The closest relationship a person can have is in marriage. From the beginning of the marriage relationship God said,”for this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” In Malachi 2 God reprimanded the people who had broken their covenant of companionship with the wife of their youth. God said he was witness to the two becoming one, and why did they become one? So they could raise up a godly seed for the Lord. Later Jesus declared, “What God has joined together let no man separate.”
One of the most beautiful descriptions of marriage found anywhere is in Ephesians 5:21-36. He compares the marriage of a husband and wife to his relationship with the church.
He first talked about the need for submission for a marriage to work and for the church to be what God intended it to be. He said we should submit ourselves to one another as God’s children. Then he said that just as the church was subject to Christ the head so the wives are to submit to their own husband. If we are to be children of God, we don’t try to have any kind of rule themselves but willingly submit to Jesus Christ as the husband and head of the church.
The second thing he says is that husbands are to love their wives as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it. This isn’t a a sentimental love. It is the active love or behavioral love that does the loving thing no matter how they may feel. This is the same love described in I Corinthians 13. Christ loved the church so much that he willingly gave himself on the cross to purchase it (Acts 20:28). A love that only takes and does no giving isn’t the kind of love we are told to have.
Notice that the self-giving love is in order to sanctify and cleanse the church by the washing of water by the word. Christ loved us even while we were still sinners and gave himself for us (Romans 5:7-9). He gives us the power to change our lives for good. Even though we have all sinned and failed the Lord he gives his blood as the greatest cleansing agent ever known. He can completely remove our sin and leave us innocent before him. We are cleansed by the washing of water by the word which is a reference to our being baptized into Christ. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit goes on all the time.
He made such a huge offer for us so that he might present the church to himself as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. When the writer of Revelation described the wedding supper of the lamb she was dressed in the righteous deeds of the saints. He gives the reason the church will be glorious as that she doesn’t have spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Spots and wrinkles are characteristic of one who has become old and has age spots and wrinkles. By making this point he is telling us the church is to remain young all through the ages because it is continually bringing new people in as babies.
He wanted the church to be holy and blameless before him in love. The only way the church can be holy and blameless is through the cleansing that comes through the blood of Christ. God wants us to be ones rejecting divisions and separations that keep us apart. Like a husband and wife we are to leave behind those relationships and actions that hinder our bond with Christ. We are to be glued to him so that little things that get in the way don’t break our relationship with him.
Our intimate relationship with the Lord is shown when he says that husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Since this whole thing is about Christ and the church this too applies to Christ and the church.
Think of the marriage bond and the sexual relationship in the marriage. This is the major aspect of two becoming one flesh. There is a bond established in the sexual relationships that is impossible to explain. The close bond we are to have with Christ if like the sexual relationship between husband and wife, in which two people are completely committed to each other. The comparison indicates the close bond we are to have as Christians with Christ.
Praise God that he wants a close relationship with us and that he willingly has gone all the way in giving himself to bring the church into being. Because he loves us so dearly we shoudl return our love to him and willingly follow his lead in daily life.