This article is adapted for young people from a speech given for Holland Protestant Reformed Church’s Evangelism Committee.
How do Christians behave to make marriage last? Young people, pastors know too many things that ruin marriages.
Every minister and elder in our churches has seen so much sorrow in marriages, so much dishonor of God’s name, that we ought to be praying every day for you: “Lord, don’t let them make marriages that aren’t biblical marriages.”
Prayerfully consider these biblical guidelines:
Marry “only in the Lord.”
This comes out in the relationship of Christ and the Church! The only reason that there is a mysterious relationship between Christ and the Church is that they are united spiritually. There is not fellowship between Christ and Belial—not simply because Christ does not want a relationship there, but because one cannot exist! The only union is a union of faith, a spiritual union in which the life of Christ flows from Him to His body.
This is why I Corinthians 7:39 instructs us that if the Lord gives us to marry, we must marry “only in the Lord.” For believers, the only union that they may make is a union in which they are one with their spouse in the faith of Jesus Christ. To do otherwise is to invite disaster! How can you live as a reflection of Christ and the Church when you are a believer, and your spouse an unbeliever? (For that matter, how can you do that if you marry one of a different faith, and he or she remains of that faith?) Your unbelieving husband will not reverence and respect and honor you as Christ does the Church, unless he has been changed by the sovereign grace of Christ. And your unbelieving wife will never submit to you, be your spiritual help—fit for you—unless, by sovereign grace, Christ has transformed her heart to be a God-fearing wife. And what an inexpressible joy if they are!!!
When I was your age, I saw some young people make marriages that were not “in the Lord.” They were miserable then. They still are. I urge you, young people, to believe God’s Word and not be blind to what’s coming for you if you don’t.
There must be guidance and rule of the husband over the wife. Husbands will esteem wives highly, treating them with highest respect.
There must be submission of the wife to the husband; and reverence.
There must be faithfulness.
With Christ and the Church there is unfailing faithfulness, unbreakable fidelity. Although you and I, as the Church, “play the harlot” and stray in sin, not only is it the case that He always abides faithful to us, but He always turns us back to Him!!
Let there be faithfulness in marriage. Let there be faithfulness within the marriage bond, not only outwardly and obviously, but in the heart and in attitude.
Commit no adultery. Watch no television program that leads you to fornication in the heart. Read no book, page through no magazine, that promotes fornication. Not now. Not when you’re married. There is only one thing, Jesus says, that has such serious consequences that divorce is permitted. That’s fornication. If that sin is so serious, imagine what that sin does in your heart when you promote that sin with books and magazines and music and movies and television programs that are thick with that sin. It ruins existing marriages. It makes marriages in the future—marriages you hope to live in— difficult, if not almost impossible.
Be faithful to your future spouse.
There must be forgiveness.
In the union between Christ and the Church there is forgiveness. When we are unfaithful, spiritually, Christ is ready and willing to forgive, over and over and over again.
Let there be forgiveness in marriage. We are one because of what Christ did for us on the cross. May there be mutual forgiveness in our marriages. They won’t last without it.
There must be self-denial.
Did not Christ give His own life for the life of the Church? Is not the Church willing to give up her own life, her own existence in this world, for the sake of Christ?
Then let there be the same kind of selfless behavior in our marriages. Why? Because of Christ and His Church.
And all this, because Jesus loved her, and gave Himself for her.
Does the young man tell me he loves the girl whom he takes into my study, and asks me to perform their wedding ceremony? He loves her? Let him show me that he intends to live the way I’ve just described, and begins to live that way now, and I’ll consider it, gladly!
Now, look back over the italicized words above. The one you’re dating…or hope to date…how do they rate? How will your marriage last? ❖
Rev. Gritters is Pastor of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.