UNITY IN MARRIAGE (a couple’s bible study)
 Part 1: The Secret to a Great Marriage

A great marriage doesn’t just happen. You want to stay close, but life gets in the way and you sometimes feel you and your spouse are going in different directions. It becomes “you” and “me” and less “us.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. The secret to a really great marriage begins with a simple change in attitude.

This 2-part Couple’s Bible Study looks at the importance of unity in marriage and how it makes a difference in everything we do.

I [Jesus] have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” – John 17:22-23

Like many men, I am a big sports fan. And I especially like college football.

There are several awards given at the end of every college football season, but none is more important or anticipated than the Heisman Trophy. It has been awarded every year since 1935. According to Wikipedia, it is presented to the “most outstanding college football player in the United States whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” Winners are chosen because they “epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”

The 2015 Heisman Trophy was awarded to Derrick Henry of the University of Alabama. This was no surprise, as Henry was expected to win by most sports experts. But what was surprising is that he is the first player from the University of Alabama to win the award since 2009 and only the second player ever to win it from that school.

Why was this surprising? Because the University of Alabama has won 20 national championships in college football, the first in 1925 and its latest this past year. Only the University of Notre Dame, with 22 national championships, has won more. And Notre Dame has produced seven Heisman Trophy honorees.

So I wondered how a team like the University of Alabama, with such a rich history and success in college football, could have produced only two Heisman Trophy winners.

I asked my friend that question. He is a longtime, die-hard Alabama fan. His answer was simple but profound. He said: “Because they play as a team. There are no individual stars. Every player is equally important.”

What a great answer! And what a wonderful lesson to those of us who are married!

Alabama’s football team is a great example of unity. They work together for the good of all. And this is exactly what God says should be our attitude in marriage.

It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about US.

UNITY IN MARRIAGE - It's about US. (2)One of Aesop’s fables tells of a lion that tried to attack a newborn calf. To ward off the lion, the oxen circled around the vulnerable calf, horns locked together. So the hungry predator tried a different tack–he whispered a rumor about one of the oxen. As it was quickly repeated and spread around the circle, the oxen began to argue with each other, and then to fight one another. In the chaos, they lost sight of the defenseless calf. And it became easy prey for the lion.

In our last Couple’s Bible Study series, we discussed how Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He always works to divide the people of God. And he works hard to divide us in our marriages. He knows that we are far stronger when we are together than when we are apart.

By contrast, Jesus prayed that we would be “perfectly one” so that the world would know the Father sent the Son (John 17:23). As He intercedes for us today (Romans 8:34), He is praying for our unity right now…including unity in our marriages.

Our culture celebrates the lone hero and emphasizes rugged individualism and self-reliance. But as it encourages us to be the center of our own universe, we must remember that we are each but one part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27).

Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His Church (see Ephesians 5:22-32). This oneness includes each of us having different gifts and using them together to serve Him (see Ephesians 5:31-32). Thus we are one in accomplishing the deepest purpose of our lives–to serve God.

This is true in the Church, and it is true in our marriages. God provides companions in life to serve Him together.

In 1 Kings 19, Jezebel, the wife of Israel’s King Ahab, sought to kill the prophet Elijah. Elijah fled for his life, and God comforted and encouraged him in many ways. One was to provide a helper for him–Elisha. We read in 1 Kings 19:21 that Elisha “set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.”

When God called Moses to be His spokesman to Pharaoh in Egypt, Moses at first shied away from the idea. Moses said to God in Exodus 4:10: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Moses even went further in Exodus 4:13: “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

God did not release Moses from the calling, but He did respond to Moses’ objection. God provided someone to help him. He said to Moses: “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well” (Exodus 4:14).

And the best example for us in marriage is found in the account of the Adam and Eve–the first married couple. The reason for marriage is seen to be God’s knowledge that we need help and companionship. Genesis 2:18 says: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

So God provided what was needed. Genesis 2:20-22 says: “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

We then read a few verses later about the unity God intends for marriage. God states in Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  

Marriage was created by God so that each married couple would find the companionship and help just right for them. This is so that we can serve God together as husband and wife. So that together we can demonstrate to the world His love and grace.

Whatever our greatest opportunities or challenges might be today, God has provided us with each other in marriage to walk with Him through it. He has given us each other to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

This attitude of unity produces a great football team. And it produces an even greater Church. Just think what unity will do for your marriage!


♦   Read this week’s teaching and talk about what God has taught you through it.

♦   Do you believe that you are on the same page in the purpose for your marriage? If not, pray together and ask God to help you become unified. Ask Him to show you a united purpose so you can serve Him together.

♦  You and your spouse are different in many ways. Discuss ways you are similar and ways that you are different in abilities, spiritual gifts, preferences, and other areas. Talk about how you can use these similarities and differences to serve God together. Pray together and ask God to help you see how He can use even those differences for you to complement each other and serve Him together.

♦   Close your time by praying together that you commit to using your similarities and the unique ways He has made each of you to serve Him by serving others. Ask God to help you make certain your differences do not push you away from each, but that He shows you how He wants to use them to bring you closer together.

Next week we will look more at the importance to our marriage of unity between us as a couple, and between us and God.

Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,

Another post on UNITY IN MARRIAGE: Part 2: The Strength of Being One
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The secret to a great marriage may not be as elusive as you think. Check out this Couple's Bible Study to find the one attitude change that can make all the difference. It even has questions to go over together as a couple. | great marriage unity



About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.