Evangelism: Marriage Depicts the Mystery of Christ and the Church
In Intimate Allies, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman show how marriage reflects to the watching a world a picture of the gospel, while at the same time for those Christian couples committed to growing in Christ-like conformity, it provides powerful opportunities for discipleship and sanctification. Consider first their observation on marriage’s gospel-depicting purpose(s):
Marriage must be a picture of or testimony to new birth. Marriage must reflect the fruits of new birth and the creative, Trinitarian God who is he author of life. In that sense, a marriage is the foundation of evangelism and the declaration of the possiblity of being a son and a daughter–being a member of the family of God. The central task of a marriage is first to create and offer life and then to take new life and shape it in the direction of maturity (79-80).
What an incredible vision of marriage! By participating in and continuing the work of creation in the world through child-bearing, marriage is a picture of new birth. Likewise, as life is cultivated within the marriage, and as the fruits of marital love are seen with runny noses and dirty feet, God’s program of filling the earth is accomplished. Consequently, marriage does not stand at odds with God’s plan of salvation, as some might assume from passages of Scripture like 1 Corinthians 7; rather, marriage is a primary means by which the Great Commission is accomplished. Consequently, marriages that seek to reflect the overflowing love of Christ and the church, provide a powerful lead in to gospel conversations and testimony to the greater, more perfect marriage–one that married and singles alike, can look forward to.
Paul in writing to the Colossians asked for prayer, that God would open a door for more effective service. He writes, “Pray for us also, that God may open a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison” (4:3). This petition is a model prayer for all missions-minded believers, and for the married couple who long to see their marriage be a means of evangelistic witness, it should fill their hearts with hope. For the very being of their marriage witnesses to the mystery now revealed–Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32). So married couples can and should pray with boldness that God would open doors of for the word of God, pried open by unbelievers witnessing the effect of Christ on their marriage.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss