Love and Marriage

Perhaps one of the greatest practical decisions we will ever have to make is about choosing the right person to marry. In the Bible, marriage is the only basis in scripture for a man and a woman to become one and live together. It is a holy commitment before God that is intended to last for life. This paper looks at how a Christian is to approach both love and marriage.

The statements were originally presented as a power point presentation and were discussed by those present. There is further discussion on some aspects at the end.

Love at first sight occurs between some people

False. Thinking this statement is true is based on a misunderstanding of love.  The world view of love = lust, a self centred desire for pleasure. God's definition of love is a selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love.

To develop a relationship of love with another person requires that you really get to know them first. Physical attraction can be “at first sight” but is this love?

It is easy to distinguish real love from infatuation

False – it is often difficult to tell apart especially in the early stages. Real love edifies. Two people in love seek the best for the other person (see 1 Corinthians 13v4-8). Infatuation is selfish and driven by the desire to have your own needs met.

If a man and woman genuinely love each other it makes little or no difference if one of them does not believe in the Lord.

False. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 it says “Be not diversely yoked with unbelievers; for what participation is there between righteousness and lawlessness? or what fellowship of light with darkness?” Therefore a Christian should never date a non-Christian. Dating someone with hopes you will win them to Christ is an unwise practice for Christians as they may end up attached to them for life which could be a great hindrance to spiritual growth. Marriage in the Lord is vital (see also 1 Corinthians 7v39).

God selects one particular person for each of us to marry and He will guide us together.

There is a false security in this. Relying on this as a method of selection could result in you deciding for the first eligible person who enters your life! There is no spiritual exercise before God in this approach.

However, God will provide confirmation as you pray about these things in the Spirit. (see Isaac & Rebecca & the servant in Genesis 24).

It is better to marry the wrong person than to remain single and lonely throughout life.

False. God sometimes calls people to remain single in their work for Him.  In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul goes over the pros and cons of being single or married.  There is blessing for both.

It is not harmful or sinful to have sexual intercourse before marriage if the couple has a meaningful relationship.

False. “But fornication and all uncleanness or unbridled lust, let it not be even named among you” (Ephesians 5v3). Righteousness should be the hallmark of Christian dating relationships.

If a couple is genuinely in love that condition is permanent, lasting a lifetime.

Hopefully this will be true, but it is not automatic. A marriage relationship is a living bond and just like the example of Christ and the assembly it needs to be nourished and cherished (see Ephesians 5v29).

God provides us with all we need to maintain a lifelong loving relationship but it needs each to be filled with the Spirit, filled with His love and submitting to one another with thankful hearts (see Ephesians 5 v 18-21).

Teenagers are more capable of genuine love than are older people.

False. “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5v2). Christian love is something that grows with time and with our appreciation of God’s love towards us. This has the effect of strengthening our natural relationships too. Christian love is based on our appreciation of the love of Christ for us. The more we understand of the greatness of the Lord’s love for us, the more we will be able to demonstrate love to our spouse.

Love, Relationships and God’s Pattern for the Family

The following articles are extracts from ministry by John MacArthur on Love, Relationships and God’s Pattern for The Family. Articles have been shortened or adapted by P. Coldrick.

They can be found at:

Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Love

Obviously the subject of love is a huge subject and is covered in numerous places in the Word of God, but I'm going to try to summarize things and find a starting point here: “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, even as the Christ loved us, and delivered himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” (Ephesians 5v1-2).

So the simple flow of the text is imitate God. How do you do that? Walk in love. How is love defined? It is defined by Christ who loved us and gave Himself up for us. In other words, the simple characteristic of love is that it gives and gives and gives magnanimously, it gives in extreme measures, and it gives unselfishly with no concern for itself. It is self-sacrificing. When you say "love" in the world today, what are you really talking about?  The world has corrupted love. When a guy says he loves a girl, what is that love asking for? If you're married and you fall in love with someone else, that justifies sexual sin. If you're single and you fall in love, that justifies sexual sin. If you're a man and you fall in love or you have a love relationship with another man, that justifies homosexuality. If you're a woman and you say you have a love for this other woman, that justifies lesbianism. It is the world's perversion. And all these love songs, all these television programs and films keep defining love purely in sexual terms and this demonstrates the world's corruption of the real thing.

How do you love? Do you love to the degree where you are eager to humble yourself as fast as you can to meet somebody else's real need? Where you are willing to sacrifice what you have, what you are, your plans, your time, your money for someone else's need? Do you love like that? Do you love to the point of the washing of feet? Do you love to the point of that greater love that no man has than laying down your life for your friend?

Biblical love is not chemistry, it's not common interest, it's not impulse, it's not emotion, it is self- sacrifice. And when you love like that and I love like that, the church will be Christ-like and the world will know that we belong to God.

Dear ones, let me tell you, we have to demonstrate an alternative. We can't follow the same course the world is following. We can't...we can't transfer love into the sexual category and obliterate it all together. We can't destroy the family, destroy marriages and all of that and hope to pass on the true reality of what love is. Love is self-sacrifice. Maybe your life and your marriage and your home isn't everything that you in some fantasy world would like it to be, but it is the place where you will practice and you will teach unselfish love.

God's design for marriage

Let's look back at Genesis 2:18-25, and get a good view of God's design for marriage.  In the Book of Genesis we have the story of the creation, God's creation of man being the summation of creation. We find, as we come to Gen 2:18, that man has already been created but God is not yet finished.

“And Jehovah Elohim said, It is not good that Man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate, his like. And out of the ground Jehovah Elohim had formed every animal of the field and all fowl of the heavens, and brought them to Man, to see what he would call them; and whatever Man called each living soul, that was its name. And Man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the heavens, and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam, he found no helpmate, his like.”

Now, you notice in that, that from the very beginning, God designed someone to be in charge, and someone to help. Someone to be, as it were, "authority," and someone to be "submission." Someone to be the leader and someone to be the follower. Someone to take care of the provision and someone to be provided for. And from the very beginning the man had the role of the headship, and the woman had the role of the one for whom that headship was provided. The man was the one who protected, provided, preserved, and cared for the woman who was "a suitable helper" for him. Then desiring to give this to man, verse 21:

“And Jehovah Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon Man; and he slept. And he took one of his ribs and closed up flesh in its stead.  And Jehovah Elohim built the rib that he had taken from Man into a woman; and brought her to Man.”>

God then provides this suitable helper; the one to aid Adam as he rules for God in the pure and undefiled world of creation. Adam meets his wife in verse 23, and Adam's comment is this, "This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: this shall be called Woman, because this was taken out of a man.  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

Now, here is a marvellously perfect relationship. Adam had no problem accepting her, even though he had just met her. Since there was no sin, there was no selfishness. There were no criteria on which to negatively evaluate her because there was no such thought, and so instantly he says, "She is in every sense one with me: bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh". "And," says God, "They shall become one flesh".  And they were naked, and man and wife, and there was no shame. Why? Because there was no such thing as an evil thought; there was no such thing as a perverse sexual attitude, and so their nakedness was absolutely innocent. It was absolutely beautiful. It was as wondrous as the uniqueness of the relationship itself.

So, that's God's design: an incredible union. Yes, there is a leader, and yes, there is one who follows the lead. Yes, there is one who has oversight and responsibility, and yes, there is one who is under that responsibility. But at the same time, all of that is so beautifully blended in oneness, that you really don't see that. You see, "bone of my bone; flesh of my flesh; taken out of me to be one flesh with me." There is this glorious oneness in the union. The woman's submissiveness is willing and beautiful; the man's provision is willing and beautiful, so there is no animosity, there is no struggle, there is no fighting, there is nothing but a perfectly glorious union.

God's pattern for Husbands

Typically people believe that a great marriage is really guaranteed by being in love. If people are just in love, no rules are necessary, if they just love each other, if there's just the bliss of romance all will be OK. But it's so very hard to define that bliss.

I'd like you to turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy for just a moment, and we can see there, at least in part, what makes marriage so difficult. In 2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 1 it says, "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come," now we are in the last days. And here is how it describes people in these last days. "Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant." Now you could stop right there and understand that people who are self-lovers, money lovers, boastful and arrogant are going to have a hard time with any sustained relationship, aren't they?

And we ask the question, and it's right to be asked, "Is there any hope for marriage when marriage is assaulted by this kind of last-days mentality, when it is assaulted on the outside by the godless immoral culture in which we live, when it is assaulted on the inside by the battle of the sexes, a woman trying to gain the ascendancy and dominate a man, and a man trying to suppress and control a woman?" Can marriage be rescued in the midst of all of this? Here we are fighting it on the inside, fighting it on the outside, fighting it in terms of the very time in which we live, when prophecy is coming to pass, is there any hope?

Well, the answer comes to us in Ephesians 5, so you can turn to that text. That's home base for us as we go through this study of God's plan for marriage and the family.

“Husbands, love your own wives, even as the Christ also loved the assembly, and has delivered himself up for it, in order that he might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5v25-26).>

That's pretty clear. It is the love of self-sacrifice. It is not the love of domination. You are to love your wives just as Christ also loves the church and gave Himself up for her. That is the manner of love, the same kind of love that Christ extended to His church.

And we are reminded that verse 18 says we are “to be filled with the Spirit,” Spirit-filled, to be controlled by the Holy Spirit is the only hope for marriage to be what God wants it to be.  The Spirit-filled husband loves his wife not for what she can do for him, but what he can do for her. That's how Christ's love worked and works. He loves us not because there's something in us that attracts Him, He loves us because He determined to love us in spite of our unattractiveness. He loves us with a love that seeks not to tyrannize us, a love that seeks rather to meet our needs, to understand us, to provide strength for us.

God's pattern for wives

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord, for a husband is head of the wife, as also the Christ is head of the assembly. He is Saviour of the body. But even as the assembly is subjected to the Christ, so also wives to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5v22-24).

Respond to your husband submissively as if you were responding to Jesus Christ. This, by the way, is a devastating indictment against those who deny a woman's submission. This is Christ's will and when you submit to your husband, you are submitting to Him, you are responding as if to Christ. As a woman is to be subject to the Lord Himself, so she is to be subject to her own husband as if he were Christ.  Paul points out the motive for this submission in verse 23, "For a husband is head of the wife." That's the design of God, that's the divine plan. Just as a body submits to the brain which is in the head by design, so the wife submits to the husband who is the head. And then it adds in verse 23, "He is saviour of the body."  We anxiously, joyfully submit to the one who saves us, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.  Similarly a woman is to realize that her husband is her protector, her deliverer...that's what saviour means. She is humbly to give herself to that protection, to that care.

Let me remind you of the woman of worth, according to God. Look at Proverbs 31.  In verses 10 through 31, the mother of Lemuel describes the perfect woman. She describes her character as a wife, her character as a homemaker, her generosity as a neighbour, her influence as a teacher, her effectiveness as a mother, and her excellence as a person. This is no one woman in particular but the full-length portrait of what every woman should seek to become and the wife that every man would desire to have.

You have to take these principles and apply them in your own situation prayerfully and carefully. But the principles and the commands are straight forward and clear. If it means changing your life style, change it to obey the Word of God. As a woman, your priority is to God and that means you obey Him. And then your priority is to your husband, and that means you love him and you submit to him. Your priority is then to your children, you teach them, you instruct them, you raise them in godliness and express your love to them. Then your sphere is your home which is your haven, a place of hospitality. And then your ministry in the life of the church. Anything apart from those priorities brings dishonour on God's Word. It's that simple. And if we're going to have an impact in the world, that's the way we need to live. And may God help us to do that for His glory.

God's pattern for children

Our text in Ephesians 5 and 6 sums up what Scripture says about God's plan for the family, God's plan for the fulfilled family. Now we come to the children's responsibility and what must be implanted in them.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is just. Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest be long-lived on the earth” (Ephesians 6v1-3).

Obedience and honour, obedience and respect are their responsibility. Now admittedly, teaching children to obey and honour their parents is not easy and it's not simple.  Obedience is the issue, teach your children to obey. And I'll tell you something. As you raise your children and you're consistently doing that, there will be times when they fight against it more aggressively than other times. And those are the battle times, when you have to consistently force the issue of their obedience and make the consequence severe enough so that they get the message. It's not going to be ten years of battle, it will be ten years of teaching with here and there, a few weeks of real warfare as they endeavour to fight to maintain the freedoms of their own sinful nature.

Now how do you do this process? How do you bring a child to obedience and respect? “My son, despise not the instruction of Jehovah, neither be weary of his chastisement; for whom Jehovah loveth he chasteneth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3v11-12). And by the way, that is quoted in Hebrews 12 verses 5 to 11 where it talks about chastening. You say you love your child, then you will discipline your child. That's what Hebrews says. If the Lord loves one, He chastens him. And it's grievous at the time, but it has the effect of the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Discipline is that function by which parents reward obedience and punish disobedience....that is discipline. Non-conformity to the divine standard results in negative consequences. Conformity to the divine standard results in positive consequences. That is exactly how God disciplines us. What you do is pour the Word of God into them so that it informs their conscience and it talks to them.  We teach our children what is right. We call them to obedience as if they were obeying the Lord because we are passing His Word, His will to them. We not only do it by verbal instruction, we not only do it by reading to them, we do it by modelling it in our own obedience to God. And, of course, if you try to teach it and don't live it, the confusion is devastating.

Advice to Young People Approaching Marriage

And at this point it would be appropriate to give a warning to you young people. Pick carefully, it's for life. Pick wisely, it's for life. You say, "Oh boy, it makes me nervous." It ought to make you nervous. You say, "Well what's the key to picking wisely?" Simple, be filled with the Spirit walking in a godly way so that your mind is tuned to the will of God. That's why when young couples want to get married and come in for premarital counselling the first thing we ask them is...are you involved with each other physically? Because if they are, they're in a sinful condition and people in a sinful condition can't discern the will of God.  So you have to separate and live a godly life so that you can understand the mind of the Spirit and the will of God can be expressed through your life, then you'll know. I always tell young people, "Don't worry about finding the right person, worry about being the right person." And if you are the right person, then the person God has for you will recognize you.

Now what do you look for? Let me give you some suggestions. First of all, find out someone's reputation. Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." Find out someone's reputation, a good name is better than riches. Try to avoid a reclamation project and wait until the Spirit of God has done that. Hey, we're all reclamation projects, aren't we? But let the Spirit of God do that before you jump in at square one. The idea of marriage is not so that you can lead a person to Christ.

Secondly, "Favour is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31v30).  Find someone who worships the Lord from the heart. Look for reputation, look for a worshiping heart, listen to what they say because out of the abundance of the heart...what?...the mouth speaks. What's the conversation like?

You can check out companions. What kind of people do they run with? Shallow people, deep people, godly people? First Corinthians 15:33 says, "Evil company corrupts good habits." (NKJV) And check out their wardrobe. You say, "Really?" Absolutely. Check out their wardrobe because godly women are not so much concerned with the outward adornment of the body as they are the inward adornment. And when they do call attention to themselves, they call attention to their virtue.

It isn't that tough to understand this. But you can't fulfil it apart from being Spirit filled and you have to go all the way back in this text to verse 18, filled with the Spirit, a heart filled with song and joy, thankful for everything, an attitude of submission. You see, where the Spirit of God is in control, this can come to pass. The commitment of two people to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, filled with worship and thanks, devoted to submitting to each other in humble love...I'll tell you, that will bring romance, that will put springtime in a marriage and it will keep it there.

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