirement for a marriage to be valid is first that it corresponds to God’s biblical teaching in the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7), and secondly that it agrees with the national law where it is officiated. Man’s law must be obeyed because God authorizes governments, though no particular form of government (Romans 13:1-7; 2 Peter 2:13-17). The only exception to obeying civil law is when man’s law and God’s law conflict with each other and man’s law requires someone to disobey the higher law of God (Acts 4:19; 5:29).

Anciently, mid-eastern culture was the governing law among men respecting how and when a marriage began. In the case of Isaac, his was an arranged marriage (Genesis 24:3-66). The marriage between Isaac and Rebekah was validated simply when they entered the bedroom tent alone with the intention of them being husband and wife (Genesis 24:67). Accordingly, his family and local people acknowledged this as marriage. Scripture implies that God was satisfied with this commencement of marriage and that it was distinguished from fornication. Similarly, Jacob later married a wife in the presence of witnesses by taking her to his bedroom, following a wedding feast (Genesis 29:22-23). Many hundreds of years later, Jesus Christ described a mid-eastern marriage in some of His parables (Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13). In the Parable of the 10 Virgins, our Lord painted a picture of a marriage. He referred to the procedure of a groom escorting his bride-elect from her father’s house – parade-like – through the city to his house. Family and friends joined the procession along the way. Others waited outside the destination for the groom, bride and merry party to arrive. Then, they all entered a marriage feast (cf., Genesis 29:22).

Two of the accounts of ancient marriages cited above include the giving of a dowry or paying a bride price in connection with a marriage. Abraham’s servant gave gifts, not only to Rebekah (Genesis 24:22, 30, 47, 53), but also to Rebekah’s mother and brother (Genesis 24:53); the dowry or bride price appears also in Genesis 34:12. However, Jacob fled from his angry brother and had no resources when he desired to marry. Therefore, he hired himself out to his future father-in-law for seven years since he did not have a dowry (Genesis 29:18, 20). After the seven years of labor, Jacob married a daughter of Laban (Genesis 29:21-23).

However, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of marrying Rachel (Genesis 29:25-26). Hence, Jacob and Laban made another agreement that stipulated Jacob was to work for Laban an additional seven years as the dowry or bride price for marrying Rachel (Genesis 29:27). Yet, Jacob and Rachel married one week later, and Jacob worked off the dowry or bride price for Rachel over the next seven years (Genesis 29:28, 30). Jacob worked seven years in place of a dowry or bride price before marrying Leah, but he worked seven years in place of a dowry after marrying Rachel. Essentially, Jacob paid in advance the dowry or bride price before wedding Leah, but he paid over time after getting married to Rachel.

Many nations today do not have either cultural requirements or laws about marriage that require the payment of a dowry or bride price, though some still do. Although the Old Testament is not the law of God under which mankind today lives and worships (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14), it does contain principles and precedents that often have a bearing on contemporary circumstances. In view of cultures that still require payment of a dowry or bride price, we see from Scripture examples of bride prices or dowries being paid beforehand as well as, in the absence of having wealth, someone exchanging his labor for the bride price. Yet, we also have the example of Jacob marrying Rachel and paying the dowry afterward over a course of seven years by laboring for his father-in-law.

For God to recognize a marriage as valid, (1) the man and the woman must have a biblical right to marry each other (i.e., not already married, never married before, a widow or a widower, or the innocent person of a divorce because of adultery). (2) In addition, the couple to be wed must comply with the legal requirements, which may be based on local culture, of the nation in which the marriage will take place. This side of the Garden of Eden, both of these circumstances must be considered as to how and when a marriage begins. The details of the second consideration will vary from country to country. In the final analysis, choose a course of action that cannot be wrong in the sight of either God or mankind (i.e., the law of the land and cultural expectations).

(Note: God does not recognize as a valid marriage what is contrary to New Testament instruction, despite what the laws about marriage in any nation may permit.)

Works Cited

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Thomas Nelson P., 1985.

Polygamy and Baptism

Louis Rushmore, Editor

If you baptize someone unknowingly that he has many wives and later you discover it, what should you do with such problem? Ouma Christopher

God overlooked polygamy in Patriarchal times (Genesis 16) and during biblical Judaism (2 Samuel 12:7-8), though God had established monogamy in the Garden of Eden when He created Adam and Eve. During His ministry on earth in preparation for bringing about Christianity, Jesus Christ restored marriage as God originally had instituted it.

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at 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 then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9 NKJV)

This quotation primarily concerns marriage, divorce and remarriage, but for our purposes regarding the question before us, we want to notice that our Lord Jesus Christ restored marriage to its original state. We have bolded references in the quotation: “two shall become one flesh” and “no longer two but one flesh.” The original state of marriage in the Garden of Eden, which Jesus Christ restored, has only a bride and a groom – two people. That is monogamy rather than polygamy. (Incidentally and importantly in current times, notice in the Scripture here that marriage is between females and males – not between males and males or between females and females.)

Polygamy is not permitted under Christianity. All of the passages about marriage in the New Testament teach about a husband and a wife (Ephesians 5:23-33). Specifically, especially an elder is to have one wife – not a polygamous marriage (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).

So far, we have reinforced the New Testament doctrine of monogamy, but now we turn our attention to the question at hand. What is the evangelist’s responsibility when he discovers after baptizing someone that he is a polygamist? The same question could be posed regarding any number of sins, which it may be apparent that the new convert is still practicing.

The function of a preacher, minister or evangelist is primarily to convey God’s Word to those who will listen. No preacher, minister or evangelist can force anyone to do or not to do anything. The responsibility of the servant of the Lord is to proclaim faithfully the Word of God, whereas it is the responsibility of the hearer to apply God’s Word to his or her life.

In the case of having baptized a polygamist or baptism being requested by a polygamist, God’s preacher must teach the polygamist what the New Testament teaches about polygamy versus monogamy. God recognizes one’s marriage to the first wife as biblically valid. The additional wives from consideration of the New Testament are occasions of adultery.

Repentance by the polygamist would involve putting away the so-called additional wives. God’s Old Testament servant Ezra instructed his contemporaries in his day to put away biblically unlawful wives and their children (Ezra 10:3, 44). Though putting away biblically unlawful wives and children, a man still has ethical and moral responsibilities to care for children that he brought into this world as well as for their mothers. In some countries, a man also has legal responsibilities for child support irrespective of whether he went through the formality of marrying the mother of his children.

The evangelist must advise the new convert who is a polygamist of what the New Testament teaches about marriage. If the polygamist refuses to repent, in this case putting away the extra wives, then he ought to be dealt with by Christians in the same ways that they would react to other impenitent sinners.

Especially in countries where polygamy, adulterous marriages or fornication are commonplace, the evangelist needs to include in his evangelistic teaching lessons about Christian marriage. In similar fashion, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem wrote a letter and sent messengers with teaching that addressed commonplace sins especially among Gentiles (Acts 15:1-31; 15:29).

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