What is Marriage? (Part 3: Grace in Christ)
After the previous post, we want to say like the Psalmist: Ps 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? Where will our help come from? How may we be saved from this grip of sin and death?
Jesus provides an answer for us in his interaction with Nicodemus in the Gospel of John.
John 3:14 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Salvation and hope is found in Jesus Christ alone. We must turn our eyes toward Him. We need to behold Him, and the grace of the cross. With regard to marriage, Paul directs our attention to the redemption in Christ in his letter to the Ephesian Church.
Ephesians 5:24-31 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
The central point of Ephesians 5 is the Work of Christ.
What is the work of Christ according to Ephesians 5? Christ (1)loved the church and he (2)gave himself for her.
Christ loved the Church:
Christ’s work is motivated by His love. Notice that His love is for the church that is still in her sin. The church was not perfect when He set His love on the Church. The Love of Christ is directed at the Church even before she was in the grip of sin and death (Ephesians 1:4-5). His acceptance of responsibility for the church after the fall is motivated by the love with which He loved her in Christ.
The acceptance of this responsibility leads to his death and His death is for the sake of his loved one. The death of Christ is a laying down of His life for His sheep (John 10:14-15). According to Paul in Ephesians 5; It is through His work of loving and giving Himself that the Church is sanctified. The Church becomes pure and holy because of Him, and more particularly, because of His love. Without His work of love, the church would not be holy.
His work of redemption is motivated by His character and not the loveliness of the bride. (Application for husbands: do you love your wife because of how perfect or right she is? Or do you love her because of Christ's love for you? Husbands, you will only be able to provide and give stable love to your wife, when you receive the constant and stable love of Christ. Your love for your wife should not be based on her performance, but must be founded upon the love that Christ has for you. A husband's love for his wife is directly proportional to the love he has for Christ, who first loved him.)
Christ gave himself up for her. Christ came to this world for his Church. He is the Saviour of His bride. He gave up his life for the Church so that she may live. Notice that this work has been completed. He has already died. He already assumed responsibility to be a Husband to His bride. He has behaved like a husband, like a man. (Application for husbands: Are you waiting around for your wife to behave like a wife, before you will behave like a husband? Are you waiting for change to start with her? Christ has set you an example to man up and be a husband to your wife. You are required by Christ to man up and make the first move. You owe it to your Lord. You are duty bound to Him to step up. Do you think He will let you get away with: "I will start to behave like a husband, when she behaves like a wife." If Christ had to follow the logic of some men, He would never have laid down His life for his bride.)
In Ephesians 5, Paul also describes the ongoing work of Christ.
Christ’s continuing work at this time is to SANCTIFY his bride- He makes her holy and perfect and the main instrument for the work of sanctifying her is the word. He may rightly and with authority declare His love for His bride, because He has committed his life to be a husband to her. He gave His life for her and therefore has the right to declare His love for her. (Application for young unmarried women: do not fall for the sweet talk of every young man who whispers love in your ear. Has the young man earned the right to say that he loves you? Do you want the love of a responsible man, who can provide and protect for a family, or the empty words of a sweet talker?)
The purpose of Christ's continuing work is to PRESENT her to Himself in splendor- He sanctifies her for Himself. No-one else may have her, and no one else has the right to declare his love for the Church. (It is appropriate for Christians to love the Church, but no one loves the bride like the husband does. If there is a clash between the will of the husband and the will of someone else, the bride gives preference to her husband. This applies to the church with regard to Christ and to wives with regard to their husbands.)
The efficacy of Christ’s continuing work- the Church will be HOLY- This holiness will be accomplished by the word of Christ. How will the word of Christ accomplish this? His word is effective to produce Holiness, because it is founded upon His work. He has already given up his life, in order that the church may be holy. Christ’s declaration of love is powerful, precisely because he has proven his love by dying for His bride. Therefore His word cannot fail to effectively sanctify His bride. His word is powerful, because His work is finished.
The Secondary point of Ephesians 5 is the response of the Church.
Based on the work of Christ, what is the responsibility of the Church?
The Church has to submit to Christ, be subjected to Christ through the Word. Christ declares Himself husband and behaves like a husband. The Church should respond and the true Church of Christ will respond. The true church cannot fail to submit to Christ. Christ’s word will be effective in sanctifying His bride.
The Application for us:
Husbands, follow the example of Christ, who is perfect and expects you to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1: 15-17), so that you may sanctify your wife. As a husband you are called to love your wife, by giving yourself for her. This does not mean you give her what she wants all of the time (giving yourself to her). It does mean that you give her what she needs (giving yourself up for her). What is it that she needs? A husband who loves her. Who desires for her to be sanctified and holy. Her holiness and sanctification is a crown of glory to you, her husband (1 Corinthians 11:7).
Wives, follow the example of the true Church, (who is being made perfect by her husband). As a wife you are called to submit to your husband as he lovingly leads you. As the Church delights in the word of Christ, so delight in the word of your husband. Pray for him and gladly follow where he leads you in sanctification and holiness (1 Peter 3:5-6).
Husband is the Head of the Home and Christ is the Head of the Church (household of God). Christ is our perfect example: Christ assumes the responsibility of love (give Himself) - His acceptance of responsibility gives power to sanctify. Husbands, if we do not accept responsibility we are impotent (powerless). If we accept the responsibility laid upon us by Christ, we will have more sanctified and happy marriages. So, follow the example of your Lord. He accepted all the responsibility in the world for the sake of the Church, therefore he is powerful to lead the Church to glorification. Lean not on your own understanding, but submit and follow Christ.
When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word, we are assured of greater blessings in our marriages than any of us could ever hope to attain apart from the grace of Christ.
Phil 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.