Biblical marriage is a wonderful thing. The concept of one man and one woman for a lifetime is a goal to which all Christian spouses should aspire. Unfortunately, we live in an age where Christian marriages don’t look all that Christian. Too often, marriages in the church resemble cultural ideas rather than God’s ideal. The result is costlier than many of us realize. When Christian marriage breaks down, it loses something profound. It loses its mystery.
The first marriage was established when God created the heavens and earth. As the pinnacle of God’s creation, man and woman were created in the image of God and blessed by God to mediate his rule on the earth (Gen 1:26-28). Before the creation of mankind, God had demonstrated his independent rule by naming the cosmos into existence. Through the naming power of his Word, God gave form to what was formless (Gen 1:2a). He filled what was empty (Gen 1:2b) and gave light to what was dark (Gen 1:2c). However, once the cosmos was made, it was Adam who was given the authority to name what God had made as God’s initial representative on earth (Gen 2:19-20).
As Adam named each of the animals God brought before him, he realized his situation was unique. Unlike the animal kinds, Adam was alone (2:20). But it was not God’s intent to leave Adam alone; he planned to make for Adam one who would also bear his image. This jewel of God’s creation would be like Adam and yet distinct from him. She was to carry all the worth inherent in mankind as an image-bearer and representative of God, yet she would “correspond to” (2:18) but not be identical to Adam. While Adam was created male, his partner would be made female and would join him in his rule on the earth. But there was something about marriage that God had not revealed. It was a mystery that awaited the present age.
Although marriage was established in creation, there is something about the relationship between a Christian husband and wife that, like the church, was not revealed in the Old Testament. In the present age, Christian marriage is intended to provide a visible testimony to the relationship Christ has with his church. But this testimony could only be proclaimed if a believing husband and wife embraced their responsibilities in the marriage relationship.
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:22-24, NASB).
By embracing submission in the marriage relationship, wives have the privilege to provide a visible testimony proclaiming Church’s relationship to Christ.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her . . .” (Eph 5:25, NASB).
By embracing self-sacrificial love in the marriage relationship, husbands have the privilege to provide a visible testimony proclaiming Christ’s love for the church.
Christian marriage is intended to serve as a picture that proclaims the relationship between Christ and his church. It was an institution designed to make the unseen seen. If a child were to ask, “Dad, how does Christ love the church?” The father should be able to point to his own marriage and say, “Son, do you see how I love your mother? Christ’s love for the church is like that, but it is so much better.” If a child were to ask, “Mom, how does the church relate to Christ?” The mother should be able to point to her own marriage and say, “Son, do you see how I embrace your father’s leadership? That is the way the church relates to Christ.”
The benefit that a vibrant, Christian marriage holds for believers and unbelievers is beyond measure. It makes something intangible tangible and helps Christians understand their own relationship to Christ as members of his body. But the breakdown of Christian marriage comes at a horrifying cost. It robs the church and the world of a living parable that proclaims a profound reality. Even worse, it perverts it.
Those of us who are married need to work to preserve this reality in our own lives as we embrace our unique responsibilities in marriage. For those who have been placed in church leadership positions, commit time to develop the marriages of those that God has placed under your care. We need to preserve and proclaim the mystery of marriage.
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