August 11, 1998 (original version)
What is marriage in a theological sense? Or shall I ask about theological specifics about marriage since it is a very theologically significant event in my understanding? Well, first, what does society have to say about marriage?
Society has its own views of marriage. Society, in many ways, misses the point and undermines what marriage is. Society has its expectations yet takes marriage likely as seen with the 60 % divorce rate among newlyweds. Many live together and marriage is just "one of those things you do." Further, the very definition of marriage is debated as some push their agenda for homosexual marriages. A homosexual marriage is an oxymoron. The Bible states that a MAN shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his WIFE and the two shall become one (Genesis 2:24, echoed in Ephesians 5:31. Note that "wife" also shows the condition of marriage needing to be satisfied before sexual union can rightfully occur). This is a male/female relationship which is a picture of the God/Israel, Christ/Church, Groom/Bride model. A homosexual union is not only unnatural (as depicted in Romans 1), but such a union does not follow the spiritual model of God/Israel, Christ/Church, Groom/Bride
(See http://beacondeacon.com/ichthus/issues/homosexuality.htm for more about homosexuality). Like society, I sometimes miss the point or signficance of marriage; it is a significant spiritual event that greatly impacts me.
God set up the institution of marriage. In Genesis 2:18, "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone..." (NIV). God took Eve from Adam's rib, not his feet, nor his head, but from his side near his heart. And soon after the account where God makes this woman from the man's rib, the Bible uses the term "wife" in reference to Eve showing that she and Adam are married by God. She was part of the man's body only for the man and woman to become one again in marriage. Her being part of his body is significant. When a believing man and a believing woman are married, they are united not only with one another, but also with Christ. As the end of Ecclesiastes 4:12 states, ". . . A cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (NIV), the third cord being Christ. A believing couple is called to follow the model of Christ's love for His Church -- His bride. Christians are members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Yet, as the Church, they compose the Bride of Christ.
Ephesians 5:25-32 captures the significance of marriage: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church -- for we are members of His body. `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery -- but I am talking about Christ and the Church" (NIV).
The husband is to love the wife as his own body. Eve was from Adam's body. The Bride of Christ is the Church and she is made up of members of the Body of Christ. Christ/Church mirrors God/Israel for Christ is God (John 8:53-58, John 10:30, John 12:41 with Isaiah 6:1-3, John 14:6, Acts 4:8-12, Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15-20) and the Church has joined the new Israel (Hebrews 12:22-24, 1 Peter 2:4, 9-10, Revelation 21:9-10). How God loved Israel even when she was unfaithful (refer to the book of Hosea especially)! How Christ loves His Church! I recall praying one time about the brokenness I had experienced in romantic relationships with women. I put forth to God that I knew that He was all-knowing, but I also said to Him that He had not had a string of women break His heart. Soon, I was silenced in my words as I seemed to enter a humbling awe in His presence. He has had a bride (made up of many people) who prostitutes herself with the things of the world and yet, He still loves her with the greatest love of all to the point of torture and death on the cross.
Marriage, then, is more than a couple of "I do's." It is a significant theological event for the individuals involved and it is a model of one of the greatest spiritual events!
Well, I have scripturally backed what is written thus far, so this should settle well with the reader. Yet, there is more in Scripture than what I have written. What about submission? Ephesians 5:21-24 (NIV) states, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." I am sure some readers are already attacking. "Submission" strikes a nerve in some people. Those who are politically correct or postmodern will frown on this. Some equate submission with slave-driving and totalitarian patriarchy. I won't dance around the bush; they are misinformed. Notice that before mentioning that wives submit to husbands, the Scripture says that we should submit to one another out of reverence for the Lord. There is a mutual submission. We are to love one
another. A marriage should not be built on "equality," but rather, "mutuality." Sometimes, the husband will need to pull 70% and the wife will be pulling 30%. Sometimes the wife will pull 70% and the husband will only be pulling 30%. Life does not work 50/50. Scores should not be kept. If one has to do dishes more than the other sometimes, so be it!!! Do it out of love for the other. Don't keep track and score of who does what. Just do it! Granted, we all can abuse such an arrangement and shirk our work, but out of love for spouse and reverence for Christ, we are called -- both men and women -- to do better than that. Further, regarding submission, in view of all I have written prior to this paragraph, why is submission a problem? If a man is striving (by the Holy Spirit) to be Christ-like and a couple strives to have a Christ-centered marriage, then submission should not be a problem to the degree people make it these days. Did Christ beat, abuse, or slave drive His Church? NO! Did Christ sit around and do
nothing for her and make her do all the work? NO! On the contrary, while the Church lacked faith, Christ loved her and died for her showing the greatest love of all (Even though we were yet sinners, Christ still died for us. See Romans 5:8. And there is no greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends. See John 15:13). Wouldn't a woman want to submit to a husband who so humbled himself and and loved her as Christ has done the Church? Wouldn't a man want to love his wife as his own body -- a woman who is faithful to Christ, to him, and to the calls of marriage, including submission? Strive in Christ for such things. I heard one of my feminist friends in college attack the submission command. I did not say the response I write following, nor am I in the place to claim righteousness, but I felt like saying to her, "Hang on a tree for 6 hours some Friday afternoon while people mock you and kill you. And do this for the one you love even when that person cheats on you. Then, I will listen to you
criticize the Bible for calling a husband to be willing to love likewise. Otherwise, be silent." For that is what Christ did for us. Further, this same woman belittled 1 Corinthians 7:2a where it states that each man should have his own wife. In her loud and ludicrous attack saying that the Bible made women to be property, she failed to hear 1 Corinthians 7:2b which states that each woman should have her own husband. I know there are men who have abused their role in marriage, who have abused the wife, who have slave-driven her, or who have not loved her as the Bible calls. So, it is understandable how "submission," as some have experienced it, strikes a cord in some people. Yet, think about it Biblically, and think about it in the context -- namely, Christ and the Church. Husbands, think about the character of Christ. Wives, think about the character of a Bible-believing Church. Both husbands and wives, be involved in the Church and strive (by the Holy Spirit) to be Christ-like. I hope and pray that "submission"
makes more sense to you now. Further, I pray that the significance of marriage is apparent.
So, there are great responsibilities and struggles that come with the callings of a Christian marriage. In view of the theological meaning behind marriage, how much greater the responsibility to love one another. How great the struggles may be when everything the world says undermines what marriage should be. Yet, God calls us to be holy as He is holy (See 1 Peter 1:16). And He enables us by His Spirit to be holy (See Acts 1:8 and Philippians 4:13). No one reaches perfection until heaven, but strive in the Spirit (See Philippians 3:13-14). Do you believe in the significance of a Biblical marriage? Do you believe that Scripture is relevant to the modern marriage? "I do."
With love in Christ,
James "Jamie" A. Johnson
denotes a January 2017 addition/modification