We’ve seen that we are called to a unwavering and extremely high commitment to Christ, one that we cannot meet unless we are equipped by God to do it. In the same article we also saw that Christ is equally committed to those who are committed to him.
Given we are looking at relationships – and particularly the relationship between a husband and wife in marriage, how does this apply to marriage?
To help answer this we can read 2 Cor 11:2 in which Paul says to the Corinthians that he betrothed them to one husband “to present you as a pure virgin to Christ”. In other words, when Paul evangelized the Corinthians he did so in order that they might belong to Christ - but the term he uses is a marital term – he says he “betrothed” them to Christ.
We see this more clearly in Eph 5:32. This is just after he has said “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Eph 5:31). He is obviously talking about marriage between a man and woman. However in verse 32 he says “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church”.
What Paul intends us to understand is that marriage between a man and a woman is a picture of Christ and the church. Just as Christ and the church are committed to one another, so the man and the wife should be committed to each other.
Just as the tabernacle and priesthood of the old testament was a shadow of the true tabernacle of God and a shadow of the priesthood of Christ (Heb 8:1-6) so marriage is a shadow or image of the true marriage – that which is between Christ and his church (cf Rev 19:6-9).
Thus, if the relationship between Christ and the church is to be of unwavering commitment under any circumstances, so must the relationship between the husband and wife be for it to be a reflection of this.
Next we should notice the way the Bible talks about marriage. In Matt 19:6 we read of marriage “What God has joined together, let not man separate. Here we read two things. Firstly God joins people in marriage, and conversely it is man that separates through divorce. This implies that God does not condone divorce. Secondly it is Gods intention that the married couple not ever separate. In other marriage – marriage is a commitment to stay together regardless of the costs.
Next we read in Rom 7:2-3 that according to the law (that is the old testament law) marriage was to be until death. Through death a husband and wife would be released from each other. If the spouse is still alive and one gets remarried they commit adultery. Death is the only legal grounds for separation under the old testament law. This is further confirmed in 1 Cor 7:39.
We’ll deal with the issues around divorce in a later study, but for now, the intention of God is that marriage be a permanent commitment on the part of a man and a woman, and the purpose of this is to reflect the commitment between Christ and the church.
In day to day marriage this makes all the difference. A commitment is not conditional on circumstances. Often there will be circumstances that are designed to drive a wedge between the husband and wife. However, more often than not the wedge is an improper change in priorities (again – more on this in a later study) – but regardless of the circumstances we should be committed to our spouse regardless.
Commitment is thus tightly coupled with responsibility – we are not responsible for our spouses failures, and their failure to maintain their responsibility or commitment does not constitute grounds for us to relinquish ours.
If we are wronged by our spouse, our commitment should help drive the correct action – we should not be driven to separation by the failure of our spouse, thus our commitment supercedes our circumstances.
Often this commitment is hard going. Frequently we may be tempted to give up, and in these cases for us to maintain our commitment takes a resolve to simply grit our teeth and get on with it – because we made a commitment for life, and that is what the Lord will judge us by.
I would also like to add that if we are committed to the Lord primarily, then commitment to a spouse is greatly simplified. Rather than looking to our spouse as the person we value the most, we should value the Lord most highly. When we put our spouse ahead of the Lord and things get hard, we have nothing to fall back on, and things will get hard and our world is shaken, if we have the Lord as the foundation of our lives, everything rests on that and we keep things in perspective.