I once read a story about a little girl who was crying brokenheartedly in the car after leaving worship one Sunday. Her mother repeatedly asked her what was wrong, and, finally, the girl answered, “The preacher said he wanted all children to be brought up in Christian homes, but I want to stay with you!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all homes would be Christian homes? Christian homes have surrendered to the will and design of God. How does God’s word describe and display the proper building of the home?

God’s pattern for the beginning and building of a home is focused on marriage. In this study we will be focusing on what the Bible teaches us regarding (1) who are the candidates for marriage and (2) what constitutes a marriage.

Who Are Candidates for Marriage

From God’s perspective, marriage is a blessing to all who are authorized to marry. The question is often posed, “Can we be married?” As we have often taught our children, “can” and “may” change a question completely. “Can” deals with ability, while “may” is a matter of permission or authorization. Very often a society or civil law grants ability in situations where God’s law does not grant permission or authority. Consider Herod’s marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; John the Baptizer told him, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:17,18).

God has specified who is authorized or permitted to marry. First, one who has never been married before. In Genesis 2 we read of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. In stating their relationship bond of marriage, God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (verse 24). If either of them had been married before, they would not be able to join in this bond together, having been bound as one flesh with someone else. We further read in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” If one is married and departs to be joined with another, adultery is being committed and would never be authorized by God. So, one who has never been married is authorized, by God, to marry someone else who is eligible for marriage.

Second, one is authorized to marry when their spouse has died. In Romans 7, Paul uses the specific law of God regarding marriage to illustrate the nature of the rule of law in general. In verses 2-3 we read, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” In 1 Corinthians 7:39 we see the same principle: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” So, one whose rightful spouse has died is authorized, by God, to marry someone else who is eligible for marriage.

Third, one is Biblically authorized to marry who has put their rightful spouse away for the cause of fornication. When you read Matthew 19:3-9, Mark 10:1-12, and Luke 16:18, you should understand that God’s intention is for marriage to be permanent. Two people, male and female, who are rightfully married, are never to be separated from that bond except by physical death. They are never to go beyond their marriage and involve anyone else in a physical relationship. To do so is sin, plain and simple. By inspiration, Matthew states the only exception to the rule of lifelong marriage – putting a spouse away for the cause of fornication (Matthew 19:9). So, one who has put their spouse away for the cause of fornication is authorized, by God, to marry someone else who is eligible for marriage.

What Constitutes a Marriage

According to Genesis 2:24, in marriage there must be a “leaving” of father and mother, and a “cleaving” (KJV) to one another as husband and wife. This means that individuals considering marriage should be old enough to take care of themselves, to take on adult responsibilities.

A husband and wife must learn to rely on each other first, to meet one another’s needs. Consider the message of Ephesians 5:22-33, as we see the roles of the husband and wife interwoven as each is seeking to obey God in service to one another.

In teaching regarding marriage, I always stress that there is a three-fold commitment: first, to God; second, to God’s law of marriage; and third, to one another. In marriage there will be good times and hard times. When we face the difficult times, it can be easy to turn against one another. A proper commitment to God and His law of marriage will keep us from doing something that will cause us to be in sin and, potentially, harm many souls in the process.

Let us determine to follow God’s word, to build our homes “by the book” so that we are blessed and God is pleased!

— Dave Leonard