The Bible begins with marriage, continues to be a frequent topic, and ends with marriage (Genesis 2:24; Revelation 19-22). Biblically, marriage is established in creation and is a covenant. We see this marriage covenant used in metaphors and as a theological actuality of the relationship of God to His people, from which we are taught many important lessons. Marriage is a covenant made before God and man and a lifetime commitment of companionship. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Entering into this covenant is a lifelong companionship characterised by fidelity, trust, love, commitment, and procreation.
Not only is there to be companionship between the man and the woman, but it must be a “profound union”. The depth of this relationship is understood when we read Genesis 2:23-24, saying, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In the beginning, we are told that woman was taken out of the man. It is followed by “Therefore“. In other words, because the woman was taken out of the man’s bone and flesh, in coming together in this covenant relationship, the two are to become “one once again”. That is why a man must leave his father and mother, and his primary loyalty must be to his wife and must cling together as one. Initially, there will be an emotional attachment to your parents, but once you enter into a covenant relationship with your wife, you will be one in a union, primarily identifying with your wife and living a fully shared life.
Notice here that there is to be such an intimate bond that it even overrides the blood relationship to your parents, meaning that all other relations are only secondary to your primary one with your wife. It is critical to understand the depth and profound truth of this union because this earthy union points towards the actual spiritual reality in which we must grow in our love for God and understand His relationship with His people. This profound mystery relates to Christ and His church and is explained to us in Ephesians 5:22-33.
Even in the Old Testament, prophets often used marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people. We see examples of this when the people of Israel went into idolatry, and prophets such as Hosea and Jeremiah spoke against this behaviour. The love of God here is described and compared to that of a husband for his wife. Likewise, when Israel went into idolatry, it was compared to a wife’s adulterous relationship (Hosea 1,2; Jeremiah 2,4). On the other hand, Yahweh is likened to a loving husband willing to restore His relationship with unfaithful Isreal. It must be noted that Hosea spoke about this relationship and lived it out by marrying a wife of whoredom, to liken it to Israel (Hosea 1:2-3).
Likewise, in the New Testament, when we read through passages like Ephesians 5, we see the covenant relationship and institution of marriage as a mystery that reveals Jesus Christ and the church. We must know the beauty to which a Christian marriage points. It is one that a family in Christ must represent and apply to daily living with your spouse. So what does this look like according to Ephesians 5?
First, to wives – wives are to submit to their own husbands as to the Lord. The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and himself its Savior. So as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit in everything to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24). This self-submission is a quality of a godly wife in Christ as it is a picture of the church submitting to Christ as the head.
Secondly, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. In order to sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. So He might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). Then in the following passages, husbands are instructed to love their wives similarly. The example of how Christ loves the church is a model of how a husband is to love His wife. It is profound truth and the extent of your self-sacrificial love for your wife. You are to love your wife like loving your own body. The same way you care for your body, provide for it, sustain it, and everything you do is to keep yourself. In like manner, you are to cherish your wife, just as Christ does the church. What a beautiful picture of marriage and God’s relationship with us. This union is why a man must leave his father and mother, holding fast to his wife, and become one flesh (Ephesians 5:28-31).
The mystery is profound because doing this points to the spiritual reality of Christ and the church. That is why the husband is to love his wife and let the wife respect her husband (Ephesians 5:32-33). The church is betrothed to Christ, and the believer is in union with Him (2 Corinthians 11:1-3; 1 Corinthians 6:16-17). Likewise, a true believer in Christ must reflect this spiritual reality and union in our earthly marriage with our own wife. As a result, you will glorify God and represent your relationship with Christ. Amen!
This theme continues into revelation and to the close of the scriptures, where we will eternally dwell with Christ. R.C. Ortlund Jr describes below:
After Babylon, the ‘great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication’ (Rev. 19:2), has been judged by God, the victorious saints rejoice that ‘the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready’ (Rev. 19:7). It is granted to her to be clothed with ‘fine linen, bright and pure’, which is the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev. 19:8). The Husband of the bride presents the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind (*cf. Eph. 5:26–27). The antitypical reality finally appears as the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). There will be no human marriages in heaven (Mark 12:25), for heaven will be the marriage.
It is difficult to discuss this without using more lofty prose, as Jonathan Edwards illustrates (*Works [Edinburgh, 1979 reprint], vol. 2, p. 22):
Then the church shall be brought to the full enjoyment of her bridegroom, having all tears wiped away from her eyes; and there shall be no more distance or absence. She shall then be brought to the entertainments of an eternal wedding-feast, and to dwell for ever with her bridegroom; yea, to dwell eternally in his embraces. Then Christ will give her his loves; and she shall drink her fill, yea, she shall swim in the ocean of his love.
To sum up: the overall pattern of biblical teaching on marriage discloses typological symmetry from Genesis to Revelation, as the ‘one-flesh-ness’ of human marriage, sacred but provisional, points forward and upward to the eternal spiritual union of Christ with his bride, the church. The symbolism inherent in earthly marriage lends the relationship greater dignity; its significance goes beyond the human and temporal to the divine and eternal.
(R. C. Ortlund Jr., “Marriage,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 656–657.)
In conclusion, I encourage you to examine your marriage and check if it aligns with the biblical method. Does it reflect and point to the spiritual union of Christ and His church? If not, take time to pray and meditate on the word to make the changes you need. So that you may reflect on what God has ordained through your marriage, bring glory to God, and be an example of the beautiful relationship between Christ and His church. Amen!