What are the qualities of a godly spouse? What type of person should a Christian marry? These are important questions to ask.
If they do not have these three basic qualities of a godly spouse, I would recommend that you stay away.
Quality #1: Being a Christian
If you are single and you want to be married, it can be a daunting task to look at the world of possibilities and ask, “Who does God want me to marry?” While there are lots of people in the world, the Bible helps us in our search by giving us one huge filter that all Christian must use: Is this person a Christian?
Before you begin to wonder if God wants you with someone, the first quality to look for is faith in Jesus Christ. If they are not a Christian, they do not have the most important quality needed for a healthy Christian marriage.
1 Corinthians 7:39 (NIV) states, “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” Here Paul makes a clear statement that teaches Christians it is never okay to marry a non-believer, “he must belong to the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 also states:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”
This is not the book to dive deeply into why the Bible forbids a Christian and an unbeliever from marrying. The first thing we need to recognize is that the Bible does clearly say this. The short answer, however, for why a Christian should not be unequally yoked in marriage is that this type of union will hurt and not help a Christian’s walk with God.
Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.” (Nehemiah 13:26)
The Bible is crystal clear about Christians only marrying other Christians, but the Bible does not directly forbid dating an unbeliever. Why? Because it does not talk about dating at all. Therefore the Bible does not condone dating an unbeliever either. So what should a Christian do?
When the Bible does not give us a clear command on a subject, this does not mean we are free to do whatever we want. Rather, we are called to apply the relevant biblical information we do have to the question at hand. Since the Bible is very clear about Christians not marrying unbelievers, and since I believe dating should be used to gauge if two people want to get married, I personally do not believe Christians should date unbelievers.
If you have a different conviction, I respect that. Let me quickly share a few reasons for my beliefs about not even dating non-Christians. When I have talked with Christians who want to date an unbeliever, their main argument is that they can be a witness to this person through the dating relationship. This is commonly referred to as missionary dating.
Christians are to be a light to the world, they are to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are supposed to love unbelievers in word and deed. But they are also never to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). I believe dating is a form of being “yoked.” Of course it is not the same as marriage, but dating still joins you with someone in a way where you can be positively or negatively impacted. We are called to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and I do believe opening your heart to someone who does not love God is an unsafe relationship decision.
Jesus spent time with unsaved sinners, loved them, and even served them; but he never called them his friends (John 2:23-25). He was friendly towards them, but that is different than opening your heart to someone and forming a friendship with the world (John 15:15). While God calls us to love the world, he also commands us to be aware of the damage people can cause us when they are not lovers of God (James 4:4). 1 Corinthians 15:33 states, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” As much as we might be attracted to someone not saved, we must remember how impossible it is for an unbeliever to please God:
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:6-8)
If we hope to please God, we must not be yoked with those still in the flesh (unbelievers) because it is impossible for someone without the Holy Spirit to love God.
Quality #2: Bearing Fruit for God
If you’ve been a Christian for a while or have grown up in the church, Quality #1 was probably not new information to you. It’s usually a commonly accepted fact in the church that God calls Christians to only marry other Christians. A problem, however, that often occurs is to assume Quality #1 is the only trait you should look for if you want God to bless your relationship.
The reality is, many people claim to be Christians who are not. Secondly, even if someone is a Christian it does not mean they are automatically marriage material. Saying, “Yes, I am a Christian,” should not be the secret code word all Christian simply need to say before they can enter into a dating relationship together.
The second quality required in the word of God for Christians who want a blessed marriage is bearing fruit for God. If someone claims be a Christian with their mouths but their lives don’t resemble the life of Christ at all, this is not a good sign. None of us will be perfect and we often fall into seasons of backsliding. But if you are a true Christian there will be certain pieces of evidence in your life to confirm your salvation. Matthew 7:15-23 summarizes this whole point. Jesus said:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Sometimes when you are attracted to someone and really want to be with him or her in a relationship, you end up seeing what you want to see. When your desires overtake you, you might look for glimmers of hope that this person will develop into a great Christian husband or wife one day. You might say, “Well, he prays before meals. He likes Christian music. And since he’s been with me he has stopped swearing so much.”
While traits like these are certainly not negatives, God has called true Christians to love him far more than in these superficial ways. Jesus said that if we really love him, we will obey his commands (John 14:15). The commands of God are summarized in the two greatest commandments: Love God and love people (Matthew 22:36-40).
So we can see that Christians are called to something more than mere obedience. We are called to love God. The highest form of love is to lay down your life for the person you love (John 15:13). Jesus showed his love for us by dying for us. Christians are called to love God with the highest form of love as well. Jesus said:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)
Therefore it is not enough to simply marry someone who lives under the banner of “Christian.” If you want a successful marriage, you must marry someone who loves God. And the way you will know if they love God will be through their actions. When they love God they will obey God, and their obedience will be expressed in their service to other people. As 1 John 3:16 explains, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
So if you want a healthy marriage, you must marry a Christian who is actively serving God and bearing the fruits of the Spirit by God’s grace (Galatians 5:22-23).
Quality #3: A Readiness for the Biblical Roles in Marriage
Truly believing in Jesus and bearing fruit for God are requirements for all Christians. But not all Christians are prepared for marriage. The last qualifier the Bible gives us when considering the ingredients to a healthy marriage is this: A Christian is ready for marriage when he or she is prepared to fulfill the biblical role of a husband or wife.
There are many different views about the roles of Christian husbands and wives. Basically there are two big camps in this discussion. Complementarians believe that husbands and wives have equal value, display the glory of God equally, and fulfill two different roles within the relationship that complement one another. Egalitarians, however, believe that husbands and wives are completely the same and should share all responsibilities equally in the marriage.
I am a complementarian, however, do to the complexity of this issue I will not express all of my views on this subject in this book. Secondly, I respect egalitarians and I do not believe the content I share in this book is for one group or the other.
My point here is that if a Christian person does not possess the qualities of someone ready to fulfill their role in the marriage (regardless of what you think that role is and is not), then this person is not someone you should marry. Some Christians are mature in some areas of life and immature in other areas that are essential for a healthy marriage union.
Now Let’s Really Dive Into What the Bible Actually Says
The rest of this book is meant to explain these three main qualities in a much deeper way. In the chapters ahead we will discuss the signs all Christians will possess, what the fruits of the Spirit will look like in relationships, and what qualities a healthy husband and wife will possess according to the word of God.
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