Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Mystery of Marriage

NOTE: this post is the third in a series entitled "The Gospel Marriage". If you missed previous entries you can find them in sequential order in tab above or click HERE
Have you ever noticed that the Bible opens with a marriage on earth and closes with a wedding in heaven? This is no accident. If there is one over-arching theme in the Bible that stretches from beginning to end, it is a story of love. But it’s not a story of love between a man and a woman. No, it’s much bigger than that. It’s a story of God’s love for us. And this inexorable theme of a transcendent love weaves itself like a “scarlet thread” throughout all of Scripture.

Over and over again God in His mysterious wonder uses ordinary human love to point us to His extraordinary divine love. For example, on Mount Sinai the very first commandment God gives Moses is a call to a faithful and undivided love towards Him. While in the seventh and tenth commandments we see a mandate for a faithful and undivided love towards our spouse. In the prophecies of Jeremiah we see the despair found in the brokenness of a marriage, and in the poetry of the Song of Solomon we see the unbroken joy found in a faithful one. In the book of Hosea we are confronted with a man and a woman who play out a heart-wrenching story of unrequited love, and in the book of Ruth we witness a man and a woman play out a heart-warming story of unconditional love. It's as if God is trying to make point us to His perfect love by juxtaposing it with our imperfect love. A wedding is the site of Jesus’ first miracle and the setting of his last parables. As you can see, marriage literally begins and ends as God's idea. It is God's creation, God's institution, and God’s glory.

Therefore the first and most basic question one must settle on marriage and the one which will unequivocally shape your worldview on marriage is this:

“Who created marriage?”

Perhaps you feel you already have the answer or it was never a question for you to begin with. However, keep in mind that the answer to this question is of utmost importance, because it will determine everything you ultimately believe about marriage. In this case where you start truly determines where you finish.

I would argue that GOD created marriage. This was not man’s idea or man’s creation; it begins with God (Gen 2:18-25) and ends with God (Rev 19:9). And this is not isolated to the Old Testament. Jesus emphatically reaffirms this truth in the gospels (Mt 19:1-12), and the apostles do the same  (1 Cor 6:12-20Heb 13:4Eph 5:22-331 Pet 3:1-7). To argue otherwise would force one to completely dismiss large portions of Scripture in order to make it fit his or her own personal agenda.

Below is a diagram I put together which shows what I believe to be the three basic worldviews on marriage. The first is very worldly – marriage was created by man for man, and therefore it can be redefined as man sees fit because it’s ultimately about me and my happiness. The second worldview sees marriage as something that God created for man. Therefore, while it is from God - it is for me. It’s about making my children, or curing my loneliness, or serving my spouse, or even working out my sanctification.  The third is very different from the first two.  It is not about me at all, but all about His glory and His purpose. 

I have found that if you believe in worldview #1 - that marriage was created by man for man - then to me it's quite logical that marriage be re-defined as the culture (or man) sees fit. There is no point in slinging mud at someone that disagrees with you when they are simply following a natural conclusion to their personal worldview. (SOAPBOX: I wish more "Christians" would be able to engage, debate and provide answers on this topic with more "gentleness and respect" (1 Pet 3:15). We miss out on an awesome opportunity to share the gospel message in marriage when we fail to share it with a "gospel love" (i.e. grace & truth.) 
In regards to worldview #2 - I can't tell you how many Christian books on marriage I've read which essentially hold to this worldview. While I agree that God did create marriage for a number of reasons like companionship, procreation and even our own sanctification, if we stop there marriage still stays ultimately with "me" (a somewhat egocentric affair) and I think we've missed the big point.  On to worldview #3 - when we look at Ephesians 5:32 we come across, I believe, the most important verse on marriage in the Bible - this is the lynch pin verse.  For context, Paul goes back to the very first marriage in Eph 5:31 by quoting Genesis 2:24 and writes: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” and then he shares something that should forever change the way we view marriage. He writes:

 "…this mystery is profound and I am saying it refers to Christ and the Church.”


What is Paul saying here? Well, when Paul uses the word “mystery” here, it is not in the way we typically understand mystery in our culture today. In other words, it is not something that requires Sherlock Holmes to be solved. It is not an abstract concept to decipher. It is not even something that is meant to be difficult to understand. It’s virtually the opposite actually! When Paul uses the word “mystery,” he is using it as something that was concealed in the past – but is now fully revealed. Check these verses if you are unconvinced: Rom 16:25, 1 Cor 2:7, Eph 1:9, 3:3, 3:9.  In other words, He is saying we may not have understood if before, but now it can be understood!  It once was hidden and now can be known! In fact, this was Paul’s very prayer request  – that the mystery of the gospel would be made known and that he would make it known (Eph 6:19). The other thing I want to point out is that Paul says this mystery/revelation is "profound". Now, the actual Greek word used here is "megas". Which, as many of you know, means "big" or "huge".  So with my limited Koine Greek knowledge (coupled with my sanctified imagination) I'd paraphrase Eph 5:31-32 like this:
"Hey everybody! Listen up!! I need to tell you something that wasn't understood in the past but now can be fully understood! God is revealing something to us about marriage and it...is...HUGE!! Are you ready for this?!? God created marriage to reveal something HUGE...and that is...wait for it....wait for it....to reveal His love towards YOU and ME (i.e. the Church)!! BAM!!!"                    
Therefore marriage is not a convenient metaphor or an accidental after-thought of God. Rather, there is a divine plan and a sacred purpose for marriage and we should not miss it. God created marriage first and foremost to be a powerful, poignant and persistent picture of His love towards us. And as such, we should want our marriages to be faithful to the gospel picture that God intended it to beThis cannot be overstated. If you miss this I'm not sure you will ever find true and lasting happiness in your marriage because marriage will always be about you and for you and you will be trying to force marriage to do something it was never intended to do - serve yourself. But marriage has a greater message, a greater model and a greater motive and they all point to the greatest one....Jesus Christ. Praise God! The mystery has been revealed! 

In my next post I will try to unpack in more practical terms how our marriages can actually reflect a picture of Christ and the Church (i.e. the Gospel) to the glory of God by focusing specifically on the COVENANT aspect of marriage. Thanks for reading...

Peter & Kim 

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