Chapter 25, Of Marriage

Please note: The following are only rough notes for this chapter, and are not a complete commentary. But I am posting them in the event they prove useful until the commentary for this chapter is complete.

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  1. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman; neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time. ( Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:5,6 )

The Confession starts this chapter off with: One man and one woman. This is quite straightforward.  This is the only formula for marriage and anything outside of that is against God’s holy Law.

This not only rules out homosexuality, gay marriage, and bigamy, but by adding neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time, it allows for remarriage for widowers or widows, or for those divorced for biblically allowable reasons.

God is the one who created human beings, and he therefore has the right to define the male and female relationship. “Has the potter no right over the clay” (Romans 9:21 ESV).  God has defined it as one man and one woman, they we must comply with his commands.  He has made it clear that any other arrangement is unacceptable to him and is sin.

 

We see one man and one woman as part of creation:

  • Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Gen 2:24 (ESV)

We see one man and one woman in the Ten Commandments as part of the Mosaic covenant:

  • “You shall not commit adultery. Ex 20:14 (ESV)

We see one man and one woman implicit with the expounding of the Law in Leviticus, and particularly chapter 18. God gave these laws on sexuality in Leviticus from Sinai (Leviticus 26:46; 27:34) speaking from heaven unmistakably: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven” (Ex 20:22b ESV).  These laws are eternal and universal to all. They apply to Israel whom God redeemed from Egypt and they apply to all nations:

  • And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. Lev 18:1-5 (ESV)

 

Leviticus 18 then goes on to list sexual sins to be abhorred such as adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality and other unholy and unclean practices.  After this list we see:

  • “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. Lev 18:24-25 (ESV)
  • For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” Lev 18:29-30 (ESV)

 

The implicit instructions to be gathered from what not to do, is what to do: one man and one woman.

We see the prophets reaffirming one man and one woman:

  • Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.   Mal 2:15 (ESV)

We see Jesus affirming one man and one woman:

  • And said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matt 19:5-6 (ESV)
  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matt 5:27-28 (ESV)

We see one man one woman in the Apostle’s writings:

  • But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Cor. 7:2 (ESV)
  • “If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife…” Titus 1:6a (ESV)
  • For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thess 4:3-8 (ESV)
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Heb 13:4 (ESV)

We see that Paul implying one man and one woman by his critic of homosexuality as dishonorable passion (clearly not one man and one woman).

  • For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26-27 (ESV)

These passages in the aggregate make the case that marriage is to be as the Confession affirms–one man and one woman. Thus any other arrangement is forbidden.  But as we will see, the Confession does not stop with what is lawful, but includes in the next paragraph the great benefit of this divinely instituted arrangement.

Sad to say, it seems that the foreboding weight of persecution is nearly upon the western world for simply standing up the one of the most basic laws of God: one man and one woman. Freedom is not the right to do whatever you want, but the freedom to do what is right.

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  1. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue[1], and the preventing of uncleanness. (Genesis 2:18; Genesis 1:28; 1 Corinthians 7:2, 9)

 

Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife

  • Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”   Gen 2:18 (ESV)

 

for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue,

The modern 1689 Confession uses the following language:“…for the increase of mankind in accordance with His laws…[2]”

  • And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”                 Gen 1:28 (ESV)

 

Children are to be born (for the increase of mankind) within the confines of marriage (with a legitimate issue). Have children outside of marriage is illegitimate, meaning outside of God’s law.  It is a devastating thing in America and abroad how many children are born outside of wedlock.  It has become perfectly acceptable among many sectors of society to have children outside of God’s law.  But God is not mocked, what is sown will be reaped (double meaning intended).  There will be a heavy price for the parents, and sadly upon the children for this total disregard for God’s holy Moral Law.

 

and the preventing of uncleanness.

Obviously, the having of children outside of marriage is preceded by immorality and sin. Marriage before sexual intercourse, avoids both uncleanness (i.e. sin) and children being born outside of God’s law. Marriage is the only way for one man and one woman to be intimate and have children while pleasing God.  There is no other way.  Before God told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply,” we see, “And God blessed them” (Gen 1:28).  God blesses marriage, and it is the first blessing that must come before sexual intimacy and children.

  • But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Cor. 7:2 (ESV)
  • But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. 1 Cor 7:9 (ESV)
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Heb 13:4 (ESV)

I would challenge those who view dating as a necessary aspect preceding marriage to consider another way, and that is courtship. Dating tends to set one up for moral failure, and thus there just might be a better way that avoids that tendency. I won’t expand beyond that here, but merely put that morsel out there, and those who have ears to hear, perhaps you will explore that further.  I recommend a book on this entitled, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris.

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  1. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent; yet it is the duty of Christians to marry in the Lord; and therefore such as profess the true religion, should not marry with infidels, or idolaters; neither should such as are godly, be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are [3]wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresy[4]. ( Hebrews 13:4; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:39;Nehemiah 13:25-27 )

 

It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry,

  • who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 1 Tim 4:3 (ESV)
  • But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Cor. 7:2 (ESV)
  • But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. 1 Cor 7:9 (ESV)

 

 who are able with judgment to give their consent;

I am reminded of Paul’s words by way of application here: “All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable” (1 Cor. 10:23). Samuel Waldron makes this very helpful statement:

  • “Older people may marry. Handicapped people may marry. People from different racial background may marry. All sorts of people may marry.  But we must not confuse the issue of liberty and advisability.  What is not sinful may yet be unadvisable (1 Cor. 7:25-40).” [5]   Samuel Waldron

The words “are able with judgment to give their consent” are important here.  At the least, these words mean that someone who lacks judgment–such as a severely mentally incapacitated person–should not marry.  But beyond that, the application is to those who are too immature to use good judgment in marrying, and that marriage requires the ability to use good sound judgment, and to enter into marriage without that is unwise.

 

yet it is the duty of Christians to marry in the Lord;

A Christian should marry only another Christian.

  • And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Neh. 13:25 (ESV)
  • A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.   1 Cor. 7:39 (ESV)

 

and therefore such as profess the true religion, should not marry with infidels, or idolaters; neither should such as are godly, be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresy.

To marry in the Lord does not merely mean to marry a professing Christian, but to marry one that actually shows evidence of being regenerated, and thus is sound in doctrine and holiness.

The lack of judgment some “believers” display when they marry is staggering. For example, I recently met a man who is a retired SBC pastor, and when his first wife died–the one whom he was in ministry with planting churches and pastoring—he remarried a Roman Catholic.  Talk about not connecting the dots.  She holds to damnable heresy, and yet he married her.  Needless to say, she won’t go to church with him, and in fact, he does not go to church now either—a sad state of affairs.  Surely these things ought not to be.

  • And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Neh. 13:25 (ESV)

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  1. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity, forbidden in[6] the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful, by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife. ( Leviticus 18; Mark 6:18; 1 Corinthians 5:1 )

 

Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity, forbidden in the Word;

  • Consanguinity: relationship by decent from a common ancestor.
  • Affinity: “Affinity designates a relationship by marriage and consanguinity a blood relationship.”
  • “Everyone closer than a first cousin is forbidden. The Bible does not forbid marriage to first cousins and those further removed.”[7]  Samuel Waldron

 

nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful, by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.

  • “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the Lord. Lev 18:6 (ESV)
  • For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” ark 6:18 (ESV)
  • It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.                 1 Cor. 5:1 (ESV)

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  • [1] The 1689 omits the following here from the Savoy and the WCF: “and the Church with an holy seed.”
  • [2] The 1689: A Faith to Confess (Carey Publications, Ltd.: Leeds: 1975).
  • [3] The 1689 and the Savoy omit ‘notoriously’ wicked from the WCF. The source is presumably Collins.
  • [4] The 1689 Confession uses “heresy” in lieu of ‘heresies’ in the WCF. The source is presumably Collins.
  • [5] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press, Darlington, England) pg. 303.
  • [6] The 1689 Confession uses ‘in here in lieu of ‘by’ as in the WCF. The source is the Savoy.
  • [7] Samuel Waldron, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: A Modern Exposition (Evangelical Press, Darlington, England) pg. 304.

 

 

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