Ephesians 5:22-33 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own 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 the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
All too often, it seems the passage above is reserved exclusively for Bible studies geared toward marriage enrichment, or for wedding ceremonies. In these settings, the obvious focus is on how God intends husbands and wives to treat one another and how our earthly marriages should operate. I personally can’t recall another circumstance or context under which I’ve studied this passage in any real depth. While the aforementioned occasions are certainly appropriate times to consider such instruction, it seems there is an even greater lesson to be learned from this idea of marriage than how a husband and wife are to coexist. There is no doubt the Bible teaches that the marriage relationship is vitally important and should be adhered to as designed by God. But the Spirit also makes it clear in the passage above that marriage is, in reality, a type of an even more important and intimate relationship – the union Christ has with His church.
The institution established all the way back at creation in Genesis 2 points ahead thousands of years to what’s revealed on the last few pages of scripture – the marriage supper of the Lamb. And throughout scripture, which is literally bookended by the subject, marriage is consistently used to describe the intimate relationship God desires to have with His people.
There are several passages in the Old Testament that refer to God being like a husband to Israel in how He cared for, loved, provided for and protected them. (Jer. 3:1-14;Jer. 31:31-33). Yet, despite all God did, the frequent, sad reality was unfaithfulness on the part of the people. Many times the idolatry of the nation was likened to harlotry (Jer. 3:2). The prophet Hosea was even told to take a prostitute for a wife and her illegitimate children as his own because that is basically what God’s people had become. The Old Testament ends rather bleakly with God bringing charges against His people for the mess they’d made of their physical and spiritual marriage covenants.
11 Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD’S holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god.
Yet, as dysfunctional as things seem to be left when the Old Testament closes, there is equal hope as the New Testament opens with the coming of the Bridegroom. That is the language John the Baptist uses to refer to Jesus (John 3:29) and even how Jesus refers to Himself (Matt. 9:15). Following a very similar pattern to the traditional Jewish wedding custom of the time, Jesus:
Left His Father’s house to travel to the bride’s home (Phil. 2:5-8)
Paid the required price for the bride (Acts 20:28; I Peter 1:18-19)
Established a covenant with the bride (Matt. 26:26-29)
Left to make living arrangements for His bride back at His father’s house (John 14:1-4)
Will come back for His bride without warning/unannounced/unexpected (I Thess. 5:1-2; Matt. 24:42-44)
Christ did all of this because He loves us, He wants to save use and wants to be united with His church. He has made this possible through the covenant He established by His blood. That was the price to purchase the church. When we think about all Christ did for us so that we can be united with our Lord forever, and remember that He did it while we were still sinners, it makes it much easier to make the kind of commitment that is required. When we accept and obey the gospel we are betrothed to Christ. We are committed and dedicated to Him. We see this same marriage analogy used several places in the New Testament (Rom 7:4; 2 Cor. 11:2-3). We are to be sanctified and set apart for Him. This requires us to give up some things we might have grown accustomed to. We can’t be friends of the world any longer. The Spirit doesn’t mince any words when He writes through James:
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
There is a commitment that needs to be made. But we are shown that it is well worth any sacrifice we might make here on earth. Some of scripture’s concluding scenes in The Revelation of Jesus Christ; some of the final images we are left with are of the marriage of the Lamb and the bride. While what God set in motion at the very beginning is still somewhat of a mystery for us, He leaves us with some insight.
In Revelation 21, John is shown the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The Spirit describes what John sees the best we are able to comprehend it. But if I were to summarize his vision it would be: beauty, purity, safety and a wonderfully intimate relationship with God and His people. It says in that beautiful description:
There is no temple – the Lord and the Lamb are the temple
The throne of God is there
“They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads”
What was described of Eden just before the creation of marriage seems to be restored and enhanced. This is what God intends our relationship to be with Him and His Son. And He has done everything possible to allow this to be our reality:
He has created us in His image
Given us His Son as a sacrifice for our sins
To purchase and redeem us
To sanctify and cleanse us
Given us His Spirit to help in that process as we wait
Let’s use everything God has given us to be ready and prepared when He returns.
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.