Diners are great places to eat. They are open 24/7 and you can get whatever you want at any time of day. You want breakfast at midnight? You got it. Triple decker club (commonly called the “Monte Cristo” sandwich) at 7 AM? No problem. What’s more, they usually have some entertaining place mats filled with games and riddles that help to help pass the time as you wait for your food. Inevitably one of the games will be a “connect the dot” drawing which is produced by tracing from dot to dot according to their numbered sequence. The result is a picture intended by the designer of the puzzle. The important thing here is that the designer of the puzzle has a specific picture he/she wishes to convey. I think in some way this describes Paul’s theology in the letter to the Ephesians.
There are two mysteries that Paul mentions in Ephesians. This is not to say that Paul is speaking in riddles.
Rather, Paul has connected the dots and sees clearly God’s plan of salvation; the marvelous plan that was hidden and is now revealed with the coming of Jesus the Christ.
Paul first mentions his “insight into the mystery of Christ… that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” (Eph.3:4-6). Paul also mentions a second mystery that has now been revealed with the inception of the Church; that is, the special relationship that exists between Jesus and his people which Paul sees as analogues with the relationship between a husband and his wife (Eph.5:22-33). Embedded in Paul’s practical instruction on how believers should glorify God in their earthly relationships is the foundational expression of God’s love for his people. He reaches all the way back to the second chapter of Genesis and the report of God’s institution of marriage as the prefigured depiction of Christ’s relationship to the Church (his people). While there is much that can be said about Paul’s deep theological reflection, there are two things I would like to highlight here that should help to support our Christian view of marriage.
First, it is important to note that Paul’s reference to Genesis 2:24 indicates that God’s solution to the problem of sin was prefigured before “the Fall”. In other words, the picture of Christ and the Church in the bond of marriage was instituted by God before Adam’s sin of disobedience in Genesis 3. From a human standpoint it is easy to wrongfully understand God’s plan of salvation as “plan B”; “whoops that did not work out, what I can do now?”
On the contrary, God knows the end before the beginning.
Salvation is only found in our relationship to our Savior; there is no other way (John 14:6). We need help that comes from beyond our earthly existence. This is why Jesus entered into our human domain, took on the form of a created being, to offer us a relationship with the God who is beyond our human comprehension. As different as male is to female, so is Jesus the Christ to us. We are similar but different and the union of the two provides the completeness that is manifested in new life.
Secondly, Paul’s depiction of the Christian order of marriage is more than just practical instruction.
His point is that the way we conduct our lives is deeply rooted in the theology through which we view life; theology is more than pragmatic.
We actually live in a created realm that reflects the magnificence of the Gospel. We cannot get away from it. God’s Good News is written into the very fabric of our existence. While the world may muddle to retain the distant memory of the nobility of the marriage union in a post- Christian society, believers in Jesus should consider all that is intended to be portrayed in their earthly union as a reflection of their heavenly union with Christ; fidelity, purity, intimacy without shame, trust… to put it succinctly, completeness which is the best expression of “Shalom”. The peace we experience when we are in harmony with our spouse is only a shadow of what is to come when we shall finally be in the presence of God. When we connect the dots according to God’s design we can see clearly the picture he has intended.