What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe About Marriage and Family?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes God made marriage and family as special blessings to reflect Him and His love for us.
Adam, the first human, had a longing for companionship—a longing we still experience today.
That’s because God designed us for relationships with one another. And He’s also provided us with counsel in Scripture to show us how to have happy relationships, marriages, and families.
We’re about to cover:
- Why marriage is important to us
- Where the idea of marriage and family is first mentioned in the Bible
- Sin’s effects on marriage and family
- Biblical principles for a healthy marriage
- What Adventists believe about parenting
- How God works with us through dysfunctional family situations
But before we go further, here’s a summary of our fundamental belief on this topic from the official church website:
“Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship.
For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between a man and a woman who share a common faith. Mutual love, honor, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love, sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship between Christ and His church.” (Gen. 2:18-25; Exod. 20:12; Deut. 6:5-9; Prov. 22:6; Mal. 4:5, 6; Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:3-9, 12; Mark 10:11, 12; John 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:7, 10, 11; 2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:21-33; 6:1-4.)
As you’ll see in the following sections, this belief is firmly grounded on principles found in the Bible.
Let’s start with why marriage matters to us.
Why is marriage important to Adventists?
Adventism teaches that marriage is important because it was given to humanity from God as a blessing and a model of the relationship we should have with Him.
God gave humans the desire for companionship (Genesis 2:20–23). And though every relationship provides an opportunity to learn, grow, love, and enjoy life together, marriage is meant to be the deepest and most intimate. It reflects the connection God wants with each one of us.
He knows we best understand situations we can relate to. So, in giving us the opportunity to love someone else and receive love in return, He shows us what His love and devotion is all about.
He compares His love for us to that of a husband for his wife. He is faithful and committed to His “marriage covenant” with us and doesn’t desire anything to get in the way of that relationship (Hosea 2:19; Isaiah 54:5).
This emphasis on the exclusivity and permanence of marriage further shows how important it is.
As a matter of fact, we believe:
“God blesses the family and intends that its members shall assist each other toward complete maturity. Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message.”1
In addition to bringing enrichment and joy to our lives, marriage is a powerful witness for God and Christianity because it teaches us how to love others better. The qualities that make us better spouses—honesty, kindness, selflessness, and more—also encompass Christian living.
And those principles go all the way back to the first chapters of the Bible. More on them next.
Where is the idea of marriage and family first mentioned in the Bible?
The institutions of marriage and family began in the Garden of Eden when God created Adam, the first human, with a desire for a partner.
With that desire came a certain anticipation.
Adam and God were both aware that he needed a woman. The only problem? God hadn’t created any women yet (Genesis 2:20)!
Of course, God couldn’t have forgotten! He doesn’t make mistakes.
Rather, it’s likely that God waited to make Eve so Adam could acknowledge his unspoken desire for a partner.
And once he did, God was happy to fulfill it. He created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs and presented her to Adam, who happily received her (Genesis 2:21–22).
God was the driving force behind their relationship. He guided their desire for a partner and brought them together. He even blessed them with children to form the first family (Genesis 4:1).
The way God created the first marriage relationship helps us understand how He intends marriages to operate.
The marriage relationship
The marriage relationship is a special and exclusive partnership between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:20–24). It’s formed when they each make a promise, or a covenant, to stay by each other’s side and support and serve one another.
It all started with how God created Eve.
We know that God took material from Adam to create Eve, but the way that He does this is incredibly significant.
He took Eve from Adam’s rib, signaling that she was to rule at his side (Genesis 2:21). She wasn’t to rule over him or be ruled by him.2
They were equals, both made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
They were made out of the same flesh, symbolizing that they were about as close as two beings could be. But at the same time, they were given different genders to be physically complementary and distinct from one another (Mark 10:6–9).
Just as the first couple joined together and became “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), spouses today have the privilege of uniting in sexual union. The Bible calls husbands and wives to care for one another as they would care for their own bodies (Ephesians 5:25–29).
This unity and lifetime commitment reminds us of what God wants in His relationship with us. Just like a marriage covenant, God longs for us to promise ourselves to Him and never let Him go (Deuteronomy 10:20; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
This kind of relationship—with both God and a spouse—is built on mutual selflessness and submission.
What about the concept of submission in marriage?
Just as Christ gave Himself for us, the Bible calls husbands and wives to love and submit to each other. Though Ephesians 5:22–24 tells wives to submit to their husbands, and for husbands to love their wives, these words are simply different sides of the same coin.
Submission is defined as “being submissive, humble, or compliant.”
And as Christians, we’re all called to be submissive.
Right before Paul gets into talking about submission in marriage in Ephesians 5, he mentions submission among Christians. And he outright says that we are all called to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21).
This doesn’t mean we let others dictate how we live or what we believe in. We’re not called to ignore our own needs.
But God asks us to put away self in service and love to others.
And if you think about it, we are more familiar and accustomed to submission than we realize. We submit to many things without a second thought. Things like reasonable societal norms, certain authority figures, workplace etiquette, or the wishes of a friend.
We often submit to these expectations without feeling like we’re submitting to them at all. It’s natural.
And with God’s help, it can become natural in marriage too.
Paul compares the love of a husband to the love Christ has for the church. Jesus demonstrated this love by living a life of service and by eventually “submitting” His life so we could have eternal life (Mark 10:45; Ephesians 5:25).
This shows us that God designed submission and love to work hand-in-hand.
In fact, the Bible tells us that selflessness is the greatest act of love (John 15:13).
Wives are called to submit to their husbands through their love, service, and loyalty (Proverbs 31:10–31).
In the same way, husbands are called to love their wives by submitting to them through acts of love, service, and loyalty (Philippians 2:3).
Ellen White, a prominent leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, puts it this way:
“Neither husband nor wife is to make a plea for rulership. The Lord has
laid down the principle that is to guide in this matter. The husband is to
cherish his wife as Christ cherishes the church. And the wife is to respect
and love her husband. Both are to cultivate the spirit of kindness, being
determined never to grieve or injure the other.”3
If you still find yourself confused about the subject of submission, we urge you to study and pray about it. In the end, you’ll know you’re truly loving your spouse when your relationship is built on mutual respect, selfless love, and dedication.
What do Adventists teach about sin’s effects on marriage and the family?
When sin entered the world, the institutions of marriage and family were compromised. Sin separated the first married couple from a relationship with God and damaged their relationship with each other (Genesis 3).
Sin was also what caused Adam and Eve’s family to break apart when one of their sons killed the other (Genesis 4:9).
As time progressed, each generation became further separated from God. And subsequently, further from his original plan for human relationships.
This has all resulted in the broken marriages and families we see today. Let’s look at some of the specifics:
It distorted God’s plan for marriage and sex
God made marriage to be a union between a man and a woman, where they would experience an exclusively intimate and precious relationship with one another.
But sin has since distorted God’s original plan.
It’s led to:
- Intimacy without commitment: The purpose of sexual intimacy in marriage is to give spouses a space for vulnerability and connection within the safety of commitment (Genesis 2:23–24; Hebrews 13:4).
- Adultery: God prohibited adultery in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14)—and not because He’s merely nitpicking who we should have sex with. Rather, He understands the need for trust and safety in relationships. Adultery destroys that trust, opening up the sacred vulnerability between a couple to someone else.
- Polygamy: God’s original design was for marriage between one man and one woman. He never endorsed polygamy. Whenever we see it practiced by Old Testament Bible figures, it always ended in disaster. Take it from Jacob’s wives who constantly feuded for Jacob’s affection (Genesis 30). Or Hagar and Ishmael who were mistreated and cast out by their family (Genesis 16:6; 20:8–21).
We endanger ourselves and others when we deviate from God’s plan.
And though sin has a way of making unlawful unions look appealing, they only end in disaster.
Just look at the time David committed adultery with Bathsheba, which later led him to kill her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11–12). This is just one example of how deviating from God’s design leads down a dark path.
But even if we’ve fallen short of God’s plan, God promises forgiveness and redemption. We may still have to face the consequences of our decisions, but God cleanses our hearts and sets us free to live in His purity, just as David did (Psalm 51).
It led to divorce and abuse
When God created marriage, He never intended it to result in separation and split families. Divorce deviates from His design and causes everyone involved pain and loss (Malachi 2:14–16; Matthew 5:32).
That being said, there are times when divorce is warranted. This includes when marriages no longer reflect a Christ-like relationship or a safe environment, specifically cases of adultery (Matthew 19:9) or abuse.
Though there’s no explicit Bible verse about divorcing for abuse, the Bible shows us a loving God who is interested in protecting the oppressed (Psalm 11:5) and doesn’t want us to be in a relationship that endangers us or our children (Colossians 3:19; 1 Timothy 5:8).
God even compares divorcing one’s wife to committing “violence” against her, which suggests that He also considers violence a great cruelty (Malachi 2:13–16).
In the Adventist Church, we’re particularly concerned with helping anyone that’s been a victim of abuse, as we are aware of the great pain it causes and how it fails to reflect the love God calls us to have for one another.
If you’ve found yourself in a situation of abuse or divorce, know that God empathizes with your pain. He knows what it’s like to be rejected and betrayed by the people you love (Hosea 2).
And He promises to be there for us and uplift us when we feel abandoned (Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 10:17).
But maybe you aren’t in any of these extreme circumstances. Maybe you’d just like to strengthen your marriage. Let’s look at the guidance we find in the Bible.
What are some biblical principles for a healthy marriage?
Beyond giving us a definition of what marriage should be, the Bible provides us with principles for making that relationship healthy.
1. Know that not everyone needs to get married (or have kids)
Singleness is no less sacred than marriage. In fact, being single provides opportunities in life and ministry that aren’t necessarily possible in a marriage.
The apostle Paul points out that there are some ways in which we can serve God more easily when we’re not having to balance family support with ministry priorities (1 Corinthians 7:8–9). In other words, some ministries may be more easily accomplished by singles.
But this doesn’t mean that couples and families don’t have equally important ministry or service opportunities. They just might look different from those of singles.
Ultimately, a single or married status doesn’t change your worth or value—God loves you and has a purpose for you either way.
2. Make a commitment to love
It’s easy to get caught up in feelings and romance when you first get to know someone. And you might be able to ride on those feelings for quite some time, though they eventually peter out.
But biblical love, the kind that keeps marriages together, goes far beyond emotions. It involves a choice to serve.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 reflects this concept of love as a commitment. It defines love by describing its characteristics: patience, kindness, selflessness, honesty, forgiveness, protection, hope, and enduring love.
Though it can take time to develop these characteristics in your relationship, ask God to help you embody these traits so you can truly show your spouse you love them. This will not only help you to have a happier, healthier marriage but it’ll also help you learn how to love everyone more—including your parents, children, and neighbors.
3. Establish intimacy expectations
The difference between marriage and other relationships is that marriage allows and promotes having sex. Sexual expectations may vary from person to person, so it’s important to talk with your spouse about the expectations and boundaries you have (1 Corinthians 7:2–6). For both husband and wife, sex should be safe, comfortable, consensual, and enjoyable.
4. Work together
Think of your spouse as your teammate. God has put you two together to face the trials and joys of life together, and this means coming together to address big decisions, encourage, and comfort one another.
Marriage experts suggest that mutual projects and hobbies can help a relationship grow because they teach couples to work alongside each other and solve problems together.4
5. Make God the center of your relationship
Allowing God to guide your marriage can help promote its success and happiness. It can involve simple things like reading God’s Word, praying over major decisions, or finding ways to serve the community together.
That’s why having a spouse with the same basic values is so vital. It’s a lot easier to make God the center of your relationship when you share the same faith (2 Corinthians 6:14–18; 1 Kings 11:4). For this reason, the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual advises church members to avoid marrying unbelievers or non-Adventists given the complications of interfaith marriages.5
Marriage, as God designed it, can build up both spouses, helping create a relationship and family that reflects His love to others.
Next up, we’ll see what the Bible says about raising a Christian family.
What Adventists believe about parenting
Adventists look to the Bible for guidance in raising their children. There, we find that God has given parents the responsibility for teaching their children to follow God (Proverbs 22:6).6 They are called to protect, nurture, and guide their children.
If you happen to be a parent, or are thinking about becoming one, you might wonder what this responsibility looks like.
In essence, the principles come from the model of God’s care for us.
Just as God gives us laws and boundaries for our own protection and benefit, parents are called to set up guidelines and teach their children to respect and obey (Exodus 20:12). Rather than being a way of restricting or limiting the children, obedience is a blessing and a safeguard to them.
But God is careful not to infringe on the free will of His creation. Parents can follow His example by giving their children age-appropriate levels of autonomy and independence.
When it comes to discipline, the Bible instructs parents to correct their children (Proverbs 29:17; Ephesians 6:4), but to do it out of love—not anger or frustration (Colossians 3:21).
This is the concept of redemptive discipline—the idea that it’s important to discipline children (when warranted) to show them:
- The difference between right and wrong
- How to respect and love others as Jesus did
- How to reconcile with others and God when they do wrong
So you may be wondering how these biblical principles for parenting look in practice.
It might be:
- Showing your kids how to love others through your words and your example
- Attending their piano recitals and basketball games and cheering them on
- Lifting them up when they’re feeling down and showing them how to be brave and independent
- Protecting them from the dangers of this world while teaching them how to think and reason for themselves
And you may slip up from time to time. You might say the wrong thing or respond with unwarranted frustration. You might overreact when you’re supposed to stay calm, or fail to respond to a serious situation.
But don’t allow your mistakes and shortcomings to discourage you. Parenting, like the Christian journey, is a growth process. And God extends His grace to you in this season of life.
In fact, as we extend love to our children, it gives us a glimpse into the patient love God has for us. Many Bible verses even describe God as a father or mother (Proverbs 3:11–12; Isaiah 49:15).)
At the same time, children look at their parents and get a picture of what God’s love is like. Their views of life, God, and the Bible will be shaped by the example their parents set.
But what if a family has struggles? How can God help us in dysfunctional situations?
How God works with us through dysfunctional family situations
Because we live in a sinful world, our relationships are often far from perfect. Adventists believe that when we feel alone or like our earthly relationships are falling short, God fills that gap through His presence, the advice in His Word, and a godly support system.7
Sometimes, we may make poor decisions that cause conflict in our families. Other times, tragedy happens to our families that is outside our control. Because we live in a sinful world, we may face problems we never anticipated—like the death of a parent or the betrayal of a spouse.
In these situations, God’s Word offers us comfort and hope:
- Lacking a parent figure in your life? God tells us He will care for us like we’re His children (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 2:19; Isaiah 66:13).
- Feeling lonely in your relationship or incomplete as a single person? God tells us He will satisfy your needs (Psalm 145:14–16).
- Having to start over after leaving an abusive situation? God is your advocate and provider (Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 54:5).
What’s more, He “sets the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6, NKJV). He often works through godly individuals—caring church members, mentors, counselors, and therapists—to bring about the needed growth and healing in our lives.
God is interested in you and wants to help you thrive again.
God cares about your relationships
God created marriage and family as a blessing to humanity and as mirrors of His love for us. In personally bringing Adam and Eve together, He showed how invested He is in helping our human relationships flourish.
Though sin has reached its tentacles into this part of the human experience too, God is still interested in guiding us to the best possible relationships.
Whether you’re looking for love or looking to repair broken relationships, know that God longs to help you find love, belonging, and joy.
The fullest, deepest, and most satisfying relationships on earth are a small glimpse into His heart for us.
Wanting to know more about our relational God and how He can help your relationships flourish? Head on over to
- Ibid. [↵]
- White, Ellen, Adventist Home, p. 25. [↵]
- White, Adventist Home, p. 107. [↵]
- Parrott, Les and Leslie, “Why You and Your Spouse Should Try a New Shared Activity This Spring,” Symbis. [↵]
- Seventh-day Adventists Believe, p. 154 [↵]
- “Official Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” https://www.adventist.org/beliefs/. [↵]
- Ibid. [↵]
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