How easy is it to detach our marriages from the finished work of Christ?
This may be due to living in a society where marriage is ever pressed into molds defined by the increasing unbelief around us, rather than biblical revelation. The very definition of marriage in our day has increasingly taken the feel of Play-Doh, all squishy and moldable in political debates and water-cooler conversations.
But no redefinition of marriage can touch the ultimate reality of God’s design. God has chosen to weave marriages — our marriages — into the most profound theological realities this universe has ever seen. To enter into a Christian marriage is to enter into the drama of Christ’s cosmos-altering victory.
But do our marriages reflect this? Does my own marriage reflect this?
We ask these questions because there’s nothing automatic about living out biblical priorities. As a Christian husband, I evaluate my role as a leader by asking two very important questions:
- How am I called to lead in my marriage in a way only possible because Jesus Christ died on the cross for me, was raised from the dead for me, and now lives in me?
- How does my role as a husband reflect the cosmic-altering work of Christ?
These incredibly important questions force me to think seriously about the way truly Christian theology shapes my marriage. And those questions force me back into the book of Ephesians, where Paul embroiders marriage onto the tapestry of the perfect work of Christ, a King whose resurrection marks the beginning of the reunion of the sin-splintered cosmos (Ephesians 1:10).
The Cosmos-Altering Christ
In Ephesians, we discover Christ’s restorative power at four levels:
- Christ defeated the cosmic powers of evil to become the focal point of everything.
- Christ inaugurated a new creation.
- Christ is now restoring first-creation patterns.
- Christ is now restoring the relational harmony unraveled by the chaos and discord of sin.
This is how Ephesians trains us to think of the finished, cosmic-altering scope of Christ’s work.
The Cosmos-Altering Christ and Marriage
But there’s good reason to think Paul converges all of these themes when the topic of marriage emerges in Ephesians 5:22–33. Let me explain it with four corresponding points, each loaded with a summation of what I see in Ephesians:
- Because Christ bled and defeated evil, and because he has become the cosmic center of all things, it is now possible for a husband and wife to live out a harmonious, self-giving, complementarian marriage under the Lordship of Christ.
- Because Christ bled, he has inaugurated the new creation, and a husband and wife who live out a harmonious complementarian marriage are now a microcosm of the Spirit-filled life and a unity of the new-creation people of God.
- Because Christ bled, he is restoring first-creation patterns, and a husband and wife who live out a harmonious complementarian marriage are a living illustration of the restorative power of the Second Adam in redeeming God’s original design for marriage.
- Because Christ bled, he is restoring relational harmony and enabling unity, and a husband and wife who live out a harmonious complementarian marriage are a living microcosm of the gospel’s power to unify a sin-splintered humanity.
In the gospel, our marriages find their proper cosmic context.
Now, it will take more than a few moments reading a post like this to actually shape our perspective of marriage. It will require careful meditation as we prayerfully read the entire book of Ephesians and it will require the help of the Holy Spirit.
But the potential payoff is big.
As men and women who live out God-given roles, we discover Christ’s cosmic work is reflected inside our homes. This God-honoring marriage then shines like a light in our neighborhoods to announce to the rulers and principalities the victory of Christ. Christ-honoring marriages are a living proof of the cosmic victory of Christ.
On the Ground
So it becomes critically important for every Christian husband and every Christian wife to think about these connections. This is theology for our homes. It’s not enough to ask what biblical husbandhood and biblical wifehood is supposed to look like, as though we can abstract these roles from Christ. Merely addressing a husband’s role (headship) and a wife’s role (submission) is not enough, because Ephesians will never allow us to live in marriages abstracted from the cosmic-altering gospel.
In moving forward on these topics, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in my own life and marriage, and I suspect you may feel the same. So today on the blog we are setting aside some space to address this topic from multiple angles.
First, to more closely connect our own Christian marriages to the finished work of Christ, and particularly to see the connection in the flow of Ephesians, I wrote the article “Marriage in the Cosmic Plan of God.” It was published in The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 17/2 (Fall, 2012). In this post, I can only briefly introduce the theme, but you can download the entire 8,500-word article for free here (PDF). It provides much more detail.
Second, Gloria Furman is thinking along these lines as a wife, and she writes about it in a post titled “A Wife’s Submission in the Cosmic Plan of Christ,” which will be published on the blog at noon.
And finally, we cap the day with a new episode of the Authors on the Line podcast: “How Christ’s Cosmic Victory Guides Our Marriages: An Interview with Bible Scholar G. K. Beale.” Dr. Beale has been thinking along these lines for many years, and he recently articulated the connections between Christ’s cosmic work and marriage in his book A New Testament Biblical Theology (Baker Academic, 2011).
Refocusing the Debate, Recalibrating Our Homes
These resources are all attempts to address the underlying issues in the complementarian/egalitarian debate through a Christ-centered cosmic worldview, the very worldview too often lost and forgotten in debates like this one.
But even more importantly, we pray these resources will help Christian men and women embrace roles of leadership and submission that push us far beyond our natural skills and abilities, that require us to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, to display the selflessness of the Savior, and to reflect his cosmic victory over sin.
To this end, Christian husbands and Christian wives continue to press.
This post is part of a larger study of marriage in light of Christ’s finished work. Here's the entire series —
- Tony Reinke, blog post, “Marriage in the Cosmic Plan of God”
- Tony Reinke, article (PDF), “Marriage in the Cosmic Plan of God,” The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Fall, 2012)
- Gloria Furman, blog post, “A Wife’s Submission in the Cosmic Plan of Christ”
- Authors on the Line, podcast, “Marriage on the Cosmic Stage: An Interview with Bible Scholar G. K. Beale”
- Luma Simms, blog post, “We Are Wives of the Resurrection”