Marriage: Aiming to Emulate Christ and the Church
Ephesians 5:15-32 (NIV)
May 24, 2008

(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing a her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” b 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Brothers and sisters in Christ.
At the beginning of this year, as we looked at marriage, we discovered that marriage was designed by God to be a showcase of the relationship between Christ and the church, its purpose is for the display of the glory of God. Notice once again from our passage: 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  The very reason, according Paul here quoting Jesus, of marriage - is this next verse - 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Christ and the church is the reason for marriage. The grand relationship between the world wide body of believers and her Savior, Jesus, is the reason for marriage. It is why we get married. The root and most baisc purpose of marriage is to display the relationship between Christ and the church. I cannot say that truth often enough. Now truthfully, we do not think of marriage that way. We reduce marriage to a social and legal contract that has little or nothing to do with Jesus, with the church. The aim of this series is to lift our understanding of marriage out of the slimy pit of cultural mediocrity, to begin setting us free from (to quote Dr. John Piper) “our culturally decomposed self centered God ignoring romance intoxicated mundane and unbiblical understanding of marriage.”

I plan to speak today and next few Sunday mornings on this passage. Let me remind you of some of the glorious pictures we have seen regarding marriage in our previous sermons in this series.

First, we discovered that marriage was God’s highest achievement in creation. We tend to think that the creation of humanity was his highest creation, we were after all created in his image and likeness. But God goes even further in creation. He makes marriage an image, a likeness of the relationship between his son and the church. So we found that marriage was God’s highest achievement because it pictures the eternal relationship between Christ and the church. And it is God’s achievement, he made it, he performed the first wedding by bringing his newly formed daughter to Adam, he spoke it into existence - God was the first one to say “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Math 19:4), Paul is only quoting God here, so God spoke marriage into existence just like he spoke creation into existence by the word of his mouth, not only that, marriage continues as a creation of God sustained by his all powerful word. By saying that, we need to understand, marriage is not just a contract, it is a relationship God created. Not only that, God is the matchmaker, he brings two people together, so Jesus reminds us “what God has brought together, let men not separate.” Marriage is God’s highest achievement and so creation as we know it will come to its completion when the wedding supper of the Lamb, the son of God occurs. A marriage, that is God’s highest and final creation even in the new creation.

Not only is it his highest achievement, in being his highest achievement, it also is a relationship designed to bring out the most sublime and glorious nature of God - his covenant keeping nature. We often think that we, created in the image of God are his highest achievement, and so we ask ourselves, what in us this that glorious image of God - is it righteousness, holiness, reason, creativity, language, consciousness, my list could go on and on. But marriage is a higher achievement, it displays the covenant keeping character of the triune God.

We discovered that marriage is about covenant keeping! It is only in the context of covenant keeping that we discover that marriage is a safe place, safe enough to be naked and transparent with one another, without shame, safe because when we fail, we know that forgiveness is and will be given as hard as receiving or giving that forgiveness may be.

Paul’s point here is “just as Christ does the church.” As Christ is faithful to the church, we are to be faithful to one another. As Christ forgives the church, we are to be forgiving to one another. For Christ that forgiveness was not easy to give, it took giving up his life for her on a cross, as Paul says, to cleanse her, to present her to himself beautiful, without spot or wrinkle, in her priestly white linen wedding dress, her mantle, as we touch on last Sunday. The point is - we get married because marriage is designed to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church. Marriage is not just a metaphor for that relationship that the church uses for teaching purposes, marriage exists to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church.
Analogy - just to really drive the point home.

Paul uses the analogy between the body and the church, where everyone has different gifts and so functions differently in the body all subject to the one head who is Christ. And one part of the body cannot say to the other part, I don’t need you. We all need each other. He is drawing a simple analogy. But the human body does not exist in order to demonstrate that analogy. We exist because we were created by God and in his image. The point of many comparisons is simply that, to draw a comparison. Both items have their own reason for existence.

Marriage exists to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church. And it has to be our purpose in our relationships together to demonstrate the primary relationship. If we understand that basic point, then we have understood a revelatory dynamic that has the power to change our marriages forever. Marriage is all about demonstrating the relationship between Christ and the church. Understanding this truth gives couples the power to forgive each other, even if a spouse has been unfaithful. Understanding this has the power to shape behavior into Christlikeness and it lays at the foundation for the roles that scripture portrays between a husband and a wife. Yes, any role is possible if we go by culture, if we go by the standards of our age. But if we understand that the very reason marriage exists is to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church, then our understanding of our roles will be shaped by Christ and the church.

Now we also notice in our study of Genesis 2 that when the first marriage between Adam and Eve had a breakdown because of their covenant unfaithfulness to God, they experienced shame, and their first response to shame was to dress themselves in garments of wilting fig leaves. That was the beginning of hypocrisy, putting on a false front. We all have our fig leaves don’t we. But we discovered in his grace, God gave them new clothing to wear, Christ and the church kind of clothing that to sacrifice because they were garments of skin.

And we found as we looked at that theme, as we looked at Colossians, 3:12 , where Paul uses a marriage description of us, chosen, holy and beloved, we are to wear compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other. That is the mantle of the Spirit that God has given to us his bride. These are the characteristics that we are to live in our marriage today, not because they are a formula for a good marriage, not because it will be a source of our happiness, not because we are simply told to, but because the aim of each of our marriages is to emulate the relationship between Christ and the church. Five times in this passage, Paul says that its all about Christ and the church!

Why am I hammering this theme? Very simply, it is the foundation for a Christian view of marriage. If we forget the biblical purpose of marriage, then we might as well adopt our cultures stands, we might as well adopt a perspective of marriage that it fits between any two people regardless of gender or religion or age or family relationship, we might as well shape our relationships any way that we see fit, we might as well have multiple wives or husbands, we might as well terminate our marriages anytime we find them inconvenient, we might as well forget about marriage all together and just call it what our culture calls it, a contractual relationship. We might as well toss out our understanding of marriage as something sacred because without this backbone of Christ and the church there is nothing sacred about it. Its sacredness comes from Christ and the church. And the challenge for each one of us is to live it out every day so that it emulates Christ and the church.

Next Sunday, we are going to look at that more closely and I hope very practically. How do we as husbands emulate the relationship between Christ and the church (I however will not neglect the role of wives in this relationship). The following Sunday we will focus on wives, without neglecting the husbands.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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