Marriage and Christ’s Great Love for the Church

By : Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
Marriage has a higher purpose in the eyes of the Lord. Of all human relationships, marriage is the only institution that closely resembles the intense love relationship between Christ and His Church. The bonding is so strong, so inseparable, marriage is the only comparison.

And we are married to Christ as His Church! The Lord God told ancient Israel: “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married to you …” (Jer. 3:14).

In Ezekiel 16, the Lord recalls how this marriage came about:

“Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.

“And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

“None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.

“And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood Live.

“I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou has increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.

“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread My skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest Mine” (vv 2-8).

In this allegory of God’s marriage to Israel, all the elements of the ancient Hebrew marriage are at play: ‘the match’ (when the couples are paired up), the ‘betrothal stage’ and the ‘wedding’. But the greater lesson it offers is how God calls sinners into a relationship of love right out of the filth of sin!

Christ rescues us from the cesspit of sin by His grace and mercy, washing us in His own blood (Rev. 1:5). The apostle Paul tells the amazing story of his salvation in 1 Tim. 1:12-16:

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious [violent]: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to everlasting life.”

In Titus 3:3-8, the apostle again writes:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

“Whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

“So that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (NIV).

Notice! At one time, we were too foolish to behave right, and we would have been foolish still were it not for the love and mercy of our God towards us. We had no power of our own to break our folly. But God’s love came to our rescue (Rom. 5:8) and empowered us to live right. (See Titus 2:11-12 & 14).

The whole gospel is based on love, and marriage is the underlying principle.

So how does God see marriage? God sees marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, and He makes it clear He takes it seriously:

“You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

“Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

‘“I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel, ‘and I hate a man covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith” (Mal. 2:14-16 NIV).

In both Testaments, God reveals the covenant He has made with His people as a marriage covenant. Back in Ezekiel 16 we recall the Lord saying, “I entered into a covenant with you and you became Mine”.

In the New Testament book of Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes:

“I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused [i.e. betrothed/engaged] you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2).

Consider the word “espoused”—the wedding is next! Our marriage with Christ is based on a covenant in which both parties have rights and responsibilities. Christ’s part is to pay the bride price and take care of us; ours is to return His love by keeping His commandments (Eph. 5:25; I Cor. 6:20; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:7; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).

The Ten Commandments are the terms of our marriage covenant with Christ, our Husband. The very tone of the First Commandment says it all: “I am the LORD thy God, …. Thou shalt have no other gods before [besides] Me” (Ex. 20:2-3).

Replace “gods” with “lovers”, and God comes across as a jealous Husband/God (Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Jam. 4:5). Together, the Ten Commandments constitute our pledged fidelity to our Husband!

Examine the 8th and 10th commandments in the light of our Husband’s care for us. We shall neither steal nor covet because the Lord, our Husband, is our Shepherd, and we shall not want (Ps 23)! And we will share in His special day of delight, His Holy Sabbath (Isa. 58:13-14). It’s time we understood why our God is a jealous God. He has loved us with an “everlasting love” and demands our full devotion (Jer. 31:3; 2:2-3).

Especially so when marriage is a uniting of two persons into one! The Lord reminds us in Matt. 19:4-6:

“Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

“And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh?

“Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”

A similar oneness results from our marriage with Christ but of a spiritual kind: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit [with Him—just as a husband is one flesh with his wife]” – 1 Cor. 6:17.

So then, marriage teaches us an important spiritual truth. Apart from its obvious social benefits, the whole point of marriage is to teach us the unbreakable spiritual unity we have with Christ and the life of devotion we must live for Him as would a dutiful wife.

After addressing the theme of marriage in Ephesians chapter 5 verse 22 downwards, the apostle Paul notes in his concluding remarks:

“So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

“For no man ever yet hateth his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.

“For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:28-32. Emphasis mine).

Then he adds a practical advice for the Christian couple (Bro. Dela and Sis. Ernestina):

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (v 33).

Now the festive joy of wedding is in the air!

When the Lord married Israel on the day of Pentecost at mount Sinai, a wedding feast was held, with the Lord Himself in attendance in His majestic glory:

“And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:

“And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness.

“And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink” (Ex. 24:8-11).

With the N.T. day of  Pentecost came another wedding, when God formalized the marriage of His Son to the Church by sending forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, “crying Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6).

Pentecost was and is a spiritual feast of love! But we await the grandest wedding part ever! Just before He paid the bride price of His blood for the Church, His bride, Christ at the ‘Last Supper’ promised His bride a great wedding feast to be held in His Father’s Kingdom: “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom” (Matt. 26:29).

The promised heavenly wedding feast will not take place until the Bridegroom’s Father is satisfied with the preparations His Son has made for His bride and the bride has made herself ready!

In the ancient Hebrew wedding, the father of the bridegroom would not permit his son to go for his betrothed wife until he was satisfied that the wedding chamber (the ‘Chuppa’) his son had prepared for her was up to scratch and well provisioned. The intervening period between the time the bridegroom prepared and fitted out the wedding chamber and the time he was allowed to go for his bride was called “the waiting period”.

Believers engaged to Christ are now in the waiting period, and Christ will not return until the Father is satisfied He has excellently prepared and provisioned our wedding chamber in the heavenly Kingdom. That is why it is only the Father who knows the exact day and hour of Christ’s return (Matt. 24:36).

In John 14 Jesus makes a tender promise to us, His bride:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

But woe betide us if our lamps go out at the cry of the bridegroom’s attendant, as happened to the five foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13)!

Actually, there were two wedding attendants in the ancient Hebrew wedding: The attendant who announced the coming of the bridegroom to fetch his bride, and the attendant who made sure the bride was spruced up and ready to meet her husband at the moment of his arrival. (See Amos 4:12).

John the Baptist was a type of the former—a voice of repentance crying in the wilderness, “prepare ye the way of the Lord”, “make  ready a people prepared for the Lord” Jesus (Mark 1:2-4; Luke 1:17; Matt. 11:13-14, 17:11-12).

In John 3:28-29 John described himself this way:

“Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.

“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend [or attendant] of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.”

The ministries of Moses and Elijah, in end-time Bible prophecy, correspond to the respective roles of the two wedding attendants: Moses to prepare the bride by emphasizing obedience to God’s law, and Elijah to announce the Lord’s coming by his fiery warning message:

“Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:4-6).

In Rev. 11, the two end-time prophets sent to represent Moses and Elijah during the three-and-half year rule of the antichrist are known as the “two witnesses”. By the time the two witnesses finish their “testimony”, midnight will have approached, and the Bridegroom will be on His way coming!

In line with the ancient wedding practice, our Bridegroom will come like a thief in the night to ‘steal away’ His bride (1 Thess. 5:2; Luke 17:34). So the oil of the Holy Spirit power in us must not run out—it will come in handy on the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30; Acts 2:17-21). Lest we forget: the night of His return will resound with trumpet blasts, which is the equivalent of the ‘Shofar’ (ram’s horn) blown in Biblical times as the bridegroom led a procession to ‘steal away’ his bride in the night (1 Thess. 4:16-17)!

Then the long-awaited wedding will come. The bride will have made herself ready, with every guest expected to be in their wedding garment. (Read Matt. 22:1-13 and Eph.5:27). The approved wedding dress is righteousness.

We read in Rev. 19:7-9:

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.

“And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”

In conclusion, marriage mirrors the intense deep relationship of love the believer shares with Christ. And God wants us to take marriage seriously enough to take His spiritual relationship with us even more seriously (Heb.13:4; Jam. 4:4-5).

Marriage is indeed a “great mystery”: It symbolizes the ideal relationship God desires to have with each one of us, His dear children. Any time we think of marriage, let’s remember the enduring marriage we have with Christ—a marriage that will never end! There will not be any ‘till death do us part’, for there will be no death. Instead, we will be His daily delight, and we will live in His sight forever:

“Therefore are they [the blood-washed wife of Christ] before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

“For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:15-17).

What a blissful marriage! Even so, Lord, come quickly with thy wedding. Amen!

August 8, 2009.  Eld Enoch Ofori Jnr