The Husband-Wife Relationship
First Corinthians 7 defends the legitimacy of marriage but also acknowledges the place of the celibate life. Paul relates celibacy to the gift of self-control (vv. 7, 9) and states that there are certain advantages to remaining single if one has this gift. Two of these advantages are that the single person is more free to minister (especially in troubled times), and has fewer distractions to a life of devotion to God (vv. 29-35). It would be wrong to pressure a person with the gift of celibacy to get married; marriage is a may, but not a must.
Marriage was divinely designed not only to be the basic building block of society, but also to provide an earthly analogy of spiritual truth. Marriage is a lifetime covenant of mutual commitment between a man and a woman that leads to oneness on every level: spirit, soul, and body.
This communion and intimacy between marriage partners is designed to reflect the image of God and provide the context for a lasting relationship of love and respect. This is a high calling, and it is unattainable apart from conscious dependence upon the grace and power of God.
Genesis 1:26-27 states that male and female together constitute the image of God. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). It is the Lord who created the masculine and the feminine and endowed them with different characteristics so that each expresses something different about God. In a healthy marriage, these personality differences must be acknowledged and accepted by both partners as complimentary rather than competitive.
The concept of “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18, 20) speaks of a supportive relationship between allies and in no way implies that one is inferior to another. Loneliness was replaced by companionship and completion, and this is central to God’s design for marriage.
Genesis 2:23-25 teaches that marriage was designed to be a permanent covenant relationship of mutual commitment, support, and esteem.
When marital problems prevail, they inevitably arise from a failure to leave, a failure to cleave, or a failure to establish a one-flesh relationship (Genesis 2:24). “They shall become one flesh” is the mystery of marriage. While this phrase certainly includes the sexual relationship, it goes beyond this, saying that a man and wife actually become one (this is a process). The two complete one another physically, psychologically, and spiritually, and this completeness is used in the New Testament to portray the even deeper mystery of Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Growing marriages do not happen by default; they are cultivated by years of mutual effort (discipline) and reliance on the grace of God (dependence).
Our mates should be our best friends. Tragically, this rarely occurs in marriage. Too often, couples get so wrapped up with their children that they hardly know each other. Then when the children leave, they discover that they are like strangers who have been living for years under the same roof. This does not need to happen, but effort is required to avoid it. Friendships are cultivated by shared thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Couples need to develop a spiritual oneness by taking a little time in the morning or evening to study the Bible and pray together (consistency is crucial).
Oneness on the level of spirit and soul provides the basis for physical oneness in marriage. From a biblical standpoint, sex should not be regarded as “making love” but as expressing love. Sexual intimacy was designed to be an expression of spiritual and psychological (mental, emotional, and volitional) intimacy. As Larry Crabb notes, the two bodies that come together should house two persons who are already together. The sexual relationship was never intended to lead to a good marriage, but to be the product of a good marriage.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth.
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