the weblog of Alan Knox

Marriage and Discipleship

Posted by on Jan 23, 2009 in discipleship, edification | 6 comments

Last year, as Margaret and I were spending time with a young couple who were planning to get married, I wrote a post called “Marriage and Discipleship“. In this post, I suggested that if discipleship happened primarily through relationships, then our primary disciple and our primary discipler should be our spouse – at least for those of us who are married. I hope you enjoy this post.


Marriage and Discipleship

A couple of months ago, two new friends of ours asked Margaret and me if we would do pre-marital counseling for them. We started meeting with them a couple of weeks ago. It has been a blessing to get to know them more and to encourage them as they prepare to be married.

I don’t treat “pre-marital” counseling much differently that other opportunities of discipleship. My desire is to help them grow in maturity in Christ. As this happens, their relationship with one another will also grow and mature.

The last time we met, we talked about the sanctifying nature of marriage. Actually, they brought this up. They can already see how God is using their relationship with one another to grow them spiritually.

Before two followers of Jesus Christ are married – before they are husband and wife – they are brother and sister in Christ. Thus, the foundational relationship for a marriage is the relationship between believers. Also, since this brother and sister in Christ is spending so much time together, it is by nature a discipling relationship. Of course, it may not be a positive discipling relationship, but it is a discipling relationship nonetheless.

So, marriage is based on a discipling relationship. The husband and wife should encourage one another and help one another grow toward maturity in Christ. Since the two spend so much time together, and since they know one another better than anyone else, and since they are probably more open and honest with one another than with anyone else, marriage is also the most important discipling relationship.

While it is important for this discipling relationship to include activities such as prayer and reading Scripture together, there is much more involved in this. In fact, if a couple (or any two or more people) only pray and read Scripture together, I would not call that a discipling relationship. Instead, in a discipling relationship the people help one another follow Jesus Christ, recognizing that the other person is not perfect, accepting and loving them as they are, and helping them grow through the trials and struggles of life.

I think it helps a marriage to recognize that the two people are in this type of discipling relationship. When we read Scripture as it defines how believers should interact with one another, we should also recognize that this describes how a married couple should interact with one another as well. For example, consider this important passage from Philippians:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

While Paul writes this in general to followers of Christ in Philippi, it is especially applicable to a husband and wife in their interaction with one another. In fact, I think it is impossible to understand a husband’s role in a marriage or a wife’s role in a marriage without first recognizing these and other basic responsibilities that one believer has toward another believer.

As I look back over the time that Margaret and I have been married, I can see that Margaret has been my primary discipler throughout that time. I have learned more about God and life from her than from anyone else – and that includes pastors, preachers, and teachers. Why? Because I am with her every day. I see my own faults and weaknesses and sins most clearly in my relationship with her. I learn from her words and examples more than from anyone else.

And, perhaps most importantly, God expresses his love for me through Margaret than through anyone else on earth – in other words, Margaret is the channel through which God most demonstrates his love for me. This does not mean that Margaret is perfect, or that her demonstration of God’s love is on the same level as Christ’s demonstration of God’s love. But, God’s love is real and clear and intimate – and our relationship has been the best reflection of that love.

Have you thought about your relationship with your spouse as a discipling relationship? Have you thought about your spouse as your discipler? What insights can you add to this discussion?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-23-2009

    Excellent post, and awesome point! I completely feel the same way you do, that my wife has been the number 1 discipler in my life, for all the reasons you listed.

    I find this post so refreshing, possinly because it seems that many men in particular seem to have a hard time with the concept of being discipled by their wives. So many have latched on to this idea of the man being the “head” of the household, that the brother/sister relationship in Christ is pushed way to the side. From my perspective, most men seem to regard discipleship as being done primarily through other men, even though our own spouses know us far better than any other human probably ever will!

    We followers of Christ who are men should not be ashamed to cherish our wives as our disciplers, as we in turn seek to serve, and by serving, disciple them in return.

  2. 1-23-2009

    Like a Mustard Seed (Daniel?),

    Good thoughts! Thank you for adding them to this discussion. I think you’re right that this is a problem for men.


  3. 1-27-2009

    What is always challenging about any discipling relationship, which should be the ground for the marriage being the best one, is the level of vulnerability and transparency required in the it to make it work. That’s why I whole-heartedly agree that the marriage for the sake of the church and family has to be the first and most important discipling relationship and typifies the values expected in the church at large.

    I often feel like a block-head sometimes when I reflect on the valuable lessons I learn from my wife after the mistake is made through neglecting the quality advice she offers. One of the lessons that I am learning and that this blog I believe reinforces is making the most of the mundane as discipleship opportunities. This is not to be contrived about it and try and get the parable of the talents out of the fact that you should have got the value products when you were shopping (although thinking about it, that’s not as contrived as it sounds) but it is about having the eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying through all kinds of interactiosn that typify this crucial relationship from the bed to travel arrangements to child care, financial issues, leisure activities and the such-like. This, for me, makes discipleship within marriage so implicit that we don’t even have to say a certain time has been marked off as holy time, because God’s involvement in all of life is a step closer towards us making the spiritual natural. If you get me.

    Great post, Alan, really thought-provoking as ever and makes our spiritual journey and growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ easier accessible to any believer de-mystifying it. Is it OK for you to divulge how that marital counselling relationship has developed since the initial article? One of the things that’s disappointing which is the same in terms of evangelism, is that the intense counselling and sharing is done before ‘the decision’ is made and then afterwards we ‘give them space’ and assume their fine without regular engagement. I don’t get the impression this is how you’d operate, so from the perspective of someone aspiring to influence other relationships through my own, how do you continue the relationship as the marriage gets bedded in beyond the honeymoon period?


  4. 1-27-2009


    Great comment! Our relationship with the couple that I mentioend continues. We’ve been to dinner at their home, and they’ve come back to ours. In fact, I plan to see him tomorrow. They are part of our lives – they were not just an appointment on our schedule.


  5. 11-18-2011

    I agree that the marriage can be and is a very good discipling tool. However, I also see the importance of older (mature Christian) men teaching younger (babes in Christ) as older women teach younger women as it presented in Titus 2:1-10 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

    I understand that the focus here is on the marriage, but let us not forget that in O.T. time it was taught and shown to us that discipling came from the men (fathers) teaching their wives and children the things of God as it is in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

    In the same manner Jesus had many disciples (the 5000 whom he fed the fish and bread), but he had twelve close disciples that live, ate, and walked with Him. Discipleship is the teaching of others to live for God and how to serve God and grow to a mature relationship with God. The Scripture tells us of different methods of discipleship.

    I enjoy the blog and applaud the input. I just want to encourage us men to also cherish the discipleship of a mature man in Christ in our relationship with God. I am blessed to have three close accountable men in my life along with my wife and my church to disciple me.

  6. 11-18-2011


    Yes, of course, we should disciple and be discipled by other people besides our spouses. That was not the point of this post. But, since we spend the most time with our spouses, we should see the marriage relationship as a discipling relationship.