Marriage is a socially recognized, universal, long-established institution which has been found in almost all societies, but in the UK it seems that its importance is diminishing in the minds of many people. Between 1991 and 2019 the marriage rate in England and Wales fell from 36 marriages per 1,000 people to 17.9, while for the UK as a whole, there were 96,627 fewer marriages taking place in 2019 than there were in 1991.[i]
Not only is the idea of getting married becoming less popular but the very definition of marriage is being treated as fluid, something that can be adapted according to culture and time. If there was no objective, unchanging truth to clearly define and describe marriage, then we would have the mandate to adapt marriage to suit our requirements. However, God’s Word does speak clearly and with great detail on the subject. He who designed marriage in the first place (see Genesis 2:20-24) has provided a plain and unchanging description of its significance. In Ephesians 5:22-33 we are given some very important instructions about marriage. God has not left us in the dark regarding the respective roles of husbands and wives. He has also shown us the great purpose of marriage.
The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage
As he comes to the end of his teaching on the subject, Paul states that marriage is a mystery. He is not saying that it is mysterious but that until that time its meaning had been hidden. The mystery is that marriage is a picture of something far greater. The purpose of every marriage is to be an image of something else.
What is this mystery that has now been made clear? Paul states:
“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
He is making known for the first time the picture that marriage has always been intended to convey. He says that, from the time of its institution, the joining of husband and wife in marriage has been a mystery that has been pointing to something else, to something greater.
The mystery is that marriage is a picture of the relationship of Christ to His church. This relationship (Christ and the church) is the ultimate marriage, the real marriage.
The ultimate purpose of every marriage on earth is to be a picture of the marriage of Christ to His church, for which He “gave Himself” (Ephesians 5:25). Here is the greatest reason why marriage should be held in high regard: the purpose of every marriage goes beyond the needs and desires of the husband and wife, as important as they are, to picture Christ as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride.
The man is called to lead, love, and serve his wife because that is what Christ does for His bride. The wife should respect, submit to, and help her husband, because that is how the church of God responds to her Bridegroom, the risen Lord Jesus.
Marriage practised God’s way, according to his plan and purpose, enables the watching world to see a picture of the glorious outcome of the gospel on display.