A love to remember: Gospel and marriage

Ephesians 5:31-33

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.


Tonight is the fifth part of “A love to remember series: Gospel and marriage.” I hope along the way, you were able to see relationships through the eyes of the gospel because that’s the goal. A few weeks ago, I read an interesting article that says that the divorce rate in China spikes up after Coronavirus quarantine. Husband and wife who spent two months together in isolation fought constantly and decided to get a divorce. This is interesting. You would think that if a husband and a wife have more time with each other, it will lead to a baby boom this time next year. But apparently, the times of isolation brings to surface all the problems that they have been ignoring in their marriage. One divorce lawyer in Shanghai said that “The more time they spent together, the more they hate each other.” And the article mentions that this is a warning for the rest of the world of what might happen because of the quarantine. If you are married, you know this. Marriage is both very good and very difficult at the same time. Francis Chan said, “Marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are heart problems. They are God problems.” And I think he gets it right. At the core of it all, marriage problems are not really marriage problems.

Marriage has its blessings but it is very difficult at the same time. Married couple, raise your hand if you agree with me. If your spouse is not raising their hand, they are lying to you right now. That is why when you go to bookstores, you will find many books on experts trying to tell you what is wrong with your marriage. They say the problem is communication problems, compatibility problems, personality problems, financial problems, sexual problems, and so forth. But that is not the diagnosis of the Bible. The bible tells us that the major problem in every marriage is sin. The reason marriage problems exist is because there are two sinners who are dancing together. Marriage is extremely difficult because every husband and wife are horrible sinners. You and I know this but sometimes we overlook this problem. One of my favourite part of a wedding, besides the fact that I get to dress up, is to hear the wedding vow. I have a soft heart, especially if its the wedding of one of you. At Albert and Cathline’s wedding, my eyes were teary during the wedding vows. Regardless of what sort of wedding you go to, you will hear them say a similar thing. “Honey, thank you for loving me and accepting me the way I am. I love you, in health and sickness, in richness and poverty, in good and bad times, I will always be there for you. Till death do us part.” And we all say, “Ow that’s so sweet.” But you will not hear anyone say in their wedding vows, “Honey, I am a really bad sinner and so are you. I will hurt you a lot and you will hurt me a lot. And now I am yours and you are mine till death do us part.” No Christian says this in their vow even though it is true because it doesn’t sound romantic. But that’s what marriage is. Marriage is a union between two sinners for life. And if the main problem in marriage is sin, then there is no external improvement that can deal with the problem.


I remember a few years ago when I dislocated my knee in RSI camp, everyone panicked. Out of everyone in the camp who could get into an accident, it was the pastor. I pretty much had everyone attention. All of them wanted to do something to help me but no one knew what to do. Then my dear friend, who shall remain unnamed, wanted to do something to help me, rushed to get the first aid kit, and he opened the first aid kit box in front of me. I thought, “Good, I have Edrick and the first aid kit box. Surely the combination of these two can help me. I am going to be fine.” He looked inside the first aid kit and he looked at me. I looked at him and hoped he would find a magic cure to put my knee back together in that box. But no. All he did was he opened the box and looked back at me with the hopeless expression. Why? Because there was nothing in that box that could help me. Betadine and band-aid are nice but they will not put my knee back together. And that is our problem. We often try to cure our marriage problem with betadine and band-aid. But the solution is not marriage tips, although they are beneficial. The solution to every marriage problem is the only one who can cure our sin problem: Jesus. With another word, the problem is not outside of us, but inside of us. The problem with marriage is not our wives or our husbands but us. We are sinful and we need Jesus. That is why we need the gospel in our marriages. We not only need the gospel for our salvation, but we also need the gospel in every area of our lives. The gospel is our only hope in marriage.

Knowing this fact, unashamedly I continue to point to the gospel in every part of the series. The gospel is your only hope to have the flourishing marriage that God has in mind for you. But tonight, I want to push it even further. The gospel is not only the means to a flourishing marriage, but the gospel is also the purpose of a flourishing marriage. This is how Paul puts it. Ephesians 5:32 – This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. According to Paul, there is a direct connection between a marriage relationship and a relationship with Christ. Marriage is not only about the relationship between husband and wife, but it is also about the relationship between Christ and us. With another word, there are some things we would not understand about marriage unless we look at it through the lens of our relationship with Christ, and there are some things we would not understand about our relationship with Christ unless we look at it through the lens of marriage. There are two sides. You can’t completely understand one without understanding the other.


I have two major points today. What does marriage tells us about the gospel; What does the gospel tells us about marriage.


What does marriage tells us about the gospel?


Two things. First, marriage shows us the gospel cycle. What is the gospel cycle? It is the cycle of grace and repentance. What happens when someone does something that hurt you? The Christian answer is to forgive that person. Correct? I don’t know about you, but I tend to not forgive unless I see repentance first. Let’s say a man in RSI borrows my white horse and he crashes it to a wall intentionally because he doesn’t like my sermon to the wife. He thinks that I am too harsh to the husband and too kind to the wife. It is not fair. And then he comes to me and says that he had asked for God’s forgiveness and God has forgiven him and now he wants me to forgive him. What would I do? Would I forgive him and let him off just like that because I am his pastor? Heck no. I would want him to take responsibility by buying me a new car, start liking my sermon, gives me a like on YouTube, and share it on his social media before I forgive him. I’m not going to let him off just because God has forgiven him. I want him to prove to me first that he deserves my forgiveness. Anyone else like me? I want to see repentance first before I extend forgiveness. But in marriage, the rhythm is the opposite. If you don’t forgive quickly, your marriage will be crushed. Marriage shows that you cannot be saved by your works. You can only be saved by grace.

Let’s talk about the gospel first. How are we saved in the gospel? It does not begin with you; it begins with God’s love and grace. From before the foundation of the world, God has loved you. God has chosen you. Before you do anything good or bad, God already set his affection on you. And yet, we sinned against God. We trampled on God’s love and we ran after other lovers. That means God is the offended party and we are the offender. But instead of making us pay for our sins, God took the punishment upon himself, he paid the penalty of sins at the cross, he forgave us, he loved us and he reached out his hand to us saying, “I know what you have done but I have paid for it. I have put it behind me and now I am extending my love and grace to you. I want you.” That is what God did. He showed us his love and grace. And our part is repentance. When we experienced his love and grace for us, we repent of our sins.

And this is exactly how marriage thrive. Whenever there is a conflict in marriage, you have two options. One you deal with it through works and the other through grace. Dealing with works means you require proof of repentance first before you forgive while dealing with grace means you extend love and forgiveness first before proof of repentance. If you deal with conflict through works, the conflict will never be resolved. Usually, in a conflict, each party feels the other person has wronged them. And to solve marriage conflict by demanding your spouse to admit they are wrong and work for forgiveness is to crush the marriage. It does not work. Marriage only thrives when you deal with conflict with grace, where the offended party must choose to love and show grace despite being hurt. And you don’t do this by saying to the other person, “You are the offender and I am the one who is offended. But I am going to put away my anger because I want to be like Christ. I want to let you know that I have forgiven you so now you do your part of repenting to me. I’ll give you 5 minutes. I’ll wait.” No, that is not showing grace; that is punishing the person. To love and show grace is to say to the other person, “I love you and I know you meant well.” Rather than demanding the other person to prove their repentance, you extend grace and love. It does not mean you cannot express your anger. But you express your anger in such a way that does not make the other person feels small. And when you do that, your spouse will more likely express their repentance. There is something about extending grace that creates room for repentance.

And let us be clear what repentance is. Repentance is not making excuses. Repentance is not giving a long explanation. Repentance is not trying to pay for your sins. We need to get this right. A lot of people think that they are repenting while in fact, they are explaining. “I am sorry but…” Whenever there is a “but” in repentance, you are not repenting, you are making excuses for your sins. Are you with me on that? Repentance is owning your sin and accepting responsibility. Now, think of a marriage conflict where the offended is quick to extend grace and the offender is quick to repent. That marriage will thrive. This principle is true for every relationship but especially marriage. No one hurt you more than your spouse because you are exposed to their sin 24/7. Marriage is a relationship where the gospel cycle is needed the most.

Someone might say, “Yos, this is not fair. You have no idea what my spouse did to me.” If you say that, it only shows that you don’t understand the gospel. You have forgotten that you are a forgiven sinner. If you find it hard to forgive your spouse, it is because you have forgotten how God has forgiven you again and again. You forget the gospel. The gospel is that Jesus has forgiven you completely of all your sins and he accepted you and loves you unconditionally. It is your sin that put Christ on the cross. It is your betrayal that kills him. But what did Jesus do? Did he say to you, “You are not being the spouse you should be. You wronged me. And I demand you to change before I can forgive you.” A thousand no. Jesus gave himself for you and died for you willingly. He looked at you the terrible spouse and he loved you. Christ did not reject you because you offended him. That is the grace of God that brings you into repentance. So, you can forgive your spouse not because it is fair or your spouse deserves it, but you can forgive your spouse because Christ has forgiven you. You can only extend grace if you know you have received grace. It is only when you see Jesus died at the cross to forgive your sins that you can say to your spouse, “I see your sins and I forgive you because Christ saw my sin and he forgave me.”


Second, marriage shows us gospel fruitfulness. The gospel tells us that when we become Christian, our relationship with God is changed. God is not just God, but he is also our Father. We are the children of God. The gospel also tells us that when we become Christian, our relationship with Christ is changed. Christ became our Bridegroom and we become the Bride of Christ. With another word, we are married to Christ. And this is very important. How do we bear fruits as Christians? Or let me put it another way. How do we produce Christ-like characters in our life? The answer is the same way a husband and a wife produce fruit. By fruit, I do not mean literal fruit. What I mean is baby.

How does a husband and a wife make a baby? This is not a tricky question. They produce a baby by having an intimate time with one another, or to be clear, they have sex. Let’s say that Mr A marries Miss B and they have sex and bear fruit through their union, a child. The child is called the child of AB. But let’s say that Miss B marries Mr C instead of Mr A, then their child is not the child of AB but the child of BC. Are you with me? Now let’s think about this through the gospel lens. The gospel tells us that before we become a Christian, we were married to someone else. We were sleeping with the world. We had a different spouse. And the fruit of our union with the world is worldliness. What are they? Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. Those were our fruits before Christ. But here is what’s amazing. When we become a Christian, the gospel tells us that we have a new spouse. Christ is our spouse. And the fruit of our union with Christ is godliness. Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This is amazing. Listen to this. What fruits do you see in your life right now? Do you see the works of the flesh or the fruits of the Spirit? Because here is what I know. It is very possible to be married to Christ and be sleeping with the world. Being married is nice but the fruit is not the result of being married. Fruit is the result of intimacy. So, if what is produced in your life is the works of the flesh, then you are sleeping with the wrong person. You might be married to Christ, but you are worshipping, treasuring and desiring something else. Something else is your true spouse. It is one thing to be married to Christ, it is another thing to have Christ as your true spouse. And you do not produce fruit by simply being married. You produce fruit when you throw yourself constantly into the arm of Christ.

Now, let’s talk. Marriage couple, how do you make a baby? Through intimacy. Think about this. For you to be intimate, you actually have to spend time with one another. You have to concentrate on each other. You can’t just say, “Babe, can you get some groceries on your way home?” and suddenly the wife is pregnant. You know this. But a lot of time, this is how we think of our relationship with Christ. We think that if we just go to church once a week and we call him when we need him, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. No. Gospel fruitfulness is the result of personal intimacy with Christ. Which mean that we must set aside time to focus on Christ, to concentrate on Christ and to commune with Christ. That is how we bear fruit. Marriage teaches us about gospel fruitfulness. Now, let’s switch things around.


What does the gospel tell us about marriage?


First, marriage is a gift where Christ is the treasure. Don’t miss this. Marriage is a lot of hard work. Men, your responsibilities require you to work hard for it. Women, your roles are extremely tough. Yet in all of these, marriage is not something to be endured; it is a gift to be enjoyed. God created marriage for men and women to flourish. Marriage is God’s idea. He is the one who interrupted the rhythm and praise of creation by saying, “It is not good for man to be alone.” So marriage is a gift for you to delight in. Yet in the brokenness of the world, marriage can be extremely devastating. But in his grace, God intervenes. That’s why in every part of the series, I present Christ to you as the solution. Christ is the key for you to have a healthy relationship with one another. Christ is the key for you to have the satisfaction of true love. Christ is the key for a husband to love his wife sacrificially. Christ is the key for a wife to gladly submit to her husband. Christ is the key. You cannot have a flourishing relationship outside of Christ. He is the one that makes marriage works. He is the treasure that you can’t live without. Your marriage points you to your need for Christ. It is your relationship with Christ that enables you to love your spouse rightly. If you look to your earthly spouse to do what only Christ can do for you, it will crush your marriage.

Do you know what is the biggest problem in a marriage? It is idolatry. The biggest problem in marriage is when you make your spouse your source of salvation. Instead of looking to Christ to satisfy you, you make your spouse your satisfaction. Instead of saying, “I am loved because Christ has loved me,” you demand your spouse to love you exactly the way you want or else you feel like you have no meaning in life. You put a tremendous burden on your spouse to love you perfectly and make you completely happy. And it is not going to work. Your spouse will fail you as much as you will fail your spouse. Your spouse is a sinner just like you. Unless you see your marriage with Christ as ultimate, unless you see Christ as your true spouse, you will continue to demand out of your spouse something that your spouse could never give. Unless you see your relationship with Christ as the ultimate marriage, you are going to make an idol out of marriage, and it will crush your marriage.

But do you know what happens when you have Jesus as your true spouse? If you are married, you understand this. Marriage couple, do you realize the massive power that your spouse has over you to reprogram your self-value and self-worth? I am not married so I am going to borrow my dad’s story. My dad once said that if people in the church come up to him and say, “Ps. Sem, you are such a wonderful kind-hearted pastor, you are the best pastor ever” he is going to feel good. He is going to be very happy about it. “All glory to God.” But at the same time, he is thinking, “That person does not really know me.” And being a pastor myself, let me tell you that oftentimes what you see on Sunday can be very different from what you see at home on Monday. But, if my mom walks up to my dad and says, “You are the best pastor and the kindest man I know,” my dad will be over the moon. Why? Because he can fool you on Sunday. But he can’t fool my mom who sees him every day. Here is my point. If everyone in the world tells you that you are beautiful, but your spouse tells you that you are ugly, you feel ugly. But if everyone in the world tells you that you are ugly, but your spouse tells you that you are beautiful, you feel beautiful. Your spouse has that massive power over you.

Here is where I am going with this illustration. Christ is the Bridegroom and we are his bride. But we are a very bad wife. We betrayed Jesus, cheated on Jesus and trampled on Jesus’ heart. But Jesus chose to love us despite of all our ugliness. He pursued us. He refused to give up on us no matter what. He paid whatever price to get us back, even at the cost of his own life. He bought us with his blood. And now that we are his, he whispers to us, “I love you and I want you.” He knows everything about us, and he still loves us. This is what we need. No one can love us like Jesus. Christ is our true spouse. Marriage is a gift where Christ is the treasure.


Second, marriage is a mission where Christ is made known. When Christ is treasured in your marriage, it’s impossible for him to not be known. Your marriage is not only something for you to enjoy, it is a mission field for you to show people who Christ is. When other people look at your marriage, they see something different about your marriage. Men, when they see how you sacrificially love your wives, it creates amazement to people watching. Ladies, when they see how you respect and gladly submit to your husband leadership, it creates wonder in other people’s hearts. They want what you have. In fact, they desire it, but they don’t have a clue how to get it. And that moment creates space for you to show them the treasure of your marriage – Christ. And you make him known. Your marriage is a living illustration of the gospel to people around you. Jesus is saying to the world, “You want to know how I love my bride, look at marriage. Look at marriage and you will see the gospel.”

The blueprint goes something like this:

  • We are in awe of how Christ loved us
    • We shower our spouse with Christ’s love
    •             People are shocked by the way we love our spouse
    •             We have the opportunity to tell others about Christ’s love

Marriage is a mission where Christ is made known.


Third, marriage is a picture where Christ is the focus. Get this right. Marriage is ultimately not about you; it is about Christ and the church. Take a deep breath. I don’t want you to miss the significance of this truth. Your marriage is a picture. Yes, in that picture you see you and your hubby. You see a picture of both of you growing old and fat together. But when you zoom out, then you will see that the main person in the picture is not you. You are not the main character of your marriage. So, I want us to zoom out a little bit. Let’s begin at eternity past where there is nothing but God. In the story of eternity, there is only one main character and his name is God. And this God is three but one. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. And God the Father wants a bride for his Son and therefore creation begins. History begins. And ever since then, history is a story about Christ’s love for his bride, the church. From eternal past to eternal future, there is one story playing: Christ and his bride. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, begins with a wedding celebration between Adam and Eve. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, ends with a wedding celebration between Jesus and the Church, the wedding supper of the Lamb.

All 66 books of the Bible that are written in the span of thousands of years, all have one common thread, that is Jesus Christ and his bride. As if that’s not spectacular enough, Paul encourages us to zoom in again on the picture. And there we find you. Yes, you! The funny-looking you. You with so many flaws who falls in love with another funny looking you and get married. God decided to use the union between the two of you to be a picture of Christ and his love for his bride. This is spectacular. The God of the universe uses your marriage to be a picture of his love story for his bride. Oh, such a marvellous glorious privilege it is for you to play part in creating a breath-taking awe-inspiring picture of Christ. But get this right. As amazing as your marriage is, it is only a picture of the ultimate marriage between Christ and his bride.

It’s like us right now. For the last few weeks, we are not able to meet as a church for a good reason. I don’t want to kill you and I don’t want you to kill me. But what we do is we gather through the online church. We meet one another via video conference call. Praise God for zoom, skype, cisco Webex, facetime, you name it. But you understand that even though those things are great when we can’t meet in person, nothing can replace the joy of gathering together and meet one another face to face. I am an extreme introvert and even I can’t wait to meet all of you face to face. I can’t wait to meet you, high-five you, hug you and tell you that you have gained weight. And what happens after we are able to meet face to face? All these other media that we used now to gather online is no longer necessary. When I can see you face to face, I do not need to see your face on screen anymore. And that is the picture of our marriage. Our marriage is only pointing to the true ultimate marriage of Christ and the church. Marriage is a picture where Christ is the focus.


Fourth, marriage is for the glory of God. In a marriage where Christ is the treasure, Christ is made known and Christ is the focus, then it climaxes in one ultimate shout – Marriage is for the glory of God. God is the one who creates you and me. He is the one who bestowed the gift of marriage for you and me. Yet we betrayed him and choose to do things our way. But God sends his one and only son to pursue his bride. And he did. Even by death on the cross. He purchased his bride outright. And he is committed to love his bride and present her as holy and blameless before the holy God. And the marriage celebration of Christ and his bride is coming.

Revelation 19:6-9 – Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” – for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ”Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

The marriage between Christ and his church brings glory to God the Father. He is the one who initiates it and he is the one who made it possible for it to happen. Soli deo gloria.




Let me end with two applications. First, for the singles. If you understand the relationship between marriage and the gospel, your option for a future spouse is gospel-filtered. Since marriage is where Christ is the treasure, Christ is made known, Christ is the focus and it is all for the glory of God, your option for your future spouse is filtered. You cannot be one with those who do not breathe and live Christ and expect your marriage to be all that God desires it to be. You cannot be sleeping with the world and expect gospel fruitfulness. You cannot expect to dance the gospel dance of marriage when the other person is not dancing to the gospel beats. There is no way. Imagine you try to tango, and your spouse is break-dancing. It is chaotic. The only way you can enjoy and flourish in your marriage is if both you and your spouse are dancing to the gospel beats. Marriage with non-Christian should not be an option for Christians who love Jesus. If marriage with non-Christian is not an option, dating with non-Christian is also not an option since the purpose of dating is marriage.


Second, if you understand the relationship between marriage and the gospel, then you understand why God hates divorce. Marriage is a covenant. A covenant is a deep, exclusive, permanent, legal, personal and binding commitment. Marriage is more about the promise of future love than the declaration of present love. Marriage is a display of Christ’s covenant love for his bride. Your marriage is so much greater than just your personal feeling, comfort and convenience. That is why when you make a vow in wedding, you say the word, “Till death do us part.” You are making a covenant with your spouse. If you divorce your spouse, you are breaking the covenant that supposed to represent the covenant between Christ and his bride. In Christ’s covenant, Christ never ever leave his wife. It does not matter how bad the wife is, Christ is committed to make his wife lovely. He is committed to present his wife as holy and blameless. Christ keeps his covenant forever. Marriage is a display of that. To break the covenant of marriage is to give the world a distorted picture of Christ’s love for his bride. Can you see why God hates divorce?

I am not saying there is no ground for divorce. I might get in trouble for saying this, but I believe that the Bible does give us a legitimate ground for divorce. We live in a sinful world where God’s good design is filled with brokenness and sometimes that brokenness is not repairable in this world. And divorcees, you are not a second-class Christian because of it. I am sorry if a lot of time the church makes you feel like one, but you are not. Divorce is not an unpardonable sin and the grace of God can turn your mess into a beautiful story. That’s what the gospel is. But I am saying that divorce is a misrepresentation of the gospel. It is a breaking of God’s covenant and we should not treat it lightly. We should treat divorce like an amputation. There are times that an amputation is necessary to save the body, but it should be the last option. And I do realize that there are some of you who experienced the devastation of divorce firsthand. And I do realize that there are also many who are considering it because you are hurting in your marriage. Here is my encouragement. Go to Christ. Husbands, you are not alone when you try to sacrificially love your wife. Christ will give you the grace to do it. Wives, you are not alone when you try to submit to your husband’s leadership. Christ will give you the grace to do it. Divorcees, you are not alone just because you are no longer with your spouse. Christ is your ultimate spouse. And singles, you are not alone in your singleness. You have Christ as your ultimate spouse. Wherever you are in life, what you need first and foremost is not a better relationship, what you need is Christ. And he will never fail you. He loves you to the cross and he is committed to you forever. He will never break his covenant with you. Go to him.



Discussion questions:


  1. Why is it a lot harder to deal with conflict with grace rather than works? Give concrete examples.
  2. How can we produce Christ-like characters in our life? List out some practical things you can do.
  3. What does it mean to have Christ as our treasure?
  4. “Marriage is a mission where Christ is made known.” How does this view differ from the world’s perspective of marriage?
  5. For the singles, list out some characteristics of a gospel-filtered potential spouse. Share it with your group.
  6. Explain why God hates divorce and why a divorcee who trust in Christ is not a second-class Christian.
  7. Pray for one another that they may live out the gospel and exalt Christ in their relationship status. (single, engaged, marriage, divorce). 
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