Home Love The Bible’s Marriage Metaphor Doesn’t Belong Within the Bed room – ChristianityToday.com

The Bible’s Marriage Metaphor Doesn’t Belong Within the Bed room – ChristianityToday.com

The Bible’s Marriage Metaphor Doesn’t Belong Within the Bed room – ChristianityToday.com

Final week, my college students and I had been methods to interpret troublesome texts in Paul in school when a storm broke out on-line across the theology of the wedding metaphor.

In Twitter threads and Substack posts, Christian voices supplied their discerning views round pastor Joshua Ryan Butler’s metaphorical studying of Ephesians 5 printed on The Gospel Coalition web site. Butler’s piece, an excerpt from an upcoming ebook on intercourse, generated sufficient essential suggestions that the article was eliminated.

The current dialogue, although, underscores a perpetual query for us as Christians: How can we discern the Bible and Christian custom faithfully? What ought to be our key?

As Christians, we level to the triune God because the fount of all love, and a technique that Scripture invitations us to contemplate God and love is thru the metaphorical language of marriage. In Ephesians 5, Paul describes marriage, a union each social and bodily, as an awesome thriller (v. 32), and he attracts out sensible classes of self-sacrifice for wives (vv. 21–24, 33) and husbands (vv. 21, 25, 28–29, 33). Woven all through these teachings on marriage are stunning statements about Christ and the church.

Our interpretation of those statements have to be anchored within the biblical textual content itself. Earlier than describing him as a husband, Paul makes use of imagery in Ephesians 5 to disclose the Lord’s sovereignty. Though he has simply given his incarnate title, Jesus, Paul refers back to the Son of God as Christ and Lord. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the one who reigns over God’s kingdom, and the Lord, the sovereign over the universe. He’s additionally the Savior of the physique (v. 23).

Christ workout routines his sovereign lordship by acts of self-giving service and love, as in John 13 and Philippians 2. Christ the Sovereign beloved the church and gave himself for her, so that he would possibly sanctify the church. Christ handled the issue of sin by washing, which was the job of a servant (Eph. 5:26–27). All of the members of the physique, individually and collectively because the church (v. 30), wanted the salvation solely Christ the Lord may carry.

Paul compares husbands to Christ on this passage, however this doesn’t imply that husbands are like Christ in each respect. It’s liberating for males to know the methods they need to not (as a result of they can’t) “be Lord” to their wives. They’ll neither save nor sanctify their wives, for they too are in want of a Savior and contaminated by sin.

Not like different males

Paul does present the connection of wives to their husbands for instance of all Christians submitting to 1 one other and all of the members of the church submitting to Christ, however he by no means tells husbands to lead their wives, solely to love—a directive he repeats in Ephesians 5:25, twice in verse 28, and once more in verse 33.

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We see husbands usually are not Jesus, and Jesus is just not in all methods like a husband. Whereas Paul teaches husbands to like self-sacrificially by following the instance of Jesus’ self-sacrificial demise for the church, he goes past the bounds of the wedding metaphor when he speaks of Christ’s love for the church. Paul makes it clear that Christ’s self-sacrificial love is just not solely a one-time atoning occasion. Christ engages in long-term, ongoing take care of the church.

In Ephesians 5:29, he nourishes the church, a time period used for father’s care of youngsters (Eph. 6:4) and associated to the time period for mom’s nursing (Luke 23:29). Christ additionally cares for the church, a time period used for preserving heat (Deut. 22:6) or nursing (1 Thess. 2:7). Paul is just not limiting the metaphor to husband and spouse however is introducing into the wedding metaphor parental imagery for Christ—even parental imagery related to feminine our bodies.

The church is feminized in Paul’s metaphor, however the church is made up of female and male members who’re all referred to as to like Christ as a bride. Christ is primarily forged because the husband on this metaphor—and he’s definitely embodied as male—however Christ is just not like different males, not solely as a result of he’s God, but additionally as a result of his male physique got here from the flesh of a feminine physique (Mary) and never additionally a male physique (Joseph).

This actuality is solely the assertion of the doctrine of the virginal conception of Jesus. Briefly, Paul’s depiction of Christ’s singular sovereignty and saving work, along with the combined parental and marriage metaphors, preserves the boundary upheld by all Christian educating: the boundary between Creator and creation.

And because of this this textual content additionally preserves the boundary between Christ and males, liberating husbands from a typical they may by no means obtain. They solely method they’re referred to as to be like Jesus is to like their wives self-sacrificially, the exact name Paul points to all believers (Eph. 5:1–2). It’s the biblical textual content itself that closes the door to privilege of proximity between males and Jesus/God, an idea that has been used to justify abuse of ladies by males, dressed up in non secular garb.

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A deeply inclusive thriller

As is clear from Ephesians 5, marriage is just not the one metaphor for God’s relation to the church in Scripture. One other outstanding enviornment of biblical language is that of the household. God is typically the husband, however extra typically, God is known as because the Father. Even Ephesians 5, identified for the wedding metaphor, begins this manner: “Subsequently be imitators of God, as beloved youngsters” (ESV, emphasis added).

One of many risks of overemphasizing the wedding metaphor is that it may contribute to an idolization of marriage and privilege the expertise of those that can righteously have interaction in sexual activity. However, the household metaphor is extra common. Whether or not or not the expertise is an effective one, everybody is aware of what it’s to be a son or daughter, however not everybody is aware of what it’s to be married. The pervasiveness of familial language for God takes the wedding metaphor off any inappropriate pedestal.

Furthermore, familial terminology doesn’t lend itself to unsuitable comparisons between intercourse and relationship with God as the wedding metaphor has. Granted, a person doesn’t change into a organic father save by intercourse, however the identical doesn’t apply to God the Father. God is Creator. God is Spirit. God is eternally three individuals in dynamic loving relationship as unbegotten, begotten, and continuing.

When the triune God was revealed preeminently within the incarnation of the divine Son, that revelation passed off by a nonsexual act. God’s Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary however didn’t have intercourse along with her (Luke 1:35).

When rightly understood, each metaphors in Scripture—God as our husband and God as our Father—work in opposition to a elementary downside that have to be prevented: a crude male sexualization of God and its corollary, a divinization of male sexuality. That is the error that Butler made in his interpretation, which parallels how “Christ penetrates his church with the generative seed of his Phrase” with the sexual intimacy of a bride ready within the honeymoon suite.

Within the Incarnation, the everlasting God selected to disclose God’s personal self because the Father who is just not an embodied male and an everlasting Son who turned one. And in God’s everlasting knowledge, this revelation passed off by and with the lively company and physique of a girl. There’s a profound and deeply inclusive thriller within the physique of our Lord, a male virginally conceived by the facility of the Holy Spirt when Mary mentioned sure. His physique evokes the picture of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4) as proclaimed in Genesis 1:26–27, the picture of God in female and male.

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It’s this revelation of God in Jesus Christ that ought to management our interpretation of the wedding metaphor in Ephesians 5. Jesus is the important thing to our discernment. If the Father of Jesus Christ is revealed preeminently within the Incarnation, which doesn’t occur by intercourse; and the Son who’s male from the physique of a feminine additionally by no means engaged in intercourse; and if that God is metaphorically the husband of the church, then the creaturely class of male sexual exercise can’t be projected onto our God.

When understood by the Incarnation, our metaphorical relationship with the triune God as husband provides one thing stunning and good for all folks, married and single, women and men, with out privilege for some however lack for others.

If something, this controversy exhibits that totally different colleges of interpretation must be in communication with each other and never ensconced in self-contained silos. It’s unity, even and particularly, unity throughout distinction, that Jesus mentioned would talk God’s like to a world so desperately in want of it (John 13:35).

We’re not all married to 1 one other, however we’re all part of the identical household.

Amy Peeler is affiliate professor of New Testomony at Wheaton School and affiliate rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Geneva, Illinois. She is the writer of a ebook on Mary titled Ladies and the Gender of God.

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