Marriage exists as the doing of God and as the display of God. There is no other institution like it. Nothing even comes close to this design as a display of God: his love, his son, his covenant. Nothing comes close.
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” What kind of relationship is it? What is it? How are these two people held together? Can they walk away from this? Can they go from spouse to spouse? Is this relationship rooted in romance? Is this relationship rooted in sexual desire? Is it rooted in need for companionship? Is it rooted in cultural convenience? What is this thing called one flesh that God has created?
In verse 24, the words, “hold fast to his wife,” and the words, “they shall become one flesh,” point to something far deeper and more permanent than occasional adultery or serial marriages. What these words point to is marriage as a sacred covenant rooted in covenant commitments that stand against every storm as long as we both shall live.
“The highest meaning and ultimate purpose of marriage is to display the covenant relationship between Jesus and his church.”
That’s only implicit here, but it is explicit in Ephesians 5. Seeing the connection between Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:31–32 is the most revealing thing about marriage in the Bible. This is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament. He quotes Genesis 2:24 and then he says the most glorious, the most wonderful, the most staggering thing that could possibly be said about marriage.
Ephesians 5:31: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Then in verse 32 he gives the all-important interpretation of those words. He says, “This mystery is profound and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
In other words, when God planned man as male and female, moving from family to family into a new one-flesh union, he patterned it on Christ, his Son, and his bride, the church. It didn’t go the other way around. God didn’t create male and female, design marriage, and then think, “No. You know it would be illuminating for the understanding of the church if I designed my Son and his relationship to his redeemed people after that.” It’s totally wrong. God has his Son slain before the foundation of the world. Grace was flowing through him into the elect already before there was an Adam and an Eve. As he designed this amazing humanity, he designed marriage after his Son and his Son’s relationship to his wife, the church.
“I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” That’s the meaning of Genesis 2:24. The most ultimate thing that can be said about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory, that it exists to display God. And now we see how marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to the church. Therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship between Christ and his church on display in the world.
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