In Defense of Marriage
“Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”—Heb. 13:4, NW.
1. What shows marriage is an honorable institution?
JEHOVAH established an honorable thing in marriage between man and woman. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dignified marriage. He did not himself marry as a man—the divine purpose did not include his marriage on earth—but he accepted an invitation to a wedding in Cana of Galilee and contributed to the joy there by performing his first miracle, turning water into wine for the wedding guests. He also used marriage celebrations to illustrate truths concerning the kingdom of the heavens. He was used by Jehovah God to restore marriage to its original Edenic level.
2. (a) To whom was Hebrews 13:4 directed, and what does this show? (b) Who forbid marriage? Wrongly or rightly?
2 The Creator made woman for man that by marrying the two he might people this earth with a perfect human race, all issuing from one parenthood, all one flesh and blood, bound together by ties of family relationship. God’s means to an end are always honorable and bring credit to him as Creator. His will is that marriage must always be held in honor by his worshipers: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement.” (Heb. 13:4, NW) This command was given to Christians. On earth Christians are privileged to take part in this divine institution. But to use it aright they must hold marriage in honor and bring no contempt upon it by abuse. Religious leaders who have fallen away from the Christian faith or who never knew it, these are the ones who forbid Christians to marry with honor. “The inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron, forbidding to marry.” (1 Tim. 4:1-3, NW) Those who have fallen away from the Christian faith and forbidden certain men and women to marry have claimed to forbid their marriage in the interests of Christianity. But in this they have deceived themselves, for it is contrary to God’s will. So it has worked, not for the interests, but for the hurt of those professing Christianity. It has led to immoralities.
3. How has the Devil attacked the marriage relationship within the Christian congregation?
3 There is not an institution that the Creator has set up which his adversary the Devil has not tampered with and doggedly tried to debase and pervert. For one thing the Christian congregation was established to restore the pure and honorable relationship between male and female, and hence the adversary has made the Christian congregation the special object of his attack in this particular regard. For this attack he has raised up false prophets, teachers of false doctrines, and exponents of false codes of conduct. Note this modern instance, reported in the New York Times of December 29, 1949, as follows: “Our Society will be ‘within a very few generations as tolerant of premarital but postpubertal sexual relations as are the majority of the other peoples of the world,’ it was predicted yesterday by Dr. George Peter Murdock, Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. . . . ‘As a scientist, I am forced to predict the disappearance of old standards and also to acknowledge that new standards, even if personally unwelcome, probably will work out to the satisfaction of everyone.’ Dr. Murdock said he was ‘not personally apprehensive’ over the rising divorce rate. . . . ‘Moreover, I suspect that increasing premarital freedom may ultimately lead to more rational selection of mates and thereby to a decline in divorce.’”
4, 5. How did the apostle Peter warn Christians of this?
4 In his second letter to Christians the apostle Peter warned them of prophets of false moral standards. He reminds them that they have escaped from the “corruption that is in the world through lust”. It would therefore be out of order for Christians to indulge again in the corruption that is in this lustful world. To deter us from such a relapse into worldly corruption we have been given the true prophecies. (2 Pet. 1:1-4, 19-21, NW) But the adversary has challenged Almighty God to put on earth men and women whom he cannot corrupt, breaking their integrity toward God. So the adversary craftily raises up false prophets in the very midst of God’s organized people. Note Peter’s warning of this.
5 With a reference to the Israelites to whom Jehovah God sent his true prophets for their instruction and salvation, Peter says: “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will turn out of the way and follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. Also with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words. But as for them, the judgment of ancient times is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering.”—2 Pet. 2:1-3, NW.
6, 7. How do they disown the Owner who bought them?
6 From this we see that what happened to the natural Israelites prior to Christ was an advance illustration of what would endanger the Christian congregation of spiritual Israelites. False teachers are certain to be raised up by the operation of the adversary. These will create sects, groups that would branch off from the true organization and follow men as leaders. They will “disown even the owner that bought them”, namely, Jesus Christ. To him it is said: “You were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9, NW) These false teachers and introducers of false practices will acknowledge him and will agree with 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 (NW), which says: “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price.” So with counterfeit words they will call Christ Jesus Lord, Master and Owner, but they will deny him by the way they live in private. It was when warning Christians against committing fornication with a harlot and becoming one body, one flesh, with her that the apostle Paul reminded the Christian congregation that they did not belong to themselves but had been bought with a price and must therefore glorify God as a body of Christians. It is by an unclean course of life, loose conduct, such as their Owner never did practice or approve of among his bought slaves, that these false teachers deny their Owner who bought them with his precious blood.
7 We can disown God and his Christ by the way we live. The apostle Paul showed this also in these words concerning men who have defiled minds and consciences: “They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and disapproved for every good work.” (Titus 1:16, NW) That loose, unclean conduct would be one of the ways by which the false leaders would make denial of Christ the apostle Peter indicates when he adds: “Many will turn out of the way and follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.”—2 Pet. 2:2, NW.
EFFECT ON THE ORGANIZATION
8, 9. (a) Whom does a Christian’s course affect? (b) So what is it our responsibility to do?
8 No one lives just to himself. So when a professed Christian turns out of the way of purity and righteousness and follows an enticer into loose conduct, he not only injures himself but also brings reproach on the pure organization of Jehovah God. People on the outside who observe their unclean course take them as an example of what all others inside the organization are. Naturally they begin to speak abusively about the organization and the “way of the truth”. This is just what the adversary wants. He wants to bring reproach on God’s true organization and have it take on a shameful appearance in the world’s eyes. Not that the religious organizations of the world are themselves pure morally and doctrinally, but that God’s organization represents the way of the truth.
9 So when any organization members walk contrary to the principles of the truth, then outside observers are led to look upon them as hypocrites. Who wants to join a hypocritical organization? Consequently honest men take offense against the organization as a whole because of the careless, loose and unfaithful conduct of an individual member. This hinders them from seeking association with God’s organization, and this suits the purpose of the Devil well. The loose, immoral one does not serve God but serves his challenger and adversary and plays right into the Devil’s hand. We can thus see how responsible we are to pursue right conduct so as to show correctly and faithfully before all the world what the theocratic organization stands for in morals as well as in doctrine. Christians who turn to immorality and thereby bring undeserved reproach upon the organization come therefore under a special condemnation from Jehovah God. Let them not think their sin will not find them out and that they can escape. God’s judgment against such a class is not moving slowly, and his destruction of them will not slumber on as if unconscious of their impure conduct.
“THE PATH OF BALAAM”
10, 11. (a) By what seductive means does the Devil try to break down the organization’s soundness? (b) How do Peter’s further words show this?
10 Impure relations between the sexes is one of the seductive ways by which the Devil tries to break down the soundness of the Christian congregation. To strengthen the proof of that the further words of Peter in the same discussion may be quoted. Speaking of animalistic persons who slyly work to corrupt others, working like a piece of sinful yeast that ferments the whole mass, Peter says: “They have eyes full of adultery and unable to desist from sin, and they entice unsteady souls. They have a heart trained in covetousness. They are accursed children. Abandoning the straight path, they have been misled. They have turned aside and followed the path of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the reward of wrongdoing, but got a reproof for his own violation of what was right. A voiceless beast of burden, making utterance with the voice of a man, hindered the prophet’s mad course.”—2 Pet. 2:14-16, NW.
11 Take note that those individuals have eyes full of adultery, looking for unsteady souls to entice. They have followed the path of Balaam with a love of the reward for wrongdoing. Balaam’s beast of burden, the ass, miraculously spoke with a man’s voice and warned Balaam when he was riding to curse God’s chosen people. He had let himself be hired by the king of Moab, Balak, to use his prophetic powers to say a curse upon the Israelites. But by another miracle God turned Balaam’s intended curse into a blessing upon his chosen people. When Balaam failed in using his prophetic office for a curse to the Israelites, he thought of another way by which to cause their fall and bring the divine curse upon them. What was this way? Immorality! Peter indicates this by introducing Balaam when he is discussing unclean, adulterous conduct among Christians.
12. How did Jesus point to the same class now like Balaam?
12 The Lord Jesus Christ, too, points directly at this class like Balaam who attempt to induce Christians to loose sex relations. In chapters two and three of The Revelation Jesus sends messages to the “seven congregations that are in the province of Asia”. As seven is a number symbolizing spiritual perfection, all those congregations together represented the professed Christian congregation down here in this “time of the end” of this world. So the conditions existing in those seven congregations of the first century pictured the conditions that would mark the Christian congregation in our day when the prophecies of The Revelation are being fulfilled. After beginning with some words of praise for the congregation in Pergamum the Lord Jesus says: “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, that you have there those holding fast the teaching of Balaam, who went to teaching Balak to put a stumblingblock before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.” (Rev. 2:14, NW) Fornication means the willing sexual intercourse on the part of an unmarried person with a person of the opposite sex.
13. Failing to curse Israel, what did Balaam suggest to Balak? Why?
13 King Balak was disappointed because the prophet Balaam was inspired to utter a blessing instead of a curse upon Jehovah’s organized people. He felt the reward he offered Balaam was wasted. But then Balaam showed King Balak a more subtle way by which to bring Israel’s downfall. This would counteract the divine blessing he had just pronounced and would induce the Israelites to work for God’s curse on themselves instead of his blessing. What was that? Why, entice them to give loose rein to passion and to fornicate with attractive heathen women. By this breakdown of their integrity you can lead them on to eating idol sacrifices.
14. What made yielding to this temptation so disastrous for Israel?
14 What made it so disastrous was this. The Israelites were encamped on the plains of Moab near Mount Peor, just across the Jordan river from the Promised Land of milk and honey. Practically all the older persons who had made the exodus from Egypt at the age of twenty and upward had died off during the forty-year wilderness journey. The younger generation had survived. Here they were, about to enter the land promised to Abraham their forefather and his offspring about 470 years before. They were now so close to realizing this divine promise, but would they all enter the land? No, at least not some 24,000 of them. What was the reason for the failure of these? Immorality, and that right on the brink of the Promised Land! The sorry account tells us: “And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place; and Balak [king of Moab] also went his way. And Israel abode in Shittim; and the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab: for they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor [or, the Baal of Peor]: and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them up unto Jehovah before the sun, that the fierce anger of Jehovah may turn away from Israel. . . . And those that died by the plague were twenty and four thousand.”—Num. 24:25; 25:1-9, AS.
15. Whom did the Israelites kill as responsible for this, but how did they expose themselves to further temptation?
15 The prophet Balaam was responsible for this. Not only Jesus, but also Moses made his responsibility plain. When God sent the Israelites to execute divine vengeance upon the Midianites for their part in thus corrupting Israel, the Israelite warriors did not slaughter the Midianite women and children but spared them as captives. Moses indignantly exclaimed: “Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Jehovah in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Jehovah.” In executing divine vengeance the Israelites had killed the prophet Balaam, but here they had spared and brought into their own midst those whom Balaam had schemed to use for defiling them. They were bringing into their midst the temptation to idolatry, spiritual harlotry against God, for the satisfaction of their passion. For morality reasons Moses had all the women who had prostituted their virginity to the lewd worship of Baal-peor killed off as a temptation source. He allowed only the still virgin women-children to live and serve the Israelites.—Num. 31:8, 15, 16, AS.
16. Why is belonging to the organization now not a guarantee of our future entry into the new world?
16 That is just the way with the great adversary. If he cannot seduce Jehovah’s people into verbally renouncing God and his pure worship he tries to work their ruin by enticing them into immorality. The above was recorded in God’s Word as a warning to us. We are virtually on the verge of entering into the righteous new world. Though so near to our glorious goal, there is still danger of falling short of reaching it as modern counterparts of those thousands of Israelites. Do not forget: We are flesh and blood like those men were. Temptations that were common to them can likewise appeal to us and cause us to fall. Just because we belong to the organization which Jehovah has saved is no guarantee that we cannot personally fall into sin and miss out as individuals and so not enter into the new world with the theocratic organization. While we may belong to the organization, still we have an individual responsibility, and Jehovah God holds individuals to account.
17. What did Paul write to warn us of this danger?
17 To make us as Christians in the congregation keenly aware of this danger to our individual standing, Paul mentioned a number of incidents in Israel’s wilderness journey and wrote: “Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day. Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived. Consequently, let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men.” But is it beyond your power to resist such temptation? No; not if you discern the temptation and call upon the omnipotent God for rescue: “God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”—1 Cor. 10:8, 11-13, NW.
FEMALE AS WELL AS MALE INFLUENCE
18. How did Jesus warn of a female influence now toward corruption?
18 The adversary may use male influence in the congregation, as a modern Balaam force. He may also use female influence, to bring about the corruption of those belonging to God’s people. Jesus referred to this female influence in his messages to the seven congregations in Asia. Female influence is something which he can hold against a congregation today, as he did back there against the congregation of Thyatira, saying: “Nevertheless, I do hold this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her fornication. Look! I am about to throw her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And her children I will kill with deadly plague, so that all the congregations will know that I am he who searches the inmost thoughts and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds.”—Rev. 2:20-23, NW.
19. Whom does Satan try to use such influence to corrupt?
19 Jezebel was a Baal worshiper who became the queen of King Ahab of Israel. She bossed him and exercised her influence to force the ten-tribe kingdom into immoral Baal worship. The effect of her influence was the same as that of Balaam’s suggestion to King Balak against the Israelites. So the adversary can use either sex to induce the temptation. His aim is, not just to cause ruin to some individuals, but rather to corrupt the entire organization and to bring reproach upon it and its God and so to prejudice honest persons against it.
20. Why should we watch against being dragged back into corruption?
20 There is every need now for us to pray and watch against temptation to immorality, especially now when we are so close to the new world. If we have escaped from the sink of corruption of this world, why should we let ourselves be dragged back into it under false, glamorous inducements of “free love” and of easy forgiveness from a merciful God for our sins of immorality? Do not be roped in by promises of freedom of conduct. It means slavery to corruption with destruction as the outcome. In this same discussion Peter stresses this and says: “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one. Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has turned back to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’”—2 Peter 2:19-22, NW.