Intimacy in Marriage

May 29, 2005 / No. 3256

Dear Radio Friends,

     Do you experience intimacy in your marriage?  Spiritual intimacy?  Would you say that your marriage is fulfilling to you?  Do you rejoice in it as a sacred gift of God?  Do you defend and cherish it?

     Or are you sour on your marriage?  Do you find that there is great distance between you and your wife or your husband?  Are you inwardly bitter and have you concluded that you are just going to tough it out or look for the first excuse or possibility to escape from the torture you are in?

     Do you experience loving intimacy in your marriage bond?  It is the will of God, for all of His children in Christ Jesus, that marriage not only be a bond but that it be an intimate bond of love and satisfaction and joy in Jesus Christ.  Marriage is a good gift of God.  It is a good gift of God for His children in Jesus Christ.  When Jesus Christ obtained the blessings of salvation, He blessed also marriage, and He wills that within marriage His children shall enjoy blessing — the intimacy of growing in marriage in the love of God.

     The starting point of any discussion of marriage, as well as the starting point for the attaining of any intimacy in marriage, is to remember this biblical truth about marriage:  Marriage is to be the picture of Christ and His bride, the church.  The Bible says this explicitly.  In Ephesians 5:32, after the apostle gave instruction to husbands and to wives concerning their calling and place in marriage, he says to them, “But I really have not been talking to you about marriage.  I’ve been talking to you about a great mystery:  the mystery of Christ and the church.”  In that passage, well known, the Scriptures are saying to us that marriage exists, in God’s purpose, to be a picture of an intimate bond between Christ and His church.  That is the starting point.

     If we are ever to know joy; if we are ever to know the reason for marriage; if we are ever to say, “My marriage, by God’s grace, is a good marriage,” then, as children of God, we are to remember that our marriage is intended of God to be a picture of Christ and the church.  Husbands, the great object of your study in marriage is Christ.  Wives, the great object of your study in marriage is the church.  As Christ is to His bride and as the bride (the church) is to Him, so let husbands be to their wives and wives be to their husbands.

     The purpose and the calling we have in our married life as children of God is to be a picture of the union of Christ and the church so that others in the church might learn from us not simply what it means to be married, but what it means that Christ has loved the church and given Himself for it, and so that others may learn from us what it means that the church willingly is in submission to her Lord, Jesus Christ.  We have to go back to the basics.  Marriage is the picture of Christ and the church.  That is the foundation for every aspect of marriage, including its intimacy, including the fact that marriage is a lifelong bond between two (a man and a woman) until death.

     Marriage is a lifelong bond.  Jesus Himself said that in Matthew 19:  “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”  Marriage is lifelong.  Why?  To reflect this truth:  That the love of God in Jesus Christ for His church changes not; and that there is a pillar, there is a foundation, upon which all stands — the unchangeable and unbreakable love of God for His own in Jesus Christ.

     If there is to be intimacy in your marriage, there must first be the conscious bowing before this truth:  My marriage must be a picture on earth of what it means that Christ has taken to Himself the church as His precious bride.

     Then we should also remember that intimacy in marriage can be obtained only in the way of repentance.  It can be obtained only in the way of two sinners confessing their sins before God.  We could put this principle negatively:  Impenitent sinners cannot be intimate.  Now there might be many who would dispute that, but the Word of God is very plain.  Titus 3:3 tells us that, according to the flesh, we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  There is God’s indictment concerning the nature of the relationships apart from Jesus Christ — living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  There is no harmony in the way of sin.  There cannot be.  Sin is confusion.  Sin is disharmony.  Impenitent sinners cannot be intimate.  They never can be.  No matter what the appearance may be, apart from repentance in Jesus Christ there can be no intimacy.  You say that you are struggling with bitterness in your marriage?  You say that you are drawing apart, that you are not intimate with your wife or with your husband, that you cannot share the desires of your heart and soul with them?  Then you need to look into your own heart.  Are you, today, a repentant child of God?  Do you repent?  Do you forgive your husband, your wife?  Do you repent of your pride?  Only in the way of repentance before God can there be the possibility of intimacy.

     It is the purpose of God in our marriage that we be intimate, that we be close, that we be loving, that we live together in the expression of that as husband and wife in sexual intimacy as well.  The Scriptures teach us that the union between Christ and His church is indeed a close, loving, intimate union.  Christ draws His church to His heart.  He reveals His secrets to His church.  And He shows His delight in the church.  The church never needs to ask whether Jesus delights in her.  Jesus pledges His faithfulness to the church.

     The Scriptures are abundant in this.  Jeremiah 31:3, where God says, “With lovingkindness, I have drawn thee to me; and I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”  In John 15:15, Jesus says, “I do not call you servants; but I call you friends.  For all that the Father hath revealed to me, I reveal to you.”  Christ reveals His secrets, His heart is close to our heart.  He draws our hearts close to Him.  The very purpose of Christ in uniting Himself to the church is that the church might share in the gracious intimacy of God’s life.  Jesus says to us in John 17:26 that the Father sent Him into the world in order that He might bring us to the Father, that they might be in Him and He in the Father, and thus that they might be made one in Him.  Through Jesus Christ we are brought near to God.

     Therefore, Christian marriage is intended to be intimate.

     What is the nature of that intimacy?  The nature of that intimacy is, first of all, that our marriages are to be a tender bond, one with the other.  The union of Christ to His church is a tender bond.  We can find that in the Scriptures throughout.  He says that He is our Shepherd and that He will give to us rest.  He reveals to us, for instance, in Matthew 12, that He is a compassionate and a tender Savior; that He will not quench the burning flax; that He will not destroy the bruised reed; that He is the God and the Savior whose compassion knows no end.  Christ is tender.  Christ is intimate with us.

     He sees us in all of our weakness.  But He does not despise us.  He sees us in the eternal love of the Father.  He sees us in all of our wretchedness.  Yet He deals us in tender pity.  He always sees our need and He always ministers perfectly to that need.  So also, if we are to have intimacy, the spirit of tenderness must be in our hearts one towards the other.  We must keep short account of one another’s offenses.  Each day married partners must go to God.  We must go to God together, confessing our faults one to another, forgiving, dealing with the hurts and dealing with the offenses that occurred in that day and confessing those offenses one to another and before God and keeping a short account.  Only in the way of gentleness, in the way of a tender heart, in the way of a soft heart to each other — hearts that are in tune with what they have received in Christ.  Only in that way can there be intimacy in marriage.

     What will make our heart most tender?  This is what makes our hearts most tender, that we know what we have received from God, the fullness of His forgiveness, that he has dealt with us, who are such terrible sinners, in infinite mercy.  Therefore, as God has dealt with me, so am I to deal with my spouse.  Then we will be soft-hearted toward each other, not resentful, not closed, not readily taking offense, not working ourselves up into bitterness, but dealing with one another even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath dealt with us.  We will approach one another with understanding, with care.

     But there is another element of Christ’s intimacy with the church.  It is not only a tender intimacy, but it is also a selflessness that characterizes the intimacy of Christ with the church.  Christ, toward the church, is selfless.  He, we read in Ephesians 5:25, gave Himself for us.  In a profound passage, Philippians 2:5-8, we read that Christ has emptied Himself, that, although He is equal to the Father, although He would take to Himself nothing that was not His (that is, He would not be taking a title, an honor to Himself, that is not His — if He said that He was equal to God, that belongs to Him; He is equal to God), though He is so exalted in majesty as the very Son of God (God of God), yet He did not consider His own rights but He humbled Himself and He took upon Himself our flesh.  He humbled Himself even unto the death of the cross, says the apostle, in order that we might live.  Christ was selfless.  He sought not His own things, but He sought the things of the salvation of His bride, the church.

     So also in marriage.  Will we be intimate with each other?  Then we must deny ourselves.  Before the door of marriage, one is called to resign himself and to live for the other.

     It is very true that most of our problems come when we look for what we are going to get from our spouse.  Very often we have our own expectations about who she is and what she is going to give to me and who he is and what he is going to give to me.  And when we get married we discover that our expectations were not founded upon reality.  They are not that kind of a person.  We had made them out to be something that we wanted them to be for ourselves, but in reality they are going to be giving us their love in another way.  Very often we look for the other one to give us something.  But then there cannot be intimacy.  The intimacy of marriage is when we deny ourselves and when we live wholly for the other.

     This is the pattern we have received from Jesus Christ.  We read repeatedly throughout the Scriptures that He gave Himself for us.  So we must not approach marriage with the question:  “What does she owe me?  How shall she satisfy me?”  No, we must ask this question:  “What do I owe her?  How shall I please her?”

     Another element of the intimacy of Christ and the church, the third element, is purity.  Christ’s intimacy with the church is founded upon infinite tenderness, complete selflessness, and perfect purity.  Christ is pure.  Christ’s desires are pure.  Christ’s desires are that we might be holy, without stain or blemish before His heavenly Father (Eph. 5), that we might stand out clearly in the sun to the glory of God.  His purpose is that we might be pure, that we might delight in the very purity and holiness of God.

     So also now, if we are to have intimacy in marriage, we must preserve our marriage in purity.  This is what the apostle warns against in Hebrews 13:4, namely, of impurity and of its deadly results to intimacy in marriage.  There is no intimacy in sexual perversity.  There is no intimacy in fornication.  There is intimacy only when the marital bed is kept sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.  There God says that He will judge whoremongers, those who defile the marriage bed.  If we are to have intimacy, we must be committed to purity, a purity in Jesus Christ.  Not that which is base; not that which is evil; but that which is good and right.  The intimacy of a marriage is exclusive; it is private.  According to the Scriptures, the sexual union within the marriage, between two believers, is passionate but not twisted.  It is intense but not perverted.  It must be kept pure.

     Young men, right now, those who are not married, listen to me.  How you live sexually right now in your mind, what you look at, your fighting against pornography — that has everything to do with the future intimacy of your marriage.  Keep your minds pure in Christ Jesus, in those things that are lovely unto Him.  Learn how to love from the Author and from the Source:  the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not from the world.

     The fourth thing that we can say about intimacy is that it is spiritual.  The intimacy of Christ and the church is tender, selfless, pure, and spiritual.

     The intimacy, of course, that we enjoy with Jesus Christ is on a spiritual level, that is, it is through faith in Him.  Intimacy in marriage, then, will be that we have the joint experience of the cross of Jesus Christ as our salvation.  Intimacy in marriage will be that we jointly walk together in Christ Jesus as the foundation of our marriage.  We must bow together before the cross.  Intimacy is one faith in Jesus Christ.  If we are truly to be intimate, then it must be the intimacy of our souls.  We must seek out not simply physical compatibility, but primarily spiritual compatibility, spiritual friendship with another person.  We must maintain our own walk with the Lord.  The closer that the husband grows to Christ and to God, and the closer that the wife grows to God and to Christ, the closer will they draw to each other.  The object of your marriage is not, first of all, your wife — to get as close as you can to her.  The object of your marriage is not, first of all, your husband — to see how close you can get to him.  Yes, you want to get close.  But the way there is not by making the other the object.  Make God the object!  He is the only object.  In God is fullness of joy — when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul, to be pleasing to Him, to have those attitudes, those thoughts, those loves that are founded in Him.  When you do that personally as a husband, by His grace, and when you do that as a wife, by His grace, then God Himself knits you together and makes you close to each other.

     Think of a triangle, standing as a pyramid, the top being God and the two bottom corners being the husband and wife.  Those two bottom corners come closer to each other as they proceed up toward the peak.  You have one goal.  Draw close to God.  As we draw close to God, living out of God in our marriage, very practically we will also draw closer to each other.  We will enjoy intimacy that we had not thought possible before, intimacy reflected not only in the exclusive bond of the sexual union but in all of our life.  We will find pleasure in each other, we will delight in one another’s company.  We will become one in the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Do you experience intimacy in your marriage?

     Is there bitterness in your heart?  You may say that your way is beyond any words to solve.  You say, perhaps, “It’s no use.  It’s not going to work.  You don’t know him/her.”

     I am asking this question:  Do you, wife, and do you, husband, know Him, God, in Jesus Christ our Lord?  Do you, by faith, partake of this blessing that, through faith, you are united to Him through the blood of His Son in a tender, pure, selfless bond?  Then, no matter what your situation today may be in marriage, whether you would call it a good marriage or a bad marriage, you have hope.  You must, today, act toward your spouse the way God graciously has acted toward you.  You are to be tender, even as God was tender to you.  You are to be selfless, even as Christ emptied Himself for you.  You are to be pure, even as He is pure of heart.  You are to seek to be spiritually one in faith in God with your spouse.  Then you will experience intimacy, you will experience joy in one another.  And together you will grow in the marvelous love of God.

     But since we cannot attain these things of ourselves, let us now go together in prayer to God.

      Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word.  We pray that Thou wilt seal it unto our hearts in this day.  Cause, O Lord, that the Scriptures may ever be our guide and our light, that we might not turn to our own way but follow Thy way.  Bless us in our marriages.  Remember those marriages, especially, that are troubled, that are struggling.  Bring us, O Lord, in repentance before the cross.  All this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.