by Rayola Kelley
Last month, I wrote about the problems facing marriage. There are four major problems that tear a marriage apart, the wrong foundation, the presence of idolatry, lack of communication and intimacy, and an improper perspective. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul dealt with this subject to bring a proper understanding and balance. Sadly many people interpret these instructions through a wrong frame of reference. This prevents godly instruction from challenging the real core of conflicts and problems—that of the heart and mind.
Jesus brought out the proper foundation in Matthew 19:6b: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The key to this verse is that God must ordain godly unions; therefore, He serves as the foundation. We see how this works in the first marriage recorded in the Bible (Genesis 3:18-25). God prepared Eve and brought her to Adam. This concept is not popular with people. Most individuals believe that they know what is best for them and need to search for it. In reality, these people simply know what will turn on their flesh and feed their pride. They know nothing about what would best challenge them in their life before God, encourage the fulfillment of their vision and call, or demand integrity and spiritual growth. God does know such things, and prepares prospective mates in light of eternity.
When God is involved in bringing a man and woman together it reminds those who are godly that this union has an eternal purpose in it; therefore, it is not for the purpose of serving the flesh and feeding the vanity of pride. Its main responsibility is to represent the relationship that Christ has with His Body and Bride, the Church. This relationship needs to be pure. In other words, fornication, improper conduct or intentions 1 must not defile it. It is binding; therefore, no man has a right to interfere with God’s plan and purpose by trying to undermine or compromise the integrity of it. The bed must remain undefiled; therefore couples must maintain the purity of the bed in commitment to each other, in integrity before God and in righteousness and godly conduct towards each other. Such purity means each individual must maintain the line of righteousness against any perversion such as fornication and pornography that would invade the heart and mind and destroy the spirit or intent of this covenant.
The Apostle Paul deals with the motive and attitude that will establish this relationship in godliness. The attitude is that of submission, and the motive is sacrificial love that only comes from the throne of God. As Christians, we have the responsibility to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). Submission means to give way to something for the common good or greater purpose of something. Godly submission results in agreement. Agreement ensures the integrity of something. As Amos 3:3 states: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
A wife must give way to the Lordship of Jesus in order to come into agreement with her husband. Although the wife comes into submission to her husband, she does so in light of subjection to Jesus. This means she will line up to the will of Jesus and walk out her responsibility in light of righteousness. Subjection of this nature puts Jesus as the overseer of the woman’s activities and ensures proper godliness in her actions towards her spouse. This encouragement will point man back to the One who must serve as the real overseer or Lord in each godly relationship. This is confirmed by the Church’s relationship with Jesus. Its main responsibility is to point the world back to Him in meekness and humility.
The husband must love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Both godly submission and sacrificial love prevent idolatry. In each case, self is discarded as a greater purpose is exalted. Submission gives way to the eternal while sacrificial love becomes single in its devotion and purpose. As Jesus said, the law is fulfilled in two commandments–to love God with everything in us and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29- 31). As it has been pointed out, spouses serve as an important neighbor.
Jesus gave up His identity, took on the disposition of a servant and was fashioned in the form of a man in order to give up His life for the Church, His Bride. Likewise the husband must lay down his life as he perceives it to ensure an upright quality of life for his wife and family. To lay down his life means to give up his present identity which is perverted by worldly influences.
The Apostle Paul confirmed this reality when he reminds man that he must leave his father and mother and become joined to His wife so the two can become one. Man’s identity is often attached to his family. It is not unusual for men to be conditioned to represent their family by carrying on the tradition of their family. The instruction is clear, a husband is to establish a new identity outside of the old. Woman was taken from man. This union is intended to make man complete once again. This is why Paul instructs men to love their wives as their own bodies because it is the same as loving themselves. Therefore, for man to become complete, He must become identified with his wife. It is in this identification that the husband will establish a new identity with his wife that will be honorable and exalt Jesus.
Giving up personal identity in order to come into a new identity represents agreement. Two people cease to be independent in order to become one in agreement and purpose for the common good of each other, and for the glory of God. This agreement points to intimacy. This is important to realize because where intimacy is lacking in marriage, there is no agreement. Without agreement there is division. Jesus said it best: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:26). Godly agreement can only occur when people are of the same spirit and mind, moving towards God.
The Apostle Paul gives this insight as to the attitude behind such agreement in Philippians 2:2-3: “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
This brings us to the subject of honor. Both the husband and wife are instructed to honor each other (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:7). Honor is expressed in the attitude of submission and in the action of love. Submission and love represent two important aspects of the Christian life, that of self-denial and the cross. Submission requires selfdenial while love points to sacrifice and death. Death is the foundation in which a new life will come forth while submission is the means in which that new life can be expressed. Jesus served as the sacrifice while the Church is to emit His fragrance to the lost world (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Therefore, the husband is to serve as the sacrifice to ensure godly living in his home, while the wife serves as the avenue in this relationship for the fragrance of Christ to be emitted before God and to her children and the world.
The world desperately needs to see a clear presentation of Jesus Christ’s commitment to bring each lost sinner into this incredible marriage relationship with Him. The only relationship capable of presenting this picture is a godly marriage. Are you married? What kind of odor is your marriage emitting? Are you considering marriage? What is your attitude towards it and your motivation behind it? Do you desire a godly partner? Then pay the price and become godly. Do you desire God to be the foundation and Jesus the crowning glory of your marriage? Then preserve the integrity of it through humility, submission, sacrificial love, and purity.