“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
(Ephesians 5:25 ESV)
If there were a survey conducted among Americans that asked the question, “What is the purpose of your marriage?” 90% of people are going to answer by saying “marriage is about loving each other and making each other happy.”
While this is true, this is not the purpose of marriage. The purpose of marriage is to give the world a picture of Christ and His Church.
But what does this mean for us? Why would Paul compare these two things? What correlation do our marriages have with the Gospel?
• New Identity – When a person becomes a Christian they receive a new identity. They are no longer defined by the things of the world but are now defined by their relationship with Christ. In 2 Corinthians we see that when a person comes to Christ they actually become a new person altogether. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
When a man marries a woman they become “one” and she assumes his last name. This “new name” is symbolic of their new relationship. She is no longer identified by who she was as the daughter of her father but she now has a new name to mark her new life with her husband.
• Service – As a Christian you are called to die to yourself. Your life is no longer about you because you have been “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). We want to serve Christ because of the work He did on our behalf. We do His work on earth so that others can see our love for Him and bring Him glory.
As a spouse we serve our partner out of a desire to show them our love. We want to be a helper and set ourselves aside so we can enrich the lives of our partner. These outward professions of service give us the opportunity to express the inward love we have for them.
• Sanctification – Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Christ. This process begins when we accept Christ and the Holy Spirit comes into our heart. It doesn’t conclude until we are glorified with Christ in Heaven. Becoming like Christ takes time and isn’t always easy to experience.
Marriage is one means God uses to speed up this process. Marriage is the union between two sinners who each come in with rough edges. Through marriage these rough edges rub against each other and eventually begin to smooth each other out. Through this refinement both spouses tend to become more sanctified.
• Covenant – Under the new covenant God promises an everlasting relationship with His people if they believe in His Son Jesus as their savior. It’s not a conditional covenant that can be relinquished; once we enter into this covenant with God it is eternal.
Marriage is a covenant relationship as well. We aren’t in marriage “as long as everything goes our way.” It is intended to be a lifelong commitment “for better or worse.” When we enter into this covenant we are accepting the good from our partner as well as the bad. Covenants should not be taken lightly. God takes His promises seriously, as should we.
• Idolatry – God means it when He says in Exodus 20, “You shall have no gods before Me.” He never intended us to worship anything but Him. Since the Church is the bride of Christ, worshipping anything but God is committing infidelity against God.
In the same way, to have an inappropriate relationship with someone other than our spouse is to commit infidelity. We are putting the feelings of someone else above that of our spouse. The bond we form with this other person becomes more important to us than the effect that it will have on the person we have at home. We elevate someone else to the position of highest regard. This is the essence of an affair.
There is a direct correlation between how the world sees your marriage and how it views the Gospel. If you show them a marriage full of lies, resentment, and selfishness then the world is going to have a distorted view of the Gospel. If you show them a marriage full of honesty, commitment, and service then they are going to see a clear picture. Now the question becomes, are you showing the world a distorted picture of the Gospel or a clear one?