Does the Bible provide any principles about whom I should marry?
Do you love someone and are trying to determine if you should marry that person? Are you looking for the biblical principles that should guide you in making that decision? What follows are the principles from God’s Word that can help us make this life changing decision.
Christians Are To Marry Only Christians
In 1 Corinthians 7:39, the Holy Spirit tells us that a Christian must only marry another Christian. The phrase “in the Lord” refers to a Christian.
. . . she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39 (NASB)
This is not the only verse where Christians are warned to not marry a non-Christian or unbeliever. This command is given to us in love by the Holy Spirit to help us avoid the heart-ache that will follow if a Christian marries an unbeliever. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are also told to not be bound together with unbelievers. The command is repeated using different words.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NASB)
The Greek word for “bound” literally means “to be pulled in opposite directions.” “Bound” is a poor translation. The word refers to being pulled in opposite directions or being mis-matched. That is, believers and unbelievers are opposites and they will pull in opposite directions. Notice that the Spirit says “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness?” The couple will be pulling in opposite directions. The Christian will want to go to church, minister in the church, read the Bible, pray, obey God and avoid sin. But the unbeliever will not want to do any of those things. Some unbelievers are cooperative in certain matters, but they are few. Yet, the conflict will exist. In fact, the unbeliever will want the Christian to engage in a variety of sins (see Romans 1:32; 1 Peter 4:4).
After awhile the physical attraction and sexual thrill will not be enough to outweigh the pain and disappointments that will eventually come. Such marriages often end in divorce or the Christian is not as wholly devoted to God. Compromise will occur at some point since the unbeliever is not interested in the things of God. That is what happened to King Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-11). 1 Kings 11:4, 6, 9 tell us that Solomon’s heart away was pulled away from the Lord by his wives. Eventually he was not completely devoted to the Lord. As a result, God disciplined him.
But the difficult part is how can you know someone else is truly a Christian? It is very common for 1) people to pretend to be a Christian and 2) be deceived themselves into thinking they are a Christian. For guidance about how to determine if someone is a Christian, visit the following links:
You Can Marry Any Christian You Desire
The Holy Spirit also tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:39 that an individual Christian is free to marry any Christian that he or she desires.
. . . she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39 (NASB)
The Greek word for “wishes” is thelo. The word means “to wish, desire, want or to take pleasure in.” That means a Christian is free to marry any believer that he or she wishes.
Since a Christian is free to marry any Christian he or she desires, there are a number of questions that must be considered. There are two Scriptural principles that will helpful in minimizing future pain and conflicts and achieve peace in the marital relationship.
Principle #1 – Both of you should share the same goals and visions for the future.
Philippians 2:1-4 gives us this biblical principle when it says, “make my joy complete by being of the same mind.” The Greek word for “same mind” refers to being in agreement. Literally, it refers to thinking the same things. Also notice that in 2 Corinthians 13:11 that we are promised the God of love and peace will be with us when several things are true in our relationships. One of the required ingredients is being like-minded or being of the same mind. This helps us understand that the goal of any relationship is not diversity and differences of opinion, but unity. That is why Euodia and Syntyche were urged to live in harmony in Philippians 4:2. They had differences of viewpoint with conflict as the result. Amos 3:3 summarizes the problem this way, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
Principle #2 – Both of you must understand the differences in your backgrounds, cultures and/or habits.
1 Peter 3:7 tells husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” This means that he must know and understand his wife. He needs to study his wife. He should know her weaknesses, attitudes and desires. He should understand and be prepared to care for his bride should her health one day be impacted by disease or physical ailments. It is important to understand that we are genetically related to our parents. He should understand her past culture because it can affect their future relationship. These considerations are also true for a woman considering marriage. She should know her future husband (Titus 2:4-5).
Be careful as you explore your differences and what you have in common. The greater the differences the greater the potential for future conflict. Once again remember that diversity does not lead to unity. This is contrary to the popular view of culture. Diversity and differences lead to conflict, not to unity.
The Barometer of A Successful Marriage
The barometer of a successful marriage is not love but spiritual maturity. This may be a surprising statement, but stop and think with me. Love was not required for the marriage of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:21-25). Adam was already alive and then Eve appeared. They did not spend time together before getting married. God created her and presented her to Adam. God did not ask Adam if he loved his new wife and He did not ask that question of Eve. Sinful behavior was not an issue yet. We can be confident that they in time loved one another, but that was not the reason they became husband and wife.
In fact, love was not the primary basis of marriage in the Old Testament era. An example is Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 24 tells us that Abraham sent his servant back to his home country to the Ur of the Chaldeans, to find a wife for his son, Issac, from among his relatives. The servant asked God to guide him and God guided him to a woman named Rebekah. Genesis 24:58 reports that Rebekah agreed to return with the servant and marry Issac. She was not asked if she loved Issac because she had not yet met him. Genesis 24:62-67 tells us that when Rebekah arrived and met her new husband, she entered his tent and became his wife. It was not possible for her to love Issac before she had seen him or spoken with him. Love was not the basis for their marriage. The basis for the marriage was commitment and respect. In such a marriage, love followed as two people grew to know one another.
Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:1-7) would have had an arranged marriage also. That was common at the time of Christ. Christ never said anything about such marriages. In summary, love is not the barometer for a successful marriage. Often the “love” that couples feel today for one another is typically lust or physical attraction and a desire for physical contact and sex. Such “love” is a poor barometer for a successful marriage.
It is helpful to understand the true story of a woman from India who married. She shared some years ago that she was scheduled to meet her future husband at a dinner party. She said this would be first time to meet him. When she was asked if she loved her fiance, she commented that love was not important in selecting a spouse. Both parents had discussed their compatibility and had arranged the marriage. She said their marriage would last longer than American marriages because their marriages were based on commitment and they learned to love one another after marrying. She was very wise and accurate. Real love develops with time.
But what she missed was that the Bible teaches us that the barometer for any successful relationship including marriage is spiritual maturity. This is such an important point. Therefore, let’s explore this further by asking these questions, “How can we know someone is not spiritually immature? How can we measure the spiritual maturity of another person?” The answer is how much of the fruit of the Spirit is obvious in his or her life? Notice the first word in the list in Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)
The first word in the list is love. This means that the more spiritually mature the prospective husband and wife are, the more love will be in the marriage and the greater the likelihood for success. Also, notice the other signs of spiritual maturity in the list. The next two words are joy and peace. Do you want joy and peace in your relationship? Spiritual maturity is the key. By the way, the sex life will not be great when there is fighting. Love is not the barometer. Spiritual maturity is the barometer.
Other signs of spiritual maturity include: 1) knowledge of the Bible and the ability to teach or explain it (Hebrew 5:11-14); 2) having victory over sin (1 John 2:14) and 3) trusts God through the trials of life (1 John 2:14). The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount are also descriptions of Christians (Matthew 5:3-9). The Beatitudes indicate that a Christian is humble, grieves their sins, is gentle, merciful, peacemakers and longs to be holy and flee sin! Are these characteristics of both of you? These are the barometers for a successful marriage.
Your Potential Spouse Is Obeying God
The next area to evaluate is the actual behavior of one’s potential spouse. That is, what is the spiritual walk or behavior of both the future husband and wife? Here are a series of questions to consider.
1. Is your potential spouse willing to have children? In Genesis 1:28 God commands couples to have children and populate the world. (Psalm 127:4-5)
2. Will the potential husband be able to support the family? Will he support the family or be a husband who stays home? This is an issue because today some husbands want to stay home and expect the wife to earn the income. Notice that 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
3. Is the future wife willing to submit to her husband? Or, does she want control over her husband? Notice that God commands a wife to submit to her husband in Ephesians 5:22-23; Titus 2:4-5 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, 8-9.
4. Is the future husband willing to love his wife and to assume the responsibility to provide leadership or does he want his wife to be his mother? Notice that God commands a husband to love his wife in Ephesians 5:25-33; Titus 2:6-8; 1 Peter 3:7, 8-9. These passages are not describing sexual love. For a definition of love read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
5. Are both the potential husband and wife walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-23; Ephesians 5:17-6:5; Colossians 3:16-22)? A Spirit-filled husband and wife will have a “successful” marriage. They will grow spiritually together. It would be good to read and study at the following links:
6. When an argument occurs, what happens? Afterward, do both of you apologize and forgive after an argument? Or, does one of you have an elephant’s memory and repeatedly blame the other for your differences? Are both humble or is there faultfinding? Notice that God calls us to have a spirit of forgiveness in Ephesians 4:31-32. In Ephesians 5:33 husbands are urged to love their wives and wives are urged to respect their husbands. This should be true even after the conflict.
Engagement Is A Trial Period
Remember an engagement period is a time of exclusive commitment to one another. It is a trial period that should be broken if serious problems occur in any of the above areas. The future wife should be able to respect and consequently be in submission to her future husband. The future husband should be lovingly leading her in spiritual things (Ephesians 5:25-27). The couple must maintain sexual purity throughout the engagement period. It is recommended that the couple not engage in any passionate kissing until the wedding day. It is recommended that the following be read,
The above biblical principles are fundamental. These principles have been used by others with success. We pray that they will help you determine who God would have you marry. But the most important way to discover who you should marry is to be in a spirit of prayer about the decision. Just as Abraham’s servant asked God to guide him, we should ask God to guide us.
It is recommended that both couples thinking about the potential of marriage listen to the study series “Marriage In Splendor – God’s View,” It is also recommended that the couple study the book published by Dr. Emerson Eggerich called Love and Respect.
Suggested Links:If I change my religion, can I marry my Christian girlfriend?
Is it a sin to doubt or question another person’s salvation?
Self Inventory Test – Determine if you are a Christian
How To Be Filled With The Spirit
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
What are the signs that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit?
Holy Spirit Gives Us Victory Over Sin
Is it a sin to kiss and hug before marriage or just not wise?
Marriage In Splendor - God's View