How Do I Make My Marriage Work?
Marriage works when both spouses work hard at it. Marriage doesn’t work when both spouses refuse to work hard at it. Marriage is difficult when only one spouse works hard at it and the other doesn’t. Not matter where your marriage is, if you want an honorable, harmonious, healthy and happy marriage then the two people in the marriage have to work hard to make it that way. You can’t control your spouse, but you can do your part in making the marriage what it should be and glorify God in the process.
The Work Of A Believing Husband
- A Christian husband leads his wife. Even if your wife isn’t a believer or isn’t fulfilling her role as a wife according to the Bible, you are still just as responsible to lead her because you are “heirs together of the grace of life”. The “grace of life” is referring to your marriage—which is meant to be a good thing that God gave us in this life. You are “heirs together” meaning that you are in this marriage together and should be equal partakers of its’ blessings. You are to treat your wife with equal importance and standing within the marriage. Your roles will be different but neither spouse is superior to the other.
1 Peter 3:7; Ecclesiastes 9:9
- A Christian husband should live together with his wife “according to knowledge.” This has two possible meanings: (1) You need to know what the Bibles teaches about your role as a husband and live in accordance to it. (2) You are to perceive, discover and learn about your wife so that you can live harmoniously together. This means that you are to be active in detecting and responding to your wife’s feelings, needs, wants and fears.
- A Christian husband should “give honour” unto the wife as the weaker vessel. The Bible’s use of the word “weaker vessel” is not derogatory as in “less valuable,” but it points to two possibilities: (1) Generally, women were created physically weaker than men. (2) Culturally, men often dominate and exploit women so wives are often more vulnerable. Therefore, a Christian husband is called to highly esteem and love his wife—to use his strength to provide protection, comfort, care and provision for her. He doesn’t become bitter or have the habit of being angrily resentful against her. He doesn’t abuse his wife orally (harsh words, threats, unkindness) or physically (harsh behavior, violence, intimidation), but has a high view of her worth and value and treats her with such.
- A Christian husband who doesn’t lead his wife in these ways takes the chance of his prayers being hindered. (1) Individually—his prayers maybe be hindered because of the wickedness in his heart, the Lord may refuse to hear him. (2) Collectively—it is assumed that husbands and wives pray together, therefore a husband who doesn’t lead his wife in this manner is also hindering the time they should be spending together in prayer (you can’t pray together when you are mad or arguing, etc.). (3) Testimonial—if a husbands wife isn’t a believer, but he is praying that she will become one, then his wrong actions are working against his prayers for her to become a believer because his actions don’t match his prayers (a hypocritical testimony).
The Work Of A Believing Wife
- A Christian wife submits to her husband. Even if your husband isn’t a believer or isn’t fulfilling his role as a husband according to the Bible, you are still just as responsible to submit to him because there is a chance he will be converted by your conduct (even more than your words). Not only does the right actions serve to win over an unbelieving spouse but it can serve to cause a husband who is living out of God’s will to repent.
1 Peter 3:1-6; Colossians 3:18
- A Christian wife’s conduct is to be characterized by: (1) “Chaste”—which means pure, moral and virtuous. Her conduct shouldn’t be characterized with quarreling or sinful activities. (2) “Fear” or respect—which means that she should have an obvious admiration for God and allow it to overflow to also respecting her husband.
- A Christian wife should focus on inner beauty more than outer beauty because this is what is valuable to God. Outer beauty (braiding your hair, wearing jewelry or nice clothes) is not wrong, but it pales in comparison to the inner beauty of the “hidden man of the heart” or your character because it is incorruptible. This character is to be characterized by a “meek and quiet spirit”. Meek means to be gentle and humble. Quiet means tranquil or untroubled. This type of spirit is means a wife is self-controlled, and submissive in her attitude and actions towards her husband.
- A Christian wife express her trust in God by submitting to her husband. Holy Women in the Old Testament modeled what this type of wife should be. One example is Sarah, who showed her submission by habitually obeying and respecting her husband. Spiritually, you are Sarah’s daughters if: (1) you do well—you live out your faith in God by properly treating your husband; (2) if you are not afraid with any amazement (terror)—you live out this principle by faith and without fear of harm or mistreatment by your husband, even if he isn’t a believer. If you live with a fearful spirit about submitting to your husband then you will be anxious, apprehensive, judgmental—the opposite of a meek and quiet spirit. (This submission doesn’t include anything contrary to God’s will or word, such as sin, physical harm, etc.)
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Proverbial Wisdom for Husbands: It wasn’t good for man to be alone, so God made him a wife. When a man finds a wife he finds a good thing, and obtains someone who can make him happy. He should recognize the value of his wife, praise her and only look to her for sexual fulfillment and satisfaction.
Proverbs 5:15-19; 6:28; 18:22; 31:28-29
- Proverbial Wisdom for Wives: Wives have a choice to make about what kind of wife they want to be, virtuous or shameful, and it will affect their husbands greatly. A virtuous wife has good character, is trustworthy, faithful, prudent, good and becomes her husbands crown—meaning he is proud to publicly honor her because she is part of his success and good reputation. She is a special blessing from God. But a wife that brings shame is a great burden to her husband and her constant quarreling causes increasing damage. She is like a rottenness in the bones of her husband—meaning she causes him pain, irritation and devastation.
Proverbs 12:4; 19:13-14; 31:11–12, 23
- What about when marriage doesn’t work? If divorce seems unavoidable, first make a renewed biblical commitment to work as hard as you can to save your marriage and do everything possible to avoid it no matter the eventual outcome.
- Marriage works when both spouses do what?
- How does a Christian husband lead his wife?
- How does a Christian wife submit to her husband?
- What is the proverbial wisdom for husbands?
- What is the proverbial wisdom for wives?
How Do I Extend Grace To My Spouse?
Marriage teaches you how to extend grace to sinners—especially your spouse. Each spouse will experience his/her own share of disappointments, defeats and deficiencies from his/her spouse. It is through these experiences that you will be challenged to be a minster of grace—showing favor to your spouse in spite of his/her problems in the same way God extended grace to you through Jesus.
All Of Grace—Experience Grace, Extend Grace
- Grace is unmerited by the receiver. Mankind was unsuccessful in living up to God’s standard of perfection. We sinned against Him and deserved death and eternal separation from Him. We absolutely failed Him. But God loved us. He didn’t want us to be eternally separated from Him. Therefore, He chose to make a way to save us. We did nothing to merit His love for us, but He choose to show grace—His free and unmerited favor. In marriage, there will be times when your spouse doesn’t live up to your “standard” for him/her and might not deserve you being good to him/her, but like God you should choose to extend grace—showing favor to him/her in spite of his/her failures.
Ephesians 2:5-8; Romans 3:10-12
- Grace is costly for the giver. Not only did we not deserve God’s goodness but we were unable to pay for the wrong we did. For God to make a way to save us by grace meant that He would take the responsibility of paying our debt. His Son, Jesus, would have to die in our place to make a way for our sins to be forgiven. Grace is like a gift. God is the Giver. He willingly bears the expense of saving us by sacrificing His Son. By the grace of God Jesus tasted death for every man. He gave up everything so that we “through His poverty might be rich”. We had no worth or value for God to accept us, but Him choosing to accept us by grace gave us the value and worth that we lacked. In marriage, when your spouse is unable or unwilling to make their wrongs right, you should choose to extend grace to him/her and it might be “costly” because you will have to bear the expense of it.
Hebrews 2:9; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 4:7; 2 Timothy 1:9-10
- Grace is free for the receiver. Just like a gift is received at no cost, salvation is received at no cost. Salvation is not earned. God offers salvation through grace, thus it can only be accepted by faith—meaning we choose to trust in Jesus’ works and not in our own works. By the grace of God we are saved. In marriage, you extend grace to your spouse without expecting anything in return—you aren’t keeping a record of the good things you have done for your spouse and expecting him/her to pay you back.
Romans 4:16; 11:6
Principles From Biblical Grace
- Extending grace to your spouse starts with growing in your relationship with Jesus. Grace is part of Jesus’ character. He is gracious. He lived a life that exemplified what it means to willingly show favor toward the unworthy and undeserving without forcing anything to be owed in return for it. As believers, we are to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus. This not only prevents believers from being led astray by false teaching, but it deepens our understanding about how to properly live out our faith. Also, the evidence of God’s grace in our lives and the lives of others should cause us to give thanks unto God. Therefore, in marriage you should extend grace by first cultivating your relationship with Jesus, so that you know how to extend grace like Jesus did.
2 Peter 1:2, 3:18; 1 Corinthians 1:3-8; 15:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:1
- Extending grace to your spouse means using the right speech to minister to him/her. As believers, we are to stop sinning and start doing good works as we become more like Jesus. This includes the way that we communicate. We no longer allow “corrupt communication” to come out of our mouths. This kind of talk is offensive, useless and damaging. We are to intentionally refuse to respond with corrupt communicate. Instead, we are to have “good communication”. This kind of talk is respectful, useful and constructive. It means that you are trying to edify others and minister grace to or benefit the hearer even if he/she doesn’t deserve it. This not only includes “what” we say but also “how” we say it. Therefore, in marriage you should extend grace by communicating with your spouse in a gracious manner even if he/she responds with corrupt communication. You are to be gracious in what and how you say everything.
Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; Luke 4:22
- Extending grace to your spouse means doing more good things for your spouse than he/she deserves and greater than he/she imagines. As believers, we are on the receiving end of many incredible blessing from God. By grace God showed kindness toward us by sacrificing His Son for us; He has loved, forgave, justified and accepted us; He has given us everlasting consolation, good hope and will give us help in the time of need; He has given us eternal life. Therefore, in marriage you should extend grace by treating your spouse so good that it goes above and beyond all that he/she deserves or imagines.
Ephesians 1:6-7; 2:7; Hebrews 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Absolute differences are predetermined characteristics before a person is born and can’t be changed. This includes: gender, time period of birth, body structure, skin color, nationality at birth, certain abilities or talents, parents or relatives and birth order. Your spouse was fearfully and wonderfully made by God, so you should graciously accepting your spouse and his/her “unchangeable characteristics” as God’s creation.
- Relative differences are a result of a person’s upbringing, culture, relationships or other external factors. These include: personalities, tastes, viewpoints, instincts, ideas and opinions. These aren’t always “right and wrong” differences, but they cause many problems in marriage because it means you have to prefer your spouse over yourself—which is hard to do unless you extend grace. Your spouse doesn’t have to be the same as you, but you should graciously appreciate his/her differences.
- Moral differences are a result of a person’s relationship with God and understanding of the Bible. This includes: salvation, struggle with sin and spiritual maturity. Your spouse will have many spiritual disappointments, defeats and deficiencies, but you need to remember that all of the goodness in you is only because of God’s grace. He is working all things together for your good and the good of your spouse if you love Him. Therefore, you should graciously build up your spouse and not pridefully tear him/her down.
1 Corinthians 15:10; Romans 8:28-29
- What does “grace is unmerited” mean?
- Grace is costly for who?
- Grace is free for who?
- What are three ways we can extend grace?
- What are three types of differences in marriage?
How Do I Serve My Spouse?
Marriage teaches you how to serve sinners—especially your spouse. When two individuals come together in marriage they are both entering into servanthood—meaning you are agreeing not to be self-serving, but to be a selfless servant towards your spouse. This type of service calls for self-sacrifice as exemplified by Jesus.
Jesus’ Ultimate Sacrifice Challenges Spouses To Sacrifice
- Jesus loved us by sacrificing Himself for us. He loved us so much that He was willing to “give Himself” for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God. As believers, we are to “walk in love,” meaning that our behavior is to be characterized by the same kind of love that Jesus loved us with. We should be willing to lay down our lives for others, especially your spouse. In marriage, you serve your spouse by sacrificing yourself for his/her benefit. This means you are willing to “give yourself” to your spouse; you are willing to endure loss of someone or something for him/her; you “give up/away” your rights, time, money and wants for your spouse; it is a call to selfless sacrifice.
Ephesians 5:2, 25; 1 John 3:16; John 15:13
- Jesus willingly sacrificed His life for us. He had the power or authority to keep anyone from taking His life, but instead without reluctance and ungrudgingly He denied Himself and died on the cross in our place. In marriage, you serve your spouse by willingly giving up something even if you have the power to do otherwise. You are choosing to “relinquish,” meaning you voluntarily cease to keep or claim “something” for the good of your spouse. You are to do it with an attitude that honors God—you don’t live with a resentful or reluctant attitude towards him/her because of the sacrifice you made.
John 10:18; Philippians 2:6-7
Principles From Biblical Service
- Serving your spouse means doing acts of humility for him/her. Before Jesus was crucified on the cross, He was at supper with His disciples. He knew that His time had come and that God had given all things into His hands, but instead of exercising His great authority in this time of great anxiety He performed the lowly task of washing His disciples feet. At that time they wore sandals so it was customary to wash your feet when sitting down for a meal. This was the job of the lowest servant, but Jesus was the leader, He was the Son of God. He even knew that one of His disciples were going to betray Him, but He still chose to do this act of humility. He then challenges all believers to do the same. We are to serve those each other in lowliness of heart, even those who are under us. Therefore, in marriage you should find areas to serve your spouse through acts of humility.
- Serving your spouse means having a mindset of servitude. Jesus’ disciples came to Jesus and were wanting to seek greatness and it caused the others to be upset, so Jesus used this opportunity to teach them a great truth: the “great” or “chiefest” are those who are servants of all. Believers are not to exercise lordship or authority over others like unbelievers do. Just like Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, we are to do the same. Therefore, neither spouse is to completely dominate the relationship like a master or to reign over the other like he/she has sovereign power, but instead you enter marriage with the mindset that you are to serve your spouse—not to control him/her.
- Serving your spouse means putting him/her first. After another argument among Jesus disciples about who would be greatest, Jesus told them that if anyone desired to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all. Jesus is telling them that if they want to be great, then they are to put other’s priorities over their own. Therefore, you are not to seek your needs and wants first but humbly serve your spouse by putting his/her needs above your own. His/her needs are priority in your life—especially over self.
- Serving your spouse means serving him/her as to the Lord. As Paul addressed the role of Christian servants with their masters, he directs the attention to the motivation behind the service of the servants. The servants were to serve with sincerity, fearing God (not with eyeservice, as menpleasers). Their focus was to do whatever they did heartily as unto God and not men because ultimately they served Jesus. They were to serve well even if their masters were crooked, dishonest, immoral or evasive because God was their motivation (not the person they were serving) behind their service. Therefore, in marriage you should serve your spouse even if he/she doesn’t deserve it or even if you will have to suffer wrongfully by doing so. Jesus suffered for us and left us an example and we should follow in His footsteps. God should be your motivation to serve your spouse.
Colossians 3:17, 23-24; 1 Peter 2:18-23; 4:10-11
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Selfishness is the opposite of serving. It means that both spouses are placing their own needs and wants as priority over his/her spouse’s. We should genuinely be concerned with our spouse’s welfare and not just for our own interests.
- There are common areas that give rise to selfishness in marriage that every couple should be aware of: (1) Finances—money is a means of power and we often use this power to benefit ourselves more than our spouse or us the power to control them. (2) Time—this is limited and everyone has the same amount so we often want to selfishly protect our time instead of using it to serve our spouse for their benefit because we think our time is more valuable than theirs. (3) Decisions—when one spouse has to make a decision for the family, it is easy to make a selfish decision, only thinking about your needs or wants without taking your spouse into consideration. (4) Expectations—you expect certain things from your spouse in return for serving him/her, but when those expectations go unmet there will be problems. Instead you should serve without expecting anything in return—to serve out of love—no expectations. Questions: Ask yourself, are any of the contentions in your marriage because you are being selfish in these areas? What if you chose to selflessly serve your spouse, meaning that you would have to sacrifice in these areas (give up money, time, decisions, expectations), how would things change in your marriage?
- Be a blessing to your spouse and serve him/her through your words. One of the things we learned from Jesus’ example is that He didn’t respond with sinful speech to those who orally abused Him. As a believer, you are called to respond back with blessings not the same verbal attacks or abusive words that is being spoken against you by your spouse.
1 Peter 2:22-24; 3:8-9
- Jesus loved us by doing what for us?
- Serving your spouse means doing what?
- Serving your spouse means having what?
- Serving your spouse means putting who first?
- What are the common areas that give rise to selfishness in marriage?
How Do I Love My Spouse?
Marriage teaches you how to love sinners—especially your spouse. Marriage doesn’t create the problems that arise between you and your spouse but it does reveal the problems as your start to live life together. As these problems arise, you have a choice to love your spouse in the same way that you have experienced love from God through Jesus.
What Should Love In Marriage Be Like?
- The Old Testament describes some characteristics about love within a marriage covenant: (1) Love is being solely committed to your spouse like a seal on your heart or arm. A “seal” was like a personal stamp or object to sign documents. It showed ownership of something and was closely guarded. (2) Love between you and your spouse is to be unending or unyielding, just as strong as death which is without end. (3) Love is being completely devoted to your spouse with extreme intensity and conviction. Marriage zeal (righteous jealousy) is the appropriate desire for what you have a right to (your spouse) just like death (the grave) is relentless (cruel) and doesn’t give up the dead—nor do we give up our love—it binds us together forever. (4) Love between you and your spouse is “all-consuming” like a blazing fire. (5) Love cannot be quenched no matter the difficulty that arises. It is a fire that can’t be extinguished by many waters or drowned in a flood—it is invincible. (6) Love in marriage is priceless—it cannot be bought but only given. If you tried to give everything you owned for your spouse’s love, it would be totally rejected because real love can’t be purchased—it is greater than all material value.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7
- The New Testament describes some characteristics about true love and what it is really like. You can apply these truths to know how to love your spouse with a perfect love—a love that never fails: (1) suffers long—patient and even-tempered during difficult times with your spouse; (2) kind—try to be gentle, considerate and sympathetic with your spouse; (3) envies not—doesn’t become upset over your spouse’s advantages; (4) vaunts not itself (boastful)—you aren’t focused on expressing your self-importance but on your spouse’s; (5) not puffed up (prideful)—doesn’t exaggerate a sense of self at the detriment of your spouse; (6) does not behave itself unseemly (rude)—not being offensive or impolite to your spouse; (7) seeks not its own—doesn’t take advantage of your spouse to fulfill your own desires; (8) not easily provoked—doesn’t get easily upset or irritable at your spouse and doesn’t take everything personally; (9) thinks no evil—doesn’t keep count of all your spouse’s failures or sins and become resentful towards him/her; (10) rejoices not in iniquity—doesn’t feel happy when your spouse does wrong; (11) rejoices in the truth—does feel happy when your spouse does right; (12) bears all things—willing to suffer everything that marriage brings; (13) believes all things—willing to trust your spouse without limits; (14) hopes all things—willing to expect good in your marriage; (15) endures all things—willing to courageously withstand all trials by your spouse’s side.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Principles From Biblical Love
- Loving your spouse means choosing to serve and sacrifice. The ultimate example of love is the love of God greatly expressed towards us through Jesus’ death on the cross. He was willing to sacrifice everything including His life so that we might be saved. Love in marriage should also reflect this type of sacrificial love and be one that is all-giving and is willing to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of his/her spouse. You shouldn’t enter marriage with the expectation to be “ministered to” by your spouse but “to minister” to your spouse.
John 15:12-13; Mark 10:45
- Loving your spouse means choosing to love first. The Bible says that God “first loved us” and because of that, “we love Him.” We didn’t initiate the love but God did—He chose to love us when we didn’t love Him. You are commanded to love others, including your spouse, with this same kind of love. This means that when an issue needs to be resolved in your marriage, you don’t wait for your spouse to initiate the loving process that will restore the relationship, but you will choose to love first and initiate the loving process even if it is your spouse’s fault because you are loving him/her like God loved you.
1 John 4:10-11, 19
- Loving your spouse means choosing to love when he/she doesn’t deserve it. When we were still enemies of God, Jesus died for us, therefore your love towards your spouse isn’t based on the current conditions (whether good or bad) of your marriage, but you love regardless of the situation—even when it is not merited or not reciprocated.
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- There are five practical ways to express love to your spouse: words, actions, time, gifts, touch. Each of these are important to express love to your spouse, but there may also be one or more that is prominent to your spouse—meaning they feel more loved when you express a certain one. Therefore, study your spouse and discover what expression makes them feel loved the most and start showing love in that way.
- Loving your spouse means choosing to love the person but hate his/her sin. How do love your spouse but hate his/her sin? The Bible says that you are to love others like you love yourself and in this simple command we have the answer to our question. You struggle with sin, you hate it when you do sin, sometimes you don’t understand why you have a hard time with sin, but even though you greatly dislike your sin, you sill love yourself. When you sin you don’t hate yourself, but you hate the wrong thing you did—the sin. You hate the sin because you love yourself and know it isn’t right. If you didn’t love yourself then you wouldn’t care what you did. Therefore, to love your spouse but hate his/her sin is to learn from your own example and love him/her like you love yourself.
Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 5:33
- Love is not reduced to feelings (like so many movies, books, songs and other worldly media present it), but love is an action. This means that you can choose to love your spouse even when all the feelings of being “in-love” have disappeared. It is a decision that you have to make each and every day even if the natural feelings aren’t there.
- Your spouse will change and your love should grow with those changes. You probably loved who your spouse was when you got married, but your spouse will drastically change over time and will no longer be that person. Each person is being molded into something new (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, financially, physically) by life’s experiences and you are choosing to love not only who they are today but who they will become.
- How does the Old Testament describe love?
- How does the New Testament describe love?
- What are three principles from biblical love?
- What are five practical ways to express love to your spouse?
- How do you love your spouse but hate their sin?
How Do I Forgive My Spouse?
Marriage teaches you how to forgive sinners—especially your spouse. A perfect marriage doesn’t exists—all marriages will have to deal with sin, struggles, anger, resentment, bitterness, disagreements, arguments, hard times, etc. But as endeavor to obey the Bible and live life together with your spouse, you will learn how to instantly and continually forgive your spouse when he/she wrongs you in the same way that you have experienced forgiveness by God through Jesus.
The Spouse Forgiven By Jesus, Learns To Forgive His/Her Spouse
- Jesus is the standard to measure our forgiveness—meaning that we are to forgive in the same way and to the same extent that Jesus forgave us. As believers, Jesus has completely forgave all of our sins: past, present and future. Every failure and wrong thing we have done is forgiven. Forgiveness means the offended one chooses to pardon all the consequences of the wrongdoing by the offender—not causing them to pay the full price. Jesus endured hardship while on earth, but also took the initiative to forgive. In the same way, you are to forbear your spouse—meaning that you have to endure the hardships that come with marriage even during the unpleasant and difficult times, but also you are to pardon all the consequences (anger, resentment, bitterness, silence) for the wrongdoing they have done against you. This is a simple principle: “The forgiven forgive”—because Jesus forgave you, you should be willing to forgive others. Ultimately, forgiveness is a command to be obeyed. Therefore, the first step to learning how to forgive your spouse is to first experience true forgiveness for yourself by the Great Forgiver—Jesus.
Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32
- Jesus forgave those He loved when they sinned against Him. He was sent on a mission to save sinners because of God’s love for them. Jesus worked great miracles, taught the truth of God and only showed loved towards mankind. But mankind rejected His love and crucified Him on the cross. As He was hanging on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Jesus was willing to forgive those who rejected and crucified Him. Ultimately, He did nothing but love them and they sinned against Him, but Jesus forgave them—even as He was being offended—He was willing to pay the debt for their offense. Therefore, forgiving your spouse includes being willing to forgive them as you are being offended—knowing Jesus already payed the debt for their sins.
- Jesus forgiveness is always available. As believers, we are to continually confess our sins to God and we know that God, through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, is faithful and just to forgive our sins. When we first confess our sins and Jesus as Lord, we receive salvation and establish our permanent relationship (nothing can change this), but continual confession is part of our life to maintain healthy fellowship with God. It means that we recognize the sin in our lives, agree with God about it and see it from His perspective. Ultimately, continual confession is a characteristic of a true believer and God is continually cleaning us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, forgiving your spouse includes always making your forgiveness available and approachable.
1 John 1:9; Colossians 2:13; Luke 15:11-32; Luke 17:3-4
Principles From Biblical Forgiveness
- Forgiving your spouse means removing his/her sin from him/her. It means that you choose to no longer see him/her as that person or identify them by their sin (no more name calling). The Bible says that as far as the East is from the West, so far God has removed our “transgressions” from us. The distance between the East and the West can be unending and in the same way God has distanced our sin from us. He doesn’t hold our past sins and failures over our head, but makes them distant from us in such a way they are no longer associated with us. Forgiveness in marriage means no longer associating your spouse’s sin with your spouse.
Psalm 103:12; Micah 7:19
- Forgiving your spouse means forgetting his/her sin. The Bible says that God forgives our iniquity and He will remember our sin no more. God is willing to forget all of our wrongdoings and how we have offended Him. It may be hard for us to forget the sins of our spouse, but this is where the “process of forgiveness” comes into play—meaning each time it comes into your thoughts you choose to not think on it and forgive your spouse once again. Forgiveness in marriage means no longer keeping in mind your spouse’s sin for contemplation or consideration.
- Forgiving your spouse means blotting out his/her sins. The Bible says that not only does God choose to not remember our sins, but that He blots out our transgressions for His own sake. God erases the record of all of our acts that go against Him or His law. There is no list that keeps track of all of our failures or sins. Forgiveness in marriage means no longer keeping a mental or physical record of any of your spouse’s sins.
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Every marriage goes through struggles and problems, so it isn’t “if” but “when” and how you choose to respond to it is the important part. You need to choose to move towards your spouse when you fall so that things can be resolved, not away from him/her.
- Unforgiveness hurts you and your spouse. It is like a poison you drink expecting to hurt the other person—but since you are united together as one it hurts both sides. Not forgiving each other in marriage can lead to lasting hurt feelings which can lead to apathy, criticism, silence, sexlessness, independence or sudden bursts of anger. No one wins when unforgiveness reigns.
- Anger is often a result of being sinned against. The Bible tells us not to sin in response to this anger but to deal with it daily. The reason is that prolonged anger can lead us to sin. Therefore, we should make it a habit to do all we can to fix the situation right away.
Ephesians 4:26-27; Psalm 4:4; Romans 12:17-21
- If God removes, forgets and blots out our sin, then we can conclude that He isn’t going to mention it again. We should do the same. There is no need to bring up your spouse’s sins again during an argument if you are truly trying to forgive them like Jesus forgave you.
- Whenever there is physical, verbal or sexual abuse; martial unfaithfulness or other destructive behavior that extends beyond normal disagreements or arguments it needs to be reported to the correct authorities and a third party may be needed to help with this confrontation and prevent future abuse.
- Who is the standard to measure our forgiveness? Why?
- What did Jesus do when those He loved sinned against Him?
- When is Jesus forgiveness available?
- What are three principles from biblical forgiveness?
- Is there unforgiveness in your marriage or life that needs dealt with?
How Do I Achieve An Honorable Marriage?
An honorable marriage is one that is respectable, upright and worthy of imitation. It is a marriage that strives to give God maximum glory. This can be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit and applying the powerful principle of love and respect.
The Power Of The Holy Spirit In Marriage
- Achieving an honorable marriage starts with the same thing that it takes to live an honorable Christian life: the Holy Spirit. As believers, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This happens more than once and it takes place when we allow the Word of God (that the Holy Spirit inspired) to change who we are. We must read, study, meditate on and submit to it. We cannot do this on our own, so the Holy Spirit helps us in our understanding and, through the Word, fills us to walk in His ways—giving you the power to serve God, serve others and to serve your spouse.
Ephesians 5:15-20; Colossians 3:16-17
- Being filled with the Holy Spirit has a direct effect on your relationship with your spouse. The three immediate results to being filled with the Holy Spirit mentioned in Ephesians is: (1) Singing in public and private—to the Lord. This expresses our joy and reminds us of great Bible truths. (2) Giving thanks always and for everything—unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This helps us to keep the right focus and acknowledges our appreciation for God’s sovereignty in our lives. (3) Submitting to one another—in the fear of God. This is the new way that we as believers are to approach our relationships. Each of these will effect your marriage, but the way you understand and apply this new approach to your relationships will have the greatest effect. You are not to do anything through selfish ambition (strife) or conceit (vainglory), but in humility (lowliness of mind) you are to consider others better than yourself. You are not to just care about your own things and interests, but also on the things and interests of others. You are to let this mindset be in you, just like it was in Jesus. You don’t live for yourself but you live for others.
Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:2-5; Romans 15:1-3
- In marriage, you don’t live your yourself, but for your spouse. You have the obligation to bear his/her infirmities, to build him/her up and strengthen him/her, not focusing on pleasing yourself. Selfishness is the enemy of an honorable marriage. Selflessness is the friend of an honorable marriage.
- In marriage, living a Spirit-filled life isn’t based on life circumstances or the happiness of your marriage, but since the object and motivation is God Himself, you can choose to live this way even in the hardest of situations. You ultimately live for God and he is the source of your joy and love.
2 Corinthians 5:15; Romans 5:1-5
- As you are led by the Spirit, your regular way of life should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. All of the following will grow up together as a single “fruit” of the Spirit in you and support an honorable marriage: Love—good, service and regard towards another because of their intrinsic value and giving up one’s rights for another; Joy—feelings of great pleasure and happiness based on knowing God; Peace—confidence in the sovereignty of God as you go through life’s changing circumstances; Longsuffering—patient endurance through hard times; Gentleness—being friendly, courteous, considerate and generous to others; Goodness—trying to be moral and honest at all times; Faith—faithful, loyal, constant, steadfast, reliable; Meekness—humble and gentle; Temperance—controlling yourself and making the right choices.
The Power Of Love And Respect In Marriage
- In the same passage of Scripture that teaches us the spiritual framework for marriage and gives us the right perspective for marriage, holiness not happiness, the author ends the chapter with a verse that gets very practical saying, “Nevertheless”—meaning that even though God designed marriage so that we could picture the relationship between Jesus and the church, there was still a practical application to be made for how the conduct of marriage was to be carried out. The verse goes on to say: “let every one of you in particular”—meaning each married person is to treat their spouse in the following way: “love his wife even as himself”—the husband is called to unconditionally love his wife; “the wife see that she reverence her husband”—the wife is called to unconditionally respect her husband. To see this from another angle, the Bible is saying that a wife needs love and a husband needs respect. When each spouse chooses to see this need in their spouse’s life and commits to fulfilling it as in obedience to the Lord, then they are on the right track towards an honorable marriage.
- Husbands are to give unconditional love and need unconditional respect. Unconditional love means that a husband chooses to love his wife with a love that is not subject to any conditions. It means that even though he needs respect from his wife, which makes loving her easier, he choose to love her even when he doesn’t get the respect he needs. To love your wife as yourself means that you are going to treat her like he would naturally treat himself—with great care and concern for whole being (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.). It goes so far that you are willing to forfeit your rights, privileges and even life for your wife’s benefit.
- Wives are to give unconditional respect and need unconditional love. Unconditional respect means that a wife chooses to respect her husband with a respect that is not subject to any conditions. It means that even though she needs love from her husband, which makes respecting him easier, she choose to respect him even when she doesn’t get the love she needs. To reverence your husband means that your attitude towards your husband is to be one of respect—to understand and appreciate your husband for what he does right, how God has made him and treating Him a gracious and submissive manner even when he doesn’t have many achievements to point to.
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Who is going to be first? As sinners, we often think that we will fulfill our side of the agreement when our spouse fulfills his/her side first. The problem is our spouse is thinking the same thing. Both sides are waiting on the other to do right first. So the Biblical call of living a Spirit-filled life and showing unconditional love or respect means that you go first.
- Are you obeying God? Your spouse will let you down and do things that make you not want to “walk in the Spirit” or show love or respect towards them, but since this is a command from God we aren’t supposed to obey this based on feelings but on faith.
- What does an honorable marriage mean?
- What does the power of the Holy Spirit in marriage mean?
- What is the new approach believer’s have towards their relationships?
- What does the power of love and respect in marriage mean?
- What does unconditional love and respect mean?
What Is The Design Of Sex In Marriage?
Sex is a gift that God has given to a married couple to enjoy. It is an expression of their marriage covenant—to live their life together and never to be broken apart. Sex is also essential to sustain the marriage covenant and have a healthy marriage.
Sex Is The Expression Of The Marriage Covenant
- When two individuals get married they become one unit—meaning that every part of their lives are intertwined together and never to be broken apart. It is a covenant where you agree to give up your independence and become dependent on your spouse. Sex represents this truth because you vulnerably and intimately give all of yourself—physical, emotional, mental, psychologic, etc—to your spouse (maybe at marriage you have nothing else to give). Therefore, sex is part of fulfilling the covenant and is a frequent reminder of it—that you are living life as one unit through all of life’s changes.
Genesis 2:24-25; Proverbs 2:17
- Sex is exclusively for those in a marriage covenant—all other sexual activity is a breach of this covenant. God designed sex as a way to unite with and commit to your spouse. Therefore, sex outside of this covenant means that on the surface level you “cleave” and become “one flesh” with someone who is not your spouse and whom you have no commitment to permanently being one unit that is intertwined together. Also, sex outside of marriage is a cycle of uniting and dividing—something that is only harmful to those involved as they vulnerably and intimately give themselves to each other for only a moment. It can lead to physical, emotional and mental problems. For these reasons, sex is held in high esteem and reserved for marriage—when you are ready to totally, perpetually and solely give yourself to your spouse.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20; Hebrews 13:4
Sex Is Essential To Sustain The Marriage Covenant
- Sex is a gift given by you to your spouse. In marriage each spouse has an obligation (due benevolence) to give sex to the other. Each spouse should be willing to offer their bodies to the other spouse so that his/her sexual wants and needs will be fulfilled. Marriage gives the rights to your body for sex to your spouse—which means three things: (1) each spouse doesn’t have the right to use or give his/her body for sex with anyone other than his/her spouse; (2) each spouse is compelled to use his/her body to fulfill his/her spouse’s sexual needs; (3) each spouse doesn’t have the right to look for sex anywhere other than his/her spouse.
1 Corinthians 7:3-4
- Sex within marriage should be frequent. Sex is an important part of a marriage relationship and neither spouse should deny sex or keep the other spouse from obtaining his/her sexual satisfaction within the marriage. The only time that sexual relations should be stopped within the marriage is when both spouses agree for a certain period of time and for a valid reason (focus on fasting, prayer, etc.). Then when the time ends they start having frequent sex again. Any abstinence from sex within marriage means that sexual passions intensify and Satan can use that to tempt them to sin because of their lack of self-control (incontinency) in that moment.
1 Corinthians 7:5
- Sex is for pleasure within marriage and should be enjoyed by both spouses. Song of Solomon is a book of the Bible that records love poems that give us a glimpse into the proper attitude that God wants married couples to have regarding sex in their marriage: to be happy, gratified and content in your spouse. From this and other verses in the Bible, we know that each spouse is to enjoy and take pleasure in his/her spouse’s body—even as his/her body changes over time, he/she is always your standard for beauty and sexual satisfaction.
Proverbs 5:15-20; Song of Solomon 1:2; 2:3, 6; 4:5
- Sex is for procreation—meaning two come together sexually to produce one child from among them. God chose to continue the human race through this process. Note: This is one reason for sex, but it is not the only reason. Some have misunderstood that sex was only for procreation and not for pleasure—this is a wrong view of God’s design for sex.
Genesis 1:28; 4:1
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Sex is more about giving than it is getting. This means that you should be willing to put your spouse’s sexual needs above your own and see sex as something you can do for him/her. Both sides are focused on pleasing the other—not themselves.
- Sex is more than just a natural desire that needs to be filled however, whenever and with whoever. It is a desire that is to be reserved and fulfilled only in marriage. We are to obey God’s word and not commit fornication—not matter how unreasonable or hard it seems—you choose to worship and obey God, not sex. Ultimately, to avoid sinning sexually longterm, the Bible says to get married.
1 Corinthians 7:2; 10:8
- Sex is not something to be neglected—it isn’t disgusting or gross. You are to know that it is something that was created by God for your pleasure within the marriage covenant.
- Lust, pornography and fantasizing about sexual activities is also a breach of the marriage covenant because it is fornication. Emotionally and mentally you are sinning against God and your spouse. You are to not dwell on wrong thoughts when they come.
Matthew 5:27-28; Mark 7:21-23; Philippians 4:8
- Sex outside of marriage might give you instant gratification, but it also might give you lasting problems, such as: sexual transmitted diseases or pregnancies outside of wedlock—which often leads to single mothers, abandoned/unwanted children or abortion. It could also lead to divorce—God hates divorce. He never sanctions it in the Bible, but He does allow it for fornication.
Matthew 19:3-9; Malachi 2:16
- Overcoming Sexual Sin: (1) If you had sex before marriage, outside of marriage or you are addicted to pornography you need to repent of your sexual sin. (2) Know that God will completely forgive you. (3) Embrace God’s design for sex—start living in obedience to it.
- Sexual Abuse or Assault is any sexual activity forced on another without their consent or by abuse of authority. Maybe you were sexually abused as a child, teenager or an adult. You are a victim. But as a believer you no longer have to feel worthless, rejected or bitter because God is willing to accept you as your are. Allow the Holy Spirit to heal your wound and don’t let it cause a lack of trust in your marriage or a bad attitude towards sex.
- What is the expression of the marriage covenant? Why?
- Why is sex is exclusively for those in a marriage covenant?
- What is essential to sustain the marriage covenant? Why?
- What is sex for?
- What is some practical wisdom regarding sex?
What Is The Right Perspective For Marriage?
Marriage is more than the benefits that it offers: companionship, sexual fulfillment and offspring. Although these are good and part of God’s design for marriage, there is also a greater purpose for marriage that can be seen through the right perspective for marriage: holiness not happiness. The main purpose of our marriage is to make us holy—to be more like Jesus—not to make us happy. The result of the spiritual framework being applied to marriage is that through the power of the Holy Spirit we are being sanctified.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Loving God And Loving Others
- Having the right perspective for marriage starts with having the right perspective about the purpose of our lives. God is our Creator, the One who gave us life, so He is worthy of our glory, honor and obedience. Everything He created was for His glory. He did not create us because He needed someone to glorify Him or because He was lonely, but because He wanted to share the joy of His glory with us. Therefore, the purpose of our lives is to glorify God through a loving relationship with Him. As believers, we aim to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Psalm 16:11; Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 22:36-38; 1 John 4:19; Revelation 4:11
- For this purpose to be to be accomplished we have to realize that it is directly connected to not only how we love God but also how we love others. We might find it easy to show love towards God who is completely good but hard to show love towards others who are completely sinful. But our love for God is attached to how we love people. Therefore, one purpose of marriage is for two sinners who have been redeemed by God’s grace and desire to obey the two love commandments is to: teach each other how to love like God loves. Once we are married we can’t claim to love God while we hate our spouse—the person with the closest relationship with us. In marriage, we learn everything about our spouse—all the good and all the bad—and we are called to love them anyway. Therefore, marriage challenges us to love others and teaches us to love God.
Matthew 22:39-40; 1 John 4:20-21; Ephesians 5:28
Spiritual Growth and Sanctification
- God often uses marriage as an analogy for our relationship with Him. In the Old Testament it is most notably used as an analogy for God’s relationship with Israel and in the New Testament it is most notably used as an analogy for Jesus’ relationship with the church. Either way, all of the analogies point to God’s relationship with man and helps us to gain a better understanding so that we can grow spiritually.
Hosea 2:16, 19; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 3:8; Matthew 9:15; 22:1-14; Mark 8:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7
- We are sinners—that means we have committed wrongful acts against God. But God sent Jesus to give His life in place of sinners so that we could be reconciled to Him. By faith in Jesus we are saved from the eternal punishment of hell and are being sanctified and cleansed by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and the Bible in our lives. At the end of the this process all believers we will be presented as holy and without blemish to Jesus. When this gospel, the spiritual framework, is applied to our marriage, the purpose is to provide a means of sanctification—to become holy.
- Man-centered view of marriage: This view points to “happiness” or any other temporary desire as the purpose for marriage. It gives the marriage relationship a shallow meaning and only calls for faithfulness when this desire is being fulfilled. Marriage isn’t easy and these desires (long-term happiness, bearing children, sexual satisfaction, etc.) might not come to fruition. This is the wrong perspective for marriage and one that often ends in divorce because of no compelling reason to continue on.
- God-centered view of marriage: This view points to “holiness” or modeling Jesus’ love for the church as the purpose for marriage. It gives the marriage relationship a deep meaning and calls for faithfulness even when our temporary desires aren’t being fulfilled. This is the right perspective for marriage and often results in a hard and uncomfortable process of repentance, humility and self-sacrifice.
- As believers, our motivation is to be accepted of Jesus—that we make it our aim to please Him. We don’t make decisions based on “this world’s” opinion or ideas but we are “transformed by the renewing of our minds”—meaning we allow the Bible to change our way of thinking—so that we can prove to the world God’s ways. We don’t live for ourselves, but we live for Jesus, to please Him. We have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” and we are “ambassadors for Christ”. Therefore, everything in our lives, especially our marriages, should live in harmony with this identity and ministry. The motivation of a believer’s marriage is to please God in all things with the result of being mutually sanctified along the way.
2 Corinthians 5:9, 15, 18-20; Ephesians 5:10; Romans 12:1-2
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Marriage problems often arise when one or both persons are choosing to not please Jesus in that moment. This often arises from selfishness or pride that causes us to focus on ourselves instead of the other person. If each person is sacrificially serving the other with the goal of pleasing Jesus it will result in joyful unity and honor to God.
- Marriage is the perfect example of how reconciliation works (two imperfect people choosing to love each other by grace) and thus serves as a witness to the world about how they can be reconciled to God. Divorce on the other hand terminates the marriage and contradicts (not negates) our message. Therefore, it is our Biblical obligation to keep our marriages together and to do all we can to please God in them.
- Choosing the God-centered view of marriage allows you to drop all the wrong expectations that you have for your spouse or marriage—mainly that of your spouse being the ultimate fulfillment of all that you desire—something that can only be satisfied by God. If you carry these wrong expectations into marriage you will be met with dissatisfaction. Remember, marriage is temporary, but God is eternal.
- Marriage can be hard if your spouse is not a believer and does not have the right perspective for marriage, but you are still called to have the right perspective and fulfill your duties—sacrificially loving your spouse as a witness of the gospel.
1 Corinthians 7:12-15; 1 Peter 3:1
- What is the purpose of our lives?
- What is connected to our main purpose? How does it apply to marriage?
- What are the two views of marriage? Which is right?
- What is a believer’s motivation for all he does?
- What is the right perspective for marriage: holiness or happiness?
What Is The Biblical Framework For Marriage?
Marriage is made up of two frameworks: relational and spiritual. The relational framework provides us with a suitable companion. The spiritual framework helps us understand the gospel and the gospel helps us understand our marriage. The relational aspect is establish through three steps: leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. The spiritual aspect is establish by patterning our marriages after three principles: authority, submission and love.
The Relational Framework For Marriage
- Marriage is the relational framework that God designed so that we could have a suitable companion and not be alone—which is not good. Before mankind ever sinned, God saw man’s need of having another person like him who would fulfill this need. God created all the terrestrial and celestial animals but there was none among them that was like Adam or suitable to fulfill his need. Therefore, God took a rib from Adam and made a woman and brought her unto him. Now that there was a suitable companion for Adam, God established marriage for all future generation by declaring: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Here are three the steps to establish this type of marriage relationship:
- Step One: Leave your father and mother—this means that there comes a time in life when a man and women will leave their parent’s authority to form their own unique family unit through marriage. This also means that when you decided to get married the obligations, duty and welfare of your spouse override the obligations, duty and welfare of your parents. You are intentionally leaving your parents behind and not taking them along with you into this relationship.
- Step Two: Cleave unto your spouse—this means that you are going to unite together with your spouse in a lasting and intimate relationship that is only superseded by your relationship God. It also means that you are choosing to remain faithful to your spouse—not letting anything into the relationship that would hinder or hurt it.
- Sep Three: Become one flesh with your spouse—this means that in every area of life (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, financially, physically) you choose to become one unit. This also implies sexual completeness and enjoyment inside this relationship. This is seen through the procreation of children where two come together sexually to produce one child from among them.
The Spiritual Framework For Marriage
- Marriage is the spiritual framework that God designed so that we could picture the relationship between Jesus and the church. In the Old Testament this reality was hidden, but the New Testament has made it clear that God had the gospel in mind when He established marriage. Marriage and the gospel help explain one another. Today, this means that marriage is to be patterned after Jesus and His relationship with the church (Jesus represents husbands and the church represents the bride) so that marriage properly reflects the gospel. We see this in the following three principles:
- Principle One—Authority: Jesus is the Head of the church, therefore the husband is the head of the wife. This re-establishes the authority in the relationship (originally established by the order of creation). This authority doesn’t indicate inferiority—being less important or valuable—but of different position and responsibility. Jesus is the Saviour of the church—meaning that He gave His own life for the church to save it from their sins and rescue them from eternal hell. Therefore, this leadership position is one of self-sacrifice.
Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3-16; 1 Timothy 2:11-15
- Principle Two—Submission: The church is to submit unto Jesus, therefore wives are to submit to their husbands. Jesus sacrificially leads His church by love and the church is willing to submit to His orders. A wife is to recognize that her husband is the God-ordained leader and be willing to submit to her husband (not men in general) in everything as an act of obedience unto the Lord—meaning even if your husband isn’t worthy of such submission, you are willing to submit to him to honour God.
Ephesians 5:22, 24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1
- Principle Three—Love: Jesus loved the church, therefore husbands are to love their wives. Jesus’ love for the church is great and this is the standard for how a man is to love is wife. He is to be her personal spiritual leader—leading her to live a holy life. Their lives are to be so connected that the husband takes care of her like he would naturally take care of himself, nourishing and cherishing her, even as Jesus does to the church. Just like the church needs the loving care of Jesus, the wife needs the loving care of her husband—one who will love her like Jesus.
Ephesians 5:25-30; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:8
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- The Architect—God is the architect of marriage, therefore these two “frameworks” are the essential supporting structures for marriage. Any “marriage” relationship established outside of the “relational structure” is not biblical marriage and any marriage relationship that isn’t patterned after Jesus’ relationship with the church isn’t guaranteed to “thrive”—therefore the secret to a good marriage is to: (1) know Jesus—salvation; (2) apply these principles to the fullest degree through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Original Intent—from God’s establishment of marriage, we also can see the limits of this framework by seeing what He commanded and by what He didn’t command. (1) He didn’t create a way for a person to find sexual satisfaction (or to procreate) outside of marriage. (2) He didn’t create a way for the marriage to end—thus it is implied that this was a lifelong relationship. (3) He didn’t created more than two people for the marriage relationship—thus marriage wasn’t to be made up of multiple spouses. (4) He created two people with two genders for this relationship—not two of the same gender—thus the marriage relationship can only be defined by one male and one female.
- Time and Culture—because these are based on creation and Jesus’ relationship with the church, which doesn’t change over time nor are they based on a specific culture, these truths will also transcend time and culture—thus being permanently established on earth.
- What does “the relational framework for marriage” mean?
- What are the three steps of the relational framework?
- What does “the spiritual framework for marriage” mean?
- What are the three principles of the spiritual framework?
- What is some practical wisdom we can understand from these truths?
How Do I Find A Suitable Spouse?
Finding a spouse starts with understanding marriage is God’s plan: a man and a woman leave their parents and unite together to become one flesh. For believers, there are biblical principles and practical wisdom that we can follow to guide us in finding that person.
Foundational Understanding: Marriage Is God’s Plan
- God created man as a relational being. He was to have a relationship with God, but also a companion in this world. Therefore, God created women to complement men through a lifelong covenant called marriage. Thus it is by God’s design and will that a man and a woman leave their parents and unite together to become one flesh for one lifetime. Today, this hasn’t changed and marriage should be pursued to fulfill this intimate relationship.
Genesis 2:18, 23-24; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31
- The Bible assumes and advocates that marriage is the natural, healthy and right path that should be pursued by humans. It doesn’t provided a category for any other type of relationships (singleness, causal dating, romantic interests, sexual partners) that allows for the same type of benefits that marriage does, such as sexual satisfaction or child bearing. The only exception is if a person has the “gift of celibacy”—which means that a person is required to abstain from seeking a spouse, marriage, sex and offspring in order to have a special commitment to serve God in a way that is unaccommodating to leading a family. If you haven’t been given this gift, then you can assume that you are called to marriage to fulfill your natural and God-given desires.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 6-9, 37; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; Matthew 19:12
Biblical Principles: Searching For A Spouse
- Every believer should have a desire to fulfill God’s biblical plan for marriage. Although the Bible gives us many verses on how to live out the married life, it doesn’t give us as many details about how to find a spouse. It allows culture and traditions to play a part in this process, but there are two biblical principals that transcend all culture, traditions and time to help guide the process along the way. As believer, we should desire to glorify God in the process and not just in the product.
1 Corinthians 10:31
- Believers should only marry believers. The Bible tells us that believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. A yoke was a wooden crosspiece that was placed around the neck of two equal animals of equal strength, such as oxen, so that they could plow a field in a straight line. If they placed the yoke over two animals who were not equal then they wouldn’t be able to plow in a straight line—thus no work would be done. The Bible uses this illustration to point out that believers are incompatible to be bound together with unbelievers. They are incapable of forming a true union with them.
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Deuteronomy 22:10; 1 Corinthians 7:39
- Believers should not have sex before marriage (or outside of their marriage). Sex involves the totality of a person (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), thus sex before marriage damages you to some degree. Every believer has the ability to control their sexual drives and commit them to purity. God doesn’t permit a person to have sex because of love, romance, intimacy or money, but only within a marriage commitment are the enjoyment of these pleasures intended and truly achieved.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20; 7:2; 10:6-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 6:24-35
Practical Wisdom, Good Judgment And Common Sense
- Desire to get married and seek a spouse, but don’t be desperate (you don’t have to choose the first person available) and make it the main goal of your life. Understand that your ultimate satisfaction and identity come from your relationship with God and your first and foremost goal is to serve and glorify Him. Focus more on “being” the right person than “finding” the right person.
- Don’t start a relationship with someone who isn’t a believer, because you most likely will fall in love with him/her but they may never become a believer. Don’t date as a way to evangelize. Only start a relationship with those who have a personal testimony of salvation and a changed life that glorifies God—someone with the characteristics of a godly man or a godly woman.
- Only date the opposite sex with the intention of seeing if they are suitable for marriage—a potential marriage partner. This gives purpose and a framework to these types of relationships instead of just being recreational and pointless.
- Set physical, emotional and mental boundaries in your spouse seeking relationships and keep yourself accountable so that you can honor God in the process and guard against sin and pain. We should strive to be pure physically but also in mind and heart.
- Cohabitation—living together and having a sexual relationship without being married is forbidden and to be avoided. It doesn’t matter if you are engaged, trying to save money, or want to make sure you are compatible before you commit to marriage, this type of “habitation relationship” is only to be experienced within the commitment of marriage—meaning you have already pledge not to end the relationship regardless of any problems.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
- Look at a person’s character and not just at their outward appearance. Physical attraction, personality traits and common interests are important aspects in finding a compatible spouse, but don’t be fooled by it—use discernment and look for evidence of good character. There are no perfect people so give enough time to know and look for someone who demonstrates a lifestyle of the necessary relational characteristics: love, honesty, commitment, faithfulness, forgiveness and grace. (Do you have these?)
- Action plan to find a spouse: First, prepare yourself to be the man or woman of God that you are called to be and live by faith (see the lessons on this topic). Second, pray and ask God for guidance and wisdom to make the right decisions. Third, start the process (avoid undue delay) to meet people according to your culture but don’t compromise the biblical principles, common sense or good judgement. Fourth, ask for advice and biblical counsel (others might see character flaws that that you can’t). Fifth, after understanding the meaning, purpose and commitment of marriage wisely make a final decision about who you will marry. Sixth, get married—leave your parents and become one with him/her.
Psalm 37:4; Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:5
- Who created marriage?
- What is the “gift of celibacy”?
- What are two biblical principles we should follow?
- What is some practical wisdom concerning dating?
- What is the action plan to find spouse?