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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...

Last week we began a study of parenting and family discipleship. I was asked to lead the study, so I pulled a switcharoo on all the couples that signed up; they thought they were coming to a parenting class, and I'm having us all take a step back to look at God's design for the family and making disciples at home.

In the first session of our "parenting" class, we didn't even talk about parenting at all! We started with the foundation--marriage. More specifically, we asked the question, "What are God's purposes for marriage." Because when we understand God's design for marriage and his purposes for our families (the indicatives), then we'll have the freedom and motivation to honor God in day-to-day parenting do's and don'ts (the imperatives).
Our text was Ephesians 5.22-33, in which Paul employs the concept of "types." In the same way that Adam and many other Old Testament figures were "types" of Christ, foreshadowing and imperfectly representing the ideal, our marriages are types of the relationship between Christ and the church. This "mystery" as Paul calls it, is no longer hidden from us; it has been revealed in the coming of Christ. Marriage is designed to be a sign and symbol of the covenant relationship between Jesus and his redeemed people, the church!

"Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and to help carry it through according to her gifts."
"Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike servant leadership and protection and provision in the home."

Within the marriage, Ephesians 5.22-24 tells us the wife is a type of the church, submitting to her husband's leadership in the same way that the church submits to Christ. But we're not to hear the S-word in a negative way (submission)--the biblical concept of submission has its roots in the idea of order. Wives are equally created in the image of God, but with different gifts and complementary abilities. This idea of submission is not about an inferior person giving in to a superior person, but about an equal person yielding to God's created order of responsibility and accountability. As John Piper quotes above, submission is a divine calling and necessary to help the husband execute his responsibility to lead.
Paul then goes on in Ephesians 5.25-33 to tell us how husbands are a type of Christ in any marriage. Husbands are to lead, love, serve, protect, and provide for their families in the same unconditional and sacrificial way that Jesus does the church. He will be held responsible, as Adam was in Genesis 3 when God called him to account for the sin that Eve (technically) committed first. He's not to be domineering, but to lead by serving.
So what are the practical purposes of marriage? 

Who doesn't understand this one? Marriage helps us to become holy and more like Jesus, affording us plenty of opportunities to learn forgiveness, how to extend grace, anger management, generosity, sacrifice, love, and repentance. Living in such close proximity to another all the time, creates great opportunities for God to mold us and make us more like Jesus!

"Be fruitful and multiply." We're to fill the earth with people who will see and worship the glory of God. More than simply populating the earth, God gives us children to make disciples. This leads us into the next session; we'll look at God's design for the family, and the importance of making disciples at home!