Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline

Maryam and Stephen 1984
Maryam and Stephen 1984

 “An excellent spouse who can find? They are far more precious than jewels.” (Prov 31:10)

 By Stephen W. Hiemstra [1]

How has marriage transformed you? If you are not married, how has your parent’s marriage formed you?

Scripture begins and ends with marriage. In Genesis, we see a couple, Adam and Eve, who are just made for each other! In Revelation, an angel informs us: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19:9) Obviously, marriage was God’s idea [2].

As an unconditional promise—until death do us part, marriage is also formative and it provides a paradigm for other covenants and the relationship of church to Christ. This implies that marriage is a spiritual discipline.

The Apostle Paul’s comments on mixed faith marriages highlight marriage’s formative character. Paul reports that the believing spouse renders the whole marriage holy for the children (1 Cor 7:12–14). Paul also sees marriage as a witnessing opportunity. Paul asks: “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Cor 7:16) In other words, Paul clearly sees marriage possessing a sacrificial component. Jesus’ own teaching on divorce and remarriage clearly draws inspiration not from the Law of Moses (which admits exceptions), but rather from God’s work in creation which is eternal [3].

But if marriage is a spiritual discipline, how does it draw us closer to God?

Marriage is formative in our faith for at least three reasons. The first reason is that God instituted marriage and commissioned marriage with a blessing and mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . .” (Gen 1:28) God created marriage, blessed it, and said it was good—obeying God always draws us closer to him.

The second reason that marriage is formative is that marriage starts with an unconditional promise. God is the eternal promise keeper. In marriage we imitate our creator. Making and keeping good promises—even when it hurts—transforms us and draws us closer to God.

The third reason is that marriage makes us accountable. Our spouses know us in the biblical (covenantal) way! Our weaknesses vex our spouses and they tell us. We sin less because our spouses make us more aware of our sin—a sanctification process that forms us—even if we are not believers! Part of this process is to learn reconciliation skills by using them on a daily basis.

This list of reasons why marriage is formative is especially interesting because God instituted marriage even before he instituted the nation of Israel or sent his son to die on the cross.

God is not irrational. He knows that the biggest beneficiaries of marriage are our children. And he loves them as much as he loves us. Marriage is not exclusively about our own feelings. This is why other relationships are not marriage and why God places a high priority on marriage. We should too.

Almighty and loving God. We praise you for instituting and blessing our marriages. We thank you for the gift of children and for the way you transform us in our families. In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the wisdom and strength to care for our spouses and our children day by day. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


[1] Reprinted from NCP Online Monthly, July 2014 (

[2] Keller, Timothy and Kathy Keller. 2011. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton. Page 13

3] Deut 24: 1–4, Matt 19:6–9, and Gen 2:24.

Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline

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