Gospel Centered Marriage
1 Peter 3:5-7
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Sin separates. The hardest relationship in the world is the marriage. Two people trying to come together and do life as if they are one is an element of disaster, however, this is God’s plan. The problem with this is that we are a selfish and sinful people who desire to have things the way “we” want when “we” want them. Since that is the case, anytime you bring two people together to exist in the manner that God calls us, there are many obstacles to overcome.
Over the years, thru reading scripture and personal experience, I have come to understand something about marriage. I will call this more of an observation than something that I have mastered, because God knows that I haven’t figured this out at all. I often wondered why God is so big on women submitting to their husbands and husbands being “loving and gentle” with their wives. I mean, of all the things that God could have told men and women to do in his Book, why choose to tell husbands to “love” their wives and women to “submit” to their husbands?
To help get a grasp on this, I think it is necessary to first understand what the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is. Jesus is one of the three Godheads of the Trinity, referred to as the Son. He has always been and always will be. He is the head of the church; He is our mediator to the Father and the sender of the Holy Spirit. He is creator and Isaiah says he sits at the right hand of the Father, receiving worship from all of heaven. In Genesis, as the Trinity was making creation, it says that Jesus was there in beautiful rhythmic harmony with the Father and the Spirit, as man was being created in His image. After sin enters into the world in Genesis 3; Jesus, in order to save Gods elect and enter into relationship with Him; leaves the comforts of home (Heaven) and enters into His creation to live as a sinless, humble man; under humble circumstances; live the life that humanity could not live, and die the death that humanity deserves, only to be raised back to life on the third day; overcoming sin, death and absorbing the wrath of God because of our rebellion.
The crazy part of this story is that God did this for self-glorifying people who were God haters, selfish, proud sinners and on their best day had nothing to offer God. The bible states that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It says that Christ who knew no sin, became sin, so that sinners could be the righteousness of God. This is a beautiful story of loving the unlovable; one in which just about every great movie or novel is about. This is a story of a man giving up his life so that others may receive life. In essence, Jesus is our Hero.
How does this affect a marriage? The main reason we see God often speaking about how a man should “Love” and “Be Gentle” with his wife is because that is counterintuitive with our sinful nature. The same is true for a woman. God tells the wife to “Submit” to her husband, because a women’s natural sinful tendency is to lord over her husband and run his show.
As a husband, my natural desire is not to be gentle with my wife. Actually the opposite is true. My natural tendency as a sinful man is to be harsh with my words, brash with my attitude, and manipulative with my ways. Concerning how I love my wife; as a sinful man, my initial tendency is to love her when it is only convenient for me. I choose to love her when I want something from her or I will love her because of what she has to offer me. My natural tendency is never to love my wife because of who I am. Instead, I choose to love her for selfish motives. This is why it is so easy to say unloving things when husbands don’t get their way, to emotionally disengage, or in the worst of cases, become physically overbearing to a wife who is physically much weaker than her husband.
The wife, is not too different in her sin. A wives sin typically revolves around her desire for headship and leadership in a home. This has been going on since our first parents Adam and Eve walked the earth. As a matter of fact, sin first enters into the world, because Eve desires leadership, therefore sins, and then leads her husband to sin as well. God himself says in Genesis 3 that although a man will be called to lead his wife; the wife will desire to have the husband’s role as the leader of the marriage. Because of this, many wives are considered a nag. Proverbs compares a woman like this to the annoyance of a leak in the roof on a rainy day. This typically plays out in all sorts of ways. Most often because a wife cannot be physically superior; she becomes her husband’s greatest critic. Constantly criticizing every things he does; from his driving, the way he eats, the way he dresses, the way he parents, the way he pursues sex, the way he provides, the way he talks to her, and even his motives when he decides to love her well. Again, because her ultimate desire to lead, she will continually nag at his leadership and undermine the way that he does everything.
How can a marriage overcome this? To be honest, it almost seems hopeless and too broken of a system to overcome. However, Christ is in the business of reconciliation man to himself and his ways. 2 Corinthians puts it this way in chapter 5 “In Christ, God is reconciling the world to himself.” In other words, as we look at Christ and centralize the gospel in our lives, we will find God’s original intention and order for all of our ways. That being said, we now have to look at Christ in order to understand how marriage can work.
As we learn what our sinful tendencies in marriage are, we should be looking to choose to submit to Christ’s teachings in order to have a biblical marriage even as it gets hard. Looking at the gospel helps us endure when it seems too difficult. Before Christ was crucified for our sin, he went to the garden to wrestle with God. You see him pleading with God to change his ways and defeat sin in a way that did not require Him to separate from the Father and experience His wrath. However, after Christ wrestles with God, he humbles himself to God’s process. He does this out of Love for God and not love for Himself. If he loved Himself more than the Father, he would have avoided the cross and death and not have experienced the wrath and resurrection that saves sinful man. In the same way, we too need to wrestle with God. Gods design on a Godly marriage goes totally against our intuitive ways on how to go about relationships. In all honesty, God’s design for marriage is just too selfless.
Husbands and wives, dream with me for a minute.
Can you imagine a marriage that really fulfills Ephesians 5:21”Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ”? Husbands, what if you pursued never saying another harsh, unloving word to your wife again? What if you looked to continually encourage your wife without any selfish motive or self seeking reason? What if you were gentle with her and kept your tone low and honored God with your words, looking to build her up and lead her as if she were really God’s child? Wives, you’re not off of the hook either. What if you fought every desire to lead and criticize your husband knowing that blessing comes from submitting to your husband because that’s God design? What if you chose to follow his leading; allowing him to do things the way that he desires without manipulating him and urging him to do things the way that you want it done? What if you thought the best of your husband and believed that his motives were always in love and honor to both God and you?
How would this change your communication? The way you fight? The way you make love and desire each other? The way you parent together? The way you seek to give rather than receive?
The trick to all of this is found in the Gospel as well. Again, the Gospel says that all have sinned against God and fallen away; but despite our sin and while we were still sinners, Christ died. In other words, Christ didn’t love us because there was anything special about us, he loved us because there was something special about Him. In marriage, the same is true. We are commanded to “Love” and “Submit” not because your spouse is “Lovable” or “Submission Worthy”, but instead we are to Love and Submit despite their sinfulness at times. Doing this despite sin is the mark of a true Gospel Centered person who is more interested in being obedient to Christ than they are in responding to sin by sinning themselves. Let’s be honest, when a wife is trying to Lord over her husband because she feels that she can lead better, she is sinning. The same is true when a husband is choosing to not deal with his wife in a lovable way because she is being un-lovable. We are not free to sin because our spouse first sinned against us. That is when this gets really hard, because we want to treat people with an appropriate response to how we are being treated. But, the gospel says that Christ treats us with love while we are unloving towards him; He is our great example.
Typically a marriage gets stuck in a never ending spiral of, what I will call, “Responsive Doing.” In other words, because He is not leading well, She will respond by sinning and taking over. Because she has taken over, He will respond with sin and be harsh with her. Because he was harsh with me, I will nag him and criticize every thing he does. Because she’s always nagging and criticizing, I will not love her well. And the spiral goes on and on and on.
Wives, allow your husbands to lead not because he is a great leader, but because of your desire to love Christ and obey his commands. Husbands, love your wives well and be gentle with her, not because she is lovable, but because of your desire to love Christ and obey his commands. Wives, make it easy for your husbands to lead by not criticizing every thing he does. Husbands, make it easy for your wives to follow you by leading well. Do nothing out of selfishness, but consider your spouse better than yourself.
Ultimately, Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." – Ephesians 5
Keep in mind, repent quickly and forgive graciously.
I never thought I would have the balls to disagree with Mr. Don A Carson, but I am very against this statement (although he leaves 1 or 2 exceptions): The whole article is at
(2) The right thing to do, in both cases, is usually (I can think of one or two difficult exceptions!) to finalize the other part (get married). It is not to try to undo what has already been done! One cannot “undo” this sustained sexual, common-law, union. Thus to demand that a couple tear themselves apart after they’ve been living together for, say, five years, with perhaps a child or two, simply won’t do. What needs to be urged upon them is that they get “married” legally — i.e., publicly, according to the cultural standards of the state.
When God transforms the heart of an unbeliever into a new believer in Christ, many things come along with that. New desires, new motives, and literally a new heart. In essence, that person is clearly a new creation and if the bible is true, they will only slightly resemble the old self. That being said, he/she is not the same person who was in the previous relationship even if they had been together for 7 years unmarried with 2 kids. I humbly submit that it is the biblical responsibility for the for the believer to exit the relationship and seek a Godly husband or wife. In reality it is only fair for both parties because a christian wife will desire a husband who will lovingly lead her in the Gospel, Pray for her children, serve her and lover her as Christ would. We all would agree that an unbelieving wife does not have the grace to do that. The same is true for a believing husband, he will desire a Godly wife who will compliment him in his pursuit of Christ, not fight for leadership and glory in the relationship, and humbly submit to his Godly leadership and authority. Similar to the unbelieving husband, the unbelieving wife does not obtain the grace to do this as well.
In my mind this becomes a Gospel issue. Is it hard to leave a relationship of 7 years in which there was deep sexual commitments involved? Yes. Is it hard to leave the mother or father of your children who is not your spouse? Yes. Is it hard to start dating again in search of the Godly spouse that God may have for you? Yes. But, none of that is as difficult as leaving eternity in heaven to incarnate on earth and start over as a baby. None of that is as difficult as living in an evil world, being tempted in every way and having no sin. None of that is as difficult as being beaten as Jesus was and carrying your own cross to be crucified for the sins of man. None of those things are as difficult as although being without sin, becoming sin; so that cheaters, murders, idolaters, etc can become the righteousness of God by bearing His wrath for us.
In the Gospel we see the great example of making hard decisions for glorious outcomes. It is a trust issue. Do we trust Christ enough to make the extremely difficult decision? As Pastors, do we really trust Christ enough to counsel our people in hard ways, leading them to make decisions that in light of our world seem crazy.
Make the Gospel decision.