Home > Brandenburg, Marriage, The Family > The Bible Way To Obtain Your Spouse part one

The Bible Way To Obtain Your Spouse part one

June 10, 2008

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Paul departed Thessalonica after only a three week stay, shortened by threat of death, leaving an infant church to fare without him.  He writes back a first letter, packing in a short epistle the most dire truths for spiritual survival and success, ending with staccato-like, practical, fatherly, bullet points of belief and practice.

The Importance of the Bible Way (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3a)

He introduces chapter four as though he will tell them the greatest truths of their Christan lives.  To practice these truths, he begs them.  In the most intimate term, he exhorts them, calling twice upon the authority of Jesus Christ Himself.  He reminds them not once, but twice, that he had already taught them this doctrine when he was there so briefly.  He describes these things as their obligation (“ought”), their walk, their pleasing God, and their way to abound more.  He characterizes this teaching as “commandments,” “the will of God,” and “their sanctification.”

The Identification of the Bible Way (1 Thessalonians 4:3b-4)

Don’t Fornicate

With that fanfare to begin telling them what He wants, one would expect something that not only they, but none of us should forget.  What is this instruction that is emphasized in such unparalleled terms?  First, it is a fundamental to the whole proceeding issue, that is, abstain from fornication.  Implied in this commandment is that to heed it would require the accompanying preventative measures.  Those who fornicate don’t “just” fornicate.  There is a path that leads up to fornication (Colossians 3:5).  To abstain one should believe in abstaining and then the things that would best ensure abstaining.

Know How To Obtain Your Life’s Partner in Sanctification and Honor

The second commandment paralleled with no fornication is to “know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.”  God requires believers to know something.  A command to know assumes two things:  we need to learn it and there is a way to know.  We shouldn’t assume that we already know or that there isn’t anything to know.  If we’re supposed to know it, it means that God has already told us what to know, so we should look for it in the rest of the Bible.

What in general does God want us to know here in 1 Thessalonians 4?  He wants us to know how to possess something.  The word “possess” (ktaomai) means to acquire, obtain, or gain.   Out of its seven uses in the New Testament, in all but one case does it plainly mean to procure what is not already your own.  In this context it assumes that it is something that you don’t already have.  That is why I don’t believe that this is talking about one’s own body, that God is telling us to acquire our own bodies.  We already possess our bodies.  We’re to know how to acquire or obtain “our vessel.”

“Vessel” in Scripture is used to describe a person with the emphasis on the body (2 Cor 4:7).  The woman in 1 Peter 3 is said to be the “weaker vessel,” speaking of her physical strength compared with a man’s.   The possessing of “his vessel” is the same act as what Genesis 2:24 describes, a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife.  The term “vessel” is used to put the emphasis on the body, even as fornication is primarily a physical sin.  Paul wants the believing Thessalonian men to learn the Scriptural way of obtaining their life’s partners.

The God taught way of obtaining a life’s partner is “in sanctification and honour.”  “Sanctification” is the process in which a believer, having been justified, becomes more and more useable to God, increasingly set apart for God.  The way that we acquire our life’s mate should leave us better prepared to serve God than when we started.  Jesus in John 17:17 told us that we are sanctified by the truth.  That means that the sanctified way is the Biblical way.  It should be a way of which God approves.  Obviously that way is holy in concord with the nature of God.  He will use only clean vessels.  This all fits in with learning how from looking at the pattern in Scripture.

Most books on this subject offer a successful means of getting the one for you and having a happy marriage.  Scripture presents it as an activity that is intended to honor God.  A second positive description of this task is “in honour.”  Not only should the process sanctify the people involved, but it should honor God.  “Honour” goes over and above obedience with a desire to keep the process exalting to the Lord.  We do it the right way so that God will be honored even by our faithfulness to the pattern He has given us.  Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6a), so following the Scriptural model, despite its contradiction to the flesh and culture, will honor the Lord.  We should just assume that doing it His way will result in a successful and happy marriage, since He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6b).  We should take our happiness out of the equation and replace it with God’s honor.  If we can’t be happy about God being honored, then we’re not likely to succeed at life anyway.

So we’re to know how to acquire our spouse in the way that will leave us holy and useable to God and that will honor Him.  We should assume that He has showed us that way and then look to the rest of Scripture to find that pattern.  The Bible shows only one way of acquiring a life’s mate.  It also happens to be the way that people obtained their life’s partners from the colonial period all the way up to the first part of the 20th century in the United States.  Even though it might be a way that clashes with what we see today, in addition to being Scripture, it is also the historic method.  We will look at that model or pattern in Scripture in future posts.

The Incongruous with the Bible Way (1 Thessalonians 4:5-6a)

Not Like the World Does It

A big tip for discovering the correct way is that it is not the way the world does it, that is, not like the Gentiles which know not God.  There is a way that the world obtains its life’s partner and the Biblical way contrasts with it.  One great point here is that the Bible shows us the right way, but it also gives us many examples of the wrong way, which happens also to be how the world does it today.  We can see how the world still does it right in Scripture.  Sadly and like so many other practices, most Christians today have absorbed the world’s methodology on this.  Many of them “Christianize” the world’s practice, but all of the distinctives remain in the worldly way that dishonors God.  In future posts, we’ll examine how that Scripture reveals clearly how the world does this and that this is mirrored by our culture today.

Not with the General Characteristics of the World’s Pattern

Paul gives two descriptions to the way the world does it.  We shouldn’t do it like the world in general, but the way the world does it, first, is in the lust of concupiscence, which is essentially “lustful desire.”  Hormones and feelings should not be the basis for a Christian’s obtaining of a life’s partner.  Believers should acquire their spouse by faith.  Whatever the way is that we will see in Scripture that God wants us to understand, we know will not be a way of a crush or a physical or romantic desire.  That’s the way the world gets it done, but not us.

Not In a Way that Defrauds Someone in the Process

To defraud someone is to take something that rightfully belongs to him.  In this process of obtaining a life’s partner, someone could take something that belongs to someone else.  Based on everything that we read in Scripture, the virgin daughter belongs to her father (1 Cor 7:36-38).  We should assume that she belongs to her dad physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Another man does not get to have her in any way without the father’s consent.  He must give her to her future husband.  That particular point is normally illustrated in the wedding ceremony at that point that the father gives his daughter away.  Her heart, soul, and body belong to her dad, and a father should take that seriously.  We see fathers take it seriously in Scripture.  Fathers still instinctively know they have this responsibility, but our society would like this kind of authority to be taken away.  The way the world does it actually designs in defrauding of the father.

Someone else who gets defrauded is the girl herself.  She has a beautiful garden she is to protect and not give it to someone to whom she will not nor does not yet belong, either physically or emotionally.  She should protect it herself, like we see with the Shulammite in Song of Solomon (and her brothers in chapter eight).  No one should even get a whiff of her garden with the exception of her husband.

That brings us to another person who gets defrauded when the world’s way is followed.  Often the future wife or husband gets someone who is already used up.  By the time someone gets to the one he actually marries, the man or the woman have already shown feelings for several different boys or girls (men or women).  Sometimes the man she marries gets her second, third, fourth, or more.  That defrauds the partner of something that belongs to him.

I think we’re also defrauding God when we do it like the world.  God wants a pure, useable person and He doesn’t get that when we do it how we want.  Especially in light of the incentive given right after this teaching aboug defrauding, we should see that we’re playing around with God when we go ahead and do it like we want.

The Incentive for the Bible Way (1 Thessalonians 4:6b-8)

There are at least three incentives to doing it the way God wants.  Do we need that many?  And haven’t we already been told how important this is in no uncertain terms?

God Will Get Revenge if You Don’t Do It His Way

We don’t have many activities in the New Testament that are accompanied with this type of warning.  If we don’t do it how God wants and if we do it like the world does, God will get revenge.  How does God do this?  I can say that I honestly don’t know how God will do it, but there are plenty of examples in Scripture and society that illustrate what God can do.  It might be a stinky marriage.  You might get a disease.  He could kill you.  You might suffer through emotional disorders that make life miserable.  The bad outweighs the good when you don’t have God rewarding your process.  It’s bad enough not to please God, but the Lord also knows that we need this type of incentive.  Doesn’t it also say how serious God is about this subject?

God Wants You Clean, Not Dirty

You will dirty yourself spiritually and in other ways if you don’t follow God’s pattern.  In so many ways we become less useable to Him when we go the way of the world even to the slightest degree.  Spiritual uncleanness is the most serious to God, so it should be to us as well.

When You Do It Your Way, You Despise God

How many want to despise God?  Raise your hand.   I don’t see any hands.  Well, if you don’t want to do that, then you better do this God’s way.  The Holy Spirit is working through His Word to do it God’s way.  He’s working in the life of a believer to do it how He wants.  When we go ahead and go our way, then we are stiff-arming the Holy Spirit, the One Who loves us the most.

These incentives at the end of this teaching are necessary because this is an area that most people will go astray.  Churches and colleges actually design in the world’s way with a Christian spin.  These warnings ought to outweigh all the other influences—the culture, friends, relatives, television, music, or a school.  They should strengthen you in your pursuit to please God in the obtaining of a life’s partner.

  1. June 12, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Where did Cain get his wife?

    I’d tell you if I were Abel.

  2. June 12, 2008 at 9:55 am


  3. Travis Burke
    June 15, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Looking forward to this one…seems a little quiet so far

  4. June 16, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I hope I’m to assume, Pastor Burke, that people by their silence agree with what I wrote. It does seem like it would clash with some practice among some of our audience, but I would be happy to have unanimous agreement so far.

  5. June 16, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    You gave general principles in your exposition (which was very good, by the way), but you didn’t get specific enough to warrant any real disagreement among your readers.

    When you get to your views on betrothal, I feel quite confident that you will stir up some comments, although you probably won’t equal the stir you created with your tithing posts.

    …imagine that.

    …tithing, thus far, the most controversial item written on the blog.

    Whoa, Nelly.

    Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to a Scriptural case for betrothal.

    By the way, I agree that romantic attraction is not to be the trump – the ultimate motivation. But if (and from previous discussions, I’m not entirely sure where you stand on this) you believe that romantic and/or physical attraction should have absolutely no part in one’s pursuit of marriage, I would need to disagree. Strongly.

  6. June 27, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    QUOTE–This all fits in with learning how from looking at the pattern in Scripture.

    QUOTE–the Scriptural model…

    I know that you are going to get to it… but what is “the pattern in Scripture”?

    QUOTE–The Bible shows only one way of acquiring a life’s mate.

    So, all that we see in the Bible should be harmonized to give us the true Bible pattern or model, correct?

    QUOTE– it is also the historic method.

    QUOTE later… There is a way that the world obtains its life’s partner and the Biblical way contrasts with it.

    These two statements contradict each other. The way the world does it now is wrong, the way the world used to do it is also the Scriptural way.

    QUOTE–we know will not be a way of a crush or a physical or romantic desire.

    Your dogmatism demands these questions. There will be no physical or romantic desire, or the physical or romantic desire will not determine the way?

    QUOTE–We see fathers take it seriously in Scripture.

    I believe I take this seriously, but a young man is interested in my daughter. He doesn’t yet know if he should marry her. Do I forbid any relationship until he know “for sure”? If so, how does he get to know?

    In summary, I also generally agree and I believe most Christians would also. At this point, you have yet to specifically point out what is the way of the world and have also yet to particularly describe THE Bible way.

  7. June 27, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve given the gist of the pattern, but in Gen 24 I’m fleshing out the details, and I’m to v. 4 of v. 67. I do have the parents choosing the life’s partner, young people with veto power.

    When I say historic, I don’t mean history of theology—Christians practiced this way. Everyone practiced this way too, just like everyone (99% plus) were against homosexuality. That didn’t make being against it worldly. The world system is not a physical entity but a spiritual one, organized, ungodly system. So those two don’t contradict if you take those definitions which are typically how they are understood.

    The crush or physical desire doesn’t choose your partner. In other words, feelings are not the basis. Faith is the basis. Will there be a feeling? Not necessarily and Scripture doesn’t demand that. Normally it is a problem and this is where a break-down of Col. 3:5 is helpful.

    Why doesn’t he know? What is the basis of his knowing? (speaking of the young man interested in your daughter) How will being around her help this? What is the information that he thinks he needs to have? Boys don’t know. That’s why they should talk to adults. Of course, adults who dated may depend on their experience and share what they “felt.”

    I think I have pointed out the Bible way by number two. Truly I haven’t in number two of the month. I have said some things it isn’t, but this is an exposition.

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