Each of us needs to change something about our lives — and many of us want to change something about ourselves. So how do we break free from the patterns and ruts of life? What hope is there for personal change in our lives? The answer comes in the glorious marriage text of Ephesians 5:22–33. In a 2007 sermon, here’s what John Piper said:
Marriage in its deepest meaning is a copy of Christ and his church. If you want to understand God’s meaning for marriage, you have to grasp that we are dealing with a copy. Marriage isn’t an end in itself. This is why marriage doesn’t exist in the resurrection. It is a copy.
Copies aren’t needed anymore when the reality is fullest on its display. Here there are needed. The world is filled with a need for this very kind of marriage. It won’t be needed in the end. It is a copy. And what is copied is an original, a reality, a truth.
So, it is a copy of a greater original. It is a metaphor of a greater reality. It is a parable of a greater truth. And the original, the reality, the truth is God’s marriage to his people or Christ’s marriage to his church. And the copy, the metaphor, the parable is human marriage.
Geoffrey Bromley one of my teachers in Church History, of all things, wrote a book called God and Marriage. And he said this: “As God made man in his own image, so he made earthly marriage in the image of his own eternal marriage with his people.” That is exactly right.
Pause here. Men, I said it a minute ago. If you really got this text — if it landed on you — you wouldn’t need next Sunday’s message (the application one) because I really believe that, even though application is appropriate and nitty-gritty examples are helpful and good and right for preachers to give, I don’t think that is the main way preaching works. I don’t think that is the main way the Bible works. I think the main way the Bible works and preaching that is faithful to the Bible works is that the Bible displays glories.
Now, we are designed and made to know that which we don’t know because we are in the cesspool of soap operas. By the Holy Spirit in a moment of illumination, all of that can be driven out, and something absolutely glorious enters into a human heart and changes everything by virtue of its magnitude before any application ever arrives.
You are just changed. Your heart soars with a new sense of what you are on the planet for, what this woman in her magisterial dignity as your bride is about, what you are living for here, and everything changes when something lands on you with a biblical force. That is what I would like to happen. I can’t make that happen with my voice — my voice. I can’t make it happen. God can.
So that is a little parenthesis to tell you how I think about preaching. I will give you application, but here I have a little misgiving when somebody hears a sermon like this and their first response is, “Yeah, but give me an example.” All right. I will give an example. But is your heart exploding with the glory of marriage? Are you soaring?
Will you by the end of this service just begin to take off like a little roadrunner so that from those new heights she looks different, the kids look different, the job looks different, the planet looks different, life looks different, death looks different, the devil looks different? Let me out of here, I want to live!
Wonder changes people, not examples. Lists and examples are a little bit helpful, but seeing glory changes everything.