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Marriage that Works - Marriage - A Holy Covenant, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram
The Truth Network Radio
February 29, 2024 5:00 am

Marriage that Works - Marriage - A Holy Covenant, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram

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February 29, 2024 5:00 am

Chip begins this series with a fresh look at marriage - the way God intended it to be and the way you long for it to be.

Main Points

God's instructions for a great marriage

  • It requires mutual submission to God and each other. - Ephesians 5:21
  • You need to know how to love your mate.
  • Your marriage has an even bigger purpose than your happiness.

Marriage is a holy covenant

  • A covenant: An agreement and guarantee one person makes with another.

A covenant marriage involves three distinct aspects:

  • Leaving
  • Cleaving
  • Becoming "one flesh"

Since marriage is a covenant and not merely a contract...

  • Divorce is not an option. - Malachi 2:14
  • Adultery is a serious covenant breaking offense. - Proverbs 2:16-19                                    
  • Sex before marriage is a violation of this holy covenant. - Hebrews 13:4
  • Same sex relationships are forbidden as a violation of God’s design. - 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-27
Broadcast ResourceAdditional Resource MentionsAbout Chip Ingram

Chip Ingram’s passion is helping Christians really live like Christians. As a pastor, author, and teacher for more than three decades, Chip has helped believers around the world move from spiritual spectators to healthy, authentic disciples of Jesus by living out God’s truth in their lives and relationships in transformational ways.

About Living on the Edge

Living on the Edge exists to help Christians live like Christians. Established in 1995 as the radio ministry of pastor and author Chip Ingram, God has since grown it into a global discipleship ministry. Living on the Edge provides Biblical teaching and discipleship resources that challenge and equip spiritually hungry Christians all over the world to become mature disciples of Jesus.

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What keeps a marriage together when the going gets tough? I mean, what rekindles the flame and the passion when the years or struggles or circumstances or kids have taken their toll?

Or maybe worse, some big mistakes, some lack of trust, some violations of your covenant with one another? That's what I want to talk about today. And what I want you to know is that there's hope.

Stay with me. Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. The mission of these daily programs is to intentionally disciple Christians through the Bible teaching of Chip Ingram. Thanks for joining us as we kick off our insightful series, Marriage That Works. For the next handful of programs, Chip will help us understand God's game plan to become spiritual soulmates, best friends, and passionate lovers with our spouses. So if your marriage is on shaky ground right now, or you just want to see it grow, let me urge you to join me in thanking Chip Ingram.

Join us for each message. Okay, if you have a Bible handy, go now to Ephesians chapter five as we join Chip with his talk, Marriage, a Holy Covenant. And I found some research that said the American family as we've known it, as in a husband and a wife married with kids from their union is less than 25% of all the marriages now in America. I went on another one and found out that average age of men getting married is 29.

The average age of women is 27. About 60% of the people end up in divorce. Maybe 65%. 65% of all the people who get married before they get married, they live together. And then the research says that if you live together, the probability of divorce goes higher. And only 21% of all the people that live together five to seven years later are still together.

It gets beyond that. A sentence was having a close knit family is the key to happiness. 97% said that's what I really want.

Almost all of us want that. And very, very few people will experience it. As a result of the breakdown, the family in one word is disintegrating.

It's imploding right before our eyes. As a family breaks up, some very tragic things happen. In most cases, every child living today, up to about 80% of them, will find themselves in some season of their life without a dad. It's just the way it's working. Dad will move on or not be around. It's just the way it's working. Dad will move on or not be around.

It's just the way it's working. If you're divorced, the probability of you having a divorce jumps up to 69%. If you and the person that you're marrying have both come from families that are divorced, it triples up to 189%. All I want to tell you is the family as we've known it and the hopes that we have are crumbling before our eyes. 40% of Americans right now think that marriage is obsolete and in Europe they've almost completely done away with it. In terms of the Christian family, it's in demise. What I've just shared, the statistics between Barna and Gallup and others would say, it's almost non-distinguishable between, quote, those who claim to be followers of Christ and all the statistics that I just shared.

And you go to, well, what's the cause of that? And so I went to some secular research. This is not what Christians or pastors or parachurch organizations say, but secular research in religion and sociology say the primary cause of family disintegration is the increasing failure to hold marriage and marriage commitments in high esteem. And so somewhere along the line, the idea that you really keep your commitment, that it's through thick and thin, that you keep your vows, secular research is telling us that people don't think in those categories anymore. And as a result of that, everyone has struggles and ups and downs, but now when the struggles come, oh, I must have married the wrong person, I got a problem, let's forget it. Last night I heard of a couple stories where someone just, you know, read an email that inferred this or inferred that and filed for divorce. This morning I got a message from a guy who said, we're going through the series that you taught called Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage, and in this section, my wife after that was convicted and privately told me, she just ended an affair that went on for nine months. And he said, I'm devastated, and I really want this to work, but I don't know where to go from here.

Do you have any help for me? And what I want to tell you is, I mean, these are Christian people. We're living in a world and a culture where having a great marriage gets harder and harder and harder. I remember reading an article a number of years ago, because it's from an older book, it's a Harvard sociologist named Carl Zimmerman.

And just, what I want you to get is, this is not a series to how to make your marriage a little bit better, okay? Now, it will do that, but I want you to understand we're looking at a catastrophic movement of the disintegration of the family and marriage that has unbelievable implications. One third of all the people who are divorced end up below the poverty line.

There's economic ramifications, there's just huge issues in what happens to kids and grandkids and culture. Carl Zimmerman, Harvard sociologist, studied every major empire in its fall, and more specifically, he evaluated and traced the role of the family in each empire. He concluded that families go through three distinct phases, the last occurring just before each major empire fell. In his book, Family and Civilization, he listed these characteristics of families in the final stage.

So you listen and then you tell me where you think we are and how important this is. One, marriage lost its sacredness and alternative forms of marriage were advocated. Two, feminist movements flourished. Three, parenting became more difficult. Four, adultery was celebrated, not punished. Fifth, sexual perversion abounded, including bestiality, but especially incest and homosexuality.

It just goes on to say that when these things occur in a culture, you see not just a decline, but the fall of an empire. So, if you didn't feel like we have some issues, hopefully you do now. So let's talk about what's God's design. I mean, let's go back to, you know, this is my old little paperback Bible. What does God say? If you're an engineer and you spent years and years, I mean, creating, refining, and defining the best BMW, or the best Mercedes, or the best Lexus, or the best Ferrari, and you knew that it needed this kind of gas, it needed to be run like this, it needed to be set like this, and people were putting a little bit of gas and a little bit of water in it, and they were driving it crazy, they never changed the oil, you would go nuts. And then people would come in and complain, you know, my Ferrari's not working the way it's supposed to, and my Mercedes, and... God is the designer and created a blueprint for how marriage and families work.

We're not following it, and we're receiving the consequences of that. We're going to look at that blueprint. We're just going to look at it and say, this is how the creator, who loves you, who wants you to have this deep, meaningful relationship, this is how he designed it.

So are you ready? Open your Bibles, if you will, to Ephesians chapter 5, and what I want to do is give you an overview of God's instruction for marriage. Now I'm just going to read it and make three observations, and then I'm going to unpack it. We're going to talk about what is a man to be, what is a woman to be, what is a man to do, and what is a woman to do. We're going to talk about very specifically how to love one another and follow God's design in a way that I can testify actually works, even if you come from a dysfunctional past. So with that, we pick up his instruction in verse 21. He's talked in verse 18 about how to be filled with the Spirit or allowing God to control your life, and then he begins to apply it to specific relationships. Verse 21, and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. This idea of mutual love, mutual submission, mutual concern, radical sacrifice. He's saying the only one and the only way that marriage can work is, first and foremost, each party needs to understand God is in charge of it, and so you submit and care and are selfless to one another. It's not about me and mine and getting my way. It's about how does this relationship honor God, and I will receive from him and do what he says to give my mate what he or she needs.

And then he says, okay, well, what would that look like? Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also head of the church. He himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their own husbands in everything. And then if that doesn't sound ridiculous enough, like are you kidding me? He says to the husbands, husbands, love your wives.

Well, how? Just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in all of her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. And then this passage from the Old Testament that is God's core design for marriage, Genesis chapter 2, he quotes, For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

This mystery is great, but I'm speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let each individual among you love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see to it that she respects her husband. Observation number one, it requires mutual submission to God and to each other. God designed marriage. He has a specific role in our relationship with him and a specific role in our relationship with one another, and I need to submit to that. I need to say this is really, really hard, and I don't get how to love my mate in a way that's meaningful to them, and whatever the engineer or designer, whatever the blueprint is, that's the way I want to do it.

Second observation is you need to learn how to love your mate. Now you need to love him in a way that God designed him to receive it, and so there's roles for the husband and things for the... I mean, as a husband, I'm given this absolutely impossible job of loving my wife to the degree that it would actually give my physical life to die in her place, that I would nourish her, cherish her, be sensitive to her needs, create a world and an environment where she would flourish.

I can't do that on my own. So I'm supposed to step up, and then she's told this ridiculous commandment that she needs to step in and meet needs in my life and love me and partner with me in a way that to her says, That sounds scary. I can't trust that guy. He's a flake, and she's been married to me for a while. And so she says, But God, if you'll give me this strength, I will give, because my husband is desperate for respect.

You knew long before all the books were written, these male egos are very, very fragile. And I need to be to him and love him in ways that will help him be the man that you create him to be. And as he does what he's called to do and as I do what I'm called to do, we learn to love in ways that build a bond and that create stability. That's what God says. The third observation is your marriage has even a bigger purpose than your happiness.

And I'm all for happiness, believe me. But did you notice that there's just multiple references to Christ in the church. God instituted a couple things historically that are very important.

One, he instituted the family. It's an institution that is for offspring and for stability and for culture. And so what he says is, Yes, it's about your fulfillment and your happiness and pleasure and so you're not alone. There's lots of reasons for marriage. But he says, When your marriage follows his design, you will reflect Christ's relationship to his church. He uses that metaphor.

When your Ferrari or BMW or Lexus runs like a fine-tuned machine and takes corners like crazy and just, I mean, runs in a way, it sends a compliment back to the designers and the engineers. And that's what God wants for my marriage and for yours. So it's not just about our happiness. You're listening to Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. Today's message, Marriage, a Holy Covenant, is from our series, Marriage That Works. Chip will join us in studio later to share some insightful application for us to think about. For more information about our ministry, visit

That's Well, with that, let's get back to today's program. Now let's talk about the design or the blueprint. And what I've read, what I want to give you now, did you notice the little equilateral triangle? I wanted to give you the blueprint in a pictorial form.

Instead of just words, I want you to get a picture. And notice at the very, it's an equilateral triangle. God is at the top. Woman is on the right.

Man is on the left. Would you take your pen out and circle the word God? And next to it, just write, it's his idea. In other words, marriage just isn't like some cultural, sociological phenomena that someone said, hey, why don't we try this one out? Marriage is God's idea.

It's really important. Second thing I want you to notice at the very bottom, if you put a little box around where it says Genesis 2, 24, and then right above it the word oneness. The goal of marriage is oneness.

If you come from a psychological background, write the word intimacy. The goal is to connect your heart. God created marriage when he said it's not good for man to be alone. It was to solve the aloneness problem. There's something, there's a reason 97% of all college students say someday, some way, I want to find Mr.

Right or Ms. Right, and our souls are going to come together and we're going to have this amazing relationship. 88% of the people in America believe that there is a soulmate out there somewhere being prepared for them.

So 9 out of 10 people believe someday, some way, I'm going to find that person. That's in your DNA. That's in your soul.

You long for it, I long for it, and God says, you know what, that's the plan. I want you to be connected, but notice there's three levels of connection or oneness. At the bottom of the equilateral triangle, it says spiritual. And what I'd like you to do on the right, put a little line and write soulmates, S-O-U-L, soulmates. God wants you to have a connection spiritually, a connection that has to do with your relationship with God and, in my case, her relationship with God, where there's a unity or oneness of your spirits and your soulmates.

Now this is completely foreign to some of us. I never saw my parents kiss growing up, let alone I never saw them pray. My dad was an alcoholic and he was a great guy, a good alcoholic, but we were dysfunctional. I just didn't know how dysfunctional until I got married and I brought my baggage. And then I find, you know, I wanted to make it really hard, so Teresa's dad was an alcoholic. So she brings her stuff. And then we thought, well, let's up the ante.

So in light of some difficult, she came to Christ after being abandoned as a non-Christian. And so when we got married, I had two small kids, so we have a blended family. So we have alcoholic past, I get married, I got two four-year-olds and I don't have a clue.

And I feel called to ministry after being a basketball coach for a while. And a year into our marriage, I'm thinking, this is crazy. She really loves God, but she makes me nuts.

I mean, really makes me nuts. We can't resolve conflict. You know, she rolls to the right, I roll to the left. She deals with her anger in a really unique way. She doesn't talk to me for two days. And being the Pharisee that I was, I would walk around until two in the morning saying, we need to talk about this, we got to talk, we got to talk, we got to talk, because the Bible says don't let your anger go down on you.

And she put the pillow over her head. And so the greatest thing that happened to us is we went and got counseling. I'm making $1,000 a month, big money back then, going to school full time. And I find myself in counseling paying 90 bucks a crack every week, the best money I ever spent. I share that just so you know that if you're having troubles, welcome to the NFL. Everybody has troubles, it's what you do with them.

But there's a plan and there's a design. We don't do it every morning because sometimes I need some time alone first, but nearly every morning, whoever gets up first in my house makes the coffee, and we're early risers. And so then we get a cup of coffee and more than likely, maybe it's 10 minutes, sometimes it's a half hour. What's going on with you today? Where are you feeling the pressure?

What's coming up? And we'll just talk back and forth and then I just grab her hand and we just talk to God together. We just pray together. And here's what I can tell you is there is a closeness that ranks up there with sexual union. When your spirits come together before God, God does something that draws you together. Well, that just became a part of our relationship. It took time. It was very awkward early on. Second thing God wants is spiritual oneness but soul oneness.

Put a little arrow out from that and write best friends. God wants your mate to be your best friend. The goal was never that you get married and she gets involved in the kids and you get, you know, hopped up on your work and then she hangs out with gals and you watch ESPN or read the Wall Street Journal with your face in it. That was never God's plan. God wants you to talk and walk and have fun and have...

Remember, for some of you when you dated or those of you that are dating now, I mean, it's about being friends. That's God's design. And so there's talking and there's communication and you learn how to resolve conflict. And then finally notice the oneness goes to the body. Put a little dash, passionate lovers. You know, sex is holy. We'll read a little bit later in Hebrews chapter 13, God says he wants the marriage bed to be undefiled. God created sex. In fact, especially in men, there's a hormone that's secreted during and after sexual activity that creates a sense of bondedness with their mate.

It's one of the windows of time, researchers have told us, when a man wants to open up and share what's going on inside. And God has connected that to this very important part of union. But sex, instead of something that's over here, something that's just physical, becomes the culmination of a spiritual, soul, mental, emotional.

So it's the expression of your union, your commitment and your freedom and your love for one another. And what we've done in our culture is we've separated sex from love. And so the false intimacy is going on the internet and looking at pictures of naked people. That's a false intimacy. That's trying to fill a hole that is here. Or reading romance novels and imagining that life would be so much better. Or worse, the statistics I read recently where 68% of the people that get involved in extramarital affairs often start on a social network. Where all of a sudden you have struggles and an old flame from high school or college and people start chatting and talking. And you know what?

The journey is so painful. How's that working for you? I mean, what if we just ask that question? So how is the way we're living our lives and treating our marriage, how's that really working for us? How's that working for our kids? How's that working for our finances? How's that working for our intimacy? How's that working for our fulfillment?

I will tell you what, it's overwhelming. Not well. God wants oneness and intimacy for you. Now, I want you to, if you would, I want you to take your notes and put them on your lap. And then I want you to put one finger where it says man and one finger where it says woman right on your notes on the triangle, okay? Humor me, you'll get a lot out of this.

The people who do this will be deeply blessed. Okay, now what I want you to do is I want you to move your fingers halfway up the triangle. All right? Now, for those who majored in geometry, you can really help us. Are our fingers now closer together or farther apart? Do you see a correlation? Now, okay, we're gonna, now I want you to move it up to about one-eighth or one-sixteenth of an inch below where it says God, but you're still, okay? Now, where are your fingers now?

Are you closer or farther apart? See, God created marriage. He created marriage to solve the deepest emotional, spiritual, and physical needs you'll ever have while you take a breath on this planet.

And he actually designed it in such a way that apart from him, it doesn't work. And the reason he did that is because he is so concerned, not just your marriage working, but he wants to have a relationship with you. And that's why the greatest thing you'll ever do for your marriage is to become a committed, passionate follower of Jesus because he gives you the power and the freedom and the grace to give your mate what you can't give on your own. See, a problem in our marriage is I married a selfish person.

You're not laughing because you know it's true. But the problem in our marriage for her was she married a selfish person. And when I want mine and she wants hers and we play this game, well, when she starts doing this or if she'll stop doing that or when he gets on the ball and if he will, tell you what, that never ends.

What happens when that gets turned around? Whether she responds or not, God's design, Chip, you know what a man does? You lay down your life for your wife and you love her regardless of whether she responds or not. That's not fair. Well, of course it's not fair. We're not trying to do fair. We're trying to make a great marriage. You want oneness or not, Chip?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, then shut up and do it my way. I don't have the power to do that. And so I don't get up in the morning and read the Bible and talk to God about my struggles because I think, oh, gosh, got those check boxes off.

I'm doing so good. I do it because I'm a desperate man in need of power and grace to give my wife what I don't have to give her. And all I can tell you is after 32 years and multiple struggles and a lot of hard work, as I give that to her and then she gives back to me, a system has occurred where instead of trying to get, get, get, you learn over time to outdo one another in giving and you have spiritual oneness and then you have best friends and then you have deep, intimate physical union that expresses what your heart and words can't say.

That's God's design. This is Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram and you've been listening to part one of Chip's message, Marriage, a Holy Covenant, from our series, Marriage That Works. Chip will be back shortly to share some helpful application for us to think about. You know, it's no secret that the institution of marriage is in trouble. What was once a foundational part of society is now becoming an irrelevant and outdated custom, but there is hope. Join Chip as he challenges this status quo through his study in Ephesians chapter five. Learn how in the face of cultural pressure, you can raise godly kids, have a healthy home life and build a lasting marriage. For more info about this series, visit

That's Well, Chip's with me in studio now and Chip, you know, if I were to do a quick online search, I'm sure I'd find countless resources geared toward helping couples grow their marriages. So what's unique about this series? Why do you believe this study in Ephesians chapter five will be most helpful? Well, that's a fair question and I really believe there are a lot of, I mean, excellent, excellent resources and Teresa and I have needed them and we're really grateful and they, you know, they address communication and a lot of skills in marriage and resolving conflict and, you know, problem with your in-laws or your sex life or all those things are very important. What I don't think there's a lot of is teaching on God's design. What exactly is marriage supposed to look like beyond, you know, our connection, our fulfillment, all those things that God wants, but what is the role of a man biblically?

What is the role of a woman biblically? And then far beyond even just us as couples, our happiness and all the rest, there is an agenda here. When Jesus describes himself, he's the bridegroom and the church is the bride and I believe there's a fundamental and powerful message not only that gives us God's design and allows us to live in a way that honors him and is deeply fruitful and makes marriages exactly what God wants and that they can be. And yet I think there's the glory of God and what he wants to do in us. If I showed you all the emails and letters that I have of people whose marriages were on the rocks and God restored them and he used this series. I mean, I could tell you miraculous, amazing stories because when people understand what a covenant is and when people understand God's design and they begin to apply it, they experience grace and forgiveness and love and the most terrible things that have happened can actually be forgiven and restored.

Marriages struggle, marriages are in trouble, but God has help and we want you to get it. Thanks for that Chip. Well, I hope you'll join us for every program and to help you get the most out of Chip's teaching, let me encourage you to download his message notes. Now they're a helpful tool that includes his outline, all the scripture references and key fill-ins to help you remember then apply what you hear. Get them by going to the broadcasts tab at

App listeners tab, fill in notes. Well Chip, as we wrap up this program, I was wondering if you could go back and review that triangle you described and explain why this is God's model, blueprint and design for a successful marriage. Absolutely Dave. I want you to picture an equilateral triangle. At the top is God, he's created marriage and then at the bottom on the left side is man and on the right side is woman. And then in the triangle I want you to see that there's a spirit at the bottom, a soul in the middle and a body. And what I want you to know is that God's goal for your marriage is oneness, intimacy. And so spiritual intimacy is your brothers and sisters in Christ. There's a fellowship, there's a sharing together in your life with Christ. The soul intimacy is your mind, your will and emotions. That's about becoming best friends and taking walks and talking and having fun together and enjoying each other.

And the third is your body and he wants you to be passionate lovers. And if you put your fingers on the bottom of that triangle, both fingers, and as you move up toward God, what you would realize is you get closer to one another. God has actually made marriage to be something that requires him to get his very, very best. And what I've learned after all these years counseling hundreds of couples is you can't change your spouse, but you can change you.

Let me encourage you, draw near to God, take steps toward him, get into his word, ask him what he wants to do in you, and as he works in you, this is what I'll guarantee, the domino effect little by little will happen in your marriage. Don't give up. Keep pressing ahead. Encouraging words, Chip. Well, before we go, let me take a second and thank the generous people who make monthly donations to support the Ministry of Living on the Edge.

Your faithful gifts help us inspire Christians to live like Christians. Now, if you haven't partnered with us yet, would you prayerfully consider joining the Living on the Edge team? Now, you can set up a recurring donation by going to or by calling us at 888-333-6003. Again, that's 888-333-6003 or visit App listeners tap donate. Well, join us next time as Chip continues his series, Marriage That Works. Until then, I'm Dave Drouie, thanking you for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge. .
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