Today I begin a series on non-marriage verses that have most impacted my life and marriage.
What do I mean by “non-marriage verses?” I’ve often heard it said that the Bible doesn’t talk much about marriage. In some ways, this is a very true statement. If you’re looking for verses explicitly addressing marriage, there are not many. You do have the more well-known marriage passages like Genesis 2:18-25, Ephesians 5:21-33 and the entire book of Song of Solomon. There are some passages that address marriage, divorce and remarriage such as Matthew 19:3-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. And the Proverbs contain some gems about marriage, such as Proverbs 18:22 that says, “He who finds a wife, finds what is good.”
Beyond that, there are few marriage-specific verses. In addition, we have very few examples of model biblical couples to pattern our marriage after. Would you want your marriage to be like one of these examples below?
- Would you want to follow the example of Abraham who twice said his wife was his sister so that he would not get killed for having such a beautiful wife (see Genesis chapters 12 and 20)?
- Would you follow the example of David (the man after God’s own heart) who committed adultery with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11)?
- Or, would you follow the example of Ananias and Sapphira who were both struck dead by the Lord for lying and deceiving (see Acts chapter 5)?
- No, no and definitely no.
While the Bible doesn’t have too many marriage-specific verses and offers very few examples of couples to model our marriages after, God’s Word is FILLED with wisdom that could and should affect the way we live with our spouse. In this series I will share a few passages that have shaped my marriage and the ways I lead, encourage and challenge others in their marriages. I am so thankful for God’s Word and the ways it challenges me to love God and love my spouse in ways I would never do left to my own selfish desires.
I am the Chief Sinner
Today I begin with the verse that has most impacted my marriage: 1 Timothy 1:15. Paul writes to Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (NIV). My marriage starts with the principle that I am the chief sinner.
I first came across this concept of being the chief sinner in Dave Harvey’s excellent marriage book (with the best title of any marriage book), When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage.
Harvey begins with the principle that he is the biggest problem in his marriage. This can be said in several different ways. At Watermark, we often say draw a circle around yourself and work on everyone inside the circle. The apostle Matthew says it even better in Matthew 7:3-5 when he tells us to focus on the plank in our own eye rather than the speck of dust in someone else’s eye. In other words, see yourself as the chief sinner and don’t focus on the sins of your spouse. Rather, work on yourself when you realize you are the biggest problem in your marriage.
Most of the time, we work the other way around. We focus on the sins of our spouse, point the finger and blame them for our marriage issues. In this non-marriage (yet completely about marriage) verse, Paul sees himself rightly as the chief sinner. He says this because he knows about the wickedness in his life and the depravity of his broken heart. Even though he is a redeemed, saved, forgiven follower of Jesus, he is well-acquainted with the ugly parts of his heart. He knows his capacity to make selfish, sinful decisions.
When I learned this, I realized that even though Kristen does sin, the best way for me to grow in my marriage is to not focus on her struggles, but rather address the sins in my own life. When I deal with my selfishness (James 4:1), then I am better able to see things as they really are. I am more quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32). I am more apt to be humble, listen and seek to understand, rather than try to win the argument (Proverbs 18:2, James 1:19). I know that I have received God’s grace and mercy and know that I am to offer the same to Kristen (Ephesians 2:4-5).
The success of my marriage is largely dependent on me working on the biggest problem in my marriage: me, the chief sinner.
In part two of this series I will share some of the Apostle Paul’s last recorded words that should affect every part of our lives and our marriage.
- How about you? How would your marriage change if you saw yourself as the chief sinner, as the biggest problem in your marriage? What if you removed the log from your own eye before addressing the speck in your spouse’s eye?
- What “non-marriage” marriage verse has most affected your marriage?