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Sabbath School Lessons on Religion in Relationships
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: Marriage is Not Out-of-Date *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!
- The Ideal
- Read Genesis 2:21-23. Have you ever been amazed at what
happened while you were sleeping?
- Was God making a point when He created the woman out
of the man?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.")
- The Practical Ideal
- 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
- Is this out-of-date advice?
- 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neither out of date nor about jewelry.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.)
- Husbands, what would you like to live with? A
well-dressed, mean-spirited wife? Or, a wife who
is kind and loving?
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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
- If the Bible Knowledge Commentary is correct in
its interpretation, how important to God is
treating our wives with respect and
- 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.)
- Third Parties
- Read Genesis 16:1-2. Is this the kind of spirit for a wife
that we were discussing before? Unselfish, kind,
- Read Genesis 16:3-5. How did the introduction of a third
party to the marriage work out?
- 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?
- What is the source of the problem? (Her sister is
bearing Jacob children and she is not. It is
- 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.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:6-7. How did Elkanah's attempt to
make things "fair" turn out?
- 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
- Read Malachi 2:13-14. What is God's reaction to "breaking
faith" with your spouse? (You rupture your relationship
- 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.)
- How important a matter to God is you being faithful
to the "wife of your youth?" (God says He "hates"
- 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.")
- 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.)
- Divorce and Immorality
- 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
- Read Matthew 19:6. What is Jesus' conclusion about
marriage? (That it is for life.)
- Read Matthew 19:7-8. Why did Moses allow divorce (see
- Does this suggest that God is flexible on the
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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
- 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
- Read Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. What is God's attitude
- 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
- 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?)
- 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.)
- 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.