John Piper writes about a conversation with his wife, Noël, when he was preaching a series on marriage a few years ago. After a couple sermons on the foundation and ultimate meaning of marriage he asked for her feedback. "You cannot say too often that marriage is a model of Christ and the church," she replied.
And she is positively right. Marriage as a picture of Jesus and the church is "Marriage 101" for most Christians and yet, we cannot underline the truth enough.
We've heard it helpfully said of the gospel that it's not just the thing that gets you into the Christian life, but also that which empowers your everyday Christian living. There's a parallel here in how we talk about marriage as a model of Jesus and the church.
This reality isn't just for our entry into marriage, as if it's a thing to check off during pre-marital counseling. Marriage as a picture of Jesus and his church roots our day in, day out experiences with our spouse. It "gives marriage a solid basis in grace," Piper writes, "since Christ obtained and sustains his bride by his grace alone" (This Momentary Marriage, 42).
Continually remembering that marriage is about Jesus and his church drives us to consider what Jesus has done for his church. And when we bask in our vertical experience of God's mercy it overflows horizontally to transforms our relationships.
Pastor John writes,
In Colossians 2:13–14, Paul writes one of the most wonderful things imaginable:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Those last words are the most crucial. "This — this record of debt that stood against us — God set aside, nailing it to the cross." When did that happen? Two thousand years ago. It did not happen inside of us, and it did not happen with any help from us. God did it for us and outside of us before we were ever born. This is the great objectivity of our salvation.
Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths: God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath (sins are offenses against God that bring down his wrath), and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of his Son's hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt . . . nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
Whose sins were nailed to the cross? Answer: My sins. And Noël's sins. My wife's sins and my sins. The sins of all who despair of saving themselves and who trust in Christ alone. Whose hands were nailed to the cross? Jesus' were. There is a beautiful name for this. It's called a substitution. God condemned my sin in Christ's flesh. "Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3). Husbands and wives cannot believe this too strongly. It is essential to our fulfilling the design of marriage. (45)
This is the grace upon which our lives depend — and the grace that fuels a husband's sacrificial love and a wife's glad submission. Pastor John sums it up, "Let the measure of God's grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse" (46).