“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. (Ephesians 5:31–32)
Here in Ephesians 5:31 Paul is quoting Genesis 2:24, which Moses spoke — and Jesus said God spoke through Moses (Matthew 19:5) — “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Paul says this word of God, spoken before the fall into sin, is a reference to Christ and the church and contains therefore a great mystery.
What this implies is that when God engaged to create man and woman and to ordain the union of marriage, he didn’t roll the dice or draw straws or flip a coin as to how they might be related to each other. He patterned marriage very purposefully after the relationship between his Son and the church, which he had planned from all eternity.
Therefore, marriage is a mystery — it contains and conceals a meaning far greater than what we see on the outside. God created man male and female and ordained marriage so that the eternal covenant relationship between Christ and his church would be imaged forth in the marriage union.
The inference Paul draws from this mystery is that the roles of husband and wife in marriage are not arbitrarily assigned, but are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church.
Those of us who are married need to ponder again and again how mysterious and wonderful it is that God grants us in marriage the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves.
This mystery of Christ and the church is the foundation of the pattern of love that Paul describes for marriage. It is not enough to say that each spouse should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other. That is true. But it is not enough. It is also important to say that husbands and wives should consciously copy the relationship God intended for Christ and the church. That is, each should seek to live after the distinctive model of God’s pure and glad design for Christ and the church.
I hope you will take this seriously whether you are single or married, old or young. The revelation of the covenant-keeping Christ and his covenant-keeping church hangs on it.