What About Polygamy?

Big LoveIs polygamy wrong? If it is, why did so many godly men do it in the Old Testament? If it isn’t, why do Christians insist on one man and one woman as the paradigm for marriage?  There are several arguments against polygamy being ideal, but it is also clear in Scripture that polygamy is not equal to other sexual sins, such as homosexuality. When we dig into Scripture here is what we find.

First, the paradigm the Lord set  from the beginning is Adam and Eve, one man and one woman. That is the way the world is supposed to function. Any deviation from that pattern is wrong. Polygamy is a sin because it contradicts Genesis 1-2 on marriage. Jesus’ use of this passage to support his teaching on divorce (Matthew 19:3-9) indicates its priority in setting standards for marriage. Polygamy is not presented in Scripture as the ideal or normative pattern.

While polygamy is not expressly forbidden in the Old Testament, there are a couple of passages that indicate it is not the goal. Deuteronomy 17:17 says that kings should not multiply wives. Malachi 2:14-15 points to one man and one woman as the norm as well.

Second,  Jesus has one wife the Church and he is faithful to her. This is an illustration from typology and backs up the ideal given in Genesis 1-2.  Ephesians 5:22-33 shows that the ideal for humans is one man faithfully married to one woman. I Timothy 3:2, 12, 5:9, and Titus 1:6 also indicate that for leaders in the church and for widows to be on the list they must have had one spouse. Paul’s main point is not polygamy, but those verses do rule out polygamy for leaders in the church.

Third, but a second marriage is a real marriage. The Bible treats second (and third) wives, as wives, not as adulterers. This is clear from how the Lord treated David when he slept with Bathsheba compared to how the Lord described David’s marriages to Abigail, Ahinoam, and his other wives (I Samuel 25:43, II Samuel 3:2-5). We also see this in Exodus 21:10-11 where a man who takes a second wife must still treat his first wife as a wife. He cannot treat her differently. He must still provide for her and sleep with her. His failure to treat her like a wife means she can leave him. Also in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 the first born son of a first wife retains inheritance rights. The husband cannot show preference to the second wife’s son. A second marriage is a real marriage.

Fourth, polygamy is a sin, but it is usually, not always, a low level sin. It is not equal to adultery or fornication because the parties are married. It is not equal to sodomy or bestiality because they are a man and woman. Also it is not equal to divorce because the marriage covenants are still intact. That is why I would not encourage a man with two wives to divorce one of them.  Where does it fall on the “sin scale?” That would depend on the level of knowledge of the persons involved.  A person who knows God’s ideal, one man and one woman, and rejects it would be held more accountable than one who did not.

Fifth, while polygamy is not condemned in Scripture, it does usually cause problems. The first polygamist was Lamech (Genesis 4:23). He is not a man you want to emulate. With Hagar and Sarah, Hannah and Peninnah (I Samuel 1:1-7), Rachel and Leah (though Jacob may not have wanted 2 wives), and Solomon’s many wives there was trouble. Besides this any man with one wife wonders why on earth a man would marry more than one woman. One wife is a such a great responsibility and a good man will spend a lifetime getting to know her.

Finally, does the increased revelation of Jesus Christ and His people in the New Testament make polygamy a greater sin the New Testament era than it was in the Old Testament? That is certainly a possibility. Polygamy, while common among kings in the Old Testament, has been virtually unheard of among Christians since Christ. Some modern cults do allow polygamy, but no Christian church I am aware of has advocated it.

Polygamy is not God’s ideal, not the way he designed the world. Therefore it should be avoided. It is sin. In the rare case where the gospel comes to a culture that allows many wives and a man with more than one wife is converted that man should repent of his sin of entering into second marriage, but keep his wives. He will be restricted from any office in the church.

Ten Quotes: Knowing Christ by Mark Jones

Knowing ChristI really enjoyed Mark Jones’ book Knowing ChristMy christology, in particular my understanding of Christ’s humanity, was greatly aided by this book. His extensive use of the Puritans was an added benefit. I also enjoyed that Jones doesn’t treat Christ like an object to be studied, but like a wonderful Savior, Lord, and King. He often breaks out in doxology. I will be referring to it often and it has been a great help as I preach through Hebrews. I highly recommend the book. Here are ten of my favorite quotes from this book. Everything below is a quote from the book, though I only blocked out every other quote.

Keeping the law with the “whole heart” [a reference to Psalm 119:34] may be understood legally or evangelically. In a legal sense, only Christ loved God with his whole heart because the law requires perfect conformity, which we are unable to give. Nonetheless, in an evangelical sense, God, out of his love and mercy in Christ, enables us to love him with our whole heart.

Redemption, which we have only through Christ, is still inferior compared with the worth and glory of his person.

The Christian grace of humility begins by imitating the incarnation of the Son of God.

The eternal God infallibly knows all things past, present, and future. He knows himself perfectly. Not only does he perfectly know all things that he has created, including his decree of events yet to happen, but also he has perfect knowledge  of things outside of his decree. In other works, he knows things that are possible, things which could be wrought by his power, but will lie wrapped up in darkness to any human or angel.

Christ’s obedience in our place needed to be real obedience from a man. Jesus did not ‘cheat’ by relying on his divine nature while he acted as the second Adam.

Not expressing anger in the presence of injustice is not a sign of godliness, but rather of moral weakness. As Warfield claims: ‘The emotions of indignation and anger belong…to the very self-expression of a moral being as such and cannot be lacking to him in the presence of wrong.’ Christ always had the ‘mind of God’. Jesus thought God’s thoughts after him. Accordingly, the very things that cause God anger inevitably enraged Jesus while on earth, such as wilful hard-hearted unbelief expressed by his own people.

Nothing should keep our minds busier on earth than this great reality: the Holy One of God was declared unholy, so that unholy sinners might stand unblemished before a holy God.

If our sins are forgiven, then nothing else really matters in this world. This is the blessing that distinguishes the Christian religion from all others. Sinners are freely forgiven by a merciful God through the sin-bearing death of Christ on the cross. Such is the greatest mercy we can receive from his hand, and every other mercy is judgment if it is not accompanied by such pardon.

Possessing an appetite for the deep mysteries of the gospel is the sign of healthy soul, and teachers must bring God’s people into a deep acquaintance with these precious truths. The intercession of Christ is a doctrine that Christians cannot afford to be ignorant about, considering how many comforting truths arise from Christ’s heavenly ministry. [The chapter on Christ’s Intercession was one of my favorites.]

No one knows the wrath of God like the Son of God. After all, the Lamb of God was roasted in the fire of God’s wrath; he was in the fiery furnace during the three hours of darkness at Golgotha. God’s people, as a result, have Christ’s entire garment upon them…There are important implications to these truths. First, most people are not clothed with Christ’s garment, and the fire of hell will certainly singe them for all eternity. Second, Christ, who experienced the wrath of God, will also execute his wrath upon all the ungodly. One would have to excise a large part of the Scriptures to deny this truth.

And One:

For Christians, the closest (and best) picture we have of Christ while pilgrims on earth is that in the elements of the bread and wine given to us in the Lord’s Supper-the elements we view by sight, but which are ultimately of no use unless received by faith. The joy of communing with our risen Savior in the sacrament does not come through pictures, but in the blessing of a faith-filled observance.