For those that don’t know, I have been widowed almost 5 years, since August 2004. Due to the nature of the relationship with my late husband and his chronic illness for 5 years before he passed, it feels like I have been without a husband for much longer than 5 years. While I do desire to be married again, I do understand the need for learning contentment in whatever state we find ourselves in. Honestly, that does become a challenge at times, especially lately as I have witnessed many unions around me. Nonetheless, I look to God as my source and know that my spiritual walk cannot suffer because of deferred hope.

Of course, I am not alone. I have heard many women who have either been in my position as a single mother or currently are single and have to go it alone, including parenting and bring up the reference of God as their husband, that He has to fill the void of the missing spouse. In fact, I remember prayers that were offered up on my behalf when my husband passed away, for God to be a husband to me. While I do understand the need to look to God for fulfillment, I do have a problem with this particular reference.

I believe marriage is a most special relationship, designed by God for a man and woman to share the most intimate of earthly relationships – emotionally, spiritually and physically. When God created man, he indicated that it is not good for man to be alone, so he created woman. Now, I do believe that that also has a broader application to humanity in general in that men and women are needed to balance out this thing we call life. But there is also an intimacy shared between husband and wife that I believe are unique to that marital relationship. Consider what Ephesians 5:31 says (cf Genesis 2:24-25), that a man leaves his folks, cleaves to his wife and two become one. This is a mystery, the text says, that is analogous to Christ and His church as stated in Ephesians 5:32. But I don’t think this supports in anyway drawing the analogy of God as husband. And let’s be honest, there are certain aspects of the marital relationship that God cannot fill.

Contrarily, there are characteristics about God and His relationship to His creation that are unique to Him. He is above all else and there is none like Him. He is holy, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, and depends on nothing or no one. Yet, He exercises communicable attributes with His creation: love, wrath, justice and has identified specific relational aspects towards us including,

God as Father

God as Provider

God as Protector

God as Healer

These are characteristics of God that I can look to Him and expect for Him to be. And this is applicable to those He considers His own whether they are married or single. While I can derive these benefits from earthly relationships, only God alone can be truly counted on and fulfill His role according to these attributes, purely and truly. I believe He does desire a particular intimacy with His children, made possible courtesy of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Through faith and trust in what Christ accomplished, we have direct access and can enjoy His presence of God via God the Holy Spirit. There is sheer delight in this communion. The Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it up aptly. What is the chief end of man? It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And enjoy Him we should simply for who He is. But it is not a substitute for a husband. And particularly in His role as Father, I have a hard time drawing an equal role of husband.

But you might be thinking of particular passages that cites God as husband. Yes, the Bible does draw a comparison to God as husband but it is not in the context of a substitution for a marital relationship. Rather, it is always in the context of a covenant relationship between God and His people, namely Israel. This can be seen in Jeremiah 31:32 and also the book of Hosea, where Hosea’s unfaithful wife is likened to an adulterous Israel. The identification of God as husband is not used to show that God serves as a substitute spouse but to draw out the significance of covenant and the picture of what breaking that covenant looks like.

So to use these verses as justification for God as a substitute husband I think misses the point. I understand fully the lure to consider God as such, especially since our tendency is to look to earthly mates to fill internal voids that only God can fill. And let’s face it, there are some who might consider it spiritually immature to have such desires, that one should be so contented that they could possibly do without human companionship. No, God does not appreciate idolatry, something that our earthly relationships can quickly become as we place a higher value and affection on them than our heavenly ones. But I do believe such desires cannot be dismissed and swept under the God as husband rug. Furthermore, I think it is both unwise and Biblically infeasible to consider God husband as a substitute for a spouse. Each relationship has a special place and should not be confused with each other.

It is not easy being alone and desiring an earthly relationship, especially the most intimate form designed by God Himself. The waiting gets wary, the isolation can be numbing and the desires can be overwhelming. In these times, it is prudent and fruitful to place an increasing dependence and delight in God the Father, for who He, what He has done and what He has called us to be. I can call and count on God to be many things but I will reserve the title husband for an earthly one, should that request ever be fulfilled. Hopefully. God willing.

    78 replies to "God as My Husband?"

    • C Michael Patton

      Interesting Lisa. I suppose no one would try to say that God is my child when they don’t have children. Of course the nature of a parent child relationship would not really allow such. You are saying it does not fit any better in this area. How about if some one lacks a mother or father? Do you think that is acceptable?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Well, I just think we have to look to God for who He has identified Himself. He is most definitely Father. I lost my mom when I was 9 but I have never looked to God as mother. Healer, comforter (Holy Spirit)? Yes, most definitely. He does promise to meet our needs and it is fulfillment of those needs I think we need to look to but not to have God substitute in roles that He has designated a substitution for. I am also reminded of passages that refer to widows – He is a defender but not a husband.

    • Joshua Allen

      The Church is the bride of Christ. Thus, Christ is considered to be *my* husband as well, despite the fact that I am a married man.

      I know what you are saying, but I do take some issue with the idea that “God is no substitute”, and the implied entitlement expressed by the statement of having “needs”. The fact that you or I feel a need to be married is not an expression of our entitlement, but is an admission of our weakness. Praise to God that he provides marriage to us in our weakness! But also let us not forget that there are people who succeed in living celibate lives dedicated only to the body of Christ and communion in love with other believers. This communion experienced by these believers is not to be denigrated as a “substitute” for marriage, nor is it to be seen as some inferior expression of a human need. It is, in fact, the superior and most enviable expression of love, and the truest expression of marriage.

      The truth is, earthly marriage is no substitute for heavenly marriage to Christ, but thankfully God tolerates our failure to realize it. If you don’t buy the thought of being married to Christ alone (and you shouldn’t be bullied into it), then by all means seek an earthly husband. I certainly didn’t choose celibacy. But let us not pretend that earthly marriage is anything other than a poor, weak, and to the best among us, unnecessary, substitute for the real thing.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joshua, you said

      “The truth is, earthly marriage is no substitute for heavenly marriage to Christ, but thankfully God tolerates our failure to realize it.”

      Yes, I do agree. You should also note my statements concerning fulfillment by God that we cannot depend on man for. I’m sorry you got the impression that I was diminishing our “spiritual marriage” in any way. That was not my intention.

    • #John1453

      re post #3: “But let us not pretend that earthly marriage is anything other than a poor, weak, and to the best among us, unnecessary, substitute for the real thing.”

      Someone should tell God; evidently He got it wrong when He made Adam and then said, “it is not good that man should be alone” and then made Eve. Sounds to me like He designed men and women to be incomplete without each other. Certainly, God can give a gift of singleness–Paul wishes that all could be like him–but the theme running through the Bible is that singleness is not the norm, marriage of man and women is the God designed norm, but that God does gift people with singleness so that they might serve Him with greater single-minded focus (not greater self-seeking pleasure, as so many singles do).

      In addition, the church corporately is Christ’s bride. The church body with each of us being one part of a whole–an eye, or a foot, etc. We are not individually married to Christ.


    • Joshua Allen

      @Lisa — Cool, and sorry I nitpicked. For what it’s worth, I find the people who say, “You’ll get over it, God is your husband now”, to be seriously lacking in empathy. I hope I have the grace to accept whatever God throws my way, but the desire to love God only must come from the heart, and isn’t something that can just be tossed around with platitudes like that.

    • Joshua Allen

      @John1453 — Marriage may be the norm, but it is not the ideal. I was simply reacting to the insinuation that a celibate dedication to God and to His sheep was somehow an inferior “substitute” for marriage, rather than a superior formulation. I don’t think you would disagree.

      Likewise, the citation of Adam and Eve is quite misleading. Anyone who is a member of the body of Christ is not alone, and this non-aloneness is realized in communion. When you are the only person on earth, you are welcome to trot out that verse as God’s intention for you to have companionship.

      In fact, it’s even worse than that. Adam was talking simply about companionship, which we fulfill adequately in Christian community today. The curse of the fall was that women would desire after husbands (Genesis 3:16).

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joshua, if marriage is such a second rate substitute, then why does Paul praise it so highly in Ephesians 5:22-33 by drawing the comparison to Christ and the church? Also, doesn’t Hebrews 13:4 say that marriage is to held in honor among all?

      I don’t think we should diminish the wonderful prescription of marriage because of faulty applications in practice. We are after all, sinful creatures. Hence the necessity of spiritual empowerment (Eph 5:18) to carry out an effective and God-honoring marriage whereby each party mutually submits to one another.

    • #John1453

      Re post #7: I would say that the Adam & Eve thing is about far more than just companionship or being the only two on earth, and most exegetes throughout history have agreed. Adam was most certainly not talking simply about companionship when he exclaimed “bone of my bone” and “flesh of my flesh”. a mere “companionship” interpretation also loses the force of what Jesus says about marriage when He states that “it was not so from the beginning” (when speaking about divorce). There is no human relationship that has the degree of intimacy and union that marriage does. Those who have been married and then are single know what it is that they miss, and what they miss cannot be met in any communion of the saints or any same sex friendship. Seeing Genesis as only about companionship also loses the force of the mystery of the churches union with Christ as being like the union of men and women. y Furthermore, failure to see the complimentary nature of the sexes (in this time, before the full arrival of God’s kingdom), and that we are not complete beings without the opposite sex loses a major argument against homosexuality as a permitted norm in God’s kingdom. In this present age marriage is both the norm and the ideal in a formal sense, and the ideal in a personal sense for those to whom God has given it (which is most). Singleness is also an ideal in a personal sense for those to whom God has given it. I would not say that celibacy is an “inferior” gift to marriage. Each is appropriate to those to whom God has given it.


    • Joshua Allen

      @Lisa — It is not diminishing marriage to say that being wedded to Christ alone is better. Marriage is truly wonderful, and is a good template and foreshadowing for how God would bring Christ to us, reversing the upside-down nature of the world that resulted from the fall, and crushing the serpent under his heel.

      @John — You seem to be arguing that earthly marriage and being wedded to Christ alone are simply “different strokes for different folks”, with neither being better than the other. I am sorry, but that is fundamentally wrong. Again, I have no problem with marriage. I think marriage is wonderful, and I praise God for my wife. But being wedded to Christ alone is uniquivocally better, and is in fact the reason that we were given marriage in the first place.

    • cheryl u

      I want to agree with and emphasize what someone said above about the church as a whole being the bride of Christ–not individual believers. I don’t believe that idea is Scriptural. If someone knows of a Scripture I am missing, please share it with me.

      That whole idea of God being an individual person’s husband also has some very dangerous ramifications in a portion of today’s church. They take it literally in way’s that are certainly not anything that God ever intended.

    • Andrew Vogel

      Lisa, I just thought you would find this book interesting if you haven’t read it before:

      It agrees largely with what you said about God as husband and explores that concept through the Old Testament. An enjoyable read.


    • Char

      “And let’s face it, there are some who might consider it spiritually immature to have such desires, that one should be so contented that they could possibly do without human companionship.”


      I think there is a long standing sort of tradition in this regard. Nuns were often called the brides of Christ, so there is that. I know I have often used it to deflect unwanted pressure “I don’t need a man because I have Jesus”.

      Note it seems to be much more acceptable amongst women to speak this way (I guess Bernard of Clairvaux notwithstanding) and I wonder if at least part of the motivation behind it is the thought that a woman would marry if she could. But since she can’t find anyone, surely God will be there for her. Perhaps it is designed to comfort the unlucky women who find themselves unable to find the husband they so want to have. It is a little irritating that God is seen as a bit of a pinch hitter here.

      I do agree with the premise that the bride is the Church. I have often thought by way of Cyprian that in one sense individual Christians are the children of that union.

      I would disagree on “incompleteness” without a mate. Humans are indeed made to be in community and the first building block of that is marriage and family. So I would agree that mates complement each other and are good for one another, but do not think that one is only half a person if he is unmarried. I don’t see evidence for that.

      One who is unmarried misses out on a common experience and a chance to image Christ in a specific way certainly, but are you really missing something you don’t miss? It seems to me that this would suggest that desiring to remain single would exhibit sinfulness rather than something acceptable or even good as Paul and Christ suggest. That is, we wish to remain in an unnatural state, one in which we are only half of what we should be.

      I do not see how this has anything to do with homosexuality, because the ultimate reason we pair bond is to raise children. Children still need both mothers and fathers. But for one that has or wants no children, how does his lack of a mate render him incomplete?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Char, since I kind of know where you stand on this issue anyway, I can understand the position you are taking. I will agree with you regarding your statements about incompleteness. Especially considering the fact that some do have the gift of singleness. But then they are not looking for God to be a pinch hitter either 😉 I like that analogy btw…very appropriate to the topic.

      I guess I’m more bothered about people who try to encourage those who don’t have that gift of singleness by making them feel there is something wrong with having that desire and dismissing it as ‘God should be your husband’.

    • @#John1453

      “Adam was most certainly not talking simply about companionship when he exclaimed “bone of my bone” and “flesh of my flesh”. ”

      Agreed, but we need to make sure that we interpret this in line with Genesis 29:14.

      “And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.” KJV

      The is a statement about family ties. When we become “one flesh” with someone, it is a statment that we are now joined as family. We must be careful in light of the Genesis 29 passage not to draw too much intimacy into the interpretation.

    • Char

      “The gift of singleness” is an odd term to me, I’ll admit it (and I think it could generate a discussion of it’s own). It seems to mean different things to different people besides carrying a fair bit of baggage of the same type that the original phrase does. I would imagine most women who get told they have “the gift of singleness” or that “God is your husband” feel not only discontent with not having the relationship they want, but guilt over feeling like their “gift” is really a curse. I mean who is not going to feel guilty that they don’t WANT God, they want a MAN? That’s just zophar right there.

      If there is such a thing as a “gift of singleness” I suspect that those who have it would regard life very differently than others. This may be where the issue of “completeness” comes in. But I would guess they are above all not people who want to get married and need God to play that part til the right man comes along. I’d bet this would not be a category of need for such people at all.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Char, I use that term based on 1 Corinthians 7:7. I’d also say that if one feels the “gift” is a curse then they probably don’t have it. According to Paul’s encouragement, it frees us to soley focus on the Lord. There should be great pleasure in that not drudgery.

      I also don’t think it is wanting man vs. God, although for some it could go that way. But in our humanity, recognizing the desire for human companionship, which in no way negates our spiritual relationship. That does play out in different ways, with the marital relationship being the highest and most intimate form. Or should be anyway.

    • Lisa Robinson

      I will also add that some take delight in singleness by choice, such as one of my seminary profs. Dr. K is a committed celibate and takes precautions not to disrupt his choice.

    • Char

      No I am not pitting them against one another, but I think such advice does. I mean if God is the substitute, then one is going to be made to feel wrong for wanting a husband are they not? That was why I said “ouch” to the quoted part. That’s just a harsh thing to say. How are you supposed to feel when someone asks why God is not enough as if you are indeed asking for a man instead of God? Yet that misapplies your relationship to him-which I think brings us full circle to the OP.

      As to the “gift of singleness” I know that’s where it derives from. Yet there seems to be no consensus about what this actually is and how it manifests itself. I became acquainted with the term by being asked if I have this gift of singleness. I never know what to answer-I don’t know if I have it or not-I don’t know what the person is really asking. I’m not doing some special ministry work that requires singleness, and that seems to be required. So…???

    • Joshua Allen

      @Char, @Lisa — This has been a really interesting discussion. I liked the reference to Bernard of Clarivaux, and I note that he certainly wasn’t the only male saint to think that way. And of course there was Therese of Lascaux, Theresa of Avila and so on.

      In the passage cited for support of “gift of singleness”, I note that Paul makes a very clear value judgment in (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). He’s not saying that people who get married are evil, apostate, or otherwise sinful; but he clearly sees marriage as a compromised choice that is less ideal than being wedded to Christ only.

      I used to find passages like this to be unpleasant, and would squirm around trying to find exegeses that supported my personal preferences (and it’s always easy to fool ourselves). But I’ve learned a much greater respect for Paul over time. It always puts us in a tenuous position when we find ourselves going to such great lengths to ignore what the greatest leaders of our Church have said historically. And today is the day of the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, after all. 🙂 Nowadays, it seems to me that this is a great passage, because:

      1) It shows that even when we do not live up to the ideal of Christ, God is loving and merciful, and allows us to have what we want without us being cast away from Him. We can be productive and valued members of the Church without being flawless.

      2) It makes us all the more appreciative for the examples of those among us who can live up to the ideal.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joshua, I’m not sure why you keep seeing marriage as a second rate substitute or less than ideal. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-5, citing of course the Genesis passage. Why would God design a relationship that would be relegated to some sort of appeasement? From the beginning, man and woman were made to be in relationship with each other and this should reflect the intimacy concerning Christ and the church, as Paul describes in Ephesians 5.

      And I think Paul’s overall concern was distraction from our heavenly relationship not necessarily to tell people that singleness is better. If you are single, you can focus on the Lord. But if you can’t handle that, get married. The main point is I Corinthians 7:35 – to secure devotion to the Lord.

    • #John1453

      Re my comment about sexual wholeness in my posts # 5 & 9, and responses thereto

      Why “Gay Marriage” Is Wrong
      by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D.

      The vision of marriage found in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures is one of reuniting male and female into an integrated sexual whole. Marriage is not just about more intimacy and sharing one’s life with another in a lifelong partnership. It is about sexual merger—or, in Scripture’s understanding, re-merger—of essential maleness and femaleness.

      The creation story in Genesis 2:18-24 illustrates this point beautifully. An originally binary, or sexually undifferentiated, adam (“earthling”) is split down the “side” (a better translation of Hebrew tsela than “rib”) to form two sexually differentiated persons. Marriage is pictured as the reunion of the two constituent parts or “other halves,” man and woman.

      This is not an optional or minor feature of the story. Since the only difference created by the splitting is a differentiation into two distinct sexes, the only way to reconstitute the sexual whole, on the level of erotic intimacy, is to bring together the split parts. A same-sex erotic relationship can never constitute a marriage because it will always lack the requisite sexual counterparts or complements.

      Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon is Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001), and co-author, with Dan Via, of Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Fortress, 2003).

      In the new kingdom, Jesus says that we will no longer be given in marriage, which implies that though we will keep our sexual identity (Jesus reappeared as a male in his new body after his resurrection), we will no longer sex sexual union. However, this side of death and the new kingdom, we are still in the creation domain wherein God created women out of man and specifically blessed sexual union.

      Though there are single people in scripture (Paul, Jesus–for obvious reasons that don’t pertain to us), only one person, Jeremiah, is recorded in the Bible as being explicitly told not to marry. The Bible has very strong marriage bent. However, Paul has reframed the marriage singleness issue not in terms of priority or greater blessing or which is better. When he says ‘I wish that all were as I myself am,’ he means celibate and able to focus single mindedly and single heartedly on working for the kingdom, not just merely single. When it comes to just the issue of marriage or singleness, Paul puts them both on the same level: “but each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” Paul’s focus is not on us but on God, it is God who gives some what it takes for holy celibacy and some what it takes for holy matrimony.” It is not God’s will or purpose that one state (singleness/marriage) is better than the other or more ideal, but rather that God gives…

    • Joshua Allen

      And I think Paul’s overall concern was distraction from our heavenly relationship not necessarily to tell people that singleness is better. If you are single, you can focus on the Lord. But if you can’t handle that, get married.

      I have not once said or implied that singleness, in and of itself, is better than marriage, nor did Paul. The context of your post, and of this discussion, is clearly about devotion to God.

      What I have been saying, and what Paul said extremely unambiguously, is that being single and focused only on Christ, is better than being married and Christian. There is an unambiguous value judgment in Paul; there is no escaping it. He clearly sees marriage as a compromised choice meant to replace one negative distraction (burning with passion) for a less damaging distraction (being married).

      @John – no arguments from me about the homosexuality points. I understood your point and agree. But I wanted to take the time to respond to this.

      Paul puts them both on the same level: “but each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” … It is not God’s will or purpose that one state (singleness/marriage) is better than the other or more ideal

      This is not a matter of interpretation or opinion. Paul is very clearly making a value judgment. When Paul says “each has his own special gift”, this is certainly meant to provide solace to those who do not have the spiritual gifts necessary to serve God alone, without distraction of lustful carnal passion. But one would be committing the grievous error of “adding to scripture” to say that these “other” gifts he talks about include the “gift of lust-compensatory marriage”. Paul, in the very same breath, makes absolutely certain that he cannot be misconstrued about this point (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). He goes out of his way to describe lust-compensatory marriage as a compromise that can be exercised by the Christian to hold him over while he exercises the other gifts that he has been given. No objective reader could read that passage and conclude anything other than that Paul was talking about other spiritual gifts. Paul enumerates spiritual gifts multiple times elsewhere. Nowhere when he enumerates “gifts” does Paul list “getting married to control my lust” as a gift, and the tone of 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 makes it impossible to conclude that he is enumerating this as a gift in this passage. Thus, to conclude that Paul is putting lust-compensatory marriage on equal footing with a total dedication to God, is sorely mistaken.

      I do agree with you that Paul is not making a statement about the relative merits of marriage vs. singleness as a “state” in the absence of God. I don’t believe anyone here is making any such statements.

    • bethyada

      lisa, this is a very discerning post. Well written.

      A question: I do see God as a Father taught a little in the OT but expanded significantly by Jesus. While I take your points on the limitation of God as a husband in the OT, could this not be expanded in a similar manner?

      (I don’t know)

      John1453 Adam was most certainly not talking simply about companionship when he exclaimed “bone of my bone” and “flesh of my flesh”.

      Michael Bell Agreed, but we need to make sure that we interpret this in line with Genesis 29:14.

      “And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.” KJV

      The is a statement about family ties. When we become “one flesh” with someone, it is a statment that we are now joined as family. We must be careful in light of the Genesis 29 passage not to draw too much intimacy into the interpretation.

      Yes, this is about a close relationship. The example of Laban points to Jacob being related by blood (as opposed to other humans). The example in Genesis 2:23 specifies the literalness of the bone and blood (and probably contrasts the woman to the animals). The example in Genesis 2:24 therefore implies relationship in terms of family.

      However there is likely overlay to the relationship within the Godhead, and there is certainly sexual overlay in the comment. Sex is how other people become one flesh as close to a literal way that is possible. And Paul confirms the sexual/ intimacy component of the interpretation in 1 Corinthians 6:16.

      Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

    • #John1453

      Lisa has described an important truth when she wrote: “I have heard many women who have either been in my position as a single mother or currently are single and have to go it alone, including parenting and bring up the reference of God as their husband, that He has to fill the void of the missing spouse.” I continue to take issue with the incorrect theology and Bible interpretation of Joshua Allen who (incorrectly) states: that Jesus is his husband, that it is wrong to state that God is not substitute, that a need for husbandly companionship is a weakness, that marriage is a compromised choice, and that marriage is a concession to lust.

      Neither men nor women are the bride of Christ; the church is both his body and His bride. It is a corporate relationship, not an individual one.

      God is not a substitute and has intentionally designed us with needs that He will not meet. When God made Adam alone, the original single, God pronounced His creation of Adam as “good”, but then went on to say that it was “not good” that Adam be alone. The need for marital companionship is a designed good, not a design flaw.

      That God designed marriage as a good puts the lie to the assertion that it was a mere concession to lust. Lust came later with the fall. Marriage was prior to the fall. Of course, it is still good practical advice for Paul the pastor to tell singles in this flock to marry rather than sin, but what is practical advice does not negate the original good non-lust design of marriage. The teleology of marriage, its goal and raison d’etre (reason for being) is not the reduction of sin from lust.

      The reason for being for marriage is to reflect the image of God, to fill the earth with children, to be a type or symbol of the relationship of Christ to His church.

      In Genesis 1:26 -27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule . . .’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Only together do man and woman reflect the fullness of God’s own image. Of course, that does not mean “man” and “woman” don’t represent the image apart from marriage. But it does mean that marriage is to be seen from within that context, not from within the context of lust.

      Allen also ignores two imports aspects of the then contemporary context of the Corinthian Church. First, it appears that some in Corinth were teacing that singleness is a state that is spiritually superior to marriage and hence told single people to stay unmarried and married people either to divorce their spouses (so they could be single and more spiritual!) or to live with their marriage partners in a continent relationship (remain married but refrain from sexual intercourse in the future). All this owing to the Greek philosophical dualism between matter (as evil) and spirit (good). Second, [cont]

    • Lisa Robinson

      Bethyada, the reason I used the OT references because they expressly identify God as husband. I couldn’t come up with the reference in the NT. The only one being, as others have stated, the church as the bride of Christ. I would also place this in context of our covenant position “in Christ” and not use it as a platitude for spouse substitution.

    • #John1453

      [continued from my post #25]

      Second, there was a historical context in which a crisis of some kind (famine, persecution?) made it prudent for people not to change their life circumstance. in 1 Cor. 7:26 Paul writes, “Because of the impending crisis I think it best for you to remain as you are.” Paul makes all sorts of comments about relationships or life situations that should not be changed at that time. Having or raising or leading a family is difficult in times of crisis, so it is no wonder that the pastoral Paul wishes that everyone was single like him–no distractions in terms of concerns about one’s family. But a pastoral concern and advice cannot be turned into a theological proposition about the value of marriage or its teleological validity or what God sees as better.

      In Matthew 19:1-12, especially Matt. 19:5-6, Jesus reaffirms the creation account in Genesis and the programmatic validity of marriage. Hebrews 13:4 states that marriage is to be honoured among all. The dualism that Paul is combatting also appears in his letter to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 4:1-4 Paul writes, “4:1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, 4:2 influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. 4:3 They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” There are also, of course, the passages about married bishops and elders, which certainly assumes the normative nature of marriage though it cannot be pressed to make marriage a prerequisite. So, overall in the New Testament remaining unmarried continues to be, as it was in teh Old Testament, an exception to the norm and is presented as a divine gift in Scripture. Singleness, or the state of being unmarried, is also a gift.

      It is incorrect to state that Paul is making a preference for one state over the other, and incorrect to an even greater degree to state that marriage is a compromised choice, and even worse to link marriage primarily lust release and sin prevention. Each state is a gift, and each state can serve God. If a state of marriage is a gift from God, a gifting carries with it both blessing and intent. It is God’s will for some to be married. If it is both God’s gifting and His will, it cannot be a compromised choice. Paul’s comments, made pastorally to a church in crisis times, are not, therefore, about a preferred state as it is seen by God, but only his own personal recommendations in their present circumstances. However, even in those circumstances, which made marriage and family and the concerns that come with those states difficult, Paul says that it is better to endure the difficulties of those states in the crisis times than it is to avoid those difficulties but fall into sin (of premarital or extramarital fornication).


    • Joshua Allen

      @John – You are all over the map, and remind of the man who “doth protest too much”. I have only made, and defended, a very simple claim:

      In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul strongly and unambiguously makes a value judgment that it is better to live single in devotion to Christ, who is the groom of the Church, than it is to be married as a Christian. (He also makes a value judgment that being married as a Christian is better than being single and lustful).

      You may disagree with Paul, and you may disagree with the scriptures, but you cannot deny that this is what the scriptures say.

    • Char

      Re comment 22: This seems odd to me. That we are still sexed in the kingdom but do not have sexual unions would argue against the idea that we are incomplete without experiencing such a union. we will be fully human then, not less. Is it not possible that some people have arrived at that state early?

      And again I don’t think one can argue that a person is incomplete without a partner but that being partnerless is an equally acceptable state to marriage. Saying the single person is “incomplete” suggests that they should want to be made complete.

      I think this is where it gets subjective. I suppose it’s a case of the old can’t miss what you don’t know, but I feel absolutely no lack for being single. Physically, yes I was made to procreate. But I am not only a physical being and I think that is being missed.

      I do think Paul was speaking to a specific situation with the Corinthians for the record.

    • #John1453

      Re post 29: Perhaps some clarification is needed. I didn’t say, nor intend to say, that a person is an incomplete person. Rather, it is that a person on their own is an incomplete representation of the image of God. Both male and female are necessary to represent and to be a complete image of God.

      In that context the mystical union of two people as one flesh is revelatory of the mystical union of Christ and the Church, and of the unity of the Godhead. Despite J. Allen’s protests to the contrary, his view of marriage is too low and is not consistent with what Paul is teaching in that passage or elsewhere.

      To be clear: people are complete as individuals. However, people are also specifically designed with needs that God will not fulfill (at least in this present age) directly by or through the indwelling Spirit. One of these needs is opposite sex relational intimacy. That is the predominant form of relational gifting in this present age, but God also gifts people for singleness. This latter gift may be in the form of a lack of a felt need for opposite sex marital intimacy of relationship, but I’m not sure that it always is. Like the dark night of the soul that God gives us, it seems to me possible that some gifting for singleness takes not the form of a lack of desire or need, but instead takes the form of God’s sufficiency in the face of such a felt need.


    • TW

      is it possible to view God as a theoblog?

    • #John1453

      Re post 28. I can, and I do.

      Also, neither the “all over the map” nor the “doth protest too much” statements proves nothing. The former is an example of the ad hominem fallacy if it is directed at me (you are all over the map), or an example of the fallacy of ridicule (the argument is all over the map). The latter is an example of the fallacy of ridicule. The use of the fallacies avoids dealing with the specific arguments made.

      The fallacyof “Appeal to Ridicule” is also known as the “Appeal to Mockery”, or “The Horse Laugh”. The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an “argument.” This line of “reasoning” has the following form:

      X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).
      Therefore claim C is false.

      This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: “1+1=2! That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”

      It may be that J. Allen and I will have to agree to disagree on the correct interpretation of that passage in 1 Corinthians. However, I contend that the interpretation I present is more consistent with the teachings in the Bible and supports the propositions stated by Lisa in her lede post, where as J. Allen’s is not and does not.


    • Char

      John, thanks for the clarification. I see where you are coming from now.

    • Denise Hughes

      “Yes, the Bible does draw a comparison to God as husband but it is not in the context of a substitution for a marital relationship. Rather, it is always in the context of a covenant relationship between God and His people, namely Israel.”

      In particular, Isaiah 54:4-8 comes to mind. You are right to further the analogous distinction as being between God and Israel rather than merely between a single woman and “God as her husband.” If a person has never experienced a deep and severe pain or loss, then in all probability he or she may have a difficult time relating to someone who has; thus, well-meaning people sometimes offer trite words, such as suggesting that “God can be an all-fulfilling husband,” in an attempt to “placate” a depth of pain they cannot fully understand. I surmise that such “helpful words” are more to help themselves feel better than anything else.

      Denise Hughes

    • John From Down-Under

      Strictly from an observation’s point of view, most of the ones I have come across who take such anthropomorphisms literally, have an underlying need to overcompensate for something lacking in their lives (other than biblical ignorance or misunderstanding)

      The last person I met who was like that was a divorcee wearing a wedding ring and telling everybody that he was married to Jesus (the fact that he was male is even more troublesome!)

      Secondly, most of the ones I met, exude a sense of pseudo-spirituality and elitism that comes with this belief and it seems to give them a false sense of elevated devotion to Christ.

    • Leslie

      Lisa, another well-written post! I myself have thought on this a few times, but haven’t been able to articulate.

    • mbaker


      I think you captured something here that married, and never separated by death/divorce folks, may not understand.

      It isn’t a matter of missing something you’ve never had, but missing something you had and lost. I too found that problematic in several ways when I was single mom:

      Let’s face it, an attractive single woman is either considered a burden or threat in some parts of the church, and even in her circle of friends. Folks know she needs help with ‘male’ type things like heavy lifting, yard work, home repairs and etc;- the things a husband normally does – but sometimes men in the church are reluctant to help because they are afraid of having two ‘honey do’ lists.

      Then of course there is the three’s a crowd thing that comes up in relationships between single women and a couple. Unless the wife is very secure, and knows the single woman is not after her husband, I found that to be a problem too.

      And, of course, if you have children at home there is the absentee father figure problem to deal with also. Few men in the church are willing to spend time with other people’s children playing ball, and doing everyday things a father would normally do, simply because so many of them don’t have adequate time for their own children because of their job demands.

      I’ve noticed most of the comments here so far deal with the spiritual aspects, but there is also a whole other practical side that both widows and divorcees have to deal with too, as I pointed out, not to mention the loneliness on holidays when other people want to be their spouses, and you are left alone.

      I don’t think folks who have never been there and done that can really completely understand that there’s a big difference between choosing to be single, as the apostle Paul did, and becoming single after you’ve known and enjoyed the closeness of marriage.

      Thanks for your post. it resonates with all of us who have been in the same position. I shall certainly pray that God bring a suitable mate into your life, as He has in mine.

      God bless.

    • Joshua Allen

      @JohnFromDownUnder – I can honestly say that I’ve never met anyone who took the symbolism literally.

      South Park did a few episodes about this idea (, but I assumed they were just exaggerating for comic effect.

      It’s a bit disturbing that someone would actually walk around with a ring on his finger boasting like that. Where does one find such people?

    • Joshua Allen

      I don’t think folks who have never been there and done that can really completely understand that there’s a big difference between choosing to be single, as the apostle Paul did, and becoming single after you’ve known and enjoyed the closeness of marriage.

      @mbaker – We need to be careful here, and not mislead about what Paul said. Paul explicitly talks about widows (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). For people who unwillingly became single after knowing the closeness of marriage, he still judges being devoted to God alone as being better than being married (and he judges being married as better than being single and lustful).

      We may disagree with Paul, and we may feel that his advice does not apply to us, but we need to be honest about what he actually said.

      Again, this is emphatically not a judgment against marriage. Marriage is beautiful and God-given, as I know from experience. And for what it is worth, I am currently on my second marriage, and I deeply know the pain of “becoming single after you’ve known and enjoyed the closeness of marriage”. My wife also knows that pain, this being her second marriage as well. And I have a whole boatload of other life experiences that make me qualified to empathize with people who are experiencing this need and loneliness.

      I understand how Paul’s words can seem harsh and critical to people (like myself) who cannot remain unmarried. But the solution is not to change or distort what he says. The solution is to realize that he is not condemning marriage; he is simply saying that a life devoted to following Christ is better. When Christ said that we are to hate our father and mother (Luke 14:26), was he condemning fatherhood and motherhood? No! But he was making a statement about the value of fatherhood and motherhood versus following him.

    • Dave Z

      John mentioned this in passing, but it seems to me that any attempt to be obedient to God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” REQUIRES marriage.

      For those who take that command seriously, marriage is without doubt better than choosing to be single, regardless of what Paul wrote.

      Paul’s words prompt a question in my mind. Is he expressing God’s wish? Or his own opinion? Are they God’s words or his? If God’s words, then God’s wish, and we have major problems with the creation account. If Paul’s wish, then his opinion, and an opinion apparently different than God’s, seeing as how God created sexuality and ordained marriage. And what does that mean for verbal plenary inspiration?

      Finally, who or what is the Bride of Christ? In Revelation, it appears to be an actual city, the New Jerusalem, a (very large) physical object, not an ekklēsia or assembly, and certainly not a person.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joshua, I don’t see how mbaker’s words in any way negate what Paul recommends. The fact that we may want to marry does not dismiss the fact of whether we should or not. But I do believe it is consistent with Paul’s recommendation, that if you do desire to marry you should for the purpose is to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. I believe that is the theme of his recommendation, not to say singleness is better or marriage is better. Also, consider what he says in 1 Timothy 5:14, that he wants younger widows to marry.

      Honestly, I think one of the reasons women gravitate towards identifying God as their husband, because the desire to marry is there but when confronted with encouragement such as yours, it produces a false sense of guilt for having those desires. I am not saying that you are intentionally doing this, but that is the result of such encouragement because it can make one feel like they should want to be single since that is what Paul seems to be recommending in 1 Corinthians 7. But they don’t want to be single so they overcompensate, as one person already suggested, and look to God as a surrogate spouse. I personally do not think that encouragement is helpful and I also think we have to look at Paul’s words in consideration of the complete witness of Scripture concerning marriage.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Mbaker, thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I wish I could state that I miss something good that I had. Unfortunately, that is not the case. But I am thankful that God knows the deepest recesses for my position and desires.

      And I think you hit the nail on the head about the men not wanting involvement with a single woman’s children. I have grieved that my 11 year old son is without male leadership, something I see him really needing. No one steps up to the plate and trying to find even just a mentor for him has been tiring and frustrating.

    • mbaker

      You’re most welcome, Lisa. I shall certainly pray also for a worthy man who will be a leader for to your son, and to take up time with him. The lack of that is probably a lot harder on single moms to bear than our own loneliness, loving our children as we do, and trying to wear both hats for them as best we can.

      God bless.

    • Joshua Allen

      @Lisa – There are truly women who desire only God, and who do not desire to get married. We should not denigrate them by saying that they are “compensating”. It may not be anyone’s intention to insult and diminish the holiness of these saints by falsely claiming that our lust-compensating marriage is equal to their selfless celibacy, but that is the end result.

      What I have been saying from the beginning, is that there are people who are better and more spiritually gifted than us in this respect. We should not feel threatened or “guilty” by that fact — indeed, we should praise God! If the example of saints who are holier than us is cause for us to feel “guilty” and to rewrite scripture, we should ask ourselves why.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joshua, I think we have a disconnect. I am in no ways suggesting that those who find themselves single (never married,divorced, widowed) and are content to remain alone are exhibiting some kind of super spirituality, and therefore I have some kind of disdain for them. I applaud such people and honestly wish I could take that position. Trust me I do. It would make things a lot easier for me.

      But on the flip side, those who do desire to remarry are often told, based on Paul’s recommendation, that they should embrace singleness and sometimes to the extent that they should not want to get married. After all, God is their husband. I think this advice produces a false sense of guilt. And this is what I take issue with.

    • mbaker


      I see you keep using the term ‘lust-compensating marriage’. Could you define exactly what you mean by that?

      I’m not sure that I understand why you think God intended marriage only to take care of sexual needs. Nowadays, it’s certainly easier to find outlets for that as single folks in our permissive society. But for us Christians, marriage is also supposed an important emotional and spiritual union, is it not? Aren’t we to understand and to experience Christ and His union with the church through the marital bond as well?

    • Joshua Allen

      Thanks Lisa, I think you and I are actually on the same page. I was reacting primarily to the claims that “Paul really meant to say that the two were the same”, and to the suggestion that Paul was only talking about himself and not about widows, and so on. We needn’t compromise the scriptures to live peacefully with the words of Paul.

      In fact, Paul took great precautions to remove any stigma of guilt associated with his judgment. He states that a Christ-only celibacy is due to unique spiritual gifts. And a gift, by definition, is something that you cannot earn for yourself. As I stated early in this thread, the people who tell you that you should or ought not to want marriage, are clearly misunderstanding what the word “gift” means. If you don’t have it, you don’t have it (and I don’t have it). Nobody should feel guilty about not having a gift, and nobody should be telling others what gifts they “ought” to have.

    • John From Down-Under

      Joshua Allen # 37 Post

      Thank you for pointing out my overstatement! By ‘literally’ I was referring to those (as already mentioned by others) who see God as a substitute husband in their belief. With the benefit of hindsight I could have phrased it better.

      I carefully prefaced my comments with most of as it certainly does not apply to all. However, I have met enough whom I got to know well and their personal lives had elements that clearly pointed to a need to make up what was lacking. The ones I know personally were a case of failed marriages, somewhat socially awkward personalities, and in one case not-so-attractive looks. With that I also noticed that their whole theology was primarily driven by an idealistic super devotion.

      While some of these folk may be misguided, I do not condescend those who have sincerely chosen the path of celibacy. However the weight of biblical evidence leans more on the exception rather than the commonality of the celibacy gift. Those who try to perpetuate celibacy without the gift, skate on thin ice.

      In response to your question Where does one find such people? I say, come down under. We’re pretty ‘edgy’ down here:)

      Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

    • Joshua Allen

      @mbaker – I personally wouldn’t speak of marriage as being “lust-compensatory”, typically. I was simply paraphrasing what Paul is saying to the Corinthians:

      Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

      Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession

      Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

      Paul’s message is inescapable — he sees the Corinthians as lacking the spiritual gift of self-control, and thus unable to remain celibate and dedicated entirely to Christ. So he recommends that they get married as a way to compensate for their lust, in a moral manner, rather than “burn with passion”. He clearly sees this as a “concession”, or compromise.

      As you say, there are many ways besides marriage in which one can find “release” for their lust. In fact, we find that the Corinthians were just as adept at adultery and other forms of sexual immorality as we moderns are. Paul was quite clearly recommending marriage as a form of sexual release which is not immoral.

      You or I may disagree with Paul, but we ought to be honest about what Paul is actually saying, before disagreeing. In this respect, I like Dave Z’s answer a lot, since Dave is expressing an honest and well-thought disagreement to Paul, without distorting or changing Paul’s words.

    • mbaker


      I cannot agree that Paul is making it a competition of singleness vs the marital state, since he is clearly qualifying his statement by saying saying “if”, which makes it a choice, not a mandate, to either to marry or to remain single if we are needing to. In fact, he says ” I would prefer” when referring to what he himself thinks the ideal state of serving Christ would be like. And he goes on to state why. I certainly don’t that see as an either or thing, and I’m not sure why you do.

      I think, as Lisa and #John pointed out earlier, you are failing to put this one scripture into context with the rest of scripture regarding marriage because Genesis says that the Lord Himself says “It is not right for man to remain alone”.

      I find that I have much more free time to serve the Lord wholeheartedly since I have been married and relieved of all the financial burden of being the sole provide,r and parent to my child, than I ever did when I was single.

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