By Madison Hetzler, Crosswalk.com
A myriad of passionate voices swirl about the subject of marriage.
For some, marriage is unnecessary or antiquated. For others, marriage can be deconstructed, rebuilt, and redefined. Still others look forward to the glow of a wedding day and fail to ready themselves for the marriage that follows.
Marriage is not a subject that invites neutrality. It commands so many conversations and positions because it is so very important. For all of the voices that speak to the issue, there is one that matters most: the voice of the One who designed marriage and gifted it to his creation.
Consider these 5 ways a marriage forges a partnership between husband and wife in the Gospel.
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1. Your Marriage Is a Picture of the Gospel
That Christ wrapped his divine nature in flesh, submitted himself to the cross, and left his grave clothes empty, all in the name of reconciling sin-stained people to himself, is a profound glory that we will never exhaust.
When he did so, he created a new body of a people--his church--and sweetly called them his bride (2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:7-9). It seems too wonderful to comprehend, but Scripture assures us it is so.
In helping us understand the nature of the gospel covenant, God provided us with marriage. As husband and wife covenant with one another, they become a living representation of the gospel itself. Two become one, sacredly and intimately weaving two lives together such that they become irreversibly united (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Your commitment to one another and your love for one another become a picture of God’s covenant with his church, his love for his church, and the beauty of his marriage to his church.
The psalmist writes that in the Lord’s presence is the “fullness of joy” and at his right hand are “pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11). Our covenant with the Lord is not one of the straitjackets and begrudging obligations. It is not a trap that keeps us from good things.
It is goodness itself because in this covenant we are invited to come into the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 34:8). If that is the nature of our covenant with Christ and our marriages are to mirror our saving covenant with the Lord, should our marriages not be a thing of joy and sweetness also?
As we live out the goodness of God’s design for marriage, we project that goodness, a reflection of God himself, to the world around us.
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2. Husbands and Wives Complement One Another in Displaying the Attributes of God
God graciously and fantastically inscribes his nature upon the DNA of his creation. When we study his design, we learn about the designer. As marriage is his design, we celebrate his instruction for marriage because it is reflective of God himself.
Paul instructs wives in Ephesians 5:22-24, identifying husbands as the head of the home and calling wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. Ephesians 5:25-27 instructs husbands in headship. While our knee-jerk reaction might be to resent authority and submission to it, husbands are called to imitate Christ in lovingly sacrificing themselves for their wives.
In so doing, husbands aid in the sanctification of their wives, that beautiful, if not at times painful, process of becoming more like Christ.
So often have these verses been manipulated, scorned, and abused in service to our flesh. Sin is a perversion of something that God created as good.
Rather than cast off these verses as unpalatable and citing examples of sin as reasons to loath them, the Christ-follower instead submits themselves to God and through his Spirit endeavors to not only walk in his commands, but love them too. We come to love them when we internalize them through the lens of scripture as a whole.
Consider, for example, the verses that precede Paul’s instruction for marriage. Ephesians 5:20-21 calls all believers to submit before one another in thanksgiving to God. Here we begin to learn that submission is not relegated to a demeaned population of wives, but is a call to the entire Church.
We are called to submit to Christ first and foremost. As we do so, we submit to others in representation of our submission to Christ.
As we carry out this design, we give the world pause. Words like headship and submission are ugly to fleshly natures. When we live them out in authentic celebration and joy, we become like arrows that point back to Christ and the goodness of the gospel.
We teach the world what God is like, redefining their definitions, perceptions, and prejudices.
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3. Sanctify One Another in Bearing Fruit
As we walk in the Spirit, God’s gift and seal in salvation, we bear fruit.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness are characteristics exhibited by Christ-followers because the Spirit lives within them (Galatians 5:16:26). Fruits are not merely an inward reality, but an outward demonstration.
Fruit in our lives define our relationships with others. At times it is far easier to bear fruit with others, but withhold fruit from our spouses. Yet, if marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, then marriage should be the primary place where fruit is produced, given, and shared.
Our spouses are our partners in sanctification. We love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34). We edify, encourage, and build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We sharpen one another, graciously correcting one another and opening our ears when we are the ones corrected (Proverbs 15, 32, 27:17). We exercise daily discipline that cultivates godly homes and habits (Hebrews 12:11).
It's often the difficulties in our marriage that give us the most opportunity to bear fruit. The friction that thinking so differently sparks lets us be Christ-like in our patience and self-control. But also, marriage brings so much joy! And there's so much to be gained from being kind, and having kindness bestowed upon you.
Keep these 7 fruits in mind, and start to see it cultivated everywhere in your marriage.
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4. Offer Your Home as Place of Service and Refuge
As husband and wife become one, they combine their resources and create a home.
Homes look different for different families. Much like the concept of church is not confined to a building, so too is a home not confined to a conventionally wood-framed structure. Whatever your home might be, you’ve been given resources for the purpose of making Christ known. Like a candle is not lit to be hidden under a basket (Matthew 5:15), your marriage was not formed to be hidden under a shingled roof.
As marriage is a picture of the gospel, we live out our marriages before others. We live in community with fellow believers (1 John 1:7). We open our doors and share our spaces (Acts 2:42-47). We look at the seats at our table and seek out opportunities to fill them, ready to discuss and delight in the gospel. We do this with believers and unbelievers alike because the gospel is not a thing to be hoarded.
Rosaria Butterfield writes, “Radically ordinary hospitality begins when we remember that God uses us as living epistles and that the openness or inaccessibility of our homes and hearts stands between life and death, victory and defeat, and grace or shame for most people” (p. 109).
We cannot forget the importance of the message we carry, nor the importance or purpose of the resources we’ve been given to share it.
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5. Together, Be Diligent in Prayer
Matthew 18:20 promises us that where believers gather, God joins them. Husbands and wives, gather together.
Keep your bonds to eachother and to God close by making time each day to pray together. This doesn't have to overwhelm your schedule--it just takes intentionality.
Cast a blanket of protection over your homes in praying together, an act of both reminding one another of God’s promises and aligning your home with them as you ask God for their fulfillment. Pray over your community and the world around you. Call out to God on behalf of others, furnishing your prayers in selflessness and service.
Mediate upon scripture and enjoy it together (Psalm 1:2, Philippians 4:8). Call forth sanctification in one another and pray that the Lord would make you both more like him as you joyfully walk in obedience (Colossians 1:9-14). In prayer, acknowledge that you are not self-sufficient, but are reliant upon the Lord.
We will be in danger if we treat our marriages as if they are ordinary or cheap, failing to protect them as we ought. May our unions not merely be a slip of paper handed over at the courthouse, but a covenant entered into with joy and diligence.
May we steep ourselves in gospel truth and honor marriage as a result.
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