Finding Faith: Marriage — A perfect picture of the gospel
At a wedding ceremony in Zindel Park last Saturday, I quoted the French author Andre Maurois who wrote, “A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”
In a day when marriage is in a state of decline and confusion, it is fitting to take a moment to understand its importance. To understand what marriage is to be built (and rebuilt) upon. Many wedding ceremonies, have made a significant change in the wording of the vows, the phrase that’s been used for centuries “as long as you both shall live” has been subtly altered to “as long as you both shall love.”
This means the duration of marriage is now dependent upon one’s feelings rather than one’s commitment to faithfulness. This sad state of affairs reflects the world’s disregard for the Word of God.
Today, more than ever we must remember God is the one who created marriage. He wrote the manual on marriage. It is God’s Word that gives marriage meaning, joy, and significance.
Scripture provides for us the direction and durability we need not only for a marriage to survive… but to thrive. The book of Proverbs says, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (24:3-4)
Thankfully, the Word of God teaches us how to build a healthy, godly marriage that will last. Ephesians 5 is one of those “rare and beautiful treasures” that says “…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 church.” (v.31-32)
I love the words the Apostle Paul uses here regarding the profound depth of marriage. He appropriately uses the word “mystery” which is defined as “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain” to describe marriage. Ask any person that has been married more than a week to explain marriage and how it works, and they will tell you, they don’t fully understand. But the truth of how the mystery of marriage, that God ordained in Genesis 2 as Paul quotes, is revealed to be a reflection of and patterned after the relationship between the bride of Christ (the Church) and the bridegroom, Christ Himself.
When a man and woman stand at the altar exchanging vows, they don’t really need the “for better” or the “in riches” part or the “in health” stuff. Think about it, no one in their right mind is ever bailing out, giving up or running away during the good times. No, the vows are for the other stuff, the “for worse… in poverty… in sickness” part. Vows exist because sin exists.
When we stand at the altar, we don’t know what sins will become real in our relationships or what stress they will put on our covenant with another. We do know thankfully, the vow of the Gospel also exists because sin exists.
Author and professor Jared C. Wilson correctly reminds us, that the story of Christ and His bride is messy, difficult, a challenging history for sure. One of the most vivid illustrations is when God called Hosea to marry a woman who was unfaithful, yet he stays faithful through all the pain, heartache, dishonor and confusion. He stays faithful. Why? Because God had joined them together! And because God, in His astounding wisdom was showing Hosea — AND US — what it is like for Christ to love His church, His bride.
But our Holy bridegroom, Jesus Christ was not caught off-guard or unaware. He makes His vow knowing full well, what He’s forgiving. He knows us inside and out. He knows what we’re guilty of now and what we will become guilty of in the future. Even on our best days, Jesus could have the legal grounds to say, “Enough of this. I don’t want it any more. You’ve violated my love for the last time. This is unfixable.”
The truth is no one has ever been sinned against, wronged, disrespected more than Jesus has. And yet He keeps loving and giving and serving. He approves. He washes. He delights. He romances. He doesn’t just tolerate us… He lavishes His affection on us. He justifies and sanctifies and glorifies! When one thinks “I can’t do this. I can’t sacrifice for her and I can’t love her” or “I can’t respect him and certainly can’t submit to him” we are correct to a degree.
We cannot love our wife or respect our husband, not in the way and to the degree that God wants us to. God knows this. God knew we would be terrible obeyers, stubburn sacrificers, and poor submitters. Yet He gave up His life for us anyway. He died to forgive all our sins and rose again that we would never have our sins held against us. As Wilson states, “Be still our beating hearts. Here’s a groom worth swooning over!”
The next time you are at a wedding and see a beautiful bride holding hands and exchanging vows with her handsome groom, remember Jesus. Jesus, our groom, promising to be faithful to any and all who trust Him. Be sure to see a perfect picture of the Gospel.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Tim Boger, senior pastor of Big Woods Bible Church in Lock Haven.