Biblical Principles for Successful Marriage
You may also wish to read Practical Tips for Marriage Enrichment.
The following Scriptures (with brief comments) provide a brief overview of some of the Bible passages that deal explicitly with the marriage relationship. Couples are encouraged to read these things carefully and prayerfully and then discuss them fully with each other. God instituted marriage. No one knows better than He how to make it excellent!
"...unto Him Who is able to
keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His
glory with exceeding joy..." (Jude 1:24-25)
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31)
Do not allow relationships
with parents to become too important. A common problem is to “complain” to a
parent when we are not happy with a spouse. Some parents are always hearing
negative things about their son-in-law or daughter-in-law. These kinds of things
can accumulate in the hearts of parents and create resentment toward their
child’s spouse. Other spouses go to their parents every time there is a problem
to be solved. While it is true that parents can offer great wisdom, our first
strategy should always be to pray things through and talk things over
thoroughly with our spouse. Then, with his/her agreement, we may wish to discuss
things with our parents. Obviously, we should do everything we can to strengthen
the relationship between our parents and our spouse.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Both husband and wife must be Christians. This verse is the reason we strongly discourage even dating between believers and unbelievers. Once the dating process has started, it is too easy for our emotions to overwhelm our wisdom and strength and lead us to a bad decision. If a man or woman is unwilling to trust Christ before getting into a serious emotional relationship with a Christian, he or she will be unlikely to trust Christ after the relationship has gotten serious. Most young people have a difficult time understanding how difficult it is to have a strong marriage or how difficult it is to agree on what’s best for children later on in the marriage when one of the spouses is a non-Christian.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
A marriage can only thrive
when the wife defers to the husband. A selfish, self-centered, demanding wife
can destroy a marriage. But notice that the husband is NOT given the
responsibility to try to MAKE his wife submit! It is between her and the Lord.
Ideally, the husband will be so loving and obviously dedicated to his wife’s
well being that she will find it a joy to defer to him. Certainly, even if the
husband has lots of spiritual growing to do, he is more likely to experience
that growth when his wife maintains a submissive spirit. Normally, a husband and
wife can come to agreement by graciously and honestly discussing their
differences. In those rare times when an impasse is reached, the wife should
make it her determination to defer to her husband.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,” (Ephesians 5: 25-29)
A selfish, self-centered, demanding husband can also destroy a marriage. When a husband convinces his wife that he loves her with an unconditional, selfless kind of love, it makes it very easy for her to defer to his leadership. Jesus sacrificed Himself for His bride, the church. Husbands are to love their wives with that same kind of self-sacrificial love. This means more than just being willing to die for our wives. It means sacrificing things, day-by-day, that we might prefer to do but that would not be in the best interest of our wives. Of course, just because a husband loves his wife, doesn’t guarantee that his wife will always quickly reciprocate. Remember the analogy of Christ and the church. Jesus is always loving. But sometimes those whom He loves do not respond with a submissive deference to Him like we should. He just keeps on loving us.
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)
Men are rarely persuaded to do anything with a good attitude when they feel “nagged” into it. Wives should be sensitive to those times when “discussion” begins to sound like “nagging” from the husband’s perspective. Most men will quickly “crumble” and desperately try to please his wife when she behaves in a gracious, submissive, and wise fashion!
“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:3-6)
Most husbands appreciate wives who take care of their appearance and look their best. Most also appreciate wives who dress modestly and not in ways that tend to “entice” other men. But, as this passage points out, the kind of woman his wife is in her heart—that “gentle and quiet spirit”—is far more “precious in the sight of God” as well as in the sight of her husband.
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
As husbands, we need to get all the knowledge and understanding we can of our wives. This would include studying carefully what others have learned about the natures and differences between men and women and how those differences affect our marriages. Husbands must realize that wives are more easily hurt—and make decisions in light of that understanding. When we do realize that we have said or done something that has hurt our wives, we must be humble enough to admit our wrong and ask for forgiveness. Husbands must learn to “honor” their wives. Each husband can discuss with his wife the kinds of things he might do to help her feel honored. It’s also interesting that God warns us here that He is so serious about our being wise husbands, that if we ignore Him at this point, it will definitely mess up our fellowship with Him! At that point, God is saying, in effect, “First, you go do everything in your power to get things right with your wife. Then you come and talk with Me!”
“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:4)
This verse implies that both spouses must discuss and agree with each other about sexual issues. She belongs to him. BUT he belongs to her! The husband and wife must see this as an opportunity to understand each other, learn to be giving and generous to each other, and learn to be patient with each other. If one spouse (either one!) behaves selfishly in this area, there will be massive problems in the marriage. We recommend that you find a good Christian book that goes into detail about the sexual issues in marriage and read and discuss it together.
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) “’For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord” (Malachi 2:15-16)
Some people argue that divorce is not real or possible. But it certainly is real and possible. Otherwise God would have not told us not to do it! He would have said, “Man CANNOT separate” instead of “let no man separate.” It takes TWO people, with the grace and help of God, to make a marriage succeed. It only takes ONE person to destroy it. Of course, many marriages end in divorce because one spouse (often both spouses) begins to behave with such intense selfishness and self-centeredness that he or she emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and perhaps even physically “leaves” his or her spouse, destroying the covenant. But God has built us in such as way that divorce is always far more painful than we can imagine. Two people who had once become one, are now being ripped apart. Of course, it is not just the obtaining of legal papers of divorcement that rips them apart; it is the sin that has been tearing apart the marriage—sometimes for years—on the part of one, or perhaps both, of the spouses.
But the point is that since God hates divorce, and since divorce causes so much pain to so many people, a couple must commit to doing everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t happen. One person cannot do it alone. This is far more than just saying, “No matter what, we won’t get a divorce.” It means living in such a way and behaving in such a way with each other that divorce becomes unthinkable! Sadly, many couples experience “divorce” even though they remain legally married. And remember, it is not enough for one spouse to commit to make the marriage work. It takes two—with the Lord at the center. Preventing divorce is far more than a commitment not to do it. It is the result of a godly husband and a godly wife living with each other day in and day out according to the wisdom and commands of the Lord.
© 2005 Steve Hall
You may also wish to read Practical Tips for Marriage Enrichment.