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What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

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An Illustration

Eph. 5:23-32

    For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything.

    And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God's word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body.

    As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. (NLT)

The picture of marriage expands into something much broader, with the husband and wife relationship illustrating the relationship between Christ and the church. Husbands are urged to lay down their lives in sacrificial love and protection. And in this safe and cherished embrace of a loving husband, what wife would not be willing to submit to his leadership?

What Does the Bible Say?
• Husbands - love and sacrifice.
• Wives - submit.

Different Yet Equal

1 Peter 3:1-5, 7

    In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands, even those who refuse to accept the Good News. Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over by watching your pure, godly behavior.

    Don't be concerned about the outward beauty ... You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God ... In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. If you don't treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard. (NLT)

Some readers will quit right here. After all, "husbands taking the authoritative lead in marriage" and "wives submitting" are not popular messages in today's world!

But this illustration of marriage typifying the relationship between Christ and the church adds further encouragement for wives to submit to their husbands, even those who don't follow Christ. Although this is a difficult challenge, the verse promises that her godly character and inward beauty will win over her husband more effectively than words.

If we're not careful, we will miss that these verses highlight the equal partnership of husbands and wives in God's gift of new life. Though the husband exercises the role of authority and leadership, and the wife fulfills a role of submission, both are equal heirs in God's kingdom. The roles are different, but equally important.

What Does the Bible Say?
• Wives - demonstrate godly character and quiet inner beauty.
• Husbands - honor their wives and be kind and gentle.
• Husands and wives are equal partners.

Outcome

1 Corinthians 7:1-2

    ... It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. (NIV)

This verse suggests that it is better not to marry. Those in difficult marriages would quickly agree! Throughout history it has been believed that a deeper commitment to spirituality can be achieved through a devoted life of celibacy.

Clearly this verse refers to immorality in sexual relations. In other words, it is better to marry than to be sexually immoral. But if we elaborate the meaning to incorporate all forms of immorality, we could easily include self-centeredness, greed, wanting to control, hatred, and all of the issues that surface when we enter into an intimate relationship.

Could one of the deeper purposes of marriage be to make us confront our own character flaws, the behaviors and attitudes we would never have seen nor faced otherwise? If we allow the challenges of marriage to force us to confront ourselves, we will be applying a spiritual discipline of tremendous value.

What Does the Bible Say?
• Strive to overcome immoral living.

I believe God designed marriage as an instrument to make us more like Christ. In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas asks this question, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" Is it possible that there is something much more profound in the heart of God than simply to make us happy?

Can we lay down our own ambitions to love and serve our spouse? Through marriage we can learn about unconditional love, respectful honor, how to forgive and be forgiven. We can see our shortcomings and grow from that insight. We can develop a servant's heart, and draw closer to God. As a result, true soul happiness can be discovered, and this, I believe is one of God's ultimate desires and purposes for designing the covenant of marriage.

Practical Resources

Top 8 Christian Books About Marriage

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