The book of Ephesians is a beautiful discussion of the church and all the marvelous and complicated relationships that exist within the church. It shares the importance of unity between Jews and Gentiles, men and woman, leaders and lay people. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 is particularly poignant as he prays for the strength and power of the Holy Spirit in grounding and establishing the people of God.
In chapters 5 & 6 the book appears to take a turn and focus on marriage and family relationships, but many of have missed the significance of these chapters as they pertain to the gospel message embedded in the sanctity and holiness of marriage. In chapter 5, as Paul discusses the role of husbands and wives he reveals a very important fact in verse 32 – “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
A good, healthy, god-like marriage is some of the most fertile ground for the message of the gospel. As we venture back through scripture, we see some of this mystery Paul speaks of revealed throughout scripture. It stared in the very beginning when God said, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Unity! From the very beginning God was establishing a bond of unity between man and woman that would serve as a powerful metaphor of the love, unity, and bond that is exists between Christ and His church. This is why, in discussing marriage in Matthew 19, Jesus returned us to creation law “Have you not read, he replied, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason will a man leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).
From that day, when God first created us for relationship, He was also preparing us in understanding the power of the gospel. The book of Hosea always challenged me. Why would God put Hosea through such heartache and pain? Why would a man be commanded to marriage a prostitute and be called to forgive and reconcile over and over again? God was revealing to us the power of the gospel. He was revealing his heart towards mankind.
For those of us who are long passed the honeymoon stage in our relationship, we realize what marriage is all about. Marriage is a lifelong lesson in forgiveness, redemption, forbearance, patience, understanding, partnership, unity, and faith. The more I study what the church is supposed to be – the more I understand the dynamics of a good marriage. There are days I am a hard person to live with. Days that I don’t live the lessons of the gospel in my own home. Days that I am not particularly lovable. On those days my wife has the opportunity to live the gospel and demonstrate it in the most practical way to our children, the community, and the church. The same is true on the days she struggles and I am called to live out the gospel in the most practical and meaningful way.
Why did Paul remind us that mystery revealed in Ephesians 5 is really about Christ and the church? Because marriage is the practical application of the gospel in daily living. When I rise above my own sinful nature and embrace a loving, forgiving, and protective spirit towards my wife, I allow the world to see Christ in action. When my spouse demonstrates a godly and humble spirit in the shadow of my anger, frustration, and worldly nature – she shows the world what it means to allow Christ to shine through our weaknesses and give us power and strength.
Trent Wheeler currently serves as Vice-President of Advancement for Live the Life. For more information on their marriage and relationship programs visit www.livethelife.org