Vaughan Roberts is gifted in saying a lot in a very little space. His books God’s Big Picture:Tracing the storyline of the Bible, Life’s Big Questions: Six major themes traced through the Bible, and God’s Big Design: Life as he intends it to be are outstanding in their ability to convey biblical theology in accessible language. In an ongoing effort to consider a biblical theology of marriage, let me highlight a few cogent remarks by the Anglican Rector.
The relationship between God and his people… is not referred to as marriage until some way into the Bible, but the image becomes increasingly important until it reaches its culmination with the description of the heavenly marriage of the Lamb in the book of Revelation. But we should not think of this marriage simply as an image that has been imported from human relationships to help us understand spiritual realities. The apostle Paul assumes that the archetypal marriage is between Christ and his people and not the human relationship between a man and a woman. [Roberts quotes from the NDBT], “Human marriage is not the reality of for which Christ and the church provide a sermonic illustartion but the reerse. Human marriage is theearthly type, pointing towards the heavenly reality (V. Roberts, Life’s Big Questions [Leicester: IVP, 2004], 64).
Tracing marriage through eight developmental stages of the kingdom, Roberts speaks of the marital allusions found when Israel encounters YHWH at Mt Sinai:
The occassion described in Exodus 24 has much in common with a marriage ceremony. Two parties are committing themselves to one another in an exclusive relationship. The Lord has already declared his love for Israel as his holy people, set apart from all the otehr tribes and nations of the earth. Now the people bind themselves to him. Just as a human couple ‘forsake all others,’ so Israel agrees to God’s commandments, all of which flow from the first: “You shall have no other gods before me” (67).
Moving from Israel to the New Testament Church, Roberts contrasts the uninvolvement of the modern bridegroom with the proactive nature of Jesus Christ in preparing himself a bride. He writes:
The Divine Bridegroom is very different. He could not ahve gone further in his efforts to ensure that his people will be perfect on their big day and he could not have paid a higher price; he died to make it possible. There could be no more loving husband. Because of his death for us, we are completely cleansed from sin the moment we respond with faith to the gospel. Paul no doubt has the allegory of Ezekiel 16 in mind, with its story of a girl who is rescued, washed and clothed by the Lord. [Quoting from Christopher Ash’s book on marriage, Roberts concludes]: The Christ/church parallel is not merely illustrative but the generating theological centre of his entire presentation” (78-79).
May we who struggle to accept the love of God–and we all do–meditate on God’s love found in the face of Jesus Christ, our heavenly bridegroom and our redeeming savior.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss