Marriage: What makes for a great one?
As I’m writing this, my grandson, Gary Googe III is about to get married. I have three beautiful granddaughters, but just one handsome grandson. My concern for all of them is that they’ll get to enjoy a long and happy marriage as Janet and I have. But we all know that about every other marriage ends in divorce. Why is that? Are there reasons? Of course! Nothing just happens! And it isn’t luck that is the deciding factor. People and relationships are all about decisions. And decisions are based on one’s thinking, one’s norms and standards.
As I think about marriage, I immediately think of King Solomon in the Bible. He was a man who was given of God great wisdom for all kinds of things, including marriage. Here’s the record of how he came to be such a wise man.
I Kings 3:7-14
7 And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant [Solomon] king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
14 And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. [Emphasis added]
All this tells us that God miraculously bestowed upon this young man great wisdom. Although God did this for Solomon, He doesn’t do it that way for people today. We must become serious students of the Bible if we’re to become wise about such things.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
But what was the result? Solomon ended up with 700 wives and 300 concubines. Was he happy in any of those relationships? No! So, what happened? The answer to that is that there’s a big difference between knowing what to do and doing it. Application is everything! Someone may have all the wisdom in the world, but if it’s not applied, it is worthless to that person. Such was the case for Solomon. The result was a life with everything but happiness. Then later God got him to write about it. That document is the Bible book called Ecclesiastes. There we find his testimonial, describing his misery in one page after another. Here are his concluding remarks at the end of his life. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. [Emphasis added]
What does the Bible tell us about having a successful marriage. Many volumes of material have been written about this and there’s no way for me to fully address this in just a few pages. But what are the main factors for a believer? What are the basics? I do believe I can cover those here in this article. Scripture gives us some clear insight on those basic principles. So, here they are. But as you go through these, please realize that it is your responsibility to be sure you really know the person you’re marrying. This demands many hours of being with the person and communicating with them to fully know them. It even involves some communication with others who may have known them for many years longer than you have known them. This way you’ll never be able to say you “didn’t know what you were getting into.”
We’ll begin this with the most important thing of all.
First and foremost here needs to be spiritual compatibility. This means that if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the person you marry must be a believer. By that I mean they understand that salvation comes by grace through faith alone in what God did in Jesus Christ to make a way for our salvation. Christ died for our sins, His body was put away in burial, and on the third day He arose from the grave. If they’ve accepted that as the sole basis for their salvation, they are saved and Heaven bound. So, the first and most important thing for you to do is to be certain the person you’re considering marrying is saved. Their salvation status does not need to just be an afterthought. Believers have been commanded not to marry an unbeliever.
2 Corinthians 6:14-15
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [Emphasis added]
Hence, we are not to identify ourselves with God’s enemies. Both parties are to be ones who’ve accepted God’s stated means for salvation.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
We are clearly told that salvation comes to us by grace through faith alone, not works of any kind.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
It is because of this first factor that I asked Janet to attend a church prayer meeting with me on our first date. I knew that if that was not of interest to her, I was not going to be interested in her. Even then I was fully aware that I was to marry only a believer with whom there would be spiritual compatibility.
Secondly, in numerous ways, one needs to be attracted to the prospective mate. Material wealth should never be a factor. Here I’m talking about one’s attraction to the person, their body, soul and spirit. Therefore, this includes their appearance, but involves much more. There must be soulish attraction that produces a bond. It includes such things as their personality, their standards, and their life goals. There needs to be compatibility in every way possible. The two becoming one should eventually be much more than physical. Getting a running start on that from the beginning can be very helpful, always working to create an unbreakable bond in the relationship. But never marry a person because you feel like you can change them to become what you want. Usually that does not work out at all as planned.
Third, love is the “glue” that creates a strong bond in the relationship. This next passage we’ll study has many areas of application in life. Marriage is certainly one of them.
1 Be ye therefore followers [MIMETES = follow or imitate] of God, as dear children;
2 And walk in love [AGAPE = love], as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. [Emphasis added]
Certainly, it won’t be much of a marriage without love for each other being at the heart of the relationship. This love spoken of here is not physical, but totally mental. It is to be a day-by-day mental attitude where one treats the other party on the basis of their own thinking rather than that of one’s mate. This means your love isn’t determined by the other party’s conduct in the relationship. Your love for your mate is to be stable and ongoing as God’s love is for us. What a high standard that is for us all! But it is only this kind of love that makes for a stable and wonderful marriage. This love is clearly defined for us in the Scriptures. It is sometimes quoted in marriage ceremonies.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Charity [AGAPE = love] suffereth long [MAKROTHUMIA = patient], and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself [PERPEREUOMAI = not self-centered], is not puffed up [PHUSIOO = proudful],
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly [ASCHEMOSUNE = improperly or inappropriately], seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [Emphasis added]
The situations that demand the application of these things are many.
Both parties need to know and gladly accept their God-given position in the relationship and function accordingly. Clear statements are made about this in the Bible, but they are openly challenged by many. God’s design for the husband and the wife has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Today and in every generation, men are not encouraged to fulfill their role as leaders and providers for the household and women are often not encouraged to be mothers and homemakers. In some households there’s been a complete reversal of roles. When people are not willing to fulfill their God-given responsibilities, it should not be surprising that the divorce rate is as high as it is. So, note carefully what is stated in these passages and relate it to your own life situation.
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
This first statement is a general principle about the importance of submitting to duly constituted authority figures in one’s life.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Like other commands of Scripture, that’s not a suggestion but a command. Wives are to submit to the authority of their husbands ongoing. This tells us it is not a 50/50 relationship. The husband is to be the head of the household.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [Emphasis added]
Every aspect of this can never be overemphasized. Both the husband’s love for his wife and the wife’s submission to the authority of her husband are absolutes. Furthermore, it doesn’t say to love her IF she’s submissive and it doesn’t say to submit to him IF he expresses love to you. The commands are binding no matter how the other party functions. We are to be expressive of grace in the relationship. That means there will be times when one of the parties must be willing to give the other party what they don’t deserve. The apostle Peter tells us these same things, but with further amplification.
I Peter 3:1-7
1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [ANASTROPHE = conduct or manner of life] of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste [HAGNOS = pure from every fault] conversation coupled with fear.
3 Whose adorning [KOSMEO = beauty] let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart [a reference to inner beauty], in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet [non-disputing] spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement [without being frightened].
7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. [Emphasis added]
Even in the Old English, the basic meaning of the message is clear. Husbands are to treat their wives the way they’d like to be treated.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. [Emphasis added]
These principles are timeless, being for people now and of EVERY generation.
Every man and woman must decide how they’ll approach this, but we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by anything but the Word of God. The commands of Scripture are to be obeyed. There will be consequences when they are not.
Every man and woman must decide how they’ll approach this, but we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by anything but the Word of God. Again, the commands of Scripture are to be obeyed. There will be consequences when they are not.
There are many people who do not need to follow the example of their parents because their parents failed in doing things God’s way. In those cases, one can learn from the bad example they have set. We are to learn to live every area of our lives in accordance with the guidance of Scripture. As we study it, we’re to allow it to transform our way of thinking about all kinds of things. God’s way is to become our way.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. [Emphasis added]
One of my favorite sayings is this. If all else fails, follow instructions! It seems that many foolishly choose to follow the “all else.” One of the most loving things you can ever do for your mate is to live a Godly life where you let God’s Word always be your guide. God has graciously provided the instructions to enable us for this. It should be the task of us all to learn exactly what those instructions are and to follow them. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be surprised when we become another negative marital statistic, having to experience all the suffering associated with divorce. If you’ll follow the directions of God’s Word, the likelihood of that happening is significantly diminished or completely eliminated.