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    FAQ 93

    Is Polygamy a
    Salvational Issue?

    Q. Is polygamy a salvational issue? What will happen to those who reject the principle even after the scriptural truth has been revealed to them?

    This is a very difficult question indeed and one which I think can't be answered without first defining terms because the word "salvation" means different things to different people. To begin with, there is no such thing as 'polygamy' or 'monogamy' in the Bible, just 'marriage'. So before considering polygamy we really need to ask ourselves, 'Is marriage a salvational issue?', and before that, 'What is Salvation?'.

    To be saved, in its simplest linguistic sense, means:

    • (a) To be delivered from the bondage of sin through the atonement of Christ (the principal New Testament meaning); and
    • (b) To be ransomed or liberated as from captivity or obligation (the principal Old Testament meaning).

    Unfortunately, different denominations have different ideas as to what 'salvation', especially in the first context, means.

    • A1. Some believe that salvation is a condition of liberation from the result of sin which, according to Romans 6:23, is death. If this is what is meant by salvation, then all men and women will be saved, regardless of the type of life they live (1 Corinthians 15:22), because future life is promised the whole human race. Clearly, this kind of salvation is independent of marriage. However, the important thing to consider is the kind of future life it will be.

    • A2. Many use the terms 'saved' and 'converted' synonymously, thereby implying that being saved is a condition of having been converted to Christ - of having accepted Him as their personal Lord and Saviour. Clearly this type of salvation is independent of marriage too.

    • A3. Other Christians feel that conversion to Christ brings them into a condition of automatic perfection in which they are incapable of committing sin again. This condition they call salvation. The Bible nowhere gives any grounds for believing that conversion brings about an immediate condition of perfection since it makes abundantly clear that believers are still capable of erring and committing sin. It does teach, however, that such perfection can be attained through growth under the future tutelage of Christ's personal ministry through the Holy Spirit. If marriage (monogamy or polygamy) is a saving principle (as I firmly believe) then it can only come under this particular category of 'salvation'. This thought I shall develop presently.

    • A4. My belief, as is that of the Chavurat Bekorot to which I belong, is that the elements of salvation include a condition of having endless life with or in the near proximity of Christ and our Heavenly Father Yahweh. In its absolute sense, salvation is usually portrayed in the Bible as being a condition of future life which we are in the process of realising in this one. I also believe that the Scriptures demonstrate different degrees of salvation which are dependent upon the spiritual quality achieved in this life.

    We now come to the vitally important question, "WHAT SAVES?" Let's let the scriptures speak for themselves:

    • B1. John 8:31 - saved "if ye continue in My word";
    • B2. Acts 4:12 - saved by the "foolishness of preaching";
    • B3. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 - saved by the "gospel" (good news);
    • B4. 2 Corinthians 7:10 - saved by "godly sorrow working repentance";
    • B5. 2 Timothy 3:15 - saved by the "holy scriptures making thee wise";
    • B6. Hebrews 5:9 - saved by "obedience" (to Yahweh);
    • B7. James 1:21 - saved by "the engrafted word" (gospel);
    • B8. 1 John 1:7 - saved by "walking in the light".

    When you ask people what 'saves' they usually have a carefully selected armory of scriptures which they throw at you, and frequently they exclude ones which don't quite 'fit' in with their theological and doctrinal preconceptions. I purposefully bring the above to your attention to illustrate some of the causes of denominational division. It must be our purpose, if we are to be honest and consistent with our profession that the whole Word of Elohim (God) is the truth, to consider all the scriptures on this subject. The denominational problems, such as they are, are mostly the result of scripural selectiveness.

    It has long been my belief that salvation is both an event (the moment we accept Yah'shua/Jesus as our Lord and Saviour) and a process (the path of spiritual perfection) as the 'B' series of scriptural quotes above amply proves. A most useful summary of the essential beginnings of salvation ('Alpha/Alef Salvation') may be seen in Hebrews 6:1-2:

      "Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of:

      • (a) repentance from acts that lead to death, and
      • (b) of faith in God (Eloah),
      • (c) instruction about baptisms,
      • (d) the laying on of hands,
      • (e) the resurrection of the dead, and
      • (f) eternal judgment" (NIV).

    This Scripture clearly and unambiguously points out six fundamental doctrines of Christ (#a-f) which are repentance from dead works (acts that lead to death), baptisms (immersions), laying on of hands, resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment. These, the author states, are principles upon which one must build in order to go on to perfection. Consistent everyday effort to live and improve Christian/Messianic attitudes and actions is required to obtain the perfection spoken of in Scripture, which is our 'Omega/Taw (final) Salvation' For those who do not obtain perfection, there is a type or degree of salvation commensurate with their spiritual achievements (1 Corinthians 15:41-42).

    Could marriage be a part of this 'omega/taw salvation'? Does it fall under any of the B-series scriptures quoted above? Are we, as a race, under a general commandment or obligation to marry under certain conditions? (e.g. Hebrews 5:9 cp. Genesis 1:22,28) These, and other questions, you will need to consider as we progress in this study.

    I believe that there is complete harmony between Hebrews 6:1-2 and all other Scriptures in the Bible on the subject of salvation. And I believe it is absolutely necessary to harmonise these scriptures if I am to truthfully present my beliefs for careful scrutiny. One of the legitimate charges at modern Christianity has been its insistence upon taking one verse or text out of its biblical context and using it as the basis for proving a point of doctrine. Christians/Messianics should be able to put their beliefs to the test of any and all Scriptures. I believe that if we study all Scriptures concerning salvation within their context, they will harmonise with others studied in their context.

    When studying a particular Scripture, the student must relive the experience in which the statement is recorded and evaluate the counsel for use in today's world:

    • C1. Is the statement general and applicable to all people everywhere?
    • C2. Or is it directed to a particular person in a certain situation?
    • C3. If particular, should it be applied generally?
    • C4. Is the statement directed to an adult or to a child?
    • C5. Could it or should it apply to both?
    • C6. What previous instructions have been given on the subject?

    In reading Scriptures, a great error is often made by failing to recognise a chronological order of happenings and instructions in any life situation. In real life we recognise it. For instance, if a hermit suddenly appeared in a community and for the first time became aware of the custom of marriage, he might ask, 'What do I do to get married?' The reply to him would probably be, 'Why, first you must find a woman who will love you, and whom you will love, and who will agree to marry you!' He would then have to be given additional instruction (as he needed it) to eventually culminate in marriage. And were he subsequently to contemplate plural marriage, he would need to obtain the agreement of his first wife, find other women who love him, and whom he loves, who would agree to joining his extended family. And he would almost certainly need much additional instruction and to spend considerable time in prayer to determine whether marrying each of the prospective wives is indeed in Yahweh's will.

    A similar situation was met by Christ and His disciples in their real life situations with the Jews and Gentiles who made contact with Christianity for the first time. Often the question was raised: "What must I do to be saved?". And as each situation differed, so did the reply differ, depending upon the degree of understanding held by the new prospect. Notice the answer given in the following situations in response to the degree of understanding the hearer had:

    • D1. Acts 16:25-40 records Paul and Silas' encounter with a jailer. This being the jailer's first experience with such great Christian/Messianic power, he was unlearned in the teachings of Christ. So, in response to his question, "What must I do to be saved?" the first logical instruction to give him was "Believe on the Lord/Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)". You will note in verses 32 and 33 that Paul with Silas talked to the jailer and his family at greater length and culminated his talk by baptising them. The Bible does not record the rest of the teachings of that hour, but apparently belief on the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was explained more fully - to the extent that the jailer and his family saw the need to taking further action in their journey toward perfection.

    • D2. Acts 2 tells of the experience of the day of Pentecost (Shavu'ot) after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. On this day the disciples experienced many miraculous spiritual gifts. Many non-believers witnessed the occasion; and in verse 37 it is recorded that many asked Peter (Kefa): ""What shall we do?" Peter's reply was "Repent (make teshuvah), and be baptised every one of you in the name of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Why did he not say, "Believe on the Lord Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)"? Because they already did! The spiritual experiences they had witnessed that day and the words they had heard had already convicted them of the authenticity of Yah'shua (Jesus). So it was a logical and chronological order of instructions that was given them.

    The chronological giving of instructions can be traced through all the accounts concerned with the subject of salvation. The doctrines of faith toward Yahweh, repentance from dead works (water and Holy Spirit), laying on of hands (chrism/confirmation and possibly subsequent ordination), resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment are all important beliefs and practices attaining to salvation and perfection. Sometimes this continuity of teaching may not seem to be recorded clearly in the Bible; but when it is studied thoroughly, its completeness will appear. The exact wording may be absent, but the meaning is there:

    • E1. Mark 16:15-16 - repentance is implied in the term "gospel";
    • E2. Acts 3:19 - the word "converted" is a widely inclusive word;
    • E3. 1 Peter 3:21 - Peter speaks to already converted Christians/Messianics;
    • E4. Acts 9:17 - the account of Paul's conversion.

    Diverget views of salvation by faith and works exist today based on the following New Testament scriptures:

    • F1. Epesians 2:8-9 - "For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of Elohim (God): not of works, lest any man should boast."
    • F2. Philippians 2:12 - "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence now, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

    Modern views come from a misunderstanding of the counsel given by the church/assembly leaders to the disciples of that day. This misunderstanding again comes through the failure to take into consideration that a Scripture must be kept in its setting. One must consider to whom the counsel is directed, what its historical background is, whether it is general or particular counsel, of there has been previous instruction, or more complete instruction given later in the same situation.

    There really is no conflict between the views expressed in the Scriptures just quoted. Both views are correct. People are saved by faith (Alpha/Alef Salvation) and people are saved by works (Omega/Taw Salvation). In fact, there are others who are saved without either, as we shall see.

    • G1. Yah'shua (Jesus) recognised a condition of salvation in the lives of children as He said, "of such is the kingdom of heaven". If a child fails to reach an age of accountability (age of being responsible for recognising right from wrong) he is not condemned for the impossibility of gaining faith in Christ or accumulating works. Here is a condition in which neither faith nor works are a determining factor in salvation. A child, in death, is without sin and receives a type of salvation, and no doubt in a future life such as the Millennium gain opportunity for a more complete salvation.

    • G2. A person of accountability is held responsible for his acts. He must make a choice when presented a knowledge of Christ. He must accept or reject Him and His teachings. If He accepts the Messiah (Christ), he is promised remission of his sins through following the instructions given as necessary to its acceptance:

      • (a) Expressing faith in Christ;
      • (b) Being truly repentant;
      • (c) Being baptised.

      This promise is recorded in Acts 2:38-39:

        "Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) for the remission of sins."

      Such obedience to the instructions bring with it a condition of salvation (Mark 16:15-16). This is salvation brought about by an expressive faith in Christ and His teachings. Through the grace of Yahweh, Christ was given to the world; through faith in Christ comes salvation.

    • G3. Following conversion, man still finds the necessity of making choices. He discovers himself in error and sin at times. He realises as did the Apostle Paul (Sha'ul):

        "So I find this law (torah) at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in Elohim's (God's) Law (Yahweh's Torah); but I see another law (torah) at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law (torah) of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law (torah) of sin at work within my members" (Romans 7:21-23, NIV).

      So Paul and other leaders of early Christianity emphasised the necessity of developing work habits to overcome the "sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Paul says again:

        "We, then, as workers together with him beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of Elohim (God) in vain."

      Then he lists the important acts which keep this grace from becomming vain (2 Corinthians 6:1-10).

    The Apostle Paul emphasises:

      "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord/Master and Saviour Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)" (2 Peter 1:10-11, NKJV).

    It is to the converted believer that the instructions to complete his salvation by works are given. For he may fall if not zealously engaged in good works:

      "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12, NKJV).

      "...faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead ... Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? ... For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:17,22,26 NKJV).

    It is to the unconverted prospect, or recently converted Christian/Messianic looking in retrospect, that the instruction to achieve salvation by faith alone is given:

      "Believe on the Lord/Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31, KJV).

      "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of Elohim (God)" (Ephesians 2:8).

    It is to the unaccountable human (child and mentally retarded adult) that Christ speaks as He recognised their salvation from sin without the expression of faith or works.

    "Let us go on unto perfection" is sound advice for the aggressive believer who seeks Omega/Taw Salvation or salvation-complete. This admonition recorded in Hebrews 6 challenges us to overcome the feeling of having arrived. Salvation is the end result of all of life lived at its best:

      "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Mark 13:13, KJV).

    If 'once saved, always saved' there would be no need to endure because the possibility of falling from salvation is secured from such a doctrine. Needless to say such a doctrine is repudiated by many scriptures in the New Testament. There is a difference between Alpha/Alef Salvation (trusting in Christ for deliverance from sin by faith alone) and Omega/Taw Salvation, which is bringing that salvation to completion or perfection. What is sometimes known as "sanctification" is in reality Omega/Taw Salvation, which comes about through obedience and the atoning blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2). And to what are we to be obedient? New Testament Torah (Law).

    Marriage is one of those experiences ordained for the blessing of man, to be received at the right time ordained by Yahweh and specifically with those who are our soul-mates. So important is the marriage mandate that our final and glorious Omega/Taw Salvation in heaven is compared to a Marriage Feast.

    Will everyone be saved? No. Only those foreknown by Yahweh will be saved - for He knows what we will choose or not choose. But everyone is called to salvation (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). Will everybody be married? No. Yahweh knows who will choose marriage and who will not. But everyone is called by the Genesis mandate to marriage. Whether they fulfil this call early or later in life, or even the next life, is known only by Yahweh. No-one should be pressurised into marriage but simply wait until Yahweh provides the right spouse(s) at the right time. It is no sin to be single while waiting for that right time and right person. Thus it is the right attitude to marriage that saves, not whether one is married at any one particular point of time or not (unless one turns away a soul-mate at the right time). A wrong attitude to marriage would be to deny its validity in one's life at all, and of the opportunity marriage gives to completing Omega/Taw Salvation.

    A note on Matthew 19:3-12 which, because of its reference in the Greek version to "eunuchs" in v.12 is used as a means to justify celibacy. In the original Hebrew (before it was rendered into Greek) we read:

      "For there are faithful ones (believers), which were so born from their mother's womb [i.e. born believers like John the Baptist], and there are faithful ones (believers) which were made of man [i.e. they were evangelised], and there are faithful ones (believers) which are self-made faithful ones (believers) for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake [i.e. they sought the Kingdom on their own initiative and found it]" (v.12, HRV).

    Is polygamy a salvational issue? The answer is, YES, to those who have been called into it. Is everyone called into it? Yes, all believers are called into it, but not necessarily in this life. Whether they are called into it in this life or not will depend on their spiritual maturity and perhaps other factors which only Yahweh knows. Being sensitive to ones call is critical, remembering that the call is both to husband and wife/wives. I once denied my call to polygamy back in the early 1980's in order to placate my monogamy-only wife, experienced a partial loss of the Spirit, and a retardation in my spiritual growth for half a decade. When I repented of my denial, the Spirit returned and my ministry once more began moving again. And, bitterest of ironies, my first wife informed me (just before she left to join a New Age cult) that had I asked her to accept another wife, she would have agreed nothwithstanding her deep feelings against the principle (for she nominally accepted its scripturality within the religious paradigm she espoused at the time). Perhaps (and one can only speculate here), had I been true to the very clear witness of scripture and the Spirit, things might have turned out very differently.

    Any commandment of Yahweh, whether general (to all Christians/Messianics) or personal (like polygamy), is a salvational issue in terms of final or completed salvation. Our obedience counts when it comes to our final status and rewards in heaven, or denial of our admission thereto. For it is possible that by denying some women Christian/Messianic polygamous marriages they (these women) are risking their salvation by union with an unbeliever; and by forcing reluctant wives to accept more wives, the husband may be risking her salvation if she becomes embittered and rejects Christ as a result. It is not for us to say, of course, who is necessarily guilty of what, or where the responsibility lies in terms of others' choices for or against salvation, but it is most certainly to say that we have an obligation to tread carefullyand to earnestly seek Yahweh's will.

    What will happen to those who claim to be Bible-believers who reject the principle of polygamy? If as a result of their choice they deliberately set about trying to destroy polygamous marriages, and maybe persecute polygamists, I doubt it will go well for them. For rejecting the principle and remaining passive, who can tell. It is always dangerous to deny the Word of Elohim (God), worse to be guilty of religious hypocrisy for which Christ reserved the harshest rebuke in His time.

    No doubt Yahweh is merciful in the days of our ignorance but we must ever resist the temptation to exploit grace. Where He draws the lines of justice for each individual only He knows. So I cannot answer your question absolutely. The Spirit must guide you case by case. One thing I do know is this: that polygamy is not something you should ever treat lightly, nor tamper with Yahweh's will in order to satisfy a carnal craving. Both the husband trying to jump the gun by walking roughshod over a first wife and ignoring his vows with her, as well as a wife who refuses a clear call from Yahweh to enter the principle, are playing with fire and risking each other's salvation - not Alpha/Alef Salvation, but Omega/Taw Salvation - the salvation that determines our final reward. For marriage is without a doubt a sanctifying and therefore saving principle, able to mould and progress a soul in a way that celibacy never can. Whether that saving marriage is monogamous or polygamous marriage will again depend on the call of those involved in it, of their willingness to "sell" all that is worldly embrace the Kingdom pearl of great price.

    However, it is up to Yahweh to determine when a couple is ready or not to embark on that final, most challenging and most rewarding of marriage lifestyles - polygamy - and not the men or women themselves. And whilst it is true that many not called into polygamy may succeed in making it 'work' (from what I have seen, they are ususally threesomes), to work out of Yahweh's will will inevitably be to be denied that portion of the Holy Spirit which will make it into a sanctifyingly spiritual and therefore saving, rather than a carnal and therefore spiritually inhibitive and possibly destructive, experience.

    Nobody should ever feel panic-driven into marriage because it is a salvational issue, for that is not what I mean. To attain one's Omega/Taw Salvation is to simply obey the general commandments and the specific ones as and when Yahweh gives them. Marriage, unlike the commandment not to steal which remains valid at all times, is constrained by other factors - the right persons and the right time, and these in their turn will be determined by the kinds of choices we have made. Some people don't meet until later in life. I know a lovely couple who met and married in their early 70's and who are without doubt soul-mates. And some may well not come together until they have passed into the next life.

    Marriage is a part of the plan of salvation, a plan which includes not only the most important step of accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour (Alpha/Alef Salvation) but in obeying Torah (Law) which is the perfecting agent of our souls leading to Omega/Taw Salvation. Marriage is integral to this perfecting because none of us can be whole alone - the man is not without the woman, and vice versa - we can't do without each other. Individual salvation is vital, but salvation in the marriage unity is another level too. Husbands and wives need each other at some point in their progression in order to be complete again.

    If this is what is meant by marriage being a saving principle, then the answer is an unreserved 'Yes!'

    Author: SBSK

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    First created on 23 April 2002
    Updated on 17 May 2016

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