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Question #1:

Hi Dr.,

First let me thank you for your concern and your prayers, much appreciated here. I know you don't know me very well and the statement in my last email left you wondering, so let me explain.

Last week was like a bad country song, every day (verse) something new would go wrong, flooded basement, dying dog, back injury, shoulder injury, trouble with lukewarm family, wife's business having trouble, news of increased monthly expenses, news of decreased monthly income. But this ok, I get it, it's supposed to be this way. As you so skillfully teach and the Bible confirms, we are Strangers in the devils realm and we are not to expect to have it easy, and I have no such expectation. I've been through worse, and I know the worst is yet to come.

I have a tendency to make short summary statements about things so as not to bore people with details. I am not one to complain or seek pity, but I'm not one to say everything is fine, when it isn't. Around here they have a saying " it is what it is" and that's it.

I see the benefit of the difficulties of life when looked at through the long view of the eternal perspective. The hardest things have been some of my best teachers, And in the grand scheme of things these types of experiences are nothing compared to what is coming upon the earth.

There is an added stress that I have been praying about and I trust the Lord that whatever may happen He will work it out for the best according to His plan. Although my wife and I have been married for many years, we have not been blessed with them. She wants them and I love children and would love to have as many as the Lord sees fit, but I don't have to explain to you my concerns on the timing of this. I understand what we are going to go through in the near future, and she says she does too. I could go on and on but I wouldn't be telling you anything that you don't already know. This a big one for me, but I know I can handle it as long as I keep my trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So to answer your questions, yes, we are ok, as long as we remain in the will of God.

All the best, Rev.22:20

Response #1:

Thanks for the details. I certainly appreciate your application, namely, not saying "just fine" when it isn't, but not launching into a litany of details when they may not be appreciated, informing but not griping or complaining, understanding the Lord's hand in everything and trusting Him – we could all learn a lot for your approach here (myself included!). That said, I'm certainly sorry to hear of this latest round of "challenges". Apart from the dog (cat is old but OK), and the back/shoulder (having hip/back problems myself), I can check everything else on the list (basement too). And yet, here I am – and there you are. God is good! He allows us to be tested to prove the quality of our faith, and you are certainly proving yours to be solid gold. I appreciate you!

The children of Israel in the desert, the second generation mind you, complained and rebelled when there was (briefly) no water, and were so forgetful of all of the Lord's past benefits, so ungrateful and vociferous, that they goaded Moses into being rash and losing his chance to enter the land of promise (Num.20:1-13). We read that and shake our heads. But sometimes the tap stops flowing here and now too – or even just slows down a bit. And not many Christians handle it as well as you are doing, my friend.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:2-5 NKJV

As to children, family is the point of getting married, and I couldn't fault anyone who is already married from wanting/having children, regardless of circumstances. Children are a gift from the Lord (Ps.127:3-4). If He hasn't given them yet, He certainly has a reason. Doesn't mean He won't do so in the future – nothing is impossible for the Lord, in spite of age and all other considerations. Just ask Sarah and Abraham. I don't pretend to know what the Lord has in mind for you, but I'll definitely be keeping you in prayer on this as well as everything else.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi There,

I am writing because of my parents. Their marriage was always tense and frankly, it was always better for us as children if one or the other was out of the house, but they stuck together for our sakes. Now we’re adults and have flown the nest, they decided to get divorced. However, this happened earlier this year and they are finding it really difficult to settle on what to do about the family home and the mortgage.

As I happen to also be a freelance finance writer and former mortgage broker, I’ve teamed up with a small financial advice site to develop a guide on how divorce can affect mortgages and what options are available for divorcing couples such as my parents; especially if one wants to keep the family home. If you have an extra minute, you can check out the article here: http://www.creditmarvel.com/blog/how-is-our-mortgage-affected-during-divorce/.

I know you are busy, so I’ll keep this quick. Recently, I came across ichthys.com and you reminded me of my article. Having read https://ichthys.com/mail-no%20divorce.htm I thought this would be something you’d like to write about. Of course, while I do not have permission for you to copy the whole piece in its entirety, I am more than happy to write a brief introduction to the article for you to put on your website or write a longer piece on the same topic.

Please let me know what you think!

Best Regards,

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks so much for your kind offer!

I do get emails from people about this subject often enough and from time to time post email conversations about it (the file you mention is from some time back; here's the most recent: "Marriage and the Bible IV").

It would be very helpful, I'm sure, for someone in or entering in or contemplating or sensing that this is going to happen to have some sound, Christian financial advice about it. What I could do is share your introductory paragraph and include the link to your article (which could then be accessed independently of Ichthys).

Thanks for your willingness to serve the Body of Christ!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

Hi Robert,

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I’ve put together this introduction to the article for your site and I’m sure you will agree that it turned out well. Please let me know if you have any questions or when you upload it.

Suggested image: https://unsplash.com/search/house?photo=xpDHTc-pkog

Knowing Your Mortgage Options Can Help Take the Stress Out of Divorce

Around 41% of first marriages and 60% of second marriages in the US end in divorce. And while you will always have your faith to support you, going through a divorce can be hugely stressful, especially when you add in an outstanding mortgage and other shared finances. What happens to your mortgage after your marriage ends will depend on your specific circumstances along with what you plan to do with your property.

But while turning to God is always important when you are going through such challenging times, it’s also imperative that you seek professional advice to make sure that you and your former partner can come to a fair agreement. Although it may not always be easy to be able to efficiently organize your finances, you need to put all emotions to one side and consider all mortgage and financial options available both during and following your divorce.

Response #3:


I'm not sure when the next "marriage/divorce" posting might be. I generally run about a year behind in posting answered emails, but sometimes theme postings end up promoting or demoting interchanges, based on topics. The blog looks helpful, so I plan to include all this when I do get around to the topic again – I'll make a mental note to let you know.


Bob L.

Question #4:

HIM: You are right, “Of course he never said that.” The part where you begin, “Any man who decides to have sex with another man…” comes from a passage against fertility cults that you have generalized to condemn a huge swath of the human race. In other words, it’s not scripture, it’s you. The OT makes it quite clear that having sex with fertility cult prostitute-priests is false worship, whether the prostitute is a man or a woman. However, just because cult prostitution is wrong, it doesn’t mean that any sex is wrong.

ME: Listen to me: there is such a thing as objective natural law. It's not only okay, but it is righteous and commendable to be compassionate for the LGBT community and their suffering. But that doesn't change the twin facts that gay sex and transsexualism are immoral in the extreme. You are being blinded.

Look at all of Leviticus 18. God gives Moses a non-exhaustive list of some of the sexual behaviors he finds offensive:

(1) Having sex with close relatives.
(2) Having sex with your mother.
(3) Having sex with your stepmother.
(4) Having sex with your sister (biological or stepsister)
(5) Having sex with your granddaughter.
(6) Having sex with your paternal or maternal aunt.
(7) Having sex with your aunt-in-law
(8) Having sex with your daughter-in-law
(9) Having sex with your sister-in-law
(10) Having sex with the children of a woman who is closely related to you.
(11) Having a polygamous relationship with the sister of your wife.
(12) Having sex with a woman while she is mensturating (cf. Ezekiel 18:6)
(13) Having sex with your neighbor's wife
(14) Gay sex
(15) Bestiality.

Why is it that every one of these items is still detestable to us today, except for #14? What is so special about item number 14?

Response #4:

Well done. Good Bible-believing Christians are not hateful towards anyone nor concerned about their lifestyles as long as they are not doing anything illegal. We want all to be saved – just as the Lord does. But proclaiming that sin is not sin is not helpful for sinners who are not saved. I think it is a big mistake to engage in any political activity which attempts to vilify or disadvantage or in any way oppose people involved in sin of any kind (which is not harming others). But all Christians need to understand that there is a big difference between loving the sinner and justifying the sin.

In Jesus our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Dr.

I wanted to share some good news with you. My wife is a Christian woman. Like myself she graduated from a lukewarm Christian college and attended a lukewarm church. Having never really fit in with the church myself it was easy for me to break away, but she hung on a bit longer. I knew the best thing I could do was pray for her, casually work bits and pieces of the truth into our conversations, and encourage her to grow in her knowledge and relationship of our Lord through His word. This is my approach with all who I am associated, however, I've seen very little interest from friends, family or acquaintances. I tried to encourage her to read her bible and the books that I downloaded from Ichthys. Recently, she has begun to ask questions and express interest in both your and Pastor Omo's teaching, and she just told me today that she was starting to listen to your audio files when she takes her daily walk. This brought me great joy to see her respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has given me this work to do, and I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity. I have experienced the loss of friendships, and estrangement of family members, all professing Christians who embrace the Laodicean way. So to see my wife, my best friend and partner begin to embrace the truth of His Word is a blessing, I praise God for for His faithfulness! Thank you Dr. for your dedication to accurately handling the Word of God.

Until next time,


Response #5:

This is terrific news!

We will be keeping this in prayer.

God answers them all in His good and perfect timing.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

My understanding at this point about marriage is that, as soon as there is intercourse and exchange of bodily fluids, marriage has occurred with obligations on both man and woman. (Genesis 2:24; David and Bathsheba, etc.) Current science, if you believe in that, concludes that the horizontal gene transfer inherent in that fluid exchange, in fact, begins the transformation into one flesh. Other studies indicate that habitual rice eaters, e.g., incorporate rice genes into their DNA. So it should be with men and women.

I didn't realize civil ceremonies had anything to do with a real marriage. Have I completely misunderstood?

Thanks for your efforts in making the weekly email digests available with your comments as well as your willingness to field off-the-wall questions like this. Your weekly posts always stimulate reflection and, sometimes, painful reevaluation of long held beliefs.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #6:

Good to hear from you, my friend, and thanks for your kind and supportive words.

On Genesis 2:24, neither this verse nor any other scripture I know of makes such statements or draws such conclusions. Genesis 2:24 is a [legal] marriage arranged by God [in the absence of law] between the only two human beings in existence and done in the garden of Eden where there is no property or adultery or death or danger or any of the other things that make the legal institution of marriage necessary (the way we experience it, anyway). Our Lord's appeal to this verse at e.g. Mk.10:2-9 gives us "the way it ought to be . . . in paradise". The fact that our conditions today are not paradisaical is, of course, no excuse for us not doing what is right. Justification of any sin is wrong at all times, but as with 1st John's description of the believer as "perfect" by position (even though we still need to confess our sins: 1Jn.1:9), this verse in Genesis gives the standard of perfection to which believers ought to attain – but in this imperfect world filled with imperfect people there is divorce, and that is why it was regulated in the Law.

On David, he did marry Bathsheba, but was not obligated to do so – he had many concubines who were not his wives, though he did have relations with them. Marriage, even in the absence of a body of written law, is more than an act of intercourse, biblically speaking. I would certainly not wish to diminish the gravity of sexual union in consummating a legally contracted marriage, nor the dangers of engaging in such activity outside of marriage: the former is a valid legal principle and the second is a profound danger (1Cor.6:18). But sexual indiscretion, while it does have terribly damaging consequences on all levels, does not constitute marriage. Otherwise, for example, a person who has a liaison without being married would immediately be responsible for the other party in toto, and would, for example, be obligated in terms of all of his/her property for all time – absent a legal divorce – with then also multiple marriages and multiple intermarriages, given the high volume of sexual indiscretion at large in our society today. Given human nature and behavior, that would not be a workable situation in any culture or society, and that is why the principle has never been legally enshrined anywhere, as far as I know – and certainly not in scripture. Marriage has to do with offspring, with joint property, with responsibilities to the other party, and with inheritance and its disposition (cf. Mal.2:15). All of these things have civil, legal ramifications, and that is why the institution is a civil, legal one – one which God ordained for all mankind, not just for believers.

"The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband."
John 4:18 NIV

The only way I can see for this statement of our Lord's to make sense is if the Samaritan woman had been legally married five times to five different men, but after her last divorce was living with a man (and having relations with him) without having contracted a legal marriage with him.

There is plenty to say about all this but since most of it I have written up in great detail before, I will ask you to have a look at the following links and get back to me if you have any further questions:

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

What constitutes marriage?

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage is a civil institution

One flesh?

What is the meaning of "one flesh"?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Bob,

On marriage, 1 Corinthians 6:16 and Matthew 19:5 (joined to an harlot and leave mother and father to become one flesh) as well as phrases such as "took her to wife" got me started on the question. While I don't remember marriage being mentioned in those contexts (it certainly wasn't in the case of the harlot) there certainly is a joining of some sort. Thank you for the reference of the Samaritan woman at the well. I should have remembered that before asking the question. I'm embarrassed.

The "become one flesh" has always puzzled me. I've seen it almost literally happen. I was married 35 years. I saw it in my marriage as well as friends who had long term marriages. Science over the
past several years seem to confirm, if true, that horizontal gene transfer would, in fact, be part of the reason two become one. While not the only reason, it would help explain what I've seen and experienced. I do believe that there's more than a civil agreement.

Since my wife died, by the way, I've followed Paul's advice and would have it no other way.

Thank you.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #7:

On marriage, I don't pretend to know enough about biology to weigh in on the issue of any sort of physical transformation. But it would surprise me if it were true. As to the essence of what "one flesh" means, here is what I have written in the past on that:

Today, "one flesh" is a commitment to act as one, with the wife giving her respect to the husband and the husband his love to the wife (Eph.5:33), with Christ's love for the Church providing the perfect analogy of how things should be (Eph.5:22-33).

That is the essence of what marriage should be, whether or not the parties are Christian; this sort of "oneness" which is often found in longstanding "good marriages" doesn't happen as a result of "casual" liaison – precisely because it requires dedication and commitment.

I'm sorry to hear about your loss, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Oh, Bob,

On marriage, the biology assumption comes from my notice that many things in the Bible have practical, mundane applications aside from the main point being illustrated. E.g., planting the tip of the highest cedar and dunging the vineyard. Both are sound horticulture even though only illustrating the main point. Jesus' example of the man watching to avoid his house being broken up resolved my issues with home and self defense. I can't believe an example would be used in the Bible if it weren't sound practice - regardless of what "science" may say.

Thank you for your condolence. That occurred several years ago and was the prompt for my first questions of you. Your example of Abraham's Bosom helped me over the hump. All of your responses have been helpful. When they sting, is when I know I have work to do. Thank you for that.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #8:

On marriage, I agree that there are many useful applications to be drawn from all portions of scripture, and I personally often make the distinction between interpretation (what the verse actually means) and application (how the truths within it can be applied to life in a more general way); both things, when rightly done, are exercises in truth; however, just because a passage has an application which is true and illustrates or teaches something true does not mean that such is the passage's interpretation, i.e., what its core meaning is. So your observation about the amalgamation of couples (whether the cause is physical or psychological or both) is, perhaps, a valid application of "one flesh"; but even if I believed that this phenomenon was an absolute fact, it would not be possible to back-load that onto the interpretation of the passage if such is not in fact the interpretation of the passage. So while I do see some potential validity in the observation (possibly a good illustration), I do not think that is what "become one flesh" means. If it did, Paul's use of this verse to dissuade Corinthian men from prostitution would make little sense because that is a case of very many "combinations".

The key to interpreting 1st Corinthians 6:16 is the following verse: "but whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit" (1Cor.6:17). Clearly, a man who has had relations with a prostitute is not "one body" with her in the sense of having the same body, nor can the two be somehow closer to each other as a result because of the liaison – for both have no doubt had very many other liaisons. Rather, the principle is one of unity in purpose (please compare the identical Greek usage at 1Cor.3:8 regarding Paul and Apollos: literally "are one"). For a man and a woman in marriage, the purpose of this "oneness" is a physical one, being life partners in everything in this material world. For us and the Lord, the purpose is spiritual, being eternal life partners in everything that is beyond the sight of this world . . . and with ramifications then for everything we do in this world. For these reasons, even "casual" relations with anyone but one's life partner are antithetical to the whole point of the relationship between husband and wife designed and arranged by God wherein the man cares for his "helpmeet" and she respects him – in the same way that any sort of idolatry, even only "occasionally", would be antithetical to our professed faith in and love for our true Husband, Jesus Christ.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello, Bob,

On marriage, the verse of the Samaritan woman at the well was my light bulb moment but your explanation here in terms of the Bride of Christ was another.

Thank you. You're an excellent teacher, my friend.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #9:

Write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 22:13-22

Also, why isn't there an equivalent law that says that a man must be stoned to death if he loses his virginity?

Response #10:

This is about marriage. The death penalty is not given for losing virginity but for marrying under that pretext, something that undermines marriage and puts any offspring in question as legitimate (because of the loose morals of the woman in question). There are analogous penalties for men violating the sanctity of marriage.

The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 20:10 NKJV

If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her. then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 22:23-24

As you know, I'm not an advocate for Church Age believers trying to follow the Law (Rom.10:4). One thing generally not understood is that the actual regulations (as opposed to what they symbolize) were given not in a vacuum of the way society was and worked in that day. If the Law were given today, no doubt it would not regulate slavery (e.g.), which most people today would agree is an offensive institution – but it was a reality in the ancient world, so better to prevent abuse than ignore the issue.

The sanctity of marriage was important to most people in that day and age (unlike today), and the production of children and heirs who were legitimate was also of the highest concern as the example of Abraham shows (unlike today where birth control and abortion are commonplace). So no doubt these regulations strike modern people as odd. One has to get beyond the rules (which as far as I can tell from what the Bible actually says were almost never if ever actually followed) to the principle behind them. In this case: marriage and family are important and should be protected at all costs.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi, I think that your interpretation is the best I've seen. Therefore, I wonder what you think about premarital sex, self-sex and porn. My opinion is that there is no proof or scripture which would say premarital sex or self-sex is sin.

Response #11:

If you read the Bible, you will easily see that any sort of sexual behavior of any type outside of the legitimate coming together of a husband and wife is not only sinful and unauthorized but incredibly spiritually dangerous, e.g.:

Flee from fornication (i.e., sexual sin)! Every [other] sin a person may commit is separated from the body. But the one who fornicates is sinning against (lit., "into") his own body.
1st Corinthians 6:18

(3) Now this is God's will, namely, your sanctification (i.e., separation from sin). [He desires you] to keep away from immorality, (4) and for each of you to know how to keep his [or her] own vessel (i.e., body) under control in sanctification and honorable conduct, (6) not [giving in] to the passions of lust as do the gentiles (i.e., unbelievers) who do not know God, (7) so that you may not transgress and thereby take advantage of your brother/sister [in Christ]. For the Lord is an Avenger of all these sins as I have warned and have born solemn witness to you before. For God did not call you to uncleanness but in sanctification. (8) Therefore anyone who sets [these commands and principles] aside [as invalid] is setting aside not man but God Himself – the One who placed His Holy Spirit into us.
1st Thessalonians 4:3-8

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

I dont think so.. https://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/premarital-sex-is-it-a-sin-or-not

Last question : You've already once replied on my leaving of faith and turn back to God but I have question about romans 11 22-23 its about me?

Response #12:

You can find a website in cyberspace to tell you any lie you want to hear. Now that is a way to get into serious spiritual trouble, trouble which may lead to the sin unto death or worse.

I gave you two very clear Bible verses. What they mean is entirely evident from what they say. What is about those two verses you don't understand?

As to Romans 11:22-23, the meaning there is also clear enough. Unbelievers can be saved if they do not "persist in unbelief" – that is, if they turn to or return to the Lord. Believers are saved – as long as they remain believers. But only believers are saved. So our faith in Christ is very precious and must be preserved at all costs. Sinful patterns of behavior (as in any sort of illicit sexual activity) degrade our faith and lead to further sin if not repented of and confessed. Believers also sometimes very foolishly become angry at God for some disappointment in their lives which they then blame on Him. But whatever the reason, if faith is allowed to degrade to the point where it dies and the person in question stops believing in Christ, then that person is at that point by definition, no longer a believer. It's all about faith. And the correct response to the gift of grace, life eternal in Jesus Christ, is a faithful walk which leads us ever closer to Jesus – not a sinful one which takes us ever farther away.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Thank you but lets look please to article what I sent to you.

Response #13:

This blog makes many assertions, almost all of which are incorrect.

This blog cites no scripture – it merely asserts its point of view.

This blog is anonymous – and so is the website!

So . . .

1) You don't have the foggiest notion with whom you are dealing or whether they are even Christian or whether they have any credentials at all (whereas this ministry puts it all out there: see the link: About Ichthys Author).

2) You don't have the foggiest notion of what scriptures these people (this person?) thinks support these ridiculous assertions (whereas this ministry is scripture based – still waiting for your response to the two clear passages I gave you).

3) Anyone can make an assertion, just as anyone can have an opinion. But true Christians know that only God's opinion counts. So you don't have to take my word for any of this. Have you ever read the Bible through? Have you ever read the New Testament through? You really need to do so. Do so, and let me know then what you think of the assertions on this blog (see the link: "Read your Bible!").

In the meantime, if you have any particular questions about any of the false assertions made there or any questions about the two passages I gave you which disprove those assertions on the face of it, I'm happy to respond.

Stay away from this sort of thing, my friend. It only results in misery in the end.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

The Corinthians speaks of prostitution. There was a lot of prostitutes. a lot of people who wanted to prove a premarital sex is a sin failed it because the Scriptures could not find evidence. Sorry I can post you long comment from one man if you want. Im sorry but I dont see any reason for saying self-sex or premarital sex is sin.

Response #14:

This is not a question. I'm happy to answer questions for Christians who want answers to what the Bible teaches. That is what I have devoted my life to.

Also, it wouldn't do any good if you could convince me. I am nobody. Also, I have read the Bible (many times in the original languages, not to mention studying it all my life), so you couldn't do it on this very clear and obvious point even if you tried very hard.

It would only do you any good if you could convince God that sin is not sin – God forbid! – that is of course impossible.

In my experience, observation, and reading of scripture, there is little that is worse and nothing more dangerous for a Christian than an attempt to justify sinful behavior or say that it's not sinful at all. Chronic sinners who are troubled by their sins may at least get to the point of repentance, turn around, confess their sins, and be restored. But once a person gets to the point of being so hardened in their sin that they are no longer bothered by it but actually want to claim that it is not sin at all, apostasy starts to become a real danger. Why? Because belligerently telling God that what He says is not true is just one step away from saying either that He doesn't exist or that He should obey and worship you instead. This is precisely what the devil did, after all, and we know that his eternal fate is in the lake of fire.

So please turn away for this foolish course of action! Sinning is one thing; there is a solution to that (repentance, confession, growth toward sanctification). Attempting to justify sin or claim it isn't what it is very much worse.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Well thank you. I'm sorry for many question but I have three lasts. Do you think sex is creating marriage?

Response #15:

I think I've answered #2 and #3. As to #1, no, sex and marriage are two entirely different things. Sexual relations do not "make a marriage" . . . but they may break a marriage if one member of the couple is adulterous. Please see the link: "What is a marriage?"

Question #16:

Ok. What do you think about theory : premarital sex is not sin because premarital sex doesn't exist. When a couple have sex they create marriage in God's eyes.

Response #16:

First, there is not a shred of biblical evidence for this dangerous and ridiculous theory. If you've read the link I gave you, you will realize that marriage is an institution God gave to the entire human race for the preservation of human life and the basis of human society in creating, blessing and protecting families – it is for unbelievers as well as for believers. As such, it is a civil institution and always has been in every human society which has ever existed. So however the legally constituted society the believer belongs to regulates marriage law, that is the law the believer must also follow. Actual marriage changes many things, but it is based on a free will commitment by both parties to a life-long combination of their lives, property, fortunes, families. Clearly, no casual sexual liaison has such ramifications; and many people in this world engage in sexual activity outside of marriage all the time with no intention of committing themselves to the other party for the rest of their lives.

It seems to me that this crazy "theory" is just a rationalization on the part of some to justify sex outside of marriage. But there is no such justification. Sex outside of marriage is called in the Bible porneia, and we are told to flee from it as a sin which particularly affects our bodies as well as our hearts (1Cor.6:18).

A marriage is a marriage, and any unbeliever knows what a marriage is – just ask. But if anyone wants to respond that the unbeliever is wrong and that their crazy theory is correct, let them put forward a single Bible verse that says anything of the sort. There are none.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

I find article about sex and marriage. I think this man have truth. Ee has lots of articles but his views make sense and are supported from bible. He is praying for the truth but his views are much different than most teachers have. https://www.isawthelightministries.com/marriage.html

Response #17:

From our previous correspondence I think you probably already know what I'm going to tell you. This article is wrong on every point. Everyone knows what a marriage between a man and a woman is . . . and what is not a marriage. And there is nothing in the Bible to contradict the universal opinion found in societies around the globe from the beginning of time. A major reason for that is that marriage, as I have said before, is not for believers only but for all mankind. And marriage is the essential bedrock of society since it is from marriage that the family, children, come and in which they are protected, reared and sent off out into the world. But if person X were "married" to everyone person X ever had relations with, then in some promiscuous western societies there would be people who were married and cross married to nearly everyone in their age cohort in a given town or neighborhood. And that would make all sexual activity contrary to God's law since the person(s) would be violating their marriage(s) to (many) others, and also at the same time permissible since nearly everyone would be married to nearly everyone. In other words, this premise is patently absurd on its face and betrays a complete lack of understanding of the Bible and of correct principles of biblical interpretation.

Author seems to think that because there was no state to issue a marriage license in Eden that somehow all historical convention following is thus invalidated (all of the other examples are also of early times and of nomadic peoples). There are differing methods of recognizing and validating marriages, but please note that in all cases there are methods of doing so and no marriage is considered a marriage without them. But the fundamental thing is the commitment between the two parties and the recognition of that commitment by others. Author uses Rebekah and Isaac as a putative example. But here is what I read:

So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” “I will go,” she said.
Genesis 24:58 NIV

This follows a negotiation of a marriage with the family and providing of bridal gifts as well – part of the customs of that day which make the marriage clear.

I don't know what author's motives are. Perhaps he is trying to dissuade young people from having illicit sex. The Bible has plenty to say about the dangers of sinful behavior (not to mention that there are plenty of secular common sense arguments against it) without making up things which aren't true. But importing lies into any conversation about the Bible always makes things tragically worse. There is no excuse for it, motives notwithstanding.

I'm also not sure what your personal fascination with this issue is, but I can assure you that unless you are legally married someone you are not married in God's eyes; and even so if you have legally terminated the marriage, then there is no marriage any longer. What a Christian who is unmarried should do is another question, and one about which I have written much in the past. Here are a few links to some pertinent files:

Marriage and the Bible IV

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible II

Marriage and the Bible

Marriage "Matters"

No Grounds for Divorce?

A Conversation about Divorce and Remarriage

Jephthah's Daughter, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Christian Divorce and Remarriage

What about Christians who Remarry?

Divorce and Remarriage: What does the Bible say?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

I study a lot and I believe in sex creating marriage.

Gen 29:20-30 is one of the proofs for sex equal marriage. Read carefully.

Response #18:

As to sex creating marriage, I've already explained to you how that is not only not biblical but logistically impossible. I have read Genesis 29:20-30 many times in Hebrew as well as in English, and I'm not sure why you see this as a proof. Jacob could very well have rejected Leah – but he would have been thrown out of his only home (or worse) and would have lost everything. So he decided to accept Leah as his wife as well as Rachel. If you and a woman commit to a marriage, then you are married as long as you actually do whatever the culture and legal system you live in require for the marriage to be legally consummated. Jacob "took Leah to wife"; that is what made her his wife. People generally have sexual relations after getting married. That is not a proof that having sexual relations is a marriage. Judah had sexual relations with his daughter in law Tamar after being deceived in a similar way – but he never had relations with her again and she was never reckoned as his wife even though she bore him twins (Gen.38:1-30).

Question #19:

One day we will see. Jacob have wedding with Rachel, but he have sex with Leah ( by you definition it was adultery because he was married with Rachel)

But in morning Laban said he will give him Rachel TOO! So he was married only with leah because they have sex.

Response #19:

Your conclusion ("So he was married only with Leah because they have sex") bears no discernible logical relation to the rest of what you say here (or to the narrative).

As you yourself note, Laban said that he would give Rachel and Leah both to Jacob for the specified completion of marriage terms: 1) fulfilling "Leah's bridal week" as well as (later) Rachel's, and 2) working for Laban an additional seven years. If sleeping with a woman was all that was required for a marriage, Jacob would not have needed to contract the marriage with their (deceptive) father, nor would he have had to have worked seven years for Rachel. But beyond all argument, since he has already worked seven years, working the additional seven years was only necessary if both marriages were contracted on the same terms. Nowadays, the marriage contract is usually between the two getting married, but in the ancient world – and in many parts of the world today – the parents of the two contract the marriage, and the marriage becomes official at a specified time following a specified ceremony (a feast in Gen.29:22 and the presentation of the daughter by the father in Gen.29:23).

I'm not saying that there isn't a "consummation" of the marriage thereafter (of course there is). I am saying – and this is very clear from scripture – that sexual behavior absent such a contract, absent such a ceremony, and absent such a mutual commitment by the two parties does not constitute a marriage, not in man's eyes and certainly not in God's eyes.

That said, sexual activity outside of marriage is abominable to the Lord (e.g., 1Cor.6:18; 1Thes.4:3; cf. Ex.20:14; Job 31:10-12), and believers are strongly forewarned to stay away. That does beg the question, however: if all sexual activity produces a marriage, then how can there be any such thing as sexual sin . . . since as soon as the couple has relations they are (according to this weird theory) "married in God's eyes"? So why does the Lord forbid such things and warn against them, considering that married couples are obligated not to deny each other (1Cor.7:3-5)? This is a dangerous and obviously incorrect theory.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

He say he will give him his younger daughter too. So older daughter was already his wife.

Do you believe that believers go instantly to heaven or all people sleeping until Jesus come? I believe all people sleeping but there are people who believe that believers after death are with Jesus. Because Jesus say to thief : today you will be with me in heaven.

Response #20:

No father's consent, no marriage, right? No father bringing the bride to the groom, no marriage, right? No agreement between father and son-in-law, no marriage, right? No satisfaction of the terms, no marriage, right? Different cultures have different ways of codifying marriage – but it is a civil process; that is how God set things up for us all (Laban's deception of Jacob was only effective because Jacob agreed to it after the fact).

When anyone dies, their spirit is taken to the appropriate place immediately thereafter, and from that point forward the spirit is never asleep. Our dead bodies look as if there is a state of sleep (and scripture sometimes describes things that way), but the spirit is not there. Unbelievers are taken to Torments below the earth to await from there the Last Judgment after which they are cast into the lake of fire for eternal suffering. Believers (since the ascension of Christ) are taken to the third heaven to await the resurrection. And in all cases, believers and unbelievers both, prior to resurrection the deceased is given an interim covering or "body" to clothe the spirit. There is no such thing as a disembodied spirit; there is also no such thing as "soul sleep", a terrible false doctrine with no scriptural support, and one which robs those who foolishly buy into it of a good deal of the Christian hope which should be theirs. See the links:

Today in Paradise

Biblical Anthropology II: 'Soul sleep', & dichotomy vs. trichotomy

Sleep as a Euphemism for Death

"Soul Sleep" versus our true Heavenly State.

Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

The False Doctrine of Soul Sleep II

The false doctrine of "soul sleep".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hello Professor,

I attach the most recent response - on marriage and divorce. As always, I would appreciate if you could read through it and check for biblical soundness. All linguistic or formal corrections will be welcome too.

My own text is not very long here (there are numerous scriptural quotes), but I have to say that preparing it took a while. I spent several weeks reading through every marriage and divorce related response on your website and you will know far better than I do that these issues are often complicated and the scripture doesn't provide us with guidelines covering every potential situation.

Still, after this longer than usual process of preparation I think I have attained to quite a good understanding of these matters. Again you may feel as if you were reading your own thoughts, as having understood your interpretations during the reading process, I am in agreement with them. I give all the links to your responses that I've read and which have helped me in this response at the end.

Just to let you know - I added a couple of short clarifying notes in the Philippians 2:1-7 quote. It's a difficult passage and one about which I have also asked you numerous times.

I also hope I didn't go beyond what the scripture says when interpreting 1 Corinthians 7:15-16.

This is another reply written to a Roman Catholic who may have their heart open to the truth. She is probably in quite an unhappy marriage and is seeking biblical information on the subject. She moves within the Catholic framework in her thinking, as some of my other correspondents do, and that impacts my approach to writing to a degree. I often come back to our Lord's sacrifice, frequently provide abundant scripture quotations (as I know that most Catholics don't read the scriptures at all) and oppose biblical teaching to false legalism. I also do my best to make these texts comprehensive and sometimes provide information on related subjects or just go through the subject at hand as thoroughly as I can, knowing that some of those who read these responses will have no biblical foundation whatsoever. Finally, I always want to make these texts as clear and structured as I possibly can.

I hope things are well with you, Professor. Both spiritually and when it comes to earthly commitments.

With prayer for you and your ministry and in our Lord,

Response #21:

Always good to hear from you, my friend. Thanks for your prayers!

On your attachment, this is really excellent work. However, I am becoming increasingly reluctant to weigh in on what you are producing. I think it is clear that you are a Bible teacher in your own right now, and you are responsible to the Lord for what you are ministering and teaching, not to me. I particularly enjoyed your summary (I don't mind saying).

This is a difficult and involved subject, but I think you have produced a well-balanced piece which keeps the focus on the love, mercy and grace of God, and (properly) steers clear of endorsing some sort of codified set of laws. What more can one do with such complicated issues? I have also (if memory serves), made the case before that "leaving" can entail more than just packing up and moving out. I remember one time Col. Thieme told about a poor woman who came to him in tears because her husband was giving her the silent treatment 100% and pretending like she did not exist (he helped her move out immediately). In cases of such extreme emotional abuse or physical violence so severe it will force a spouse to get out or be destroyed, how is that any different from the other party packing up and moving out – since they are forcing you to do so or lose your life or your sanity? In my book, it is worse.

As to withholding marital favors and 1st Corinthians 7:3-6, your point about Paul's "I say this by way of concession" is very well taken. It's fair to say that many groups conveniently overlook verse six. The point is that this is what we should do, "in ideal circumstances", but 1) if we don't feel like doing it, that is between us and the Lord (we haven't given up our free will by marrying), and 2) there may be very good reasons why even the "should" is temporarily off the table (illness, extreme grief, absolute fatigue, etc., etc.).

So keep up the good work, my friend! I'm really enjoying seeing what the Lord is doing with you.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hello Professor,

I will continue to pray and let me know how things develop.

Also, thank you for your kind words. It is true, we are responsible to the Lord. I would just like to avoid any mistakes and unscriptural teachings. I am being careful and with the questions I receive I often immediately have an idea of what the answer will be, but your verification definitely helps - I know I've made no error that could hinder someone from coming to the truth or growing in it. So even if we were to take it process as a "biblical verification" while the responsibility is of course mine - and if you are still happy and have the time to read through these texts - then I would send them to you.

Also, I agree on the issue of leaving. That was also where my understanding of these issues was leading me and the example of Col. Thieme is very telling. The reality, as with many other things, is that people put conformity to external set of norms above all else and above the spiritual reality. And this is the hallmark of Catholic Church and the life of its members - and it is them to whom I often minister.

It is true, these marital issues are often misunderstood and even the question about there being a "compulsion" for marital intercourse just shows how people perceive these things and again, in no small part thanks to false teaching. I believe it is a part of the Roman doctrine that an impotency on part of the spouse may render a marriage invalid.

Professor - thank you for all your feedback and support. And for your prayers as well. They are greatly appreciated. Every day brings challenges that affect how productive we are for the Lord. You are in my prayers daily too.

In our Lord,

Response #22:

I appreciate your scrupulousness – one peer to another.

Your point about spiritual reality vs. humanly concocted norms is an excellent one. I think that sums up the entire issue of the application of immutable to truth to imperfect and complex worldly situations perfectly. It's not only the Roman Catholic church which has attempted to do this, however (although that religion is of course a prime example). Many Christian denominations and individual churches as well have fallen into this trap. Legalism in small or large part is a very easy trap to fall into, and we probably all do this sort of illegitimate rule making from time to time in one thing or another.

And your example of how such folly can turn the truth precisely on its head – as in the legalistic interpretation of one verse being used as a justification for a complete unjustified reason for the very divorce that this church usually denies under reasonable circumstances – is also excellent.

Thanks as always for your prayers. Keeping you in my prayers day by day as well, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

Here is a second set of questions. Please do take your time – no rush. I anticipate more will follow.

1) Were Adam and Eve married in Eden before the fall? In SR3 you seem to say no:

The present status quo of authority distinctions in the institution of marriage will not obtain in eternity, where there will be no corruption and no marriage. The relationship between the first husband and wife in Eden, however, occupies a middle ground between our present circumstances and our future hope. There was marriage in paradise (and certain central points of the marriage relationship continue today as they were in the beginning: Matt.19:3-9). But the specific delineation of the husband's authority over the wife which we find stated in principle in Genesis chapter three (and spelled out in detail in the New Testament epistles: Eph.5:21-33; Col.3:18-19) was apparently lacking for the simplest of all possible reasons: it was unnecessary (see section III, immediately following).

[...] Scripture, then, while emphasizing the closeness of the union between Adam and Eve, does not provide many specifics on the issue of authority between the first man and woman prior to the fall. We know that Adam was created first (cf. 1Tim.2:13), and that Eve was created for Adam, not the other way around (cf. 1Cor.11:8-9). However, neither the Genesis account, nor the New Testament references intimate an authority structure between husband and wife similar to the one instituted in Genesis chapter three by the Lord as a result of the fall of that first couple (Gen.3:16b).

The reason for this absence, as we have suggested above, is that such an authority structure was unnecessary in paradise...

I suppose a large part of this question revolves around whether or not the relationship before the fall could be considered "marriage" even though many things present today were not so then (such as the distinctions in authority).

If Adam and Eve were not "married" before the fall, is it possible that relationships in heaven after the resurrection will be like Adam and Eve's before the fall (i.e., the same form of "non-marriage", whatever it entailed)?

2) When trying to get a grasp on the nature and purpose of marriage, is Adam and Eve's pre-fall relationship to be taken prescriptively? That is, since it was free from the harsh realities of the post-fall world, to what degree can we use it to model our own behavior?

3) Is there any indication that God has created a certain person ("soul-mate" or what have you) for each Christian called to marriage not celibacy, in the same way that Eve is said to be ceneghdo to Adam in Gen 2:18?

4) Is there such a thing as God's "first best will"? How are to we understand such a notion given the fact that there is only one Will of God?

5) If there is a such a thing as God's first best will, and it is presupposed that Christians can get more done for the Kingdom without marriage as a distraction (as Paul makes clear in 1 Cor 7), then why did God create us in such a way that marriage is a "necessary evil" (to put it strongly)?

6) What exactly is Song of Solomon talking about? Is it an allegory of Christ and the Church, a description of the relationship between two lovers, both, or neither?

Observation: It seems to me that it is not possible to allegorize everything – that the book positively portrays romance in some form. Of course this is just a feeling, but it does seem like the most obvious way to take the text. I get the impression that this is not an easy book to exegete properly.

7) Is sex a good thing (i.e., net positive, not just something that must be engaged in due to our fallen state)? Paul explicitly commands that it not be forgone in marriage except by mutual agreement for a short time... but never really calls it "good" either.

Yours in Christ,

Response #23:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend.

As to your questions:

1) Adam and Eve's union was definitely a marriage and I describe it as a "marriage" (as I say in para. #1 as quoted "There was marriage in paradise"); I merely emphasize the great differences between their relationship in Eden and once they were ejected. Let me start also by saying that it is largely a moot point because Adam and Eve managed to get themselves expelled from the garden of Eden in short enough order for that question not to matter to them for the vast bulk of their earthly lives (or to anyone else in the human race, practically speaking). Outside of Eden, they were man and wife with the subordination of the woman to the man as the Lord lays down in Genesis 3:16. So while we can debate about what would have happened between men and women if there had been generations of procreation in paradise (my guess on this sub-oblique hypothetical is that they would have remained as was the case with the first couple, blissfully ignorant of what earthly authority was all about).

However, I don't think we can use that construct to say anything about eternity because of the massive differences; just for example: eternal bodies vs. earthly ones (which, in the sequel, did prove to be not eternal even if very long-lived); complete knowledge transcending our present limited understanding of things vs. complete ignorance of so many things; no procreation vs. the command to "be fruitful and multiply"; no unbelievers or demons vs. being in the cross-hairs of the devil at the very center of the satanic rebellion. And of course we have it from our Lord Himself that in eternity they "neither marry nor are given in marriage" – as opposed to the Lord bringing Eve to Adam in marriage (whatever we wish to call it) as the pattern in this world.

2) I'm not sure we know much about their time in paradise at all, nothing, that is, which I can see as furnishing information which might be prescriptive. Adam was enthusiastic about Eve (as we know from his poem of "welcome"; see the link), but that didn't prevent her from being deceived or him from following her into sin (as I mention in the study, it probably was the reason he did so, preferring the woman out of the garden to the Lord within it). What details did you have in mind?

3) That is an interesting and vexing question. Col. Thieme had a teaching) which dated to the time before I became an adherent of his ministry) called "right man / right woman", and very many people did indeed take this teaching along the lines of what you are asking. By the time I started listening to tapes he had refused to discuss the topic further except to inveigh continually against the abuse to which that teaching had been put. I believe I understand his frustration. On the one hand, God knows everything; more than that, He took everything into account in decreeing history. On the other hand, we are not perfect, this world is not perfect, and we are not here in this world to enjoy and exploit it; rather we are here to do the will of God for our lives as best we can (and are willing to do). If I extrapolate from Adam and Eve and the truth of God's mercy, love and grace, and the fact of His foreknowledge and decree, that He has made provision for Christian man X and Christian woman Y by providing them with a spouse, that is fine, in and of itself. And since everything God does is perfect, then by definition this provision will be perfect. However, our definition of "perfect" is very often different from God's. After all, is our body perfect? Is our school perfect? Is our job perfect? Is the weather perfect? Is anything at all in our life and life experience perfect? Absolutely yes, viewed from the standpoint of God working everything out for good for those who love Him – but not when viewed from the unrealistic human desire to have paradise here in the devil's world.

The problem with the "right man / right woman" teaching when misunderstood is that whenever fantasy and hormones come into play, an completely unrealistic expectation is set up, one which will plague the individual who buys into that slanted view and which will probably make the chances of finding a spouse with whom a workable marriage might be endured much less likely. After all, if you found the perfect woman, what in the world would she want with you, seeing as how you are not perfect yourself? The problem with hyper-RM/RW is that it fails to recognize that marriage is a concession to our weakness and not the first best will of God (as Paul states very clearly in 1st Corinthians chapter seven). Marriage is not wrong (1Cor.7:28). In most cases it is very necessary (to avoid sexual shipwreck). And in some cases it may even be more than merely workable. But it is beyond dangerous to assume that because nearly everyone wants that sort of "perfect" fantasy relationship that this is what God has for us. I'm not saying it cannot happen. I am saying that it doesn't take a genius to see that it hardly ever happens the way people dream about it. There are good Christian marriages, it is true. But that takes two people who work at it. If my choice of spouse is not willing to work at it and give it what it takes or if I am not, then it will be a miserable business and possibly short-lived. So to sum up, I am not saying that there are not some people who have had "this is the one!" moments which have turned out to result in wonderful, happy marriages down the road. But even in the best cases, where it was God's will for the person in question to have this unusual experience, we still have to keep in mind that what Paul says is also true:

But those of this sort [who marry] will have tribulation in the flesh, and I am trying to spare you.
1st Corinthians 7:28b

So even in the absolute best Christian marriage outside of Eden, there were "tribulations in the flesh" – and no doubt continuing ones. Were the compensations of companionship worth it? In that best case scenario, both parties would likely say "yes!" Could both have done more for the Lord if they had remained single even so? The potential was there for that (1Cor.7:29-35). Please reread the verse above: people "who marry" have tribulation. It is absolutely undeniable – and yet, throughout Christendom, people act as if these words are not in the Bible. Why? Again, it is a testimony to the power of the myth of romantic fulfillment stoked by biology. That is a very dangerous combination and capable of overcoming much truth believed and all common sense and good judgment.

That is why I dislike the hyper-RM/RW construct: it doesn't do much in a positive way except to tell us all what we ought to know very well anyway, namely, that the Lord works out all of the details of our lives for good if we are walking in love for Him – but the extreme misapplication of hyper-RM/RW can do an unimaginable amount of harm. A bad marriage is not something easily endured, easily ended, or easily recovered from. And consider well: a good marriage is not entirely in the hands of one party. You can do everything right (and no one does everything right), and still see the marriage fail if the other party is not equally intent on trying to do everything right. And even if the other party is willing enough at first, what about five years later? That intention has to follow through to the end – and no one can really predict how even they themselves will change or react to events so far down the road. So unless a person is a genius at reading other people's character, marriage is the risk of all risks. One concession here: if the Lord does for you what He did for Adam, that is, brings a particular woman to your door and says "here is your wife", that would be a different story. Absent that kind of assurance, a person has to be realistic about what marriage is: the intimate combining of two different and separate lives and two different separate personalities "for better or for worse" wherein compromise of one's own will is necessary daily even for peace, let alone for happiness.

4) Addressed above in part. The decrees are in place and what will happen will happen. What will happen is based upon what we did actually decide, of course. We have free will and yet we have sin natures. So even in the case of the most spiritual believers who ever lived, they did not in each and every case do God's "first best will". The entire Bible is an appeal to our will, telling us what to do and what not to do, but on the basis of the love of a Father who has done everything for us and only wants what is good for us. Everything we decide and do in this life has consequences. But some decisions – such as marriage – are much more consequential than others because of their lasting ramifications.

5) Also addressed. Obviously, if we don't have to worry about putting food on the table for an entire family and are only concerned about ourselves we can use our time and other resources for the Kingdom of God to a much greater degree. Of course if we are going to be preoccupied and distracted and led into sin as a result of being perpetually single, then we are not going to actually be exploiting this opportunity (cf. people who, because of the enforced discipline of the routine of a day job, "get more done" with a little free time than others who are unemployed do with all of their time free), but will be worse off than if we had gotten married: "It is better to marry than to burn". And it may be that our spouses will be a genuine help to us in our efforts to serve the Lord. Priscilla and Aquila made a pretty good team (and note who gets top billing). So all permutations are possible: we get married and do better than if not; we get married and do worse than if not; we stay single and do better than if we got married; we stay single and do worse than if we got married. Everything depends on the choices we make. The truly important thing to note, however, is that this is not really a case of "one shot" decision making (although marriage is such a decision): every minute of every day we are making decisions. We fight the fight day by day. And we fight it from "where we are", whether we are at that moment single or at that moment married. Our decisions may change the texture of the battlefield and limit our options in some ways and change them in others, but it is still a case of having to decide what to think, say and do every step of the way, one day at a time, and we are judged for the totality of what we have done for the Lord in the end. No failure can keep us down forever if we are unwilling to quit; no success will buoy us up forever if we are unwilling to persevere. So this is one more point I'd like to emphasize in this regard: there is no "finish line" on this side. There is no fantasy retirement in some tropical paradise. There is no end to work and strife and struggle . . . on this side. The finish line is when we see the Lord, whether He calls us home or returns for us. Until that time, we continue to run, day by day, as much as we can and as best we can every day. Graduation is not a finish line. Marriage is not a finish line; staying single does not relieve us of running. Whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we must continue to run . . . if we want to win.

Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to achieve what you are after. And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. I'm "pummeling myself", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:24-27 (cf. Phil.3:12-16)

6) On the Song, I do think that the allegory is the main point but obviously you are correct in your comments. However, there are many issues of interpretation in nearly every verse of this book. Probably any Christian who has ever lost a partner has found solace for their grief in this book. As to what the individual verses mean, I would prefer to take them individually.

7) Clearly, God provided intimacy for the benefit of married couples. Also, as you imply, the Bible doesn't have a lot to say about the subject. As far as I am concerned, that is for obvious reasons. Because of our sinful natures, human beings show no lack of interest in sexuality . . . of all forms (many if not most of which are illegitimate for Christians). It would be silly, in my view, to think that such relations are not looked forward to by prospective couples, nor enjoyed (at least sometimes) once married. Anything that promotes a good marriage by two Christian partners is clearly a good thing. Having unrealistic expectations about this either before or after the fact of marriage is potentially very dangerous in the former case and potentially very frustrating in the latter. It is "good" – but if it were as "good" as some people seem to anticipate, then why would there ever be a single divorce or unhappy marriage? Whereas where people are free to engage in divorce it is at least as common as continuing in marriage; and of those who persevere, it is possible to observe that many if not most are either clearly unhappy or at least not enjoying the sort of relationship they had in mind as single people anticipating marriage – in spite of intimacy. That should tell us something also.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi Bob,

Much to ponder here.

1) I'm still a little bit uncertain regarding question #5: Essentially, if marriage necessarily lessens total ministry effectiveness, why has God made it necessary for most humans to marry? (I understand perfectly well why it is necessary for most of us to marry – "better to marry than to burn" – but I'm still struggling to understand why this is state of the affairs God has chosen – with much of the human race functioning at "less that full potential").

If I understood Paul correctly (1 Co 7:29-35 – as you quote above), then we may treat this as a hard and fast rule: single people are more effective than married people at making ministry the focus of their lives. Now this statement is subject to human weakness (even if someone is single who is supposed to be single, they can prove ineffective in ministry due to poor application of free will), but it is presented without exception or qualification.

Laid out in propositions:

Propositon 1: Humans are more effective in ministry being single rather than being married (1 Co 7:29-35)
Proposition 2: God has created most people in such a way that they need to be married.
Conclusion (?): God has created most people in such a way that they will be less effective in ministry.

Somewhere here I'm getting something wrong, because I know that that conclusion is false (Rom 8:28 pretty much flat out contradicts it). But I haven't been able to catch where I'm going wrong all on my own. Hopefully this has done a better job getting at where my confusion lies.

2) Related Question: if marriage is this necessary evil in our lives (i.e., a concession for sexual sin), does it have any other purpose(s), rightly understood? Some folks say it's supposed to teach us about the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph 5), some people say its supposed to teach us about the unity of the trinity ("becoming one"... flesh), some people think it is supposed to be a place for Christians to "practice" the divine, unconditional agape love that we are called to model, etc.

It just doesn't "feel right" to me to view marriage only through the "outlet for sexual desire" lens. Hopefully we're not going in circles here (I know I said something similar to this in an earlier email).

Put in propositions again:

Proposition 1: Paul, in 1 Co 7, portrays marriage primarily as (the only) God-given outlet for sexual desire.

Proposition 2: For whatever reason, understanding marriage only in this light seems unacceptable to me.

Proposition 3: (My feelings are not deceptive)

Conclusion (?): God has other purposes for marriage.

Now if the Bible's position is really that "marriage=outlet for sexual desire", then I'll just have to accept it regardless of how I feel about it. (We all have to do that for certain parts of scripture... different ones for all of us). But I'm not convinced yet that this is the case.


My interest in this topic is primarily stemming from two things coming into apparent conflict: 1) wishing to serve God in the most effective way possible, and 2) struggling to control desire.

Pretty much, I don't think I'm one of those so gifted to minister single, but it bothers me that in some way I'll be "less effective" because I'll need to marry. I know fundamentally that I actually wouldn't be more effective single (because I'd be distracted by my desires rather than serving more effectively)... but it still seems disappointing, like I've failed somehow.

Also, there is the desire for deep companionship, and I suppose the romantic notion that marrying someone is more likely to provide this than ordinary friendships. (I don't currently have a lot of "truly" deep Christian relationships... in fact aside from certain members of my family and you, I have about zero). And then also the notion of finding "someone to fight for" (and protect, and provide for, and comfort, and wash in the truth of the Word).

Yours in Christ

Response #24:

Let me start in saying by way of preface that I don't have anything against a Christian getting married (far from it!), and am only too happy to see friends, family, and Christian acquaintances "find someone" with whom they are happy to spend the rest of their lives. I am always delighted to hear whenever such couples have a common interest in ministry and can combine their efforts in wonderful ways. But as one fellow seminarian remarked to me with great truth long ago, "marriage is a very serious thing" – amen! I think that is the gist of what the scripture is saying. Most people who hear this statement would say, "Well of course!", but as any overview of marriages in general in this country today will indicate, even if we restrict ourselves to Christian marriages, there are many out there who didn't take that truism satisfactorily to heart before the fact – and are not doing so sufficiently after the fact as well. Amen?

Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
1st Corinthians 9:4-6 NIV

According to this passage, giving up the right to marry is a sacrifice, made by Paul and Barnabas in this instance for the sake of the gospel. But it's not as if Peter and James who were married were not great believers who will be highly rewarded in eternity – they most certainly will be. From this passage it also seems that the expectation was that if they (P & B) were married their wives would take on a lot of the administrative and daily tasks they had to worry with themselves. Of course things are different in our day and age, and there aren't many women out there (in my observation and experience) who would gladly be both housewife and breadwinner in support of a husband who was ministering the Word. I knew of one such case, but it didn't work out in the long run – and of course it's not as if there are many (any?) potential husbands out there of the likes of Peter and James (let alone Paul and Barnabas). So that cuts both ways.

As to the specifics:

1) I'm not fond of this construct. First of all, it is possible to make logically exclusive arguments of this sort in regard to virtually any point of doctrine, and much medieval "theology" is taken up with so doing. It never seems to advance the issue. The reason in essence is that theology is not "logical" in the way worldly things can be because there is the all-important and determinative spiritual dimension which often defies all logic even while being absolutely true. Also, the way this is phrased runs perilously close to the pot finding fault with the Potter. God did not make us sinful. Mankind chose to sin, and that is what is at the root of marital problems – our fault, not His. Finally, the first assumption "humans are more effective in ministry being single rather than being married" is only true in some few cases. For most of us, being married is in fact a necessary prerequisite for ministry. The real issue is that we must come to recognize "who we are" and be as true to that as we can be. Marriage is attractive. So if a person who can actually be more effective single than married gets married, there is compromise of potential. But the idea of being highly effective for the Lord is also attractive. So if a person who cannot actually remain single without major problems down the road avoids marriage it will likewise not be the most efficient approach. But whether we are round pegs in square holes or square pegs in round holes (or the right fit either way), in all four permutations we still belong to the Lord and can still fight a good fight and run a good race "in whatever situation the Lord has assigned" (1Cor.7:17). So why worry so much about all this? Because "marriage is a very serious thing" – and so is staying single if we are really not cut out for it.

2) I don't see the Bible saying this, and it would be very odd if it did. For the vast majority of cultures throughout human history, marriage is an institution mainly for building up one's legitimate family. What Abraham really wanted most of all, for example, was an heir. And in all of the ancient civilizations I have studied, this is also the main focus of ratifying the marriage relationship. Consider the "need for an heir" being the driving necessity for most monarchs in history marrying as well. In many instances, even down to modern times, love (and desire) have little to do with contracting a marriage – rather it is the other benefits provided for both sides (family, security, merging of family interests). The Athenians, the Greek cultural template against which the Corinthian epistles are written, married for political, social and economic reasons – and for heirs – but seldom (it seems) for "love". There were other outlets for that.

Your point about companionship is also well-taken. Having a companion, a "help appropriate" for oneself, is certainly also a big part of desiring marriage as it probably always has been, outside of tightly controlled societies like Sparta and Athens or aristocratic Britain, where even there one imagines the two were not permanently separated. I don't find anything in scripture incompatible with that obvious point:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:18 NIV

In fact the reasons for marriage (progeny, companionship, benefit, and even occasionally love) are so ubiquitous and so obvious for all inhabitants of this world to see that it would seem superfluous for the Bible to go overboard in pointing out the obvious – which is probably why it doesn't. But it doesn't contradict the obvious either.

It's none of my business, but I wouldn't imagine that the Lord begrudges you a wife. What I am sure that He would want to spare you is "the wrong one". Because, after all, "marriage is a very serious thing", and making a bad one (or even if the person is right but the timing is wrong) can have all manner of negative consequences which most certainly will hamper ministry and the preparation thereto.

Some people need ten hours of sleep every night to function effectively. Some are fine with three. A person who needs ten ought not to find fault with him/herself as if he/she is "not as effective as he/she could be for the Lord if only he/she could get by with three instead of ten". If said person does start sleeping less but really does have an inherent biological need for more, there will be physical consequences and a price to pay for pretending to be something he/she really is not. Now if it must be so (i.e., in the military), then God is well-able to help the person through and do the things He wants them to do even so. And if a person really only needs three hours but is in the habit of getting ten, it's not as if he/she can't still find a way to serve the Lord, and effectively too. We all can do better; and we all do better when we are functioning in sync with the actual talents and strengths and gifts our Lord has given us, taking our corresponding weaknesses into account. We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses. Figuring out how best to coordinate our efforts in response is a big part of implementing our preparation and engagement in ministry. And no one ever gets the mix perfect. Marriage (or lack thereof) is merely one part of this mix – but it is a very big part: "marriage is a very serious thing". Amen!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hi Bob,

Hopefully this will be the last volley.

Let me start out by prefacing my comments with the statement that I wasn't actually using the "logical constructs" above for the purpose of furthering understanding, but for the purpose of elucidating where problems in my thinking were coming from. It has been my experience that the most rapid way to get the bottom of misunderstandings is to clearly summarize the flow of logic so as to identify problematic assumptions that can hide in less pared down forms of arguments (and I believe this has proven to be true here). All this to say, I hope you didn't get the impression that I actually thought that God is intentionally "creating us less than optimal", because I most certainly did not. I was merely pointing out that this was the conclusion that the assumptions were leading me to, and hence I needed to rethink some of the assumptions. (Perhaps I should have explained my reasoning for putting things this way instead of just tacking them on – I'll keep that in mind for the future. Things in our heads can seem a lot easier to understand than they actually are for someone else who doesn't "know what we were thinking").

I'm going to try to rehash what you said in my own words to make I sure I understand properly:

1) Any fault with marriage getting in the way with ministry lies not with God but with sinful man; we have no grounds for complaining that "God has made us thus" because we are the ones choosing every day to make compromising choices (and in so choosing to eat the fruit Adam plunged into this state – not that "Adam made us do it"). Thus, proposition 2 above is deceptive: while God may not gift us with the capabilities of being single for his Kingdom, this is not the same as creating us broken; we are broken all on our own as result of the fall and the sin nature.

2) The statement "humans are more effective in ministry being single rather than being married" is not absolute. In other words, greater potential in singleness is only applicable to those gifted with the capacity to be single: The people Paul is talking about in 1 Co 7:29-35 are those capable of being single for the Kingdom but choosing to marry anyway, not those who must marry to get anything done. For this latter group, there would not be greater potential in singleness, because they would be distracted by sexual desire.

I believe this is the sticking point and the source of all the confusion I am having. 1 Co 7:29-35 presents the single state as superior unequivocally (it does not directly state any distinction such as is being made above – between those gifted with the capacity to remain single and those not). Cf. also your comments above:

But those of this sort [who marry] will have tribulation in the flesh, and I am trying to spare you.
1st Corinthians 7:28b

So even in the absolute best Christian marriage outside of Eden, there were "tribulations in the flesh" – and no doubt continuing ones. Were the compensations of companionship worth it? In that best case scenario, both parties would likely say "yes!" Could both have done more for the Lord if they had remained single even so? The potential was there for that (1Cor.7:29-35). Please read the section in the previous brackets. It is absolutely undeniable – and yet, throughout Christendom, people act as if these words are not in the Bible. Why? Again, it is a testimony to the power of the myth of romantic fulfillment stoked by biology. That is a very dangerous combination and capable of overcoming much truth believed and all common sense and good judgment.

But now, if I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that the single state is only superior for some – for those gifted – and that that is how we must understand Paul's words in 1 Co 7:29-35.

Apologies in advance for being so dense, but I can't see how these two positions are compatible, or by what means we know how to interpret Paul's comments in vv. 29-35 one way or the other (i.e., with respect to all people, or only with respect to those gifted with singleness for the sake of the Kingdom like Paul and Barnabas).

3) There are other purposes for marriage outside of sexual relief. Some other purposes include children, companionship, benefit (see question below), and, occasionally, love. All of these are so obvious that they are not stated directly in scripture, but scripture does not contradict them either, so we may therefore view them as legitimate. (Noting, of course, that "romantic love" is a rather new and not universal addition to this list of "other purposes").

Is this "benefit" shorthand for economic/social/political etc. benefit?

4) "Marriage is a very serious thing". Amen!

Thanks for being patient with me. I really am trying to grasp how all of this fits together (i.e., I'm not intentionally trying to be combative or difficult). Sometimes I fear it takes me longer than it should to grasp these things... but hopefully I will improve more and more with time.

In Christ,

Response #25:

No worries. I have great confidence in you as a man of God.

As to your summation, yes, I think this is pretty much it. I would probably put the second part a little bit differently; that is to say, the proposition that "humans are more effective in ministry being single rather than being married" is only theoretical and hypothetical because it assumes people without a sin nature living in a perfect world. In reality, only those believers who have "the gift of celibacy" are even potentially going to be able to do it the way Paul did it – and it would be a difficult sacrifice even so (as it was for him). I suppose it's a distinction without much of a difference. In any case, in this Laodicean age where so few who have the gift of pastor-teacher are doing anything serious about it, such a person who may also have the gift of celibacy not taking advantage of that is probably the least of our regrets. Not much use in exercising gift #2 without preparing to exercise gift #1.

The same things apply in the second paragraph you ask about. Of course, if a person is not gifted with the ability to be celibate and not fall into sin (or else be so distracted and disconsolate that there is no advantage whatsoever to being single), then said person has no business making life-long celibacy their policy (as opposed to patiently awaiting the partner the Lord will provide). The reason for my emphatic statement here is that Paul does go on about this at length in no uncertain terms. That should not be taken to mean that he wants those not capable of being celibate to try and live that way anyway. Far from it. But it does lend emphasis to the overall theme that "marriage is a very serious thing", and that is a point people overlook all the time, especially when they are particularly lonely or plagued by desire. The truth that being single presents opportunities ought to result, in the case of those who are only going to be single temporarily, in 1) greater patience in waiting for the right person precisely because of the gravity of marriage, and 2) an appreciation and greater exploitation of the time in-between being single and being married. So if Paul's emphatic statements and my emphatic reiteration of them helps anyone to avoid a precipitous mistake by being impatient on the one hand, or helps them to make the most of the extra time and energy before getting married on the other, then they have accomplished their purpose in the case of those who are not gifted to be able to live their whole lives in celibacy.

On benefits, I would include all of these, and love too, and there may be other things which might be truly beneficial. I think it would be hard to exhaust and fully categorize either all of the advantages or all of the disadvantages of a relationship which touches absolutely ever aspect of a person's life.

You are more than welcome, my friend. I'm only too glad to be of some service to someone who has put the Lord first in his life.

Best wishes for the new semester!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Bob,

I've taken some time to re-read this chain of correspondence a few times, and I think I've pretty much got it now, but I just want to make sure. Feel free to point out or clarify anything wrong about the following summary.

Understanding 1 Corinthians Chapter 7

1) In a hypothetical world where we were not corrupted by sin, the single state would allow everyone to serve the Lord more effectively, because marriage has certain responsibilities attached to it (such as providing food for a larger group of people, nurturing children, and so forth) that consume time and other resources. Therefore, those who did not marry would have the potential to get more done because they would lack these responsibilities.

2) But we do not live in a perfect world, and many of us need to marry to deal with sexual desire, among other things. Over-applying Paul's words in the sense that everyone should try to remain single (even if they are not capable of doing so) is therefore a mistake: people incapable of being single without problems would actually be less effective than they would be if they married. People that are capable of being single and sacrificing marriage for the sake of the Kingdom (by being so gifted by God) ought to pursue this path, if they identify this gifting before getting married, to align their will with God's first best will for them.

3) However, even if someone so gifted gets married (either before or after they identify this particular gifting), they are not doomed. There is grace in all things. In fact, while we sometimes make choices that have long and lasting consequences (like unwise marriages), we still have free will and can choose to serve the Lord day by day. We should not delude ourselves into thinking, however, that our choices have no consequences, because they certainly do affect the broad scope of our Christian service, inasmuch as they can limit the amount of time and resources that we have available. (You cannot ignore valid marital obligations, such as providing for your family, to try to "serve better" – 1 Tim 5:8).

4) This is why Paul's wording is so strong in 1 Corinthians 7: marriage has important and lasting consequences on people's available resources to give back to the Church. People who are gifted with the capacity to remain single can obviously take Paul's observations to heart, but even those of us destined eventually to end up married can draw conclusions – we ought to make good use of our time before marriage because there is greater opportunity for total dedication than there will be later. Paul's tone and comments in this chapter also portray marriage itself as a very serious thing, which should further motivate us to be patient waiting on God's timing for a spouse rather than our own. This is a matter for which trusting God rather than ourselves is the only true way to "get it right" (cf. the Lord picking out Rebecca for Isaac and Jacob's marital issues due to his favoring Rachel).

5) The Bible does not portray married folks as "second rate Christians" in any way, and it is nonsensical to do so. Just how it is foolish for someone who God has gifted in regards to physical service (such as maintaining Church grounds, plumbing, etc.) to view themselves as inferior to someone God has gifted in regards to learning and teaching, so too is it foolish for people that need to get married to view themselves as inferior to those whom God has gifted in a special way for the benefit of the Church. It is much better all the way around if people truly identify "who they are", and then make the appropriate choices accordingly, without worrying about comparing themselves to others who have capabilities/potential that they do not themselves have.

6) Marriage need not only be viewed in terms of avoiding sexual sin: children, companionship, (mutual) benefit, and love are all other valid reasons for Christian marriage. The Bible doesn't mention them explicitly – not because they aren't important or applicable when thinking about marriage, but because they are self-evident and natural. It is normal for most people to desire to have children, e.g., entirely absent any scriptural directive to marry for the purpose of having children. (Even unbelievers are drawn to marriage by these things).


In terms of lingering clarification, there are two matters:

1) What exactly does Paul mean with respect to "tribulation in the flesh" in 1 Co 7:28? Is this a shorthand way of talking about all the natural compromises and difficulties involved in living in close quarters with another imperfect human being, or does he have something specific in mind?

2) Have God's purposes for marriage changed across time (cf. "dispensations"), in your view? In 1 Co 7:29ff. Paul seems to be saying that those of us in these last days ought to live differently because of it (and this applies all the more as we draw nearer). Does this mean that, for example, Paul's instructions regarding "staying single for the Church" would not have applied in the same sense before the time of the Church, or is that sort of thinking too reductionistic?

Yours in Christ,

Response #26:

I don't find anything objectionable in your summary. I would want to stress that Paul's treatment of the issue in 1st Corinthians chapter 7 is one directed to real people with real problems and is done in a loving and considerate way – which means that it is designed to encourage and guide as much as to present a factual analysis of the doctrines involved. Life is complicated and messy. Marriage makes it more so. That doesn't mean we can't be happy in our lives – or in our marriages. It does mean that, the world being what it is, it is wrong to think that the Christian life will be one of unmitigated bliss because of happy circumstances (though we can also rejoice in the Lord even under pressure), and an even bigger mistake to think that marriage is going to solve all of our problems – or any of our problems. For those thinking about these issues the correct way, time is short, whether or not we will last long enough to see the Lord return. Paul and the original recipients of this letter didn't, of course, but we actually might. That ought to have at least some bearing on our priorities and decisions going forward. Whatever we do in this life is only in this life but everything has ramifications for the next life in terms of the decisions we make regarding the truth.

On clarification #1, I think you have put it nicely; I don't think there's any mysterious category being referred to here by Paul.

On clarification #2, no, I think marriage is the same. Obviously, how marriage will work out is greatly influenced by very many factors, such as relative longevity, health, society's views about things such as the authority question, number of children, economic factors, etc.

Wishing you a good week ahead, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27:

I need a wife and a job

But it's very hard for me to find either, unfortunately.

Response #27:

The Lord knows your needs, all of your true needs. The more you rely on Him to fulfill them, the more peace you will have in the meantime as you wait for Him to act on you behalf which He always does in the perfect way and at the perfect time – unless we get "out ahead" of the plan and start doing things our own way. Forcing the issue vis-a-vis a life partner is a very common mistake believers make. On jobs, failing to approach that issue in a reasoned, disciplined and consistent way is the corresponding mistake. In other words, many believers look for a spouse the way they ought to be looking for a job, and wait on a job showing up the way they ought to wait on the spouse the Lord has for them.

As in all things, training ourselves to see all these things from God's perspective is in many ways the essence of the Christian walk – and once we see the truth, then to act on and in accordance with the truth (also very hard), eventually helping others to do likewise.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hello dear friend . Thank you for all your support , and everything you have done for me through your prayers, because God listened and answered them . I now have an amazing wife whom I love so much, and God gave us a beautiful child. She believes in God, but she is not born again. I love my wife so much, and there is nothing I want more for her than to give her life to Jesus and walk with the Lord. We are so happy together, but I have been lying to her since we met, because I didn't tell her about my relationship with God, mostly because I feel like a hypocrite, because I am far from living by his will and I never know how to start the conversation. God kept me free from sin, because of your prayers, and because He gave me my amazing wife. I have been clean from porn for 1 year and I was free, until recently when I watched porn again. I feel miserable now as I love my wife so much, and I am keeping this secret and it's tearing my heart apart. I feel like I cheated on her, and I don't know if I should tell her, and I know she will be so hurt, and I don' t want to break her heart. I don't know what to do. I don't ever want to watch porn again, I don't know why I did it, I feel so ashamed and hurt and guilty. I don't want to backslide, I want a happy marriage in Christ. I don't know if I should confess to my wife what I did, I feel I need to, but she will be so hurt and I don't want her to. I don't know how to get back my relationship with Christ that I used to have years ago. One of my friends is calling me to church and I am postponing this as my heart is far from God, and I never feel ready, I feel guilty and ashamed, because I am so angry at myself for always finding time to do other things, and neglecting my time and relationship with Christ. My heart is not what it used to be, an I want it in the place that God wants it to be. I guess I strayed from Him so much and I need Him in my life and my family's life. I don't know how to start talking to my wife about Christ, as I am not walking with him. I want us to go together to church, and to praise God together, and to live in Christ and do His will. I want our child to follow Christ. Please forgive me because I did not answer your email, because I am always seeking you for advice and counseling, but I want to thank you so much for your prayers. They meant a lot! God bless you , and shape you by His will everyday and grow you in faith. Amen!

Response #28:

I'm thrilled to hear that you are having some happiness in your life!

I do want you to know that I am continuing to pray for you daily.

As to your question, I can't advise you what to do. However, it is the case that when we sin we sin against God and God alone, and that we are responsible to confess to God and to God alone – not to other people. I have seen and heard of many relationships being destroyed by one party or the other being too forthcoming about things past and done and not subject to being undone. We all sin. And if we confessed to our spouse every time we sinned in our hearts we would quickly drive him/her insane. Being unfaithful in body is one thing; committing mental adultery is another. That is a sin too, of course. But is it the practice of most Christian men (or women) to confess that mental sin of lust to their spouses whenever it happens? We both know it is not, and we both know that it would be a weird thing to do and a thing which would harm the relationship and not build it up. We are all tempted in many ways and we all fail in many ways. If we can stay away from actually being unfaithful to our spouses, that is what God requires first and foremost, and that is the absolute first necessity for our conduct. We can't stop being tempted. It is probably impossible and not realistic to assume that we can stop ever having lustful thoughts. Pornography is something in between the two. I certainly wouldn't look to scripture to condone looking at it, and we both know that it is very destructive stuff which can easily lead to worse things. But God requires that we confess to Him and that we straighten out our kinks of behavior and begin to walk with Him in truth – not that we spill out our hearts to other human beings whenever we falter (that is Roman Catholicism or other cult behavior to require that). Some of that may possibly be good or necessary sometimes (I personally am skeptical), but in most cases it is usually better to keep such matters between ourselves and the Lord, be grateful if we are able to endure whatever divine discipline He assigns without our business becoming public, and then take whatever measures are necessary to never make the same mistake again.

It is also very important to make the point here that there is no way to "be good" or get better at "being good" (since no one is truly good but God) apart from serious and consistent spiritual growth. Going to church won't do it (unless your church is that one in a million place which actually teaches the Bible). Reading your Bible daily – while good and necessary – will not do it alone. To grow requires the consistent and preferably daily accessing of good, solid, in-depth and orthodox Bible teaching. We learn the truth, we believe the truth, and we apply the truth. Lapses such as the one your report are inevitable if a person is not growing in the truth the way we are charged to do – living like a good Christian all the time is tough enough even so. But it is impossible to maintain a good spiritual defense against sin forever without a good spiritual offense. Eventually we will be worn down. That (lack of offense corrupting defense) is where most immature Christians are in this country today. But I have great hopes for your spiritual growth, progress and production for Jesus Christ in years to come.

So please, by all means, honor what the Lord has given you by doing what He wants you to do – which is not seeking some release from your guilt feeling by confessing to others instead of to Him – but by getting serious about spiritual growth. It doesn't have to be the Ichthys ministry which you use as your source (I also highly recommend pastor-teacher Omo's "Bible Academy" at the link), but you will have to engage in some daily study of substance to get beyond the basic level and continue to grow to maturity, pass the tests that come, and eventually contribute to the growth of the Body yourself – that is how the eternal crowns of reward are won.

As to your wife's spiritual status, the above is also pertinent. A good husband is the spiritual leader of the family and can't really expect his family to follow if he is not making progress himself. All the more reason to get serious about spiritual growth (and many apologies in advance if I have misread what you are saying here and you are actually engaging in the process day by day). I am concerned to hear that she is not "born again", however I will say that in some cases I have seen the person in question is merely expressing things in a different way. The Bible tells us that those who have believed in Jesus Christ are saved (e.g., Jn.3:18), even if they don't express it in the same way (i.e., calling it being "born again") as many others of us do. In any case, I will put a request on the list for her and also remember her in my prayers as well.

Feel free to write me back about any of the above, my friend.

Yours in Jesus Christ who died for all of our sins on the cross.

Bob L.

Question #29:

Thank you again for keeping me in your prayers, please pray for my wife so she can find and accept Christ as her Saviour, and for me to bring her closer to God. I asked forgiveness to God and I repent for my sins, but it feels like I also am keeping this secret from her, and also if I tell her, it will hurt her more than if she didn't know, but I don't know if I am right or not, because God says we must also confess our sins to one another, but I've almost never done that to someone close, because I am ashamed of myself and sick of sinning, and I know they would see me differently even if they don't want to. I feel so lost because I am so far away of the person God wants me to be. And I want to become obedient and to love him whole heartedly. I want this for my wife and family as well, and I know I can't be an example for them if I don't make this decision to change. I am blessed with friends and people who are God's children and the church I go to is alive in Him only teaching His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit is moving and changing hearts for Christ. Thank you for taking your time to encourage me. I wish people will see that God is not catholic, protestant, or any other divided religion, he is "The Great I Am". To Him be the glory and praise ! Be blessed !

Response #29:

Where do you read "God says we must also confess our sins to one another"?

I do not find that in the Bible at all (for the common misunderstanding of James 5:16 please see the link: "Confession in solicitation of prayer").

I do know that inappropriate and inordinate feelings of guilt can ruin a person's life by pressuring them to do all manner of ill-advised things (see the link).

Why do you feel guilty . . . if you have confessed to the Lord? He promises to forgive you when you confess, and if you have confessed, you have been forgiven (Ps.32:5; 1Jn.1:9). Torturing yourself with guilt is like saying that the Lord was not telling you the truth (God forbid!) or that somehow the blood of Christ was insufficient for cleansing you of your sin (God forbid!). No one is saying you should "feel good" about erring; the appropriate response is to forget the past in thankfulness for Christ's death by which you are forgiven and move forward for Jesus Christ - - spiritual growth to the glory of God; not self-torture over things that can't be undone (that is nowhere in the Bible).

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Hello Professor,

One thought occurred to me as I've been preparing a reply to a friend following the marriage text I wrote.

Jesus gives the exception of adultery in Matthew 19:9 and mentions no other conditions where divorce can take place, including the unbeliever being free to leave, as mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. I agree with you that the context explains this and any other potential omissions - it was not our Lord's purpose to discuss these issues at this point.

However, it occurred to me that our Lord spoke these words to the Jews and in fact at a time when the Old Covenant was still in force - and this would mean that it was assumed that both spouses would be believers. I know some of your readers, particularly those defending the absolute unbreakability of marriage, perceived Jesus' and Paul's teaching as contradictory and I thought that apart from the explanations you offered - sufficient in my view in any case - another could be added - that the context of our Lord's words precludes even considering what Paul later wrote about. And this is because among the Jews it was expected that both spouses would be believers and that it was the most basic fulfilment of the Law.

So Paul's teaching on this subject in relation to the unbelieving spouse being allowed to leave is in fact a condition which the context of the Matthew 19 teaching could even be considered to preclude.

What do you think?

In our Lord,

Response #30:

That is a great point!

I should have thought of it myself, but you did!

Thanks for sharing it.

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #31:

Thank you for your many insights on the subject of divorce and remarriage. Other grounds: I was under the impression that the marriage contract stipulated, or presumed, provision for the wife and the presence of the husband. And I've been reading what Rev W Luck has to say in his book. So Jesus didn't need to mention these things as (in omission) grounds for divorce because everybody accepted them as the woman's rights in marriage. If lacking, the contract failed. And she could remarry, I think. Same goes for her conjugal rights so she had children, an insurance for her later welfare. God was looking after women! Jesus literally wasn't addressing that issue, so didn't cover it, but the OT does and He was not overturning the Law, etc.

[details omitted regarding personal situation and reaction to disturbing false teaching found on the internet]

Please withhold my identity, I don't know whether writing to this site confers permission to publish. I have bared my soul to you so edit as seems good and gentle, and to shorten my missive! I would value your response please, if you can spare the time.

Thank you

In Christ

Response #31:

First, let me assure you that I never give out information about correspondents unless they expressly request it.

I think you have set the matter out pretty clearly. I would certainly not counsel anyone who is married to withdraw from said union because of qualms stemming from guilt about the circumstances of its origin. As I say repeatedly when this subject comes up, it seems to me that the best course of action, the biblical one, is to make the best of the circumstances in which one finds oneself (1Cor.7:26ff.). The Lord is more than capable of disciplining us for whatever we have done wrong, and if we have done wrong there may be natural consequences of that as you mention as well. But all such discipline is lovingly provided by One who loves us more than any human father could.

As to natural consequences, being married to an unbeliever leaves a hole of sorts, but if he/she is willing to continue, that is not a reason to divorce after the fact (1Cor.7:12ff.).

I would also agree about there being multiple circumstances for legitimate divorce: anything that for all reasonable purposes ends the marriage de facto (such as abandonment however defined) would certainly seem to me to fall into that category. Of course once single again, the best thing is to stay single if possible – maintaining status quo again (1Cor.7:27), but marriage, if single status is not an option, is no sin (1Cor.7:28).

We are here in this world as believers after salvation for a purpose, and that purpose is not to "enjoy ourselves and have good lives". Not that there is anything wrong with that – if we do, it is a blessing from God. But enjoyment and blessing are "side orders", so to speak, compared to the "main course" of serving our Lord through spiritual growth, progress and production. The problem with some "side dishes" is that they can "fill us up" so much that we have little appetite for what is really the important part of the meal. To that point, the biggest problem I have seen when it comes to the issue of bad marriages, longed for relationships, regrets about divorce, regrets and doubts about remarriage, is that these issues have a tendency to freeze the believer in a state of anger, guilt, doubt, self-recriminations, and looking back at the past instead of walking forward one day at a time for Jesus Christ.

So I want to emphasize that all sin has been paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross . . . already. And that therefore the issue for us is not sin but our attitude towards Him and what He has done for us. For believers, that means that what He wants us to do in this life spiritually is exponentially more important than the material circumstances of our lives, including our marital status and/or history. If we have sinned, we were forgiven when we confessed. We are called to have peace and joy (Col.3:15; Phil.4:4). Fretting about the past or wringing our hands about a present reality created by things we did in the past is completely unproductive and unwise. If God wants the situation changed (whatever it may be), and if we put the matter in His hands to change it or not as He sees fit and then trust in Him to work things out for good, that is what will happen. Trouble only comes when we decide to take matters into our own hands. If that is how we got into "this situation" in the first place (whatever "this situation" may be), then, clearly, getting out the right way will not be possible by taking the same kind of self-willed action all over again (i.e., failing to trust the Lord in waiting patiently for His solution and His deliverance).

So I commend your spiritual common sense, and I urge you to embrace the forgiveness that is yours as a born again child of God and member of the Body of Jesus Christ. Therein is – or ought to be – the most sublime peace and joy. Naturally the evil one opposes this peace and joy wherever he notices it, but we are not required to give into emotion or lies. We have the truth of the Word of God.

And one last thing: I would also advise you to cease torturing yourself by accessing and reading the ill-conceived works of many out there in cyberspace who, if they are even really believers, are at the very least confused about the truth. Trust me when I say that you can find easily enough someone to preach to your darkest fears. But that is hardly helpful – especially inasmuch as the teaching is false.

Here are the most recent links on this subject, one which will lead to most of the others at Ichthys which deal with this topic (in case you may have missed something):

Marriage and the Bible III

Marriage and the Bible IV

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #32:

Dear Bob

Since I've burdened your inbox with my plight, (sorry) I thought I'd tell you what I hope and believe resolves it for me. I have been asking the Lord to show me.

I have been looking at 1 Cor 7, and then, just a page earlier I spotted the list that will send some of us to hell. Adultery right there. Then Paul says that such were some of us, but that now we are washed. Effectively! So people previously guilty of adultery, by their actions, or as a result of an adulterous marriage, if confessed and forgiven, (tick) are washed clean in a Spirit filled Christian. Nxt thing, after justifying that, he is talking to the self same people about their marriages. He's talking to his flock that doubtless included previously adulterous people in such a bind, he just said so, some of them in mixed marriages too. I should think there'd be every combination of marital dilemma reading this letter. Having recognised our weaknesses, he then tells married people to stay put. This isn't searching the bible for relevant verses, this is the very next thought Paul has. He can't have forgotten what he's just written! I knew about both verses in isolation, but then I saw the people's situations were connected, because they are the same people!

I think too, that you don't repent from an adulterous marriage the way you would stop stealing or some such. Rather it's an estate, not something you do, but something you are. Like parenthood. If fornication leads you to a child you can't just undo that, and indeed, a termination would be to make the situation worse. Yes it could be overridden, just like you could give a child up for adoption, but it's unnatural and wouldn't stop your being a parent. More of a wrench than death, to my mind. Just to show how special a thing a marriage is.

I am stunned by God's dear mercy and grace to me, how wonderful His plan B has been for my life, and how it all turned out.

Thank you for listening

Response #32:

I'm very happy to hear that you have gotten some peace on this! We have been called to peace, after all (1Cor.7:15). Whatever is in the past has passed. No yesterday can be changed, and fretting over yesterday only damages today and takes our eyes off of the glorious tomorrow we shall have with our dear Lord Jesus Christ. We all make mistakes in this life. We are not left here to "fix them" – as if we even could; we are left here to show how much we love our dear Savior – and that is demonstrated by moving forward with Him and for Him (an impossibility if we our thoughts are fixated behind instead of looking ahead).

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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