So my # 4 purpose of marriage was raising godly children and #3 was oneness. Here’s my #2 purpose of marriage. Remember, these are just my opinions. The #2 Biblical purpose of marriage is sanctification.
Sanctification is a process. And no, marriage in and of itself does not sanctify us, that is a work of the Holy Spirit and what Jesus did for us on the cross. However, marriage is another tool in which God uses to mold us into His image.
Sanctification builds Godly character. We learn sanctification by following the word of God. Jesus said in His prayer, “They are not of this world, just as I am not of this world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17: 16-17; 19). Learning the word of God moves us forward in the sanctification process. However, if we do not apply what we have learned through reading, prayer, and teaching all of our knowledge becomes worthless (1 Cor 8:1).
The results of a sanctified life are the fruits of the Spirit which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22). There aren’t many other relationships that will test, stretch, and develop these attributes to the extent of marriage. The challenge of raising kids, working through conflict, giving forgiveness, growing old together are just some of the things married couple must work through together. All can be used by God to develop Christlike character. Francis De Sales, a 17th century catholic bishop, said of marriage, “The state of marriage is one that requires more virtue and consistency than any other, it is a perpetual exercise of Mortification (dying to oneself)…in spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able to draw and make the honey of a holy life.” De Sales acknowledges the hardships of marriage, but reinforces the result – a holy life. Marriage is a spiritual exercise, a battle even, and for this reason, it is that imperative that we invite the Holy Spirit into our marriage.
Marriages fall apart when difficult times arise. To make things worse, our society makes walking away easy. However, the Holy Spirit gives us the endurance to endure these difficult times.
Recently I was driving home and as I approached the stoplight, I noticed a sign on the corner. It was one of those signs that people use to advertise yard sales. It read, “Divorce-Easy, fast, and only 199!” Unfortunately, that’s where our culture has gone. However, to the believer the Holy Spirit is able to turn our suffering into something meaningful. Paul says in Romans 5:3-5, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The sufferings we endure in marriage produce character, and character produces hope. Hope is the seed of miracles.
I know of many couple who have had to endure challenging times such as, abuse, alcoholism, infidelity, bankruptcy, the death of a child, yet they had the character to hope for restoration, and their hope led to miracles in their marriage. Miracles are impossible without the Holy Spirit, but with the Holy Spirit, we can enjoy the “honey of a holy life.”