Summary: Marriage is more wonderful than anyone on earth knows. And the reasons it is wonderful can only be learned from God’s special revelation and can only be cherished by the work of the Holy Spirit to enable us to behold and embrace the wonder.
Marriage and the Gospel
Marriage is more wonderful than anyone on earth knows. And the reasons it is wonderful can only be learned from God’s special revelation and can only be cherished by the work of the Holy Spirit to enable us to behold and embrace the wonder. The reason we need the Spirit’s help is that the wonder of marriage is woven into the wonder of the gospel of the cross of Christ, and the message of the cross is foolishness to the natural man, and so the meaning of marriage is foolishness to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14). For example, the atheist Richard Dawkins said last fall,
I provided . . . cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable—but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don’t see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial.
These are the tragic words of “the natural man.” Those who regard Christ and his incarnation and death and resurrection and lordship over all the universe, upholding it by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17), as parochial, will not see the wonder of marriage woven into this gospel. But by grace you might see it. I pray that you do. I believe God will reveal it to you if you will look steadfastly at the revelation of it in God’s word and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to enable you to see and savor the glory of Christ and his blood-bought covenant with the church, which is reflected in marriage.
Marriage Is the Doing of God, to the Glory of God
Last week we saw that the most fundamental thing we can say about marriage is that it is the doing of God. And the most ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it is the display of God. The reason it is the display of God is that in Christ, God has made a new covenant with his people. In it he promises to forgive and justify and glorify all who turn to him from sin and receive Christ as the Savior and Lord and supreme Treasure of their lives. Marriage between a man and a woman was designed from the beginning to be a reflection and display of that covenant relationship.
That’s why Paul quotes Genesis 2:24—“A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”—and then says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32). Leaving parents and holding fast to a wife, forming a new one-flesh union, is meant from the beginning to display this new covenant—Christ’s leaving his Father and taking the church as his bride, at the cost of his life, and holding fast to her in a one-spirit union forever (1 Corinthians 6:17).
So, I concluded, staying married is not about staying in love. It’s about covenant-keeping. If a spouse falls in love with another person, one profoundly legitimate response from the grieved spouse and from the church is, “So what! Keep your covenant.” Now it is time to probe more deeply into what this covenant keeping look likes and what it means.