The joining of one man and one woman in a civil ceremony is an exciting experience to watch. It’s even more exciting to experience firsthand. Marriage is full of fun and exciting memories. Everything after the ceremony is a new and exciting “first.” I remember getting ice cream with my wife after we were married and saying this is the first time we were getting ice cream as Mr. and Mrs. Wildmon. Instances like this took place the first several months we were married and now it’s fun looking for things to do together for the first time.
Yes, marriage is full of exciting “first-time” experiences and fun memories but it also serves a deeper purpose. Marriage exposes sin. (Have you ever wished that there was never a “but”?) Marriage is no doubt part of my personal sanctification journey. Sanctification for the Christian is the lifelong process of being made like Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit, resulting in a changed life for the believer.
Within the first few months of being married, I began seeing how selfish I was. The two becoming one in every area of life really made me realize how much of my life I needed to make her a part of. Just as a professional athlete works to improve his game, I had to work at improving my unselfishness. I had become a very generous person with my time, finances, and abilities. But marriage is a whole other level for which I had to go back to the drawing board. This required prayer and studying God’s Word to help move me in the right direction.
There is a passage that many spouses are familiar with because it points directly to marriage. Please read the passage slowly as if you never read it before:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘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. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33).
We can always learn so much from the Bible no matter how many times we have read a specific passage. Was there a word that caught your eye in the fourth sentence? Here it is again,
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Marriage is an important relationship that God uses to sanctify His bride. The teaching here is that through loving and forgiving each other as Jesus did, we are made more like Him. Marriage exposes sin that we may have never known existed otherwise.
So as we remember every exciting “first” in our marriages, let us also learn from the difficult times. As my selfishness has been exposed and met with forgiveness from my wife, we have both seen the beautiful picture of the gospel played out in our life together. It is through the two becoming one flesh that we are made more like Christ. This is the sanctification of marriage that is brought about for our good and His glory.