One of the favourite accusations that some people level against those practising multiple marriage is that it is illegal to have more than one wife in Western countries as well as many Eastern ones and that this is in violation of Paul's injunction to the Romans:
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from Eloah (God), and the authorities that exist are appointed by Eloah (God)" (Rom.13:1, NKJV).
The trouble with this kind of argument is that preaching Christianity is illegal in some countries too. It is illegal for Christians to assemble to worship in them, or build churches, or hold baptismal services. It is illegal in some countries for a Christian to convert a Muslim. There are many laws in many countries which would make preaching, let along living the Gospel, impossible without breaking the Law. If Christians had obeyed the unrighteous laws of the former Soviet Union, tens of thousands of souls would never have been won for Christ by the unregistered Baptist Churches there.
In order to understand what Paul meant when he said that we should obey government authority we have to understand also what he did not mean. The first Christians were banned by the Talmudic Jewish leaders of the day from preaching the Gospel of Christ, but they broke these rules nonetheless. For their defiance, they were dragged into religious courts (the Jewish equivalent of the Catholic Inquisition), charged with rebellion against the legal authorities, beaten, and sometimes murdered. What was the response of these disciples?
"We ought to obey Eloah (God) rather than men" (Acts 5:29, NKJV).
There you have it. Two apparently contradictory passages of Scripture. But are they? What did Paul actually mean when he wrote to the Romans? Was he disagreeing with the first disciples who predated him? Hardly, since he was one of those officers who enforced this inquisition and actually presided over the stoning of righteous Stephen, for which he bitterly repented later. He most certainly did not still agree with the charge of rebellion against the de facto authorities. What aspects of the "governing authorities" were Christians expected to be subject to then, as today? He answers that question to the Romans:
"Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour" (Rom.13:7, NKJV).
Here you have a list of the Christian's obligations to the state:
- (1) The payment of taxes (see Mt.22:21);
- (2) The payment of customs duties or levies;
- (3) Respect and honour for the offices of government.
What Paul is saying is that whilst we have certain obligations to the government they are not absolute. Our minds, hearts and spirits belong to Him and to no state - it is our choice to whom we give these things. Even if we despise and hate a government because it is wicked, we are nevertheless to continue to pay taxes and levies (even if they are unrighteous) and to show respect for the offices of state (even if the officers are evil). In short, what Yahweh is saying is that in the absence of a theocracy (where Yahweh personally rules both spiritually and temporally though His ministers) we are to acknowledge the need for law and order of a secular type, even if it is poor or even plain evil. A communist or fascist government is better than no government at all where anarchy prevails. This is pretty much the sentiment of the apostle Peter who wrote:
"Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of Eloah (God), that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men -- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of Eloah (God). Honour all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear Eloah (God). Honour the king" (1 Peter 2:13-17, NKJV).
We are entering a time where government is not only becoming more and more evil but all governments are rapidly heading towards merger into a single World Government which the Bible says will be ruled by the 'beast' who will persecute believers to death. If the governments of today - or the governments of tomorrow - order us to deny the Law of Yahweh we are under absolutely no obligation to obey them. The Roman Empire tried to force the first Christians to worship the Roman gods in addition to their own and they rightly refused and paid with their lives. We are nowhere commanded to unconditionally obey every statute of government because we should obey Yahweh before men.
Polygamy may be 'illegal' in most countries, but so what? Governments do not in any case have the right to legislate marriage in the first place. As it is written:
"Therefore what Eloah (God) has joined together, let not man [or the state] separate" (Matt.19:6, NKJV).
It follows from this that there are marriages which Yahweh joins together and marriages which He does not. Until about 300 years ago, the state was not involved in joining marriages at all, even in the Christian West. Even Priests weren't needed. And in the heyday of Catholic rule in Europe where the Roman Church insisted in conducting all marriages, not everyone yielded. Thus the Normans, who lived in northern France in Normandy, typically married à la danoise ('like the Danes') in contracting marriages without the state or the church.
You do not need the state's licence to marry. And since these days the state rarely prosecutes those 'living together', an option followed by many who practice multiple marriage is not to tell the state about their unions at all. None of my marriages are registered with the state, but in Yahweh's eyes I am married because I have fulfilled the biblical requirements to enter into a covenants with my wives - and they with me - in the presence of two witnesses, to be faithful for life and into the eternities. As far as the state is concerned I am single, but as far as Yahweh is concerned I am married with three wives.
Because there are certain tax advantages from being married, many who have several wives 'legally' marry at least one of them according to the rules of the state. That is their choice. My own opinion is that I want the state to be as little involved with my marriage as possible so I tell them nothing. That may not, however, be an option in every country. Each man must act according to his conscience and local conditions.
You do not need the state to sanction your marriage. If 'Christians' say you are living in fornication or adultery, you can politely tell them that they do not know their Bibles and educate them as to the truth. If they tell you that you are a bigamist (which in most countries is a 'crime') you can again inform them that you are not breaking the law because have not married them according to men's laws but Yahweh's. Do not be intimidated by slander or scripture-twisting.
Some polygamists in the West are trying to make plural marriage legal. We respect their right to maintain that belief but this is not our position. We don't even think it is the government's right to legislate monogamy.