“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.‘ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-33)
In this passage, in just a few words, we behold a stunning truth. Here we have a glimpse into the mind of God, with this truth explained we can understand his very motive in creating us man and woman, husband and wife.
The truth is that our roles as husband and wife, and the mystical union (both in flesh and spirit) that takes place as we take our vows, were ordained from eternity past by our Holy God to reflect the glorious acts of Christ.
“…when Paul wanted to tell the Ephesians about marriage, he did not just hunt around for a helpful analogy and suddenly think that “Christ and the church” might be a good teaching illustration. No, it was much more fundamental than that: Paul saw that when God designed the original marriage He already had Christ and the church in mind. This is one of God’s great purposes in marriage: to picture the relationship between Christ and His redeemed people forever!” (George Knight)
This truth is captivating! When Jesus made us heirs of the Living God through his precious blood, he forever grafted us into his own family. In the most perfect way, he married the church-pledging his life, his body, and his future to us. We are his and he is ours. As the wedding ring on my finger testifies to the promise of my earthly marriage, the Holy Spirit within us testifies to the heavenly union we have with our Savior.
If this connection between the marriage relationship and Christ’s relationship to the church is true, it presents many weighty and marvelous implications for our lives. There are two that I have been meditating on recently:
1. Our Marriages are Not About Us.
Marriage is an incredible blessing to a husband and wife, but above all it is meant to bring glory to the Risen Lord. Like so much of scripture, the creation of such a relationship between Adam and Eve was meant to point to Christ’s glorious work on the cross for the redeemed. We can’t miss this truth and hope to fulfill the divine purpose God has for our marriages. How a husband and wife interact on a daily basis either brings glory to the gospel or defiles it because it is meant to be a picture of the gospel. As the redeemed people of God it is our duty and delight to use this remarkable gift to bring glory to his name in all creation.
How do we bring glory to the gospel through our marriages? How do we live the gospel in our marriages? In order to live out the divine purpose of our marriages we must obey the word of God in the callings it has laid out for us. Husbands must love their wives sacrificially, they must lead their wives in a way that mirrors Christ’s leadership of the church. Wives must honor and respect their husbands and submit to them in everything. This kind of relationship is completely counter cultural, but so is the gospel it is meant to represent.
2. Our Marriages are Meant to Be Incredible!
If our marriages are meant to reflect the glorious love between Christ and his church, it stands to reason the love that a husband and wife have for one another has the potential to reach magnificent heights! Our physical and spiritual union with our husbands is nothing short of miraculous. There is something supernatural about it, something that cannot be explained from our finite human minds, something deep, pervasive, unique. Just as Christ miraculously bound himself to the church for her good and his glory, we have entered into a binding relationship for our good and Christ’s glory. Marriage is meant to bring immense pleasure to a husband and wife because of the very nature of what marriage represents.
If this is true, why then do we find ourselves in difficult situations with our spouse? Why do we get into fights or have periods of disunity? Is it as simple as the fact that we are not living out the gospel with each other? If we are not walking in and breathing out the very thing that gives life and meaning to our marriages how can we ever expect for them to blossom and mature into their full potential? We must daily seek out the very thing we are trying to mirror in our relationship. The gospel isn’t just the purpose for our marriages it is the power for our marriages. We cannot bring glory to God on our own. We cannot be the wives he has called us to be without his powerful working in the deepest, darkest parts of our souls. The power of the Risen Lord is the only thing sufficient to make our marriages gospel-bearing vessels worthy of the honor bestowed on them.
What a glorious privilege it is to partake in this mystery that God prepared for us in ages past! What a humbling thought that he purposefully planned to use flawed men and women to physically represent the relationship of Christ and the church. We must beg Christ for the ability to bring glory to his name through this means and we must thank him for the joy to be found in such a mystical union.