Home > Marriage, Theology > Marriage as a Picture of God’s Grace

Marriage as a Picture of God’s Grace

Welcome to the 500th post here at The Silent Holocron! I promised to post about how marriage mirrors God’s grace in salvation. This post is a reflection on my own marriage, as well as an application of Ephesians 5:22-33. Let’s take a look at this passage right quick:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “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. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

I have said this passage is the bedrock on which marriage should be established. It very neatly governs all aspects of marriage. What I have learned through meditation on this passage is that one of the reasons it is the bedrock or marriage is because it is a picture of our salvation. How? Well, let’s look at how marriage occurs.

Most marriages are the result of a courtship of some sort. In olden days, the man was expected to court the woman he desired and win her heart, whether the marriage was arranged or not. As arranged marriages began to give way, more and more men would choose the woman they wanted and have their families then arrange the marriage. But men were expected to win the affections of the young woman they were to wed. Today, we do not have arranged marriages. We still, however, have some form of courtship that takes place. And it usually begins with the man asking the woman out on a date. Yes, I know this is a generalization — these days it is not unusual for a woman to initiate the relationship. But you see, what happens is that the man chooses the woman he desires to be in relationship with. She does not choose him.

Once the man has set his heart upon the woman, he begins a long process of winning her heart. He seeks to change her inclinations towards him from coolness to love. Her heart must be softened until it is not only favorable to him, but pliant and joined to him. Only then can he ask the woman to marry him — when there is no doubt in both their minds that they are meant for each other.

This is a sad commentary on modern marriage in many ways. Many enter into marriage with less than devoted hearts. Doubt still exists as to whether the spouses are meant to be together. It is easy to blame the man, and it should be the man’s responsibility. He has not worked to make his woman’s heart soft towards him so that she will put him first among the men in her life. As a result, the woman will continually sin against her man, because she has not developed a heart that respects and loves him.

But the picture remains. The man chooses his woman. She is not forced to submit; rather she is free to accept or reject his choice of her. But the choice is not hers to make; it is the man’s! As such, by the time she is brought to the point where she must choose, her heart has already been changed. She has no other option but to say yes to her man, or she will be going against her heart, which has been radically changed by his love for her. If the man has done his job, he has left the woman he loves no other avenue but to submit to him!

Further, if a man is to continue to be the focal point of his woman’s love after they are married, he will do everything needed to be worthy of that love. He will take care of her, he will serve her, he give up his wants and needs — even his life — for her. If the woman has given herself to him, she will have no other avenue but to love and respect him. Anything less would cheapen what he has done for her.

But how does this idea of “marriage” teach us how God saves us?

God’s grace is like this courtship — God does not force us to choose Him, rather as He has chosen us He sets out to win us to Himself. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples? You did not choose me, I chose you (John 15:16). Jesus repeatedly states in the Gospels that He is the one choosing his bride (Matthew 11:27, 22:14; Mark 13:20; Luke 10:22; John 13:18, 15:16, 15:19). God chooses His people much like I chose to ask Tricia out and I chose her to be my wife, and set out to relate to her in such a way that she would say yes. She didn’t choose me. She wasn’t even looking for me. I chose her and by God’s grace her heart was made favorable to me through our relationship.

The Bible teaches us that no one is looking for God. Romans 3:10-12 says, None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. None of us would ever choose Jesus, if left to ourselves. So God has to take the initiative. God has to choose us. As such, God has to change our hearts so that we will respond favorably to the Gospel.

Because God has chosen us, He will continually “pop the question” to us. You see, those who will believe are exposed to the Gospel often in many ways, ways not always obvious, ways that make a reaction to Him inevitable. The final time He does this, He overwhelms us with Himself and His love. We know that we are His, and we respond accordingly. Tricia said yes to me because she knew I loved her. She knew through the various ways I had shown love to her in our relationship, ways that she probably did not see until that moment. She did not have to say yes, but my love for her compelled her to say yes. She knew that we were meant for each other, and she loved me for that.

Think about when you proposed or were proposed to. Were you not overwhelmed with love for your significant other? Were you not humbled and full of joy? Could you not think of any other appropriate answer but “Yes?” When God overcomes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh, we are completely overwhelmed by His grace, and the only right response for us is submission to Him.

God then relates to us as stated by the Ephesians 5 passage. He already sacrificed His son for us — it is the basis on which our entire “marriage” rests. He serves us by providing our needs and giving us guidance. He sanctifies us by killing sin in us daily and leading us into all truth by the Holy Spirit. He continually proves Himself to be the only one worthy of our love and respect. As such we are to submit to Him. Anything less would be to neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3).

I am humbled each time I think of how my marriage is to be a mirror of God’s marriage to the church, His bride. If God had never chosen me, I would never have chosen Him. I would never have been saved. Much like my wife was not looking for me, I was not looking for God. I would have been on a path leading directly to Hell. But no, in His grace He chose me to be the recipient of Christ’s sacrifice long before I was born, and worked in my life to change my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. And one day He totally overwhelmed me with His grace and love, and I had no other recourse but to follow Him. And day by day He continually shows Himself to be the only one worthy of my faith and love.

O that we all would be so humbled in our own marriages! In our own walks with God! In our very existence!

I give great thanks to God for my wife. She is a sanctifying instrument in my life. Without her, I would never have had the thoughts I expressed in this post. I implore each of you men to thank your wives for the grace of which they are a picture. I implore each of you women to thank your husbands for choosing you and loving you to themselves. Finally, thank God for all He has done to glorify Himself in your marriage!

  1. talialovesyou
    April 3, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    It’s great that you have a wonderful wife and a wonderful marriage. But. I do believe you’re off base in some of the statements you’ve made here. Women do indeed have a choice in who they want to marry. I know some married couples whose relationship was initiated by the woman, and they couldn’t be happier. No matter who begins the relationship, both parties have a choice in the matter. To say that women cannot choose their marriage partners, they can only accept or reject another’s choice for them, is to turn half the population–a very able-bodied and -minded population, quite capable of thinking for themselves and making their own decisions–into passive enablers. And a woman may choose not to love a man who loves her, but that does not make his love for her “less” or somehow not enough. The choice that each person has made to love the other is what makes a relationship work, not one person’s choice to love and the other person’s acceptance.

  2. April 3, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Actually, I’m not off base. Remember, I’m saying marriage is a picture of God’s grace, not saying that is how all marriages are. In fact, biblical courtship and marriage are (or at least ought to be) a mirror image of how the Scripture describes our relationship with God. The man exercises his biblical role in seeking, courting, and winning the one whom God has set aside for him, much as Jesus seeks and saves the lost (Luke 19:10).

    Perhaps you also missed this statement I made: Yes, I know this is a generalization — these days it is not unusual for a woman to initiate the relationship. I do not discount that in this day and age women do in fact initiate relationships, even marriages.

    Nor do I state that women do not have a free choice; instead I have said: She is not forced to submit; rather she is free to accept or reject his choice of her. You have jumped to a conclusion which is not warranted by what I’ve said. What I have said, instead, is that a person whose heart has been inclined towards God cannot choose otherwise without going against that inclination. Why would we willfully choose Hell when we’ve been inclined to love Heaven? In that respect, why would a woman, when given the choice, willfully choose a man other than the one she loves when her heart is totally his? It is simply absurd to suggest another, and it does in fact cheapen the love of the man — it is made a worthless thing, of no account — and illegitimizes the love claimed by the woman.

    I reject that “the choice that each person has made to love the other is what makes a relationship work” is true. Indeed, it flies in the very face of Scripture. 1 John 4:19 makes this clear: “We love because He first loved us.” It is also untrue that what makes a relationship work is “not one person’s choice to love and the other person’s acceptance.” Each of us has chosen to love our spouses, and without the other’s acceptance of our love, there could never be a relationship.

    The difference is that because of our (God’s) choice to love, we cannot honestly give any other response but to love back. It would tear us apart otherwise.

  3. talialovesyou
    April 5, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Well, I suppose this is where the agree-to-disagree thing comes into play.

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