Who would have thought that such a foundational institution as marriage would become the moral and social issue of our time? Remnant Christians must without delay place the issue of marriage on your priority prayer list. Nothing—not your vocation, your financial future, recreation, or anything—should excuse you from personally examining your marriage and your commitment to it. Is it strong? Is it floundering? Does it need tending? More than half of new marriages are failing, and what is more stunning is that marriages that have held together for decades are falling apart. The dissolution of the institution of marriage is further being assaulted by the fact that 65% of couples living together in the U.S. are in a test-drive relationship—living together without marriage. Yes, we have a marriage crisis on our hands. Probably someone you know very well is facing a marriage crisis. Perhaps even your own marriage needs reclamation. Are you honest enough to level with yourself on the matter? Do you care enough about your marriage to join me in this study? For the sake of your spouse, your children, and your Christian witness and reputation before God and others, please join me in this study.
Pastor Dan Gayman
The sole purpose of this excursion into the subject of marriage is to arrest the attention of those who are married, those whose marriages are a desert wasteland, those who will one day be married, and those who live together outside the covenant of marriage who need to repent of this sin and commit to the marriage covenant. The millennial generation, consisting of about eighty million Americans born between 1980 and 2000, has already rejected marriage in preference for test-drive relationships where they cohabit outside of marriage and end the relationship whenever they feel it is boring or tiring or not working.
The pressures now assaulting the institution of marriage come from every sphere imaginable. The culture has declared war on marriage; if there is not a wholesale repudiation of the cultural trends now underway, marriage will be considered so irrelevant and archaic that it will simply disappear from the culture. Perhaps the most distressing development in the narrative of the marriage crisis is the fact that the U.S. Government has thrown its full weight into the depreciation and mockery of the marriage covenant by mandating that every state recognize and legalize same-sex marriages. In
Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015, the U. S. Supreme Court essentially declared the six-thousand-year-old biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman null and void. The oldest institution in the history of man, older than any nation, has been ripped from its foundation by five black-robed justices who presumed to know more than God and tell 330 million Americans that marriage is no longer restricted to a union between one man and one woman, but is redefined as being just about any relationship imaginable.
Their decision does not change the fact that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children in the godly pursuit of Christian dominion of the earth and building and maintaining a civilized society. Unless or until these five humanist judges can show how two women or two men of the same gender can procreate, they will remain in complete opposition to the God Who created the planets and hung the earth in space. As long as time endures, God-fearing Christians will continue to live by the biblical definition of marriage—and this without compromise or apology.
In the face of the present assault against marriage, remnant Christians must gird up their loins and stand strong against the current culture war that seeks to redefine marriage and bring the entire matter of marriage into the abyss of insanity. The primary goal in this article is to examine the state of marriage within our own ranks. We will have no moral ground upon which to battle for the sacred rite of biblical marriage if we do not give our full and unequivocal attention to making necessary corrections in our own marriages. Above all else, I appeal to the best that is within you to present a good witness to the youth within our ranks. If they see marriages falling apart all around them, can you blame them for wanting to circumvent marriage? Think about it! How can we blame the millennial generation for abandoning marriage when they witness their parents and grandparents making such a mass exodus out of their marriage commitment? Since no-fault divorce was introduced to America in 1971, the institution of marriage has witnessed a steady decline in marital fidelity and faithfulness. With this introduction, please assign marriage reclamation to the very top of your “to-do” list.
At all costs, remnant Christians must place marriage among the highest of priorities. Know this: you are doing it primarily for the glory of God, but also for your own reputation, Christian witness, and setting an example for your sons and daughters. In His original design, God ordained that marriage is the power of two: one man and one woman of the same racial heritage and faith, called to bear children. Marriage is necessary to fulfill God’s command to exercise dominion over His earth and everything therein.
Examine the following points of “Marriage Reclamation” with the intent of making a good marriage better, trouble shooting the problems that surface in your marriage, and above all, resolving to save a marriage that is already in such disrepair that it is non-functional. The word reclamation means “reclaiming lost ground.” Remember: not only will you honor God and save your own Christian reputation, but you will also serve notice to those you love that their lives and futures mean something to you.
Steps in Marriage Reclamation:
Open your Bible to Genesis chapter three. After verse six, we find Adam and Eve in their newly fallen condition, trying to put their lives back together after their perfect world is shattered by sin. Here we glean the steps of marriage reclamation by carefully studying Adam and Eve after the fall.
In the beginning, God created a perfect world and declared everything very good. Into this world He placed Adam and Eve in their perfect union of one man and one woman of the same flesh and bone, joined under God in marriage. Marriage was the ground floor for life in God’s world. Adam and Eve lived with conditional immortality in this perfect world with a flawless marriage. But, the entry of sin into the world changed everything. From this point forward, just as God had warned, the transgression of His divine command would bring serious consequences. Adam and Eve were both flawed, and their spirits were made passive and dead toward God; in the soul, their will, intellect, emotions and affections were biased toward evil, and their bodies had the potential to submit to the lust and passions of the flesh.
We pick up the story of Adam and Eve, now living in the first flawed marriage: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). First Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and then Adam joined her. Both lost their celestial glory, both lost the aura of light that covered their bodies, and both were now estranged from God and afflicted with sin nature. Now they had to face their new life in a broken world. In their pre-fallen state, they possessed only the knowledge of good. Now, they found themselves naked and ashamed and covered themselves with an apron of fig leaves.
Step 1): Remove the fig leaves. Marriage reclamation begins with acknowledging the truth in a broken world: everything in this world is flawed—every member (even you!) and every marriage. There is no perfect marriage. Not even Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, or anyone other couple has ever had a perfect marriage. The reason? Sin nature. That is why men and women in every marriage need God, the only third party that ever should be admitted into the middle of the marriage covenant. The first step in building a new marriage or repairing a troubled marriage is acknowledging that a marriage without God is missing the only Person necessary to make marriage a marvelous union. Do you want the power of two? Invite Almighty God into your marriage.
This demands that every married man and woman take off the fig leaves and see their utter nakedness without God as their cover. Marriage is a covenant of two people of the opposite gender joined under God. Both parties must humble themselves, acknowledge their flawed and sinful state, and confess themselves sinners in need of the saving grace of God to lead them to Jesus Christ as a covering for their nakedness. This cannot happen until both parties mutually remove the fig leaves, expose their flawed state, and come clean with each other before God. This means peeling back the veneer and removing the mask with which we cover our flaws. Both must humble themselves and be willing to identify their flaws, setting aside all pretenses of being someone other than what both of them actually are: unclean sinners desperately in need of God’s redeeming love and being made a new creation in Jesus Christ.
Step 2): Stop Hiding from God. No marriage can be what God intended it to be or be permanently repaired after it is truly broken without God’s help. So, let us establish something from the beginning: do not delude yourselves into believing you can do it without God. Note the problem Adam and Eve faced in their flawed condition: “And they heard the voice of the LORD God waling in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen. 2:8). When parties in the marriage do not seek help from God, they in fact hide from God. Divine help comes only when they mutually confess their faults and humbly cry out to God for healing their broken hearts and their disassembled marriage.
As long as the couple walks in pride, each believing that the other is largely responsible for the problems in the marriage, they are on a steep climb to nowheresville. If one partner does not wish to help heal the marriage, the other must resolve to become that committee of one to do whatever it takes to begin healing, waiting patiently on the other to join the process. Examine your own life and see what failures you have attributed to the crumbling marriage and what duties you have failed to perform for the other.
Step 3): Acknowledge Your Fears. Adam was fearful when God confronted him: “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:9-10). Most people have hidden fears that they keep well contained. This is normal. Fear of the unknown is a normal response in a fallen world. The husband may fear that his wife one will day leave and divorce him, seize custody of the children, and ruin him financially. Or, perhaps the husband worries about his wife being unfaithful. He may fear losing his job, being unable to provide for the family, or losing his wife’s respect. Perhaps he fears doing an inadequate job of leading his family spiritually. Likewise, the wife may be burdened with a load of fears. She may fear the uncertainty of financial security. Or, does her husband truly love her? Might he one day seek the affection of another younger or more attractive woman? Maybe the wife fears she is incapable of being a good mother. Can she meet all the demands of being a wife and mother? These and many other fears may cloud the security of a wife, and security is what she craves most.
The fears of both the husband and the wife derive their origin in a lack of trust. First, they have not learned to yield their fears to God and trust Him for the unknown. God says this: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7). In I John 4:18, God further declares, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” As Christians, we must walk by faith rather than fear. Faith is what God exudes. Fear is what Satan gladly brings into our lives. God declares that there is a peace that surpasses human understanding when we learn to trust in Him. Trust is the Old Testament word for the New Testament word faith. The Word of God says this: “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Secondly, fear arises because either party has not yet learned to trust or have faith in the other. Trust comes over time, from one’s genuine efforts to demonstrate he is a good spouse. Trust is not built overnight. The bridge of trust should be well under construction before the marriage covenant is transacted. If trust or faith is not at least partially founded before marriage, it may take tremendous effort to establish after marriage.
Step 4): Transfer of Blame. Adam and Eve quickly established their vulnerabilities in the transfer of blame to another party rather than standing accountable for their failures. Consider Adam’s story: God asked Adam, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Pay attention to Adam’s response: “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:11-12). Adam had a perfect opportunity to accept blame for eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Instead, he immediately transferred the blame to His lovely wife. God then confronted the woman: “And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” (Gen. 3:13). However honest she may have been, for indeed she was deceived (as confirmed in I Tim. 2:14), she passed blame to the serpent, whom she claimed beguiled (seduced) her. The transfer of blame for doing wrong is as old as the Garden of Eden. Children learn early in life to transfer blame. By the time they grow up, they excel at this game. Anyone who has spent much time in marriage counseling knows that the blame game is exceedingly popular. Indeed, it is as old as sin nature. Two of the most difficult sentences to verbalize are these: “I have sinned” and “I am sorry.” When with an honest and sincere heart we acknowledge our wrongs and earnestly seek forgiveness, God’s grace through Jesus Christ is immediately conferred upon us. However, when we maintain hardness of heart, pride, a haughty spirit, and are unwilling to acknowledge our guilt, we focus only on the sins of the other person, and repair of the marriage breach remains elusive and even impossible, like walking a cable across Niagara Falls. It is not likely that the marriage will be healed.
Step 5): Accepting Personal Responsibilities. Marriage reclamation moves quickly when both parties are willing to acknowledge their personal responsibility for wrongs in a marriage. In their flawed sin nature, Adam and Eve were prone to transfer blame to the other. When we become a new creation in Jesus Christ, we do not suddenly lose the same sin nature that afflicted Adam and Eve. Being born again and made a new creation in Jesus Christ does not mean that we lose our sin nature. Rather, it means we Christians are empowered and quickened by the Holy Spirit to override, overlay, overcome, and rise above sin nature and do the right thing. We are given a new nature in Jesus Christ, Who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, dwells in us. This grace imparted by God to His redeemed children empowers them to do what they ordinarily could not do. Those who have Christ living in them are able to live with unforgiveness and humility.
Let us try another point of view. Suppose you have a husband and wife seeking to reclaim a marriage that is in danger of breaking apart. They both have the desire but not the power or the means to take the steps necessary to save their marriage. Those who have become a new creation in Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:17) have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 8) and are therefore able to overcome sin. The desire to do good does not come from them personally. They receive the power to overcome sin because Christ lives in them. St. Paul stated it this way: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Marriage Reclamation is indeed a crucial test of our Christian walk. Unless there are strong mitigating circumstances at play in a broken marriage (physical abuse, adultery, etc.), a husband and wife living in a state of salvation, with Christ living in them and giving them the power through the work of the Holy Spirit, should be able to put their marriage back together again. The desire to heal the marriage must be a conviction—not simply a preference. Healing a marriage requires the desire to repair it plus a conviction to do whatever is necessary to put the marriage together. That desire is attainable when Christ, dwelling in us, empowers us to do what we might never do on our own initiative.
Step 6): Accept your personal vulnerabilities. Everyone has vulnerable and weak spots. This should be no surprise to anyone. No one is perfect. Not everyone is flawed in the same area, but everyone has their points of vulnerability. The goal in marriage reclamation is to willingly acknowledge those areas where we are weak and be willing to admit that because of this, we may fail for doing some things that we ought not to be doing and for not doing things we should be doing.
A few examples will suffice to demonstrate potential points where the husband and wife may be vulnerable. A given husband and wife come from families where they are reared differently, so it is no surprise that they enter the marriage with many potential sensitive points. One may have grown up in a family with limited financial resources and therefore reflect a different attitude about money and spending habits than someone who grew up in an affluent home. Suppose one of the spouses grew up in a home where affection, love, and emotional attachments were almost non-existent? Contrast this with a spouse who grew up amid a warm and affectionate family. Consider a marriage where one person is quite outgoing and likes to socialize and go places, becoming involved with others, while the other spouse tends to be anti-social and likes to stay close to home. Imagine the strife that could result from major differences about children, their numbers, methods of discipline, education, and other areas that surface with regard to children. How about the potential for tension if one is religious and the other is not?
Of course all these issues should have been discussed and settled before the marriage vows. But what about those instances where these issues were not resolved before marriage? What happens when tension arises over the division of duties inside and outside the home? What if one of the spouses likes to keep the home neat and tidy, while the other has little concern about such trivial matters? Points of vulnerability need to be carefully evaluated, with each person in the marriage address their weaknesses.
Step 7): Focus on Responsibilities, Yield Right’s, Leave your Expectations to God. Any marriage can suffer when a spouse does not focus on responsibilities, while at the same time placing a high premium on perceived rights. When one spouse fails to meet the expectations of the other, trouble may arise. When one spouse focuses on perceived rights, there will be plenty of potential for trouble. Pre-marital counseling should carefully explore the areas of responsibility, perceived rights, and expectations; any differences should be resolved before, not after, marriage. The goal for both the husband and wife should be to focus on responsibilities that each owes to the other, yielding their perceived rights, and giving their expectations over to God. Responsibilities may be defined as those specifically set in the Bible for a husband and wife. For example: the Bible commands the husband to love the wife as Christ loved the church. Likewise, the wife is to reverence her husband and his headship.
Rights may be defined as those specifically set in Scripture and not perceived rights by either spouse. For example the inclusion of children should be a right. The right of the wife to be a stay at home mom and not a career wife is a legitimate right. Conjugal relationships are a right based on Scripture. All perceived rights should have their origin in Scripture. Moreover, we need to recall that we are born into this world and under a sentence of death without rights. It is the grace of God that enables us to have any rights at all.
Every husband and wife will harbor expectations going into the marriage. If the focus is on how well these expectations are met, there will be plenty of opportunity for disappointment. One of the most important antidotes to a good marriage is for both spouses to focus on their responsibilities to each other, their willingness to yield rights, and giving their expectations over to God. The more they focus on performing their own responsibilities, the less disappointment they will experience regarding perceived rights and expectations.
Consider the marriage of Adam and Eve. We have every reason to believe that they remained married to the end of their days. We know that according to Scripture they became the parents of both sons and daughters following the birth of Cain and Abel. Ponder the events that Adam and Eve had to overcome: they had lived in innocence and perfection; although they had the potential to sin, they had experienced life without sin. Now they were face to face with the ugliness of sin nature and a fallen world.
Consider what they gave up for the experience of disobedience. Can you imagine how they both must have suffered from making the choice to disobey God? How must they have felt when they were denied entrance into the Garden of Eden and had to face life in an alien foreign environment. Consider the plight of the woman. She must now face an increase in the number of children to be born, and where there previously was to be no pain associated with childbirth, she now had to endure pain and sorrow? Furthermore, whereas the woman initially had no need of headship, the confusion abounding in the newly fallen world necessitated that the woman be under the headship of her husband.
Consider the powerful changes that Adam faced. His desire for conjugal relations was greatly increased, and this because of the call for multiplicity of children. Plus, he now was required to toil and work by the sweat of his brow against a stubborn and hostile earth. Worst of all, he must live knowing that at the end, he, together with the woman he loved, would meet the grim reaper and return to the dust from whence he came.
With all this in mind, there are no marriages have faced any greater trials or climbed higher mountains than this first marriage in the Bible. If Adam and Eve could climb the nearly impossible mountains that faced them on the other side of the Cross of Jesus Christ, how is it that married couples on this side of the Cross cannot climb the hills and mountains in their marriages?
Now is the day for marriage reclamation. Marriage is under assault from every corner of our culture. May God give His children the courage and the moral and spiritual strength to do what is right and save their marriages. In so doing, they will glorify God, show love to their children, and bear a terrific testimony to a world that is assaulting marriage with all the fury and vengeance it can hurl. God is looking for a Christian remnant to show themselves strong in a day of unparalleled wickedness. Will you be counted among those who run the race and cross the finish line? I pray you will!