Polygamy: Is It A Sin?
When addressing this issue it is important to deal with the “winking” argument.
It is written,
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:“‘
This scripture seems to be used as a “scripture of last resort” to say that God winked at the “sin” of polygamy in the Old Testament. Those who desire to make polygamy a sin in the New Testament era correctly realize that it was not only accepted practice in the Old Testament but plural marriage was the ‘norm” of many of the greatest men of God that we revere today. Therefore, they say that God somehow tolerated their ignorance on this issue until such time at He could reveal His truth about it in our day and age.
I say to people that when you have to stretch overly far to prove your theory then it usually indicates that it is either partially or wholly in error. When people wish to say that polygamy is adultery, knowing that they cannot call Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, and David adulterers, they resort to all sorts of gerrymandering to try to partition what God thinks about this subject differently between the old and New Testaments. However, it is written,
“For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
God does not change and His opinions on what is and is not sin haven’t changed. If one says it is adultery to marry more than one woman in the New Testament then you also have to say that God thought it was adultery in the Old Testament. Obviously, however, God blessed men with more than one wife abundantly and many are held up a “role models” to believers today.
Abraham had two wives to begin with and afterwards took Keturah to wife, having six children, plus at least 2 concubines with whom he had children also. Jacob had four wives from which God brought forth the entire nation of Israel. David, a man after God’s own heart, had at least sixteen wives. Isn’t it interesting that many Christians today are reading about and taking life lessons from historical polygamists.
What then is adultery and for that matter what is fornication? After all, the act that is performed in holy matrimony is the same act that is performed when committing these sins. So what is the difference? fundamentally the difference is whether or not a marriage exists between two people. If a marriage does not exist the same act of intimacy that can be done within marriage become sin when it is done outside of marriage.
Like so many things with God marriage is a heart issue. Jesus said,
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Therefore adultery is not just the act but rather it is a condition of the heart. Here is a truth,
“Marriage is not just a piece of paper but a level of heart commitment that warrants the intimacy that is expressed in the marriage bed”
Some people want to reduce marriage to a “contract” between two people. They say that without the contract no marriage exists. However, besides being a legalistic interpretation, this is simply not true. Marriage is a heart commitment between two people for life. When this level of heart commitment exists between a man and a woman then any level of intimacy they express towards each other is permissible. When this level of love and commitment is absent from a relationship that is when it becomes sin in the eyes of God. Basically, all sexual sin is merely inappropriate an unwarranted physical expression.
Therefore, when a marriage level of love and commitment exists between a man and a women (provided she is single or widowed) it is proper for them to be intimate no matter how many women he is married too. This is why polygamy is not adultery nor fornication. Where David got in trouble was that he lusted after another mans wife, had him killed in battle, and then tried to cover up the whole affair. Had Bathsheba been single or widowed God would not have cared if she became David’s wife, for it is written,
“And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.”
2 Samuel 12:8
Unless you have a theological ax to grind what I say makes perfect sense and harmonizes the scriptures on the subject of polygamy. Polygamy is not sexual sin simply because it is a form of godly marriage that has been around for literally thousands of years. What God has called clean we should not try to make unclean simply because we find it to be an inconvenient truth within our culture.
Furthermore, and I say this specifically to ministers, you should not preach a gospel of convenience but rather a gospel of truth. If you fear your peers and congregation to the extent that you will wrest the scriptures to support popular cultural viewpoints then perhaps you should lay down the word until you gain enough courage to handle it properly.
In conclusion, when we encounter polygamy in Africa we should welcome these families into fellowship with open arms. As with any form of marriage there will be areas that can be improved but at least you can help them find the acceptance and love that Christ has to offer them through His body of believers. Let us find courage to believe the truth and stand with our brethren in this truth so that all may have opportunity to be blessed.