The Christian Marriage 2: What Does The Bible Teach About Polygamy? Can A Christian Marry And Live With More Than One Spouse?

 



I came across a teaching several years ago addressing Christian sisters in polygamous marriages to leave their homes.

According to this teaching, if you were married to a man who already has a wife as unbeliever, immediately you get born again, you are to leave that man and go back to spinsterhood, and wait for your rightful husband to show up. Regardless of how old you are or how many kids you have had. You are to abandon that man and "his" kids and go back to being a single lady again, expecting your "own" husband to come. Else, you will be committing fornication or adultery and living sin.

Now, knowing that some of the sisters in the gathering were well over 70 years in age and already had grand and great grand kids, this teaching didn't sit well with me. So I had to go back to the Bible to study it for myself and learn what it truly teaches concerning the subject, especially in Christian marriages. What you will read here is what I found out for myself and have taught the same over the years.

Before going on, it's important you know that here we're discussing what the Bible truly teaches about Polygamy in Christian marriages. Not what your culture, state or government laws say about it. It's very important that we are clear on that because in many parts of the world, Polygamy is considered a crime by the government while in other places it is not. So here we are going to be looking at the subject from the Bible.

What Does The Bible Really Teach About Polygamy? Can A Christian Marry And Live With More Than One Spouse?

Let's study the subject beginning from the Old to the New Testament.

The first account of a Polygamous marriage in the Bible is found in Genesis 4:19.

"And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah." Gen 4:19 KJV

Interestingly, this was after the fall of man. If you noticed, Genesis 2 gave us the account of God's "perfect will" for man in marriage, which is one man, one wife. Just like Adam and Eve. There's no argument about that.

However, if you also noticed, there's no mention of Lamech being rebuked by God or any of His messengers (both human and angels) for taking more than one wife. There was also not a record of the act affecting His relationship with God. As a matter of fact His family were known to have walked with God. From his grandfather Enoch to his son Noah.

From that time, men who desired to have more than one wife were not prevented by God for doing so. The most prominent of them being David the King of Israel. I singled out David because most people would easily relate with him.

2Sa 12:7-8 KJV 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

Pay attention to that verse 8 and see for yourself how the Prophet Nathan speaking on God's behalf, listed the things God gave David - the Kingship, the former King's house and many wives. Yes, many wives.

"All through the Old Testament, men were rebuked for committing adultery, fornication, murder, lying, stealing and so on. But not one time was anybody rebuked for practicing Polygamy. Though the act came as a result of man's many human desires after the fall, it was fully allowed."

Coming to the New Testament (after the resurrection of Jesus), we see the Holy Spirit inspiring the disciples (Paul and Peter especially) to talk on the Christian marriage.

While they continually used the terms "a man and his wife" to talk about marriage, there's no place they expressly forbade men from marrying or living with more than one wife.

The only places in the New Testament where men were "mandated" to marry only one wife are 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12. And the men Paul commanded must be husbands of only one wife in both verses are Pastors (bishops) and Deacons.

1Ti 3:2 KJV A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.

1Ti 3:12 KJV Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

The reason for this command is so they could have their families in order and not to continously have the challenges that come with Polygamy interfere with the work of ministry.

Again, this instruction was specifically given to church leaders to help keep them focused on the work of ministry. It's not for everyone.

Now What Should People Who Were In Polygamous Marriages Before Becoming Christians Do?

The first thing is to realize that God honours the marriage union and not give room to condemnation. Even though Polygamy isn't God's best or perfect will, it is still His permissible will. So don't let anyone rope you into any form of condemnation.

Secondly, the scriptures say Christian wives or husbands should remain with their unbelieving spouses whom they married prior to salvation. If they are to depart, let them do so in peace, not out of any religious compulsion or condemnation of any kind.

1Co 7:10-15 KJV 10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

What If A Christian In A Polygamous Home Gets Called To The Work Of Ministry?

God is not an author of confusion. Hardly would He call anyone in a polygamous marriage to serve in a church as a pastor or deacon. However, if you are in polygamous marriage and you believe God has called you to active ministry, there are ways to go about that.

The first is to discuss this fully with your family (your partners and children) and see how you can settle and establish them to live without you. Once established this way, you can all peacefully and legally separate without doing anything that would bring the name of the Lord to ridicule.

In such a case, it would be better to live alone for a very long period or avoid getting married again. Just like Jesus and Paul. You'd have to commit the rest of your life serving the Lord and His people.

If you cannot do that, then consider serving the Lord in your own family and being an example of a true Christian in your area without organising public church meetings or holding any Pastoral role in an organized church.

You'd be saving yourself and them that hear you much sorrow that way.

In Summary

We see from the scriptures that Polygamy is not considered a sin in the scriptures. A man or woman in a polygamous marriage is not committing adultery, fornication or any sexual sin.

Adultery has to do with having sex with someone apart from your legally or traditionally married wife. Fornication on the hand applies to the singles indulging in such sexual acts before marriage. Both has absolutely nothing to do with Polygamy.

Is Polygamy God's best or perfect will? No. But He certainly doesn't forbid anyone from such type of marriage. Provided they're legally or traditionally married.

The only people in the scriptures forbidden from being in polygamous marriages are Pastors and Deacons. Anything outside of this is extra biblical.

I hope this meets you well.

Glory to God for the clarity of His Word!

Also Read: How To Find Your Best Match For Marriage

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