By Jay and Jerelyn Pearson


The Bible is both a true love story and a true adventure story: past, present and future. God is wooing us with his love and exhorting us to contend in the adventure at hand. The stakes are paramount and the cost unfathomable. How important is marriage in the Bible? You need only to go to the second chapter of Genesis to find mention of marriage as one flesh.

Genesis 2:24:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Near the beginning of the New Testament we find Jesus performing his first miracle - at a marriage feast.

John 2:1–2, 11:
And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

In the Epistles we find more about the importance of marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33, which we will examine more closely later. Marriage is also mentioned in the next-to-last chapter of Revelation.

Revelation 21:2:
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

These are only a few examples of the many accounts of marriage included in this greatest love-adventure story ever told. Every Christian will be married, possibly now to an earthly spouse, and certainly in the future, to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is apparent that marriage is important in God’s eyes. How can we ensure that in our lives this union is protected and nourished?

In the writing classes I (Jerelyn) teach, I emphasize revision as perhaps the most important part of the writing process. The main focus of revision is to refine and polish the writing that has already begun. In marriage God works with us to refine and polish our relationship. In life as in writing there is always room for revision.

As Christian individuals we are enabled to grow and change. Before we ever existed, we were predestined by God to be conformed or changed to the image of his Son.

Romans 8:29:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

This conformation is a continuous process of revision. How is it accomplished? It is the work of God.

Philippians 2:13:
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Where does this process take place? Look in the Gospel of John where Jesus teaches his disciples about the relationship between the vine and the branches.

John 15:4–5:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Without Christ, we can do nothing. But in him we can bring forth much fruit. As we abide in him (the vine) and he abides in us (the branches); and as God works in us to will and do of his good pleasure, conforming us to the image of his Son; we are enabled to lead fruitful lives. What a support system to bring to a marriage relationship!

Much of what has been stated so far is addressed to Christian individuals and applicable to living a Christian life. But how do these ideas relate to marriage?

It is wise to think about marriage long before you ever think about a wedding, even before you meet that special someone. Many obstacles can be avoided if you know yourself and the kind of qualities you should have in your mate. It is easy enough to be distracted when you know what you are looking for. It is almost certain if you are unsure to begin with. Seek the Lord’s guidance through prayer and studying his word just as you would for any major decision.

Once wedding plans begin, in many relationships the wedding becomes the focus of attention for so long that the couple may lose sight of the fact that the wedding is not the end of a journey. God’s work in us continues even after the wedding. That is a good thing because once the excitement and stress of the wedding is over, the real work of building a marriage begins.

The Bible says of marriage, "They shall be one flesh." What a wonderful picture of a strong union. There are many advantages in the "one flesh" relationship.

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12:
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

When two come together as one, with Christ as the third part of the cord, a strong union is established and "not quickly broken."

As mentioned before, revision is essential in order to achieve the most effective writing. Revision is also the most challenging part of the writing process. It’s not always fun. It takes focus, perseverance, hard work, and a willingness to change. But the final result is very satisfying. As individual Christians we are not guaranteed an easy life. We will have tribulations. This is true in marriage as well. Our lives as Christians and our journey through marriage are times of great revision, building on truths we know in light of deeper truth that is revealed as we grow.

The marriage relationship is the perfect place to apply all the instructions that the Bible gives for Christian living. However it is sometimes the last place where these attributes are evident. It is often easier to be nice to strangers than to members of our own families. Have you ever been (God forbid) yelling at one of the kids, or in an argument with your spouse with your voice slightly raised, when the phone rang? How easy it is to control that tone of voice and answer with a cheerful, "Hello!"

The most important thing we can do for our family members, friends, and acquaintances is to seek the Lord daily for the fuel of life, his love. God’s love is our fuel. When we try to operate from the dregs of an empty tank, we begin to spit and sputter instead of to love. He is the only one who can fill us. When we are full, we can fill each other. We have to turn to him first for our nourishment and fulfillment.

One of the toughest battlefields we face as Christians is that of our own thoughts. Our thoughts are where our words and actions are born. So it is important to guard our thoughts about our mate and about our marriage. Early in a romantic relationship it is easy to think of our loved one in a positive light to the exclusion of any flaws. As time passes reality sets in, and the stresses of life intrude on the honeymoon atmosphere. Even some of those initially endearing attributes can become annoying. Complaining and criticizing will become contagious. It is important to remain encouraging and supportive of your spouse. The Bible gives instruction in controlling our thoughts. It tells us to think on these things:

Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Marriage requires us to make many decisions. We won’t always agree on everything. Disagreements can lead to arguments. To resolve differences, couples are often advised to negotiate. The problem with negotiation starts with the spelling: negotiation begins like negative. It comes from the Latin negotiatus, past participle of negotaire, meaning "to carry on business." Clearly a marriage is not a business where each party seeks to profit from the other.

Collaboration is a much better approach to problem solving. It is better to labor together (co-labor) as a couple to solve a problem than to negotiate against each other for personal benefit. It is only when at least one person introduces love into the mix that anger can be diffused. It is better to ask, "What can I do to help in this situation?" than "What can I get him/her to do for me?"

Many couples have bought into the popular idea that marriage should be a 50-50 relationship. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ideally, marriage requires 100% of each spouse. When either partner is unable to do his or her part, the other can carry the burden and be an encourager. Marriage is not a score-keeping competition. Marriage is a cooperative relationship in which each party seeks the best for the other and the union as a whole.

This is not to say that there shouldn’t be disagreements. There will definitely be disagreements. So how can disagreements be resolved? They can be resolved the same way agreements are made: by regarding other as better than self. Remember, in marriage we are one flesh!

Philippians 2:3–5:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Negotiation involves both strife and vainglory. Each is seeking his or her own best interest. In a marriage we need to consider our mate’s best interest as our own. Begin each day asking, "How can I bless my mate today? What can I do today that will show him or her my love?"

Have you ever been certain that you know clearly what is wrong with your partner and exactly what he or she needs to do about it? Before allowing your thoughts to become words and deeds, it would be a good idea to take a step back. Remember that the one who is working in you "to will and do of his good pleasure" is working in your spouse too! Sometimes it takes patience to allow our partner time to respond to the Lord’s working. Sometimes we get so intent on fixing our partner or the situation or circumstance, that we forget where we abide and who abides in us as individuals and in our marriage. Return to the vine for nourishment before you get too far out on a limb.

Marriage is a continuous process of getting to know each other better as individuals as we grow in love with the Lord. Men and women are different. There are a few general observations that might be helpful to know about the needs of each.

What Do Women Want?

  1. To be loved, admired, cherished, and chosen. This is not a one-time desire. It takes constant expression.
  2. To be needed and valued. Not just to bring you a snack, but in decisions small and great.
  3. To hear that you love her. Often is not enough. Maybe "seventy times seven" times a day?
  4. To be protected. To know that when she cries out from her tower window, you will be there to rescue her from danger.
  5. One of her biggest fears is the fear of abandonment.

What Do Men Want?

  1. Affirmation. Support, and confidence in his ability.
  2. Respect in your eyes. That he is your knight in shining armor and did a great job slaying those dragons.
  3. That you’ll be by his side even when he makes a mistake. And that it won’t be viewed as permanent.
  4. That you’ll have his back for protection, and not talk behind it.
  5. One of his biggest fears is to be a failure, especially in your eyes.

Man and woman can become one flesh in marriage because woman was taken out of man. They were one flesh to begin with. Greater light is shed on this subject in Ephesians 5:30-31. We, both woman and man, are members of his (Christ’s) body.

Ephesians 5:30–31:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 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.

Chapter five of Ephesians begins with Paul speaking to Gentile believers, exhorting them to be followers of God: walking in love; avoiding deception and darkness; speaking, singing, and giving thanks to God; and submitting themselves one to another. In verse 22 he begins to specifically address wives and husbands, giving them special instructions. In this passage God uses marriage as an example to explain the relationship of Christ to the Church. At the same time he also uses Christ’s relationship with the church to show what a Christian marriage should look like. Just as God predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ, he also works to conform our marriages to the image of that relationship between Christ and the church.

We recommend that you read Ephesians 5:22-33 from two different perspectives. First read it from the view point of your spouse. Pretend that you are reading through his or her eyes and understanding. Then reread it as yourself, as though you are standing before God accounting for your actions.

The opportunity to be part of a Christian marriage is a great privilege and responsibility. May your life and marriage be enriched with God’s blessings.



From the April 2010 issue of The Vine & Branches