Summary: The most foundational thing you can say about marriage is that it is the doing of God, and the most ultimate thing you can say about marriage is that it is for the display of God.
What we have seen in the last two weeks is that the most foundational thing you can say about marriage is that it is the doing of God, and the most ultimate thing you can say about marriage is that it is for the display of God. These two points are made by Moses in Genesis 2. But they are made even more clearly by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament.
Jesus: Marriage Is the Doing of God
Jesus makes the point most clearly that marriage is the doing of God. Mark 10:6-9, “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’ [Genesis 1:27], ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Genesis 2:24]. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” This is the clearest statement in the Bible that marriage is not a merely human doing. The words “God has joined together” means it is God’s doing.
Paul: Marriage Is the Display of God
Paul makes the point most clearly that marriage is designed to be the display of God. In Ephesians 5:31-32, he quotes Genesis 2:24 and then tells us the mystery that it has always contained: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” In other words, the covenant involved in leaving mother and father and holding fast to a spouse and becoming one flesh is a portrayal of the covenant between Christ and his church. Marriage exists most ultimately to display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.
A Model of Christ and the Church
I asked Noël if there was anything she wanted me to say today. She said, “You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church.” I think she is right and there are at least three reasons: 1) This lifts marriage out of the sordid sitcom images and gives it the magnificent meaning God meant it to have; 2) this gives marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by grace alone; and 3) this shows that the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission are crucial and crucified. That is, they are woven into the very meaning of marriage as a display of Christ and the church, but they are both defined by Christ’s self-denying work on the cross so that their pride and slavishness are cancelled.
We spent the first two messages on the first of these reasons: giving the foundation for marriage as a display of the covenant love of God. Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman in which they promise to be a faithful as husband and a faithful wife in a new one-flesh union as long as they both shall live. This covenant, sealed with solemn vows and sexual union, is designed to showcase the covenant-keeping grace of God.
A Solid Basis in Grace
That is today’s title: “Marriage: God’s Showcase of Covenant-Keeping Grace.” So we are turning to the second reason I mentioned that Noël is right to say that you can’t say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church: namely, that this gives to marriage a solid basis in grace, since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by grace alone.
In other words, the main point today is that, since Christ’s new covenant with this church is created by and sustained by blood-bought grace, therefore, human marriages are meant to showcase that new-covenant grace. And the way they showcase it is by resting in the experience of God’s grace and bending it out from a vertical experience with God into a horizontal experience with their spouse. In other words, in marriage you live hour by hour in glad dependence on God’s forgiveness and justification and promised future grace, and you bend it out toward your spouse hour by hour—as an extension of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help. That’s today’s point.
The Centrality of Forgiving, Justifying Grace
I am aware that all Christians are supposed to do this in all your relationships (not just married Christians): live hour by hour by the forgiving, justifying, all-supplying grace of God, and then bend it out to all the others in your life. And Jesus says that all of our lives are a showcase of God’s glory (Matthew 5:16). But marriage is designed to be a unique display of God’s covenant grace because, unlike all other human relationships, the husband and wife are bound by covenant into the closest possible relationship for a lifetime. There are unique roles of headship and submission, but that is not my point today. That will come later. Today I consider husband and wife as Christians per se, not on the analogy of head and body. Before a man and woman can apply biblically and graciously the unique roles of headship and submission, they must discover what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of forgiveness and justification and promised help and then bend it out horizontally to their spouse. So that’s the focus today.