How to Fix Your Marriage (Or Your Future One)

Montana Bilger

Marriage is a beautiful institution of God where a completely sinful man and a completely sinful woman come together as one to magnify the love of Christ in each other.

How do two sinful people magnify the love of Christ? Marriage will bring about challenging times, because of a fallen world and this predicament.

The hottest fires forge the strongest steel. When a husband and wife are both acting carnally, there tend to be some fairly hot fires: a perfect opportunity to grow. How do you turn what may seem like an impossible situation into an opportunity to come out closer on the other side?

The Bible is clear on this topic. However, there’s no ten-step program, list of things to do, or shortcuts. You need your mind to be renewed. For those that have ears to hear, I pray you consider what the Bible has to say.

A Crucial Starting Point

If you trust in Christ’s blood payment and resurrection to save you from your sins and give you eternal life, the good news is your old man is dead and you are made alive in Christ! All of those grudges, all of that unforgiveness, all of the hurt that you hold on to but didn’t know how to handle, is nailed to the cross of Christ. It doesn’t define you and by God’s grace doesn’t have to control your life anymore. Your life is not yours, it is Christ’s, and it is not about you. (Rom 6:1-11; 1 Cor 6:19-20; Gal 5:24; Col 3:1-3)

Without this crucial first step of realizing you are a sinner worthy of death and hell, you won’t think you need saving from sin. You’ll never be able to take the first step in reconciliation, because you think that your problem isn’t as bad as your spouse’s. Comparing your pile of garbage to someone else’s doesn’t change the fact that you both are still sitting on a pile of garbage.

Without a clear understanding of the gospel that saved you, you can’t understand the love of Christ that He commended toward you while you were yet a sinner. You didn’t deserve His love, yet He offered it anyway. Until you recognize the depths of your own sinful depravity from which Christ saved you, you won’t understand and appreciate whom He has made you now in His body and how you should walk accordingly. Only when you know the love of God can you actually express the sincere love of Christ towards others (Rom 3:10-26; Rom 5:8).

Christ in Relationships

In any relationship or marriage, you can only control your attitude, choices, character, and effort. You cannot control your partner’s. With this in mind, after remembering who you are and what Christ did for you, the first place to look for a change is the mirror. You and your sin are the problem. Regardless of anyone else, you have sinful flesh that needs to be mortified (Col 3:5).

Any form of manipulation, emotional blackmail, guilt-driven control, or blaming of the other person bears no weight. It is a prideful excuse in order to justify your own sinful behavior, which is unwise and childish. No measure of someone else’s sin makes it okay for you to sin (2 Cor 10:12; Luke 16:15).

Your interactions with your spouse should be rooted first in your identity in Christ. You must first submit to Christ out of love and grace, and then apply that to your role in marriage. You need the mind of Christ (Phil 2:2-8).

Any lack of obedience to your role is ultimately a rebellion against God and His design. You are not a victim, in fact, you’re the transgressor (Psa 51:3-4).

The Role of a Wife

Now that the proper gospel foundation has been laid, it is important to build upon it with instructions for husbands and wives in marriage.

There are two similar yet very important passages that concern how marriages should operate: Ephesians 5:22-29 and Colossians 3:18-19. In them, they give instructions for husbands and wives in Christ and provide the groundwork for proper marital relationships. If you don’t fulfill your role, dysfunction arises.

Let’s first look at the passages concerning wives:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” – Colossians 3:18

“[22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives are called to submit to their husbands. Submission involves yielding or surrendering to the authority of another (Psa 18:44; Eph 5:24). Misinterpretations arise when people redefine this biblical term to suit their own ideologies, or twist the word of God to fit their own worldview (2 Cor 4:2).

These verses get a lot of push back from women. They should not be misunderstood as a license for husbands to dominate their wives. Rather, it is an invitation for wives to willingly submit to their husbands much like one would in a team to a coach, in a school to a teacher, or in a job to a manager.

We all submit to Christ by grace, faith, and love, not by law or force. The same goes for wives in a marriage. It is not passive, inactive, or ignorant, but in love according to the wife’s vocation in Christ. Christ submitted himself to the will of the Father, yet was equal in station (Phil 2:5-8). In the same way, wives should submit to their own husbands emulating Christ’s pattern of mind and humility in the flesh.

The purpose of submission in a Christian marriage is not to establish dominance but to eliminate constant power struggles. God has given husbands immense responsibility (more on this soon) and even though they are the head of the wife, they are not God over them. Christ is the Head of the Body and any submission to her husband must be done after the wife submits to the will of God (1 Cor 11:3; Col 1:18; Col 2:18-19).

When a wife submits to her husband, she is helping him grow into everything that God intended him to be in Christ. By walking in that role, wives take immensely important steps into reconciling conflicts within the marriage.

The Role of a Husband

Now that we’ve looked at the responsibility of wives, let’s better understand the role of a husband. Within the same passages as the instructions for wives, we read instructions for husbands:

“[19] Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” – Colossians 3:19

“[25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:” – Ephesians 5:25-29

The term “husband” is biblically depicted as a farmer or a cultivator, or someone who manages and nourishes (1 Cor 3:7-11). Just like a good farmer, a good husband nurtures spiritual growth within his marriage and family. He sows seeds of faith and love according to his identity in Christ (2 Cor 5:17-21; 2 Tim 2:6).

In the same way Christ loved the Church, husbands are called to love their wives (Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25-29). This love entails a sacrificial commitment to foster their wives’ spiritual growth. The role of a husband, therefore, is not to dominate but to serve and lead with love, mirroring Christ’s pattern of servant leadership.

Presented with a fallen and sinful world, Christ willingly died in our place to show and offer His love. Christ’s sacrifice allowed the Church to be sanctified and presented as holy. Husbands are also tasked with sacrificing themselves and providing unconditional love in order for their wives to grow spiritually. This unconditional love initiated by the husband creates an environment for spiritual growth within the marriage. This mirrors Christ’s relationship with the Church and is not contingent upon the wife’s performance. Christ’s selflessness is the pattern yet again.

The husband’s role is pivotal in directing the spiritual growth of the family. A lack of spiritual leadership can lead to dysfunction within the family and marital relationship. In such cases, husbands are called to take ownership of their roles and rectify the situation, rather than placing blame on their wives.

The headship of the marriage is not a small task. When things go awry, the person given the responsibility is liable. When problems ensue in a marriage, the husband’s responsibility is to take ownership first and do everything he can to rectify the situation.

Passive men and passive husbands are cancerous to marriages, churches, and society. Husbands need to take extreme ownership of their own failures, their wife’s failures, and their family’s failures. Pointing the finger doesn’t cut it when God has given the husband the responsibility of headship in the marriage.

Reconciliation, Love, and Growth

Marriage isn’t about what you get, it’s about what you can give. It’s an illustration of the mystery of Christ: Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32-33). It’s an opportunity for each person to see the grace of God effectually work in the other. It represents an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth and unity in Christ. This unity is nurtured through the godly submission of wives and the loving leadership of husbands, reflecting the joy and life found in a relationship with Christ.

A beautiful thing happens when you walk in your God-given responsibility in marriage: transformation and change. Your heart and mind grow. The love of Christ is exhibited toward your spouse when you control what only you can control and take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions in Christ. That love can soften their heart and is the fertile ground on which marital restoration can grow.

Montana Bilger and his wife Jessica are both graduates of Dispensational Bible Institute. They started Sufficient Grace Bible Fellowship together in Bradenton, Florida. They host meetings weekly on Sunday (in-person) and Wednesday (in-person and online). He can be contacted here.

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Published: May 27, 2023
Last Modified: June 3, 2023
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