The Love of Christ in Marriage

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014 in Marriage

The Bible is God’s special revelation of Himself to mankind.  It abounds with truths regarding relationships with family and neighbors, living in different societies and cultures, conducting affairs between nations and even clear details on marriage.  But chiefly, the Bible is a book about God and how God has provided the only way for sinful men to enter into an eternal relationship with Him — through His Son, Jesus Christ. The battle cry of the great Reformers, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin and others, was that salvation is according to God’s Word alone, not according to or coupled with or diluted by the traditions of men, and that salvation, which literally means to be rescued from the penalty for sin, God’s holy and just wrath towards and condemnation of sinners, comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

It is in this context of salvation and Christ’s love for His glorious Church that we find one the most detailed pictures of marriage in the Scriptures.

Eph 5:22-33 – [22] Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] 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. [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. [25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] 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. [28] In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, [30] because we are members of his body. [31] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [32] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I would summarize this text’s teaching on marriage as:

(1) An explanation of the function of the husband and the wife toward each other. The wife is told to be subject to her own husband, that is, to live in a relationship of respect and dependence on him.  Later Paul says, “The wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” She is to do this “as to the Lord” as an expression of honor to Jesus Christ.

He then explains that the husband functions as the head of the wife, certainly a position of leadership, but much more when seeing the balance of the passage.  Paul compares the husband’s headship of his wife to that of Jesus Christ with the Church, i.e., the body of those He has saved from their sins.  And then he adds, “He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Savior is a title of Jesus Christ that reminds us of the human predicament: sin and separation from God.  The need for a Savior is precisely because of our need for a right relationship with God.  Savior means “deliverer” or one who rescues.  In this case, deliverance is through the death of Christ in our place bearing the judgment of God, in order to rescue us from that same righteous judgment.  He is the “head” or the “Savior” that alone can be trusted to deliver us from sin.

In that analogy, the wife’s submission is seen as dependence upon her husband, trusting him in temporal issues even as the believer trusts Jesus Christ in the eternal issues.

(2) Husbands are then given a most remarkable command that is the key to any marriage being a reflection of the glory of Christ.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her,” that is in His death on the cross, “that He might sanctify her,” set her apart as belonging only to Him, “having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” a reference to the revelation and application of the biblical message of salvation.

The husband is to pursue his bride with selfless, sacrificial love that Christ has shown toward His people.  Christ loved the Church with an unending love – so too is the husband to love his wife. Christ gave Himself up as the only acceptable sacrifice to God that would satisfy divine justice on behalf of all who would believe in Him.  Husbands are to give themselves in sacrificial love for their wives.  Christ’s act of sacrifice was to sanctify the Church.  It implies that the purpose of His death was to set apart a people to be known by His own name and to share His own eternal inheritance, and to belong only to Him forever.  The husband’s love is to have the effect of securing his wife as the absolute delight of his eyes, imaginations and longings.

A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, becoming one flesh.  That is the mystery of marriage.  God has declared it to be a physical, emotional, and spiritual union of a man and woman.  They belong to each other always.  The unbreakable nature of their relationship is found in the unique way they have become one.

Yet this marriage of man and woman pictures an even greater mystery, the union of Christ and His bride, the Church. Through faith in Jesus Christ, a person is forever joined to Him without fear of separation.

As we celebrate marriage, with all of the responsibilities and opportunities ahead, may we all be reminded of the picture it offers of the most important relationship anyone can have – and this is with Jesus Christ.

HT: Dr. Phil Newton, South Woods Baptist Church, Memphis TN

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