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Paul tells us that husbands ought to love their wives, even as Christ loved the church (pictured as a wife or bride). The purpose or goal of love is stated in Ephesians 5:27,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
The comparison between Christ and husbands in general differs primarily in the fact that Christ is “without sin” (Hebrews 9:28 KJV), whereas earthly husbands are not sinless. The word of Christ, then, is Truth and the church-bride must ultimately come into agreement with that Truth. When Christ and His bride come into agreement, it is because the church has changed its belief to conform to His word.
In the case of earthly husbands, their word or belief may or may not be true. So the role of his wife, as a double witness, is to provide a second opportunity to discover the truth. Her beliefs might be as inaccurate as her husbands, of course, for she too is imperfect. The main reason for hearing God’s voice is to learn truth and to be guided in the ways of the Kingdom. Yet both husband and wife start out as children of the flesh that are in need of being begotten by the Spirit.
Hence, the first order of business is to be “born again,” or, more literally, “begotten from above.” At that point, the new creation man within has the potential to rule and to impart the wisdom of God, “so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). For a fuller teaching on this, see my book, Hearing God’s Voice.
Learning to Hear
Having taken this first step, we all have the capability of hearing God’s voice, though many have not yet learned to recognize His voice when they hear it. Others cannot yet distinguish between the voice of their soul and the voice of their spirit (from which comes the voice of the new creation man who is the spokesman for the Holy Spirit).
Husbands and wives must both learn to hear God for themselves in order for them to have any chance of being a double witness in the family. The original purpose of marriage simply cannot be fulfilled apart from this. Having said that, keep in mind that many have not learned to distinguish the voice of the Spirit from the voice of the fleshly soul. Often the problem is that they lack confidence. Confidence comes largely through experience, and experience through confirmation from a double witness.
God separated the woman from the man in order to provide that double witness, so that His law-nature might be fulfilled, saying, “on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” (Deuteronomy 19:15). Paul confirmed this law in 2 Corinthians 13:1, saying,
1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Paul invokes this law in regard to his third letter to them. We only have two of them, but it is sufficient to confirm the truth and to correct the doctrinal problems and excesses in the church. In the case of marriage, a husband and wife are a team whose calling is to learn the truth so that they may build the Kingdom, starting with the family unit. This requires spiritual growth in both husband and wife. The pattern of New Covenant marriage must be learned over a period of time, and success depends on both of them continuing to grow “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
In my view, this is one of the most important responsibilities of the church. Paul’s description of the meetings in 1 Corinthians 14:20-40 shows how all the believers were to be given opportunity to participate. They were expected to share their discernments (“prophecy”) in a group setting and receive correction or confirmation over and beyond the family unit. In so doing, those who may have had difficulty hearing in the family setting could receive aid on a group level.
Such aid, then, would surely be accompanied by teaching from Scripture in order to give greater understanding of the issues at hand. The discussion was not designed to force any believer into adopting the view of the church or its leadership. It was designed to point out the Scriptural principles and laws by which they could all agree upon the truth of God’s nature.
The Glorious Church
As we learn, we conform little by little to the image of Christ, so that we may be part of the Sarah Bride that will be presented to Christ—“the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27). Those who remain in a bondwoman relationship with Christ will fall short of this goal in the end and will not be part of the first resurrection (of the overcomers) at the end of the present age. They will have to await the general resurrection at the end of the thousand years, a resurrection that Jesus described in John 5:28, 29. (See The Purpose of Resurrection.)
The reason for this is because Christ has already been married to a bride in an Old Covenant marriage. That marriage failed and ended in divorce (Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 2:2). He will never again marry an Old Covenant bride. All who would be married to Christ must come as New Covenant believers, for that is now the nature of His relationship with His bride.
Christ’s example is the ideal pattern for our own marriage relationships. The main difference is that husbands need correction, whereas Christ does not. So while Christ is bringing forth a bride who is in agreement with Him, husbands cannot assume that they are correct in any dispute over truth. If an imperfect husband is humble enough to recognize this, and if he loves his wife as Christ loves the church, then he will allow his wife the freedom to hear God for herself. He will not “tamper with the witness” by trying to coerce her into some form of concession.
Speaking as a husband, I have learned that the proper attitude is to know that my wife’s discernment must be given equal weight with my own discernment. There have been a few occasions where we differed, and I was certain that she was wrong. When we appealed these cases to God, it turned out that she was right, and I was wrong. So far she has always been vindicated by God Himself, who not only spoke truth but showed us the truth. In fact, this is why it has always taken a few years for God to resolve each disagreement. It takes time to arrange circumstances that will present the truth in a way that is indisputable.
I still have hope that I might be right in the next disagreement (ha ha!), but this is not a competition between us. We seldom disagree, but when we do, we discuss the issue. We do not argue. We both just want the truth and are willing to submit to the word of God. This requires humility on the part of both husbands and wives. Both must be teachable. Ego is the most dangerous enemy of a New Covenant relationship.
The Bride and the Body
Paul continues in Ephesians 5:28, 29, 30,
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.
New Covenant relationships can be pictured either as a husband and wife or as a head and body. Here Paul switches his metaphor to portray Christ as the Head and the church as His body. When the two are perfectly joined together, it is as if we have reversed course, moving from Genesis 2 back to Genesis 1. In the beginning, the woman was within the man, and she was separated only later. In a sense, the man was the head of the body, which was his bride, and so we see this again pictured here in verses 28-30.
The marriage principle, then, is not limited to a husband and wife. It also applies to the head being joined to the body. Paul asserts that the head (the source of thought) loves its own body and “nourishes and cherishes it.” If any part of the body is in pain, the head immediately responds to relieve that pain or dysfunction. The head cannot be indifferent, saying, “Well, there is pain in the left leg, but that is no concern of mine, since I, as the head, feel no pain.”
The unity of the body is expressed in the statement, “we are members of His body.” As the body of Christ, we will always be distinct from the Head. Nonetheless, legal unity treats both as if they are one flesh (Genesis 2:24), or one body.
Divine math says, one plus one equals one.