Marriage Analogies

Dear Reader,

This is really similar to another post I did recently. It is an edited version of a letter to a friend. But I thought it was worth repeating myself somewhat.

Have you ever wondered why God invented marriage? Why have males and females? He
could have given us some other way to reproduce. It didn’t need to be this way.

As with most things, I think God gave us marriage to teach us about Himself. This is not true in all religions and even many Christians or those who call themselves Christians get it wrong, but the Bible tells us that men and
women are equal in status before God:
Galatians 3:28-“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you
are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Females are just as valuable in God’s sight and just as capable of having a relationship with Him as males.
But we are given different roles. A husband’s duties in the Bible are not the same as a wife’s.  Ephesians 5:28 says “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

But of wives it is said “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” (Eph. 5:22-24).
This can be a hard pill for us women to swallow but I think we need to stop and get it in its context. There is an analogy going on here (remember the SATs?). God’s analogy in marriage is:
“Husband is to wife as Christ Jesus is to church.”
As God’s people are called to obey Him so wives are called to submit to their husbands. Men also are not the ultimate authority. We are all under God’s authority so this is not license for husbands to do whatever they want and walk all over their wives.
People in authority are held to a higher standard in the Bible and if anything this whole passage should be a lot more fearful for men than for women.

If we look at all husbands are told we see:
“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. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his
wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 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” (Eph. 5:25-33).

A lot more time here is telling husbands how to treat their wives than vice-versa. It is easy for us to throw around the word love but God here tells husbands what it means to love their wives. It means to do as Christ did for His people–to be willing to give up his life for her, to nourish and cherish and keep her free of any stain. Love is not a passive thing in the Bible, or just a feeling. It is active.

Often people see this passage and they really emphasize what wives have to do– “submit!” But really I think the burden here is on the husbands. When we think of the Christ:church analogy for marriage, the burden falls on the husband.

But there is another biblical analogy for marriage that is not so clearly spelled out but which I think applies more to us women. In this analogy, God the Father is to God the Son as the husband is to the wife. As we have seen, husbands are told how to love in Ephesians 5. Their model is Christ. But where are wives told how to submit? Our model also is Christ. He is the perfect example of submission as well. Jesus Christ, God the Son, submitted to God the Father. You know that God is one God in three persons. This is a mystery in that we cannot fully comprehend it. Somehow all three are equal and yet they are distinct. They have different roles. This is a lot like marriage. The man and woman are equal before God yet they are called to do different things. It is God the Father who made the plan for our creation and our salvation. But it is through God the Son that he accomplished these things. It
was the Son who had to become a man and suffer a gruesome death to save us from our sins. There is some hint that He did not fully want to do this. As He is praying just before His arrest, Jesus says “Not my will but yours be done.” He is submitting to the Father’s will.

In Philippians, we are told “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8). In this passage we are told that Christ was equal to God. But He was willing not to assert His own
rights, not to claim that equality for a time, but to submit Himself to the Father’s will and to do what needed to be done.

And this is the model for wives. We are equal with men but we need to be confident enough in God to not grasp onto our rights but to be willing for a time to set them side and to put ourselves under our husband’s authority.

I want to say a bit more about submission because it can be so tough to swallow but first to sum up:
Marriage teaches us about God. It teaches us about His love for His church. It teaches us about how the Trinity itself works. We can understand these things a little bit better because we ourselves through marriage live out similar relationships. The Christ:church analogy I think helps us best to understand how a husband should behave. But the Father:Son analogy is more instructive for wives in how and why they are to obey their husbands. In both cases, Jesus Christ, God the Son, is the model for human behavior.

But I want to say a little more on submission. All God’s people are told to submit to one another. So too we are all told to love one another. But there is a special level or kind of love and submission in a marriage. Just as different bosses have different leadership styles, so do different husbands. Submission is not going to look the same in every marriage. Some bosses give lots of orders. Some delegate more. Some rarely assert their authority. No one style is right and the others wrong. From the husband’s end, I think they need to remember that they are commanded to love (which is not a small thing but a very practical, self-sacrificial love). They are not commanded to make their wives submit. The wife is called to submit and if he beats or terrorizes her into it that is not submission. It has to be something she does of her own accord. No one can make her submit. There is also a limit to submission. A wife should not follow her husband into sin. If she thinks what he is asking her to do is against God’s law then she should not
do it. Nor is she commanded never to have an opinion. The husband may have ultimate veto power but the wife can still express opinions and a wise husband will not ignore her thoughts.

Marriage is a serious important thing and should not be entered into lightly. I know some Christians parents who quiz
their daughters’ potential husbands quite a lot but don’t look into their sons’ potential wives so much. There is some wisdom in this. When a women marries, she voluntarily puts herself under another’s authority. That should not be done without some thought. But neither should we be so intimidated by it s to avoid it. It is not the same as living together. It can be hard but it is God-ordained and it meant for our good.



One response to this post.

  1. This is an excellent analogy. Fully agree. There are countless analogies in scriptures that compare a Bridegroom to Christ and a Bride to the Church. Also–love the example of Christ in submitting as well. All of us have to submit to something or someone, even Christ–the great Creator.

    I’ve written more about this in my post: Christ as Bridegroom, Church as Bride .


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