Intimate Allies (pt. 4): A Biblical Theology of Marriage

Intimate Allies: A Biblical Theology of Marriage

The Bible speaks of marriage from Genesis 1 to the end of the book of Revelation… We will conclude our meditation on the Bible’s vision of marriage by exploring God’s design for marriage and sexuality as it unfolds in the narrative of Scriptures.  As we do this, we will have a glimpse at an incredible mystery.  Our marriage reflects another marriage.  God speaks of our relationship with him as a marriage.  It is amazing, but our relationship with God is so intimate that it can be understood only in light of the passion that is to be shared within a marriage union (Dan Allender and Tremper Longman, Intimate Allies [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1995],348-49).

Concluding their book on marriage, Tremper Longman and Dan Allender, sweep across the Scriptures considering the height, depth, breadth, and length of God’s love for his covenantal people.  They begin with the original creation of marriage in Genesis 1-2 and its subsequent Fall (Gen. 3).  Cast out of the Garden, they consider marriage in the OT, particularly in the Song of Solomon and the book of Hosea.  Moving into the NT, they conclude their biblical survey in Revelation 19:6-10, where God’s eternal and eschatological purposes for marriage are seen, and they conclude with culmination of all things in the summation of every marriage in Christ (cf. Luke 20:27ff).  Though brief and constrained to edit many important BT aspects of marriage, they give a helpful overview of the important turning points of marriage in the Bible.  They write:

Marriage as an institution, if not a particular relationship, can now give us a taste of heavenly realities.  It is a lens that enables us to peer into our depraved demands and into our anticipated full redemption when we are drawn into the wonder of the marraige ceremony of the Lamb.  Each moment of marriage is an anticipation of that moment when we will walk down the aisle to the Lamb’s waiting embrace.  It is also the anticipation of the day when we will ejoy the most profound, the most intimate, the most sensual (remember we will have heavenly bodies), the ultimately satisfying of relationships.  Our union with God will ignite and solidify our relationships with one another.  Truly, male and female will be one flesh again (361-62).

The Scriptures do paint a powerful portrait of God’s love for his redeemed, and they should give us pause to consider that love and the way in which our own marriages embrace and embody that heavenly reality.  Christ and his death on the cross has everything to do the day-to-day rigors of marriage.  Marital spats should be reoriented by the grace demonstrated on the cross, just as marital bonds should be strengthened by the unrequited love of God’s covenantal commitment.  It is a wonderful thing that the heavenly marriage of Christ and his church beckons us to press on toward that eternal union.  Our routine relationships are dignified by this glorious truth.  As Longman and Allender remind us, “our marriage[s] reflect another marriage,” and thus our lives have the potential to receive and reflect the glory and grace of the love of Christ.  This is good news that should strengthen our marriages.

May we continue to grow in grace and in truth in the love that is captured in the biblical theological vision of marriage culminated in Christ and the church.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

 

Vaughan Roberts on Marriage

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