Adult Sabbath School Lesson Study Outlines

Skip Navigation
Get these Sabbath School lessons by e-mail! Subscribe to the Bible Study of the Week mailing list:

 Subscribe in a reader

Lesson 4: Marriage is Not Out-of-Date *

Introduction: Last summer, when I was in Canada, the lead stories in the newspapers were the forest fires and homosexual marriage. Not long after I returned, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, a court I have argued before many times, ruled that homosexuals had a constitutional right to marry. Right now the U.S. Congress is wrestling with the issue of defining marriage. What does God say about marriage? Is He flexible? What is His ideal? What does He allow? Let's turn to the Bible and find out!

  1. The Ideal

    1. Read Genesis 2:21-23. Have you ever been amazed at what happened while you were sleeping?

      1. Was God making a point when He created the woman out of the man?

      2. If you say, yes, what point was that? (If you just stop with verse 23, you have two different arguments. One is an argument for equality because woman was taken from the mid-section of man. The second argument is for dependence because woman was derived from man. He was the original.)

    2. Read Genesis 2:24. In what way do man and woman become "one flesh?" (This refers to procreation. They become one flesh in their children.)

      1. What does this say about the relationship between a man and his wife? (If you are "one" you do not have a debate over who is "superior.")

  2. The Practical Ideal

    1. Paul generally takes a pounding from a certain segment of the church for his writings about the relationship between husbands and wives. Let's read what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:3-6.

      1. Is this out-of-date advice?

      2. Is this advice about wearing jewelry? (This advice is neither out of date nor about jewelry. Peter says to us, "Want to know what really is important when it comes to beauty? It is not how much you paid for your clothes, your jewelry, or your hairdresser. What is important is how you deal with your husband. It is your inner spirit which determines your true beauty.)

        1. Husbands, what would you like to live with? A well-dressed, mean-spirited wife? Or, a wife who is kind and loving?

      1. The last phrase of verse 6 does not seem as if it belongs here. What do you think Peter wants us to understand about the role of the wife when he says, "do not give way to fear?" (Modern feminism might argue that Peter is telling women to become door mats for their husbands. I don't think this is what is being said. Peter teaches us that an unselfish, kind spirit does not mean trembling submission.)

      2. Read 1 Peter 3:13-16. How does this complete the "no fear" picture of 1 Peter 3:6? (This is not a "wife-only" bit of advice. Peter is telling Christians that being gentle and respectful is how we all should live.)

    1. Read 1 Peter 3:7. How does the advice to husbands differ from the advice to wives? (The husband must treat his wife with consideration and respect. This is the right spirit to have with your wife. There is little doubt that Peter is giving husbands the lead role, but he seems to give very similar advice to husbands and wives when it comes to the right spirit.)

      1. Again, the last phrase of verse 7 seems out of place. What do you think Peter means by this? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary says this means that husbands who do not treat their wives with consideration and respect cannot expect to have their prayers answered.)

        1. If the Bible Knowledge Commentary is correct in its interpretation, how important to God is treating our wives with respect and consideration?

    2. After looking at these texts, what is the ideal in marriage? (One man and one woman who are kind, respectful and loving to each other.)

  1. Third Parties

    1. Read Genesis 16:1-2. Is this the kind of spirit for a wife that we were discussing before? Unselfish, kind, respectful?

    2. Read Genesis 16:3-5. How did the introduction of a third party to the marriage work out?

    3. Two generations after that we have Jacob, who in Genesis 29 is tricked by his father-in-law into marrying Leah, the "wrong" daughter. He takes a second wife so that he can marry Rachel, the "right" daughter. Obviously, this creates problems for Leah. Let's read how this situation works out for the "right" daughter, Rachel. Read Genesis 30:1-2. How would you say the marriage is going between Jacob and Rachel?

      1. What is the source of the problem? (Her sister is bearing Jacob children and she is not. It is jealousy.)

    4. Elkanah was another husband who took two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Let's read how this worked out. Read 1 Samuel 1:4-5. What do you think about Elkanah's spirit here? (It seems that he is trying to "make up" for Hannah not having any children. He has good motives.)

      1. Read 1 Samuel 1:6-7. How did Elkanah's attempt to make things "fair" turn out?

    5. Read 1 Timothy 3:12. Why must deacons have only one wife? (As these texts show, when you have more than one spouse you run into problems with rivalry. God's ideal is to have one spouse.)

    6. Read Malachi 2:13-14. What is God's reaction to "breaking faith" with your spouse? (You rupture your relationship with God.)

    7. Read Malachi 2:15-16. What is God's reason for being unhappy when we "break faith" with our spouse? (God goes back to His original plan in Creation: one man and one woman become one flesh.)

      1. How important a matter to God is you being faithful to the "wife of your youth?" (God says He "hates" divorce.)

      2. What advice do we see in verse 15 about staying on the path of marital fidelity? (God tells us to "guard yourself in your spirit.")

        1. What, as a practical matter, can you do to "guard yourself in your spirit?" (Be careful about what you do and say when you are around others you find sexually attractive. Today, an obvious place to put up your "guard" is with pornography. Pornography puts you on the road to unfaithfulness with your spouse.)

  2. Divorce and Immorality

    1. The text we just read in Malachi links marital unfaithfulness with divorce. Let's read what Jesus teaches us about divorce. Read Matthew 19:3-5. Where does Jesus start in finding answers about marriage? (He goes back to the Creation.)

    2. Read Matthew 19:6. What is Jesus' conclusion about marriage? (That it is for life.)

    3. Read Matthew 19:7-8. Why did Moses allow divorce (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4)?

      1. Does this suggest that God is flexible on the subject?

    4. Read Matthew 19:9. Is Jesus flexible on the subject of divorce? (Jesus' only exception to the rule of marriage for life is marital unfaithfulness.)

    5. Read Matthew 19:10. Based on the reaction of the disciples, how common would you guess divorce was at that time? (The disciples decided that it was too risky to get married. This suggests divorce was common.)

      1. Are the disciples suggesting that it is better to just "sleep around" rather than get married? If you just live togther, and not marry, you avoid the strict marriage rule? (The New Bible Commentary says that when Jesus spoke of "marital unfaithfulness" in verse 9, He was speaking both of adultery and premarital promiscuity.)

        1. Is the New Bible Commentary correct in including premarital promiscuity in the term "marital unfaithfulness?" (This makes perfect logical sense if you go back to Creation, as Jesus did. Marriage is one man and one woman becoming one flesh. "One flesh" refers to sex and reproduction. If you have become "one flesh" with someone else, you have not been faithful to your ultimate spouse.)

    6. Read Matthew 19:11-12. What "escape" does Jesus give to the one man, one woman, forever rule? Is He also giving a "hardness of heart" exception? (Jesus seems to be saying that the only way out of His rule of marriage for life is not to marry. Jesus says some are born so that they are celibate, some are injured by others so they are celibate, and others to obey God have decided be celibate to avoid divorce.)

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says, "Not everyone can accept this word ... The one who can accept this should accept it?" (It seems that Jesus is talking about accepting celibacy as an alternative to marriage for life. I read several Bible commentaries on this and they were generally unclear. I have not studied this difficult topic enough to suggest a firm conclusion.)

  3. Homosexuality

    1. Read Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. What is God's attitude towards homosexuality?

    2. Read Romans 1:25-27. What basis does Paul give for condemning homosexuality? (Again, we have a link to Creation and "natural relations." This is the same logic that Jesus used: If you want to determine what God has in mind for marriage, go back to the way God set things up at the Creation.)

    3. There is a great deal of debate over whether some individuals are born with a homosexual orientation. Read Romans 1:24 & 27. There is little doubt that some have homosexual desires and "inflamed lust" for those of the same sex? Those of you are not homosexuals, do you naturally have a desire and lust towards certain sins? (We are sinful people. It is common that we have a "natural" desire to sin. The question God puts to us is whether we will follow our lust for sin or whether we will follow His instructions for life?)

    4. Friend, is it your natural desire to commit to God's "one man and one woman become one for life?" (This tells the tale for me on the "natural orientation" claim. Our natural sinful desires are contrary to God's rule. The question is whether we will determine to follow God's ideal plan. I invite you today to ask God to help you to adhere to His original plan for marriage.)

  4. Next week: Friendship.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Back to Top | Home