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Honoring God In Your Marriage

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

Welcome, Young Believer!

As promised we're now talking about what it means to honor God in your marriage. Just to reiterate from last time, I am currently single and I've never been married. What I'm going to impart to you today will come right out of what God's Word has to say about marriage and not from personal experience. However, I try to do that with every study we do here because I want us to constantly be asking of ourselves and of God's Word... What does God say about this? Not, what does Liz say about this? Where better to start then, than the first man and wife given to one another by God Himself?!

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18-20

Several key takeaways that we learn immediately about the first man God created. God declared it was not good for him to be alone and intentionally created a "helper" fit for him. A lot of women get bent out of shape about that word "helper" but it may be one of my favorite word studies in the Bible because in Hebrew the word is ezer which means help, succor (assistance or support in times of hardship and distress) or one who helps. The Bible most often uses this word to refer to God Himself in relationship to His people. That turns the idea of a helper into something far more beautiful than what our culture has made it out to be. It's not a relationship of inferiority, after all, God is clearly not inferior to His people whom He created! And it's clearly a role embued with essential purpose, not just any creature could fulfill this deeply intimate relationship of support.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Genesis 2:21-22

Then at last Adam recognized the woman as a creature like to him, one who was a fit ezer for him and God's Word declares that for this reason a man should leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. If you want to imagine holding fast, think of Gollum in Lord of the Rings, the way he treasures, pursues, and clings to the ring as if it is a part of his very being. Obviously, that metaphor has its downside, Gollum's relationship with the ring consumes and destroys him because the power of the ring is corrosive and evil. But the relationship that we are to have with our spouse is one that is uplifting, strength-giving, and a shelter from the storms of life.

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

It doesn't take very long for things to fall apart in the garden of Eden. The serpent tempts Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she, in turn, gives the fruit to her husband Adam and God deals out the consequences of their sin.

To the Serpent God says:

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

To Eve God says:

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

To Adam God says:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19

The reason I think it's important to go over this part of Adam and Eve's story is because of how it defines the roles of marriage going forward. The wife will produce offspring but with great pain. The husband shall labor to provide food but with great struggle. The desire of the wife in this translation is to be contrary to her husband, in other translations, this is interpreted that her desire is for her husband. The preposition used is actually pretty vague but it gives us an implication of friction in the woman's desires regarding her husband. What is clear is the authority declared in the statement, "but he shall rule over you." The wonderful promise however is given through God's curse of the serpent, that the woman's offspring will be at enmity with him and will eventually crush him for good. The curse will not last forever, it will be overcome!

For the rest of Genesis, we see several marriages with varying degrees of drama as men struggle with their own desires and responsibilities and women often struggle with infertility or difficulty in childbearing. Centuries have passed by the time Moses hands down the Law of God to the Israelites where he instructs the men:

“If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins. Exodus 22:16-17
“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken. Deuteronomy 24:5
“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 24:1-4

God's clear standards for the sacredness of intimacy in the marriage relationship and the covenant between a man and his wife become a picture throughout the Old Testament of God's relationship with His people. His people take the role of an unfaithful wife who constantly strays from her husband turning to other men and temptations to fulfill her desires. Meanwhile, God regards the wife (His people Israel) as an irreplaceable treasure that He loves unconditionally.

Likewise, the marriages between men and women in the Bible continue to be full of their own joys and struggles. I love how clear God's Word is about the goodness of the pleasure that spouses should take in one another physically.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Proverbs 5:18-19

Song of Solomon alone is full of deeply intimate compliments between a husband and wife that despite the funny alliterations of a different culture a long time ago will still make you blush to read them. But God's Word is also very clear about the influence that a wife has over her husband's attitude and character.

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Proverbs 12:4
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22
House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. Proverbs 19:14
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.... It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. Proverbs 21:9,19

At the end of Proverbs, we find perhaps the most famous passage in all of Scripture regarding women, where a mother exhorts her son that a good wife is hard to find and then describes the kind of woman she declares is a good wife.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12

The woman that she describes is one who is industrious working before her family rises for the day and long after they've all gone to sleep at night. She keeps one foot in the present as she prepares for the future. What makes her a good wife is not how beautiful or charming she is, but her extraordinary character and her fear of the Lord.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:28-31

You would think with all of this instruction in the Old Testament about God's beautiful design for marriage and family that people wouldn't be so confused about it by the time Jesus comes around. But in Jesus' day, men and women had forgotten or conveniently overlooked how sacred God viewed the bonds between a husband and wife. Men could divorce their wives for improperly cooking their dinner and women were often left with no way to defend or provide for themselves when men broke their marriage covenant for these shallow reasons. Jesus harshly condemned divorce as no less than adultery!

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32

Therefore, whether you are a husband or a wife reading this who wants to honor God in their marriage, you can begin with:

  1. Viewing your marriage vows as sacred.

  2. Viewing your marriage bed as intimate and monogamous.

  3. Viewing your spouse as God's gift to you.

  4. Viewing your wife as a precious treasure.

  5. Viewing your husband as God's imperfect reflection of His love for His People/Church.

  6. Viewing your role in marriage as unique and purposeful.

  7. Embracing the struggles/labor that God has placed in your relationship.

That brings us back to what Paul had to say in our last study about Honoring God as a Single Person. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, you'll remember that the new believers there had many questions about how to honor God in marriage. Some of them thought that they should abstain from sex even in marriage so that they wouldn't be sexually immoral. Paul corrects them on this first, letting them know that one of the purposes of marriage is sexual intimacy with your spouse.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5

Paul advises the Corinthian husbands and wives that they belong to one another and they should not unnecessarily deprive one another of their conjugal rights. Note, that Paul did not advise either party to forcibly take their "rights" if they were being denied! His only advice is that deprivation in a couple's intimacy could lead one or both spouses into a place of temptation to sexual immorality. For their own good and for the good of their spouse they shouldn't be leaving the door of their relationship open to that opportunity.

Paul again gives the exhortation that Christians should not be divorcing their spouses even if they find themselves in a situation where their spouse is an unbeliever (unless that person leaves them). Instead, the way that a believing spouse lives to honor God in their marriage relationship should be as a witness to their unbelieving spouse that they may lead them to salvation. However, Paul is not saying that Christians who are currently unmarried should seek out an unbelieving spouse with the intent to "save" them. That's not how it works anyway.

The concern that Paul has for the Corinthians is that they live with a changed mindset about how they are to honor God, honor one another, and be witnesses of the Gospel to their entire community. He reminds them that the life we live in now is temporary and is passing away. In other words, we should live with our eyes on heaven understanding that we were not born to be married or work or have children.... we were born to know, love, and honor God through whatever type of life circumstances that come our way.

Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:27-31

Remember that he goes on to explain that married people's interests are divided in a way that single people's interests are not. Single people can focus their lives and time fully on pleasing the Lord, but married people have to spend at least some of their time pleasing one another. Paul's warning may seem confusing here when he is calling men who have wives to live as though they had none... He is not telling them that they have a free pass to live a "Bachelor lifestyle" ignoring the important responsibilities they have to their wives, children, and home. He is telling them that it is important to remember to whom their primary devotion should belong: God. He also repeats again both for men and women that he is not opposing marriage as a sin but in his opinion (so long as they have self-control over their sexual impulses) they would be better off remaining unmarried.

The next time we see Paul giving marriage advice is in his letter to the Church at Colossae. These new believers were also wondering about how becoming a Christian should shape their daily lives. If Christ had made someone a new person then what did that mean for their marriage?

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19

I swear I can just feel women out there cringing at that word "submit." Before you exit the page may I gently point out that this submission is given a qualification follow-up - "as is fitting in the Lord." Two things I take from this, first is that it is fitting in the Lord to submit to our husbands. In Greek this word for "as is fitting" is anēkō which is actually a verb that means to pertain to what is due, duty, as was fitting. We honor God by submitting to our husband. However, (here is my second takeaway) because our submission is conditional with the qualification of honoring God, if what our husband asks of us is sinful or dishonoring to God then we should submit to God rather than any man. The Greek word used here for submit is hypotassō which means to subject oneself to another's authority or to be put under their authority. In other letters where we get the phrase, "wives submit yourself to your husband," another Greek word is used that essentially implies belonging. Paul expands upon this in his letter to the Church at Ephesus.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24

This isn't a call to submit to all men, it's a call to submit to our husbands as we hold up a reflection to the world of God's love for His People/Christ's love for His Church. The husband himself must practice submission as a member of the Church as he is required to submit to Christ. In both of these relationships, the submission should not be a burden but a blessing because the Body of Christ trusts their Savior and His love for them, likewise, a wife should be able to do the same. This should place a greater weight of responsibility upon a husband to honor Christ in the way that he loves his wife knowing of whom he is to be an earthly reflection.

Paul is very clear about how husbands are to treat their wives and children. He warns that God will have no partiality when he judges. A man who harshly treats the people he has been made responsible for will be held accountable on judgment day and so will the wife who refuses to honor the role God has given her in marriage.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Colossians 3:23-25

Again, he expands even more on the husband's responsibility in Ephesians.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Ephesians 25-30 (emphasis my own)

Wives may be required to submit but husbands are required to love their wives as their own bodies. They are to give themselves up, nourishing and cherishing their wives... their focus should no longer be about themselves but devoted to the wellbeing and joy of their spouse. When you begin to see these requirements of these roles intertwined, you realize that both require two people to approach one another in selfless humility desiring to uplift, nurture, sacrifice for, and please the one with whom you have become "one flesh".

As a single woman, I can submit to my own desires all day long. I want to watch x tv show, so I do, y sounds delicious for dinner so I make it, and staying up until odd hours working on random projects isn't a problem. A single man only has to provide for himself, working a corporate office job doesn't sound exciting so he picks something with a lot more risk, he spends more time working on his physique or reading that book that didn't sound interesting in high school but now sounds like it might be a good conversation starter. After marriage both must think: will my spouse like watching this with me or should I wait for when it's just me time? Does my spouse like this meal for dinner? Are they allergic to it? My spouse works odd hours so staying up working on projects could make them cranky. Does this job provide enough stability for taking care of our family? You get the picture... marriage is a partnership that requires thinking of another human being before yourself.

Peter, one of Jesus' Apostles, agrees with this description by Paul and points out that this is the character that a wife should adorn herself with as we learned in Proverbs 31. It's not about her external beauty, makeup, or fancy clothes. Those things probably won't last, but her character will. He also gives his own warning to husbands which I find particularly wonderful in its wording.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (emphasis my own)

Peter commands husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way and to show them honor because they are heirs with them. The reason I emphasized this point is because I didn't want us to get caught up on the "weaker vessel" bit. For women in Peter's day, this would have been an astounding statement because women were not allowed to inherit anything, the property passed from father to son or closest male heir. God's grace and His Kingdom don't work like that, we as human beings are inheritors together and that should shape how we honor one another. It's also incredible that Peter warns husbands that treating their wives without this understanding and honor will literally hinder God's response to their prayers! As if God is saying, "you won't listen to the pleas of your wife or love her as I have commanded you, so I'm not listening until you make that right." - obviously my own imagined paraphrasing there - Culturally this would have been a huge wake-up call for the husbands of the early church and a beautiful reminder to the wives of the Church how much God treasures them and desires that they be loved and honored by their husbands... not just shackled to them meek and obedient.

Therefore, to honor God in your marriage, we can continue with:

  1. Do not deprive one another of conjugal rights opening the door to the temptation of sexual immorality.

  2. As a wife, submit to your husband and respect his authority.

  3. As a wife, adorn yourself with good character before beautiful clothes and accessories.

  4. As a husband lay down your life for your wife (metaphorically and maybe physically).

  5. As a husband love your wife as your own body, nourish and cherish her.

  6. As a husband live with your wife in an understanding way.

  7. As a husband honor your wife as your coheir in grace.

  8. Remember that God will judge without partiality.

There you have it, from nearly cover to cover of God's Word, His glorious design for marriage, and how we can honor Him in it.

If you have any other questions about how to honor God in your marriage, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I highly encourage you to find a mentor in the faith who can help personally walk you through many of these issues as you grow into a mature believer. This is one journey you were never meant to take alone!


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