The words of Ephesians 5:32 arise unexpectedly, yet they explain everything impeccably: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
By all appearances, the final verses of Ephesians’ fifth chapter are simply an application of the principle to marriage (vv. 21-31) of submitting to one another in the fear of God (v. 20). To aid in this understanding, it appears the apostle Paul uses the relationship of Christ and His bride—the church—to illustrate the essentials to a blessed and fulfilling marriage.
Verse 32, however, flips the script.
The relationship of Christ and the church is not a mere illustration of certain truths about marriage. Rather, it is the model after which the divine institution called marriage has been purposefully patterned. From the sixth day of the creation week—when Adam had found no “helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:20)—onward, everything God did was based upon what had already been eternally purposed for Christ and His bride. So…
Just as Jesus’ bride was going to come into being because He “slept” for three days and nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40), so Adam’s bride was the result of a deep sleep (Genesis 2:21).
Just as Christ’s bride was to come into being because of a wound made near His heart (John 19:34), so it was for Adam to receive his bride with a similar wound (Genesis 2:21-23).
Just as Jesus left His Father and His home in heaven so He could be married to His bride, so therefore, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Just as Christ will have only one bride—His church (Ephesians 5:25)—in this world, so God’s original and enduring intention for marriage is one man and one woman together for life (Matthew 19:4-6).
Just as the only reason Jesus will put away a member of His church is for spiritual fornication (James 4:4; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1), so the only permissible reason for divorce in this life is physical fornication (Matthew 19:9).
The relationship of Christ and His church is not a great illustration of marriage. From the beginning, it has been the authoritative model upon which marriage begun and is based.