Biblical Marriage

January 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Several years ago my family and I belonged to a church which had a high incidence of marriage problems and divorce among the members. The Lord helped us to see a need and He provided the opportunity for us to start hosting married-couples Bible studies in our home on alternate Friday nights. This turned out to be a great blessing for us, and for a few other couples and families, and we kept it up (albeit less frequently) for a number of years. When we moved to a different church, I was given the opportunity to teach a “young married” Sunday School class, which I still enjoy doing to this day.

On January 3, 2009, the first post on The Deep End went public. It’s not strictly a marriage blog, but, since the word “anniversary” always reminds me of marriage, and since the Lord has blessed me with an awesome wife and an awesome marriage, I wanted to take the occasion of the completion of six years blogging to provide links for the posts under the category called “Biblical Marriage.”

1. The Husband of One Wife – Part 1
2. The Husband of One Wife – Part 2
3. The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 1
4. The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 2
5. God Is Real, God Is Good, and God is REALLY GOOD!
6. Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 1
7. Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 2
8. Reverence in Marriage (Part 1)
9. Reverence in Marriage (Part 2)
10. Marrying and Burying
11. I’m Just Sayin’ 8 (Genesis 2:18)
12. The Marriage Curse *
13. Desire in Marriage
14. A Designer Marriage
15. A Marriage of Flesh and Bones
16. Whose Idea WAS this Marriage?
17. The POV of Marriage
18. Marriage: The Long and the Short of It
19. Regaining What Was Lost in Marriage
20. The Problem of Shame in Marriage
21. The Solution to the Problem of Shame in Marriage
22. Suffering in Marriage
23. LONGsuffering in Marriage
24. Be Kind to Your Spouse
25. Objections to Being Kind to Your Spouse
26. Jump-Starting Your Marriage
27. Performing a Biopsy on Your Marriage
28. Getting the Puffiness Out of Your Marriage
29. More Testing for Puffiness in Your Marriage
30. A C.A.L.M. and Courteous Marriage
31. A C.A.L.M. and Accommodating Marriage
32. A C.A.L.M. and Longsuffering Marriage
33. A C.A.L.M. and Merciful Marriage
34. The Right Kind of Rejoicing in Marriage
35. Fooling Around with Celibacy in Marriage
36. Having a F.I.N.E. Marriage
37. Getting Busy in Marriage
38. Smart Phones and Marriage
39. Marital Espionage
40. A Concupiscible Marriage
41. How Whack-A-Mole Can Help Your Marriage
42. Imagination in Marriage
43. Guarding the Top of the Wall in Marriage
44. An Irascible Marriage
45. A Courageous Marriage
46. A Confident Marriage
47. The Lord’s Love Song
48. A Not-So-Amazing Marriage
49. Inhabiting and Investigating Your Marriage
50. Influence, Intercession, and Inheritance in Marriage
51. Seven Marriage Resolutions
52. Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.
53. Going Beyond Fairy Tale Marriage
54. An Illustrative Marriage
55. Why Is Marriage So Honorable?
56. John Piper: S.W.I.M. to be Married 
57. One Crazy, Wonderful Day
58. Here’s a Quarter, Thanks to the God Who Cares

* most-read post in category

Why Is Marriage So Honorable?

July 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hebrews | 2 Comments
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Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage [is] honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:1-8

Marriage is honorable in all, but Hebrews 13:4 seems seems like a strange place for a principle about marriage. The surrounding passage is dealing with the difference between how Christians are supposed to live, and the way the ungodly, by default, live unloving lives. The word translated as “honorable” is usually translated as “precious,” and it reminds us that our marriages are very valuable things. They are to be cherished and cared for and never taken for granted – analogous to the effort that some people put into protecting a family heirloom or some great treasure that has come into their possession.

Sadly, most married Christians know more about the gadgets on their phones than about the intricacies of how our marriages are supposed to work and look. Marriage is supposed to be reflective of the love between Jesus and His Church. Therefore, adultery and whoremongering are things that are certainly antithetical to this relationship and image.

Marriage is supposed to be conducive to contentment, which is also reflective of Jesus and the Church. Therefore, covetousness would not accurately reflect that relationship.

Marriage is supposed to remind us to rely on God, not on our own faculties.

Marriage is where we learn headship and submission, authority and obedience. In the crucible of marriage we kill our selfishness and learn the joy of serving.

Finally, marriage is a good reminder that no one makes a good Jesus except for Jesus Himself.

An Illustrative Marriage

October 23, 2013 at 9:41 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Marriage is supposed to illustrate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:31-32

Obviously God made a good choice when he chose to make marriage Gospel-illustrative, because it is a very pliable analogy. In the Bible it is used at least three different ways to illustrate the relationship between Christians and Christ.

First, it illustrates Christ’s relationship with the capital C “Church” – the “universal” church.

And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.

Hosea 2:19

God – from the time of Abraham – has been calling out a “bride” for His Son. He has been “saving” a bride: making her righteous and cleaning her up so that she will be beautiful for His Son. If we are to illustrate that accurately in our marriages, we need to be holy and different in a world which is devaluing marriage every day.

Second, marriage illustrates Christ and His relationship to local churches.

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ.

II Corinthians 11:2

As married couples we need to have “Godly” jealousy, which is a desire that your spouse’s affections are set on you in a way they are set on no one else. This is justifiable if you are a trustworthy recipient of those affections. We also need to be involved in ministry in our local church, holding up the Christian ideal of marriage in a church which calls itself Christian. Stand up for the marriages of your fellow church members, and stand up for Jesus when problems arise.

Third, marriage illustrates Christ and His relationship with individual believers.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Romans 7:4

We are part of a universal body, and we should minister in a local body, but we must nourish and cherish our individual and personal relationships with Christ as well. Spouses “leave” their old lives as sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, to commit to a higher allegiance to each other. So too do Christians leave our old protections, homes, hopes, tasks, and masters, to be joined unto Christ, Who provides better protection, hope, tasks, and is a better Master.

Going Beyond Fairy Tale Marriage

October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Hosea | 5 Comments
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We prefer our love stories to be fairy tales, but the reality of marriage is not always sentimental. Few marriages are a perfect story-book from beginning to end. The Book of Hosea shows the stark reality of what it means to love in difficult circumstances. It shows marital love from the perspective of God’s love for us.

We can not be sure of exactly what happened, but Hosea married a woman named Gomer who either: (1) was already a harlot (prostitute); or (2) became a prostitute after the wedding. Then he ultimately redeemed his wayward wife in obedience to his prophetic call, as one of the greatest demonstrations of sacrificial love in the Bible.

And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

Hosea 2:19-20

God used Hosea to demonstrate His betrothal covenant to His people, and in our marriages we need to exhibit the characteristics and attributes of God’s covenant relationship with us.

Righteousness

God the righteous imputes the righteousness of Jesus to all who are truly born again.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:20-21

We have no authority, standing, or ability, as sinful human beings, to impute any sort of true meritorious righteousness to our spouses (or to anyone else for that matter, regardless of the erroneous and heretical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and its fictitious “treasury of merit”), but we must stand for righteousness on behalf of our spouses. We must be good husbands and wives and try to avoid sin to protect the sanctity of our unions.

Judgment

God’s judgment against sin was satisfied in the Cross for all who believe. We deserved God’s judgment, but Christ intercepted it in love.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Romans 5:18

Jesus willingly bore the judgment He never deserved. We must bear unrighteous judgment at times on behalf of our spouses.

Lovingkindness

God redeemed His people because He loved us and wanted to show us kindness.

At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Jeremiah 31:1-3

As redeemed creatures we were “meant” for God. In marriage we must think of ourselves as “meant” for each other – ordained by God to show His glory in our union and relationship, and practically, to help work out our sanctification.

Mercies

God withheld from us what we deserved.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

In marriage must never punish each other for things for which God has already punished Jesus. Be merciful to each other.

Faithfulness

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

God is perfectly faithful. We are not. However, we need to do our utmost, with God’s help and by His grace, to be faithful spouses.

Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 3 Comments
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The very first human friendship in the history of the world also happens to have been the very first marriage.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We tend to think of “friendship” and “love” as being in two different, although overlapping, spheres, but friendship is one of the most important ingredients in “love.”

Listen to how the wife in Song of Solomon talks about her husband:

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Song of Solomon 5:10

She says, “My husband is awesome – I would not want anybody else.”

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

Song of Solomon 5:11

My wife has a slight variation on this when she talks about me: “He is very handsome – his bald spot shines like a diamond.”

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

Song of Solomon 5:12

“He doesn’t have beady eyes.” (Always a plus!)

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

Song of Solomon 5:13

“I like his aftershave and even his breath smells good!”

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

Song of Solomon 5:14

“He has strong hands and six-pack abs.”

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

Song of Solomon 5:15

“He has nice legs and his profile is stunning.”

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

She is really carried away with this dude’s looks, and she’s telling this to the other women, but she is referring to him as her beloved and her friend.

I have devised an acrostic from the word S.P.O.U.S.E. to remind us of the importance of friendship between husbands and wives.

S.olace

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Be a friend to your spouse by loving her or him at all times – especially in adversity. That’s what solace is: comfort in times of distress.

P.roximity

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendship means staying close by – being there to help when a need arises. The relationship of marriage is less meaningful without the proximity of friendship.

O.penness

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Be a friend to your spouse by communicating openly, honestly, and frankly. Your spouse needs to be the friend you confide in – and the one whose confidences you keep.

U.sefulness

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Friends give each other gifts. It might just be time and attention or it might be material gifts, but being at your spouse’s disposal is the gift of usefulness. There are few things more discouraging than having a useless spouse.

S.upport and S.anctification

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 22:11

Kind words are supportive and helpful words are the marks of true friendship, but true love is always love in truth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Friends sometimes fight, but they fight to the glory of God, and they fight with a purpose. They fight in love, and God puts them together to make each other stronger – like iron.

E.ncouragment and E.xhortation

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A good spouse has to batter the other spouse occasionally (figuratively, not literally!), but then we have a duty to bandage the wound in love.

Seven Marriage Resolutions

August 8, 2013 at 10:35 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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The great “love chapter” of the Bible (I Corinthians 13) is not, strictly speaking, about marriage, but marriage is certainly supposed to be nourished by real love, and real love never stops pursuing.

Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

II Corinthians 12:14

The Apostle Paul gives more evidence of his love for the Corinthian church in II Corinthians when he says he is ready to come see the Corinthian believers for the third time. In marriage we must have a desire to pursue our spouses over and over again. Real love is content with the person, but it can never be content with the depth of the intimacy.

Paul did not want to be burdensome to the church in Corinth, and your pursuit of your spouse should not be burdensome to him or her. This is romance, not stalking. Real love respects boundaries while seeking permission to be let inside the boundaries. Marriage is not about what you can get from your spouse. It is about getting to your spouse.

Well-meaning but misguided parents turn their children into idols, and, if you are not careful, you will do the same to your spouse: depending upon your spouse to meet needs which can only be met by Jesus. As Jonathan Edwards taught, what you idolize, you will eventually demonize when that idol (as it must) lets you down.

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

II Corinthians 12:15

Notice that Paul was “very glad” to sacrifice himself, and to allow the church members to sacrifice him. His love for them was not dependent upon their behavior. It was based upon their relationship in Christ, and his relationship to Christ.

Lists of resolutions became somewhat fashionable in evangelical Christianity around the time of the movie Courageous and the literature that supported it, so I don’t want to seem like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon here, but I did write a list of resolutions that I made to my wife pursuant to this lesson. May the Lord help me to keep them.

1. I will love you against all odds and will never stop loving you
2. I will do my best to be a blessing, not a burden, to you.
3. I want you for you – not what you have or what you can do for me.
4. I am willing to give everything I have for you.
5. I will take responsibility for your welfare.
6. I will never be satisfied with the love I have for you – I will always seek to love you more.
7. I will not use you or exploit you or treat you as thing. I will treat you as God’s daughter.

Influence, Intercession, and Inheritance in Marriage

July 10, 2013 at 10:02 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 3 Comments
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In the last lesson we looked at two of the duties of Christian spouses:

I. Duty to Inhabit
II. Duty to Investigate

Now we will see the:

III. Duty to Influence

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands…

I Peter 3:1

“Be in subjection” means to be voluntarily submissive – to recognize and honor the husband’s God-ordained headship, to be a loving follower and supporter.

“Likewise” refers back to the previous chapter:

For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

I Peter 2:25

It would be foolish for sheep to rebel against their shepherd, just as it is foolish when Christians rebel against Christ. The shepherd is responsible for the care and protection of the sheep.

Husbands also have a duty here:

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel,

I Peter 3:7

A precious vase is not despised for its weakness. Rather, it is treasured and cherished both for its value (wives are practical and important “helpers”) and for its preciousness (your God-chosen wife is a singular rarity). Husbands are supposed to protect their wives, and to realize their worth before God and to themselves. Husbands must also remember that their wives are “vessels:” containers that Jesus purchased with His blood and filled with His Spirit.

IV. Duty to Intercede

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.

I Peter 3:7 (emphasis added)

There is an obvious duty for husbands to pray for their wives, and for wives to pray for their husbands, but there are at least three possible meanings to that part of the verse. It could be envisioning a scenario where the husband is not fulfilling his duties to inhabit the marriage relationship, or to investigate and influence his wife, so that his own prayers are being hindered. It could also mean that the husband is not honoring his wife and treating her right, and that, therefore, “their” (both of them) prayers for each other and their marriage are hindered. Finally, it might mean that there is bitterness between the spouses because of the husband’s behavior, and therefore it is too uncomfortable for them to pray together. In other words, the prayer time itself is hindered. I think application can be made for all three. The Greek word translated as “hindered” means to cut off or hew down – the way you would hack down a tree that is producing bad fruit and throw it in the burn pile. The word translated “prayers” is pretty generic, but we know that in marriage the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the Church. When Christ prays for the Church He “intercedes.” He goes on our behalf and pleads our cause and presents Himself as not only our Advocate but our Substitute. Therefore, as husbands and wives pray with each other, they should also pray for each other, making intercession before the throne of God as representatives of the relationship which God joined together.

V. Duty to Inherit

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.

I Peter 3:7 (emphasis added)

God grants a special grace to married people to enjoy life together. It is an “extra inheritance,” and because marriage is a lifelong commitment and union, the grace is for all of life: memories, children, conversations, physical intimacy, shared secrets, trust, appreciation, peace and joy in the household. But we have a duty to accept the inheritance. We must cultivate it, and not waste it in “far countries” like the prodigal son. Spouses are joint heirs – no more “yours, mine, and ours.” In marriage it’s all “ours:” from money to moments to ministry – if you are married these things bring great joy when shared and cause complications when hoarded away from each other.

Inhabiting and Investigating Your Marriage

June 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 8 Comments
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In marriage – especially Christian marriage – there are certain duties owed by husbands to wives, and vice versa. Even more so, there are duties owed by both spouses to Christ, Who is supposed to be the Center of our marriages.

I. Duty to Inhabit

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 of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

I Peter 3:1-2

Conversation” in the Bible means more than just how you talk. It refers to your daily habits – your “lifestyle.” Wives are supposed to live out their lives before their husbands in such a way that their “ways” can be observed. The Bible does not assume that a typical marriage is one where the husband is right with the Lord. Rather, it seems to envision a typical marriage as one where the wife is walking with Jesus, but the husband needs to be changed. Sadly, this has proven prophetic in our day and age, as many wives, by default, have been the spiritual leaders – or at least the main influencers – in the home. Clearly, I Peter 3:1-2 envisions a scenario where the husband not only is failing to obey the Word, but has not been “won” by the Word. Therefore, the exhortation to wives is to advertise a Godly lifestyle. This would prohibit nagging and the administration of a verbal “beat-down” or a sanctimonious manipulation to try to get the husband to change his ways and start committing to follow the Lord and attend church. The idea is that wives are supposed to be authentic in their expressions of love for Jesus and their husbands, and to depend upon the Holy Spirit to do the convicting and the changing. If you are reading this and you are a wife, does your husband see you praying, reading your Bible, going to church? He might see the results of these disciplines, but he will not see them being acted out unless they are done openly in his presence. And you can’t do those things in front of him if you are not inhabiting the same space as him.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them…

I Peter 3:7

Husbands should not live apart from their wives. We must inhabit the same household, and spend much time together.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Psalm 22:3

God “inhabits” the praises of His people. He “dwells” there – He is in the midst of His people when they praise Him. We need to praise our spouses, and not just around others, but face to face, in the presence of each other on a daily basis. Praise and habitation must go hand in hand if a right spirit is to be present, honoring Christ in our homes.

II. Duty to Investigate

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 of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

I Peter 3:1-2 (emphasis added)

The Greek word translated as “behold” in I Peter 3:2 means more than just “to look at” or to “take notice of” which is what “behold” sometimes means. Here it means “to look intently at” or “to observe closely for a long period of time.” It describes the way an “overseer” of a project investigates the progress of the project that his men are working on every day to see how it’s going.

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.

I Peter 3:7 (emphasis added)

In other words, one of our duties as husbands is to make a study of our wives. You need to know your wife’s likes and dislikes, her pet peeves and the delights of her heart. You need to know what she thinks about different topics and people. You need to try to learn how she’s going to behave in different circumstances. Find out what’s on her mind. Obviously, this involves the dreaded “talks about her feelings” that often get parodied when observers point out the differences in the approach of men (“How can I fix this?”) and women (“I need you to empathize with me and listen to me.”) in how they communicate about problems, conflict, and interests. But the Scriptural exhortation is way more than that. It involves making observations, noting them, remembering them, and even meditating on them. The worldly cliché is that women just can’t be figured out by men, so there’s no point in trying. Thankfully, God has not commanded us men to figure out women in general, but neither has He given us a pass on understanding our wives. This is a serious duty, and not one to be brushed aside with a chuckle and a shrug of the shoulders. Just as an aerospace engineer had better be familiar and extremely conversant with math and physics, so a Christian husband had better be an expert on one woman in this world: his wife.

The duty for wives in this area is likewise crucial: Your duty here is to make sure you are a chaste study subject. Remember the command to wives? “While they behold your chaste conversation…” When the investigation begins, you want your husband to be glad about what he finds, not worried. You want him to be investigating a life of holiness, not a crime scene. Your life should be more like a treasure hunt than an episode of C.S.I. “Coupled with fear.” I know the common sitcom trope about the wife who asks her husband how her dress looks, and then bursts into tears when he says something a little too honest, but in real life wives need to disregard the potential for comedy that comes from acting like you and your spouse are from different planets, so that the husband is left scratching his head like a buffoon. Wives: revere your husbands enough not to be hard to “figure out” on purpose.

Next time, we will discover the duties to influence and intercede.

A Not-So-Amazing Marriage

May 24, 2013 at 9:51 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 4 Comments
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An important though often overlooked principle in Christian marriage is the concept of “fear.” It is a concept addressed in I Peter Chapter 3, which also highlights some of the duties of Christian marriage.

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 of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 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: 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. 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.

I Peter 3:1-7 (emphasis added)

Verse 6 seems contradictory at first blush. What does it mean to not be afraid with any amazement? Apparently I am not alone in finding this phrase hard to grasp. I couldn’t find any real consistency among well-known Bible commentators, but the key seems to be in looking at the lives of Sarah and Abraham. The Greek word translated “amazement” has a connotation of birds fluttering away in startled terror, and it is clear from the Genesis account that Sarah was not the type to run away from a scary situation.

In Genesis 18 the Lord and two angels show up at Abraham’s tent unannounced in the hot part of the day.

And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

Genesis 18:6

Sarah may have been afraid because of Abraham’s frantic instructions, but she was not afraid “with any amazement.”

And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

Genesis 18:7-9

Notice that Sarah was in a tent, not in a palace, not in a mansion, not even in a house, but obediently, faithfully dwelling with her husband, Abraham, in a tent. Were there times when Sarah was afraid of the tent-and-altar, place-to-place, lifestyle of her husband? Probably so – but “not with any amazement.”

And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

Genesis 18:10-11

Was she afraid when she heard this startling news? Maybe. Maybe even skeptical. But “not afraid with any amazement.”

Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

Genesis 18:12

Sarah called her husband her “lord,” an expression of respect and reverence, even though her response indicates that she wondered which was more unlikely: a woman of her age being fertile, or a man of Abraham’s age being able to impregnate her!

And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Genesis 18:13-15

The Bible specifically tells us she was afraid, although we know from I Peter 3 that it was a fear without “amazement.” She was not punished for her laughter, nor even scolded, because God understands the difference between “fear” and “fear with amazement.” Sarah was courageous and confident in the face of her fear. In fact, fear is the sine qua non of courage. Satan would like us to hear God’s seemingly-incredible promises and respond with a “fright, flight, or fight” response. In other words, he would like us to reject God’s call upon our lives by giving in to terrified paralysis, running away, or obstinate refusal and rebellion. Sarah was shocked, but she stood her ground.

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Genesis 18:16-19

The Lord said “I know Abraham and I know that his children and his household – including his wife – will keep the way of the Lord.” Sarah was trustworthy, and she was not “amazed into unfaithfulness” by fearful circumstances.

Let us husbands be bold – not fearful – to lead in faith, trusting God’s Word. Wives, do not expect to avoid fearful circumstances, but determine to stand at your husband’s side come what may. It is fearful to trust a man because men are fallen sinners, but you should not be afraid with any amazement to throw yourself on the faithfulness of God.

A Confident Marriage

May 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Confidence is not arrogance. One of the Bible words for confidence is “boldness.”

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Acts 4:29 (emphasis added)

It’s not that the Apostles asked God to make them unafraid. It’s that they asked Him to make them irascible – able to face the fearful situation. What is the sine qua non for courage? It’s fear. God has not given us a “spirit of fear,” but that does not mean that God will keep us out of fearful circumstances. He has given us the ability to be confident in knowing that in Him we can overcome fear.

Are you courageous, constant, and confident enough to minister while being married? To stand at the gate that Satan is battering and to protect your marriage while still showing the love of Christ to a voraciously evil world?

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

Job 31:1

In a world filled with illicit sexual imagery, it doesn’t take courage to look. It takes courage to look away.

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.

Isaiah 3:16-17

The immodesty we see in society is not only Satan’s assault on godliness – it may also be part of God’s judgment for our pride. It takes courage not only to keep from looking, but to keep from imitating.

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

That is the zenith of irascibility! Jesus is not promoting self-mutilation. He’s teaching about just how dangerous adultery is, for He turns immediately to the topic of marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:31).

Being married – and especially being a married Christian – in 21st Century America requires irascibility in the form of courage, endurance, and confidence in order to combat the pervasiveness of overt sexuality. Earlier I compared this irascibility to a more masculine attitude toward combat, but this “masculinity” is not based on a “tough-guy” caricature of manhood. It comes from a fear of God.

And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:7-9 (emphasis added)

Joseph didn’t want to betray his earthly master, but, more than that, he was downright determined not to sin against his God! Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. The first must be present for the latter to exist. The fear of the Lord provokes the greatest courage of all. If Satan knocks that wall down, I could lose my wife, my home, my kids, my job, my reputation. That frightens me. But what frightens me more is sinning against the God Who loved me and redeemed me and made me His Own.

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