Friday, November 10, 2006

A Good Marriage?

Do you have a good marriage? Andreas Kostenberger begins with this common question, but develops it in an intriguing way in this post he wrote at Biblical Foundations a few weeks ago. Well worth meditating on.

"Would you say that you have a good marriage? Some of you might answer this question in the affirmative (hopefully your spouse would, too); others might acknowledge that there remains a lot of work to do before you would claim to have a good marriage.

But why aspire to having a good marriage in any case? Just to be able to feel good about having a good marriage? And what does it mean to have a “good marriage”? When is a marriage a good marriage? If it is better than most other marriages of the people we know?

I submit to you that “Do you have a good marriage?” is the wrong question to ask. A better question to ask would be, “Does your marriage glorify God?” Is yours a God-glorifying, God-honoring marriage?

Rather than viewing having a good marriage as an end in itself, or using a human, relative standard of comparing our marriages with those of others or with some ideal set up by some popular current book on the subject, the goal of a God-glorifying marriage grounds the relationship with our spouse where it ought to be grounded: in the eternal, sovereign plan of God.

What, then, is a God-glorifying marriage, according to Scripture? Among other things, it means this:

(1) Both spouses are growing in Christ (“in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ,” Eph. 4:15)—not just the husband (husbands have a God-given responsibility to nurture their wives spiritually, Eph. 5:25–28) or just the wife (a sad reality in many marriages where the husband is spiritually passive).

(2) Both spouses exhibit fruit, both physically (children) and spiritually (they are engaged in Christian service, individually and jointly). For a couple to be fruitful and multiply is at the very heart of God’s purpose in creation (Gen. 1:26–28), and we should not sinfully put self above having and bringing up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (or consider adoption if a couple cannot have children).

(3) The marriage is between Spirit-filled disciples of Christ (Eph. 5:18) who are committed to his Lordship and authority over all things. He is the center of God’s plan, not them, or even their marriage (Eph. 1:10). A truly God-honoring marriage does not (ultimately) focus on the family; it focuses on God in Christ.

In a marriage like this, the husband and wife are too busy growing in Christ and serving him in tandem, and with their family, than to ask, “Do we have a good marriage?” A good marriage they have, but not because having a good marriage is ultimately their aspiration, but because anything we do in life that seeks to bring honor and glory to God (including how we conduct our marriage) will result in blessing.

May God be increasingly glorified in our marriages, for his greater glory and for our good."

To read a fuller treatment on marriage and the family, Kostenberger's book, "God, Marriage & the Family" comes highly recommended. You can read a review of the book here.


Lane Keister said...

Thanks for posting this. Kostenberger is certainly an up-and-coming scholar in evangelicalism. Thankfully, he was the one chosen to write on the pastoral epistles in the Revised Expositor's Bible Commentary. I say thankfully, since he is a complementarian.

Do you think that what he's getting at is that asking the question, "Do you have a good marriage?" is actually focusing too much on the physical, and not on the spiritual? Or do you think the weight of his question lies elsewhere?

Nicki said...

Yes, I suspect that is what he is talking about. I believe he is getting us to think 'Christianly' about what a good marriage is. Do we think only about the horizonatal relationship between husband and wife when it comes to a 'good marriage?' Or do we predominantly think vertically? I truly believe that when we get the latter right, the former results in a 'good' marriage as God is firstly, and rightly glorified. As he says, and I paraphrase: 'a good marriage they have, not because they aspire to one, but because they honour and seek God first.'