Marriage is the most serious long-term contract a couple will make in their lifetime, but many enter into it with a lack of maturity and knowledge. The growing number of divorces shows how imperative it is that young people be adequately prepared for marriage.
Here are a few helpful principles for prospective marriage partners:
• A good marriage is not “made in heaven,” but on earth. Love is a fragile commodity which needs to be cultivated and nourished constantly. Of course, those intending to marry should look to God for His guidance, but the success of the marriage will be largely dependent on the couple and their efforts in response to God’s leading.
• A good marriage is not based on idealism, but on reality. The Cinderella syndrome where every girl finds a prince and “lives happily ever after” is usually just a fairy tale. Far too many marry with unrealistically high expectations, and then spend years suffering and adjusting—if they stay together at all.
• A good marriage is based on respect for oneself and for the partner. A poor self-image, inherited from a stressful home background or the product of immaturity, can lead to stormy seas. A solid relationship with Jesus Christ and an understanding of oneself in the light of that relationship are very important. A poor understanding of each other can also lead to misunderstanding and conflict. It doesn’t take too much discernment to realize that males and females are different physically, but how many anticipate that their partner to- be is just as different emotionally and mentally? Each partner must realize this and be prepared to make the necessary allowances and adjustments. “He created them male and female, and blessed them”
• A marriage where there are similarities in the partners has a better chance to succeed. This means:
* The same religious background
* Similar cultural and social backgrounds
* Comparable economic levels
* Equal educational advantages
* A stable home situation
• Marriage was never intended to be a reform school! One who marries another with the hope of “correcting” problem behavior is courting a disastrous future. What could not be changed before marriage is not likely to change at all. This should especially be taken seriously in those instances where alcohol, drugs, or immorality are involved.
• Couples who marry “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) have the potential for a much better relationship than those outside of Christ.
1. Commend the inquirer for seeking advice about a forthcoming marriage. Share the following Scriptures: “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’” (Genesis 2:18). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
2. Advise that in order to have God’s presence and guidance in life and marriage, one must commit one’s life to Jesus Christ. Share the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
3. Encourage the inquirer to take a firm stand for Jesus Christ, whether previously a Christian or having just received Christ. He or she should also begin to read and study God’s Word, to pray about all matters, and to become involved in a Bible-teaching church. All these things will deeply enrich life, enabling the prospective bride or groom to offer much more to the marriage.
4. When the individual marries, be sure that it is “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39). “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
5. Before the marriage, the inquirer can improve its chances of success by:
A. Seeking God’s blessing and control over his or her own life and that of the partner.
B. Assimilating all the knowledge possible about a Christ-centered home and marriage:
• Search the Bible for passages on marriage and the home.
• Read books by Christian counselors and pastors. Such materials are available at Christian bookstores and in church libraries.
• Take advantage of seminars, courses, and films prepared for this purpose.
• Seek counseling from a qualified pastor, marriage counselor, or Christian psychologist. Such counseling should include a comprehensive approach to marriage, including personal, spiritual, financial, and sexual matters.
6. After marriage, practice the following:
• Become involved in a Bible-teaching church where the marriage will be able to flourish spiritually, and where the future family can be received and nurtured in eternal things.
• Resolve to communicate freely and honestly with the partner on all levels of life: mental, emotional, and physical. Such a practice will help greatly in problem solving as issues arise in the marriage.
7. Pray with the inquirer for God’s blessing, presence, and leading in his or her life and approaching marriage.
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 24:3–4, NIV).
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3, NIV).
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. . . . In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:21–22, 28, NIV).
“Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Other suggested Scriptures:
2 Corinthians 6:14–15, NIV
MARRIAGE (Pressure to Do Wrong from an Unbelieving Spouse)
When a Christian is married to a nonbeliever, he or she may at times feel pressured by the mate to do things that are either clearly contrary to Scripture or that simply give the believer an uneasy conscience—perhaps something involving worldly involvements or sexual practices. This can lead to unhappiness and conflict in the marriage.
The Bible commands mutual love and respect between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22, 28). Neither has the right to order the other to do something that is contrary to the Bible or that offends the partner’s conscience. When one partner is not a believer, and therefore perhaps not willing to abide by biblical principles, special wisdom and sensitivity are needed to resolve the conflict.
1. Commend the inquirer for being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in his or her life, and for wanting to do right.
2. Encourage a firm stand for Christ (Romans 12:1–2).
3. Urge the individual to keep the lines of communication open with his or her mate, in order to discuss freely and fully the problems involved and the reasons why it is not possible to agree to such requests. The Christian partner should not be critical or judgmental. “We catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If one is not careful at this point, the point of no return could quickly be reached, bringing conflict and hostility.
4. Love covers a multitude of sins. Encourage the Christian partner to love sincerely, demonstrating it through word and action. As much as possible, express appreciation, admiration, and praise for the unbelieving spouse in those areas where it is due.
5. Encourage the inquirer to pray, first for wisdom and guidance in the situation (James 1:5), then for the unbelieving partner’s obedience to the Word of God and commitment to personal faith in Christ.
CAUTION: One should not be too aggressive in trying to win a husband or wife to Christ. See the chapter on “Marriage (Winning One’s Mate to Christ).”
6. Pray with the inquirer to encourage and fortify his or her resolve.
“We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29, NIV).
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV).
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. . . . For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. . . . Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. . . . But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:1–2, 5, 7–8, 15–16, NIV).
When two lives are bonded together in a long-term intimate relationship, there is bound to be an occasional problem. Many couples go into marriage with very little preparation. Sometimes they lack the emotional maturity, stability, or flexibility which a successful union must have. What are the components of a good marriage?
• Mutual respect. Respect means that each partner accepts the other partner as he or she is, not trying to manipulate but unselfishly nourishing the partner in such a way that he or she may become the person God intended. Respect distinguishes between the ideal and the real, and does not demand too much: “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33, NIV).
• Genuine commitment. The marriage vow says, “Forsaking all others.” The Bible says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). Time and experience in marriage reveal that being “one flesh” does not mean an abdication of personality or personal rights. Rather, it is a fulfillment of those things.
• Good communication. For genuine communication, there must be an understanding of the emotional, mental, and physical differences between men and women. There must be companionship. “I’d rather be with my spouse than with anyone else.” There must be conversation, not only a discussion of differences when such arise, but a meaningful exchange on the intellectual and emotional levels.
• Time and effort. Love must be given the opportunity to mature. The climate for this is set in God’s Word. When the going gets rough, a couple doesn’t just “fall out of love”; they stay together and work things out. They do not consider themselves as martyrs of a “bad bargain,” but “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33, NIV). Problems and differences are resolved through forgiveness: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV).
Cliff Barrows often gives a message to Christian couples which he calls, “Ten Words that Will Safeguard a Marriage.” They are: I was wrong. Forgive me. I’m sorry. I love you.
This same formula will work to safeguard one’s spiritual life as well. Couples need to learn to clean up issues as soon as they develop and to erase the slate every day. See Ephesians 4:26.
• Spiritual unity. Understanding the spiritual dimension in marriage has profound implications. Paul compared marriage—the union of husband and wife—to the eternal relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22–33).
1. Be supportive and encouraging. Listen carefully, with understanding. Don’t judge. Don’t take sides. Sometimes the inquirer is at fault.
2. Try to discover the reasons for the disagreements and problems. Ask questions, if necessary. Does the inquirer feel that he or she has any responsibility in any of the negative developments? Ask how the inquirer would rate the marriage in the light of the “Background.” How has he or she fallen short? What might be done to improve the relationship? In humility, the caller could ask forgiveness for insensitivities, hurts, and offenses. It may take time, but it is worth the effort.
3. Ask if God has ever been brought into their life and marriage. Share the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
4. Where does the individual go from here? Share follow-up steps:
A. Get into the Bible—reading, studying, and applying it to his or her life and marriage.
B. Learn to pray daily. Pray for each other. Pray about existing or potential problem areas: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). Better attitudes lead to a deeper sensitivity as to the needs of one’s mate, producing better relationships. This is one of the values of Bible study and prayer: It will help us anticipate problems as it makes us more spiritually sensitive.
C. Become involved with spouse and family in a Bible-teaching church. Active participation in a dynamic church can revolutionize a marriage and family. Spiritual resources and support can be found in fellowship with committed Christians and in consultation with a committed pastor.
D. Should further counseling be needed—and it often is in troubled marriages—help could be found through contacting a qualified pastor or Christian psychologist or marriage counselor. If the inquirer is a Christian, encourage serious counseling with a Christian marriage service or qualified pastor. Often many concessions and adjustments have to be made on the part of each partner, requiring prolonged professional sessions. The important thing is for them to honestly and sincerely face their situation in the light of God’s Word. A good place to start might be an application of the Cliff Barrows formula from the “Background.”
“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3–4).
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3–5).
“Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Other suggested Scriptures:
MARRIAGE (Winning One’s Mate to Christ)
On a certain occasion, Jesus startled His disciples with a paradox: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a ‘man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34–36, NIV). Nowhere is the cost of discipleship more evident than in a marriage where one partner is a Christian and the other is not. Life becomes complicated as interests, activities, and goals are at variance. The conversion to Christ of one’s mate should receive the highest priority, but extreme caution should be exercised as to methods followed in pursuit of this goal. Many marriages end in divorce because of the insensitivity and overzealous evangelizing of the Christian partner.
1. Commend the inquirer for his or her concern in wanting to share the Gospel with the unbelieving spouse. He or she must be aware, however, of the “sword” Jesus referred to in the above quote: The Christian faith can unite people, but it can also divide them.
2. Encourage the individual not to try to “play God.” He or she cannot force the mate to accept Christ. Those who try to take things into their own hands may be headed for disaster.
3. Recommend not coming on too strong but maintaining a humble attitude rather than a judgmental one. Attitude is extremely important.
4. Encourage the development of personal spiritual maturity through reading and studying God’s Word and through faithfully practicing a life of prayer. Prayer is of great value. Commit the mate to the Lord and by faith claim conversion. Trust God. He has a wonderful way of working things out. (It would probably be best not to tell the unbelieving mate that he or she is the object of prayer!)
5. Example is powerful! Let the mate see Jesus in the believer’s attitudes and actions. Let love overflow. True love cannot be counterfeited. Paul says: “Love is patient, love is kind. . . . Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 8, NIV). Try to demonstrate that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts” (Romans 5:5).
6. Never try to win the mate through argument or sermonizing. This will usually produce antagonism and deepen resistance. Peaceful coexistence is a method suggested by Paul (1 Corinthians 7:12–15).
7. Do not insist that the mate attend church or special Christian services unless there seems to be a disposition to do so. An alternative to church would be introducing Christian friends into the home on social occasions. The husband or wife is bound to see the difference in their lives. The opportune moment for sharing Christ will come.
8. Pray with the inquirer for the perception, wisdom, and patience to await the right moment for openly witnessing, while putting into practice all the above suggestions.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:1–4, NIV).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996
Marriage, Husband/Wife Relationships
1. Marriage was instituted and designed by God.
2. At the heart of marriage is companionship and intimacy, which both husband and wife must promote.
Gen. 2:18, 24. And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
3. The relationship between husband and wife is similar to that between Christ and the church.
Eph. 5:23. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Eph. 5:31–32. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
4. The husband is the head of the wife and the home.
Eph. 5:23. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
5. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church.
Eph. 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
6. Husbands must exercise headship in love.
Col. 3:19. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
7. Husbands must treat their wives with respect and as equal heirs of God’s gifts.
1 Peter 3:7. Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
8. The husband must manage his own home well; he is the manager.
1 Tim. 3:4. One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
9. The husband and father is primarily responsible for training the children.
Eph. 6:4. And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
See also Training Children.
10. God’s design for the wife is that of a helper suitable for man.
Gen. 2:18. And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
11. Both husband and wife must seek to reflect the relationship between Christ and his church.
Eph. 5:25, 32.
12. A wife is to submit to her husband, as the church submits to Christ.
Eph. 5:22–24. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Col. 3:18. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
1 Peter 3:1–2. Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
13. A woman is not to exercise authority over a man.
1 Tim. 2:11–14. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
14. The Bible gives a description of a wife of noble character, who uses her gifts faithfully.
Prov. 31:10–11. Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.
15. The fear of the Lord is more important than physical beauty.
Prov. 31:30. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
1 Peter 3:3–4. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
16. Husbands and wives must not fight and destroy each other.
Gal. 5:15. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
17. Both husband and wife must quickly pursue peace when trouble arises.
Matt. 5:23–24. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Rom. 12:18. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
18. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Matt. 12:25. But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
19. Keep loving those who are wayward.
2 Sam. 18:33. (David never lost his love for his son Absalom, who tried to kill him. When he learned of his death, he wept.) Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”
1. Don’t be yoked with an unbeliever.
2 Cor. 6:14–16. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”
2. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed.
Amos 3:3. Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
3. There were sad results of mixed marriages prior to the flood.
4. God’s people are warned against mixed marriages; unbelievers will lead them to sin.
Exod. 34:16. “And you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.”
5. God will reveal his anger if and when his people marry unbelievers.
Josh. 23:12–13. “Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you—and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.”
6. In Ezra’s time many did intermarry. This led to much sin, and Ezra confessed the guilt of God’s people.
Ezra 9:2. “For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.”
7. Men of Judah intermarried and were led into deep sin. God was angry with them.
Neh. 13:23–27. In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?”
To Have and to Hold
by June Hunt
“In biblical times a covenant vow was binding and unbreakable. Since God made the marriage commitment to be a sacred covenant, it is a lifetime promise, a permanent pledge … ‘till death do you part.’ ”
The concept of a covenant is threaded throughout the Old and New Testaments, weaving a tapestry of unending love and loyalty between God and His people. Marriage vows mirror the same faithful devotion … the expression of a lifetime commitment between two people and God.
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant … you will be my treasured possession.”
A. What Is God’s Model of Marriage?
• Marriage is a covenant agreement in which a man and a woman are legally and spiritually joined together as husband and wife.
“She is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.” (Malachi 2:14–15)
• Marriage is the ceremony or rite that joins a man and a woman in wedlock.
Wedding is the common word for the marriage ceremony, usually with formalities and festivities, such as the wedding feast of Cana. (Read John 2:1–11.)
Matrimony is a synonym for the word marriage. Commonly the word matrimony refers to a marriage performed in a church wedding ceremony.
“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
B. What Is God’s Heart on Marriage?
Old Testament Covenants
• The Hebrew word beriyth, used over 280 times in the Old Testament, is most often translated “covenant,” which means “a binding agreement.”
• Mutually binding covenants were made between people and confirmed by an oath in God’s name. David and Jonathan entered into a covenant of mutual protection established between the two of them and God.
(Read 1 Samuel 18:3; 20:8–42.)
“The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.”
(1 Samuel 20:42)
|The marriage covenant is not just between two people, but between two people and God.|
• God initiated and kept covenants with Noah, Abraham and others. (Read Genesis 9:11–17.)
“I establish my covenant with you [Noah]: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’ ” (Genesis 9:11–13)
“I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (Genesis 17:2)
“I also established my covenant with them [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.” (Exodus 6:4)
Even when the Israelites failed to keep the covenant as they promised to do in Exodus 24:7–8, God refused to forsake it.
“They rejected my laws.… Yet in spite of this … I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them.” (Leviticus 26:43–44)
|If you are going to be a godly covenant keeper, you will refuse to forsake your marriage covenant even though your partner may have been unfaithful at a point in time.|
• The phrase “to cut covenant” refers to an old Hebrew custom of sealing a covenant bond by the shedding of sacrificial blood. When God established His covenant with Abraham, He required Abraham to cut sacrificial animals in half. (Read Genesis 15:8–18.)
“Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Psalm 50:5)
|The keeping of a marriage covenant requires death to self.|
New Testament Covenants
• The Greek word diatheke, translated “covenant” or “testament,” conveys the picture of a legal will—a last will and testament. This pledge of inheritance and promise of distribution is based on one individual’s desires.
• While the English word covenant signifies a mutual agreement of joint obligation between two or more parties, diatheke connotes a covenant, pledge or promise made solely by one individual.
“Christ is the mediator of a new covenant … he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15)
|As a covenant keeper, you are singly responsible to demonstrate your covenant of love and loyalty even if your mate does not respond as you would like.|
• Just as God the Father used blood from sacrificial animals to seal a covenant in the Old Testament, God seals a new covenant with His people by the sacrificial death and shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“ ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.” (Mark 14:24)
|Keeping a marriage covenant will require “death to self” through a willingness to make difficult personal sacrifices.|
• Both Testaments state God’s call for His people to be covenant keepers, but only the New Testament promises us the power to remain faithful to our commitments. This power comes through the presence of Christ in each believer.
“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
|Developing the strength of character required to keep a lifetime commitment is a continual process of submitting your will to God, allowing Him to develop the character of Christ in you.|
“I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:42)
C. What Is God’s Pattern for Marriage?
“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
These two verses in Genesis establish the four elements in God’s perfect order for marriage.
• Separation “A man will leave his father and mother.”
Both the husband and wife leave the authority of their parents and become a separate family unit. In marriage the loyalty to your parents should never be stronger than the loyalty to your spouse.
• Bonding “And be united to his wife.”
By an act of your will, bonding is a mental commitment to have a faithful, permanent relationship with your spouse regardless of difficulties.
• Oneness “They will become one flesh.”
Physical oneness is the consummation of sexual closeness. However, to achieve a lasting oneness, both of you should look for ways to bring pleasure to the other. Openly ask what is pleasurable and take the time to enjoy one another.
• Intimacy “They felt no shame.”
Emotional intimacy is encouraged when you seek to be vulnerable and transparent, honestly sharing with one another your feelings of frustration and failure and your deepest disappointments and desires.
Spiritual intimacy is achieved when you continue to reveal to one another your unmet needs, praying together, praying for each other and sharing what God is personally doing in your lives.
D. What Are God’s Purposes for Marriage?
God has a unique purpose for the marriage covenant. The marital relationship affords you the awesome opportunity to showcase Christ’s relationship to His bride (the church). In the same way that Christ sacrificially gave Himself to the church, you and your mate should be willing to sacrifice your individual desires for the sake of your marriage covenant.
“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”
God has given you and your mate to one another as partners for life. True companionship grows within the marriage relationship when there is emotional, spiritual and physical unity.
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3)
The marriage relationship and your mate are God’s special gifts to you. True enjoyment of your mate will grow out of self-control and a servant’s heart.
“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18)
God’s first command in Scripture was for Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply.” God desires that the earth be filled with godly offspring.
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ ” (Genesis 1:28)
In the intimate relationship of marriage, you become well aware of your partner’s shortcomings. Your partner is also well aware of your shortcomings! God uses both your weaknesses and strengths to sharpen and conform you and your partner to the image of Christ.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)
E. What Is God’s Design for Marriage?
• Monogamy—being married to only one person or to only one person at a time
Q “My husband died several years ago. To honor his memory, should I refuse to consider remarriage?”
No. God’s Word says you are free to marry again as long as the person is a believer.
“A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39)
• Bigamy—being married to one person while legally married to another
Q “Since some cultures approve of bigamy, how can it be wrong?”
Although civil laws change, the Bible teaches the covenant of one wife for one husband.
“Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2)
• Polygamy—being married to two or more people at the same time
Q “Why did God change from giving approval to polygamy in the Old Testament to endorsing monogamy in the New Testament?”
God has never changed. From the beginning His original design for the covenant marriage was monogamy.
“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper [not helpers] suitable for him.… For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [not wives], and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18, 24)
II. Characteristics Of A Troubled Marriage
God uses the marital relationship as a chisel to chip away at your unresolved personal problems. When your marriage reveals any of these characteristics, it is God’s way of getting your attention in order for one or both of you to change. God’s intent is for both partners to move from self-centered behavior toward sacrificial behavior that demonstrates godly love.
A. The Make-Believe Marriage … a marriage that lacks honest and intimate communication
|• Not confronting||fearful and insecure|
|• Not being direct||manipulative|
|• Not working through problems||stubborn|
|• Not accepting responsibility||defensive|
|• Not acknowledging your mate’s feelings||rejecting mate emotionally|
|• Not concerned about your mate’s needs||self-centered|
|• Not displaying affection||taking mate for granted|
The make-believe marriage is marriage in name only. Two people are going through the outward rituals of a marriage, yet one or both seem to be selfishly pursuing individual personal goals. The way to enjoy intimate communication is to be as concerned about your partner’s needs as about your own.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
B. The Maladjusted Marriage … a marriage in which sexual difficulties are ignored
|• Frigidity||fear, psychological problems, sexual abuse, guilt|
|• Impatience||insensitivity, selfishness|
|• Infidelity||unrealistic expectations, pornography|
|• Fatigue||excessive busyness, overcommitment|
|• Denial||manipulation, anger, unforgiveness|
The maladjusted marriage is sexually maladjusted and is not experiencing the unique expression of spiritual and physical “oneness.” God’s design is that both partners, as an act of love, yield their bodies to one another. True sexual fulfillment comes through seeking to provide pleasure to the other.
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”
(1 Corinthians 7:3–4)
C. The Mixed-Up Marriage … a marriage where strongly held values are in conflict
• Religious Beliefs
— “We should attend church every Sunday.”
— “Church attendance is not important.”
• Parenting Responsibilities
— “Children should be taught to obey.”
— “Children should be given total freedom.”
• Marital Commitments
— “Adultery is unforgivable.”
— “An affair could be healthy for a marriage.”
• Drinking Convictions
— “We will not have alcohol in our home.”
— “There is nothing wrong with social drinking.”
• Friendship Choices
— “Your friends are a bad influence on us.”
— “These have always been my friends, and I like them.”
• Moral Principles
— “Abortion is always wrong because it is murder.”
— “Abortion is okay and should be the mother’s choice.”
The mixed-up marriage is a mixture of opposing values and beliefs and has the potential for tension, criticism and power struggles. When basic values are in conflict, the partners have great difficulty developing oneness in the mind, will and emotions. God’s design for the married couple is that they be like-minded, having the same desires and purposes.
“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
D. The Misfocused Marriage … a marriage burdened with financial difficulties and disagreements
• Who will earn the family income?
• Who will control the money?
• How will the family money be spent?
• How much money will be given to the church?
• Should we use credit cards?
• What do we do when credit cards are misused?
• Do we really need to have a budget?
• What happens when there isn’t enough money for essentials?
Conflicting answers to these questions and other financial difficulties can result in a couple’s developing an unhealthy focus on money and material needs. God desires that a marriage be free of an emphasis on money by trusting Him for financial security.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ”
E. The Misaligned Marriage … a marriage in which the partners fail to recognize/respond to their God-given roles
• Failure of the husband to provide responsible leadership
— He is not a spiritual leader.
— He is not financially responsible.
— He refuses to make decisions.
— He doesn’t seek to solve problems.
— He neglects his wife emotionally.
— He always gives in to her demands.
— He is not honest about his desires and needs.
• Failure of the wife to have a submissive spirit
— She does not have a gentle spirit.
— She tries to control her husband.
— She becomes involved in power struggles.
— She stubbornly holds to her opinions.
— She withdraws from him emotionally.
— She is bitter and sarcastic.
— She seeks revenge for not feeling loved.
God’s order is for the husband to feel significant through providing for his family and receiving the respectful love of his wife. He fills her need for security through love, acceptance, sensitivity to her needs and unselfish commitment to their marriage.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
(Ephesians 5:22–23, 25)
III. Causes Of A Broken Marriage
Far too many people enter into a marriage relationship expecting a personal payoff. Deep and honest reflection will reveal thinking like, She is going to make me happy, or He is going to take care of me. Eventually, these unfulfilled expectations become lost hopes and dreams that can grow into a root of bitterness.
“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
A. Common Expectations
• Marriage will …
— provide me with love and acceptance
— bring me affection and sexual intimacy
— surround me with a loving family
— rescue me from my present circumstances
— furnish me with financial security
— afford me social acceptance
— offer me broader career opportunities
— protect me from loneliness
— give me the assurance that someone will take care of me
— allow me the time to change my mate’s behavior
• Common Conclusions
— “Life is too short to live like this. We’ll both be happier if I just leave.”
— “This was not a marriage made in heaven. We should have never married.”
— “We’ve tried everything, and nothing works. Our situation is hopeless.”
— “My spouse is stubborn and selfish. Things will never really change.”
— “Everybody is getting a divorce these days. Marriage just doesn’t mean what it used to.”
— “It will be better for the children to be away from this tense environment.”
— “I’ll never be happy in this marriage. Maybe I can just ‘stick it out’ until the children are grown.”
But the Bible says,
“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”
B. Root Cause
Those who enter marriage with the goal of getting rather than giving are living with the unrealistic expectation that a spouse can meet their deepest inner needs.
“I have the right to expect my marriage partner to meet my needs. Divorce is better than keeping a loveless marriage together.”
God expects me to keep my marriage commitment. I will look to the Lord to provide my deepest needs and allow Christ to love and serve my mate through me.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
IV. Steps To Solution
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
The principle of mutual submission applies to many relationships. Submission is based on your love for the Lord and your desire to do His will. The same applies to marriage. Because of their love for God, both husband and wife are in a process of learning to defer to the desires of the other. Submission, however, is not appropriate when it is based on fear or if it results in a violation of God’s will.
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
God designed the marriage relationship to reflect the relationship of Christ and His church.
|Husband and Wife||Christ and The Church|
|• The husband is the head of the wife as||v. 23||• Christ is the head of the church.||v. 23|
|He is in a position of authority, but he is under the headship of Christ.||Christ has authority over believers, but He is under the headship of God, the Father.|
|• The wife is to willingly submit to her husband as||vv. 22, 24||• Believers (the church) are to willingly submit to Christ.||v. 24|
|She is yielding to the God-given authority in her life according to a godly conscience.||Believers are yielding to the Lordship of Christ.|
|• The husband is to have sacrificial love for his wife as||vv. 25–26||• Christ has sacrificial love for His church.||vv. 25–26|
|He unselfishly meets his wife’s needs.||He sacrificed His life for the church.|
|• The husband is to love his wife as he loves his own body as||vv. 25, 28||• Christ loves believers as members of His own body.||v. 30|
|He nourishes and cares for his wife.||He nourishes and cares for believers.|
|• The husband is to become one with his wife as||v. 31||• Christ becomes one with His church.||v. 32|
|The husband and wife have made a lifelong covenant with each other.||He has made an eternal covenant with believers.|
C. Letting Christ Love Your Mate through You
Although everyone has three God-given inner needs—the needs for love, for security and for significance—God designed the husband to have a greater need for personal significance, while the wife is uniquely created with a deeper need for security. A crucial element in the marriage relationship is becoming aware of your partner’s needs and learning to meet them creatively.17
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
For Wives … Your Husband’s Needs
— Praise his positive character traits.
— Reassure him of his capabilities.
— Respect his burden of responsibility.
“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” (Proverbs 31:23)
• Domestic Support
— Provide a peaceful home atmosphere.
— Manage the home efficiently.
— Verbalize appreciation for his provision.
“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27)
— Develop mutual interests together.
— Learn to talk knowledgeably about your husband’s occupation.
— Become interested and/or proficient in activities your husband likes.
“ ‘The two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.” (Mark 10:8)
— Develop inner beauty that earns respect.
— Display inner strength regardless of outward circumstances.
— Dress in an appropriate, feminine manner.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)
• Sexual Fulfillment
— Be a responsive wife.
— Communicate your sexual needs.
— Give assurance that your husband is sexually adequate.
“The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:4–5)
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”
For Husbands … Your Wife’s Needs
— Give hugs, kisses and touches.
— Tell her how much you care for her.
— Give her cards, flowers and gifts.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)
— Talk on the feeling level.
— Listen with concern and interest.
— Encourage and praise her positive character traits.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
— Commit to total truthfulness.
— Share your true thoughts, feelings and desires.
— Discuss your plans and activities clearly.
“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (Proverbs 24:26)
• Financial Security
— Shoulder the financial responsibility.
— Consult her on how to best use finances.
— Prepare a budget together to plan for the future.
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
— Make your wife and family your highest earthly priority.
— Schedule quality and quantity time alone with her.
— Verbalize your commitment to her often.
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
(1 Peter 3:7)
Try making a list of ten specific things you feel would please your mate. A wife might show her husband respect by asking for his advice. A husband can encourage his wife by seeking her opinion about his friends or business activities. Each week try to practice one thing on your list.
D. A Covenant Connection
The very heart of marriage is a covenant relationship. Just as God reaffirmed His covenant with Israel on many occasions, a husband and wife must never lose their commitment to each other. This commitment is not only to your mate, but also to the marriage itself. Commitment goes much deeper than romantic love, and it will empower you to keep an unbreakable covenant with your marriage partner regardless of the unexpected circumstances life will bring.
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” (Hosea 2:19)
• Commit to working through problems, not walking away.
— Decide together that divorce is not an option.
— Agree to communicate feelings honestly and lovingly.
— Agree to stop and talk when your mate becomes upset.
— Agree to understand the reasons for each other’s actions.
“Are you married? Do not seek a divorce.” (1 Corinthians 7:27)
• Offer love to your mate even when you don’t feel like it.
— Evaluate how your love compares to that described in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Substitute your name in the place of the word love in verses 4–8.
— Ask, “At what times do I need to be more patient and kind?”
— Ask, “Are there times when you feel I’ve not forgiven you?”
— Forgive freely, refusing to keep a record of wrongs.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8)
• View your marriage as God’s setting for spiritual growth.
— Evaluate the needs in your life for love, for significance and for security.
— Realize that God did not create any one person to meet all of your needs.
— While God is your ultimate need-meeter, see your mate as God’s gift to meet some of those needs.
— Allow your mate to identify and help you with your blind spots.
“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31)
• Eliminate the emphasis on your rights.
— Identify what makes you angry.
— Determine what personal rights have been violated.
— Sensitively express your honest desires—“It would mean a lot to me if you would take out the trash.”
— Realize that as a Christian, you’ve yielded your rights to the Lord.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
• Nurture your identity in Christ.
— Evaluate whether or not your sense of self-worth is based on how your mate treats you.
— Realize that your true worth is based on Christ’s dying for you and living in you.
— Read the New Testament letters, such as Ephesians and Philippians.
— Write out what it means for you to be “in Christ” and to have “Christ in you.”
Example: “I have Christ’s strength to do what is right before God.”
(Read Philippians 4:13.)
—Acknowledge that your true identity is in Christ, not in your mate.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
• Ask God to change you.
— Evaluate what areas in your life need changing.
— Ask your mate, “Would you name one area in my life where you feel I need the most change?”
— Ask your mate, “Would you help me devise a plan for improvement?”
— Pray for God to give you the desire and the power to change.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
• Nourish your extended family relationships.
— Evaluate the tangible and emotional needs of your in-laws.
— Do acts of kindness that are totally unexpected.
— Realize your opportunity to draw them to Christ through your love.
— Commit to never saying an unkind word about your mate’s family.
— Pray daily for those who have hurt you—forgive and forgive again.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
• Turn your expectations over to God.
— Evaluate the unrealistic expectations you have had of marriage and of your mate.
— Realize that God can bring complete fulfillment to you regardless of your marriage partner.
— Believe that your relationship to God is more important than your relationship with your mate.
— Thank God that He will work in your marriage for your ultimate good.
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.… Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1–2, 5)
|The most important concept in marriage is the commitment of covenant. While circumstances change from good to bad, and emotions move from up to down, commitment to God’s covenant of marriage is the constant that every couple needs. Commitment is based on fact, not feeling … commitment is the glue that holds.—June Hunt
|“… at the beginning of creation …God Made Them Male and Female”
What do you know about the man or woman in your life? Are you perplexed or even angered by your loved one’s behavior and responses? When Scripture says, “God made them male and female,” it means God made them different, and this dissimilarity goes deeper than the obvious physical differences. God constructed them differently inside. Males and females simply think and experience life differently. Understanding masculinity and femininity is a clue to understanding and loving your mate.
These tendencies are not weighed on a scale of “right or wrong.” They are complementary and God-given to bring balance and depth to your marriage relationship.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
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Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. The Marriage Builder: A Blueprint for Couples and Counselors. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.
Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.
Harley, Willard F., Jr. His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. 15th Anniversary ed. Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 2001.
Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.
Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008
McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.
Sell, Charles M. Achieving the Impossible: Intimate Marriage. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1982.
Swindoll, Charles R. Strike the Original Match. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1980.
Wright, H. Norman. The Secrets of a Lasting Marriage. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1995.
Wright, H. Norman. What Men Want: Why Men Think, Feel & Act the Way They Do. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1996.