Husband and Wife

  • Steve Hatter
Couple getting married holding their hands together

I am performing a wedding ceremony next Sunday, and I am excited! However, I also feel the weight of the responsibility. Within all the hype and joy and tradition of a modern American wedding, someone must represent God and His truth about the sacred institution He alone designed. That job falls to me.

I must speak God’s truth, not only to the young couple but also to all the gathered family and friends. The odds are pretty good that I will offend some in the gathered assembly because God’s Word tends to offend—especially given the wholesale rejection of Scriptural boundaries concerning sex and marriage in our current day. That said, I intend to be faithful to God’s truth as I explain His perfect design. As I continue to prepare further this coming week, here are a few of my thoughts in advance.

Marriage is God’s idea.  We read in Genesis 2: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 

From this point on, every relationship the bride and groom have on this earth will permanently change. Of course, they will always be the children of their parents, and brother and sister to blood siblings. But when I pronounce them husband and wife before the living God of the universe, they will be propelled into a sacred relationship with responsibilities far different than any other relationship they have yet had or will ever have again.

The union of husband and wife takes on a significance that no other relationship can match. This is the bond that God designed as the “one flesh” union.  As a biblically married man and woman grow closer together in day-to-day living together, they will come to understand just how unique this God-given gift of the “one flesh” union is. 

God’s plan for the husband-and-wife relationship is far different from the world’s idea of relationships.  My colleague and good friend Pastor Randy Karlberg described this well when he came up with Hollywood’s Formula for relationships versus God’s prescription for relationships. (He will probably give credit to someone else, but I got it from him!)

Hollywood’s Formula for relationships is this:

First:   Find the “right” person.

Next:   Fall in Love.

Third:  Fix your hopes and dreams on this person for all your future fulfillment.

And then If—and I suppose I should say when—failure occurs, repeat steps one, two, and Three! And by the way, there is no limit to the number of times you can repeat the cycle! So it is no surprise that the tabloids have no end of relationship drama to report on, and it is unheard of to hear of a lasting celebrity marriage!

But here is God’s Prescription for the “one flesh” relationship:

First:   Become the right person.

Next:   Walk in humility and selfless Love.

Third:   Fix your hope on God and seek to please Him through His gift of a single, God-ordained marriage relationship.

And then, when failure occurs because you are a sinner saved by grace being sanctified daily in your walk with Christ, repeat steps one, two, and three!

There is gospel truth to this comparison. If we are to have a God-honoring relationship, we must focus first and foremost on being the person that God has called us to be. 

Ensuring a right relationship with God enables a biblical focus on one’s spouse. We are not to be number one in our life, making sure our own needs are met. 

God explains how all this works, and more specifically, the specific roles we are to have in the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5 of His Holy Word. Here He gives the instructions for how we are to live as husband and wife. In this passage, we also will see the ultimate reason God instituted marriage, which is to model the perfect union of Christ and His Church: 

“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.  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22–33

Leveraging this magnificent exhortation, I will say to the bride next Sunday: Wives are to submit to their husband’s leadership in the home. This is not a master/servant relationship, but rather a role in which the wife comes alongside her husband and helps him become the leader in the home that God is calling him to be. This is not because your husband will always be correct or because he deserves it. On the contrary, this is a role that God has given him in the marriage that will fulfill the marriage covenant.  It is His design, and therefore it is perfect. 

I will then say this to the groom:  You, as the husband, are charged with Loving your bride as Christ Loves the Church.  That is a considerable challenge.  Not because of who she is, but because of what this charge means! You are to consider her needs as more important than your own.  Christ modeled this level of selflessness in giving His very life by dying on the cross for His Bride, the Church.  You are to care for and cherish this precious gift of God as your own body.  You are charged with caring for her physically, emotionally, and spiritually!  You are to serve her as Pastor, Provider, and Protector.

To both, I will say: Christ modeled servant leadership by spending a great deal of intimate time with His disciples and by giving us His Word, the Bible.  What this passage in Ephesians is trying to say is that your marriage relationship should be a living, breathing, growing illustration of how Jesus Christ loves His Bride, the Church. That is what God had in mind when He established the marriage covenant. 

I Peter 3:7 tells us that the husband and wife are to be “Joint heirs of the grace of life.” So again, marriage is a partnership with different roles for the husband and wife.  Neither is better, and neither is to be desired more.  Never allow the relationship to become a competition or a contract. Instead, each spouse is to submit to their God-ordained roles to be a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ and His bride the Church. 

Joyously embrace those roles!  Resist the temptation to covet or resent the other’s God-given mission. As any married couple will tell you, there will be challenges in this life to your “one flesh” union. You must continue to invest in your relationship if you are to continue growing together. 

I will have more for them, but all that I say will stand upon God’s perfect design for holy matrimony, as given to us in inerrant Scripture. There is no place in Scripture allowing a man and a man to marry, nor is there provision for a woman and a woman, nor any other perversion of holy matrimony gaining acceptance in modern culture. Those who marry outside of Scripture’s prescription are not marrying in keeping with the will of God. Therefore, they will never enjoy God’s blessing on their false union.

Next March marks my 40th wedding anniversary. I can honestly say that Cynthia and I have battled our sinful nature and many difficult circumstances over all the years to stay together in faith in God’s design. I can and will say that hard as it may seem, doing things God’s way works.

Please pray for me as the pastoral voice in the coming days and for the couple I will marry!