This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
What does the Assemblies of God teach concerning the biblical view of marriage?
In an age when family values are under severe attack and the traditional foundation of the family seems to be crumbling, the Assemblies of God recognizes the need for strong teaching on the biblical view of marriage and the family.
Marriage is God-ordained. "The Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’" (Matthew 19:4,5). God’s design for marriage goes back to mankind's beginning. The family, as God’s means of propagating His creation, grows out of this primary human relationship.
The marriage relationship encompasses the deepest unity of man and woman in its social and physical expressions. The first woman was declared to be a suitable helper for the man (Genesis 2:18), the perfect complement (Genesis 2:23). God intended them to share both blessings and responsibilities. Mutual esteem and self-giving love strengthen the marriage relationship. God intended this physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual union to be focused on one partner only.
Marriage is to be an exclusive relationship, a lifelong faithful union with one’s spouse. "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). The Old Testament recognized the existence of polygamy (marriage to multiple partners), but still declared that monogamy (marriage to one partner) was the ideal (Psalms 128:3, Proverbs 5:18; 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9). "Lifelong" means monogamy and sexual fidelity until the death of one partner. Sexual expression with more than one partner violates the holiness of biblical marriage and thus is sin in God's sight.
Marriage is a covenant, a solemn binding agreement made before God and man. The religious ceremony of the wedding before church and community emphasizes that marriage is more than a legal agreement between two individuals. The church has a responsibility to support and nurture the marriage that has been affirmed by public vows.
Ideally, the relationship between husband and wife should parallel the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23-30). The husband should love his wife "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). The wife should submit to her husband as the Church should submit to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24). But it is a misreading of Scripture, however, to conclude that the husband can become dictatorial. The entire passage is introduced by the admonition, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). It is only after each spouse submits one to another from a heart of love that the head/submission relationship will work. The husband has special responsibility for the spiritual leadership and welfare of the wife and family (Psalms 78:5-8, Ephesians 5:23). While the woman has responsibility as a parent, God has called the husband to be the leader in the home. The woman is not inferior to the man. Both have full dignity and equal standing before God. In homes where the father is not a Christian or refuses to provide spiritual leadership, it is right for the mother to assume this responsibility. Strong spiritual training is essential for children to develop spiritually (Proverbs 22:6).
A happy and complete marriage is realized as both partners make Christ the center of their marriage relationship. With Christ as the head, the marriage has an excellent chance to succeed.
The teaching to singles and for those already married must be done with sensitivity and understanding for those whose marriages have already disintegrated. Teaching needs to emphasize the biblical view of marriage and at the same time speak love, forgiveness, and healing into human hearts that have experienced a broken relationship. Some have softened their strong teaching to young people to avoid offending the already divorced. But the Holy Spirit, who guides into all truth, can help in the delivery of each message without detracting from the other (Ephesions 4:15-16). [See question 9 for the church’s position on divorce and remarriage.]
Only through strong teaching on the sanctity and permanence of the marriage relationship will the church reverse the current tragic trends in broken marriages and shattered families.
Engaged couples must do adequate planning for a biblical marriage. For too many young couples unchecked or uncontrolled sexual expression leads to marriage with an imbalanced focus on the physical relationship. That path can easily lead to disaster. Spiritual and intellectual intimacy should precede the physical intimacy of marriage. When the physical chemistry becomes stagnant and loses its initial excitement, spiritual and intellectual incompatibilities may surface and can put unbelievable strain on a marriage.
The church urges every couple who is contemplating marriage to seek Christian counsel and to address the important questions that will eventually affect the marriage. Honest discussions of key issues should occur long before the wedding, and preferably before the engagement. Such discussion should focus on key life issues such as: career aspirations, family plans, life-style expectations, relationships with extended family and friends, financial management, communication skills, church affiliation, etc.
Because marriages must be built on honesty, a thorough and open disclosure of both partner’s backgrounds and histories should also be unveiled long before marriage. In doing so, all significant and consequential issues should be resolved, particularly those that will cause emotional pain, require understanding, and need forgiveness.
It is imperative marriage be established with Christ at the center. Such a commitment cannot be made by one partner alone. It is wrong to enter marriage with the hope of later influencing the spouse to make a commitment to live for Christ. All Christians would do well to realize that the Bible’s admonition to be equally yoked in Christ is a serious directive (2 Corinthians 6:14), and neglecting this truth can bring great pain and serious lifelong consequences. Today our society is filled with countless broken marriages because some Christians failed to heed this truth.
As a means of solidifying marriage relationships and achieving God’s standard of lifelong commitment, the church encourages all couples to prepare carefully for marriage. While the length of time needed for courtship will differ for each couple, time and prayer will often weed out troubles and incompatibilities that will later affect the marriage.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found in the Assemblies of God position paper "Divorce and Remarriage" under the "Biblical Principles of Marriage" section approved by the General Council of the Assemblies of God, August 1973.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.