Three Biblical Models of Marriage Counseling Part I of IV

The Preface to the Blogs

God is the designer of marriage (Genesis 1 & 2). This book is not about demonstrating the place of marriage in the grand scheme of theology (Ephesians 5:32). It is about how this institution functions post-fall (Genesis 3:15) and various biblical approaches to managing how fallenness impacts the marriage. 

The three approaches to biblical marriage counseling were presented in public forums, evident as you read the text. The first was a sermon preached Sunday following a Friday night and Saturday marriage and family seminar.

I use the word model in the title since that is the academic language of the marriage counseling profession. I have referred above to the three approaches. Biblically speaking, that is a more accurate term. Hopefully, we shall not quibble over these terms.

Scary but certainly interesting that a Google search for my name turns up one phrased like this. Howard Eyrich is all about saving marriages. Who posted that in the Google search engine is a mystery to me. However, they honored me by doing so. More than 60% of my counseling cases likely concern marriage. My first book, Three to Get Ready, A Premarital Counseling Manual, and Norman Write’s work on premarital counseling were groundbreaking works to launch successful marriages. Over the next forty years, that book surpassed the fifty-thousand mark in sales. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print. Recently a Pastor asked me if we were going to republish it. He told me he had used it to prepare over 100 couples for marriage.

I do not think this short three-part blog will see so many reads. Still, I hope it will encourage many helpers in helping couples to restore their marital relationships when sin has corrupted God’s good design.

We might think of the John recorded Jesus model as displaying the core components essential in righting and rebuilding marriage relationships. The Hosea model can help the grossly offended spouse by how God models forgiveness. Such a spouse needs that vision. Over the years, there have been those cases in which one of the spouses behaved a lot like Gomer—from prostitution to abandonment. Yet, a godly spouse patiently pursued, waited, forgave, and rebuilt their marriage. In doing so, they became examples in their community of the forgiveness of God. They displayed the gospel.

As you read these blogs, I pray that God will give you a passionate vision to be His instrument, counsel, coach, and disciple those He brings to you to assist in building and rebuilding their marriage relationship.

The Frame Work of The Models

Marriage and family counseling falls within the jurisdiction of the church. Pastors and elders are responsible for understanding that the theoretical framework for this enterprise has been given through revelation from the living God who created the concept of marriage and family. The following diagram depicts this theoretical framework and attempts to show the foundation and necessary functions to glorify God, the individual and corporate enjoyment thereof, and the horizontal value of family.

The following three chapters will help the biblical counselor deploy three possible models of how-tos to accomplish this task. 

Biblical marriage and family counseling have much in common with our secular counterparts. We are all dealing with creatures created in the image of God, male and female. We are all dealing with creatures who are members of fallen humanity. We are all dealing with the same complexity of problems. We all have the common objective of righting ships battered by the sea of life.

However, we have some very significant differences. Our theories about our subjects, values, attitudes, desires, sexual identities, responsibilities in life, and souls are very different. As the diagram above indicates, our biblical theories are framed by biblical authority, a systematic understanding of theology, and a biblical theological understanding of humanity’s history and each person’s role in this history.

While the Bible does not directly address every issue, for example, is wearing a mask in our current history a matter of loving my neighbor? Or should I run for an elected office to bring Christian influence into the political realm? This is the arena of biblical wisdom where we are required to gather information, some unique to me, and thereby make a prayerful decision.  

The patient investigation is essential for the biblical counselor, including marriage and family counseling. The book of Proverbs is blunt “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). My mom had a saying covering the foolishness of not being a careful investigator. She would say, “That sounds like a one-handed paperhanger.”

One thing I’ve said to counselees from time to time is, “I would not do this job as a secularist. I’d have no authority. But as a biblical counselor, I have the authority of God, hear the Word of the Lord,” and proceed to cite a passage that presents a confrontation or a challenge. Instruction is an essential dimension of biblical marriage counseling. However, simply declaring the instruction is insufficient. The biblical counselor must become a coach. If Jesus were walking the earth today, I am confident he would use the word “coach” frequently because it communicates much more clearly in our culture what the word “discipleship” did in His culture. Here is an example. In the last week of 2021, I wrote a book to use as a handout in marriage counseling. It is a practical manual to instruct couples on implementing thirty-six-one-another passages of the New Testament in the fabric of their daily relationship.

Helping couples develop relational love is imperative. Yes, agape love, the choice to love, is foundational. However, the Biblical Counselor must teach and coach a couple to develop relational love upon that foundation. For example, a pastor widower who had a very relational love-filled marriage married the second time several years after the death of his spouse. He brought his new wife of several years to counseling. He complained that she did not respect him. Conducting some intense investigation led me to conclude that there was a different problem that he read as disrespectful. She came from a very diverse family of origin than he. In her family, taking one another for granted in the simple things of life, like giving commands rather than politely asking, “Would you please bring me a fork,” was a way of life. Her manner of expressing relational love was entirely out of sync with his. 

The Aha and The Action of Biblical Marriage Counseling

Implementation is the working engine of the application when it comes to the biblical counselor engaging the couple and the family bringing their marriage and family relationships into conformity to the theoretical framework of Christianity. Application is the aha. It recognizes the principle or the specific truth for daily living. But an application without practical implementation of that application is nothing more than intellectual assent. On numerous occasions, I’ve had a counselee consent to a biblical principle or specific truth and say, “Yes, I see that, but what does it have to do with me?” My response is that it is a good question. Please allow me to show you and then help you develop a plan to implement it.”

Accountability and Biblical Marriage Counseling

Accountability is essential. Most secularists would agree. Many secularists advocate using homework assignments to help with accountability. Bravo! In principle, they got that one right. The biblical marriage and family counselor will use homework for multiple reasons. It provides the structure to keep the counselee working during the week. It provides specific procedures to address the issue and begin the put-off, renew thinking, and the put-on dynamics prescribe in many ways in the Bible. The counselor can validate and affirm the work and thereby encourage hope at the next session—however, not the words under the triangle—discipleship and church immersion. 

Biblical marriage and family counseling see the church and vital engagement in the church as an essential dimension of the theoretical framework. The church is the ongoing God-given mechanism to effect instruction, confrontation, and encouragement. These essentials do not just come from the pulpit. They come through the matrix of relationships. I remember a gentleman’s comment about being part of a Sunday School community mercy ministry after a tornado. “Watching Charles interacting with his fourteen-year-old son on that job for five consecutive Saturdays challenged me to change my manner of relating to my son.”

The Role of the Biblical Marriage Counselor

Biblical marriage and family counselors see themselves as crisis intervenors, remedial instructors, modelers, and encouragers. They see themselves using the anthropological and theological theory to bring repentance and revival and either return to the first love or lead to the first love.

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