Is Polygamy Wrong? (No. 3)

Ray Ferris
Kenosha, WIS.

We turn now in our study to two illustrations used by the apostle Paul in his letters to the church at Ephesus and the church at Rome. In Eph. 5:22-31, part of which has already been quoted in a former article, Paul makes a comparison of the relationship that exists between the husband and the wife and the relationship that exists between Christ and the church. Notice the following expressions: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands . . . the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church ... Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself . . . 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 . . . Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."

Now note some questions on this passage? Of how many churches is Christ the head? How many wives then should a man be the head of? The only logical answer to both questions is one. For how many churchces did Christ give Himself? For how many wives can a man give himself? Once again the only possible answer is one! In this passage Paul is using the relationship that does exist between Christ and the church to illustrate the relationship that should exist between a man and his wife. To argue that one man can have two or more wives is to argue that Christ can have two or more churches! Paul uses the sacrifice of Christ for the church as an illustration of the sacrifice a man must be willing to make for his wife. To argue that one man can make that sacrifice for two or more women is to argue that Christ can give Himself again for another church, and again and again for still others. Thus He would become the Savior for many churches. But we know that Christ offered Himself once for all, and could not thus sacrifice Himself again for another church. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundations of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Heb. 9:24-28. (Emphasis mine, REF.) Read also Heb. 9:1-12 and 10:8-14.

We also know that Jesus has but one church, the body or bride, and is the savior of only one church. Read Eph. 4:4-6 and 5:22-23. Just as surely as it is true that that Christ has on1y one church, gave Himself for only one church, and is married unto only one church it is also true that man can have only one wife. Otherwise Paul's illustration does not illustrate. If polygamy is acceptable unto God this illustration is meaningless and inaccurate.

Second Marriage Unlawful

In Rom. 7:1-4 we read, "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Emphasis mine, REF.) Notice carefully the words that are emphasized. If we use the implied alternate wording (It is implied because of the interchange of the words man and woman in verses one and two) it would read like this: "So then if, while his wife liveth he be married to another woman, he shall be called an adulterer!" These words deal a death blow to polygamy. There is no wall to escape the force of this passage against it. Any man or woman who marries a second companion while the first is still alive is guilty of adultery.

The most one could possibly hope for in the light of this passage would be that God has established one set of rules for the man and another for the woman; that polyandry is sinful, but that polygamy is acceptable and pleasing to God. But remember that God has one set of rules for man and woman-Gen. 2:24. In whatever sense she is to be one flesh with him, he is also to be one flesh with her. That was His law in the beginning and from the beginning-Matt. 19:8. Thus there can be no hope for the polygamist. He is an adulterer. Rom. 7:3.

Notice again that this illustration docs not illustrate if polygamy - either polyandry or polygamy- be accepted to God. If the wife can have more than one husband, the church can be married to more than one Christ! If the man can have more than one wife, Christ can be married to more than one churchl If not, why not?

In the light of this study from these passages it is evident that man rebels against God when he practices polygamy in any form. In concluding we will note some questions to help clarify the problem.


1. If polygamy does not involve illicit sexual relationship, why would a separation (divorce or otherwise) involve adultery in the next marriage? If I should leave my wife and marry another "pretty young thing" that has never been married before I would be guilty of adultery, Matt. 19:9. If polygamy be approved, I could marry the second wife and not be guilty of adultery unless I divorced the first one. This would make adultery the process of getting a divorce, nothing more and nothing less. Such is absurd, and is against every principle involved in the words divorce and adultery.

2. If polygamy is acceptable unto the Lord in a situation where a man has, say three wives then learns the truth, is supposedly converted to Christ, but continues to live with all three women as a husband to them, what principle would keep him from adding another one, or more, after he is "converted?" If sexual relationship with three women is acceptable to God, what would make such relationship with ten, or one hundred, or even as Solomon-one thousand, wrong?

3. How could a man and his wives obey the instruction of the apostle Paul in I Cor. 7:1-11? In polygamy it is impossible that "every man have his own wife," and "every woman have her own husband!" Somebody has to do some sharing in such a relationship, and even though married, someone is going to be "defrauded!" Verse 5. This passage indicates the need of one woman for one man and vice versa. It might well be possible for the young widow to marry and still "burn" if she is married to a man who has a dozen other wives. Vs. 9.

4. Why were the people of Israel spoken of as adulterers (This same terminology is used of world1y Christians, James 4:4) when they tried to engage in the practice of "marrying" themselves to a number of gods in addition to Jehovah if polygamy is acceptable to God? In so doing they were only practicing spiritual polygamy, but it is called adultery by the inspired pen. Therefore polygamy must also be adultery in God's sight.

5. What would one who is practicing polygamy have to do in order to become an elder in the Lord's church? (This is assuming that a converted man can continue in polygamy.) Paul's admonition to Timothy in I Tim. 3:2 requires one wife, but just as surely forbids more than one. It is easy to see the reasoning behind the Lord's request that an elder be a married man that he might have experience in the task of ruling his own house-1 Tim. 3 : 4-5, but what reason could we find for demanding that the elder have only one wife if the rest of the men in the church can have as many as they want?

6. Is there any principle that would keep two different men from having the same woman as a wife in polygamy? If so, what is it? If it be answered that one man would be taking the wife of the man who had her first, I reply that this is no more true than it is that the woman who becomes the second wife of a man has taken the husband of another woman.

Polygamy is a sin against the will of God and is branded as adultery by God's divine will. No adulterer shall inherit the kingdom of God. I Cor. 6:9-10.

Truth Magazine IV:4, pp. 13-15
January 1960