We have learned that being a godly Christian husband or wife is a subset of being a godly Christian period. That being the case, we see that certain characteristics that all Christians are to share readily have a peculiar and pointed application to husbands and wives. With this in mind, we need to take a look at some of the “one anothers“ of the New Testament, and apply them to marriage. And, of course, for those who are unmarried, these characteristics apply differently, but they still apply. But if these one anothers apply to all believers everywhere, then how much more do they apply within Christian marriage?
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph. 5:18-21)
The central command here is the command to “be filled with the Spirit.“ The things that follow are descriptions of what it looks like when someone is filled by means of the Spirit. What happens? The result of this is 1. spiritual music to yourself, 2. giving thanks for everything to the Father, and 3. mutual submission to one another. In the verses that follow, the apostle Paul goes on to apply this in a distinctive way to husbands and wives, but what he has said thus far applies to all Christians generally. All Christians are to be filled. All Christians are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to themselves. All Christians are to be thankful for everything. And all Christians are to submit to one another. This means that there is a sense in which husbands and wives submit to one another. The Spirit enables us to do it musically and thankfully. A husband’s authority over his wife and a wife’s particular submission to her husband is a subset of this broader Christian duty for all believers to be filled with the Spirit and mutually submissive to one another.
THE GREATEST IS LOVE:
Love one another. The Scriptures tell us this again and again. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.“ (Rom. 13:8). Love within marriage is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another“ (Gal. 5:13). Love within marriage is the basis of mutual service. “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). The need to love one another is obvious — God Himself teaches it to us. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). The love within marriage is to be pure, unfeigned, and fervent. “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 Jn. 3:11; see also 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12; 2 Jn. 5). This is not an “add-on” extra. Out of faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love. This is the command that fulfills the law and all the prophets. This love is fundamental, foundational, and liberating.
LOVE EXCLUDES CERTAIN THINGS:
When love is present, we stop doing certain things to “one another.“ This is another way of recognizing that one anothering is inescapable. The alternative is not “love one another” or “leave.” If we do not love one another, we will sin against one another. What do we do sinfully, negatively, when we are not loving one another? “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13). When we do not love, we judge others and we stumble others. “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). If we are not feeding and nourishing one another, then of necessity, we are eating and devouring one another. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:26). When we do not love, we compete, provoke, and tear down. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9; cf. Eph. 4:25). When we do not live in the love of the truth, we lie. “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (Jas. 4:11). If we will not speak what is good to our spouse, and of our spouse, then the alternative is speaking evil.
DEALING WITH FAILINGS THE RIGHT WAY:
This does not mean we must embrace a sentimentalist’s view of marriage. Sin occurs in marriage, and sin threatens in marriage. Keeping in mind all the other principles in play, what are we to do? “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2). One thing we do with sin is forbear. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13). A close companion to forbearance is forgiveness. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). We should exhort one another, in an on-going way. “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14). And when we have stumbled, we should have the kindness of an admonition. And so confession is necessary. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).
“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). Receive one another. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). Comfort one another. “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thess. 5:11). Edify one another. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25). Stir one another up. “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8). And have compassion. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Be kind.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). This is how Christians are called to live.