Celibacy and the Nazarite Vow
In Matthew 19:10-12 is an obscure but powerful testimony from Jesus about marriage. He says the following:
“10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
In this text Jesus is speaking to His disciples about marriage and the Pharisaic issue of divorce for any cause. He speaks of the idea that some can live as eunuchs, not having a wife or husband, but some can’t. Some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. I Corinthians 7:1-16 gives some more guidelines about being a eunuch, at least for a time, and then returning to the marriage bed and uniting with their spouse again after a set time. Returning to the marriage bed is an honorable thing and was blessed by Jesus, our Creator, from the beginning of all things (Hebrews 13:4). It was Jesus Who created Adam and Eve, and it was Jesus Who created sexuality and it was Jesus Who created marriage, and the whole concept of having children. It was Jesus who instructed Adam and Eve that when a marriage occurred the husband and wife were to leave their parents and make their own home (Genesis 2:20-25). God blessed the marriage relationship and pronounced it good, and yet there were some called to be eunuchs, as we have read above.
Marriage and sexuality are interesting concepts, and they were created and blessed by God Himself. Interestingly enough God Himself claims to be have been married and divorced in Jeremiah 3:1-14. In this passage God says He was married to Israel and they played the harlot yet God was willing to take them back and re-establish the marriage even though He had given Israel a bill of divorce in Jeremiah 3:8. Yet in God’s mind He was still married to Israel, even though she acted like Gomer in the book of Hosea. God saw His relationship with His people as having temporary issues which would resolve over time. In fact, according to Revelation 19:7-9 God is preparing His bride right now so that He can consummate the marriage, and He invites all who will to come to His marriage. He even used the marriage theme in one of His parables in Matthew 22:1-14. However, there appears to be a number of time gaps in God’s marriage activities. One of those gaps appears to be that Jesus testified that He was going to go away to prepare for His bride and prepare a place for her and then come back to get her when all of the preparations had been made (John 14:1-3).
This brings us up the second part of the title of this brief article. In Matthew 26:27-29 Jesus testifies that the cup held the symbolic blood of the new covenant which when shed is a promise similar to that of what He did with Abraham in Genesis 15: when the blood was shed to promise that God would fulfill His promises to care for Abraham’s seed throughout history – Galatians 3:1-17. When Jesus promised to not drink again of the grape juice until He came again to drink it with His people in the kingdom of His Father He was establishing a Nazarite vow with His people. This vow is mentioned in Numbers 6:1-21. This is a special vow/covenant with God to not drink wine as a testament of special relationship to not to participate in some kind of act, or behavior, as a special offering to God of self-denial. Before going to Calvary Jesus promised to not drink of the cup until He was united with His disciples/people in the Kingdom of His Father. This solemnified the promise to the disciples for they were familiar with the Nazarite vow. This vow is referenced in Acts 21:15-24 where the elders of the Christian church asked Paul to take four men into the temple to assist them with shaving their heads (Numbers 6:9; 18) to show that their separation is completed. All during the Nazarite vow the individual under the vow is to be “Holy to the Lord” (Numbers 6:8) showing that God wants us to know that this is a very serious vow, and that He takes our vows seriously, just as He takes the vow of celibacy seriously.
The Nazarite vow is sort of a symbolic connection to the experience of Joseph while in Egypt while he was separated from his family (Deuteronomy 33:16). Even though separated Joseph stood by the laws of his family and stood true to God and did not sin against God or against Israel. Joseph was a separated one who did not abide by the sins of the people or adopt their ways in rebellion against the ways of God. (Ezra 6:21; Nehemiah 10:28). All who took the Nazarite vow were testifying that they had a serious relationship with God and they took this vow as a very serious testimony of faith.
Another way of testifying to the serious nature of the Nazarite vow was in the experience of Samson. Samson was dedicated/vowed to God from his birth and was separated from his brethren by the testimony of his hair for no razor was to come upon him until he had fulfilled the vow, to start the deliverance of God’s people from the Philistines. See Judges 13:5. In the process of time Samson breaks his vow of separation from the world by entering into the relationship with Delilah and he ends up telling her the secret of his strength, his vow to God, symbolized by the locks of his hair (Judges 16:15-20). After Samson had suffered much it appears that his relationship with God was reestablished by repentance and when he was taken into the temple of Dagon Samson appealed to God and God granted him a special display of strength and he leaned on the pillars of the temple and brought down the building and killed many of the leaders of the Philistines and in his death he started the process of deliverance from the Philistines (Judges 16:25-30). The story of Samson is typological to the deliverance of Israel when Jesus died on the cross and He brought down the supports of the kingdom of Satan.
With these stories of the Nazarite vow let us return to the issue of Celibacy. It is my opinion that Celibacy from the marriage bed, is a time related vow (Numbers 6:5 –“until the days be fulfilled”); (See also I Corinthians 7:5). To take a vow for a period of time is acceptable to the Lord. To deny oneself something that in God’s opinion is holy and good (Hebrews 13:4) is not so good. It is my hope that this little study will give freedom to those who have taken a celibacy vow under the heading that sexual relations are not blessed by God. Since the Bible clearly states that the sexual relationship between man and women is holy and good when consummated in love and in a committed relationship with God, then to deny this is to have an incorrect understanding of the mind of God and the will of God. For those who have taken a vow of celibacy until the second coming of Christ He will help you sort out the issues and bless you in the Kingdom. It is not my intent to attempt to change a vow between an individual and God on a vow that has been consummated between the individual and God, for that is a sacred covenant and should not be changed unless God intercedes and specifically asks the person to change.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts on this tender and holy subject.