In this season of Advent, we are preparing ourselves for a celebration of the Incarntion of the eternal Logos, in which the eternally begotten Son of God became the son of Mary, and, through her, a genuine son of Adam. We are also considering the impact of this truth on our marriages
“. . . Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23).
Our text picks up in mid-sentence. The apostle Paul has been recording his prayer for the Ephesians, that they would begin to comprehend something of the nature of what had been bestowed on them in Christ. In Christ, certain realities have been given to creatures, and it is possible for these creatures to begin to grasp the ungraspable—by the grace of God. What gift is this? God took a ragtag bunch of sinners, and transformed them into the fullness of His Son.
There are many truths in our text, but the one we need to note here is that Christ is described as the “head over all things“ to the church, His body, the fullness of Him who fills all things. By becoming a bridegroom, Christ received a fullness from His bride, even though He filled all things. This “dependence“ on His bride does not challenge His headship, it is the basis for it. In a limited, bounded space, how would this translate? “The husband is the head over his house for the wife, to the wife, who is his body, who is his fullness, even though his authority fills the house.“
WHEN THOUGHT STAGGERS:
We have trouble (understandably) talking about the Trinity “raw.“ It is not possible for us to grasp what the Trinity is like and then go off and apply that to our marriages. We might say that the Trinity is “logically“ prior to the Incarnation, because the Trinity describes the way God is apart from creation or redemption. But we cannot “access“ the Trinity unless the triune God reveals Himself to us, and He has done this in the Incarnation of His Son. Jesus says that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (John 14: 6-9). But there is another step up as well. We learn about the triune God through an understanding of Christ and the Church, but we are also called to understand Christ and the Church by applying what we are taught about that to our own marriages. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it“ (Eph. 5:25). “As the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything“ (Eph. 5:24). We don’t really learn anything “raw“ in a systematics class, but rather learn in an incarnational loop.
It must be noted that husbands and wives are not called to duplicate or reenact the precise relationship between Christ and the church. Husbands are not to die for their wives as a sinless substitutionary atonement, for example. The emphasis of this teaching is not marital hubris. But nevertheless, we are explicitly commanded to pattern our lives after his example, and we are given many things to imitate.
CHRIST AND THE CHURCH:
One very common problem is that we read Ephesians 5, see that husbands and wives are like Christ and the church, and immediately translate this into a minimal “nice thought for the day.“ “Husbands, love your wives ‘a lot.’” It is somewhat better when we pay close attention to what Christ is described as doing in that chapter, and see that this involves sacrifice, teaching, nourishing, cherishing, and so on. This is important in its place. But we forget that the entire book of Ephesians is crammed with teaching about Christ and the church, including our text.
HEADSHIP OVER FULLNESS:
Recall that in our discussion of the Trinity, we talked about mutual indwelling (perichoresis). We have it here. Husbands must say, “I am the head of my body, my wife. I am the head of the one who fills me.“ The wife must say, “I am the fullness of the one who is my head.“ Anyone who comes away from a careful reading of the apostle Paul’s teaching on marriage with the idea that the husband is “the boss“ and the wife is “the slave“ is someone not to be trusted with any text.
WHAT A WIFE IS:
Chapter 1 helps us to make sense of chapter 5. If you come to chapter 5 with the wrong assumptions about what is going on, you will be hopelessly overwhelmed by a rigid Marriage Law. But if you have received the grace bestowed in the Incarnation, the grace St. Paul prayed for in 1:17-18, what then? If you have the spirit of wisdom and revelation, how will you think of your husband or wife? If the eyes of your understanding are enlightened, and you know how the saints are a glorious inheritance for Christ, then you know what a wife is.