“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

There are many ways to communicate, but words communicate the most clearly. Words mean things, except to those who are liars, and that is the meaning of our Lord’s words. Satan “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Therefore all “modifications” of truth, double-speak, misrepresentations, misleading, and outright lying are signs of an immature, carnal, or unsaved heart.

Our Lord included our text in His Sermon on the Mount. He was contrasting the limited teaching of the Pharisees to God’s actual intention in His words. The Pharisees would interpret God’s words, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord,” by changing the straightforward meaning and emphasizing only the last three words, narrowing God’s meaning. Their instruction strictly prohibited breaking any oath to the Lord. but they finely distinguished and loosened those principles in one’s dealings with men. Apparently promises to others could be undone by a sort of “crossing your fingers” if you used certain formulas—by heaven, by earth, by Jerusalem, even “by my head.” Our Lord expresses the simplicity of God’s command: “Do not swear at all…let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” Among men, trust cannot thrive without trustworthy words expressing truth (reality). Among believers trustworthiness is a sign of authentic belief.

It might seem strange to build a marriage on words, but essentially that is why vows are exchanged. Sure, vows are exchanged before very much living has been shared. There are decades of living yet to come. Vows are exchanged by two good-willed people who know that it will take a lifetime to really know their spouse. There is a lot riding on each person’s faith and faithfulness. Marriage is sacred for the fact that vows are exchanged before God and before each one’s family. You better mean what you say and say what you mean because God is taking notes! Not only that, without God’s assistance, their marriage will not survive. If each party yields to God’s lordship, they will know the secret of success for a Christian marriage.

A big part of building your marriage on the Lord Jesus Christ is building your personal life on Him. It follows that words give voice to the values of our Lord, and several words are particularly important to the cohesiveness and harmony of a Christian marriage. Testings will come, and a firm grasp on these words, and complete harmony in honoring them, will help the marriage to withstand the onslaughts of life.

The first word to build marriage upon is faith. Faith is simply believing what God says. Saving faith is complete confidence and yielding to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Trusting faith is relying upon biblical doctrine. Living faith is confidently following God’s dictates on a personal level. Faithful living is absolute reliance, obedience, and trust in God’s Word. His Word must be the final arbiter of justice, adjudicator of disputes, a daily source of soul sustenance, and letting God enforce justice (rather than making each other pay) because “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). When you have vibrant faith, then you will be equipped to be faithful, honest, trustworthy, and noble in your marriage.

The second word is love. There are several Greek words for love: storgo (love between parent and child), eros (passionate fire between lovers), phileo (brotherly love, tender affection, fondness among friends and relatives—John 5:20; 20:2), and agapao (selfless love, the special love characteristic of Christianity, and of God’s love for you in John 3:16). The meaning of agapao is not expressive of a warm feeling like all the preceding words. It is an intelligent, purposeful attitude of esteem and devotion; a selfless, purposeful outgoing attitude that desires to do good to those loved. It analyzes and then chooses the object to be loved. It is not a term wholly given to emotion, but it does involve the whole being—emotions, intellect and will. It is a deliberate, free act that is a decision of the subject rather than the result of unbidden, overpowering emotion. In other words, a marriage will do well when it includes all of these types of love, but it will thrive when each spouse values the other more than himself and selflessly acts and speaks only in his spouse’s best interest. That is God’s kind of love which you need to practice in your marriage. It takes a lot of work and self-control, but it is always worth it (Ephesians 5:28–29).

The third word is respect. Mutual respect is an absolute necessity for any marriage. Though both the husband and the wife are to love and respect each other, Ephesians 5:21–33 places the biggest burden upon the husband to demonstrate agape love by placing his wife’s welfare ahead of his own and by nurturing and cherishing her. It also places the heaviest challenge upon the wife to genuinely respect her husband. The Greek word for respect is phobetai, meaning fear and reverence, veneration, and treating with deference. This is not a quaking kind of terror; it is instead a healthy, thoughtful sense of respect for her man. A woman does extremely well when she does not discredit her man in public and treasures him in her heart.

Next week we will address forgiveness and submission. Trust and obey.