The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, August 26, 2011

Marriage Summarized

           Ephesians 5:

"22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[e] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

I want to sum up what I said in my very, very long post the other day (found here: in much fewer words, by using the above verses. Particularly v. 25-29. In those five verses, we see how husbands are to love their wives, and what the goal of that love is. It is similar to the love Christ has for the church.  The husband is to love, nourish, and cherish his wife in the same way Christ loves His bride. Meaning, the husband is to love his wife as his own body, for the elect are the body of Christ, and nobody hates their own body. This leads to sanctification, to present the bride as spotless, undefiled, pure and holy.

From those few verses, it seems quite clear to me that the person we are going to marry is going to be unsanctified. I am not saying they are a new believer, or necessarily weak in their faith. What I am saying is that the purpose of marriage is sanctification. Growth in Christ, and as husband and wife have that mutual goal, mutual covenant with one another, to grow one another into Christ, they likewise, by the same promise, grow into one flesh with one another.

So if the very purpose of marriage is sanctification, then why are we looking for a finished product? Why do we become so particular in secondary issues (if that) on who we will marry? I guess what I am referring to is "the one" concept, the belief that we will find someone so particularly akin and agreeable to us before marriage and even dating/courting that they stand head and shoulders above any other person we have ever known before of the opposite sex. I wish it were that simple. But I think if it were, the purpose of marriage would be lost.

If we find someone, without knowing them beyond a friendship, and thought that they were "the one" simply by virtue of our own personal tastes/preferences, I would argue that we are determining who "the one" is in an unbiblical manner. I think it is necessary to get to know the person, particularly on a deeper theological, spiritual, and vocational dimension, than can normally be achieved in a group setting with multiple friends. Through this one on one dialogue, I believe one can better understand the spiritual state and vocational calling of someone. And in that very dialogue, one will certainly get insight into how well they can or cannot get along with that other person personality wise (meaning, whether you are just shooting the breeze, joking in a group setting, or talking more seriously in a one on one or smaller group scenario, you can usually gauge how "compatible" you are with that person as far as common interests and things like that goes; even other people can observe how well a guy and a girl "get along" or "mesh" usually).

So maybe in a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex one can ascertain these things, in a more private setting. But I think the focus needs to be kept on the spiritual dimension, not things like common interest, personality, etc. Going back to those five verses, if we take the call as husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the Church, then we would realize that the Church was not a pretty bride, spiritually speaking. In fact, as Calvinists we know that there was nothing found within us that inclined Christ to die for us, to choose to be in covenant relation with us, and not those who are not elect, not in covenant relationship with Christ.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not at all saying you find the person who you like the least and marry them. Obviously, Christ died for unbelievers, unregenerates. But in marriage both the man and wife are supposed to be regenerate, born again. Later I will argue that it is what is in the regenerate person, namely the Holy Spirit, the love of Christ, that should draw us to someone for marriage, and not secondary issues or issues found in the person apart from the Spirit of Christ.

Now since this is our pattern, men, how can we go up to a girl and say, "I have decided I like you very much, because you have many of the same interests I do, you are very beautiful, you smell good, have straight teeth, eyes like doves, body like a goddess, a great laugh, and you are very sanctified in your faith." I think most people can see that the first things all pertain to physical or social compatibility, and many of you would probably, to some extent at least, agree that those things should not be the main things. But then you may get to the last thing, the part about sanctification and think that I am wrong. Again, what I mean by that is the same as what I said earlier. If the man wants to marry a woman because he thinks she is already very godly and won't have to do much work in being "Christ" to her, helping her to grow in the faith and providing for her, then he doesn't understand the point of marriage, he doesn't understand the point of entering into covenant relation with a woman, and he doesn't really understand the love that Christ had for the church.

The amazing thing about Calvinism for me was that it showed me that Christ's love for me was unilateral. It was something he initiated, not something that was found in me that caused him to enter into covenant with me. It was not something that He offered and then waited for me to choose yes or no. He made me willing to believe. His love drew me into relationship with Him. The message of the gospel, of what He did for me, irresistibly drew me into a covenant relationship, into a saving love, with Him. Now I saw how deep the Father's love for me was, that He would make a wretch His treasure! He wasn't choosing me because I had intrinsic value, intrinsic goodness, something to be desired. Rather, His love itself was making me desirable, literally transforming me from the inside out, from the core of my being.

I think the man should be going for a love like that. A love for his wife that transforms her, sanctifies her, makes her truly feel loved in a way much like she feels loved by Christ. So I think true love, in salvation, and in marriage, isn't a love found within the person, but a love found within the giver of the love. It pours out from the heart. Christ loved me, not because of me, but because He is love. I should love my wife, not primarily because of her, but because I have the love of Christ poured out into my heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).

Consider Romans 5:6-8,

"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The Righteous One dying for the unrighteous. If Christ is our pattern, if this is the love of Christ, and since Eph. 5 tells men to love their wives as Christ loved the church, then how can things like common interests, compatibility, "types," and even a high level of sanctification be the prerequisite, the almighty determining factor, in who we will choose to love as husbands? Isn't that arminian, looking for a wife who is the most beautiful, agreeable, spiritual, that we have ever met, head and shoulders above the rest?

When Proverbs 31 talks about the virtuous wife I see nothing about having a great personality, high level of common interests, a great laugh, and the beauty of Aphrodite. In fact, Proverbs 31:30 simply says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."

Our type, then, should be "a woman who fears the Lord." Besides being good in the home, making things, giving generously to the poor, and doing business, a virtuous wife, a woman who fears the Lord has "strength and honor clothing her" (v.25), "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness." She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (v.26-28). And I believe that, rather than looking at what kind of personality type a potential mate has, or what type of humor they most enjoy, etc., we should be focusing on how the Spirit of Christ permeates their particular interests, personalities, hobbies, attitude, and life as a whole. 

That's pretty basic. The only thing I would add is that the wife needs to have a biblically correct understanding of the purpose of marriage. If the girl wants me to love her because of her beauty, intellect, personality, ability to make a joke, etc., then something is seriously wrong. Likewise, I don't want my wife to love me because of my handsomeness, intellect, personality, humor, strength, etc., but rather because I love her like Christ loved the Church!

Christ signed a bloody covenant with me, saying He would love me unconditionally, no matter how well I performed for Him. That was His love for me. Therefore, my love for my wife must be the same. I must love me wife by making a covenant with her, swearing that, no matter how well or poorly she performs for me, I will love her just the same. My love never should change for my wife, even when she sins against me, because Christ's love for me never changes, never decreases, when I sin against Him. Yet, if the root of my love, if the driving motivation for choosing a wife is something found within her and not within Christ in her, then it's going to ebb and flow. She may look great now, but what about 40 years from now? We might be able to talk easily to one another right now, but what about those times when things aren't so easy? Her personality and interests may be quite similar to mine now, but what if she picks up a new hobby, and the people around her, a new culture and environment, her friends, begin to alter her personality some? If these things are the root, the basis, for which we seek out someone to marry, to enter covenant relationship into, then our marriage is doomed from the start, because the root is clearly destined to die.

But if the root of our love is the love Christ had for the church, it will never die, for Christ's love can never die.  The love of Christ is unconditional, it is not based on my performance. It is simply based on the sovereign choice of Christ to love. And it is this type of love, this true love, that melts hearts of stone and produces that same kind of love in those who receive it. Therefore, if I want a wife, if I want someone to love me unconditionally, I must first love them unconditionally. I must love her, not because of something found within her, but because of who is in her, Christ.

Again, if you check out the longer blog that I somewhat based this one off of, you will also see that I am NOT saying that compatibility, personality, looks, humor, common interests, etc. have no bearing whatsoever. They do, they are important. But they should not be the root, because the more you get to know someone, the more differences you are going to discover. The point of the two flesh becoming one is the two flesh looking like one another, is it not? Is this not what the agreement was when we trusted by faith in Christ as Savior, that He would mold us more into Him, and we would strive by His Spirit to mold ourselves more and more into His image (Phil. 2:12-13)? We are called to persevere, as He at the same time preserves us in the faith.
But the way man and wife purposes to go about looking more like one another, and thus becoming one flesh, isn't trying to enjoy all of their lives together for their own personal enjoyment and sake (even though that's part of it), but primarily to glorify God in enjoying life together. My wife's interests become my interests, and my interests become my wife's interests, to enjoy them together, but also to enjoy the glory of God together in those particular interests. If we truly believe that God can be glorified in all things, in all hobbies and so on, that are not sinful, then we shouldn't have that much of a problem embracing and loving the things are spouse loves that we, beforehand, did not (Within reason, obviously my wife's desire to watch football with me and my desire to sew may be somewhat difficult, but even things like that, I believe, should be attempted). Why? Because we aren't choosing to love these things that are spouse loves but we currently do not for selfish reasons, but rather because we love our spouse and want them to be happy, and want to enjoy life with them, and want to enjoy what they enjoy, and above and beyond that, because we want to find what makes these things that our spouse loves that we currently do not enjoyable, because once we find the enjoyment in those things, then we find the glory of God in those things, and thus both the man and wife become sanctified in Christ and more closely one flesh.

As sanctification is a process, so is the two becoming one flesh a process. We are justified at once, at the start of our relationship with Christ. So we are united to Christ at justification, but we become more like Christ as a process. So in marriage, we become one flesh when we make our vows, when we enter into covenant with one another and share the bed, but that is just the beginning. The rest of the time is spent in the hard work of sanctifying one another, growing into each other, and into Christ. But the way man and wife grow closer as one flesh and sanctify one another in closer relationship to Christ is intimately connected as well.

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