A Biblical Roadmap for Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Sermons by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church 23 February 2014

Scripture quotes are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise indicated.


·         This is the fourth in a 4-part sermon series on our congregation’s vision statement.

o       As I finished the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, I preached on the Great Commission which encapsulates our church’s vision to Evangelise the world.

o       Then we looked at Exalting Jesus Christ as we studied the examples of Jesus’ followers in the Gospels who worshipped Jesus – as well as the negative examples of those who refused to worship Jesus.

o       Third we looked at the strategic value of the scriptures in Equipping the saints – and in partic­ular how Jesus used the scriptures to equip His disciples to understand His Great Commission.

o       Now, with last week being named National Marriage week, and Valentine’s Day being two days ago, and my 24th wedding anniversary in a week, it seems like now would be a good time to talk about the fourth vision point of our congregation, Encouraging Godly families – and marriage in particular.

·         I realize that not all of you are married, and that is fine, but I believe it will apply to everyone here anyway.

o       The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 7 that God has given some believers a gift to serve the Lord wholeheartedly as a single person. So if you have this gift, please don’t take this sermon as some kind of criticism or ostracism. If you have no intentions for marriage, I’d encourage you to internalize some of this stuff so that you can pass it along as advice to others who are interested in marriage.

o       Some of you, of course, are married, and the material on the purpose of marriage will definitely apply to you, but don’t tune out when I talk about preparation for marriage, because your children and grandchildren need you to prepare them to marry well.

o       Finally, most of this congregation is youth who are going to get married some day, so as a pastor, I want to give you wisdom from the Bible about how to marry well!

o       However, please remember that God shows great variety in the amount of time He takes to prepare people for marriage, so even if you do have intentions to marry someday, please do not interpret this sermon as an encouragement to rush into it, no matter what age you are. We need to wait until God’s timing is ripe, and we can leave that kind of wisdom in God’s hands.

o       One more thing: Some folks think they’re the only one in church with problems, and that everyone else in this congregation has it all together and is looking down their noses at you. You may even imagine that I am preaching this sermon just at you. That is not the case at all. This is a collection of ideas that I have been developing for years. Believe me, every one of the families in our congregation has problems that they’re dealing with, so let’s just work together on conforming the patterns of our families to God’s word one step at a time as He enables us.

·         Many kids these days have never once heard what the Bible actually says about how to marry well, so they are taking their cues from teachers and media people whose views are diametrically opposed to the Bible, and the grief that these young folks are experiencing is heartbreaking. For instance, last month, the top American Christian and Jewish online dating networks released a survey of 2,647 participants[1] revealing that

o       87 percent of them believed that fornication was o.k. before marriage (Slide 54);

o       only 13% would wait until after marriage to move in with each other (Slide 56).

o       Listen, that’s not the rank and file American, that’s Christian and Jewish Americans who supposedly believe in the Ten Commandments!

o       If that doesn’t blow you away, consider this: 11% of Christians and Jews surveyed said that repeatedly committing adultery with someone else was not cheating on a relationship (Slide 62),

o       and about a third of the total said they had already been unfaithful in a relationship (Slide 63)!

o       If this is characteristic of religious Americans, we are living in marriage self-destruct mode!

o       So, what I want to present is a roadmap of sorts which looks briefly at what God’s word has to say about preparation for marriage, marriage, family, and then the afterlife.

o       I’m afraid I’ll only get through the first two steps today but I hope to cover the other three steps another day.

Five-step Biblical Roadmap for Marriage

Step 1: Preparation for Marriage (Physical, Vocational, Spiritual, & Social maturity)

·         To have a happy marriage you first have to qualify for it physically, spiritually, vocationally, and socially, so really this four steps, but I’m lumping them all together under preparation for marriage.

·         There is a reason we don’t marry our children off when they are two years old. They don’t have the physical, spiritual, social, or vocational maturity to succeed.

·         There’s a point in adolescence when teenagers develop the physical ability to have children, and it’s a marvelous thing, but the world is dead wrong when it says that physical readiness is all it takes to enter into intimacy! There is so much more[2].

·         A key Bible text for this first step is Luke 2:49-52, where Jesus said to His parents, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” ...Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Granted this passage is not talking about marriage, but it is talking about Jesus growing up, and Jesus is our example.)

·         So, at what appears to be the age of 12, as He neared physical maturity, Jesus said to His parents, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” This indicates some vocational maturity – He knew that God had something for Him to do, and He was focusing on doing that business. Yet he understood that as a child it was also his calling to live in His parents’ house and submit to them, so that’s what He did until He was ready to launch into independence.

o       Vocational maturity used to be regarded as much more important in our culture, but now it is often overlooked –to the harm of many marriages and families today.

§         Perhaps, in part due to the breakdown of the family which leads to couples not seeking permission from parents before marrying – and therefore not getting the input of the girl’s father who naturally has it on his radar to make sure that boy can provide a living for his daughter, some couples marry without a strong financial plan.

§         Also, due to the lawless standards of weights and measures in our country – especially the fractional reserve banking racket, it is too easy nowadays for young people to obtain credit, thus they can start marriage with significant amounts of loaned money, which weakens the resolve of many to be vocationally mature before marriage. That’s what I did; I didn’t know any better.

o       Proverbs 24:27 gives us a strategic bit of wisdom, “Prepare your outside work, Make it fit for yourself in the field; And afterward build your house.”

o       I believe this principle of preparing your fields before building your house applies to marriage in that a man needs to establish himself in his work before getting married and having children.

o       I’m not saying to delay marriage until you are wealthy, I’m just saying to get work experience while you’re young and that guys should have a way to make an income before you get married.

·         Wait, isn’t that outdated male chauvinism to say the man should be the breadwinner?

o       Look, I started my marriage depending on my wife’s income. Been there; done that, and my wife and I discovered we were not built to do things that way. She cried every Sunday night because she didn’t want to go to the office, and I about went bonkers every week in that apartment doing the cleaning and cooking and laundry.

o       I believe we need to take our cue from Genesis where the man’s curse, not the woman’s curse, was related to family provision. “Bread by the sweat of his brow.”

o       The Mosaic law also assumes the husband’s provision for the wife (Ex. 21:10),

o       as does the Apostle Paul in Titus 2:4-5, when he says that the young women need to be instructed to “love their husbands… and children… and be… keepers at home.”

o       Young women, while those young men are preparing their fields and building the skills to earn income, you need to be building your skills to be the keeper of a home and a mother of children. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

o       Can there be exceptions? Probably, but the Bible does give us a norm here.

o       I know that norm may not be immediately attainable: our culture makes it easier for women to get hired than men, and I know that our culture requires ridiculous amounts of education for professional jobs, but let’s do what we can to move toward that Biblical norm, even if all we can do is take one little step in that direction for now.

o       I can’t tell you how many couples I have talked with over the years who got married before getting a job, counting on birth control because they couldn’t afford children, and then they had a child and subsequently had to make some less-than-ideal vocational choices based on being in a financial emergency.

o       Prepare your fields before your build your house!

o       Now, in addition to Jesus’ vocational maturity, His physical and spiritual and social are also mentioned: He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” So let’s look at spiritual maturity next.

·         When the Bible talks about being a man, it talks about spiritual maturity (“favor with God”):

o       1Kings 2:1-3 tells us that when the days drew near for David to die, “…he charged Solomon his son, saying: ‘I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” Hebrew writing tends to communicate in parallel statements that say the same thing. Do you see how the parallelism in David’s statement equates being a man with obeying God? Showing maturity in walking in God’s ways is what it really means to be real man.

o       The prophet Isaiah also equated knowing and obeying God with being a real man: Isaiah 46:8-9 “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.”

o       Isaiah 59:15-16 also equates justice and righteousness with being a man: “So truth fails… there was no justice, and He saw that there was no man… Therefore His own… right­eousness, it sustained Him.” You see, lies, meanness, and rebellion are childish behaviors that will destroy a marriage. “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Prov. 14:34a), and it will exalt a marriage too if it is righteousness rooted in God’s free grace.

o       A girl must conquer that childish heart of rebellion and learn how to submit to her parent’s authority just like Jesus did, or she’s not going to make a good wife because she won’t know how to operate under the authority of a husband.

o       A man who does not conquer that childish heart of selfishness – pride and laziness – will never be able to love a wife or lead a family.

o       We need to really know God and obey His commands in order to have the spiritual maturity to operate well in a marriage relationship.

o       The Apostle Paul gave a lot of good advice to the church in Corinth regarding inter­personal relationships – including  marriage, and his closing advice in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 is gold, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” If you have that kind of spiritual maturity, you’ll do well in marriage.

·         Jesus grew physically in stature, vocationally He knew to be about His father’s business, and spiritually He grew in favor with God, but there was also a fourth way that He grew, and that was in favor with man. That aspect of social maturity in relationship with other human beings is also important in preparation for marriage.

o       We naturally learn how to get along with and love others through growing up with brothers and sisters in our own family, but it is also part of maturity for our relationships to expand outside our family.

o       Part of social maturity is knowing who would make a good friend – God’s word warns us that if we choose foolish friends they will influence us to be foolish too (Prov. 13:20b “…a companion of fools is destroyed”), so it takes real wisdom and care to build friends outside your family, yet we need strong, healthy relationships with other guys and girls as part of preparing for marriage.

o       At this point, however, your relationships with those of the opposite sex should not have exclusivity to them. Guys, you can’t claim that girl as yours until you have made wedding vows to her, and girls, don’t give that guy exclusive privileges until your wedding day.

o       In the meantime, use the process of maturing in favor with others to help you learn differences in the way the opposite sex thinks so that you can successfully live with that person from Mars or Venus when you do get married.

o       A strong network of brothers and sisters in Christ can also help you learn different ways that different families obey God, so you can evaluate different ways of cultivating a Biblical household and have some idea of how you want to do it when it is time to get married and start your household.

·         Children in the church, I encourage all of you to really apply yourselves to growing in these areas of vocational, spiritual, and social maturity.

·         Now, at some point, you will be ready: You’ll have your income set up; You’ll know how to lead a family in loving and obeying God; and you’ll know how to love and work with other people, and you’ll even have someone in your sights whom you want to marry. Then we’re ready for…

Step 2: Covenanting in an exclusive relationship

·         Once again, just as we take our example from Jesus in preparing for marriage, we also take our cues on marriage itself from Jesus.

·         The Apostle Paul lays it out clearly in Ephesians 5:22ff that Jesus sets the relational pattern for us, and our marriages should reflect that pattern of His relationship to us, “…Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

·         Christians follow Jesus’ example in marriage. So what is the pattern Jesus has set for us?

·         It starts with His choice to show exclusive interest in us. John 15:16-19 Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit… I chose you out of the world…”

o       Guys, be careful not to express exclusive interest in a girl until you are ready to marry, and gals, if a guy is not ready to marry you, don’t give your heart away to him just because he shows interest in you; that’s a recipe for heartbreak because he’s probably not going to end up marrying you. Until you are ready to commit to an exclusive interest, keep building healthy friendships with lots of other people and don’t get exclusive.

o       Now, the fact that Jesus initiates by choosing us is not to say that the choice entirely rests with the man. In our relationship with God we humans respond to His love by trusting and obeying Him. Our relationship with God is not exactly the same as our marriage relationships, but there are parallels, and if a girl does not want to return the guy’s interest, that’s her prerogative. After all, she’s the one who will have to put up with the guy for the rest of her life! She has to be willing to trust and submit, otherwise she doesn’t have to agree to a marriage covenant.

o       In a covenant, both parties agree to the terms, and so it is with marriage: both the guy and the girl are free to choose whether or not to enter into the covenant of marriage.

o       You need to make sure that guy’s or girls vision for life matches your vision and you need to make sure that you can work with the culture and faith of his or her upbringing (2 Cor. 6:14 “do not be unequally yoked”).

o       This usually requires collecting wise advice. One of the most appalling statistics I read in the faith-based online dating survey I mentioned earlier was that only 1% of the girls surveyed said that they would ask their father for advice regarding dating or marrying a guy, and only 2% of guys said they would consult with their Dad. That is downright foolish! Your parents know you better than most anybody else, and they want the best for you, and furthermore, getting advice from both parents gives you good perspective from both genders, as guys can generally notice the faults of other guys more clearly than girls can and vice versa. (In Genesis 28:1-3, Isaac got advice from his Dad when he wanted to get married, and his Dad gave him sound advice – that’s a good Biblical pattern.)

·         And marriage is a covenant; that’s what God calls it:

o       Ezekiel 16:8b “I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” This is God’s pattern of relating to us which we copy in marriage.

o       Malachi 2:14 “…the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant."

o       The heart of the wedding ceremony is the covenant – the marriage vows. All the music and dress-up and pageantry and speeches are just frills around that central vow which is really what seals the relationship of husband and wife. That covenant can be made in front of a justice of the peace or a church minister or just your parents; but you’re married once you promise to live as husband and wife – with all the benefits and hazards which attend that relationship!

·         But even if you don’t verbalize your promises to your spouse in front of anybody – even if you just move in together, you assume the obligations of the marriage covenant before God.

o       The Bible says that Isaac just took Rebecca into his tent when his Dad’s servant came home with her – no marriage ceremony or vows or anything, and their marriage is one of the foundations of the Old Testament!

o       Breaking off a relationship where you have lived together as though husband and wife is no different than divorce and adultery in God’s eyes, even if it is not considered divorce in society’s law.

o       Living together without making a marriage vow is utter foolishness because there is no socially-binding principle to the relationship; it can be over tomorrow, depending on how the guy or gal feels that day, and, before you know it, you are alone and feeling used, and there won’t be any social contract to hold that jerk that you moved in with accountable.

·         The marriage covenant seals the exclusivity of your relationship with your spouse.

o       Part of that exclusivity is that you are able to do what only married people can lawfully do,

o       but by definition, an exclusive relationship excludes certain things, such as romantic relation­ships with other people – or even dreaming of them. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus said, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

o       Let us hold to the special-ness of marriage by preserving the exclusivity of that relationship!

·         Of course, I can’t cover everything the Bible says about marriage today. I’ve already preached about a dozen sermons on marriage from 1 Corinthians and Matthew[3] which fill out the picture more, but let me just highlight one more scripture, Matthew 19:4-9, where Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate…”

o       Briefly, this teaching rules out homosexuality,

o       it rules out having multiple partners,

o       and it rules out divorce.

o       Are there exceptions or ways to recover from breaking these rules? Yes, thank God! But right now we’re looking at what the path of God’s blessing is.

·         Let me round out the topic of the marriage covenant by returning to Jesus’ example in Ephesians 5:24-25 “…Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” For those who have entered into the covenant of marriage, the pattern Jesus sets down for us is that

o       the wife should submit to the legitimate[4] authority of her husband,

o       and the husband should love his wife by unselfishly giving of himself for her benefit

o       Now, if your spouse is not fulfilling their end of this pattern, focus on fulfilling your end of the pattern. Over time this usually results in your spouse reciprocating.


·         I hope this has been encouraging to you and that it has stimulated you to grow in your vision for marriage.

·         Let us follow the patterns God has laid down for us in His word, including these five steps:

  1. Get ready for marriage physically, vocationally, spiritually, and socially.
  2. Treat marriage as an exclusive covenant; husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church, and wives submit to your husband as unto Christ.
    and next week, I hope to cover the last three steps where we
  3. Engage in the intimacy God designed for marriage, and save it for marriage.
  4. Seek the blessing of children and grandchildren.
  5. Look forward to the way God’s love for you in glory will eclipse all experiences of human love you’ve ever had!

[1] http://www.stateofdatingreport.com/docs/State-of-Dating-Report2014.pdf

[2] There are other aspects of physical maturity involved in a man’s responsibility to defend his wife and children (Numbers 1:3) and in women having “arms strong for her task” (Prov. 31:17).

[3] See www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/Matthew19_10-12Eunuchs.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/Matthew19_01-09Divorce.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/Matthew05_27_28%20Adultery1.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/Matthew05_29_32%20Adultery2.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor07_37_40.htm | http://www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor07_36_39.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor07_25_35.htm | http://www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor07_17_28.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor07_10_16.htm | http://www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor07_01_09.htm | www.ctrchurch-mhk.org/sermons/1Cor06_12_20.htm

[4] Of course, if a husband commanded his wife to do something contrary to God’s law (such as killing one of the children), then she should submit to the higher authority of God and resist the unlawful demand of her husband. This, however is different from just having a bad feeling about a demand he makes. If she cannot demonstrate that his demand is a clear violation of something in the Bible, then she can, in good conscience submit, even if it is against her better judgment. Then God will hold the husband responsible if his demand was not a good idea.