What does the Bible say about Polygamy?

What is polygamy?

Polygamy is marriage to two or more wives. The first recorded polygamist was Lamech who took unto himself two wives (Genesis 4:19).

Is polygamy the same as adultery?

Adultery is the sinful intercourse of a person with someone who is not his one lawful and Scriptural marriage partner. It was forbidden in the Jewish law (Exedus 20:14) and was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). Polygamy is merely adultery on a permanent basis. Polygamy is always adultery, but adultery is not always polygamy.

Is adultery the same as fornication?

The origin of these two words was different, fornication being the sin of unlawful intercourse by an unmarried person, and adultery the sin committed by a married person. But in New Testament usage the words several times are used to mean the same thing (see Revelation 2:20-22). Therefore, adultery and fornication are essentially the same sin according to the Bible meaning. It might be said that they are different forms of the same sin.

Does the New Testament forbid polygamy?

The New Testament says that marriage to another partner while the first partner is still living is adultery (Romans 7:1-3). No fornicator or adulterer shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). Since a polygamist is an adulterer, he cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

Is polygamy sinful for a man and for a woman?

1 Corinthians 7:2 says, “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” Polygamy is sinful for male or female. Women married to the same husband do not each have their own husbands.

Is it possible to escape from polygamy after practicing it for a long time?

1 Corinthians 6:9,10 lists many types of sinners, including fornicators and adulterers. As noticed above, a polygamist is actually an adulterer (Romans 7:1-3). Then 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, concerning the members of the church at Corinth, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” These adulterers and fornicators had repented and been cleansed from their past life by obeying the Gospel. If all types of sinners could be cleansed in Corinth, all types, including polygamists, can be cleansed if they repent and obey as did the people of Corinth.

Is it Necessary for one to repent of the sin of polygamy?

Repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of life (Matthew 21:28,29). Before a person is baptized for the remission of sins, he must believe in Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16), confess his faith in Christ (Acts 8:37), and repent of his sins (Acts 2:38). Without real faith, without a sincere confession of his faith, and without real repentance, baptism does not bring remission of sins. To be baptized without repentance cannot bring forgiveness (Acts 2:38).

How does one repent of polygamy?

The sin of polygamy must be repented of in the same way as any other sin. The polygamist changes his mind, heart, and life. He turns away from all his sins and turns to Christ, the Savior from all sin. He reverses his entire life and determines to change every sinful practice. But his repentance is not real unless he brings forth the fruits of repentance (Luke 3:8). This means putting away all wives except the true one. Just as a thief must give up stealing, so must a polygamist give up polygamy, or else his repentance is not sincere, and his baptism is worthless.

Which wife is the true wife?

A man’s first wife is his rightful wife unless she was already the rightful wife of another man when he married her. The first wife a man marries is his only Scriptural wife. All others are merely women living with him in adultery (Romans 7:1-3). In order to genuinely repent, he must therefore put away all other women except his first rightful wife.

Who will provide for the wives and children who are put away?

Sin always bring serious problems. Prevention is always better than cure. The above question states one of the serious difficulties resulting from the sin of polygamy; True repentance is never easy because it requires undoing the sinful conditions of one’s sinful life. The prodigal son got up out of the country of riotous living and returned humbly and broken-heartedly to his father’s house (Luke 15:17-20). In like manner a polygamist must penitently forsake the conditions of his sin and return to God’s love. When he does this, God will surely assist him in putting away his adulterous wives in a fair and honorable way. Furthermore, he will either care for his children himself or will render a father’s rightful support of them in their mother’s care.

What about the money spent for many wives?

Jesus said, “For what is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). He also said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all physical necessities would be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).

Should a polygamist be baptized before he puts away his sinful wives?

A polygamist or any other sinner should not be baptized before he repents. But any sinner who repents may certainly be baptized (Acts 2:38). A polygamist must be thoroughly taught the meaning of repentance. He must understand that true repentance precedes true baptism for the remission of sins. He must understand that real repentance includes fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8). He must know that the remission of his sins depends upon true repentance. He must know that real repentance requires him to stop living as a husband with all wives but the true one. He must be preparing and beginning to put away the other wives honorably. He must be convinced of the great temptation which each former wife will be as long as she remains in his compound. He must understand that baptism is a burial of an old man which has died to the practice of sin (Romans 6:1-18). He must be taught that when he is raised from his watery grave of baptism that he must walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). When these matters are truly understood, accepted, and put into practice, a person thus taught will no longer be a polygamist. He will be a penitent believer in Jesus Christ who has turned away from polygamy and all other sins. He will then, and only then, be a proper subject for baptism. But on the other hand, if a polygamist does not understand the meaning of true repentance and true baptism, his baptism will not bring remission of sins. Or if a polygamist refuses to truly repent of his many wives, he might be dipped in the water, but without repentance there can be no remission of sins (Acts 2:38). A murderer might persuade a preacher to immerse him in the water, but if he had not repented of his murdering, his dipping would not truly be baptism. A thief might deceive a preacher into baptizing him, but unless he had repented of his stealing, his baptism would be worthless. Any polygamist who repents may be baptized, but without repentance, the baptism of a polygamist would be unscriptural and vain.

Should a polygamist be a leader in the church?

1 Timothy 3:2 requires that each of the bishops (or elders) in each congregation must be “the husband of one wife.” Elders are examples to all the flock or congregation (1 Peter 5:3). A corrupt member (especially a leader) may corrupt the whole church (1 Corinthians 6:1,6). A polygamist must not be asked to lead prayer, as “holy hands” must be lifted up in prayer (1 Timothy 2:8). They must not be asked to serve as treasurer or to do any other work, as this may make them think that they have approval. A polygamist can no more serve as a leader in the church than can a murderer or a thief.

What can be done when a polygamist in the church refuses to repent?

A member in Corinth had taken his father’s wife, thus becoming guilty of fornication (1 Corinthians 5:1). This man was to be disfellowshipped by the church in hopes of bringing him to repentance (1 Corinthians 5:4,5). A polygamist in the church today is actually guilty of the same sin of fornication or adultery as the man in Corinth. He should be withdrawn from in the same manner.

Why did Old Testament men have several wives?

God made one wife, Eve, for Adam (Genesis 2:22). God’s plan since creation has been that one male and one female, “the twain” (or two), become “one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6). From the beginning, God never intended for men to put away their wives or to marry additional wives. Men began these practices because they rejected God’s plan out of the hardness of their hearts (Matthew 19:8). During the Old Testament God allowed many practices of the Jews which He never planned nor approved. One such thing was a king, but He allowed a king in order to let them see for themselves the foolishness of departing from His way (1 Samuel 8). In like manner, additional wives were allowed to the Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts, but not because such was God’s plan or God’s will. Since Christians are under a far better covenant containing better commandments through Christ (Hebrews 8:6-8), God’s original plan of one wife for one husband is enforced.

If polygamy was good for Abraham, why is it not good for us today?

Polygamy was never good for Abraham or any other Old Testament polygamist. Hagar caused jealousy, strife, and trouble until she was expelled from Abraham’s house (Genesis 16:4; 21:9-11). Likewise, the wives of Solomon caused great difficulties and turned his heart away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:3,4). Polygamy in the Old Testament strongly shows us the wisdom of God’s plan for one wife and the foolishness of man’s way of additional wives. Since God made man, He knows the best plan for man’s marriage and home.

This article is from the book:

ANSWERS IN THE BIBLE TO PROBLEMS IN THE CHURCH

by – Jim Massey

Published by
J.C. Choate Publications
Winona/Singapore/New Delhi/Capetown

To Order:
J.C. Choate Publications
PO Box 72
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Permission granted by the publisher for free distribution on the Internet.

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