1. Marriage is part of the created order. It is designed to meet a basic human need for companionship and is meant to last a lifetime. By design marriage is to be a harmonious partnership.
Gen 2:18-25 18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman,' for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (NIV)
2. Sin has distorted all human behavior, including marital and sexual behavior. Due to sin selfish behavior and rebellion there is sexual tension, dishonesty, and distrust which erodes and damages the marital relationship. The marriage partnership is distorted by sin and there is a lack of equality.
Gen 3:1-8 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" 4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (NIV)
3. One of the basic goals of marriage as designed by God is to bring satisfaction, or happiness, to the partners. The potential for happiness is built into the design of marriage, but attaining it requires effort by the partners. It is not, however, an effort to be happy, but rather to make a spouse happy. Remember that other pursuits, other goals, can damage and undermine a marriage. Giving and getting satisfaction in marriage requires keeping career, politics, hobbies, and so forth in perspective.
Deut 24:5 If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. (NIV)
Ecc 9:9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. (NIV)
4. God wants people to take marriage very seriously, and in the Law of Moses prescribed a death penalty for sexual violations of the marriage bond. God wants people to work together and honor one another in marriage and condemned the betrayal of a spouse.
Lev 20:10 "`If a man commits adultery with another man's wife-- with the wife of his neighbor-- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (NIV)
5. The Law of Moses also provided for legal divorce, but stressed the seriousness of ending a marriage. God's people were not to accept a casual attitude about divorce. The point is made that marriage, divorce, and remarriage matter to God, that he "detests" what people do to themselves with casual attitudes about marriage and divorce.
Deut 24:1-4 1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. (NIV)
6. When Jesus discussed Moses' provision for legal divorce he stressed that such a law existed because of human failure selfishness and stubbornness. He also taught that the one thing that provided a legitimate reason for divorce is adultery. In Jesus' teaching there is always adultery in divorce and remarriage. Either a divorce is caused by adultery, or else remarriage after divorce results in adultery. All sins damage human beings, but adultery is especially damaging to the whole person, and to human relationships.
Matt 19:3-12 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." 11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (NIV)
7. Adultery, sexual sin or marital unfaithfulness, is pictured in the Bible as especially damaging and always dangerous. Illicit sex is foolish and self-destructive behavior. One who is not trustworthy in keeping their marriage vows is not trustworthy in anything.
Prov 2:12-19 12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. 16 It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life. (NIV)
8. Adultery can seem very attractive, but is to be strenuously avoided. Adultery is to be avoided, not because of some arbitrary system of values, but because it is contrary to the created nature of human beings. Men and women are designed to have a lasting physical relationship with commitment. Defying our own created nature will always harm us. Marital loyalty, on the other hand, produces the satisfaction God designed marriage for. A man or woman should make a conscious decision as often as needed to enjoy the physical, mental, and spiritual resources their spouse brings to their partnership. A person must choose to rejoice, to be satisfied, to be captivated by their spouse and not to look elsewhere. The Bible asserts that we can choose to make our relationships better and stronger and more satisfying, but commitment is required.
Prov 5:1-21 1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. 7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly." 15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife? 21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. (NIV)
9. Maintaining a strong marriage and avoiding the temptation to go in other directions requires teaching and discipline. Knowing what is right will certainly help people do what is right. There can be no success in marriage, and no rejection of sin, without discipline. The Bible teaches that the distortion of sex, sex outside of marriage, reduces humans to being objects, commodities and consumables, and destroys them. The passions involved produce violent conflict and people lose respect for one another.
Prov 6:20-35 20 My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. 21 Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. 23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, 24 keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife. 25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, 26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? 28 Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? 29 So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. 30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. 31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. 32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away; 34 for jealousy arouses a husband's fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. 35 He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is. (NIV)
10. Remember, marriage is designed by God and is intended by God to bring satisfaction and happiness to humans. Being a dedicated spouse strengthens a marriage and blesses both partners. Being disloyal or abusive damages both the marriage and each partner. It is beneficial to all to seek your partner's well being in marriage, and harmful to all to do otherwise. A solid marriage is God's gift, produced by prudent people (people who exercise good judgment).
Prov 12:4 A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. (NIV)
Prov 18:22 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. (NIV)
Prov 19:14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. (NIV)
11. Good marriages, like most worthwhile endeavors, require hard work. The partnership works well because the partners trust each other and both work for success and the other's welfare. Each partner contributes to the success of the family with their own skills and strengths, and a partner's contributions are complimented and admired. A healthy marriage needs verbal support and expressions of admiration and gratitude.
Prov 31:10-31 10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (NIV)
12. Marriage requires submission. Two cannot become one without both submitting, giving up and giving in. This cannot be done grudgingly, but must be with reverence for Christ, respecting the wisdom of God. In the marriage relationship, which has been damaged by human sin, the woman is called upon especially to submit to her husband. The man is called upon especially to accept the responsibility of leading in love. He is to love his wife as he loves himself, and therefore to treat her as he wants to be treated. Husbands and wives are not to be in competition, nor are they the same, rather they are mutually supportive. The woman is to support her marriage, her husband, with respect. The man is to support his marriage, his wife, with love. Husbands and wives should want each other to look good, should want other people to see the strength and quality of their partner. The key words for a successful marriage are submit,love, and respect.
Eph 5:21-33 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (NIV)
Col 3:18-19 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (NIV)
13. Marital problems are almost always solvable, if people want solutions. God often uses marriage as an illustration of his relationship to his people, and the marriage was often unhappy in the illustrations. However, God always works to salvage the relationship, and whenever his people respond the relationship improves. Even marriages under severe stress can be rebuilt and made satisfying again, but determination is required and there will likely be pain in the process.
Isa 54:1-6 1 "Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the LORD. 2 "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. 4 "Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5 For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name-- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. 6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit-- a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God. (NIV)
14. Husbands and wives have duties to each other. One responsibility is to provide healthy satisfaction of sexual drives. Again, each spouse is to have a goal of providing satisfaction to the other and being satisfied with each other. Marriage is the one place for sexual activity and the satisfaction of sexual desires. Because sexual drives are often strong most people need to be married, and to stay married. Maintaining a healthy marriage helps people maintain purity and avoid the damage of sexual sin. People are to consider marriage as a permanent and unbreakable commitment and do everything they can to keep a marriage working. Even spiritual needs may be met through a marriage that has survived stress and strain.
1 Cor 7:1-16 1 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 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. 5 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. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (NIV)
15. God told his people that he hates divorce. God has always known the damage divorce does not only to husband and wife but also to children. Another of the goals God has in mind for marriage is the production of children who are spiritually healthy. Divorce, breaking faith, breaking covenants, interferes with the mental and spiritual health of children even adult children. Making a marriage work offers many benefits and contributes to many worthwhile goals. Divorce is seen in the Bible not as a simple alternative, but as a tragedy with much damage and unhappiness.
Mal 2:13-16 13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. (NIV)
16. Making a marriage work calls for an attitude that is typified in the Bible by words such as submit, obey, consider, and respect. Both husbands and wives are called on to make concessions in the best interest of their spouse, and therefore of their relationship. Marriages are best and strongest when both partners understand the need to put their spouse first, but sometimes one spouse is called upon to sacrifice more for the sake of both.
1 Pet 3:1-7 1 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, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 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. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7 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. (NIV)
17. Marrying means accepting an obligation that overshadows and affects all future decisions and interests. It is appropriate that a wife should be concerned about how to please her husband, and a husband should be concerned about how to please his wife. Even religious behavior will be influenced by these concerns, and certainly the affairs of the world, financial decisions, recreation, and all, should be influenced by this concern.
1 Cor 7:32-34 32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs-- how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world-- how he can please his wife-- 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world-- how she can please her husband. (NIV)
18. A strong marriage is a tremendous asset to anyone, but especially to a child of God. Those men who are qualified to lead the church as elders and deacons must have strong marriages with wives who have qualities of godly leadership as well. The marriage partnership is intended by God to be for our good, to make us stronger together than we can be alone, to make of two one that is stronger, more capable, happier, and more satisfied than one alone can be.
1 Tim 3:1-13 1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. 8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 12 A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. (NIV)