The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage: Image-Bearing

Why should we get married? A couple of websites for men list reasons like:

  • You live longer
  • It increases your earning power
  • You won’t be alone when you’re sick or when you die
  • You get to be a dad or a mom and children are better off with married parents
  • It makes you a better person
  • You can have more and better sex

We are image-bearers.

The Bible teaches God’s purposes for marriage. The ultimate purpose is to image Himself, specifically, the union of Christ and the church, for His glory. Genesis 1:26-27 introduces the concept of imaging at the creation of man. It says,

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule…[over all the earth].” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

“Image” and “likeness” are key words here. Man and woman were created to image God. He is glorified when people reflect His nature, when they live out a perfect model of God’s character.

Single people can certainly image God. “All [believers], with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). Yet, Genesis 1:27 indicates that the genders were created to complement each other in a way that, when united, presents a complete image of God’s nature.

Marriage images Christ and His church.

Not only does marriage reflect God’s nature in the world, it is a picture of Christ’s union with the church. Founding his argument with a quote of Genesis 2:24 Paul wrote,

“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32).

In a foundational passage on marriage (Eph. 5:22-33), the particular purpose that Paul singled out for emphasis was that of depicting Christ’s union with the church. The exclusive, covenantal, intimate, permanent unity of marriage taught in Genesis 2:24 is a reflection of the intimacy, exclusivity, and permanence of Christ’s covenantal union with His church.

In a God-centered marriage, the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is of the church. The husband expresses his love to her by helping her to grow in Christlikeness, even as Christ works to purify the church for Himself. The husband is to sacrifice himself for his wife even as Christ sacrificed Himself for the church. The wife submits lovingly in obedience to the husband as the church is to submit to her Husband.

A family living by God’s plan makes it easier to observe and understand the communicable attributes of God. We can see the love, faithfulness, kindness, justice, grace, forgiveness, and relational intimacy that images God. We can better understand what God is as a wise and loving father and what He is as a loving husband to His church. (Christ is never depicted as a husband to an individual.)

His purpose must be our purpose.

Women marry because they want something. Generally, women seek relationship, affection, attention, and the security that a committed relationship brings. They want to bear and nurture children. Their desires continue after the ring encircles the finger. Many of their desires are good, but if any are more important than the desire to glorify God, they have become idolatrous. Marriage was never intended to be an end in itself or a means to selfish ends; it is a means by which to glorify God. A wife should be pursuing Christlike desires, thoughts, words, and actions because her greatest desire, her motive compelling motive, is to glorify the One she claims to love.  As she does, she will be carrying out her responsibility in reflecting the church’s union with Christ.

Marriage is not an end in itself; it is a means by which to glorify God.

Think how this elevates the wife’s role. With God’s purpose in view, how a wife relates to her husband is not simply a matter of getting him to meet her felt needs (a.k.a. wants) or do what she thinks he should do. It is a matter of imaging the church’s relationship to Christ. The stakes are much higher than a wife’s happiness. God’s glory is in view.

Consider these goals for a wife:

    • To be the best image of the church to Christ that I can be (Eph. 5:31-32)
    • To glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31)

How might pursuit of the glory of God motivate you in your role as a wife?
If you are thinking of getting married, what are you wanting? What are your goals?
What might you change in yourself in order to fulfill God’s purpose?

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About Linda

Wifing, Singing, Studying, Counseling. I counsel at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
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