“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. (Ephesians 5:31-32, ESV)
In Ephesians 5:25, Paul says a man should love his wife like Christ loved the church, a high bar indeed. And he says that the relationship between a man and his wife is a mystery, referring to the first thing the Scripture says about marriage—that in leaving our families and cleaving to each other we become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
As amazing as that it, that union is not the mystery. The mystery is that marriage was always a picture of Christ and the church, of His unconditional, self-sacrificing, sanctifying delight in His people (Ephesians 5:25-27). Before there was a Cross, and before there was a church, Christ Himself would take the initiative to leave His home to seek a Bride, and by covenant cling to her across all ages, waiting for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the final consummation of His joy (Revelation 19:6-9).
Every husband who ever waited for his wife has been, perhaps unwittingly, a picture of Christ’s divine patience. Every husband who ever set aside his own interests in the interests of his wife has been a demonstration, however feeble, of Christ’s own Divine emptying (Philippians 2:7). Every moment of our longing signifies His love, every moment of ecstasy signifies His joy, when He is at last united with His church.
No one understands a man’s disappointments or delights like Christ, who loves His church despite her imperfections. And no one understands Christ’s love for His church as well as a man how sets his heart to do so. To love one’s wife is to begin to understand.
As Eve is to Adam, “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh,” the rib taken from Adam’s side returns to him, and the two become one flesh. So too, Christ, the second Adam, finds His own flesh rent at Calvary, breaking down the wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14) and reconciling His bride to Himself.
The work of marriage is often the work of breaking down walls, of healing and restoring. There is a joint responsibility here to be sure. But when a man takes the initiative in these things, we have a glimpse of Christ’s own glorious resolve, to present His Bride in splendor, without spot and without wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27).
From a teaching series on How to Love Your Wife Like Christ Loved the Church