Marriage to Christ

until our minds become intent upon the Spirit, Christ, so to speak, lies idle because we coldly contemplate him as outside ourselves—indeed, far from us. We know, moreover, that he benefits only those whose “Head” he is [Eph. 4:15], for whom he is “the first-born among brethren” [Rom. 8:29], and who, finally, “have put on him” [Gal. 3:27]. This union alone ensures that, as far as we are concerned, he has not unprofitably come with the name of Savior. The same purpose is served by that sacred wedlock through which we are made flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone [Eph. 5:30], and thus one with him. But he unites himself to us by the Spirit alone. By the grace and power of the same Spirit we are made his members, to keep us under himself and in turn to possess him.


John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 541.

The Imago Dei and Marriage

Relying on the imago Dei in creation, the apostle Paul unveils this eschatological restoration of this relational dimension of sonship with his marriage analogy: the union of the husband and wife is analogous to the union of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:21-33). Accordingly, in Ephesians 5, Paul's mind turns to God's creation and to the divine institution of marriage pictured in Genesis 2. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul assesses that the intimacy to be enjoyed in Christian marriage, with an admitted level of inscrutability (cf. Eph. 5:32), is explicated by analogy to the intimacy enjoyed in the union of the messianic Son of God and his bride, the church....

Returning to Paul's marriage metaphor, the first Adam, created in God's image, wed Eve-who was also created in God's image. As the first institution established by God the Creator, Edenic marriage reflected the nature of intra-Trinitarian fellowship; Adam and Eve's interpersonal relationship reflected the intimacy of the social Trinity. Through the fall, not only was the image of God grossly compromised, and the Father/son relationships tragically ruined, but further, human interrelationship-most agonizingly, the marriage relationship-became irreversibly non-intimate (Gen. 3: 12-13).

Hence, it is in view of the imago Dei that Paul is able to assert this marriage/church analogy. Since the restoration of the bride through redemption rested on the Son who was the perfect image, the marriage relationship in Genesis 2 must likewise rest on the original relational image of God imprinted on God's sons. The analogy of the precious and intimate relationship of the bride of Christ, the church, with the groom, Jesus Christ, is based on God's creation of the marriage institution as a reflection of himself. The re-created daughter of God is fit to wed the incarnate Son; the bride in whom his image is restored is thereby qualified to wed the perfect Image Son who gave up his life for her. Summarily, the relational makeup of humanity, as an aspect of the imago Dei, exists within the context of created and redeemed sonship. Just as the Father has fellowship with the Son, so, too, the children of God have fellowship with one another, by the restoration of relational purity in the messianic Son himself (see chart below). The relationship of Christ to his church attests to this analogy and to the ectypal sonship of created man.

  First Adam Second Adam Eve/Church
Creation Created Son Eternal Son Created Bride
Fall Alienated Son Eternal Son Alienated Bride
Redemption Restored Son Incarnate Son Restored Bride
Eschaton Realized Son Wedded Son Consummated Bride

Marriage Union

And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage - indeed the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage - it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life}, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ's, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul's; for} if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things which are his bride's and bestow upon her the things that are his." As if he felt the redemptive purpose of the union-transfer was not clear enough, Luther goes on to make it explicit: By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are his bride's. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned; he suffered, died, and descended into hell that he might overcome them all... Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom.


Martin Luther, Freedon of the Christian Man, Works of Martin Luther, 31.351