Have you ever noticed that the Bible is book-ended by marriage? Gen 2 tells us about the first marriage in history, between Adam and Eve; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” [Gen 2:24].
Rev 21 tells us about a bride adorned for her husband; “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” [Rev 21:9-10, see also 21:1-2].
And in between, we see all manner of marriages; good ones and bad ones, and even surprising ones, like Hosea’s marriage to the prostitute Gomer [see Hos 1-3].
Marriage is a major theme of the Bible, but it is my guess that few people understand why marriage is so important.
Ephesians chapter 5 tells us about how husbands and wives should relate to each other.
And this passage causes all sorts of angst and argument and criticism, especially the bit that says “the husband is the head of the wife … wives should submit in everything to their husbands” [Eph 5:23 & 24].
Tragically, this passage has been used as a weapon against women for centuries, frequently ignoring the command to husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” [Eph 5:25].
In fact, when this was originally written, it would have shocked the Ephesians. That wives should submit went without saying. That’s just what a wife was expected to do in ancient cultures – and sadly, in many modern cultures.
But to expect a husband to lay down his life for his wife? Now that was truly outrageous – even scandalous. Whoever heard of such a thing?
Yet, we find that this is precisely what marriage is all about. For the whole purpose of marriage is far more than just the joy and pleasure of a husband and wife.
Because marriage was designed from the very beginning as a picture of the gospel. It is intended to tell us something about God’s eternal plan to prepare a people to be a bride for His Son.
God has always been bringing people together, and bringing people to Himself. God has always been uniting people to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Every person who ever gets born again becomes a part of the church, which is the body of Christ, His bride.
“This mystery is profound,” Paul says in Eph 5:32, “and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” That’s why marriage – true marriage – can only be between one man and one woman, for life.
It’s nothing to do with human rights, or homophobia – it doesn’t even have anything to do with love. The problem is that anything else tells the wrong story about God.
Christ is making His bride perfect, little by little and bit by bit. He gave His life for her, to make her clean, to make her pure.
Husbands, you need to remember that when you are tempted to ‘lay down the law’ to your wife. And wives, you need to remember that when you don’t feel like following your husband’s godly leadership. For our marriages are telling a story of Christ and the church.
One day – not yet, but one day – Christ will present His bride to Himself “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” [Eph 5:27].
What a beautiful thing to look forward to. But it is only for those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ.
Have you done that? Have you turned to Him in faith? Will you be at the marriage supper of the Lamb at the end of time?