by Daniel Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC
I am convinced that marriage is one of the best, and one of the most challenging, undertakings anyone can experience in their lives. As Christians, our task is to bring this amazing relationship under the lordship of King Jesus. This requires the Bible, God’s own self-revelation, to take a central role in our marriages.
Many would acknowledge this necessity, but also admit the difficulty of putting it into practice. If that’s you, you are not alone. I have faced the same struggle, and here are four strategies my wife and I have found immensely helpful in making the Bible central in our marriage.
1) Make daily, structured Bible reading a regular part of your personal devotional life.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship anyone can have with another person. And that means your spouse will know you better than any other person on the planet. They will know your likes and dislikes, your interests, your successes, and your failures. And yes, they will know if you are a man or woman who is committed to the goodness and authority of God’s Word.
One of the most important ways to center your marriage around the Scriptures is by making sure your personal life as a Christ-follower is founded on these same Scriptures. There is a certain hypocrisy to trying to base your marriage on the Bible if the rest of your life is lived from your own strength and wisdom.
And the converse is wonderfully true: regularly spending personal time in the Scriptures displays the importance of the Bible in all areas of life, including your marriage. There will be a beautiful symmetry and integrity when you and your spouse practice together what you also practice as individuals.
2) Read and study the Bible together as a couple.
If you want your relationship to be founded on the Word of God, you need to read it. This might be the most obvious but often the most ignored piece of advice I give. It’s not difficult to understand God’s instruction to the people of Israel when he was commanding them to follow all of his instructions and believe his promises:
“This is the command—the statutes and ordinances—the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, so that you may follow them in the land you are about to enter and possess. Do this so that you may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life by keeping all his statutes and commands I am giving you, your son, and your grandson, and so that you may have a long life … These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” (Deut. 6:1–9 CSB, emphasis added)
If you are going to have a marriage that is obedient to the Scriptures, one thing will be essential: know the Bible. Keep it in front of you; keep it visible; keep it as a topic of conversation. The best way I know to do this is to read the Bible together. This will be a challenge, but stay after it. You will find it is worth the investment.
3) Familiarize yourselves with those key passages that speak directly to the issues of marriage and family.
The previous strategy flows into this one. As we read the Scriptures, we see that God’s Word speaks to so much of our lives. God has much to say about this most intimate of relationships. What better way to make the Bible tangible, present, and central in your marriage than to see what he actually says about marriage? As you familiarize yourselves with these directly relevant passages, as you talk about them and consider them, you will be faced with the question: Will we obey them daily?
4) Complement your Bible study with good books on biblical marriage and family.
We are blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to books on marriage and family. But, we are also cursed with a lot of junk, too! How can we discern which ones are good and which ones are bad? Easy. The good ones are going to constantly point us not to man’s wisdom, but to God’s wisdom in his Word. If you are looking for recommendations of a few books on marriage that point to the Word, the following may be a good place to begin:
- Akin, God on Sex
- Kostenberger and Jones, Marriage and the Family: Biblical Essentials
- Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
- Willard Harley, His Needs, Her Needs
Take the Word and make it central to your marriage relationship, and enlist the aid of helpful saints who have reflected on what the Bible has to say about being a godly husband, a godly wife, and godly parents. These books will encourage and challenge you as you work together to reflect the glorious Christ-Church relationship in your marriage (Eph. 5:22–33).