And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 14, Number
In this issue:
Living Together before Marriage Does Not Increase Chances of Staying Together
Joe R. Price
Many people think it is natural to live together before marriage as a “trial run” to see whether or not they are compatible. But, according to a study of men and women ages 15 to 44 by the National Center for Health Statistics using data from the National Survey of Family Growth conducted in 2002, living together before marriage actually makes it more likely a marriage will end in divorce (“Study Finds Cohabiting Doesn’t Make a Union Last”, NY Times, March 2, 2010).
Marriage is not like shopping for a car – kick the tires, look under the hood, take it for a test drive and get a “feel” for how it handles. That’s fine for a Chevy, Ford or Toyota, but not a wife or a husband!
Marriage is a decision of the will (not hormones). It is a commitment made to one another before God “until death we do part”. Marriage is to be honored by all, not denigrated by the fornication that occurs when an unmarried couple lives together (Heb. 13:4).
Marriage can succeed and thrive when both husband and wife honor marriage as God arranged it. We must teach our children and young adults the truth about marriage: it is from God, it is for life and it is not to be sundered (Matt. 19:4-6).
1) Preparation for marriage. First, are you free to marry with God’s approval (some are not, Mk. 6:17-18; Rom. 7:2-3)? Second, are you willing to leave your parents and form a “one flesh” relationship (cleave) with your mate (Gen. 2:24)? Third, are you ready to give up being an individual to now live as a united “one” with your spouse (Eph. 5:22-31)? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then you are not ready for marriage.
The decision to marry means taking on a commitment and responsibility that lasts for the rest of your life. Living together, on the other hand, has a built in escape hatch from the responsibility of self-sacrifice and serving one another. Those who live together without marriage may stay together “as long as we stay in love”. If they do decide to marry they will most likely bring that same mentality into marriage. When they think they have “fallen out of love” that is enough reason for them to leave their live-in (or divorce their spouse, Matt. 5:32; 19:6).
Living together without marriage distorts and dismisses God’s design for unity and structure in the home. Even social scientists who study cohabitation conclude that qualities of openness, honesty, trust, self-sacrifice and mutual commitment are not as strong among those who live together without marriage. Control, manipulation and power struggles are more frequently found among those who do not make the fundamental commitment to form the “one flesh” relationship of marriage. God-designed marriage has structure and service built into it. This structure and stability in marriage far surpasses what cohabitation has to offer. When the husband loves his wife as himself and as Christ loved the church, and when the wife is submissive to her husband’s leadership as the church is to Christ, then successful, thriving marriages result (Eph. 5:22-31; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). These qualities do not exist between those who live together without marriage.
2) Purity of marriage. Living together without marriage is sin (Heb. 13:4). “Because of sexual immorality (fornication, jrp) let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). Marriage is a moral relationship, arranged by God’s will. In it, sexual desires are morally satisfied. Both the husband and the wife bear particular duty to their partner in this regard (1 Cor. 7:3-5).
Advocating, advancing or accommodating cohabitation dishonors the purity of marriage by approving the sin of fornication.
The person who has sexual relations before marriage is defiled by sin and lost unless and until he repents. By the way, a marriage ceremony is not repentance of the sin of fornication. If a couple has lived together without marriage they have lived in sin. Deciding to get married is good, but that does not wash away their previous sin. Repentance and obedience to the gospel is necessary for that (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31; 18:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
3) Permanency of marriage. The aforementioned study (page 1) found “the likelihood that a marriage would last for a decade or more decreased by six percentage points if the couple had cohabited first” (Ibid). The very defense offered to justify cohabitation is the reason not to do so – marriages are less permanent if a couple lives together first!
There is no escape hatch in God-designed marriage. “Until death we do part” is still the vow approved by God (Mal. 2:16; Rom. 7:2). You had better be fully committed to each other and to your marriage from day one. Only the cause of fornication allows the innocent person to put away the offender and remarry (Matt. 19:9).
4) Practical principles of marriage. Marriage presents a leadership structure that does not exist in cohabitation (Eph. 5:23). Furthermore, marriage contains a support system that is foreign to living together (Gen. 2:18-23). Independence and individuality are vigorously championed by those who live together. The marriage roles bring order, definition and functionality to the home, whereas living together rejects this fundamental framework for success.
There are moral and practical reasons to reject living together as an alternative to marriage. Our Maker gave us marriage; He knows what is best for us (Gen. 2:18). Do not “live together” - flee fornication (1 Cor. 6:18).
Sometimes Christians have a hard time deciding what to do in specific situations that call for a clear decision. Below you will read some questions to ask yourself that will hopefully help your decision-making.
1. Can you ask God to bless your decision? (Prov. 10:22)?
2. Can you thank God for it (Col. 3:17)?
3. Are you doing this to the glory of God? (I Cor. 10:31)?
4. Will your decision be a stumbling block to others? (I Cor. 8:13)?
5. Are you doing this to please God rather than people (Col. 3:23; Gal. 1:10)?
6. Have you thought ahead about the consequences of your decision (Gal. 6:7)?
7. Would you want to be doing whatever you decide when Christ returns (Matt. 24:44)?
-The Old Paths, XVIII:30, Sept. 25, 2011
Jeff S. Smith
Gossip is the world’s foremost delicacy, a taste sensation that excites even the most discriminating palate, and one which is refused with the only the greatest exertion of willpower. The brother of the Lord wrote, “the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). Gossip is but one way that the tongue mars our discipleship, but it is among the most destructive. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:14-15). What is more unloving – more counter to the Golden Rule – than to gossip about someone, especially a brother or sister in Christ? To spread lies is slander, but gossip is occasionally true, but always reported with gleeful malice, with self-serving viciousness. Gossip has wreaked havoc on more than one church, where it ought to be thoroughly extinct. Stories are drafted, told and retold, growing as they go, until they so embarrass their subject that reconciliation becomes nearly impossible. What a damaging fire a little busybody’s spark can ignite!
Gospel, August 21, 2011
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 10/14/2011
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA