Seeing the pictures of the British royal wedding from two years ago, it reminds us of the ultimate royal wedding to come; when the King of kings marries the Bride that He has been waiting for since time began.
As we examine what the Bible says about marriage, it becomes obvious that God has things in mind that often escape us. Looking at Ephesians 5, it becomes obvious that marriage from God’s perspective is not about us. It is not about a man and a woman. It is not about the human institution between a husband and a wife. It is about Christ and His bride to be, the Church.
“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” (Ephesians 5:25-33 NKJV).
First of all we see that husbands are to love their wives “in the same way as” Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? He “gave Himself for her.” Whoever came up with the idea that husbands are to lord over their wives and abuse them and treat them unkindly didn’t get it from the Bible. Does Christ lord it over the church? He is Lord of the church but He doesn’t lord over her. Does Christ abuse the church? There are some from time to time who abuse and misuse the church, but it isn’t Jesus! He doesn’t scream at her or make her feel insignificant. He serves her and does only what is good for her. In the same way, human husbands are to serve their wives and speak kindly to them.
Christ’s purpose in giving Himself for the church was “that He might set it apart (sanctify it) and cleanse it.” Again, the way that Christ deals with the church is positive and for her benefit. Husbands are to love their wives “in the same way.” Christ sets the church apart and cleanses it “with the washing of water by the word.” He sets the church apart “that He might present it to Himself a glorious church.” Christ will present His own bride to Himself; and He will present Himself with a glorious church, not a rundown, beat up gaggle of believers “just holding on” as best they can. His bride will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” His bride will be spotless; it will be a beautiful, young-looking virgin. It will not be a tired, haggard-looking, senile old bat! His work in setting His bride apart is that she will be “holy and without blemish!”
“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.” Christ loved the church as He loved His own self. He is our pattern. As I love my wife, I benefit myself. As we learn from Emerson Eggerichs in “Love and Respect,” his love motivates her respect, and her respect motivates his love. The more a husband loves his wife, the more his wife returns the very things he needs from her. As the church sees and comes to understand the great love that Christ has for her, it motivates a deep reverence in return. The deeper the reverence, the more committed the church becomes to fulfill Christ’s purposes for her. As we men nourish and cherish our own bodies, not intentionally inflicting pain or suffering on ourselves, we are to love our wives in the same way. The Lord Jesus nourishes and cherishes the church as His dearly loved bride.
Each individual believer is a member of the body of Christ, so as we respond to His great love for us by loving our wives, we demonstrate that we belong to Him. In the same way that Christ left His Father’s side to come to earth and win His bride, husbands are to leave their parents and be joined to their wives, that the two can become one in Christ.
Paul says that this is a great mystery. There is much about this that we don’t understand; but I believe that he is telling us that marriage is for the purpose of demonstrating to us the relationship of Christ to His bride, not just for our enjoyment or even for procreation. These are but side effects or fringe benefits of the bigger picture. Even though it isn’t primarily about the human relationship, or the human institution, we still learn from God’s illustration to conduct ourselves in a way that doesn’t take away from His picture but, in the end, as we love our wives and the wives respect their husbands, the eternal relationship of the Lamb of God and His bride are magnified!