Pauline Household Code As Hermeneutics Paradigm For Practical Theology On Marriage And Family


Pauline Household Code As Hermeneutics Paradigm For Practical Theology On Marriage And Family

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Background to the Study

This study examines how Pauline Household code can be seen as interpretative example or model for practical theology on marriage and family life. Many problems affecting marriages today emanate from a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the roles of members within the family. Many are enduring instead of enjoying their marriage. As Ugwu (2014) puts it: “Soon after the consummation of marriage, couples are face to face with the realities of marriage. They are confronted with the challenges of blending two heterogeneous lives together and at the same time, fulfilling their marital vows and responsibilities of marriage: loving, caring and helping each other, coupled with bearing and rearing up children.” (p. xi) He further submits that most marriages hit the rocks within the first five years of consummation with couples estranged, separated or completely divorced while a number of couples who are not physically divorced could be living under one roof as husbands and wives in pretence (Ugwu,2014: xii).

Marriage was instituted by God when He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”. (Gen.2:18 RSV). The husband and wife come together in a profound, intimate and mysterious way that is unlike any other human relationship. Thus, marriage is not man’s invention, but is a gift of God to man with rules to obey. When God’s laws or rules concerning marriage are compromised, that is when marital problems arise.

Ugwu (2014) corroborated this by saying that:

The biggest problem facing the marriage institution today is the total ignorance and rejection of God  and His original plans, precepts and purposes for the single man and single woman whom He created and joined together in marriage at the beginning in His infinite wisdom and mathematics of ‘two shall become one flesh.’ As a result, couples and even some religious organizations, have chosen their own methods and interpretations of marriage and marital issues. They have developed their own solutions to nuptial problems, with disgusting and heartbreaking consequences, marital frictions and failures, infidelity and polygamy, family feuds and court cases, separations and divorces, broken homes and abandoned children. (p. 3)

It is noteworthy that man needs to understand and acknowledge that God’s laws and commandments about marriage, its relationships and problems, supersede all governmental traditional and denominational laws and dogmas on the subject. Ugwu (2014) agreeing with this opines that “God’s laws about marriage also overrides the opinions of nationally and internationally acclaimed novelists, magazine columnists and modern marriage counsellors and the advocacy of human and equal rights activists. More than all, God’s original plan, purpose and precepts for marriage overrides personal feelings, ideas and convictions on any feelings, ideas and convictions on any marital issue.” (p. 4)

But what are God’s original plan, purpose and precepts for marriage? God’s design, plan and purpose for a satisfactory and successful marriage is just one man, one woman, and the two becoming one by marital fusion. This is the only type of marriage established and ordained by God in the Bible. This is known as monogamy. God in His wisdom and plan for His own brand of marriage, took just one rib and made only one woman or wife and deemed that only one wife be adequate to cover the vacuum of companionship and help needed for the man. He could have taken out about two or more ribs from the man to form two or more helpers or wives for him, so that the helpers or wives could be enough to satisfy man’s needs. But God did not, He knew in His infinite wisdom that that one woman is enough to fill the vacuum of helping the man to achieve his purpose in life.

People marry for various reasons. But the original purpose of God for establishing marriage can be categorized into four according to Adie & Crabbe (2013). First, there is the Emotional Purpose. The first major reason for marriage is to meet the man’s emotional needs. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” He needs someone he can share with so as to relieve his loneliness. Marriage provides companionship and friendship between spouses (Adei & Crabbe, 2013: 10).

Second, there is the Social Purpose of bearing children to continue the race to reproduce themselves. That is, for procreation. According to Kostenberger (2004:98), procreation was also considered as integral part of God’s plan for marriage. He refers among other things to Gen. 1:28, 9:1, and 35:11. However, this point of view poses some ethical problems, because in Doumas’s (1993) opinion, the childless marriage was not perceived as inferior. Douma seems to believe that procreation is of secondary importance because a childless marriage can also be a blessing and that a couple can even choose not to have children in circumstances where the forming of a family may be detrimental to wellbeing of the marriage or society. Adesina (2010) however disagreed with the view of Hauerwas (2002) that Christians are called to marriage in order to build up the church and also with the opinion of Douma (1996). She agrees with Kostenberger that voluntary childlessness conflicts with God’s intention for marriage. Kostenberger maintains that those who marry must be willing to have children.

Third reason for God to institute marriage is for Physical Purpose. This will help man to fulfil the normal physical desires given to both of them by God, that is “to express love in its entirety: “agape”, “philos” and “eros” (1 Cor. 7:1-5).

Finally, Paul added this fourth reason, Spiritual Purpose in Eph. 5:22-33, so that both of them will experience with each other the love, unity and harmony that exists within the Godhead, and between Christ and His Church.” (Adei & Crabbe, 2013: 10). Marriage implies a deep spiritual relation between man, wife and Christ. It is also more than a mere legal contract. It is a covenant between the man and wife before God which is a harbinger of the covenant between God and His people (Douma, 1993).

This covenantal character of marriage entails that it is a sacred bond that is characterized by permanence, sacredness, intimacy, mutuality and exclusiveness (Kostenberger, 2004). This idea of the family being deeply embedded in covenant relationship was explained by Wedderburn (1998) who submits that the formula of the covenant expressed in Genesis 17:7 describes the essence of the relationship: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” (NIV). Most families are not aware of these truths.

Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to examine how Pauline household principles can be seen as model for practical theology on Christian marriage and family with reference to Foursquare Gospel Church, Ikorodu Axis, Lagos State. The specific objectives include:

  1. To find out the origin of the Household codes or “Haustafeln”.
  2. To examine husband-wife relationship and roles in the Pauline household codes in comparison with contemporary family relationship.
  3. To examine the concept of parenting in the New Testament Household code.
  4. To find out Master-House help relationship in the Christian family.

Statement of the Problem

Marriage as some of the members of the society view it is a contract between two individuals, which can be dissolved if there is sufficient cause with such a limited view of marriage, it is natural for society to find all kinds of excuses to dissolve the marriage relationship, and even to enter into marriage on a trial basis to see how it will work out (Christenson, 1971). The Bible however looks upon marriage not as a social contract between two individuals that can be dissolved at will, rather it looks upon marriage as a mystery (Eph. 5:31-32). That means every Christian marriage is designed to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His Church.

At one time or another, all marriages will face a crisis. The secret of success in overcoming the crisis is for each person in the family to have the proper understanding of Christian family virtues and values; and to keep to their own individual function. Not having a proper interpretation of household culture and roles as presented by Paul is a major cause of marital problems in the contemporary Christian homes. Many Christian homes are threatened because members of the family unit are not ready to obey the Biblical principles governing how to live in a household. Christenson (1971:14) submits that “divine order in the home has to do with the relationship of order and authority between the various members in a family”.



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