FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Marriage: Patterned After the Trinity

with | August 26, 2010
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Have you been clueless about marriage? So was he at one time, but today, pastor James Ford shares some thoughts about marriage from God's perspective.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Have you been clueless about marriage? So was he at one time, but today, pastor James Ford shares some thoughts about marriage from God's perspective.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Have you been clueless about marriage?

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Marriage: Patterned After the Trinity

August 26, 2010
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James:  The number 1 reason why our marriages are failing is because of pride and selfishness.  In most marriage relationships it’s kind of like a tick on a dog.  You know, a tick is on the dog for what he can get off the dog.  It doesn’t care what gender the dog is.  It doesn’t care what breed the dog is—long-hair, short-hair.  The tick is on the dog to get off the dog what it can get.  The problem in our marriages is that we have two ticks and no dog. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 26th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Pastor James Ford joins us today to give us some straight talk on what makes a marriage work. 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us.  You know, at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways that we do with couples, we start off on Friday night talking about the things that threaten the marriage relationship.

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  I remember you had a conversation at one point with an African American pastor.  You were telling him about the Weekend to Remember®.  He said that if you were doing the conference with an African American audience rather than starting with the things that threaten the marriage relationship you really would have to start with why there ought to be a marriage relationship in the first place.

Dennis:  Right.  And he is just speaking about how in his community the breakdown of the family was so radical that we needed to take a step further back and just define marriage and family around God’s purposes.  Fortunately we have an expert with us from south Chicago, a pastor.  You don’t need to look around for someone else in the studio!  It’s you, James.  James Ford joins us once again on FamilyLife Today

James:  You said, “Expert.”  You threw me off.  (laughter)

Dennis:  Welcome to the broadcast, James.

James:  Oh, it is good to be here. 

Dennis:  James is the senior pastor of Christ Bible Church, formerly South Shore Baptist Church in Chicago.  He has been there since 1982.  He is the father of five children, nine grandchildren, and the husband of one wife Leslie.  We heard earlier that before he wrote this book, he didn’t have a clue, not a spiritual clue, what marriage and family were all about according to God’s perspective; but you came up with seven purposes. 

Now, I have the feeling that if I went down to the Call Center right now they would tell me that there were a few phone calls earlier because we didn’t get to what those seven purposes were.  So, here at the start of the broadcast, I want you to just share what those seven purposes are that God gave us for marriage.  Bob knows I love lists.  Okay?  What are those seven purposes?

James:  First, you start with the pattern of the Trinity. 

Bob:  Wait, wait, wait, wait.  I know we need to get to the whole list here but people are going, “The pattern of the Trinity is God’s purpose for marriage?”

James:  Right.  I call it The Parody Principle.  Most of the time when you look at Genesis 1:26-28 where it says, “God made man in His image.  Male and female created He them.”  Individuals bypass that as a purpose for marriage. 

I see it as a purpose for marriage because when you look at what God is doing—in Chapter 1 He focuses in on the essence of who we are.  We are human beings—that is our essence.  Then in Chapter 2 He focuses on hierarchy or function.  I think we need to start there because He patterned us after the Trinity or the Godhead. 

The Bible tells us very clearly that there is one God who manifests Himself in three persons, having the designations:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I know this is theology but theology becomes do-ology in just a moment.  We know they are equal in essence—they have the divine nature.  They have co-essence, co-eternality, co-existence, and co-equality.  They are equal. 

If you would say, “Who raised Jesus from the dead?”  John 2:19-21—Jesus did; Gal. 1:1—the Father did; Rom. 1:4—the Holy Spirit did.  They are equal in power and attributes.  Yet, they have aligned themselves in a hierarchal order for the purpose of our salvation.  When there is a hierarchy of function, it is for the purpose of our salvation—1 Pet. 1:2.  We are the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit through the sprinkling and obedience of the blood of Jesus Christ.  Now there you have it. 

God said, “We made man in our image.”  They call it the amagio dei.  That means that the man and the wife are equal.  You never the see the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost fighting over Who is going to have the first-billing.  The Bible tells us that the Father exalts the Son; the Son exalts the Father; and the Holy Spirit exalts the Father and the Son.  There is our model—right there. 

So how does that relate to marriage?  The No. 1 reason our marriages are failing is because of pride and selfishness.  If we understand that in most marriage relationships it’s kind of like a tick on a dog.  You know, a tick is on the dog for what he can get off the dog.  It doesn’t care what gender the dog is.  It doesn’t care what breed the dog is—long-hair, short-hair.  The tick is on the dog to get off the dog what it can get.  The problem in our marriages is that we have two ticks and no dog.  (laughter) 

Here you have this parody—that we are the same in essence.  They align themselves into a voluntary submission.  Before He gets to hierarchy in Chapter 2—and function—He tells us about essence and equality.  There is no superior and inferior in terms of relationship with my wife.  My wife is not a doormat; my wife is not a door knob; she is a door prize.  Here is the illustration I use all the time.  I take...

Dennis:  Now you are not going to be able to preach on all seven of these or we are going to have to take the next couple of hours from Swindoll...

James:  Okay.

Bob:  No, no, no.  Let him go.  This is good. 

James:  Well, see—I’ll finish this one and then we will just run through the list. 

Dennis:  We won’t get to No. 2.  I can see it.  The handwriting is on the wall.

James:  So I take two couples, and I set a chair up.  I take two passages of Scripture: 

Ephesians 5:33, 1 Peter 3:7.  It says that the husband is to honor his wife.  The etymology of that word means to put on a pedestal.  Reverence—it literally means to bow to—same word used for our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I say to them, “Okay.  You are supposed to have a face-to-face fellowship; but if you submit in the way we hear it, you bow to him, reverence him—you don’t have a face-to-face.  If the man—who is the thermostat in the relationship—the woman is the thermometer—the man is the initiator—the woman is the responder.  We are to love our wives like Christ loved the Church.  You need to go first. 

Follow the etymology of that word—I have him put her on a pedestal.  I say, “You still can’t have a face-to-face until what?  She bows.”  That is the picture of The Parody Principle based on the pattern of the Trinity.

Bob:  I know you asked for the whole list of seven, but I just have to stop and get—because I think folks are thinking, “The Trinity in my marriage?  What is the relationship?”  I think you have made it really clear.  God has given us a great picture in marriage of something we just get a glimpse of about His own nature—right?

James:  Right.  So if your wife is more important than you are, then you have no problem whatsoever because the four words for love:  you have agape; you have phileo; then storge; then eros.  You need all four in marriage. 

Eros is sensual, storge is spousal, phileo is social, and agape is spiritual—that is the highest.  Let me tell how this fleshes out.  Because my wife has been ill for 20 years, I have had to do most of the cooking, most of the cleaning.  She asked me around year 8 or 9—she said, “Are you tired of this?  I know you are ready to ‘throw in the towel’ and be done with this.”  I said to her, “Sometimes I get tired in it but I don’t get tired of it.”  It is that principle that keeps me going.  It is that principle that says, “Listen, you are not in this relationship to get.  You made a vow: ‘in sickness and health, in poverty and wealth, until death do us part’—not until debt do us part”—  that kind of commitment. 

Are there times as in the vernacular of the African-American community, “I’m not feeling it”?  Of course there are.  Are there times when I am tired in it?  Of course there are.  Here’s what Adrian Rogers says—he used to say all the time—“Love in marriage doesn’t lead you to commitment; commitment in marriage leads you to love.”

Dennis and Bob:  That’s right.

James:  I say, “Listen, I am committed to you.  I am so committed to you—if you ever leave me, I am going with you.”  (laughter)  We got into an argument one time, Bob.  She grabbed her suitcase, and she said, “I’m leaving.”  I grabbed my suitcase, and I said, “I’m leaving, too.  Where are we going?”

Dennis:  Where are we going?  There you go.  I want to see if I have this first purpose for marriage, and then I do want you real quickly to run through the other six. 

James:  Okay.

Dennis:  I am in agreement with you, by the way.  If you don’t start here right, you are not going to end up in the right destination.  What you are saying here about reflecting the pattern of the Trinity:  Ultimately, your marriage is not about you.  It is about God.

James:  That is right.

Dennis:  It is about reflecting Him and His purposes for planet Earth.

James:  That is right.  That is right.

Dennis:  You are not ever going to reflect Who God is and what He is up to if it is all about serving yourself—back to your point about two ticks looking for a dog.  Marriage has a noble purpose that is not about us.  It is about reflecting the character of God to our generation.

James:  Amen.

Dennis:  Alright.  Let’s go to the second through the seventh of the purposes of marriage. 

James:  Okay.  The second is The Partnership Principle.  The third is The Perfection Principle.  Then there is The Purity Principle.  Then there is The Pleasure Principle.  Then there is The Procreation Principle.  Then there is The Picture of Christ and the Church Principle.  Those are the seven. 

Bob:  Okay.  Now you are going to unpack some of those.  You said the second one was the Partnership Principle?

James:  The Partnership Principle.

Bob:  That God gives us to one another so that we can be partners.

James:  That is right.  That is right.  He creates Adam.  He gives us the essence in Chapter 1.  Then in Chapter 2, in the Semitic way of writing, He breaks down now.  He gives you a general term, and then He breaks it down. 

God created man, and then this is the progression of it:  In Genesis 2:15 He puts him in the garden.  God gives him the place.  God picks out his career.  Then He gives him two things.  He says, “I put him in the garden to till it and to keep it.”  To till it—he is a gardener.  To keep it—he is a guardian.  God establishes him as a protector and a provider for the family. 

He gives him three things.  They all start with “W.”  I tell every single person that this is what you need to look for.  First, He gives him work.  As a pastor in 27 years of ministry, I never married a couple where the man doesn’t have a job because that is the first thing God gave Adam.  I tell them, “Every man needs to have some ‘sha-na-na theology’.  Sha-na-na-na-na-na.  Get a job!  Sha-na-na-na-na-na.  Get a job!  Sha-na-na-na-na-na.  Get a job!”  The second thing in verses 16-17...

Dennis:  Would you like Bob to sing that for you?  (laughter)  He can sing it—trust me!

Bob:  (Sounds from the song)  Get a job!  (laughter)

James:  I got it, baby!  (laughter)  Thank you.

Dennis:  I told you he knew it!  (laughter)

James:  Then He gives him this word in verses 16 and 17.  Then He gives him a wife verse 18.  It says, “It is not good that man should be alone.”  How could He say he is alone when God was there?  Because, it is obvious that there is something that God wants him to have that He is not going to supply himself.  How does He make him aware of the fact that he doesn’t have anybody?  He has him name all the animals. He says, “Here is Mr. Giraffe.  Mrs. Giraffe.  Mr. Hippopotamus.  Mrs. Hippopotamus.  Mr. Gorilla.   Mrs. Gorilla.” 

He knows there is nothing in those woods that is for him.  It says, “For Adam there was not found a helpmeet.”—which means he was looking.  He is wondering, “Where is my counterpart?”  Then God performs divine surgery—puts him to sleep; takes a piece of him.  As one preacher says, “He is half the man he used to be.”  (laughter)  God forms the woman.  I like those words because it fashions the man.  Atsay just fashions, but then it says He yatsah—He shapes the woman—Amen!  She corresponds with the man.

Dennis:  Okay.  I am going to stop you right there.

James:  Okay.

Dennis:  You have been married to Leslie for over 39 years.

James:  Yes.

Dennis:  How is she shaped for you?

James:  Oh.

Dennis:  As a husband?

James:  Oh.  She fits.  Oh.  I’ll show you how she is my partner.  I am a muser.  It takes me time to contemplate.  She is very quick on her feet.  (Snap fingers)  I used to rebel against that only to have to come back and hear, “I told you so.”  (laughter)  Now I am a wiser man because I understand she is my complement. 

I share things with her.  I ask her opinion.  He coupled me with her for a purpose.  She is introverted.  I am extraverted.  I know you don’t believe that.  Sometimes she will say, “You are getting out there too far now.  Come on now.”

Bob:  Come on back.  (laughter)

James:  Yes.  Sometimes I say, “Come off the wall now.  You don’t want people to think that you are not friendly.”  I rise early.  Generally, I am up at 4:30 in the morning.  She gets up about (muffled time) in the morning.  (laughter)  Of course, I make the money and she spends it.  We complement each other.

Dennis:  Yes.  There you go!  (laughter)

Bob:  So The Partnership Principle is really about God filling in the gaps. 

James:  Yes.

Bob:  What is lacking in our lives—He gives us one another to fill in those gaps. 

James:  Yes.  And the tragedy is many of us rebel against that, especially as husbands, we rebel against that.

Dennis:  Yes.  You know, I look at this list.  I know we should wait to talk about this a little later; but when I was reading through your book, the one I really—I’ve found interesting because I don’t think I have heard anyone refer to this—that one of the purposes of marriage is for pleasure.  That God created marriage so a man and a woman could enjoy one another.  I know immediately our audience is running to sex, but you really define it more than just sexual pleasure.

James:  Oh, yes.  Oh, yes.  The whole area of intimacy.  I think it was H. Norman Wright who came up with the 12 areas of intimacy.  How are we on crisis intimacy?  How are we on creative intimacy?  I think it is all rolled up into one big romance kind-of-deal.

Bob:  You are talking about an intimacy that links together, not just body and body, but that links soul and soul—that really makes you lovers in a full sense.  Right?

James:  That is right.  That is right. 

Dennis:  You talk about your mission as well—how you share a mission—a common mission together in leading a church there in south Chicago.  Right? 

James:  Right.  Yes.  When you look at the whole concept of what God has done as He has linked us together, He knows what I need in order to balance me and He knows what she needs in order to balance her.  The Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sin.” 

Even as I was talking about earlier—take crisis intimacy.  We have been through some tough crises.  My wife has had three nervous breakdowns.  All the way through that the Lord has sustained her and has used me at times to be an encouragement and strength to her.  I think that God knows what He is doing when He gave me to her. 

Dennis:  What is the most important lesson as a man who is called to nourish and cherish his wife you have learned in the midst of your wife facing repeated health issues and also some emotional crises?

James:  I would say it is just being there for her.  Being there—being a support—being a help—leading her in her spiritual quest for comprehension.  There have been times when we had this—we wrote this in our journal.  We were talking about how we felt.  I was sharing with her, writing in my journal, that the Lord has taught me that no matter how tight our relationship is, I cannot ever take His place in your life.  She wrote in her journal practically the same thing—that the Lord is allowing me to go through this so that I would know that I can never put you in front of Him.  It has really been a kind of thing that is balancing us out in our spiritual walk so that we are continually looking to the purposes that the Lord has for us in the midst of this. 

My wife has, for example, turned her sickness into a ministry.  She will call individuals who are sick in our assembly; and they say, “You are sick yourself.  How are you doing?”  She will say, “No.  Don’t talk about me.  I called to encourage you and to let you know that God is still on the throne no matter how much you are going through.”

Dennis:  The thing I like about what you have written here, James, is you have lifted marriage out of the human side—just of making marriage two bodies merging together and attempting to go the distance for a lifetime.  You lifted it and given it its spiritual imprint that the Scriptures give it.  You have reminded us why God created marriage in the first place. 

Understanding the purposes of something really help determine its function, practically speaking.  If you don’t have the purposes down, you are not going to practice what needs to occur day-in and day-out in your marriage.  What you have done here, I think, has lifted it out of  the “muck and mire” of everyday life.  You have reminded us of what was on God’s heart in the first place.  I really appreciate your doing that.  

Bob:  I think, Dennis, of a number of couples—and we meet them all of the time—couples who have been married for a long time.  They are experiencing some challenges in their marriage; they are not sure why.  You sit down with them and you find out they really don’t have a solid biblical framework for marriage.  Nobody has ever sat down and explained to them what the Bible teaches about relationships, what the Bible teaches about God’s purpose for marriage—

what you have written about in your book, Pastor Ford. 

By the way, we have the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Our listeners can go to to get a copy.  Either order online from us or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy.  1-800-358-6329 or, again, our online address is  Get a copy of Pastor James Ford’s book The Seven Reasons Why God Created Marriage.  It will help you understand God’s purposes for marriage. 

Or make plans to join us at one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaways where we unpack God’s purpose for marriage, and God’s plan for marriage, and issues like communication and intimacy, and “What is your role in the marriage?”, “What is my role in the marriage?”  All of that—it is addressed at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. 

It is the best thing I know of that a couple can do for their marriage.  It is immersive; it is comprehensive; and it is a whole lot of fun.  It is a great weekend getaway for a couple.  Go online to find out more at or call if you have any questions about our upcoming fall season of FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.  Our toll free number:  1-800-FL-TODAY. 

Speaking of a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we have a lot of folks who are going to be attending this fall as our guests.  This month we have been asking our listeners, those of you have been tuned in for a long time but who have never gotten in touch with us, to make a donation.  We have been asking if you would consider making a donation—letting us know that you are tuned in and helping to support the ministry.  We have set a goal at 2,500 new donors to the ministry this month.  We have been keeping tabs of that on our website of 

We made a special offer to new donors.  If you could make a donation of $100 or more this month, we want to send you a certificate so you and your spouse could attend one of these upcoming marriage getaways.  We have been able to do that for a lot of couples.  Looking forward to seeing you at one of these getaways this fall.  It will be a great weekend for you and your spouse.  We not only appreciate your support of the ministry, but we hope you enjoy the weekend away. 

The offer is still good through the end of the month.  If you are a new donor to FamilyLife Today and you are able to make a donation of $100 or more, we can send you a certificate so you can attend an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.  Make your donation online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. 

If you can help with a donation of any amount this month, whether you are a new donor or somebody who has made a donation in the past, we would like to say, “Thank you,” to you by sending you a two-CD series with our friends Tim and Joy Downs dealing with the issue of conflict in marriage and what are the causes of some of the most common conflicts in marriage. 

If you make a donation online and you would like to receive the CDs, type the word “SEVEN” in the key code box so that we know to send you the CDs; or simply call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Make your donation over the phone and mention that you would like the CDs on conflict.  Again, let me just say how much we appreciate all of you for your financial support of this ministry.  It is always great to hear from you. 

I want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow.  Pastor James Ford will be here again.  We are going to continue looking at God’s design for the marriage relationship—what was His intent in the first place so we can better understand our purpose in all of this.  I hope you can tune in for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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