It’s clear from scripture that marriage is a picture of the gospel (Ephesians 5). Paul tells us that marriage pictures the gospel because just as husbands are supposed to love and protect and lead their wives, Jesus loved and protected and laid down his life for the church. And just as wives are supposed to submit to and follow their husbands, so the church is called to follow and trust Christ.
God designed marriage (Genesis 1-2), and all of scripture is intended to point to and culminate in Jesus and the gospel (Luke 24, Romans 1:2; 3:21-22). Because of all this, we can see that marriage was ALWAYS intended to be a picture of the gospel, even before the gospel was brought to light in the fulness of time.
In light of that wonderful truth, here are five thoughts about the meaning of marriage as a picture of the gospel.
1. Marriage is ONLY a picture of the gospel, so don’t idolize it – our hope is to be found, not in our marriage, but in the gospel. The very nature of marriage points us away from marriage. It’s easy, especially in the first year of marriage, to put marriage above everything else, but Christ must be both the cornerstone and capstone of our marriage. When we look to our marriage to be the thing that makes us “ok”, then if our marriage ever becomes a bad news thing (even just for a small season), we’ll be undone. Marriage, although it is one of the absolute best gifts that God has ever given, is still not as good as the gospel, it is ONLY a picture of the gospel.
2. Marriage is FIRSTLY a picture of the gospel, so treasure it – it is many other things, but first and foremost, it is a reflection and even a demonstration of the way that Christ has loved us and sought us and saved us and protected us. If the fact that marriage is ONLY a picture of the gospel could protect us from over-loving our marriages in our first year, then the fact that marriage is FIRSTLY a picture of the gospel can protect us from under-loving our marriages (putting kids, or ministry, or jobs first), in subsequent years of marriage. The fact that we have, in and through our marriage, the ability to BE and SHOW Christ to both our spouses and to the world should make us ALWAYS desire to have great marriages. When we allow our marriages to be assaulted by other things, when our marriage is weak, then we make Christ look less great than what he is. So, your marriage should be highly treasured and protected, because it is FIRSTLY a picture of the gospel
3. Marriage is a TEMPORARY picture of the gospel, so risk it – I don’t mean risk making your marriage bad, but instead, through your marriage, take great risks. You will not be married forever, but you will live together forever in Heaven, so make that truth central to your marriage. Live together for the future you will share in heaven, not merely for the future you’ll share here on earth. Risk greatly in this life, because marriage is a TEMPORARY picture of the gospel
4. Marriage is a LIMITED picture of the gospel, so hold it loosely – It may strike us as sad news that we will not be forever married in heaven to our earthly spouses, but if we have that thought, it is only because we are lacking trust in all that God promises to be for us in Christ. In God’s presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. If we aren’t married in heaven, it is because the economy of heaven doesn’t require physical marriage in order to bring us maximum joy. Earthly marriage cannot fully show the glory of the gospel. Earthly marriage cannot fully picture the joy and happiness that we will experience in heaven. To hold onto marriage so tightly that we are afraid of heaven because of it, is to idolize marriage, and also to miss seeing that it is designed to be a limited picture of the storehouses full of joy waiting for us in heaven. Marriage is a LIMITED picture of the gospel, so hold it loosely
5. Marriage is a GLORIOUS picture of the gospel, so thank God for it – God has given us, in marriage, a picture that will serve as a reminder over and over again of his great and awesome grace in our lives. There will be moments where your spouse will portray Christ and his love to you simply through their silent actions, and it will renew your faith and love and hope in God. And all of that is by design, as a gift, from God to you. What an amazing and wonderful and gracious God we have, that he would give us the glorious gift of marriage, and that he would use marriage not simply to sanctify us, but to show us more of himself and his love for us, and the joy to be found in him. Marriage is a means of you knowing God more, through thick and thin, for better or worse, God promises that he will work through your marriage to show you himself, because seeing God is the most joyful thing we can ever do, and so out of his love for you, he will, through your marriage, help you see him more. Marriage is a GLORIOUS picture of the gospel, so pledge to live each and every day with thankfulness that God has give you this wonderful gift.