Solving the Mystery of Marriage - Part 2

Rod McNair

God certainly wants husbands and wives to lead fulfilling lives, and to nourish children in a healthy two-parent family. But your Bible actually reveals an even greater purpose for marriage. Not only are husbands and wives building physical families; they are modeling God's plan to build a spiritual Family!

Marriage: Good for Husbands and Wives

The Apostle Paul wrote some of the Bible's most enlightening passages about marriage. Why did God institute marriage? Paul explained: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31–32). Paul taught that the roles of men and women in marriage are to be a daily reminder—in a small, physical way—of the relationship Jesus Christ will have with His Church for eternity.

Why, then, do some see marriage as an instrument of repression? Practiced God's way, it was never intended to be that. And modern researchers are discovering what many happily married couples have known intuitively for a long time: "The perceived 'bondage' of this historic and honorable institution is not as damaging to all involved as is the 'freedom' of our present ethos" (Stanton, p. 12). Research has consistently shown that marriage has a generally positive effect on a husband's and wife's well-being. "People who are married not only have higher incomes, and enjoy greater emotional support, they tend to be healthier. Married people live longer than unmarried ones, not only in the United States but abroad" (Wilson, p. 16).

But enjoying the benefits of a successful Christian marriage takes commitment and sacrifice. It requires that both husband and wife accept the responsibilities and fulfill the roles that God outlined for marital success. Paul very plainly commanded the husband's duty in marriage: "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself" (Ephesians 5:33).

Husbands, what does "love your own wife" mean to you? Scripture tells a husband to cherish and nourish his wife—to protect, provide for and support her, not to tear her down or belittle her. Of course, this is easy to do when your wife is being kind, thoughtful and supportive, and she looks beautiful—right? But what about when she is having an especially bad day? Paul put no limitations on the command—his instruction is to love and cherish your wife in the bad moments as well as the good. Husbands must endeavor to love their wives, even when they are not easy to love. This is what it takes to achieve the harmony, unity and "oneness" God desires. Love her even when she is brusque with you; even when she is "out of sorts." After all, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8), and husbands are to reflect the self-sacrificing nature of Jesus Christ in their own marriage.

Wives, what are your roles and responsibilities? Paul explains, "let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:33). This may sound old-fashioned and naïve, but Paul insists on it. What does "respect your husband" mean? It means to follow his godly lead. It means to show him honor not just when he is easy to respect and admire, but also when he may be irritable or angry, tired or selfish. It does not mean to be a "doormat" or to accept abuse. But it does mean learning to accept his decisions when they disagree with yours, and supporting rather than undermining him, ridiculing him or insulting him. Notice that, just as for husbands, Paul puts no caveats on his command to wives—the instruction is to respect her husband in his weaker moments as well as in his best. Yes, this is sometimes a challenge! But a wise and thoughtful wife will do everything she can to support her husband and build him up, not tear him down (Proverbs 14:1). She will make it a life goal to help him succeed, and will relate to him with kindness, compassion and mercy (Proverbs 31:26).

Wives, is your husband perfect? Of course not! However, by learning to submit to an imperfect husband now, you will help him learn to be the nurturing and supportive husband you want and need. And, very importantly, you will be showing your perfect Savior that you will also be willing to follow Jesus Christ's lead, as the "bride, the Lamb's wife" for all eternity (Revelation 21:9).

Marriage:Good for Children

The "oneness" in a godly marriage also benefits children. We read that "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. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth" (Malachi 2:14–15).

Yes, a husband and wife sharing a loving and committed relationship are able to provide a stable and safe environment for the next generation. When God brought the first couple together as husband and wife, He gave them this command: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). God wanted human beings to have children, and to expand into clans, tribes and nations.

God already knew thousands of years ago what social scientists are consistently confirming as well: that the marriage institution is the best environment for bringing up children. "They are less likely to be on illegal drugs, less likely to be retained in a grade, less likely to drop out of school, less likely to commit suicide, less likely to be in poverty, less likely to become juvenile delinquents, and, for the girls, less likely to become teen mothers. They are healthier both emotionally and physically, even thirty years later, than those not so blessed with traditional parents" (Marriage Under Fire, Dr. James Dobson, p. 54).

Though some try to deny it, there is powerful evidence that children benefit immensely when they grow up in a household with both father and mother present. American Enterprise Institute researcher Karl Zinsmeister reported: "There is a mountain of scientific evidence showing that when families disintegrate, children often end up with intellectual, physical, and emotional scars that persist for life… We talk about the drug crisis, the education crisis, and the problem of teen pregnancy and juvenile crime. But all of these ills trace back predominantly to one source: broken families" (Stanton, p. 100).

Certainly, many children display remarkable resilience, and are able to overcome many difficult challenges life throws at them. Many parents who find themselves in less-than-ideal circumstances are doing the very best they can to provide a safe and positive home for their children. But this does not diminish the truth that there is no evidence supporting the agenda of those who want to portray "alternative" living arrangements as equal or superior to the traditional family.

The Ultimate Goal: A Spiritual Family!

God certainly wants husbands and wives to lead fulfilling lives, and to nourish children in a healthy two-parent family. But your Bible actually reveals an even greater purpose for marriage. Not only are husbands and wives building physical families; they are modeling God's plan to build a spiritual Family!

God is called our "Father" in heaven (Matthew 6:9). As our Father, He offers human beings spiritual sonship, saying, "…I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18). The Apostle Paul further explained this familial relationship, stating that "the whole family in heaven and earth" is named after the Father (Ephesians 3:14–15).

Who is eligible to be part of the God Family? Not the animals. And not even the angels. "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?" (Hebrews 1:5–6, KJV). Amazingly, out of all of God's creation, only human beings have the awesome potential to become spiritual sons and daughters of God! Just as a human father begets physical children through his physical "seed," our heavenly Father is begetting spiritual children through His Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Also, the Spirit "bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (v. 16).

Begotten upon receiving the Holy Spirit, today's Christians look forward to being "born" into God's Family at the resurrection, as Christ explained to Nicodemus (John 3:3–8).

Joint-Heirs with Christ

So, why is God creating spiritual sons to be born into His spiritual Family? Because He wants to share His creation! Paul explains that, as His children, we are "heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:17).

What will God's children "inherit" at the resurrection? The opportunity to be Spirit-comprised beings with never-ending life. Yes, eternal life is not inherent in us; it is God's gift. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). God's children will also inherit their father's "property"—the whole universe! As Paul explains: "'You have put all things in subjection under his feet.' For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him" (Hebrews 2:8).

The implications of that verse are truly staggering. God is bringing "many sons to glory" (v. 10) so that they may share in His whole creation, and join Him in ruling the vast universe!