We open the week with a question from Vincent, a podcast listener. He writes in with a very good question. “Pastor John, can a person who doubts his salvation seek to be married? Or should he wait until his assurance is more settled before pursuing a wife?” What would you say to Vincent about assurance and the desire to by married?
Wanting to be married, in and of itself, is a good desire. It can be bad. It can be a bad desire if the motives that are controlling it are bad. For example, if the desire to be married is not controlled by the good of the other person and the glory of Christ, if a person says, “It is not about the good of the other person. It is not about the glory of Christ. It is just about me and my desire for sex or companionship,” then the desire is bad.
So, there are always big issues to settle before one can pursue a desire for marriage that pleases God. Do I love the glory of God more than my own earthly pleasures? That is the crucial question. Is the glory of God a greater pleasure to me than the pleasures that marriage offers? And do I love the other person, this fiancée, more than I love my own earthly pleasures? Horrible things can happen in marriage. Are you just going to walk away from her if she doesn’t quite give the same pleasure she once did? Do I find it more blessed to give to her than to use her for my own private good? Now, those are the big preliminary questions Vincent must ask.
And the sticking point for him is that he is doubting that he is a child of God. He is doubting that he is justified, saved, forgiven — assuming that he is talking about himself. He might be asking about somebody else. So, I am just going to assume that he is talking about himself. He wonders if that should check his search for a marriage partner. Or maybe he is in a relationship and he wants to know if that should check his moving forward toward marriage. And I think the answer will become clear to him if he asks the question this way: In my doubt, will I glorify Christ by entering marriage this way? And will I be able to love this woman by bringing her a heart that doubts the reality of my salvation?
He might see the matter even more clearly if he puts himself in her shoes. Should she marry a man whose heart is not sure that he is a child of God? Now, my answer is that I would never counsel a Christian woman to marry a man that had this spiritual condition of not knowing if he is in the Lord, because when Paul said to the Christian woman in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “She is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord,” he did not mean one may marry in the Lord, but also one may marry one who might be in the Lord. I don’t think he meant “might be in the Lord” when he said only marry “in the Lord.”
So, the Bible would say to this man’s fiancée or future partner: Don’t marry him in this condition. You need good assurances that he is your soul mate at the most important level of existence; namely, is he in Christ like you are in Christ? Is he born again? Is he a child of God? Does he live under God’s authority? Is he committed to loving you as Christ loved the church because he is in Christ and has that kind of spiritual capacity? And if that is God’s good purpose for this woman, then Vincent, for her sake, should put the brakes on his relationship with her and give himself to the spiritual work of having the cloudiness of his spiritual vision taken away. That is what he should pray for. That is what he should pursue with all of his might.
Let me close by just encouraging you, Vincent, with a few passages of Scripture:
1) “Seek me and [you will] find me,” God says, “when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). I want you to be encouraged that you can know. He will be found by you. Go on seeking.
2) Or, 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” God wants you to know, not have your fingers crossed or wonder.
3) And the last one would be Hosea 6:3, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” So make this, Vincent, make this your top priority, not marriage. Put marriage down a level. Make this your top priority, and you will be glad that you settled them in that order.