As young people, we are faced with many decisions which will affect the rest of our lives. We must decide where or whether to continue our education, what career to pursue, and whom to marry. This last item, whom to marry, is one of the most important decisions we will ever make. The person that we marry will have tremendous impact on our lives. For this reason, it is important that we seek God’s will in choosing our husband or wife.
God has revealed His will concerning His people and marriage in the Bible. His will is that we not be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Cor. 6: 14) While this figure doesn’t refer exclusively to marriage, a yoke is an excellent metaphor for the marriage bond. In marriage two people are joined in a union which must work with one mind and one will. Further God explicitly teaches us to marry “only in the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39). God’s will is that His people marry fellow believers.
The Old Testament saints understood the great importance of marrying “in the Lord”. In Genesis 24:3, 4 we read that Abraham sent his most senior and trusted servant far away, to the land of his brethren, to find for Isaac a wife who was not of the heathen nations of Canaan. Isaac and Rebekah also understood this importance and therefore grieved when Esau took wives of the daughters of the Hittites.
The Bible also records many of the trials and temptations of those who did marry unbelievers. In Exodus 34:16 God warns the Israelites that allowing their sons to take the daughters of the surrounding nations would ultimately lead to idol worship. This, in fact, happened many times throughout Israel’s history. Before they had even entered the Promised Land, the Israelites committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab; and God slew 24,000 who joined themselves to Moab’s idol god, Baalpeor. Remember also Solomon who had great riches, wisdom, and power and yet was caused to sin by “outlandish women” (Neh. 13:26).
Just as Israel was tempted to sin through its intermarriage with the heathen nations, so marriage to the world today can be a great trial for believers. Imagine trying to raise children with a husband who refuses to attend Church or a wife who loves the things of this earth more than the things of God. Think of how difficult it would be to resist sin in our own lives with a husband or wife who encouraged us in our sin rather than admonishing us and building us up in our faith.
On the other hand, God has reserved many blessings for those who marry “in the Lord”. In the following paragraphs we will attempt to present some things we think are important for young people to consider in choosing whom they will marry.
Guys remember that the Bible’s definition of a desirable woman is much different from this world’s definition. The world puts great emphasis on outward appearance: pretty face, good figure, expensive clothes. Much of our popular culture is devoted to just such “beauty” The Bible, however teaches, “Favour is deceitful, beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30). You do well to seek a woman with “modest apparel” but robed in “good works” (I Tim. 2:9, 10). Physical beauty will fade with time, but the beauty of a godly woman will endure.
It may be hard to imagine now, but someday — with God’s blessing – you will have children. Your wife will have an important place in raising these children. A godly wife won’t chafe at the thought of forsaking her career but will cherish the opportunity to raise her family. This is a rare blessing in a world where being “just a mother” is belittled and an outside career is peddled as the only way to personal fulfillment. Although you are directly responsible to God for the instruction of your children and therefore must be fully involved in this work, your wife will have a great influence on them simply by virtue of the time she spends with them.
A godly wife will love her children and discipline them in a correct and spiritual way. This is a very difficult aspect of raising children. It would be much easier for her to simply ignore disobedient children or shout and threaten until she gets her way. Again, this is not a duty that a husband may shirk, but while you are away at work it is a great blessing to have a wife who understands her responsibility to “withhold not correction” (Prov. 23:13).
Ask yourself if the woman you intend to marry is up to the tremendous task of being a wife and mother in Israel. The answer must be YES!
Young women, remember that your husband will be the head of your home. In this day, the idea of male headship is mocked, and women who hold to this idea are ridiculed or at the very least pitied. Despite what the world may say, this is God’s plan for marriage and those who follow it do receive His blessing.
A godly husband will lead your family in worship to God. Making time for family devotions and actually leading the family in worship is not an easy thing to do. Especially in the beginning of married life it is awkward to begin family devotions and to actually lead a household in worship rather than just going through the motions. He will also find the work of God’s kingdom outside of the home important. He will be willing to give of his time and talents to promote the work of our churches and schools.
A husband’s calling becomes even more clear after children enter into the home. A godly husband will see to it that they know their catechism lessons. He will have a deep love for Christian education. It will take strong commitment to send children to a Christian school when money gets tight, as it invariably will. Even when paying Christian school tuition requires sacrificing some things, he will not lose sight of his covenantal responsibilities. He will remember his baptism vow to see that his children are instructed in the true and complete doctrine of salvation, to the utmost of his power.
He will also insist that these children walk in God’s ways. He will insist on faithful church attendance and obedience to all God’s laws. We need only read in the book of I Samuel the story of Eli and his two sons to realize the importance of discipline and the sad consequences of failing to insist on obedience.
We realize that for some of you in your teens and twenties these things seem far removed. While dating, it’s all too easy to leave difficult subjects undiscussed, religious differences unexamined. This, however, is a serious mistake. God requires that we marry only one whose religious convictions are consistent with our own. That certainly doesn’t mean that we disqualify anyone with roots outside the Protestant Reformed Churches. Nor does it mean that someone with a Protestant Reformed upbringing automatically qualifies. Rather, it means that whomever we choose to marry must share our convictions on all fundamentals of Reformed doctrine and life. It should go without saying that we also make certain that WE are living lives pleasing to God. Just as we cannot expect to change anyone else after we are married, we shouldn’t think we can live like the world until we’re married and then settle down.
We encourage you to discuss your faith thoroughly and honestly. It’s not enough to agree on some hazy generalities about God’s grace and going to church on Sunday. Get to specifics! To marry “in the Lord” is to obey God, to avoid many trials and temptations, and to enjoy the many blessings which God has reserved for covenant families.