The Mystery of Marriage (Our Union with Christ)
By Matthew Black, Pastor
Text: Ephesians 5:25-33
Date: Sunday, May 17, 2009
Tabernacle Baptist Church
7020 Barrington Road
Hanover Park, Illinois 60133
Introduction: Open your Bible to the book of Ephesians 5:25-33. The title of the message this morning is “The Mystery of Marriage”.
Ephesians 5:25-33, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
[Prayer for Guidance]
A. Introduction. We come to the subject of marriage this morning and we are going to find out WHY it is so important. Marriage is not ultimately about finding happiness in a mate or raising beautiful children. It’s not about financial or emotional security. Marriage is profoundly deeper than all of these things. It is a picture of a much more amazing relationship. We need to view marriage with an eternal perspective. Marriage is temporary institution. Matthew 22:30, “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Why is that? Because our temporary marriages are a type and picture of our marriage to Christ. Marriage on earth points to our eternal marriage to our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Paul says in Ephesians 5:32, “This is a great [profound] mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
B. Definition. In the Bible, the term “mystery” means “a hidden reality that is now revealed”. In other words, it is a picture of Christ and the church, but it was not revealed until Christ came to earth. It wouldn’t have made sense. Unknown to the people of the Old Testament (it was a ‘mystery’), marriage was designed by God from the beginning to be a picture of the believer’s union with Christ. Back when God was planning what marriage would be like, He planned it for this great purpose: it would give a beautiful earthly picture of the relationship that would someday come about between Christ and His church”.
Paul says marriage “is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (verse 32). A husband and wife ought to see themselves as miniature portrait studios of Christ.
The coming together of two completely opposite human beings becoming one new entity in marriage is a profound mystery that displays our union with Jesus Christ. When you think of marriage, God made it a living painting of Christ and the church. God has so ordered the institution of marriage that it illustrates the union that Christ has with those who are one with Him. Human marriage illustrates our spiritual marriage or union with Christ.
There are seven pictures in this mystery of Marriage that we are going to look at this morning. Remember the marriage of Adam and Eve is a type of Christ and His church. You are His church if you know Christ. Let’s unfold the mystery of marriage right now.
I. Picture 1: Before marriage, there is great Anticipation. If you have ever been in love you can relate with this. There is great loneliness and waiting and hoping for that special person.
So first aspect in marriage that illustrates our relationship with Christ is a deep longing. To understand this, we need to go the passage Paul is quoting from in Genesis 2:18-25. Turn there if you would. Adam is created by God on the sixth day. He’s given the promise of a helper, but just after that, he’s told to name the animals.
We read, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him”.
There is a deep anticipation in waiting for marriage. There is something marvelous and fabulous even in our temporary marriages, that makes us long for that right person. Adam surely had this anticipation. God says in verse 18, “I will make him an help meet for him”. Yes! Adam must be thinking! I’m not going to be alone any more! Immediately after this promise, Adam is told to name all the animals. That’s a huge authority. It shows his dominion over them. It shows that he is different them.
Now, Adam’s naming of the animals seems out of place, but it really is not. He would have noticed that there was a he-dog and a she-dog, a he-elephant and a she-elephant, and even a he-eagle and a she-eagle, but there was no one that matched him.
Adam realized he was different than all the animals. He had dominion and authority over all of them. He was not like them. He was made in God’s image, and he had God’s delegated authority seen in naming all the animals. But there was no one like him. There was not another that was God’s image bearer. Adam was alone. God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (verse 18), but after naming all the animals, Moses records, “for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (verse 20). Of course God does make that helper to complete Adam in verses 21-25.
But let’s go back to Paul’s statement. He says the profound mystery of marriage is that the union between husband and wife in marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. So we see that men and women coming together in marriage is not the ultimate completeness God wants for us. It is only a picture of that ultimate completeness.
Therefore, all human loneliness was given to remind us of our need for God. Without God we are alone. And we all have the longing and anticipated for our coming Bridegroom when he will consummate the marriage and unite with His Bride as one forever.
We need to make a clarification.
1. God is never lonely. He does not need us. God is utterly complete in Himself. God is perfectly complete in Himself.
2. It is us who desperately needs God. We are lonely because we need God.
3. Marriage is designed to be a picture of our companionship with God. We long to be with our beloved.
II. Picture 2: There is a second Picture in the mystery of marriage: it is Passion (verse 25) is an important mark in marriage, and it is a picture of our union with Jesus Christ. A man should love his wife. We read in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”
Jesus Christ gave up everything to redeem His Bride.
He became “sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”.
O, how the Saviour “loved the church, and gave himself for it” (verse 25)!!! How He has loved His bride “with an everlasting love”. How He has drawn her with “chords of loving kindness”.
A. Explanation: There is deep passion and pursuit in a marriage. There’s an obsession, an excitement, an enthusiasm that comes with being in love. You are willing to forsake everything for the one you love. A man is willing to drop everything and move across country to see the one he loves. He will pursue her to the ends of the earth. He will write letters to his beloved even if he hates English and grammar. When I was in college, I used to have these poor guys that never paid attention in English come to me and ask me for help in writing their girlfriend a letter. Guys will do anything when they are in love!
B. Illustration: A man in love will climb any mountain, cross any river, swim any ocean to be near his beloved. Men have forsaken all others for their Bride. This passion in marriage beautifully illustrates Christ’s love for His church, His Bride!
C. Application: Listen, whether you are married here today or not, if you know Christ, you have the ultimate intimacy and love! Do you love Christ? Have you forsaken all others for Him? Do you reciprocate that deep, deep love of Jesus?
III. Picture 3: There is a third Picture in the mystery of marriage: Purity (verse 27). A man and a woman must remain pure until marriage. They must also remain pure within their marriage to one another.
We read in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
A. First and foremost, this text speaks of our imputed righteousness in Christ. This verse is a direct reference to His Second Coming. When He comes we will be robed in His righteousness!
B. Secondly, this verse is speaking of our own practical purity. If you are part of the Bride of Christ, you are to be pure, and this is seen in marriage. The betrothed bride is to reserve her purity for her husband, and then she is to remain faithful to her husband.
We all need to guard our purity before we get married, and once we are married we need to remain faithful. Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
Application: One thing that must characterize a marriage is purity and fidelity. In the same way, your relationship with Christ should not only be one of longing, but also of purity.
Paul says to his Corinthian brothers and sisters: 2 Corinthians 11:2, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
Are you pure and faithful in your marriage to Christ? Do you have all your longings met in Him?
IV. Picture 4: There is a fourth Picture in the mystery of marriage: Provision (verses 28-29). A man should protect his wife. Verse 28-29, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”.
A. Explanation: The word “nourish” means to provide for and to care for. A man is to be the bread winner in the home. He is to care for the woman. The woman is to depend on her husband. A husband is to nourish his wife “even as the Lord the church”. That’s amazing!
B. Application: How has Christ nourished His church?
1. He is our Shepherd. Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” You can see how Christ is the believer’s provider. Psalm 84:11, “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Christ will nourish His Bride. He will provide for her in every way. He cares for her.
2. He helps His Bride to thrive and flourish. He would have His Bride to “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). He gives us His Word and His presence!
3. 1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
V. Picture 5: There is a fifth Picture in the mystery of marriage: Protection. Verse 28-29, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”. The word cherish means “to warm with body heat”. It has the idea of not leaving the body vulnerable. A man is to protect his wife. What does Paul mean about nourishing and cherishing his own body? Well, when your body is vulnerable you cherish it. When you hit your thumb with the hammer you carefully protect it and shelter it. You make sure no one and nothing can do it any more injury.
God is jealous for his people. He is our shelter and our shield and our high tower. Christ cherishes His Church. Do you realize what Christ has done for us?
He bore the wrath of God for us! He took the shame of our sin upon us! He intercedes for us. He guides us. He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you”. We abide under the shelter of His wings. We can say “I am His and He is mine!”
VI. Picture 6: There is a sixth Picture in the mystery of marriage: Completion (verse 30-31). A man and a woman become one flesh. Christ and believers are one body. Verses 30-31, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh”.
There is a leaving and cleaving in marriage. A man needs to completely leave his parents house and cleave to his wife. The word “leave” means “to leave behind or abandon”. The man needs to cut all the ties with home, and be the sole supporter of his wife, and he is to “be joined unto his wife” (verse 31). Remember what Jesus said, “And what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).
The word “joined” means “to be glued to.” When you glue something together, it becomes stronger at that point than the whole rest of the object. It may break at other places, but it will never break at that point. If you try to break it at that point, you will end up with a disaster. That’s why God says in Malachi 2:16, “The Lord the God of Israel says He hates divorce." God hates anything that breaks up this union.
There is such an amazing union in marriage. The two become one physically, emotionally, one in purpose, one in heart and mind. Yet, there is still a lack of total fulfillment in marriage because it is not supposed to fulfill us or ultimately complete us.
There can be wonderful happiness in marriage if God has called you to that. But even in the very best of marriages, on the very best of days, there can be deep loneliness. Why? Because no human being is capable of giving us all that we need. Our completion is not ultimately in our marriage to another human being. That is just a picture, a figure, a mystery. Our ultimate completion is in our marriage to Christ! Paul tells us in Colossians 2:10, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power”.
Truly, there is still a loneliness for all people whether single or married. We are not yet complete. Whether single or married, the hearts of men and women ache for a companionship that cannot be found in this world. The deep longing we have for companionship cannot be ultimately fulfilled in marriage. If you think that, you will make your marriage an idol. Marriage is to be a living picture of our fulfillment in God. No human being on this earth can ultimately give us ultimate fulfillment, because human marriage is a temporary picture of the ultimate fulfillment we have in our marriage to Jesus Christ.
Application: So let’s apply this picture. The longing a man has to marry a woman (or a woman for a man) is the longing we all ought to have for Christ. Sometimes it hurts so bad when you’re lonely. Your heart aches. The question this morning is: Does your heart ache for Christ this morning? If you think another human being is going to make you supremely happy, you are sadly wrong. You will have a life of frustration if you seek your happiness here on this earth. You must find your completion in Christ with Him as the Head and Master and Lover of your life.
VII. Picture 7: There is a seventh Picture in the mystery of marriage: Procreation. For this last point, we need to leave Ephesians and go back to Genesis 1. We are going to see the most amazing miracle that happens in a marital relationship is that God blesses them with the miracle of children. Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”.
A marriage adds another dimension when children are added. Today, many marriages are skipping on children for selfish reasons. Children in this culture have become a burden—just something that gets in the way. Or even worse, they are “accidents” that occur on your way to pleasure and happiness. That is a pagan worldview, but it is prominent in the abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, and other organizations that are destroying the fabric of our American society.
Children are not accidents! Children are a gift from God. Children require the 100% effort and love and care from their mother and father. And it’s not just the mother’s job to raise the children.
Illustration: I have heard that the great reformer Martin Luther was a real family. He really got into the domestic duties. He loved his children. He loved to bring them with him on his activities. He would pick them up and show them off. He also loved to instruct his seminary students upon graduation about married and family life.
When a young man would marry, the great reformer Martin Luther always gave him an exhortation. He would take the young man aside and tell him, “Understand this, my son, angels smile every time a mother changes a diaper, but angels laugh every time a father changes a diaper, and angels love to laugh!” “God is going to do something in you,” Luther would say, “and it isn’t going to happen any other way than through the changing of diapers and the holding of hands and the process of being a father.”
You see raising children takes your whole effort. Children are more important than your job and your friends. They will live on long after you have died carrying on your love for Christ.
Application: It is hard work to raise children!!
It is important that we bring children into this world, if the Lord allows, and that we raise them for His glory. But this points to a higher illustration of our union with Jesus Christ. We are called into union with Christ to bear fruit. He is the vine, we are the branches!
Look at John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
Conclusion: Listen, in your marriage, all the things that describe it point to Christ.
Anticipation: We anticipate His coming!
Passion: We love Him, we sacrifice for Him. He sacrificed for us!
Purity: We are pure and faithful to Christ.
Provision: We can expect Christ to nourish and provide for us!
Protection: We can live under the protection of Christ.
Completion: Christ completes us!
Procreation: In Christ we bear fruit.
One day there will be no more marriage, and we will have the ultimate marriage to Christ. Our Bridegroom may come at any moment. Are you ready???
 George Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 175-76.