“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10
In recently preparing for a premarital counseling session, I discovered that in my collection of articles and studies, there was not one article or study about the role spouses can have with each other in the process of restoring the other spouse from sin and its effects.
In every marriage each spouse is in a constant state of war with sin, the evil world system that surrounds them, and with Satan and his demons. The apostle James was so right when he said, “… we all stumble in many ways….” James 3:2 But sometimes a believer’s fall or entanglement is so great that he or she is probably not going to pull out of it on his/her own.
One of the greatest ministries a spouse can and will ever have is that of being used by God to restore their spouse to intimacy and wholeness in Christ. The fruit of that restoration will eventually be restored intimacy with their spouse, and restored righteous relation to the body of Christ.
While none of the four restoration passages we are going to comment on are written in the context of marriage, they certainly apply to marriage. And there are principles within them that if applied by the power of the Holy Spirit can save a life and a marriage from disaster; and in so doing bring great glory and pleasure to God.
The first passage is II Corinthians 2:6-8, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm you love for him.”
The principle from this passage is: Repentant sinners have the best chance of experiencing restoration when and where forgiveness flows from those near them.
The context or story of this passage is a man in the church at Corinth was engaged in a sexually immoral relationship with his father’s wife. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?” I Cor. 5:1,2. NIV
The apostle Paul fully expected the church in Corinth to expel this man from the church unless he repented. It appears they finally did that. But then at some point he repented.
Paul heard of this great news. Now he is exhorting them to fully forgive and restore him – noting that if they failed to fully forgive and restore him he might be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow”. That kind of sorrow can result in deep depression, hopelessness and even suicide unless much needed mercy and forgiveness is extended by those who had to exercise discipline.
Now, in a marriage, a big part of the healing restoring process is the comfort and encouragement that comes from having a spouse forgive the sinning spouse. Spouses typically know their spouse better than anyone else. Because of proximity, they see sin patterns clearly and are often hurt deeply by them. When the sinning spouse becomes aware of their sin and its damaging effects, the forgiveness of the offended spouse is of great value. And the process of exploring the roots that lead to such sinning is often best helped by a spouse who can by the Holy Spirit discern what has contributed to such bondage.
The second passage on restoration of sinners is Galatians 6:1,2, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
Here's the second principle: When a sinning spouse becomes aware of their sin or their sin is exposed by the Holy Spirit, there needs to be a commitment from both spouses first to their marriage. Then as the sin and the roots of it are processed by the couple, there needs to be a commitment by the offended or non sinning spouse to be humble and gentle towards the sinning spouse – both of them staying sober and dependent upon the Holy Spirit for the ability to righteously deal with their own sins and issues.
The law or provision of Christ is that wherever and whenever sin entangles one of His sons or daughters, more mature believers will seek to restore the entangled one. In a marriage, Jesus’s law or expectation is that the more mature and healthy spouse will fight for her/his fallen spouse knowing that part of being in a marriage is bearing the burden of their spouse. The “burden” being that which comes from experiencing the consequences of losing some battles with sin in one’s spouse. Throughout this process of restoration the healthy or more mature spouse is to always make their own growth in godliness their priority – realizing that sin continues to knock at their door as well – always looking for an opportunity to find an inroad into each of their lives.
The third passage on restoration in the Body of Christ and marriage is from James 5:19,20,
“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
And the third principle is this: Helping a spouse turn from their sin and get right with God is one of the greatest things a spouse could ever do for their spouse.
Often believers tend to minimize the devastating effects of sin. But the reality is the effects of ongoing sin often are devastating. James wants those involved in the restoring process to know that their restoring efforts bring about great reward and great results. Spouses who are fighting for their spouse to overcome sin and be restored from sin’s effects need to remind themselves that what they are fighting for is worth the fight.
The fourth passage on restoration comes from Jude 20-23, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
The last principle is this: Spouses who want to be effective in the restoration of their sinning spouse and thus pleasing to the Lord must first live in intimacy with God by faith, love and hope, devoted to prayer, and appealing to His mercy for themselves. It is this posture that will make them effective to extend that same mercy to their sinning yet repentant spouse.
Please note that extending mercy does not mean we minimize or push under the rug the seriousness of one’s spouses’s sin. Sometimes the non sinning spouse has to extend mercy to the sinning/repenting spouse while at the same time “hating even the garment polluted by (their) the flesh.” Only those who see how desperate their daily need for God’s mercy is, and who daily “build themselves up on their most holy faith” and who daily “pray in the Holy Spirit” and who daily “keep themselves in the love of God” can extend such healing mercy. Whatever the depths of your spouse’s sin is, mercy from God is always needed, and His design is that His mercy flows through the one who most sees and probably most experiences the sad effects of those sins of their spouse.
One of many reasons why spouses should be willing and anxious to extend God’s mercy to their struggling spouse is because of what James stated earlier in his epistle, “…judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13
A spouse that is willing to extend God’s mercy to their spouse in need can be a powerful weapon in the hands of the Lord. To that end here are some concluding observations about this process.
1. The battle to restore a sinner takes work. It doesn’t happen overnight. One should not ignore or minimize the trauma or even abuse that they have experienced because of their sinning spouse. Professional Christian counseling may be needed.
2. Do not cut short any confession being offered by the sinning spouse. Full confession and full ownership of all sin is what God is after. Know that what our Lord and Savior has started in the sinning spouse – He will faithfully finish.
3. Full restoration for one’s spouse will require significant time and energy that God is glad to give to the more mature spouse as that spouse looks to Him for the needed grace and strength. “Burden bearing” may require dying to certain aspects of your lifestyle that perhaps do not cause you to stumble, but would cause your “being restored” spouse to stumble.
God bless you for being willing to engage in this most important and strategic ministry of helping to restore your spouse! May our Father give you great grace and favor and reward for your efforts!!
“(Love) ….bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;” I Corinthians 13:6-8a