Earlier this month, our family traveled to New York City for our summer vacation. We had a great time seeing all the sights. One of our highlights was seeing the city from the top of Rockefeller Center — the “Top of the Rock” tour, as it is called. I’m always amazed by these architectural wonders jutting out of the ground like man-made mountains. I love reading all the little details while waiting in line: how long the building took to build; how many workers were required to complete the job; how many miles of plumbing run through the building, etc. The view from the top is always spectacular, but I also marvel at the layout of these skyscrapers throughout the city. From atop the Rockefeller Center, each building looks as if it has been carefully placed there as part of a master design to accentuate the cityscape.
To observe a city layout — particularly one like New York City — is to observe the product of tremendous intentionality.
Intentional is my “one word” — not for a set period of time, but for my entire life. I guess that’s why I’m so enamored with skyscrapers and urban development.
Did you know that God has a mission for marriage? According to the Scriptures, God is intentional in his purposes for marriage. You can read about this in Ephesians 5. I’m going to include a lengthy portion of that chapter here, but I encourage you to take a few minutes and read the whole thing:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit to your own husbands as you do the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Earlier translations unhelpfully chose to separate Paul’s call for mutual submission from his teachings on marriage by including 5:21 in the previous pericope about drunkenness and exalting the Lord in song. Thankfully newer translations have rectified this problem, giving proper hearing to v21 by including it under the Wives and Husbands heading that was traditionally bracketed from v22-33. (Such headings are not original to the text, an important detail to keep in mind when reading Scripture.)
With this teaching, Paul offers an “operation manual” of sorts for marriage. Marriage functions according to God’s purposes when:
- Wives submit to their husbands — a submission patterned after the way the church submits to Christ.
- Husbands love their wives — a love patterned after the love Christ has for the church.
- And all parties heed the call to mutual submission.
After quoting Genesis 2 — about leaving father and mother and becoming one flesh in marriage — Paul once again mentions the church. He says in v32, This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.
There is more to the meaning of marriage than meets the eye. It is a great “mystery” — revealing something deep, something that otherwise remains hidden. This is not intended to diminish singleness; Paul himself knows full well the great value of “being free” (1 Cor. 7). But something is undeniably revealed in the marital relationship, one forged in the fire of covenantal commitment.
The mission of marriage is to declare the Gospel — the life that comes through submission and love. This is the point Paul seeks to make and it is one worth absorbing. In its purest sense, marriage is a picture of the eternal love of God, demonstrating the kind of love Jesus has for his people. In a sense, marriage is evangelism. It is a window through which we see and understand the implications of love free from conditions.
This is God’s intention for marriage, His purpose from the beginning in Genesis 2 — that marriage would be a declaration of Good News, a pantomime that boldly asserts, “This is how God loves!”