And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Recently I presented a paper in my DMin class on what the Bible teaches about order in the marriage partnership.  This paper sought to define terms, exposit pertinent scriptures, and provide practical application. It also sought to make the reader aware of how some well intended Christian teachers have complicated the issue.  Thus, in a hopes that what I have found and written will benefit you,I am presenting this paper over the next several posts.  Should you have questions or comments, you may send them to

Application Today

            This then leads us into an application of what order in a marriage ought to look like as based upon the scriptures.  The biblical counselor needs to be well versed in the aforementioned scriptures, by the teaching of which will provide the basis necessary and the authority needed to effect change; they also give clear direction rather than mere opinion.  The following paragraphs will highlight the points that require scrutiny.  These areas are often shortcomings in understanding as well as application in a marriage.  The biblical counselor should systematically probe the couple with questions and encourage through teaching the scriptures, and reinforce biblical principles through homework.  Ultimately, hope is given by showing God’s design and empowerment for a marriage to follow these patterns.

            As God began with Adam so shall we with a word to men.   Scripturally, more is directed toward the husband than the wife, and this should be understood clearly by all husbands for everyday application.  Just as God created the land to support plant life and then animals in turn, the husband as created by God sets the supportive framework for the marriage and the family.  This paper has not dealt with the nature of families, given its limited scope.  However, it should be duly noted that a proper marriage order supports a time of cleaving before children come into the relationship.  This is crucial, as well-joined couples are God’s best for the family in supporting and raising godly offspring.   The biblical counselor would do well to take couples through Genesis chapter 2 to help establish God’s ideal for marriage.  In this chapter as discussed previously, the counselor can help define roles of the husband and wife as well as establish an understanding of the symbiotic relationship.

Loving one’s wife is not a legalistic duty but a delight.  True love comes from the heart out of a desire to see the other better off, not solely because God commanded it.  The goal here is a heart that loves God, and one’s mate as Christ loved the church.  In Ephesians 5 we are given the command to love our wives, yet it is in the context “as Christ loved the church.”   In counseling, the couple needs to be discipled in the beauty of the Christ and church relationship.  A quick survey of the life of Christ will reveal many character traits that are applicable to husbandry.  Christ is seen as patient with His disciples and thus the church. He always spoke the truth, but not in a hurried or angry fashion.  His affections for the church were great, even to the point of denying self and laying down His life.  A husband needs this same desire within himself.  He needs to be proficient at abiding in Christ and seeking sanctification, for not only his own sake but that of his spouse as well.  Jesus illustrates this in His custom of getting away either late night or early morning to pray.  Husbands should be taught by the counselor the mechanics how to seek an abiding in Christ.

Another example is how He overcomes temptation by refusing compromise, as that would fail to seek God’s glory.  In counseling a good practical exercise for the husband is to search the scriptures to learn how Jesus talks of His church and to list out ways in which He went about seeking her best interest.  To apply this research and to foster good communication, a husband needs to ensure that he has regular time with his wife in which she is the sole focus.  Dates out to dinner or for coffee ought to be sacred times of loving just as worship is for the Christian.  The wife is not to be worshipped in these situations.  However, just as worship involves praise, giving, listening, learning, and applicable response, so these date nights also should involve similar traits.

Particular attention is to be given to the areas of sexual intimacy.  Counselors need to carefully share the spiritual benefits of healthy God honoring sex.  This would include instruction that the biblical nature of the union of the two fleshes is giving oneself unto the other.  It is to be a time of selflessness.  This oneness serves to increase all areas of intimacy as well as protecting one another from temptation.  The dangers of pornography must be discussed as they subvert God’s order of intimacy.  Counselors need to help couples understand how to serve one another in actions and frequency of sexual union.  Often, sexual intercourse may need to be prescribed as homework.

A husband needs to keep in mind his accountability before God, the call to be separate from the world, and overcoming personal weaknesses.  Thus with the charge of these aforementioned scriptures, a husband needs to be ever mindful of answering unto God how he has loved his wife and taken care of her. 

Second Timothy 3 warns and equips the husband with the word of God for his leadership role. We learn that it is the word of God that sets the standard for sanctification, through the word.  Chapter four of the same book charges the reader to endure and do the work of an evangelist. In a like manner, Ephesians 5 gives charge to the husband to be about the work of sanctification in his wife.  It is therefore implied that the same work is being done in his own life.  This sanctification process is a high calling. It can become one of the greatest areas of growth for the marriage and therefore a consistent working out of one’s salvation will further strengthen the bonds of the two fleshes.  A husband needs to be proactive in sanctification.  Worship and church involvement are to be nonnegotiable.  In the home, the husband is to actively know his wife’s heart and seek to build her up in the things of God.  It is imperative that he protect her in this manner.  This was apparently a point of failure or Adam and Eve.  The husband must seek ways to put off sin and put on righteousness.  This should include, at a minimum, daily prayer together, the sharing of scriptures, the rejoicing in the triumphs and blessings of God, and the loving rebuke of things that are not of God.

For the husband, listening to his wife in order to know her struggles is part and parcel of the leadership role in marriage.  In God’s order, the husband is to be the spiritual head of the home.  He needs to take serious steps to ensure good communication with his household.  Therefore, in loving his wife as Christ loves the church, he needs to work gracefully and patiently in understanding his rib.   The New Testament teachings of 1 Peter 3 describe the wife as the weaker vessel.  This does not imply that she is inferior.  Rather it uses the Greek word, gnosis, to command the husband to be understanding of his wife.  Therefore, it illustrates that she needs tender care.  In order to care for her it is thusly implied that as a leader the husband know the condition of her spirit.  Husbands should be instructed to daily make a priority of taking time to communicate with his wife.  This communication needs to share details of his day, feelings, and expectations in a reciprocal, undistracted manner.  Proper active responses should thusly follow.   This comes through listening with compassion and tenderness.  Further support of understanding the struggles of one’s wife is understood when studying Genesis 3, Ephesians 5, and all of 1 Peter 3.

            In turning to an application of biblical order to the wife’s role we need to apply the two strongest commands: that the wife be subject to and respect her husband.  Again, the idea of submission is not that she be a doormat.  She should lovingly respect and support her husband, first through doing all unto the glory of God, and second considering that he is her ministry.[i]  Biblical counselors must help the wife understand that her being alongside as one flesh does not constrain her, but liberates her to experience marriage at its fullest.

            We see this principal strongly supported by Proverbs 31.  Her husband’s praise among men is directly related to her ministry in the marriage.  This passage demonstrates that she honors her husband, and he in turn praises her.  A woman who dishonors her mate should not expect blessing.  However, even if the husband dishonors her, as often is the case, she must still fulfill her role as unto the Lord.  Biblical counselors need to help wives study these principles, and then apply them through practical application.  It is imperative however, that actions be a means to an end.  The utmost diligence needs to be paid to achieve a change of her heart.  This homework set would include her doing acts of service, holding her tongue, and in-depth Bible study.  To further apply these principles as homework, the husband should list ways in which she does, and does not, show him submission and respect.  These would then be used as areas in need of sanctification.

            A woman struggling to respect her husband can find much help in the body of believers.  As admonished in the scriptures, older women are to help the younger.  Often, older women have had to deal with these same issues.  If they are godly, they can be a great encouragement to the younger women with prayer and fellowship, sharing biblical wisdom.

The true woman of God who submits to and respects her husband will have a heart that loves God and forbears her husband’s faults.  This is not always easy.  Dreams and hopes are often not fulfilled, leading to disappointment.  However, if the heart of the wife, and the husband, can be oriented toward God, they can be redirected through sanctification.  Thus a wife’s dreams and passions are replaced by a desire to walk with God by ministering to her husband.  The wife needs to see her husband as God’s instrument for her growth in Christ.  Just as Genesis 3 tells us that the wife will have a desire for her husband and that he will rule over her, she must be helped in understanding that even though this is a consequence of the fall, God works it for her good.

Supporting the husband as a partner alongside incorporates the care of the home.  Again, Proverbs 31 illustrates how a godly woman spends her time.  This passage surmises what we see directed in Ephesians 5 as well as 1 Peter 3.  It should be emphasized that the woman depicted is not a super hero.  Rather, her heart for ministering to her husband and children engages her to minster to her family as the priority of life.  Her fear of the Lord, verse 30, is a motivating factor.  In biblical counseling much time ought to be spent in understanding the doctrine of fearing God.

  To be suitable helpers, wives need to be thrifty, organized, and forward thinking.   Counseling sessions ought to have homework that engages the wife in planning schedules: coordinating shopping, cleaning of the home, and social events, as well as leaving time to gather the family for devotions and fun activities.  This homework should help the wife budget resources, obligations, finances, needs, and time all for the goal of having a God honoring marriage.  In a society where women’s liberation is taught in place of home economics, the godly wife should look within the church to find an older woman who would help her in these duties.[ii]



            God has shown us in His word the order He has ordained for marriage.  A God honoring marriage is one in which a man and woman are joined together to become one flesh and live for His glory.  It is a process in which two sinners find His hand at work in personal sanctification, which brings the couple into a unity that demonstrates to the world His plan to redeem a lost world.  A harmonious union of marriage in Christ is a demonstration of Christ and His church.

[i] Peace, Martha. The Excellent Wife, Focus Publishing, Bemidji, MN. 1995.  P.4
[ii] Titus 2:3-5
Adams, Jay E., Solving Marriage Problems: Biblical Solutions for Christian Counselors, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983.
Beale, G. K. and Carson , D. A., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 2007.
Brandt, Henry, and Landrum, Phil, I Want My Marriage to be Better, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.
Chapman, Gary, The Five Love Languages, Chicago, Northfield Publishing, 1992.
Eggerichs, Emerson, Love and Respect, The Love She Most Desires, The Respect HE Desperately Needs, Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2004.
Eyrich, Howard, A.,  Three to Get Ready: Premarital Counseling Manual, Focus Publishing, 1987.
Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. 1993.
Kostenberger, Andreas J. and Jones, David W., God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2004.
Mack, Wayne, Maximum Impact: Living and Loving for God’s Glory, P & R Publishing: Phillipsburgh, NJ, 2010.
___________, Strengthen Your Marriage, P & R Publishing: Phillipsburgh, NJ, 1999.
Peace, Martha. The Excellent Wife, Focus Publishing, Bemidji, MN. 1995. 
Piper, John, This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence, Crossway Books: Wheaton, IL, 2009.
Scott, Stuart. The Exemplary Husband, Focus Publishing, Bemidji, MN. 2002
Anderson, Gary A. “A Marriage in Full” First Things (May 2008) (accessed October 23, 2012)
“Baptist Faith and Message."  Lifeway, Nashville, June 14, 2000.
Barrick, William D., “New Covenant Theology and the Old Testament Covenant” TMSJ Vol 18, No. 1, Fall 2007, p. 165-180.
Brighton, Louis A. “Where is the Holy Family Today? Marriage a Holy Covenant Before God- The Biblical Role of Man and Woman” Concordia Journal 31 no 3 (July 2005) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Gibson, Jack J. “Ephesians 5:21-33 and the Lack of Marital Unity in the Roman Empire” Bibliotheca Sacra 168 no 670 (April –June 2011) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Jones, Robert D., “God’s Place in Your Marriage”. Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Vol 17, NO 1  Fall 1998. P.44-46.
Kreider, Glenn R. “God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundations”, Bibliotheca Sacra no 656 (Oct-Dec 2007), (accessed October 23, 2012)
Niehaus, Jeffery. “Covenant: an Idea in the Mind of God”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 52 no 2, (June 2009) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Powlison, David. “Counsel Ephesians”. Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Vol 17, NO 2, Winter 1991. P. 2-11.
Smith, Winston, “Understanding Headship and Submission”, Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Vol 16, NO 2, Winter 1998. P.54-55.
Stanton, Glenn T. “Fact Checker: Divorce Rate Among Christians”. The Gospel Coalition. (Sept 25, 2012) Sept 25, 2012)
Sumner, Sarah; Duffy, Amanda (Illustrator), “Bridging the Ephesians 5 Divide: A Fresh Look at What this Controversial Marriage Passage Says-and Doesn’t Say,” Christianity Today 49 no 11(Nov. 2005), (accessed Oct 23, 2012).
Talbert, Charles H. “Are There Biblical Norms for Christian Marriage”, Journal of Family Ministry. 15 no 1. (Spring 2001) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Tarwater, John: Jones, David W. “Are biblical Covenants Dissoluble? Toward a Theology of Marriage”, Southwestern Journal of Theology. 47 no 1. (Fall 2004) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Tracey, Steven R., “What does Submit in everything” really mean? The Nature and Scope of Maritial Submission.” Trinity Journal ns 29 no 2 (Fall 2008). (accessed Oct 23, 2012)
Vernick, Leslie. “Getting to the Heart of the Matter in Marriage Counseling”. Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Vol 12, no 3, Spring 1994. P 31-35.
White, Ernest. “Biblical Principles for Modern Family Living”. Review and Expositor.  75 no 1 1978, P.5-17
Wilcox, W Bradford “As the Family Goes” First Things no 173 (May 2007) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Witte, John, “The Meaning of Marriage” First Things no 126 (October 2002) (accessed October 23, 2012)
Fisher, G. Richard, “A Study in Evolving Fadism: the Dangerous Leanings of Bill Gothard’s Teachings” Personal Freedom Outreach. (accessed October 23, 2012)
Gothard, Bill “What I Teach”, (accessed October 23, 2012)
__________ “How I Teach”, (accessed October 23, 2012)
__________ “Protection Under Authority”, (accessed October 23, 2012)
Rapidnet, “Bill Gothard General Teachings/Activities”, (accessed October 23, 2012)
Stanton, Glenn T., Fact Checker: Divorce Rate Among Christians. The Gospel Coalition, (accessed Sept. 25, 2012)

No comments: