God’s Idea of Marriage

God’s Idea of Marriage

“God’s Idea of Marriage”
(Colossians 3:18-19)
Series: The All-Satisfying Christ (Colossians)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

I invite you to take your Bibles and join me this morning in the Book of Colossians, chapter 3 (page 793; YouVersion).

We are preaching our way, verse-by-verse, through the Book of Colossians. And we are in a section of material where Paul teaches Christians how they are to live in their homes and in their world. Specifically this morning we are reading how Christian husbands and wives are to relate to one another.

We’re studying about the Christian family. This week we’re looking at husbands and wives and then next week we’ll be studying about parents and children. And you’ll note that in the text this morning, having found your place in chapter 3. You’ll note verses 18 and 19 are about wives and husbands and then verses 20 and 21 are about children and their fathers, their parents.

By the way, you will not want to miss next week! Our new student minister will be preaching in all three morning services next Sunday. Jacob Clutts, our student minister, has been with us a few months now and I have asked him to preach the morning services so you all can hear him preach God’s Word. I will be here too, but I have asked Jacob to preach so that you can hear him and get to know him a little better. He’s a very good communicator.

So Jacob will be preaching verses 20 and 21 about parents and their children and I am preaching this morning verses 18 and 19 about wives and husbands.

Some of us may be tempted to sort of “tune out” at this point, believing this passage to be only for wives and husbands, but this passage is for everyone. If you are not married, you may well be married at some point in the future. And as Christians interested in discipling others, though we ourselves may not be married, we understand that we are here to help others and we can do that by learning how God’s Word applies in every relationship.

• Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

Pray: “With the psalmist we pray, ‘Open our eyes that we may behold wonderful things in your Word,’ in Jesus’ name, amen.”


There’s a lot of advice out there about marriage. It is often said that marriage is “a two-way street,” meaning of course that both husbands and wives have a role in making the marriage work. My dad used to say, “It takes two to tango.” A marriage consists of two people, husband and wife, working together, working with one another, and for one another, not against one another.

You may have heard the old joke about the guy who died and went to heaven. And in heaven there were these two signs. The first read, “Men Who Did What Their Wives Told Them to Do.” And there were many, many men under this sign, standing in a line that stretched as far as the eye could see. All of them under the sign, “Men Who Did What Their Wives Told Them to Do.”

And there was a second sign in heaven. It read, “Men Who Did What They Wanted to Do.” And only one man stood under that sign, just one! So one of the gatekeepers of heaven was intrigued and walked over to the man and said to him, “No one has ever stood under this sign. Tell me about yourself.” The man shrugged and replied, “Not much to say; my wife told me to stand here.”

It takes two to tango. But it actually takes more than two. It takes three to make a marriage work, because marriage is inherently a biblical institution. The family is the first institution created by God. Marriage is God’s idea. So it takes three. A husband and a wife are each for the other, and both for the Lord. It takes three.

Remember that Paul is writing here to Christians so he has God’s definition of marriage in view. God alone has the right to define marriage and He has defined it by creating man and woman, Adam and Eve, and bringing them to each other; each for the other, both for the Lord. One man, one woman, for life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So we’re talking about “God’s Idea of Marriage,” God’s plan for your marriage. The text consists of two main teaching points, the first for Christian wives, the second for Christian husbands. So, here we go:

**God’s Plan for Your Marriage:

1) Christian Wife:
—Demonstrate Biblical Submission to Your Husband (18)

Now, I realize there may be some in the room who shudder when they hear that word “submission.” It kind of grabs and stuns some people. So before we do anything else, let’s make sure this is not the “Word of Todd,” but the “Word of God.” Look at your copy of God’s Word and let’s read verse 18 and make sure this is what it teaches, verse 18:

18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Well, yes, there it is. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord or, as the New Living Translation puts it: “as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.” In other words, biblical submission is expected on the part of those who “belong to the Lord.” So what does it mean to submit?

We’ve noted many times in the past that it is nearly as helpful to know what a term does not mean as much as it does to learn what a term does mean.

Biblical submission does not mean that a wife is in any way inferior to her husband. She is not inferior morally, or intellectually. Submission does not mean that a wife has no say in decisions in the relationship. Submission does not mean that a wife is to be treated as a door mat, someone to be walked upon, or ignored, or walked over.

Biblical submission simply means following the lead of one’s husband. That’s pretty much it. Following the leader. Think about it: Someone has to lead.

Have you ever been in a group of people at work or school, and everyone’s just standing around and the assignment has been given, but everybody’s just standing there? Someone has to lead.

Imagine a tour group and everyone is just huddled together, but not going anywhere. Finally a leader emerges and says, “Okay, everyone. Here we go. Follow me.” Someone has to lead.

So God creates the family and assigns the primary leadership role to the husband. This is called headship. The husband is the head of the family. It does not mean that the husband is smarter, or wiser, or in some way morally superior to his wife. He is simply the leader.

His wife “submits” by following his lead. She yields voluntarily to the leadership of her husband.

We’ve noted before the similarity of the relationship of the Trinity to the relationship of a husband and wife. God is one. God is one and three Persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So God is one in essence. Whatever the Father’s essence, whatever is in the Father is in the Son and whatever is in the Son is in the Spirit. There is no difference in essence. They are all one and the same.

Yet the Persons of the Trinity have different functions, differing roles and responsibilities. The Son submits to the Father. The Holy Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son. And this pictures the relationship between a husband and wife so that the difference between a husband and a wife is not a difference in essence, but a difference in function, a difference in role and responsibility.

The Christian husband lovingly leads his wife and the wife yields herself graciously and voluntarily to the headship of her husband.

The assumption in the text is that the husband is, in fact, a Christian, but if he is not a believer, the principle still holds. Where a man and a woman are behaving as they should before one another, one lovingly leads and the other graciously follows—not in a way that demeans the one nor exalts the other.

One of the reasons many bristle at the very mention of “submission” is because of the unbiblical way many worldly men have wrongly understood submission. Some have gotten the craziest notions of what they think submission means. In fact, the secular, non-biblical understanding of submission is quite a contrast to the biblical teaching and understanding of submission.

About this time three years ago we were making our way through 1 Peter. And we were studying 1 Peter, chapter 3 and verse 7 where Peter writes, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them [your wives] with understanding, giving honor to the wife…”

And I shared with you a song that illustrates the secular, unbiblical notions of submission. I thought I’d share it again as it seemed to strike a chord with number of you.

It’s a song by Shel Silverstein. And while Silverstein was the writer, the song was made popular by Tompall Glaser of the Glaser Brothers from Nebraska. And that’s probably why I heard it first from my older cousin from Nebraska. I don’t remember whether it was Mike or Chuck, but one of my cousins taught me it and, as a 10-year-old boy I thought it was pretty funny and I had him repeat it over and over until I learned all the words.

It’s called, “Put Another Log on the Fire.”

I mention this song to you as an example of what Paul is NOT teaching here in these verses, okay?! It illustrates the wrong way of thinking about submission.

The song is about a simple country man who expects his wife to do everything for him.

Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.

Come on, baby, (that’s the country part!)

You can fill my pipe and then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire babe,
And come and tell me why you’re leaving me.

Now remember, I was only 10 when I first heard the song and thought it was so funny! The husband in the song continues singing to his wife:

Now don’t I let you wash the car on Sunday?
And don’t I warn you when you’re gettin’ fat?
Ain’t I a-gonna take you fishin’ with me someday?
Well, a man can’t love a woman more than that.

And ain’t I always nice to your kid sister?
Don’t I take her driving every night?
So, sit here at my feet, cause I like you when you’re sweet,
And you know [that] it ain’t feminine to fight.

Well, the song is meant to be funny, but unfortunately it is the way many men think of marriage. They neglect their wives, demean their wives, speak down to their wives, and then wonder why their marriage is in a shambles.

Now before we turn to husbands specifically, let’s read verse 18 again: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” or, “as is fitting to those who belong to the Lord.”

Wives, submit to your husbands, voluntarily yielding to the leadership of your husband.

This means pray for your husband. He is the leader of the family so he needs your prayers. Pray for him. Encourage him. Talk positively about him when you are around others. Trust God to work through him as he leads.

A wise husband knows his wife will help in decision-making, often providing counsel and even warning. She may see or sense something he fails to see or sense and so she is a tremendous help in decision-making, and generally where a husband and wife are walking hand-in-hand, each for the other and both for the Lord, they will be in agreement on most decisions—and yet, at the end of the day, someone has to lead.

And the responsibility for leadership falls to the husband. And to the Christian husband we now turn. Second of two main points:

2) Christian Husband:
—Demonstrate Faithful Adoration of Your Wife (19)

Adoration. Adore your wife. Word of Todd or Word of God? Let’s see. Look at verse 19:

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

That’s pretty straightforward. Love your wife and do not be bitter toward them. That’s an interesting thing to say there, “Do not be bitter toward them.” In Roman society it was not uncommon for men to rage against their wives and demonstrate remarkable anger and bitterness, always ready to explode, like a can of soda that has been shaken and then opened.

And many times where men have become bitter toward their wives, it is because they have misunderstood them. Sometimes a man’s wife is merely offering help or caution or warning, but men may be too self-engrossed or too self-focused to appreciate their loving counsel.

Sometimes a man’s wife is merely finding humor in the situation and the man, because he takes himself too seriously, or is too prideful, fails to laugh with her.

Friday when we had all that snow, I prepared to go out and do the shoveling. I shovel our drive and the adjacent drive and this was now the second time to do both as we had these two snow days last week.

But I’m looking out back and I see the snow piled up pretty high from our back door to the garage door where the snow shovel is located. And so I’ve got a problem. The snow is piled up against the back door and I’ve got to make a path through the snow to get to the snow shovel. And I don’t own any snow boots or anything like them, but I’m a pretty industrious guy when I need to be. I was, after all, a Boy Scout!

So I get a great idea. I get two trash bags and I stick one foot in one bag and the other in the other bag and I pull them up and tie them as best I can and my feet are covered. I couldn’t exactly tie them snugly so I had to hold them up in place with my hands.

And I’m getting ready to head outside now and brave the elements with my garbage bags on my feet. And my wife sees me. Do you think she showed appreciation for my industrious solution, the way I had ingeniously improvised, adapted, and overcome the situation? She simply asked, “Are…you…going outside like that?” “Yes.” “You’ll just be in the backyard, right? Not out front where anyone can see you like that?!” “Yes.”

She found humor in the situation. And I’m so grateful that God granted me the wisdom to find humor in it, too. Otherwise, I might have become bitter toward her! We need to learn to laugh more in our marriages. Have fun together.

Paul says in verse 19, “Husbands, love your wives.” In the parallel text of Ephesians 5, Paul elaborates on this love of husband for his wife. He says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

Jesus Christ demonstrated a sacrificial love. He loved the church and gave Himself for the church, dying for the church. Christian husbands love their wives sacrificially—to the point they are even willing to die for their wives. That’s a deep and real love. And it is a love made possible by the new life we have in Christ.

It is so important to recall the greater context of Paul’s teaching here in Chapter 3. These two commands for wives and husbands are commands couched in the context of the new life in Christ.

Paul is addressing those who have already dealt with their most basic, fundamental problem, the problem of sin. He is writing to those who have put off the old self and put on the new. They have been converted. They have died with Christ. They are those, then, who are being renewed daily in the image of the One who created them.

So when Paul is writing here about the matter of marriage, he is not writing just to anyone. He is writing to Christians. He is writing to Christian wives and Christian husbands. He is writing to those who are, verse 1, “Seeking those things which are above,” verse 2, “Setting their minds on things above, not on things on the earth.”

He is writing to those who have, verse 3, “Died” to their old selves, those for whom, verse 4, “Christ is their life.” He is writing to those who are regularly, verse 5, “Putting to death” sins such as, “fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil desire,” and “Putting off,” verse 8, sins cut as anger, wrath, malice and filthy language.

When tempted, remember to invoke Romans 6:11, and say, “I’m dead to that. I’m dead to that way of thinking. I died to that old life. I’m dead to lust. I’m dead to filthy language. I’m dead to looking at porn. I’m dead to that.”

“I’m finding my sense of meaning, and purpose and all satisfaction in the life-giving, life-sustaining, joyful embrace of the all-satisfying Jesus Christ!”

Paul is writing to Christian husbands and wives who are putting on, or dressing themselves with, verse 12, “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; verse 13, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another even as they have been forgiven in Christ.

He is writing to Christian couples who, verse 14, “above all things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection” or completeness in marriage.

He is writing to Christian husbands and wives who, verse 16, let the word of Christ dwell in them richly.”

I shared with you earlier that our new student minister, Jacob Clutts, will be preaching verses 20 and 21 next week:

20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

So I’m not going to preach those verses, but I mention them now because they follow verses 18 and 19 and are therefore an integral part of the context of Paul’s teaching concerning wives and husbands. In other words, these verses go right along with marriage.

Let me put it this way: our children are getting their information about marriage from mom and dad—by watching mom and dad. Dads, your son is learning from you. Your son is likely to treat his future wife the way he observes you treating his mother.

Moms, your daughter is learning from you. She is picking up behavior from you. She is learning how to talk to her future husband based upon how she hears you talk about her daddy.

Children learn most about parenting—from their parents; by watching mom and dad, by listening to mom and dad, listening to them talk to each other and about each other.

This Book, A Promise Kept, is required reading of couples who ask me to perform their wedding. If we don’t have a copy in our church library, I’ll see that we get one soon. It’s the story of an unforgettable love of one husband for his wife. Robertson McQuilkin was the popular president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary—now Columbia International University—when he learned that his wife, Muriel, was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. So he took on more and more of Muriel’s care until making the choice to resign from his coveted position as president to care for his wife, full-time.

There were many who could not understand McQuilkin’s decision. They believed he could get others to care for his wife while he presided over the seminary, but he had made up his mind.

His reason is found in an excerpt of a letter McQuillkin wrote to the Columbia Bible College constituency, explaining his decision. He writes:

…Recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just “discontent.” She is filled with fear—even terror—that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time…

Referring then to his wedding day years earlier, he adds:

The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health…till death do us part.” So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of her debt.

Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more: I love Muriel. She is a delight to me—her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I don’t have to care for her. I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

So the Bible gives these two commands to help Christian wives and husbands to better relate to one another.

In my marital counseling I find that so much of what is lacking is good communication skills between husband and wife. So I wanted to share some practical principles that I picked up from my good friend, Danny Akin. There are, 5 Tips on Communication & Fighting Fair. And I’ve condensed it down from 10 and personalized some of them, but let me encourage you to jot these down.

**5 Tips on Communication & Fighting Fair:

1) Speak Positively of Your Spouse around Others

This is so important! Always talk about your spouse in a positive way. Ladies, to talk negatively about your husband demeans him and hurts him. When you are with your friends, talk positively about your husband.

Men, same goes for you. Talk positively about your spouse around others. One of the benefits of this, incidentally, is that it safeguards our marriage from the possibility of a third party trying to edge his or her way into the relationship.

Wives, if you’ve got a problem with your husband, don’t share those problems with a male co-worker or you will unwittingly open yourself up to the possibility of infidelity. People seldom set out to do that, but it begins this seemingly innocent way. A frustrated wife shares with another man the problems she is having at home and this other man seems so willing to listen, so concerned, you know. Day after day, week after week, and one day the two are involved in a way they previously could not have imagined.

2) Master the Art of Listening to Your Spouse

Really listen. Indicate you understand what your spouse is saying by lovingly and carefully repeating what you head. Listen.

3) Limit the Discussion of the Conflict

When you are discussion a problem of some kind, limit the discussion of the conflict to the here and now. Don’t bring up things that happened years ago. Don’t air the dirty laundry of mistakes made in the past.

4) Use “I” Messages to Express Yourself

Use “I” messages to make your point and express your emotions. This allows you to take responsibility for your feelings, and also allows the other person to hear about your feelings without being defensive. “You” messages tend to be perceived as attacks and criticisms, because that’s what they usually are.

So rather than saying, “You don’t listen to me,” say, “I feel I’m not being heard.” Hear the difference. Use “I” Messages instead of “You” messages.

5) Avoid Exaggerations, such as “Always” or “Never”

Like, “You ALWAYS say that!” Or, “You NEVER get home on time.” Such statements are very seldom true, simply because as inconsistent human beings we very seldom “always” or “never” do anything.

So there are a few tips for you to take home today.

Let me conclude with this…


Richard Selzer is a retired medical surgeon and former Professor of Surgery at Yale University. In his retirement years, he has written a number of books including Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery.

And in this book, Dr. Selzer recounts a personal experience of his that I think aptly illustrates a husband’s faithful adoration of his wife, and the wife’s mutual love for her husband. Dr. Selzer tells of a surgery that didn’t go exactly as hoped. Listen as I read. He writes:

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks, “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.” All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting to those who belong to the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

Stand for prayer

It is so important to remember that Paul is not calling for mere behavior modification here.

Apart from salvation, no amount of behavior modification will suffice to please God and earn salvation. We can try to dress up our old self, but all we are doing is covering up the problem. We need a new nature altogether. We need a new self.

“Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”

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