We are called, in our marriages, to point a watching world to Christ. In short, our marriages should not look like pagans. These are the seven characteristics of a godly marriage according to Scripture.
The apostle Paul writes down instructions for what to we are to think and how we are to act in his letter to the Philippians.
Let’s look at Philippians 4:8-9.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” —Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
7 characteristics of a godly marriage
In these verses, Paul is encouraging the believers to look different compared to the pagans in Philippi. Paul’s whole point is for believers to renew their thoughts continually. In so doing, you will renew your actions and renew your life.
Verses 8 and 9 are basically two lists separated by their own verbs. Verse 8 mentions to “think about such things” or logizesthe. Now, the idea is much deeper than simply thinking. Paul tells the church to deeply concern themselves with these things. The second list in verse 9, we are to “put into practice” or prassete. Paul’s dovetailing mental thought and ethical concern. For Paul, if you think right, you will act right.
Protip: Read verse 8 saying aloud the verb phrase “think about what is…” before each attribute. Read verse 9 saying aloud the verb phrase “do what is…” before each attribute. This will help you see the intention of Paul’s writing.
What godly marriages THINK.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” —Philippians 4:8
Remember, your marriage matters to a watching world. Let’s look at the real battle Paul’s writing about—what our minds and thoughts are fixed on. Paul understood the power of our thoughts. He points out seven qualities that should characterize us as Christians. I think they fit as we think about how to not make marriage mistakes as well.
#1 THINK about what is true: this means “truthfulness, dependability.” Anxiety and chaos are more likely when false things fill your mind rather than truth. Imagine the marriage where both spouses think only about what is true.
#2 THINK about what is noble: this means what’s “honorable, worthy of respect.” This is the spouses who can be fair and right no matter what. Thinking noble thoughts will help you stay away from silly arguments that don’t matter as a couple.
#3 THINK about what is just: this means “pure” or “holy” in relation to God. Think about what’s pure, not things that are impure. This means over your entire life—everything from sex to worship. The godly marriage thinks about what is just.
#4 THINK about what is lovely: the opposite of lovely is repulsive. Idea is to please where possible, and win your spouse’s admiration and affection. If you think on what is lovely, I promise you’ll argue less.
#5 THINK about what is admirable: this means “praiseworthy, attractive,”. Think about what’s commendable, not wrong or inaccurate. Consider praising each other and having an attitude of praise rather than condemnation.
#6 THINK about what is excellent: Think about what’s morally excellent, not filth like the unbelievers do. Godly marriages understand they are different than the world.
#7 THINK about what is praiseworthy: means worthy of praising God. Think on what is worthy of praise—not things that aren’t. When our worship of God is out of whack, our marriage will be also.
For us to be more like Jesus in our marriages, we have to renew our minds every day. What we think matters. And, it matters to our spouses.
What godly marriages do.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”—Philippians 4:9
Verse 8 reads like we should be believers who only think about stuff. Thankfully, Paul wrote the next line about putting these things into practice. Let’s look at the list again. This time, instead of saying “think” say “do”.
#1 DO what is true: this means you seek truth. You are truthful in your dealings. You are dependable. In a world where spouses lie to each other about everything, you and your spouse are known for saying and doing what is true.
#2 DO what is noble: you do what is “honorable, worthy of respect.” At the very least, a pagan world should recognize you are a believer by how you honor your spouse. You should not be known as a person who disrespects your spouse.
#3 DO what is just: You do what is just and “holy” in relation to God. You can’t be described as unjust. No one would describe you as impure in your actions. Certainly not your spouse.
#4 DO what is lovely: You do things that are lovely, not sick or gross. You’re about restoring things, not tearing them down. You care so much about God that your spouse knows you love him or her.
#5 DO what is admirable: You do what is commendable, not wrong. Your spouse isn’t ashamed of your actions. Imagine your spouse not thinking of you as a hypocrite—saying one thing outside of the home but doing something different inside of the home. You have a good reputation.
#6 DO what is excellent: You seek to be above reproach. This takes pointing to Christ with your life—by how you act and how you serve.
#7 DO what is praiseworthy: You praise God with your life. You show this by how you give your time and prioritize worship as a lifestyle. You testify of God to a watching world by how you praise God.
Paul’s concerned about his readers having peace. How is peace found? By thinking right things and by doing the right things. If you have organized your thoughts and live according to His ways, life won’t be perfect, but you are promised peace. The disciplined pursuit of a godly marriage will give you peace and joy. Trust me. A watching world will notice your peace and joy. Your church will notice. Your kids will notice. Your spouse will notice.
Grace Marriage Mission
Read Philippians 4:8-9 and consider one area you need to change in your thoughts and actions related to a more godly marriage. Write down one way you can start to renew your mind today. Pray about that one area right now. For the pros, ask your spouse which of these seven areas you need more work on!
Ryan Sanders is a native Tennessean living in Washington, D. C. He has been married to Tonia for 17 years and they have three children. He is currently a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received the Master of Divinity. He is a Fellow at The Colson Center for Christian Worldview and serves as Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church.