Marriage for God’s Glory
The ultimate thing to see in the Bible about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. Most ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It is designed by God to display his glory in a way that no other event or institution does.
The way to see this most clearly is to connect Genesis 2:24 with its use in Ephesians 5:31–32. In Genesis 2:24, God says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” What kind of relationship is this? How are these two people held together? Can they walk away from this relationship? Can they go from spouse to spouse? Is this relationship rooted in romance? Sexual desire? Need for companionship? Cultural convenience? What is this? What holds it together?
The Mystery of Marriage Revealed
In Genesis 2:24, the words “hold fast to his wife” and the words “they shall become one flesh” point to something far deeper and more permanent than serial marriages and occasional adultery. What these words point to is marriage as a sacred covenant rooted in covenant commitments that stand against every storm “as long as we both shall live.” But that is only implicit here. It becomes explicit when the mystery of marriage is more fully revealed in Ephesians 5:31–32.
Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 in verse 31: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Then he gives it this all-important interpretation in verse 32: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” In other words, marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant commitment to his church.
Christ thought of himself as the bridegroom coming for his bride, the true people of God (Matt. 9:15; 25:1 ff.; John 3:29). Paul knew his ministry was to gather the bride—the true people of God who would trust Christ. His calling was to betroth the church to her husband, Jesus. Paul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 11:2: “I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”
Christ knew he would have to pay for his bride with his own blood. He called this relationship the new covenant—“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). This is what Paul is referring to when he says that marriage is a great mystery: “I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Christ obtained the church by his blood and formed a new covenant with her, an unbreakable “marriage.”
The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. That is, it exists to display God. Now we see how: Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to his redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists. If you are married, that is why you are married. If you hope to be, that should be your dream.
The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory.
Christ Will Never Leave His Wife
Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part” or “As long as we both shall live” is a sacred covenant promise—the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her. Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant. Christ will never leave his wife. Ever. There may be times of painful distance and tragic backsliding on our part. But Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that! That is the ultimate thing we can say about it. It puts the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.
The most important implication of this conclusion is that keeping covenant with our spouse is as important as telling the truth about God’s covenant with us in Jesus Christ. Marriage is not mainly about being or staying in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel. Jesus died for sinners. He forged a covenant in the white-hot heat of his suffering in our place. He made an imperfect bride his own with the price of his blood and covered her with the garments of his own righteousness. He said, “I am with you . . . to the end of the age. . . . I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). Marriage is meant by God to put that gospel reality on display in the world. That is why we are married. That is why all married people are married, even when they don’t know and embrace this gospel.
This article is adapted from This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper.
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