My generation (and older ones) may look back to our early years of marriage and wonder, “How in the world did we get by? We hardly knew each other!” Premarital counseling was rare. Many jumped into married life, hoping for the best. For those having the benefit of previously trusting Christ, there was the advantage of guidance from God’s Word. In this article we’ll look at aspects of the early days of a Christ-centered marriage which will impact the years to follow, if the Lord has not come.
Establishing Christ as Lord
The years of a Christ-centered life previous to marriage greatly affect a person’s choice of a life partner. However, this doesn’t ensure smooth sailing beyond. Early in married life I stopped to visit a former companion and his wife (non-believers) only to discover that they had separated since I had last seen them. While talking to his wife, I was made aware that having the Savior as a “third member” in marriage provides a powerful binder in the relationship. With Christ at the head of the triangle and both the husband and wife seeking a close relationship to Him, the inevitable benefit is that the two are kept close together. What begins as devoted obedience to Christ individually becomes blended “when two become one.” Without establishing priorities honoring to the Lord, the marriage may easily become the focus of life, and the sense of eternal perspectives erodes.
It is clear in the Scriptures that God intends a couple to have a family (although physiological conditions may determine that a couple cannot have children of their own). Understanding that the subject of planning when to have children and how many to have may be a cause for heated debate, I would simply say that human responsibility is not eliminated by God’s sovereignty in any facet of life, including planning a family. It is notable that God’s Word shows a priority in sequence of relationships and responsibilities. In both 1Timothy 5:14 and Titus 2:4-5 the exhortation to the young women sets the marriage relationship first and children and keeping of the home second. Ephesians 5 teaches us that marriage is a couple, not a family (Christ and the Church). Whatever time the couple feels is necessary to be well adjusted in their relationship takes precedence over starting a family (also after starting a family). As well, we see that the young woman’s responsibility to maintain a home follows the arrival of children. Employment outside the home prior to starting a family doesn’t compromise the structure of the home.
Watching the Budget
If a couple is to follow this pattern, they will need to avoid establishing a life style dependent on both incomes. Sadly, in many urban settings today, young believers can hardly think of home ownership without two incomes. Proverbs 31:10-27 may stir diverse emotions in young wives and groans of, “Please, don’t expect me to measure up to that.” I wouldn’t want to appear to dictate to any of you. But we can note that this passage encourages a woman to use her varied skills, when suitable, to supplement the needs of the family and home. The subject of finances is one of the primary causes of marital strife, so cooperation between spouses from the very outset of marriage regarding budgeting funds and managing records is of utmost importance. We take confidence in the fact that God has promised to meet our needs (Phil 4:19) though not necessarily our “wants.”
An Intimate Relationship
The bonds – emotional, physical, and spiritual – formed during the period before children will characterize the relationship throughout the years of family life in the home. The physical relationship is noted in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, indicating an obligation on the part of both husband and wife. In this obligation is a tremendous potential for preserving the marital bond, as each partner fulfills the other’s sexual needs with evident devotion. It may seem strange to some, but this aspect of marriage is as much devotion to Christ as any other steps of obedience. And as difficult as it may be for the first months/years of child-rearing, every effort should be made to preserve this intimate relationship of husband and wife.
“Using” Your Home
Prior to having children, couples have a tremendous opportunity to form the habit of entertaining other believers, young and old, in their home. There is also liberty for couples to engage more freely in social interactions with others so as to share the gospel. Of course, it requires both spouses to determine to what extent time and resources are to be used for hospitality. Making your home available to the purposes of God, though at times demanding, will bring equal reward and encouragement, especially when reaching out to those who are not able to reciprocate the kindness. Such was the manner of Christ.
Early Days in the Assembly
In 1 Timothy 3, the characteristics for eligibility as an overseer, deacon, or deacon’s wife provide principles appropriate for us all. The first relational note is a man with his wife (v2). Another relevant point is his relationship to his children (vv4-5). This portion of this article is brief due to the Biblical pattern. If life’s not good at home there is no benefit for the assembly. Husbands and wives who are effective spouses and parents will be a blessing in the assembly. Not only are they able to minister to others but the others will look to them for their input and example.
Faithful men may think that, apart from their daily work, the needs of the assembly are paramount. The danger is that one might easily fail to be the needed husband and father at home, and might unwittingly compromise their benefit to the assembly. Following the principles of 1 Timothy, it seems appropriate to set our relationship priorities as follows: Christ, spouse, family, and the assembly. A wise couple will balance life in general so as to engage the family effectively in the varied activities of the assembly for their eternal good.
The concept of marriage has been extremely distorted today. Thus, a healthy Biblical marriage is increasingly distinct in our culture. Sincere non-believers will note it. Young single believers will observe it. And older saints greatly appreciate faithful young couples who are putting their lives into sustaining the local assembly of which they are a part.