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  • Writer's pictureRobert Y. Yang

Biblical Marriage: Mystery Revealed


Once Upon a Marriage


In the beginning, God created man in his own image, both male and female he created them (cf. Gen. 1:27) to be fruitful and multiply; to fill the earth and subdue it having dominion over all that was created (cf. Gen. 1:28). Every living creature was created in their own kind for their own purpose, but man was created in a special way for a special purpose, for man was created in the image of God—in his likeness.


In the midst of the story, God does something of a mystery. Not only was man created in his image, woman was created in his image in a peculiar way—for God took a rib “from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:22, cf. 1 Cor. 11:7). Overjoyed, the man sang a love song for she was taken from Man—from his very own flesh and bone (cf. Gen. 2:23). Then God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, cf. Matt. 19:5, Eph. 5:32).


In that instance the heavens and the earth witnessed the first marital union—a marriage between two creatures—a man and a woman, both made in the image of God. And the man and his wife were of one flesh and dwelt within the garden of Eden, and God saw what he had created, and behold, it was very good (cf. Gen. 1:31).


Something of a Mystery


What is this mystery? On the surface, God created man, both male and female in his image for the purpose of a one-flesh union, for the sake of procreation to fill the face of the earth with the glory of God. On the surface, that’s exactly what the Genesis account is communicating. What else could it be? There was no prior pattern to follow. Or was there?


In the New Testament, Paul exhorts believers in this way: for wives to submit to their husbands and for husbands to love their wives (cf. Eph. 5:22—25). His instructions were pointing to something of a mystery. His language almost seems difficult to follow. The mystery seems to compare the husband to Christ and the wife to the church although in the beginning, marriage, not Christ and the church, was instituted first by God. Is Paul saying Christ and the church is patterned after the husband and his wife? How can this be? We can examine our own marriages including other marriages and see the depravity of our relationships. How can Christ and the church follow such a perverse pattern? Paul does not leave us to speculate. He says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it [marriage] refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). “The mystery is this: God did not create the union of Christ and the church after the pattern of human marriage—just the reverse! He created human marriage on the pattern of Christ’s relation to the church.”[1]


This is profound! The prior pattern of the relationship of Christ and the church was not planned within the order of creation but before the foundation of the world. It was only revealed at a later time—after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for his bride—the church.


Genesis Revisited


God knew exactly what he was doing by creating man in his image and putting him in the garden. God purposely gave the commandment to the man, before the woman was created, to eat from every tree of the garden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gen. 2:16, 17). The commandment was given to the man to uphold and steward in obedience among the abundance of God’s generosity. Then God prescribed that it was not good for man to be alone—that he would make him a suitable helper (cf. Gen. 2:18). So, God formed the animals out of the ground and brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and after naming all of the animals there was not found a suitable helper for him (cf. Gen. 2:19, 20).


What was the point of entertaining animals as suitable helpers? Did God know what he was doing? Yes. He did. Piper explains, “he [God] parades the animals before Adam so that he might see there is no creature that qualifies. This creature must be made uniquely from man so that she will be of his essence—a fellow human being in God’s image.”[2]


God then brought her to the man to see what he would call her. The man seems to have authority not only over the animals but also, in a special way, the woman. In that moment, something peculiar happened—unlike the calling in which Adam called the animals, the calling in which he called the woman was something of divine proportion—a covenantal vow between man and God. He sang, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23). Then God responded, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The man and his wife were officially one—both naked and unashamed.


Therefore, in the beginning, God not only created man, both male and female in his image and after his likeness, but he also created the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman after the image and likeness of Christ and the church.


Biblical Marriage


Thus, biblical marriage is this in twofold: the first defines what a marriage is, and the second defines what a marriage is to do. First, marriage is designed by God between a man and a woman made in his image into a one-flesh covenantal union. It is a socially public and sexually private union of the one-flesh covenant. Second, a man and a woman in marriage are to have dominion over creation and to procreate image bearers—a family to fill the face of the earth with the glory of God. They are to work the land spreading outward in making the entire earth resemble the garden of Eden.


In the final analysis, God orchestrated marriage according to his sovereign purpose and will. God glorifies the Son as the Son glorifies the Father through his perfect obedience—that which Adam failed in his marital headship, Christ fulfills in ushering a bride holy and blameless to himself. He, in the present age, is cleansing her—washing her by the Word of truth (cf. Eph. 5:26) until the day of the wedding feast that is to come. Until then, the mystery is revealed: a husband and his wife is patterned after Christ and his bride, the church. May we enjoy the pleasures of our marriages in loving our husbands well—our wives well—doing so for the glory of God and the sanctification of our being. May the Lord sustain our marriages and keep us until the very end.


 

Footnotes


[1] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2011), 213.


[2] John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 21. Italics added.

 

Robert Y. Yang (BS, Purdue University) has been married to Tey for over 15 years and has faithfully served the local church in many different capacities from being an elder to the treasury to national leadership. He is currently pursuing an MDiv in Great Commissions Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and, also, is a covenant member at Covenant City Church. Robert and Tey are passionate about living life with the church, discipling believers who can then disciple others, and missionary engagement with hopes of seeing their lives used toward this end through the sending of the local church.

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