For most people, marriage is a mystery.
Just browse any bookstore or Amazon.com for books on marriage. You will see tons of advice, many of it conflicting or contradictory.
Talk to a married person about marriage, and they may say something like, “I don’t understand why my wife does this or that.” Or “I can’t fathom why my husband is this way or that way.”
Talk to a single person, and that person may say, “Why would anyone get married?” Or they may ask, “I can’t understand why I am not married yet.”
Mystery. It all seems like a mystery, right?
It’s a puzzle. It’s confusing. It’s an unsolved mystery.
In fact, one could argue that even Paul, himself, sees marriage as a mystery!
““For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:31-33 NKJV)
What is this mystery?
It first reads that “mystery” is referring to marriage, where “two shall become one flesh.”
But then Paul pivots. He says that he is really referring to “Christ and the church” as the real mystery.
Then he pivots again and says, “nevertheless” --- as if he’s saying that, despite the mystery, man should love his wife as himself (this is an important nuance we will return to) and the wife is to respect her husband.
So perhaps the question is whether or not Paul really is referring to marriage as the mystery. Is marriage the mystery? Is church the mystery? Or is marriage being the model for the church the mystery? Or is it vice-versa?
All this seems quite confusing.
It’s also not the point. “Mystery” does not mean what you may believe it means.
“Mystery” is meant to mean revealed knowledge.
In other words, what Paul refers to as a mystery is supposed to be known, not unknown, by believers.
However, in Scripture, some truths remain a mystery to those who have not been regenerated.
This mystery refers to both marriage and to Christ and His church. This means, through spiritual wisdom, we are to understand both.
Paul prefaces his verses on marriage with the following:
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,” (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV)
Let’s then spend time to understand what it means to be wise, instead of fools.