Should a Christian be polygamous—having multiple spouses?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Thank you, dear friend, for your submission. According to the Bible, Christians should be monogamous (having one spouse). Christianity and polygamy are incompatible. But, rather than take my word for it, you need to see the Scriptures for yourself.

We begin by understanding that the first marriage involved one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve (rather than one man and two women). In this day and age, it is also important to note the Bible is clear that it was a man and a woman (not two men, not two women, and not two individuals confused as to whether they were men or women!).

God’s Word records the first marriage in Genesis chapter 2: “[20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. [21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; [22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. [23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. [25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

Verses 24-25 are quite clear that God’s plan in creation is one man married to one woman. Polygamy—multiple wives (polygyny) or multiple husbands (polyandry)—is not in God’s design for mankind. As per the LORD God’s instructions in verse 24, the man is to “cleave unto his wife” (note well that “wife” is singular). Looking back, God did not make two women for Adam. He made one woman, and that one woman was to be married to that one man. The Lord Jesus Christ repeated this in Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9. By the way, Jesus Christ Himself considered Adam and Eve to be literal, physical people who existed in history, just as real as you and I. (There are those in “Christian” circles who would have us to believe the first 11 chapters of Genesis are “figurative,” fiction [!], rather than literal history. Jesus Christ disagreed with them, and we agree with Him!)

Just for the record, we quote the Lord’s words in Matthew 19:4-6: “[4] And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, [5] And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? [6] Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Notice the “one man, one woman” concept. In Scripture, gender and monogamy are important. Never forget that, friend!

Mark 10:6-9 affirms: “[6] But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. [7] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; [8] And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. [9] What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Again, pay attention to the “one man, one woman” concept—the stressing of gender and monogamy.

In this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, the Apostle Paul picked up on the heterosexual, monogamous marriage relationship God established in the Book of Genesis. Ephesians chapter 5 informs: “[23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing…. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

Interestingly, the Holy Spirit points out how Jesus Christ joined to His Body (us, the Church the Body of Christ, Christians corporately) pictures how the husband is to be united to his wife. There are not many Bodies of Christ, but one Body of Christ. Likewise, there are not many Christs, but one Lord Jesus Christ. There is one Head (Christ Jesus) and one Body (Christians). Similarly, in the marriage relationship, there is one husband and one wife. Both cases are monogamous. (For information about the related topic of “the Bride of Christ,” please see our study linked at the end of this article. Time and space do not permit us to discuss it here.)

God’s primary passage on marriage in this the Dispensation of Grace is 1 Corinthians chapter 7, which thus begins: “[1] Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. [2] Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” These opening verses make it clear again that God wants marriage—especially concerning Christians—to be between one man and one woman. There is no hint of God endorsing polygamy in this chapter. In fact, verses 27, 33-34, and 39 also emphasize the “one man, one woman” marriage relationship. (Notice how gender is important in this passage too!)

When delineating the qualifications of bishops and deacons, the Bible mentions they need to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6). There is no room for polygamy in the Christian’s life, particularly that of church leaders. Bishops and deacons are model Christians, and such exemplary believers are monogamous rather than polygamous. Please pay attention to the gender issue again—one man (“husband”) and one woman (“wife”).

Indeed, some “Old Testament” Bible characters practiced polygamy—Lamech (Genesis 4:19,23), Abraham (Genesis 16:1-3), Esau (Genesis 26:34), King David (1 Samuel 25:42-43), King Solomon (1 Kings 11:3), et cetera. Nevertheless, these were exceptions rather than the norm. Furthermore, some of these “wives” were actually concubines, or “servant-wives,” whose primary function was to bear children for their master. Concubines held a lower status than regular wives. Some of these multiple marriages resulted (as in the case of kings) in order to ratify or strengthen treaties/agreements between nations. These relationships were also necessary to protect and financially support women (who were downtrodden at the time). However, to appeal to these passages as justification for Christian polygamy today is faulty. Paul’s epistles clearly discourage polygamy in God’s current dealings with mankind.

Polygamy is a cultural practice in various nations even today. People worldwide with such backgrounds trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. They face the very difficult issue of how to handle their polygamy in light of Scripture. We trust that these Bible verses will help them come to terms with what the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, would have them do. As Bible believers, living in the Dispensation of the Grace of God, members of the Church the Body of Christ, Pauline revelation is clear that we need to follow the pattern of Adam and Eve concerning marriage. God’s design in creation is one man and one woman joined in matrimony for as long as they both shall live. This is the ideal situation, but, of course, as the Lord Himself said, sin causes divorce (Matthew 19:7-8; Mark 10:4-5).

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Also see:
» Who is the “Bride of Christ?”
» What about unmarried, divorced, and remarried men in the ministry?
» What advice can be given to homosexual Christians?