Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 20, 2022
Ephesians 5:24-32 Ultimate Love, Extreme Missions
God’s glorious plan for His people, seen in the marriage covenant in Ephesians 5:31-32, reveals the glorious mission of God and how those plans can be trusted without fear but with great anticipation!
Everything God does is great because He is excellent. There is nothing so remarkable as the Lord and the things He does. Instead of excitement, however, many of us have fear over God’s plans. We doubt what God is like, what He does, and why He does things. The evil one foils us by implanting his insidious doubts in our minds as he passes our way. It is time we open our eyes, mouths, pockets, and lives to the glory of our great God and what He is doing.
We have nothing to be ashamed of when we share the love of God with our neighbor. We should not be intimidated but bold. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
I confess that after having just spoken at two seminars on marriage (close to 25 hours of speaking), my mind is full of marriage ideas. I had a chance to talk to a select group of urban pastors and wives in the fast-growing city of Nairobi and to a group of 500 in a field out in nowhere, many of whom had never heard anyone speak from God’s Word on marriage (I asked them).
It’s time we wed marriage and missions. We can boldly embrace His purpose and call until we get this more incredible view of God and His plans. There are many models of God’s mission program, each possessing its contributions. The marriage model powerfully strips away fear and enables us to trust Him with this plan.
Since some of you are puzzled, let me through words show you pictures of this wedding between marriage and missions. Each of the three main points builds on the prior.
1.) The Picture of Marriage (Eph 5:31-32)
2.) The Choosing of the Bride (Eph 5:25, 29)
3.) The Preparing of the Bride (Eph 5:26-27)
1.) The Picture of Marriage (Eph 5:31-32)
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Paul starts by quoting the Lord Creator from Genesis 2:24.
“For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Paul explains that the Lord was not only referring to marriage (though he also was) but also to, the special covenantal relationship between Himself and His people.
Ephesians 5:32 uses the marriage relationship to describe the relationship between Christ and the church. Marriage is the most exquisite and intimate picture of life touching our deepest dreams, longings, and hopes. Marriage also forms one of the clearest pictures of the relationship God wants to have with His people.
Now let us assume that we have a beautiful picture of marriage in mind, one filled with love, a long-lasting relationship, deep mutual trust, a sharing of intimacies, and many joys. Many individuals are not acquainted with a pleasant notion of marriage due to pain, loneliness, and bitterness. It seems to be a distant dream for them. But this love is real, if not in your or your parent's marriage, but certainly in the Lord’s love for you, God’s people! God wants such intimacy with us.
God’s people are secure in His love. Consider the deep needs of man: security, being loved, being cared for, knowing someone is there to help, etc. They are all fully seen in God’s love for His people through Christ.
We see snapshots of this intimacy in the Garden of Eden, not only through the beautiful paradise He arranged for Adam and Eve but also in His willingness to walk alongside them and talk.
We wonder, “Why is the big, big Creator talking to small people like Adam and Eve?” Or “Why is the invisible mighty Creator wasting His time befriending a few creatures?”
God produced this picture of marriage to help us see His hope for a deep relationship with His people. The much-sought-after marriage relationship is a prophetic picture of what God is bringing into reality.
This image challenges us to think about what God is like. Why does He want to be so close to the people He made?
Or we might ask, “How is it possible that God can be that intimate with us?” What is spiritual intimacy?
This intimacy brings us to where we can see the excellencies of our God and His plans, especially when we discover His abounding grace for us. Many of us have never experienced such love, joy, and acceptance.
We are not mere pawns on the board, pushed around and sacrificed as necessary. No. God prizes, treasures, and delights in us! Paul is speaking about marriage, but something even much greater—the Christ-church covenantal marriage that continues through eternity. Nothing shall break the love of God toward His people.
What we see and experience on earth is just a glimpse of this close and desirable relationship between God and man, the church.
God is good and loving. He draws His chosen people into His presence to fulfill their greatest needs and heart desires. Tell people about your Great Lover!
People are lonely, rejected, and full of hatred. The gospel introduces them not only to the means of finding forgiveness and cleansing from all of their guilt through Jesus but introduces them to that deep love, peace, value, and joy that comes into their lives through God’s love. Often we do not share the gospel, because we doubt its powerful truths.
At the same time, we should remember that the way we share the gospel should convey God’s love. This does not mean we ignore speaking about eternal judgment, but we should not be rude in our conversation. Value the people with whom you speak. Listen to them.
One method I just read about in a magazine is: placing a creation magazine or fossil on your desk. This way, people will ask significant questions you can use to share more about the Lord.
Let’s further expand this concept of intimacy with God in two ways (though there are more ways to do it) so that we can be more awed and moved by the love of God in Christ. We will look at God’s deep love and preparation of the bride for the wedding.
2.) Choosing the Bride (Eph 5:25, 29)
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her ... 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church (Eph 5:25, 29).
God demonstrated His great love for us by the way He chose a bride. A man needs to pay a dowry to gain a bride.
Christ, likewise, offered something precious to secure His bride— His own life. What a price! Jesus did it by dying on the cross for His people’s sins. He so valued His people that He suffered extreme pain and rejection for them. He died for God’s people so she, the bride, could be His forever. Fortunately for us, He came alive again, so the church is not widowed.
We observe God’s greatness and plan by how Christ, His Son, secured His bride. God exhorts a husband to love his wife just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (5:25). Why would the Father send His Son into the world to bind us to Himself?
When we consider two facts, the depth of God’s love becomes more evident.
(1) God does not need us
God is so utterly perfect in Himself that He needs no one outside of Himself to make Himself complete. From eternity, God was absolute. Why, then, would He seek out a ‘bride’?
Do not stain the grace of God by asserting that He ought to save you or me. Mankind ought not to boast of his worth but rather confess His ungodliness (i.e., extreme incompatible, holy, and sinful).
Our pride is so deceitful. God does not save us because we fulfill Him but quite the contrary.
(2) God is not attracted to us
Instead of being attracted to us, our sin repulsed God. The scriptures teach us, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). We are sinners and therefore spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-3). Being spiritually dead, we cannot respond to the Lord’s love. And yet, in this unattractive state, Christ sought us. How unpleasant it would be to court a corpse!
When people boast of their works before God as holy and desirable, they do not understand how wretched they have become because of their sin and selfish state. Thinking we are lovely or acceptable distorts God’s genuine grace towards us. For this reason, Paul elaborates much on this in Ephesians 2:1-10. God chose us in Christ, not in our good works.
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love” (Eph 1:4).
God sought us not because we loved Him. He loved us despite our sins. He first loved us. The order is essential and displays His tremendous love and how extremely horrible the teaching of good works is (the false concept that we are made acceptable to God by the right way we live).
Let us reflect on how this concerns missions.
First, we see God is committed to reaching out to the world to bring the unlovely into His love in Christ. Listen to His call if you do not know the Lord’s love. Respond to Him. Our acceptance is because of Christ not because of us. But once we believe in Christ, our sins are cleansed, being acceptable in Christ through our faith.
Second, this love of God empowers us to face all sorts of dire distresses, even while reaching out to the lost. Evangelism must be purposed. Most of us are not regularly thinking of the lost like God is. Christ saw the harvest fields ready to be reaped (Luke 10:2). If God’s plan is so fantastic, ought we not be more purposeful in reaching out to the lost?
Think of your neighbors, colleagues, bosses, and strangers you meet along the way. Bring them to the Lord in prayer and seek Him for grace to express God’s love for them.
3.) Preparing the Bride (Eph 5:26-27)
“26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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” (Eph 5:26-27).
The Hebrew custom during Jesus’ time was that the bridegroom would be betrothed (promised) to the bride, go away for an uncertain period to prepare a home, and then, by surprise, would come and bring the bride to his new home.
Jesus uses this to illustrate several spiritual truths. Christ has come, secured us (i.e., the church) with His life, betrothed us to Himself, and has now gone away to prepare a house for us.
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Why does God take so long before judging the evil in this world? Why does He put up with this world’s corruption? There are at least two answers to these questions. Perhaps both answers, revealing God’s grander scheme, are unexpected. This is true on two levels.
(1) Christ saves all His people
First, God is saving all His chosen people. The wedding does not occur until the bride is fully prepared with all her finery!
Ephesians 5 reveals the mystery of marriage. Just like marriage is a covenant between two people, so salvation/redemption is a covenant between God and His people. Another similar mystery mentioned in Ephesians 2 is that of Israel and the Gentiles. God made the two into one ‘new man.’
We usually think of the combination of Jew and Gentile as the amazing way God made them into one body. We could also think about the Lord’s purpose in reaching the world. Despite Israel’s unwillingness to obey the Lord, God, in His infinite wisdom, broke through with a particular plan to reach the world beyond the Jews.
If the Lord is so zealous to reach the lost (i.e., reach non-Jews), we should be too. We ought to join in the efforts to seek out the last unreached people groups across the globe.
Praise God! He is doing this through the church! In 2010, “of the 16,351 people groups by country, 6,645 are still considered unreached” consisting of 2.75 billion people out of 6.70 billion (Joshua Project). Although our church supports such efforts, we need to strategize to do more. God is busily completing His bride bringing the rest of the elect into the church (His bride) before His return to take her home.
God has commanded us to join Him in this venture to complete the bride. We do it with Him, as we build up our intimacy.
12. INDONESIA. One local Chinese church has recently "adopted" an unreached people group in Sumatra and had the opportunity to share their vision with other local Chinese churches. Pray others will catch a similar vision-to commit to a focused and intentional relationship with unengaged peoples in Indonesia to bring about a biblical and indigenous church movement in each people group.
The Lord is also doing one more thing. He is perfecting His people.
(2) Christ perfects His people
Notice Christ’s purpose is restated three times by the three ‘that’ words:
- “That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (5:26).
- "That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory” (5:27)
- “That she would be holy and blameless” (5:27).
What a powerful statement! Christ has very clear purposes and is assisting her in preparing His bride (the church) for that glorious reunion.
God has a determined purpose to purify His bride, making her ready for that big day. She is adorned with beautiful clothing, jewelry, friends, family, and that sparkle in her eye. She spends time treating her skin, nails, and hair before dressing. She dreams of that moment and spends her time preparing for when she becomes his. Yes, she is promised, but the promise is not fully realized until the consummation. She is waiting for that magic wedding moment, even as the church awaits Christ’s return.
Perfecting the bride of Christ has two areas of development (other than ensuring all the people composing the bride are present - see above).
Opportunity to do good works
In Ephesians 2:10, the Lord prearranged all the good works we are to do.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
Right now, He allows us the opportunity to live out these good works as a way to manifest our love and devotion to Him. He empowers us to do them through His Spirit. As we anticipate His return, we focus on pleasing Him.
It is not a manual that He gives us filled with duties, but daily, as we prayerfully seek Him, He reveals these things and empowers us to accomplish them. The Lord wants to draw us into a deeper trust relationship as we learn to depend upon Him.
Improvement in character quality
God has also allowed us to respond lovingly to Him by the way we put off our sins. The Lord calls us to be Christlike. We are to remove the blemishes.
Frankly, when I go overseas to train pastors, I do not know how I can do these things. I keep asking myself, “What am I doing here?” I don’t have the money, the energy, the focus, or the stamina. I love my family, my home, and my church. Furthermore, I am white from a very conservative background, and I need to mix with people much more lively than I am. I do not fit. I do not understand their language and cultural backgrounds.
But as He calls, I make myself available. I trust Him to provide needed monies. I seek Him for wisdom to bring the right messages to feed His sheep. Do you see how it works? The temptation is to forget Him and get caught up in the things of the world (spiritual adultery).
We are inadequate, but He helps us complete these good works for His glory. The good works are not done to gain His approval but to express our gratefulness to Him. Furthermore, because He must help us with these good works, they become a means to draw us closer to Him. The Lord is just as concerned with the good works as He is with the deeper relationship it cultivates. The marriage model highlights our wonderful intimate relationship with the Lord.
There are three purposes for these good works:
- Opportunity to demonstrate our appreciation
- Opportunity to deepen our relationship with Him, and
- Opportunity to gain eternal rewards (1 Cor 3:1-15).
Our life, dedicated to God, serves as our one chance to manifest our appreciation to Him for His love for us. God has given us this opportunity to respond to Christ with our good works and praise—not to gain salvation but to show our appreciation.
This work is not an assignment we do on our own. The very things the Lord asks us to do might frustrate us because they seem so hard or awkward. Consider how hard it is to share the gospel with your parents, classmates, or friends. But this is our opportunity.
God wants us to lean upon Him for extra strength and wisdom, drawing close to Him. Don’t forget the picture of the bride. God wants His people to be close and intimate with Him. He uses these situations to develop that intimacy. The Lord greatly desires to cultivate a close relationship with us. These good works are a means to further develop our trust.
We should also remember that He wants us to be holy. The Lord is purifying our lives. Have we forgotten about His return? Do we long for His return? Have we unknowingly become spiritual adulterers?
Now is the time for us to get caught up in our great God’s splendor, glorious in His mighty power, revealing His divine mission plan to us.
We are part of His eternal marriage plan. I hope this truth motivates and moves us into pleasing Him. Let us be serious and diligently seek how God wants to work through our lives. It is not that we have to be smart, talkative, or in the right position. We are there communing with Him, as He identifies His desires for us and seeks to assist us in accomplishing His plans.
1.) The Picture of Marriage (Ephesians 5:31-32)
God’s plans are to be trusted because He means the very best for us.
2.) Choosing the Bride (Ephesians 5:25, 29)
Being secure in His love fosters a willingness to please Him and join Him in His work.
3.) Preparing the Bride (Ephesians 5:26-27)
We are to join Him in bringing other people into His family, seeking opportunities to do good while waiting for His return.