“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10
Sabra and I have always sought to serve the Lord together. For God’s Word says as husband and wife, we are one.
Jesus teaches about the oneness of marriage in Mark 10:6-9: “‘But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’ (Genesis 5:1-2). ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:23-24). So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’”
And because we believe God has joined us together as one, we are committed to remain together until death.
Ephesians 5:22-30 tells us our purpose as husband and wife is to serve God and bring glory to Him in everything we do.
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.”
Marriage is designed to show the world how God loves, serves, and sacrifices for all of us. This is seen as we do these same things for each other as husband and wife. As we serve each other, we are together a witness of God’s goodness.
What It Means to Serve the Lord Together
Serving the Lord together does not mean doing everything together, but rather working together to bring about God’s good work.
Early in our marriage we each had separate jobs to make ends meet. When we had children, Sabra’s work was more in the home, while I was the pastor of a church and later served God as a seminary professor.
Even so, we still served the Lord together. We prayed with and for each other. We studied God’s Word as a couple. And when our children came along, we worked together to faithfully follow His Word to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Sabra used her gifts to serve in the churches where I was pastor. She was (and still is) involved at the seminary as a mentor to young female students and student wives. And together we counsel couples. In these ways, she has worked beside me in ministry.
Two years ago I had an illness that left me unable to continue teaching at the seminary. And since then, Sabra and I have been serving together even more closely. This blog gives us an opportunity to minister together as we strive to encourage other husbands and wives in their marriage relationship. The Lord even opened a door for us to do some marriage training together. And He continues to provide opportunities for us to minister together in other ways.
All this has occurred as our children have gone out on their own. Truly God and His timing are good and perfect. He is true to His promise: “For in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
God’s Goodness and Our Good Works
Paul writes about God’s goodness to us in how He saves us from our sin and eternal separation from Him in hell in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Then Paul tells us one of the reasons God saves us in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That, too, is an act of God’s goodness.
God didn’t put us on earth and give us the gift of salvation just to breathe, take up space, eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t get me wrong. God wants us to enjoy ourselves. But real joy doesn’t come in worldly, self-centered endeavors. It comes by doing things God’s way–by serving Him and by serving others. Because when we serve others, we are serving God.
Jesus tells about the final judgment of all humankind in Matthew 25:31-46 by saying it will be like a shepherd (Jesus) separating sheep (His true followers) from the goats (false followers). How will Jesus determine who is a real disciple and who is not? Those who did the good works–gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, a room to the stranger, clothes to the naked, aid to the sick, and visited those in prison–are the real disciples. Those who had those same opportunities and did nothing are not real disciples.
The true disciples will ask Jesus when they did all the good things He said they did. It was such a part of them that it came naturally for them. Jesus will answer: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Jesus then says that these sheep will “go away … to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The fake disciples will hear from Jesus: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
We are not saved by good works, but by God’s grace. We are told, however, that when we are saved, we will be so thankful, we will want to do good works to serve Him by serving others. We are told throughout the New Testament that if we are truly believers in Christ it will be seen in our actions or works (Matthew 7:15-23; John 13:34-35).
Perhaps the clearest teaching on this is James 2:14-20: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
If you and your spouse are both believers, you have been saved by God’s grace. And before you even met, you were brought together to do the good works He designed for you to do. You together are one. And His Word says He has plans for you–in His Church, in your community, and perhaps beyond.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
I want to be able to make this same statement, don’t you? Together, as husband and wife, we must seek out those good works God prepared in advance for us to do and serve Him together as one.
Questions for Discussion
- Read the teaching, and discuss together how it applies to your marriage.
- Discuss how the two of you currently serve God together. It might be at home, at church, in your neighborhood, or in other ways.
- Are there other ways you have thought about serving the Lord, especially together? If you have not discussed it with your spouse, do so. That is one way to determine if this is from God.
- Pray together asking God to help you as you serve him now. Be specific about the ways you are serving him. Ask him to reveal to you other opportunities He may want for you to serve Him together.
Next week we will discuss more about how we can discover ways to serve God together as husband and wife.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the SERVING GOD TOGETHER series:
Part 2–Keeping Him First in Your Life
Part 3–Using Your Spiritual Gifts
Part 4–Learning from a Bible Couple
Part 5–Finding Ways to Serve
Part 6–An Inspiring Example
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.