Welcome! The fact that you have chosen to do this study means that you care about having a godly marriage that pleases the Lord. The focus of this study will be biblical premarital counseling, but the principles will be great for married couples as well. Unlike many other premarital courses, we will not be focusing on psychology but on the Bible. We will do this because we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The “good work” that the Bible will be preparing you for through this study is marriage. God made marriage. He ordained it, and he has given us instructions in his Word on how it should be developed and maintained.
By taking steps to study what the Bible says about marriage, you have already shown that you believe marriage is important and that you want to be successful in this endeavor. Praise God for that! In this study, not only will you grow in the knowledge of God’s Word but also in the knowledge of yourself and your potential mate as well.
This will be a demanding study. For counseling purposes, this study is best completed along with your mate under a mentor or mentor couple. However, the guide will also be a blessing for those studying individually or in a small group. Let me outline the expectations for each session.
1. Read the lesson and complete the homework individually.
2. Discuss the answers to your homework with your mate (and/or small group).
3. Discuss the answers with a mentor or mentor couple to gain their insight and counsel if at all possible.
For further information, either for small group, counseling, or for individual study purposes, please look through the Appendixes.
This study will be covering many different aspects of marriage including: God’s Plan for Marriage, Gender Roles, Finances, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Spiritual Disciplines, etc. You should complete at least one session a week.
May God greatly enrich your study and your future marriage!
Session 1: God’s Plan for Marriage
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground… The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
(Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18, 24)
In this session, we will discuss God’s plan for marriage, as primarily seen in the Genesis narrative. Most couples miss God’s best in marriage simply because they do not know what God desires of marriage. If you do not know the purpose of something, it is destined for misuse. Therefore, over 50% of marriages end in divorce, and a large number of those who remain married lack the joy God meant for them to have in marriage.
Today, we will help you move your marriage (or future marriage) in the direction God desires through studying his Word. In this session, we will consider five aspects of God’s plan for marriage.
God’s Plan for Marriage Is for It to Reflect His Image
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve, as husband and wife, were created in the image of God and, therefore, were meant to bare God’s image—to be in his likeness. As the animals of the earth looked at the first marriage, they were meant to see much of God’s reflection in it. Marriage was meant to model and display God’s glory on the earth.
Interpretation Question: What ways do we see the image of God specifically in the marriage union?
One of the ways we see this image is in the plurality and unity of marriage. God said “Let us make man in our image”, and then the text says “male and female, he created them” (v. 26, 27). When God made man, he made a plurality. He made man and woman and, later in the narrative, he said they would become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and they are one. When a couple gets married, they are meant to demonstrate two individual people becoming “one”, becoming unified in the marriage union for the rest of their lives, and yet still being individuals.
But, there are other Trinitarian implications to the marriage relationship. In the Trinity, Jesus, the Son, submits in all things to God the Father. The Holy Spirit submits to both. There is perfect submission in the Godhead. In the same way, when God made man and woman in his image there was meant to be order in the relationship. First Corinthians 11:3 says this, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
Paul says in the same way that the head of Christ is God so is the head of woman (or it can be translated wife) man. When God made the husband and wife relationship, it was meant to mirror the Godhead specifically in the area of authority. Ephesians 5:24 also calls for wives to submit to their husbands.
Another Trinitarian implication is the love in marriage. The wife submits to the husband and the husband loves his wife. Listen to what Ephesians 5:25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
The submission of the wife happens in a perfect loving relationship with her husband. Similarly, throughout eternity the Godhead has always dwelled in a perfect relationship of love and authority. The Father loves the Son and the Son submits to the Father. The Father does not suppress the Son and make him submit. He loves the Son and in this perfect love, the Son submits to God. The Holy Spirit loves and submits to both. In fact, 1 John 4:8 simply says, “God is love.”
In the same way, wives are called submit to their husbands, and husbands are called to love their wives. It is not that the wife does not love her husband or that the husband never submits to his wife (cf. Eph 5:21). It’s just that the defining characteristic of the woman’s service to her husband should be submission, and the husband’s service to his wife should be defined by love. This is part of the way we see the image of God in the marriage relationship.
Ephesians 5:25 gives us a picture of what the husband’s love should look like. It should reflect Christ in how the husband sacrificially loves his wife. The husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He died for her, and he also teaches her the Word of God.
When the world looks at a Christian marriage, they should see a husband who is the spiritual leader of the home. He leads his family to a Bible preaching church; he leads family devotions. He serves his wife and edifies her with his words. He sacrifices to please and build his wife up. The wife honors him as her husband and submits to him in everything (Col 3:18). This is a redemptive picture of the gospel.
Marriage should demonstrate the perfect love in the Godhead, and it should demonstrate the perfect submission in the Godhead. It should also reflect the perfect sacrificial love of Christ for the church and the church’s submission to Christ. People should get saved and transformed by watching a godly marriage. They should see something of the glory of God.
Therefore, when a marriage is not working correctly, it mars the image of God and distorts its intended message. With so many marriages ending in divorce or continuing in disarray, the glory of God has been greatly dimmed. It is no surprise that many people now doubt God’s existence or are falling away from him. The light in marriages has often become darkness, which, in turn, pushes people away from God. In marriage, it should be our desire to reflect God and bring glory to him, since that was his original plan.
Application Question: In what ways have you seen a godly marriage reflect and glorify God? In what ways have you seen a marriage in disarray push people away from God, especially the children?
God Plan’s for Marriage Is to Raise Godly Children
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:28)
At one point, raising children was considered the pinnacle of marriage and revered by all. However, now many see children as a burden and the ultimate kill-joy for a married couple and sometimes on society. One of the characteristics that differ between angels and mankind is the fact that God made man to procreate, to create new beings as he did. When a couple gives up the prospect of having children for job, hobbies, “freedom”, etc., they are missing one of the grandest and most awesome desires of God for marriage. This is further supported by what God said through the prophet Malachi.
Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
This passage clarifies God’s desire for Christians to be fruitful and multiply (cf. Gen 1). It is not just kids that he wants but godly kids. He wants children who are holy and live to see the kingdom of God advance. It is one of the parent’s highest purposes to teach their children the Bible and help them find their spiritual gifts and calling in serving the Lord.
Now, it must be noted that it obviously is not God’s will for everybody to have children. Some are kept from having children because of physical issues. Some are kept from having children simply because God never called for them to get married. However, in general, it has been God’s will from the beginning for man to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). Having children should be considered a way of obeying God and pleasing him. Therefore, we should plan for it and prepare for it, as we do any ministry.
Application Question: Have you ever thought of having children as a service to God? How will you ensure that your children will be godly?
God’s Plan for Marriage Is to Establish and Build His Kingdom
“God blessed them and said to them… fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
After telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, God told them to subdue and rule over the earth. They were made to be co-rulers over his creation and to be stewards of it. This is expanded in the New Testament, as marriage is described as a spiritual gift meant to build up the body of Christ and to advance his kingdom. Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:7,
Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me--a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. (The Message version)
Here Paul taught that marriage is a spiritual gift, just as singleness is. And all gifts are meant to build up God’s body and his kingdom (cf. 1 Cor 12:7). Therefore, a godly couple is a powerful duo for the kingdom of God. They build the kingdom through prayer, service to God’s church, and evangelism to the world.
It is God’s will for couples to be good stewards of the earth and to harvest its resources. However, the primary emphasis in the New Testament is not saving the trees or the environment but to bring the message of salvation to all souls before the time of judgment comes to the earth (cf. Matthew 28:18-19).
Application Question: Have you ever thought of marriage as a spiritual gift? What ways do you see yourself and your mate (or future mate) being used to advance God’s kingdom? What ways do you complement one another in ministry?
God’s Plan for Marriage Is Companionship
“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
God has put an innate desire in mankind for intimate companionship. Certainly, this is why so many single people, though they have family and friends, covet something more and often have bouts of loneliness. God made man to be married to a woman and a woman to a man.
Certainly, there are some in the world that he has given the gift of singleness, which is a very special gift, given to help someone be even more devoted to God and his work (cf. 1 Cor 7:32). The gift of singleness is a gift that needs to be restored to the church. Singles have done some of the greatest work for God’s kingdom (i.e. Paul and Jesus). But, with that said, this gift is not the norm. God wants most people to have a mate: someone to fellowship with, to dream with, to serve with, and to be heirs of life together. It is a beautiful experience.
Solomon gave several reasons that companionship is good. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says,
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Though these apply to any companionship, they most definitely apply to marriage. He said that two are better than one because of the productivity of their work. Many couples have seen themselves more profitable in finishing school, working in business, growing in the Lord, doing ministry, and of course raising a family because of the marriage union. God desires to increase one’s productivity through marriage.
Solomon, also, said that a companion is helpful when one falls down because a friend can help him up. Life has many ups, downs, discouragements, trials, and mountain-top experiences. However, many times there are more downs than ups. One will find that when a marriage is working properly that it will help with navigating the trials and discouragements of life. A spouse will speak words of encouragement and faith to her mate, enabling him to get up when he has fallen down. She will make him strong when he is weak and vice versa.
Sadly, marriages that are not functioning properly will actually break one another down instead of building one another up. Be careful to never speak words of discouragement over your spouse. Decide to always speak grace (unmerited favor) over their lives to edify them, even when you don’t feel like it or you feel like they don’t deserve it. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Do you practice speaking words of faith and encouragement over your spouse (or potential spouse) to help build them up?
Marriage also has many practical benefits such as keeping oneself warm and providing for daily needs, but one of the greatest benefits is protection. Solomon said two can defend themselves. This is especially important in a Christian marriage because of the attacks of the enemy in spiritual warfare. Satan realizes the tremendous potential in every marriage, and therefore, he always attacks them. Expect warfare in marriage. Satan will do everything he can to keep a couple out of the Word of God, out of prayer, away from commitment to the church, and fighting amongst one another. He does this because he realizes that two unified and on fire for the kingdom of God can do incrementally more than one.
Therefore, it is important for couples to use their spiritual weapons to protect one another. These weapons are praying over one another daily, consistent bible reading, speaking the Word of God over one another, and commitment in serving the body of Christ.
Have you given thought to the increased warfare that will happen in the marriage union? Many find themselves overpowered in marriage for lack of understanding the nature of our new warfare, and therefore, lack of consistent use of the weapons God has given to defend ourselves (2 Corinthians 10: 4-5).
Application Question: What types of attacks does Satan use against married couples or pre-married couples? Why is he so tenacious in attacking married couples? How can couples defend themselves?
God’s Plan for Marriage Is for a Couple to Make a New Family Unit
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
After God made a woman for Adam, he said that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. This means that in marriage, a couple is starting a new family unit.
This does not mean that they are no longer part of their parent’s home, but it does mean that the priorities of the man and woman have changed. Their priority must now be their marriage. This is very important because one of the top reasons for divorce is in-laws. The wife battles between submitting to her parent’s expectations and that of her husband, and it’s the same for the husband. Every time the couple fights, the husband’s mom or the mom’s father has something to say.
Married couples must be very careful of this. They are always called to honor their parents and even care for them in old age (1 Tim 5:4, 8), but they must honor their spouse first.
The fact that the man is called to leave his father’s house also implies that he must be able to support himself and his new wife financially. It implies independence. Young couples that are still dependent upon their parents financially often have many struggles. If the parents are supporting financially, then that typically comes with a certain amount of control or expectations that can be detrimental to the marriage relationship.
Couples who are ready to get married should consider whether they are financially prepared to get married. They should consider if they are ready to leave their families and cleave to their mates, and also if they are ready to make their spouse’s joy their primary goal after God?
Application Question: Do you feel like you are ready to make the break from family to be with your spouse? Are you financially stable enough to be independent?
In conclusion, it important to remember the reasons God created marriage because if we forget them, the marriage relationship is destined for abuse. Instead of building God’s kingdom, instead of raising godly children or providing companionship, couples neglect these pursuits for other things which ultimately cripple their marriage. Let us always remember God’s plans for the union of marriage so that we can honor them and find the fulfillment God desired.
1. God’s plan for marriage is for it to reflect his image.
2. God’s plan for marriage is to raise godly children.
3. God’s plan for marriage is to establish and build his kingdom.
4. God’s plan for marriage is companionship.
5. God’s plan for marriage is for married couples to make a new family unit.
God’s Plan for Marriage Homework
Answer the questions, then discuss together.
What was new or stood out to you in this session? What ways were you challenged or encouraged? Were there any things that you did not agree with?
If marriage is a spiritual gift meant to advance the kingdom of God, evaluate yourself and your spiritual gifts. What ways has God uniquely gifted you to build up his church (teaching, encouraging, serving, helping, mercy, etc.)? If you are not sure, ask your mate or friends what they would consider your spiritual gifts to be.
Solomon discussed some of the benefits of companionship that we find in marriage such as productivity in work, helping one another out in stumbles, and protecting one another. What are your common pitfalls or times you find yourself discouraged in life? What are the triggers to those pitfalls (problems with career, family, depression, worry, spiritual life, etc.)? How do you navigate these trials and what role can your spouse play to help you out?
The weapons we use in spiritual warfare and the trials of life are primarily spiritual. Discuss your spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading the word, accountability, fasting, church attendance, and service) and how you implement them daily/weekly? How do you think your spouse is in his/her spiritual disciplines and how can you encourage one another in them so that you can more effectively overpower the enemy?
God’s desire for most marriages is to be fruitful and multiply, producing godly children. How many children do you want ? How many does your wife want? Have you discussed family planning? Will you use contraception? If so, what types? It is important to research this before the wedding, as some methods are abortive in nature.
Do your parents or your mate’s parents have any serious sicknesses? God’s call on couples is to care for their parents in old age (1 Tim 5:4, 8). Have you and your spouse discussed the possibility of caring for parents in old age? How would you handle this? Share any thoughts or concerns.