We have been talking about marriage, but Paul says he is really talking about Christ and the Church. If we are to get Christian marriage right, there is an analogy behind it that we must first understand. Before anything existed, God the Trinity was a perfect family. God decided to create others who would bear His image to invite them to fellowship and commune with Him. The Father decreed the Fall and Redemption and the Covenant of Grace by which He would save a great multitude which no one can number. Jesus earned this salvation for us and the Holy Spirit applies it to us.
Why did God tell the prophet Hosea to marry an adulterous woman? Because it was a picture of the way God in Christ loves the Church. Jesus agreed to love and marry the Church in her sin and to earn salvation for her. God loved us from eternity past with a pure, committed, self-giving, one-sided, unconditional love. This is the great relationship behind the analogy of marriage.
Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the ruler with real authority, and submission is required. Headship is often misunderstood as selfish domination demanding obedience, but this is not at all what we see in Christ. Christ is the Savior of the Church. Saving is the goal of His headship. He is beautifying, perfecting and making His bride glorious.
Christ loves the Church. This unique, pure, divine love of God is not a selfishly consuming love, as in “I love double-stuffed Oreos and Diet Pepsi” (They get nothing from the relationship). It is not a mutual, conditional love, as in friends playing tennis (I hit the ball to you and you hit it back.) Christ’s love is self-giving and serves without expecting anything back. We are nurtured by this pure, divine love.
Christ gave Himself up for the Church. If you suddenly came into some unexpected money, what is your first thought—to get a new TV or boat for yourself or to serve your wife with it? When Jesus was given all power, He washed the feet of His disciples as a slave would do. He wanted to serve them.
Christ will make the Church Holy. That was the goal of Christ giving Himself up for His Bride and Jesus will not fail. He took a sinful, rebellious mess and loves her into being something glorious. The Church is sanctified through Word-based ministries and they respond with lives of sacrificial service.
Christ will present to Himself a radiant Bride. The engagement/marriage process in New Testament times was somewhat different than how we do it. Upon betrothal, the engaged couple was considered legally bound to one another, but the marriage was not consummated and they went back to their own homes to prepare for the wedding. The bride beautified herself for her groom and the groom prepared a place for his bride. When everything was ready, the groom came with the wedding part to get his bride and take her to the home he had prepared. The Church is in this period of engagement with Christ. She is not perfect yet, but she is being made ready for His return.
Christ feeds and cares for His Church. He nourishes, cherishes and matures her. Why does Jesus love you? The reason is not in you but in God. He loves you because He is love. He set His love on you before the foundation of the world. It is not your service, your faith, your tears, or your repentance that cause God to love you. God’s love is a self-generating love, displayed in the cross of Christ. Husbands, this is how you are to love your wives—as Christ loved the Church!
Christ loves His Church. Let that thought sink in. Accept it. Rest in it. Respond to the astonishing love of God that could come to anyone! Feed your souls on grace—the pure, divine, one-sided love of God shown to us in Christ, and God’s love will transform you.