by Rick Pidcock
I will never forget the evening of December 27, 2003. After getting lost on my way to the wedding, getting dressed in the middle of the auditorium, and forgetting my hair gel, I was about to see my bride walk down the isle to give her entire life to me.
With the lights down low, I waited in anticipation as the music began. The song was a song that I had written years before I had ever met Ruth Ellen called, “Look At My Bride.” With the back doors to the little church still closed, the first stanza began to express the feeling of hope, joy, excitement, and even fear that was all rushing through my veins in that timeless moment. I ached for those doors to open.
Then, all the years of waiting, hoping, and praying came down to one moment that would redefine the rest of my life. The doors opened, and there stood my bride. And as she began towards me, the words of the chorus expressed just what was in my heart.
“Look at my bride walk down the isle.
Embrace the beauty in her warm smile.
It feels like a dream.
You are the Queen of my heart.
This moment so pure,
This memory so rare.
Right now I promise I’ll always be there.
I know for sure, this memory is pure.
The beauty inside—
Look at my bride.”
Perhaps as you read this brief story of that one moment in my life, it reminded you of that same brief moment in yours. Or perhaps it caused you to look forward in hope to the evening where God may bring that moment to pass in your life. Wherever you may find yourself right now, one thing is certain—that God has a purpose for marriage that transcends every race and culture, and that is defined by more than mere moments and memories.
As we have already discussed in earlier articles, every moment of life should be offered by faith as worship to God in response to the gospel. And as I shared in my last article, a Christ-centered home is one that models the gospel in every relationship.
In this article, we will be looking more deeply into how the relationship between a husband and wife in marriage models the gospel. When explaining a Christ-centered marriage, Paul says in Ephesians 5:32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” The role of both the husband and the wife in a Christ-centered marriage is ultimately to point our hearts to the gospel of Christ.
1. The Role of the Husband in a Christ-centered Marriage
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” –Ephesians 5:25-31
A Christ-centered husband is one who by faith applies the theology of Christ’s role in the gospel to his role in the daily life of his marriage. This theology is lived out through a sacrificial love that models the sacrificial love of Christ for the church. I would like to focus more intently on how Christ’s sacrificial love for the church should transform how a husband sacrificially loves his bride.
The sacrificial Christ-centered love of a husband for his bride is based on the marriage unity that mirrors the bond of Christ and His church. Ephesians 5:30,31 say, “Because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” The term “hold fast” literally means to be glued to ones wife. Thus, the most intimate bonds of sexual love in marriage are not merely a means for sexual gratification, but are also ultimately a picture of the intimacy of the spiritual union that we have to Christ.
Those who have been saved by grace are members of the body of Christ. Expositors says, “We are not something apart from Christ, nor do we occupy only an incidental relation to Him. We are veritable parts of that body of which He is the Head, and this is the reason why He nourishes and cherishes the Church.” As we read earlier in verse 29, people generally tend to eat when they are hungry, drink when they are thirsty, and sleep when they are tired. We all love our own bodies. And when we as husbands view our wives as if they were our own bodies, we will love them in the same way that Christ loves His bride as His body.
This love is one of the best examples of Christian hedonism. Whereas unbiblical hedonism is pursuing one’s joy at the expense of others, biblical hedonism is pursuing one’s joy in the benefit of others to the glory of God. Verse 28 says, “He who loves his wife loves himself.” Self-love, as understood biblically, is a very good thing. Pursuing joy and satisfaction is something that God has both designed and called us to do. However, too often we tend to pursue our joy by worshiping idols of various kinds. And yet, when we believe the gospel with repentant faith, we will respond in whole-life worship. And as God shows us the unity that He has to His bride, we respond by loving our brides in the same way. And as we love our wives in this way, we are really pursuing the most loving, joyful, satisfying relationship for our own selves.
This self-sacrificing love is for the purpose of setting our brides apart from all other women. Ephesians 5:26 says, “That he might sanctify her.” Just as Christ has set us apart from the world as His bride, we must set our wives apart from all other women.
This setting apart, or sanctification, of our brides is for the intention of making her more holy by washing her spiritually. Verse 26 goes on to say, “…having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Just as Christ has made us clean by washing us with His Word, we should strive to wash our wives with the water of His Word.
The goal of this washing is so that she will be clean and beautiful. Verse 27 says, “So that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
This aspect of the gospel was first introduced in this book in chapter one, verses 3-4 when Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him.” The phrase “holy and blameless” in 1:4 is the same phrase used in 5:27 as “holy and without blemish.” And just has Christ has made us beautiful by showering blessings upon us, we should wash our wives spiritually by sharing the blessings of the Word of God with her.
Of course, the wives favorite implication of this passage would be that while Christ blessed us spiritually, He has also blessed us physically. The blessings that we have in Christ are tangible in this world as well as spiritual. Everything that we have in life is a blessing that Christ has given us because of the gospel. And in the same way, we should be looking for opportunities to bless our wives in practical ways every day. This is where your creativity and your knowledge of your wife should come into play. And as you bless her, allow it to be an opportunity to point her to the gospel fact that Christ has blessed us with every spiritual and physical blessing that we have.
2. The Role of the Wife in a Christ-centered Marriage
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” –Ephesians 5:22-24
I will never forget the time when I heard a ministerial student who was struggling in his relationship with his girlfriend say that he views himself as Christ, and his girlfriend as the undeserving sinner before salvation. Unfortunately, these three verses are often misused by self-absorbed men who think that they should be the center of the universe.
In order to understand what this command of submission means, we need to view it in light of the gospel. Verse twenty four says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Rather than viewing this command as a burdensome rule, we should rejoice in what it is ultimately pointing us to.
Let’s first focus on the phrase, “Now as the church submits to Christ….” This phrase goes to the very heart of what this blog is all about. The purpose of this blog is to share how the hope of Christ in the gospel calls and compels us to live our entire lives as worship to Him. The hope of the gospel in our lives spiritually is the most joyful and satisfying hope imaginable. And as Christ has and is showering his blessings on us through the gospel, we respond by worshiping Him with all that we are. Thus, wives should view their submission to their husbands as the best picture on this earth of how the church submits to Christ in response to the most joyful and satisfying hope of the gospel.
The essence of whole-life worship is also found in this passage. Verse twenty four says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Just as the church responds to the gospel in whole-life worship, wives should respond to their husbands by giving them everything that they are and have. Again, this response should not be viewed as an annoying task that God has placed upon women in order to put them in their place. But rather, women should joyfully and passionately embrace this opportunity to partake in displaying the gospel to their families and to the world around them.
“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” –Ephesians 5:32-33
In conclusion, the mystery of marriage is very profound. As I said at the beginning of the article, God has a purpose for marriage that transcends every race and culture, and that is defined by more than mere moments and memories. Living worship in your home by having a Christ-centered marriage is ultimately about responding to and living the gospel by faith on a practical daily level. And I pray that God will continue to use the theology of the gospel to transform our marriages into a living model of the gospel to our homes and to our world.