By Kyle and Teresa Dillard.

'This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.'

Ephesians 5:32

So marriage is God’s design, and the design of marriage is that it is supposed to refer to Christ and the Church.  Look again specifically at Verse 21

'submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Ephesians 5:21

Mutual submission…Why? Out of reverence for Christ!  There it is…Christ and the Church.  We submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Ultimately, it’s about Christ and the Church, not about you and the other person.  We submit to one another not for either of us, it’s for Him. 

Marriage is on a much higher plain than we realize. I submit to Teresa and she submits to me because of our love for Jesus more than our love for one another.  If she doesn’t want to submit to me then she grins and says with her teeth grinding “I’m doing this for Jesus”. That’s marriage!!! 

Faith vs. Performance

This is why the book Two Becoming One talks about "Faith-based Marriage" verses "Performance-based Marriage." Performance based marriage starts with “IF".  If you do this I’ll do that.  He/She is not doing this or that for me so I won’t do this or that for them either. 

Faith-based marriage says “I do this to honor Jesus.” Look what He’s done for me.  I want to be obedient to Christ and I’ll submit to you…sometimes in spite of you! As we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit we have the ability to submit to one another. We honor Christ and we start living on a much higher plain. 

If you have a problem with submitting to your husband or wife then you have a problem in your own spirit. You are not allowing God to lead you.  My guess is that if you can’t submit in marriage you probably are not submitting to Jesus and his authority in your life either.  Paul says your marriage is a reference to Christ and the church. 

If we used your marriage as a reference point to grow a healthy church what would the church look like?  If we used your marriage as a reference point to show people the character of Jesus… what would Jesus look like to others?  That’s literally what Paul is describing.  If we put our two verse together here is what we get.  The parentheses are me.

“This mystery (of marriage) is profound, and I am saying that it refers to (is a reference to) Christ and the church.  (So) submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

3 Things Can Happen

When you are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, walking by faith, submitting yourself to Jesus, and in obedience you submit yourself to your spouse then you have the ability to do these three things: 

1. The ability to hear criticism without being crushed.

When we are spirit-filled we understand that Jesus loves me, so He will reveal to me what is real when it comes to criticism and I won’t be crushed.  We are given the ability to weed through the criticism and learn what we need to and throw off what we don’t.

Teresa and I, years ago, had an argument and we agreed to let the other person talk without interruption from beginning to end.  Nothing was off limits except interrupting.  Then we agreed the person being criticized should have a chance to defend themselves but only at the end. 

Teresa told me all kinds of hurtful things I did to her.  As I listened I started agreeing with her.  But there was one thing I didn’t agree with.  We talked about it and she understood.  It was early in our marriage, but we were trying to hear criticism without being crushed. 

2.  The ability to give criticism without crushing.

When we give criticism and we are spirit-filled we think this way. “I can’t be harsher than Jesus has been with me” when giving criticism.  Think of the times when Jesus has spoken to your spirit and revealed sin in your life.  The fruit of the spirit is gentleness.  Restore someone with gentleness.  Spirit-filled people can communicate criticism without crushing someone. 

You lack the ability to criticize when your reason for criticizing is to crush them.  I know we’ve all done it.  Remember my wife is a marriage counselor and I am a pastor and this is common in every marriage.  One of you criticizes the other with the intent of crushing them.  Name calling is one evidence.  Cussing is pretty easy to point to as incorrect criticism.  Yelling at the other person is crushing criticism. 

3.  The ability to forgive without having left over anger.

Holding a grudge is easy isn’t it?  I kid Teresa that her memory is like an elephant.  It’s not in the character of Christ.  When Jesus forgives he forgets.  Do you?  When He forgives He says “your sin is no more.”  When it comes to Jesus we know He forgives, but we have a hard time forgiving ourselves because we are so good at holding grudges.  We assume He’s doing the same as us and He isn’t.  We have left over anger toward ourselves.  Forgiveness is difficult for us.  I’d say impossible unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Let the spirit lead you to forgive and leave all the anger behind.

In marriage this shows up in fights when we say “remember when you did…when you said…?”  It’s crushing to the other individual in that moment if you had talked about it before.  The other person came and apologized and you said “I forgive you” then three weeks later.  “Remember when?”  That’s not spirit-filled.

And the reason we can is because we mutually submit to one another because we know our marriage is a reference to Christ and the Church and we want to honor Him.  How a married couple acts toward one another and with one another is a picture of what it is to be in union with Christ and His church.

Your relationship to Christ as part of the church looks like this: There is unity.  There’s oneness.  There’s intimacy.  There’s joy.  There’s laughter.  There’s touch.  Holding one another.  There’s a closeness.  There’s healing of hurts.  There’s forgiveness.  There’s encouragement.  There’s celebration of one another.  There’s submission.  There’s love and respect and honor and service.  There are meals to be shared.  Conversations that are private. 

We know things about our spouse no one else knows.  We long to be together.  We don’t like separation.  I could go on and on.  This is what a healthy church looks like and this is what a healthy marriage looks like, but neither one accomplishes it if it’s not led by the Holy Spirit.  It’s not possible if we don’t mutually submit to one another out of reverence to Jesus.


Christian Family Life is a marriage discipleship ministry. We are here to offer resources and support no matter what condition your marriage is in. Our passion is to Build, Enrich, and Reconcile Marriages. Find out more at https://www.christianfamilylife.com/

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