The Two Become One
We have contemplated how leaving and cleaving in earthly marriage points to our relationship with Christ, but we should also consider how the act of a husband and wife becoming one portends an even deeper mystery that will occur one day in heaven: that of Christ becoming one with His Bride, the church, as Paul explains:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32
I am no longer a young bride—I am a youngish widow, for my husband lost his battle with cancer at the age of fifty-nine. In losing Steve, the love of my life, I am also glimpsing more clearly this mystery of becoming one with Christ. For though sexual intimacy is a great gift, we also don’t have to have it—for we will have it forever with the Lord in heaven, in a mysterious way our minds cannot yet comprehend. It will be different, it will be better, it will be more glorious and more unifying that we can imagine. It will be the end of loneliness forever and ever.
Christianity holds the loftiest view of sex of any philosophy in the world. The Biblical view is unique, for it holds not only that sexual intimacy within marriage is sacred, but absolutely good and lovely. It was God’s great idea for a couple, through sexual intimacy to: find delight in one another, become one with one another, renew their covenant regularly in the sanctified marriage bed, learn how to unselfishly serve one another, and be blessed, if it was His will, with children. Seen as God sees it, the sexual act is about intimacy, about renewing covenant, and about faithfulness. These are the central principles that transfer, absolutely making it a pointer to His relationship with us.
I would never, ever dare to use this parallel at all—except that God does it. So we must look at it. Sexual intimacy is an important and integral part of the love stories between husband and wife—of the whole metaphor—and when it is clearly there, attempting to take it out would be like trying to extricate one of the braids in a triple-braid. The whole braid would fall apart. So it stays in—and it will appear and reappear frequently in this triple-braid, but it is certainly not the only braid or even the most important braid.
How are we to interpret metaphors and parables accurately? We are to look for the central truths. One distorted paradigm is to assume that you can press all the details of a metaphor and make a literal transfer. For example, when Scripture says that each believer must be wearing a white linen wedding gown when Christ returns, it does not mean that each of us, men and women, will be getting an actual wedding gown, but that Christ has the power to make our sins as white as snow, and to continue to transform us into “beautiful brides” who are confident and unashamed at His coming. When Scripture uses the sexual metaphor—and I feel a foolish even saying this, but know I must, it certainly doesn’t mean we are engaging in a sexual act with God, like some ancient and modern cults say. Instead, it means that as we increase in our love, trust, and intimacy with the Almighty, as we willingly put ourselves in His arms, our lives will have a fruitfulness that can only come when we fully yield to the Spirit of God.
1. Contemplations on the Introduction
- Why does Christianity hold the loftiest view of sex of any world religion?
- What are some parallels between earthly intimacy and intimacy with Jesus?
- What is important to remember when looking at a scriptural parable?
2. The Marriage Parable in Ephesians 5:22-33
- How are wives to submit to their husbands according to verse 22?
- How are husbands to treat their wives according to verse 25?
- How is this rephrased for each in verse 33?
- How did Christ fulfill his role perfectly as a husband?
- How are you and how could you better submit to and respect your heavenly husband?
3. The Marriage Parable in Genesis 1 and 2
- Genesis 1:27 - male and female together in the image of God. The first marriage was also one man and one woman for life. When you realize marriage is also a parable for Christ and His Bride, why is it important that it be both male and female? (Hints: Why is “otherness” important in this parable? Why is leadership important in this parable?)
- Just as a husband and wife are designed to fit together physically, what are some ways God designed them to fit together emotionally and spiritually?
4. The Marriage Parable in Proverbs 30:18-20
- What are the three amazing things Agur sees? How do the two become one in each case?
- What is the fourth mystery, the beauty Agur “does not understand?” How is this a culmination of the two becoming one?
- What is the contrast in verse 20?
- Why must sex be kept within the covenant of marriage in order to reflect the parable of Christ and His Bride?
5. The Marriage Parable in Hosea
- Find a few verses in chapter 2 that show that sin is not so much breaking the rules, but unfaithfulness, breaking the heart of God.
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