Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Pastor John, this question comes on the heels of the question we addressed in episode 122, one of the most popular episodes we’ve released — Is my boyfriend’s porn a marriage deal breaker? So now a listener wants to address this sin in marriage by asking: “Is my husband’s porn a marriage deal breaker?”

My answer is no. Your husband’s struggle or compromise with pornography is not a marriage deal breaker. And I would say the same thing that a wife’s compromise with pornography is not a husband’s deal breaker. That is not to be assumed in our day, because it cuts both ways. I don’t want to be hard on the women here. I want... what I really want to say is: Marriage is a covenant created in heaven, sealed with a vow of life long commitment between a man and a woman, consummated in sexual union. That is my definition. I believe it is a biblical definition of what marriage is. So my answer to the question of what can break the marriage is based on what marriage is. So let me just work that out for a minute or two.

It is a covenant. It is covenantal. The foundational text for marriage is Genesis 2:24. A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast, cleave to his wife and they should become one flesh. And when Paul picked that up in Ephesians five he interpreted it: This is a profound mystery. And I am saying it refers to Christ and the Church, which means God created marriage to be a picture of the covenant commitment Christ has to his Church and his Church to him. Therefore marriage is fundamentally cove-nantal and covenantal to the max, namely, it is a model of how Christ is bonded to his Church in the new covenant relationships and he is really, really bonded to his Church. So the first thing I want to say is we have a covenant and that is what marriage is.

The second thing is it is created in heaven. When we stand in front of a crowd of people and we say I do or make our vows, we are not ultimately creating a marriage. God is creating a marriage. And I base that on Mark 10:9: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Those are amazing words. In this moment of covenant-making through vows, God is doing something and we have no right to undo it as mere people.

And the third thing I would say is it is life long. It is till death. Romans seven. A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man or he will be called an adulterer if he lives with another woman while her husband is alive. This is for life, till death do us part.

You know, when I do marriages I let people put a lot of things in vows that I don’t write, but one thing I insist is always there, namely, “till death do us part” or something exactly meaning the same thing. And then it is, fourthly, it is consummated in sexual union. The two shall become one flesh. Be fruitful and multiply. Adam knew his wife. Or 1 Corinthians 7:2. Because of temptations to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give his wife her conjugal, that means sexual rights. And likewise the wife to her husband.

So the implications of that definition of marriage is stay together. Stay together through hell and high water. Jesus said: Whatever God has joined together, don’t separate. Or, Mark 10:11. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her and if she divorces her husband and marries another she commits adultery. And Paul, the married I say, this is 1 Corinthians 7:10. I give charge, not I, but the Lord. The wife should not separate from her husband. If she does, she should remain unmar-ried or else be reconciled to her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. In other words, when we make vows and I hope this woman made this vow, “for better or for worse,” we don’t mean for better or for worse unless there is pornography, or for better for worse unless you turn out to be some-body I never dreamed you were, which, by the way, happens to pretty much everybody. Wives and hus-bands do not stay the same. Marriage is risky business, which is why I think the disciples said: Well, perhaps it is not wise to marry. And Jesus said: Well, it is given to some and not to others. And Chris-tians it is given to. It is our privilege and right to be committed in this way.

So, Tony, this husband is committing a grave sin against God and against his wife. I don’t mean to min-imize it at all for reasons we have seen in podcasts gone by. But marriage is greater. It is greater than any sin. It is a picture of Christ and the Church and in that stunning framework you go to Christ, you plead with him for the power and the grace and the wisdom to move towards repentance and in her case, I would say, if necessary involving the men of the church, going to the men in a small group, say, and say: My husband won’t listen to me. Help me. And the church steps in and helps a wife with this. Mar-riage is not a trap. But like a powerful promise from the Lord, if he has ordained that his children stay in very hard marriages, which he does, it is because he stays in a relationship to his sinful Church and he means to do great things for us in those marriages, to display glorious aspects of his merciful covenant keeping in this world.

Thank you Pastor John. And thank you for listening to the podcast. Email your questions to us at askpastorjohn AT desiringgod DOT org. Visit us online at desiringgod DOT org to find thousands of free books, articles, sermons, and other resources from John Piper. … I’m your host, Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening.